TBR News March 14, 2019

Mar 14 2019

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

Washington, D.C. March 14, 2019:”Trump has, apparently deliberately, antagonized many American allies abroad and even more entities domestically but his worst error is for him to have given the middle finger to Congress. Reputlicans are deserting Trump and his policies in growing numbers and Trump is being driven into a foaming rage. It is not difficult to predict a raging war between Trump and all of Congress and this is a war Congress will win. If Trump gets too nasty, Congress will impeach him and they will have to yank him out of the Oval Office with physical force. The one positive aspect to all of Trump’s bombastic war is that many disparate political groups in America are beginning to cooperate with each other in a common distrust and dislike.”


The Table of Contents

  • The numbers game in the political matrix
  • Trump faces another rebuke from Senate allies over wall, vows veto
  • Beto O’Rourke Is Running for President and It All Started With Weed
  • O’Rourke enters race with natural skills, eager support and some big challenges
  • US Senate passes Yemen war resolution, refusing to back Trump’s support for Saudi-led coalition
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations



The numbers game in the political matrix

March 14, 2019

by Christian Jürs


There were 56.5 million Hispanics in the United States in 2015, accounting for 17.6% of the total U.S. population.

The Hispanic Mexican population of the United States is projected to grow to 107 million by 2065.

The share of the U.S. population that is Hispanic has been steadily rising over the past half century. In 2015, Hispanics made up 17.6% of the total U.S. population, up from 3.5% in 1960, the origins of the nation’s Hispanic population have diversified as growing numbers of immigrants from other Latin American nations and Puerto Rico settled in the U.S.

For example, between 1930 and 1980, Hispanics from places other than Mexico nearly doubled their representation among U.S. Hispanics, from 22.4% to 40.6%. But with the arrival of large numbers of Mexican immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s, the Mexican share among Hispanics grew, rising to a recent peak of 65.7%.

California has the largest legal poplation of Mexicans, 14,013,719. And California is also home to almost 25% of the country’s undocumented population. California is followed by Texas where 31.14%,(8,500,000) are Mexican, Florida has 4,223,806 Mexicans, Illinois 2,153,000, Arizona,1,895,149, Colorado, 1,136,000 Georgia, 923,000, North Carolina, 890,000, and Washington, 858,000 Mexicans.

Given the fact that President Trump has strong personal dislikes for both Blacks and Latinos, manifest in his recent vicious treatment of Mexican immigrants in their legal attempts to immigrate to the United States, the sheer number of Mexicans now resident in the United States ought to give him, and his far-right Republican Congressional supporters serious pause in their denial of entrance for legal immigrant attempts and the subsequent brutal maltreatment of small children of these immigrants.

If the Mexican voting population of the United States were to organize, like the recent organizing of the black voting population of Alabma in opposition to the fanatical Judge Moore, the results in the November elections could well prove to be a stunning disaster for both Trump and the Republicans.

There are 37,144,530 non-Hispanic blacks resident in the United States, which comprise 12.1% of the population. This number increased to 42 million according to the 2010 United States Census, when including Multiracial African Americans, making up 14% of the total U.S. population.

Numbers certainly count but Trump is obviously unaware of their potential danger, both to him and his right-wing radical supporters. If either, or both, of these groups of eligible American voters organize, they could without question oust Trump from the presidency without recorse to impeachment proceedings in Congress.


Trump faces another rebuke from Senate allies over wall, vows veto

March 14, 2018

by Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate began debating a proposal on Thursday to terminate President Donald Trump’s declaration of an emergency at the southern border, with enough Republicans indicating they would support the measure for it to pass, with Trump vowing a veto.

Passage of the legislation would mark the second Senate rebuke of the president in two days. Senators on Wednesday approved a resolution seeking to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war in Yemen, rejecting Trump’s policy toward the kingdom.

During the first two years of his term, the Republican-led Congress mostly accommodated Trump, who has not yet used his veto pen. That could change now in response to Trump making the emergency declaration as an alternative way to get billions of dollars in funding for the wall after Congress turned him down.

At least seven Republican senators have now said they back the measure passed in February by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats. At least four Republicans are needed to pass it in the 100-seat Senate, along with all 45 Democrats and two independents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his fellow Republicans to defeat the measure but Senators Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander announced that they would vote the opposite, becoming the latest Republicans to express defiance of Trump.

“A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, Crime and the Open Border Democrats!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

McConnell said Trump was “operating within existing law” and that if senators did not like the powers provided to the president under the National Emergencies Act, “then they should amend it.”

The measure is unlikely to become law since a two-thirds vote of Congress is needed to override a presidential veto, which Trump vowed to issue if it passes the chamber Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence met with Republican senators this week to try to tamp down support for terminating the declaration. Some Republicans are concerned future Democratic presidents could usurp the power of Congress to fund the government and use the emergency declarations to fund their own pet programs.

Pence told senators that Trump would back a second bill offered by Republican Senator Mike Lee, which would end future emergency declarations after 30 days unless Congress votes to extend them.

Lee said on Wednesday the White House had subsequently made clear his bill did “not have an immediate path forward.” He said he would vote on Thursday to end the emergency declaration.

At stake are billions of dollars in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump is demanding but Congress has refused to fully provide. The stalemate led to a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended in January.

Under the emergency declaration Trump signed on Feb. 15, he would take money from other federal programs to build the barrier, which he says is needed to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Democrats deny there is an emergency at the border, saying border crossings are at a four-decade low.

“Democrats and Republicans both know the sad truth: the president did not declare an emergency because there is one,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor. “He declared an emergency because he lost in Congress and wants to get around it.”

Reporting by Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott


Beto O’Rourke Is Running for President and It All Started With Weed

March 13, 2019

by Ryan Grim and Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Ending months of speculation, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke told a television station in his native El Paso that he is joining the race for president, and released a video announcement online Thursday morning, before starting a three-day trip to Iowa.

“I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke said in a text to KTSM, Wednesday night. “It’s a big part of why I’m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.”

O’Rourke led a protest against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall in El Paso last month. In the announcement video released early Thursday, sitting alongside his wife Amy, O’Rourke said that he would hold a rally in the border city on March 30th to formally kick off his campaign, suggesting that his challenge to Trump would lean heavily on his alternative vision of what immigration represents for America.

The former Congressman promised to run a positive campaign, and sounded the alarm about the need for an American president who would seriously address climate change, voter suppression and find a way to “end these decades-long wars.”

The El Paso Times noted that O’Rourke lives so close to the border that his front porch “has views of Juárez, Mexico.” He told the newspaper that his campaign will be based in El Paso, partly because, “A firsthand perspective and experience from the border is missing from the conversation.”

In a subsequent email to supporters, O’Rourke wrote: “At this moment of truth — at this moment where we could make or break our democracy, where we will decide the fate of generations to come on this planet — we must all ask what each of us can give to this country and to the people who will inherit the consequences of our choices.”

Rumors of an impending announcement were swirling around Washington throughout the day on Wednesday, with the biggest clue that Beto was preparing to announce coming when his camp emailed volunteers on the Senate campaign, telling them, “We need help sending some text messages tomorrow morning.” That’s a reference to what’s known as distributed organizing, which became a driving factor that powered the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. In 2018, some of the key staffers behind it, including Becky Bond and and Zack Malitz, joined O’Rourke’s Texas Senate campaign and took distributed organizing to the next level. They and some other veterans of the Sanders campaign have stayed with O’Rourke, even as Sanders has re-launched his presidential bid.

The request for volunteers to send text messages may seem fairly standard, but there’s something revolutionary about it from an organizing perspective. It empowers volunteers from the very start to begin to take actually useful action on behalf of the campaign. And it requires an immense amount of trust in the campaign’s supporters, but it also requires a message and a messenger that people believe passionately in. O’Rourke very much was that in his 2018 Senate bid, partially because his unapologetically progressive affect stood in such stark contrast to the national understanding of Texas politics. O’Rourke also benefited greatly from running against a widely reviled Republican opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz. Whether the energy he harnessed in 2018 carries with him into a 2020 presidential run could be determined as early as the first few days of the run.

If those volunteers respond with a barrage of text messages that generate new volunteers and add up to big money, O’Rourke is in the hunt. O’Rourke, though, is viewed skeptically by a segment of the left, which worries that he is a new version of Barack Obama, a blank canvas on which the hopeful can paint their political dreams, only to be disappointed as he seeks deals with industry or the GOP. Democrats are confident that Trump can be defeated in 2020, but there are questions as to whether O’Rourke has the drive to defeat Trumpism. He has hinted in essays from the road about the threat of fascism in America, and said that he recognizes today’s GOP isn’t interested in compromise, yet his ever-hopeful spirit has some progressives worried he’d squander his presidency hoping Republicans change. And while he has praised the Green New Deal, his roots in Texas — and his public comments themselves, in which he has said fossil fuels can be a part of the solution to climate change — have further worried some Democrats that he may not fully grasp the existential nature of the threat.

The 46-year-old enters a crowded Democratic primary field just four months after his unsuccessful effort to unseat Cruz earned him national recognition and glowing reviews from campaign veterans excited by the former indie rocker’s potential to excite small-dollar donors and connect with younger voters through rampant oversharing on a host of social networks.

The former Texas Congressman shunned traditional polling in his race against Cruz, but did his own version of focus groups. By traveling to deeply conservative areas and taking questions until each audience was exhausted, he got a priceless feel for what was on the minds of voters. He didn’t skip polling for a lack of campaign funds. His small dollar operation pulled in so much money — $80 million by the end — that the term record simply doesn’t do it justice. He raised more, for instance, than Jeb Bush did for his entire 2016 presidential campaign.

Yet it all started with weed.

In the latter half of the 2000s, a bloody drug-cartel war was raging just across the border from El Paso in Juarez, Mexico. The intractable conflict was claiming tens of thousands of lives and producing a climate of fear in the region. Most politicians were calling for an ever-more militarized response, which only fed the conflict. O’Rourke, then on the city council, introduced a resolution that took a different approach. Given that the war was being driven by demand for an illegal product, perhaps the United States should consider legalizing and regulating that product, he suggested. His focus was on marijuana, but he also called for “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics.”

O’Rourke’s resolution passed 8-0 and was headed to the mayor’s desk for his signature when the local congressman, Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, a conservative Democrat and former border patrol guard, sent a letter, along with other Texas congressmen, to the mayor, calling on him to veto it.

The mayor complied, and Reyes then lobbied each council member privately, making veiled threats that the city would lose federal money if the veto was overridden.

Four members of the council switched their votes and supported the veto; three of them publicly cited the funding threat as the reason for backing down.

After reading an acknowledgement from Reyes to The Huffington Post that he had used the threat of cuts to federal funding for El Paso to quash the legalization effort, O’Rourke was so livid he vowed to primary Reyes.

He launched that challenge in 2011 and his upset of Reyes was itself historic, as it marked the first time a member of Congress had lost his job for being too tough on the war on drugs. That insurgent victory reoriented political incentives in Washington, as all of a sudden Democrats had to think twice about their drug-war rhetoric. O’Rourke restated his support for ending the prohibition on marijuana at his first stop in Iowa on Thursday.

As O’Rourke recalled during a 2018 conversation with The Intercept at SXSW, after his election, he had a hard time finding his footing. During freshman orientation, one presentation from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee felt particularly ominous.

It came on Nov. 16, 2012, barely a week after the election, and it was all about fundraising.

The amount of time that members of Congress in both parties spend fundraising is widely known to take up an obscene portion of a typical day — whether it’s “call time” spent on the phone with potential donors, or in person at fundraisers in Washington or back home. Seeing it spelled out in black and white, however, can be a jarring experience for a new member.

O’Rourke and the other freshmen were shown a PowerPoint presentation laying out the dreary existence awaiting these new back-benchers. The daily schedule prescribed by the Democratic leadership contemplated a nine or 10-hour day while in Washington. Of that, four hours were to be spent in “call time” and another hour was blocked off for “strategic outreach,” which includes fundraisers and press work.

An hour was walled off to “recharge,” and three to four hours were designated for the actual work of being a member of Congress — hearings, votes, and meetings with constituents. If the constituents were donors, all the better. The presentation assured members that their fundraising would be closely monitored; the Federal Election Commission requires members to file quarterly reports.

Even members in safe districts, they were told, were expected to keep up the torrid fundraising pace, so that they could contribute to the defense of vulnerable colleagues.

“I didn’t know really what call time was until I was elected and sworn in to become a member of Congress, and the real first orientation that I had up on the Hill by our leadership in the Democratic Party…they kind of broke out for the newly elected members of Congress, here’s what we want you to do during your day. So in the morning we want you to go to what is known as a PAC breakfast. You’re going to meet with lobbyists for the different industries and corporations and special interests who have business on the Hill. Get to know them, introduce yourself, tell them who you are, and then that’s going to lead to the next thing on your calendar, which is ‘call time.’ We’re going to put you in a boiler room where there’s a series of cubicles where these representatives of the people of the United States of America are furiously making cold calls or slightly warm calls to those PACs and lobbyists and representatives of the special interests to ask them for money to fund their campaign, to finance their reelection.”

“And then you may go into the office,” O’Rourke continued, “you may go to the floor and take some votes, and then we want you back to what they called the d triple c to do some more call time. And then that evening we want you to go to a fundraiser or a get-together to meet more prospects to feed the call time that you’re going to have the next day. And when I calculated it, 40 to 50 percent of every single day we were being asked to call people for money.”

It sounded miserable to O’Rourke, but he assumed that this was just how it would have to be done. “Like just about any other member of Congress, I hired a Washington-DC based fundraiser who puts me in those call time boiler rooms to call those special interests, those PACs, introduce myself and say, ‘Hey, could you write a 5,000 dollar check to the campaign? It’s really important that we show strength right out of the gate so that we do well and that we don’t have a challenger and I can focus on delivering to the people of El Paso,’” he said. “It didn’t feel right to me and I’m sure it doesn’t feel right to anybody doing that, but I just thought that’s what we do now that we’re in Congress.”

He was reassured, though, that some of the fundraising targets would be hit easily. After he’d won his primary, after all, checks began pouring in from corporate PACs around the country, eager to ingratiate themselves with the incoming member of Congress. He hadn’t solicited any of them, he reasoned, so what harm could there be in cashing the checks?

“Almost overnight. Political Action Committee checks just flood in, rain down on us, from everywhere, unsolicited — didn’t even know that some of these PACs or industries or interests existed. And we thought it was great. No more awkward phone calls to Amy’s gynecologist,” he said, recalling that one of his first fundraising calls had been to his wife’s OBGYN. “These folks are gonna fund the campaign going forward and I can focus on the work that I want to do.”

That money, though, comes with obvious, but translucent strings attached. “It’s not going to change who you are in any fundamental way,” said O’Rourke, explaining why corporate fundraising can be so pernicious. “Perhaps you’re not on the defense committee, and you could care less what’s in the defense bill, but you know that there’s a $10,000 check coming from Boeing. Why pissed those guys off? Why not just vote their way, if it’s no skin off your back and you don’t understand the issue very well to begin with?” he said, laying out the mindset that makes voting with Boeing more likely than not.

It’s a matter of priorities, he said. Most members of Congress have a handful of issues they care deeply about — what he called “issues one through ten” — and on the rest, they’re ambivalent. It’s on the rest where the calculus is easily made that the smarter move is just to vote with the money.

“No amount of money is going to buy you, but we will vote on 1,200 different items every session of Congress, so items 11 through 1,200, why not make these guys or these gals happy by voting their way, keeping the money coming in and allow you to focus on one through 10?”

At SXSW last year, O’Rourke recounted the moment he decided to swear off fundraising in the typical fashion. When he voted against a farm bill on the advice of his legislative aide, even though it would have granted a favor to a farmers’ PAC that gave him a big donation, his DC fundraiser berated him. “What in the hell are you doing?” she asked. “That’s the last time you’ll ever get a check from them.”

“I said, ‘That’s it. You know, loved working with you, but we’re done, I’m not doing this anymore because this is fucked up that that thought is even going across our minds right now, that we would vote a certain way based on money coming in or potentially coming in.’”

“And it explains so much of the dysfunction in that place,” O’Rourke added of Washington, “because, the news to me when I got there was not only how screwed up fundraising is, and how fundamental it is to everything else that occurs there, but most of the people that I work with are decent human beings, they’re good people who came there for the right reasons they want to do good by and for the people who sent them up to Congress, but they’ve been compromised by this system.”

El Paso is home to Fort Bliss and its more than 30,000 enlisted members of the U.S. Army, so O’Rourke fought to get on the Armed Services Committee shortly before the election. But he was already developing a reputation as somebody who wasn’t enthusiastic about fundraising, so the party leadership kept him off.

He said he was told by another member of Congress who was in the meeting where the decision was made that his unenthusiastic approach to fundraising kept him off the committee. “They didn’t appoint you to that committee your first session in Congress because they just didn’t think you were going to make the money off of it,” he said he was told. “You weren’t going to ask those defense contractors for the checks and it is a squandered opportunity for our party to have you in that seat. That’s like a wasted seat for us.”

O’Rourke has long been intrigued by the hopeful prospect of bipartisanship. His first Facebook Live video to go viral, in fact, was his long car ride from Texas to Washington with GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who represented the district next to O’Rourke’s, stretching 800 miles from El Paso to San Antonio.

“The number one imperative that we had, we were told as members of Congress, is to get re-elected and to get your fellow Democrats re-elected, and to defeat those Republicans with whom you serve, so that we can be in the majority and do great stuff,” he said. “But in order to do that, we’re going to compromise ourselves, and I don’t want you to spend any time getting to know your Republican colleagues. I don’t want you to spend any time becoming the subject matter expert on the shit that you’re going to be working on the next day.”

A bipartisan caucus dedicated to solving problems sounded good to O’Rourke, which is why he entertained the idea of joining the Problem Solvers Caucus, which was sponsored by No Labels. His legislative director warned him it would be useless or worse, but he went to one of the first meetings. To his credit, he came back from it shaking his head and never did join.

To his discredit, he joined the New Democrat Coalition, the Wall Street-friendly wing of the party. On a personal and stylistic level, the move makes sense, as it fits O’Rourke’s desire for common ground — the Obama refrain of no blue states or red states, only the United States. And O’Rourke grew up deeply privileged, with a powerful father and education at an elite boarding school in Virginia. (He was born Robert O’Rourke to his Irish-American family, but was nicknamed Beto at birth — Beto being a common shortening of Robert in El Paso.)

On the question of the substance, though, his attraction to bipartisanship clashes with some of O’Rourke’s progressive political instincts, the type that led to a call for the legalization of all narcotics in 2009, for instance. At the height of the 2014 migration crisis at the border, when asked about the U.S. role in destabilizing Central America, he dove into the history of the Dulles brothers, the CIA’s overthrow of Arbenz, and its history of support for dirty wars.

And then there was his early refusal to take PAC money. But, again, complicating the picture is his refusal to take any PAC money, even from liberal groups, unions, or anybody else. Not all corporations are the same, but a blanket refusal of all corporate PAC money makes sense. And some labor money comes with strings attached that could arguably be detrimental to the public. But it’s a policy reminiscent, again, of Obama, who for most of his first term would only criticize “Washington” rather than “Republicans.”

And then there’s Israel, a foreign policy subject that has split the Democratic party in recent months, where O’Rourke’s record suggests he might hew closer to young progressives.

In July 2014, while O’Rourke was still a freshman, Israel launched a bombing campaign and then ground invasion of Gaza, after Hamas militants kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers. A United Nations report would later find evidence of Israeli war crimes against civilians in the barrage that followed, which killed more than a thousand people, many of them children. O’Rourke said at the time he thought of his three small children as he saw images of young ones pulled from the rubble of Israeli shellings of densely populated areas.

His emotional reaction at the time seemed to be a genuine one, and he was determined not to let the slaughter happen in his name. Before adjourning for the summer recess, the House rushed through an aide package to support the Israeli Iron Dome missile interceptor system. The timing of the vote was purely symbolic — the money wasn’t needed at the moment, but Congress wanted to rush it to show full-throated support of Israel at the height of the war, even as nations around the world were condemning its assault.

O’Rourke cast one of just eight votes against the money, and the response from the pro-Israel lobby was swift, furious and well-coordinated, hitting him everywhere from the New Yorker to his local paper. “I could not in good conscience vote for borrowing $225 million more to send to Israel, without debate and without discussion, in the midst of a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children,” O’Rourke posted on Facebook.

Responding to the uproar, he held a series of meetings with pro-Israel groups and local Jewish leaders, agreeing to visit Israel on AIPAC’s dime the next year, and the lobby expressed hope that O’Rourke would come around and oppose the Iran nuclear deal Obama had been negotiating.

The threat from the Israel lobby to unseat O’Rourke never materialized. The next March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington and addressed Congress at the invitation of the House Speaker John Boehner — not the president, as is the custom — and O’Rourke was one of 58 Democrats to boycott the speech.

That spring, he took the trip to Israel he had promised. When he returned, he was asked a town hall if he’d have voted differently knowing then what he knew now. No, he said, “I think our unequivocal support at times has been damaging to Israel.”

That summer, the Iran deal was finalized and O’Rourke declared it “an impressive diplomatic achievement that has the potential to peacefully resolve one of the most intractable problems facing our country and the world today,” pledging his support. Like the rest of Congress, he continued broadly supporting foreign aid for Israel, but the unrelenting pressure campaign from the lobby had failed.

Asked in 2018 if he still supported the Iran deal, which Israel backers like Sheldon Adelson urged Trump to withdraw from, O’Rourke described the agreement as imperfect, but vital, and “almost a miracle of modern diplomacy.”

O’Rourke’s membership of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, and a series of votes he cast against the progressive agenda on a variety of issues,  has already been identified by Republicans as a potential weakness in a Democratic primary field with progressive champions like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Last week, the Club for Growth released an attack ad it plans to run in Iowa comparing O’Rourke’s record on progressive issues unfavorably to that of former President Barack Obama.


O’Rourke enters race with natural skills, eager support and some big challenges

Former congressman from El Paso enters a crowded Democratic field – can he solidify his platform and take it to a national level?

March 14, 2019

by Ed Pilkington in New York

The Guardian

Losing a federal election in your home state is not normally seen as a ticket to the White House. But then not everybody is capable of being defeated in the style of Beto O’Rourke.

The former congressman from El Paso, the city on the US-Mexico border in the far west of Texas, was outgunned in last November’s US midterms Senate race by the incumbent and former presidential candidate, Ted Cruz. By convention, that should have been the last we heard about O’Rourke on the national stage for a while – instead it has propelled him into his newly announced presidential run.

The answer to that paradox partly lies in Texas, a state that has been in a Republican stranglehold for more than 20 years. That O’Rourke lost so well in the red state – falling just 2.6% of votes short of winning – has unleashed Democratic hopes that Texas might finally be in play.

But most of the explanation lies with O’Rourke himself. He brought to his unlikely campaign, skills and qualities that the Democratic party at national level is gasping for.

Some of those qualities are cosmetic. Tall, at 6ft 4in, with a beaming smile, a thumping stage presence and deep chocolatey voice, O’Rourke, 46, does well in front of the camera. The point may be facile, but when the Republican opponent happens to be a former reality TV star now ensconced in the Oval Office, “Betomania” is not to be sniffed at.

No one can accuse him of lacking effort. During the Senate race, he wore down his political shoe leather with a relentless road trip – his trademark campaigning method – to all of Texas’s 254 counties.

That included King county, which Donald Trump won in 2016 by 94% to Hillary Clinton’s 3%. Trump supporters, he has said, “are every bit as deserving of my attention, of being listened to, of being fought for, of being served, even if they didn’t vote for me”.

When the Guardian interviewed a young Latino man in the small country town of Gonzales who was not registered to vote, O’Rourke read the article and asked one of his volunteers to make a 70-mile drive to help the man fill out the registration paperwork.

He is also a dab hand at social media which, were he to make it all the way to the Democratic nomination, would be important in facing Trump with his 59 million Twitter followers. While Trump is a master of trolling, O’Rourke chooses to wield social media power through interaction.

At times he has invited ridicule by taking social media intimacy to extreme lengths – notably when he invited his fans literally inside his mouth during a trip to the dentist. But his almost confessional style on Instagram and Medium – after the midterm defeat he talked about being “stuck” and in a “fog” – has earned him wide devotion.

O’Rourke’s political track record is relatively thin in the regular playbook. He had a partially successful early career as a punk musician, followed by six years on the city council of El Paso and a similar stint as the city’s representative in Congress.

During the battle against Cruz he built up an army of volunteers that by the end was 25,000 strong, and he amassed a fortune of more than $70m – a sum greater than any in US Senate campaign history – drawn from all over the country, overwhelmingly in small donations.

Star power has also been drawn to him – another beneficial factor in the age of celebrity. He has been given the imprimatur of Oprah, who interviewed him for her SuperSoul podcast.

Oprah asked him what would sway him to take on a grueling run for the White House, and he replied: “Can I be part of bringing people together in a deeply divided country around things we agree are common? Can we have a common conception of what it is to be an American? If I can play some role in helping the country to do that, by God I’m going to do it.”

That positive message of national healing might be his strongest asset in a very crowded and diverse Democratic field so far. But despite all these skills and natural advantages, his presidential candidacy faces some daunting challenges.

First, can he elevate himself from border-town and state-level politics to the far more testing stage of national and world affairs? When the Washington Post’s political reporter Jenna Johnson spent time with O’Rourke at the Mexican border in January she was surprised by how vague his politics were, how lacking in specifics.

“When it comes to many of the biggest policy issues facing the country today, O’Rourke’s default stance is to call for a debate,” she observed. O’Rourke will have a lot of prepping to do before the first Democratic debate takes place under the unforgiving glare of TV lights in June.

Then there is the question of his policy platform. At a time when the Democratic party has taken a leap to the left in reaction to Trump and at the instigation of a new generation of young leaders personified by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar, his upbeat message of reuniting the country may fall short.

He also has a more conservative voting record on Capitol Hill than many might have expected, often siding with Republicans and Trump administration policies, analysis last year showed.

And he will be up against perhaps the biggest gun of all in the Democratic field if Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice-president, throws his hat in the ring in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, can he find his feet when up against the economic radicalism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the civil rights radicalism of Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, the ambitious immigration plan of Julián Castro?

During his Senate run, O’Rourke pressed his credentials over immigration, calling for a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers who were brought to the US unlawfully, as children, and opposing Trump’s wall and family separations at the US-Mexico border. He also had a robust manifesto for investing in public schools.

But his call for improvements to Obamacare may come across as cautious up against several rival candidates who have embraced Medicare for All. And his fondness for the second amendment on gun rights – not surprising for a Texan – could be problematic in the wake of Parkland and other mass shootings.

Even before he announced his candidacy, O’Rourke was already coming under liberal fire for being too closely aligned with Wall Street, insufficiently daring on healthcare and under the influence of the fossil fuel industry.

Betomania will take O’Rourke only so far without a sharper political posture. Now the real work begins.


US Senate passes Yemen war resolution, refusing to back Trump’s support for Saudi-led coalition

March 13, 2019


The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a resolution that would end US involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s brutal war in Yemen, countering President Donald Trump’s support for the controversial conflict.

The Yemen War Powers resolution, which passed 54-46, blocks US forces from any involvement in the increasingly unpopular war without further authorization from Congress. Its backers have argued that US involvement in the conflict violates the constitutional requirement that Congress alone can authorize participation in war.

An earlier version of the resolution passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives but was rejected by the Senate; the resolution must now pass the House again before it is sent to the White House, where Trump has promised to veto it.

A small group of Republicans were willing to cross party lines to rebuke Trump over his support for a conflict the United Nations has declared a humanitarian disaster, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and left half the population of Yemen on the brink of starvation.

US forces previously provided targeting support for coalition airstrikes and even mid-air refueling for coalition planes, until that practice was reportedly discontinued late last year.

The Yemen War Powers resolution also serves as a vehicle to pressure Trump to condemn the Saudi government over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence agencies have pinned on Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, revelations that interests connected with the Trump administration were in negotiations to sell the Saudis nuclear technology have shed new light on the president’s cozy relationship with the embattled kingdom.

Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have relentlessly bombed Yemen since 2015 in an effort to oust the Houthi rebels controlling the capital city of Sanaa. The US-armed and -trained coalition has reportedly deliberately targeted hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, leading to a massive cholera outbreak, and upwards of 60,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict since 2016 – with a further 85,000 estimated dead of famine and malnutrition.

Half of Yemen’s population relies on food aid to survive, placing them in immediate danger of starving to death after coalition forces blockaded the port city of Hodeidah last year


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

March 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. 58

Date: Thursday, January 9, 1997

Commenced:  9:47 AM CST

Concluded:  10:28 AM CST


RTC: Ah, good morning, Gregory. Did you talk to Bill yesterday?

GD: Yes, he actually called me. He was discussing Kronthal with me mostly, but I think he was on a fishing trip. Was asking me about the new Mueller book…what was in it and such like.

RTC: Did you tell him anything?

GD: No, not in specific. I find him entertaining and sometimes truthful, but I don’t trust him. And I don’t trust Kimmel, either.

RTC: Probably a good idea. I rarely hear from Kimmel these days.

GD: I wonder why?

RTC: I think you’re the reason. Bill was cautioning me against talking too much to you because it might hurt my reputation.

GD: I think it must be the fact that I’m a practicing vampire. You know, Robert, it’ll be tough sledding this winter.

RTC: Why is that?

GD: No snow.

RTC: I walked right into that one, didn’t I? Has anyone discussed the Kennedy business with you?

GD: Corson did, once. Said he had the real story in his safe deposit box, and Plato or Aristotle would get it when he was called to Jesus.

RTC: Plato. That’s the fix lawyer around here. Little favors for this person or that one, little jobs for the Company and so on.

GD: They probably deserve each other.

RTC: Probably. And how is the Mueller book doing?

GD: Well enough. I’m starting to block out the Kennedy book and, yes, I know not to talk about it…

RTC: Or even write something up about it. If Tom thought you were into this, he’d have his boys do a black bag job on you and get into your hard drive.

GD: I could put a bomb in it… When they turned it on, somebody later  would be carrying a white cane and being nice to his German Shepherd guide dog.

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, not to make jokes about things like that.

GD: If people don’t want me to punt them in their fat ass, they shouldn’t bend over. On the other hand, it might be an invite for something more romantic.

RTC: I can see you’re in a good mood today.

GD: Foul mouthed as ever.

RTC: Sometimes, but always entertaining.

GD: I know Kimmel doesn’t find me entertaining. I make fun of the establishment and he is so obviously a dedicated and vocal part of it.

RTC: Everyone has to have something to cling to.

GD: What a waste of time. People are so predictable and so pathetic. You know, Robert, it’s like visiting your ant farm every morning and watching the ants leading their programmed lives.

RTC: Isn’t that a bit arrogant, Gregory?

GD: It’s not that I’m so smart, Robert, although I am, but it’s because so many are so stupid. Anyway, enough Weltschmertz.

RTC: Pardon?

GD: Pain with the world. Burned out. Bored. Frustrated.

RTC: I see. When you get to my age, that’s the whole thing.

GD: Well, if youth knew and age could, Robert. I think that’s from Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who invented aspirin. You know, God is Love, there is no pain. They ought to put that up in the terminal cancer wards. It would be such a comfort. I understand Mary was buried with a telephone in her coffin. High hopes and impossibilities sums it up, and have an aspirin.

RTC: That’s Christian Science, isn’t it? You heard about the Christian Scientist? He had a very bad cold and pretty soon, the cold was gone and so was the Christian Scientist.

GD: That’s how it goes, I guess. Now let me get serious about this ZIPPER business. If you want me to do a treatment on this that will be to your benefit, I need to get from you, on the phone is fine, some kind of a rationale for what happened. I mean, that’s what you want, isn’t it? To let those who come after you fully understand the reasons for your actions.

RTC: Yes, that’s it exactly. If that ever got out, though by now, it probably won’t, I don’t want my son and my grandchildren thinking I was just a common or garden variety assassin. They should know the reasons for why we acted as we did.

GD: Fine. Go ahead.

RTC: You must understand that we took our duties very seriously. Angleton was a first class counter intelligence man and very dedicated. And he discovers that the most important intelligence reports, the President’s daily briefings from the CIA, are ending up in Moscow. Within a week of them being given to the President. A week. And this was not a one-time incident but had been going on for some time. We then tried to find out how this was happening. A major intelligence disaster, Gregory, major. Now there were several copies of this report disseminated, never mind to whom, so in each one, a little spice was put in. An identifier as you will. Nothing that changed the thrust of the report but a little bit of spice, as Jim used to say. Jim’s contact in Moscow was a diplomat, never mind which country, because we don’t need to make trouble for him. So from him, we got copies of what Nikita was getting. So can you imagine how stunned we all were to learn that it was the President’s copy that was being leaked? My God! So we couldn’t just walk up to him and ask him how come Khrushchev was reading his briefings a week after we gave them to him. Jim couldn’t find a way how this was done, but then we had a report that Bobby, his brother, was known to be friendly with a prominent KGB fellow, Bolshakov. No question of who he was. The TASS man here. Top level. Bobby was known to have had at least one meeting with him. Hoover was having Bobby watched day and night because Hoover hated him and wanted to catch him doing something bad so he could leak it to the Post and get him sacked. Anyway, they found out that Bobby was talking to the Commie on the phone from his home so we, and Hoover, tapped his phone. Hoover didn’t know we were doing it, too, but that’s Washington politics for you. And we heard, for sure, that Bobby was sending thermofax copies of this report to him. I mean, there was no question. And, we learned, too, that Kennedy was keeping in direct contact with Khrushchev by Bobby and the Russian. I mean they were subverting the entire diplomatic system and God alone knows what Kennedy was talking about. We had to make sure of this, and really sure. It was explosive, believe me. Jim and a few of us sat down, listened to tapes and agent reports and tried to decide what to do. I mean, Gregory, here we had our President giving, actually giving, the most secret documents to our worst enemy, a man who swore in public he would destroy us. So, what to do? Make it public? Who would dare to do this? Of course we had strong media contacts but we all decided this was just too mind-boggling and negative to let outside that room. And that is where the decision was made to simply get rid of Kennedy. He was too independent, he had sacked Dulles and Bissel over the Cuban thing and threatened to Mansfield to break the Agency up. And here he was giving our worse enemy top secret inside information. I mean it really wasn’t open to discussion. You can see this all, can’t you?

GD: I can see your point of view very clearly.

RTC: What would you have done?

GD: I’m not an important person like those people, so what difference does my opinion make in all this? I’m just trying to find the rationale.

RTC: Well, do you have it?

GD: Yes, very clearly.

RTC: Well, the rest was lining up the players. Jim did his part, McCone did his part and he talked to Hoover to get his cooperation. We never went directly to him, but we used Bill Sullivan, his right hand trouble-shooter. That’s how it was done. Hoover hated the Kennedys,  especially Bobby, and we had to have him on our side because it was his people that would investigate any killing that had to be done. It took about a week of back and forth but finally it was agreed on. Johnson was no problem. He was a real rat; a wheeler-dealer whom you couldn’t trust to the corner for a pound of soft soap. The Kennedy bunch were treating him like shit and planned to dump him as VP, so of course he went for the wink and the nod. Fortas was his bagman, just like Sullivan was Hoover’s. These are people who know the value of silence from long experience. And it went on from there. I have a phone conference record which I will dig out, when the time comes, and send to you. At this point are you clear on the motivations? I mean, this was not just some spur of the moment thing, Gregory. We felt it had to be done to stop what we could only call high treason. Hoover and Johnson both went along on those grounds. A matter of treason. And it had to be stopped. I don’t see this as heroic but a vital necessity. For the country.

GD: I remember reading somewhere that treason doth never prosper for if it prospers, none dare call it treason.

RTC: Something like that.

GD: Very like.

RTC: But if you look at it carefully, and I hope you will, Gregory, you will see that Kennedy was committing the treason, not us. It was he and his vile brother who were passing our most sensitive and secret documents to our enemies. What were we to do? Confront him? We’d all be fired, or worse. What choice was there? Tell me that.

GD: From that point of view, none.

RTC: We are making progress. One thing…Jim was thinking about blowing up Kennedy’s yacht while and was sailing around off Cape Cod but since there certainly would be children on board, I put a stop to that. Kennedy is one thing but not the children.

GD: And the wife? Our American saint.

RTC: Oh that one. Don’t be fooled, Gregory. Jackie claims descent from French nobility but in fact, her French ancestor wasn’t a nobleman, but an immigrant cabinetmaker. And crap about her being related to Robert E. Lee is more crap. That part of her family were lace curtain micks from the old sod. The woman is a fraud. She married Kennedy for his father’s money, that’s all. Wonderful backgrounds here, Gregory. Old Joe was as crooked as they come. He was an associate of Al Capone, a bootlegger, and worse, and in 1960, he and the mob rigged the election so Jack could get in. Yes, I know all about that. They did their work in Chicago with the Daley machine and the local mob. That’s right, vote early and vote often. They even voted the cemeteries. I never really liked Nixon but they connived and stole the election from him slicker than snot off a glass-handled door knob.

GD: Ain’t it nice living in a democracy? So Kennedy wasn’t a saint by any stretch.

RTC:We can overlook all the women and the wild drug and sex orgies in the White House, but, Gregory, passing our top secrets to the enemy was too damned much. I would like you to show that very clearly if and when you get into this.

GD: Well, from a pragmatic view, Robert, it is the very best and clearest reason for the killing. A question here.

RTC: Certainly.

GD: A plot. Good, but then how do you keep it quiet? Someone might talk.

RTC: Remove them, Gregory.

GD: But what about those who remove those who know too much? Then they know too much.

RTC: Oswald knew a little too much, just a little but enough. And he could prove he never shot Kennedy. So he had to go before he started to talk. Oswald knew some of our people and he worked directly for ONI, so there were dangers there. On the other hand, the man who shot King, Ray, knew nothing so he got to live and end up in jail until he died. He knew there was something wrong, but, and this is important to note, Gregory, he had no proof.

GD: You did King?

RTC: No Hoover did King. He hated him with a visceral passion. Hoover was a nut, Gregory, but a very powerful and very dangerous nut. There is a long-standing rumor here that Hoover had passed the color line and that he was part black. Hoover was a homosexual and there we have two reasons to hate yourself. King was black and he was a womanizer. And Bobby was AG and loathed Hoover. He used to go into Hoover’s office while he was taking his after-lunch nap and wake him up. And he laughed at him and called him a faggot behind his back. Not to do that to Hoover. He stayed in absolute power because he had enough real dirt on Congress to put most of them away in the cooler or the loonie bin. No, Bobby signed his death warrant when he did those things. No, Hoover did King and Hoover did Bobby. Not himself, but he got Bill Sullivan to do it. Sullivan was his hatchet man and we worked directly with Bill. But then Bill got old and was starting to babble like old people do, and he was hinting about Hoover, who had sacked him after he had used him. No, that doesn’t make it, so some kid shot Bill right through the head. He thought he was a deer. My, my.

GD: And Bobby?

RTC: That was Hoover too. It was an agreement. We did John and Edgar did the others. We had one of our men there when they did Bobby, just to observe. We got George the Greek to keep an eye open. They got one of Kennedy’s people to steer him into the kitchen after a speech and the raghead was waiting. One of the Kennedy bodyguards did him from behind while all the shooting and screaming was going on. Much better than John. They had a real shooter in front of real people. None of the questions like we had in Dallas. No loose ends, so to speak. And King was another clean job. Sullivan was very good.

GD: And that’s why he turned into a deer.

RTC: Yes, he turned into a very dead deer.

GD: And you got Cord’s wife on top of it.

RTC: Jim said she was hanging around with hippies and arty-farty people and running her mouth.

GD: Did she know anything?

RTC: No, but she was well-connected and some people might believe her. She’d been humping Kennedy and they apparently really go along with each other. She was a lot more of a woman than Jackie and she never nagged Jack or acted so superior like Jackie loved to do. Her brother in law worked for us and we all agonized over this but in the end, Jim had his way. Of course Cord thought it was peachy-keen. He hated her, but then Cord hated everybody. The vicious Cyclops!

GD: One eye.

RTC: Yes. Oh, and like Jim, he, too, was a profound poet. God, spare me from the poets of the world. You don’t write poetry, do you, Gregory.

GD: No, but really filthy limericks, Robert. Would you like to hear some?

RTC: Oh, not now. Maybe later.

GD: Probably just as well. Once I get started on those, I’ll be going strong an hour later. But let me tell you just one. Not a dirty one, but after about an hour of limericks, I love to end the night with this one. Can I proceed?

RTC: Just one?

GD: Yes, just one.

RTC: Go on.

GD: ‘There was an old man of St. Bees,

Who was stung on the arm by a wasp.

When asked if it hurt,

He replied ‘No, it didn’t,

‘I’m so glad that it wasn’t a hornet.’


(Concluded at 10:28 AM CST)





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