TBR News September 25, 2019

Sep 25 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. September 25, 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 September 25: “Although the Ukrainian attempt is a major blow for Trump, trust me, it will not be the last foot-in-mouth action on his part. His gaffes, bombastic lies and increasingly erratic behavior will guarantee more and more eruptions as the voices, and actions, of his growing number of detractors drive him to hysterical efforts at self-defense. Given his persona, Donald Trump is his own worst enemy, with the nation his second.”


The Table of Contents

  • President Trump, Please End the American Era in the Middle East
  • Why the House Democratic Caucus Was Able to Move So Rapidly Toward Impeachment
  • Impeach Trump? The United States is now in uncharted waters
  • Trump, Manhattan prosecutors to face off over tax returns
  • Pearl Harbor
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons


President Trump, Please End the American Era in the Middle East

Because people like Bret Stephens would keep sacrificing our men and women for a regional Pax Americana that never was.

September 24, 2019

by Andrew J. Bacevich

The American Conservative

Reflecting on the latest Iran war scare, New York Times columnist and über-hawk Bret Stephens worries that “we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the American era in the Middle East.” If so, then faster, please.

What is this “American era” to which Stephens refers? If the phrase implies some approximation of U.S. dominion or control, then no such era has ever existed. For several decades now, the United States has been engaged in attempting to establish some form of regional Pax Americana. That effort has failed irretrievably and at enormous cost to the United States and to others. What we have endured is an era of ineffectual American meddling.

Yet Stephens is by no means ready to throw in the towel. His confidence in the efficacy of U.S. military might remains undiminished. Disturbed by President Trump’s timid response to a series of recent provocations attributed to Iran, the most recent being a September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities, Stephens urges retaliation. While not spelling out the scale of the punitive action he favors, he expresses confidence that a “limited military reprisal” will almost certainly “re-establish deterrence with Tehran.”

He does not explain the basis for his confidence, which remains defiantly intact despite the myriad failures, disappointments, and never-saw-it-coming surprises that the United States has experienced in the Middle East going as far back as the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Yet Stephens and other proponents of attacking Iran (with regime change in Tehran the tacit goal) have conveniently short memories.

The “beginning of the end” for the would-be American Pax in the Middle East didn’t occur in mid-September when Trump once more went wobbly on Iran, but in 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq. Of course, prominent among the journalistic cheerleaders for that disastrous war was Bret Stephens himself. Since then, U.S. forces have been more or less continuously engaged in what ought to be called Operation Damage Control, trying to clean up the mess created as a direct consequence of our own recklessness.

Now Stephens and others of his ilk are keen to open up a new front on this open-ended military campaign. Arguing with all the assurance that they showed when fingering Saddam Hussein as the source of all evil, they would have us believe that, once spanked, Iran will behave, with the “America era in the Middle East” magically restored.

This is, to put it mildly, wishful thinking, as President Trump himself appears to appreciate. Now our president is many things, but he is not a sophisticated thinker. His own grasp of history appears to be quite limited. He possesses few if any principles from which to formulate a coherent approach to policy. Convinced of his own genius, he doesn’t take advice. Yet at some gut level, Trump has a deep—and commendable—aversion to war. In contrast to Stephens, he appears to believe that engaging in long, drawn-out armed conflicts is inherently undesirable.

One imagines that from Trump’s perspective, it’s like a business venture that turns sour. You cut your losses and move on, ideally sticking some other sap with the bill.

No doubt reinforcing this inclination is Trump’s determination to win election to a second term. The fact is that this president has not delivered on his campaign promise to end our endless wars. Nor has he achieved any significant foreign policy successes, unless you count withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and instigating a trade war with China (which I don’t). The last thing Trump needs politically is to start another shooting war to go along with the several he inherited.

So the president has no wish to lurch into another morass in the Middle East. However pure or impure his motives, let us acknowledge that this qualifies as a rare and welcome bit of good sense emanating from the Oval Office.

Sadly, however, neither Trump nor anyone in his administration seems to have the capacity to devise an actual alternative to the fantasy of creating an “American era in the Middle East.” Thus far at least, the administration’s response to this crisis has amounted to a little more of the same—more sanctions, more U.S. troops deployed to the region—but not nearly enough to make any meaningful difference. As is so often the case, instead of a meaningful policy, Trump offers a gesture.

Devising a real alternative would require this admission: in the Middle East, the military power of the United States has played a large part in exacerbating problems rather than contributing to their solution. With few exceptions, members of the establishment, Bret Stephens among them, lack the gumption to make such an admission.

The beginning of wisdom lies in acknowledging that the overriding U.S. interest in the Middle East is to restore stability. Period. It is not to pick winners. Stability requires not more war but less, nudging rivals such as Iran and Saudi Arabia—neither qualifying as “friends” of the United States—to realize that they too will benefit from reducing the level of violence. No doubt this qualifies as an enormous challenge, requiring patience and diplomatic sophistication. But to quote an old adage, perhaps it’s time to give peace a chance. And should Tehran and Riyadh disregard such peacemaking efforts and opt for war, well, it is not incumbent upon the United States to underwrite their folly.

How likely is it that Trump will aggressively pursue peace in the Middle East? Not very. Yet should he do so, the era of American meddling in the Middle East just might yield to an actually existing era of mutual coexistence. Talk about a legacy.


Why the House Democratic Caucus Was Able to Move So Rapidly Toward Impeachment

September 24, 2019

by Ryan Grim

The Intercept

On Wednesday, September 18, as Democrats prepped for a series of private meetings, it was clear that nerves had been frayed. August had been a challenge for the party’s rank-and-file, as activists and angry citizens back home browbeat them at town halls, grocery stores, and local events for the party’s unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump. “We spent all summer getting the shit kicked out of us back home,” said one Democrat who received such treatment. The day before, former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski had made a mockery of the Judiciary Committee’s interview of him, betraying open contempt for the process and the people running it.

Swing district freshmen Democrats known as frontliners, meanwhile, had spent the last few weeks vocally  decrying the pressure on them to call for impeachment, claiming it was putting them in a political jam. Democrats were debating publicly whether the hearings Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was running at his Judiciary Committee were or were not in fact the launch of impeachment proceedings. Standing athwart the tide of impeachment, yelling stop, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It wasn’t her fault that the process had become a fiasco, Pelosi told her colleagues in one meeting. In her opinion, Nadler should have held Lewandowski in contempt “right then and there.”

But there was a bigger problem, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told his colleagues that day. Raskin, the highest-ranking progressive on the periphery of leadership, is a constitutional attorney and had long been calling for impeachment on principle. But politics now mattered too, he argued, and the party’s passivity was causing real political pain for rank-and-file members of Congress, particularly those holding back support of impeachment to honor the party leadership’s opposition to it. In order to placate a small handful of frontliners — perhaps as few as seven or eight — the entire party was being dragged down and routinely humiliated by Trump’s contempt for the rule of law.

That grassroots anger was translating into primary challenges, he noted, and needlessly furious constituents. Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a champion of doing nothing when it came to Trump, had recently counted as many as 111 primaries, by far more than a typical cycle. The members without official primary challenges were by no means safe, either, as they might soon draw a challenge unless the trajectory of the politics changed. Freshman Lori Trahan from Massachusetts, for instance, came out for impeachment after Dan Koh, whom she beat in a primary by 147 votes in 2018, called on her to do so, with the clear threat that he may run again. The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud frontliners, Raskin argued, and it wasn’t obvious that the strategy was actually protecting them from anything. Grassroots activists were demobilizing, Democrats across the board were facing primary challenges, and somehow, someway, Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.

That something came later that night, in the form of a Washington Post scoop about a whistleblower complaint from a member of the U.S. intelligence community about a promise Trump had made to a foreign leader. Then, on Thursday evening, the Post reported that the country involved was Ukraine. From there, it didn’t take long to piece together what happened, capped off with confessions from both Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuiliani, the bagman for the operation: Trump had demanded that in exchange for U.S. aide, the new Ukrainian prime minister investigate links between then-Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and a scandal that involves the firing of a prosecutor and a natural gas company, on whose board Hunter was paid handsomely to sit.

The affair itself is not what it appears. By getting the prosecutor fired, Biden probably hurt Hunter’s company more than anything, but it looks bad enough. Indeed, Hunter Biden had no skills to offer the natural gas company other than his appearance of an ability to influence his father, whether he did so or not. Trump clearly saw leveraging it as to his advantage in the 2020 election.

The news had landed like a bomb in a Democratic caucus that was already ready to explode. Calls to impeach Trump rained down from the party’s left flank and its presidential candidates. On Friday evening, Democrats were bracing for a backlash back home. “It’s going to be a brutal weekend for a lot of people, especially those who haven’t spoken for impeachment,” one Democrat predicted.

Indeed it was. Democrats, including frontliners, spent the weekend furiously texting and calling each other as they worked through how to respond to Trump’s latest lawlessness. “People are pissed,” said another Democrat over the weekend. “Frontliners are pissed! And not even the ‘progressive’ frontliners either.”

Pelosi didn’t seem to understand the shift that was taking place under her feet. Reporter John Harwood asked an aide to Pelosi over the weekend if the news changed her calculus on impeachment and got back the reply: “no. see any GOP votes for it?”

Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for President Barack Obama who now serves, from his perch at Pod Save America, as something of a tribune for the volunteer-resistance army that phone banked and door-knocked Democrats into the majority, was apoplectic. “This is insane,” he said. “This is pathetic. This is not what we worked so hard for in 2018.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi was calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.

For much of the ongoing congressional session, there has been a fairly clear consensus inside the House Democratic caucus as to where their most nettlesome political problems were likely to spring from. The radicals in the so-called Squad, with their millions of twitter followers and their magazine cover shoots, were going to become the face of the party, and swing voters across the country would recoil, costing frontliners their seats, and sending the House, and perhaps the White House, back into GOP hands. For the first half of the year, Democratic leaders engaged in public battles with the Squad — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib — played out via official condemnations on the House floor or in interviews with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Of the 44 frontliners in the Democratic caucus, the ones who’d been the most vocal against impeachment internally and in public included Max Rose, Elissa Slotkin, Abigail Spanberger, Josh Gottheimer, Elaine Luria, Mikie Sherrill, Jared Golden, Chrissy Houlahan, and Jimmy Panetta, joined by others depending on the day. Collectively, the frontliners are crucial to the majority, so rank-and-file party members have long been willing to cut them extreme amounts of slack when it comes to moderating the Democratic agenda.

But the Democrats most vocally opposed to impeachment, those who insisted not just on opposing it themselves, but worked to stop the broader caucus from moving forward, had begun to wear out their welcome — particularly as rank-and-file members compared them to the majority of frontliners, who were not regularly griping publicly and privately about how much pressure they’re under.

Patience also wore thin as the politics of passivity no longer seem to be benefiting even frontliners, as the demobilization of the Democratic base began to look like an existential electoral concern. And the arguments some frontliners were making on behalf of doing nothing had gotten increasingly strained. “It’s not hard at all to demand impeachment,” one argued to colleagues. “What actually takes courage is not demanding impeachment.”

The same frontliners who had been the most vocal against pursuing impeachment had also generally been the ones most hostile publicly and internally toward the Squad. As more of the caucus began to see passivity rather than radicalism as the party’s bigger problem, the caucus moved away from the idea that the Squad was going to be their death knell, and even some frontliners grew less patient with internal attacks on them. Rep. Angie Craig, a freshman frontliner from Minnesota, made the case privately to her frontline colleagues that if they have a problem with the Squad or anybody else, they should feel free to say so publicly back home, and use the contrast to set themselves apart. But, she argued at a private meeting just before the August recess, members should stop battling internally to have the Squad shut down. Each member, she argued, has a district to represent, and that’s the case too with Ocasio Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley.

On Monday, Craig came out in support of impeachment proceedings. She was joined by her Minnesota colleague Dean Phillips, another frontliner who made headlines earlier this year for his public break with Omar, who serves in a neighboring district. Trump has argued that by making the Squad the face of Democrats, he’ll be able to win Minnesota in 2020, giving extra weight to the moves by Craig and Phillips, both of whom flipped GOP districts in 2018.

Then Monday night, six of the most vocal opponents of impeachment, the type Raskin was referring to at last week’s meeting, published a joint op-ed in the Washington Post, calling for impeachment proceedings to begin: The authors, all frontline freshmen, included Spanberger, Slotkin, Gil Cisneros of California, Houlahan, Luria, and Sherrill. (Jason Crow of Colorado also signed, but he had previously come out in support of impeachment.)

They would be followed Tuesday by more frontliners advancing impeachment, including Antonio DelGado and Tom Suozzi. And then they were followed by Pelosi, who called a meeting Tuesday afternoon to tell members she was moving forward with impeachment, though she hadn’t decided if there would be a special committee formed, or if it would go through a regular process.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, left the meeting calling it “both significant and anti-climactic.” He had called for impeachment in August.

In recent months, Democratic leaders, deploying polling paid for by the DCCC, have rained data down on House Democrats, repeatedly making the case that voters don’t care about impeachment one way or the other, that it is unpopular in swing districts, and that the election will be decided next November by the state of the economy. The DCCC has argued — showing slides that members aren’t allowed to take with them out of the briefings — that voters want to see Democrats flex an affirmative agenda, not spend their time trying to take down Trump. Yet even before Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, media coverage was dominated by talk of impeachment anyway, and members were being confronted by angry constituents in their home districts. The most ambitious project launched by House Democratic leadership in 2019, its prescription drug package, was meanwhile released last week with barely a whimper.

The polling pales in comparison to the scale of Trump’s Ukraine gambit.“This is extortion of a foreign leader. This is abuse of office in the most sordid way to get dirt on a prospective political opponent,” Connolly said, calling it “beyond the pale.”

Even if polls say that majorities in swing districts would prefer Democrats legislate and cooperate rather than focus on impeachment, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. First, they ignore intensity, as the most active Democrats — the ones who show up to town halls and knock on doors — are also the most likely to be supportive of impeachment, and winning them over has major reelection advantages, while angering them comes with downsides. A senior aide to one frontline Democrat, who came out for impeachment earlier in the summer, said that doing so had minimized the pain that so many others felt over recess. “August would have been really painful if we hadn’t done it,” the aide said.

The surface-level polling also doesn’t answer the question of what the consequences of impeachment would be. A commonly held reservation among Democrats who are wary of impeachment comes down to its political implications: Would impeaching Trump simply help re-elect him, by galvanizing his supporters? And since the Senate will acquit him, why bother?

That concern, argue impeachment supporters, misunderstands the way impeachment would be perceived publicly, and, perhaps more importantly, how failing to impeach appears to voters. All of the Democrats’ talk about scandal and corruption, absent impeachment, seems like mere partisan bickering, whereas taking concrete action sends a signal to voters that there’s more to it.

Democrats’ inability to control the message — had Nadler launched in impeachment inquiry or not —  had also put frontliners in a difficult spot. In late August, Spanberger vented about that on a frontliner conference call. She asked if anybody could tell her if Democrats had or had not launched an impeachment inquiry. When she was met with silence, she lit into the party leadership for leaving vulnerable Democrats not just confused about what they ought to do, but confused about what they’re actually doing.

Slotkin, meanwhile, had made similar critiques privately, arguing that the haphazard approach taken by the Judiciary Committee had made the process seem amateurish, and made it harder for members like her to get behind it.

Alexander McCoy, political director for the progressive veterans group Common Defense, said after meeting with more than 30 Democratic offices about impeachment over the last week, he came away with a sense that Democrats, and particularly frontliners, were deeply confused as to what the party’s strategy is. “These members of Congress were elected to deliver accountability to Donald Trump, but a lot of them are worried that the investigations process so far has been a confusing mess. The thing is, they’re right,” he said. The lobbying appeared to pay off, as they met with six of the seven signers of the Washington Post op-ed that broke the dam.

Frustratingly for many House Democrats, their own political fortunes seem to be at the whim of intramural spats among senior members of the party, battling over turf or old grievances. “A lot of it is turf wars at the top and a few loud frontliners that have been behind many of the worst votes we’ve had this year,” said one member. Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, has been one of the loudest voices against an impeachment inquiry, Democrats said, because his own committee, he argues, should be the venue for investigations. On CNN’s State of the Union, he started to move, in a hedged fashion, over the weekend:

The president is pushing us down this road and if in particular — after having sought foreign assistance and welcomed foreign assistant in the last presidential campaign as a candidate, he is now doing the same thing again but now using the power of the presidency — then he may force us to go down this road. I’ve spoken with a number of colleagues over the last week and this seems different in kind and we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.

The Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, is riven with its own discord. The chairmanship is held by Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, who won a 2017 power struggle against Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Californian who is close to Pelosi, after John Conyers was forced to resign. The wounds from that battle are still raw, Democrats say, producing extra internal committee turmoil.

On the Ways and Means Committee, Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., dragged his feet for months before requesting Trump’s taxes from the IRS, as is his right. His colleagues were driven mad by the slow process, which they suspected was driven by Neal’s desire to get Trump and the GOP’s buy-in for his retirement security legislation. After it passed the committee, Neal finally moved, though he now has a primary challenge from Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke.

The same dynamic is playing out in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who has deeply investigated Trump’s finances, and in particular his profiting off of the Trump Hotel in Washington, called out both Neal and DeFazio for slow-walking investigations.

In Congress, there’s also been two particular members of Congress who have the power to push these things, these investigations, forward or to slow-walk them who have been accused by their colleagues of slow-walking them. That’s Richard Neal, the chair of Ways and Means, and a guy named Peter DeFazio from Oregon, who was the head of Transportation and Infrastructure. That Transportation and Infrastructure Committee actually oversees Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump’s D.C. hotel is located in a taxpayer-owned building under a lease from the GSA, the General Services Administration. So that committee, DeFazio’s committee, has the power to really dig into it if it wanted, and it hasn’t really done very much. And the pushback from DeFazio’s underlings, other members of Congress, has been that DeFazio is slow-walking this because he wants to make an infrastructure deal. He still has some hope that infrastructure week will finally arrive like the great pumpkin and he’ll make a deal with Trump. DeFazio said, oh, it’s not true. But the end result is that hotel the taxpayers own, we know so little about what Trump’s doing there. I mean, that just sort of seems like that’s the baby step of oversight, and they haven’t done that.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev, who chairs a subcommittee that oversees Trump’s hotels, blamed DeFazio on record for holding back in the hopes of cutting an infrastructure deal. Now DeFazio, too, has a primary challenge from organizer Doyle Canning, running explicitly on DeFazio’s unwillingness to challenge Trump.

If impeachment was ripened by the sunshine of insurgent primaries, the sudden movement forward threatens to wilt those challenges. Opponents who’d been blasting incumbents for being too soft on Trump needed to tweak their message in a way that drained it of some of its energy.

“Too little, too late,” said Melanie D’Arrigo, challenging Suozzi in New York, arguing he had “ignored a clear threat to our safety & national security for the sake of his GOP allies.”

Doyle Canning, challenging DeFazio, upped the demand, calling for a speedy floor vote.

Some, though, are lucky enough that their incumbent opponents are still clinging to the status quo, refusing to call for impeachment.

That could change, however, at a moment’s notice.


Impeach Trump? The United States is now in uncharted waters

The Democrats’ decision to begin impeachment proceedings has set the country on a course whose end is impossible to predict

September 25, 2019

by Geoffrey Kabaservice

The Guardian

Nancy Pelosi, the US House Speaker, might sympathize with the quote attributed to nineteenth-century French politician Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” For months following the release of the Mueller report, Pelosi had resisted pressure from within her caucus to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. But now, with more than two-thirds of Democrats in the House of Representatives favoring impeachment in the wake of Trump’s Ukrainian scandal, she has reversed herself and announced a formal impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi had objected to impeachment mainly for political reasons. She observed that the Mueller Report’s lengthy catalogue of Trump’s malefactions didn’t move public sentiment toward impeachment. She predicted that the Republican-dominated Senate would surely reject any articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic House, making the process appear to be merely partisan theater — a repeat of the 1998 impeachment proceedings mounted against President Bill Clinton by House Republicans, which ultimately backfired and led to Democratic gains in that year’s elections. And she pointed out that impeachment proceedings might jeopardize the moderate Democrats who won Republican-held districts in 2018, allowing the party to regain control of the House.

But on September 23, a group of seven first-term Democrats from those very battleground districts — all of whom had served in the military or defense and intelligence agencies, and six of whom had previously opposed impeachment — wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post declaring that “If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.” Perhaps Pelosi, like those seven representatives, changed her mind because of the gravity of the new allegations, but their reversal certainly undercut her pragmatic political case against impeachment. And the Trump administration’s stonewalling of congressional investigations and refusal to abide by long-established norms of political conduct weakened Pelosi’s argument that methods short of impeachment could determine the truth of the allegations.

As a country, we now enter what the seven freshmen called “unchartered waters,” with an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis looming on the horizon. Impeachment proceedings could turn public opinion decisively against Trump, as with President Richard Nixon and Watergate, perhaps leading to Trump’s premature departure from the White House. It’s also possible that impeachment could backfire on the Democrats, costing them control of the House and enabling Trump’s reelection in 2020.

If the latter scenario comes to pass, it may appear in hindsight that Pelosi’s caucus stampeded her into action against her better judgment. She had previously insisted that impeachment would require public support as well as backing from at least some Republicans. It’s too soon for polls to determine whether the latest revelations have shifted public opinion significantly, but so far only one Republican — Representative Justin Amash of Michigan — has called for Trump’s impeachment, and he quit the party soon afterwards.

Chances are, however, that Pelosi is calculating that while impeachment will pour petrol on America’s already incendiary politics, Democrats stand to benefit from the conflagration. That’s largely because, unlike the Mueller report, the Ukrainian scandal involves what appear to be clear and comprehensible issues of corruption and threats to U.S. national security and the electoral process. Trump already has admitted that he attempted to pressure a foreign government to dig up dirt to use against his political opponent, Joe Biden, and he may also have withheld military aid appropriated by Congress as further leverage. We don’t yet know exactly what is in the whistleblower’s complaint, and perhaps there will be no definitive evidence of an aid-for-dirt quid pro quo. But Trump’s actions will be difficult for Republicans running in 2020 to defend or distance themselves from.

The scandal likely will prove especially damaging in the suburban swing districts where Democrats won their House majority in 2018. Historically, the college-educated voters who predominate in such districts voted Republican because they considered it the party of stability and responsibility. There are many reasons why college-educated voters (particularly women) have been tilting against the Republicans in recent elections. But the Ukrainian scandal, however it plays out, will strengthen the sense among these voters that Trump considers himself to be above the law and constitutional restraints, and further erode the Republican party’s reputation as the law-and-order party. Undoubtedly this is why the statement issued by Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer emphasized that the decision to launch impeachment proceedings was “not a partisan matter, it’s about the integrity of our democracy, respect for the rule of law and defending our Constitution.”

Looking ahead to the 2020 election, the Ukrainian scandal is likely to put many Republicans running in those battleground districts in an untenable position. If they agree that the president’s actions merit condemnation, they will alienate the ferociously pro-Trump Republican base, but if they run as Trump defenders they will lose the moderate majorities in those districts.

The Democrats’ decision to begin impeachment proceedings has set the country on a course whose end is impossible to predict, but right now the political advantage seems to rest with Nancy Pelosi. In the wake of the Mueller report, she successfully prevented a drive toward impeachment that could have split the Democrats’ moderates and progressives. Although Ukraine-gate and the moderates’ resulting bolt toward impeachment may have forced her hand, she now presides over a unified caucus prepared to launch an investigation that may prove extremely dangerous for Trump and the Republicans.


Trump, Manhattan prosecutors to face off over tax returns

September 25, 2019

by Brendan Pierson


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for U.S. President Donald Trump are expected to appear in court on Wednesday to urge a federal judge to block Manhattan prosecutors from obtaining eight years of the president’s tax returns as part of a criminal investigation.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed the returns from Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA on Aug. 29. Earlier this month, Trump sued to block the subpoena, arguing that a president is immune from criminal investigation while in office.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero is scheduled to hear arguments on whether to block the subpoena on Wednesday morning.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for Vance declined to comment on the case.

Before Trump, it was customary for presidents to disclose their tax returns during their election campaigns.

Trump’s lawsuit against Vance is one of several efforts by the president to shield his personal finances from investigation.

He is separately trying to block Deutsche Bank AG from handing over financial records, which the bank has said include tax returns, sought by Democrats in Congress. A federal appeals court in Manhattan heard arguments in that case on Aug. 23 and has yet to rule.

Vance argued in a court filing on Monday that Trump must not be allowed to assert “blanket immunity from criminal prosecution.” He also said that Marrero, a federal district court judge, does not have the authority to decide the case because the dispute belongs in New York state court, where a grand jury issued the subpoena.

Mazars, which is also named as a defendant in Trump’s lawsuit, said in a statement that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.” It said that as a matter of policy it does not comment on its work for clients.

The scope of Vance’s investigation is not publicly known.

The subpoena on Mazars came four weeks after Vance issued a separate subpoena to the Trump Organization for records of hush money payments to two women prior to the 2016 presidential election. The women, the porn star known as Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, have said they had sexual relationships with Trump, which he has denied.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Dan Grebler


Pearl Harbor

September 25, 2019

by Christian Jürs

The Japanese attack on the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941 was one of those watershed events which mark the history of all nations.

The facts of the attack have never been in doubt. The ships comprising the Imperial Japanese naval task force are as well known as the ships of the U.S. Navy that were sunk during the raid. The losses in men and material on both sides are a matter of uncontested public record as are the names of the various military and political leaders of both Japan and the United States.

What has been a matter of conjecture from the moment that the last carrier-based Japanese bomber left Hawaii is why did the attack happen and who or what was responsible for the unleashing of a destructive war in the Pacific that killed hundreds of thousands of American, British, Dutch, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, Burmese and Koreans as well as one and a half million Chinese soldiers and left a similar number of Japanese dead. Not taken into account in most chronicles of the war are the numbers of civilian dead . The Chinese totals are unknown but estimated to be between 700,000 and 10,000,000. The number of Japanese civilians killed in air raids or other war-related casualties were about 953, 000.

In apportioning the guilt of war, it is the victors who write the histories and the losers who are condemned to a generation of silence.

There is no point, and certainly not sufficient space, to chronicle the complete root causes of this war. The actions and attitudes of past generations can be sifted and analyzed, circumstances and happenings viewed from a multitude of different angles and blame or praise apportioned by historians according to their personal opinions or, more often, by the official attitudes of those who command their works.

The 1941 war in the Pacific, like any incident, cannot be dissected with any degree of accuracy without exploring the history, politics and personalities of previous generations and to this prolix roll must be added such factors as economics, demographics and natural resources.

A kaleidoscope is a pleasant toy with which to amuse children but its concept can serve as an example of the extraordinary problems that face historians who wish to explore the avenues of history and to write about them without prejudice.

The mirrored tube of the toy contains bits of colored glass. What can’t be known are what patterns that will form each time the tube is rotated. This is the problem that faces historians. Facts and dates are certainly easily recognized but all of the various factors involved in historical occurrences become blurred and confusing when viewed across the distance of time.

The further the observer is removed from the moment, the more confusing the patterns become because the literature he must consult is blurred with personal opinion, clumsy and inaccurate analysis and the reality that the winners never admit their victory was either unnecessary or accidental.

With this in mind, where is a beginning to be made concerning the great Pacific war? Does one go back to the beginning of the century or the beginning of the millennium?

It may be erudite for a writer to bring forward chapters of ancient history and to spangle his works with his own opinions and psychological insights into the motives and personalities of the leaders of the period but all this does is serve as a vehicle for the writer’s ego and can only entertain but rarely inform.

Since the end of the war and the death of all the major leaders, more and more valuable records are becoming available to the public. When these are gathered, studied and finally compiled in chronological order, many of the myths, legends and deliberate untruths dissolve to be replaced with as much of the truth as can ever be found concerning a controversial issue.

No one wishes to take the responsibility for deliberately beginning a war that might have had no real reason for its commencement and whose course slaughtered millions of people.

Those in power in the United States when the war broke out cannot have been expected to write memoirs in which they would admit to having instigated such a war. It is far easier to blame the Japanese for launching the bloody conflict with a surprise attack than to suggest that perhaps Japan had been maneuvered into launching the attack.

The supporters of President Franklin Roosevelt have poured out hundreds of books since the end of the war in 1945, not only in praise of the American president’s actions but to place the blame for Pearl Harbor squarely on the expansionism and treachery of Imperial Japan. The basic themes of these essays in justification are Japanese treachery and American innocence.

Roosevelt’s role in the Pearl Harbor attack has been a subject of intense speculation from the very day of the debacle in Hawaii. His opponents, and he had many, claim that he deliberately pushed the Japanese into a war to permit him to fight his arch enemy, Adolf Hitler. His supporters, and they are equally legion, have repeatedly, often and at length denied this thesis but as their ranks thin and as more and more important material becomes available, their defenses have been seriously breached.

In this protracted debate, several valid points have been brought out by Roosevelt supporters that ought to be carefully considered. The most important point is concerned with U.S. military intelligence achievements and mainly deals with the interception and decoding of secret Japanese radio messages. Historians agree that the Japanese diplomatic code, called “Purple” after the color of their diplomatic code book, was broken by military intelligence and consequently, all high-level diplomatic messages between the Japanese Foreign office in Tokyo and Japanese diplomats stationed throughout the world were being decrypted and read almost as soon as U.S. intelligence intercepted them.

The question of the Japanese Army and Navy operational codes is an entirely different matter. The American establishment and its in-house historians have firmly denied for a half-century these military codes were broken until the end of the Pacific war in 1945.

While all of the diplomatic “Purple” decrypts have been made public in the intervening years, only a few of the coded Japanese naval messages have been released and then only in a highly edited and factually vague form.

Another issue is the timing on the decryption of the Japanese messages and the actual distribution of them to U.S. military and governmental figures in Washington. Highly significant messages are claimed not to have been decoded for four years and a number of messages of a lesser importance have no indication as to whom they were delivered or when.

In general, the official governmental position is that no really significant military messages were seen prior to the attack and therefore, neither the President nor his ranking military subordinates could have possibly had any knowledge of a pending attack.

The Japanese task force did not transmit any messages during their foray across the deserted waters of the north Pacific but they did receive a considerable number of transmissions sent to them, in naval code, from the CIC Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, and other military officials. A reading of this traffic makes it very clear indeed that an attack against Pearl Harbor was in train and for this reason, admission of the existence and knowledge of these transmissions by political and military figures in the U.S. has been very strongly, and officially, denied in the intervening years.

The argument has been well made, specifically by Roberta Wohlstetter in her 1961 book, ‘Pearl Harbor, Warning and Decision’, that so many Japanese coded messages were intercepted that it was extremely difficult for American intelligence agency personnel to winnow the wheat from the chaff. In retrospect, historians have stated, a Japanese attack was certainly in the offing but the direction of this attack was lost in the muddle of complex and difficult-to-translate messages.

One of the areas of great interest to historians has been the possible motivation for Roosevelt’s increasing pressure on the Japanese government, a pressure that culminated in seizure of Japanese assets and an embargo on oil, gas and scrap metal which were vital to maintaining the Japanese military machine. Many reasons have been given for the President’s action including a personal prejudice in favor of China. His maternal grandfather had a very lucrative opium smuggling operation with that country in the nineteenth century. Other, more likely scenarios encompass Roosevelt’s personal hatred of Hitler in particular and all Germans in general as well as an overriding determination to remain President of the United States until carried out of the office.

Both of these reasons are valid but in and of themselves do not fully explain the dangerous brinkmanship practiced by Roosevelt in his 1941 dealings with Japan. It is painfully and very clearly evident from reading the intercepts of the Japanese diplomatic messages that Tokyo was not only not interested in pursuing war against the U.S. but was seriously engaged in frantic attempts to defuse a dangerous situation which its accelerating progress caused them great alarm. There is no question that Roosevelt and his top advisors were reading all the Japanese diplomatic intercepts and were made fully aware the ease by which they could establish effective dialog with the Japanese government. All diplomatic approaches by Japan were rebuffed by Roosevelt and Cordell Hull, his Secretary of State. The artificial diplomatic crisis deepened and as the year waned, the probability of Japanese military action was clearly evident at the highest official levels in Washington.

To attempt to ascertain Roosevelt’s actual motives in his attitude towards Japan, it might be instructive to consider the situations in both Europe and the United States in 1941.

War between Germany and Poland had broken out on September 1, 1939 and rapidly escalated when France and Britain declared war on Germany several days later. The German army quickly crushed Poland but Hitler made no effort to attack either France or England, hoping that eventually some kind of a settlement could be made with both countries.

In spite of a number of diplomatic moves, Hitler could achieve nothing with either party although the French certainly were not interested in a reprise of the terrible First World War in which their country was turned into a shell-pocked ocean of mud and destruction.

In 1940, the British under their new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, decided to attack neutral Norway and by doing so, deprive Germany of Swedish iron ore shipments that came by sea along the Norwegian coast from northern Sweden. Hitler noted that the British had violated Norwegian neutrality on February 16 when Royal Navy destroyers entered Norwegian territorial waters and attacked the German tanker Altmark despite the protests of Norwegian naval units. The British now began to plan the invasion of Norway and this information came to German intelligence from a neutral diplomat in London.

This knowledge propelled Hitler into immediate action and German troops struck preemptively into Norway and Denmark on March 1. With an improvement in the weather, the Wehrmacht launched an attack on the western front on May 10 and by June 21, had forced the French to surrender and had driven the defeated British out of Europe

During this period, Roosevelt could not intervene in the conflict because the law

constrained him from declaring war without a mandate from Congress and, given the public American sentiment then prevailing, this would never be forthcoming.

Exactly when Roosevelt determined to attack Hitler is not known but there is a considerable body of evidence that his hatred of the German leader stemmed from a speech Hitler gave to his Reichstag on April 28, 1939. This speech, which was a masterpiece of sarcasm, was given in response to an address Roosevelt had made to Hitler a week earlier in which he demanded the German leader give assurances that he would not invade such countries as Ireland and Palestine. As Roosevelt had little actual knowledge of European politics, Hitler was able to very effectively demolish the American president’s arguments. Roosevelt could not stand any kind of criticism from any source and his response to Hitler’s speech was fury and a determination to attack Hitler at the first opportunity.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched a massive attack against the Soviet Union, at the time his ally. Many reasons have been given for this attack but a careful study of German and Soviet records indicates that Hitler viewed this campaign solely as a preemptive strike against a country which was rapidly preparing to attack him first.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Roosevelt had actively sought the support of the well-organized Communist party in the United States. This group was influential in certain industrial areas and especially in New York State whose Governor Roosevelt had once been. There is no question that the Communist support was vital in Roosevelt’s election and would continue to be vital in maintaining him in the White House. A man of almost no ideological understanding, Roosevelt was an extremely shrewd domestic politician and he realized the active support of the radical left was vital to his survival in office. His administrations were rapidly filled with a significantly large number of members of the left and Roosevelt went to great lengths to support their aims. The Hitler-Stalin pact in 1939 came as a great shock to American Communists but when Hitler invaded Stalin’s Russia in June of 1941, the Soviet dictator once again resumed his place as the champion of the workers and peasants and a very sought-after ally of Roosevelt and his administration.

The swift advances of the German Army and the virtual collapse of the Soviet Army became a source of great concern to Roosevelt. The large losses in territory and manpower suffered by the Soviets convinced many in Washington that the complete disintegration of the Soviet government was only weeks away. This caused great consternation in both London and Washington because Stalin was the last viable enemy of Hitler. England was militarily wrecked and could not launch a meaningful attack against Germany and the neutral U.S. could do nothing to assist Stalin but give him as much financial support as they could.

If, as it appeared in the autumn of 1941, Russia could collapse, the last major hope for the containment and destruction of Hitler and his country would be gone.

The point of balance now shifted from European Russia to the Far East.

When the leading edge of the German Army was before Moscow, the capital was subject to heavy air raids by the Luftwaffe, and the bulk of the Soviet government and the diplomatic corps had fled. What was left of the decimated Soviet Red Army was engaged in a protracted death struggle for the capital.

There was a very acute possibility the Japanese, chronic enemies of Russia and officially allied with Germany, would take advantage of Stalin’s major preoccupation with the siege of his capital and fall onto his rear, invading the eastern province of Siberia. This area was extraordinarily difficult to supply as the Czar’s generals discovered in 1904. The hostility between Japan and Russia which erupted in that year and the Russo-Japanese war ended in a defeat for Russia and Japan’s elevation to the status of a world power. The animosity between the two countries never abated and in July of 1938, an expansionist Japan, engaged in a protracted and very savage war with the provincial warlords of China, turned its attentions towards Russia and attempted to seize land inside the Soviet Union at Chankufeng near the vital Soviet naval base of Vladivostok.

The Soviets counterattacked and drove the Japanese back into their own territory. Undaunted by their defeat, Japan attacked the Soviets again in May of 1939 and for four months a series of battles raged back and forth. Eventually, in late August of that year, Soviet General Zhukov launched a powerful attack against the invader with nine divisions and 600 tanks. The Japanese were severely beaten; suffering the loss of 18,000 men and considerable aircraft.

Following this humiliating defeat, there was a strong movement in the Japanese high command to prepare for war against the Soviet Union. This project was called the Strike North plan and their plans for an attack on Vladivostok were shown to Hitler by General Baron Oshima, Japan’s pro-German ambassador as early as March, 1941. Hitler discussed the probability of this attack with members of his military staff throughout the balance of the year.

The major problem facing Roosevelt then is evident. Stalin was the linchpin of the Roosevelt-Churchill military policy. If Stalin fell, Hitler was certain to destroy Russia’s capacity to remain in the war and this could not be allowed to happen. Roosevelt was able to give funds to Stalin but could send no supplies or weapons of war to the dictator without the approval of Congress. If Japan decided to move against Stalin’s eastern territories, he would then be fighting a two-front war and without any question, would be quickly defeated.

In autumn of 1941, therefore, Roosevelt’s most urgent task was to prevent Japan from launching any military actions against Russia. As the President was well aware, there was another military faction in Japan that wished to expand in a southern direction and secure the natural resources of Southeastern Asia. This faction was called the Strike South Force and their aims were far more acceptable to Roosevelt than their rivals’ one.

By applying both diplomatic and economic pressure against Japan, Roosevelt obviously hoped to distract the Japanese from embarking on a Russian adventure and to encourage them to move, if move they did, in the opposite and far more acceptable direction. Roosevelt was safe enough in embracing this southern concept because the U.S. had very little invested in the Far East with the exception of a few mid-Pacific islands and the Philippines which, in any case, were slated for independence in 1948.

The British, on the other hand, had a great deal of capital invested in the same area so Churchill was equally fearful of the southern plan of the Japanese. By 1941, however, Britain had been reduced to the level of a client state of America.

Although professing great sympathy for Churchill’s war, Roosevelt had no problem whatsoever in securing the most advantageous financial position he could when England found it must replenish its military equipment losses. When the British Expeditionary Force had fled France in 1940, they had to abandon all of their heavy equipment, vehicles, artillery and small arms on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Roosevelt was most pleased to resupply the British Army…at a price. He sold them obsolete American rifles, equipment, and outdated ammunition and sent them on trade fifty destroyers dating back 30 years and in deplorable repair. In return for this largesse, Churchill had to pay in gold, paper money not being wanted, and to find the gold, he had to empty the treasury and the banks of England. When the gold had all vanished into the U.S. Fort Knox repository, Roosevelt then demanded, and got, the surrender of all British assets and business holdings in the United States and Canada. These his Treasury Department consistently undervalued and these minimal values were credited to the account of the British government for arms purchases.

The assets were later resold by the government to private parties at a considerable profit. This Yankee trading also extended to other, similar spheres when in April of 1941,  Roosevelt had the Treasury Department freeze the assets of the Swiss bank branches in the United States on the flimsy grounds that German funds might be involved. What was actually involved were $230 million in Jewish refugee funds, all but $500 thousand of which were kept by the U.S. government.

When the possibility of a Japanese invasion of British territories arose, Churchill expressed great alarm to Roosevelt but the American President then held all the cards and brushed aside the Prime Minister’s concerns with vague promises that America would regain any lost territory at the conclusion of what Roosevelt was certain would be a successful war.

In actuality, Roosevelt was a bitter opponent of the colonial system and expressed to his inner circle that he had no intentions of returning any former colony to its ante bellum masters.

American pressure on Japan to prevent any attack on Russia is certainly the simplest answer to the complex welter of issues raised in the postwar years concerning the outbreak of war in the Pacific. In reality, Roosevelt was completely successful in his goal of distracting the Japanese military but the price the American public eventually paid was enormous.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

September 25, 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. 63

Date: Friday, February 7, 1997

Commenced:  11:55 AM CST

Concluded:  12:35 PM CST


RTC: Hello there, Gregory. I hope you’re feeling better than I am.

GD: You have a cold?

RTC: No, getting old. Some advice, Gregory. Don’t get old. The worst part isn’t forgetting things, it’s remembering. And knowing you are helpless to correct the present. But there still is correcting the past.

GD: Historians do that all the time. Hitler lost so Hitler was always wrong. Roosevelt won so Roosevelt was always right. Saints and sinners. It depends entirely on who wins.

RTC: True. I told you I once met Roosevelt, didn’t I? My father got me in to see him. Old and shaky, but still clever. Phony old bastard, one thing to the face and another to the back, but very shrewd in political circles. He set up a powerful movement, but as soon as he hit the floor, they started to dismantle it.

GD: Müller was filling me in on the anti-Communist activities he was involved in. McCarthy and all of that.

RTC: Well, Franklin put them all in, and Truman threw them all out. Most of them were Jewish so we were all accused of anti-Semitism, but we held all the cards then and they knew it, so criticism was muted. It wouldn’t be that way now, but times change.

GD: They always do and a smart man changes with them.

RTC: Some times the older forms are better.

GD: Yes, but people grow tired of old forms and want new ones. A revolution might mean more money and power for some and death or disgrace for others. The wheel does turn.

RTC: So it does. I wanted to give you a little background here, Gregory, about you. You see, at one time, these others wanted to set up a sort of private think tank. They wanted to call it after the oracle of Delphi. Tom Kimmel, Bill Corson, the Trento ménage, Critchfield and others. But they wanted me to be the honcho.

GD: And why you?

RTC: I have the connections with the business community. I could get big money people behind the idea. It was a sort of miniature Company if you will. Money and power. We always called it the Company because it was a huge business conglomerate. But anyway, this think tank would bring all of us lots of money. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel too happy with the make up of it. Kimmel is pompous and entirely too much obsessed with his late Grandfather; the Trentos are very lightweight, but aren’t really aware of it; and poor Bill is a perpetual wannabe, running around trying to sound like a great keeper of various unknown secrets. We tried Costello. Tom liked him because of his Pearl Harbor writings, but I never liked him. There was a screw loose in his brain somewhere. And of course being a fairy didn’t improve his objectivity. I gave up on John after his trip to Reno. He hated you, you know.

GD: My heart is breaking. I should have given him some of my old shorts to chew on.

RTC: Now do let’s be serious, Gregory. John was a spiteful person but I got the impression he thought you were much worse than he was and since he was hiding his perversions, he probably thought you could see through him. I think people get that impression: That you watch and see too much. Of course, it doesn’t help that you run your mouth and say terrible things about self-made saints. Anyway, I didn’t want John involved and then I began to have some interest in you. Of course, I couldn’t put you forward for the group because Kimmel detested you and Bill didn’t know where to turn. He liked you but always listened to others in making up his mind. When I ditched Costello and Bill knew you and I were talking, Kimmel went through the roof. He didn’t like me talking to you and spent much time getting his oafs at Justice to ring me up and tell me how terrible you were. Tom likes to get others to do his dirty work, I noticed long ago. The Trento family didn’t know you and Bill is actually afraid of you. So the private study group for profit more or less died a natural death. I wanted to include you but they did not so there it ended.

GD: I would have had no problem working with you but not with the others. Bill is a lightweight, Kimmel a gasbag and the one Trento book I tried to read was hopeless.

RTC: Yes.

GD: ‘And slime had they for mortar.’—Genesis 11:3.

RTC: Citing Scripture, Gregory? I thought the Devil did that.

GD: He does. Daily. Now we call him Pat Robertson.

RTC: Where’s your Christian charity?

GD: I sold it to buy a gun.

RTC: Yes. Well, to get back to the subject here, which is the fact that these gentlemen do not like you, but I do. They have stopped yapping about you because I told them to shut up, but no doubt they still run around behind my back and try to stab you in the back. Never to the face, but in the back.

GD: Not to change the subject, Robert, but why do you really call it the Company?

RTC: Because it’s a huge business. We are one of the most powerful businesses on the planet, Gregory. We make enormous sums of money, have established a tight and very complete control over the media, have the White House doing as we tell them to, overturn foreign governments if they dare to thwart our business ventures, and so on.

GD: Business ventures?

RTC: A generalized case in point. A left-wing nigger gets into power in the Congo. The Congo has huge uranium deposits. Will Moscow get the uranium? The Belgian businessmen come to us for help. We agree to help them and we get into a civil war and murder Lumumba. One of our men drove around with his rotting corpse in his trunk. The head of the UN starts to interfere in matters, so we have an aircraft accident that kills him very dead and stops the interference. We tell the President about the uppity nigger but not about poor dead Dag. We tell them what we want them to hear and nothing more.

GD: And the business aspect?

RTC: The drugs, of course, bring in astronomical amounts of loose money. And if some rival group cuts into the business, we get them removed. Ever read about huge heroin busts somewhere? Our rivals going down for the third time. All of this is part and parcel of the Plan.

GD: Sounds like the Templar’s Plan.

RTC: Ah, you know about this, do you? Which one of the seven dwarves enlightened you? Not Kimmel, but probably Bill.

GD: Actually no. I was speaking of the Plan of the Templars…

RTC: Ah, you see, you do know that. You knew Allen was an initiate, didn’t you?

GD: Well, not in so many words. Didn’t the Templars get disbanded for having too much money? I think they killed DeMolay…

RTC: Now don’t change the subject here. They were never really disbanded, but they went underground. Do you know how much money they had? The French only got a little bit of it. Now let me know, who told you?

GD: You did, actually. Just now. I was thinking of Umberto Eco’s excellent Foucault’s Pendulum and his discussion of the survival of the Templars.

RTC: I missed that one. Is that an old book?

GD: No. Late ‘80s, if I remember. Brilliant historical pastiche. Eco’s an Italian scholar and the book is wonderful, although I doubt very few people in America would understand a word of it. They don’t teach history in our public schools, only political correctness. You can no longer look for the chink in someone’s armor anymore because Asians are terribly offended and you dare not call a spade a spade.

RTC: Yes, yes, I know all that. Stunts the mind.

GD: It’s my impression, based on my visits to your town, that they don’t have any minds to stunt.

RTC: Don’t forget, Gregory, that I was in government service as well.

GD: There are always exceptions, Robert.

RTC: Many thanks for your kindness, Gregory. The Templars have always had money but they have been an underground power for so long, they are set in their ways. We are public and they are not, so there is a sort of joint partnership here. As I said, Dulles was taken in when he was in Switzerland. One of the Jung people, as I remember. They can open doors, Gregory, don’t ever think they can’t, but they are always out of the sunlight.

GD: Like the mythic vampires.

RTC: Custom and usage, as they say. We have common interests, believe me.

GD: Catholic group?

RTC: Not anymore.

GD: Well, I had an ancestor in the Teutonic Knights, and they really never went away. And the Knights of Malta still have some influence in Papal matters. Interesting about the Templars, though. I thought Eco was just a good story teller. Could be. Secret societies have always intrigued parts of the public. The dread Masons, for example. Of course, before the French Revolution, they had a great deal of clandestine power in France, but now I think they’re just a high class fraternal organization. Müller told me that the Nazis were obsessed with the Masons, but when the Gestapo got around to really investigating them, they found nothing sinister at all. Just a social organization and nothing more.

RTC: You know quite a bit about so many interesting things. I can see why you got on with the kraut and why the rat pack here hates you. I must ask you please not to discuss this business with anyone. I would also ask you not to put it into anything you write concerning me. The Kennedy business is bad enough, but no one would believe a word of the other business.

GD: I agree, Robert. But if I have to give up a really interesting story, can I get more information on Kennedy?

RTC: Yes, I can send you more. I did give Bill a copy of the Russian report, but nothing more. He started bragging about this, so I basically shut him down. Of course, it doesn’t really say anything, but once is enough when someone starts to leak out material they have sworn to keep silent about.

GD: And have you tested me?

RTC: I don’t need to. You aren’t trying to make points with the bosses like they are. I hate to say it because I am friendly with all of them, but they are just a bunch of useless ass kissers. You certainly are not.

GD: No, I am not. I don’t trust anyone in the establishment. My God, you ought to listen to what the Landreth people were telling me, [I want to wet myself,] that they can put me on the cover of Time magazine. Of course I really believe them and I would like nothing better than to have my picture on the cover of Time magazine. It used to be a good news magazine but now it’s worse than People Magazine which sells very well in the supermarket checkout lines. And right next to the National Enquirer which is probably written by the same people.

RTC: I think the day of the printed paper or magazine is dying. We still have our hand in on that game. We moved to television, but that is also losing out, so we are moving into the Internet. But don’t ask me about that, because I know nothing about it. We view the Internet as very dangerous because we can’t begin to control it. Set up a few people with money and push them. Hope for the best, you know. but doubtful.

GD: The Templars story is interesting, mainly because I read Eco and know something about their early days.

RTC: When the conspiracy idiots babble on about secret societies, they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. They go on about the CFR and the Masons but they don’t know the half of it.

GD: Did you ever read Mills’ The Power Elite? Came out in ’54 and is a little out of date but very good.

RTC: Can’t say as I have. Didn’t you mention this once? No matter. I might have but years ago. Speculative?

GD: Concrete, realistic and so on. The reason why the American public is so wrapped up in conspiracy theories is because they have lost all faith in their government and most of our major institutions such as banks, the press, mainline religion and so on. I remember the so-called OPEC panic when the price of gas at the pump went up every ten minutes. There was no OPEC crisis, but just the oil companies creating a panic so they could make huge profits. Ever notice, Robert, how the price of gas at the pump soars just at the beginning of summer when everyone drives on trips and then comes down in winter when no one drives? And how the price of fuel oil drops off in summer when no one needs it but then shoots up every winter when everyone does? Tell me, are these accidents?

RTC: Of course not, Gregory, of course not.

GD: I’m surprised that people don’t pick up on this.

RTC: They won’t pick up on anything at all and what if they did? A little talk here and there and they pay the bills.

GD: And the sheep get shorn again.

RTC: Yes, if you want to put it that way. That’s why they’re there, isn’t it?


(Conclusion at 12:35 PM CST)



Encyclopedia of American Loons

David Rives


David Rives, son of Richard Rives and head of David Rives Ministries, is a creationist in the grand tradition of ridiculous crackpots like Ray Comfort and Carl Baugh, whose TV program “Creation in the 21st Century” (on the Trinity Broadcasting Network) Rives seems to have inherited. Rives’s output, in particular his series of short videos, is regularly featured by the WND, for instance in WND’s video series The Heavens Declare, where Rives goes through all the usual talking points in apparent favor of a 6000-year-old universe, such as the old and thoroughly refuted creationist take on the bombardier beetle (which Rives seems to think, in line with the teachings of standard creationist cryptozoology, is evidence for the historical accuracy of descriptions of large fire-breathing dragons in the Bible), with a recurrent focus on irreducible complexity. He also thinks that all modern scientific discoveries were predicted by the Bible, mostly because the ones that weren’t are just atheist conspiracies anyways. Here, for instance, is Rives claiming that gravity only makes sense in the context of the Bible.

Rives attack evolutionists on the grounds that dictionaries distinguish astronomy from astrology – “God is behind the stars, not in them,” Rives inform us. Take that, atheists and evolutionists. Of course, Rives is not particularly fond of astronomy either, and has argued for instance against the Big Bang; according to Rives “good science” backs up the six-day creation account in the Bible, and “bad science” contradicts it – “good scientific practice” is the set of methods that give you the answers you’ve already convinced yourself are correct – and besides, the Big Bang theory has unanswered questions: only the Bible has all the answers. Here is Rives explaining further why Big Bang is science fiction (it’s only an atheistic theory) because good science is supposed to be observable and repeatable; evolution, as he sees it, is faith, not science – no, he doesn’t have the faintest idea what science is. (Hint: science istesting hypotheses about the unobserved through observable data derived from the hypotheses – that’s the whole pointof scientific inquiry – and it’s the observationsthat must be repeatable, not the events or circumstances your hypothesis is about.) Then he explains how Galileo, Kepler, and Newton all relied on a Biblical perspective; science should apparently have stopped there (Kepler, of course, also relied on astrology; Rives doesn’t mention that). And in the brief video “Billions of Earths in the Galaxy” Rives argues against elitist, smartypants astronomers who claim to have found “earth-like” planets elsewhere in our galaxy, pointing out that even astronomers admit that even the closest one is supposed to be 13 light years away, which according to the “Rives Theory of Relativity” (no, seriously: he calls it that) would take us more than 200,000 years to reach with any spacecraft. And what does it mean? At best that astronomers don’t know what they are talking about; at worst apparently that they are deliberately trying to sow doubt about the Bible.

Elsewhere, Rives likes to argue against evolution based for instance on standard creationist misunderstandings (or lying) about the Cambrian explosion. Rives claims that mutations, which are obviously bad for us because they are so random and therefore an argument against evolution (yeah, that one again – he really, really doesn’t get that natural selection bit of the theory of evolution). Rives claimed that clam fossils in Kansas are irrefutable proof of a global flood because they were found “nearly 1000 miles from the nearest ocean” and “2500 feet above sea level.” Oh, ye stupid secular scientists: clams on dry land! What do you say to that? Surely the evolutionist explanation for them relies purely on dishonesty. At least his reports from his, uh, study trip to South Africa are rather fascinating in a train-wreck sort of way.

As for his TV show Creation in the 21th century, it is based on the observation that “[t]heologians have long questioned the dogma of Darwinian evolution, particularly when its adherents have trumpeted the theory as evidence God is no longer needed to understand the universe. But in recent decades the classic, Darwinian narrative of man descended from primordial ooze through the process of random chance and mutation has drawn criticism from another, perhaps more surprising sector: from the world of science.” Of course, the idea that evolution proceeds by random chance is precisely a fundamental misunderstanding frequently made by creationists that real scientists have criticized rather severely, but that’s not what Rives has in mind, of course. The show features “interviews with top scientists around the world discussing the controversial topic of creation science” – “top scientists” here of course being used according to Rives’s personal definition of “science”, which has little to do with science.

Diagnosis: Good grief. As feeble as you could possibly imagine, but apparently that is the key to success with this particular audience, and Rives seems to be on the ascendance to something resembling stardom in the creationist circus.


 Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is a motivational and political speaker, as well as author of several best-selling personal-development and political books. Ostensibly a libertarian, Ringer has over the years moved toward more and more feverishly deranged conspiracy theories. Currently an ardent defender of what he calls rational living, Ringer has his own, personal understanding of ‘rational’, which unfortunately has few points of contact with rationality.

Ringer is also a relatively frequent columnist for the WND, under the signature “A Voice of Sanity” (an instance of a corollary of Badger’s Law). This is for instance where Ringer, over several columns, warned us that Obama was going to cancel the 2012 election and declare himself dictator – one suggestion for instance being that Obama would use the violence in the Middle East to declare a state of emergency and cancel the election (that Obama, at the time the column was written, looked exceedingly likely to win), in accordance with the wishes of his nebulous allies on the far left: “[t]he far left, of course, would love a state of emergency and suspension,” said Ringer, because they disagree with his political views and are therefore evil and just trying to destroy things. Of course, this was Obama’s plan from the start; Obama was, according to Ringer already from the outset “well aware that the continuation of his policies will destroy the U.S. economy beyond repair. I believe his strategy from the outset has been to follow the Saul Alinsky model [the understanding of which seems closer to the strategies described in Ringer’s own 1974 book Winning Through Intimidation, in fact]: Win the presidency through a semi-legitimate election [not completely legitimate because Ringer disagreed with the outcome], then tighten your grip over everything and everybody, move swiftly to create economic chaos, and use the chaos you’ve created to establish a dictatorship.” Ringer also repeatedly warned about Obama’s continuing efforts to “grab your guns” (always in the immediate future); and gun control, warned Ringer, is merely a first step: “gulags, gas chambers and firing squads are easily put into place,” and the president will thus ultimately be able to accomplish his life mission: “the complete destruction of Western civilization.” Evidence that these are Obama’s intentions? Ringer disagrees with Obama on economic policy, and if you disagree with Ringer on fiscal policies, well, this is just the natural conclusion to draw about your ultimate life goals according to Ringer’s idiosyncratic understanding of “rationality”. Moreover, Obama is angry, like the “other angry people” who influenced him, “from Frank Marshall Davis to Jeremiah Wright, from Bernardine Dohrn to Michelle Robinson.” Black people apparently tend to seem angry to Ringer. He is of course also a birther, who “knew the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Obama before he ever took office. We knew he would never make the original of his birth certificate available to any independent authority.”

Ringer’s silliness is not limited to politics and political forecasts, however. Ringer is also for instance a creationist, having, according to himself, discovered – when he ostensibly read up on the topic – that “evolution sounded like something out of ‘Aesop’s Fables.’ Inanimate matter ‘evolving’ into an animal, and an animal evolving into a human being? It seemed to me to be an idea that required a size extra-large imagination.” Ah, yes – the argument from incredulity. Why the incredulity? Well, you see, according to Ringer it is completely impossible for purely random processes to have created anything as complex as living organisms. Which, as an argument (a common one among creationists), at least shows that Ringer hasn’t even tried to understand evolution (hint: the processes are exactly not random; that’s sort of the whole significance of Darwin’s discovery). Incredulity is natural when you don’t have the faintest idea what you are talking about. (Nor does he, for that matter, understand what “random” means, as shown by possibly the most feeble attempt on the Internet to prove the existence of God  – “How can infinity be explained away by simply saying that everything is random?” asks Ringer rhetorically; how, indeed). Apparently, part of the problem is evolutionists’ overreliance on science: science is limited, according to Ringer: “science can explain how gravity works, but it cannot explain why it works the way it does;” Ringer calls this the “Why Wall” (it’s more commonly known as appeal to mystery): “You can offer endless scientific explanations for a natural disaster like a hurricane – high pressure systems, low-pressure systems, unusually warm ocean water, etc. – but eventually you come to what I call the ‘Why Wall.’ Whydo these phenomena occur?” (Might he have tried – and miserably failed – to read Dilthey?). Bill O’Reilly famously tried a similar gambit concerning the tides.

And then we’re off down the rabbit hole. Since the complexity of life cannot be random, there must be a Conscious Universal Power Source behind it all. And therefore, thinks Ringer, we have evidence for the Law of Attraction, the nonsense familiar from The Secret: “Since every negative has an offsetting positive built into it, and vice versa, you always have a choice as to whether to focus on the abundance or the scarcity in your life […] if you want more positives in your life, you’d be wise to focus on the positives you already have. You’ll be amazed at the number of new positives that will almost magically make their appearance into your life as a result of this mindset,” says Ringer, and before you conclude that this is just standard, metaphorical, fluffy, motivational newspeak hogwash, Ringer assures us: “Let me make it clear that there that is nothing magical about this phenomenon. On the contrary, it’s quite scientific. What makes it possible is the fact that 1) all atoms are connected, and 2) atoms vibrate at tremendous rates of speed.” It is not scientific. Continues Ringer: “That’s why, when your thoughts are positive, science works its wonders and causes those vibrating atoms in your brain to draw positive people, things and circumstances into your life. Because you are connected to the Conscious Universal Power Source, you always have infinite power at your disposal.” Then he invokes quantum physics. No, really.

Diagnosis: Ringer is clearly aware that “reason” and “sanity” are concepts that denote something we should aspire to. Unfortunately, he has no idea what it is, and the results are predictably pitiful and feeble. That he is also a best-selling author on political topics is rather scary, however.


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