TBR News August 30, 2016

Aug 30 2016

The Voice of the White House    

Washington, D.C.  August 30, 2016: “The illegal alien invasion of America now totals 20 -23 million and rising.  Of that number, 90% are Hispanics.

Phoenix, Arizona, has become the biggest gathering point and distribution hub for people migrating to the United States from Mexico.

But unlike other large cities of the Southwest, Phoenix has little history in assimilating large numbers of Hispanics. The result has been an anti-immigrant backlash.

The U.S. Border Patrol polices Phoenix’s bus station and airport — some 175 miles from Mexico — because the city has become an unofficial port of entry, says agent Shannon Stevens.

“The Phoenix area basically is going to be used as a major transportation hub for illegal immigration, because it’s going to be the first major city they get to after crossing illegally,” Stevens says.

But the city isn’t just a way-station for immigrants: It has also become a place for them to settle. Census figures show the percentage of the city’s Hispanic population nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000 — from 13 percent to 25 percent. No one knows what percentage are here illegally or even from Mexico. But it is largely a population of families, helping make Arizona the fifth youngest state.

Not everyone in Phoenix is adapting so willingly to this demographic and cultural shift. Activists say the undocumented are holding down wages, costing taxpayers millions for health care and education, and contributing to crime.

80 percent of all violent crime in Phoenix can be attributed to illegal aliens.

Public discontent with the situation has boiled over into state policy, leading voters and lawmakers to pass some of the most hardline anti-illegal immigrant laws in the country.

Federal border officials arrested nearly 500,000 people trying to enter the state in a three month period in 2015. Also a factor is the “Minuteman Project,” a self-appointed militia, which began patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border.

The number of illegal immigrants in Arizona has more than quadrupled since 1996 — from 115,000 then to about 500,000 now. By comparison, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States roughly doubled, jumping from about 5 million in 1996 to about 21 million today.”

The Trouble with Turkey: Erdogan, ISIS, and the Kurds

by Michael J. Totten

World Affairs

Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.

Turkey fears and loathes Kurdish independence anywhere in the world more than it fears and loathes anything else. Kurdish independence in Syria, from Ankara’s point of view, could at a minimum escalate a three-decades-long conflict and at worst threaten Turkey’s territorial integrity.

Kurds make up between 15 and 25 percent of Turkey’s population, but no one knows for sure because the government outlaws ethnic classification. Most live in the southeast near the Syrian and Iraqi borders. Many would like to secede and form an independent state of their own.

They could conceivably do it with enough help from the outside. They have a model in the Kurds in Iraq, who liberated themselves from Saddam Hussein after the first Persian Gulf War and have been independent in all but name ever since. The civil war in Syria has allowed the Kurds there to carve out a space of their own between ISIS and the Assad regime, which is what worries the Turks.

Turkey is a powerful state, but so was Saddam Hussein’s government. So was Bashar al-Assad’s before the rebellion broke out a few years ago.

ISIS is still the JV squad as far as Turkey is concerned, to use President Obama’s unfortunate formulation, but Kurdish armed forces have been trying to rip apart the country for decades and therefore Ankara has called in the varsity to deal with them.

Turkish nationalists insist everyone in their country is a Turk whether they like it and admit it or not. The Kurds, according to them, are not a separate people. Rather, they are “mountain Turks who lost their language.” But Turkish nationalism, like Arab nationalism, scarcely existed until the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which expired at the end of World War I. And the truth is that Turkey, as the rump state of that multi-ethnic empire, is a mélange of different identities. With its Kurdish, Arab, Zaza, and Alevi minorities, it’s no more homogeneous than the rump state of the Soviet empire with the Tatars, Ingush, Sakha, Chechens, and other large numbers of non-Russian peoples on its periphery.

When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern republic in the ashes of World War I, Turkish nationalists attempted to unite everybody under a single identity for the sake of national unity and to prevent any more territorial loss, but the Kurds refused to join up because the Western powers had promised them a state of their own. To this day, they remain the largest stateless people on earth. Many feel far more kinship with their fellow Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Syria than with their nominal countrymen in Turkey.

The Ottoman Empire was loosely confederated, with a space for the Kurds, but modern Turkey was founded as a strong Western-style republic with a powerful center, and the Kurds were forcibly conquered, colonized, and integrated.

The government’s response to Kurdish nationalism was tantamount to attempted cultural genocide. Ethnic Kurds were forcibly relocated from the eastern parts of the country, while European Turks were moved to the Kurdish region in the farthest reaches of Anatolia. Even speaking the Kurdish language was forbidden in schools, government offices, and in public places until 1991. Simply saying “I am a Kurd” in Kurdish was a crime, and it’s still considered scandalous in official settings. In 2009, a Kurdish politician created a huge controversy by speaking just a few words of Kurdish in the nation’s Parliament building.

Despite the fervor of this repression, Turkey’s problem with its Kurdish minority is more political than ethnic. As Erik Meyersson at the Stockholm School of Economics put it, “It is less an inherent dislike for Kurds that drives state repression of this minority than the state’s fear for the institutional consequences and loss of centralized power.”

Beginning in 1984, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK—initially backed by the Soviet Union—has waged an on-again, off-again guerrilla and terrorist war against the Turkish state that has killed more than 45,000 people, according to government figures. That’s almost as many as Americans killed during the Vietnam War.

Most of the dead are Kurdish. The Turkish military dished out unspeakable punishment in the east of the country. Nine years ago, I drove from Istanbul to northern Iraq and was shocked to discover that Iraqi Kurdistan is a vastly more prosperous and pleasant place than bombed-out and repressed Turkish Kurdistan. Turkey was once seen as a semi-plausible candidate for the European Union, yet the Kurdish parts of Iraq—one of the most dysfunctional and broken countries on earth—were and are doing much better than the Kurdish region of Turkey.

From mid-2013 to mid-2015, the Turkish state and the PKK enjoyed a period of relative calm under a cease-fire, but in late July the army bombed PKK positions in northern Iraq, and the PKK in Turkey declared the cease-fire void. A wave of attacks against police stations swept over the country in August. An enduring peace between the two sides now seems as elusive as ever.

The Turkish establishment has been alarmed by the existence of an autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq since the day it was founded and has repeatedly threatened to invade if it declares independence from Baghdad. (That may be the only reason the Iraqi Kurds haven’t yet done it.) And it’s doubly alarmed now that the Kurds of Syria have cobbled together their own autonomous region, which they call Rojava, while the Arabs of Syria fight a devastating civil war with each other. And the Turkish establishment is triply alarmed because the Kurdish militias in Syria—the YPG, or People’s Protection Units—are aligned with the PKK.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—like most of his ethnic Turkish countrymen—is terrified that an independent Syrian Kurdistan will help Turkish Kurdistan wage a revolutionary war against Ankara. Fairly or not, Erdogan sees Rojava much the way the Israelis see Hezbollah-occupied southern Lebanon.

Ideally the Syrian Kurds wouldn’t side with the PKK. The PKK has committed crimes in Turkey and is a willing belligerent in a long and terrible war. The Turks are not imagining this or making it up, and there is no shortage of Kurds elsewhere in the region who share Erdogan’s dim view of the PKK and its allies.

“They are very fanatic in their nationalism,” Abdullah Mohtadi told me in Iraqi Kurdistan years ago. He’s the head of the Komala Party, a formerly Communist left-liberal Iranian Kurdish group living in exile in Iraq. “They are very undemocratic in nature. They have no principles, no friendship, no contracts, no values. In the name of the Kurdish movement, they eliminate everybody.”

The United States, though, is backing the Syrian Kurds. We have to. They’re the only ground force capable of fighting ISIS and winning. The only other options in Syria are the repulsive Assad regime, Hezbollah, Sunni Islamists that will inevitably turn on the United States, the al-Qaeda–linked Nusra Front, and a handful of relatively moderate but irrelevant Sunni groups that have already effectively lost.

The Kurds are all that’s left.

And the Kurds are the most pro-American people in the entire Middle East. They’re more pro-American than the Israelis. Ideologically, yes, the PKK-aligned groups are a bit iffy. They were once Soviet proxies and they’re at war with a member of NATO. But the Turks share at least half of the blame for that conflict. Nowhere in the region will Kurdish people accept cultural genocide lying down. Surely they would have accepted help from the United States had it been offered during the Cold War, but it wasn’t, so they took largesse and ideology from the Russians instead.

For what it’s worth, though, the PKK is not what it used to be. The Soviet Union is dead, and a lot of the ideological Marxism its leaders once mouthed has been diluted over time to standard-issue leftism with a culturally conservative twist. The Kurds of Turkey and Syria are not struggling for the collectivization of agriculture. They are not interested in liquidating landlords or “the kulaks.” They certainly aren’t interested in imposing a police state in Ankara. First and foremost, they’re fighting against the fascists of ISIS, and second for Kurdish independence, a secular system of government, and equality between men and women. They detest the Islamic religion as much as far-right “Islamophobes” in America. Compared with just about everyone else in the region, they’re liberals.

Not in any alternate universe would the United States oppose these people right now. The Kurds of Iran and Iraq are more politically palatable, but you fight a proxy war with the proxies you have, and Americans will never find a better proxy in Syria against ISIS than the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

Turkey, however, sees everything differently. Early this summer, Erdogan was enraged when Kurdish forces in Syria liberated the town of Tel Abyad from ISIS, and the Turkish military drew up a plan to invade Syria, not to fight ISIS but to set up a 30-kilometer-deep buffer zone to prevent the Syrian Kurds from controlling their own home country.

“We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.”

Ponder the ramifications of that hard-line assertion for a moment. Our NATO ally was enraged because ISIS lost territory and says it’s willing to invade Syria, not to fight ISIS, but to suppress American allies.

American foreign policy makers and analysts have been arguing for years which is worse, the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis or ISIS. Obviously they are both awful. ISIS is more likely to kill Americans at home and abroad, but Iran is the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism. In Turkey, however, the argument is over whether ISIS or the Kurds is the greater evil.

Ankara doesn’t like ISIS. It has nothing in common with ISIS. But unlike the Kurds, ISIS hasn’t been at war with the Turkish government for the last 30 years. In that respect, ISIS is, from the Turks’ point of view, the lesser of two evils.

“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all [from Turkey],” a former ISIS communications technician told Newsweek, “because there was full cooperation with the Turks and they reassured us that nothing will happen . . . ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria. The Kurds were the common enemy for both ISIS and Turkey.”

President Obama has complained that Turkey could do “more” to stop the influx of “militants” into Syria. Turkey certainly could! Turkey has a long border with Syria, but it’s sealed. I’ve driven alongside it. In some areas, there are minefields everywhere.

Turkey has a world-class army—the second-largest in NATO—and could obliterate ISIS from the face of the earth if it wanted. If the Kurdish People’s Protection Units can make headway into ISIS-held territory with just a ragtag militia, Turkey could liberate the Syrian population from Assad, Hezbollah, and ISIS simultaneously.

But for years Erdogan has been reluctant even to shore up that border.

“You should understand something,” a Turkish smuggler said to Jamie Dettmer of the Daily Beast. “It isn’t hard to cross into the caliphate [ISIS-held territory], but go further west or east into Kurdish territory, then it gets much harder to evade the Turkish military and cross the border. Even the birds can’t come from there; and our birds can’t go there.”

Turkey is not Iraq. It is 1,000 years ahead of Iraq. It is a serious and capable nation, the opposite of incompetent. It’s not an accident or a coincidence that ISIS has been able to replenish its ranks over the Turkish border while the Kurds couldn’t. If Erdogan can stop Kurds from crossing that border, he can stop ISIS from crossing that border. Refusing to do so was a choice.

He is not a state sponsor of terrorism. He is not championing ISIS, nor is he on side with them ideologically. He is not their patron or armorer. But he has spent years letting one of our worst enemies grow stronger while stomping on one of our best regional allies.

The United States has forged ugly alliances too, first in aligning itself with the Soviet Union against the Nazis and then by backing Latin American military dictatorships to prevent Communism from spreading in the Western Hemisphere beyond Cuba and Nicaragua. The United States also sided with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War.

Later, however, we reversed every one of these odious alliances.

President Truman collaborated with Stalin against Hitler, but he immediately shifted into a Cold War stance against Russia after the Nazis were finished. Washington’s support for Latin America’s generalissimos collapsed completely after the crack-up of the Soviet Union. The American invasion of Panama to topple Manuel Noriega was planned mere days after the Berlin Wall fell and executed the following month. South America’s oppressive regimes then fell like dominoes. In 2002, the United States demolished Saddam Hussein’s government entirely.

Turkey could likewise reverse itself on ISIS. Turkey doesn’t have to like the PKK or any other Kurdish independence movement. That is impossible. All that needs to happen is a recognition in Ankara that ISIS threatens Turkey’s interests and security more than the PKK does.

Optimism is rarely rewarded in this region, but there are some indications that an attitude adjustment in Turkey may be under way.

In July, the government finally rounded up hundreds of ISIS members and sent them to prison. It’s hard to say for sure what went through Ankara’s collective head. Maybe the government only arrested ISIS members to get Western critics off its back. Or perhaps the government finally woke up to the fact that ISIS, unlike the Kurds, is a threat to the entire human race. Maybe Turkey figured it could fight both at once.

Just a few days later, a suicide bomber killed 28 people at a meeting of pro-Kurdish groups in the Turkish city of Suruc, just across the Syrian border from the Kurdish city of Kobane, which ISIS fought for and lost last year. No one claimed responsibility, but it was almost certainly ISIS. Who else would want to strike Turkey and the Kurds simultaneously?

The Kurdish militias are the toughest foes ISIS has yet faced anywhere. Attacking them in Suruc was its way of telling the Kurds that they’re unsafe even outside Syria and Iraq. At the same time, ISIS sent a message to Turkey. “We don’t want to fight you at the moment. Our war is in Syria. But we can strike inside your country whenever we want, so back off.”

Turkey would have united against ISIS if ethnic Turks had been killed, but killing Kurds in Turkey did not inspire an immediate response.

“Witnessing the controversy in Turkish public opinion after the attack,” Turkish analyst Metin Gurcan wrote in Al-Monitor, “and seeing that the political elites could not even come up with a message of unity against such an attack—one has to admit that the attack has served its purpose.”

A few days later, the Turkish government finally allowed the United States to use Incirlik Air Base, just 70 miles from the Syrian border, to launch airstrikes over ISIS-held territory—but only if US airpower is not used to support Kurdish militias. So Turkey is sort of coming around, but not really.

Ankara’s only long-term solution to this conundrum is peace with the Kurds. They aren’t going anywhere. They will want out of Turkey, out of Syria, out of Iraq, and out of Iran as long as those countries treat them like second-class citizens or worse.

The good news for Turkey—if the Turks ever wise up enough to figure this out—is that the Kurds are the easiest people in the entire Middle East to make friends with. Americans have managed to do so almost effortlessly. So have the Israelis. That’s saying something in that part of the world. The PKK may be intransigent, but if reasonable Kurdish grievances were addressed—including Turkey’s hostility toward besieged Kurds in Syria—then support for the PKK in Turkey would likely evaporate.

Making friends with ISIS, however, is impossible.

In their book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan make a compelling case that “the army of terror will be with us indefinitely.” President Obama agrees. The war against ISIS, he said at the Pentagon in early July, could take decades. President George W. Bush said more or less the same thing about al-Qaeda, and ISIS is simply al-Qaeda in Iraq under new management.

Decades is an awfully long time for a genocidal terrorist state to exist anywhere, and decades is an awfully long time for a NATO ally to support it even indirectly by refusing to act. Turkey cannot continue to do so indefinitely. ISIS probably won’t let it: it is violently opposed to everyone in the human race aside from itself—but at the same time we should never underestimate the stubborn refusal of the Turks to work out their differences with the Kurds.

NATO was formed as an anti-Russian bulwark during the Cold War, and ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union many have wondered if the alliance has outlived its usefulness. That question has been put to bed to an extent with Russian malfeasance in Georgia and Ukraine, but if Turkey doesn’t fully reverse itself on ISIS at some point, its membership in NATO will clearly become a vestige of an era that expired a long time ago.

Diplomats and heads of state are often the last to notice tectonic geopolitical shifts. They’ve spent years, even decades, forming relationships with their foreign counterparts. Institutions are cumbersome, bureaucratic, and slow. They cruise on inertia. They have invested so much for so long. But we are where we are.

If the Turks don’t eventually reverse themselves fully, the White House, Congress, the State Department, and our genuine allies in NATO will have little choice but to ensure that Turkey is treated accordingly.

Britain says ‘non!’ to French plans to bring Calais ‘Jungle’ to Dover

August 30, 2016


British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has rejected French plans to scrap border control deals in Calais and allow thousands of refugees to move from the ‘Jungle’ camp to the English port town of Dover.

The disagreement comes as it emerges more than 27,000 people were arrested by UK police in the last three years for suspected illegal migration to Britain.

Rudd is set to reject French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve’s attempts to end the Le Touquet agreement, which allows for British border agents to work on the other side of the English Channel, especially at points of entry and exit such as the port of Calais and Eurostar terminals.

Among those calling for the camp to be moved onto British soil is former head of state Nicholas Sarkozy.

“I’m demanding the opening of a centre in Britain to deal with asylum seekers in Britain, so that Britain can do the work that concerns them,” Sarkozy said after announcing he would once again run for president at next year’s election.

“The Jungle should not be in Calais or anywhere else, because this is a republic and those with no rights to be here should return to their country.”

Sarkozy is supported by Calais’ regional president Xavier Bertrand, who wants UK asylum seekers to apply at a “hotspot” in France, rather than gather at the northern French town.

Migrant support groups meanwhile insist the borders should simply be open to the millions seeking refuge from war and extreme poverty.

Karen Doyle, who works with Movement for Justice By All Means Possible, which supports asylum seekers in Britain, told RT: “A ‘hotspot’ in Calais is a ridiculous idea and would just end up with people being refused and deported without the rights of appeal and time to prepare that they would have in the UK. The solution is simple, let people into the UK and make their cases properly. The squalor that people are being forced to live in is a gross human rights violation.”

A Home Office spokesman rebutted claims the “juxtaposed controls” arranged between Britain and France would soon be a thing of the past.

“We firmly believe in the established principle, enshrined in the Dublin Regulation, that those in need of protection should seek asylum in the first safe country they enter,” he said.

Illegal immigrant arrests

Meanwhile, figures obtained by the BBC from police forces across the country show almost 30,000 refugees and migrants reached Britain illegally over the last three years.

The numbers did not include people found at ports or airports, or those taken by the UK Border Control due to expired visas.

There were 9,600 arrests in 2015, up from 7,700 in 2013, indicating a rise in reported cases.

Many of those apprehended were found hiding in lorries entering Britain, or otherwise picked up at truck stops and motorway service stations after alighting from their illicit transportation.

US meets goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees ahead of schedule

Obama administration has been criticized for moving too slowly to respond to the five-year crisis in Syria, amid opposition to refugees from Republicans

August 29, 2016

The Guardian

The United States said it would welcome its 10,000th Syrian refugee of this fiscal year on Monday, meeting Barack Obama’s target more than a month ahead of schedule.

The US has traditionally been a generous host for refugees but has been criticized by activists for moving too slowly to respond to the Syrian crisis, which has dragged on for more than five years.

The US president sought a sixfold increase in the number of Syrian refugees provided safe haven in the United States. After a slow start, the administration was able to hit the goal just a few weeks before Obama convenes a summit on refugees during the 71st session of the United Nations general assembly.

Obama would have been hard-pressed to make the case for other countries to do more with the US failing to reach a goal that amounts to only about 2%of the 480,000 Syrian refugees in need of resettlement. Millions more Syrians have fled to neighboring states such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and to countries in Europe since the civil war broke out in 2011.

“Our 10,000th Syrian refugee will arrive this afternoon,” the national security adviser, Susan Rice, said in a statement, adding that the administration had met the goal “more than a month ahead of schedule”.

Rice said the number represented a “sixfold increase from the prior year”, and called it “a meaningful step that we hope to build upon”.

She noted that refugee admissions represented only “a small part of our broader humanitarian efforts in Syria and the region”.

“On behalf of the president and his administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world.”

Rice said the summit in New York City will highlight the contributions the US and other nations have made to help refugees. She said the US has committed to working with the international community to increase funding for humanitarian assistance and double the number of refugees afforded the opportunity to resettle.

The increase in Syrian refugees also comes at a time of heightened national security concerns following extremist attacks in the US and abroad. The Obama administration has said refugees fleeing war and persecution are the most scrutinized of all immigrants who come into the US. The process typically takes 12 months to 18 months and includes in-person interviews and a review of biographical and biometric information.

Officers with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services travel to the country to which the refugees have fled to interview them. Upon completion of security and medical screening, the homeland security officer may approve the refugee’s application for US resettlement. After approval, arrangements are made to match the refugee with a voluntary agency in the US that specializes in helping them find a new home and employment.

The White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the United States will also seek to admit about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming fiscal year that begins on 1 October.

“I think the president would like to see a ramping up of those efforts, but I think the president is also realistic about how quickly that can happen,” Earnest said.

Overall, the US will admit at least 85,000 refugees over the year, Rice said, mentioning that others would come from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Myanmar and Somalia.

The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

American Pravda: Alexander Cockburn and the British Spies

August 29, 2016

by Ron Unz

Unz Review

About a decade ago I’d gotten a little friendly with the late Alexander Cockburn, one of America’s premier radical journalists and the founder of Counterpunch, a leading leftist webzine. With virtually all of America’s mainstream media outlets endlessly cheerleading for the total insanity of our Iraq War, Counterpunch was a port in the storm, and gained considerable credibility in my eyes.

Although Alex lived in the far northern reaches of the Golden State, the rural North Coast close to the Oregon border where much of the local cash economy was based on illegal marijuana growing, he periodically took trips down to the Bay Area, and sometimes dropped by Palo Alto to have lunch with me when he did. Often as not, he brought along a book that he was in the middle of reading, and based on his strong recommendations, it usually ended up on my own list.

Sometimes my appraisal differed sharply from his own. For example, Shlomo Sand’s international best-seller The Invention of the Jewish People was very widely praised in left-liberal and anti-Zionist circles, and attracted considerable attention in the mainstream media. But although I found many parts of the history extremely interesting, the central claim appeared to be incorrect. As far as I’m aware, there seems overwhelming genetic evidence that Europe’s Ashkenazi Jews do indeed trace much of their ancestry back to the Holy Land, apparently being the descendants of a few hundred (presumably Jewish) Middle Easterners, mostly male, who settled in Southern Europe some time after the Fall of Rome and took local Northern Italian wives, afterward remaining largely endogamous for the next thousand-plus years of their growing presence in Central and Eastern Europe. However, being a historian rather than a genetic researcher, Prof. Sand was apparently unaware of this hard evidence, and focused upon much weaker literary and cultural indicators, perhaps also being somewhat influenced by his own ideological predilections.

On the other hand, some of Alex’s other recommendations I found absolutely fascinating and quite persuasive. Once, he mentioned he was reading a book about the foreign spy network that had seized considerable control of the American political system just prior to our entry into WWII. “Oh,” I said, “you mean the Soviet Communist spy network?” I had recently become better aware of the volume of evidence revealed by Venona decrypts. “No,” he answered with a smile, “the other foreign spy network, the one run by Britain.”

He explained that British spies had played a massive hidden role in getting America involved in the Second World War despite the overwhelming opposition of the citizenry, and very possibly had murdered a top Republican Party official as they secretly gained political control of the GOP and its presidential nominating process. Being himself from a family of British Communist Party members, he found it quite amusing that rival networks of British spies and Communist spies had quietly competed or cooperated for control of our own national government during that era, even while the totally ignorant and oblivious American sheep grazed contently, emitting an occasional “Baa!” now and again, and never noticed that the direction of their flock periodically changed in seemingly inexplicable ways.

DesperateDeception So I went ahead and ordered the book, Desperate Deception by Thomas E. Mahl, and put it in my stack, though being busy with software work, it was a couple of years until I finally got around to reading it. Unfortunately, by that time, Alex was no longer among us, so I couldn’t drop him a note of thanks for the recommendation. As someone with merely a cursory knowledge of twentieth century American history, largely acquired from high school textbooks and newspaper articles, I found the material quite shocking, but based on a few conversations I’ve had, I suspect that many Americans, including those far more knowledgeable than myself, would react in much the same way.

These days, informed observers have grown a bit blasé at the notion of our country being manipulated by agents of a foreign power together with its influential domestic allies, and although the endless, Stalinesque standing ovations given by Congress to Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu last year raised a few temporary eyebrows at the time, the incident was quickly forgotten. But back in the more innocent era of the 1930s, there was still a naive feeling that American elected officials should act in service to what they perceived as America’s own national interests, and if the facts of Prof. Mahl’s book had become known at the time, there surely would have been a serious political backlash.

Indeed, at numerous points the author notes that the puzzled political opponents of our involvement in the Second World War sensed that there seemed to be some unseen coordinating hand behind the individuals and forces arrayed against them, but they never guessed that it was simply a foreign intelligence service.

The history was that Britain and France had entered into a war against Germany, and soon found themselves at a stalemate or actually overmatched. Only America’s entrance into World War I had turned the tide of that conflict, leading to an allied victory, and the same factor seemed necessary in the even more difficult second round. However, America’s involvement in WWI had come to be seen by the American people in hindsight as a disastrous mistake, and the notion of going to war in Europe a second time was enormously unpopular. Hence a heavy secret campaign of political subversion and media manipulation was necessary to undermine the public figures opposing intervention and ensure that America would go to war even though very few Americans actually wanted to do so.

This task was rendered considerably more difficult by another factor only lightly touched upon by the author. During the period in question, an enormous amount of political influence was held by a network of Communist agents loyal to the Soviet Union, as conclusively demonstrated many decades later by the declassification of the Venona decrypts. However, Stalin and Hitler had become allies just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, and until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, Communists were generally opposed to any American support for Britain or France, let alone direct military intervention. So for nearly the entire period in question, the British spies and agents of influence pushing for America to go to war sometimes encountered resistance from the Communist spies and agents of influence pushing in the opposite direction.

The audacity of the British spy ring was really quite remarkable, and partly explained by the enormous degree of control that they and their American allies exerted over most of the leading media outlets, which largely protected them against risk of damaging public disclosures. Under this umbrella of media immunity, documents were forged to embarrass political opponents, leading public opinion polls were manipulated or possibly even faked, and attractive women were deployed to sway prominent elected officials.

For example, I’d always seen the name of Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan cited as the Republican leader whose remarkable conversion from “isolationism” to interventionism and internationalism laid the basis for decades of bipartisan American foreign policy. And in a full chapter, Mahl provides persuasive evidence that Vandenberg’s ideological shift was heavily facilitated by three successive women who served as his primary paramours over a number of years, all of them acting on behalf of British intelligence.

Mahl devotes another chapter to chronicling the repeated, ultimately successful attempts by these outside forces to defeat Rep. Hamilton Fish, entrenched for decades in his Upstate New York district, who served as the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was one of the nation’s leading opponents of foreign intervention. Large amounts of outside money regularly flowed into his district along with massive, coordinated attacks by every available media outlet, levelling the most absurd accusations, including that he was backed by Nazi agents or even one himself, with these charges sometimes based on simple forgeries. In fact, the only foreign agents involved in his campaigns were the British spies secretly coordinating the anti-Fish effort.

Interestingly enough, among the top arguments advanced to stampede ordinary Americans into regarding Germany as a dangerous national threat was the claim that Hitler planned to violate the Monroe Doctrine by seizing control of Latin America, as proven by a secret Nazi map indicating the eventual zones of military occupation. But Germany possessed a surface navy of negligible strength, so any attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean then invade and conquer half the Western Hemisphere would have been a remarkable undertaking indeed, and naturally the map was fabricated by the British, possibly at the behest of the Roosevelt Administration. The individuals who forged the “Niger Yellowcake papers” to promote the Iraq War were mere pikers by comparison.

Another fascinating historical detail regards the creation of the OSS, the American intelligence service that served as the ancestor of the CIA. The FBI already existed as did America’s military intelligence service, but those entrenched organizations were obviously much less vulnerable to external political influence, let alone foreign control. Therefore, most of the impetus behind the creation of the new OSS apparently came from elements of British Intelligence, who also helped select the top leadership, leading to interesting questions about where the primary loyalty of those latter individuals actually lay. Indeed, British agents often described OSS Director Bill Donovan as “our man” in their internal communications.

But perhaps the most remarkable story, totally unfamiliar to me, was the bizarre nature of the 1940 presidential race. Franklin Roosevelt had partly won his landslide reelection in 1936 by running as a strong opponent of intervention in any future European war, but in 1937 the economy had once again collapsed, including a new stock market crash, a return to near-record unemployment, and a widespread perception that despite unprecedented government spending, the vaunted New Deal had ultimately been proven unsuccessful. In addition, FDR’s attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court had suffered a major bipartisan defeat in 1937, further undercutting his popularity and raising perceptions that his presidency had been a failure. As an indication of Roosevelt’s unpopularity, the Republicans gained 80 House seats in the 1938 mid-term elections, one of the largest swings in U.S. history.

The 1939 outbreak of war in Europe provided a huge, welcome boost to the American economy, and also a potential excuse for Roosevelt to break every American political tradition and seek a third presidential term. But Roosevelt’s support for military involvement in that conflict posed a major obstacle to such plans since all the leading Republican contenders were strong anti-interventionists, Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio foremost among them, as were the American people. So Roosevelt would apparently either have to risk an election defeat or once again heavily commit himself to maintaining America’s future military neutrality, thus restricting his future course of action if elected and also perhaps alienating some of his key backers, who were focused entirely on the need for America to quickly enter the war against Germany.

Obviously, the ideal situation would be if Roosevelt’s Republican presidential opponent somehow happened to be his ideological twin on “internationalism,” thereby giving the probable majority of “isolationist” voters no choice whatsoever in the voting booth. Powerful figures in the East Coast WASP Establishment wing of the Republican Party, including Henry Luce of the Time-Life media empire and Thomas Lamont of J.P. Morgan & Company, eagerly sought this exact result, but without either a potential Republican candidate or significant popular support, the effort seemed hopeless.

Yet when the 1940 party convention finally drew to a close on June 28th, the unexpected Republican presidential nominee, Wendell Willkie, exactly fulfilled that unlikely goal. He was also a rather strange choice in many other respects, being a somewhat politically obscure lifelong Democrat who had never previously held any elective office, nor had he even competed in any Republican primary. Experienced political observers at the time regarded the Willkie nomination as being among the most bizarre and baffling in American political history, with the redoubtable H.L. Mencken suggesting that Divine Intervention was the only possible explanation.

Mahl, however, points to more mundane factors. There exists enormous evidence of major skullduggery by British agents, including the total manipulation of the nomination process by the convention manager, who was their close ally. Microphones were sabotaged at crucial points and duplicate tickets printed to ensure that all the galleries were completely packed by loud Willkie partisans, whose enthusiasm helped sway wavering delegates. Success might have been very difficult without such illegal machinations, and interestingly enough, the gentleman who arranged them only acquired his position of authority when the original convention manager, an ardent Taft supporter, had suddenly collapsed and died several weeks earlier. This occurrence, seemingly so crucial for Willkie’s nomination, may have been entirely fortuitous, but Mahl notes that the individuals recruited into the local British spy ring were explicitly warned that they might need to commit murder as part of their duties.

Despite Willkie’s remarkable success at securing the nomination, his presidential campaign itself proved a total disaster, with many of his erstwhile supporters quickly dropping away or even transferring their allegiance to Roosevelt. His history as a Democrat and his advocacy of an aggressive internationalism hardly inspired Republican voter enthusiasm, while his Wall Street background constituted a perfect foil for Roosevelt’s populist positions. So despite enormous public doubts about Roosevelt, Willkie suffered a landslide defeat, thereby handling Roosevelt his third term.

The latter proved remarkably magnanimous in victory, becoming very friendly with Willkie, giving him several important appointments, notably to a top American position in Britain, and even considering him as a replacement for pro-Soviet Henry Wallace as his 1944 Vice Presidential choice and likely successor, before ultimately settling upon Harry S. Truman instead. Thus a lifelong Democrat came from obscurity to suddenly capture the Republican Presidential nomination in 1940 before nearly becoming the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 1944, which would have put him in the White House upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945.

A glance at Wikipedia suggests that the psychic strain of having come so close to supreme power perhaps became too much for poor Willkie, who soon after being denied the Vice Presidency began suffering numerous heart attacks, finally collapsing and dying at age 52 just before the 1944 election. The entire strange history of these events brings to mind Lenin’s emphasis on the tremendous benefits of creating or at least controlling one’s own political opposition, and perhaps also underscores the possible health risks faced by individuals caught up in such schemes.

Mahl’s monograph, based on his doctoral dissertation in diplomatic history at Kent State University, was published almost 20 years ago in Brassey’s Intelligence & National Security Library, a respected specialty press, received some notable scholarly endorsements, and was briefly reviewed in Foreign Affairs and other mainstream journals. But the only extensive American coverage of this important work seems to have been in small ideological publications such as the paleoconservative Chronicles and the libertarian Independent Review and Mises Review, which conveniently provide much more detailed reviews and summaries of the material than I have presented above. However, despite no sign of a substantial refutation, I also see no indication that the research has ever been substantially incorporated into our histories of that era. For example, Willkie’s 11,000 word Wikipedia entry contains an extensive bibliography and over 150 references, but includes no mention of Mahl’s important research findings.

It is hardly uncommon for a supposedly sovereign nation to have its political system or democratic elections subverted and controlled by the hidden actions of a foreign power, and the last century has been replete with such examples. But while I’m sure that the average educated Guatemalan or Columbian is perfectly aware of the numerous public policy manipulations that his unfortunate country suffered over the decades at the hands of the CIA, I doubt that too many of their American counterparts would guess that much U.S. history might also have been heavily influenced by the subtle interventions of one or more foreign intelligence agencies.

Study: Medical marijuana changes how employees use sick time

August 29, 2016

by Christopher Ingraham

The Washington Post

“Fact #1: Legalizing marijuana is bad for the workplace.”

That’s the stark warning from the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, a nonprofit that works to combat drug use among American employees.

“The impact of employee marijuana use is seen in the workplace in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale,” the institute writes. “This can and does seriously impact the bottom line.”

Does it really, though?

New research published in the journal Health Economics suggests that the argument is overstated. Darin F. Ullman, an economist who recently received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, wanted to know what effect, if any, the enactment of medical marijuana laws has had on employee absentee rates.

A fair amount of research has been done on the aggregate impact of illicit marijuana use on workplace productivity. Generally speaking, the most recent research — gathered and summarized in this 2014 paper — indicates that most marijuana use has little effect on workplace productivity, although chronic or heavy pot use can be a problem.

On net, the evidence is mixed. “It is simply uncertain as to whether there are negative labor market consequences of drug use in general, and cannabis use in particular,” the 2014 paper concludes.

But there hasn’t been a lot of research into the impact of licit marijuana use — particularly medical marijuana use — on the workplace. So Ullman decided to look into what happened to employee sick-day use in states that legalized medical marijuana, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS).

On the one hand, you might expect broader access to marijuana to result in more workers calling in sick, because they’re too stoned to work or because they just don’t feel like showing up on a given day. On the other hand, if medical pot is successfully treating conditions that would otherwise render somebody unable to work, you might expect sick days to decrease.

So Ullman examined before-and-after sick-day data from 24 states that had medical marijuana laws at the time of his study. On average, he found that “respondents were 8% less likely to report being absent from work due to health issues after medical marijuana laws” were passed. The CPS numbers also suggest that states with fewer restrictions on the use of medical marijuana, such as on the number of conditions it could be recommended for, had more of a decrease in sick-day use than states with stricter regulations.

Now, if you read much about this type of research, you’re probably expecting a Big Important Caveat to appear here, and you’re right: Ullman’s study can say that sick-day use decreased after the passage of medical marijuana laws. But it can’t say medical marijuana caused that decrease. There are any number of factors that could have accounted for a drop in absenteeism in the states Ullman studied — better access to health care, better workplace wellness programs, improved employee health overall, etc. The decline in absenteeism could be driven more by any of those factors than by whatever happened to the state’s marijuana laws.

However, Ullman notes that the effect of the laws was stronger for middle-aged workers and for males, the groups most likely to hold medical marijuana cards. That, combined with the stronger effect of the laws in the more lax states, does suggest that the laws themselves could be a driver of the reduced absenteeism seen in the data.

Ullman notes that there are any number of plausible reasons this could be the case. If self-treating with medical marijuana lets “individuals experience relief from disabling symptoms, absence from work could decline.” Beyond that, other studies have shown that alcohol consumption declines after the passage of medical marijuana laws. Heavy drinking is a big driver of absenteeism, so if medical marijuana cuts back on boozing, it would have the net effect of reducing absenteeism, as well.

“The results of this paper therefore suggest that [medical marijuana laws] would decrease costs for employers as it has reduced self-reported absence from work due to illness/medical issues,” Ullman concludes.

Why do Americans keep thinking their airports are under attack?

August 30, 2016

by Jasmine Taylor-Coleman

BBC News,

Washington DC-Frightened travellers fled Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Sunday in the latest case of panic at US airports and other public gathering places. Are Americans getting jumpier about the threat of attack?

Sam Macon, 36, had just picked up his luggage at LAX baggage claim when the screaming started.

“I couldn’t tell who started yelling first,” says Macon, a filmmaker who lives in LA. “But within minutes if not seconds I heard somebody shouting something about an active shooter.”

Until then, the journey for Macon and his girlfriend back from Atlanta, where they’d been for a wedding, had been “uneventful”. Then suddenly they were among hundreds of people – many screaming and pushing – rushing for safety.

The couple followed as “throngs of people” ran deeper into the building, away from the terminal exit. “The further people got away from the exit, the more hysterical they became,” says Macon. “By the time we reached the departures area, some were panicking and crying.”

Reports of a shooting sent passengers running onto tarmac and through security checkpoints without being screened, airport authorities said. Nearly 300 flights were delayed as a result of the security alert.

However, LA police said reports of a gunman turned out to be false. They are still investigating the source of “loud noises” that might have sparked concerns.

Minutes before the panic broke out, officers detained a man carrying a plastic sword and dressed as the fictional character Zorro – an event that Macon caught on camera. The man was questioned on suspicion of having fired a gun but was later released, police said.

The incident comes two weeks after parts of New York’s JFK airport were closed amid reports of gunfire that later proved to be unfounded.

US media said applause from a group of passengers watching Usain Bolt’s sprint in the Olympic 100m race started a series of events that snowballed into chaos.

In a separate case last week, nine people were injured when the sound of balloons popping and fire alarm sent people running for fear of a gunman in a Florida shopping centre.

“What we are seeing is the power of the mind and the group when people are anxious or hyper-vigilant and concerned about threats,” says Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at University of California, Los Angeles.

“And it’s quite understandable what’s happening – it’s human nature. If you think you’re in a dangerous situation you are going to respond.”

The trigger for mass panic can be small and isolated, says Small. Although situations vary, the sound of a car exhaust pipe backfiring or comments by just one or two individuals can cause widespread alarm.

This is because people who feel anxious or face uncertainty will naturally look for explanations, Small says.

And heightened sensitivity about mass shootings and terror attacks in the US make the worst case scenario plausible.

“Gun violence has permeated our conversations and our existence,” says Tricia Wachtendorf, director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware.

“If you are an everyday person and you hear there might be a shooter – and you have not got any information that contradicts that – it seems reasonable to me that you would move forward with an abundance of caution.”

News organisations have been accused of fuelling fear with sensationalist headlines.

Meanwhile, Gary Small says terror attacks around the world – such as in France and Belgium – have contributed to an anxiety about the threats people face in their everyday lives, with airports and planes the subject of particular concern.

Certainly, Americans cannot easily forget about the dangers posed by groups such as Islamic State when these issues are at the centre of the presidential election campaigns.

And Small says the political atmosphere in the US is fuelling a general sense of anxiety that can affect people’s reactions during highly pressured situations.

“People are quite frightened about the divisiveness in the political arena at the moment. We want to look to our politicians to calm us and lead the way, and without that people are feeling unsettled.”

He says recent incidents suggest cases of panic and hysteria are becoming more common in the US.

However, Tricia Wachtendorf says people are actually less likely to panic than we are often led to believe. And while instances of people fleeing in alarm have lead to injuries in the past, it’s important to remember that these reactions can also avert greater disaster if a threat turns out to be credible.

“In these kinds of events, different people have different levels of anxiety,” says Wachtendorf. “But widespread panic is extremely rare.

“We see actually people following orders, and helping each other. They are not engaging in anti-social or irrational behaviour. They are doing what they are being told to do.”

Looking back now at Sunday’s incident at LAX, Macon says the experience seems bizarre and even exciting. “Now that I know that everyone was okay and no-one was hurt, in retrospect that whole thing was quite thrilling,” he says.

But he says he also learned a lot about how emergency events can unfold.

“I’m not going to be more paranoid now,” he says. “But I will look at this as a practice run or training – in case something does happen in the future.”

FBI detects breaches against two state voter systems

August 29, 2016

by Dustin Volz and Jim Finkle


Washington-The Federal Bureau of Investigation has found breaches in Illinois and Arizona’s voter registration databases and is urging states to increase computer security ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election, according to a U.S. official familiar with the probe.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that investigators were also seeking evidence of whether other states may have been targeted.

The FBI warning in an Aug. 18 flash alert from the agency’s Cyber Division did not identify the intruders or the two states targeted.

Reuters obtained a copy of the document after Yahoo News first reported the story Monday.

Accessing information in a voter database, much of which is publicly accessible, does not necessarily suggest an effort to manipulate the votes themselves. When registering, voters typically provide their names, home addresses, driver’s license or identification numbers, and party affiliations.

But U.S. intelligence officials have become increasingly worried that hackers sponsored by Russia or other countries may attempt to disrupt the presidential election.

Officials and cyber security experts say recent breaches at the Democratic National Committee and elsewhere in the Democratic Party were likely carried out by people within the Russian government. Kremlin officials have denied that.

An FBI spokeswoman would not comment on the alerts but said the agency “routinely advises” on “various cyber threat indicators observed during the course of our investigations.”

The intrusions come amid repeated unsubstantiated claims by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that the U.S. election system is “rigged.”

Trump has cited emails leaked from the DNC that indicated the party leadership favored Hillary Clinton over rival candidate Bernie Sanders as reason to cast doubt on the electoral process in general.


David Kennedy, chief executive officer of information security consulting company TrustedSec, said the attacks referenced in the FBI alert appeared to be largely exploratory and not especially sophisticated.

“It could be a precursor to a larger attack,” he added.

Citing a state election board official, Yahoo News said the Illinois voter registration system was shut down for 10 days in late July after hackers downloaded personal data on up to 200,000 voters.

State voter systems are often targeted by hackers, and 200,000 is a relatively small number compared to other recent incidents. An independent computer security researcher uncovered in December of last year a database on 191 million voters that was exposed on the open Internet due to an incorrect configuration.

The Arizona attack was more limited and involved introducing malicious software into one state employee’s computer, said Matt Roberts, communications director for the Arizona secretary of state’s office.

That office publicly reported a cyber incident in June after being contacted by the FBI, which led to it temporarily shutting down its election site to deal with the potential threat.

Roberts said he was uncertain if the FBI advisory was in reference to that same June incident, during which investigators found no evidence of any data exfiltration. In that episode, the FBI told Arizona officials the hackers were believed to be Russian and described it as an “eight out of 10” on a threat severity scale, Roberts said.

Arizona will hold Republican and Democratic primaries for congressional races on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz and Jim Finkle; Additional reporting by John Walcott; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Alistair Bell)

No compromise from US, no TTIP with EU this year – France & Germany on trade deal

August 30, 2016


There will be no deal this year between the EU and US on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), says French President Francois Hollande. Several French and German ministers echoed the statement, citing US unwillingness to compromise.

“The negotiations are bogged down, positions have not been respected, it’s clearly unbalanced,” Hollande said in a speech to French ambassadors.

According to the French president, there will not be any agreement on TTIP  “by the end of the year.”

Earlier, Minister of State for Foreign Trade Matthias Fekl told French media that the current TTIP talks should be halted and new ones should begin.

“There is no more political support in France for these negotiations,” and “France calls for an end to these negotiations,” Fekl told RMC radio.

One of the problems of the deal lies in the US attitude towards the negotiations, he said.

The Americans give nothing or just crumbs… That is not how negotiations are done between allies,” Fekl said. “We need a clear and definitive halt to these negotiations in order to restart on a good foundation.”

France “demands a halt to TAFTA [Transatlantic Free Trade Area] and TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership],” he tweeted.

Fekl said that France will raise the case at a meeting of EU foreign trade ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia, in September.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added that US and EU still are “far away” and have work to do on the standards of the deal.

According to German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the unwillingness of Washington to compromise in fact halted the deal.

“I believe that the Americans have actively ended TTIP. I don’t see any willingness to compromise with the Europeans,” Gabriel said.

On Sunday, Gabriel admitted that TTIP negotiations had essentially failed.

“In my opinion the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it,” the minister told ZDF broadcaster. “[They] have failed because we Europeans did not want to subject ourselves to American demands.”

The deal still has backing in some quarters, however, with a number of EU officials speaking out in support of it.

Italian Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda believes that the TTIP talks must continue.

“TTIP will be sealed. It is inevitable,” he said in an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper. “We have to carry on. This accord is essential for Italy.”

In the meantime, a spokesman for US Trade Representative Michael Froman told Der Spiegel newspaper that the talks “are in fact making steady progress.”

Washington has been insisting that the free trade deal be signed before the end of 2016, but it has encountered strong opposition from a number of European nations.

The TTIP is a EU-US free trade treaty project that was dubbed as controversial the moment it was proposed three years ago and has been criticized for its secretiveness and lack of accountability ever since.

The proposed deal aims at promoting trade and multilateral economic growth by creating the world’s largest free-trade zone. Backers say it will help small businesses opening up markets and making customs processes easier, while trade tariffs on products would be reduced.

But critics of TTIP fear big corporations will be the only ones to profit from the deal, with corporate interest coming even ahead of national interest.

According to the director of the group Global Justice Now, Nick Dearden, the TTIP “is a very dangerous trade deal which is less about trade and more about big business taking control over our regulations.”

“There is so much pressure on both sides of the Atlantic,” he told RT, “The negotiating teams… are trying to make it look like they are meeting the will of the people and also doing what the deal was all about – handing big chunks of our democracy to the rule of big business.”

What the Hell? Satan worship on rise in America

August 29, 2016

by Iben Thranholm


Satanists are not merely mystical eccentrics wearing black Gothic garb, sacrificing animals and operating in shady and secret societies. They are now ordinary people who call themselves ‘secular’ and praise reason and the individual freedom of thought.

In the US, explicitly satanic groups have begun drawing attention to themselves in the context of public governmental ceremonies.

Just this month, a member of the so-called Satanic Temple was allowed to make an opening prayer to Lucifer at a local council meeting in Alaska.

Assembly members stood around in a circle while the Satanist asked them to “embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the tree of knowledge.” She then ended the surreal prayer with the words, “Hail Satan.”

Thoughtfully, meeting attendees were reminded that they did not have to participate in the opening ritual.

The Satanic Temple (TST) is a fairly new organization. Founded in 2013, it fights for political change by pointing out the ostensibly preferential treatment Christianity enjoys in politics. TST has seven chapters in the USA and Europe, and claims a membership of 100,000.

One of the group’s objectives is to embed Lucifer in the public school system by establishing afternoon clubs, adoringly dubbed “After School Satan”, which is TST’s response to a Supreme Court ruling allowing evangelical programs to operate in schools.

Currently nine clubs are listed under the program, including in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Washington DC. The clubs will focus on “rationalism, free inquiry … and fun”, according to a promotional video.

TST itself emphasizes that it seeks to implement “After School Satan” in locations where active Christian children’s clubs operate.

TST said it is “not interested in operating After School Satan clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club.”

The Temple is attempting to present a challenge to the Good News Club, an interdenominational Christian program for five to 12-year-olds, operating in over 3,500 public schools across the country.

The Christian club’s curriculum was designed by the Child Evangelism Fellowship and includes Bible studies and workshops.

A spokesperson for TST, Lucien Greaves, said the controversial clubs will give children other alternatives than the Good News Club, which he claimed instills children “with a fear of Hell and God’s wrath.”

TST also aims to place demonic books on the shelves in the libraries of public schools, as well as having satanic prayers recited at high school games. It is, however, somewhat ironic that the Satanists’ intention is currently to get children to stop fearing hell, which runs counter to Christian teaching.

Satanists are of the opinion that Christianity has had too much influence on American society, but this must be because they have not kept up to date on the latest research. Or that they are governed by a different factor than reason.

But it seems that Europe may also be heading in the wrong religious direction. In June, several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, were present at a bizarre ritual in connection with the opening of the world’s longest tunnel, the new Gotthard tunnel, in Switzerland this past June.

The ceremony is performed by masked men dressed in grass costumes, fallen angels descending from the ceiling and a man with a goat’s head, whom the other performers in the ceremony appear to worship. The opening ritual has subsequently been interpreted as depicting satanic scenes from hell.

More than one publication, and certainly more conspiracy theorists, slammed the dark performance “Satanic.”

A disturbing trend

According to The Pew Research Center, religious “nones”, a category that includes atheists, agnostics, and the “nothing in particular” group, make up 23 per cent of US adults, up from 16 per cent in 2007.

This group is growing as a percentage of the US population. At the same time, they are becoming increasingly secular, Pew reports, “a trend that also makes the US public overall less religious,” according to surveys made as part of the Religious Landscape Study.

But there is more to the story. To begin with, this group is not uniformly nonreligious. Most of them say they believe in God, and about a third says religion is at least somewhat important in their lives.

Seventy percent of those born between 1990 and 1996 with no religious affiliation say religion is not important in their lives. A similar share also report they seldom or never pray and 42 percent say they do not believe in God, according to the Pew study.

Obviously, most of the “nones” do not reject faith in “something”, and this often means that they seek some form of spirituality outside a traditional affiliation. Like Satanists also do. But why would one use Satan, a spiritual entity, as figurehead if the aim of their struggle is rationality and freedom from religion?

The perception of secular society as nonreligious is quite simply a delusion, as Lesslie Newbigin states in his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, in which he also points to a revival of ancient heathen religions, in opposition to Christianity.

The paradox is that the religions that have attempted to embrace rationalism perish in modernity, while those that embrace the supernatural elements revive.


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