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TBR News December 15, 2018

Dec 15 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. December 15, 2018: it would appear that the Chinese, with full consent of their government, have been faking literally hundreds of gold and silver coins; some bullion and some numismatic, and been dumping them, in huge numbers, on the public.

I have a list of the mints or firms in China that make these coins, which coins they make, how these coins are sent into the United States, who the middlemen are, who the retail outlets are and so on.

The Chinese government is a partner in all of this, getting gold and silver to the counterfeiters and easing any export problems because they are furious that President Obama dared to raise the interest rates on American T-bills. As this act effectively diminished the value of the Chinese massive holdings and as they demanded that Obama not raise the interest rate, something he refused to consider, they are now finding a way to profit from the coin sales.

The coins include all the Morgan dollars, every year and every mint, rare coins attributed to an entirely fake “SS New York” sinking off Galveston, most, if not all, of US gold coinage from the mid-19 century to present, copies of the so-called pillar dollars of Carlos III, rare California gold purporting to come from the entirely legitimate but controlled findings from the SS Central America” and so on. Of course they have made up Romanov silver and gold Nicolas II coins for the Russian market, alleged “original” gold bars, and on and on. Also, I have been told, very clearly, exactly how these fakes can be detected by even the most amateur collector.

 

The Table of Contents 

  • Thousands of ‘yellow vests’ hit French streets in fifth Saturday of protests
  • Protests turn violent as Yellow Vests clash with police
  • France counting up billions in lost revenues after weeks of Yellow Vest protests
  • Reasons to worry? Trump endures turbulent week – with signs of worse to come
  • Trump’s Lies Are a Virus, and News Organizations Are the Host
  • The Battle Inside the Political Parties for the Future of U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Politics cloud felon voting rights restoration in Florida
  • The CIA’s Russian Manipulations
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

 

 

Thousands of ‘yellow vests’ hit French streets in fifth Saturday of protests

December 15, 2018

by Celia Mebroukine, Antoine Boddaert

Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of French cities on Saturday in the fifth weekend of nationwide demonstrations against Emmanuel Macron’s government, despite calls to hold off after a gun attack in Strasbourg earlier this week.

In Paris, police were out in force to contain possible outbursts of violence. But several major stores, such as the Galeries Lafayette, were open to welcome Christmas shoppers.

Numbers were down compared to Saturday last week, a police source said.

Teargas was fired at small groups of protesters in brief clashes with riot police near the Champs-Elysees.

Close by, a handful of topless activists from the feminist protest group Femen faced security forces a few meters away from the Elysee Palace, the president’s residence.

The ‘yellow vest’ movement started in mid-November with protests at junctions and roundabouts against fuel tax increases, but quickly became a wider mobilisation against Macron’s economic policies.

Successive weekends of protests in Paris have lead to vandalism and violent clashes with security forces.

Loic Bollay, 44, marching on the Champs-Elysees in a yellow vest, said the protests were more subdued than in previous weeks but the movement would go on until the demonstrators’ grievances were addressed.

“Since the Strasbourg attack, it is calmer, but I think next Saturday and the following Saturdays…it will come back.”

The Interior Minister said around 69,000 police were active on Saturday with a reinforced presence in the cities of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne.

A police source told Reuters some 16,000 protesters had been counted in France, excluding Paris, by 1100 GMT, compared to 22,000 at the same time on Dec. 8.

In Paris, where groups of hundreds of protesters marched in splintered groups in several neighbourhoods, 85 had been arrested by around midday, according to a Paris police official.

On Friday, President Macron called for a return to calm in France after nearly a month of protests by the so-called ‘yellow vest’ movement against his government’s policies. The demonstrations have hit growth and caused widespread disruption. “France needs calm, order and a return to normal,” Macron said, after a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Macron announced wage rises for the poorest workers and tax cuts for pensioners in further concessions meant to end the movement but many said they would maintain pressure.

The government, as well as several unions and opposition politicians called on protesters to stay off the streets on Saturday, after four people were killed in a gun attack at a Christmas market in the historic city of Strasbourg.

Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Ros Russell

 

Protests turn violent as Yellow Vests clash with police

December 15, 2018

RT

Saturday’s Yellow Vest rally in Paris began relatively calm with a demonstration on Champs Elysees, but later the crowd engaged in scuffles with police.

Hundreds of people gathered for the protest calling for Emmanuel Macron’s resignation in the heart of the capital, according to police. Several clashes and scuffles broke out at the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue and near the Opera House.

Police were seen using pepper spray and tear gas against the protesters.

At least 95 people have been detained in the capital, with 63 being placed in custody, according to the latest figures.

Over 33,000 people gathered nationwide for the protests, the Interior Ministry said. Some 2,200 of them rallied in the capital, which is five time less than last Saturday.

One person has been hurt in the head during clashes at Champ-Elysees.

 

France counting up billions in lost revenues after weeks of Yellow Vest protests

December 14, 2018

RT

The Bank of France has lowered the country’s economic growth forecast for this and next year from 1.6 percent to 1.5 percent, warning that the longer the unrest lasts the greater the losses will be for the national economy.

Shortly after slashing its assessment of economic growth, in the final quarter, in half, the central bank has cut overall growth on Thursday. Meanwhile, the regulator remains optimistic about unemployment which they expect will continue to fall.

While the new figures show that the economy is expected to slow just 0.1 percent in 2018 and 2019 compared to previous assessment, in real money the sum is quite significant. It may cost the protest-riven EU country up to $28 billion based on the IMF forecast for the country’s GDP for 2018 of almost $2.8 trillion.

Overall the more the movement lasts, the bigger the loss for the French economy,” Governor of the Bank of France, Francois Villeroy, told French business newspaper Les Echos.

The chief official of the French central bank added that the forecasts do not include French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent concessions he made in attempt to quell raging protests. Macron’s measures, including the promises to increase minimum wage and introduce special tax exemptions, will cost the country between 8-10 billion euros ($9-$11.3 billion), the junior minister for public accounts announced earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service said that the French government measures can weaken the near-term fiscal picture and may increase the budget deficit next year.

The nationwide Yellow Vest movement which began as protests against the government proposed fuel tax hikes and escalated into a general revolt against economic policies started on November 17.

Last week’s violent demonstrations resulted in more than 200 people injured and a record number of detentions across France, with more than 1,700 people arrested. Despite President Macron’s pledges and the deadly Strasbourg Christmas market shooting, protesters are still unwilling to give up and are eager to take to the streets for the fifth consecutive weekend.

 

 

Reasons to worry? Trump endures turbulent week – with signs of worse to come

Experts say testimony from Michael Cohen to prosecutors has the ‘potential to be devastating’ for the embattled president

December 15, 2018

Tom McCarthy in New York

The Guardian

After a week that could tally as one of the most turbulent of his presidency, Donald Trump and his embattled top aides have been hit with strong signs the worst is yet to come, in the form of tersely worded court documents and testimony.

On Wednesday, Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, whose job for 10 years was, in his own words, to cover up Donald Trump’s “dirty deeds”, stood before a US district judge and described how his once-bulletproof faith in Trump had been shattered.

“I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired,” Cohen, 52, said of the president. “In fact, I now know that there is little to be admired.”

But a less-noticed scene in court that day points to much bigger trouble ahead for Trump. Also present for the Cohen hearing was a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the prosecutor Jeannie Rhee, who described how much help Cohen had been to the investigation into alleged collusion between the campaign and Moscow.

“He has provided our office with credible information” about “core Russia issues”, Rhee told the court. “Mr Cohen has sought to tell us the truth, and that is of utmost value to us.

“There’s only so much that we can say about the particulars at this time.”

The “particulars” that the Mueller team declined to talk about almost certainly pertained to investigations with targets who ranked above Cohen, legal analysts said. Those could be one of relatively few figures at this point, experts agreed: probably one of the president’s children, his son-in-law, or Trump himself.

“There is no question in my mind that there is more to come from Robert Mueller,” the former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, host of the #OnTopic podcast, told the Guardian. “Does it have the potential to be devastating for Trump? Yes. But we don’t know what Mueller has, exactly where he’s going, or how long it will take him to get there.”

Lisa Griffin, a law professor at Duke University, said Trump was under pressure from many sides apart from Mueller, and that recent developments in the New York jurisdiction “are currently the more obvious source of jeopardy for the president”.

“I think the recent developments have revealed clearly that this is not a one-front situation, that the southern district of New York is going to play a very significant role in the future of this presidency,” Griffin said.

The list of legal crises that Trump, his family and associates need to worry about seemed to explode in the last week. Major developments included:

Federal prosecutors investigating Trump’s inaugural committee, a non-profit, for alleged wrongdoing that could include improper foreign contributions, pay-for-play or illegal payments to pop-up firms, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Prosecutors revealing a non-prosecution agreement with the media company AMI, which admitted paying, “in concert with the [Trump] campaign”, the former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of an affair with Trump (which Trump denies).

The significant expansion of Trump’s alleged role in the hush payments scheme, for which Cohen was convicted of multiple felonies, with NBC News placing Trump in a meeting with AMI’s chief, David Pecker, to discuss the payments and his campaign (plus a separate conversation which Cohen recorded).

The spy Maria Butina becoming the first Russian to plead guilty to attempting to tamper in the 2016 election. In her plea, she described how she infiltrated the National Rifle Association and the Republican party to try to cultivate “influential Americans” – unnamed, as yet – and the Trump campaign.

Lawyers for the former adviser Michael Flynn filing a sentencing memo touting his cooperation with Mueller in 19 meetings “totaling approximately 62 hours and 45 minutes”. In a heavily redacted document earlier this month, Mueller described Flynn’s extensive cooperation in as-yet secret investigations.

The White House appeared to have moved with some sluggishness this week in response to the tsunami of bad news. On Tuesday a staged confrontation with the Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office backfired egregiously. Trump did not show up for work on Wednesday until well into the afternoon, according to NBC News. It was announced that Trump’s chief of staff, who had been fired, would stay on until January – apparently because Trump has been so far unable to find a willing replacement.

Trump’s attempts to distance himself from the hush payments scheme, which he had pleaded ignorance of in April, were equally vexed. On Thursday morning he tweeted he was not criminally liable in the scheme because he had trusted his lawyer, Cohen, not to break the law. But on Thursday afternoon Trump told Fox News that Cohen was a minor employee who did “more public relations than law”.Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, offered an extraordinary defense, telling the Daily Beast about the campaign finance violations: “Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed. This was not a big crime.”

The number of discrete federal prosecutor’s offices with investigations under way potentially targeting the president continues to grow, minimizing Trump’s ability to simply pull the plug on the Russia investigation by firing the special counsel.

In addition to Mueller and the southern district of New York, the US attorney’s office for the eastern district of New York appears to be involved in the investigation of the inaugural committee, and Butina is being prosecuted by the US attorney in Washington DC, while the eastern district of Virginia is prosecuting another Russian defendant.

Separately, the New York state attorney general is investigating the Trump Foundation and Trump Organization, and separate federal judges in Washington have allowed two cases to move forward alleging that Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the constitution by accepting illegal foreign gifts.

That’s not to mention potential new investigations being instigated by Democrats when they take hold of the House of Representatives in the new year.

Trump’s immediate plan of defense appears to be a retreat to familiar terrain. The president is expected to spend as many as 16 days over the Christmas holidays at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, according to a local alert issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Palm Beach Post reported on Thursday.

The FAA advisory is scheduled to be lifted on 6 January, three days after the new Congress is sworn in.

 

Trump’s Lies Are a Virus, and News Organizations Are the Host

Journalists have become complicit in spreading the president’s falsehoods and conspiracy theories. Here’s how they can do better.

November 19, 2018

by Derek Thompson

Staff writer at The Atlantic

The news media today face an epistemic crisis: how to publish the president’s commentary without amplifying his fabrications and conspiracy theories.

One flashpoint came several weeks ago, when President Donald Trump told Axios reporters that he planned to use an executive order to end birthright citizenship because, as he put it, “we’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen.” On Twitter, Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei wrote, “Exclusive: Trump to terminate birthright citizenship.”

As many journalists quickly pointed out, this was multilayered malarkey. The president was proposing an unconstitutional means of obliterating the Fourteenth Amendment on the basis of a falsehood; more than two dozen countries in the Western Hemisphere have unrestricted jus soli laws, like the U.S. Axios was treating as fact a haphazard plan, in search of an impossible outcome, justified by a false assertion.

Axios took about as much grief as it deserved. But as others have shown, it’s far from the only media outlet whose headlines and tweets are guilty of passing along Trump’s falsehoods as straightforward and noteworthy quotes.

  • When Trump incorrectly described the GOP health bill as covering preexisting conditions, Politico simply declared: “Trump guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing conditions in health care bill.”
  • When Trump falsely took credit for Ford moving a plant from Kentucky to Mexico, ABC News reported: “Donald Trump Takes Credit for Keeping a Kentucky Ford Plant From Moving to Mexico.”
  • When Trump claimed, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, CBS News tweeted: “Donald Trump: ‘Millions’ voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.”
  • When Trump claimed dubiously that he would sever ties with his businesses, it was reported as straightforward fact by CNN (“Trump Cutting Ties With Businesses”) and the AP (“Trump Says He’s Leaving Businesses to Focus on Presidency”).

That brings us to Monday, when Trump called ballots cast in the Florida Senate election “massively infected” by fraud. ABC News and Bloomberg both quoted the president’s accusation in their headlines, but neither noted that it was baseless. Once again, journalists on Twitter erupted with outrage that these headlines failed to call out the conspiracy theory, the motivations behind the conspiracy, or the actual truth. Indeed, there is no evidence of any voter fraud whatsoever in the Florida Senate election.

This bickering might seem like inside-baseball among reporters, on the basis that headlines and tweets are not exactly capital-J journalism. But for many readers, they’re even more important than the actual articles. As The Washington Post reported, about 60 percent of people acknowledge that they read only the headlines of news articles; if some of those respondents were embarrassed to tell the truth (as they should be), the real number might be even higher. It’s worse on Twitter, where the most viral tweets typically have a click-through rate of less than 10 percent, which means that more than 90 percent of any given tweet’s audience never actually reads the article. Clearly, headlines and tweets belong at the heart of any discussion of modern news ethics.

The most recent controversy provides the perfect metaphor for Trump’s part-symbiotic, part-parasitic relationship with the media: infection. In epidemiology, a virus cannot multiply on its own. First, it must find a host, whose cellular machinery it commandeers to reproduce. For a virus, all distribution—all amplification—is infection.

So it is for Trump. The president’s conspiratorial language is an odious virus that has found a variety of hosts in the U.S. media ecosystem. The traditional news media amplify his words for a variety of reasons, including newsworthiness (he is, after all, the president), easy ratings (cable-news audiences have soared in his term), and old-fashioned peer pressure (the segment producer’s lament: “If everybody else is carrying Trump, shouldn’t we?”).

But a virus doesn’t just borrow a host’s cellular factory to reproduce; it often destroys the host in the process. So, too, does the president seek to destroy the traditional news media that have often amplified his messages. He attacks journalists, calling them “fake news” and “enemies of the people”; bars critical reporters from the White House; and convinces his followers that the news media are inherently corrupt. The attacks are working: Three-quarters of the GOP now say that news organizations make up anti-Trump stories, and about half of Republicans recently said that articles that cast their favored political group “in a negative light” are always fake news.

The traditional news media are thoroughly infected by the Trump virus. It is not only spreading the disease of the president’s lies, but also suffering from a demise in public trust—at least among one half of the electorate.

In normal times, there is little question about how to quote a sitting president. When the commander in chief says newsworthy things, and the press quotes his words accurately, that suffices for responsible coverage.

But these are not normal times. “What’s different is that the president of the United States is today the single most potent force for misinforming the American public, and he does exactly that on a daily basis,” the press critic Jay Rosen told me. “You can say, ‘Politicians have always lied; look at LBJ and Vietnam, Nixon and Watergate.’ But this combination of elements has not been seen before.” Indeed, in the past few weeks, Trump has averaged more than 100 lies per week in public statements.

One solution is something like selective abstinence. Some commentators have adapted to the new normal by simply avoiding the president’s language when possible. “I don’t go out of my way to play tape of the president speaking,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said on her show. “The president very frequently says things that aren’t true. He admits that he says things that aren’t true. And I feel like on this show I’d like you to be able to trust me to give you true information.”

There’s the silent treatment, and then there’s the truth treatment. When traditional news outlets have to cover breaking news throughout the day, the linguist George Lakoff has proposed that they use a “truth sandwich.” That would mean bracketing the president’s unreal statements with slices of reality. For example, if the president claims that the GOP health-care bills expand insurance coverage (they do not), the AP or a similar source could tweet, “GOP health plan still reduces coverage. Trump claims otherwise, but provides no evidence.”

The Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale has made it his mission to fact-check the president in extended Twitter threads, often while Trump is still on the stump. In an essay for The Washington Post, he wrote that since the president tells the same falsehoods over and over, the task is simple, if Sisyphean. “I don’t think U.S. media outlets have been persistent enough in fighting a daily battle for truth itself,” he writes. “In 2017, he averaged three false claims per day. In 2018, it is about nine per day. In the month leading up to the midterms: a staggering 26 per day.” The president has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims in less than two years in office, according to The Post.

It’s not obvious that fact-checking is always effective against the Trump virus. On the one hand, there is considerable cognitive research to suggest that fact-checks can backfire. Several studies have found that repeated phrases and ideas create a sense of familiarity in the mind, and familiarity can create the illusion of truth. That’s because many people—particularly the elderly and less educated—easily conflate familiarity (“That sounds familiar”) with factuality (“That sounds about right”).

On the other hand, in one of the first studies of fact-checking, the political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler found that at least some people really do change their minds when confronted with new facts. The researchers created a panel of participants that approximated the political and demographic distribution of the U.S. Then they exposed the treatment group to recent fact-checks and measured whether their opinion about those facts (or about fact-checking in general) had changed. Democrats, who hold more favorable views of fact-checkers than Republicans, were more likely to change their minds after reading a fact-check. Republicans’ knowledge increased most when the fact-checks reinforced their biases.

This conclusion raises an uncomfortable question: What if telling the truth about the president diminishes the spread of his falsehoods among some groups, but also reinforces Trump’s support among base voters while deepening their hostility to the press?

The unavoidable reality is that even good behavior by the news media is not sufficient to contain Trump’s serial mendacity. Depressing as it may be to say, the lies will get out.

It’s not only because Trump has more followers on Twitter (56 million) than any news organization in the world. And it’s not only because Fox News (whose prime-time stars perform the duties of White House press secretary) averages more total viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined. It’s because the communications revolution in technology has created a cluster of information clearinghouses—Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and even far-right cult sites such as Gab—where sensational and emotional exaggerations often travel farther and wider than honest reporting and dutiful fact-checking.

As the New York Times journalist Kevin Roose has documented, the top-performing stories on Facebook in the run-up to the midterms were shared by highly partisan websites such as Fox News and rushlimbaugh.com, not traditional, reporting-based outlets. On Facebook in October, 78,000 people shared a fictitious post claiming that Cesar Sayoc, the Trump fanatic who mailed bombs to several of the president’s enemies, was a “false flag” operative trying to steal the election from Republicans. That’s 28,000 more shares than The New York Times’ most viral article of the month.

It is either narcissistic or outdated, or both, for traditional media organizations to pretend that they have a monopoly on the power to amplify news. In the mid–20th century, this might have been a realistic notion. But in 2018, even as The Media have become an all-purpose bogeyman, the media—that is, the sum total of social media, podcasts, newsletters, and the whole international cacophony of information exchange—have entirely swamped the establishment in power and reach. Four times as many Americans saw Russian-influenced content on Facebook (about 130 million) than own a print or digital subscription to an American newspaper (31 million).

Is it hopeless to smother the president’s lies? In the biggest picture, yes. The news media cannot kill the virus. But by refusing to host it, they can at least limit the spread.

That is, even as they acknowledge their inability to reform the tens of millions of people predisposed to believe and share the president’s nonsense, they can protect their audiences with a combination of selective abstinence (being cautious about giving over headlines, tweets, and news segments to the president’s rhetoric, particularly when he’s spreading fictitious hate speech) and aggressive contextualization (consistently bracketing his direct quotes with the relevant truth). Call it an epistemic quarantine.

This isn’t the case for hopelessness. It’s the case for seeing the world as it is, which is the purpose of journalism in the first place. All the responsible press can do is to honor a social compact that, despite the wrenching changes under Trump, remains firmly in place: Seek the truth, for those who care to know it.

 

The Battle Inside the Political Parties for the Future of U.S. Foreign Policy

December 12, 2018

by Emma Ashford and Trevor Thrall

The University of Texas

  • The time is long overdue for a vigorous discussion about our foreign policy, and how it needs to change in this new era.” –Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • “The United States needs a national security doctrine around which a consensus can be built — both between the Democratic and the Republican Parties and with those who share our interests and values overseas.” – Gov. John Kasich

When the new members of the 116th Congress arrive in Washington next month, they’re likely to find themselves focusing on a relatively unusual priority: foreign policy. And though Democrats promised during the midterms to challenge President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, it’s not just about opposition to the president. With a flurry of think pieces proposing roadmaps for new progressive, liberal, or conservative foreign policies, everyone’s talking about the future of U.S. foreign policy. The most important of these debates are the ones inside the two political parties, as Republicans and Democrats attempt to build foreign policy platforms with an eye toward the 2020 election.

Curious to understand where the right and left are heading on foreign policy, we’ve held a variety of events at the Cato Institute to try and understand this question: a roundtable building on Patrick Porter’s work on the “liberal international order,” events with notable critics of the existing foreign policy consensus, such as Harvard’s Stephen Walt, meetings to explore potential areas of common ground between libertarians and progressives, and interviews with experts for Power Problems, our biweekly podcast.

The results highlight not only the internal debate inside the Republican Party, but also the growing demand inside the Democratic Party for a coherent alternative both to Trump and to the existing foreign policy consensus that he helped discredit. We also found evidence of an unexpected and potentially significant turn in U.S. foreign policy: a new bipartisan consensus on the need to confront and contain China.

‘Hurricane Trump’

Though he’s seemingly ignorant or indifferent to many of the issues in question, Trump at least deserves credit for reinvigorating the debate over the fundamental purposes of American foreign policy. As Peter Beinart put it, “in his incoherent and immoral way, he has challenged the assumption that the pursuit of unipolarity serves average Americans.”

But while Trump has upended the traditional tenets of American foreign policy; as of yet, neither party has a coherent replacement. Nor is there any going back to the way things were before. As Jake Sullivan recently told us, “Hurricane Trump has come in. He’s destroyed a lot of the infrastructure of U.S. foreign policy and of the international order, and now we can’t just build back the way we were before. We have to build back better.”

If you’re going to challenge Trump’s foreign policy, there are two options: embrace the status quo or seek a new consensus. Both sides of the aisle have a status quo wing and a revisionist wing fighting to determine their parties’ foreign policy future. These fights focus on six critical questions that will be fundamental to American foreign policy in the coming decades:

  • Should the United States continue to pursue primacy, attempting to control events around the world, or should it accept that the world is becoming more multipolar and seek to do less abroad?
  • Should the United States continue to rely heavily on military intervention, or should it use non-military tools of foreign policy to deal with terrorism, civil war, and other issues?
  • Should the United States pursue a foreign policy aimed at spreading liberal values, such as human rights and democracy, or is such an approach contrary to the American national interest?
  • Should the United States embrace multilateralism and enhance alliances and international institutions, or should it pursue a more unilateral foreign policy?
  • Should the United States seek to strengthen and expand the global system of free trade, or instead pursue a nationalist and protectionist trade policy?
  • Should America partner with China and accept a growing Chinese sphere of influence in Asia, or should it attempt to confront, contain, and undermine Chinese power?

Little progress has been made toward consensus on either side of the aisle, and neither party has a clear objective. That in itself is not new — since the end of the Cold War, Democratic and Republican administrations have pursued a variety of vague goals in foreign policy, from “dual containment” to counter-terrorism to human rights. Often, the only uniting factor has been a belief in America’s role as what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described as the “indispensable nation.” Today, however, both Republicans and Democrats are openly questioning that assumption.

Republicans: The President Frames the Debate

On the Republican side, Trump has split conservatives into two camps. The status quo camp — perhaps better described as “status quo ante” — remains staunchly committed to the open internationalism and muscular American leadership of the Reagan era. Rooted in a firm belief in American exceptionalism, this approach emphasizes the defense of democracy and spread of American values.

Many of these true believers — once the guiding light of Republican foreign policy — are now on the outside. Just look at Bill Kristol, exiled to irrelevance by an increasingly Trump-dominated Republican party. Meanwhile, those still on the inside, like Sens. Marco Rubio or Lindsey Graham, continue to hold to their traditional views — for example, advocating for a humanitarian intervention in Venezuela — but routinely coopt Trump’s language and support him in other areas in order to maintain access and influence.

Trump himself represents the second camp, promoting an illiberal, nationalist, and autarkic view of American foreign policy that dismisses long-held assumptions about alliances, free trade, and immigration. Though a few advocates have attempted to hang an intellectual framework on this viewpoint — chief among them Sen. Tom Cotton — it remains an instinctive, poorly theorized worldview.

At present, the president and his allies have the momentum in the battle to define conservative foreign policy. He may have failed to transform American foreign policy completely in his first two years in office, but there is no doubt that he has changed the terms of debate within conservative circles. Indeed, Trump’s electoral success drew our attention to the fact that many voters believe America’s traditional approach to foreign policy has not worked for them.

Whether they agree with him or not, Republican political leaders have tended to toe the line. Their failure to challenge him (at least in public) on Russia, trade, and other issues has signaled to their constituents that Trump’s views are their views. Thus, while it is too early to predict how this debate will turn out, the longer Trump serves, the likelier it is that “America First” will permanently reshape the foreign policy of the Republican Party, leaving it with little in the way of a coherent approach. As Bryan McGrath told us:

My problem is these days I don’t know what a coherent Republican foreign policy is. I know what it was: American exceptionalism was smack dab in the middle of it. A strong, active role in the world from a position of leadership…I hear the administration talking about a strong military, but to do what? It’s not like they wish to be involved in the world.

Democrats: In Search of a Strong Opposition

Among Democrats, the competing camps appear less polarized, but important, longstanding differences between the two remain. The status quo camp still advocates a Clinton-style liberal internationalist position — an approach similar to the Reaganite Republican status quo in method and results, if not necessarily in motivation. This view is less prevalent among likely candidates, and far more common in the Democratic foreign policy establishment – people like Sullivan or Michele Flournoy. By putting human rights and democracy promotion on center stage, the Clinton Democrats continue to embrace America as the “indispensable nation” and its responsibility to use military force in wide range of contingencies, from regional stabilization to humanitarian intervention.

Yet the progressive wing of the party is increasingly challenging these voices. These progressive leaders are more skeptical of the use of military force and American exceptionalism more generally. Though these progressives share with Republican “America First” advocates a distaste for the excesses of primacy, they generally offer a far more coherent and internally consistent alternative to the status quo. In some cases, they have even adopted the language of ongoing grand strategic debates: In a recent speech at the Cato Institute, for example, Rep. Ro Khanna argued that “if we want to lead in the 21st century, we have to return to a foreign policy of restraint.”

Other progressives are interested in tying foreign policy more closely to domestic policy and attacking Trump-style kleptocracy at home and abroad — a campaign that undoubtedly plays well against the backdrop of the president’s numerous conflicts of interest. In a recent article, Sen. Elizabeth Warren argued that “the United States can no longer maintain the comfortable assumption that its domestic and foreign policies are separate.” Bernie Sanders, her potential 2020 presidential challenger, has likewise been promoting a new focus on global corruption and kleptocracy.

But the sharpest internal conflicts concern military intervention and free trade. As Dan Nexon described, “the coalition seems divided between two depressingly familiar alternatives: liberal internationalists of the kind associated with the Democratic establishment, and anti-hegemonists, who want to see the United States drastically reduce its pretensions to global leadership.” Certainly, this coalition is increasingly dubious about billions of dollars in arms sales and unreliable partners,  like Saudi Arabia. Yet on the questions of intervention and free trade, there is no clear consensus.

A Developing Consensus

Ultimately, it is too early to predict a winner on either side. If a new foreign policy consensus emerges, it could be radically different in its prescriptions or merely a reskinned version of the status quo — a kind of “primacy lite.” A gradual evolution toward a slightly revised version of primacy is most likely in the Democratic Party, where the status quo and progressive wings enjoy a at least some common ground in their fight against Trump. A more radical future seems more likely on the Republican side, thanks to Trump’s increasing control of the party and its electoral fortunes.

One worrisome forecast does appear to be increasingly probable, however. The conversations at our events and on our podcast suggest that thinkers on both sides of the political spectrum appear to be narrowing in on defining the threat from China as the new master narrative of American foreign policy. Call it great power competition or a “new Cold War” — the result is the same. As Sullivan put it, “There’s a striking consensus on a much darker, much harder line on China that is not just about the Trump administration… it’s pretty much across the Democratic Party as well.”

Given the bitterness and polarization in Washington, not to mention the depth of the Democrats’ opposition to Trump himself, the emerging consensus on China — across the domains of security, human rights, and international trade — is surprising. An optimist might suggest that enduring national interests are winning out over both intraparty and interparty squabbling. An inveterate optimist might even see the seeds of a new bipartisan grand strategy rooted in containing China, fighting the spread of authoritarianism, and more nationalist trade policies.

From a more realistic perspective, however, the growing consensus on China is troubling. Having identified China as America’s biggest strategic challenge, neither party has identified a clear goal. Nor have they articulated how a new approach to China would provide a foundation for a broader vision of American foreign policy. Regardless of which camp triumphs, the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy on China — through confrontation without purpose — is real. As both parties seek a new foil against which to frame American foreign policy, they may end up instead creating the incentives for further confrontation.

Emma Ashford is a research fellow in Defense and Foreign Policy at the Cato Institute.

  1. Trevor Thrall is associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and senior fellow in Defense and Foreign Policy at the Cato Institute.

 

Politics cloud felon voting rights restoration in Florida

December 15, 2018

by Letitia Stein

Reuters

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) – Elections officials across Florida say they expect former felons to flock to their offices to register to vote next month when a newly passed ballot initiative launches one of the largest enfranchisement efforts in modern U.S. history.

But partisan politics and logistical questions are clouding the Jan. 8 rollout of a state constitutional amendment that could restore voting rights to more than 1 million ex-felons in Florida.

Democrats and voting rights advocates cried foul this week when Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican and critic of the measure known as Amendment 4, said the Republican-controlled state legislature must first pass a law to implement its changes.

“I don’t see any way around that, regardless of whether you want it, you know, all to be implemented tomorrow or whether you are trying to kind of frustrate it,” DeSantis said in a recorded interview with the Palm Beach Post published on Thursday.

Representatives for DeSantis did not respond to Reuters’ requests on Friday for additional comment.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo in a statement called DeSantis’ move an “act of voter suppression by Republicans who want to pick and choose who should have the right to vote.”

And state Senator Dennis Baxley, the Republican chairman of the Ethics and Elections Committee, agreed the measure largely could take effect without new laws.

“No one in the Senate desires to slow walk this,” he said. “We want to get things in order.”

Democrats have celebrated the measure’s passage as a civil rights victory, as well as a chance to expand the electorate in their favor in battleground Florida, the largest of the states that swing between parties in presidential elections.

Florida has barred ex-felons from voting for 150 years. African-Americans, who favor the Democratic Party, have been disproportionately affected by felon voter disenfranchisement.

The measure approved by more than 64 percent of Florida voters in November states that felons’ “voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence,” with exceptions for those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

Previously, felons could regain their voting rights by appealing for clemency to a state board, which under recent Republican control had approved only a few hundred requests each year with more than 10,000 applications pending.

Members of a bipartisan coalition that wrote the ballot initiative and campaigned for its passage are adamant that its language was designed to take effect without any further laws.

At the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, a champion of the measure, voting rights and elections project director Myrna Pérez said DeSantis’ reported position “sounds like the efforts of a bunch of politicians to try and thwart the will of the people.”

POLITICAL IMPACT

Research shows Republicans may not suffer much from the measure’s implementation, said Marc Meredith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied felon voting rights restoration.

Many of the new voters likely will not affiliate with either party, he said.

Based on voting patterns by former felons, Meredith thought the change may net some 150,000 additional votes statewide, and more would likely be Democrats than Republicans. But, he said, the numbers may not be overwhelming, even in a state that often sees razor-thin election margins.

“There is no convenient prescription that folks are just going to turn out one way or another,” said Neil Volz, a former Republican who is now political director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that pushed for the measure.

In the Florida governor’s race in November, there were more than 8 million ballots cast. DeSantis won by roughly 32,000 votes over his Democratic challenger, Andrew Gillum. According to the Florida Division of Elections, as of Oct. 31 there were about 13.4 million registered voters in the state.

Local elections officials are grappling with myriad issues, such as how to verify decades-old court records to determine voting eligibility.

“Nobody knows what they are doing,” said Joyce Griffin, the supervisor of elections in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. “We need direction.”

She said she planned to register two friends with long-passed felony sentences at their homes when the measure takes effect on Jan. 8, and she will do the same for other eligible ex-felons whoshow up at her office.

Reporting by Letitia Stein; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler

 

The CIA’s Russian Manipulations

December 15, 2018

by Christian Jürs

No one knows precisely when the Cold War ended.  It could have been November 9th, 1989, when the Berlin Wall began to crumble.  Or a month later, on December 3rd, when President George Bush (41) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev convened a summit in Malta aboard the Russian cruiser Maxim Gorky.

Exactly how this war was won is less known.  Truth is, the Operations Directorate of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), ran four strategies concurrently that harmonized better than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  So well, in fact, that the Soviet Union collapsed ten years ahead of what CIA’s Intelligence Directorate had forecast:

Strategy One:  In the mid-1970s CIA embarked on a program to “educate” a new generation of Soviet leaders.  Hope for ending the Cold War lay with the “boomers.”  The old fogies in the Kremlin seemed to understand this, too, which is why they passed leadership to sick, dying men.  Leonid Brezhnev could barely stand for the last eight years of his life, while the Soviet system stagnated.  His successor Yuri Andropov was already dying from liver disease when he took over.  And his replacement, Konstantin Chernenko, was practically a living corpse.

Finally, at the urging of Foreign Secretary Andrei Gromyko, a younger man was chosen:  Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorby’s closest adviser was Alexandre Yakovlev, who had been working for CIA since 1959 when he studied at Columbia University.  The Soviets sent their brightest brains to the United States for higher education—and many were recruited.

How was that so easy?  Most Soviets who arrived in the USA to study were smart enough to realize, despite their Leninist indoctrination, that communism as practiced in their Motherland was a cruel fraud.  CIA’s biggest challenge was getting them to return to Moscow, to climb the professional ladder.

Slowly, a network of influence was constructed in every professional arena:  politics, banking, industry, scientific research, media, and, of course, the KGB.

Slowly, in their respective arenas, moles chewed away at communist rule.

Strategy Two:  Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) scared the Soviets stupid.  They were already spending most of their money on their military-industrial complex instead of ensuring that people got fed.  The U.S. essentially said, “Now you have to spend a whole lot more!”

The Soviets did not have a whole lot more, but were scraping to sustain what they had.  The arms race was over at that point.

And it was all based on a bluff.  The U.S. wasn’t spending anywhere near what the Soviets believed it was spending on “Star Wars.”  Through tactical disinformation, President Reagan made them believe he was capable of anything.  The CIA did not want the Soviets to give up the arms race; it wanted to bankrupt them out of existence.

After President Reagan’s “joke” into a live microphone—“We begin bombing in five minutes”–KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov convinced himself it was only a matter of time before our president would launch missiles, and Mr. Kryuchkov thus created Operation RYAN—a top priority secret mission to establish precisely when, not if, a U.S. sneak attack would occur.  Their operatives scurried around in circles trying to pinpoint something that did not exist.  It drove them nuts, while CIA proceeded with…

Strategy Three:  CIA wanted an Eastern-Bloc country that would pull off what Hungary had attempted in 1956 and Czechoslovakia twelve years later.  Soviet leaders had grown old and weary and sick, and their system had become stymied in apparatchik ineptitude.  And further quagmired in Afghanistan, a war they could never win, which depleted their military muscle and took their eye off the ball (Eastern Europe).  CIA studied the possibilities, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  It settled on Poland, whose elements had synchronized:  A fiercely independent people devoted not to communism but Catholicism (92 percent); a dissatisfied intelligentsia; a labor force on the verge of rebellion.  All CIA had to do was stand back and watch—and be ready to jump when…

The volcano erupted in August 1980 at the shipyards in Gdansk and evolved into a Solidarity movement that paralyzed the country.  CIA saw to it that Poland’s intelligentsia jumped onto the bandwagon.  With that, the government capitulated.  But Solidarity tried to do too much too fast; a military crackdown was inevitable.  However, telecommunications had come a long way since the Prague Spring of 1968.  People the world over could see on live TV the harsh, oppressive reality of communism and martial law.

Solidarity went underground.  Through the Vatican, CIA channeled millions of dollars to the outlawed Solidarity movement, giving it technology to interrupt state TV news broadcasts with announcements like, “Don’t believe these liars!”

The Soviets, beleaguered by Afghan polo (which featured captured Russian officers as the puck), were horrified.  They knew they were looking at their own future.

Strategy Four:  CIA chipped away at the Soviet federal structure in all of the enslaved republics, from the Baltics to the Stans, firing up nationalist fervor, destabilizing the system for mass secession—an implosion.

The Soviets roundly deserved this.  Moscow had exploited all of these republics to the max, trading their natural resources for foreign currency banked in Moscow, with only a pittance trickling back to the republics.  Not only did the Kremlin not care about the people it governed, it did not care what happened to their environment.  The Aral Sea in Central Asia dried into a desert because of an ill-conceived Soviet policy to maximize Uzbekistan’s cotton crop.

The leaders of these republics did not need for CIA to point this out to them; they simply needed secret reassurance as they strove for self-determination.

Of much less help was the State Department, which wanted to deal with the republics through Moscow.  Not only was this easier for them then, say, creating new embassies and posting diplomats to Tashkent, Tbilisi, and Bishkek, etc, but it did not wish to embarrass the Kremlin.

Yet through CIA’s guidance, a new generation of leaders in the republics was poised to establish their independence.

And so the Cold War ended in late 1989.  Its demise created the erroneous impression—conveyed by Congress and the media—that the world had become safe for all Americans; time to spend less money on intelligence and security; time to become lazy and complacent—all through the 1990s.

James Joyce had a line for that:  “In moments of happiness, don’t despair, tragedy lurks around the next corner.”

Around the next corner came 9/11.

And a New Russia lorded over by a New Stalin.

And now it is the United States quagmired in Afghanistan.

President Rhetoric will presently commit 17,000 new troops to Afghanistan.  Is this the “change” his supporters envisioned?

Despite what the wisest generals tell you about this war, it can never be won.  The Russians and Chinese watch in amusement as we recklessly squander our resources—and the future of our grandchildren.

As for the Loans for Shares scheme of November 1995 – under which majority shareholdings in some of the most valuable Russian companies were given to the oligarchs in return for loans, in fixed, unfair auctions – two World Bank employees presented a devastating expose of the corruption involved and the losses to the state to a conference in March 1996. The most startling story they told was of how Menatep, headed by Khodorkovsky and the erstwhile Russian representative to the IMF Kogalovsky, took control of Yukos oil company in the face of fierce allegations that the bid meant Menatep increased its exposure to ten times its capital, and that as both agent for the sale and bidder it was being afforded unfair protection by the Ministry of Finance. The two economists concluded: “The latest phase of privatization was a lose-lose proposition for all of the stakeholders in Russia. The government has sacrificed revenue and quality […] Any of the large Russian companies […] properly prepared for privatization would have yielded the government more revenue than all of the present transactions combined.” Shortly after the two economists delivered their dire warnings that, on a “non level playing field” the Russian government had “simply […] transferred its controlling stakes in various companies to banks”, the IMF stepped up its lending programmed to Russia: in 1996 it added $3.2 billion to the $5 billion agreed in 1995.

The reason that IMF lending to Russia reached such a peak in early 1996 is well known: the IMF, together with the US and German governments, were desperately afraid that Yeltsin would not be re-elected. At the beginning of the year he had seemed to be unelectable. Wages and pensions arrears and the general fall in most people’s standard of living had made him very unpopular and the “reformers” were considering other possible presidential candidates, e.g. Viktor Chernomyrdin.

As is also well known, the seven most powerful financial oligarchs were brought together at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 1996 by Boris Berezovsky, in order to sink their differences and unite behind Yeltsin. The oligarchs publicly expressed their position in the “Appeal of the 13” and subsequent documents.

Possibly as a direct result of this meeting, and certainly immediately following it, the Central Bank began to place funds, including much of the money Russia had been loaned by the IMF, in the accounts of its offshore subsidiaries Fimaco and Evrobank. This money was then recycled back in to the Russian financial markets to buy short-term treasury bonds (gosudarstvennyie kratkosrochnye obligatsiy or GKOs). This pump-priming with money from Fimaco and Evrobank helped to inflate the GKO market; western banks and investors then got in on the act, taking a bet on the outcome of the election. The Central Bank fixed the ruble exchange rate, interest rates rose and the yields on the GKOs increased to insane levels – nearly 200% by the time of the election. The result was that the state was able to use the proceeds from the sale of the GKOs to pay off pensions and wages arrears shortly before the election; it also let private employers know that they should pay off wages arrears rather than pay their taxes. This, together with completely fictitious promises that (for example) army conscription would be abolished, enabled Yeltsin to be re-elected. The votes were bought with IMF money that had been recycled through the GKO market to give it added value.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

December 15, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

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

 

Conversation No. 57

Date: Tuesday, January 7, 1997

Commenced:  9:34 AM CST

Concluded:  10:07 AM CST

 

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. I take it you have survived the holidays intact?

GD: Yes. Christmas is a non-event and as far as New Years Eve is concerned, all I can say about that is that I could hear the fireworks and the guns going off for about an hour. It sounded like the Battle of Bull Run for a while. And the next day I heard on the news that people were indeed shooting guns up into the air and the spent shells were pattering down on their neighbors and strangers. What they should do, is to stick the muzzle in their mouths and then pull the triggers. Make work for the ambulance people, the medical examiners and, of course, the unfortunate ones who have to clean the brains off the ceilings.

RTC: So graphic. Reminds me of Frank Wisner’s end. Polly complained that the ceiling was a mess and it took two weeks and much paint to cover up the evidence of Frank’s end. He used a shotgun.

GD: That will do it. How did his black boyfriend take it?

RTC: That’s a closed chapter.

GD: Well, I wonder how Costello’s equally black boyfriend took the news of his lover’s sudden demise in the lonely sky over the Atlantic?

RTC: I was not privy to that. I do understand his brother, who was in the RN, refused to accept the body.

GD: Infection. If they cremated him, perhaps his boyfriend could come over and claim him. At least John would get his ashes hauled for the last time.

RTC: (Laughter) You are not very nice, Gregory.

GD: God, I would hope not.

RTC: How is the second Müller book coming along?

GD: Quite well. Now that I have Kronthal’s name and more input, it will be a worthwhile venture.

RTC: I have been asked, repeatedly, if you have mentioned a second volume, but I always pretend not to hear the question. Being an old man has its advantages sometimes. No, you have stirred up a very vicious hornet’s nest, Gregory, and they won’t give up until they have either run you into the ground or bought off your publisher.

GD: They wouldn’t have any luck trashing me because I trash right back, and while they are conventional in their character assassinations, I am very unorthodox. They don’t have the intelligence to deviate from the usual badmouthing and I don’t have the patience to put up with their crap. You now, about a week ago, I rang up Raul Hilberg, the historian. He’s teaching up in Vermont and writes about the Holocaust. Still, he’s a competent and relatively honest historian. He told me a funny story about Bob Wolfe. Seems Wolfe sent him a copy of the Müller book with a enclosed note hoping Hilberg would trash the work in print. Hilberg told me he read it through and while he found parts of it very disturbing, he couldn’t oblige Wolfe because, from a historical point at least, it was very accurate. He said Wolfe said I was threatening national security with my writings. Hilberg said that the fact that your organization hired carloads of Gestapo and SS men who were wanted for anti-Jewish activities was not national security.

RTC: They are absolutely terrified that if this thesis gains popular belief, they will be unable to cope with the uproar. Critchfield has been pushing them to have you shot and from my occasional, unpleasant, meetings with Wolfe, he is desperate to ruin your reputation. But I don’t think national security has any part of this.

GD: What do you think?

RTC; Wolfe is a typical Beltway boy. He has carved out a niche for himself as an outstanding expert on the Third Reich.

GD: Nonsense. Wolfe is most certainly not a real expert. He pretends to be, but he is not. Imagine what more I could learn if I were in his place.

RTC: He’s afraid you will start talking and show him up as a fraud.

GD: Aren’t they all?

RTC: Tell me, does Kimmel know Wolfe?

GD: Oh yes, he does. We’ve all had dinner together at the Cosmos Club.

RTC: Well, that explains much. I should tell you that you are viewed here in the FBI and CIA nests as a real loose cannon. No one knows what you’ll come out with next and the idea is to get your confidence and then try to find something on you to discredit you. Kimmel is part and parcel of this game and they are using Wolfe as the resident expert, hoping he can trip you up.

GD: Robert, that won’t happen. If Wolfe is their front man, they’re all in bad company. Hilberg said Wolfe was an envious phony who was jealous of everyone and the only reason he had occasional dealings with him was because Wolfe was an outrageous suckass who had very good access to the official records. Tell me about that. Wolfe got into the prohibited files and sent me an Army General Staff document listing all the top Nazis brought into this country in 1948 and to include Müller and far more. This had been sealed by Presidential order but Wolfe made a copy of it and sent it off to me, hoping frantically that I would trust him and finally tell him what persona Heini Müller used while he was living here.

RTC: Of course, they don’t know the name. He was under deep cover and I doubt if more than eight or nine people knew who he really was and what his former job had been.

GD: Truman knew, and Beetle Smith did for certain and, of course, Critchfield was the CIA man who hired him. Other than that, I don’t know who here really knew his given name.

RTC: And you can add my name to the short list. Can you imagine the frenzy to find out what name he used so they could purify their files? The burn bags would be piled up by the furnace doors, believe me. And then they could say very smugly that they had searched their files and never found anyone with that name.

GD: That’s why Wolfe has been so friendly with me.

RTC: Oh yes, he has. But he hates you, Gregory, not because our leadership there hates you but because he’s afraid you will show him up as a fraud and, more important, he will fail in his mission. He does so want to get in with the Naftali CIA crowd and he wants your head on a platter to please them.

GD: He’s too eager, too treacherous and too obvious to be of any use to them.

RTC: Don’t forget, Gregory, this is the Beltway and they’re all the same. They are a bunch of gross incompetents who are prepared to pay homage to another Beltway boys self-serving lies about their importance, if you will, in turn for other Beltway boys paying attention to theirs. You know and they don’t, and they don’t want someone outside their circle who is more intelligent than they are to rock their boats.

GD: They must be afraid the Jews will get after them for daring to hire their enemies.

RTC: Well, that’s true, but only up to a point. The Jews know when to shut up and they can use this to pry more money out of the government to assuage their wounded spirits.

GD: Well, in the next book, I will have some interesting things to say. The loose cannon rolls around the deck of the warship in a storm, battering holes in the sides of the ship. If I’m lucky, maybe they’ll all sink in shark-infested waters. But thinking about this, Robert, I’m sure there are things that even a shark wouldn’t eat. Yes, I do know more than they ever will. I know this sounds egocentric, but it is true. I really enjoy encountering all the experts and observing them trying to find out what I know so they can pick my brains on the one hand, and trying to get me to turn my back so they can stab me in it on the other. Why are these despicable types attracted to government work?

RTC: Where else would they get a job?

GD: Mopping up after the elderly in a nursing home or doing vital work at the sewage treatment plants of America.

RTC: I have some interesting news for you. I have just had Greg ship you off a long list of Nazis who worked for us, plus their new names and addresses here. Could you use that?

GD: Oh yes, how wonderful. What a wonderful Christmas present. Anyone I know?

RTC: That’s for you to decide.

GD: If I have the original names, I have the files that will let me check on them. Müller gave me a list of Gestapo agents, and more important, the V-Leute or German stool pigeons for the Gestapo. I wonder how many of them are working for Langley?

RTC: And don’t forget the Army got its share.

GD: Not at all. Müller gave me his old Army uniform, medals and all. It’s in my closet in a bag. The same uniform he was wearing in the Signal Corps picture of him in the White House with Truman and Smith.

RTC: Oh, do publish that.

GD: I will save that for the last. I’ll wait until Wolfe and the Inner Sanctum Hebrews are in full cry against me and then put out a number of things. It would be like throwing table salt on garden slugs and snails. Lots of yellow foam and a painful death.

RTC: Couldn’t happen to nicer people. You remember that Roosevelt/Churchill intercept I gave you? Kimmel had it checked out and once they decided it was original, he suddenly forgot all about it. Of course, it would go far to exonerate his grandfather, but he will never, never use it because it came from you and you are the spawn of Satan.

GD: Isn’t it funny. Robert? Instead of asking you, politely, of course, to help them, they band together like frightened rats in a burning barn, shrieking how terrible you are. Besides their own stupidity, are they hiding anything?

RTC: I doubt it. My impression is that the intelligence community does not tolerate talent.

GD: The enshrinement of mindless mediocrity. Burial at Arlington and a star on the Langley wall.

RTC: And don’t forget a tree planted in the Holy Land.

GD: Their Holy Land, Robert, not mine.

 

(Concluded at10:07 AM CST)

 

 

 

 

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