TBR News June 6, 2019

Jun 06 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. June 5, 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 6:”There has been much talk about Russia helping Trump get elected and he willingly joined the Putin people. What really transpired is that Russian mobsters recruited Trump as a piece of the money laundering business and once he bit and got hooked, the Russian intelligence moved in and blackmailed him. There is an official German law enforcement report, very lengthy and detailed,about the crooked dealings at the CIA-influenced Deutsche Bank. Trump is mentioned in eight places as being someone who is cooperating, willingly, with the money laundering people. The report is very detailed and Trump is only one of a number of suckers who got trapped. If it ever sees the light of day, I predict he will either resign to spend more time with his family or get indicted and tossed out of the Oval Office.”


The Table of Contents

  • ‘Socialism for the rich’: the evils of bad economics
  • Trump’s Mexican tariffs could hit U.S. refiners, add to fuel costs
  • Progressives want the must-pass defense budget to tie Trump’s hands with Saudi Arabia
  • Why Trump’s strategy against Iran is likely to fail
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • TWA Flight 800: The Gathering of the Nuts


‘Socialism for the rich’: the evils of bad economics

The economic arguments adopted by Britain and the US in the 1980s led to vastly increased inequality – and gave the false impression that this outcome was not only inevitable, but good.

June 6, 2019

by Jonathan Aldred

The Guardian

In most rich countries, inequality is rising, and has been rising for some time. Many people believe this is a problem, but, equally, many think there’s not much we can do about it. After all, the argument goes, globalisation and new technology have created an economy in which those with highly valued skills or talents can earn huge rewards. Inequality inevitably rises. Attempting to reduce inequality via redistributive taxation is likely to fail because the global elite can easily hide their money in tax havens. Insofar as increased taxation does hit the rich, it will deter wealth creation, so we all end up poorer.

One strange thing about these arguments, whatever their merits, is how they stand in stark contrast to the economic orthodoxy that existed from roughly 1945 until 1980, which held that rising inequality was not inevitable, and that various government policies could reduce it. What’s more, these policies appear to have been successful. Inequality fell in most countries from the 1940s to the 1970s. The inequality we see today is largely due to changes since 1980.

In both the US and the UK, from 1980 to 2016, the share of total income going to the top 1% has more than doubled. After allowing for inflation, the earnings of the bottom 90% in the US and UK have barely risen at all over the past 25 years. More generally, 50 years ago, a US CEO earned on average about 20 times as much as the typical worker. Today, the CEO earns 354 times as much.

Any argument that rising inequality is largely inevitable in our globalised economy faces a crucial objection. Since 1980 some countries have experienced a big increase in inequality (the US and the UK); some have seen a much smaller increase (Canada, Japan, Italy), while inequality has been stable or falling in others (France, Belgium and Hungary). So rising inequality cannot be inevitable. And the extent of inequality within a country cannot be solely determined by long-run global economic forces, because, although most richer countries have been subject to broadly similar forces, the experiences of inequality have differed.

The familiar political explanation for this rising inequality is the huge shift in mainstream economic and political thinking, in favour of free markets, triggered by the elections of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Its fit with the facts is undeniable. Across developed economies, the biggest rise in inequality since 1945 occurred in the US and UK from 1980 onwards.

The power of a grand political transformation seems persuasive. But it cannot be the whole explanation. It is too top-down: it is all about what politicians and other elites do to us. The idea that rising inequality is inevitable begins to look like a convenient myth, one that allows us to avoid thinking about another possibility: that through our electoral choices and decisions in daily life we have supported rising inequality, or at least acquiesced in it. Admittedly, that assumes we know about it. Surveys in the UK and US consistently suggest that we underestimate both the level of current inequality and how much it has recently increased. But ignorance cannot be a complete excuse, because surveys also reveal a change in attitudes: rising inequality has become more acceptable – or at least, less unacceptable – especially if you are not on the wrong end of it.

Inequality is unlikely to fall much in the future unless our attitudes turn unequivocally against it. Among other things, we will need to accept that how much people earn in the market is often not what they deserve, and that the tax they pay is not taking from what is rightfully theirs.

One crucial reason why we have done so little to reduce inequality in recent years is that we downplay the role of luck in achieving success. Parents teach their children that almost all goals are attainable if you try hard enough. This is a lie, but there is a good excuse for it: unless you try your best, many goals will definitely remain unreachable.

Ignoring the good luck behind my success helps me feel good about myself, and makes it much easier to feel I deserve the rewards associated with success. High earners may truly believe that they deserve their income because they are vividly aware of how hard they have worked and the obstacles they have had to overcome to be successful.

But this is not true everywhere. Support for the idea that you deserve what you get varies from country to country. And in fact, support for such beliefs is stronger in countries where there seems to be stronger evidence that contradicts them. What explains this?

Attitude surveys have consistently shown that, compared to US residents, Europeans are roughly twice as likely to believe that luck is the main determinant of income and that the poor are trapped in poverty. Similarly, people in the US are about twice as likely as Europeans to believe that the poor are lazy and that hard work leads to higher quality of life in the long run.

Yet in fact, the poor (the bottom 20%) work roughly the same total annual hours in the US and Europe. And economic opportunity and intergenerational mobility is more limited in the US than in Europe. The US intergenerational mobility statistics bear a striking resemblance to those for height: US children born to poor parents are as likely to be poor as those born to tall parents are likely to be tall. And research has repeatedly shown that many people in the US don’t know this: perceptions of social mobility are consistently over-optimistic.

European countries have, on average, more redistributive tax systems and more welfare benefits for the poor than the US, and therefore less inequality, after taxes and benefits. Many people see this outcome as a reflection of the different values that shape US and European societies. But cause-and-effect may run the other way: you-deserve-what-you-get beliefs are strengthened by inequality.

Psychologists have shown that people have motivated beliefs: beliefs that they have chosen to hold because those beliefs meet a psychological need. Now, being poor in the US is extremely tough, given the meagre welfare benefits and high levels of post-tax inequality. So Americans have a greater need than Europeans to believe that you deserve what you get and you get what you deserve. These beliefs play a powerful role in motivating yourself and your children to work as hard as possible to avoid poverty. And these beliefs can help alleviate the guilt involved in ignoring a homeless person begging on your street.

This is not just a US issue. Britain is an outlier within Europe, with relatively high inequality and low economic and social mobility. Its recent history fits the cause-and-effect relationship here. Following the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, inequality rose significantly. After inequality rose, British attitudes changed. More people became convinced that generous welfare benefits make poor people lazy and that high salaries are essential to motivate talented people. However, intergenerational mobility fell: your income in Britain today is closely correlated with your parents’ income.

If the American Dream and other narratives about everyone having a chance to be rich were true, we would expect the opposite relationship: high inequality (is fair because of) high intergenerational mobility. Instead, we see a very different narrative: people cope with high inequality by convincing themselves it is fair after all. We adopt narratives to justify inequality because society is highly unequal, not the other way round. So inequality may be self-perpetuating in a surprising way. Rather than resist and revolt, we just cope with it. Less Communist Manifesto, more self-help manual.

Inequality begets further inequality. As the top 1% grow richer, they have more incentive and more ability to enrich themselves further. They exert more and more influence on politics, from election-campaign funding to lobbying over particular rules and regulations. The result is a stream of policies that help them but are inefficient and wasteful. Leftwing critics have called it “socialism for the rich”. Even the billionaire investor Warren Buffett seems to agree: “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won,” he once said.

This process has been most devastating when it comes to tax. High earners have most to gain from income tax cuts, and more spare cash to lobby politicians for these cuts. Once tax cuts are secured, high earners have an even stronger incentive to seek pay rises, because they keep a greater proportion of after-tax pay. And so on.

Although there have been cuts in the top rate of income tax across almost all developed economies since 1979, it was the UK and the US that were first, and that went furthest. In 1979, Thatcher cut the UK’s top rate from 83% to 60%, with a further reduction to 40% in 1988. Reagan cut the top US rate from 70% in 1981 to 28% in 1986. Although top rates today are slightly higher – 37% in the US and 45% in the UK – the numbers are worth mentioning because they are strikingly lower than in the post-second-world-war period, when top tax rates averaged 75% in the US and were even higher in the UK.

Some elements of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution in economic policy, such as Milton Friedman’s monetarist macroeconomics, have subsequently been abandoned. But the key policy idea to come out of microeconomics has become so widely accepted today that it has acquired the status of common sense: that tax discourages economic activity and, in particular, income tax discourages work.

This doctrine seemingly transformed public debate about taxation from an endless argument over who gets what, to the promise of a bright and prosperous future for all. The “for all” bit was crucial: no more winners and losers. Just winners. And the basic ideas were simple enough to fit on the back of a napkin.

One evening in December 1974, a group of ambitious young conservatives met for dinner at the Two Continents restaurant in Washington DC. The group included the Chicago University economist Arthur Laffer, Donald Rumsfeld (then chief of staff to President Gerald Ford), and Dick Cheney (then Rumsfeld’s deputy, and a former Yale classmate of Laffer’s).

While discussing Ford’s recent tax increases, Laffer pointed out that, like a 0% income tax rate, a 100% rate would raise no revenue because no one would bother working. Logically, there must be some tax rate between these two extremes that would maximise tax revenue. Although Laffer does not remember doing so, he apparently grabbed a napkin and drew a curve on it, representing the relationship between tax rates and revenues. The Laffer curve was born and, with it, the idea of trickle-down economics.

The key implication that impressed Rumsfeld and Cheney was that, just as tax rates lower than 100% must raise more revenue, cuts in income tax rates more generally could raise revenue. In other words, there could be winners, and no losers, from tax cuts. But could does not mean will. No empirical evidence was produced in support of the mere logical possibility that tax cuts could raise revenue, and even the economists employed by the incoming Reagan administration six years later struggled to find any evidence in support of the idea.

Yet it proved irresistible to Reagan, the perennial optimist, who essentially overruled his expert advisers, convinced that the “entrepreneurial spirit unleashed by the new tax cuts would surely bring in more revenue than his experts imagined”, as the historian Daniel T Rodgers put it. (If this potent brew of populist optimism and impatience with economic experts seems familiar today, that might be explained in part by the fact that Laffer was also a campaign adviser to Donald Trump.)

For income tax cuts to raise tax revenue, the prospect of higher after-tax pay must motivate people to work more. The resulting increase in GDP and income may be enough to generate higher tax revenues, even though the tax rate itself has fallen. Although the effects of the big Reagan tax cuts are still disputed (mainly because of disagreement over how the US economy would have performed without the cuts), even those sympathetic to trickle-down economics conceded that the cuts had negligible impact on GDP – and certainly not enough to outweigh the negative effect of the cuts on tax revenues.

But the Laffer curve did remind economists that a revenue-maximising top tax rate somewhere between 0% and 100% must exist. Finding the magic number is another matter: the search continues today. It is worth a brief dig into this research, not least because it is regularly used to veto attempts to reduce inequality by raising tax on the rich. In 2013, for example, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne reduced the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%, arguing Laffer-style that the tax cut would lead to little, if any, loss of revenue. Osborne’s argument relied on economic analysis suggesting that the revenue-maximising top tax rate for the UK is about 40%.

Yet the assumptions behind this number are shaky, as most economists involved in producing such figures acknowledge. Let’s begin with the underlying idea: if lower tax rates raise your after-tax pay, you are motivated to work more. It seems plausible enough but, in practice, the effects are likely to be minimal. If income tax falls, many of us cannot work more, even if we wanted to. There is little opportunity to get paid overtime, or otherwise increase our paid working hours, and working harder during current working hours does not lead to higher pay. Even for those who have these opportunities, it is far from clear that they will work more or harder. They may even decide to work less: since after-tax pay has risen, they can choose to work fewer hours and still maintain their previous income level. So the popular presumption that income tax cuts must lead to more work and productive economic activity turns out to have little basis in either common sense or economic theory.

There are deeper difficulties with Osborne’s argument, difficulties not widely known even among economists. It is often assumed that if the top 1% is incentivised by income tax cuts to earn more, those higher earnings reflect an increase in productive economic activity. In other words, the pie gets bigger. But some economists, including the influential Thomas Piketty, have shown this was not true for CEOs and other top corporate managers following the tax cuts in the 1980s. Instead, they essentially funded their own pay rises by paying shareholders less, which led in turn to lower dividend tax revenue for the government. In fact, Piketty and colleagues have argued that the revenue-maximising top income tax rate may be as high as 83%.

The income tax cuts for the rich of the past 40 years were originally justified by economic arguments: Laffer’s rhetoric was seized upon by politicians. But to economists, his ideas were both familiar and trivial. Modern economics provides neither theory nor evidence proving the merit of these tax cuts. Both are ambiguous. Although politicians can ignore this truth for a while, it suggests that widespread opposition to higher taxes on the rich is ultimately based on reasons beyond economics.

When the top UK income tax rate was raised to 50% in 2009 (until Osborne cut it to 45% four years later) the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of Britain’s wealthiest people, responded bluntly: “The last thing we need is a Somali pirate-style raid on the few wealth creators who still dare to navigate Britain’s gale-force waters.” In the US, Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of private equity firm Blackstone, likened proposals to remove a specialised tax exemption to the German invasion of Poland.

While we may scoff at these moans from the super-rich, most people unthinkingly accept the fundamental idea behind them: that income tax is a kind of theft, taking income which is rightfully owned by the person who earned it. It follows that tax is, at best, a necessary evil, and so should be minimised as far as possible. On these grounds, the 83% top tax rate discussed by Piketty is seen as unacceptable.

There is an entire cultural ecosystem that has evolved around the idea of tax-as-theft, recognisable today in politicians’ talk about “spending taxpayers’ money”, or campaigners celebrating “tax freedom day”. This language exists outside the world of politics, too. Tax economists, accountants and lawyers refer to the so-called “tax burden”.

But the idea that you somehow own your pre-tax income, while obvious, is false. To begin with, you could never have ownership rights prior to, or independent from, taxation. Ownership is a legal right. Laws require various institutions, including police and a legal system, to function. These institutions are financed through taxation. The tax and the ownership rights are effectively created simultaneously. We cannot have one without the other.

However, if the only function of the state is to support private ownership rights (maintaining a legal system, police, and so on), it seems that taxation could be very low – and any further taxation on top could still be seen as a form of theft. Implicit in this view is the idea of incomes earned, and so ownership rights created, in an entirely private market economy, with the state entering only later, to ensure these rights are maintained. Many economics textbooks picture the state in this way, as an add-on to the market. Yet this, too, is a fantasy.

In the modern world, all economic activity reflects the influence of government. Markets are inevitably defined and shaped by government. There is no such thing as income earned before government comes along. My earnings partly reflect my education. Earlier still, the circumstances of my birth and my subsequent health reflects the healthcare available. Even if that healthcare is entirely “private”, it depends on the education of doctors and nurses, and the drugs and other technologies available. Like all other goods and services, these in turn depend on the economic and social infrastructure, including transport networks, communications systems, energy supplies and extensive legal arrangements covering complex matters such as intellectual property, formal markets such as stock exchanges, and jurisdiction across national borders. Lord Lloyd-Webber’s wealth depends on government decisions about the length of copyright on the music he wrote. In sum, it is impossible to isolate what is “yours” from what is made possible, or influenced, by the role of government.

Talk of taxation as theft turns out to be a variation on the egotistical tendency to see one’s success in splendid isolation, ignoring the contribution of past generations, current colleagues and government. Undervaluing the role of government leads to the belief that if you are smart and hard-working, the high taxes you endure, paying for often wasteful government, are not a good deal. You would be better off in a minimal-state, low-tax society.

One reply to this challenge points to the evidence on the rich leaving their home country to move to a lower tax jurisdiction: in fact, very few of them do. But here is a more ambitious reply from Warren Buffett: “Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb … And the genie says to them: ‘One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be born in the United States?’ … The people who say: ‘I did it all myself’ … believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh.”

Much of the inequality we see today in richer countries is more down to decisions made by governments than to irreversible market forces. These decisions can be changed. However, we have to want to control inequality: we must make inequality reduction a central aim of government policy and wider society. The most entrenched, self-deluding and self-perpetuating justifications for inequality are about morality, not economy. The great economist John Kenneth Galbraith nicely summarised the problem: “One of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy … is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor.”


Trump’s Mexican tariffs could hit U.S. refiners, add to fuel costs

May 31, 2019

by Collin Eaton


HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to tax Mexican imports could disrupt a long-standing cross-border energy trade, hitting U.S. consumers and refiners that use Mexican oil by boosting prices, and raising concerns about potential retaliation by the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. energy products.

Mexico sends 600,000 to 700,000 barrels of oil to the United States every day, mostly to refiners that process that crude into gasoline, diesel and other products.

Mexico buys more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of U.S. crude and fuel, more than any other country, and analysts are concerned that retaliatory tariffs from Mexico could disrupt that trade.

“I can’t see how the outcomes are going to be constructive,” said Carlos Pascual, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico who now helps run consultancy IHS Markit’s global energy business

Trump on Thursday vowed to impose a tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, starting at 5% and increasing monthly until the surge of undocumented immigrants from across the border subsides.

Mexico and the United States, along with Canada, are trying to finish a broad free-trade agreement to replace the 25-year-old NAFTA deal. If implemented, the tariffs would begin June 10. So far Mexico has not said it would retaliate.

The imposition of tariffs may spur “retaliatory actions that impair the development of new markets,” said a spokesman for Chevron Corp, adding the company supports free and fair trade. Chevron has opened 100 retail gasoline stores in Mexico since 2017.

Trade group American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers warned tariffs could raise domestic fuel prices and jeopardize the proposed trade deal. The American Petroleum Institute said the tax could hurt the U.S. economy.

Tariffs could add $2 million to the cost of daily Mexican crude purchases by U.S. refiners, analysts at PVM Oil Associates said.

A sharp decline in supplies from Mexico could raise the cost of fuels overall if U.S. refiners are forced to buy heavier crude grades from further away, adding to shipping costs.

“The Trump administration is putting itself into a situation where it could create a much tighter heavy crude market that could impact the price of gasoline and force refiners to adjust their product slates due to shortages,” said IHS’s Pascual.

However, crude traders noted that most Gulf Coast refiners that buy Mexican crude are located in so-called Foreign Trade Zones, which allow them to avoid tariffs so long as the refined products are exported – though these refiners also supply U.S. markets.

Refiners have been using Mexican heavy crude grades in part to offset the loss of barrels from Venezuela, which has been under U.S. sanctions for months.

Maya crude, Mexico’s primary grade, traded at a $6 a barrel discount to Brent,the international benchmark, on Thursday, according to analysts at Tudor, Pickering & Holt (TPH). They said a 5% tariff would reduce that discount by half.

Discounts on Friday for Western Canadian Select, a rival grade to Maya, was bid at a $16 a barrel discount to U.S. crude, narrowed from $16.60 on Thursday, traders said.

The primary importers of Mexican crude include refineries owned by Valero Energy Corp, Phillips 66, Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp. Mexico accounted for about 9% of total U.S. oil imports last year, TPH said.

U.S. refiners use heavy crude oil to blend with lighter U.S. oil to produce fuels, but reduced production from Canada and Mexico, along with sanctions on Venezuela, has squeezed that supply.

“For Gulf Coast refiners already hit by Venezuela sanctions, Iran sanctions, Canada’s cuts and OPEC cuts, this adds insult to injury,” said Sandy Fielden, an analyst at researcher Morningstar. “The number of alternative sources of heavy crude is narrowing.”

Weekly data shows U.S. imports from Mexico since the beginning of March have averaged roughly 631,000 bpd, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration figures.

Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum Corp and Exxon declined to comment. Refiners Valero Energy and Royal Dutch Shell did not reply to requests for comment.

Reporting By Collin Eaton, Erwin Seba and David Gaffen; Additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly and David Alire Garcia; Writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Sonya Hepinstall and Cynthia Osterman


Progressives want the must-pass defense budget to tie Trump’s hands with Saudi Arabia

There’s a fight brewing to hold Trump’s unfettered alliance with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war accountable.

June 4, 2019

by Tara Golshan


Progressive lawmakers and activists are plotting their next move to hold President Donald Trump accountable over his relationship with Saudi Arabia, hoping to tie the president’s hands with the national defense funding bill.

The open question is, does the larger Congress, which only a few months ago took a historic vote to rebuke Trump’s foreign policy, still care about the war in Yemen?

In April, Congress passed a historic War Powers Resolution directing Trump to remove troops involved in “hostilities” in Yemen, a Saudi-led war that’s killed more than 50,000 and left tens of millions in need of humanitarian aid. Trump vetoed it, committed to the US’s long-standing alliance with the Saudis — not to mention his personal relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (the same MBS who called for Saudi Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing).

Now, as the House prepares to tackle the annual national defense budget — a massive spending bill that will likely amount to more than $700 billion in military funding — progressives see an opening to force Trump’s hand in the Middle East. On Tuesday, a coalition of more than 40 activist groups sent every House lawmaker a letter demanding they include provisions to ban the transfer, sale, or export of any defense materials that would be used in the war in Yemen for a minimum of two years, and end all US aid — from intelligence to logistical support — to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the war.

The defense bill is seen as a must-do in Congress; it has passed despite deep partisan divisions every year for more than 50 years. Activists say it’s necessary to use the NDAA as a vehicle to take action on Yemen, because the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Since his veto, Trump’s administration has escalated tensions with Iran and sidestepped Congress to unilaterally authorize $8 billion in arms sales, including to Saudi Arabia and its allies. For four years, the United States has been providing the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, arms, and ammunition, and, until late last year, fuel for their warplanes. The planes that bombed a school bus, killing at least 40 children last August, did so with an American-made bomb.

Passing the War Powers Resolution with a bipartisan coalition was a monumental moment. It took incredible lobbying from anti-war activists, as well as internal pressure from progressive leaders like Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), to not only win over conservatives but also Democrats’ own leadership.

Now that group is hoping they can build the same energy behind the defense bill.

“We are trying to stiffen the resolve of members of Congress as we approach the consideration of the national defense budget,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, the co-director of Just Foreign Policy, a progressive foreign policy group. “We have the momentum here. What remains to be seen is whether [Congress] has the resolve to do what it takes.”

Congress has options. Will it take them?

The US was involved in the Saudi-led war before Trump took office. But by rejecting congressional attempts to end that involvement, he has cemented American fingerprints on one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world: According to the most recent United Nations report, 80 percent of the Yemeni population — 24 million people — is in need of humanitarian assistance.

Lawmakers, however, have a couple ways they could still weigh in on the use of the American military’s resources in this conflict.

Congress’ opposition to Trump’s policy around Yemen really caught bipartisan steam last year — closely tied to the shock and outrage over the killing of Saudi journalist, dissident, and American resident Jamal Khashoggi and Trump’s sympathetic response to Saudi interests. Trump has repeatedly emphasized his support for MBS, calling him a “great ally.” In March, reports showed that the United States approved six secret authorizations to sell Saudi Arabia nuclear power technology, which both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have warned could aid a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Trump’s administration and Republican leadership campaigned hard against the War Powers Resolution. But in the end, anti-war activists and progressive lawmakers won the fight in Congress, passing lawmakers’ first rebuke of the executive branch’s involvement in foreign wars since 1973. Now, they want to do the same to defeat Trump’s veto. The letter to lawmakers is asking for provisions almost identical to those in the War Powers Resolution on Yemen, as well as a bipartisan proposal from Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Todd Young (R-IN) that would ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia. That proposal, from 2018, also codified the Trump administration’s decision to stop refueling Saudi warplanes.

“These aren’t muscles Congress is used to flexing: Without constant pressure from activists they might succumb to the inertia that’s defined Congress’ posture on the matters for the last of couple decades, born from a mix of capture, wrongheadedness, and obliviousness to their own power,” David Segal, the executive director of Demand Progress, said.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office has said the war in Yemen remains a top priority, but it’s less clear what House Democrats’ strategy will be. Her office did not respond for comment on using the National Defense Authorization Act as a vehicle to act on Yemen.

“We continue to consider all viable options to end this humanitarian crisis,” Pelosi’s spokesperson said previously. Khanna, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said progressives will be leading the charge on the NDAA process.

There’s also a push for Pelosi to take Trump to court over his veto of the War Powers Resolution. A group of constitutional scholars backed a letter saying Trump’s unilateral decision to involve the United States in a war that Congress has expressly rebuked is unconstitutional.

Of course, there are uphill battles on all fronts. For one, Congress tying Trump’s hands on the defense funding bill would be a bold move that will undoubtedly run up against the interests of Congress’ many defense hawks. And it would have to pass the Republican majority in the Senate. As for a court case, there’s always the possibility that the Supreme Court wouldn’t take on the case. For now, activists are focusing on building the same coalition that passed the War Powers Resolution just two months ago.

“It’s really critical that theypush it all the way because we are in this moment where clearly the executive branch is wanting to overreach,” El-Tayyab said. “Congress should set a precedent for future administrations. We think it’s critical.”


Why Trump’s strategy against Iran is likely to fail

The ‘maximum pressure’ tactics will not succeed in subduing Iran, nor will an invasion.

June 5, 2019

by Hassan Ahmadian

Al Jazeera

In 1941, in the midst of World War II, two imperial powers, the USSR and Britain, threatened Iran with invasion, although the country had officially announced neutrality in the conflict. While the Iranian leadership acknowledged the gravity of the situation, it refused to cave in to the Soviet-British ultimatum. For them, resistance and military defeat was more bearable than “treason and capitulation”.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Iranian army was swiftly defeated and the Soviet and British imperial forces occupied the country for several years. Although severely weakened, Tehran continued to struggle for its sovereignty and a year after the end of the war, managed to regain it, as the occupiers were forced to withdraw.

This, along with many other episodes in Iran’s modern history, demonstrates that resistance is a fundamental aspect of Iranian political culture and has always been a driving force in its foreign policy. Today, as the country faces yet another threat to its sovereignty, it will abide by that same exact principle.

In fact, resistance is even more central to the political character of the Islamic Republic than the governments which preceded it. That, along with a number of other factors, guarantees the ultimate failure of the United States’s attempt to have the Iranians capitulate.

Why ‘maximum pressure’ will not work

In April, the Trump administration announced it would not renew sanction waivers to countries buying Iranian oil and threatened with punitive measures those who violate the strict sanctions regime it had imposed. Since then, it has escalated its threats and hostile rhetoric pushing further with its “maximum pressure” campaign.

The premise of this strategy is that in the face of an existential threat, survival matters the most to the Islamic Republic. Pushing the Iranian economy to the brink would compel Iranians to rise up against their government and force the Islamic Republic to “act pragmatically” – so the argument goes.

Washington is hoping this strategy would exhaust Tehran and force it to come to the negotiating table on new US terms. But it may very well be disappointed.

While the Trump administration expects “maximum pressure” to leave Iran with no choice but to capitulate, the near-unanimous consensus in the country is that whatever happens, Iranians will resist.

The Islamic Republic’s leadership has made it a point to convince the Iranian public that any appeasement of the US would amount to a surrender. It has responded to the Trump administration’s threats with defiant rhetoric, which so far has worked.

While Iranians are suffering from the economic crisis, the US “maximum pressure” strategy is compelling them to rally around the flag, rather than try to “take down the regime”. This is not only because the cultural value of resistance is relatively high, but also because the more the Iranian leadership resists foreign pressure, the more legitimacy it gains.

And if the past four decades are anything to go by, the Islamic Republic would never trade resistance-based legitimacy for negotiations with a hostile power. That is why the least likely outcome of the “maximum pressure” strategy would be Tehran agreeing to come to the negotiating table on US President Donald Trump’s unilateral terms.

At the same time, Iran will not remain passive in the face of mounting US pressure. It has the capability to affect Washington’s main regional priority – oil prices – without much cost and effort and it can do so without using or triggering a military confrontation. It can use its network of friends and allies in the region and beyond to disrupt the production and global trade of oil.

Additionally, Iran’s anti-trafficking cooperation with the European Union may also be affected. The Iranian authorities would stick to these agreements with the EU on paper but do nothing in practice. This could result in another migration wave towards the European borders or a significant increase in drug trafficking.

Second, if Trump starts a war, he would face far greater international isolation than what his abrasive policies have so far produced. Today, Iran holds the moral high ground because of its strategic patience and commitment to the nuclear deal, while the international community continues to reject Trump’s aggressive posturing. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was made aware of the limits of US soft power, especially after his recent visits to Europe, where he faced a cold reception and a rebuke over Washington’s policy on Iran.

Trump is perhaps counting on the US leadership position in the world – that when the US acts, the rest will follow. But quitting international agreements and treaties is one thing and waging a war is another. In all likelihood, if the US chooses to start a conflict, it would have to go about it without the support of its traditional allies. Its regional partners – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel – might also not be of much help and indeed could turn into a liability, disrupting US war plans by pursuing their own interests.

Third, a war with Iran would almost certainly be a greater disaster than the one in Iraq. The US currently is not aware of the full Iranian military potential. Having been long isolated from western arms markets, Iran has developed its own domestic weapons industry, the capabilities of which remain unknown to the outside world. This could certainly undermine US military planning in the run-up to war.

Although Iran’s military is inferior to that of the US, it is still much stronger than Saddam Hussein’s army, which was decimated in 2003 in a matter of weeks. Iranian forces are much better prepared, more ideologically committed and more numerous. That, along with Iran’s mountainous landscape, guarantees the superiority of Iranian forces against any invading force.

At this point, a full US ground offensive is unlikely, given the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq; an aerial campaign, however, will also not go without a response. Iran is capable of hitting US bases in its immediate neighbourhood and disrupting oil supply routes, while its allies and friends are able to escalate against US strategic interests and partners. The US risks getting itself into conflict it would not be able to end.

Thus, whatever path the US chooses – to continue its maximum pressure strategy or to escalate and start a conflict, it would ultimately face failure. Meanwhile, Tehran is edging closer to exhausting diplomacy. There are already signs that it is resorting to alternative strategies and the EU will be the first to feel the heat.

There are still quite a few parties willing to mediate between Tehran and Washington. The hope remains that they will succeed in de-escalating the situation and preclude a confrontation. It is still not too late for the US and Iran to settle their differences in a peaceful way.

Hassan Ahmadian is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Iran Project, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center


Encyclopedia of American Loons

Kamal Saleem

A.k.a. Khodor Shami (real name)

That evangelical fundies aren’t always deeply concerned with honesty should come as a shock to nobody. Kamal Saleem, for instance, is one of several “ex-terrorists” (Walid Shoebat is another) who claims to have been involved in islamist terror activities but saw the errors of his ways and is currently touring the religious right circus complaining about the evils of the Quran. In particular, Saleem claims to have been recruited by the PLO in Beirut in 1964 or 1965, four years before it was established in Lebanon, and ten before it was deployed to Beirut. Indeed, he claims to have been part of the Muslim Brotherhood at the same time (of course, his audience will probably not be aware that PLO and the Muslim Brotherhood were archrivals) and have met most of the most high-profile figures in the Middle East at the time. His fictitious backstory is ridiculous enough for one reviewer to dub him the “Forrest Gump of the Middle East.” Indeed, entirely according to himself, Saleem used to be important enough for the Muslim Brotherhood to put a $25 million bounty on his head, and he claims that there have been attempts to earn it: After a 2007 speaking event in California, for instance, he claims to have returned to his hotel to find his room ransacked and a band of dangerous Middle Easterners on his trail. He describes calling the police to alert them to an assassination attempt, though local law enforcement has no record of any such incident. We suppose you are supposed to blame a conspiracy backed by the pro-shariah government of the US.

Saleem used to work for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network – CBN continued to use him as a source even after his back story was revealed as fraud – and was hired by Focus on the Family in 2003, before launching his own ministry, Koome Ministries, in 2006 to “expose the true agenda of [Muslims] who would deceive our nation and the free nations of the world … America must wake-up and set a continued Christian agenda of Liberty and Truth as a standard to follow throughout the free world,” and embarking upon a lucrative career posing as an ex-terrorist. He has in recent years managed to become something of a mainstay in the religious right circus ring; his participation in The Call‘s “Dearborn Awakening” section – long after his fictitious backstory had been exposed – where he told rally attendees that he is descended from the “Grand Wazir of Islam” (a title that doesn’t exist in Islam) and urged attendees to pray for Muslims to convert to Christianity, is a typical example.

While preparing for his The Call appearance, Saleem also said that President Obama planned “to break down Article 6” of the Constitution in order to enforce “Islamic law,” warning that “if he breaks this, the Sharia law will be supreme in America.” Not only is this of course deranged nonsense, Saleem is also, ironically enough, closely affiliated with explicitly dominionist groups like Transformation Michigan that are themselves fighting tooth and claw to overturn Article 6.

Creeping shariah law is a mainstay of Saleem’s unhinged rants (we won’t even try to sum up this maelstrom of paranoid delusions). In 2012, Saleem claimed to have uncovered a liberal plot to use the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade to “bring Sharia law liberally in our face”. The formulations do admittedly suggest that he is poking fun at a paranoid audience, but the sum of evidence show that it is most likely an instance of unhinged insanity. He didn’t offer any details concerning howRoe v. Wade would lead to the implementation of shariah law, but did call it an “Islamic clause”. He doesn’t seem to know very much about Islam. Oh, and according to Saleem, the Obama administration didn’t merely wish to let Shariah law replace the constitution; it also sought to legalize terrorism through immigration reform – again there is a certain lack of detail, but apparently immigration reform means that “all the illegal Muslims will be legalized here” which entails that “terrorism will be legal.” President Obama was apparently also “sending millions to Hamas to import Muslim people” to the U.S. as part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot. The military is also involved: “many generals who swore to destroy the United States of America are generals in the United States”. Then he warned that “this world will become past tense and one day we’ll be wearing ragheads.” Apparently it all has something to do with the UN Resolution 16/18, which reaffirms “freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression” and opposes religious discrimination, and which will ostensibly force the church to “go underground” and thus impose Islam on everyone (or something). Let us at least all agree that there is something here that doesn’t quite add up.

In 2014, Saleem caught President Obama red-handed, having figured out that Obama secretly wanted ISIS to attack the United States so that he could declare martial law, cancel the next election and become a dictator. And while waiting for the bombs, Obama was waging jihad and helping fundamentalist islamists to take over America with abortion and gay rights, two things fundamentalist Islamists are not known to be particularly fond of, but it is probably all a false flag. We should consider ourselves lucky that Saleem and fellow conspiracy theorists were there to expose the plot. Saleem also revealed that the Obama family was in fact secretly attending mosques every Christmas; he established this by the powers of speculations, which works better for him than facts (what good are they? Facts won’t fit his narrative. Come on!)

Of course, having been exposed as a fraud carries little significance in wingnut circles. In 2012, for instance, the tea party group Constituting Michigan brought Saleem to Allegan High School to warn guests of the danger of creeping sharia law. Responding to criticism of the event Bill Sage, one of the co-founders of Constituting Michigan, dismissed it as “the result of media bias”. It is not clear what piece of criticism that response was supposed to address, but we are also under no illusion that Sage has ever worried about truth, accuracty, honesty or accountability. Dave Agema was also scheduled to speak at the event. Here is the American Decency Association’s attempt to defend Saleem. It is oddly telling.

Indeed, the same year Saleem was also given a platform at the Values Voter Summit, where he entertained audiences with tall tales of his work for Lebanon, Syria, the PLO, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood and even Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, until he moved to the U.S. to wage “cultural jihad;” there he and his fellow terrorists “met the professors” at American universities and colleges – “our playgrounds” – and helped “the professors to establish new curriculum purposefully” to brainwash students to change “your children to hit your nation with everything they’ve got” (currently “45 percent of Common Core is Islamic indoctrination”; how he arrived at the figure is left open.) He also claimed that Hillary Clinton was working with Islamic countries to eviscerate the Constitution and “subjugate American people to be arrested and put to jail and their churches and synagogues shut down,” which he says would happen “early next year!” 2013 came and passed without subjugation, but the religious right has never turned their back on a false prophet. He made similar claims about Clinton in 2016, and in 2017 he repeated his warnings that the Democrats are plotting to let Muslim terrorists take over America. Mat Staver, for instance, still seems impressed.

Saleem has also produced anti-Islamic videos for the Oak Initiative. His fake backstory is laid out in his virulently anti-Islamic book The Blood of Lambs, which has been reviewed as “obsessively, sadistically violent.” He usually responds to criticism of his claims by accusing critics, including a Christian professor at Calvin College, of being Muslim Brotherhood agents working in cohorts with an Islamic “shadow government” that has formed an “unholy alliance” against him: “Today we the enemy of Islam, the liberal movement, the socialist movement, the communist movement, the women movement, Cod Pink, all of them are coming against me, the Occupy, all of these are coming against me.They have unholy alliances together with Islam, whether it’s homosexual or baby-killer, all these have unholy alliances.” Coherence is not his strong suit.

Saleem emphasized the same confluence of isms on Alex Jones’s show in 2016: “the isms are coming together: Islamism, socialism, secularism, fascism, liberalism, secularism, all of them are part of the ism movement for the Last Days and they are united together for a one-world order” and “world government”.

Diagnosis: First time you encounter him, you’d probably conclude that he is a professional liar, but it seems pretty likely to us that he just isn’t able to distinguish reality from feverishly incoherent imaginations. Completely and utterly batshit crazy.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

June 6, 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. 43

Date: Friday, October 25, 1996

Commenced: 3:45 PM CST

Concluded: 4:15 PM CST

GD: Good afternoon, Robert. Everything going well for you? How was your doctor’s appointment?

RTC: Well, no results but I am resigned to being old, Gregory. When you get to my age, you’ll count the day as wonderful if you can open your eyes in the morning. How is it with you?

GD: It goes. Moving to Illinois was not the best of ideas but my son left me little choice. It was move or else.

RTC: Or else what?

GD: He would leave and I would be stuck with a huge rent for a big house with a swimming pool that he insisted we have but he only used once. I used it all the time but I had to clean it and with all the trees and the occasional drowned squirrel, it was a wonderful addition that I would never want again unless I was rich enough to afford a weekly pool service. Of course the scumbag neighbors wanted their filthy kids to use it but I said that was not possible. I told them my insurance forbade it but actually, who wants an army of screaming little assholes using the pool as their private toilet?

RTC: Sounds like you put your Scrooge hat on this morning.

GD: Actually, I like kids. If you barbecue the small ones, they go well with a pitcher of Jack Daniels.

RTC: For God’s sake, don’t ever say that around a Jew or you’ll go stone deaf from the screaming.

GD: Oh, I know you’re right about that one. It’s a little like saying that you’re looking for a chink in someone’s armor and Asian-Americans start shouting. And never call a spade, a spade.

RTC: Yes. We live in an artificial society, Gregory. Our primitive selves still heft the vanished club with which to smite other cave-dwellers.

GD: In the Mueller book, I made reference to the fact that we now have nice-nice titles for people. I said we call janitors ‘sanitary engineers’ and that Mongoloids are now called ‘differently abled.’ And some reader wrote a nasty letter to my publisher about this which he forwarded for my comment. She said she was horrified and repulsed by the use of the Mongoloid idiot implication. Her little Timmy was the sweetest child on earth and I ought to be thrashed for calling him this terrible, forbidden name.

RTC: Did you reply?

GD: Oh yes. I wrote to her that having read her letter with sorrow because she was stuck with a retard, I suggested, very pointedly, that she ought to put some chlorine in her gene pool.

RTC: (Laughter) Gregory, you didn’t.

GD: Why not? Hell, the Greeks knew something about genes and they left their retards out on the mountainside to either die slowly or more quickly when the animals got them. Keeps the race clean if you follow me. Now, we let the innates breed and they are filling what passes for civilization with all kinds of lopsided mongrels. Malthus doesn’t mention eugenics but I feel that the herd should be thinned and the best breeding stock put in a separate pen to avoid two legged goats or chickens covered with fur.

RTC: You sound like a Nazi. As I recall, we had that Dr. Mengele on the payroll. Down in South America where we wanted him to do work on breeding superior people.

GD: Jesus H. Christ, Robert, talk about infuriating the Jews. If they ever found out about that delightful fact, all their newspapers, magazines and television stations would do terrible damage to the CIA. My grandfather was a Nazi but I am not.

RTC: Over there?

GD: No, here. A member of the AO in good standing.

RTC: Pardon?

GD: The Auslands Organization. Party members residing outside Germany. He was a banker with close connections to the Schreoder people in Cologne. Party member since 1923.

RTC: Well, the CIA is now full of Jews so if they find that out, they will do more than keep your books out of the bookstores.

GD: I suppose if I turned my back on them, I might have some trouble. They don’t like confrontation and love to work in the dark or through surrogates. They hate the Mueller books, not because Mueller was anti-Semitic but because he is presented as a human being. To professional Jews, all Germans are evil. Little children of eight were trained to visit the concentration camp in their neighborhood and toss screaming Jewish babies into the giant bonfires that burned day and night.

RTC: Now I know you’re joking.

GD: Of course but that sort of silly crap is very close to what they do.

RTC: Of course it’s to make money and gain moral superiority. ‘Oh Mr. Salesman, my whole family died in the gas chambers. Terrible. Can you give a poor survivor 50% off on that couch?’

GD: Robert, that’s very unkind. True but unkind.

RTC: I remember when they attacked the Liberty and were killing Americans. Deliberate of course and the Navy sent aircraft to wipe them out. Johnson found out about this and stopped the flight. Why? He didn’t want to offend Israel.

GD: What about dead Americans?

RTC: Pales into insignificance when balanced against the vital needs of precious Israel. At the time, they were murdering captured Egyptian soldiers and they didn’t want us listening in so the tried to sink the ship.

GD: And Pollard…

RTC: Oh my, yes and even now they want us to liberate him. They made him an honorary member of the Knesset and put big bucks away for him in a private account. And this for an American who was stealing important secrets and giving them to what was supposed to be an ally.

GD: Did you ever read the Bunche report?

RTC: Ralph Bunche. The UN man?

GD: Yes. After the Jews murdered Folke Bernadotte, head of the Swedish Red Cross and one of their royal family, solely because he refused to allow them to butcher Arab farmers, they killed him and Bunche, who was on Cypress dealing with refugees, was given his job. The UN prepared a chronology of violence in Palestine from ’44 until ’48…day by day. A wonderful chronicle of arson, murder, kidnapping, poisoning and God alone knows what atrocities. Blowing up hotels full of people and so on. I got a copy from an Army friend and if you like, I can send you a photo copy.

RTC: That I would like to see although there’s nothing I can do about it now.

GD: And when you were in the CIA?

RTC: I never liked dealing with those people. Jim Angleton loved them and kissed their asses but I never trusted any of them.

GD: Especially our allies?

RTC: Oh no, they are not our allies. If it weren’t for the fact that Jews have lots of money and own almost all the newspapers and TV stations, we wouldn’t be so eager to kiss their hairy asses, believe me.

GD: Well, the wheel turns, Robert, and one day there will be a reckoning of sorts. I don’t forsee enormous gas chambers being built in Detroit but the public can get very unpleasant when it gets angry.

RTC: But without the papers and TV and with political correctness in full swing, I can’t see mobs in the street burning down kosher meat stores.

GD: Who knows the way the wheel turns?

RTC: But don’t put any of this into future books, Gregory. Not a good idea. You will be accused of masterminding the assassination of Lincoln.

GD: Well, they may have the newspapers but there are other avenues. I remember once when I was giving a lecture, some old bitch came up to me afterwards and began telling me how her whole family had been turned into lampshades and soap at Auschwutz. She dared me to respond but I did.

RTC: And? God help us all, what did you say?

GD: Why, I said my uncle had died at Auischwitz during the war. She blinked and asked me if he were a Jew.

GD: I told her no, he was not. I said he got drunk on the Fuehrer’s birthday, fell out of a guard tower and broke his neck.

RTC: My God, you have balls, Gregory. What did she do?

GD: I think she swallowed her false teeth. However, everyone around us started laughing so not everyone was mad at me. She waddled off before I could tell her about the new German pizza oven that seated four.

RTC: Gregory, do let us change the subject. Suppose some Jewish FBI agents were listening to this?

GD: I would offer a special bargain on hand soap. I could set up a booth at a fair with hand soap in piles and a sign saying ‘Find a Relative!’ over it. Probably not a good idea. They would ask me for a 50% discount. Oh, by the way, to change the subject…

RTC: Thank God…

GD: Yes. Did you know that the British Prince Consort, Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, was a German, not a Greek. He also had been a uniformed member of several Nazi organizations before he joined the Royal Navy. His brother had been a member of the SS and his sister had been a German nurse so they never got invited to the royal wedding. His uncle was Prince Phillip of Hesse who lived in Italy where he married their Crown Princess. He was Hitler’s art dealer in Italy. Phillip is related to the last Empress of Russia, the German Kaiser  and others. His uncle was a general in the SA. I have a snapshot of him in his Hitler Youth uniform, dagger and all, with a friend of mine when both were at a Hitler Youth rally. I would imagine the IRA would love to buy that one.

RTC: I had heard something about this. Phil is a nasty piece of arrogant work. Anthony Blunt…

GD: I know all about his going to Germany and hiding references to Phillp’s Nazi past. That’s why he never got arrested when he was exposed as a Russian spy.

RTC: You do get around, Gregory.

GD: If we got together, I could tell you lots of interesting facts, Robert. Well, enough evil for the moment. My dog is making go outside noises so I had best leave you. I will call you later, OK?

RTC: Salud.


(Concluded at 4:15 Pm CST)



TWA Flight 800: The Gathering of the Nuts

Whenever a disaster happens that, unlike a volcanic eruption or a huge forest fire, cannot be immediately explained, a great gathering of self-serving individuals begin to spout forth theories, plans, tales of “secret documents,’ and “confidential communications” with unnamed “experts.” The purpose of expounding these weird tales generally is to draw attention to the expounder. That no reputable segment of any media bothers with discussing these theories is always attributed to control by an irate Government who are furious at the brilliance of the theorist and who spend endless hours spying on them, opening their solicitations from NAMBLA and installing microphones in their desks at the local Humane Society.

As a case in point, let us consider a well-known tragedy. First come the actual facts and then the actual fictions.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131 registered as N93119, took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York) enroute to Charles De Gaulle International Airport (Paris).

The aircraft was flying more than eight miles off the cost of East Moriches, New York (part of Long Island) when the fuel tank exploded. The aircraft banked and the front part of the aircraft broke off. The wind pushed the aircraft into a climb. Then, the aircraft went into a dive, causing the wings to break off the aircraft. Pieces of the aircraft plummeted down into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 passengers on board.

After what has been billed as the longest and most expensive accident investigation in American aviation history, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board  (NTSB) investigation found that the flammable fuel/air mixture of the center wing fuel tank probably ignited due to electrical failure in the center fuel tank, causing the plane to explode in flight. The FBI agreed that there had been no criminal act after examining all the plane’s wreckage that had been recovered. In May of 1997, mechanics discovered a fuel leak in a Boeing 737-200 that they believed was caused by the kind of electrical arcing suspected of causing the TWA Flight 800 fatal explosion. NTSB investigators believed that the same kind of arcing from the wiring in the center fuel tank of TWA Flight 800 sparked the explosion that brought the plane down. As a result of extensive and very through testing, the NTSB issued an “airworthiness directive” requiring the immediate inspection of the wiring of older 747s. In April, it recommended further inspections and design changes in the wiring of 747s and in Boeing 707s and C-130 transport planes, as well.

Eight years after the crash, in February 2004, the FAA indicated that it would start the process of ordering airlines to install a fuel tank inerting system in most of their aircraft. It was stated that the order would probably actually be issued within two years, and then the airlines would be required to install the devices over the subsequent seven years. The FAA stated that, including the TWA Flight 800 crash, there had been three fuel tank explosions in airliners over the previous 14 years (the two others having occurred on the ground),

Various groups and individuals continue to maintain that the plane was downed by a bomb or missile, and that there was a subsequent cover-up to disguise the real cause of the crash.

The “terrorist theory” was, as usual, one of the first to be mentioned, especially due to the fact that the accident happened during the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, where a bomb exploded ten days later. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, these alternate explanations have been revisited, as some officials and commentators have mentioned this disaster among lists of terrorist attacks. Cmdr. William S. Donaldson, a retired Naval officer who conducted an independent investigation, disagrees with the official theory. According to Commander Donaldson, “jet airliners built by the American aerospace industry have logged at least 150 thousand years of flight time. Not once has there ever been a spontaneous fuel tank explosion on any fuel tank while airborne” (Letter to NTSB 11-14-97).

Donaldson concluded that the airplane was “shot down by missiles.” He interviewed hundreds of witnesses and said he reconstructed the flight paths of these missiles by triangulating the eyewitness accounts. Soon after, a photo that a passenger of a North American Airlines plane arriving at JFK supposedly took, seemed to support the missile theory because the “photo” showed a “missile” missing the NA Airlines jet narrowly.

Pierre Salinger, a former White House press secretary to President John F. Kennedy and ABC News journalist, prominently and repeatedly claimed he had proof that the flight was downed by a missile from a U.S. Navy ship. The documents on which he relied were later found to be vague rumors that had been distributed over Usenet, with attributions only to many “unnamed experts”. Some people briefly gave the name of Pierre Salinger Syndrome to the tendency to believe things that one reads on the bloggers of the Internet.

One such theory has the US Navy conducting tests of submarine-to-air missiles, accidentally hitting Flight 800, and then covering up the fatal error. After initial denials, the U.S. Navy later admitted that USS Wyoming (SSBN-742), commissioned only days before, was conducting sea trials in the area, and that USS Trepang (SSN-674) and USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) were conducting unspecified operations in the area. It should be noted that all three of these submarines lacked any surface to air missile armament as part of their standard munitions loadout (as do all submarines). It is possible that any of the three subs could have been carrying MANPADS missiles. However all three subs were more than 50 miles (80 km) away from the crash site, very far outside the range of any MANPADS missile in the world. One suggested possibility is that the type of missile involved may be classified.

Another possible alternate theory involving the US Navy is that a missile was fired from the USS Normandy (CG-60), operating 185 nautical miles (340 km) south of the TWA 800 crash site. This is well outside of the range of currently deployed Standard Missiles carried by US ships, almost double the range of the current Block IIIB versions, and just within the future Block IV ER versions. Even if this were a test of a Block IV version, although there is no evidence for this, at the extreme range in question the engine would have long burned out and the warhead would be gliding. This contradicts the main claim that a missile was involved, which is a number of eyewitness accounts claiming to have seen “a missile trail almost vertical under the explosion site.” Furthermore, inventories of USS Normandy’s missile complement immediately following the crash of TWA 800 showed no missiles missing from the inventory, according to the US Navy

Regardless of the very faint possibility of any number of missiles and missile launch platforms being in the vicinity of TWA 800 at the time of the accident, no evidence of any kind of a missile impact exists within the recovered wreckage, according to a study conducted by the Department of Defense’s Office of Special Technology

However, at least one individual involved at higher levels with the FBI’s portion of the recovery operations has stated publicly that he saw during his involvement predominant evidence in the state of the wreckage, the form of the wreckage field, the state of the victim’s remains, public and confidential actions by the airlines, investigation officials, and the Navy following the event, and other factors that convinced him the crash was the result of an “accidental missile strike.” Unfortunately, they have neglected to produce their evidence, claiming that the FBI and the CIA broke into their apartment and stole it, along with certain magazines, a picture of Matt Drudge in a leather thong and a six pack of warm beer.

One of the usual “reliable eyewitnesses” was a Malvina Tidwell of Long Island who claimed she and her husband, Oscar, (since desceaed) “positively identified” an Arab submarine, firing rockets, from their vantage point of the beach where they were looking for driftwood. “I knew it was an Arab sub,” Tidwell said, “because they had men with beards running around the deck and a green flag with Arab writing on it.” Mrs Tidwell is legally blind and her husband, who also gave a long interview to the alternative media, was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and believed that he was the illigetimate son of Harry Truman.

For instance, the following affidavit, dated January 2003 (and which looks very much like blogger information that was passed around the internet shortly after the crash), is being listed as one of the “articles of evidence” in recent FOIA suits pressed by Captain Ray Lahr against the National Transportation Safety Board: This document states he viewed “radar tapes” and took part in “phone conversations” which convinced him Flight 800 was a victim of friendly fire, and that he later passed on this information to Pierre Salinger (Note such anomalies as the doubling of every statement in the affidavit, the second half being a reworded version of the first half).

Elaine Scarry, in a number of articles in the New York Review of Books, has raised the possibility of electromagnetic interference being responsible for the accident. It has also been suggested that an electronic death ray developed by the brilliant Nicholas Tesla and utilized by a mysterious group calling itself the Hidden Hand brought down the plane in furtherance of a plan that no one seems to know about. The Hidden Hand was supposed to have  detonated an atomic bomb over Houston, Texas on Christmas Day of 2004 but apparently was unsuccessful as Houston, unfortunately, is still intact.

A number of strange “alternate theories” surrounding TWA 800 relied on so-called eye witness accounts as collected by the FBI. However, very few of the witnesses were within five miles (8 km) of TWA 800 at the time of the accident, according to a witness map provided by the NTSB. The vast majority of the witnesses were too far away from the accident scene to discern any significant details, and some witnesses describe events that are well beyond the visual acuity of humans

Ex- CBS Investigator Kristina Borjesson, (email: FKLB@aol.com) and co-workers (including Oliver Stone) were on a documentary project for ABC, until it was aborted. Ms. Borjesson’s “documentary” involved the scores of the usual “eyewitnesses” who were desperate for their fifteen minutes of fame and who claimed they saw “something streaking from the ocean toward the plane.” This documentary was for a show, Declassified, that was being produced by Oliver Stone and slated to air on ABC. But the Stone connection grew controversial, and ABC canceled the program. CBS also immediately dissociated itself from Ms. Borjesson. Josh Howard, a senior producer at 60 Minutes, said, “Her official relationship with CBS ended before she pitched that story. (About mythic ‘rocket fuel’ being found on a strip of cloth alleged to have come from one of the passenger seats on Flight 800) She had maybe a month to go on her contract. She was anxiously looking around for other projects to prolong her employment.”

The 800 flight number was retired and replaced with flight 924 after the crash, although TWA continued to operate flights between New York and Paris. In Spring 2001, TWA merged with American Airlines. Of the exposers of the Real Truth, throughly discredited Pierre Salinger has since died and Ms Borjesson has slipped into professional oblivion, along with many others.


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