Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Greek civilization vs. American snipers & the Kochtopus. (Plus: The Kwisatz Haderach vs. ISIS!)

On behalf of the city Baltimore, I apologize to the rest of the northeastern coast of the United States. The blizzard that hit you so hard seems to be treating us rather gently.

Elsewhere, things are happening...  

Great news from Greece! Congratulations to the Greek people for putting Syriza (the lefty party led by Alexis Tsipras) into power. Watch out for American spooks, my Greek friends -- they've screwed you over in the past, and you can bet the Parthenon that right now, at this very moment, they are planning to do it again.

I hope that everyone in Syriza understands that the NSA will log their every text, every phone call, and every email. The spooks will seize upon anything that they can use to undermine this new government.

Go here for an amazing interview with the fellow charged with putting the economy together again. Will American and the rest of Europe allow this experiment to proceed?

I predict that "the West" will use every sneaky trick in the book to make the new Greek government fail. The success of Syriza would undermine the plans of neoliberals everywhere, and could even un-ossify economic thinking in this country.

Paul Krugman offers some worthwhile observations about the triumph of Syriza here.
So now that Mr. Tsipras has won, and won big, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their program. The fact is they have no credibility; the program they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.

If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.
Maybe they should bloody well get ready. It may be necessary to ditch the euro and to fundamentally rebuild the Greek nation -- with BRICS.

Jeffrey Sterling convicted. You may recall our previous post about Jeffrey Sterling, the former CIA whistleblower who gave reporter James Risen information about the potentially disastrous Operation Merlin -- a bizarre covert op designed to give nuclear information to the Iranians.

(Why on earth did the CIA want to do that? Because certain parties want war with Iran, that's why. Can't have a war without a casus belli.)

Naturally, this administration decided to hurl the book at Sterling, as it does with all whistleblowers. Marcy Wheeler, who has been covering the Sterling trial, gives us this sad report...
After having deliberated for slightly over 2 days, the jury today found Jeffrey Sterling guilty of all nine counts today.
The jury even found Sterling guilty of obstructing justice because he deleted an email (with unclassified info) that he sent to Risen in 2003! (There may be grounds for appeal here, since the trial was held in Virginia, and the deletion did not occur there.)

One of Marcy's readers draws what I consider an instructive comparison:
So Sterling is convicted and Aipac’s Rosen and Weissman totally let off the hook. The investigation into their espionage activities and charges did not even make it into the court room . All just dropped. No double standards there.
American Sniper. You want the truth behind the hype? Max Bumenthal gives some important background here. (Or here.) I would embed the video -- a Real News interview -- but embedding has been disabled for this item.
When I pointed out on Twitter that this film was basically a vehicle to help America overcome Iraq war syndrome, that it portrayed an unrepentant, sadistic killer as an anguished figure who was deeply reflective as he mowed down faceless Iraqis and I attempted to de-exceptionalize the portrayal of American troops in this film, I was daily reached with death threats and hate tweets from the bowels of white America.
The billion-dollar Kochtopus. The Koch brothers will put roughly $900 million into the next election. That's more than double the amount that the RNC put into the last election cycle -- yet that number is only about one percent of what the Kochs are worth.

My response: This turn of events makes electing a Democratic president -- any Democratic president, however depressing -- imperative in 2016, even if one must C-clamp one's nose shut while casting one's ballot.

The reason? The Supreme Court.

The Citizens United Decision is what allows the Kochs to commandeer the system to this degree, and only a new Supreme Court can change that decision. The next president will probably appoint one or two justices -- Scalia is nearly 79, Ginsburg is nearly 82. I'm sorry, but whatever else you may say about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, their four appointees have been better than the five appointed by the Republican presidents.

Cops can see into your home. Walls are becoming transparent; high tech is giving The Man x-ray vision.
Agents' use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."
Strangely enough, this matter has already been adjudicated. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the cops can't use thermal cameras without a warrant.

Does ISIS have an Air Force? Yes it does, according to Bashar Assad...
So what do you think Israel’s agenda is? They are supporting the rebels in Syria. It’s very clear. Because whenever we make advances in some place, they make an attack in order to undermine the army. It’s very clear. That’s why some in Syria joke: “How can you say that al Qaeda doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force.”
As for the role of the United States...
The question that we have is, how much will does the United States have to really fight terrorism on the ground? So far, we haven’t seen anything concrete in spite of the attacks on ISIS in northern Syria. There’s nothing concrete. What we’ve seen so far is just, let’s say, window-dressing, nothing real. Since the beginning of these attacks, ISIS has gained more land in Syria and Iraq.
The Turks are the real issue here. If the US were serious about stopping ISIS, we would not be seeking an authorization for military force -- we would be pressuring the Turks to stop the flow of ISIS fighters into Syria.
It’s not about greater involvement by the military, because it’s not only about the military; it’s about politics. It’s about how much the United States wants to influence the Turks. Because if the terrorists can withstand the air strikes for this period, it means that the Turks keep sending them armaments and money. Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of al Qaeda? They didn’t; they haven’t.
And while we're on the topic...

SHE SPEAKS JAPANESE TOO?!? Okay, I'm starting to think that Maram Susli (Syrian Girl) really is the Kwisatz Haderach. In the following video, she discusses the Syrian civil war with a Japanese friend, with a particular focus on the Japanese hostages who were recently murdered by the fiends of ISIS.

Yes, they converse in Japanese, with excellent subtitles. Seriously, is there anything Maram Susli can't do?

Maybe her very name will soon become a killing word. Maybe the soldiers in the Syrian Army can disintegrate their enemies by chanting "Maaaaaaaa-RAM!" And then she'll triumphantly enter Aleppo while riding a gigantic sand worm that has risen from the Syro-Arabian desert.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Be evil: Google and the military/intelligence complex

This is the big one: The massive, juicy, overstuffed, ground-breaking investigation we've all been waiting for. (Part two is here.) I haven't read it all yet -- was on the go yesterday, little time to read -- but what I've seen looks very, very good.

Google, as many of you know, was founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page. What many of you don't know is this:
Throughout the development of the search engine, Sergey Brin reported regularly and directly to two people who were not Stanford faculty at all: Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham and Dr. Rick Steinheiser. Both were representatives of a sensitive US intelligence community research programme on information security and data-mining.
Thuraisingham’s account therefore demonstrates that the CIA-NSA-MDDS program was not only funding Brin throughout his work with Larry Page developing Google, but that senior US intelligence representatives including a CIA official oversaw the evolution of Google in this pre-launch phase, all the way until the company was ready to be officially founded. Google, then, had been enabled with a “significant” amount of seed-funding and oversight from the Pentagon: namely, the CIA, NSA, and DARPA.
Some of you will flatter yourself by pretending that you were completely aware of all of this from the start. In truth, we were told nothing about the powers behind Brin and Page during the years when Google rose to ubiquity. Remember "Don't be evil"? Google was born evil.

The second part of the article deals with the great justification for the militarization of Google -- the threat of terrorism. This section gives us many details -- from the military's own publications! -- about the American government's deliberate creation of terrorist threats.

In the following, "Arquilla" is John Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School, who is perhaps the most important proponent of mass data-mining. Arquilla believes that terror is best fought with pseudo-terror:
“When conventional military operations and bombing failed to defeat the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya in the 1950s, the British formed teams of friendly Kikuyu tribesmen who went about pretending to be terrorists. These ‘pseudo gangs’, as they were called, swiftly threw the Mau Mau on the defensive, either by befriending and then ambushing bands of fighters or by guiding bombers to the terrorists’ camps.”
As we've noted in previous posts, the pseudo-gang strategy was developed by the notorious British counterinsurgency theorist Frank Kitson.
Arquilla went on to advocate that western intelligence services should use the British case as a model for creating new “pseudo gang” terrorist groups, as a way of undermining “real” terror networks:
“What worked in Kenya a half-century ago has a wonderful chance of undermining trust and recruitment among today’s terror networks. Forming new pseudo gangs should not be difficult.”
Of course, the great long-term tactical problem of the Kitsonian strategy (when seen from the government's point of view) is that operations are inevitably blown. As a result, a cynical populace soon learns to see every new development as a false-flag scenario, even when such is not the case. That's pretty much where we are right now. If you tell two lies in succession, and if those lies are exposed, then your third statement, even if true, will not be believed.

Hence the overwhelming need for plausible deniability...
Official corroboration that this strategy is now operational came with the leak of a 2008 US Army special operations field manual. The US military, the manual said, can conduct irregular and unconventional warfare by using surrogate non-state groups such as “paramilitary forces, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistant or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political ‘undesirables.’” Shockingly, the manual specifically acknowledged that US special operations can involve both counterterrorism and “Terrorism,” as well as: “Transnational criminal activities, including narco-trafficking, illicit arms-dealing, and illegal financial transactions.” The purpose of such covert operations is, essentially, population control — they are “specifically focused on leveraging some portion of the indigenous population to accept the status quo,” or to accept “whatever political outcome” is being imposed or negotiated.
How does this relate to Google? For these tactics to work, the state needs as much information as it can possibly acquire about mass psychology...
In 2011, the Forum hosted two DARPA-funded scientists, Antonio and Hanna Damasio, who are principal investigators in the ‘Neurobiology of Narrative Framing’ project at the University of Southern California. Evoking Zalman’s emphasis on the need for Pentagon psychological operations to deploy “empathetic influence,” the new DARPA-backed project aims to investigate how narratives often appeal “to strong, sacred values in order to evoke an emotional response,” but in different ways across different cultures. The most disturbing element of the research is its focus on trying to understand how to increase the Pentagon’s capacity to deploy narratives that influence listeners in a way that overrides conventional reasoning in the context of morally-questionable actions.

The project description explains that the psychological reaction to narrated events is “influenced by how the narrator frames the events, appealing to different values, knowledge, and experiences of the listener.” Narrative framing that “targets the sacred values of the listener, including core personal, nationalistic, and/or religious values, is particularly effective at influencing the listener’s interpretation of narrated events,” because such “sacred values” are closely tied with “the psychology of identity, emotion, moral decision making, and social cognition.” By applying sacred framing to even mundane issues, such issues “can gain properties of sacred values and result in a strong aversion to using conventional reasoning to interpret them.” The two Damasios and their team are exploring what role “linguistic and neuropsychological mechanisms” play in determining “the effectiveness of narrative framing using sacred values in influencing a listener’s interpretation of events.”

The research is based on extracting narratives from millions of American, Iranian and Chinese weblogs, and subjecting them to automated discourse analysis to compare them quantitatively across the three languages...
Why is the Pentagon funding research investigating how to exploit people’s “sacred values” to extinguish their capacity for logical reasoning, and enhance their emotional openness to “morally-questionable behavior”?
Let's repeat the most important point here: This material isn't coming from wackos like Alex Jones. It's coming from the military/intelligence establishment's own publications and think tanks.

To paraphrase something Lily Tomlin once said: No matter how paranoid you get, you can't keep up.

How can the people doing this research sleep at night? Somewhere deep down, they must understand one obvious fact: A decent government would have no need for data mining, psy-war, manipulation, and "narrative extraction." There would be no need to discover how to use our most deeply-held values to compel us to commit immoral acts. 
They must not want us talking about this, the links are not working...
The enterprise of "narrative framing using sacred values in influencing a listener’s interpretation of events” brings to mind the field of study of Dr. Philip Zelikow when he was at Harvard: the political utility of "public presumptions" in shaping a society's attitudes about contemporary history.

Dr. Zelikow's expertise in effective "public myth" made him supremely qualified to serve as Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission.
It's really good and it's long but is worth the time. I find interesting is all the so-called self made billionaires in the silly valley are just welfare queens. What a surprise.
I'm reminded of the excellent blogger Tom Burghardt, from Antifascist Calling...


Which by the way Joseph, I've missed his reporting/research for more than a year now and I'm wondering if you or any of your readers know whats happened to him and his static blog?
Shadow: I don't know what happened to Antifascist. You may not be aware that his blogging career began on this very blog. He separated off because I was writing some very controversial stuff, and he apparently did not want his own material to be judged by my own forays into oddness. This decision was, in my view, quite sensible. Frankly, his site was better than mine, and I would not have wanted his writings to be subjected to the usual ludicrous guilt-by-association tactics.

So. Where did he go? I know not.
I wasn't aware of this and understand a little better with zero research and energy expended. Thank you. Your site does have my attention. I've learned a thing or two from you and comments made to keep coming back for more jewels. ;)
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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is Jeffrey Epstein another Madoff? Or...something else?

There have been interesting developments on the Jeff Epstein front, including some indications that Alan Dershowitz is not telling the truth. We'll talk about those developments very soon. Right now, I'd like to address a fascinating question which most writers have overlooked...

How did Epstein make his billions? We're talking about a guy who is not just wealthy but fabulously wealthy. The most elaborate home in New York City. The largest house in New Mexico. Another home in West Palm Beach. His own damned island.

He says that he manages money for billionaires, and only for billionaires. He also says that he does what he does in complete secrecy, which means that we have no way to double-check his assertions. If you read this all-important 2003 profile by Vicky Ward, published by Vanity Fair, you'll see that these claims are problematical.

First, the guy leaves little or no trace of his business activities. How can anyone be that invisible, even to fellow members of the elite?

Second, the number of billionaires in this world is limited, and most members of that club seem quite able to chart their courses without using the services of Jeffrey Epstein. Given the man's rep -- and there have been disturbing whispers about the guy since his departure from Bear Stearns -- I'm not sure that there are a whole lot of affluent people would would trust this guy with their money.

Third, his company seems to employ no actual portfolio managers or analysts.

Fourth, Ward's profile proves that Epstein has made claims in interviews that do not match what he says in legal depositions, or which do not match other evidence. In other words, we should take what he says with a chunk of salt so sizable as to test Morton's granulating capabilities.

There's one thing you have to understand about Epstein: He didn't start to make it big -- as in big big -- until he left Bear Stearns and joined forces with Steven Jude Hoffenberg. And the thing you have to understand about Hoffenberg is this:
He is currently incarcerated in the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, serving a 20-year sentence for bilking investors out of more than $450 million in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history.
Hoffenberg's business was, officially, a collection agency. Yes, you can use debt as the basis for a ponzi operation.

It's hard to avoid the suspicion that Epstein followed in the footsteps of his mentor, doing the same thing, but bigger and better. Someone who manages the money of a billionaire may have a lot of capital to play with, and could keep the ponzi-party going for an indefinite amount of time. Vicky Ward's profile gives the impression that Epstein knows a lot about getting hold of other people's money and using it to further his own interests.

I'm hardly the first to think these thoughts. In 2009, Business Insider asked some remarkably pertinent questions.
The way Epstein is compensated is also a bit suspicious. Last year in the New York Times, Landon Thomas reported that Epstein charges a flat fee on the assets entrusted to him, anywhere from $25 million to $100 million, but doesn't collect any portion of the profits. This is oddly reminiscent of Bernie Madoff's compensation scheme.

Here's something else: how could Epstein's one-man show not fall apart while he was in jail during one of the most volatile years in history? We don't know for sure that Epstein's business has kept humming along.
This next bit is particularly telling:
On the other hand, there are no SEC filings disclosing Epstein's holdings. Not one. It's hard to see how he could be managing billions without ever tripping a disclosure trigger, unless he avoids the stock market altogether and only invests in private deals. This is another red flag.
You may also want to take a look at Vicky Ward's most recent piece on Epstein, published a couple of weeks ago in The Daily Beast. She tells us that Hoffenberg is out of jail now, and has been "pestering" Ward to write a movie. I'm not sure what to make of that development, but I'd like to learn more.

There's another side to this story. The Epstein sex scandal figures in the tale of yet another ponzi schemer, a lawyer named Scott Rothstein. Brad Edwards (one of the lawyers that Alan Dershowitz hopes to disbar) was a lawyer at Rothstein's firm in those days.

Basically, Rothstein's scam was selling "interests" in confidential lawsuit settlements. Until very recently, I had no idea that one could sell such a thing, but apparently one can.

Then as now, crusading lawyer Brad Edwards represented various women in the Epstein scandal. Rothstein led his investors to believe that Epstein would soon be making huge settlement payments to these women. To "sell" this story, Rothstein apparently relied on flight logs and other evidence that Brad Edwards had acquired.

As it turned out, Brad Edwards knew nothing about Scott Rothstein's activities. Nevertheless, Jeff Epstein filed three lawsuits against Edwards in 2009. Near as I can tell, these cases went nowhere. During the legal back-and-forth, the name of none other than Alan Dershowitz arose; even then, it seems, Brad Edwards was very keen to depose him. 

The Rothstein story is very intriguing, but it doesn't tell us anything about the question of how Jeff Epstein made his money -- although it does establish that ponzi schemes are rather more common than many might think.

The Israel connection. To be frank, I do not enjoy writing about this aspect of the story, because I don't want to be classified as one of those writers who sees the dark hand of Mossad everywhere. But there is -- how to put it? -- a disturbing recurrent motif in the saga of Jeff Epstein, who is a strong supporter of Israeli causes.

First and foremost, we must note Epstein's close relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell, alleged to have played a role in procuring young women. She is the daughter of the late publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, now universally acknowledged to have functioned as a Mossad asset. Ghislaine was his favorite child, the proverbial chip off the old block.

Second, we must note that Jeff Epstein forged extremely close links to retail magate Leslie Wexner -- chairman of The Limited, the man behind Victoria's Secret and other famous clothing stores. After his days of running with Hoffenberg, Epstein linked up with Wexner, mysteriously insinuating himself into every aspect of his business. This pro-Zionist website tells us the following:
Les Wexner is a Zionist. He is on the board of directors of Emet, the Pro-Israel Media 'War Room' whose function is to ensure that all media in the US stays biased in favor of Israel . In 1984, Les Wexner who is one of the world's 200 wealthiest people created the Wexner Foundation. Its mission statement is 'strengthening Jewish Leadership in North America and Israel .' One of the programs the Foundation runs is the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program which annually brings up to ten Israeli have participated thus far. The Wexner Foundation sponsors 'Birthright Israel ' - a program that pays for young American Jews to take free indoctrination trips to Israel . It is also a long-standing supporter of Hillel - the bastion of Zionism on campus.
Alan Dershowitz is, of course, Israel's most prominent defender in intellectual circles. Although Dershowitz now tries to distance himself from Epstein, the two men were quite close. Dershowitz used to brag about sending the pre-publication manuscripts of all of his books to Epstein for comment. Epstein was the only non-family member so privileged.

Finally, we have the most recent statement made by Virginia Roberts. I hope to discuss in a subsequent post her claims about Dershowitz. For now, let's concentrate on the following:
"In addition to constantly finding underage girls to satisfy their personal desires, Epstein and Maxwell also got girls for Epstein’s friends and acquaintances. Epstein specifically told me that the reason for him doing this was so that they would “owe him,” they would “be in his pocket,” and he would “have something on them.” I understood him to mean that when someone was in his pocket, they owed him favors. I also understood that Epstein thought he could get leniency if he was ever caught doing anything illegal, or more so that he could escape trouble altogether."
If this is true, then what do have? Simply this: The daughter of a known Mossad agent used underaged girls in a scheme to procur what can only be described as blackmail information on powerful people. That's not interpretation, that's not surmise, that's not reading-between-the-lines: That's what Roberts is saying.

Would Maxwell go to such lengths for the sole reason of aiding Jeff Epstein (who was not her employer) in his quest for the ideal orgasm? Or was she motivated by some other cause...?

I leave the reader to ponder the possibilities.
What is it about Rothstein's scheme that makes it Ponzi? Where were the initially high returns and their dependence on attracting ever more investment?

Or is the term 'Ponzi' undergoing some meaning creep?

It's true, though, that Ponzi schemes come up everywhere nowadays. E.g. I know of a wind-power one in a rural area of Scotland in which local residents are encouraged to buy shares in a venture run by an outfit that is supposedly community-owned, on the promise that they'll get a much better return than if they left the money in their bank accounts. (Ding dong!) They probably do get high-percentage dividends for a while, especially if new mugs keep buying shares faster than the lawyers and 'enterprise' scammers hoik the money out the other end. The problem will come when they want their capital back, for there's no actual market in the shares.
"the only book he’d left out for me to see was a paperback by the Marquis de Sade" ~Vicky Ward


What was it he was intimating to her that he took the time to fashion this decoration in a cheesy paperback and not hardcover?

Wikipedia says the words sadism and sadist are derived from his name. It also points to a cheesy 1988 remake? of Waxwork, which parenthetically can't spell fascism on a schoolroom chalkboard, yet includes an expensive looking hardcover Epstein could afford and the Jack The Ripper character you like to write about.


A quick search of this right-wing free-market libertine on vimeo borders on the absurd. It's an eye full. I'm sure you and your readers know a lot more than I can share on this historical figure.

What if Jeff Epstein's billions weren't earned in traditional sense, but were endowed to him by a powerful - and obviously wealthy - group with the understanding that he would use those funds to advance a narrow agenda?

What if Jeff Epstein and his co-conspirators, including Alan Dershowitz, Les Wexler, and Ghislaine Maxwell, were in fact agents operating in unison to create situations in which evidence of criminal behavior could be captured?

We know that Jeff Epstein's black book contains the names of a thorough cross-section of the global elite and is by no means limited to just one party or even just one nation. This likely explains why the corporate media is paying so little attention; because there's no way that can demonize just one element of their control system. This scandal is deep enough, and if anyone ever started peeling back the layers of this onion it would likely go all the way to the top.

Which is why there will be no public investigation. Settlements will be paid, perhaps a few defendants will go into the witness protection program, and Alan Dershowitz's career and status will effectively be destroyed.

The powers-that-be are probably holding extremely high-level discussions right now as to how exactly to contain this damage. Unfortunately for them, the cat is out of the proverbial bag so to speak so they can't just pretend it didn't happen. People will have to go down here, and Hillary Clinton's political aspirations have taken a huge hit, which I consider to be a good thing.

What this saga is really demonstrating in remarkably clear relief is that we really do lack a free press in this country and that our two-party government is either a complete sham or there are forces of darkness who utilize the threat of blackmail, and obviously of violence, to prevent our government from enacting the will of the people.

I have no idea where this situation will go but I'm extremely interested to watch. Get your popcorn ready because it's going to be a wild ride. I just hope we're not being set up with the old Texas Air National Guard ploy.
"It Takes a Village" keeps going through my mind.
So many people on so many levels of business and government in so many countries are aware of this.

In a sane world the political aspirations of Hillary, Jeb, Richardson (and on and on it goes) would be effectively destroyed by this association.

I'm also Interested in all of the science that the Especially Creepy Epstein has funded. Mostly robots and artificial intelligence. I guess if you're that far gone about the only thing left in life for you is robots and artificial intelligence. He's surrounded by it, and we, by extension are too.

Thanks for keeping up with the story. I see that not only the mass media but alternative media and the conspiracy media are pretty silent. Kudos to you Joseph.
"I don't want to be classified as one of those writers who sees the dark hand of Mossad everywhere."

Too late.
Am I the only one who's alarmed by the total media blackout this story is receiving? I would be willing to bet it's because this story has the potential to snowball into the global scandal of the century, showing how one rogue state uses a well-funded global child trafficking/prostitution ring to ensnare, entrap, blackmail, and control powerful figures in media, industry, military, and government in countries said rogue state wishes to annex and/or co-opt to do its bidding.

Then again, maybe the media blackout isn't so surprising.
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Jon Stewart must be nearing orgasm

As you know, Lindsey Graham recently announced that he is kinda sorta seeking the Republican presidential nomination. This announcement was a gift to comedians everywhere.

Today, we were given two such gifts. 

Sarah Palin is "seriously interested." One would think that she might have been deterred by the release of Game Change, a marvelous film derived from the revelations of Republican insiders, a film which pictures her as having the IQ of a jar of mayonnaise. You'd think that she would seek no further public humiliation. But no. Palin still has presidential ambitions, and she is intent on pursuing them.

The Divine Mrs. P made this announcement while serving boar chili at a homeless shelter, while insisting that she has "service" in her heart. Remember Paul Ryan in 2012? He too had service in his heart, as long as the cameras were on.

On the same day -- the same day -- Donald Trump decided to make presidential noises, saying that he is "strongly inclined" to hop in the race. He also says that he would have beaten Obama in 2012:
"I was leading in every poll. ... I regret that I didn't stay in," he said in an interview...
This is shaping up to be a wonderful election. I know that many of my readers pretend to disdain horserace politics. But this ain't no horserace: It's "crash to pass" with clown cars.

Or may be it's a remake of Wacky Races, with Mike Huckabee as Blubber Bear, Jeb Bush as the leader of the Ant Hill mob, Donald Trump as Big Gruesome... and either Sarah Palin or Lindsey Graham as Penelope Pitstop.

If you were a Democratic strategist, which of the above candidacies would you secretly fund?
To quote Ms. Palin's answer to Glenn Beck's question, "Who among America's founding fathers do you admire most?" "All of 'em."

(No Santorum or Gingrich? Is Sheldon Adelson broke now?)
Huckabee is the most dangerous.
Scott Walker, Governor of my state of Wisconsin, is almost certain to run, given his proximity to the Iowa primaries. He is a complete sociopath, more Nixonian than Nixon, but manages to give the appearance of a moderate. He claims that God wants him to run for President and has the backing of the Koch brothers, after having laid waste to our state at their behest. As an added bonus, his buddy Reince Priebus is the Republican national chairman.

I would fund Huckabee so that he and Walker can argue about who God really wants in the White House. Bobby Jindal would make it a three-way Jesus channeling competition.
God save us all!
I saw Game Change more than once because it became my husband's favorite movie and he would watch it any time it was on cable.
I saw the book at a used book store a while back and bought it. It is no surprise that the book is a lot better than the movie.
As for candidates, it is too early on both sides, but I think we are in for some laughs.
Lord help us, Gareth.
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Did King Abdullah make a sex tape?

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is dead. I cannot mourn the man, but I can take this opportunity to tell a story that we have touched on in a number of previous posts.

Many have wondered: Just how did Saudi Arabia become such a close partner of the United States? Why, for example, did the Saudis agree to drastic cuts in the price of oil, a move which helps the US wage economic war against Russia?

The answer is long and complex. One small part of it, I suspect, involves a "happy hooker" named Xaviera Hollander.

In 1972, she wrote an extremely popular book about her career. It was called, naturally enough, The Happy Hooker. At the time it came out, there were whispers that the book had something to do with then-current scandals involving the Nixon administrations.

(If you think I'm straying far from the topic of Saudi Arabia, bear with me. All will soon be made clear.)

Xaviera's co-writer, or ghost writer, was a guy named Robin Moore, who died in 2008. Surprisingly, nobody has bothered to ask one key question: How the hell did Moore -- best known for writing The French Connection, and for his insider's account of the Green Berets -- become involved in such a project? All of his other works had some link to the world of covert ops and special forces. Take a look at Moore's Wikipedia page and I think you'll agree: The guy was spooky, or at least spook-friendly.

(There's definitely a spooky side to the story of the French Connection, although you won't read about it in Moore's famous book of that name. Therein lieth a tale for another time.)

So. Why did a writer linked to the covert world write a sensationalistic book about a prostitute? When did Robin meet Xaviera?

I don't have a copy of her book to hand, but I seem to recall that the text tended to vary between editions. In at least one edition, toward the end of her narrative, Xaviera tells a strange and incomplete tale about the placement of recording equipment in her bedroom, hidden behind a mirror. This equipment captured her in action with VIPs and visiting foreign dignitaries.

Many years after the first publication of The Happy Hooker, Anthony Summers took the story further in his Nixon Bio, The Arrogance of Power.
In fall of 1971 Charles Colson had received a tip from a Life magazine contact about a breaking story in New York. Bugs installed in a Manhattan brothel had led to a exposure of a police protection scam. Now political scandal also loomed.

In a note to Colson, the Life reporter summarized what he had heard from the electronics man who had installed the bugs: "He said: 'I know a lot about that operation. There were a lot of politicians mixed up in it, even the White House.' I said: 'What are you talking about?' And then he brought up Mosbacher's name..."

Emil Mosbacher was Nixon's chief of protocol, and the allegation was that he had taken prostitutes from the brothel by limousine to service clients elsewhere. The Life reporter believed his source was telling the truth. 

Alerted by Colson, John Dean began making inquiries. Even before they were completed, however, the New York Times featured a story with an ominous headline headline: POSSIBLE BLACKMAIL OF NIXON OFFICIAL CHECKED HERE. "At least two high-ranking officials in the Nixon administration," ran the lead, "are among the people the Manhattan District Attorney's Office intends to question about the possibility that they were blackmailed because of their association with an East Side brothel.
Hollander's book did not delve very far into the very intriguing issues raised by that headline. One wonders why.

(Patience. We're getting to the Saudi connection.)
The woman who had run the brothel, Xaviera Hollander, surfaced soon afterward with her book The Happy Hooker, an instant worldwide best seller. It contained no revelations about the Nixon White House, but allegations got into the press again, this time about "one of the hierarchy of the White House." In the spring of 1972, just weeks before the first Watergate break-in, Hollander was deported to Europe. The wiretapper who claimed his tapes proved a White House connection also left the country.

"Thank you, Tricky Dicky," Hollander wrote in the next edition of her book," for the pressure to deport her had apparently come from the top levels of the government. "The White House got her kicked out to stop her making a noise," said the author Robin Moore, who listened to the brothel tapes and worked with Hollander in ghosting her book. "The Nixon administration had been using the Hollander outfit to entertain foreign dignitaries, especially Arabs. It was organized by Nixon's press secretary, Ron Ziegler. It was taped..."
Emphasis added. Now do you see the connection?

I have been told that the encounters were filmed as well as audio taped -- and that Moore himself played a role in setting up the operation. Not only that: Xaviera herself entertained these leaders. She didn't delegate this task to the other girls.

Summers goes on to recount a story about the time a prominent lawyer asked Mosbacher's assistant, one Nick Ruwe, "What do you do as deputy protocol chief?"

Ruwe's answer: "We have ten Arabs coming to town, and they've ordered twenty prostitutes -- none of them Jewish." (Emphasis added.)

This last point is of paramount importance, because Xaviera Hollander is Jewish. (Technically, she is half-Jewish, on her father's side.)

At the time, few people knew this fact, and nobody meeting her would have guessed it.

You must have the picture by now. The American government makes sure that Arab leaders are "entertained" by a Jewish hooker, although they do not know that she is Jewish. These Arabs are secretly photographed and taped in the act. Spooky Robin Moore controls both the hooker in question and the level of detail published in her memoirs. Just enough detail slips out to make the unnamed "Arabs" anxious -- but not enough to get them into serious trouble.

Put it all together and it spells blackmail.

How did this operation impact US-Saudi relations? Come to your own conclusions.

Was the recently-deceased King Abdullah -- then Prince Abdullah -- one of the "johns" who was caught up in this trap? I don't know. I've been asking myself that question for years now, but I still do not know. (King Hussein of Jordan is the only Arab leader who has been named as one of Xaviera Hollander's clients.)

At the time, Abdullah was 50 years old and was the leader of the Saudi National Guard. I don't know with any certainty the year  of his first trip to the United States. The earliest trip mentioned by internet sources occurred in 1974, at which point Xaviera was out of the country and Nixon was segueing into history. But it seems very possible that he might have been one of the "ten Arabs" referenced by Ruwe.

For what it is worth: There was an inane movie called The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington in which a CIA agent cajoles Xaviera into seducing an Arab Shiekh. I have not seen this film. I have been told that it is so bad as to be nearly unwatchable.

(Before you say it: Yes, I am well aware that someone is "officially" Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish. This technicality probably would not have mattered much in the Arab world, had those secret recordings been made public.)
Well, Xavier puts a new twist on the story of the petrodollar!
About ten years later in 1981, my company, which ran computer literacy seminars for corporations, was subcontracted by a very large bank. They were to be bringing over several groups of Saudi princes for a week's worth of education in banking and investment along with computer lit.

The princes were all between 20-40, arrogant as hell, and not interested in learning a thing. We quickly came to understand the classes were window dressing. The bank's main goal was to show them a good time, wining and dining and whoring every night. When they came to the seminar (and they rarely did, after the first day) they were hungover and often as not, slept.
I can only hope it's better than the movie.

Thanks for this.
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Briefing on Bibi and beyond...

I haven't much time, so let's bustle...

Bibi to address Congress? Boehner wants him; the WH says it's a breach of protocol. If Bibi does come, I wouldn't mind joining a protest (if I have $$ enough for fare to DC). Mondoweiss argues (persuasively) that this move is in response to Obama's SOTU statement about vetoing any further moves on Iran.
Obama was warning the Israel lobby; bug out of these negotiations. That’s the line he drew in the sand in the New York Times last week, criticizing donor pressure on Democratic senators.

Well, Congress has responded. This morning it invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session in the House chamber on February 11– a month before the Israeli elections (as Haaretz noted).
As Boehner aides pointed out to the Hill “there is bipartisan support for Iran sanctions legislation.” That’s true: Netanyahu met two days ago with a bipartisan group of seven senators.
Just to make things really weird, Mossad is making an end run around Bibi...
The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Israeli intelligence officials have been briefing both Obama administration officials and visiting U.S. senators about their concerns on the Kirk-Menendez bill, which would increase sanctions on Iran only if the Iranian government can't strike a deal with the so-called P5+1 countries by a June 30 deadline or fails to live up to its commitments. Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister’s office has been supporting the Kirk-Menendez bill, as does the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, ahead of what will be a major foreign policy confrontation between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government in coming weeks.

Evidence of the Israeli rift surfaced Wednesday when Secretary of State John Kerry said that an unnamed Israeli intelligence official had said the new sanctions bill would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.” But an initial warning from Israeli Mossad leaders was also delivered last week in Israel to a Congressional delegation...
You have to admit, this is unusual.

Norman Finkelstein on the Charlie Hebdo affair. I'm not sure I agree with what he says here. He says that the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were "sadism, not satire," and he compares them to the kind of cartoons that appeared in Der Sturmer.

Well, yes, let's make that comparison. But let's also compare them to the Leo Taxil illustrations published here a week or so ago. And while we're at it, let's compare them to the work of the Robert Crumb and the other great -- and utterly outrageous -- underground comics artists who came to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s.

(As always, let us keep in mind the dictionary definition of the word "compare." Comparison does not imply equivalence.)

Finkelstein makes one excellent point which deserves to be repeated...
Finkelstein pointed to the contradictions in the Western world’s perception of the freedom of the press by giving the example of the pornographic magazine Hustler, whose publisher, Larry Flynt, was shot and left paralyzed in 1978 by a white supremacist serial killer for printing a cartoon depicting interracial sex.

“I don’t remember everyone celebrating ‘We are Larry Flynt’ or ‘We are Hustler,'” he said. “Should he have been attacked? Of course not. But nobody suddenly turned this into a political principle of one side or the other.”
As I recall, people reacted to the Flynt shooting in a rather unusual way. Obviously, nobody approved of it; the act was outrageous and horrifying. But I spoke to a few people who seemed to feel that Flynt was so addicted to shock that he almost courted a violent reaction. I don't recall speaking to anyone who seemed utterly surprised.

William Blum. Blum's response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy is quite informative...
I present here some views on Charlie Hebdo sent to me by a friend in Paris who has long had a close familiarity with the publication and its staff:
“On international politics Charlie Hebdo was neoconservative. It supported every single NATO intervention from Yugoslavia to the present. They were anti-Muslim, anti-Hamas (or any Palestinian organization), anti-Russian, anti-Cuban (with the exception of one cartoonist), anti-Hugo Chávez, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, pro-Pussy Riot, pro-Kiev … Do I need to continue?

“Strangely enough, the magazine was considered to be ‘leftist’. It’s difficult for me to criticize them now because they weren’t ‘bad people’, just a bunch of funny cartoonists, yes, but intellectual freewheelers without any particular agenda and who actually didn’t give a fuck about any form of ‘correctness’ – political, religious, or whatever; just having fun and trying to sell a ‘subversive’ magazine (with the notable exception of the former editor, Philippe Val, who is, I think, a true-blooded neocon).”
My take? Well, I've noticed that neo-cons have skulked into places where one normally would not expect to see them -- such as the Slate website. (Or, for that matter, the Obama White House.)

If neocons were content to appear on Fox News and similar venues, they would speak only to the converted. To control the policy debate, they need to persuade people outside the conservative media bubble. So they craftily look for ways to get their message out to people who would never watch Fox.

That's what has been going on here in America; something similar may be happening in France.
Comparing Robert Crumb to Charlie Hebdo, I don't remember any of Crumb's cartoons being viciously mean-spirited, or mocking the suffering of exploited minorities, such as the Charlie Hebdo cartoon which depicted the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram as pregnant welfare mothers, or the one mocking Egyptian protesters as complaining that their Korans were shit because they couldn't stop the bullets of the army. Finkelstein in right, there was a terrific amount of sadism on their front pages.

As for the Larry Flynt shooting, I wasn't surprised by it, only because violence by religiously-minded white supremacists was hitting a peak at the time, as psychopaths such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell fanned the flames. As a lefty political organizer, I had already learned to live with death threats. Maybe they would actually follow through and shoot me or more likely, they were just trying to frighten me. Who knew?
Well, Crumb himself has something to say about it....and apparently he lives in France. Ignore
disinfo's typical clickbait headline.

As I recall, it was not a cartoon, but a pictorial spread depicting "Peaches" and a black man that triggered the attack on Flynt.
Gareth, you really think Crumb's work could not be mean-spirited? Have you SEEN the way he drew black people? Not to mention what he did with women...!

When anyone complained, he would simply say "It's all ink on paper, folks."

I was always of two minds about this. One one hand, Crumb is brilliant, and Crumb would not be Crumb if he wore fetters. On the other hand -- well, some of the stuff he drew back in the day WAS offensive as hell.

Actually, I think his cartoon of Mohammed's ass is pretty brilliant.
Also, it was several years before Flynt's shooter was identified. At the time the most common assumption was Flynt had been shot by someone offended at his publishing of pornography in general, rather than a specific kind of pornography.

For that matter, the porn industry in the late 70s was still heavily controlled by the thuggier side of organized crime.* A little over a month after Flynt was shot, Michael Thevis, who at one point controlled roughly 40% of the porn sold in the U.S.,** escaped from prison where he was serving 8-1/2 years for burning down the factory of the inventor of the peepshow booth.*** (Urban Industries founder Nat Bailen had created the peepshow as a kind of automated babysitter where Mom could park the kids while she shopped. Angered his brainchild had been co-opted by smut peddlars, Bailen publicly denounced Thevis -- who by this time was manufacturing his own booths.) That October, Thevis tracked down and killed the associate whose testimony put him behind bars, arrested the following month, and currently serving 28-to-life. It was far from far-fetched that Flynt could have been taken out by a competitor, backer, or former partner.
* As opposed to today, when the business is controlled by the children of mobsters.

** Thevis was also responsible -- through legit businesses set up to launder funds -- for giving the world 'Poor Pretty Eddie,' one of the strangest allegedly commercial movies ever made, and the multi-million hit single, "Chevy Van."

*** In 1995, the SoCal sex toy factory owned by Doc Johnson burned to the ground. Ruled an accident, the blaze has long been rumored to have been arson. For that matter, Doc Johnson itself has long been rumored to have been secretly owned by Reuben Sturman, who is said to have controlled 80% of the US porn market...****

**** ...pretty much at the same time that Thevis was said to control 40%. That's 120%, with only two of a number of players mentioned. I guess after the DOJ largely stopped going after obscenity convictions, the surplussed agents were put to work calculating the alleged street value of drug seizures.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Penny and Jack

This is hilarious. After explicitly saying in a tweet (notable for its garbled grammar) that she is not a feminist and that the world would be worse if women had more power, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting later backtracked and said that her words were taken out of context.
The 29-year-old actress said she simply meant that she feels lucky “to have a career, really build myself as an independent woman..."
In other news: I've kept an eye on the Jack the Ripper case for a number of years. In one of his letters, Jack wrote:
I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games.
That message is quite well-known. Fewer people are aware that Jack wrote a follow-up statement:
My previous letter was taken out of context. What I meant to say was that I feel lucky to have a career, and to really build myself as an independent ripper.
Have the feminists got to you? Her original statement was quite clear that she doesn't see the point of feminist because she's never been oppressed and sees the movement as outdated and anachronistic.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SOTU: "Love, blood and rhetoric"

I just remembered: Obama is supposed to be giving some sort of speech tonight. Let me fire up CSPAN...and of course, George Gershwin. (That's one of my traditions while watching Mr. O give the SOTU. Rhapsody in Blue makes it all much easier to tolerate.)

At the moment, I'm in a mood to offer a lighthearted response to this speech, but...things may get grim. Keep checking in, if you are of a mind to.

9:12: He said that the economy is growing at the fastest rate since 1999. Wasn't there a crash not long afterward? Something about the "dot-coms" going under...?

9:19: How can he credibly claim to have reversed outsourcing? How can he credibly claim to have protected the environment?

9:20: Okay, Obamacare. Gotta give him that. The regulations on Wall Street were too little and are being gutted.

9:22: The veto power. Gratified to hear that.

9:25: Middle class middle class middle class. I think I sense a theme.

9:26: Not having read the speech before, I consider the childcare proposal to be a welcome surprise.

9:28: Paid sick leave is another good idea. This Obama is starting to sound good.

9:31: Well, I like what I am hearing about raising working peoples' wages and strengthening unions. And I don't want to be cynical about what I am hearing...

9:32: YES. Free community college. Hell, I'll go back. Or I'll teach. In some ways, I like CCs more than I like "real" universities.

9:36: "We want them here in America." Okay, then why did your people go all over the world creating new free trade agreements?

9:38: FAIR trade? A little late in the game, eh wot?

9:39: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I still say just raise tarrifs on imports.

9:42: The Burger King tax avoidance section of his speech. I'm all in favor of what he is proposing, obviously.

9:45: Foreign policy. He's talking about avoiding use of the military. This will cause the neocon right to accuse him of being weak in the face of terror. In reality, it means a greater emphasis on covert action, drones, propaganda, subversion, and generalized sneakiness.

9:46: Stopping ISIL's advance? Yet supporting a "moderate opposition" in Syria? God, what bullshit. America created ISIS by fomenting the war against Assad. O is completely turning history on its head.

9:47: USE OF FORCE? NO!!

9:48: I note that Biden but not Boehner stood for the saber-rattling against Putin.

9:49: "That's how America leads" -- by using our partnership with the Saudis to wage economic warfare against innocent Russians. And O is proud of this. Infuriating!

9:50: Using the Pope to justify the new policy on Cuba. What I want to know is: Just WHO has the CIA picked in that country? They always have a guy waiting in the wings...

9:51: He's taking credit for halting the nuclear program in Iran? Christ. They halted their own program back in 2003! Ask your own damned DNI, Mr. President -- he'll tell you all about it! But I am glad that O says he will veto new sanctions...

9:52 How about going to covert war only as a last resort? Hmm?

9:53: He's talking about cyber attacks and hacking. I don't like this. Laws against hacking have been used against journalists and activists. (See: Aaron Swartz.)

9:54: I see that the GOP still thinks that climate change is fictional.

9:55: The situation is worse than he says. He didn't mention the methane gas trapped in Arctic ice. A release of that gas could be apocalyptic.

9:56: Values. Torture. Drones. Obama feels that he has a right to speak on that...!

9:57: There is no massive resurgence of anti-Semitism. A myth.

9:58: Obama could have closed Gitmo a long time ago. The things he is saying now are coming way too late.

9:59: Now he is lying his ass off about the NSA's horrendous surveillance state.

10:00: Policy part over, here comes the attempted poetry and the high-flown rhetoric. Und now is za time on Shprockets ven ve yawn.

10:03: How can we better reflect America's hopes, he asks? Well, gee, Mr. Obama -- have you considered NOT LYING about Syria, Russia and Israel? What I'm hoping for is some truth. And peace.

10:04: On one hand, I agree with his critique of modern "gotcha" politics and Fox-style inanities masquerading as politics. On the other hand, why bother mounting such a critique? It's like asking a dog in heat not to be in heat.

10:06: Hm. Easier voting? This, I like.

10:07: He addressed police abuse issues, but far too vaguely.

10:08: "I know 'cause I won both of 'em." That comeback will be remembered, I suspect.

10:09: In contrast to this president, I do not think that Americans are a people of generous spirit. But isn't it pretty to think so?

10:10: Boehner finally applauds. Obama mentioned the fact of the existence of the United States of America, and Boehner felt obligated to applaud.

C'est tout! 

In sum: Good -- better than expected -- on domestic policy. Horrible on foreign policy. President Janus remains a puzzlement to me.

Added note. I've been looking at other responses, and few of them are quotable or notable. However, Chris Hayes offered this witty observation:
Obama's talking about "fake controversies" just to distract from the fact he once ate a dog
Added note 2. You want to know the difference between Democrats and Republicans? This speech makes that difference crystal clear.

The Democrat says: "Citizens! I offer you bread! And WAR!"

In response, the Republican says: "War. Just war. That's all you get."

Maybe that's the thought Tom Stoppard had in mind when he wrote this:
We're more of the love, blood and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see.
That's it, isn't it? That is Obama's State of the Union. He gave us rhetoric, and he even gave us some love. But blood is compulsory.

Added note 3. The Hill has a piece on Obama's cybersecurity proposals. Instinctively, I found them ominous, although The Hill does not.
“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids," Obama said to a bipartisan standing ovation.
Am I missing something? When, exactly, did a foreign nation invade the privacy of any American kid?

"The children! Why doesn't someone think of the children?!?"

Maybe this is the usual tactic: Using the threat of pedophilia as an excuse for the government to snoop on our computers. Of course, it would have been unseemly to mention pedophilia in a State of the Union speech. So Obama tried to insert the concept into his text quasi-subliminally.
The agenda was unveiled strategically to take advantage of the bump in cybersecurity awareness following the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
Looks to me as though the big winner of the the Great Sony Hack was not NK but the NSA, which now has another excuse to expand its powers. Cui bono, and all that.

NSA v. NK: What the hell is going on?

A lot of tech-heads have questioned whether North Korea was truly responsible for the Great Sony Hack. We now learn from Engadget that the NSA knew all about it because No Such Agency had hacked NK first. How did they know? Because the NSA inserted backdoor programs into North Korean computer systems years and years ago.

(Which makes sense. The Promis story, which now seems like ancient history, was built around that premise.)

Here comes the troubling part: The new information supposedly comes from newly-released Snowden documents published in Der Spiegel. Yet Engadget was able to confirm and expand upon the story through anonymous government sources!

Seriously? Are we supposed to believe this? NSA insiders "anonymously" expanding upon a Snowden revelation? That doesn't seem right.

But it all gets stranger still.

Although the Engadget piece on North Korea cites the Der Spiegel article, the latter does not mention North Korea at all. Der Spiegel offers what seems like a legitimate discussion of the Snowden revelations -- or at least, of someone's revelations. (There have long been rumors of a second leaker.) The German piece is worth reading in its own right, even though you have to peek between the lines to see how it might be relevant to the Great Sony Hack.

But the Engadget article...well, it's very different. It seems planted.

Engadget speaks of backdoors that have been placed directly in the NK systems. By contrast, Spiegel speaks of  methods used by the NSA to eavesdrop -- silently and anonymously -- on electronic traffic flowing to Chinese intelligence. This haul is said to include material from smaller neighboring countries (which may or may not include NK).

Moreover, the Engadget article raises a very good question: If the NSA knew about the Great Sony Hack from Day 1, why did the Agency do nothing to stop it? Engadget does try to answer that question, but the solution they offer is none too persuasive.

What's going on here? Can you dope out this mystery?

Syrian Girl, meet the new girl in town

The video embedded above is mandatory viewing.

In her latest offering, Maram Susli (a.k.a. Syrian Girl, a.k.a. the bravest political commentator in today's world) offers her take on the Charlie Hebdo attack and the links to ISIS and the Syrian civil war. Her points are extremely well-taken, and her closing remarks are right on the money: The French cannot blame terrorism on Muslims when the French government has supported Muslim terrorists in the Middle East.

And now for something completely different (which turns out to be something remarkably similar)...

I'd like to introduce you to another young lady -- someone I learned about while flipping through videos about painting. Lena Danya is an oil painter, a watercolorist, a composer, a pianist, a ballet dancer, and a film-maker. She maintains a popular YouTube channel in which she demonstrates how she accomplishes her work. And...

(Yow. How to say this? Well, there's no choice but to blurt it out...)

...and she's almost supernaturally gorgeous. I'm sorry, but you can't pretend not to notice, any more than you could visit Niagara Falls and pretend not to notice all the water. 

Nevertheless, most of her followers and fans are female, and even the males treat her with respect. (Yes, they are respectful in YouTube comments, which is practically unheard of.) I think that women and girls admire her because -- like Maram Susli -- Lena Danya is a feminist who insists on being taken seriously for her work. When someone suggested that she consider modelling, she replied: "I’d rather be working on my art and be my own boss instead of someone’s barbie doll."

A vegetarian who opposes materialism (though she probably wouldn't mind if you invested in her work), she works very hard and takes craftsmanship seriously. In just a few short years of painting in oils, her progress has been remarkable, even though she has received no formal training.

Beyond all that, she comes across in her videos as the world's most charming person. The effect is both hypnotic and unnerving: No real human being could possibly be this nice. Maybe it's all a masquerade. Maybe if we follow her career long enough, we'll discover her dark secret. Maybe she uses her local Girl Scout troop as a cover for smuggling C4 and krokodil and plutonium...

Or maybe she really is that nice, and we all have less reason for cynicism in this rotting, debauched and unhappy world. Nobody ever said that the Kwisatz Haderach couldn't be female...

So why do I mention her in a political blog? As it happens, Danya is a political animal, although she does not usually advertise that aspect of her personality in her YouTube videos. (For good reason: Political talk has a way of making enemies, and a young artist needs patrons, not opponents.) Born in Russia, Danya spent her first years in Ukraine, and can still speak both languages. In one video, she even demonstrates how to make Ukrainian varenyky (which are basically perogies, although you probably should not say that to a Ukrainian).

On Twitter and Tumbler, she expresses her views about what's going on in her homeland. It should come as no surprise that she opposes the mindless demonization of Putin which has commandeered so much of our mainstream media, and she despises the neo-Nazis in Kiev who were put into power by American covert operators. Her political views might come as a surprise to her YouTube followers, some of whom may not even know what the word "Novorossiya" means.

Here's a sampler of her tweets (although a few of these are retweets):
"Dr. King was intensely critical of the capitalist state, global war, & separating economic rights from civil rights."http://t.co/zmuQniTQdx
Since Nuland overthrew Ukraine Gov 4,700 people have been killed and 10,000 have been injured. Beware of US provocateurs bearing cookies.
Where there's war, there's illegal organ harvesting. Many sources claim this is happening currently in Ukraine http://t.co/27Bg03W5z7
Evidence shows that bus in Volnovakha was blown by Ukrainian mines. @poroshenko lies again. http://t.co/KPBIdk5BYH
Donetsk republic says Kiev used chemical weapons in attack on airport http://t.co/rXeel7aAvL #Ukraine
We've got a bunch of psychotic men in suits ready to blow up the world, lovely
How strange is it, the only way left to rebel is to be a legitimately good person
Strange, I've never heard of "terrorists" donating energy resources to the people they're "terrorizing" before
I won't be surprised if my twitter gets deleted for being a little too loud about a little too much truth. I've seen it happen to people posting about Ukraine
None of the new unelected government idiots even bothered to actually TALK to the people of east ukraine, they just went straight to bombs
Psychopath @poroshenko can fly to France to make himself look good but refuses to communicate with citizens of his own country
New York Times article from 2010, explains the issues of naming Bandera the hero of Ukraine. http://t.co/u4mlktoqRm http://t.co/2uyfapv8el
The New York Times, for whatever reason, decided to stop including all these important facts in their recent articles #propaganda
They show the Ukrainian army shoveling snow for mothers with babies... and blame all the residential bombing on "terrorists" ridiculous
My views are based around love and compassion. I have no respect for people who lack the ability for both of those things
I'm probably gonna get my ass deported for my political opinions
The US lecturing Russia on military intervention in #Ukraine is like the Hunchback of Notre Dame telling somebody to sit up straight.
Great job USA, truly helping countries achieve the "future they deserve" through murder and destruction pic.twitter.com/GH1achf8VM
I am Ukrainian. And I will never except a nazi-ally mass murdering fascist as the "hero" of my country. Cry me a river patriots.
(Yes, I know: She meant to say "accept.")
Yulia Tymoshenko, Victoria Nuland, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton - an embarrassment to women. Why are these psychos in power?
I think that Lena Danya and Maram Susli should get together for a joint project. Actually, they need a third girl: A Palestinian.

Together, the three should form an organization called ALONSOBA: Astonishing Ladies of Nations Screwed Over By America.
Got the Dune reference. (Had to look it up, though!)

Talking of Yulia Tymoshenko (oligarch with braids), did you know about her Star Wars (film) connection?
Joe - are you sure Lena's the only one suffering from "tired arm syndrome"?
Do not speak of her that way, b.

Seriously, we should encourage respect for these women. They can do a job that we cannot. No matter how well you and I write, nobody under the age of thirty wants to listen to us. Like it or not, they can get a radical message out to an audience that we can't reach.

So as they say in Jamaica: Re-SPECT!
For your Palestinian participant, I nominate Farah Baker, the "Anne Frank of Gaza." If she's unavailable, let's go with Malala of Afghanistan. Or let them both be added to the group of brave and awesome young women.
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Monday, January 19, 2015


As many of you know, I have a lingering interest in works of political "hoaxlore." The infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion still reigns supreme as the classic example of the genre. A while back, I angered a few readers by equating...

(Please note that I said "equating," not "comparing." Look up the word "compare" in the dictionary: You can compare anything with anything else, and drawing a comparison does not imply equality or even similarity. A pet peeve of mine, this is.)

Where was I? Oh yes.

A short while back, I angered a few readers by equating the Protocols hoax with the From Time Immemorial hoax. The latter refers to a 1984 book attributed to the recently deceased Joan Peters (actual name: Joan Caro). That work received massive -- and I do mean massive -- publicity upon release.

Basically, FTI argues that the "holy land" (if we may use that term) was mostly empty when the Jews started to show up around the start of the previous century. This book says that the people we now call Palestinians are actually rootless Johnny-come-latelies who wandered in only after those marvelously super-industrious Jews created jobs. These Arabs did not have title to any property (and any paperwork which says otherwise must presumably be forged). Thus, it's perfectly all right to kick out all of the Palestinians, since they never had any ancestral right to that land. In fact, there are no "Palestinians."

(Whenever you see an Israeli apologist place the word Palestinian in quotation marks, you are encountering the lingering ghost of Joan Peters/Caro.)

This claim is pure hogwash, of course. Classic hoaxlore. This article publishes British census reports which prove that Joan Peters/Caro was lying her ass off. Moreover, she must have known that the whole thing was a fake.

(Or rather: Whoever wrote the book bearing her name must have known.)

In the mid-1980s, the argument made by FTI was laughed out of court throughout European intellectual circles. Even Israeli historians could not take that book seriously.

Of course, a few propagandists still try to mount strained rationalizations of FTI. These hopeless exercises remind me of the strained rationalizations some have mounted in favor of Ernst Zundel and other creepy Holocuast deniers. You know the drill: "Yes, the author made some mistakes, but let's not dismiss the entire work; if we take a more nuanced view, we will discover that..."

There is some question as to whether Caro/Peters actually wrote FTI. At the bottom of this post, I will embed a video interview with the woman, who clearly seems incapable of writing any book. (No other volume bears her name.)

The Posner parallel. Am I the first to note the obvious parallels between the work of Joan Peters/Caro and Gerry Posner, the author of Case Closed, the 1993 book which "proved" that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole killer of John Kennedy?

In both cases, there was an orchestrated campaign of media hosannas. In both cases, more thoughtful responses were published overseas. And in both cases, there were serious allegations from the start that the author did not write the work in question.

For example, Posner claimed to have interviewed people to whom he never actually spoke. He described doing a literally unbelievable amount of work within a very short time. Moreover, his prose style is plywood-flat and devoid of individualism. Committee work -- or so it would seem.

As for From Time Immemorial: Noam Chomsky is on the record as stating that he suspects that FTI was actually written by an intelligence agency.

A writer featured on this humble blog (not me!) played a key role in exposing Posner as a serial plagiarist in his later offerings. Nevertheless, Posner seems to have survived that scandal quite well.

Even before Case Closed came out, there were people who distrusted his book about Mengele, if only because the story told in that book sharply varies from the story Posner told a very short while before, in testimony before Congress. His later works make clear that he has maintained longstanding contacts with members of the covert world. Gerry also became the champion of the outrageously corrupt Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother to the almost-as-outrageous President of Afghanistan. Everyone knows that the CIA supports those two.

Let's get real. Gerry was published by major publications even after exposure of the fact that he claimed to have interviewed people to whom he never spoke. That fact alone tells you all you need to know about Gerry Posner. It also tells you all you need to know about the people who run the Daily Beast, where much of Posner's work appeared. Would they have published Stephen Glass or Janet Cooke? Of course not. But Spooky Gerry? That's diffo!

There's another interesting way in which Gerry resembles Joan Peters/Caro.

Gerry always claimed that he went into the writing of Case Closed with a completely open mind on the question of Oswald's guilt. Anyone who knows the history of his publisher, Robert Loomis, will smirk at that idea.

Similarly, Peters/Caro claimed that when she entered into the FTI project, her original intent was to write a pro-Palestinian book. That claim is equally smirk-worthy:
Actually, Peters professes that she set out to blame neighboring Arab states for failing to cooperate with the Zionist project by absorbing the refugees and removing any reason for them to return to their beloved homes and communities. Peters pretended to be enlightened when her research revealed that the Palestinians’ misfortune was all their fault to begin with. So she approached this project with the pre-conceived notion that Arab countries, and not Israel, were responsible for the plight of the Palestinian refugees, and changed her position to find that Arab countries and the Palestinians themselves were at fault, with Israel even more blameless than she thought. Quelle surprise!
Case Closed. From Time Immemorial. Let's just say that these two book projects emit a very similar smell.

Mark Twain. If you hit the link above, you'll also see some important information about Mark Twain. Yes, even he has been dragged into this morass of hoaxlore.

Peters/Caro and Alan Dershowitz have fixated on certain passages in Twain's Innocents Abroad which, they claim, proves that the "holy land" was empty in the 19th century.

If you read the book, Twain's real purpose is clear: He wanted to clear up the false images that dance in the minds of many readers when they read the Bible.

Many readers of those ancient scriptures visualize something akin to a C.B. DeMille movie, or perhaps John Martin's famous painting of Joshua causing the sun to stand still. (I recently saw this one again in the National Gallery in DC. Love it!)

Massive cities. Million-man armies. Spectacle galore.

You'll see similar sights if you examine 19th century Biblical illustrations; the work of Gustave Dore provides a good starting point. Artists usually depicted Biblical events in an epic, hyperbolic fashion.

Twain visited the area, and found a less impressive reality. The land was much tinier than Dore or Martin would have you believe. Those armies could not possibly have been so massive. The cities of ancient times could not have been very grand. The great battles were probably just tribal squabbles between barbarian warriors. They numbered not in the thousands but in the hundreds -- perhaps even the dozens.

(Hyperbolized history is pretty common across the board. If you've seen Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, you may be surprised to learn that, in real life, only about 300 people participated in the famed "battle on the ice." The Roman forum depicted in Anthony Mann's The Fall of the Roman Empire is about twice the size of the original.) 

Twain's purpose, in short, was to erase the bombastic imagery from our collective imagination and to replace it with something more realistic. He had no idea that his efforts would one day be mis-used by apologists for ethnic cleansing.

Twain always championed the victims of imperialism, and he would have been appalled and infuriated by this ludicrous re-purposing of his work. If you want to know what he really had to say about those who seek the ethnic cleansing of "the holy land," read this passage from Tom Sawyer Abroad:
[Tom:] “A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim.”

[Huck:] “Which Holy Land?”

“Why, the Holy Land—there ain’t but one.”

“What do we want of it?”

“Why, can’t you understand? It’s in the hands of the paynim, and it’s our duty to take it away from them.”

“How did we come to let them git hold of it?”

“We didn’t come to let them git hold of it. They always had it.”

“Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don’t it?”

“Why of course it does. Who said it didn’t?”
(Thanks, once again, to David Samel.) Let's have no further argument about where Twain would have stood on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Case closed!

One final note on Gerry Posner. My memory is hardly perfect. Nevertheless, I have a fairly distinct recollection of seeing a broadcast interview of Gerry Posner, shown on a prime-time news program about the time Case Closed came out. A friend of mine (who may no longer be with us) recorded the segment and showed me the tape. As I recall, Posner said these words: "If anything, the Warren Commission underestimated Jack Ruby's ties to organized crime."

Of course, the book makes a very different claim about Ruby.

If my memory is correct, that interview would offer evidence that Posner had not closely read the book bearing his name.

Unfortunately, as noted above, my memory may be mistaken. Two decades have passed, and I cannot, in all fairness, make any sort of definite claim. However, I can fairly use this forum to ask if there any other folks out there who saw that same interview.

Is it it too much to hope that someone out there might have that interview preserved on an old VHS tape? I would love to see it uploaded to YouTube.

Speaking of interviews with shady characters, herrrrrrre's Joanie...!

I remember a long time ago l met a Palestinian woman. She told me about the story of her family. Her grandfather was businessman. He was honey producer. When they came in the middle of the night and kicked him and his family out of the house with only the cloth they were in. They took everything. His family ended up in Jordan. The same happened to doctors and others. And people still wonder why Palestinian just forget and forgive
I am familiar with probably everything Mark Twain ever wrote that’s in the public domain, including a lot of material that wasn’t written by Twain but claimed to be, by lying, dirt-bag, cross-eyed scoundrels, most of whom only had one shirt.

Twain was often dismayed by the number of bootleg copies of his books that were published through copyright infringements, and he did a lot of work to champion strong copyright legislation.

There were often two different copies of the same work in print, with the same title, but sometimes minor changes could be found if a reader paid close attention in a detailed study.

Albert Bigelow Paine spent several years preparing Twain’s biography while Mark Twain was still alive. I, personally, believe Paine doctored some of Twain’s history and material to give more life to the wonderful legends created by Twain and relished by his adoring public.

However, I do believe Paine was telling the truth when he said that he found a lot of contradictions when he would ask Mark Twain which statements he had made were true and which were false, and of course Twain said that he had told so many lies over his lifetime that he could no longer remember.

Mark Twain, with a very serious and somber look, was often heard to say the following line after delivering one of his magnificent stand-up comedy lectures:

“ And that’s the gospel truth – for the most part! “

Speaking of gospels, Twain stated that at an early age, he felt inclined to become a Presbyterian Preacher, and I’m certainly glad he went the author-lecturer-riverboat pilot route, rather than anything pissbyterian.

I have provided a link for the convenience of your readers who might find a few of his quotes entertaining.


As far as the case against Dershowitz is concerned, I’m not going to say anything except to quote Twain:


"It is true I have a passion for lying to rich people, but I do not lie to men who get their bread by thankless hard work."
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 28 October 1889

; j
j, I read Paine's book about Joan of Arc a long time ago, and all I recall about it is that it was rather good. (Odd, isn't it, how he seems to have "caught" Johannaphilia from Twain.) So I don't want to say anything bad about him.

But the relevant question is...

Speaking as a Twain scholar, do you agree with my assessment of his reasons for writing what he wrote about the holy land in "Innocents Abroad"?

I THINK I have that part right, although to be honest I have not had that book in my hands since I was 15 or so.
IMO, Paine ripped off a lot of Twain's original research completed when Twain was in France.

I am inclined to believe most of your assessment, in as much Twain became more outspoken as he grew older, and gave a new, more realistic viewpoint of what he observed during his travels, which resulted in his book, Innocents Abroad.

Twain even became more critical of the US's position in foreign affairs, but I forgave him for anything he said offensive, because of his great kindness towards Pres. Grant, when Grant was dieing. ;)
The Mark Twain they didn't teach us about in school.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Obama did it again!

Again -- AGAIN -- this rotten President is trying to do non-rotten stuff. In fact, his latest tax proposal is pretty damned great.
Obama's State of the Union, you see, will call for $320 billion of new taxes on rentiers, their heirs, and the big banks to pay for $175 billion of tax credits that will reward work. In other words, it's fighting a two-front war against a Piketty-style oligarchy where today's hedge funders become tomorrow's trust funders. First, it's trying to slow the seemingly endless accumulation of wealth among the top 1, and really the top 0.1, no actually the top 0.001, percent by raising capital gains taxes on them while they're living and raising them on their heirs when they're dead. And second, it's trying to help the middle help itself by subsidizing work, child care, and education.
This proposal has one big problem: Congress is in the hands of Republicans, who will allow no such thing. But the proposal is still worthwhile, for the following reasons:

1. For years, we've all been screaming at Obama that he has to stand for something. This is it. This is precisely what Democrats everywhere should stand for.

2. Every presidential election year, the most popular thing a candidate can say is: "I think we should raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and lower taxes on the middle class." Obama now has put the Republicans in a position where they have to say -- explicitly -- "No, let's not take that course of action."

In the NYT, Neil Irwin says much the same thing.
The White House will surely be accused of class warfare, of pitting the interests of the affluent directly against the working class. But if other Democrats (particularly the party’s nominee for president in 2016) seize on this basic framework, of higher taxes on capital in exchange for lower taxes on labor, it will help offer a clear vision of what the Democratic Party stands for after the Obama years.
Look, I know that some of you come here for red meat O-hatred, and you really don't want to hear anything else. I sympathize. I really do. But honesty dictates giving Obama credit when due. Criticism of Obama lacks all impact if it devolves into mindless automatic gainsaying.

Mr. Obama, now you must turn to foreign policy. Allow me to write your next speech:
My fellow Americans, we are very sorry for lying our asses off about Assad being responsible for that sarin attack in 2013. Turns out it was the rebels. We've been so intent on getting rid of Assad that we supported ISIS and Nusra and a bunch of other creeps. No more. As of right now, we are going to give all possible help to Bashar Assad so he can crush these Islamic fundamentalists once and for all.

Also, we apologize for fomenting a coup in Ukraine, thereby bringing a bunch of neo-Nazis to power. We are joining forces with Vladimir Putin to bring some semblance of reason and justice back to that part of the world.

Finally, Israel. You know what? Fuck Israel. I'm giving Netanyahu three months to arrange real peace talks with the Palestinians. My preferred solution would be a one-state, "one man, one vote" arrangement. But if the Palestinians prefer a two-state solution, that's their decision. They have been shat on for so long, it should be their turn to call the shots. And if the Israelis don't like it, they can tell it to the fuckin' Marines, baby.
Kudos baby! I concur 100%, especially with the foreign policy statement. from your keyboard to O'Bama's ears.
The reason that I keep coming back to your blog is that you are not stubborn or unreasonable about the positions you take. And, modifying one's views when given presented with new information is just smart. So, stop worrying about coming across as a flip flopper.
My single-payer advocate friends tell me that as long as Schwarzenegger was Governator of California, the Democratic legislators were enthusiastic advocates of single-payer. But when Jerry Brown became Governor, suddenly support for single-payer dried up.

It's easy to advocate for something you know isn't going to happen.

I am the one true Anonymous. Accept no subsitooties.

I agree with anon2:18 where was he when he had the house and Senate. The answer is that all the democratic agendas are not his, now he sure it's not going to pass why not throw the idiots who voted for him some
Of course he does this when it has no chance of getting through congress. No, I don't care how good it SOUNDS, it's not going to happen with this congress and Obama knows this. If he was serious, if he had a real spine or was a real President that cared about "the little people" he would have made sure this happened in 2008 when he had a congress that would have been more likely to make it happen. Of course, even then, most of the Dems would have shown their true colors if they had actually had to vote on a proposal like this. Call my cynical, but his sudden discovery of Democratic principles and proposals is disingenuous. He's only doing it precisely because he knows it can't happen now. He doesn't care, because he's on his way out. He just wants to be able to say, "see? I tried!", but he didn't try when it actually mattered and would have possibly made a difference.
Too late Mr. Prez - it took you far too long!

I reckon he's doing his John the Baptist bit: smoothing the way for.....

Well.. I think even now many people Blame Barack for the actions of the Republicans and are willfully ignorant about the inherent difficulties facing a President when the Oppo Party's goal is to hamstring functioning government.

But, in reference to the Tax Proposal, Republicans are merely lying and claim PBO is raising taxes on the Working ("Middle") Class.
Adding insult to injury. Chiseled into the time of stone.


He's got your fix.


Well perfect timing on 0 part as always. The new repugs will want give it to him but he will settle for what ever plan they have like aca. It's just going to be more switch and bait from here on in by potus and his puppet masters.

It will only get worse with 2016
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