TBR News December 15, 2015

Dec 15 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. December 14, 2015:”The watchword in the turmolil in the MidEast is both religious and also commercial in background. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are Sunni Muslim. The Sunni’s control the Muslim holy sites and the Shi’ites wish they did. America badly needs oil and for some time past, oil-rich Saudi Arabia has been a willing supplier. Russia has enormous oil fields, either untapped or under production. The United States does not like this. Saudi oil fields are starting to run out. In the Shi’ite part of Iraq also are large and untapped oil deposits. President Assad of Syria is not liked by the Sunnis and also by the United States and Israel. They want to get rid of him and get control of the Syrian oil fields. The ISIS people were founded by the Saudis, trained by the CIA and armed with American weapons. Now Turkey, in association with the US intelligence people, are challenging Putin, safe as they think, with promises of American and American-controlled NATO suport in the event the Russians become too threatening. The Turkish president personally ordered the Russian plane shot down but when Putin responded with severe economic sanctions against Turkey, the US, as usual, did nothing. Promises are one thing and action is another. The Russians are now arming the rebel Kurds who want their own country. As a goodly portion lies in what is now eastern Turkey, that country is boiling with an admixture of anger and fear. A mixture of religious motivation and oil are what move events in the Mid-East and to date, Russia has been well ahead in the game. The American press constantly refers to ‘US-led coalitions’ but the US does not include Russia, whose attacks on rebel and ISIS forces have killed a number of CIA personnel and have obliterated the convoys of tanker trucks carrying ISIS-looted Syrian oil for reshipment, via Israel, to US firms.”

Russia’s payback against Turkey over shoot-down may turn deadly

December 15, 2015

by Josh Cohen


It was a clash with ominous Cold War overtones. Turkey’s recent destruction of a Russian Su-24 jet was the first time in 63 years a NATO jet shot down a Russian one. Although Ankara claimed the jet was in Turkish territory, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of a “stab in the back”and being “accomplices of terrorists.”

Putin subsequently cancelled Russian energy projects in Turkey, and also banned the import of Turkish fruit and vegetables. What Putin said next, though, should send chills down Turkish spines.

In comments during his annual state of the nation speech, Putin implied Russia might use force against Turkey: “We shall remind them many a time what they have done and they will more than once feel regret what they have done,” said Putin. “Our armed forces, secret services and law enforcement agencies have been mobilized to give a rebuff to the terrorist threat.”

While Putin uses bluster for effect — once promising Chechen terrorists Russia would “rub them out in the outhouse” — he does have a legitimate beef with Turkey. Even if the Russian jet was in Turkish territory, it was there for merely 17 seconds, and the Turkish jet fired no warning shots at the Russian one. That Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan boasted he himself gave the order to fire only made things worse.

In a sign of escalating tension, on Sunday a Russian destroyer fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing vessel. If Putin chooses to further up the ante against Turkey, he’s got a number of cards he could play.

First, Putin could order the Russian military to shoot down a Turkish plane with air-to-ground missiles. The Russian military just deployed its advanced S-400 air defense missile system to the Syrian airbase of Hmeimim, only 18 miles from the Turkish border. This is a military game changer, with even a senior Israeli officer describing its deployment as his country’s “worst nightmare.” With a radius of 250 miles and the ability to target up to 36 aircraft or cruise missiles simultaneously, Russia now possesses the capability to take down a Turkish plane any time it wishes. It also eliminates the possibility that the West could establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria — a step long demanded by Ankara.

Putin also ordered Russian air-to-air fighter jets to accompany its bombers on all flights over Syrian airspace. That’s dangerous because Russia could theoretically shoot down a Turkish jet on the Turkish-Syrian border, and then assert, after the fact, that it was close to attacking a Russian plane. True or not, the Kremlin’s mastery of disinformation could allow the Russians just enough leeway to claim it was self-defense.

Putin could also use the Kurds as a weapon against Turkey. Turkey’s highest priority has always been its fight against Kurdish separatism in Turkey itself, and more broadly to halt the creation of an independent Kurdistan, a state that would theoretically incorporate areas of Iraq, Syria and parts of southeast Turkey.

As part of its anti-Kurdish policy, Ankara opposes the main Kurdish force in Syria, the Peoples’ Protection Units or YPG, as Ankara desperately wishes to avoid the establishment of an autonomous Syrian Kurdish entity akin to Iraqi Kurdistan. For this reason, Turkey recently struck Kurdish positions in northern Syria, and Ankara constantly warns the Syrian Kurds not to scoop up more territory in the area.

Putin could therefore strike a serious blow at Turkey’s geopolitical interests by ordering delivery of more advanced Russian weaponry to the Kurds, some of which would be aimed at Turkey. Syrian Kurds control two enclaves in northern Syria along the Turkish border, and wish to capture the final 60 miles needed to link these two territories together. Although Turkey repeatedly warns it will use force to prevent this scenario, Russian support and encouragement could motivate Syria’s Kurds to take the plunge. This would establish a 400-mile-long anti-Turkish cordon along Turkey’s southern border, which would be nothing short of a disaster in the minds of Turkish leaders.

Arming the Kurds would be a provocative escalation by Moscow, but the strategy still provides the Kremlin plausible deniability — Syria is awash with weapons, after all — and therefore fits Russia’s “hybrid war” doctrine. Russia could also claim that by arming the Kurds it actually cooperates with the West in its fight against Islamic State, since the United States sees Syria’s Kurds as the key local force able to take on the militant group. Indeed, the Kremlin may be laying the groundwork for this approach, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov publicly wondered why Turkey bombs Syria’s Kurds against Washington’s wishes. Putin also suggested that Syria’s Kurds unite with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight Islamic State, an alliance that would upend the entire game in Syria.

Third, Putin could also act to wipe out Turkey’s key allies in northern Syria, such as the Turkmen forces the Russian military started bombing after its jet was shot down. Putin’s vindictiveness towards the Turkmens is clear, as they killed one of the Russian pilots as he parachuted down, and then released a video showing them cheering and yelling “Allahu Akbar” as they found the body. Turkey, though, counts on allies like the Turkmen to secure itself a seat at the table when negotiations between Assad and opposition forces sit down to discuss Syria’s future early next year, so the Russian destruction of Turkmen forces would be another strategic setback for Ankara.

Finally, Putin could make mischief for Ankara within Turkey itself. Russian agents have previously killed alleged terrorists in Turkey, and appear to have done so again just last month. This continues a broader pattern where anti-Russian figures from the North Caucasus are executed in Turkey. In a worst case scenario, Russia could further escalate within Turkey by providing support directly to the Turkish PKK, which has been fighting against Ankara’s forces in southeastern Turkey for decades.

While Russia certainly could hurt Turkey, Ankara has cards of its own. In particular, it could close the Turkish Straits. Russian ships have traversed the Straits unimpeded for decades, but under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey is allowed to close the Straits in a war with Russia or if it considers itself to be “threatened with imminent danger of war.” This would bottle up Russian ships in the Black Sea, and significantly increase the difficulty for Moscow to resupply its forces in Syria. Turkey has already created “delays” for Russian cargo ships travelling through the Straits — a clear warning from Erdogan.

To be sure, calmer heads may still prevail, and Moscow-Ankara tensions will likely subside over time. Given that the Turks have fought and lost 17 wars against Russia since the 15th century, Ankara likely hopes this is the case.

Turkey says its patience with Russia ‘has a limit’: newspaper

December 14, 2015


Rome- Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara’s patience with Russia “has a limit” after Moscow’s “exaggerated” reaction to a weekend naval incident between the two countries, an Italian newspaper reported on Monday.

A Russian destroyer fired warning shots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean on Sunday to avoid a collision and summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident..

“Ours was only a fishing boat, it seems to me that the reaction of the Russian naval ship was exaggerated,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview.

“Russia and Turkey certainly have to re-establish the relations of trust that we have always had, but our patience has a limit,” Cavusoglu said.

The incident is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations who are at odds over Syria and Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane last month.

Cavusoglu said Russia had already “put itself in a ridiculous position” with accusations by its President Vladimir Putin that Turkey had shot down the jet to protect oil supplies from Islamic State.

“No-one believed it” he said.

He also criticized Russia’s military intervention in Syria, saying it was aimed at propping up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, not combating Islamic State.

“Unfortunately Russia is not in Syria to fight terrorists,” he said, adding that only 8 percent of its air strikes had been aimed at Islamic State while 92 percent were against other groups hostile to Assad

Cavusoglu also said air strikes were not sufficient to defeat Islamic State and soldiers on the ground were necessary, according to the interview.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

IS conflict: Turkey withdraws some troops from Iraq camp

December 14, 2015

BBC News

Turkey is withdrawing some of its troops stationed at a base in Iraq, the country’s state-run news agency says.

Anadolu quoted military officials as saying a 10- or 12-vehicle convoy had left Bashiqa camp and was moving north.

Turkey has deployed troops near the city of Mosul, which is controlled by the jihadist group Islamic State, since 2014 to train Iraqi Kurdish forces.

But the arrival of 150 personnel earlier this month was heavily criticised by the Iraqi government.

Baghdad said the deployment had been carried out without consultation and violated national sovereignty and international law.

It called on the UN Security Council to demand that Turkey withdraw its forces.

Ankara defended the move as routine troop rotation at an established camp, as part of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight so-called Islamic State (IS).

But on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu’s office said it had decided to reorganise its military personnel at Bashiqa following talks with Iraqi officials.

Monday’s troop movement was part of the “new arrangement”, a Turkish military source told the Reuters news agency.

It is unclear whether the withdrawn troops are returning to Turkey or will remain in Iraq.

The Turkish government enjoys close relations with semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

But it considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – whose Popular Protection Units (YPG) militia is a key ally of the US-led coalition against IS – as an enemy because it is an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ukraine’s economy hits rock bottom

December 14, 2015


The Ukrainian economy is set to contract 12 percent this year, while inflation is forecast to reach 50.8 percent, according to the World Bank.

The main reasons for the slowing economy and rising inflation are the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and a fall in trade with Russia.

According to Kiev’s statistical data, exports of Ukrainian goods to Russia fell by 55.6 percent in the first nine months of 2015.

Exports to Russia now stand at $3.6 billion, compared to $8.1 billion in the same period last year. The import of goods from Russia fell by 47.9 percent to $5.5 billion.

Even so Russia remains Ukraine’s largest trading partner, accounting for 12.8 percent of its exports and 20 percent of imports. Ukraine’s second biggest export market is Turkey at 7.3 percent.

Ukraine has not been able to use preferential treatment from the EU under the Association Agreement that was supposed to cancel duty on Ukrainian products.

“To deliver goods to the EU Ukrainian businesses must obtain the appropriate certificates and it is a complicated procedure,” said Kiev-based economist Aleksandr Okhrimenko.

With more than 50 percent inflation banks have practically stopped bankrolling the economy. The lending rate is about 30 percent per year in Ukrainian hryvnia. The national currency has lost 50 percent of its value in 2015, boosting inflation.

The World Bank estimates the Ukrainian economy will grow one percent in 2016, and inflation is projected to hit 23.4 percent next year.

Conversaions 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, 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 his Washington 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

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.


Conversation No. 31

Date: Wednesday, August 14, 1996

Commenced: 8:15 AM CST

Concluded: 9:11 AM CST

RTC: I thought it had to be you, Gregory. You are about the only person who calls me these days. Bill does, of course, and every so often that fool Trento gets onto me, trying to pry information out of me for some fool book he is working on. So much work for nothing.

GD: And so many beautiful trees have to die, equally for nothing.

RTC: True enough. I could give Joe boxes of first class material for blockbuster books but it would all be wasted on him. Costello is gone now and Joe is basically useless. Such delusions of grandeur.

GD: I read one, actually only part of one, of his books. He has no grasp of how things work. It’s like someone writing about glaciers. They ignore the dynamics of the entire system and its history and confine themselves to saying, with eyes popping and pointing finger: ‘Ooh, look at all the ice! My, it’s cold, isn’t it? Last year, I have seen, in secret papers, there were a lot of icebergs breaking off! There were private meetings held in unspecified places with top intelligence people about this!’

RTC: (Laughter) You are so bloody cruel, Gregory. But true. Bill and I needed someone to polish up our work and Joe was recommended. It’s too damned bad we hadn’t run into you then. We could have had something a little more polished. Oh well, such is life.

GD: Yes, such is life. Have you told Joe about me?

RTC: No, I have not. What would happen then? Joe would bleat to me for about six months about how you were a terrible person and why I shouldn’t talk to you at all. Kimmel does the same thing, but he’s a little more subtle. Poor Bill goes for his gaff, but I don’t. Now, I never hear from Tom. I guess he gave up on me. But actually not. He’s now got people from Justice to call me about you. My God, what will be next? The SPCA?

GD: Who knows? These old aunties swing a mean purse but I’ve had to deal with these pathetic losers since I was about ten and realized that Jonathan Swift was right about humanity. Well, I can see into the future simply by reading about the past. Their days are numbered, Robert but you won’t be around and I might not.

RTC: Are you thinking about some religious sort of violence?

GD: No, much less spectacular but even more deadly. Did you ever read Malthus?

RTC: No.

GD: It’s all there, Robert. Sum it up: Populations increase geometrically and food supplies increase arithmetically. In other words, the public fuck like rabbits, the population soars but eventually, and without any doubt, we run out of food and drinkable water. Of course the WASPS will do OK and this country raises lots of food but places like India, China and Africa are going to be mass graves when it hits. Oh, and it will hit, Robert. It isn’t a question of loony theories but solid fact. And another thing, Robert. There is a hell of a lot of ice at the poles. If the Arctic ice cap melts, it won’t make any difference because that is ice on the water and if it all went away tomorrow, the ocean levels wouldn’t rise by an inch. But Antarctic and Greenland ice is another matter entirely. That ice is on land and if it melts to any degree then the ocean levels will really rise.

RTC: Probably so but that’s Doomsday material, Gregory, isn’t it?

GD: No, Robert, uncomfortable fact. I had an article once that I took out of Scientific American. I kept it for years but I moved so many times that somewhere it got lost. Never mind, I read it and remembered it. They set up an area for rats. Regular rats. As much water and food as they needed and lots of bedding or nesting material. What happened? Rats breed like Third Worlders and pretty soon, the room was full of rats. And what did these rats do? They went crazy, homosexuality and cannibalism flourished, mama rats ate their malformed litters and general chaos reigned. And what happened then, Robert?

RTC: I have no idea but I have a suspicion you will tell me.

GD: Of course, why miss the finale when you’ve seen the first three acts? Some disease, endemic, relatively harmless, that is in the rats suddenly alters and most of the rats turn into a stinking mass of rotting flesh….

RTC: So early in the morning, Gregory.

GD: But they do almost all die off, Robert. Still, a few always survive so the game can start again. Do I make a point?

RTC: You equate us with rodents?

GD: No. I comment on the inevitable bill Nature insists we pay. And we will, mark that.

RTC: How depressing. Do you think the ice will melt?

GD: I think so. And while it does, I can just envision legions of scientists squabbling over what, when, how and why as New York sinks beneath the waves. They say that if there were two Irishmen left alive in the world, they’d be sending letter bombs to each. No offense to your Hibernian background, Robert.

RTC: (Laughter)

GD: And if there were two academics left, they’d be pissing on each other as the waters closed over their heads. Oh joy and rapture unforeseen.

RTC: Well, as you say, both of us will be gone away, so why should we worry?

GD: It’s a waste of time, Robert, I agree. But still, intellectual curiosity and a firm belief that there are iron rules that apply to life make me a student. Do read Malthus, Robert, and you will understand what I am going on about. He’s there but most people would rather read the comic page or, if they graduated with honors from a distant community college, they can get really intellectual and read ‘Fanny Hill’.

RTC: You are really on a tear today, Gregory. Are you sniffing glue?

GD: No, I’m just naturally up today. Of course, coffee helps too.

RTC: It always does.

GD: By the way, Robert, I saw something in the paper today about Ollie North. Did you have anything to do with him?

RTC: My God, what a story that was. Yes and no. Oliver moved at a more exalted level than I did. Oliver worked for the White House. Oliver worked for George Bush, who was once our DCI, and he worked for Ronnie Reagan.

GD: That’s not impossible to believe. The guns for the Contras?

RTC: We’d be all day on the phone if I told you what I knew. The public has no idea what that Contra business was all about. It was only a spin-off of the real businesses. The press does not know and if it did, would never dare to print any of it. They feed the public some dog and pony show, speculate for days and then discover a cat up a tree and all run down the block with their notebooks and cameras for more stimulating information for the trailer park crowd.

GD: We both have plenty of time, Robert. If you’re willing to talk, I’m even more willing to listen. I have a new girl friend who is coming over for a lunch I have not yet begun to lay out, but that’s two hours away. I eat late and I thought a nice salad, a Coquilles St. Jacques with a sauce Parisienne, some sourdough bread and a nice white wine. And for dessert there is wild sex on the living room floor.

RTC: I know about sex, but what were you cooking?

GD: Scallops in a cream sauce, Robert. I loathe braggers, but I am a very good cook. As far as the living room floor is concerned, I have scars on my back to support my animal expertise with the famous Mattress Polka by one of the earlier members of the Strauss family. But we needn’t talk about past glories. Or perhaps future ones if I get the sauce right. Women can be either at your feet or at your throat. Flat on their backs is much better and on to other things.

RTC: But Gregory, isn’t the floor hard?

GD: I suppose so, but when I am, who cares? What? Oh yes, before fantasy time we were talking about Ollie North.

RTC: Well, the public was led to believe the Ollie was some kind of a loose cannon or a nut case but he actually was doing what the President ordered. North was on the staff of the National Security Council which was run by our beloved George Bush who was Vice President at the time and ran the entire operation, contras, drug dealings and gun smugglings and a few removals of inconvenient people along the way. This was all part of a very interesting and little-known system. I can go on about this if you want. Does it take long to cook your lunch?

GD: Actually, I made the sauce early this morning and all I have to do is to cook the scallops, put them into the sauce, put some butter and some fresh, grated Swiss cheese on top and into the broiler. The wine is in the fridge, the bread is fresh early this morning and I vacuumed the living room rug. Please go on.

RTC: Well, the entire Contra mess had two fathers. The first was the Doomsday project. This was a governmental continuation survival program in the event of some great natural disaster, military or terrorist attacks on the United States, public uprisings and so on. That was first begun in ’81 with a series of signed orders by Reagan setting up the machinery to preserve the government in the event of these disruptive problems. This entire program was rather secret and was under the control of the vice president…

GD: Who was George Bush.

RTC: Yes, under him. And like all bureaucracies, this grew. The nutty Poindexter got into the act and wanted to set up something your friend Mueller would have loved: a comprehensive national total surveillance system that would keep track of every person living in the United States, regardless of how harmless they might be. They could use your television set to spy on you, gather phone records from companies they either bribed or threatened, read and watch your mail, create a national ID card, closely supervise passports, watch who flew around the country and where they were going, get into your safe deposit box and watch your checking and savings accounts, listen in on all, and I mean all, overseas telephone calls by controlling the communications satellites. The NSA was given this task I recall. I think it was called Operation Harvest at the time. Oh my and many, many more little new departments to watch the general population. This was being set up during the Reagan years, but Clinton cut back on most of it. Still, it’s still there, waiting for another president to use it as an excuse to grab permanent power. In the old days, we used the threat of a Soviet attack and invasion to terrify the public and now the enemies are not so well defined. It’s rather funny when you read about the growing drug menace, because elements of our government are involved, even as I speak, in assisting in the importation of many tons of marijuana and opium derivatives. Oh yes, Gregory, our government, not the mob or the Columbian drug cartels, are the real drug dealers. We started with Colby and a few others and like Topsy, it just growed. I’m afraid we don’t run it, but it now runs us. Yes, and Ollie was a part of the whole. Then Congress managed to screw things up by passing the second Boland Amendment in ’84. Reagan was using us to supply the Contras in Nicaragua with guns and other small things so they could overthrow what we like to call the dangerous Communist, pro-Soviet government there. The stupid shits on the hill put a stop to this so Reagan got George to bypass Congress. Getting the guns was a problem and Ollie turned out to be very competent.

GD: Yes, I know Jimmy Atwood who was up to his tummy-tuck in some of this. His Stasi connections….

RTC: Yes, you know about this. It was IMES that controlled this and it was a huge, official but sub-rosa smuggling racket. Of course even though we were supposed to be enemies of the communist Stasi, we actually worked well with them. Your friend Atwood was one of our top people there. We had a fellow with the strange name of Schalck-Golodkowski working with us. We used to call him the Fat Man or Big Alex, I suppose because he was way overweight and his first name was Alexander. Very clever choice of names, isn’t it? He later fled to the west and we at once gave him a nice job.

GD: Just like Heini Mueller who worked for you.

RTC: Worked for Jim. But I knew him. Met him a number of times. You got on with him, didn’t you?

GD: I did and Atwood was an open book.

RTC: I always like to know who can’t keep their mouth shut. Now as to the guns for the beaners, this IMES was part and parcel of the international cartel, to use a phrase so beloved by hack writers, which has been going on, with refinements, since about ’67 or ’68. They had offices in West Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and, I think, Austria. And as things progress, they smuggled narcotics right along with the guns. We were way ahead of them on that score but we all work together in the end, in spite of the press of both countries pissing on each other. Those are the realities, Gregory, not the fronts. You know that, don’t you?

GD: I don’t know as much as you do but I know more than enough to agree with you. Greed and money know no borders and no ideology.

RTC: I would rather say political necessity makes strange bedfellows.

GD: A difference with no distinction. Do continue.

RTC: The Krauts were dealing with Iran, Libya and Syria. And the Swedes too were into this. In fact, we had our little troopers in most of the countries that exported drugs, bought guns and so on. The Swedes were using St. Lucia Airways, one of our proprietaries, to run their shipments to various counties. Drugs out and guns in.

GD: Where did the weapons originate? I think Russia.

RTC: Oh yes right on. The AK 47s were much in demand. The basic European-made pieces were too expensive.

GD: And the Soviets knew about this?

RTC: My God, yes they did. And some of them got very rich out of it. And there were even some shipments by boat some of which got into customs troubles. There were always problems with this, once it got out of our hands. We always kept things running smoothly but when you’re dealing with emotional Arabs who would sell their sisters for ten dollars or the Latins south of our border, we have utter corruption and emotion and corruption leads to mistakes. Then we have to send people around to clean up the messes. We used to throw people out of high windows but there aren’t any tall buildings in Arab counties or south of our borders so the vanishing and dumping at sea in metal drums is always done to the less prominent and un-missed. For more prominent ones, the convenient airplane crash or the heart attack. Mechanics for the one and chemists for the second.

GD: Now you’re speaking my language. I even taught some new concepts to Mueller, God bless his soul. I really used to enjoy myself when I was younger, but age has slowed me down.

RTC: From what I have heard from Kimmel’s DoJ people, you have not slowed down. They view you as a cross between Jack the Ripper and Attila the Hun.

GD: Well, in turn, I view them as a cross between Swift’s Yahoos and Lenny in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I really don’t understand how people that stupid can live. Take Jimmy Atwood….please…no, he worked for you so you don’t have to take him. Jimmy would get some hooch into him and my God, Robert, the stories he would tell! The BND 2 was horrified when I passed this along, but these people are protected by our government so they can do nothing. You know, some of these cretins and gross criminals ought to be taken out and shot, Robert, and I would be more than happy to oblige. They have dumped tons of drugs on the American people and the bureaucrats love it. They don’t touch the stuff and make sure their kids go to very expensive East Coast Establishment prep schools. Buggery after lights out but no drugs. I mean, after all, what pays for the expensive schools? The whole thing is rotten and eventually, it will collapse. Mark my words, it will come down. As the Bible says, it will fall and great will be the fall thereof. Ah well, you’re out of it now and the deluge may be years in coming but eventually the public will find out the truth, or at least some of it, and then we will see change.

RTC: As you say, Gregory, I’m well out of it but I can’t really complain too much. You get far too moralistic. You let it get in the way of clear thinking. One moment I wish I had you in the Company and the next you sound like a social worker.

GD: Yes, Mueller once said almost the same thing. Two spirits struggle in my breast, Robert, but now I have to get to lunch so would you excuse me? The pleasures of the board and the living room floor beckon to me.

RTC: Good luck.

GD: With the lunch or the follow-up?

RTC: I assume you’re a good cook.

GD: Come out and visit with me and I’ll cook you a fine meal.

RTC: But I’m not a candidate for the living room floor.

GD: I would certainly hope not, Robert. Anyway, thanks for the nice chat and I’ll be back in touch.

(Concluded at 9:11AM CST)

Banking’s ‘Uber moment’ is already happening — 100,000 bankers lost their jobs in 2015

December 14, 2015

by Oscar Williams-Grut

Business Insider

The “Uber moment” in finance that the former CEO of Barclays warned about recently is already happening — 11 big banks have cut a combined 10% of their staff this year.

Analysis by the Financial Times shows that almost 100,000 banking jobs were cut this year, equivalent to 10% of the combined staff of the 11 big European and US banks that announced cuts.

They include HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Credit Suisse. Barclays and BNP Paribas are expected to add to cuts early in the new year.

The analysis comes just weeks after Antony Jenkins, who until July was CEO of Barclays, warned in a speech that as much as half of banking jobs could be replaced by apps and algorithms over the next 10 years.

Jenkins’ argument rests on the rise of fintech — financial technology — startups that do things like payments, lending, and investments in a smarter, cheaper, and often faster way.

Jenkins believes fintech startups will “disrupt” financial services in the same way Uber has disrupted the taxi industry. That will squeeze profit margins, forcing banks to cut staff, and also force them to compete on technology, another change that will reduce headcount.

Jon Peace, a London-based banks analyst at Nomura, acknowledged this pressure on banks, telling the Financial Times:

Digital transformation could also be a driver of further headcount reduction longer term, with retail banks cutting branches in favour of online services and investment banks cutting back offices in favour of online technologies such as blockchain.

Blockchain is the software that underpins bitcoin and uses complex cryptography to allow transactions between strangers to take place without the need for a trusted intermediary such as a bank or clearing house.

Banks are going wild for the possibilities of the technology, with 30 leading investment banks joining an industry-wide project to develop standard applications and regulation of the technology. Goldman Sachs said in a recent note that the blockchain could change “well, everything.”

But while technology looks as if it could be a huge driver of layoffs in the future, right now it’s actually a relatively minor factor. A bigger contributor to the 100,000 jobs cut this year in the increasingly regulatory burden big banks face around the world and low interest rates hitting client activity.

Obama’s approval rating near record low as 70% say US on wrong track

December 15, 2015


Amid the nation’s terrorism fears, President Barack Obama’s approval rating has plummeted to nearly a record low. It now stands at 43 percent, as seven in 10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a recent poll.

The survey, conducted by the NBC/WSJ earlier in December, has revealed a 2 percentage point drop in Obama’s job approval since late October – close to his lowest ever of 40 percent, recorded on several occasions during his time in office, mostly in 2014 and 2013, according to Gallup daily tracking.

According to the poll, only 37 percent of American’s support Obama’s handling of foreign policy. The president’s approach in dealing with Islamic State (previously ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria has not won much approval, either, with 34 percent backing President Obama’s handling of the situation.

At the same time, 73 percent of respondents would like to see the next US president to take another approach.

Almost as many (70 percent) believe that the United States is heading in the wrong direction. Only 20 percent said they think that the country is on the right course.

Pollsters said that part of the reason for Obama’s dipping approval ratings is fears of terrorism among Americans, especially following the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California.

“For most of 2015, the country’s mood, and thus the presidential election, was defined by anger and the unevenness of the economic recovery,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates, which conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, NBC reported. “Now that has abruptly changed to fear.”

In the poll, 40 percent of Americans called national security and terrorism the top priority for the US government. The figure is 19 percentage points higher than when the question was last asked in April. More Republican supporters than Democrats call national security and terrorism their top concern – 58 percent versus 26 percent, respectively. Democrat supporters appear to be more concerned about the economy and jobs, with 33 percent of them putting it top of their priority list (versus only 12 percent of Republicans).

In Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Surveillance State, Controlling the Data Is Key

December 15, 2015

by Bernard E. Harcourt

The Intercept

Power circuated differently in the digital age. It’s all about controlling the digital traces — collecting, mining, sharing, exposing, delaying, or erasing the data. Inevitably, some handling will occur in ordinary politics. But when the data are manipulated in order to obstruct criminal justice or steal an election, then it’s no longer ordinary politics; it becomes a cover-up.

e was not able to report on the massive discrepancies between those statements and the dashcam video of McDonald’s death until an article posted early SaturWith each new day, there is growing evidence of a cover-up in Chicago.

First, late on Friday night, December 4, 2015, Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, released hundreds of pages of police reports from the October 2014 Laquan McDonald murder — including false statements by police officers who were at the scene of the crime. The data dump came at such a late hour that the Chicago Tribune was not able to report on the massive discrepancies between those statements and the dashcam video of McDonald’s death until an article posted early Saturday morning, at 1:25 a.m., while most of the city was asleep.day morning, at 1:25 a.m., while most of the city was asleep.With each new day, there is growing evidence of a cover-up in Chicago.

Then, in a Saturday op-ed simultaneously placed in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel offered a different story than he had previously about why he did not view the dashcam video in the months before its November 2015 release. In an earlier interview with Politico, Emanuel said that he didn’t watch the dashcam footage because if he had seen it, reporters and the public would be asking why they didn’t get to see it too. But in his op-ed, Emanuel wrote that he didn’t watch it “because my own emotions should not interfere with criminal investigations.”

The discrepancy is striking in itself. It also goes against everything Emanuel had previously said about the fact that he does not interfere with or control the timing of criminal investigations. Is the mayor now suggesting that he could have pushed the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke in November 2014, in the middle of his heated reelection campaign?

The timing of the op-eds also raises suspicion. They went online earlier Friday afternoon and were in print Saturday morning, just in time to wash out the late Friday data dump. Once again, it seems, the city’s leader was gaming the data flow.

The fact is, the digital traces were everywhere in the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Officer Van Dyke. The scene was extensively recorded from multiple angles. At least five dashcam videos — maybe eight — filmed the shooting. Private security cameras were running as well, with at least 12 camera angles from inside and outside the Southwest Side Burger King next door.

Everything was digitally captured. But then, the data were suppressed for 13 months, and would likely have been suppressed indefinitely if a state court had not compelled their release under the state’s open records act.

You might think this is paradoxical. After all, Mayor Emanuel has been a champion of total awareness and has helped turn Chicago into the most surveilled metropolis in the United States. Back in 2013, he boasted that Chicago had thousands of public and private surveillance cameras in place to protect city residents: “I will say, as I always have, because we have continued to put cameras throughout the city for security … purposes, they serve an important function for the city in providing the type of safety on a day-to-day basis — not just for big events like a marathon, but day-to-day purposes.”

In February 2011, the ACLU estimated that Chicago had around 10,000 surveillance cameras. In November 2011, Emanuel supported the installation of 1,700 additional Chicago Transit Authority security cameras. He also introduced an ordinance, during the Occupy movement in advance of the G8 and NATO summits, that included installing more surveillance cameras. As of April 2015, Chicago had “an integrated system of 22,000 cameras citywide,” which transmit their footage to the Chicago Crime Prevention Center. As the New York Times noted, “One legacy of Rahm Emanuel is digitally clear. Security cameras will follow us like a bad credit rating.”

But in our digital age, seeing, monitoring, and recording the digital footprints is quite different from sharing, releasing, revealing, or publicizing the data. We are all exposed today, most of us out of our own desires and passions. The political struggle, though, is over who controls those digital traces. It’s not a question of privacy anymore, since we so often crave publicity; it is a question of controlling the data flows.

This may explain why the city’s leaders apparently did everything in their power to suppress the existing digital traces of the Laquan McDonald murder. They want total awareness and constant surveillance, but not truly for “safety on a day-to-day basis” — they were not concerned that a first-degree murder suspect was free for 13 months — rather for tightening the grip on political power.

Continuing, on Monday, December 7, 2015, the wheels of justice all of a sudden began to turn in a separate, 14-month-old police killing — revealing just how fast the state’s prosecutor can move a case when no one obstructs Illinois’ open records act.

Seeing the writing on the wall following Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama’s order to turn over the dashcam evidence in the McDonald case, Mayor Emanuel reversed course and decided to release the dashcam video of police officer George Hernandez firing five shots and fatally wounding Ronald Johnson, also in October 2014. With lightening speed, State’s Attorney Alvarez declined to prosecute Officer Hernandez; moments later, the city released the full video to the public.

It all happened in a matter of hours, dizzyingly fast once again, the minute the digital traces were going to be exposed — demonstrating that it certainly does not take over a year to decide these cases.

Then, on Wednesday, December 9, 2015, we learn that Emanuel and the city’s top lawyer, Steven Patton, buried a 73-page internal report calling for major reforms of the police department by timing its release just before Christmas 2014 — and then never followed up on the report. It now seems that City Hall in effect obstructed former police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s efforts at police reform. The timing of the data dump is again telling — as is the fact that Mayor Emanuel is now calling for the same kind of task force review that was already conducted a year ago.

Who controls the digital traces and their dissemination or erasure — that’s what this is all about. A recent poll showed that if Mayor Emanuel hadn’t delayed the release of the Laquan McDonald dashcam video until after the runoff election in April 2015, he would not have been reelected. The problem, it seems, is not that Emanuel has now lost the public’s confidence, rather it’s that he never genuinely had it to begin with.

Knocking down Detroit to revive it comes at a price

December 15, 2015

by Dave McKinney


DETROIT-Nowhere in America bulldozes derelict homes with Detroit’s ferocity, as the city that has become a byword for U.S. urban decay seeks to engineer a recovery by tearing itself down.

A year after the city exited the biggest-ever U.S. municipal bankruptcy, a plan to demolish half of its nearly 80,000 blighted or deteriorating structures — nearly one in three city buildings — is showing some signs of success.

The number of fires – often caused by arson attacks on abandoned homes – dropped in October from a year ago, and deeply depressed property values have ticked higher in areas close to demolitions. The aim of the program is to stabilize home values and reduce foreclosures as the city of 680,000 people struggles with emptying neighborhoods, high crime and one of the worst unemployment rates in the country.

But the federally backed program has been tainted by allegations that Mayor Mike Duggan favored demolition contractors who donated to his campaign and by a steep rise in costs.

Federal and city probes into the allegations are underway. Duggan, whose program has razed more than 7,000 homes in two years, denies any wrongdoing.

“I am proud of the work our team has done, and Detroiters should be, as well,” said Duggan, who took office in January 2014 as Detroit’s first white mayor in nearly 40 years.

Duggan was elected in November 2013 with “blight remediation” a key plank in a platform he built around a financial turnaround, economic development and reduced crime rates.

The special inspector general for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program — from which Detroit gets its federal blight-relief dollars — is investigating the city’s demolition program

Agents visited the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, a state agency that is a pass-through for the federal funds, on Nov. 17 to discuss the matter, a spokeswoman for the state agency confirmed on Monday.

The city’s inspector general, James Heath, told Reuters the probe he launched in October into Duggan’s demolition program should conclude by March. Heath said he has not partnered with federal law-enforcement agencies.

Duggan set a weekly demolition goal of 100 homes, which has Detroit destroying derelict properties at almost quadruple the pace of any other recipient of federal “blight-removal” dollars, federal records show.

But demolition prices have fluctuated sharply. In October, he put the average 2015 price of razing a home at $16,400. A month later, after Heath opened his investigation, the administration cut the 2015 average to $13,830, citing lower contracting costs.

Duggan’s predecessor, Dave Bing, told Reuters prices remain too high. “The cost shouldn’t have gone up that much,” he said, noting that the price averaged as low as $8,500 per structure during his term between 2009 and 2013. Duggan attributes the price hike to his administration’s higher standards, including a faster demolition timetable.


Critics have hit Duggan’s administration hardest for a now-discontinued bulk-demolition program in 2014, where pricing was discussed with four contractors before the $19.9 million project that razed 1,453 homes was publicly offered. Three of the companies later wound up as the only bidders on the deal.

The mayor has said there was nothing improper about the arrangement and that the state of Michigan approved.

“We did this in complete cooperation with the state,” said Brian Farkas, special projects director for the Detroit Building Authority, which oversees the city’s demolition work.

Executives for two of the companies that wound up with the contracts collectively donated nearly $18,000 to the mayor since May 2013, campaign records show. Mayoral aides denied the contributions influenced the contract awards.

But Rev. Charles Williams II, an influential African-American minister and Duggan foe, condemned the deal.

“How is it a contractor can go into the office, set the price, and get the contract? To me, it’s unprecedented,” Williams said.

If rules were broken, Duggan’s aides say, President Barack Obama’s administration would not have given another $21 million in demolition funds to Detroit in October, bringing the amount of federal backing for the city’s blight-elimination efforts to $121 million.

A Department of Treasury official, whose office oversees the program, acknowledged “reported issues with Detroit’s blight program and potential rising costs,” but praised Duggan’s efforts.

“We recently visited Detroit, and you can see the real impact the blight program is having on communities,” said Mark McArdle, the federal agency’s deputy assistant secretary for financial stability.

Duggan believes demolitions played a role in reducing arsons during this year’s three-day pre-Halloween period once known as “Devil’s Night.” At its peak, city records show, 810 arsons erupted in 1984 — compared with 52 suspicious fires during the same October period this year. Between 2011 and 2014, arsons ranged between 93 and 97 during the period, records show.

In another positive sign, a report by the Detroit analytics firm, Dynamo Metrics, showed occupied home values rose 4.2 percent on average between April 2014 and March 2015 near federally funded demolitions.

But Jacques Welch, a 55-year-old factory worker, says his street is still waiting on City Hall. Near his brick home are a half-dozen abandoned houses with missing doors and windows that Welch says attract squatters and drug dealers. A vacant school stands a block away.

“You get used to it,” he told Reuters from his front porch, resigned to the lack of progress in his neighborhood. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings)

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