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TBR News July 21, 2019

Jul 21 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. July 21, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for July 21:” Climate change over the next 5-10 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defense chiefs warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain, Canada and the northern tier states of the United Sates are  plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020-2015. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

‘Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,’ concludes the Pentagon analysis. ‘Once again, warfare would define human life.’

The findings will prove humiliating to the Trump administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defense is a priority.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Nadler: Mueller has evidence of Trump high crimes and misdemeanours
  • Of course Donald Trump is a racist – and his Wall Street enablers know it
  • Racism Is an Impeachable Offense
  • Blockades and International Law
  • Hong Kong protesters back on streets after explosives discovery
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown 

 

Nadler: Mueller has evidence of Trump high crimes and misdemeanours

House judiciary chair would initiate impeachment proceedings

July 21, 2019

by Martin Pengelly in New York

The Guardian

The eyes of America will be trained on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Robert Mueller testifies before two House committees about his report on Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president.

On Sunday, the chairman of the judiciary committee indicated the stakes when he said the 448-page report contained “very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours” – the benchmark for impeachment.

“It’s important that we not have a lawless administration and a lawless president,” the New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler told Fox News Sunday. “And it’s important that people see what we’re doing and what we’re dealing with.”

Nadler’s committee would initiate impeachment proceedings. Mueller, a former director of the FBI, will also appear before the intelligence panel.

“The report presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours,” he said, “and we have to present, or let Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law.”

Mueller was appointed in May 2017, submitted his report in March 2019 and saw it released with redactions a month later.

Attorney general William Barr released a brief summary in which he said conspiracy between Trump and Moscow had not been proven and instances of possible obstruction of justice – the report details 11 by the president or his campaign – were not sufficient to establish that an offence had been committed.

Mueller, who said in his report he did not exonerate Trump, subsequently gave a press conference in which he said his work should speak for itself. Most took that to mean he did not pursue the obstruction charges in part because of a justice department opinion which holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

On Sunday Adam Schiff of California, the House intelligence chair, told CBS’s Face the Nation: “It’s been clear from Bob Mueller that he felt and the justice department feels bound by this Office of Legal Counsel opinion that you can’t indict a sitting president.”

The Russia investigation is not the only subject of discussion of impeachment and whether Trump has committed “high crimes and misdemeanours”, a standard not defined in the constitution and thereby forever the subject of debate.

In the case of now-closed investigations of campaign finance violations involving former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen making payments to women who claim affairs with Trump, Schiff said the president was “essentially an unindicted co-conspirator”.

“He has been identified as ‘individual one’,” he said, “the person who directed Michael Cohen to commit this fraudulent campaign scheme. And I assume this all means that in the Southern District of New York, the case will be reopened when he leaves office.”

Schiff also said that though Cohen is in prison, Trump is “not above the law. He may have a temporary reprieve” while he is in the White House.

Among Democrats, debate rages on about whether impeachment is merited or politically desirable as the 2020 election approaches. Pro-impeachment opinion is strong among supporters and an increasing number of elected officials, contenders for the presidential nomination among them.

Mueller’s testimony was initially set for 17 July. In a tense political standoff, other demands by House committees for testimony from Trump aides and allies have been blocked by the White House.

Trump, who has repeatedly and inaccurately claimed exoneration, said this week he would not watch Mueller’s testimony and accused Democrats of “just playing games”. On Sunday he tweeted a nonspecific but familiar complaint about “presidential harassment” and focused on his ongoing racist attacks on four progressive Democratic congresswomen.

Republicans who will question Mueller have tried to dampen expectations.

The hearing will be “like an old TV show that you watched years ago”, Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the judiciary committee, told the Associated Press. “After a few minutes you could quote what the characters could say, and nothing is new anymore. Frankly, the American people have moved on.”

Unsurprisingly, David Ciciline, a New Jersey Democrat on the same panel, disagreed. He told the AP the hearing would be “the first opportunity for the American people to hear directly from Mr Mueller about what he found about Russian interference in the American presidential election and efforts by the president to impede, undermine or stop the investigation.”

He added: “I do think that the contents of the report are so significant, and so damning, that when Mr Mueller brings them to life, and actually tells the American people … it will have an impact.”

Accordingly, Democrats have been preparing intensely.

Jamie Raskin of Maryland, another member of the judiciary committee, told the AP: “There are still millions of people who think, absurdly, that there is no evidence of presidential obstruction or collusion in the report.”

That, he said, was because Barr and Trump have created a “fog of propaganda”.

“We just want to clear the fog,” Raskin said.

Nadler told Fox News Sunday any Republican questioning of Mueller about supposed FBI misconduct, an attack line meant to discredit the special counsel’s work, would be an “irrelevancy” and a waste of time.

“What’s before the American people is the conduct of this president,” he said.

 

Of course Donald Trump is a racist – and his Wall Street enablers know it

Jamie Dimon and other big-earning CEOs are bankrolling the Republican assault on America. They must work to stop it

July 21, 2019

by Robert Reich

The Guardian

It started with Donald Trump’s racist tweets demanding that four Democratic congresswomen – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar – “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came”.

All four women are American citizens and only one, Omar, was born overseas.

On Wednesday, at a rally in North Carolina, Trump continued his attack, especially on Omar. In response, the crowd chanted: “Send her back!”

Subsequently, Trump tried unconvincingly to distance himself from the chant.

The relevant question is not whether Trump is a racist. Of course he is. Or whether he’s going to continue bashing these members of Congress, who fill all his demonization boxes: Democrats, females, people of color, a Muslim. Of course he will.

The real question is whether the people bankrolling Trump and the Republican party are going to stop this rot before it consumes the politics of 2020, and perhaps more.

Early signs are not encouraging. Just before Trump’s North Carolina rally, the Republican National Committee released an ad attacking the “Squad”, as the four congresswomen have become known.

The ad opens with a clip of Ocasio-Cortez referring to migrant detention facilities as “concentration camps”, then saying “‘Never again’ means something”, referring to lessons from the Holocaust. That is followed by a clip from a 2018 primary debate where she asks her opponent, Joe Crowley, why he was willing to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Ice, “fascist” but not to call for its elimination.

It then cuts to Tlaib saying she agrees with Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” phrase, and to Pressley saying: “You will see the light. And if you don’t, we will bring the fire.”

There follows footage of an attack on an Ice facility in Washington state, showing a burned car, and a facility in Colorado where an American flag was replaced with the flag of Mexico.

It’s profoundly misleading. The clips are all taken out of context. Pressley’s reference to “fire” was part of a statement calling for a humane system and noting that positive change happens either because people see the light or feel the fire.

The RNC is intentionally and mendaciously fueling the same racism Trump is fueling, for the same purpose: whipping up the base.

Who is funding this horse manure? Much of the money that’s flowing into Republican coffers is coming from the same place it’s always come from: Wall Street.

Last year, JP Morgan contributed $149,908 to the RNC.

JP Morgan’s chairman and chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is no racist. A few months ago, in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, he said white people don’t adequately understand racial discrimination.

“If you’re white,” he said, “paint yourself black and walk down the street one day, and you’ll probably have a little more empathy for how some of these folks get treated. We need to make a special effort because this is a special problem.”

JP Morgan isn’t the only Wall Street firm backing Republicans. Between April and June, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell collected $3m but just 9% of it came from individuals in his home state, Kentucky. The biggest block came from Wall Street hedge funds like the Blackstone Group ($95,400), KKR ($51,000), and Apollo Global Management and Golden Tree Management ($65,100).

Why is Wall Street funding Trump’s GOP? Because it is delighted with what Trump and Senate Republicans are giving it: tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks.

Dimon was instrumental in getting the Trump-Republican tax cut through Congress. Last year it saved JP Morgan and the other big banks $21bn.

Trump and the Republicans have also given Wall Street more freedom. They defanged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and have allowed the banks to grow even larger, announcing more mergers and acquisitions in the first five months of 2019 than in any full-year period since the Street nearly imploded in 2008.

The result has been vastly more money for the Street. Last year’s bonus pool totaled $27.5bn – more than three times the combined incomes of the approximately 600,000 Americans earning the minimum wage.

Since Trump’s inauguration, JP Morgan’s stock is up nearly a third. Dimon earned $31m in 2018.

Asked recently how Trump was doing, Dimon gushed.

“Regulatory stuff, good.”

The summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un? A “great idea.”

He also complimented the administration’s “negotiating tactic” on China and called the relationship between big business and the White House “active and good”.

Asked about Trump saying the Fed had “gone crazy”, Dimon said he had “never seen a president who wanted interest rates to go up”.

Wall Street and the CEOs of major corporations have made a hellish deal – ignore Trump’s repugnance and provide ongoing support for the GOP regardless of its complicity in return for high returns. Perhaps they also believe that the flames of racism and xenophobia will distract the nation sufficiently for them to continue looting it.

But a deal with the devil can exact a large toll. Flames that distract now could lead to an uncontrollable conflagration.

The putative leaders of the American economy owe it to the nation: they must help douse this fire.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. He is also a columnist for Guardia

 

Racism Is an Impeachable Offense

July 19, 2019

by Shaun King

The Intercept

Donald Trump has a rich, varied history of racism, bigotry, and discrimination going back to at least 1973, when the Justice Department filed a racial bias suit against him for mistreating Black applicants and tenants all over New York. At the time, it was one of the largest lawsuits of its kind. That was 46 years ago. Since then, the list of offenses has piled up. In a better time, his racist behavior would have prevented him from ever being elected, but here we are. He’s president and now he’s openly carrying that bigotry right into the Oval Office. Not only do I think he is violating his oath of office — I think his open, flagrant bigotry is an impeachable offense.

In the days when Trump was busy tempting the front pages of tabloids in between guest appearances on professional wrestling pay-per-view shows, his racism, misogyny, and even open accusations of sexual assault and harassment were frequently dismissed by the general public with a wink and a nod. An equal mix of wealth, white privilege, and the public’s obsession with celebrities that allowed him to ride above it all. But now he’s president of the United States, not just an NBC employee with a bad reality TV show where not a single “Apprentice” ever developed into an actual meaningful employee. And he is, in theory, subjected to the Constitution and all of the laws governing the presidency. But the thing is, somebody actually has to enforce them.

Do you know the difference between implicit bias and explicit bias? I need to explain it for what I’m about to say to really make sense. Across the country, corporations and government agencies, including police departments, are offering a wave of what’s called “implicit bias training.” The fundamental theory is that, in this country, otherwise well-meaning employees can be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or xenophobic in ways that they may not really even be aware of. It’s the notion that people unknowingly or unconsciously discriminate against others. Racial slurs might not be used, but the resulting bias and discrimination are real and painful. It’s about preferences and promotions, and who’s punished and who’s spared. I’m not saying I buy it; I’m telling you that’s what implicit bias is. Implicit bias training is designed to teach people how they may be advancing systemic oppression without being fully aware.

Why don’t corporations and agencies have training for explicit bias? The answer is simple: Explicit bias literally violates thousands of laws, codes, and policies across the country. When you are an open bigot on your job, the standard operating procedure is that you don’t need training, you need to be fired. That’s because bigotry is dangerous. It’s dangerous to have a racist doctor or nurse. It’s dangerous to have an openly bigoted police officer. That’s why responsible prosecutors are now ignoring cases from police officers found to have been openly bigoted on social media — because it’s impossible to trust a person’s judgment and credibility, especially about people different than them, when they publicly admit to hating those people. All over the country, people are routinely fired for explicit bias. As they should be.

If this past week has taught us anything at all, it has taught us that Trump is not implicitly biased. To tell four sitting congresswomen of color that they should “go back” to where they came from is so overtly bigoted that an almost identical phrase is listed on Trump’s own government website for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.

Can we pause there for a moment? The United States government literally specifies the very phrase that Trump just uttered as a prime example of unlawful workplace misconduct.

The paragraph also alludes to why explicit bias is so dangerous. After Trump first targeted the four congresswomen on social media, his followers then ran with it and gave his initial attack a life of its own: Thousands of attendees at a Trump rally in North Carolina began chanting “send her back, send her back” to Rep. Ilhan Omar. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think it was and is one of the single most bigoted moments in modern American politics. The next day, Trump, who has told over 10,000 lies in office, told one of the dumbest of them all – saying that he tried to stop his followers from making the bigoted chant. He said that like we don’t have eyes and ears. He basked in the chant. He stopped giving his speech and allowed the chant to grow. And did so for a full 13 seconds. And when he started speaking again, he said nothing of the moment. In fact, he restarted his attack on Omar as soon as the chant died down.

Let me share a quote with you. And then I’d love for you to guess who said it.

Donald Trump is not just allowing it to happen, but actively encouraging it to happen, is an indefensible disgrace.

The President keeps insisting he’s not a racist, and I’ve repeatedly said that in the 13 years I’ve known him, I’ve personally never witnessed him being a racist.

But since running for the White House, his inflammatory language has flirted ever closer to crossing the line into overt racism, and now he’s crossed that line. Big time.

Let’s be very unambiguously clear: what happened in North Carolina last night was not just racist-fueled demagoguery but bordered on fascism.

There was the President of the United States whipping his supporters into a hyper-animated state of rage about a political opponent because of her ethnicity.

That was from the blowhard Piers Morgan: a lifelong friend and defender of Trump. Before we applaud him, I should note that soon after Morgan made this bold, respectable statement on Trump, he went into his own indefensible attack on Congresswoman Omar. But the greater point is this: Piers fucking Morgan said it “was not just racist-fueled demagoguery but bordered on fascism.”

Presidents and prime ministers across the world are calling Trump out and openly saying that the bigotry demonstrated by Trump and his followers is depraved and unacceptable. On top of that, you couldn’t name a single serious employer in this nation that would allow an employee to say and do what Trump and his followers are saying and doing.

I’d call that a problem. It basically means that the only reason Trump isn’t fired is because he’s president of the United States. He’d be fired from any other major corporation for this dangerous tomfoolery.

And only Congress has any real power to hold the president accountable. And while scores of progressive members of Congress have called for impeachment hearings to proceed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for whatever reason, is against it.

Let’s examine what the presidential oath of office actually says. It’s one simple sentence. It says, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I have questions.

Can we sincerely say that a man who has done what Trump did this week is honoring that oath? Can an explicitly biased person “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States?” Can an overtly racist person “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution?”

I emphatically say, hell no. An explicitly racist person cannot “preserve, protect, and defend” the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Both of those clauses were authored to protect groups of people who would otherwise be marginalized. They’ve been challenged and successfully defended for over 150 years because they were designed to ensure that all American citizens are treated equally. When Trump became president, he swore an oath that he, too, would play by these rules.

Can a person who is explicitly, overtly racist treat everyone equally under the law? I feel dumb even asking such a question. Now if you let them tell it, they’ll tell you “yes” a hundred times. But you can’t let a racist be the judge of whether or not their racism negatively fuels and shapes the way they think and make decisions. It’s the very reason why overtly racist people are fired from every single type of place of employment. If you are an overtly racist person, Walmart will fire you from bagging groceries. Uber will fire you from driving cars. Amazon will fire you from packing boxes. McDonalds will fire you from making burgers. Because you are a liability, and you can no longer be trusted.

The president of the United States should be held to a higher standard than an entry-level employee at any Fortune 5000 company in this country. Right now, he isn’t.

And only Congress has the power to change that.

 

Blockades and International Law

Trump is often called an isolationist, but he is as interventionist as his predecessors. His strategy is simply to rely more heavily on US economic power than military might to coerce adversaries, which creates its own kind of cruelty and destabilization – and embodies its own brand of illegality.

June 28, 2019

by Jeffrey D. Sachs

Project Syndicate

NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump has based his foreign policy on a series of harsh economic blockades, each designed to frighten, coerce, and even starve the target country into submitting to American demands. While the practice is less violent than a military attack, and the blockade is through financial means rather than the navy, the consequences are often dire for civilian populations. As such, economic blockades by the United States should be scrutinized by the United Nations Security Council under international law and the UN Charter.

When Trump campaigned for office in 2016, he rejected the frequent US resort to war in the Middle East. During the years 1990-2016, the US launched two major wars with Iraq (1990 and 2003), as well as wars in Afghanistan (2001), Libya (2011), and Syria (2012). It also participated in many smaller military interventions (Mali, Somalia, and Yemen, among others). While the Syrian War is often described as a civil war, it was in a fact a war of regime change led by the US and Saudi Arabia under a US presidential directive called Timber Sycamore.

None of these US-led wars (and others in recent history) achieved their political objectives, and the major conflicts have been followed by chronic violence and instability. The attempt to force Syria’s Bashar al-Assad from power led to a proxy war – eventually involving the US, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates – that displaced over ten million Syrians and caused around a half-million violent deaths.

While Trump has so far eschewed a new war, he has continued US regime-change efforts by other means. Trump is often called an isolationist, but he is as interventionist as his predecessors. His strategy, at least so far, has been to rely more heavily on US economic power than military might to coerce adversaries, which creates its own kind of cruelty and destabilization. And it constantly risks flaring into outright war, as occurred with Iran this month.

The Trump administration currently is engaged in three attempts at comprehensive economic blockades, against North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, as well as several lesser blockades against countries such as Cuba and Nicaragua, and an intensifying effort to cut off China’s access to technology. The blockade against North Korea is sanctioned, at least in part, by the UN Security Council. The blockade against Iran is in direct opposition to the Security Council. And the blockade against Venezuela is so far without Security Council engagement for or against. The US is attempting to isolate the three countries from almost all international trade, causing shortages of food, medicines, energy, and spare parts for basic infrastructure, including the water supply and power grid.1

The North Korean blockade operates mainly through UN-mandated sanctions, and includes a comprehensive list of exports to North Korea, imports from North Korea, and financial relations with North Korean entities. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that ten million North Koreans are at risk of hunger, partly owing to sanctions. “[T]he unintended negative impact sanctions can have on agricultural production, through both direct and indirect impacts, cannot be ignored,” the FAO warns. “The most obvious are restrictions on the importation of certain items that are necessary for agricultural production, in particular fuel, machinery and spare parts for equipment.”

The draconian US sanctions on Venezuela have come in two phases. The first, beginning in August 2017, was mainly directed at the state oil company PDVSA, the country’s main earner of foreign exchange; the second round of sanctions, imposed in January 2019, was more comprehensive, targeting the Venezuelan government. A recent detailed analysis of the first round of sanctions shows their devastating impact. The US sanctions gravely exacerbated previous economic mismanagement, contributing to a catastrophic fall in oil production, hyperinflation, economic collapse (output is down by half since 2016), hunger, and rising mortality.

US sanctions against Iran have been in place more or less continuously since 1979. The most recent and by far most draconian measures, introduced in August 2018 and intensified in the first half of this year, aim to cut Iran off from foreign trade. The US sanctions are in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The effects have been devastating. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Iran’s economy will shrink by 10% between 2017 and 2019, with inflation reaching 30% this year. Medicines are in short supply.

One might expect that other countries would easily circumvent US sanctions. But the US has threatened to punish foreign companies that violate the sanctions and has used the dollar’s global clout as a bludgeon, threatening to sanction foreign banks that finance trade with Iran. European companies have fallen into line, despite the European Union’s express desire to engage economically with Iran. Over the longer term, it is likely that more ways will be found to circumvent the sanctions, using renminbi, ruble, or euro financing, yet the erosion of US sanctions will only be gradual.

Despite the intense economic pain – indeed calamity – inflicted on North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, none of them has succumbed to US demands. In this sense, sanctions have proved to be no more successful than military intervention. North Korea has maintained, and most likely is expanding, its nuclear arsenal. The Iranian regime rejects US demands concerning its missile program and foreign policies. And Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro remains in power.

The US blockades have been carried out by presidential decree, with almost no public debate and no systematic oversight by Congress. This has been a one-man show, even more so than in the case of president-led wars, which trigger vastly more public scrutiny. Trump realizes that he can impose crippling sanctions abroad with almost no direct costs to the US public or budget, and with virtually no political accountability.1

Military blockades are acts of war, and therefore subject to international law, including UN Security Council oversight. America’s economic blockades are similar in function and outcome to military blockades, with devastating consequences for civilian populations, and risk provoking war. It is time for the Security Council to take up the US sanctions regimes and weigh them against the requirements of international law and peacekeeping.

 

Hong Kong protesters back on streets after explosives discovery

For a seventh weekend, tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong are protesting and demanding more autonomy from China. Two more people have been arrested after an explosives find linked to a pro-independence group.

July 21, 2019

DW

Yet another anti-government protest got underway in Hong Kong on Sunday, as a surge of public anger continues to rock the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

In similar scenes to the last few weeks, tens of thousands of people rallied through the streets of the Asian financial hub, emboldened by their victory in forcing the government to suspend plans to extradite criminal suspects to China.

Protesters marched from Victoria Park in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay to the nearby Wan Chai area.

Later, they pressed past the designated end point, despite orders from police to disperse immediately.

They then occupied a major road next to the city’s parliament, and a large crowd gathered outside the police headquarters.

Authorities locked down the city center, deployed 5,000 officers and shortened the protest route, citing safety concerns, after previous marches turned violent when police confronted small groups of hardcore protesters.

Hong Kong on high alert

The seizure on Friday night of a large cache of explosives linked to a small pro-independence group has further stoked security fears

Millions of Hong Kong residents have participated in the protests, which first erupted last month, forcing the territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, to put the extradition bill on hold.

The demonstrations have since morphed into a wider movement demanding more autonomy from Beijing. Many residents say Chinese leaders have encroached on promises made when Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

Under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, Hong Kong has retained extensive freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

Calls for voting rights

Protest organizers say China is now seeking to control the territory. In response to this perceived threat, they have widened their demands to include the introduction of universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms. Activists have also accused police officers of using “excessive force” against demonstrators and demanded a full investigation.

There are signs, however, that Beijing’s patience with the protest movement is running out. Earlier this week, the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing was drawing up a plan to shore up support for Lam and the police.

On Saturday, pro-government, pro-Beijing supporters staged their own counterdemonstration calling on authorities to “restore order” following weeks of disruption that has resulted in tourism arrivals dropping sharply.

Explosives uncovered

Meanwhile, three people were arrested in connection with Friday night’s explosives seizure, which police described as the largest ever of its kind in Hong Kong.

They said it was unclear whether the explosives were related to the protest. However, one of those arrested was a member of a small pro-independence party.

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Gary Ruskin & the USRTK

Gary Ruskin is the executive director of the US Right to Know (USRTK), an anti-GMO activist organization ostensibly devoted to “uncovering the food industry’s efforts to manipulate scientists into advancing pro-genetically-modified propaganda,” but primarily trying to advance denialist causes by issuing FOIA requests designed to harass or silence those he disagrees with, i.e. experts and scientists who actually know anything about the topic. After all, as the American Association for the Advancement of Science puts it, “[e]very … respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion,” namely that “[c]onsuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” Anti-GMO movements accordingly cannot win on facts or evidence, but other strategies are available: after all, public debates, as opposed to the scientific ones, are often not won by facts and evidence.

As such, Ruskin and his group have become notable for having perfected one of the most effective denialist campaigning strategies in existence, the advanced shill gambit: if an expert who knows more than you on a topic a says something that don’t gel with your preferred narrative, don’t bother to discuss the facts; go for poisoning the well instead. In particular: investigate the person and harass her/him with FOIA requests; eventually, you will find some association you can possibly spin in a manner that makes it possible to question the integrity of the expert in question. What you find need of course not be anything that is even remotely fishy; as long as your target needs to explain the association, then questions are raised, and the FUD strategy has succeeded. Thus, any integrity issues you raise might involve multiple degrees of separation, if need be: If your target’s uncle works at the same institution as the mother-in-law of the founder of a non-profit organization you think (but has no evidence for thinking) has received support from Big Pharma, for instance (this was actually the one used by antivaccine conspiracy theorist Jake Crosby to try to discredit a science-based book Seth Mnookin that Crosby didn’t like or have the capacity to engage with on fact- and evidence-based grounds), you are in a position to reject anything your target has said about anything. It really is the most effective strategy when you can’t argue the facts or the evidence: question instead your opponent’s motives – yes, the strategy, which Ruskin has perfected, is the ultimate ad hominem.

Ruskin has summed up some of his “findings” in his report “Seedy Business: What Big Food Is Hiding With Its Slick PR Campaign on GMOs”, which proceeds by accusing scientists who disagree with him of being “untrustworthy” and “shills” in lieu of having to deal with the actual science. Perhaps the most illustrative example of the strategy is Ruskin’s and USRTK’s campaigns targeting Kevin Folta, which are detailed here. Ruskin’s strategy and its outcomes are further discussed here. Ruskin has also appeared on Dr. Oz to promote his harassment strategies and, without a hint of irony, to help discredit Oz’s critics with the help of shill gambits; yes, that’s right: dr. Oz was trying to discredit people pointing out how corrupt he is by accusing them of being paid.

It should be emphasized that the URSTK itself is funded by the organic food industry, a fact that they are, shall we say, not always sanguine about and sometimes inadvertently forget to mention when defending their own tactics.

Diagnosis: Yes, their business model is built around a familiar fallacy. So what? It’s effective, and this was never about facts, evidence or science. An icon of the post-truth political discourse, URSTK is an insidious threat to civilization and, yes, democracy.

 

Sarah Palin

A.k.a. Bible Spice

A.k.a. Pit bull in lipstick (her own characterization)

A.k.a. Caribou Barbie

Ok, this one’s a challenge. How to distinguish stupidity from lunacy? (Or for that matter, from malevolence – if Grey’s Law applied both ways, many people we’ve ignored would have to be counted as loons). Ignorance tends to turn into lunacy when accompanied by second-order ignorance, at least, but this is probably not a necessary condition, although incompetence at basic rational reasoning may perhaps be sufficient.

So Palin’s application for inclusion in the Encyclopedia raises questions. I think we should disregard her ignorance, vileness, vacuity, helpless blathering, idiotic statements on the verge of meaninglessness, incompetence, complete (and I mean complete) lack of self-awareness, and her ability to talk into a camera for five minutes with complete confidence without producing any meaningful content (which reflects badly on her followers more than on herself), or even her rather obviously pathological habit of lying. But stupidity and Dunning-Kruger are at least at work in this one, and in this one. And genuine insanity seems to run rampant here.

She had been noted for her creationist sympathies before she burst into fame in 2008, and is indeed on the record as a young earth creationist, Ken Ham-style, as well as for peddling theocracy.

We really can’t be bothered to rant at length about this one.

John Lofton thinks Sarah Palin is a liberal appeaser, by the way.

Diagnosis: Serious loon. But the real problem is people like this. The appeal of Palin seems to be fading since she declined a run for president, and her lasting influence is doubtful.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

July 21, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

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

 

Conversation No. 45

Date: Tuesday, November 12, 1996

Commenced: 8:02 AM CST

Concluded: 8:23 AM CST

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. I’ve pretty well firmed up our meeting. Everyone can make it and we’ll have lunch. You’ll need to be at the University Club before noon and we can talk for a while before lunch.

GD: I’ll make a note of it, Robert. Is the food good? I have a great liking for crab cakes, Maryland-style.

RTC: They certainly have that, Gregory. Want wine to go with that?

GD: I’m not much of a drinker but wine will be fine. A nice white wine. Will you have the Allende hit letter with you?

RTC: Oh yes but we can deal with that out of sight and earshot of the others.

GD: But these are your friends.

RTC: Well at least one of them isn’t yours.

GD: A nice book on Bringing True Democracy to some backward country. Very inspiring. Robert, you’ve been walking in the corridors of power and you have a first hand knowledge of such things but I think I could tell you the basics in governmental change. I mean securing some natural resource-rich but otherwise insignificant country. Would I offend with some satire here?

RTC: I’m not in harness any more, Gregory. Let’s see what you’ve learned in school, why not?

GD: Here we have a country. Call it Flavia. Not much but goats, much incest, but huge deposits of swan guano. An American firm, Sawney Bean Inc, has the permanent rights to mine the precious swan guano. And eventually, some Flavian intellectual decided that only the President and his family shared in that wealth so he leads a campaign, is successful and is elected to Holy Office. Norman Crotchrott, who owns Sawney Bean, believes that he is going to have to pay bigger bribes to the new president-elect but is horrified to discover that the new leader is a genuine populist and wants to seize the guano and exploit it for the people of Flavia. Shock, rage and horror in the boardroom of Sawney Bean. But, we have a possible salvation just down the road. Mr. Crotchrott went to Harvard with the DCI. He invites him up to a lavish weekend in the Hamptons and closets himself with your former boss for over two hours. Certain matters are discussed, drinks raised and hands shaken. Almost immediately afterwards, the CIA prepares a horrifying report that names the new president of Flavia as a Communist who went to the Lenin School. Shock and horror! The report states that if Flavia falls to the Communists, they will set up a power base and take over all the countries within earshot, to include, shock and horror, one country that produces uranium. My God, Robert, the DCI makes a personal trip to the White House, with a phalanx of aides and experts, all armed with charts, pointers and reports. Once the President is told that the situation in Flavia is critical and the evil Russians might get their Slavic hands on the uranium, he agrees to special action. The CIA starts the ball rolling by having doom-laded and alarmist reports published on the front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and about twenty lesser papers. Communists take over Flavia! More shock and horror. The president gives a press conference and says we must save Flavia and the entire region from the evil Communists. In the meantime, the CIA, who has bribed dissident groups in Flavia, regardless of the fact that most of them are pedophiles and chronic alcoholics, supplies them with Chinese weapons, purchased through one of their front companies from Turkey and sends a new cultural attaché to Flavia to spread bags of bribe money. There is a coup, led by U.S. Navy personnel dressed in native costume, the new president and his whole family are set on fire and a newer president is quickly installed. Return of democracy to Flavia is the watchword in the media. Several weeks later, Mr. Crotchrott deposits several million dollars in the black Swiss bank accounts of the top CIA people and sends a Steuben glass bowl to the President as a token of respect for his quick action. The new head of state signs a permanent contract with Sawney Bean and the papers and the boob tube show pictures of happy laughing Flavians cheering the American ambassador as he drives down the street in his armored limousine, surrounded by a battalion of Marines from the embassy. Now, Robert, tell me how far off I am?

RTC: You are a very wicked person, Gregory.

GD: Is that a negative comment?

RTC: Not really. You have Chile in mind specifically?

GD: More like Guatemala, Robert. My uncle was involved with that game and that’s where I got my baptism in bringing true democracy to a backward country with wonderful natural resources.

RTC: A word of caution here, Gregory. At lunch, do not bring up such subjects around Tom. He would start a file on you as a Communist agitator.

GD: Robert, Communism is a dead issue. The Arabs are our new enemies now. The Israelis have told us so and they own the papers. How about a Muslim sympathizer?

RTC: Well, you take my drift, Gregory. Better safe than sorry. Then the FBI will start looking into your garbage.

GD: They ought to feed them better.

 

(Concluded at 8:23 AM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown 

Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagions by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilized in a social contagion and when they become mobilized.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

Last year, the DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine ‘Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?’ which, however, conflates peaceful activists with “supporters of political violence” who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on “armed militancy” themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:

“In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence.”

The project’s 14 case studies each “involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence.”

In 2013, Minerva funded a University of Maryland project in collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to gauge the risk of civil unrest due to climate change. The three-year $1.9 million project is developing models to anticipate what could happen to societies under a range of potential climate change scenarios.

From the outset, the Minerva program  was slated to provide over $75 million over five years for social and behavioral science research. This year alone it has been allocated a total budget of $17.8 million by US Congress.

An internal Minerva staff email communication referenced in a 2012 Masters dissertation reveals that the program  is geared toward producing quick results that are directly applicable to field operations. The dissertation was part of a Minerva-funded project on “counter-radical Muslim discourse” at Arizona State University.

The internal email from Prof Steve Corman, a principal investigator for the project, describes a meeting hosted by the DoD’s Human Social Cultural and Behavioral Modeling (HSCB) program in which senior Pentagon officials said their priority was “to develop capabilities that are deliverable quickly” in the form of “models and tools that can be integrated with operations.”

Although Office of Naval Research supervisor Dr Harold Hawkins had assured the university researchers at the outset that the project was merely “a basic research effort, so we shouldn’t be concerned about doing applied stuff”, the meeting in fact showed that DoD is looking to “feed results” into “applications,” Corman said in the email. He advised his researchers to “think about shaping results, reports, etc., so they [DoD] can clearly see their application for tools that can be taken to the field.”

Many independent scholars are critical of what they see as the US government’s efforts to militarize social science in the service of war. In May 2008, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) wrote to the US government noting that the Pentagon lacks “the kind of infrastructure for evaluating anthropological [and other social science] research” in a way that involves “rigorous, balanced and objective peer review”, calling for such research to be managed instead by civilian agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The following month, the DoD signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NSF to cooperate on the management of Minerva. In response, the AAA cautioned that although research proposals would now be evaluated by NSF’s merit-review panels. “Pentagon officials will have decision-making power in deciding who sits on the panels”:

“… there remain concerns within the discipline that research will only be funded when it supports the Pentagon’s agenda. Other critics of the program , including the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, have raised concerns that the program  would discourage research in other important areas and undermine the role of the university as a place for independent discussion and critique of the military.”

According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin’s University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, “when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project.”

Prof Price has previously exposed how the Pentagon’s Human Terrain Systems (HTS) program  – designed to embed social scientists in military field operations – routinely conducted training scenarios set in regions “within the United States.”

Citing a summary critique of the program  sent to HTS directors by a former employee, Price reported that the HTS training scenarios “adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq” to domestic situations “in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.”

One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to “identify those who were ‘problem-solvers’ and those who were ‘problem-causers,’ and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the ‘desired end-state’ of the military’s strategy.”

Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilizing impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.

James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University in New York, concurs with Price’s concerns. Minerva-funded social scientists tied to Pentagon counterinsurgency operations are involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements,” he said, including how “to counteract grassroots movements.”

Minerva is a prime example of the deeply narrow-minded and self-defeating nature of military ideology. Worse still, the unwillingness of DoD officials to answer the most basic questions is symptomatic of a simple fact – in their unswerving mission to defend an increasingly unpopular global system serving the interests of a tiny minority, security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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