TBR News August 22, 2017

Aug 22 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 22, 2017:”The recent eruption in Charlottesville, Virginia, is symptomatic of the growing political problems being instigated in the United States. Charlottesville is a quiet, university town but it has been the scene of rigged violence when radical groups screamed that bronze statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson were vile mementos of slavery and should be removed. This resonated with a weak city government but not with the public. Neither Lee nor Jackson were advocates of slavery but were first class generals and long-time heroes of the Southern side of what has been called by some the War of Northern Aggression. Lee was a superb general and a gentleman and the yowling of a handful of political misfits could be better directed elsewhere. Most properly in their own territory from which most were bussed into Charlottesville by rich political manipulators such as the radical left wing trouble maker George Soros. He had eagerly backed Hillary Clinton for president and when she was defeated, Soros was furious and gathered his paid henchmen to so disrupt the American domestic scene as to, hopefully, force Trump to resign. Creatures like Soros think that because they have money, they are somehow important in the scheme of things and that they can purchase support for whatever their views may be. In this case, disrupting and polarizing the people can only lead to increasing and senseless violence. The American media, firmly under control, bleats about the perceived enemies of their controllers in a boring and little-read diatribes. People who feast on hatred often end up dead in the woods, a meal for small animals.”


Table of Contents

  • Angry protest at Charlottesville meeting over far-right rally
  • Trump and the Geopolitics of Crazy
  • The Mysteries of the Russian Mindset
  • Spain terror suspect tells court cell was planning much bigger attack
  • And the winner is: Assad
  • Conversations with the Crow


Angry protest at Charlottesville meeting over far-right rally

August 22, 2017

BBC News

Angry protests erupted at a city council meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed at a white nationalist rally 10 days ago.

Protesters and residents packed into the meeting to criticise officials for their handling of the event.

The mayor and two council members left the room as two people unfurled a sign that read “Blood On Your Hands”.

It came as President Donald Trump called for unity after his initial response to the clashes drew outrage.

Mr Trump used his first prime-time policy address about Afghanistan to revise his thoughts on the violence in Charlottesville for the third time.

A wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all,” he said on Monday night, reading from a teleprompter.

“When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice we all suffer together.”

During a rancorous news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan on 16 August, Mr Trump appeared to defend the organisers of the rally, many of whom were neo-Nazis and white supremacists, by blaming “both sides” for the violence.

The right-wing march had been organised to protest against the proposed removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee, who commanded the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the American Civil War.

But it descended into violence after the rally’s supporters were confronted by anti-racism groups. A car later ploughed through a crowd of counter-protesters and killed Heather Heyer.

The town agreed to drape black cloth over the the statues of Robert E Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to mourn the loss of Ms Heyer, but protesters insisted it was not enough at Monday night’s city council meeting.

They called for the Mayor Mike Signer to resign and shouted “shut it down” and “shame” at members of the council, which forced members to briefly end the meeting and leave the chambers, according to US media.

The violence in Charlottesville has underscored a national debate on America’s racial legacy and the preservation of US southern culture through symbols such as the Confederate battle flag and statues of rebel leaders.



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 59

August 22, 2017


When President Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on US policy towards Cuba on June 16, he included a provision ordering that it be published in the Federal Register: “The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.”

Now, more than two months later, the document has still not appeared in the Federal Register. (Previous memoranda in this series were all published in the Federal Register less than a week after they were signed by the President.)

Since the text of the Cuba NSPM has already been posted on the White House website (though without its identifying number NSPM-5), it is not a secret. And in the larger scheme of things, failing to publish it in the Federal Register is no great dereliction of duty.

But it indicates a glitch in the machinery of government in this Administration. When the President directs a subordinate to carry out an action, no matter how trivial, it is supposed to be carried out. That did not happen here.

For some reason, the gears in this Administration are not turning normally and predictably. Even easy things are not consistently getting done.

Why not?

In response to our inquiry, the State Department offered not an explanation for the delay but only an affirmation that the Department still plans to publish the Presidential memo in the Federal Register. Sometime.


In response to congressional direction, the Department of Defense is planning to divide its existing defense acquisition office into two separate organizations. The change, which would take effect in February 2018, is predicated on the belief that it would promote technological innovation and increase efficiency.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service provides background on the move. See DOD Plan to Split Acquisition Duties, CRS Insight, August 18, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Select Acquisition Reform Provisions in the House and Senate Versions of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, August 21, 2017

Who Regulates Whom? An Overview of the U.S. Financial Regulatory Framework, August 17, 2017

Select Demographic and Other Characteristics of Recent U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees, CRS Insight, August 17, 2017

The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy, updated August 18, 2017

U.S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress, updated August 17, 2017

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, updated August 18, 2017

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress, updated August 17, 2017

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2018: In Brief, August 21, 2017

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: Selected Examples and Congressional Responses, updated August 17, 2017


Trump and the Geopolitics of Crazy

The Times They Are A-Changin’ in North Korea

August 22, 2017

by John Feffer


The United States has beaten its head against the wall of North Korea for more than 70 years, and that wall has changed little indeed as a result. The United States, meanwhile, has suffered one headache after another.

Over the last several weeks, the head banging has intensified. North Korea has tested a couple of possible intercontinental ballistic missiles. In response, Donald Trump has threatened that country with “fire and fury,” one-upping the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang. And North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is debating whether to fire a missile or two into the waters around the American island of Guam as a warning of what his country is capable of doing.

Ignore, for the moment, Trump’s off-the-cuff belligerence. Despite all their promises to overhaul North Korea policy, his top officials have closely followed the same headache-inducing pattern as their predecessors.

Threaten that all options are on the table? Check.

Apply more sanctions, even tighter ones, fiercer international ones? Check.

Try to twist China’s arm to rein in its erstwhile ally? Check.

As Trump flirts with the same default position of “strategic patience” adopted by the Obama administration, two other options beckon: talk or attack.

So far, the prospects for negotiations have been rather dim. True, Trump has directed some backhanded compliments at Kim Jong-un (a “smart cookie”) and broached the possibility of talking person-to-person with the North Korean leader. Backchannel discussions with that country’s U.N. mission in New York have made modest headway over the last several months on issues like the detention of American citizens. But President Trump is, by nature, erratic, and a purposefully understaffed State Department and distinctly under-informed National Security Council are not exactly firing on all diplomatic cylinders.

Then, of course, there’s the other alternative (an option also considered by previous administrations): launching a more concerted effort at regime change.  That approach clearly has some traction both with the impetuous man in the Oval Office and within his administration. CIA chief Mike Pompeo has, for instance, spoken of an imperative to “separate” the regime from its nuclear weapons (and he didn’t mean through negotiations). National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster has openly discussed a “preventive war” option against North Korea that sounds ominously like what the United States had in place for Iraq back in 2003. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley even declared at one point that “the time for talk is over.” (Presumably she meant the time for talk with, not at, since Donald Trump continues to excel at the latter.)

The fever dream of regime change has persisted in Washington for decades like a bad case of political malaria that repeated doses of realism have never quite eradicated. The irony is that North Korea is indeed changing, just not in response to what the United States is doing. As with China in the 1970s, Washington could encourage those changes by giving up its aggressive ambitions, stepping away from the lukewarm option of “strategic patience,” and actually sitting down to talk seriously with Pyongyang without preconditions.

Lest you think it’s too late for negotiations, remember that the U.S. was on the verge of bombing Pyongyang in 1994 just before Jimmy Carter went to North Korea and negotiated what would eventually become an agreement to freeze the country’s nuclear program. (Yes, once upon a time at least, the Kim family was willing to put that program on hold.) Maybe it’s the moment for the purported “adults” in the Trump administration to persuade the president to refocus on his golf game, while some quiet diplomacy gets under way.

Only then will Americans get what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assures us is our birthright: a good night’s sleep.

The Dangers of Regime Change

Cuba had a disgruntled former elite. Iraq had its rebellious Shiites and Kurds. Libya had the unsettling tailwind of the Arab Spring, not to mention a whole lot of people who deeply hated its ruling autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

North Korea has nothing.

Unlike those other targets of regime change, North Korea lacks any significant domestic opposition that could — at least in Washington’s version of a dream world — rush into a newly created vacuum of authority and set up a more America-friendly government. Indeed, North Korea is a veritable desert of civil society. Forget opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations. It doesn’t even have a few courageous figures like Russian nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov or Czech playwright Vaclav Havel, who openly dissented from their government’s policies during the Cold War.

The only conceivable alternative to Kim Jong-un at the moment might be the North Korean military, the sole institution with sufficient authority to nudge aside the ruling Workers Party. But it’s not clear that there’s any genuine daylight between the Kim family and that military. Moreover, were the generals to take over, they might prove more hostile toward outside powers and even more determined in their opposition to domestic reform than the current leadership.

In Cuba, Iraq, and Libya, the United States imagined that regime change would flow from the barrel of a gun — from, to be exact, the guns of the U.S. military and its paramilitary allies on the ground. However, with North Korea, even the most die-hard regime-change enthusiasts, like conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, are aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of a U.S. strike.

Pyongyang has a dispersed nuclear complex, as well as mobile missile launchers and submarines.  Its deeply entrenched artillery and rocket positions near the Demilitarized Zone, long prepared, could devastate the South Korean capital, Seoul, only 35 miles from the border, and the 25 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. If Washington struck preemptively, the Chinese have been very clear that they would support the North Koreans, which could raise a grim and potentially devastating regional war to the level of a superpower conflict.

No matter how it played out, this would be no “cakewalk” (to use a word once associated with the 2003 invasion of Iraq).  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people — North Koreans, South Koreans, Japanese, even U.S. soldiers and civilians — would be at risk. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who considered the option of a preemptive strike during the Clinton administration, now insists that, “whether or not this was a good idea in those days, I am persuaded, I am convinced it’s not a good idea today.”

For all these reasons, the top officials in the Pentagon have been risk-averse in discussing military scenarios, with Secretary of Defense James Mattis portraying the consequences of war in the region as “catastrophic” and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford acknowledging that a military solution would be “horrific.” In fact, the Trump administration’s strategic review of North Korea policy explicitly advised against any military option, preferring instead to go with “maximum pressure and engagement.”

In the back of any regime-changer’s mind has to be a single obvious scenario: a replay of Germany’s 1990 reunification in which South Korea swallows the North in a single gulp. As it happens, however, South Korea has shown little interest in copying the German example, certainly not under the leadership of its new progressive president, Moon Jae-In. The current government has, in fact, explicitly rejected any war on the Korean peninsula. Moon instead favors the sort of increased economic and social engagement with the North that might someday lead to some kind of slow-motion reunification rather than an overnight absorption of that country (which would also horrify the Chinese).

Such regime-change scenarios always overlook the deeply felt nationalism of most North Koreans. They may not like Kim Jong-un or have much faith in the government, but decades of nationalist education and propaganda have turned that country’s citizens into true believers in the North’s right to independence and self-determination. Virtually everyone there has served in the military, and there can be little doubt that the population is ready to fight to defend their homeland against outside aggressors. As in Cuba circa 1961, regime-change efforts in North Korea already have the stink of failure to them.

And even were such efforts to succeed, with a catastrophic regional war somehow being averted, the results would undoubtedly rival the cataclysms that engulfed Baghdad in 2003 and Tripoli in 2011. Millions of North Koreans would potentially stream across the borders of both China and South Korea, creating a massive refugee crisis. The economies of northeast Asia would take a major hit, which might send global markets into a tailspin. And don’t forget North Korea’s nuclear weapons and material, which could elude the search-and-secure efforts of U.S. and South Korean Special Forces and fall into the hands of who knows whom.

You’d think that the examples of Cuba, Iraq, and Libya — not to mention Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen — would have cured Washington’s regime-change enthusiasts of their recurring illusions. But no such luck, especially since those hawks deeply believe that any negotiations with North Korea will prove utterly futile, merely allowing that country to further strengthen its nuclear program.

History, however, does not bear out that particular prejudice.

Negotiating with Crazy

If you think North Korea is too crazy to negotiate with the United States — or that the Trump administration is too crazy to talk with Pyongyang — think again.

Back in the 1970s, China was a much crazier place than North Korea, so crazy in fact that thousands of Chinese escaped the madness by fleeing… to North Korea! During the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966 and lasted for roughly a decade, China’s leader, Mao Zedong, lost control of his country as teenage Revolutionary Guards unseated seasoned Communist Party officials. Up to two million people died in the nationwide upheaval. The turmoil in that country was matched by turmoil within Mao himself.  In the 1970s, he was overtaken by delusions of grandeur as he began a descent into senility. And yet despite such inauspicious circumstances, the China of that era negotiated quite reasonably with the United States to get the international recognition it so dearly wanted.

In 1970, when President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser, decided to orchestrate a diplomatic opening to that country, it wasn’t because China had shown any eagerness for negotiations. The White House was instead attempting to put pressure on Moscow by playing nice with Beijing. In this period, Nixon cultivated a “madman theory” in which his aides were to claim that he was acting in a deranged fashion, leading his adversaries, fearing being nuked, to think twice about challenging him. Even so, Nixon has gone down in history as America’s great dealmaker thanks to his successful “opening” to China.

In 1972, crazy negotiated with crazy and détente was born.

In contrast to China in those years, North Korea is not in a state of chaos. Whatever else you might think about Kim Jong-un, he’s not senile. The country’s foreign policy has been relatively consistent over the decades. The development of a nuclear program has, in its own fashion, been a rational response both to the North’s loss of an edge in conventional military power to South Korea and to U.S. regime-change threats. (Remember, for instance, the way President George W. Bush tossed the North Koreans into the “axis of evil” with soon-to-be-invaded Iraq and perennially threatened Iran in his 2002 State of the Union address.) In fact, building a nuclear deterrent may be one of the least crazy things that Pyongyang has done over the years.

And don’t forget that the United States has successfully negotiated with North Korea on a range of issues from finding and repatriating the remains of American soldiers who died during the Korean War to agreements on nuclear weapons. The 1994 Agreed Framework lasted nearly a decade and effectively froze the North’s plutonium-processing capabilities. In an agreement negotiated during the Bush years, that country actually began to destroy elements of its nuclear program. The nuclear deals eventually fell apart because of violations and bad faith on both sides, but they demonstrate that talking with Pyongyang is feasible and can produce concrete results.

Beginning in 1979, aided in part by détente with the United States, China embarked on a series of major domestic reforms. If American officials paid more attention to what’s actually going on inside North Korea (aside from its nuclear program), they would see that the country is changing — in spite of, not thanks to, U.S. policy.

The Change That Matters

I visited North Korea three times in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  There were very few cars on the streets and highways. Cell phones were practically nonexistent. A few semi-private restaurants had just opened in its capital, Pyongyang. Private markets had finally appeared in cities nationwide in response to the breakdown of the government’s food distribution system, but they seemed more like stopgap measures the state tolerated than a permanent feature of the economy.

Today, North Korea’s political system remains virtually intact (minus a couple hundred officials purged by Kim Jong-un). Its widespread surveillance system is still in place. There’s neither freedom of speech nor assembly and tens of thousands of its citizens continue to suffer grim fates in its widespread penal camp system.

But North Korea is changing. Private markets have become a permanent feature of the landscape, and a rising nouveau riche and an expanding middle class are transforming the DNA of the country. Out of a population of 25 million, as many as three million people now own cell phones and there are enough cars in Pyongyang these days to generate the occasional traffic jam. Those who have become wealthy from market activities are buying and installing solar panels to power upscale appliances like wall-mounted televisions.

Capitalism, in other words, has begun to bubble up from below, even though the United States has gone to great lengths to prevent the country from having any interaction with the global economy. It’s a delicate balance for the North Korean state. The markets relieve the authorities of the responsibility for meeting certain citizens’ needs and taxing the new entrepreneurs brings money into government coffers. But the markets also are a venue for channeling more information from the outside world, as North Korean traders interact with their Chinese counterparts and movies and music from South Korea make their way in via USB drives.

This ongoing transformation of North Korean society has been noted by a few figures in Washington as an opportunity to pursue a kinder, gentler version of regime change. “We worry about the miniaturization of North Korean nukes; what threatens the Kim regime is the miniaturization of information technology,” writes former Clinton administration official Tom Malinowski in Politico. “By sharing media with family, friends, and broader networks, and by learning to avoid detection, North Koreans are also gaining skills and connections essential to independent political organization.”

It’s not clear that the market and greater access to information will, in fact, push North Koreans to organize against the state or embrace American-style democracy. But supporting such changes makes sense anyway. The experience of China suggests that such reforms, even when implemented within a non-democratic system, can reduce the threat of war and conflict. “It has worked before in other countries,” economist Rudiger Frank wrote in Global Asia after a recent visit to North Korea. “It will work again.”

In 1960, a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate warned that China’s “arrogant self-confidence, revolutionary fervor, and distorted view of the world may lead [Beijing] to miscalculate risks. This danger would be heightened if Communist China achieved a nuclear weapons capability.” Four years later, China tested its first nuclear weapon.

More than half a century has passed since that moment and China is still no paragon of democracy or human rights. Tensions persist across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea, and Beijing possesses a small but significant arsenal of deliverable nuclear weapons. Few people in the United States, however, worry that China will launch an attack against Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, or the White House. China has too much of a stake in the international system to risk losing everything by acting with the “revolutionary fervor” that so worried U.S. officials in 1960. A combination of internal reforms and successful negotiations with Washington transformed that country into a more or less responsible global player.

Embedding North Korea in a similar way in the international system of economic and geopolitical negotiations, not to mention human rights conventions, will reduce the threat it currently poses to its southern brethren, its Asian neighbors, and more distantly the United States. Economic sanctions, military pressure, and intemperate threats, on other hand, will ultimately prove counterproductive, doing little but to intensify the nothing-to-lose mentality of the regime, while failing to encourage the changes already ongoing. By continuing to isolate an already isolated land, the United States is only strengthening the very wall against which it’s been banging its head for so many years.

It’s way past time for the Trump administration to take a few aspirin and a few deep breaths, and seize this opportunity to talk with the North Koreans before both head and wall sustain irreparable damage.


The Mysteries of the Russian Mindset

DER SPIEGEL correspondent Christian Neef spent three decades reporting on Russia. On the eve of his departure from Moscow, he reflects on a unique Russian mindset that Putin did not create but is brilliant at exploiting.

August 22, 2017

by Christian Neef


Recently, I came across a book at home that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It’s called “Russia: Faces of a Torn Country.” The title may not be particularly original, but it is certainly apt. The book covers Russia as it was a quarter-century ago: a kind of madhouse. The Soviet Union had just collapsed, hopes for a new beginning had proven largely illusionary, ex-functionaries and cunning businessmen had seized the inheritance of the Soviet Union for themselves and were enjoying their sudden wealth as the rest of the country slid into poverty. Grandmothers stood in the wind and rain for hours at the tolkuchkas, flea markets, trying to sell their wedding china alongside students advertising their lovingly assembled stamp collections. Meanwhile, war raged at the periphery of the realm.

Back in 1991, everyday Russians couldn’t explain what Russia represented, where it was heading politically and how all its conflicts could be resolved. We journalists, of course, couldn’t either.

All that is now history and, all things considered, Russia isn’t doing so badly these days. The book mentioned above was written by me and includes profiles of 18 people trying to find their place in Russia. They were typical of the transition period: politicians and generals, businesspeople and artists, idealists, populists and criminals.

Some of them are no longer alive — a couple were killed while others left the country or climbed up the ranks of the government. Examining the profiles from today’s perspective, it isn’t difficult to understand how some were left behind while others went on to have successful careers. You can also see how Russia managed to regain its footing.

One of the book’s heroes is Dzhokhar Dudayev, who declared Chechnya’s independence from Russia in 1991 and called for the people of the Caucasus to resist the Moscow colonizers. Russia launched a war because of him, deploying 60,000 soldiers into the small republic. Three months after I spoke with the Chechen president, his office, in which we had met, was flattened. Fifteen months after that, a Russian missile took his life. Another 15 years later, there was peace in Chechnya. As many as 160,000 people are believed to have been killed in the war. Since then, no region has attempted to secede from Russia.

Another of the book’s heroes was biochemist and skin specialist Sergei Debov. He too is now dead. Debov joined the secret “Lenin Mausoleum” unit in 1952, a group of scientists that embalmed the revolutionary leader, who has been lying in state in Moscow since his death in 1924. For almost 40 years, Debov, who also embalmed Stalin, freshened up Lenin’s body with a secret solution twice a week.

Then the Soviet Union and communism collapsed and President Boris Yeltsin slashed the secret unit’s financing as well as the honor guard in front of the mausoleum. Lenin became a national pariah and citizen’s initiatives began calling for him to be buried in a cemetery in St. Petersburg. Debov told me he was shocked: “Removing Lenin from the history of Russia — that’s unacceptable.”

Nothing To Regret in Russian History?

The fact that the revolutionary leader is still displayed on Red Square 25 years later, and that Debov’s successors are still at work, also helps explain how Russia found its way back to stability. The leader of the October Revolution, who, like Stalin, didn’t care how many of his people were sacrificed for the communist idea, is still an important political symbol. His continued presence calms the adherents of communism, but also represents the belief among the Kremlin’s leadership that there is nothing to regret in Russia’s history. It’s reflective of the way history is viewed in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

A third character in the book is still alive and is now 53 years old. He was born on Stalin’s birthday, rose to become deputy prime minister and is today responsible for the Russian defense industry. I met Dmitry Rogozin when he was 31 years old. Just a short time earlier, he had been active with Komsomol, the youth wing of the Communist Party. He later became an ambassador to NATO and shocked the Western military with his off-the-cuff statements. We often met in Brussels.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Rogozin was placed in charge of the fate of the 25 million ethnic Russians who now lived outside the country’s borders in the other former Soviet republics. He founded the Congress of Russian Communities to safeguard their interests and became a thought leader on the concept of the “Russian world” — a world which includes all corners of the globe where Russian people live and which, according to Putin, must be defended. Rogozin is now something of a nationalist mouthpiece for the government and just recently once again described Western politicians as “scum.”

The reclamation of Chechnya, the rehabilitation of Soviet history and the reinvocation of the “Russian world” — similar to what Donald Trump is now doing in the United States under his “America First” motto — all of that helped save young Russia. And Russian gratitude has been directed at Putin, which is reflected in the president’s 80 percent approval rating.

The New Russia

The new Russia is visible in many places. A few weeks ago, I traveled through the small western Russian town of Gvardeysk, with only 13,000 inhabitants. The last time I had visited the town was in 1998, just after the great ruble crisis that brought the government to the verge of bankruptcy. The paper mill closed in the wake of that crisis, followed by the reinforced concrete factory and then the cheese factory. The heating plants no longer had any coal, and three-quarters of the inhabitants lived below the poverty line.

It was even cold in the hospital, which lacked medication and even gloves for the surgeons. The army barracks and the prison, which was located in an old castle, were running low on food. In the villages around Gvardeysk, insufficient nourishment and dirty drinking water led to cases of tuberculosis and meningitis.

Now, in 2017, the houses on the central square are freshly painted, a furniture factory has opened as has a meat processing plant and a factory for packaging material. There is a youth center and a gym. And the castle/jail is to be transformed into a tourist attraction.

If you drive eastward, of course, deep into the more rural areas, a different reality emerges, with entire villages dying. But there’s no sign of the national state of emergency that paralyzed Russia two decades ago. Especially not in Moscow, which has transformed itself into a modern metropolis, with pedestrian zones, giant supermarkets, jazz clubs and avant-garde theaters, with Wi-Fi in the streets and even below-ground in the metro.

Russian Politics Lacks Feedback Loop

But there is something that hasn’t changed in either the capital or in the rest of the country. I recently came across it while reading a notice in my Moscow apartment building that symbolizes a phenomenon that has been part of Russia for centuries and that puts Putin’s 80 percent approval rating into context.

The notice pertained to the announcement by the Moscow municipal government of its plan to demolish 4,500 dilapidated apartment buildings. The buildings are five-story prefabricated monstrosities, ugly and often crumbling. But around 1 million Moscow residents are affected by the plan, roughly one-twelfth of the city’s overall population. And tthe city government has pushed ahead with its plan so ruthlessly, even shoving a relevant law through parliament at lightning speed, that a storm of indignation broke out — even in my neighborhood, which isn’t home to any of the buildings slated for demolition.

The notice in my building came from an initiative called Muscovites Against the Demolition. They argue that the plan is a disgraceful form of forced resettlement — that it wasn’t just about prefabricated high-rise buildings, but about providing real estate for the construction of profitable high-rises to construction companies with close ties to the government. Residents who refused to move would be forcibly relocated, the notice claimed, and there would be no compensation for renovations carried out by renters. Many of those who owned their apartments, the group argued, would not receive a new residence of equivalent value.

The uproar in Moscow is immense. The government, which had said it wanted to do something good for the city’s inhabitants, seemed to be totally surprised by the pushback. Even Putin had to intervene and urge the Russian parliament, the Duma, to slightly modify the law, because a presidential election is scheduled for 2018 and he doesn’t need protests from angry citizens.

It’s a common story in Russia. Even when the leadership tries to do something good for its people, things go wrong — because the government takes decisions on its own and then presents them to the people like a Christmas present. And because it tries to realize its projects in a Bolshevik manner. The notion that there could be objections among the people is not something that Russian politicians tend to consider.

The debate about the resettlement of those living in the apartment buildings shows yet again that there is still no feedback loop in the Russian political system. The government doesn’t make any serious effort to include the people in its decision-making. Political resolutions are presented either as favors or prohibitions — which also helps explain the new wave of protests in Moscow and other cities. The people and the government rarely come together in Russia.

Unrequited Love

Writer Viktor Erofeyev once said that it is a country of barriers and “the normal position of the barrier is ‘closed.'” He also asked: “The homeland happily allows you to love her, but — does she also love you back? Does Russia love us?” Erofeyev believes that the Russians’ love for Russia isn’t based on reciprocity, which is something I’ve also repeatedly noticed in the past decades. But he believes that the Russians themselves are to blame — because they don’t take sufficient interest in the state.

Several months ago, I had a dispute about this with respected filmmaker and theater director Andrei Konchalovsky. He is turning 80 this year, has made some of Russia’s best films and has lived in Hollywood for a long time. Despite our disagreements, we were very close to one another in our views of many things. Konchalovsky says Russians have retained the soul of a peasant over the centuries, arguing that Russians never became citizens in the true sense of the word and always positioned themselves in opposition to the state, because the government is always trying to take something away from them. At the same time, he argues, Russians are so enormously patient that they can more easily accept injustices. He also argues that Russian thinking is Manichean — that Russians only know black and white.

And then Konchalovsky said that Putin initially thought like a Westerner, but ultimately realized why every Russian ruler struggles to lead this nation: Because its inhabitants, in accordance with an unshakable tradition, freely delegate all their power to a single person, and then wait for that power to take care of them, without doing anything themselves.

In that sense, the relationship between people and state in Russia is a vast misunderstanding. Is a foreigner allowed to say such a thing? I think so. I have been reporting on Russia for over 30 years and lived half of that time in the country. It’s clear to me why the liberals associated with Boris Yeltsin failed in the 1990s. Liberalism has no chance in Russia. The people won’t allow it.

The strange relationship between many Russians and their government is also manifest in myriad everyday details. Two or three years ago, Moscow’s mayor tried solving the parking problem by introducing an online parking system. The charges were low, with an hour usually costing less than a euro. The problem was largely relieved and the system worked for everyone. And then what happened? Muscovites began covering their license-plate numbers so that the inspection vehicles couldn’t scan the numbers as they drove, thus making it impossible for them to find any violators.

Another example: For decades, few new streets, let alone highways, have been built in Russia. But now there are plans to build a new highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The first stretch, which leads to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport, is already open. As a toll road, however, it is hardly getting used, despite the relatively low charges. Russia’s drivers believe it is a government rip-off and prefer sitting in traffic jams on the old road.

Passivity and Indifference

The notion that citizens must do something for society and that they will get something back is only rarely encountered in Russia. The Russians may honor their actors and poets far more than the Germans do theirs, but they take a skeptical view of the truly creative people, who, in their own way, try to advance the debate about the future direction of the country.

Writer Boris Akunin sells millions of books, but he lives outside the country because he can’t stand his government’s politics. The same is true of fellow writer Vladimir Sorokin, who was long harassed by political organizations close to the government. Internationally renowned director Kirill Serebrennikov has also been pressured, with police units recently having stormed his theater. His ballet “Nureyev” at the Bolshoi Theater was canceled three days before its premiere after having faced heavy resistance from conservative politicians. The cancellation also affected me, because I had managed to obtain one of the hard-to-get Bolshoi tickets for that evening.

Such overreach bothers only a small number of Russians. Apart from a few voices in the Moscow intelligentsia, there are no protests.

We are a people, we love those who are similar to us, we don’t need any dissimilar ones,” writer Viktor Yerofeyev once stated sarcastically. A government prosecutor who frightens the people at large, he went on, is still closer to them than a reformed oligarch like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who clear-sightedly criticizes the Putin system.

Why is that, I wondered recently when I found myself in a police station in central St. Petersburg. Nowhere is it more obvious how the state seeks to make its citizens feel unimportant. The officer on duty didn’t even look up when people came to him with their concerns and heavy iron doors barred the entrance to the offices. They only opened every once in a while in accordance to some inexplicable logic. In the offices, records were taken by hand. And the walls were decorated with portraits of Felix Dzerzhinsky! He was the Soviet Union’s first intelligence chief, the man who set off the Red Terror and had tens of thousands of people murdered. His monument in front of Moscow’s Lubyanka building was the first one to be toppled after the end of the Soviet Union — and now the police have hung his portrait back up again?

Why do the Russians accept all of this without saying a word?

Their passivity and their indifference unpleasantly combine with fatalism and a fear of responsibility and make it impossible for most of them to get to to the core of historical truths. Many are indifferent about the fact that new monuments are being built to Stalin. One Moscow journalist described it as being tantamount to Jews setting up monuments to Hitler.

The use of force by the state is also still experienced as metaphysical, as a matter of fate. Social philosopher Alexander Zipko argues that an overwhelming majority of the population still has trouble understanding that millions of people lost their lives in the Soviet Union as a result of the Red Terror.

After years of research, Denis Karagodin, a 35-year-old from the Siberian city of Tomsk, recently found out which secret service officials were responsible for declaring his great-grandfather Stepan a Japanese spy in 1938, in order to then execute him. Armed with that information, Karagodin then filed a suit against those responsible even though they had long since died. He’s the first citizen of Russia who wasn’t satisfied with the authorities’ formal rehabilitation notice. He wants to bring the executioners to account — at least symbolically. But his persistence has been met with incomprehension and alienation. The argument being: You can’t change anything that happened anyway.

Demagogy, Half-Truths and Lies

The things I have written about here were not invented by Vladimir Putin. He merely discovered things that already existed and factored them into his calculations. Fear of personal responsibility? Marginalization of people who think differently? Resignation to fate? Feelings of inferiority toward the rest of the world? These are traits against which the state should be acting. Instead the government strengthens them, because it is useful for it. I only realized in the last few years how much it bothers me, even among Russian friends, most of whom have now succumbed to their president’s demagogy.

Putin fires up the Russians’ feelings of contempt for Ukrainians, even though — and I’m convinced of this — the Russians are jealous that the Ukrainians will now succeed in getting closer to Europe. And he reinforces a feeling of moral and military superiority among the Russians over the West. It has little connection to reality, but isolates the state and the people more and more from the outside world. Putin is making Russia a dissident from the world order and the people are thrilled by it like it’s a fairground attraction, even though for many Russians, Europe and America remain the primary reference point for their own lives.

As I said, Putin didn’t invent any of this. He only learned how to masterfully exploit it and to serve this Russian mentality with demagogy, half-truths and lies. That, for me, is the most important realization 25 years after Russia’s rebirth.


Spain terror suspect tells court cell was planning much bigger attack

Mohamed Houli Chemlal makes admission during court appearance in Madrid on Tuesday

August 22, 2017

by Stephen Burgen in Barcelona and Ian Cobain in London

The Guardian

One of the suspected members of the terrorist cell that brought carnage to north-eastern Spain, killing 15 people and injuring more than 130, has told a judge that the cell had been planning attacks on a much larger scale.

Mohamed Houli made the admission after being brought before a judge in Madrid, Spanish media reported, quoting court officials.

Houli, 21, is said to have confirmed that the group had been planning large-scale bomb attacks before an explosion ripped through a house where a number had been staying, killing two of the plotters.

He arrived at the Audiencia Nacional in hospital-issue pyjamas, his right arm bandaged and his face bearing some of the injuries he is said to have sustained in the explosion last week.

He was the first of four suspects to be questioned by Judge Fernando Andreu, who will decide whether they should be remanded in custody while police prepare charges.

A Spanish national from Melilla, one of the country’s north African enclaves, Houli was arrested in hospital after police realised that the house in Alcanar in southern Catalonia had been turned into a bomb factory.

Prosecutors recommended that he be refused bail after he had been questioned for an hour, court officials said.

The other three men who were appearing in court were arrested in Ripoll, 145 miles north of Alcanar, which was home to the six members of the terrorist cell who were shot by police.

Two have been named by Spanish media as Mohamed Aallaa, 27, whose blue Audi car was driven by five members of the group into a number of pedestrians in Cambrils, a coastal town south of Barcelona, and Salh El Karib, a Moroccan-born businessman in his 30s.

The fourth man appearing in court has been named by police as Driss Oukabir, 27, whose brother Moussa, 17, was one of five men shot dead after the attack in Cambrils.

The four were represented by court-appointed lawyers.

As the hearing progressed, police were attempting to reconstruct the final 96 hours in the life of the member of the cell who killed 13 people and injured more than 130 others when he drove a hired Fiat van along the crowded Las Ramblas last Thursday.

CCTV images show Younes Abouyaaqoub clambering out of the white van after it crashed into a newspaper kiosk and walking slowly away through La Boqueria, the famous covered food market beside Las Ramblas.

He is now known to have escaped from the city in a car that he took from another victim, vineyard worker Pau Peréz. Abouyaaqoub approached Peréz in the Universitaria district in the north of the city, killed him with a single knife blow to his chest, bundled his body into the back of the Ford Focus car and drove away.

Nothing more was seen of Abouyaaqoub until he was cornered on a road in the Subirats district, 30 miles west of Barcelona, on Monday afternoon. When police approached him he is said to have shouted “God is great” in Arabic, and opened his shirt to show what appeared to be a suicide vest.

The officers immediately shot and killed him. He was the sixth member of the cell to be shot dead.

Police kept their distance and used a robot to examine the device Abouyaaqoub was wearing. Like the five men who were shot dead in Cambrils, early on Friday, it was fake.

Abouyaaqoub appeared not to have washed between Thursday and Monday. Police believe he walked to Subirats by night, and hid by day. He was carrying a knife wrapped in plastic when he died, but had no bag, no telephone and no money. He had changed his clothes, however: police do not know where he did this.

In Morocco, a 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being connected to the cell. He previously lived in Ripoll.

Investigators are now convinced that the cell had been radicalised and was organised by Abdelbaki Es Satty, an imam in Ripoll.

Es Satty, who was in his 40s, was one of two people who died in the bomb factory explosion in which Houli was injured.

A number of relatives of the dead terrorists have told how Es Satty attempted, without success, to become religiously more conservative. “He wanted to give me some talk and one day he started telling me that listening to music was bad,” one relative told El Pais newspaper. “I told him not to eat my head. He never spoke to me again.”

In Ripoll, friends of Abouyaaqoub recalled him as a “calm, rather quiet, somewhat shy” young man, who had been a good student and who had studied, almost effortlessly, for a degree in electromechanics. He was said to have had two passions: cars and football.

Meanwhile, the French interior minister has confirmed reports that the Audi used by the terrorists in the attack in Cambrils had been caught speeding on camera in Paris.

Gerard Collomb said of the terrorists that “this group came to Paris but it was a quick arrival and departure”.

French media reported that the car came through the Paris region about a week before last week’s attacks and that it had also been spotted in the Essone region south of the capital.


And the winner is: Assad

The US is increasingly moving away from its anti-Assad course. The Syrian president appears increasingly confident, announcing that conditions will apply to countries wanting to rejig their relationship with Syria.

August 21, 2017

by Kersten Knipp


On Sunday, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in front of dozens of his country’s diplomats. He came across as confident: Among other things, he declared that there would be no cooperation with countries “that do not clearly and definitively cut their ties to terrorism.”

This dig was aimed at several states, including some Arab ones, especially on the Arabian Peninsula. It also refers to a number of European countries – and the United States. Assad accuses them of collaborating with “terrorists.”

Assad has reason to be optimistic. He gave this speech three days after a jihadist drove into and killed 14 people in Barcelona, injuring more than 100. Attacks like these are a gift to the Syrian president: They help make him look like a potential partner to those who have, until now, opposed him. Hardly a week goes by the West without an IS-backed terror attack, Assad told the assembled diplomats, adding: “This fact has forced Western politicians to change their attitude” towards Syria.

Fighting IS takes top priority

And the US has indeed been taking a new approach to Syria for some time now. A few weeks ago US President Trump announced that a CIA program supporting Assad’s opponents was being discontinued. This was in response to the venture’s lack of success. Out of thousands of fighters the US had trained, only a few had proven to be reliable partners.

And it’s not only by shutting down this program that the US has signalled that it’s increasingly distancing itself from Assad’s opponents. At the same time it is growing closer to Russia, which has always supported the Assad government. In an interview with the American broadcaster Fox News in early August, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US still wanted to prevent Assad from staying in power. However, he went on to add that the US and Russia had a common interest in seeing a unified and stable Syria. In Russia’s view, that can only be achieved in the medium term with Assad as head of state.

Hesitant US course

The Trump administration’s course is therefore just as hesitant as that of ex-president Barack Obama. The reason is obvious: People in Washington perceive the jihadist terrorist groups like so-called “Islamic State” (IS) and al-Qaida as a serious threat.

“The Salafi-jihadi movement – not [simply] distinct groups or individuals – threatens the United States, the West, and Muslim communities,” according to Critical Threats, a project of the conservative American think tank The American Enterprise Institute.

Its article continues: “Europe and the American homeland face an unprecedented level of facilitated and inspired terrorist attacks. This situation is not success, stalemate, or slow winning, and still less does it reflect an enemy ‘on the run.’ It is failure.”

Hezbollah as a partner?

Diagnoses like this are obviously gaining traction in Washington. The political consequences are becoming apparent: For example, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported in early August that American special forces were training with the Lebanese military for an anticipated confrontation with IS troops.

The Lebanese military, however, cannot clearly be separated from the paramilitary group Hezbollah, which is allied to Iran. Ha’aretz quotes the Middle East analyst Faysal Itani from the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East: “Both Lebanon and Hezbollah occupy a grey area,” he says. “Lebanon isn’t really a state, and Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist group – or isn’t only a terrorist group, depending on your view.”

The USA can’t get around this entanglement, either. The Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has clearly outlined the implications of these new alliances in the common fight against IS: “The world is currently assuming that the Syrian regime is going to stay,” Ha’aretz quoted him as saying a few days later.

The wrong war

But the political action taken by the Obama administration in response to the jihadist threat was controversial; the Trump administration’s even more so. Rapprochement with Russia is risky, says a study by the Washington think tank Institute for the Study of War. The most problematic thing, it points out, is the choice of new allies: “Sunni Arabs view the US as aligned with the deepening Russo-Iranian coalition and complicit in its atrocities.”

It does seem that Assad is going to stay in power, at least for the time being. He has succeeded in presenting himself as a bulwark against jihadism. From his point of view, this portrayal makes absolute sense. But if the Sunnis should come to the conclusion that they were now facing an alliance of Shiites, Russia and the USA, this would probably once again fuel jihadism. The American think tanks warn that, if this should happen, the terrorism we are seeing now would be just the precursor to a subsequent, even more brutal expression.

Conversations with the Crow

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 known 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.


Conversation No. 119

Date: Saturday, December 20, 1997

Commenced: 10:29 AM CST

Concluded: 10:50 AM CST

GD-Gregory Douglas

RTC- Robert Trumbull Crowley


GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And to you.  Getting ready for Christmas?

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

RTC: A Jewish Santa?

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: Probably so. Johnson was lousy.

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

RTC: We were only there to appease the French.

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

RTC: You were in then?

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

RTC: How so?

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

RTC: How many>

GD: Me personally? A little over three thousand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: How much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

GD: I could go on for hours.

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

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

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

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


(Concluded at 10:50 AM CST)





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