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TBR News September 26, 2019

Sep 26 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. September 25, 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 September 26: “If you should see the words ‘honeypot’ connected with any email site, be very careful. ‘Honeypot’ is an indicator that the site contains dangerous elements designed to penetrate another site and plant observation systems to read all the emails that site produces. Nearly all of the social media sites have similar programs, designed to suck personal information from subscribers which they then sell to the market or, worse, to political entities. Trump paid Facebook $5.000,000 to assist him in his first presidential bid and is boasting he will do it again. The White House for sale? Of course.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Trump impeachment inquiry: Dissecting the phone call behind it
  • Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate rival Joe Biden
  • For Ukraine’s leader, Trump memo on their call is a diplomatic car crash
  • How Trump Pushed Ukraine’s President to Probe Conspiracy Theories About Democrats
  • Saudi waffling
  • The Military Officials Who Knew Saudi Arabia Would Fail
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The Coming of a New Ice Age
  • Human Overpopuation

 

Trump impeachment inquiry: Dissecting the phone call behind it

September 25, 2019

by Anthony Zurcher

BBC News

Details of a controversial phone call at the centre of the push by Democrats to consider impeaching President Donald Trump have been released. What have we learnt?

A rough transcript of the conversation between the US president and the Ukrainian president in July has just been made public.

It has been seized on by his critics as evidence that Mr Trump sought foreign help to dig dirt on his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden. But Republicans say it reveals nothing untoward.

Here are the key passages broken down.

  1. The three Biden mentions

Extract of phone call where Trump mentions Biden

One-line takeaway: This is confirmation that Mr Trump pressed Ukraine to look into Biden.

Full version: The media reported that Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in their July phone conversation.

Then Mr Trump confirmed it – more or less.

Now here it is, in black and white – complete with presidential editorialising about how Mr Biden’s actions “sound horrible”. “There’s a lot of talk” is also a classic Trump verbal construction when he wants to imply nefarious deeds but avoid making a direct accusation.

(Mr Biden did in fact brag about getting the Ukrainian chief prosecutor fired, but no evidence has come to light that he ever tied it to the investigation, let alone any prosecution, of the Ukrainian oil company that employed his son.)

Mr Trump refers the Ukrainian president to US Attorney General Bill Barr – although the US Justice Department has said that Mr Barr was never brought into the loop.

The president even considering such a request is highly irregular, however, given that it might indicate Mr Trump was trying to encourage his Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation into Mr Biden or his son. What’s more, it was the Justice Department that made the decision to withhold the original whistleblower memo from Congress.

Memo confirms Trump urged Biden investigation

  1. No quid pro quo but…

Zelensky: I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defence. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps – specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United· States for defence purposes.

One-line takeaway: Trump asks for a favour but any quid pro quo is suggested not explicit.

Full version: To fully understand the implications of Mr Trump’s Biden request, scroll back in the transcript a few paragraphs to this exchange.

After some diplomatic niceties, Mr Zelensky thanks Mr Trump for his “great support in the area of defence”. A week or so before this conversation, the US put a hold on the $250m in military aid Congress had authorised for Ukraine – reportedly at the behest of Mr Trump and without any clear explanation offered.

Mr Zelensky goes on to talk about the Javelins (US-made anti-tank missile) Ukraine plans to buy, presumably with the suspended funds.

As soon as Mr Zelensky finishes, Mr Trump counters with a “favour” he would like Ukraine to do. Initially he mentions a cyber-security firm and a missing server – perhaps a reference to conservative conspiracy theories that Russia was not really behind the 2016 election cyberattacks (despite the conclusions of the US intelligence community and the Mueller investigation).

From there, Mr Trump turned to talk about the Bidens.

Prior to this transcript’s release there was considerable speculation about whether there would be an explicit “quid-pro-quo”, where Mr Trump conditioned the release of US military aid on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate one of the president’s top political rivals.

There’s no direct presidential request here, but Democrats calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment could point to this passage and say it’s not too difficult to connect the dots.

  1. European countries need to cough up

Graphic quoting Trump: We do ·a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing, and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk, and I think it’ something that you should really ask them about.

One-line takeaway: This helps Trump’s defence. Republicans will point to this section as the real reason why he held back aid.

Full version: Mr Trump’s first explanation for why he suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine was because he was concerned about the former Soviet nation’s track record of corruption. By Tuesday, however, the president was citing a different reason – that he believed the US was contributing too much to Ukraine and wanted to pressure European nations to do more.

The White House and Republicans in Congress will point to this passage, early in the phone call, as evidence to support this claim.

Mr Trump certainly has a long history of highlighting and criticising what he sees as the comparatively large burden the US carries in terms of military and economic aid compared to its allies, so his explanation is not implausible.

The question, however, is whether in this case it is more plausible than another explanation – that Mr Trump was using this phone call not to pursue a legitimate foreign policy goal, but to advance a personal political one.

It’s a point Democrats and Republicans are sure to argue over – and one for which the American people will ultimately be the judge.

  1. Trump backs Ukraine prosecutor

Trump: I heard you had a prosecutor who· was very good and he was shut down, and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General

One-line takeaway: This Ukrainian prosecutor was fired amid criticism that he was ineffective but Trump says here that he was treated badly.

Full version: The prosecutor in question is Viktor Shokin, who was dismissed by the Ukrainian parliament in 2016. Mr Biden, along with other US officials, European allies and reform-minded Ukranians, viewed Shokin as corrupt and celebrated his removal.

In Mr Trump’s opinion, however, Shokin was a victim, and later in the conversation he said he was “treated very badly and was a very fair prosecutor”. He follows this up by directing Mr Zelensky to Mr Giuliani – his unpaid personal defence lawyer and former mayor of New York City.

A Tuesday article in the Washington Post detailed the friction Mr Trump’s reliance on Mr Giuliani to handle his Ukrainian contacts created within the administration’s foreign policy officials. One unnamed aide said the current controversy was a direct result of Mr Giuliani “injecting himself into the process”.

Mr Giuliani has countered that all his contacts with Ukraine were at the behest of the US State Department – an assertion congressional investigators might be interested in learning more about.

  1. Flattery from the Ukraine leader

Quote from Zelensky: We did win big and we worked hard for this. We worked a lot but I would like to confess to you that I had an opportunity to learn from you. We used quite a few of your skills· and knowledge and were able to use it as an example for our elections.

One-line takeaway: Zelensky is not the first foreign leader to employ flattery in dealing with the US president.

Full version: Setting aside the most controversial portions of the 30-minute exchange, the phone conversation between the two presidents offers another example of the strategy many foreign leaders have chosen to employ in their interactions with Mr Trump.

Flattery, they seem to think, will get them everywhere.

Mr Zelensky cites Mr Trump’s “skills and knowledge” with helping him craft his winning political campaign. He later echoes Mr Trump’s rhetoric, saying that his goal is to “drain the swamp” in his own country.

Toward the end of the conversation, Mr Zelensky notes that the last time he was in New York City, he stayed at the Trump Tower. Frequenting a Trump-owned property has become a fairly common way for foreign officials to curry favour with the president – although the Trump Organisation says it donates all income from such visits to the US. For 2018, for instance, it cut a cheque to the Treasury for $191,538.

The president’s critics have said he is profiting from foreign business in violation of the US Constitution. Mr Trump’s conversation with Mr Zelinsky will be one more example they may cite in their public complaints – and legal filings.

 

Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate rival Joe Biden

US President Donald Trump requested his Ukrainian counterpart start an investigation into Joe Biden, the summary of a White House phone call has shown. Trump also said Germany “does almost nothing” to help Ukraine.

September 25, 2019

DW

President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the US Attorney General William Barr to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, according to a memo summarizing a July call between the two leaders  released by the White House on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said, according to the five-page summary.

Trump said there was “no quid pro quo” in the call and denied any wrongdoing. Zelenskiy said Wednesday that “nobody pushed me,” adding that the two leaders just “had a good phone call.”

Critics accused Trump of holding back military aid to Ukraine unless it launched the investigation into Biden. Zelenskiy had voiced an interest in purchasing more US weaponry to prior Trump turning the conversation in the direction of Ukraine’s judiciary.

The implication that Trump may have asked a foreign government to help his re-election campaign by investigating a possible rival pushed members of the Democratic Party to start an impeachment inquiry against the president.

‘Mafia-type’ shakedown

In a press conference Wednesday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said that the transcript was “far more damning” than expected and that the call reflected a “mafia-type shakedown” of a foreign leader.

Schiff, a Democrat, also demanded that the full whistleblower complaint be turned over to his investigative committee and said he expected the whistleblower to meet with the committee in the coming days.

Republican lawmakers came to Trump’s defense on Wednesday. Georgia Congressman Doug Collins tweeted that Pelosi’s decree “changes absolutely nothing.”

“Until the full House votes to authorize an inquiry, nobody is conducting a formal inquiry,” Collins said.

Trump demands an ‘apology’

Just before the release of the phone call memo, Trump tweeted that he expected an apology from Democrats: “Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President? They should, a perfect call — got them by surprise!”

Trump claimed that Democrats had built up his conversation with Zelenskiy to be a “call from hell,” but said the transcript summary shows “it turned out to be a nothing call.”

Speaking at a press conference at the UN, Trump said there “no push, no pressure, no nothing.”

He also said the White House would release a first call with Zelenskiy and those between Vice President Mike Pence and the Ukrainian president.

Trump denies pressuring on Kiev

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he had put “no pressure whatsoever” on Kyiv to investigate a gas deal involving Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Hunter Biden served on the board of Ukraine’s largest gas company, Burisma, when it was under investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors. He was never accused of any offense.  Then Vice President Biden at the same time was leading the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Ukraine and pressured Kyiv to sack its chief prosecutor because Western countries believed he wasn’t doing enough to fight rampant corruption.

During his debut address as Ukraine’s leader at the UN General Assembly Wednesday, Zelenskiy did not mention the Trump call and instead focused his speech on building international support for Ukraine.

In the rough transcript of the phone call with Trump, Zelenskiy appeared open to cooperating with Giuliani and the US attorney general, saying that he was aware of the situation and a new prosecutor would be appointed in September.

The new prosecutor “will look into the situation, specifically the company that you mentioned in this issue,” Zelenskiy said. “The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”

Germany ‘does almost nothing’ for Ukraine

In his conversation with Zelenskiy, Trump also lauded US support for Ukraine, adding that European countries, especially Germany, “should be doing much more.”

“Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it’s something that you should really ask them about,” Trump said, according to the transcript. “When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn’t do anything

Zelenskiy agreed with Trump, and said the US president’s criticism was “1000% absolutely right.”

Zelenskiy said he had asked both Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to do more on enforcing sanctions against Russia.

“They are not enforcing the sanctions. They are not working as much as they should work for Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in the transcript, adding that although the EU should “logically” be Ukraine’s strongest partner, in fact, the US “is a much bigger partner” than the EU.

A German government spokesperson declined to comment on the statements in the transcript.

 

For Ukraine’s leader, Trump memo on their call is a diplomatic car crash

September 25, 2019

by Pavel Polityuk and Andrew Osborn

Reuters

KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) – For U.S. President Donald Trump, White House publication on Wednesday of a memo summarizing his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy fueled a domestic political crisis.

For Zelenskiy, it was a far-reaching diplomatic disaster.

Zelenskiy’s comments to the Republican Trump, disclosed in the summary, will likely irk U.S. Democrats, risking the bipartisan U.S. support Kiev requires while irritating France and Germany whom Zelenskiy criticized in the same exchange.

Locked in a geopolitical standoff with neighboring Russia after Moscow annexed the Crimea region and backed pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Ukraine needs all the international friends it can get.

It relies heavily on Washington for aid and diplomatic help, and European countries like France and Germany are trying to help bring about talks aimed at breathing life into a stalled peace process over eastern Ukraine.

“Unfortunately the main consequence of this is that Ukraine could become toxic,” said Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center in Ukraine.

“Maybe not as toxic as Russia became during the Mueller investigation, but toxic,” she said, referring to a two-year U.S. investigation into contacts between Trump’s successful 2016 election campaign and Russia.

The timing of the latest scandal is awkward for Zelenskiy, who is keen to reinvigorate parts of a stalled peace deal over eastern Ukraine, something for which he needs European and U.S. diplomatic muscle.

The White House memo summarizing the call shows Zelenskiy promised to reopen an investigation into a company that employed former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son and voiced frustration about what he said was a lack of support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron when it came to enforcing sanctions on Russia.

It also showed Zelenskiy had agreed with Trump that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine – Marie Yovanovitch – was “a bad ambassador.”

EAGER TO INGRATIATE’

“Zelenskiy does not come out looking good from this – giving the ex-U.S. ambassador a kicking, Merkel and the Europeans a kicking, and then agreeing to do Trump’s dirty work on Biden,” said Timothy Ash, a senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management.

“(He) seems very eager to ingratiate himself with Trump.”

International investors have been hoping that Zelenskiy will make good on pledges to refashion Ukraine into a fully fledged transparent graft-free democracy. Ash’s comments reflect growing scepticism on that score in some quarters.

The French foreign ministry declined to comment and the Elysee was not immediately available for comment. But French officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Macron had gone out of his way to meet Zelenskiy before he was elected, something that was uncommon in normal protocol.

There was no immediate comment from German officials.

Zelenskiy, who held talks with Trump in New York on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, had resisted calls for Ukraine to release details of the July 25 call with Trump during which the U.S. president asked him to investigate the son of Biden, the front-runner in the Democratic Party race for the November 2020 election.

Zelenskiy told reporters on Wednesday he had thought that only Trump’s side of the call would be published and that he believed that details of such calls “between presidents of independent countries” should sometimes not be published.

He said he did not know the details of the investigation into Biden’s son, saying it was one of many cases he discussed with world leaders if asked and that he wanted his new general prosecutor to investigate all cases without interference.

Zelenskiy also tried to smooth over things with Merkel and Macron, saying he was grateful for their help and that he had made his comments about them during “a difficult period.”

“I don’t want to say anything bad about anyone,” Zelenskiy said after meeting Trump. “We thank everyone who helps us.”

DAMAGE DONE?

But some at home said the damage had already been done.

“Of course the background to relations with European leaders and especially Merkel will worsen,” said Volodymyr Fesenko of the Penta think tank.

“There’s no direct criticism (in the call summary) but the context and tonality is such that Zelenskiy sounds like he’s complaining about Merkel to Trump.”

Some Ukrainians fear that the damage the Trump scandal could inflict on U.S.-Ukraine ties could also play into Russia’s hands as it might imperil future U.S. military aid among other things.

“For Ukraine there’s a huge danger that it could find itself alone with its enemy the Russian Federation … as the United States is a strategic partner in the military sphere and when it comes to pushing ahead with reforms,” said Maria Ionova, a lawmaker from former president Petro Poroshenko’s faction.

“The Russian Federation will definitely use this chance.”

The Kremlin has said the matter is one for the United States and Ukraine and that it is merely observing.

“(The) facts are that Trump in effect asks Zelenskiy to dig dirt up on Biden, and Zelenskiy seemingly agreed,” Ash said.

“After everything Biden did for the reform story in Ukraine, Zelenskiy stabs him in the back – along with the former U.S. ambassador, Merkel, et al.

“The winner – Putin!”

Additional reporting by Sergiy Karazy and Matthias Williams in Kiev and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Howard Goller

 

How Trump Pushed Ukraine’s President to Probe Conspiracy Theories About Democrats

September 26, 2019

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Donald Trump pressed Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help legitimize conspiracy theories about his Democratic rivals during a private telephone conversation in July, and again at a public meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday.

White House notes on the July call, released before the two presidents met in New York, showed that Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate false claims about the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee’s servers in 2016 and about former Vice President Joe Biden’s role in getting Ukraine’s chief prosecutor fired the same year.

The summary of the call shows that when Zelensky said that his country wanted to buy Javelin antitank missiles from the United States — using millions of dollars in American military aid the White House was blocking at the time — Trump responded by saying, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” The American president then presented shards of a conspiracy theory he’s invoked before: that the DNC computers were not hacked by Russian intelligence agents, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded, rather, Democrats had framed Russia for the crime, with the help of a Ukrainian-owned cybersecurity firm.

“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine,” Trump said “they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it.” This is a frankly baffling sequence of sentences for anyone not deeply versed in the alternative reality explanations broadcast nightly on Fox News in support of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that Russia sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign to help elect him president.

CrowdStrike, as Kevin Poulsen explained in The Daily Beast, “enters the picture because it’s the security firm the DNC hired to investigate the breach back in 2016, and the first of many to identify Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, as the perpetrator. A publicly-traded company headquartered in California, CrowdStrike has nothing to do with Ukraine, except in conspiracyland, which pretends that CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch is Ukrainian, and that he framed Russia for election interference both on the DNC’s orders and to punish Putin for invading his homeland.”

Alperovitch, however, is not Ukrainian. He is an American citizen who was born in Russia and emigrated to the U.S. as a child.

The theory “is absurd for many reasons,” the New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth observed on Twitter. “The server is not in Ukraine; it’s sitting in the DNC basement. Despite Trump’s repeated claims Democrats withheld the server from the FBI, CrowdStrike and the DNC actually gave all their forensic evidence to the FBI.”

“This DNC-didn’t-give-the-server-to-the-FBI idea makes no sense,” Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, tweeted last year.

Trump previously raised the supposedly missing server while standing next to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at their summit in Helsinki last year. Asked by a reporter why he took Putin at his word that Russia had nothing to do with the hacking, despite evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump suggested that the matter was still in doubt because the Democrats had concealed evidence.

“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server?” Trump asked. “Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I have been wondering that, I have been asking that for months and months, and I have been tweeting it out, and I have been calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know. Where is the server and what is the server saying?”

In Helsinki, the president also seemed to conflate the DNC server with the home email server Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state. On Wednesday in New York, as his Ukrainian counterpart shifted uneasily in his seat, Trump told reporters that he believed that Hillary Clinton’s deleted personal emails “could very well be” hidden in Ukraine.

Trump also referred in his call with Zelensky in July, and at their news conference on Wednesday, to a false claim that has become an article of faith among his supporters: that Ukrainian officials had tried to help Clinton defeat him in 2016 by fabricating evidence of money-laundering by Paul Manafort, his then-campaign chairman. If those documents were false, the thinking goes, the entire Mueller investigation should be called into question.

Although there is no evidence that this is true, Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed on CNN last week that records of $12.7 million in secret payments to Manafort from the Ukrainian political party of his former client, Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian president who was toppled in a popular uprising in 2014, had been forged. In fact, as Andrew Kramer of The New York Times reported at the time, others named in the secret ledger where the payments to Manafort were documented have confirmed the records are genuine.

“Our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Trump told Zelensky in the call. “There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation.” He then referred to Mueller’s testimony to Congress about his investigation, which took place the day before the July call, and added, “they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.”

Trump expanded on that idea while sitting with Zelesnky on Wednesday, telling reporters that he had asked Ukraine’s president to cooperate with an investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe by Giuliani.

“Rudy is looking to also find out where the phony witch hunt started, how it started. You had a Russian witch hunt that turned out to be two and half years of phony nonsense,” Trump said. “And Rudy has got every right to go and find out where that started. And other people are looking at that, too. Where did it start? The enablers — where did it all come from?”

Murray Waas reported in The New York Review of Books on Wednesday that notes from “A person who participated in the joint defense agreement between President Trump and others under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including Manafort,” indicated that “Manafort exhorted the White House to press Ukrainian officials to investigate and discredit individuals, both in the U.S. and in Ukraine, who he believed had published damning information about his political consulting work in the Ukraine.” Giuliani, Waas learned, was involved in those discussions, which lasted from early 2017 until May of this year, and began working “to obtain information that might provide a pretext and political cover for the president to pardon his former campaign chairman.”

According to Giuliani himself, it was in the course of this effort to find evidence that Ukrainians had colluded with the Clinton campaign to frame Manafort that he came across another baseless conspiracy theory he and Trump have pushed for five months now: that Joe Biden, as vice president, had abused his power to get Ukraine’s chief prosecutor fired to shield his son from criminal investigation there.

As I reported in May, and again this week, while Biden’s son, Hunter, was asked to join the board of a Ukrainian gas firm suspected of corruption in 2014, his father pressed Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor the following year because that official, Viktor Shokin, had failed to pursue corruption cases — including one against the same firm. In other words, the evidence shows that the then-vice president had acted to make the prosecution of the firm paying his son more likely, not less likely.

At a public event last year, Biden boasted of how he had delivered an ultimatum from the Obama administration to Ukraine in late 2015: remove Shokin and pursue an anti-corruption agenda or risk losing $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. Biden was proud of his successful intervention, which was supported by other international donors to Ukraine and local anti-corruption activists who also demanded Shokin’s ouster for failing to pursue cases against former officials and crooked businesses that profited from state contracts.

Speaking to Zelensky in July, Trump said, “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.” In the context of the conversation, it was possible that Trump was referring either to Shokin, the prosecutor Biden worked to oust, or his successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who had sought to curry favor with Trump by meeting with Giuliani earlier this year. Lutsenko, like Shokin, was also criticized by reformers and activists in Ukraine, including Sergii Leshchenko, a lawmaker and journalist Giuliani attacked by name last week. “A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved,” Trump told Zelensky.

The Ukrainian activists who faulted Lutsenko for failing to investigate corrupt former officials reportedly had the support of the former U.S. ambassador in Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled to Washington two months early in May. “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that,” Trump added.

He then pressed Ukraine’s new president to open an investigation into Biden, the man he currently trails in general election polls.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said, referring to a suggestion that Attorney General William Barr would aid in the investigation of the former vice president. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…. It sounds horrible to me.”

Remarkably, Trump has successfully misled many of his supporters into believing that the video of Biden’s on-camera comments at the Council of Foreign Relations last year, recorded before a room filled with reporters and policy experts, meant that he was somehow caught on tape admitting wrongdoing, rather than simply speaking in public about something that was above-board.

“The whole thing with the prosecutor in Ukraine,” Trump said while sitting with Zelensky on Wednesday, “this isn’t like, ‘maybe he did it, maybe he didn’t.’ He’s on tape doing this.”

Keeping up the fiction that Biden’s public comments were some sort of smoking gun, Trump added: “I saw this a while ago. I looked at it and I said, ‘That’s incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that.’ Now, either he’s dumb, or he thought he was in a room full of really good friends, or maybe it’s a combination of both, in his case.”

While Trump’s supporters pointed to the lack of any explicit statement from the president that he would release blocked military aid in return for helping to smear Democrats, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, suggested that the arms-for-investigations offer was clear.

Trump made his demand for “a favor,” right after Zelensky raised the issue of buying more Javelin antitank missiles with the aid money the White House had put a hold on before the call.

Ukraine’s need for Javelin missiles, to defend its territory from armored vehicles supplied to the Russian-backed separatists who hold much of the east of their country, has been central to its diplomatic relations with the U.S. for the past five years.

In February of 2015, Michèle Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official who was then a leading candidate to serve as defense secretary if Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected president, and seven other former senior American officials issued a report urging the Obama administration to send $3 billion in defensive arms and equipment to Ukraine. The authors wrote that Ukrainian military leaders “had two primary requests for lethal military assistance: sniper weapons and precision antiarmor weapons, specifically the Javelin anti-tank missile. The current stocks of Ukrainian anti-tank/anti-armor weapons are at least 20 years old and reportedly have a 70 percent out of commission rate.”

The following month, President Barack Obama, under pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to avoid escalating the conflict in Ukraine into a proxy war with Russia, ignored the advice of Vice President Biden and decided to instead provide a much smaller amount of nonlethal aid to Ukraine’s military.

Republicans in Congress were scathing about Obama’s refusal to provide weapons to Ukraine’s military at the time. A year later, however, when a delegate to the Republican National Convention’s platform committee, a Ted Cruz supporter named Diana Denman, submitted language calling for the next president to commit to “providing lethal defensive weapons,” she was shocked that the plank was removed by Trump staffers.

Although both Trump and Manafort denied at the time that they had directed the commitment to Ukraine to be watered down, J.D. Gordon, a national security adviser to the Trump campaign later admitted that he had pushed to have the promise of lethal aid removed to better align with the Republican nominee’s aim for warmer relations with Russia.

“The Trump campaign was, for the most part, hands off except one strange issue, and that was Ukraine,” Randall Dunning, an alternate Ted Cruz delegate from Texas told Voice of America in July, 2016. “I don’t understand why, with all the tough defense talk coming out of Mr. Trump, why he would object to giving Ukraine the arms necessary to defend their nation.”

Seven months into Trump’s term, when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Kiev in August, 2017, he said that he supported sending weapons to Ukraine, but a Pentagon proposal to provide Javelin anti-tank missiles had still not been approved by Trump.

It was not until March, 2018 that the the Pentagon announced the final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units to Ukraine. A month later, The New York Times reported that a Ukrainian special prosecutor appointed to pursue corruption in the former administration, Serhiy Horbatyuk, had been ordered to freeze four investigations related to Manafort’s consulting for the former president of Ukraine and his political party. The cases were not officially closed, but the prosecutor general’s office issued an order that blocked Horbatyuk from issuing subpoenas for evidence or interviewing witnesses.

Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko announced on April 30 that the Ukrainian Army had finally received “the long-awaited” missiles.

Two days later, Andrew Kramer of The Times reported that David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy in the prosecutor general’s office, “did not believe that the general prosecutor had coordinated with anybody in the United States on the decision to suspend the investigations in Ukraine, or that there had been a quid pro quo for the missile sale.”

 

Saudi waffling

September 22, 2019

by Christian Jürs

tbrnews.org

A most interesting report exists from a connection in Saudi Arabia who discusses the relative uselessness of the American Patriot missile defense system against the use of attack drones.

The American system protects on a 120 degree coverage and this has proven to be of little worth.

On the other hand, the Russian S-400 AA system covers 360 degrees. The Americans have forbidden allied countries from purchasing the Russian system and penalize them if they do so.

Turkey is an example of this.

The Saudis have purchased enormous and very expensive defense systems from America and now are, very cautiously, approaching the Russians with the intent of purchasing and installing the superior Russian AA defense system.

They argue that their installations are vital to the economy of Saudi Arabia and it is necessary to defend them.

The recent Abqaiq attack appears to be a warning by Iran and their allies of things to come if Saudi Arabia continues to remain in the American orbit.

A report by Russian Colonel Vladimir Kurchenko on this subject is most illuminating. Russia is developing their own oil programs which include foreign holdings and Saudi Arabia is considered to be a viable subject.

Full, though at the Saudi request, very clandestine cooperation is the Russian goal. (See report by banjadai@hotmail.com ada)

 

The Military Officials Who Knew Saudi Arabia Would Fail

Privately they’ve been saying for years that Riyadh can’t win in Yemen and that we shouldn’t have given the Houthis up.

September 25, 2019

by Mark Perry

American Conservative

While it’s seems axiomatic that most Americans suffer from historical amnesia, that’s not necessarily true for the U.S. military. And as America and Iran were sprinting towards a military confrontation last week, a recently retired senior U.S. military officer expounded on what he called “the bumbling, incompetent and feckless stupidity of it all.”

The target of the officer’s ire was not Donald Trump (whom he admires) or Mike Pompeo (who he doesn’t), but Saudi Arabia’s March 2015 decision to go to war against the Iranian-allied Houthi tribal movement in Yemen —“which is,” he argues, “how all of this nonsense got started in the first place.”

He explained: “We didn’t see the [Saudi] invasion [of Yemen] coming and we were shocked when it happened. But we were pretty blunt. We told them, ‘you can’t win and you’ll bankrupt your country. It’ll be a quagmire.’ And we were right.”

This officer’s “we-told-ya-so” narrative, as it turns out, is accurate. Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen to destroy the Houthi rebellion (and reinstate the government of Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi) not only surprised the Obama administration, it was met with nearly open disdain by the U.S. military. Key senior officers of the U.S. Special Operations Command viewed the Houthis as a robust counter to al-Qaeda’s strength in Yemen and even argued that America take steps to support them.

“The Houthis were only nominally Iran’s surrogates,” a military officer told me at the time, “but they were also our quiet partners against al-Qaeda.” Yet back in 2015, because of the Saudi invasion (with support from nine other Arab states), the possibility that the Pentagon could count on Houthi backing was not only off the table, senior Pentagon officials predicted that the tribe would strengthen its ties with their Shia co-religionists in Iran—something that, prior to the Saudi invasion, it hadn’t wanted to do. That’s why key segments of the U.S. military thought the Saudi invasion was a mistake.

But that’s not how Senator John McCain saw it. McCain defended the Saudi invasion, linked it to Barack Obama’s decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, and said there was good reason that the Saudis had kept their planned intervention a secret. “These countries, led by Saudi Arabia, did not notify us nor seek our coordination or our assistance in this effort, because they believe we are siding with Iran,” McCain, who succumbed to cancer in 2018, said.

Senior U.S. military officers scoffed at this, even as, given McCain’s stature as the arbiter of all-things-military, they kept their views private. “The reason the Saudis didn’t inform us of their plans,” a U.S. Central Command officer told me at the time, “is because they knew we would have told them exactly what we think—that it was a bad idea.” Yemen expert Michael Horton, whose intimate knowledge of the conflict is informed by visits to the region, echoed these views while channeling the U.S. military’s skepticism about Saudi Arabian military competence: “Frankly, they cannot begin to manage this,” he told me soon after the Saudi intervention. “They have all the toys, but few people who know how to manage them. Their NCO and officer corps are largely untested, and their enlisted men are drawn from the lowest rungs of Saudi society. If they get bogged down in Yemen, I wonder about the loyalty of many of their soldiers and NCOs.”

The Saudi-led intervention began well enough, with a relentless air campaign and naval blockade that initially eroded Houthi strength. And despite its skepticism, the U.S. military turned on a dime, providing the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and logistical support and advising senior officers of the United Arab Emirates, which commanded most of the anti-Houthi ground forces. But over the course of the next three years, the intervention bogged down. The blockade triggered a famine that affected millions of Yemenis, the UAE’s mercenary force proved no match for the better-led Houthis, rebel militias began to lob scud missiles into Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, Riyadh’s allies began to peel away from the coalition (the UAE exited Yemen last July), the UAE-led mercenary army suffered a series of devastating defeats along the Saudi border, and, most crucially, the Houthis strengthened their ties with Tehran—all of which Pentagon officials had predicted back in 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s troubles in Yemen rang alarm bells in Washington. Within months of taking office, Donald Trump’s national security team began meeting with Middle East experts to explore ways to ease the Saudis out of their Yemen pratfall. The under-the-radar meetings, conducted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff, were accompanied by mounting intelligence reports that Saudi Arabia’s intervention was throwing into doubt the long-term stability of the Saudi government. In fact, officials inside the royal family were using the Yemen crisis to mount a whisper campaign to undermine Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

In the wake of these White House consultations, a senior Pentagon official told me, the Trump administration reached two conclusions—that “all is not well in the House of Saud,” and that the U.S. should open talks with the Houthis to end the war. In September, as a part of this effort, the State Department dispatched David Schenker to Riyadh to pressure the Saudis to join prospective U.S.-Houthi talks hosted by Oman.

This history provides context for the September 14 missile and drone strikes on a major oil processing facility inside Saudi Arabia. The U.S. intelligence community has since concluded that the attack, launched from western Iran, accounted for nearly 20 strikes that destroyed four oil tanks and disabled sophisticated oil pumping equipment. While the damage only temporarily curtailed world oil supplies, it sent shudders through global oil markets—and the White House.

The Trump administration only briefly considered a military response, before dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh and then announcing the deployment of additional U.S. ground forces to help the Saudis improve their air defenses—a strategy that a senior Pentagon civilian described as “talking big and carrying a swagger stick.” In fact, the bluff and bluster belied the reality of what is actually happening in the region, this same Pentagon civilian told me. “We’re not the only ones moving pieces on the board,” he said. “Over the last two years, the Iranians have shown that they can hit us and our allies from all kinds of places.”

According to this official, the U.S. and Iran have been engaged in “a kind of low intensity proxy war” in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the waters of the Persian Gulf since May 2018, when Washington withdrew from the U.S.-Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. By one count, the tit-for-tat conflict (“an escalatory salvo in an expanding regional power struggle,” as one report phrased it), has included the bombing of oil tankers, drone strikes on key ports, missile strikes on Riyadh, cross border operations targeting Saudi soldiers, and a drone offensive on the Golan Heights.

The attacks have run parallel to Iran’s decision to upgrade and expand its support for Iranian proxies in the region, which, in turn, sparked the scrambling of Israeli jets to bomb suspected Iranian bases in Syria, Lebanon, and (most recently) Iraq. While the tit-for-tat blows have not yet put the U.S. and Iran into a direct confrontation, both nations are climbing the escalatory ladder towards war. Tehran’s new calculus (“expanding the battlefield,” as the senior Pentagon civilian phrased it) means that any U.S. strike against Iran itself would have to take into account multiple responses that would pit Iran and its allies (including Hezbollah) against the U.S. and its allies (including Israel).

“You know that popular map that you see on Twitter that shows that Iran is surrounded by U.S. bases?” the Pentagon civilian asks rhetorically. “Well, guess what? The Iranians have now surrounded Saudi Arabia. And so while we’ve ratcheted up the economic pressure, they’ve decided to do the same. Last week’s message was loud and clear—if we can’t market our oil, we’re going to make damn sure you can’t market yours.”

Left unsaid, but implied in this assessment, is what the official was careful not to say: that despite all of America’s saber rattling and Mike Pompeo’s bluster, the U.S. is playing an increasingly weak military hand—and it’s only getting weaker.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

September 26, 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. 12  

Date: Thursday, May 2, 1996

Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:22 AM CST

 

GD: Good day to you, Robert. How goes the battle with you?

RTC: I think I’m slowly losing ground, Gregory, but I’m still fighting.

GD: I’ve been fighting for years so I understand the concept.

RTC: I hear the Germans are not happy over some of your writings. You are disturbing the Jewish community with your allegations that we hired the head of the Gestapo.

GD: Who cares?

RTC: You heard the old saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Well, the Beltway has no fury like a Jew ignored. How dare we hire the head of the Gestapo? How could we do such a thing to them? They are the Chosen of God, after all.

GD: What did God choose them for? To stand in the shower lines in some Polish camp?

RTC: Oh, now, Gregory, show some compassion.

GD: My God, why should any of us care about all of those nonsense stories? Lampshades and cakes of soap, my ass.

RTC: We are all supposed to care about that, Gregory. And if they use it right, they can get discount airline tickets and something off on that new sofa.

GD: Stunning revelations indeed, Robert. Another group of obnoxious nuts.

RTC: Believe me, Gregory, there are far worse.

GD: Who? The Pedophile’s Protective League? The Bellowing Jesus Freaks of Bad Seepage, Ohio?

RTC: There are worse things in this world than the Society of Professional Hebrew Moaners.

GD: The Sackcloth and Ashes League? The Humpback’s Tuesday Afternoon Bridge Club?

RTC: Why don’t you try the Scientologists? Now that group is really something to contemplate.

GD: I’ve read a little about them but not much. Started by some old faker named Hubbard. L. Ron Hubbard. I used to be a science fiction nut and I remember reading one of his stories years ago. Awful writing. Sounded like it was written by a ten year old.

RTC: That’s the one. He may have been an awful writer but he was a class A conman. Those people made more Goddam trouble for us. They were running all over the Med in the ‘60s in some rusty tub called the Royal Scotsman. My God, what a ship of fools that was. We were getting requests from DoS and other people to look into them. All over the place, docking here and there, chasing frantic deserters into towns, screaming at people…my God what a circus that one was. And old Hubbard waddling around in some naval uniform, shouting at people one minute and trying to bribe some public official on shore the next.

GD: That I knew nothing about.

RTC: We did, believe me. Hubbard was as crazy as a loon and Washington was afraid he would start a war. You ever read about them?

GD: Just something here and there. Hubbard died, didn’t he?

RTC: Yes, about ten years ago. His people got rid of him because he was getting to be a flaming nut and threatened to fire all of his top people. Since their scam brought in about a million dollars a day, those at the top had no intention of allowing a fat, old psychotic liar push them out.

GD: Was that in the press?

RTC: No. Hubbard was a raging paranoid, among other failings, and was convinced that everyone was out to get him so he went into hiding. That was where he was, out in California, when they gave him the needle. Of course they got the old idiot to sign a will leaving them everything and in with the drugs. As I recall, they cremated him as fast as possible and dumped his ashes into the Pacific off the stern of a sardine boat.

GD: Sic transit Gloria mundi, Robert

RTC: Isn’t that always the truth?

GD: How did they make a million a day? Print it?

RTC: No, Barnum was right, Gregory. There is a sucker born every minute. When I took Jim’s files out of there, I got the Scientology file, too. Three large boxes of files. My son read through some of them and said it sounded like a group therapy session over at St. Elizabeth’s The money? It came from legions and more legions of suckers who flocked to the tin can boys and paid until they were broke.

GD: Tin cans?

RTC: Yes. Hubbard had a very simple device that registered electrical skin responses. Works like the polygraph but has no value. We all have these electrical impulse things and of course the little needle jumps around. They have so called experts called auditors who tell the mark that this is helping to clear up their psyche so they can go out into the real world without a bag over their head. We know, and I am sure you do too, that the world is full of failures and worse. Now, instead of hanging themselves or jumping in front of Amtrak trains, they can grab the tin cans and let someone tell them that being ugly, stupid or a failure is really not their fault. Others are to blame. Of course they will never be free of their loads of guilt until the auditor tells them they are OK and that day never comes. As long as the marks have money, the tin cans are grasped and the wallets slowly empty. When it does, the sucker is tossed out on the street and then, broke, they jump off of railroad bridges and make messes on the tracks.

GD: A million a day?

RTC: Oh yes, at least. Hubbard once said that if a man wanted to be really rich, he should found a religion.

GD: Faking it with tin cans and some worthless meter is not a religion.

RTC: Oh, they turned it into one. They have a lock on a number of frustrated fanatics, fueled by vast sums of money pouring in from the army of suckers.

GD: You mentioned a boat?

RTC: Oh yes, in the 80’s, old Hubbard got it into his head that powerful forces were after him so he bought an old boat, filled it up with nuts and off they went, cruising all over the place and creating diplomatic havoc. Later, he got tired of his admiral’s uniform so he took over some town in Florida and terrorized the normal people before moving on to California, the true home of fruits and nuts. And in the meantime, before Hebe the Yench and the Dwarf, Miscarriage, terminated him, old Hubbard had his crazy followers break into government building and steal sensitive files. Of course they got caught but Hubbard claimed ignorance. He wasn’t stupid by any means but he had Borderline Personality disorder and couldn’t tell the truth when a lie would suffice.

GD: Who are the Hebe and the Dwarf?

RTC: In house for Heber Jentsch and David Miscavage. The first one is a front and the dwarf is the one who runs the show now that his founder is floating on the surf. Oh, you should read the nonsense….Gregory, do you know what a DC 3 is?

GD: Certainly. It’s an older commercial jet.

RTC: Hubbard said, and the ninnies still believe, that certain superior aliens, the father of all of the more enlightened of us, were brought to Earth from Venus millions of years ago on DC 3s.

GD: Robert…

RTC(Laughter) No, I’m serious. We don’t need to even discuss this moronic crap but thousands of panting believers accept it as the truth. The problem is, while they have stopped running around in the boat, they now try to take over small towns and are heavy in the electronics business. And of course swindling fools out of Daddy’s trust fund.

GD: You have material on them?

RTC: Yes, I do, Gregory.

GD: Any chance I could see it?

RTC: Of course, I can dig it out and ship it to you. But a word of caution here, Gregory, never try to use it.

GD: Why not?

RTC: My God, these twits sue everyone in sight for no reason. If you wrote that all up, they would sue you, your dog, your neighbors, your dead grandmother, your school and probably the mailman. The word ‘crazy’ is too mild to use in conjunction here. But, I will send this off to you with my caveat.

GD: You know, my sister’s cat keeps crapping on her bed. Maybe I could stuff it into a tin can and read the meter.

RTC: (Laughter) Be my guest. Why not audit a cat?

GD: I used to think it was books that were audited.

RTC: Gregory, these people can’t read books.

GD: Speaking of books, Bender is going ahead with the Mueller series so I guess Wolfe will hiss at you in the Archives like Loki.

RTC: Bill and I will look forward to the new books, Gregory. And we do need to get together in person sometime, right here. It’s safe enough here.

GD: Should we invite Kimmel?

RTC: Gregory, I have enough problems from the Justice people over you without fanning the flames. I think you love to fan the flames. Have you ever considered a gracious retirement?

GD: That takes money, Robert.

RTC: Yes, that it does. Sell more books.

GD: That’s not my bailiwick. Maybe I could start a religion, Robert. Tell people I came from Venus and if they are good, and give me lots of money, I can elevate them to a huge and invisible flying saucer and take them to Pluto where the men will have huge peckers and the women get to eat a ton of chocolates a day and not gain a pound. And they will all live forever and never worry about falling hair or sagging breasts. Why? Because I will turn them all into little green toads and eventually feed them to the Great God Dagon.

RTC: Well, that way we would get rid of everyone in Los Angeles and Washington.

GD: And our magic spaceship will be a 707 and we can call it the Ship of Fools.

RTC: I will look up those files for you Gregory.

GD: Thanks. It will beat reading the obits in the paper, looking for dead enemies.

 

(Concluded at 9:22 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

Christie Marie Sheldon

We admit that the only reason we became aware of Christie Marie Sheldon, is because ads for her services started showing up on facebook. According to her ads, Sheldon “is an intuitive healer and medium that’s conducted over 10,000 private consultations [“30,000” by 2019].” Based on her experiences, she has “handpicked her most powerful and transformational energy tools to create her Love or Above Spiritual Toolkit, a source to help others become a ‘magnet’ for love, joy and abundance.” To access the toolkit, you apparently need to access her website Love or Above, where you’d be forced to confront the profound question “ARE YOUR VIBRATIONS HELPING OR HURTING YOU?” Yes, it is an instance of Betteridge’s law of headlines, and the answer is “no”; according to Sheldon, however, “[y]our personal vibration frequency could be the ONE thing holding you back from abundance, happiness and success. Discover how to raise it, so you can finally start living from the vibration of Love or Above.” It really couldn’t be.

“Ever notice how some uncannily lucky people can almost effortlessly attract good things into their lives?” asks Sheldon. Apparently the reason they succeed has nothing to do with opportunities, resources, savviness or skills. It is because of how they vibrate. All emotions, says Sheldon, vibrate at a particular frequency – shame, for instance, vibrates at a frequency of 20. She doesn’t provide any units. We’re talking that kind of frequency and that kind of webpage. More positive emotions, though, vibrate at, well, more. Willingness and acceptance are 310 and 350, respectively, and if you vibrate at 1000, you are an “Enlightened Master.” According to her measurements, the vibrational energy of the Earth is currently 207, somewhere between “Courage” and “Neutrality.”

To back up her claims, she cites William Braud of the “Mind-Science Foundation”, who “found” that the life spans of red blood cells could be increased by having their owners “think positive thoughts about them”, and “Dr.” Masaru Emoto, no less. What either “experiment”, even if they were anything but laughable nonsense, would have to do with Sheldon’s love vibrations is unclear.

As of 2019, you are invited to “Join Mindvalley’s Beloved Intuitive Life Coach On A Series Of Monthly Online Group Sessions As She Works With Your Energy Field, Wipes Out Your Abundance Blocks – And Aligns You With The Infinite Prosperity & Success The Universe Wants You To Have.” It is probably not free.

Diagnosis: No, seriously. This is a scam, aimed at the gullible or people in difficult situations (or those looking for “empowerment” and “bonding”). Christie Marie Sheldon is a piece of shit. At best, her website serves as a nice illustration of what post-truth rhetoric looks like or of Harry Frankfurt’s analysis of bullshit.

Wayne Rohde

Wayne Rohde is an antivaccine activist, and the founder of the antivaccine group the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, occasional blogger for the antivaccine conspiracy website Age of Autism, and a rich source of trite, endlessly repeated and falsified (and repeated again) antivaccine tropes. Rohde is an attorney, and has, as far as we can tell, no background in science or research. He is nevertheless an active figure at antivaccine conferences and was in 2019 asked to serve on the new Minnesota state council on autism together with fellow antivaccine conspiracy theorist and health freedom advocate Patti Carroll; that state council was initiated by state senator Jim Abeler, a chiropractor and fellow anti-vaccine activist, who justified the appointment of Rohde and Carroll by invoking the balance fallacy. Rohde himself is an executive for the group Health Choice, which advocates that chronic health conditions in children are caused by “unhealthy choices” including “side effects of vaccine choices.” This is not true.

To people like Rohde, vaccines are to blame for most ills. Here, for instance, is (a discussion of) Rohde trying to connect Harold Ramis’s death to vaccines through desperately bizarre speculation. Then he refers to some garbage studies by Shaw and Tomljenovic, websites that say the opposite of what he says that they say, and vaccine court cases. (Indeed, Rohde has written a book about vaccine courts: The Vaccine Court: The Dark Truth of America’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which seems to be mostly an instance of Badger’s Law). Of course, Rohde is mostly JAQing off. But it was the vaccines. Nothing in what he says has anything to do with facts, truth and evidence, but if you start with an idea, stick to it dogmatically, and don’t care about what is actually the case, you can connect almost anything to it with enough ingenuity.

Of course, Rohde denies being antivaccine; instead, he is – when it suits him – an advocate for health freedom. By claiming to be pro-freedom, he gets to call his opponents “fascists”, or “medical fascists”. He likes that. He also likes questioning the motivations of those who disagree with him.

Diagnosis: crackpot conspiracy theorist. He is quite vocal, however, and seems to have some influence in the antivaccine movement. Dangerous

 

The Coming of a New Ice Age

by Gerald E.  Marsh

CHICAGO — Contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day, the real danger facing humanity is not global warming, but more likely the coming of a new Ice Age.

What we live in now is known as an interglacial, a relatively brief period between long ice ages.  Unfortunately for us, most interglacial periods last only about ten thousand years, and that is how long it has been since the last Ice Age ended.

How much longer do we have before the ice begins to spread across the Earth’s surface?  Less than a hundred years or several hundred?  We simply don’t know.

Even if all the temperature increase over the last century is attributable to human activities, the rise has been relatively modest one of a little over one degree Fahrenheit — an increase well within natural variations over the last few thousand years.

While an enduring temperature rise of the same size over the next century would cause humanity to make some changes, it would undoubtedly be within our ability to adapt.

Entering a new ice age, however, would be catastrophic for the continuation of modern civilization.

One has only to look at maps showing the extent of the great ice sheets during the last Ice Age to understand what a return to ice age conditions would mean.  Much of Europe and North-America were covered by thick ice, thousands of feet thick in many areas and the world as a whole was much colder.

The last “little” Ice Age started as early as the 14th century when the Baltic Sea froze over followed by unseasonable cold, storms, and a rise in the level of the Caspian Sea.  That was followed by the extinction of the Norse settlements in Greenland and the loss of grain cultivation in Iceland.  Harvests were even severely reduced in Scandinavia   And this was a mere foreshadowing of the miseries to come.

By the mid-17th century, glaciers in the Swiss Alps advanced, wiping out farms and entire villages. In England, the River Thames froze during the winter, and in 1780, New York Harbor froze.  Had this continued, history would have been very different.  Luckily, the decrease in solar activity that caused the Little Ice Age ended and the result was the continued flowering of modern civilization.

There were very few Ice Ages until about 2.75 million years ago when Earth’s climate entered an unusual period of instability.  Starting about a million years ago cycles of ice ages lasting about 100,000 years, separated by  relatively short interglacial perioods, like the one we are now living in became the rule.  Before the onset of the Ice Ages, and for most of the Earth’s history, it was far warmer than it is today.

Indeed, the Sun has been getting brighter over the whole history of the Earth and large land plants have flourished.  Both of these had the effect of dropping carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere to the lowest level in Earth’s long history.

Five hundred million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations were over 13 times current levels; and not until about 20 million years ago did carbon dioxide levels drop to a little less than twice what they are today.

It is possible that moderately increased carbon dioxide concentrations could extend the current interglacial period.  But we have not reached the level required yet, nor do we know the optimum level to reach.

So, rather than call for arbitrary limits on carbon dioxide emissions, perhaps the best thing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the climatology community in general could do is spend their efforts on determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide needed to extend the current interglacial period indefinitely.

NASA has predicted that the solar cycle peaking in 2022 could be one of the weakest in centuries and should cause a very significant cooling of Earth’s climate.  Will this be the trigger that initiates a new Ice Age?

We ought to carefully consider this possibility before we wipe out our current prosperity by spending trillions of dollars to combat a perceived global warming threat that may well prove to be only a will-o-the-wisp.

Human Overpopuation

Wikipedia

Current population dynamics, and cause for concern

Loss of arable land and increase in desertification.[245] Deforestation and desertification can be reversed by adopting property rights, and this policy is successful even while the human population continues to grow.[246]

Intensive factory farming to support large populations. It results in human threats including the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria diseases, excessive air and water pollution, and new viruses that infect humans.[247][248][249][250]

Increased chance of the emergence of new epidemics and pandemics.[251] For many environmental and social reasons, including overcrowded living conditions, malnutrition and inadequate, inaccessible, or non-existent health care, the poor are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases.[252]

Starvation, malnutrition[107] or poor diet with ill health and diet-deficiency diseases (e.g. rickets). However, rich countries with high population densities do not have famine.[106]

Low life expectancy in countries with fastest growing populations.[253] Overall life expectancy has increased globally despite of population growth, including countries with fast-growing populations.[43]

Unhygienic living conditions for many based upon water resource depletion, discharge of raw sewage[254] and solid waste disposal. However, this problem can be reduced with the adoption of sewers. For example, after Karachi, Pakistan installed sewers, its infant mortality rate fell substantially.[255]

Elevated crime rate due to drug cartels and increased theft by people stealing resources to survive.[256]

Less personal freedom and more restrictive laws. Laws regulate and shape politics, economics, history and society and serve as a mediator of relations and interactions between people. The higher the population density, the more frequent such interactions become, and thus there develops a need for more laws and/or more restrictive laws to regulate these interactions and relations. It was speculated by Aldous Huxley in 1958 that democracy is threatened by overpopulation, and could give rise to totalitarian style governments.[257] However, over the last 200 years of population growth, the actual level of personal freedom has increased rather than declined.[4

As of September 24, 2019 the world’s human population is estimated to be 7.736 billion.[8] Or, 7,622,106,064 on May 14, 2018 and the United States Census Bureau calculates 7,472,985,269 for that same date[9] and over 7 billion by the United Nations.[10][11][12] Most contemporary estimates for the carrying capacity of the Earth under existing conditions are between 4 billion and 16 billion. Depending on which estimate is used, human overpopulation may have already occurred.

Nevertheless, the rapid recent increase in human population has created concern. The population is expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion between the years 2040[13][14] and 2050.[15] In 2017, the United Nations increased the medium variant projections to 9.8 billion for 2050 and 11.2 billion for 2100.[16]

As pointed out by Hans Rosling, the critical factor is that the population is not “just growing”, but that the growth ratio reached its peak and the total population is now growing much slower.[17] The UN population forecast of 2017 was predicting “near end of high fertility” globally and anticipating that by 2030 over ⅔ of world population will be living in countries with fertility below the replacement level[18] and for total world population to stabilize between 10-12 billion people by year 2100.[19]

The rapid increase in world population over the past three centuries has raised concerns that the planet may not be able to sustain the future or even present number of its inhabitants. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth, circa 1994, stated that many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, are aggravated by the population expansion.[20]

Other problems associated with overpopulation include the increased demand for resources such as fresh water and food, starvation and malnutrition, consumption of natural resources (such as fossil fuels) faster than the rate of regeneration, and a deterioration in living conditions. Wealthy but highly populated territories like Britain rely on food imports from overseas.[21] This was severely felt during the World Wars when, despite food efficiency initiatives like “dig for victory” and food rationing, Britain needed to fight to secure import routes. However, many believe that waste and over-consumption, especially by wealthy nations, is putting more strain on the environment than overpopulation itself.[22]

Fresh water

Water crisis

Overpopulation may lead to inadequate fresh water[108] for drinking as well as sewage treatment and effluent discharge. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, use energy-expensive desalination to solve the problem of water shortages.[168][169]

Fresh water supplies, on which agriculture depends, are running low worldwide.[170][171] This water crisis is only expected to worsen as the population increases.[172]

Potential problems with dependence on desalination are reviewed below, however, the majority of the world’s freshwater supply is contained in the polar icecaps, and underground river systems accessible through springs and wells.

Fresh water can be obtained from salt water by desalination. For example, Malta derives two thirds of its freshwater by desalination. A number of nuclear powered desalination plants exist;[173][174] however, the high costs of desalination, especially for poor countries, makes the transport of large amounts of desalinated seawater to interiors of large countries impractical.[175] The cost of desalination varies; Israel is now desalinating water for a cost of 53 cents per cubic meter,[176] Singapore at 49 cents per cubic meter.[177] In the United States, the cost is 81 cents per cubic meter ($3.06 for 1,000 gallons).[178]

According to a 2004 study by Zhou and Tol, “one needs to lift the water by 2000 m, or transport it over more than 1600 km to get transport costs equal to the desalination costs. Desalinated water is expensive in places that are both somewhat far from the sea and somewhat high, such as Riyadh and Harare. In other places, the dominant cost is desalination, not transport. This leads to somewhat lower costs in places like Beijing, Bangkok, Zaragoza, Phoenix, and, of course, coastal cities like Tripoli.” Thus while the study is generally positive about the technology for affluent areas that are proximate to oceans, it concludes that “Desalinated water may be a solution for some water-stress regions, but not for places that are poor, deep in the interior of a continent, or at high elevation. Unfortunately, that includes some of the places with biggest water problems.”[179] “Another potential problem with desalination is the byproduction of saline brine, which can be a major cause of marine pollution when dumped back into the oceans at high temperatures.”[179]

The world’s largest desalination plant is the Jebel Ali Desalination Plant (Phase 2) in the United Arab Emirates, which can produce 300 million cubic metres of water per year,[180] or about 2500 gallons per second. The largest desalination plant in the US is the one at Tampa Bay, Florida, which began desalinating 25 million gallons (95000 m3) of water per day in December 2007. A 17 January 2008, article in the Wall Street Journal states, “Worldwide, 13,080 desalination plants produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day, according to the International Desalination Association.”[181] After being desalinated at Jubail, Saudi Arabia, water is pumped 200 miles (320 km) inland though a pipeline to the capital city of Riyadh.[182]

However, new data originating from the GRACE experiments and isotopic testing done by the IAEA show that the Nubian aquifer—which is under the largest, driest part of the earth’s surface, has enough water in it to provide for “at least several centuries”. In addition to this, new and highly detailed maps of the earth’s underground reservoirs will be soon created from these technologies that will further allow proper budgeting of cheap water.[183]

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