TBR News March 24, 2017

Mar 24 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 24, 2017:  “Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a robot bird whose wings can flap independently of each other.

Called the “Robo Raven,” the breakthrough engineering technology allows the robot to achieve any desired motion and to perform aerobatic maneuvers.

Developed by University of Maryland Professors S.K. Gupta and Hugh Bruck and their students, the robot birds could one day be used for reconnaissance and surveillance.

The final design enables a tiny video camera, can be launched from the ground, and can fly in winds up to 10 mph.

The micro air bird even fooled a local hawk, which attacked the robot in mid-flight on more than one occasion.

I suppose the next invention will be the reporting toilet seat.”

Table of Contents


  • Did Obama Plot To Sabotage Trump?
  • Exposing Shabby Intelligence
  • The evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC is collapsing
  • Risky House healthcare vote to test Trump’s negotiating skills
  • The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings
  • Stock markets wobbly after delayed Trumpcare vote
  • Truth or Consequences?

 Did Obama Plot To Sabotage Trump?  

March 24, 2017

by Patrick J. Buchanan


Devin Nunes just set the cat down among the pigeons.

Two days after FBI Director James Comey assured us there was no truth to President Trump’s tweet about being wiretapped by Barack Obama, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump may have had more than just a small point.

The U.S. intelligence community, says Nunes, during surveillance of legitimate targets, picked up the names of Trump transition officials during surveillance of targets, “unmasked” their identity, and spread their names around, virtually assuring they would be leaked.

If true, this has the look and smell of a conspiracy to sabotage the Trump presidency, before it began.

Comey readily confirmed there was no evidence to back up the Trump tweet. But when it came to electronic surveillance of Trump and his campaign, Comey, somehow, could not comment on that.

Which raises the question: What is the real scandal here?

Is it that Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails and handed them off to WikiLeaks? We have heard that since June.

Is it that Trump officials may have colluded with the Russians?

But former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and ex-CIA Director Mike Morrell have both said they saw no evidence of this.

This March, Sen. Chris Coons walked back his stunning declaration about transcripts showing a Russia-Trump collusion, confessing, “I have no hard evidence of collusion.”

But if Clapper and Morrell saw no Russia-Trump collusion, what were they looking at during all those months to make them so conclude?

Was it “FBI transcripts,” as Sen. Coons blurted out?

If so, who intercepted and transcribed the conversations? If it was intel agencies engaged in surveillance, who authorized that? How extensive was it? Against whom? Is it still going on?

And if today, after eight months, the intel agencies cannot tell us whether or not any member of the Trump team colluded with the Russians, what does that say of their competence?

The real scandal, which the media regard as a diversion from the primary target, Trump, is that a Deep State conspiracy to bring down his presidency seems to have been put in place by Obamaites, and perhaps approved by Obama himself.

Consider. On Jan. 12, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote,

“According to a senior U.S. government official, (Gen. Michael) Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials … What did Flynn say?”

Now, on Dec. 29, Flynn, national security adviser-designate, was not only doing his job calling the ambassador, he was a private citizen.

Why was he unmasked by U.S. intelligence?

Who is this “senior official” who dropped the dime on him? Could this official have known how many times Flynn spoke to Kislyak, yet not known what was said on the calls?

That is hard to believe. This looks like a contract hit by an anti-Trump agent in the intel community, using Ignatius to do the wet work.

Flynn was taken down. Did Comey turn his FBI loose to ferret out the felon who had unmasked Flynn and done him in? If not, why not?

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger points anew to a story in The New York Times of March 1 that began:

“In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election – and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Trump and Russians – across the government.”

“This is what they did,” wrote Henninger, quoting the Times:

“At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government – and, in some cases, among European allies.”

For what benign purpose would U.S. intelligence agents spread secrets damaging to their own president – to foreign regimes? Is this not disloyalty? Is this not sedition?

On Jan. 12, writes Henninger, the Times “reported that Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed rules that let the National Security Agency disseminate ‘raw signals intelligence information’ to 16 other intelligence agencies.”

Astounding. The Obamaites seeded the U.S. and allied intel communities with IEDs to be detonated on Trump’s arrival. This is the scandal, not Trump telling Vlad to go find Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails.

We need to know who colluded with the Russians, if anyone did. But more critically, we need to unearth the deep state conspiracy to sabotage a presidency.

So far, the Russia-connection investigation has proven a dry hole. But an investigation into who in the FBI, CIA or NSA is unmasking U.S. citizens and criminally leaking information to a Trump-hating press to destroy a president they are sworn to serve could prove to be a gusher.

As for the reports of Lynch-White House involvement in this unfolding plot to damage and destroy Trump the real question is: What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?

Exposing Shabby Intelligence

There’s a long history of skepticism among ex-spooks.

March 23, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

There is a perception among some of the public and within the alternative media that America’s burgeoning national-security state is a monolith, a collective entity pursuing its own interests regardless of what is good for the country or its people. From both progressives and conservatives who mistrust the government, I often hear comments such as, “Once in the CIA, always in the CIA”—as if onetime employment in the agency forms an unbreakable bond.

Those familiar with both the national-security community and the peace movement are aware that something like the reverse is true. Individuals who were attracted to careers in intelligence, law enforcement, or the military are often sticklers for doing what is right rather than what is expedient. That often puts them at odds with their political masters, leading sometimes to resignations and a resulting overrepresentation of former national-security professionals in the anti-war movement.

One manifestation of this is an organization of former national-security officers, including myself, called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS. VIPS was founded in 2003 out of revulsion on the part of many former officials over the shabby intelligence that was driving the decision to invade Iraq. The group includes officials from the whole alphabet soup of national security—CIA, NSA, FBI, FS (Foreign Service), and DOD. VIPS’s emergence and its ongoing letters of protest on national-security policy reflect a reality going back to the early debates surrounding the U.S. government’s stealthy escalation of the Vietnam War and its woeful handling of that conflict, ending in a humiliating defeat.

The lies that led to that Vietnam experience produced one of the first well-known rebels against intelligence corruption. Sam Adams, a CIA analyst who was assigned to the agency’s Vietnam desk in 1965, observed that the strength estimates for the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerrillas consistently underreported the true strength of the enemy. This led to a prolonged conflict with Army and White House officials, as well as with Adams’s own bosses, all of whom promoted the false notion that the Vietnam challenge was a limited insurgency easily defeated, a fabrication intended to ensure U.S. popular support for the conflict.

Though Adams eventually was forced out of the agency, he continued to expose how intelligence had been hijacked to suit a political agenda. He served as a witness in the trial of Daniel Ellsberg, the man behind the Pentagon Papers revelations. He wrote about the Vietnam “cover-up” and spoke to the House Intelligence Committee’s Pike Commission, which credited his allegations.

Today there are many former national-security officials in the mold of Sam Adams. For many, the disillusionment with the corruption of intelligence and betrayal of national security began with Iraq. CIA officers in the clandestine service such as European Division chief Tyler Drumheller pushed hard against CIA Director George Tenet and the White House, insisting that field reporting demonstrated that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Drumheller also dismissed “Curveball,” the German-Iraqi source of the false intelligence that Iraq was building mobile biological-weapons labs. The source, said Drumheller, was merely “a guy trying to get his green card essentially, in Germany, and playing the system for what it was worth.”

CIA analysts also sought to expose false claims that Iraqi intelligence officials had met with al-Qaeda. Senior State Department officials John Kiesling, John Brown, and Ann Wright resigned over the march to an avoidable war.

For others, increasing governmental attacks on the Constitution proved decisive. National Security Agency (NSA) officer Tom Drake went through channels after he learned the agency was illegally collecting information on U.S. citizens in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He was joined by former NSA officers William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis. Their efforts were rebuffed by the government. Despite whistleblower protections, Drake later was charged under the Espionage Act.

The large numbers of former foot soldiers in the national-security establishment who are now opposed to the warfare state should be an eye opener for many Americans, suggesting that there is no “high confidence” among many of those who are actually best positioned to know the truth regarding Washington’s perpetual warfare policies.

Which brings us back to VIPS and the dissident former national-security officers who have found a home there. One is Tom Drake, who was involved from the start, as was Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA analyst and presidential briefer. VIPS has produced 47 memos on national-security policy. Its first official action was a February 2003 memo to President George W. Bush condemning the United Nations speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell that established the pretext for invading Iraq. The memo said, “you would be well served if you widened the discussion beyond … the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

More recently, VIPS has raised serious questions about the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered “Russian hacking” designed to destabilize American politics and, if possible, put Donald Trump in the presidency. The group called on President Obama to release solid evidence of this, even if it creates difficulty for ongoing intelligence operations. The former security officials suggested the evidence released by the government thus far “does not pass the smell test,” and they noted particularly the lack of any public evidence linking the Russians to WikiLeaks, which published the bulk of the information in question.

“We urge you to authorize public release of any tangible evidence that takes us beyond the unsubstatianted, ‘we-assess’ judgments by the intelligence agencies,” said the VIPS statement, addressed to Obama. “Otherwise, we … will be left with the corrosive suspicion that the intense campaign of accusations is part of a wider attempt to discredit the Russians and those—like Mr. Trump—who wish to deal constructively with them.”

The VIPS statement didn’t get much attention. Indeed, such warnings from former intelligence, security, law-enforcement, and military personnel are largely frozen out of the establishment media. When VIPS presents its annual Sam Adams award for integrity in intelligence, the recipients get more media attention in Europe than in the U.S. Rarely do the 50-plus associates of VIPS appear in the U.S. mainstream media, although they are frequently interviewed by the foreign press, particularly in Western Europe.

The government also does its best to repress any dissident opinion by requiring many former intelligence and law-enforcement personnel to have their writings reviewed by security officers prior to publication. The reviews can take months, make no effort to accommodate publishing deadlines, and often result in a heavily redacted text that is unreadable. The government sometimes strikes back in less subtle ways. Ray McGovern’s 2006 return of his Intelligence Commendation Medal over reports of CIA torture led to a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2007 enabling Congress to strip retirees of their pensions.

Pushback from former national-security officials is a good thing for the country and the agencies once served by these dissidents. Just as the Founders envisioned a citizen army so the defense of the nation would be in the hands of the people, a national-security structure responsive to responsible dissent should be cherished. The Obama administration, to its discredit, routinely punished legitimate whistleblowers and covered up its misdeeds through invocation of the state-secrets privilege. We can hope that the new Trump administration will have the wisdom and confidence to call off the dogs.

The evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC is collapsing

March 24, 2017

by Justin Raimondo,


The allegation – now accepted as incontrovertible fact by the “mainstream” media – that the Russian intelligence services hacked the Democratic National Committee (and John Podesta’s emails) in an effort to help Donald Trump get elected recently suffered a blow from which it may not recover.

Crowdstrike is the cybersecurity company hired by the DNC to determine who hacked their accounts: it took them a single day to determine the identity of the culprits – it was, they said, two groups of hackers which they named “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear,” affiliated respectively with the GRU, which is Russian military intelligence, and the FSB, the Russian security service.

How did they know this?

These alleged “hacker groups” are not associated with any known individuals in any way connected to Russian intelligence: instead, they are identified by the tools they use, the times they do their dirty work, the nature of the targets, and other characteristics based on the history of past intrusions.

Yet as Jeffrey Carr and other cyberwarfare experts have pointed out, this methodology is fatally flawed. “It’s important to know that the process of attributing an attack by a cybersecurity company has nothing to do with the scientific method,” writes Carr:

“Claims of attribution aren’t testable or repeatable because the hypothesis is never proven right or wrong. Neither are claims of attribution admissible in any criminal case, so those who make the claim don’t have to abide by any rules of evidence (i.e., hearsay, relevance, admissibility).”

Likening attribution claims of hacking incidents by cybersecurity companies to intelligence assessments, Carr notes that, unlike government agencies such the CIA, these companies are never held to account for their misses:

“When it comes to cybersecurity estimates of attribution, no one holds the company that makes the claim accountable because there’s no way to prove whether the assignment of attribution is true or false unless (1) there is a criminal conviction, (2) the hacker is caught in the act, or (3) a government employee leaked the evidence.”

This lack of accountability may be changing, however, because Crowdstrike’s case for attributing the hacking of the DNC to the Russians is falling apart at the seams like a cheap sweater.

To begin with, Crowdstrike initially gauged its certainty as to the identity of the hackers with “medium confidence.” However, a later development, announced in late December and touted by the Washington Post, boosted this to “high confidence.” The reason for this newfound near-certainty was their discovery that “Fancy Bear” had also infected an application used by the Ukrainian military to target separatist artillery in the Ukrainian civil war. As the Post reported:

“While CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC to investigate the intrusions and whose findings are described in a new report, had always suspected that one of the two hacker groups that struck the DNC was the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, it had only medium confidence.

“Now, said CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch, ‘we have high confidence’ it was a unit of the GRU. CrowdStrike had dubbed that unit ‘Fancy Bear.’”

Crowdstrike published an analysis that claimed a malware program supposedly unique to Fancy Bear, X-Agent, had infected a Ukrainian targeting application and, using GPS to geo-locate Ukrainian positions, had turned the application against the Ukrainians, resulting in huge losses:

“Between July and August 2014, Russian-backed forces launched some of the most-decisive attacks against Ukrainian forces, resulting in significant loss of life, weaponry and territory.

“Ukrainian artillery forces have lost over 50% of their weapons in the two years of conflict and over 80% of D-30 howitzers, the highest percentage of loss of any other artillery pieces in Ukraine’s arsenal.”

Alperovitch told the PBS News Hour that “Ukraine’s artillery men were targeted by the same hackers, that we call Fancy Bear, that targeted DNC, but this time they were targeting cell phones to try to understand their location so that the Russian artillery forces can actually target them in the open battle. It was the same variant of the same malicious code that we had seen at the DNC.”

He told NBC News that this proved the DNC hacker “wasn’t a 400-pound guy in his bed,” as Trump had opined during the first presidential debate – it was the Russians.

The only problem with this analysis is that is wasn’t true. It turns out that Crowdstrike’s estimate of Ukrainian losses was based on a blog post by a pro-Russian blogger eager to tout Ukrainian losses: the Ukrainians denied it. Furthermore, the hacking attribution was based on the hackers’ use of a malware program called X-Agent, supposedly unique to Fancy Bear. Since the target was the Ukrainian military, Crowdstrike extrapolated from this that the hackers were working for the Russians.

All somewhat plausible, except for two things: To begin with, as Jeffrey Carr pointed out in December, and now others are beginning to realize, X-Agent isn’t unique to Fancy Bear. Citing the findings of ESET, another cybersecurity company, he wrote:

“Unlike Crowdstrike, ESET doesn’t assign APT28/Fancy Bear/Sednit to a Russian Intelligence Service or anyone else for a very simple reason. Once malware is deployed, it is no longer under the control of the hacker who deployed it or the developer who created it. It can be reverse-engineered, copied, modified, shared and redeployed again and again by anyone. In other words  –  malware deployed is malware enjoyed!

“In fact, the source code for X-Agent, which was used in the DNC, Bundestag, and TV5Monde attacks, was obtained by ESET as part of their investigation!

“During our investigations, we were able to retrieve the complete Xagent source code for the Linux operating system….”

“If ESET could do it, so can others. It is both foolish and baseless to claim, as Crowdstrike does, that X-Agent is used solely by the Russian government when the source code is there for anyone to find and use at will.”

Secondly, the estimate Crowdstrike used to verify the Ukrainian losses was supposedly based on data from the respected International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). But now IISS is disavowing and debunking their claims:

“[T]he International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told [Voice of America] that CrowdStrike erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion. IISS disavowed any connection to the CrowdStrike report. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has claimed combat losses and hacking never happened….

“’The CrowdStrike report uses our data, but the inferences and analysis drawn from that data belong solely to the report’s authors,” the IISS said. “The inference they make that reductions in Ukrainian D-30 artillery holdings between 2013 and 2016 were primarily the result of combat losses is not a conclusion that we have ever suggested ourselves, nor one we believe to be accurate.’

“One of the IISS researchers who produced the data said that while the think tank had dramatically lowered its estimates of Ukrainian artillery assets and howitzers in 2013, it did so as part of a ‘reassessment” and reallocation of units to airborne forces.’

“’No, we have never attributed this reduction to combat losses,” the IISS researcher said, explaining that most of the reallocation occurred prior to the two-year period that CrowdStrike cites in its report.

“’The vast majority of the reduction actually occurs … before Crimea/Donbass,’ he added, referring to the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The definitive “evidence” cited by Alperovitch is now effectively debunked: indeed, it was debunked by Carr late last year, but that was ignored in the media’s rush to “prove” the Russians hacked the DNC in order to further Trump’s presidential ambitions. The exposure by the Voice of America of Crowdstrike’s falsification of Ukrainian battlefield losses – the supposedly solid “proof” of attributing the hack to the GRU – is the final nail in Crowdstrike’s coffin. They didn’t bother to verify their analysis of IISS’s data with IISS – they simply took as gospel the allegations of a pro-Russian blogger. They didn’t contact the Ukrainian military, either: instead, their confirmation bias dictated that they shaped the “facts” to fit their predetermined conclusion.

Now why do you suppose that is? Why were they married so early – after a single day – to the conclusion that it was the Russians who were behind the hacking of the DNC?

Crowdstrike founder Alperovitch is a Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, and head honcho of its “Cyber Statecraft Initiative” – of which his role in promoting the “Putin did it” scenario is a Exhibit A. James Carden, writing in The Nation, makes the trenchant point that “The connection between Alperovitch and the Atlantic Council has gone largely unremarked upon, but it is relevant given that the Atlantic Council – which is funded in part by the US State Department, NATO, the governments of Latvia and Lithuania, the Ukrainian World Congress, and the Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk – has been among the loudest voices calling for a new Cold War with Russia.” Adam Johnson, writing on the FAIR blog, adds to our knowledge by noting that the Council’s budget is also supplemented by “a consortium of Western corporations (Qualcomm, Coca-Cola, The Blackstone Group), including weapons manufacturers (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman) and oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP).”

Johnson also notes that CrowdStrike currently has a $150,000 / year, no-bid contract with the FBI for “systems analysis.”

Nice work if you can get it.

This last little tidbit gives us some insight into what is perhaps the most curious aspect of the Russian-hackers-campaign-for-Trump story: the FBI’s complete dependence on Crowdstrike’s analysis. Amazingly, the FBI did no independent forensic work on the DNC servers before Crowdstrike got its hot little hands on them: indeed, the DNC denied the FBI access to the servers, and, as far as anyone knows, the FBI never examined them. BuzzFeed quotes an anonymous “intelligence official” as saying “Crowdstrike is pretty good. There’s no reason to believe that anything they have concluded is not accurate.”

There is now.

Alperovitch is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, and one wonders if our clueless – and technically challenged – Republican members of Congress will question him about the debunking of Crowdstrike’s rush to judgment. I tend to doubt it, since the Russia-did-it meme is now the Accepted Narrative and no dissent is permitted – to challenge it would make them “Putin apologists”! (Although maybe Trey Gowdy, the only GOPer on that panel who seems to have any brains, may surprise me.)

As I’ve been saying for months, there is no evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC: none, zilch, nada. Yet this false narrative is the entire basis of a campaign launched by the Democrats, hailed by the Trump-hating media, and fully endorsed by the FBI and the CIA, the purpose of which is to “prove” that Trump is “Putin’s puppet,” as Hillary Clinton put it. Now the investigative powers of the federal government are being deployed to confirm that the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Kremlin in an act the evidence for which is collapsing.

This whole affair is a vicious fraud. If there is any justice in this world – and there may not be – the perpetrators should be charged, tried, and jailed.

Risky House healthcare vote to test Trump’s negotiating skills

March 24, 2017

by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan


Washington-U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday faces the first concrete test of how well the deal-making skills he honed in his real estate business will translate on Capitol Hill in a high-stakes vote on new Republican health care legislation.

The House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill to replace Obamacare late on Friday afternoon. The bill, backed by Trump, has proved a tough sell to both conservative and moderate factions in his own Republican party.

Democrats in the House are dead set against the bill, and it was unclear late on Thursday night whether Republican leaders had enough support from their own members to pass it, despite a series of last-minute sweeteners intended to broaden its appeal.

It is the first foray into legislation for Trump, a New York Republican businessman and reality television star known for his book, “The Art of the Deal.” He had not held public office before winning the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The vote on the American Health Care Act had originally been set for Thursday. In an embarrassing setback, it was postponed because of the tepid support.

By Thursday evening, Trump signaled he was done negotiating and demanded lawmakers support the bill, or face the consequences.

“The message is … it’s done tomorrow, or Obamacare stays,” said Representative Chris Collins of New York, a Trump ally.

Replacing the signature health care plan of former Democratic President Barack Obama was a key campaign pledge for Trump and Republicans, who viewed Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act as overly intrusive and expensive.

Obamacare aimed to boost the number of Americans with health insurance through mandates on individuals and employers, and income-based subsidies. Some 20 million Americans gained insurance coverage through the law.

The House replacement plan would rescind taxes created by Obamacare, repeal a penalty against people who do not buy coverage, slash funding for the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, and modify tax subsidies that help individuals buy plans.

Conservatives felt the bill did not go far enough to repeal Obamacare and moderates felt the plan could hurt their constituents.

House leaders agreed to four pages of last-minute amendments, including allowing states to choose which “essential benefits” are required in insurance plans, keeping a 0.9 percent surcharge on Medicare for high-income Americans for six years, and giving states more money for maternal health and mental health.

It was unclear whether that was enough to win over skeptics.

During the past few weeks, Trump has remarked that healthcare was more complicated than he expected and has said he looks forward to moving on to other priorities like tax cuts and trade deals.

But a defeat in the vote will cast doubt on his ability to work with Congress to deliver on tax reform and infrastructure investments. Uncertainty over the healthcare bill rattled financial markets this week as investors worried that failure to push it through could postpone other business-friendly Trump priorities.

Even if the House passes the plan on Friday, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The House and Senate had hoped to deliver a new healthcare bill to Trump by April 8, when Congress is scheduled to begin a two-week spring break.

The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings

March 23 2017

by Liliana Segura

The Intercept

As Donald Trump stood in the East Room of the White House on January 31, congratulating himself for delivering “the very best judge in the country” for the U.S. Supreme Court, a man in Missouri was lying on a gurney, with lethal injection drugs entering his veins. The man, 37-year-old Mark Christeson, was declared dead minutes later, at 7:05 Central time. In Washington, Trump continued to speak, with Judge Neil Gorsuch and his wife now standing behind him. With much of the country tuned in to watch Trump’s much-hyped announcement that night, the execution in Missouri flew under the radar.

Convicted of a brutal rape and triple murder committed in 1998, Christeson was not someone likely to inspire widespread concern on any given evening. Yet his execution was a reminder of the kinds of cases Gorsuch would review if confirmed to the Supreme Court. Christeson — a lifelong victim of sexual abuse whose IQ hovered as low as 74 — was abandoned by his own post-conviction attorneys, who missed a crucial deadline to file his federal habeas appeal in 2005. When outside lawyers tried to step in to correct their gross neglect, courts blocked them at every turn. As Christeson’s execution approached, a group of former state and federal judges raised alarm about his case, filing multiple amicus briefs to his petitions before the Supreme Court. They warned that Christeson had received no “meaningful federal review” of his sentence. “When the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the legitimacy of the judicial process,” the judges wrote. Christeson won a last-minute stay of execution in 2014, with the justices remanding his case back to the lower court. But the reprieve was fleeting. As with many on death row who turn to the Supreme Court for relief, Christeson was ultimately executed, the deep flaws with his case barely addressed, let alone corrected.

Over two long days before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, Gorsuch was never asked his views on the death penalty. More time was spent discussing fly-fishing and rodeos, along with more serious (if redundant) questioning on life and death issues like abortion and euthanasia. This was not particularly surprising; confirmation hearings are mostly political theater — and Gorsuch’s record on criminal justice has stirred little controversy compared to other hot-button issues. Many lawyers and experts expressed a measure of relief when Trump announced Gorsuch as his Supreme Court pick. “I don’t think he’s a fire-breathing, law and order, pro-prosecutor guy,” said Tejinder Singh, the appellate and Supreme Court litigator who won a stay of execution for Mark Christeson in 2014.

Yet Gorsuch seeks to join the Supreme Court at a time when the death penalty is in a state of chaos and decline. The issue has sparked some of the most contentious public moments on the bench in recent memory, and with good reason. For all the layers of legal precedent enveloping capital punishment, it is a tradition that has become increasingly hard to uphold, at least in any intellectually honest way. The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on lethal injection, Glossip v. Gross, was simply embarrassing: After a heated oral argument in which the Oklahoma brazenly misled the justices, the 5-4 decision upheld an execution protocol that is the sloppiest of inventions, rooted in junk science, and peddled by a state notorious at the time for having recently carried out a dramatically botched execution. Glossip’s legacy has been short but grim. Oklahoma’s incompetence and deceit has been further exposed. Botched executions have continued apace. More surreal, the ruling has put people challenging their upcoming execution by lethal injection in the perverse position of having to propose better ways for the state to kill them, from the firing squad to the gas chamber. Add to this the fact that the named plaintiff in the case, Richard Glossip, is almost certainly an innocent man, and the result is a perfectly hideous portrait of our modern-day death penalty system. It was Glossip that inspired Justice Stephen Breyer’s extraordinary dissent listing the myriad reasons the death penalty itself is constitutionally intolerable. More recently, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has questioned whether lethal injection is “our most cruel experiment yet.”

Glossip came up just once during Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, in a brief question from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Does Glossip deserve the respect of precedent, he asked? “It does,” Gorsuch said, and that was it. That no senator thought to probe any further was a missed opportunity. In his 10 years serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch presided over cases that embodied the pitfalls of capital punishment, and even helped pave the way for Glossip. A recent report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund highlighted two particular areas of concern. One is his complicity in upholding Oklahoma’s disastrous lethal injection regimen, which became the law of the land in Glossip. And the other is complicity in a more systemic problem throughout the criminal justice system: a pattern of favoring finality over fairness. Gorsuch, the LDF warns, has proven all too willing to apply the most rigid barriers for those seeking to challenge unfair sentences, including in capital cases. “Winning federal habeas relief from any judge is a challenge,” the LDF report notes. “Winning federal habeas relief from Judge Gorsuch is a near impossibility.”

It would be unfair to hold Gorsuch individually responsible for the death penalty debacles in Oklahoma. Plenty of others have contributed more to the state’s reputation for dysfunction, deceit, and cruelty in carrying out capital punishment. Yet as a 10th Circuit judge, Gorsuch joined important decisions in Oklahoma cases that showed “a disturbing lack of concern about extreme and needless pain and suffering” during executions, in the words of the LDF report.

In 2014, Oklahoma famously tortured a man named Clayton Lockett to death. Witnesses to his execution described how he writhed in agony during the bloody ordeal; one official compared it to a horror film. The state hastily revised its lethal injection protocol, then swiftly assigned new execution dates to four men on Oklahoma’s death row. The men challenged the state’s new lethal injection formula, arguing that it put them at risk of “severe pain, needless suffering, and a lingering death,” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

At the center of their argument was midazolam, the first in the three-drug cocktail used to kill Lockett. The drug had replaced the barbiturate sodium thiopental, relied upon for decades by death penalty states. Sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, was traditionally followed by a paralytic agent, in Oklahoma’s case, vecuronium bromide, and then potassium chloride, which caused cardiac arrest. But sodium thiopental had become unavailable years before, in part due to an international anti-death penalty campaign to cut off supplies. States rushed to find a replacement, tinkering with their formulas. For those hoping to mimic the traditional three-drug cocktail, midazolam eventually became the drug of choice. The problem was that midazolam, a benzodiazipane, was primarily an anxiety medication. Pharmacologists warned that its ceiling effect meant that upping the dosage, as Oklahoma did in its revised protocol, made no practical difference; it could not ensure a person would remain unconscious over the course of an execution. As the other drugs took hold, the result would be an excruciating death, a person would be paralyzed, while suffering a sensation akin to being burned alive.

Yet Oklahoma forged ahead. Like many states, it turned to dubious pharmaceutical sources for its drug supplies, while insisting that the origins of its execution drugs must be kept secret. Seeking an injunction from a District Court before his scheduled execution in early 2015, Charles Warner and his fellow death row plaintiffs argued that “by attempting to conduct executions with an ever-changing array of untried drugs of unknown provenance,” the state was pursuing “a program of biological experimentation on captive and unwilling human subjects.”

The District Court denied the challenge. On January 12, 2015, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court affirmed, rejecting an emergency motion that would have stayed Warner’s execution. Judge Gorsuch joined the decision. Warner was executed three days later. Witnesses reported his last words were “my body is on fire.”

In a cruel twist, Warner had sought a stay from the Supreme Court on the night he was killed, but was rejected, 5-4. In a dissent, Justice Sotomayor criticized the denial, pointing out that the justices were poised to take up the legal challenge to Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. “I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions,” she wrote. Indeed, just days later, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case, too late to spare Warner’s life. A man named Richard Glossip was now the named plaintiff.

Oral arguments in Glossip v. Gross took place on April 29, 2015. They were ugly and heated. Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia railed against anti-death penalty activists for making it harder for states to get better execution drugs. Justice Sotomayor interrupted the Oklahoma solicitor general to say she was “substantially disturbed” by his claims about midazolam’s effectiveness, for which she found zero supporting evidence. The drug had clearly been chosen for its availability rather than its efficacy; state experts used sources like Drugs.com, a website that warns it is “not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.” An amicus brief from 16 pharmacologists warned the justices that midazolam was not capable of rendering a person unconscious for the purpose of execution. And a key piece of evidence submitted by the state to explain why it chose midazolam was later proved to be false. Nevertheless, in June 2015, the Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma’s protocol, 5-4. Justice Alito authored the opinion, with the circular reasoning that, because the Supreme Court has held the death penalty to be constitutional, there must be a method to carry it out. In her dissent, Sotomayor disagreed. A state “does not get a constitutional free pass simply because it desires to deliver the ultimate penalty,” she wrote. “Its ends do not justify any and all means.”

In a perverse postscript to the legal saga over midazolam, autopsy records would later reveal that Oklahoma killed Charles Warner using the wrong drug, a discovery made public only after Oklahoma came close to doing the same with Richard Glossip later that year. Executions have been on hold in the state ever since. Judge Gorsuch may be a bit player in this sorry legal episode, but that does not entirely excuse him.

In fact, Gorsuch had an opportunity to weigh in on the mess in 2016, when a lawsuit brought by the family of Clayton Lockett came before the 10th Circuit. As BuzzFeed noted after Trump announced his nomination, Gorsuch joined the panel of judges who rejected the suit, dismissing the botched execution as an “innocent misadventure.” Legal experts pointed out that the phrase, while stunningly callous in context, is nonetheless specific to Supreme Court precedent dating back to 1947, which essentially holds that since executions inevitably go wrong from time to time, individual cases of botched executions do not violate the Eighth Amendment. Such an age-old concept could hardly be blamed on Gorsuch. Nor could a judge so loyal to legal precedent flout the holding.

Yet if joining the majority did not distinguish Gorsuch as uniquely craven or cold, nor did it prove him particularly brave or independent. Other decisions have inspired reflection in Gorsuch. He is hailed for thoughtful opinions; he once wrote a concurrence to a ruling he authored himself, a fact brought up repeatedly during his confirmation hearings. Yet he had nothing to say about Lockett’s torturous death. His was simply a vote for the status quo — a measure of how normalized such cruelty has become.

The ruling that spawned the notion of a botched execution as an “innocent misadventure” shows us how long states have been torturing condemned people to death, then using the law to explain it away. It came from Louisiana, circa 1946, when a black teenager named Willie Francis survived an attempt by prison officials to kill him in the electric chair. A book on the case recounts how witnesses heard Francis scream, “I am n-n-not dying!” as the current failed to kill him. Francis was removed from the chair and successfully executed several days later. The Supreme Court dismissed his ordeal; today it is a legal footnote. Almost 50 years later, in Baze v. Rees, Chief Justice John Roberts cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1947 case to uphold lethal injection.

Like Scalia, the man he was picked to replace, Gorsuch is described as a textualist, a judge who strictly abides by the law as it is written. “I will apply the law,” Gorsuch often intoned during his confirmation hearings this week. Legal precedent is so precious to Gorsuch, he wrote an 800-page book on the subject, joking repeatedly that  it “makes a great doorstop.”

Staunch adherence to precedent is rarely good news for people facing execution, whose challenges can be easily waved away on procedural grounds, even when the facts of their case are objectively egregious. “As it is now, in capital cases, prisoners have a heavy lift if a case makes its way to the Supreme Court,” says Assistant Federal Defender Dale Baich, who has litigated the lethal injection issues in Oklahoma. “I would expect Gorsuch to carefully follow precedent. At the same time, I have to believe that if he sees a constitutional violation, he will call out the government for its conduct.”

Around the same time that the controversies over lethal injection were playing out in Oklahoma, Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in a capital case called Eizember v. Trammell. The plaintiff, Scott Eizember, had challenged his sentence based on evidence that his jury had been unfairly biased in favor of his execution from the start, an argument rejected by a lower court. While acknowledging that his concerns were “hardly trivial,” Gorsuch rejected Eizember’s argument. As one recent summary of the ruling notes, “Gorsuch’s opinion hinged mostly on the simple question of whether his court could second-guess the state court’s decision.”

At the heart of this question was the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, otherwise known as AEDPA. Signed in 1996 by Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the sweeping legislation severely curtailed the rights of people in prison to challenge their sentences. It imposed a strict one-year deadline on federal habeas petitions, while barring successive petitions, with very few exceptions. More significantly, AEDPA shifted the balance of power in the judiciary, demanding far more deference from federal judges to state court rulings.

Under AEDPA, petitioners are not entitled to habeas relief unless they can show that a state court decision was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,” or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.” This is an exceedingly high bar, one Gorsuch has a habit of emphasizing. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly reminded us that ‘AEDPA’s requirements reflect a “presumption that state courts know and follow the law,”’ he wrote in Eizember, replying to a dissenting judge. “This presumption demands that federal judges ‘afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.’”

AEDPA has been especially devastating for the wrongfully convicted. “I suspect that there may well have been innocent people who were executed because of the absence of habeas corpus,” former D.C. Circuit Judge Abner Mikva told me last year, recalling his days in the Clinton White House, where he tried to stop efforts at “habeas reform” that would culminate in AEDPA. This danger has proven all too real in Oklahoma, where Richard Glossip has faced the execution chamber multiple times. Gorsuch is among the judges who have rejected Glossip’s appeals, in a ruling peppered with AEDPA citations. It is cases like Glossip’s that have prompted 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski to call AEDPA “cruel,” complaining that the deference it demands from federal courts leaves egregious miscarriages of justice uncorrected. “We now regularly have to stand by in impotent silence, even though it may appear to us that an innocent person has been convicted,” he wrote in 2015.

It is true that AEDPA’s language leaves little freedom of interpretation. But there are judges who “take it a little too far,” says Singh, the lawyer who represented Mark Christeson, the man executed on the night Gorsuch’s nomination was announced. Some judges see AEDPA as meaning that “nobody ever gets relief, ever,” Singh says. “But to be fair, if someone was reading the statute faithfully, they would take a pretty harsh view of most death penalty cases.”

Gorsuch has adhered loyally to AEDPA in capital and non-capital cases alike. While he insists that he is merely being faithful to federal statute, a law review article published days before his nomination probed a highly technical case, Prost v. Johnson, to show how Gorsuch used AEDPA to sidestep the “difficult interpretive questions” that arise in cases during post-conviction review. The result was a decision that “overvalues proceduralism relative to substantive rights in a way that will have the effect of eroding litigants’ access to courts.”

Gorsuch’s habeas decisions are heavily criticized in a report by the Alliance for Justice, which has vehemently opposed his nomination. It provides several examples, including a number of instances where he dissented from majority opinions finding ineffective assistance of counsel. In Wilson v. Workman, a man on death row argued that his defense attorney failed to present evidence of his mental problems; the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied an evidentiary hearing, along with his claim of ineffective assistance. In an en banc ruling, the 10th Circuit found that the state court was wrong, and that it did not merit the deference afforded by AEDPA. Gorsuch disagreed. “This case requires us to interpret the words of a federal statute,” he wrote in his dissent. “That statute says writs of habeas corpus ‘shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings’ unless the state court’s decision is contrary to a Supreme Court precedent, or unless it rests on an unreasonable application of the court’s cases or an unreasonable reading of the facts before it. … This language seemingly brooks no exception.”

Gorsuch’s handling of such cases came up briefly on Tuesday, in an exchange with Sen. Dick Durbin. “Have you ever written an opinion finding that a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated?” Durbin asked. “Oh, I’m sure I have, senator,” Gorsuch replied. In fact, Durbin said, citing an article from the Stanford Law Review, out of 52 cases in which there was a question of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights, Gorsuch found no violations. In fairness to Gorsuch, Durbin was incorrect: the article actually cites two cases where Gorsuch granted relief in opinions he authored. Durbin “slightly misstated the findings of our article,” one of the authors wrote in an email, noting that one of the cases involved ineffective assistance specifically, while another touched on a different part of the Sixth Amendment.

Nevertheless, the article concludes that if Gorsuch is confirmed, criminal defendants with Sixth Amendment claims “can fairly expect an uphill battle to win his vote.” Durbin brought up the the example Williams v. Jones, in which a prosecutor offered a defendant a plea deal in a second-degree murder case. The defense attorney threatened to quit if his client took the deal, absurdly claiming that he would be committing perjury by pleading guilty. The defendant was tried, convicted, and given life without parole. After his sentenced was reduced to life with the possibility of parole on direct appeal, the defendant turned to the 10th Circuit, which found that he was entitled to further relief. “You were the lone dissent,” Durbin told Gorsuch.

At one point in his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch was lauded for his capital habeas work, suggesting that he is invested in addressing the problem of bad lawyering in death penalty cases. Yet as a judge, his rare findings of error in such cases have been generally followed by the conclusion that the error was ultimately harmless. This tendency among judges is dramatized in the case of Mark Christeson — “a very, very vivid illustration of some deeply seeded problems with death penalty defense,” as Singh said. Among the few safeguards built into AEDPA was the assurance that people like him would get post-conviction attorneys to navigate the law’s myriad provisions. Yet many lawyers have not been up to the task. Christeson’s court-appointed lawyers missed the AEDPA deadline by 117 days. When his federal habeas petition was inevitably dismissed as untimely, the attorneys did not bother to tell Christeson, leaving him under the impression that his appellate proceedings were still underway. Christeson, who has severe cognitive impairments, remained unaware of his attorney’s failure for seven years. In the end, state intransigence and procedural roadblocks kept his new attorneys from saving his life.

We cannot know how Gorsuch might have handled the case of the man executed on the night of his nomination. And while his record certainly suggests he might have waved it through on procedural grounds, this would hardly differentiate him from judges who have spent their careers doing the same. This includes Merrick Garland, whose nomination was so shamelessly derailed by Republicans last year. Indeed, like Gorsuch, Garland dutifully applied AEDPA’s “rigid barriers to relief,” the American Civil Liberties Union observed last year, while noting that this “approach is not surprising.” The LDF echoed the ACLU’s findings, noting that Garland “rarely granted relief to defendants who have presented a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Garland, of course, never got a hearing. As Democratic senators decried the stolen nomination this week, it nevertheless seemed likely that Gorsuch will be confirmed in the end. That he was never questioned about his complicity in upholding lethal injection or in his rigid application of AEPDA is a shame, but again, not surprising. “A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge,” Gorsuch said the night his nomination was announced, a constant theme throughout the hearings. With the death penalty’s cruelest excesses so plain to see, it would have been worth asking whether he has any misgivings about this part of his record.

With Gorsuch yet to turn 50, he stands to be a conservative force on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Yet Singh points out that Supreme Court justices have very different experiences with death penalty cases. “Because almost every capital case eventually makes its way to the court, the justices are exposed to the ins and outs of the death penalty in ways that circuit judges simply are not,” he said. They see the arbitrariness, the flaws embedded in the system. “Many justices find over time that their beliefs about the death penalty change, almost always toward skepticism. So it’s possible that Judge Gorsuch, if confirmed, would eventually become more sympathetic to capital defendants — but it’s far too early to tell.”

Stock markets wobbly after delayed Trumpcare vote

Reactions of investors worldwide have varied amid a delayed vote on US healthcare reform, whose passage is seen as crucial to Donald Trump’s ability to push through his growth agenda.

March 24, 2017


After the vote on US President Trump’s health care bill was delayed, global markets’ reactions varied on Friday. In Europe, shares were mostly lower in early trading: Germany’s blue-chip DAX index rose 0.1 percent to 12,049 points at the opening, while London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index was up by the same percentage points, rising to 7,346. The Paris CAC 40 lost 0.2 percent to 5,023.17 compared with Thursday’s close.

The delay brought the four-month rally in global stocks to a juddering halt as the new president struggled to garner enough support from his own Republican party for a bill repealing Obamacare. A vote might not happen until later Friday or Monday.

“Markets are likely to remain on hold today as traders wait on the US Congress to resolve its impasse on revision of the ‘Obamacare’ legislation,” Ric Spooner of CMC Market said. “Optimism may be tempered by the fact that the Senate remains a significant obstacle to Trump’s health-care legislation even it is passed by Congress.”

The passage of Donald Trump’s healthcare reform is seen as crucial to the future of his growth-drive agenda. It is widely feared that the bill’s failure would throw a spanner in the works for Trump’s other big-ticket pledges on infrastructure spending, tax cuts and deregulation – key drivers of the markets’ surge.

Congress analysts have warned that with GOP’s Obamacare replacement bill, the number of uninsured people in the US would rise to 52 million by 2026.

Asian markets react much stronger

In contrast to their European counterparts, Asian markets gained on Friday despite doubts over whether President Donald Trump can push through his business friendly agenda.

However, adding to unease was a report that the Trump administration is preparing new executive orders to re-examine all 14 US free trade agreements, including those in Asia, to aid American companies.

Tokyo ended 0.9 percent higher, with exporters lifted by a weaker yen against the dollar, having advanced on the US unit all week. The greenback fell below 111 yen briefly on Thursday but bought 111.42 yen in Asian trade on Friday – although it is well down from the mid-113 yen range seen last Friday. It also rose against the euro and sterling as well as most high-yielding currencies that have enjoyed a rally since the Federal Reserve last week indicated a slower-than-expected pace of interest rate hikes.

Sydney was up 0.8 percent and Shanghai closed 0.6 percent higher while Singapore and Wellington were also stronger. But Hong Kong lost 0.1 percent in the afternoon while Seoul slipped 0.2 percent and Taipei shed 0.3 percent.

Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD, said the bill’s success would be a major positive for Trump, who is struggling with a fractious Republican party, controversy over alleged links to Russia and record low popularity ratings.

“Even though the vote was delayed, the fact that it will take place Friday probably means the Republican plan will pass,” said Toshihiko Matsuno, head of investment information at SMBC Friend Securities.

However, McKenna added: “If it fails then the whole house of cards that’s been built up since the election can come crashing down as traders and investors wonder what the heck will happen to tax and infrastructure plans.”

Truth or Consequences?

March 24, 2017

by Harry von Johnston PhD

Who is ‘Cliff High?’

‘Clif High’ is a claimed futurist in money matters and is a supposed creator of an “Internet bot” system.

‘Clif High’ is actually a man name Ronald Pell who operates out of Los Angeles and “predicts” all kinds of spectacular financial and natural disaster events.

“Next June, the Hungarian pengo is expected to reach a 700/1 ratio increase…..”

Another “Tyler Durden.”

Pell also writes under the name of “Sandro Fine” and “J. Stead.”

The Web Bot gained most of its notoriety for predicting a cataclysm that would devastate the planet on December 21, 2012, which would possibly reversie the  Earth’s magnetic poles, and also firmly predicted a series of nuclear attacks leading up to a major attack during the year. These stunning events did not happen.

Web Bot predicted that a massive earthquake would occur in December 2008 in Vancouver, Canada and the Pacific Northwest, but no such event happened

A prediction was also made that the US dollar would completely collapse in 2011, and that Israel would bomb Iran, with the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama being thrown into major chaos and this, too, failed to materialize.

And here are some interesting figures about public beliefs in different controversial subjects:

Conspiracy Percent believing Number of Americans believing
JFK was killed by conspiracy 51 percent 160,096,160
Bush intentionally misled on Iraq WMDs 44 percent 138,122,178
Global warming is a hoax 37 percent 116,148,195
Aliens exist 29 percent 91,035,072
New World Order 28 percent 87,895,931
Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 28 percent 87,895,931
Vaccines are linked to autism 20 percent 62,782,808
Medical industry invents diseases 15 percent 47,087,106
Bigfoot exists 14 percent 43,947,966
The government allowed 9/11 to happen 11 percent 34,530,544
Fluoride is dangerous and causes cancer 9 percent 28,252,264
The moon landing was faked in a movie studio 7 percent 21,973,983
Airplane contrails are actually sinister chemicals 5 percent 15,695,702
Giant Lizard people control American politics


Jesus will return this    year


Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election

4 percent




2 percent



1 percent














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