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TBR News September 8, 2018

Sep 08 2018

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

Washington, D.C. September 8, 2018:”Trump has antagonized so many entities, domestic and foreign, that it is a foregone conclusion that his days in the Oval Office are numbered. He has insulted the media with the result that they have swing against him and his erratic behavior and he has insulted numerous foreign governments with the result that there is a growing anti-American policy becoming more and more evident. The one positive thing about Trump’s erratic and venomous behavior is that many disparate groups are beginning to work together against what they see is a common enemy.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 17
  • Trump Shows Reporters an Article Praising Him, Then Lies About What It Says
  • ‘We’re in Crazytown’: a week of dysfunction in the Trump White House
  • Regime Change — American Style
  • Op-ed sparks high-stakes whodunit in Washington as Trump rages
  • Barack Obama returns to politics with Donald Trump take-down
  • Anonymous anti-Trump op-ed enters uncharted territory in US politics
  • James Atwood, the CIA and ex-Nazi Weapons Business
  • Why I Am NOT A Christian

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 17 August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

 

 

  • Jun 21, 2017

“So we’re 5 and 0 in special elections — 5 and 0. Five and 0.”

Source: Speech on agricultural innovation

in fact: Republicans are not 5 and 0 in congressional special elections under Trump: a Democrat won a little-noticed California race, so Republicans’ actual record is 4 and 1.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

 

“I said: for me to go, I’m only going (to the Middle East), we had to negotiate, if you spend billions of dollars, billions, on having things manufactured in our country with our jobs and our workers for your country. And hundreds of billions of dollars were spent and given to American companies who are going to make American products and send those products over to the wealthy countries of the Middle East. I mean, hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Trump is counting chickens too early. Hundreds of billions were not “were spent and given to American companies”: most of the agreements signed on the trip were initial frameworks or “letters of intent” that have not yet even turned into actual contracts, let alone billions in payments. “Few if any contracts appear to have been signed,” the Post reported. Even if they are signed, it is unclear whether they will result in “hundreds of billions” in spending; the administration appears to be double-counting and relying on other fuzzy math.

 

“We are moving them (MS-13 gang members) out of the country by the thousands. By the thousands.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: This is an exaggeration. Alleged MS-13 members are being detained and deported by the dozens, not the thousands. As of a month ago, the government of El Salvador, the foreign country with the most MS-13 members, told the Washington Post that 398 gang members had been deported there in 2017.

Trump has repeated this claim 15 times

 

“They’ll never show the crowd.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: This frequent Trump complaint is unfounded: networks and reporters have no hesitation showing the crowds at his rallies. Networks were limited during the 2016 campaign: the main “pool camera” is fixed on the politician speaking, and his own team denied requests to set up a camera riser to allow for an additional camera to provide crowd shots. This time, Fox News, one of few outlets carrying the rally live, immediately showed video of the crowd after Trump made this complaint.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

 

“We’re not even campaigning, and look at this crowd.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Trump’s event was a campaign rally organized by his campaign team.

 

“They all say it’s non-binding. Like hell it’s non-binding.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: The Paris accord is clear: each country sets its own non-binding emissions targets. In Trump’s own speech announcing his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement, he said, “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord.”

 

“China: (the Paris climate accord) doesn’t kick in until 2030.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: The agreement has already “kicked in” for China. Contrary to Trump’s suggestion, it does not get a special delay. Rather, each participating country sets its own voluntary targets for cutting emissions; one of China’s voluntary targets is to hit peak emissions around 2030. Some data suggest China’s emissions are already declining.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

 

“I put a little clause. Handwritten. It said, anybody builds a pipeline in the United States will use American steel and fabricate in America. No more taking it over on boats. Very simple.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: This is wrong in four ways. First, the order is separate from other orders, not a “clause” in the order on Keystone XL. Second, the order was not as forceful as Trump said: it said merely that the government should develop a plan to require pipelines to use American materials — “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law.” Third, the order was not handwritten by Trump; it was typed in precise legalistic language. Fourth, Trump created the misleading impression that he is forcing Keystone XL to use American steel; that pipeline has already been granted an exemption, Politico reports, because it is not a “new” pipeline.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

 

“We’ve approved — first day — the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline. First day. Day One.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Trump did not approve either pipeline on his first day. Four days into his presidency, he issued executive orders that advanced the two pipelines, but did not grant final approval. The government announced the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline three weeks into his presidency; Trump approved Keystone XL two months into his presidency.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

 

“We’re putting our miners back to work. In fact you read about it last week: a brand new coal mine just opened in the state of Pennsylvania. First time in decades. Decades. We’ve reversed it.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Coal mine openings are unusual, but this was not the first one in decades. The Eagle Pass mine opened in Texas in 2015, the Elk Creek mine in West Virginia in 2016.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

 

“We’ve achieved a historic increase in defence spending.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: This is false in two ways. First, Trump’s proposed increase is far from historic. “In just the past 40 years,” The Associated Press reported, “there have been eight years with larger increases in percentage terms than the one he’s now proposing.” Second, Trump has not “achieved” any increase yet; Congress is still debating military funding levels.

Trump has repeated this claim 10 times

 

“Obamacare is dead.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: We allow Trump rhetorical license to call Obamacare “collapsing” and even “exploding,” though experts say neither is true, but it is plainly false to say the law is “dead.” Despite its problems, it continues to provide health insurance coverage to millions.

Trump has repeated this claim 33 times

 

“If they (farmers) have a puddle in the middle of their field — a little puddle the size of this, it’s considered a lake, and you can’t touch it. And if you touch it, bad, bad things happen to you and your family.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Puddles were explicitly excluded from the final version of an Obama-era federal water rule.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

 

“I’ve been watching and they’re saying, ‘President Trump has not produced health-care.’ I’ve been there for five months! If you remember, during the Clinton period, they worked for years and years and years, they never got health-care. Obama … President Obama: his whole administration. Pushing, pushing for Obamacare.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Obama spent just one of his eight years in office pushing to get Obamacare passed: he signed the bill into law in March 2010, 14 months after he was sworn in. (The Clintons’ failed health-care reform effort lasted less than two years, so “years and years and years” is an exaggeration, too.)

 

“On a large-scale basis, we are the highest-taxed nation in the world … We’re going to have one of the lowest taxes, from the highest tax.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: The U.S. is far from the highest-taxed nation in the world. While its corporate tax rate is near the top, it is below the average of developed OECD countries when other taxes are included.

Trump has repeated this claim 28 times

 

“He’s the president of Goldman Sachs, he had to pay over $200 million in taxes to take the job.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Gary Cohn did not have to pay over $200 million in taxes to take the job of Trump’s chief economic adviser. The truth is something close to the opposite: to take the job, he sold shares worth more than $200 million — then had the option of taking advantage of a special benefit for White House appointees that allowed him to defer taxes on the sale for years.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

 

“You see what we’re doing, you see what we’ve already done. Homebuilders are starting to build again.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Homebuilders are building less under Trump than they did during the end of the Obama era. “U.S. housing starts hit eight-month low; building permits weak,” read a Friday headline from Reuters. The story began: “U.S. homebuilding fell for a third straight month in May to the lowest level in eight months as construction activity declined broadly, suggesting that housing could be a drag on economic growth in the second quarter.”

 

“This happened in Montana, right. In Kansas. Last night, South Carolina with Ralph … California, so. But it’s been incredible. So we’re 5 and 0. We’re 5 and 0.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: Republicans are not 5 and 0 in congressional special elections under Trump: a Democrat won the little-noticed California race he mentioned in this very paragraph. Republicans’ actual record is 4 and 1.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

 

“CNN (crowd boos) — whoop, hey, their camera just went off … It was covered live, their camera just went off. I can’t imagine why.”

Source: Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

in fact: This simply did not happen: CNN did not turn off a camera or end its live coverage of the rally upon hearing the boos. In fact, it stopped airing rally footage 15 minutes prior; at the time of the booing, it was airing a segment about Trump’s Russia controversy. Trump told precisely the same lie about a CNN camera at a rally in July 2016.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

 

  • Jun 22, 2017

“Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Johnson was Secretary of Homeland Security, not “Advisor,” and Trump’s claim is inaccurate even leaving that aside. Testifying before a House committee, Johnson was not nearly so definitive; asked if he had any evidence of Trump collusion with Russia, he said: “”Not beyond what has been out there, open-source, and not beyond anything that I’m sure this committee has already seen and heard before directly from the intelligence community.” He then added that he hadn’t had access to intelligence “over the last five months,” as the investigation has continued.

 

  • Jun 23, 2017

“But we are 5 and 0, as you know, in these special elections. And I think the Democrats thought it would be a lot different than that. 5-0 is a big — that’s a big margin.”

Source: Fox and Friends interview

in fact: Republicans are not 5 and 0 in congressional special elections under Trump: a Democrat won a little-noticed California race, so Republicans’ actual record is 4 and 1.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

 

Trump Shows Reporters an Article Praising Him, Then Lies About What It Says

September 6, 2018

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

President Donald Trump lied to reporters at the White House on Wednesday night, in his first remarks about the anonymous New York Times op-ed in which a senior administration official described him as amoral, ill-informed, and unfit for office.

When the president was asked for his response to the allegation, he first dismissed it as an illustration of “the dishonest media.” He then defended his record and reached inside his jacket pocket to find the text of an article which, he said, bolstered his case that “nobody has done what this administration has done in terms of getting things passed and getting things through.”

The president made a show of reading the article’s headline out loud — “Trump breaks the record for budget gridlock wins; scores big win” — held it aloft proudly, and read out more phrases from the text as he gave a deeply confusing account of the record he was proud to have broken.

“So for 20 years — it’s a 20-year record — for a 20-year record,” the president said, “they call it ‘the “fouled-up” budget gridlock’ and ‘scores big win.’ Here is the thing. So this just came out. So in 20 years, it hasn’t been like it is now. It’s — we broke — we broke it.”

Close readers of the Trump presidency will not be shocked to learn that there is no mention at all of any record in the real text of the article. The actual headline, visible in an image of the printout captured by Associated Press photographer Susan Walsh, is, in fact, “Trump breaks 20-year ‘fouled up’ budget gridlock, scores big wins.”

That report, from the pro-Trump Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard, was about the unified Republican government managing to avoid the disagreements over spending that were common in the past 20 years, when the White House and Congress were often controlled by different parties.

Still, Trump’s blatant disregard for the actual text of the article he held up for reporters to photograph did contribute to one record he is on pace to set: as the first president to be caught lying more than 10,000 times during a four-year term.

 

‘We’re in Crazytown’: a week of dysfunction in the Trump White House

Woodward’s book Fear about the White House dropped like a bomb and an anonymous op-ed attacked Donald Trump

September 7, 2018

by Joanna Walters in New York

The Guardian

Monday was a bank holiday in America. Donald Trump almost went golfing for the third day in a row, after attending his golf course the day before and on Saturday when he was not invited to John McCain’s funeral. Then – motorcade waiting on Monday morning – he appeared to change his mind abruptly and retreated to the White House. Maybe he could see storm clouds gathering. But it was the storm inside his own White House he needed to worry about – and on Tuesday it broke. Here’s what we learned this week.

  • Tuesday kicked off badly. Protesters dressed as handmaids, and the kind of people Trump would probably call “nasty women” disrupted the opening day of the supreme court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s ultra-conservative choice for the supreme court.
  • In the early afternoon, veteran Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s eagerly anticipated book about the Trump White House broke cover. Fear dropped like a bomb as the Washington Post itself revealed devastating details, citing senior members of the administration calling the president, variously, an idiot, a professional liar, the mayor of Crazytown and a clueless, hopeless manchild.
  • Woodward, who, with Carl Bernstein, broke the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” in the Trump administration. Fear tells of senior aides secretly snatching official papers from Trump’s desk in the Oval Office so he couldn’t sign them, as the only way to stop the president making dangerous policy decisions.
  • Chief of staff John Kelly reportedly told staff, of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
  • According to the book, previous chief of staff Reince Priebus dubbed the presidential bedroom, where Trump goes to tweet “the devil’s workshop” and called leisure time when a bored Trump tweets wildly “the witching hour”. Trump apparently referred to Priebus as a “little rat” who “scurries around”.
  • Gary Cohn, Trump’s former chief economic adviser, reportedly called Trump a “professional liar” and threatened to resign after the president said “both sides” were to blame when white supremacists clashed with protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Trump was later persuaded to condemn the neo-Nazis, but then told aides that was “the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made,” according to Woodward.
  • White House press secretary Sarah Sanders attempted to deride Fear as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad”. Kelly, for one, issued a statement calling the book “total BS”.
  • Trump called the book a “shame” on Wednesday and Woodward a “con” and mused that US libel laws should be changed. Further details emerged, that Trump calls himself a “popularist”, despite his former aide Steve Bannon explaining that the word is populist. But this was just the eye of the storm.
  • Wednesday mid-afternoon. The New York Times published an anonymous account written by a “current Trump administration official” claiming an internal White House “resistance” is working to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” until he leaves – or can be removed from – office.
  • The anonymous opinion column claimed aides had explored removing Trump via the 25th amendment to the US constitution, which allows for the replacement of a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, but had decided against it. “So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until – one way or another – it’s over” the person wrote.
  • Uproar ensued. Trump cried “treason” and called the author “gutless”. He was already on the prowl for the sources of Woodward’s book, but the witch-hunt escalated to fever pitch. Senator Rand Paul suggested lie detector tests for White House officials.
  • Thursday saw a pitiful parade of senior administration officials, from Vice-President Mike Pence on down, issuing denials that they were the “resistance” mole in the White House. “Not mine”, “no”, “laughable” came the various statements. Trump repeated his cry of treason at a rally in Montana on Thursday evening.

 

Regime Change — American Style

September 7, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan

The campaign to overturn the 2016 election and bring down President Trump shifted into high gear this week.

Inspiration came Saturday morning from the altar of the National Cathedral where our establishment came to pay homage to John McCain.

Gathered there were all the presidents from 1993 to 2017, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Henry Kissinger, the leaders of both houses of Congress, and too many generals and admirals to list.

Striding into the pulpit, Obama delivered a searing indictment of the man undoing his legacy:

“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. … It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear.”

Speakers praised McCain’s willingness to cross party lines, but Democrats took away a new determination: From here on out, confrontation!

Tuesday morning, as Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court began, Democrats disrupted the proceedings and demanded immediate adjournment, as scores of protesters shouted and screamed to halt the hearings.

Taking credit for orchestrating the disruption, Sen. Dick Durbin boasted, “What we’ve heard is the noise of democracy.”

But if mob action to shut down a Senate hearing is the noise of democracy, this may explain why many countries are taking a new look at the authoritarian rulers who can at least deliver a semblance of order.

Wednesday came leaks in The Washington Post from Bob Woodward’s new book, attributing to Chief of Staff John Kelly and Gen. James Mattis crude remarks on the president’s intelligence, character and maturity, and describing the Trump White House as a “crazytown” led by a fifth- or sixth-grader.

Kelly and Mattis both denied making the comments.

Thursday came an op-ed in The New York Times by an anonymous “senior official” claiming to be a member of the “resistance … working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his (Trump’s) agenda.”

A pedestrian piece of prose containing nothing about Trump one cannot read or hear daily in the media, the op-ed caused a sensation, but only because Times editors decided to give the disloyal and seditious Trump aide who wrote it immunity and cover to betray his or her president.

The transaction served the political objectives of both parties.

While the Woodward book may debut at the top of The New York Times best-seller list, and “Anonymous,” once ferreted out and fired, will have his or her 15 minutes of fame, what this portends is not good.

For what is afoot here is something America specializes in — regime change. Only the regime our establishment and media mean to change is the government of the United States. What is afoot is the overthrow of America’s democratically elected head of state.

The methodology is familiar. After a years-long assault on the White House and president by a special prosecutor’s office, the House takes up impeachment, while a collaborationist press plays its traditional supporting role.

Presidents are wounded, disabled or overthrown, and Pulitzers all around.

No one suggests Richard Nixon was without sin in trying to cover up the Watergate break-in. But no one should delude himself into believing that the overthrow of that president, not two years after he won the greatest landslide in U.S. history, was not an act of vengeance by a hate-filled city that ran a sword through Nixon for offenses it had covered up or brushed under the rug in the Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson years.

So, where are we headed?

If November’s elections produce, as many predict, a Democratic House, there will be more investigations of President Trump than any man charged with running the U.S. government may be able to manage.

There is the Mueller investigation into “Russiagate” that began before Trump was inaugurated. There is the investigation of his business and private life before he became president in the Southern District of New York. There is the investigation into the Trump Foundation by New York State.

There will be investigations by House committees into alleged violations of the Emoluments Clause. And ever present will be platoons of journalists ready to report the leaks from all of these investigations.

Then, if media coverage can drive Trump’s polls low enough, will come the impeachment investigation and the regurgitation of all that went before.

If Trump has the stamina to hold on, and the Senate remains Republican, he may survive, even as Democrats divide between a rising militant socialist left and the Democrats’ septuagenarian caucus led by Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi.

2019 looks to be the year of bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all. Entertaining, for sure, but how many more of these coups d’etat can the Republic sustain before a new generation says enough of all this?

 

Op-ed sparks high-stakes whodunit in Washington as Trump rages

Controversial New York Times essay raised questions about who is really in control in the White House

September 7, 2018

by Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

One by one, all the president’s men – and a handful of women – came forward. They did so to deny writing an extraordinary anonymous essay, published in the New York Times, that described a White House “resistance” to the worst impulses of the president: Donald Trump.

Vice-President Mike Pence said he was “above such amateur acts”. “Not mine,” said the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. It would be “laughable”, said treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, to think he wrote it. It would be “patently false” to say it came from Dan Coats, director of national intelligence.

Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross? “Thoroughly appalled.” Education secretary Betsy DeVos? She “signs her opinions”. Labor secretary Alexander Acosta? He “does not play these sophomoric Washington games”.

Trump tracked the denials, reportedly helped by aides who printed and hand-delivered the statements. By the end of Thursday, nearly every top official and cabinet member had publicly disclaimed the column, which was credited only to “a senior official in the Trump administration”.

It was all part of a high-stakes whodunit that is riveting Washington – and raising profound questions about who is really running the country.

“Many Trump appointees,” the anonymous author wrote, “have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office”.

“The result is a two-track presidency.”

The depiction of a presidency in crisis was strikingly similar to that contained in a forthcoming book, Fear, by the veteran journalist Bob Woodward, whose dogged work with Carl Bernstein on Watergate led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. The Washington Post, for whom Woodward works, reported its contents. The Guardian also obtained a copy.

Trump called the book a “fraud” and suggested the author of the essay committed “treason”. On Friday, he told reporters aboard Air Force One the White House was running “beautifully” and claimed no previous president had accomplished what he has, “not even close”.

Woodward, however, writes that administration officials and staff are so alarmed by the president’s lack of judgement, leadership and sophistication that they take direct action to thwart his initiatives, setting in motion what the author calls an “administrative coup d’etat”.

In one story reported in Fear, defense secretary James Mattis ignores an order from Trump to assassinate the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, after his regime uses chemical weapons against civilians. In another episode, then economic adviser Gary Cohn removes from the president’s desk a letter that would formally withdraw the US from a vital trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn is reported to have done the same to stop Trump withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), a pact he railed against as a candidate.

Of the anonymous op ed, meanwhile, George W Bush speechwriter David Frum said in the Atlantic: “The author … is hoping to vindicate the reputation of like-minded senior Trump staffers. But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.”

The headline on Frum’s piece: “This is a constitutional crisis.”

‘Nothing in this town stays secret forever’

In a White House where turnover is high and leaks are already pervasive, Trump is reportedly left unsure of who to trust. He is also nursing a well-documented fear,that a so-called “deep state” is working to override his authority.

After all, the anonymous official wrote: “Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

On Thursday, Trump duly lashed out on Twitter: “The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do.”

According to the Washington Post, the president is “hellbent” on finding his betrayer. On Friday, he called on the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to launch an investigation. Outside the White House, meanwhile, everyone in Washington joined in the whodunnit, from the cashier at a local convenience store to the House minority leader.

“The vice-president – that was my first thought,” said Nancy Pelosi, unable to conceal a smile. “I guess by process of elimination it will come down to the butler.”

House speaker Paul Ryan said he didn’t know who wrote the article and did not see a role for Congress in trying to figure it out. But, he added wryly: “Nothing in this town stays secret forever, and so ultimately I do think we will find out who is the author.”

Some preferred a more aggressive approach. Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator and libertarian who is usually an advocate of privacy rights, suggested the White House subject employees to a lie detector test.

“If you have a security clearance in the White House, I think it would be acceptable to use a lie detector test and ask people whether they are talking to the media against the policy of the White House,” he said.

Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican critic of Trump, said the concerns detailed in the op-ed shouldn’t be “news” to “anyone who has had any dealings” with the White House.

“This is the reality that we’re living in,” he said. “The biggest issue they’re going to have is finding who wouldn’t have written a letter like that.”

Amateur sleuths and professional language detectives pored over the text, in search of rhetorical clues. “Lodestar”, many noted, is an uncommon word that happens to be a part of the vice-president’s lexicon. Others argued it was a deliberate red herring. Either way, Merriam Webster reported that searches for its definition had spiked.

Other observers noted provocative moves by the author. He or she chose Trump’s home town paper, which the president still reads religiously despite repeatedly deriding it as “failing”, instead of the Washington Post. He or she also invoked the late senator John McCain, who refused to allow Trump to attend his funeral.

‘What’s important is to find out if this person is telling the truth’

David Kusnet, once a speechwriter for Bill Clinton, was first to reveal that the journalist Joe Kline was the anonymous author of the 1996 novel Primary Colors. He said the Times essay contained “the quirks of a speechwriter”. But, he added, this time the quest to unmask the author is not just a Washington “parlor game”.

“If you take the anonymous writer at face value, he or she is saying that those closest to the president of the United States believe he is unfit for the presidency,” Kusnet said. “They don’t trust him to run the country.

“What’s important is to find out if this person is telling the truth both about Trump and about the administration.”

The White House and Trump’s allies have fiercely attacked the Times, for its decision to publish the piece, and the author for writing it. But few have challenged its substance, which echoes reports by media outlets, former officials and authors.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply demanded reporters “stop” asking about the identity of the “gutless loser” behind the op-ed. All questions should be directed to the Times opinion desk, she said, in a statement that included the phone number for the newspaper’s switchboard. The Times refused to provide any details.

On Thursday, a Wall Street Journal article from 1974 pinballed across Twitter. Its headline: “If you drink scotch, smoke & read, maybe you’re ‘Deep Throat’.”

The story ran just 10 days after Bernstein and Woodward published their devastating account of the Watergate scandal, All the President’s Men. It opened with a denial: “W Mark Felt says he isn’t now, nor has he ever been, Deep Throat.”

In fact, he was. But it took 31 years for the world to be told. To the social media skeptics, the story was a reminder that all this week’s denials, and all Trump’s fire and fury, brought Washington no closer to identifying #lodestar.

 

Barack Obama returns to politics with Donald Trump take-down

The former president warned that Trump is “a symptom, not the cause” of divisive US politics. He accused his successor of “capitalizing on resentments.”

September 7, 2018

DW

Former US President Barack Obama on Friday gave an impassioned speech in which he railed against President Donald Trump and the Republican Party for abandoning the party’s core principles and harming American democracy.

Obama warned, however, not to solely blame Trump for the rise of the far right and white nationalism, saying that Trump was a “symptom, not the cause” of the nation’s divisive politics.

The former leader spoke to a packed auditorium at the University of Illinois. The speech marked the beginning of what will be a busy next few months for Obama as he travels from state to state campaigning for various Democrats in the run-up to the midterm elections in November.

‘What happened to the Republican Party?’

“What happened to the Republican Party?” Obama asked. “They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia…[their] central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB.”

He also noted that “the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.”

In an uncharacteristic move, Obama named Trump directly, accusing him of “capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.” Typically, former US presidents refrain from directly criticizing their successors.

Obama further criticized the government’s sweeping tax reform policy, asking why the party “of fiscal conservatism” would add so much to the national deficit.

The ex-president urged young people to go out and vote and engage with the issues that mattered to them, saying “you cannot sit back and wait for a savior.” He also called for a return to “honesty and decency” in government.

“Don’t get anxious. Don’t retreat. Don’t binge on whatever it is you’re binging on. Don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment. Don’t put your head in the sand.”

 

Anonymous anti-Trump op-ed enters uncharted territory in US politics

There are no neatly fitting historic parallels to the anonymous opinion piece by a senior Trump official published in The New York Times. However, there are indicators to help explain why this scandal is so significant.

September 7, 2018

by Michael Knigge

DW

How significant is the anonymous op-ed by a senior Trump administration official?

Questions about Donald Trump’s fitness for office have long preceded his tenure as president. There was a theory, or at least a hope, especially among establishment Republicans, that Trump could be reigned in by both the weight and tradition of the presidency, and by experienced Washington operators surrounding him — the so-called adults in the room.

But from inside what has been called “the leakiest White House ever” it quickly became clear that neither the “adults” nor institutional weight could seriously curtail Trump — a man who has come to be widely viewed in establishment Washington as an erratic, incompetent and at times dangerous president.

There have been many credible media accounts describing a changing cast of senior officials trying to reign Trump in, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor HR McMaster. This phenomenon peaked early this year with the release of Michael Wolff’s bombshell book ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’, which detailed an administration in complete chaos.

But while the public has already become accustomed to high-profile Trump administration insiders complaining about their boss, the anonymous New York Times op-ed has a new quality, said Jennifer Mercieca, a political scientist who specializes in presidential rhetoric at Texas A&M University.

“This is now the third day of the [New York Times] op-ed news cycle,” she said. “A three-day news cycle that Trump can’t control is unheard of — he’s controlled it since June 2015.”

Another way to gauge the significance of the anonymous op-ed, explained Mercieca, is the large spike in Google searches for the 25th Amendment. The amendment is a constitutional clause that provides a process for the removal of a president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” In the op-ed, the author described “early whispers in the cabinet” about invoking the 25th Amendment, but that this idea was ultimately abandoned.

Notwithstanding that stated rejection, said Mercieca, the op-ed could be viewed as an effort to familiarize the public with the concept of the 25th Amendment and ease the shock if the president’s Cabinet would at some point decide to invoke it.

Are there comparable instances in presidential history of a senior administration official writing an anonymous op-ed stating that the writer is “part of the resistance in the Trump administration?”

Not really. The firing of a National Security Council staffer who was discovered to be behind anonymous tweets that disparaged Hillary Clinton and other officials during the Obama administration is the most similar recent example. But other than the fact that an unnamed official lashed out against the White House, the cases are not really comparable.

“I don’t believe there has been anything exactly equivalent to the anonymous op-ed from a presidential administration official in earlier United States history,” said Robert Speel, a scholar of the presidency at Penn State University.

But when looking for a historical precedent in which key officials were secretly talking to the media behind a president’s back, one quickly lands at the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal, said Speel. Adding to the parallels, both cases were triggered by the nation’s leading newspapers— The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The current case began after The New York Times published the unnamed Trump official’s op-ed, while the Watergate scandal famously revolved around a secret source nicknamed “Deep Throat” who revealed essential information implicating Nixon to legendary Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The identity of “Deep Throat” only became public in 2005, more than three decades after the politically motivated break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building in 1972.

It was the associate director of the FBI, Mark Felt.

Like in the Trump administration, senior officials in the Nixon White House repeatedly worried about the president’s emotional stability. “During Nixon’s final days in office, his secretary of defense, James Schlesinger, was reported to have told military leaders to get his approval before carrying out any unusual actions ordered by the president,” said Speel.

Even further back, in the 1860s, an act of insubordination by a Cabinet member against a president led to the first impeachment in US history, noted Speel. After the assassination of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, Congress passed a law prohibiting his successor, Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who was more sympathetic towards slave owner interests than Republicans liked, from firing Lincoln Cabinet members without Senate approval. When Johnson tried to fire a Cabinet member who disagreed with his policies, he was impeached by the House of Representatives. He ultimately was able to remain in office after the Senate failed to oust him by a single vote.

 

James Atwood, the CIA and ex-Nazi Weapons Business

September 8, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Since at least 1981, a worldwide network of ‘free-standing’ [i.e., no direct U.S. government ties] companies, including airlines, aviation and military spare parts suppliers, and trading companies, has been utilized by the CIA and the U.S. government to illegally ship arms and military spare parts to Iran and to the Contras. These companies were set up with the approval and knowledge of senior CIA officials and other senior U.S. government officials and staffed primarily by ex-CIA, ex-FBI and ex-military officers.

These CIA-controlled companies include Aero Systems, Inc., of Miami, Arrow Air, Aero Systems Pvt. Ltd of Singapore, Hierax of Hong Kong, Pan Aviation in Miami, Merex in Georgia, Sur International, St. Lucia Airways, Global International Airways, International Air Tours of Nigeria, Continental Shelf Explorations, Inc., Jupiter, Florida, Varicon, Inc., Dane Aviation Supply of Miami, Parvus, Safir, International Trading and Investment Guaranty Corp., Ltd., and Information Security International Inc., Zenith Technical Enterprises, Ltd., Mineral Carriers, Ltd.

During the Iran Contra affair, General Secord’s arms shipments, arraigned through the CIA, transferred weapons destined for Central America to MEREX CORP,  (MEREX INTERNATIONAL ARMS), Savannah, Ga. Combat Military Ordinances Ltd., controlled by retired military officer James P. Atwood, occupied the Merex address. Atwood, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of U.S. Military Intelligence and later a CIA officer stationed in their Berlin office, was involved in major arms trades with CIA-sponsored international buyers, specifically Middle Eastern Arab states. Monzer Al-Kassar utilized the Merex firm for some of his weapons transactions with the Enterprise.  Merex weapons systems was founded by Otto Skorzeny’s associate Gerhard Mertins in Bonn after the war and was considered a CIA proprietary firm. Mertex was close to and worked with the BND, the German intelligence service evolved from the CIA-controlled Gehlen organization.

During his career, Atwood worked with the CIA’s Sam Cummings, Tom Nelson, Jim Critchfield and many others

Atwood’s activities are linked to Robert Crowley (who knew him and disliked him) ,to Jim Critchfield and a number of other CIA luminaries.

Arrested by the Army’s CIC in the early 60s, for misuse of government mail, tax fraud and other matters, Atwood got the CIA to force the charges against him dropped. All the paperwork was supposed to have been destroyed but a copy of the 62 count indictment plus the Chicago Federal judge’s orders have survived.

Atwood was involved with Interarmco, run by Samuel Cummings, an Englishman who ran the largest arms firm in the world. Cummings died in Monaco because he had looted his CIA employers and found that principality safer than Warrenton, Virginia. Also connected with Atwood’s firm were Collector’s Armory, Thomas Nelson and a George Petersen of Springfield, Virginia, and Emmanuel (Manny) Wiegenberg, a Canadian arms dealer.and look into Atwood’s role in supplying weapons and explosives to the Quebec Libré movement. The head of the Canada Desk at the Company was actively encouraging this group to split away from Canada. This is a chapter that the CIA does not want discussed. Also look into Atwood’s connections with Skorzeny and the IRA/Provo wing.

One of Atwood’s Irish connections is the man who blew up Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979 and I have a file on this as well (but not here) You might also want to investigate the shipping of weapons into the southern Mexican provinces by Atwood and his Guatemala based consortium. Atwood had a number of ex-Gestapo and SD people on board, some of whom were wanted. Klaus Barbie was also connected.

Barbie, who was Gestapo chief in Lyon, France, during the war, worked for the CIC after the war and fled to South America when his American handlers tipped him off. Barbie took some of the hidden Nazi gold and invested it in several businesses and also continued to prosper by starting the Estrella Company which sold bark, coca paste, and assault weapons to a former SS officer, Frederich Schwend in Lima, Peru. Schwend had been trained by the OSS in the early 1940s after he had informed Allen Dulles that the German SS had hidden millions in gold, cash, and loot as the European war was winding down,

Atwood knew about the Globocnik  Weissensee hoard but didn’t have a period map then in the possession from Bob Crowley,the Ddeputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, to wit the overlay for the map that showed what was buried and where.  Both Schwend and Barbie formed Transmaritania which was a shipping company that also generated millions of dollars in profits from the cocaine business.

They purchased their weapons from another SS colleague, Colonel Otto Skorzeny who had been head of SS Commando units towards the end of the war, later worked for the CIA  and had started the Merex weapons business in Bonn after the war. Also a person to consider is one Walter Rauff, a senior SD officer, friend of Dulles and once head of the SD in Milan (after a tour in Tunesia as head of the SD there during Rommel’s campaign in Africa. The Rauff story is even more entertaining than the Barbie one and more disruptive. Rauff worked for the CIA

Since at least 1981, a worldwide network of independent  (i.e., no direct U.S. government ties 0 companies, including airlines, aviation and military spare parts suppliers, and trading companies, has been utilized by the CIA and the U.S. government to illegally ship arms and military spare parts to Iran and to the Contras. These companies were set up with the approval and knowledge of senior CIA officials and other senior U.S. government officials and staffed primarily by ex-CIA, ex-FBI and ex-military officers.

These CIA-controlled companies include Aero Systems, Inc., of Miami, Arrow Air, Aero Systems Pvt. Ltd of Singapore, Hierax of Hong Kong, Pan Aviation in Miami, Merex in Georgia, Sur International, St. Lucia Airways, Global International Airways, International Air Tours of Nigeria, Continental Shelf Explorations, Inc., Jupiter, Florida, Varicon, Inc., Dane Aviation Supply of Miami, Parvus, Safir, International Trading and Investment Guaranty Corp., Ltd.,  Air America, CAA, and Information Security International Inc.

During the Iran Contra affair, General Secord’s arms shipments, arraigned through the CIA, transferred weapons destined for Central America to Merex Corporation, (Merex International Arms)  of Savannah, Ga. The Merex address was occupied by Combat Military Ordinances Ltd., controlled by Atwood.  Atwood, a CIA officer, stationed in their Berlin office, was involved in major arms trades with CIA-sponsored international buyers, specifically Middle Eastern Arab states. Monzer Al-Kassar utilized the Merex firm for some of his weapons transactions with the CIA-controlled international weapons cartel.

Merex systems was founded by Otto Skorzeny’s associate Gerhard Mertins in Bonn after the war and was considered a CIA proprietary firm. Merex was close to and worked with the BND, the German intelligence service evolved from the CIA-controlled Gehlen organization. Atwood was involved with Interarmco, run by Samuel Cummings, an Englishman who ran the largest arms firm in the world. Cummings died in Monaco Carlo with a country place at Villars in the Swiss Alps, where he resettled in 1960 because he had looted his CIA employers and found European residence safer than Warrenton, Virginia.

Interarms (formerly Interarmco and officially the International Armaments Corporation) was the world’s largest private arms dealer, and once had enough weapons in their warehouses to equip forty U.S. divisions. The sole owner was Sam Cummings, who got his start working with the CIA to procure weapons for the 1954 coup in Guatemala

Atwood operated in the Middle East, Germany and Central America. He sold US secrets to Marcus Wolfe of the Stasi and the BND photographed them together in East Berlin

He smuggled guns into Guatemala and Nicaragua and drugs into the US.

Atwood’s role in supplying weapons and explosives to the Quebec Libré movement. The head of the Canada Desk at the Company was actively encouraging this group to split away from Canada. This is a chapter that the CIA does not want discussed. Atwood’s connections with Skorzeny and the IRA/Provo wing make dramatic reading. One of Atwood’s Irish connections is the man who ran the cell that blew up Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979. There is also the shipping of weapons into the southern Mexican provinces by Atwood and his Guatemala based consortium. Oceanic Cargo.

Atwood had a number of ex-Gestapo and SD people on board, some of whom were wanted for war crimes.

Both Schwend and Klaus Barbie formed Transmaritania which was a shipping company that also generated millions of dollars in profits from the cocaine business. They purchased their weapons from another SS colleague, Colonel Otto Skorzeny who had been head of SS Commando units towards the end of the war, later worked for the CIA and had started the Merex weapons business in Bonn after the war. Amusing stories that Skorzeny moved to Miama and worked for the Jewish Mafia are typical of the mindless cover stories the CIA puts out through its helpers.

Another Atwood contact was one Walter Rauff, a senior SD officer, friend of Dulles and once head of the SD in Milan (after a tour in Tunisia as head of the SD there during Rommel’s campaign in Africa.) The Rauff story is even more entertaining than the Barbie one and more disruptive when it becomes public. Rauff worked for the CIA, lived unmolested and well protected by the CIA, in South America.

While Atwood was involved in supplying weapons to Cuban insurgents for the Bay of Pigs incident, he stated to a number of his associates that he learned of highly classified information on the accidental release, in Florida, of deadly toxins that the CIA was planning to use in advance of the invasion to “soften up” Castro’s militia.

The designated head of the CIA, Porter Goss, was a CIA agent in Florida at this time, was involved in the planning and expected execution of the Cuban invasion and suddenly became “very ill”, as his specs on Google point out, and had to retire. Atwood told his friends that Goss, later a Florida political figure, was a participating party in this specific part of the CIA invasion plans.

In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was considerable concern expressed in US intelligence circles about the whereabouts, and also the security of, certain ex-Soviet military tactical atomic warheads. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union launched R&D to miniaturize and improve reliability of nuclear weapons. Development activities included strategic systems for the Navy; cruise missiles, aviation bombs and artillery projectiles [the smallest nuclear charge was developed for a 152mm artillery projectile].The model is based on unclassified data on the components in an atomic artillery shell, to see if such a system could be reassembled in a suitcase. Indeed, as it turns out, the physics package, neutron generators, batteries, arming mechanism and other essentials of a small atomic weapon can fit, just barely, in an attaché case. The result is a plutonium-fueled gun-type atomic weapon having a yield of one-to-ten kilotons, the same yield range attributed in a 1998 US media interview by General Lebed to the Russian “nuclear suitcase” weapon.”

The smallest possible bomb-like object would be a single critical mass of plutonium (or U-233) at maximum density under normal conditions. An unreflected spherical alpha-phase critical mass of Pu-239 weighs 10.5 kg and is 10.1 cm across.

In 1992, following his successful treasure hunt in Austria, James Atwood, the former Interarmco people and an Israeli Russian named Yurenko (actually Schemiel  Gofshstein) formed a consortium in conjunction with James Critchfield, retired senior CIA specialist on oil matters in the Mideast  to obtain a number of these obsolete but still viable weapons. Both Critchfield and the Interarmco people had, at the behest of the CIA, supplied weapons to the rebels in Afghanistan during their protracted struggle with the Soviet Union. Critchfield worked with the Dalai Lama of Tibet in a guerrilla war against Communist China and headed a CIA task force during the Cuban missile crisis. He also ran regional agency operations when the two superpowers raced to secure satellites first in Eastern Europe, then in the Middle East.

In the early 1960s, Critchfield recommended to the CIA that the United States support the Baath Party, which staged a 1963 coup against the Iraqi government that the CIA believed was falling under Soviet influence. Critchfield later boasted, during the Iran-Iraq war that he and the CIA “had created Saddam Hussein.” With the growing political importance of Middle East oil, he became the CIA’s national intelligence officer for energy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, then an energy policy planner at the White House. He also fronted a dummy CIA corporation in the Middle East known as Basic Resources, which was used to gather OPEC-related intelligence for the Nixon administration.

Critchfield was the chief of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia division in the 1960s and a national intelligence officer for energy as the oil shortage crisis began in the early 1970s.  Officially retiring from the CIA in 1974, Critchfield became a consultant, corporate president of Tetra Tech International a Honeywell Inc. subsidiary and which managed oil, gas, and water projects in the strategic Masandam Peninsula. It sits on the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the West’s oil is transported. At the same time, Critchfield was a primary adviser to the Sultan of Oman., focusing on Middle East energy resources, especially those in Oman.

 

Why I Am NOT A Christian

by Bertrand Russell

Introductory note:

Lord Bertrand Russell delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall.

It was published in pamphlet form and met with wide approval. It became a landmark writing for thoughtful readers. Later, in 1957, the essay achieved renewed fame with the publication of Paul Edwards’ edition of Russell’s book: “Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays …” (1957).

As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians – all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on – are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.

What Is a Christian?

Nowadays it is not quite like that (as described above). We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a

Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature – namely, that you must believe in God and immortality.

If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian.

Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker’s Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians.

The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore. Therefore, I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.

But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included the belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.

The Existence of God

To come to this question of the existence of God: it is a large and serious question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. That is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist. The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason and they had to set up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course, a number of them, but I shall take only a few.

The First-cause Argument

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.) That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” The argument is really no better than that.

There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.

The Natural-law Argument

Then there is a very common argument from natural law.

That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion.

We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were, you are then faced with the question “Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?” If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others – the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it – if there were a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate lawgiver. In short, this whole argument about natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review of the arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.

The Argument from Design

The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody.

You all know Voltaire’s remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.

When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.

I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries about much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out — at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation — it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things.

The Moral Arguments for Deity

Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother’s knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts so much emphasize — the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.

Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say there would be no right or wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God that made this world, or could take up the line that some of the Gnostics took up — a line which I often thought was a very plausible one — that as a matter of fact, this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.

The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice

Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, “After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.”

Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, “The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.” You would say, “Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment”; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one.” Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.

Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.

The Character of Christ

I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present prime minister [Stanley Baldwin], for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.

Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and NONE of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did.

Then Christ says, “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.

Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

Defects in Christ’s Teaching

Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.” Then he says, “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living.

That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, “Take no thought for the morrow,” and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden.

The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.

The Moral Problem

Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching — an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence.

You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell.”  That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.”

THAT TEXT HAS CAUSED AN UNSPEAKABLE  AMOUNT OF MISERY IN THE WORLD, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.

Then Christ says, “The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Itcomes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often.

Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” He continues, “And these shall go away into everlasting fire.” Then He says again, “If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.”

He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as His chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.

There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. “He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: ‘No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever’ . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: ‘Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedest is withered away.'” This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.

The Emotional Factor

As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous.

So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler’s book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshiped under the name of the “Sun Child,” and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, “I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon.”

He was told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become wicked”; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.

That is the idea — that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world.

I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

How the Churches Have Retarded Progress

You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today, an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, “This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children.”

Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.

That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all.

“What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”

Fear, the Foundation of Religion

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes.

Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts.

Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

What We Must Do

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world — its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men.

When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages.

A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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