TBR News June 14, 2019

Jun 14 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. June 14, 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 June 14: “It’s getting to be a zoo around here. Fat Sarah, who waddled around with her nose stuck up Trump’s ass, is going away. He could shoot an old lady at a press conference and Sarah would deny it. They lle constantly to everyone, especially to themselves. The more accurate polls, and especially the Republican’s private ones, show that the nation is getting tired of Trump’s trouble-making, bombast and chronic lies. Pence is a lunatic Christian and Biden is not even to talk about but somewhere there is a candidate that is not a tax-cheat, liar and sadistic mass of quivering lard. Somewhere, please…”


The Table of Contents

  • New York ends religious exemption to vaccine mandate for schoolchildren
  • German state to shut Facebook page over data privacy worries
  • Why would Iran attack two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz?
  • Japanese Ship Owner Contradicts US Officials on Tanker Attack
  • Good riddance, Sarah Sanders: Washington’s worst communicator
  • Golden escalator ride: the surreal day Trump kicked off his bid for president
  • In Court, Facebook Blames Users for Destroying Their Own Right to Privacy
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations



New York ends religious exemption to vaccine mandate for schoolchildren

State lawmakers vote to repeal exemption amid country’s worst measles outbreak in decades

June 13, 2019


New York eliminated the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren Thursday, as the country’s worst measles outbreak in decades prompts states to reconsider giving parents ways to opt out of immunization rules.

The Democratic-led state senate and assembly voted Thursday to repeal the exemption, which allows parents to cite religious beliefs to forego getting their child the vaccines required for school enrollment.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the measure minutes after the final vote. The law takes effect immediately but will give unvaccinated students up to 30 days after they enter a school to show they’ve had the first dose of each required immunization.

After New York’s move, similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states, though lawmakers in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver.

The issue is hotly contested and debate around it has often been emotional, pitting cries that religious freedom is being curtailed against warnings that public health is being endangered. After the vote in the assembly, many of those watching from the gallery erupted in cries of “shame!” One woman yelled obscenities down to the lawmakers below.

The debate has only intensified with this year’s measles outbreak, which federal officials recently said has surpassed 1,000 illnesses, the highest in 27 years.

“I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated,” said the Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s assembly sponsor. “If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children … then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school.”

Hundreds of parents of unvaccinated children gathered at New York’s Capitol to protest against the vote.

Stan Yung, a Long Island attorney and father, said his Russian Orthodox religious views and health concerns about vaccines would prevent him from vaccinating his three young children. His family, he said, might consider leaving the state.

“People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” Yung said ahead of Thursday’s votes.

Supporters of the bill say religious beliefs about vaccines shouldn’t eclipse scientific evidence that they work, noting that the US supreme court ruled in 1905 that states have the right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. During the assembly’s floor debate, supporters brought up scourges of the past that were defeated in the US through vaccines.

“I’m old enough to have been around when polio was a real threat,” said the assemblywoman Deborah Glick of Manhattan. “I believe in science … Your personal opinions, which may be based on junk science, do not trump the greater good.”

Supporters also suggest some parents may be claiming the religious exemption for their children even though their opposition is actually based on scientifically discredited claims about the dangers of vaccines.

The bill would not change an existing state exemption given to children who cannot have vaccines for medical reasons, such as a weakened immune system.

Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday that he believed public health – and the need to protect those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons – outweighed the concerns about religious freedom.

“I understand freedom of religion,” he said. “I have heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”

The current measles outbreak has renewed concern about the exemptions in many states. The nation last saw as many cases in 1992, when more than 2,200 were reported.

The majority of cases are from outbreaks in New York in Orthodox Jewish communities.

California removed personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015, after a measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened 147 people and spread across the US and into Canada. Maine ended its religious exemption this year.

Mississippi and West Virginia also do not allow religious exemptions.

Once common in the US, measles became rare after vaccination campaigns that started in the 1960s. A decade ago, there were fewer than 100 cases a year.


German state to shut Facebook page over data privacy worries

June 13, 2019

AP News

BERLIN (AP) — A German state government announced plans Thursday to shut down the region’s Facebook page because of concerns over the company’s handling of data protection issues.

The governor’s office in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt cited a year-old ruling by the European Union’s top court stipulating that the administrator of a “fan page” on Facebook is jointly responsible along with the social media company for the processing of visitors’ data.

It said that, since that decision, Facebook’s Ireland-based European subsidiary had taken no measures to give page operators insight into its processing of personal data.

The office said it will soon take down the region’s Sachsen-Anhalt.de Facebook page on the advice of the state’s data protection commissioner. Germany is strongly protective of data privacy.

Facebook declined to comment on the decision, but pointed to past company statements outlining steps it had taken to make its data use more transparent.


Why would Iran attack two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz?

June 14, 2019

by Shawn Snow

Military Time

In a brief press conference Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed no doubt about who attacked two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, saying Iran was “responsible for the attacks.”

He did not, however, immediately offer any proof of the intelligence behind that assessment.

The attack certainly bears the hallmark and capabilities of previous aggressive actions undertaken by Iran and its paramilitary cohorts in the Persian Gulf.

But questions abound over who actually stands to benefit most from an attack in a region beset by violence and convoluted proxy conflicts raged between and Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Was the attack carried out by Iran, or other Gulf States seeking to sow conflict ― or did the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps operate outside of Tehran’s directives to further its own agenda?

CNN reported, citing a U.S. defense official, that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile Bainbridge reported seeing an unexploded limpet mine on the side of one of the tankers involved in Thursday’s attack in the Gulf of Oman.

A limpet mine was believed to be the cause of an attack on four tankers in May off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, which the U.S. pinned on Iran, according to the BBC.

No state or group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the tankers, one of which was carrying oil to Japan, whose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on a diplomatic mission in Iran to help ease tensions in the region. The attacks occurred in the Gulf of Oman.

Javid Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, tweeted that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

And both Iran and the U.S. claimed to have rescued sailors of the damaged tankers.

The U.S. Navy put out a statement saying it had received two separate distress signals and that the Bainbridge “rendered assistance.”

While Iran is often seen as instigator of conflict in the region — whether through harassing U.S. naval vessels at sea with fast boats or arming Houthi rebels in Yemen with anti-ship missiles — there are a number of groups and countries that have motives for orchestrating Thursday’s attacks.

“I would not write off any possibility until there is a lot more information,” a former chief of staff with U.S. Central Command told Military Times on condition of anonymity.

The former CENTCOM official spoke to Military Times prior to Pompeo’s press conference.

“It could be anything from some other state that has an interest in instigating a conflict with Iran and the U.S. or the other Gulf States, you know, doing an act that could logically be attributed to Iran,” the former CENTCOM official said.

It’s possible the attacks were carried out by the IRGC, whose actions have in the past been unhelpful in the Persian Gulf; or the Saudis, who have been “aggressively pushing the United States to take military action against Iran,” among others, Trita Parsi, a professor at Georgetown University, told Military Times.

Parsi is also the author of “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.”

“We are in a scenario in which there are a large set of actors whose motives and whose conduct has been of such nature that one should be very careful to take their words at face value,” Parsi said.

Iran is aware it is overmatched in the region by the might of the U.S. military, so its defense is organized primarily through asymmetry and deterrence to raise the cost of conflict. That often makes proving Iran culpable for attacks in the region difficult.

The IRGC is structured and designed to purposely make such kinds of attacks difficult to trace, the former CENTCOM official said.

“I suspect that our intel community is working pretty hard to figure it out,” he said.

While it seems counterintuitive that Iran would sabotage its own diplomacy by striking a ship carrying oil bound for Japan while that country’s prime minister was on a diplomatic visit to Tehran — such an attack could prove advantageous to different political actors within Iran.


Japanese Ship Owner Contradicts US Officials on Tanker Attack

Trump Reiterates Pompeo’s Claims, Britain Agrees With US Assessment

June 14, 2019

by Dave DeCamp


The owner of the Japanese tanker that was attacked on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the Kokuka Outrageous, contradicted the US military’s claims about the attack. Central Command reported that the two tankers were hit with limpet mines, a type of mine that is attached to the hull of a ship below the waterline using magnets. But Yutaka Katada, the owner of the Kokuka Outrageous, said he received reports a projectile hit the ship.

“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” Katada said at a press conference, “The place where the projectile landed was significantly higher than the water level, so we are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo. I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

US Central Command released a grainy black and white video of a boat alongside a ship, claiming it was an Iranian patrol boat removing a limpet mine from the Kokuka Outrageous, the claim being they were getting rid of the evidence. The video does not conclusively prove anything, as it is hard to tell what the boat is doing. Iranian state media said Iran rescued the crew of both tankers, so the video could have just been a recording of the rescue efforts.

In an interview with Fox and Friends Friday morning, President Trump blamed Iran for the attacks on the tankers. Trump cited the video as proof, “Well Iran did do it, and you know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it.”

Trump, who has been known to sometimes contradict his more hawkish cabinet members, fell in line with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Thursday, accused Iran of attacking the tankers with no evidence to back up his claim.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt made a statement on Friday, “We are going to make our own independent assessment, we have our processes to do that, (but) we have no reason not to believe the American assessment and our instinct is to believe it because they are our closest ally.”

No US officials have responded to the Japanese ship owner’s claims.


Comment: Since many American print media productions have dropped comic strips, the public has to depend for humor on the official views of America’s lack-of-intelligence agencies. In this matter, “savage” attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East ranks just below the “nerve gas” attack in London or the shooting-down of the Malaysian aircraft “by the Russians” or the legend that “millions” of Venezuelan citizens yearn for freedom-loving Americans to come to their left-wing run country and liberate the poor oil. And then we have the loyal and obedient New York Times whose motto is ‘Yesterday’s News Tomorrow!’ and who can be counted on to eagerly publish whatever grotesque fictions Langley sees fit to send them. And the British intelligence and political communities are little more than America’s pet Cocker Spaniel and spend their time echoing the legends concocted inside the Beltway.

Good riddance, Sarah Sanders: Washington’s worst communicator

She wasn’t spicy like Sean or hopeful like Hicks, but she was the perfect spokeswoman for a perfectly lazy and dishonest president

June 14, 2019

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

What on earth was the point of Sarah Sanders?

For 94 days, the outgoing White House press secretary gave no press briefing in the press room just a few steps from the press office that she nominally ran.

But the press did not stop pressing.

For more than three years, Sanders made no meaningful news on behalf of a boss who considers it his presidential priority to make as much meaningless news as possible.

Yet the news did not stop breaking.

With all the resources of the federal government’s communications machine at her fingertips, Sanders was the least resourceful communicator in Washington: a hapless and hopeless observer to every crisis, real or manufactured by the man sitting in the Oval Office, just down the hallway from her own.

In other words, she was the perfect spokeswoman for a perfectly lazy president.

Sanders may have demonstrated few obvious qualities as a press secretary: she earned no trust from the media, possessed no information to share with the world and enjoyed no grasp of policy or even politics.

She had no special insights into Donald Trump’s thinking and no special relationship with him either. Other than this: her capacity to dodge responsibility and the truth were a polished mirror of his character.

Normal spokespeople would have been mortified by the revelations of Robert Mueller that, by Sanders’ own admission, she just made stuff up when she briefed the press.

Speaking the day after the president fired then FBI director James Comey, Sanders told the media that “countless members of the FBI” – representing what she called “the rank-and-file of the FBI” – had lost confidence in Comey. She claimed that this was the reason why Comey was fired, even though Trump himself would later tell NBC News that his decision was because of “this Russia thing”.

Sanders later admitted to Mueller that she fabricated the entire smear. “She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything,” Mueller stated in his report.

But who really needs credibility, a sense of shame or any degree of self-respect when you’re working for Trump?

Speaking to Fox News after the Mueller report destroyed what was left of her reputation, Sanders worked her way through a few more fabrications. “Look, I acknowledged that I had a slip of the tongue when I used the word ‘countless’, but it’s not untrue,” she said.

That is some World Cup-quality lying. The single sentence includes at least three lies and there are only 21 words in it: an average of one lie for every seven words.

There was no acknowledgement of a slip of the tongue (lie No 1). It was no slip of the tongue (lie 2 No 2). And she stands by the lie with the weasel words of a double negative about its non-untruthfulness (lie No 3 and quite possibly No 4).

You don’t get to lie as well as that by chance or amateur skill. It takes dedication and effort on the training ground to make it look so easy and natural.

Which all makes the faux controversy about Michelle Wolf’s roasting of Sanders so very precious. Back in 2018, several otherwise sensible journalists rose nobly to defend Sanders after Wolf took apart the press secretary at the White House correspondents’ dinner.

“I actually really like Sarah,” Wolf said. “I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

Noble-minded reporters thought this was mightily rude of a professional comedian, mentioning Sanders’ makeup in the same breath as her mendacity.

But that was before Mueller revealed that Sanders lied to all of them shamelessly about the biggest news about Comey.

That was before she told them all the Trump administration was doing “everything in our capacity” to care for children arriving at the border, as news broke of several of them dying in US custody.

It was also before she brashly claimed the Trump administration had made a historic recovery effort in Puerto Rico, after experts said as many as 5,000 Americans died there in the botched recovery after Hurricane Maria.

Other long-serving press secretaries have traditionally gone on to lucrative jobs in the private sector as spokespeople for large corporations and consultants advising powerful CEOs. But who in their right mind would want to give a communications job to such a poor communicator with so little credibility?

Trump himself tweeted that she was returning to her home state of Arkansas, suggesting she should run for governor, just like her father.

This would be abnormal for a former press secretary, but there was nothing normal about Sanders. If you can’t make a living lying to the media in public relations, you may as well lie to them as a candidate for public office.

There’s a song that asks: “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?” But you were never really here, so that’s OK.

Comment: “Oh Sarah’s gone, but we won’t miss her

                  There will be one vacant chair.

                 She’s gone back to Daddy’s pig farm

                There to braid the donkey’s hair….


Golden escalator ride: the surreal day Trump kicked off his bid for president

On 16 June 2015, the then mogul announced his White House run. Four years on, reporters who covered that Trump Tower speech recall the lies and bombast that now define his presidency

June 14, 2019

by Adam Gabbatt in New York

The Guardian

Given everything that has happened in the past four years, it’s not a huge surprise to learn that the first words of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign were a lie.

Four years ago, on 16 June 2015, after Trump had slowly descended a golden escalator to the basement of his eponymous New York tower, he clambered on to a makeshift stage and began his announcement speech.

“Wow. Woah. That is some group of people. Thousands!” Trump said, looking out towards a bank of TV cameras.

Except that’s not how people who were there remember it.

“There were a few dozen people lining the area leading down to the escalator, and then there were a couple dozen downstairs where the event actually took place,” said Alana Wise, who covered the campaign launch for Reuters news agency.

“That kind of frenetic energy that we got later on,” Wise said, “it just wasn’t there.”

Trump’s misinterpretation of the number of attendees kicked off what would be a surreal afternoon, as the businessman set off on an offensive, angry speech, the nadir of which saw Trump accuse Mexico of sending “rapists” to the US.

The rhetoric worked: he was soon at the top of the Republican polls. But it’s a sign of how Trump’s candidacy was viewed that covering his campaign wasn’t seen as a particularly senior gig.

Wise said: “I was an intern at Reuters at the time. It was one of my first assignments out of the office.”

In the days following Trump’s announcement, it emerged that the Trump campaign had paid people $50 to attend the event. “We are looking to cast people for the event to wear T-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” read the casting call. Wise, now a reporting fellow for WAMU radio’s Guns and America project, remembers it being an unusual audience.

“There were some people who lived in the building who had come down, and then there were just a lot of people just kind of from off the street who had come in to see it,” she said. “There was a lot of just random curiosity happening.”

Charlotte Alter was far from a veteran political correspondent when she covered Trump’s launch. In 2015 she was a junior reporter for Time magazine, keen to get involved in coverage of the presidential election.

“I, at the time, was a very junior reporter and I was based in New York. So in some ways sending me was … they were kind of throwing me a bone, I think.”

At Trump’s later campaign rallies he would play music by the Rolling Stones, Queen and Neil Young – each of whom asked him to stop doing so. But at the campaign launch, he took a different tack. Alter, who co-wrote Time’s story with then political correspondent Alex Altman, remembers The Music of the Night, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, being blasted on repeat while journalists waited for Trump’s descent.

Before the speech, Trump’s fledgling campaign staff had circulated planned remarks, Alter said, but Trump quickly went off script.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said, as he claimed the country was dispatching immigrants to the US. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump was best known internationally for his hair, TV show, and proclaimed wealth. In the US, however, he had been waging what many saw as a racist “birther” campaign against Barack Obama for years, falsely claiming the then president had been born in Kenya. But even for close Trump watchers, the speech represented new extremes.

“I don’t think anybody came away from that announcement thinking he was going to be the next president. But it was clear immediately afterwards that his talent for getting attention was going to serve him well,” Alter said.

For Heather Haddon, then a political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, one of the surprises was that Trump had finally done it. The president likes to insist that 2016 was the first time he had run for office, but as far back as 1988 he had flirted with running, and he ran for the Reform party nomination in 1999.

“Definitely the sense was … there’s no way this guy is going to make it,” Haddon said.

As for the event itself, Haddon remembers there being an “almost pro-wrestling” tone to the announcement.

“It was angry but it was also so matter-of-fact,” said Haddon, who now covers business at the Journal. “It just seemed so stream-of-consciousness. Going from one topic to another, things that might, I guess, excite people, set people off. It was all just sort of spewed out there.”

The speech set a precedent for the freewheeling addresses Trump made throughout his campaign, and has continued to make in the White House.

“I think everyone just left there shocked,” Haddon said.

The Guardian dispatched business reporter Rupert Neate to Trump Tower. Neate, who is British, remembers that colleagues at the time didn’t think it was “particularly a big deal”, but recalls then being stunned by the content of Trump’s speech.

“I thought, if it was Britain and someone was to come and say all those extreme things, you’d think it was sort of like a far-right, extreme-slash-jokey candidate, and there’s no chance he’s ever going to win this,” Neate said.

“But look how wrong that assumption would be.”

Trump is due to launch his re-election campaign Tuesday in Orlando. This time, there really will be thousands in attendance, but whether they will leave with as vivid memories as those who witnessed the 2015 launch remains to be seen.

Alter, now a national correspondent for Time, has written extensively about US politics in the past four years, but said she often thinks of that June afternoon in 2015.

“At the time – I don’t know if it’s still there – there was a Trump ice-cream parlor,” she said.

Behind the counter was a man who told Alter he was from Mexico. Alter didn’t use him in the story, she said, uncomfortable about whether it could affect his job or immigration status, but she had “thought a lot” about him since.

“This was the speech where Trump said the thing about Mexicans as rapists. And 40ft in front of him, behind all the cameras there is a guy from Mexico, almost certainly an undocumented immigrant, scooping ice cream for Trump banana splits, wearing a hat that says Trump ice cream on it,” Alter said.

“It was just so interesting to me that literally, you know, Trump is speaking to this crowd and there are all these cameras, and then behind the cameras, behind the crowd, in his line of vision, there’s this guy standing directly in front of him, who is a perfect example of all of the sort of contradictions at work in this campaign.”


In Court, Facebook Blames Users for Destroying Their Own Right to Privacy

June 14, 2019

by Sam Biddle

The Intercept

In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before members of both houses of Congress and told them his company respected the privacy of the roughly two billion people who use it. “Privacy” remained largely undefined throughout Zuckerberg’s televised flagellations, but he mentioned the concept more than two dozen times, including when he told the Senate’s Judiciary and Commerce committees, “We have a broader responsibility to protect people’s privacy even beyond” a consent decree from federal privacy regulators, and when he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “We believe that everyone around the world deserves good privacy controls.” A year later, Zuckerberg claimed in interviews and essays to have discovered the religion of personal privacy and vowed to rebuild the company in its image.

But only months after Zuckerberg first outlined his “privacy-focused vision for social networking” in a 3,000-word post on the social network he founded, his lawyers were explaining to a California judge that privacy on Facebook is nonexistent.

The courtroom debate, first reported by Law360, took place as Facebook tried to scuttle litigation from users upset that their personal data was shared without their knowledge with the consultancy Cambridge Analytica and later with advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign. The full transcript of the proceedings — which has been quoted from only briefly — reveal one of the most stunning examples of corporate doublespeak certainly in Facebook’s history.

Representing Facebook before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria was Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, who claimed that the plaintiffs’ charges of privacy invasion were invalid because Facebook users have no expectation of privacy on Facebook. The simple act of using Facebook, Snyder claimed, negated any user’s expectation of privacy:

There is no privacy interest, because by sharing with a hundred friends on a social media platform, which is an affirmative social act to publish, to disclose, to share ostensibly private information with a hundred people, you have just, under centuries of common law, under the judgment of Congress, under the SCA, negated any reasonable expectation of privacy.

An outside party can’t violate what you yourself destroyed, Snyder seemed to suggest. Snyder was emphatic in his description of Facebook as a sort of privacy anti-matter, going so far as to claim that “the social act of broadcasting your private information to 100 people negates, as a matter of law, any reasonable expectation of privacy.” You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more elegant, concise description of Facebook than “the social act of broadcasting your private information” to people. So not only is it Facebook’s legal position that you’re not entitled to any expectation of privacy, but it’s your fault that the expectation went poof the moment you started using the site (or at least once you connected with 100 Facebook “friends”).

Judge Chhabria was skeptical of Snyder’s privacy nonexistence argument at times, which he rejected as treating personal privacy as a binary, “like either you have a full expectation of privacy, or you have no expectation of privacy at all,” the judge put it at one point. Chhabria continued with a relatable hypothetical:

If I share [information] with ten people, that doesn’t eliminate my expectation of privacy. It might diminish it, but it doesn’t eliminate it. And if I share something with ten people on the understanding that the entity that is helping me share it will not further disseminate it to a thousand companies, I don’t understand why I don’t have — why that’s not a violation of my expectation of privacy.

Snyder responded with an incredible metaphor for how Facebook sees your use of its services — legally, at least:

Let me give you a hypothetical of my own. I go into a classroom and invite a hundred friends. This courtroom. I invite a hundred friends, I rent out the courtroom, and I have a party. And I disclose — And I disclose something private about myself to a hundred people, friends and colleagues. Those friends then rent out a 100,000-person arena, and they rebroadcast those to 100,000 people. I have no cause of action because by going to a hundred people and saying my private truths, I have negated any reasonable expectation of privacy, because the case law is clear.

And there it is, in broad daylight: Using Facebook is a depressing party taking place in a courtroom, for some reason, that’s being simultaneously broadcasted to a 100,000-person arena on a sort of time delay. If you show up at the party, don’t be mad when your photo winds up on the Jumbotron. That is literally the company’s legal position.

Again and again, Snyder blames the targets of surveillance capitalism for their own surveillance:

This is why every parent says to their child, “Do not post it on Facebook if you don’t want to read about it tomorrow morning in the school newspaper,” or, as I tell my young associates if I were going to be giving them an orientation, “Do not put anything on social media that you don’t want to read in the Law Journal in the morning.” There is no expectation of privacy when you go on a social media platform, the purpose of which, when you are set to friends, is to share and communicate things with a large group of people, a hundred people.

At one point Chhabria asked, seemingly unable to believe Snyder’s argument himself, “If Facebook promises not to disseminate anything that you send to your hundred friends, and Facebook breaks that promise and disseminates your photographs to a thousand corporations, that would not be a serious privacy invasion?

Snyder didn’t blink: “Facebook does not consider that to be actionable, as a matter of law under California law.”

Facebook’s counsel did seem to concede one possibility for the existence of privacy on Facebook: someone who uses Facebook completely contrary to the way it’s designed and to the way it has always been marketed. “If you really want to be private,” Snyder proposed to the court, “there are people who have archival Facebook pages that are like their own private mausoleum. It’s only set to [be visible by] me, and it’s for the purpose of repository, you know, of your private information, and no one will ever see that.” So these are your possible valid legal statuses as a Facebook user: You’re either plugged into the 100,0000-person perpetual surveillance Coachella or living in a digital “mausoleum.” But if you ever decide to fling open the doors of your private data crypt and, say, share a little content on Facebook with friends, as the company has been pushing us for the past 13 years, Snyder says you’re out of luck:

Once you go to friends, the gig is over because you’ve just gone — taken a hundred people and pronounced your personal likes and dislikes. In fact, the very act of liking something and showing your friends that you like something is a non-private act. It’s the whole premise of Facebook and social media, is to render not private your likes, your dislikes, your expressions. When I tag someone in a photo, it’s to tell people, not keep private, that I’m sitting on a park bench with John Smith. So it’s the opposite of private when you do that.

Facebook’s stance that if one truly wants to keep something private, they should keep it far from Facebook is odd — odder, still, given the fact that the company publishes an extremely detailed privacy policy, perhaps only meant for those huddling in private mausoleums where such a principle still exists.

“Facebook was built to bring people closer together,” reads the start of the company’s “Privacy Principles.” “We help you connect with friends and family, discover local events and find groups to join.” Not mentioned is that if you do any of that, it’s Facebook’s official opinion that you’ve “negated” your claim to any privacy whatsoever. The list of principles reads like a bad joke after studying Snyder’s courtroom theorizing: “We design privacy into our products from the outset” seems hard to reconcile with “Once you go to friends, the gig is over.” It’s similarly hard to take “We give you control of your privacy” seriously after hearing, through Snyder, that because Facebook users “shared the information … you’ve lost control over the information and its subsequent disclosure.”

So which is true, then? Are we to believe Orin Snyder when he says Facebook privacy is an oxymoron and that showing something to even a small group of friends completely forfeits your right to privacy, or Mark Zuckerberg when, this past March, he wrote, “We’ve worked hard to build privacy into all our products, including those for public sharing.” These statements can’t both be true, and yet they appear to originate from the same company, albeit from two separate sides of its mouth. Perhaps Snyder is right when he tells the judge that the litigation isn’t really about just Facebook, but rather, the “Complaint is really a Complaint about ubiquitous sharing on social media platforms. … They don’t like it because when you go on a social media platform and share your information with a hundred people, you’ve lost control. And that creates anxiety, and that creates concern.” It will be interesting to watch Facebook confront this public dread in multiple ways at once, as if originating in completely different dimensions, apologizing for their misdeeds in media tours while denying any wrongdoing in the relative privacy of court.

Neither Facebook nor Orin Snyder responded to a request for comment. Plaintiff’s counsel declined to comment.

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Jeanna Reed

Hardly a mover or shaker in the antivaccine autism quackery movement, Jeanna Reed primarily came to our attention through her role in the tragic tale (murder) of Alex Spourdalakis. Reed is affiliated with – or runs, we are not sure – Autism is Medical, an autism biomed quackery group with a website full of familiar antivaccine and autism biomed nonsense, include sections on mitochondrial disorders and banners asking if autism is vaccine injury. It demonstrably is not.

And the Spourdalakis connection? It is admittedly not entirely clear, but it seems very likely that Alex Spourdalakis’s mother was subjecting him to autism biomed quackery on the advice of Reed, causing horrible suffering. Reed is apparently convinced that autism is caused by underlying physical conditions (bowel disease, mitochondrial dysfunction and/or “autistic enterocolitis”, a non-existent condition introduced by Andrew Wakefield and Arthur Krigsman), which is false, and it seems like she may have fooled Alex’s mother into thinking that following various quack treatments would remedy her son’s condition. Of course they wouldn’t. Reed is, in that case, to a large extent, to blame for the subsequent murder of Alex Spourdalakis. The antivaccine movement admittedly spun the story somewhat differently.

Diagnosis: A ghastly excuse for a human being. Oh, we are convinced that she thinks she is helping, but she isn’t, and has long since crossed the line where stupidity becomes indistinguishable from malice.

Barbara Weber Ray

Barbara Weber Ray is a psychic, astrologer and Latin teacher, and the author of The ‘Reiki’ Factor in The Radiance Technique, which describes her version of the Eastern faith healing discipline Reiki, The Radiance Technique® (or TRT). As an astrologer, she is apparently “professional” and “licensed”, whatever that might mean. Now, Ray apparently really has a PhD, in the humanities, but switched to practicing clairvoyance in the early 70s and used, when she for instance also had a radio show called “Star-Talk” to spread her nonsense.

Reiki, of course, demonstrably has no beneficial health effects. Her book on the topic, which is notably riddled with quotes by real scientists that have been either judiciously mined, are completely irrelevant to the context, or fake, describes what she perceives to be the history of Reiki (which is not the actual history, since the actual history is too mundane for her agenda), describes how people attuned to cosmic energies (i.e. subtle energies can go on to use TRT, contains a large number of anecdotes and testimonials (many of them are discussed here; they are quite ridiculous), as well as some appendices with quotes and an FAQ that doesn’t really deal with any of the more obvious questions. Among the quotes you will find the “truth goes through three stages” fake quote attributed to Schopenhauer (the relevant Schopenhauer passage actually says more or less the opposite of what promoters of the quote think he says) favored by self-aggrandizing Galileo gambit promoters everywhere. It is not the only fake quote in the book.

There is a decent review of the book here. Among the book’s themes is the idea that just as we have food diets now, humans will go on light diets (attributed to John Ott), which Ray compares to what she characterizes as the Light diet ostensibly provided by Reiki (“Light” doesn’t mean light, of course, any more than “energy” in Ray’s book means energy– subtle energy is not energy – but spirit-ether), which people need because people are apparently made both of Light and matter.

Apparently reiki is a really old technique. In reality, it was invented by Mikao Usui in 1922, but many proponents claim that he only rediscovered it, since being older is better and many proponents have anyways already decided that what they want to be true, is true. According to Ray, knowledge of TRT was orally transmitted for centuries in Asia, but she is the only scholar able to recognize ancient descriptions of the method for what they really are. Apparently reiki originated with extraterrestrial aliens.

Of course, we are just scratching the surface. Did you know that E = MC2 is a tool for activating energy? Or that Ray’s TRT will play a very important role in the dawning of the “New Age”? Neither did we. Nor, for that matter, does Ray. TRT is listed here.

Diagnosis: The kind garbled fluffy insanity that certain audiences just gobble up, Ray’s lunacy has apparently received a modicum of popularity, which does not reflect well on humanity. Complete and utter rubbish.

David Reaboi

David Reaboi is a wingnut, founder and senior vice president of the think tank Security Studies Group (SSG) and previously spokesperson for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conspiratory-minded rightwing group focusing for instance on the myth of creeping sharia. The CSP has tried to prop up that myth with a study called “Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases”, which is – considered as a study– as fraudulent as you get them. It was even pimped by the WND for months: that’s how ridiculous it was. The study ostensibly outlined numerous cases in which the Islamic system of law has been applied in the US. However, anyone bothering to actually look at the cases used would note that every single example in the report in fact shows the opposite of what the authors conclude that they show (“Shariah enters U.S. courts through the practice of comity to foreign law,” Reaboi explained, which “happens, for example, when a judge decides to allow the use of say, Pakistani or Saudi family law (Shariah) in a dispute between Pakistanis or Saudis”); instead, the cases involved the courts refusingto impose laws from Muslim countries (some details here). However, what matters to people like Reaboi is that the cases involved an Arab or a Muslim; thatis what it takes for it to be a case of the courts imposing Sharia law.

Otherwise, Reaboi seems to have been very concerned about what he perceived to be Obama’s sharia sympathies and “the infiltration of the conservative movement” by GOP figures who have suggested that Islamophobia is real. He was also a diligent pusher of various and increasingly insane Huma Abedin conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, SSG’s social media director, Nick Short, wrote about “the sheer amount of money being allocated by Congress to fund what is essentially an invasion of the third-world in the form of refugees and illegal aliens [which] is outright treasonous,” and SSG’s president Jim Hanson described the Orlando shooting as “in keeping with totalitarian Islamic code” and suggested that a homemade clock brought to a school by a 14-year-old American Muslim “was half a bomb.” (What else would a Muslim use a clock for?)

The CSP, on the other hand, is of course the group founded by Frank Gaffney, who has claimed that Obama is a Muslim and that Gen. David Petraeus submitted to Islamic Sharia law.

Oh, and in 2017 Reaboi and his group were apparently – at least according to the group – advising the White House on the dispute between Qatar and other U.S. partner nations in the Persian Gulf. It really should worry you that not only they, but the White House, think that they are remotely competent to say anything meaningful about the topic.

Diagnosis: Though the topic concerns issues that are partially outside of what we usually cover, the case in question is such a striking case of paranoia-fuelled fraud (without recognizing it as such) that it would be negligent not to call it out. You probably shouldn’t trust a single word that comes out of David Reaboi’s mouth about anything.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

June 14, 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. 87

Date: Sunday, June 15, 1997

Commenced: 11:20 AM CST

Concluded: 11:45 AM CST


GD: Well, and a happy Father’s Day to you, Robert, although you aren’t my father.

RTC: Yes, Greg and his people will be coming by later but we have time for a little chat. If they come, I’ll have to get off but people are always about an hour late these days.

GD: You must be lucky. People tell me they will call me back in a few minutes but it takes about a week. Of course the usual apologies about dinosaurs trampling around in their petunia beds or the sad fact that Grandmamma was attacked by a rabid lemur while in church. Otherwise, they would have gotten back to me sooner. I always tell them that this or that important person wanted to talk with them and I am so sorry they missed them or that I had found a buyer for their house but he got another place in the meantime. People are so rude these days. If you promise them something, you’d better come through but if they promise you something, forget about it. Unless, of course, it suits them to do something. And I get swamped by wrong numbers and often by bill collectors. I love to mess with their tiny minds. If come old lady calls at two in the morning,  looking for Maudy Mae, I tell them, in sadness, that Maudy passed last night and the viewing will be tomorrow. Or other such like. When bill collectors call for me, I put on a Slavic accent and tell them that this is a new phone number and I don’t know who they are talking about.

RTC: (Laughter) You are such a creative trouble-maker, Gregory.

GD: Well, they have it coming. Or telling some man who calls for Alice that she is up with a customer and I’ll have her call him back when she’s done.

RTC: (Laughter) Nasty.

GD: Oh, yes, but I do enjoy my fun. I don’t initiate bothering people but they had best not bother me.

RTC: Your antics must amuse the people who listen in on you.

GD: Yes, that’s no surprise. Do they listen to you, Robert?

RTC: No, they wouldn’t dare.

GD: But if they listen to me and I am talking to you, what then?

RTC: They shut down their system. At least until we stop talking. Of course they are concerned about my talking to you. I know that because I have been repeatedly warned against talking to you. You, Gregory, are a loose cannon and someone who not only does not respect our system but actively works against some of it. You gave Kimmel some very valuable documents that would materially assist his family in their quest to rehabilitate the reputation of Admiral Kimmel but Tom is not going to ever use them or allow them to be used by his family because if it ever became public that these came from you and that you got them from our friend Müller, the head of the Gestapo and a later Georgetown resident, all hell would break loose. Loyalty to his job takes precedence over loyalty to his family. No, Gregory, take it for granted that a close eye is kept on you at all times. They want to know what you have, where it is and what you plan to do with it.

GD: Yes, none of this surprises me but what is astonishing to me is how utterly stupid and predictable all of their approaches are. I mean we pay their salaries and for the money they get, they are a bunch of stupid sheep.

RTC: Unkind but no doubt true. But still, I caution you against saying anything on the phone about documents from Müller or myself, about what they might contain or, and most important, where you have them. We all know what you will eventually do with them but the first concepts are the most important. If they find out what you have, the next step is to either con you out of them or simply do a black bag job on them by breaking in and removing them. And if you leave home for any period of time, if you have incriminating or dangerous material on your computer  hard drive, take it with you or remove it from your home computer and hide it in a safe place.

GD: Now we have good advise. I assume they’ll get to my publisher and convince him to find other subjects and authors to deal with.

RTC: Oh yes, and perhaps they will assist him with sales by making his books prominent in various government-owned book shops. You know how it goes. We all think, Gregory, that there are three basic branches of government here. The executive, the legislative and the judicial. Correct?

GD: Yes, we all learned that in school, along with reams of useless propaganda.

RTC: But there is a fourth branch of our government, Gregory, one I am personally well acquainted with. I would call it the Power Elite after the Mills book. And they, not the first three, run this country. This Elite is comprised of big business like the automotive companies, the big banks and other private financial institutions like the Federal Reserve and, of course, the insurance business. Yes, the insurance business. The biggest casino in the world. Everything with them is betting. They bet you’ll live past a certain age and further enrich them with premium payments. They bet you won’t drive your car into the back of a school bus and further enrich them with premium payments. Now, some people think the media is part and parcel of this but I assure you, our media works for the Power Elite. Cross them and the vital advertising is cut off and the paper collapses. Cross them and the unions suddenly strike the paper or the price of their paper goes way up. Oh yes, the media are servants of the middle level.

GD: I have always had trouble with the insurance people. I made the mistake of using Allstate….

RTC: Jesus, you poor fellow.

GD: Oh yes, I know. Do they pay out? No, they use every excuse to avoid any payment. Your family was staying in a motel until the renovators had finished rewiring their insured house? The house caught fire? Too bad, dudes, Allstate said, you weren’t living in the house when it caught fire so we don’t pay. A real case, in Wisconsin as I recall. The courts didn’t see it Allstate’s way so after long and expensive litigation, Allstate had to pay. My lawyer hates them and has compiled a thick file of such crap. I assume the others are just as bad.

RTC: Not all of them so blatant but if you have health insurance and get cancer, they call it a pre existing condition and cancel you right in the middle of chemotherapy and you die. Too bad but they take comfort in all the money they saved.

GD: But how do these crooks, these bribe merchants, stay in power?

RTC: They have people like the CIA on their side, of course. And the NSA and the FBI. These people, and I know this from the inside, help the Power Elite stay in power by spying on their enemies, actual and possible, to warn them of danger and to avert it by destroying or neutralizing it. And there are benefits. Say that Company A is one of our boys. We, or the NSA or whatever, spies on Companies B and C, the big rivals of A and when we learn secrets that could benefit A, we quickly pass it back to them. They, in turn, write checks that can be so comforting on cold nights. And all of this applies to the stock market, often rigged by boom and bust cycles, who also pay like slot machines. No, Gregory, the conspiracy people like to take the crumbs we throw out and worry the bone of the Kennedy assassination or the sinking of the Maine while other, more serious, matters go ignored. I was the liaison between the Company and big business and I know very well whereof I speak. The murder of Allende is nothing compared with the enormity of the greed and corruption that saddles everyone in the country but Congressmen and preachers And the burden gets heavier by the day. They spy on all of you, to keep order, to prevent disorder, to discredit enemies, to steal money, to punish people like you. Yes, all of this. The NSA watches everyone in this country. If you make a phone call to your cousin in England, they NSA listens in. If you get a money transfer from a Swiss bank, they know about it before your bank does. If you take a trip to France to take in the sights, they know the flight numbers, the hotels and the car rentals. Go to Switzerland, and they know what you put into a bank account. Go to the local library and check out a book they don’t like and they know about it. Buy a car, rent a car, buy a house, rent a house and they can find out about it in seconds if they want to. They have direct contact and full cooperation with all the major credit agencies. They all swap information of all of you so every credit card purchase, every deposit or withdrawal, every overdue card payment, all of this they can find out in seconds. And they want, and will eventually get, more and more power until the public is sucked dry like a school child attending a convocation of vampires. They are very powerful Gregory, but so huge and so all encompassing that no one without inside information on them would ever believe any of it.

GD: Robert, since you were in with these people, do you have any supportive documents on this?

RTC: A footlocker full. Trento is far more interested in this than he is in the trivia like the revolution in Iran or our part in the killing of the Diem brothers. I am safe but you are not. Joe is safe because if he ever got his hands on any of this, believe that Langley would have the originals, uncopied, on the day he got them.

GD: And the pat on the pointy head?

RTC: And the pat on the pointy head and, don’t forget, the Presentation Pen Set. They love those pen sets.

GD: With such baubles men are led. Napoleon said that about the Legion of Honor.

RTC: I think the pen sets cost about twenty dollars each but my, what they can buy, Gregory. Such loyalty and, more important, such service.

GD: But such systems fall of their own hubris and their own weight. They fall, Robert, and great will be the fall thereof.

RT: Not on my watch, Gregory, not on mine. I served and got my rewards and now I am awaiting a not unexpected but hopefully natural death. I have my memories.

GD: And you also have your documents, Robert.

RTC: Yes, I do. Well, if Trento gets the really important ones, they will be accompanied by the Divine Plato on a one way trip to Langley and the burn bags. Plato gets jobs but Joe gets the pen set.

GD: Rather than go on about Müller, I think I would rather nut the Power Elite. Müller is dead but all of the rest of them ought to be either dead, or serving life sentences in a Mohave Desert work camp.

RTC: And if they went, they would be replaced by a legion of others just waiting in the wings, wetting their panties in anticipation.

GD: Of the spoils of peace.

RTC: No, of war against everyone else.


(Concluded at 11:45 AM CST)







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