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TBR News November 11, 2019

Nov 11 2019

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. November 11, 2019:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

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

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

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

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

It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Commentary for November 11: “The circus has moved up and soon everyone will be glued to their TV while the President is running around the Oval Office shrieking like an old woman who sat on a hot wood stove. And if Trump really wants to see the evil person who is ruining his reputation, he has only to look in a mirror.”

 

 

The Table of Contents

  • As Trump fumes, public impeachment hearings set to grab spotlight
  • Trump impeachment: whistleblower will not testify in public, Democrats say
  • Trump rages about impeachment on Twitter, but he has Republicans to blame for the rules
  • Investors wary as social unrest spreads from Hong Kong to Santiago
  • The actual causes for the sinking of the MV Estonia
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

 

 

As Trump fumes, public impeachment hearings set to grab spotlight

November 11, 2019

by James Oliphant

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – This week will mark a new and unparalleled chapter in Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency, as the Democratic-led impeachment probe goes public with televised hearings into allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Beginning on Wednesday, three witnesses will publicly detail their concerns, previously expressed behind closed doors, that the Trump administration sought to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the Republican president’s potential Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden.

The testimony will be carried by major broadcast and cable networks and is expected to be viewed by millions, who will watch current and former officials from Trump’s own administration begin to outline a case for his potential removal from office.

It has been 20 years since Americans last witnessed impeachment proceedings, when Republicans brought charges against then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives argue Trump abused his authority in pressing the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which will hold the hearings on Wednesday and Friday this week, accused Trump on Sunday of “extortion.”

“We have enough evidence from the depositions that we’ve done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent,” Swalwell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Trump argued on Twitter over the weekend that he was not guilty of misconduct and that the probe was politically driven.

“NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!” he wrote on Sunday.

‘Democrats consider the open hearings to be crucial to building public support for a formal impeachment vote against Trump. If that occurs, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial on the charges. Republicans have so far shown little support for removing Trump from office, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

GIULIANI’S ROLE UNDER SCRUTINY

The House Intelligence Committee will first hear from William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who told the committee in closed-door testimony that he was unhappy U.S. aid to the country was held up by the administration.

Taylor said he also became uncomfortable with what he described as an “irregular channel” of people involved in Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

George Kent, a senior State Department official who oversees Ukraine, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing as well. Kent was also concerned about Giuliani’s role in conducting shadow diplomacy – and has testified that he was cut out of the decision-making loop on Ukraine matters.

On Friday, the committee will hear from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She says she was ousted from her post after Giuliani and his allies mounted a campaign against her with what she called “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

Democrats are likely to call further witnesses after this week.

House Republicans released their list on Saturday of witnesses they would like brought before the committee, including Hunter Biden and the yet-unnamed whistleblower who first brought the complaint against Trump over his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, is unlikely to summon either to testify, and even some Republicans have opposed the push from Trump and some of his supporters that the whistleblower be identified.

“I think we should be protecting the identity of the whistleblower,” Will Hurd, a former CIA officer and a Republican member of the committee, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program, “because how we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future.”

Hurd said, however, he “would love to hear from Hunter Biden” and accused Democrats of running a “partisan exercise.”

Trump and Giuliani have led accusations – without providing evidence – that Joe Biden sought the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to block a corruption probe of Burisma. The Bidens have denied wrongdoing.

Republicans on the committee will be permitted to question the witnesses this week and defend the president, although the president’s lawyers will not allowed to do so – something Trump has complained about bitterly.

Reporting by James Oliphant; Additional reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney

 

Trump impeachment: whistleblower will not testify in public, Democrats say

  • Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, says he warned Ukraine it must investigate Biden and son or US aid would be frozen
  • Ex-national security adviser John Bolton signs book deal
  • How Trump’s hardball tactics put the constitution in peril

November 10, 2019

by Martin Pengelly in New York

The Guardian

The whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump will not testify in public, House intelligence chair Adam Schiff said.

“The committee … will not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Schiff said in a letter to ranking Republican Devin Nunes released on Saturday night.

It comes as an associate of Rudolph Giuliani said he travelled to Ukraine to warn that unless an investigation was announced into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, US aid would be frozen to the country and Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of the new president.

According to the New York Times, the claim by Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born American charged last month with campaign finance violations for channeling foreign money into the president’s campaign, “directly links” Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions or a quid pro quo with Ukraine, which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

House investigations centre on concerns over Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, in return for nearly $400m in military aid and a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Parnas is preparing to speak to impeachment investigators but his account has been disputed by his business partner, Igor Fruman, who was also charged with campaign finance violations, and by Guiliani, who told the NYT he “categorically” did not tell Parnas to deliver the reported message to Ukraine.

The whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump will not testify in public, House intelligence chair Adam Schiff said.

“The committee … will not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Schiff said in a letter to ranking Republican Devin Nunes released on Saturday night.

It comes as an associate of Rudolph Giuliani said he travelled to Ukraine to warn that unless an investigation was announced into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, US aid would be frozen to the country and Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of the new president.

According to the New York Times, the claim by Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born American charged last month with campaign finance violations for channeling foreign money into the president’s campaign, “directly links” Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions or a quid pro quo with Ukraine, which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

House investigations centre on concerns over Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, in return for nearly $400m in military aid and a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Parnas is preparing to speak to impeachment investigators but his account has been disputed by his business partner, Igor Fruman, who was also charged with campaign finance violations, and by Guiliani, who told the NYT he “categorically” did not tell Parnas to deliver the reported message to Ukraine.

Public hearings are scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

In his own letter on Saturday, Nunes criticised Schiff’s handling of the impeachment inquiry and set out the witnesses Republicans would like to question.

Among them were the whistleblower, whom the president and his allies have demanded be identified contrary to federal law; Hunter Biden, the son of former vice-president Joe Biden who is accused without evidence of corruption in Ukraine; Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American former Democratic National Committee staffer; and Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the famous Steele dossier on Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.

The move indicated a key Republican tactic: to steer argument towards supposed wrongdoing regarding Ukraine involving Trump’s enemies, not the president.

Schiff countered, saying the inquiry and his committee would “not serve as vehicles” for “sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about 2016 US election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit”.

On Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo, Trump ally and South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham trafficked in one such conspiracy theory, saying: “When you find out who the whistleblower is you will find out it’s somebody from the Deep State and had interactions with the Schiff and this thing’s going to stink to high heaven.”

The Deep State conspiracy theory holds that a permanent and unelected government of bureaucrats and security officials is determined to thwart Trump. In a recent book by the New York Times reporter James B Stewart, former White House adviser Steve Bannon, a key propagator of the theory, said it was “for nut cases”.

Public hearings will bring the inquiry on to the national stage, opening a vital front in the battle for public opinion as an election year looms. Successive polls have shown slim majorities backing Trump’s impeachment and removal. As Democrats hold the House, it seems likely it will vote for impeachment. As Republicans hold the Senate, it seems very unlikely Trump will be convicted and removed.

On Sunday members of key House committees set out the parties’ positions on why Trump is being impeached, cases they must now take to the American people.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat on the intelligence committee, said: “We have evidence of an extortion scheme using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent.”

On ABC’s This Week, Jackie Speier, also a California Democrat and a member of the intelligence panel, boiled it down further: “This is a very simple, straightforward act: the president broke the law.”

For the Republicans, House armed services committee ranking member Mac Thornberry told ABC of Trump’s behaviour: “I believe it was inappropriate, I do not believe it was impeachable.”

Thornberry also repeated a common charge from Republicans – made by Trump on Twitter – that Democrats running the inquiry are doing so in partisan fashion.

“There has to be a fair way to arbitrate,” he said, “to decide who the witnesses are. We have had none of that so far.”

Democrats have countered that they are following rules laid down by Republicans when they investigated Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi attack of September 2012.

Two Republican senators insisted Trump had done nothing wrong. On CNN’s State of the Union, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Trump had not sought a quid pro quo.

“I’ve never heard the president say, ‘I want to dig up dirt on a potential 2020 opponent,’” Johnson said. “What I’ve always heard the president consistently concerned about is ‘what happened in 2016. How did this false narrative with Russian collusion with my campaign occur? Why was I strapped with the special counsel?’ It’s a very human desire.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press, the libertarian Kentuckian Rand Paul indicated that Trump did seek a quid pro quo, and said doing so was not wrong.

“I think it’s a big mistake for anybody to argue ‘Quid pro quo, he didn’t have quid pro quo,’” Paul said. “And I know that’s what the administration’s arguing. I wouldn’t make that argument.

“I would make the argument that every politician in Washington, other than me, virtually, is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes.”

 

Trump rages about impeachment on Twitter, but he has Republicans to blame for the rules

Trump and his GOP defenders can continue their crusade against the procedures Democrats are using, but those procedures were authorized and utilized by Republicans first.

November 11, 2019

by Kurt Bardella,

NBC News

Last week, President Donald J. Trump complained that he would be getting “no lawyer” and “no due process” during the House impeachment hearings, set to begin Wednesday.

The irony of course is that if Trump is unhappy with how the impeachment process is unfolding, he has mostly Republicans to blame. After all, they are the ones who have written the rules that impeachment investigations follow.

 

Donald J. Trump

Verified account

@realDonaldTrump

It was just explained to me that for next weeks Fake Hearing (trial) in the House, as they interview Never Trumpers and others, I get NO LAWYER & NO DUE PROCESS. It is a Pelosi, Schiff, Scam against the Republican Party and me. This Witch Hunt should not be allowed to proceed!

7:16 AM – 7 Nov 2019

 

After weeks of Republican demands for a vote on an impeachment resolution, the House of Representatives did just that and approved, along party lines, a resolution that establishes the procedural guidelines for the impeachment investigation of Trump. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced that public hearings will commence Wednesday.

The impeachment process Democrats just approved, and which Trump will doubtless spend the next several weeks slamming publicly, is the same process Republicans have used to govern their oversight investigations during the past three decades. The GOP has controlled the majority of the House’s investigative powers for 20 of the last 25 years. (And I spent five of those years working at the House Oversight Committee as a spokesperson and a senior adviser under the chairmanship of Republican Darrell Issa, R-Calif.)

Trump might label this an attack on “due process,” but his fight isn’t with Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Schiff, it’s with the Republican-led investigative committees who instituted this precedent during their investigations of President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1997 and 1998. That practice was extended in the 112th, 113th, 114th and 115th congresses.

For all Trump’s griping about lawyers, the House impeachment inquiry isn’t a trial at all. But the reason he won’t have a lawyer representing his interests in the hearings is because Republicans made a point to continue the procedure during the Benghazi investigation. During that investigation, Republican committee members approved rules specifically stipulating that “counsel … for agencies under investigation may not attend.”

We’ve seen this pattern of Trump and Republicans objecting to rules they created consistently throughout the impeachment investigation.

In recent weeks, House Republicans have extended a lot of energy and rhetoric railing against “closed-door depositions.” Yet, according to a report released by congressional investigative experts at Co-Equal, a group intended to help Congress remain a check on the executive branch, House Republicans conducted depositions of more than 140 administration officials during their impeachment inquiry of Clinton. While the Trump administration has tried to obstruct the current impeachment investigation by blocking witnesses from appearing for depositions, during the Benghazi inquiry alone, House Republicans took testimony from more than 60 career employees who served under President Barack Obama

Even much of the authority to conduct depositions for investigations stemmed from Republicans. Republicans first gave this authority to a congressional committee during the Clinton investigation, then expanded it to the House Oversight Committee in 2011, and again in 2014 as part of the Benghazi probe, again in 2015 to include four additional committees, and finally in 2017 to include all House congressional committees. (Previously, “depositions had been authorized by the House only for specific investigations.”)

Interestingly enough, the effort to expand deposition authority to all congressional committees was spear-headed by Reps. Jim Jordan and former Rep. Mike Pompeo who said, “The ability to interview witnesses in private allows committees to gather information confidentially and in more depth than is possible under the five-minute rule governing committee hearings. This ability is often critical to conducting an effective and thorough investigation.”

This is the same Pompeo, who, as secretary of state, has refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation and the same Jordan, who, as the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has labeled the impeachment investigation a “sham process.” Jordan has yet to explain how this process is a “sham” when it’s being conducted under the very rules and powers that he specifically helped enact when he thought Hillary Clinton was going to be the president of the United States.

Trump officials such as White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, acting-Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Pompeo have refused to testify in a blatant act of obstruction, and yet, Republican chairs took 141 depositions from Clinton officials, including from two White House chiefs of staff, two White House counsels, the vice president’s chief of staff and the first lady’s chief of staff.

The bottom line is Trump and his Republican defenders can continue their embarrassing crusade against the rules and procedures that Democrats are using, but the inescapable fact is those very rules and procedures were authorized and utilized by Republicans first. When the impeachment hearings begin Wednesday, congressional Democrats would be wise to remind Trump and his faithful servants that if they are looking for someone to blame, they need only to look in the mirror

 

Investors wary as social unrest spreads from Hong Kong to Santiago

November 11, 2019

by Rodrigo Campos

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Social unrest worldwide is alarming some global investors, who say protests from Hong Kong and Lebanon to Chile are forcing them to be more cautious even though the impact on financial markets has been spotty so far.

Investors at the Reuters Global 2020 Investment Outlook Summit last week were particularly concerned about Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests have been raging over the past six months. Some said they saw a theme building up with factors such as the impact of globalization, wealth inequality and climate change creating political uncertainty over the next five to 10 years that would influence markets.

“It is a risk that is with us and at these quite stretched financial market valuations it causes us pause and leads us to be more cautious in markets than we would be otherwise,” said Dan Ivascyn, group chief investment officer at PIMCO, one of the world’s largest asset managers.

For him, “this more extreme global political friction is here to stay.” Michael Novogratz, the hedge fund manager turned crypto-currency and blockchain investor, said global protests have a unifying theme. “Globalization was the global narrative that we all bought into up until 2015,” Novogratz said at the Summit in New York.

“Then with Brexit and (the U.S. election of nationalist Republican Donald) Trump and now the insurrection in Chile and Hong Kong … all of this is happening because we lost true north as a planet. And we’re waiting till the new narrative shows up.”

Wealth created since the Great Recession has disproportionately gone to those who rely on their money to make more money, while those who must work for it have stagnated. In market-speak, return on capital has been much higher than return on labor, widening the gap between those who have and those who don’t.”Trump got elected, Brexit happened, because the bottom half got gutted, the middle class got gutted,” said Novogratz. “To me it means we’re going to need more redistribution, somehow, some way.”

To be sure, the reaction from financial markets to the unrest has so far been patchy.

Chile’s stock market .SPCLXIGPA, for example, posted in October its largest monthly decline in nearly two years. Over the weekend, President Sebastian Pinera acknowledged “abuses” in the handling of massive social protests that have shaken the country for three weeks.

Some Lebanese bond yields recently hit record highs before retreating amid nearly month-long protests against a political establishment widely regarded as corrupt and inept.

Meanwhile, the major U.S. stock indexes closed Friday at all-time highs.That is because the relatively small economies with conflicts have not yet forced a widespread modification of strategies among the largest investors.

Absent a violent crackdown from China in Hong Kong, the current situation is not “enough to influence the major economies, the major-goods trades going on,” said Anne Mathias, a senior strategist for global macro, rates and foreign currency at Vanguard.

Mathias said the idea of these protests as a harbinger of a global movement does not worry her. “I respect everything that is going on. I would worry, I think, if the Chinese did something aggressive in Hong Kong.”

Other investors said the protests have long-term implications.

“We are concerned about the social impact of what has occurred since the global financial crisis,” said Mark Konyn, chief investment officer of insurer AIA, at the Summit in Hong Kong.

“That is a long-term theme that does concern us, and ultimately it must have an impact on corporate governance, the role the companies have within the broader community,” he said.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York; Additional reporting by Jennifer Hughes in Hong Kong; Editing by Richard Chang

 

The actual causes for the sinking of the MV Estonia

The official tri-nation report

Report: Design flaw led to Estonia ferry sinking 852 died in 1994 disaster off Finland

On September 28, 1994 the Swedish motor ferry sank off the Finnish coast with heavy loss of life.

Like the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963, this major maritime disaster has given birth to some of the most entertaining and fantastic legends since those of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Some journalists insist that atomic bombs were hidden on the ship; that former KGB agents were responsible for the sinking; Swedish authorities know the truth and are prohibiting any diving on what is a major grave site and so on and on. Mysterious meetings with former KGB generals at secret locations are hinted at and an entire cottage industry of nonsense has grown up around this marine tragedy.

Finally, a joint Swedish-Estonian-Finnish Commission was set up, conducted exhaustive investigations and released their official conclusions. None of these conclusions pleased the conspiracy fiction writers but the salient portions, in translation, are reproduced here, hopefully as an antidote to myth and legend.

A design flaw and a slow response by the crew to signs of trouble were largely responsible for 1994’s Estonia ferry disaster in which 852 people perished in the rough waters of the Baltic Sea, according to an investigative commission’s official report released Wednesday.

The Swedish-owned ferry, on its way from Tallinn, Estonia, to Stockholm, Sweden, sank on the night of September 28, 1994, off the Finnish coast. It was Europe’s worst maritime disaster since World War II. Most of the victims were from Sweden and Estonia.

The joint Estonian-Swedish-Finnish commission said the primary cause of the disaster was a design flaw in the ship’s bow door that allowed it to be jolted open by rough seas, causing the ship to take on water and eventually sink.

The report also concluded that the ship’s crew was slow to respond to signs of trouble, including reports of strange noises coming from the bow of the ship. Warning alarms weren’t sounded until five minutes after the ferry began listing heavily, and, by then, it was difficult for passengers to escape.

Investigators also concluded that the crew should have slowed the ship down once it became obvious something was amiss.

However, because all of the crew on the bridge that night died, “we don’t really know what happened there,” conceded Uno Laur, chairman of the commission.

The report also criticized the rescue effort by Finnish officials, saying radio operators were slow in relaying the Estonia’s distress calls.

Of the nearly 1,000 people on board the Estonia, only 137 survived.

The German shipbuilding company that built the ferry, Meyer Werft, rejected the report’s findings, saying poor maintenance by the ship’s owners, not a design flaw, was responsible for the disaster.

“The report is wrong and worth less than the paper it is written on,” said Peter Holtappels, a lawyer for Meyer Werft. “The shipyard built a perfectly seaworthy vessel that functioned extremely well on the seas for 14 years. … But when repairs had to be done that were not carried out, you cannot make the shipbuilder responsible for this.”

The investigative commission has itself been at the center of controversy because of repeated delays in releasing its findings and the resignation of its former chairman. Critics have called its investigation clumsy and incomplete.

A lawyer representing the families of Swedish victims, Hennig Witte, said he was not satisfied with the report.

“You must now give us an independent investigation,” he said.

Accident

The ro-ro passenger ferry ESTONIA sank in the northern Baltic Sea during the early hours of 28 September 1994. Of the 989 people on board, 137 survived. All 95 victims recovered from the sea have been identified and 757 people are still missing.

Weather

The wind at about 0100 hrs at the site of the accident was south-westerly, 18-20 m/s, and the significant wave height was about 4 m.

At the time of the accident the ESTONIA was encountering the waves on her port bow.

The wave-induced motion made several passengers seasick but the situation on board was not exceptional.

Ship’s condition

The vessel was seaworthy and properly manned.

The cargo was secured to normal standard and the visor was properly closed and secured on departure.

The vessel had a starboard list of about one degree when she gained the open sea.

Failure

The failure sequence may have started at about 0055 hrs when the AB seaman heard a metallic bang at the bow ramp.

The locking devices and the hinges of the bow visor failed fully under one or two wave impact loads on the visor shortly after 0100 hrs.

The visor worked its way forward and forced the ramp partly open due to mechanical interference between the visor and the ramp, inherent in the design. Water started entering the car deck at the sides of the partly open ramp.

The ramp rested for a while within the visor before the visor at about 0115 hrs fell into the sea, pulling the ramp fully open.

Capsize

Large amounts of water entered the car deck and in a few minutes a starboard list of more than 15° developed.

The main engines stopped at about 0120 hrs, one after the other, due to lubricating oil pressure loss caused by a list of about 30°.

The vessel drifted with her starboard side towards the waves.

At about 0125 hrs the list was more than 40°. By then, windows and a door had broken in the aft part on the starboard side, allowing progressive flooding of the accommodation. The main generators stopped.

As the list increased the ESTONIA started to sink stern first. At about 0135 hrs the list was about 80°.

The vessel disappeared from the surface at about 0150 hrs.

Action by the crew

Two reports of unusual sounds from the bow area were given to the officers of the watch, the first about 20 minutes prior to the loss of the visor.

Attempts were made to find the reason for the sounds.

The master arrived at the bridge and was present when the second attempt was initiated shortly after 0100 hrs.

The speed setting was maintained until the list developed. At about 0100 hrs the speed was about 14 knots, with all four main engines running at full service speed setting.

The visor indicator lamps on the bridge did not show when the visor was detached, and the visor was not visible from the conning position. Nor did the lamps show when the ramp was forced open.

The ingress of water at the sides of the partly open bow ramp was observed on a monitor in the engine control room, but no information was exchanged with the bridge.

As the list developed the officers of the watch reduced the speed and initiated a turn to port. They also ordered the engineer to compensate for the list by pumping ballast, but the pump sucked air and, furthermore, the tank was almost full. The officers of the watch also closed the watertight doors.

The first known Mayday call from the ESTONIA was transmitted at 0122 hrs, and at about the same time the lifeboat alarm was given. Shortly before that, a brief alarm in Estonian was given over the public address system. Just after this, the crew was alerted by a coded fire alarm. No general information was given to the passengers during the accident.

Besides the master and the two officers of the watch, at least the chief officer and the third officer were on the bridge at the time of the distress traffic.

Technical matters

There were no detailed design requirements for bow visors in the rules of Bureau Veritas, the classification society concerned, at the time of the building of the ESTONIA.

The Finnish Maritime Administration was, according to a national decree, exempt from doing hull surveys of vessels holding valid class certificates issued by authorised classification societies.

The visor locking devices were not examined for approval by the Finnish Maritime Administration, nor by Bureau Veritas.

The visor design load and the assumed load distribution on the attachments did not take realistic wave impact loads into account.

The visor locking devices installed were not manufactured in accordance with the design intentions.

No safety margin was incorporated in the total load-carrying capacity of the visor attachment system.

The attachment system as installed was able to withstand a resultant wave force only slightly above the design load used.

A long series of bow visor incidents on other ships had not led to general action to reinforce the attachments of bow doors on existing ro-ro passenger ferries, including the ESTONIA.

Wave impact loads generated on the night of the accident exceeded the combined strength of the visor attachments.

Wave impact loads on the visor increased very quickly with increasing significant wave height, while forward speed had a smaller effect on the loads.

The SOLAS requirements for an upper extension of the collision bulkhead were not satisfied.

The general maintenance standard of the visor was satisfactory. Existing minor maintenance deficiencies were not significant factors in the accident.

Evacuation

The time available for evacuation was very short, between 10 and 20 minutes.

There was no organised evacuation.

The evacuation was hampered by the rapid increase in the list, by narrow passages, by transverse staircases, by objects coming loose and by crowding. About 300 people reached the outer decks. Most victims remained trapped inside the vessel.

The lifesaving equipment in many cases did not function as intended. Lifeboats could not be lowered.

Distress traffic

Mayday calls were received by 14 radio stations including MRCC Turku. At the beginning the SILJA EUROPA took the role of control station for the distress traffic.

The distress traffic was not conducted in accordance with the procedures required by the radio regulations.

The ESTONIA’s two EPIRBs were not activated and could therefore not transmit when released.

MRCC Turku did not announce on the radio that they were conducting the operation.

Helsinki Radio did not hear the ESTONIA’s distress calls or the distress traffic.

Helsinki Radio transmitted a Pan-Pan call (urgent message) at 0150 hrs instead of the distress message requested by MRCC Turku

Rescue operation

Initially the accident was not treated as a major accident. It was formally designated as such at 0230.

MRCC Turku started alerting rescue units at 0126 hrs. One standby helicopter was alerted at 0135 hrs, another at 0218 hrs, and the military helicopters at 0252 hrs.

Assistance by Swedish helicopters was agreed at 0158 hrs.

The master of the SILJA EUROPA was appointed On-Scene Commander (OSC) at 0205 hrs.

The first rescue unit, the MARIELLA, arrived on the scene of the accident at 0212 hrs, 50 minutes after the first distress call.

MRCC Tallinn was informed of the accident at 0255 hrs by MRCC Helsinki.

The first helicopter arrived at 0305 hrs.

Two Finnish helicopters landed survivors on the passenger ferries. Other helicopters carried rescued persons to land.

An air coordinator arrived to assist the OSC at 0650 hrs and a surface search coordinator arrived at 0945 hrs.

The participating vessels did not launch lifeboats or MOB boats due to the heavy weather. Their rescue equipment was not suitable for picking up people from the water or from rafts.

Winch problems in three Swedish Navy helicopters seriously limited their rescue capacity.

Some helicopters carried journalists during the later rescue flights.

Of the approximately 300 people who reached the open decks, some 160 succeeded in climbing onto life rafts, and a few climbed onto capsized lifeboats. Helicopters rescued 104 people, and vessels rescued 34.

Meteorological conditions

The weather at the accident site at about 0100 hrs was rough but not extreme. The wind was south-westerly, mean velocity 18 – 20 m/s. Statistically, winds of such force occur five to ten times annually during the autumn and the winter in the northern Baltic Sea. The significant wave height was about 4 m. Generating a wave pattern with a significant wave height of this magnitude requires wind of 15 – 20 m/s from S – SW for at least ten hours.

Numerous studies of wave statistics show that, if the significant wave height is 4 m, one wave in a hundred will be higher than 6 m. A maximum wave height is estimated as twice the significant height.

The weather forecast for the midnight hours predicted a significant wave height of only 2.5 to 3.5 m whereas the actual height was about one metre more. Even if the predictions had been correct, this would most likely not have changed the way the passage was conducted.

The weather forecast was not regarded as severe on board the two passenger ferries leaving Helsinki for Stockholm the same day. They both selected the coastal route in shallow waters instead of the deep-sea route followed in heavy weather.

The direction of the waves is difficult to determine as indicated by the different meteorological institutes (see 5.4.2). The Commission is of the opinion that before reaching the waypoint the ESTONIA encountered waves close to head sea. Thus after the turn of about 25 degrees to starboard she had the waves coming at about 30 degrees on the port bow.

The general wave statistics of the different routes where the ESTONIA had been operating indicate that significant wave heights above four metres on the bow should have occurred for a total of less than about twenty hours during the full operating history of the vessel. Most of this time refers to the 20 months on the Tallinn – Stockholm route.

A review of the weather reports for the entire time while the vessel operated on the Tallinn – Stockholm route shows that wind and wave conditions similar to those during the accident voyage only occurred once or twice.

Thus it can be concluded that the vessel had generally been protected from heavy sea conditions during her lifetime.

Course of events

Introduction

The general course of events described in this section has been plotted from observations on the wreck, analysis of statements by witnesses, analysis of the damage and evaluation of the strength of the visor and ramp attachments. Calculations and model tests of the vessel’s behaviour in waves have also been used.

The Commission has analyzed 258 statements from 134 survivors. The Commission is aware that none of the survivors is a witness proper, in the sense of an observer. All the witnesses are victims of the accident, involved in it and a part of the chain of events. Their observations and recollections are thus influenced by prolonged anxiety, exhaustion and stress. All statements are furthermore restricted to individual experience on board and outside the vessel only, and no witnesses have had any possibility of gaining an overall view.

When analysing the chain of events the Commission has usually put somewhat more emphasis on earlier statements than on later ones. The reason for this is that earlier statements were made at a time when witnesses’ recollections were presumably less influenced by information from other witnesses and the media.

The Commission has also given more weight to witnesses’ recollections of objective and perceived events than to statements concerning time or time spans. This is because most objective events were experienced by many in different locations whereas statements concerning points of time vary radically and are judged to have been more subjectively influenced. Also statements concerning degree of list are judged to be considerably subjective. Somewhat more credibility is, however, given to such estimations by crew members and to their judgements of sounds, because of their experience.

A few crew members when interrogated, however, were more inclined directly to give exact and precise information about actions and points of time rather than to reveal any uncertainty. In such cases they often stated that they had acted in accordance with their instructions.

One of the key witnesses, the AB seaman of the watch, was interrogated several times and some details are not consistent throughout his statements. His latest statement seems, however, to be more reliable concerning specific parts and supplementary details because he then revealed new information that was partly to his discredit, and also commented upon his earlier statements.

Preparations for the voyage

The route-specific weather and wave height forecast was received from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) in accordance with the existing subscription arrangement as well as other weather forecasts. The master was informed prior to departure that a low pressure with increasing winds would be encountered during the night.

No route plan has been available to the Commission, as planning was done on board only. It is deemed likely, however, that the plan was to proceed along the normal route with full service speed as long as the vessel was in sheltered waters in the Gulf of Finland, and thereby gain some time margin for crossing the Baltic Sea.

Loading began at 1620 hrs via the forward ramp and was completed shortly before departure. The loading was supervised by second officer A. According to witnesses large trucks were loaded almost bumper to bumper on the aft and mid parts of the car deck. Smaller trucks and cars were loaded on the forward part.

Heavy vehicles seem to have been loaded on the car deck without sufficient account of the athwartships weight disposition, resulting in the ship leaving port with the port side heeling tank almost full and the starboard one empty. Due to this cargo disposition and the wind pressure on the port side the ESTONIA, gaining the open sea, had a starboard list of about one degree according to the third engineer.

In compliance with the loading practice for ro-ro ferries on short routes, when strong winds are expected the major part of the weight should be located on the windward side in order to maximise possibilities to compensate for wind-induced heel. Hence, the ESTONIA should have been loaded differently.

The deck crew had been instructed to secure the heavy cargo with extra care due to the weather expected. Surviving crew members have testified that the trucks were properly secured with lashings, generally four per vehicle. It is claimed to be common practice that securing of vehicles is not finished when the vessel leaves port but is completed during an early stage of the voyage. All indications are that the cargo was secured to normal standard.

In this context the Commission has noted that the number of cargo damage claims was low while the vessel was operating on the Tallinn-to-Stockholm route and that no damage has been related to inadequate lashing of trucks, containers or other cargo.

Condition of visor and ramp closure

The Commission has noted from observations on the wreck that one of the locking bolts for the forward ramp was most probably not in its properly extended position at the time of the accident, and the related indicator lamp on the bridge was then not lit. The deficiency did not prevent closing of the visor.

It is possible that the locking bolt had been in its proper position and had backed out prior to the accident due to movement between the ramp and the ramp coaming in combination with hydraulic leakage, e.g. past the operating piston seals. Such movement of locking bolts at sea has been noted in other ro-ro ferries.

Even if this defect had existed at the time of departure it has not been possible to find out whether any action was called for. This potential deficiency would have had no effect on the development of the accident, as the ramp would have been forced open by the visor even if all the locking bolts had been in their proper positions.

Some rags can be seen on pictures filmed from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the area of the half-extended locking bolt on the lower port side of the ramp. This may indicate that a sealing problem in the ramp, mentioned by the second engineer in his testimony, had been temporarily cured by packing rags into the gap. However, the Commission considers it likely that the mattresses and rags were washed into the area from nearby storage spaces during the final flooding of the car deck. They were observed at a point which was the highest on the car deck and still over the water surface when the stern reached the sea bed. Other floating objects and debris were also observed in the bow area, all probably trapped by the partly closed ramp when the bow started sinking.

If rags had been tucked along the sides of the ramp it is most likely that they would have been washed away when the ramp was forced open. The rags were partly in a position between the failed hinge lugs and the lug in the hull, where they could not have penetrated when the hinge was intact. The plastic covers of the mattresses appear intact, which indicates that they had not been subjected to heavy rubbing. It would hardly have been possible to close five ramp locks with rags packed in the positions observed.

Truck drivers have stated that sometimes there were problems in opening the ramp locks, and tools had to be used. Such problems have also been encountered on other vessels.

The magnet of the visor bottom lock position indicator was on the bracket in the locking bolt but the sensors could not be found during the ROV and diving investigations. The empty ends of the sensor cables were near the mounting bracket of the sensors. The mounting bracket appeared to be undamaged like remains of the broken port lug and the deck plating near the bottom lock. This indicates that the sensors were not in their place during the accident voyage. However, since the distance from the magnet to the nearest sensor was a few centimetres, a small chance remains that the pounding visor detached the sensors. According to crew members and the technical superintendent the bottom lock position indicator had been in working order. The most likely absence of the sensors would not have had any effect on the accident since there was no indicator lamp on the bridge showing the position of this locking bolt.

According to statements by members of the alternate crew, a strict routine was followed in the closing and securing of the ramp and visor, and technical assistance was called upon if any malfunction developed. No problems were evident at the time of the last crew change, nor had any reports about deficiencies in the ramp or visor locking system been made to the technical superintendent of the vessel.

The Commission’s conclusion, which is supported by the failure pattern, is that the visor had been properly closed and secured at departure and that there were no deficiencies in the ramp affecting the development of the accident.

The voyage up to the accident

The ESTONIA departed from Tallinn at 1915 hrs. The crew was into the 13th day of its current 14-day duty period.

The speed was around 19 knots at the beginning of the voyage and when passing Osmussaar lighthouse at about 2200 hrs the ESTONIA was approximately on her normal schedule in spite of leaving Tallinn 15 minutes late. Weather conditions deteriorated during the night. Because of this the resistance of the vessel increased and the speed gradually decreased. After the course change at the waypoint at about 0025 hrs, the ESTONIA encountered waves on the port bow and conditions became more unfavourable, with increased rolling and pitching and more severe wave impacts on the bow. The stabilising fins had been extended just after the waypoint. Shortly before the accident the speed had dropped to about 14 knots.

It may be of interest to compare the ESTONIA’s speed with those of the MARIELLA and the SILJA EUROPA, two other passenger ferries en route to Stockholm on the same heading and encountering the same sea state as the ESTONIA. On the MARIELLA, speed was reduced at about 2300 hrs to 12 knots by order of the master. The SILJA EUROPA was running at approximately the same speed as the ESTONIA, i.e. 14.5 knots at about 0055 hrs. Just afterwards the SILJA EUROPA’s officer of the watch reduced the speed due to the weather.

Separation of the visor

The first indication that something was wrong in the bow area was noted and reported to the bridge about five minutes before one o’clock by the AB seaman of the watch when he, at the forward ramp on his routine watch round, noted a sharp metallic bang from the bow area. This coincided with a heavy upward acceleration that nearly made him fall. He reported this bang to the bridge. Remaining about five minutes near the ramp he then continued on his round to decks 1 and 0 and finally to the bridge. He heard no more unusual sounds, nor made any unusual observations.

Shortly after one o’clock a few wave impacts on the visor caused the visor attachments to fail completely. The visor started cutting openings in the weather deck plating and associated structures. Soon the back wall of the visor housing came into contact with the ramp, hitting its upper edge and thus breaking its locks. The ramp fell forwards and remained resting inside the visor. In a few minutes the visor started falling forwards.

The ramp then followed the visor in a forward, tumbling motion. The starboard side actuator was extended to its full length and was torn out of the hull during the final stage of the sequence. The visor subsequently tilted over the stem, left the ramp fully open allowing large amounts of water to enter the car deck, and as it fell collided with the bulbous bow of the vessel.

This sequence of events is supported by witnesses from several areas on board who heard a repeated metallic noise from the bow area during a period of about ten minutes, starting shortly after one o’clock. The detailed timing is, however, uncertain. The witnesses have given several good descriptions of these sounds and it is beyond doubt that the sounds were caused by the visor moving and pounding on the forepeak deck. Some of the metallic blows were associated with hull vibrations. The sounds from the bow area ended in a few loud, metallic crashes, caused by the final separation of the visor and its colliding with the bulbous bow of the vessel. This occurred at about 0115 hrs. The collision is documented by clear impact marks on the visor.

Development of the list and sinking of the vessel

On deck 1 the first passengers left their cabins already when they began hearing metallic blows from the bow area. A few have reported seeing small amounts of water in corridors on deck 1 and feeling that the vessel already at this stage had a slight list.

While the ramp was partly open inside the visor, water entered the car deck along the sides of the ramp, as observed first by the third engineer at 0110 – 0115 hrs on the TV monitor showing the forward part of the car deck. The water noted by the first passengers fleeing from their cabins on deck 1 could at this stage have poured down to the accommodation on deck 1. Later, during the evacuation, several passengers observed on deck 2 that water entered the staircases through the slots around the fire doors to the car deck.

After the ramp had been forced open by the visor, waves may have caused the ramp to move between fully open and partly closed position but generally a significant opening was available for waves to enter the car deck as further described in 13.5 below. The large amounts of water flooding onto the car deck caused the vessel to heel over and after a few rolling movements a significant list developed to starboard. This happened within the first minutes after the visor had separated from the ship. According to witnesses the ship steadied temporarily at a list angle of about 15 degrees.

Just before the moment when the list developed many crew members and passengers noticed a change in the vessel’s motion. This coincides with the time when the visor separated from the vessel and may have been the effect of the first larger volume of water to enter the car deck.

At about the time when the list developed, the engines were throttled back close to idling speed and the vessel was turned to port into the wind. She passed through the wind’s eye and continued to port with decreasing speed. Information from some survivors indicates a reduction of engine speed just before the accident but the timing is uncertain. It is, however, the opinion of the Commission that full service speed setting was maintained right up to the time when the list developed.

During the port turn water continued to enter the car deck and the list increased to 20 – 30 degrees where the vessel for some minutes stabilised as the water inflow decreased. By about 0120 hrs all four main engines had stopped, at intervals of a few minutes, starting with the port side engines, due to lack of lubricating oil pressure. The main generators stopped about five minutes later.

After the main engines stopped, the ESTONIA drifted with a list of about 40 degrees and the starboard side towards the waves. Water continued to enter the car deck through the bow but at a significantly lower rate. Waves were pounding against the windows on deck 4. Window panels and aft doors broke, allowing flooding of the accommodation to start. As the flooding progressed, the list and the trim by the stern increased and the vessel started to sink. At a list of about 80 degrees the bridge was partly flooded. This happened shortly after 0130 hrs as indicated by a clock in the chartroom whose hands had stopped at 2335 hrs UTC. The emergency generator stopped at about the same time but the accumulators supplied power for limited lighting. The sinking continued, stern first, and the vessel disappeared from the surface of the sea at about 0150 hrs.

 

 

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 11, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conversation No. 87

Date: Sunday, June 15, 1997

Commenced: 11:20 AM CST

Concluded: 11:45 AM CST

 

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: (Laughter) Nasty.

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

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

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

RTC: No, they wouldn’t dare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: Jesus, you poor fellow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

GD: And the pat on the pointy head?

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

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

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

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

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

GD: And you also have your documents, Robert.

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

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

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

GD: Of the spoils of peace.

RTC: No, of war against everyone else.

 

(Concluded at 11:45 AM CST)

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

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Gary Ruskin & the USRTK

 

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

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

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

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

Apart from harassing scientists, the URSTK website also serves as a repository for various denialist talking points and conspiracy theories. It should also be mentioned that one of the most experienced FUD tacticians in the denialist movement, Carey Gillam, is an central figure in URSTK.

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

And keep in mind: If you believe that scientists, who have devoted their lives and careers – and often sacrificed far more lucrative employment opportunities – to research their fields of interest, will without further ado opt for lying and deceiving on behalf of industry in return for small research grants, then that tells us quite a bit about you and your integrity; not so much about those scientists.

 Joseph Rossell

Joseph Rossell is Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer at and occasional blogger for Concerned Women for America. Rossell is particularly notable for his anti-environmentalism, claiming that environmental protection efforts represent “an incredibly evil set of values,” if not “the most dangerous agenda on earth.” Indeed, environmentalists back a “vile” and “highly dangerous ideology” that “may very well be the most anti-human, anti-life agenda on the planet.” As Rossell sees it, environmentalism is really a depopulation conspiracy. After all, many people have voiced concerns about overpopulation, and it therefore follows in Rossell’s deranged mind that these people believe it “necessary to dramatically reduce the number of people globally through brutal methods (including sterilization and abortion).” And the conspiracy goes deep: it is even “gaining ground in American school systems, thanks in part to initiatives like Common Core.” Ultimately, the foundation for environmentalism is hatred of Christianity. “Christ warns His followers, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15),” says Rossell, and points out that “[e]nvironmentalism is similarly deceptive, requiring us to employ spiritual discernment.” “Spiritual discernment” is apparently fundamentalist conspiracy theorists’ substitute for critical thinkingand evidence.

As for the “false prophets” part, Rossell is of course a climate change denialist, claiming that “global warming remains a hotly debated topic among scientists. There is still no consensus about what might be causing it, much less how to fix it. Some question the extent to which temperatures are even increasing.” This is, of course, blatantly false. Rossell, however, is thinking of sources like fundamentalist theologian, dominionist and creationist E. Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance.

Diagnosis: Denialist, fundamentalist, conspiracy theorist. Pretty predictable stuff. Rossell is still a relatively minor figure, but we predict a bright future for him on the dominionist, denialist evil circus clown circuit.

 

 

 

 

 

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