Friday, September 04, 2015

What will happen when they ask Donald Trump about his link to the Epstein scandal?

Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt asked Donald Trump what should have been an easy question about Iran's Al Quds force. Trump mis-heard, and said that "the Kurds" were not being "utilized properly or used properly." (Interesting distinction, that.) Instead of apologizing for his error, Trump exploded at Hewitt, calling him a "third-rate radio announcer.”

I think that this hair-trigger response gives us an idea as to what kind of president Trump would be. Watch out, Bill Maher! Insult this guy's hair and he might launch a nuclear strike on your neighborhood.

Now I'm wondering how Trump would react if someone asked him a truly difficult question. Take, for example, his friendship with convicted pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The relationship was discussed in this podcast, cited in a previous post.

Oddly enough, Trump himself has tried to imply (without citing any evidence) that Bill Clinton is somehow involved with Epstein's sexual shennanigans: See here.

In an earlier post, we noted that the NY Post did the same thing, relying upon the testimony of Virginia Roberts, one of the women who was raped by Epstein when she was underaged. (Roberts is now suing the U.S. government because Epstein's lenient deal was kept secret from his victims.) The Post -- like other right-wing sources -- has granted Roberts "temporary credibility," but only to the extent that her words can be used against Clinton. When she speaks against Epstein or Alan Dershowitz, her credibility suddenly disappears. In the world of partisan journalism, she has become Schoedinger's witness.

Here is the truth: Although she has claimed that Dershowitz and Prince Andrew had improper relations with her, Virginia Roberts has made no claim against Bill Clinton. None.

I know that a lot of people -- including many of my readers -- would like to think otherwise, but her statement is clear. Yes, she says that she was used to blackmail important people; she does not say that Clinton was one of them. If Epstein had hoped to use her as bait, the former president did not take it.

Epstein flew Clinton, Chris Rock and Kevin Spacey to Africa for an AIDS conference. After tons and tons of speculation and fulmination and pseudo-investigation, the preceding sentence is IT. That's all we have on the much-ballyhooed Clinton-Epstein link; everything else is insinuation.

(It should be noted that Epstein has also tried to ingratiate himself with Stephen Hawking. It should be further noted that Clinton runs a charity and thus must ingratiate himself with all sorts of well-heeled folks hoping to buy respectability. The French have a saying: "Behind every great fortune is a crime." If that sentiment is valid, then every charity must flatter the criminal class.)

So what prompted Trump to speak of Clinton and "that island"? To the best of my knowledge, no published article links Clinton to Epstein's island. More to the point, I can't help but wonder how would Trump know about what Epstein got up to on "that island." Did Trump visit the place?

Maybe The Donald accidentally blurted out more than he intended.

The hard truth is this: Bill Clinton was never a friend to Jeff Epstein, lover of young girls. But Donald Trump was Epstein's friend.
When the story broke, Trump’s spokesman told Gawker, “Mr. Trump only knew Mr. Epstein as Mr. Trump owns the hottest and most luxurious club in Palm Beach, and Mr. Epstein would go there on occasion.” With that, the media backed off the story and forgot about the Trump connection.
But that disingenuous statement does not cover the length and breadth of the Trump-Epstein connection. Before the Virginia Roberts scandal became public, New York Magazine published the following:
Epstein likes to tell people that he's a loner, a man who's never touched alcohol or drugs, and one whose nightlife is far from energetic. And yet if you talk to Donald Trump, a different Epstein emerges. "I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,'' Trump booms from a speakerphone. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it -- Jeffrey enjoys his social life."
Isn't it cute? Trump used to brag about his long friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, fun guy and lover of beautiful women. Now Trump claims that he had little or nothing to do with the guy.

Trump's revisionism reminds me of Alan Dershowitz, who now doesn't like to mention in public that he and Epstein were once so close that Epstein was the only non-family member allowed to get a look at Dershowitz' manuscripts.

The fact that Trump has told two very different stories about his relationship with Epstein is highly intriguing. Moreover, Trump's first statement suggests that he and Epstein may have womanized together (if I may be allowed that old-fashioned and somewhat distasteful verb).

That said, let's be clear about one point: I do not think that Donald Trump has ever shared Epstein's penchant for the underaged. The record is crystal clear: Trump likes women with curves, while Epstein prefers the young-and-boyish type.

If Donald Trump blew his top at Hugh Hewitt for asking about Iran, how will Trump respond if -- when -- someone prods him about his fifteen-year friendship with the world's richest pedophile?

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Donald Trump has taken the "No independent run" pledge, which means that he has unilaterally disarmed himself. Previously, the GOP establishment had to restrain itself as it attempted to derail the Trump Train. Now, those restraints are gone.

Or are they? I wonder...!

If Trump were to break the pledge he just gave, would his supporters feel betrayed? Doubtful. "Promises are like pie-crusts: Made to be broken." This quote -- wrongly attributed to Lenin -- accurately sums up a certain political reality. If the GOP establishment knocks The Donald out of the race, and if he can plausibly argue that the blow was low, he'll probably consider The Pledge to be null and void.

What's the worst they could do to him? Deny him a speaking slot at the convention? Big deal.

Here's something they could use against Trump.  Esteemed reader Alessandro Machi offered the following as a comment to our previous Trump post:
Many years ago at the end of an Apprentice season the prize given to the non-celebrity apprentice winner was overseeing luxurious condos that were going to be built either in Florida, California, or Mexico. People watching the show called in to make down payments on these condos for anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 dollars.

The condos were never made and the investors LOST all their money. These were middle class people with 401'Ks who figured buying a condo on the front end on the cheap would be a terrific investment because they would get to own it outright, live in it, and the value would grow. Instead the investors lost all their money. The weirdest part was NOTHING GOT BUILT. It's not like the condos got built halfway, or only half of the condos were made, NOTHING was made but the artist drawings and probably very little else. How did Trump get away with that? If he is going to brag about what a great businessman he is, he has to address CondoGate and explain why a multi-billionaire did not give even a partial refund to his blue collar investors.
(Actually, that's not exactly how the story shook out, as we shall soon see.) One wonders why Trump would need to indulge in such behavior, if he truly has the kind of money he claims. The following comes from a 2011 NYT story:
But as Mr. Trump, who is weighing a bid for the White House, has zealously sought to cash in on his name, he has entered into arrangements that home buyers describe as deliberately deceptive — designed, they said, to exploit the very thing that drew them to his buildings: their faith in him.

Over the last few years, according to interviews and hundreds of pages of court documents, the real estate mogul has aggressively marketed several luxury high-rises as “Trump properties” or “signature Trump” buildings, with names like Trump Tower and Trump International — even making appearances at the properties to woo buyers. The strong indication of his involvement as a developer generated waves of media attention and commanded premium prices.
But when three of the planned buildings encountered financial trouble, it became clear that Mr. Trump had essentially rented his name to the developments and had no responsibility for their outcomes, according to buyers. In each case, he yanked his name off the projects, which were never completed. The buyers lost millions of dollars in deposits even as Mr. Trump pocketed hefty license fees.

Those who bought the apartments in part because of the Trump name were livid, saying they felt a profound sense of betrayal, and more than 300 of them are now suing Mr. Trump or his company.

“The last thing you ever expect is that somebody you revere will mislead you,” said Alex Davis, 38, who bought a $500,000 unit in Trump International Hotel and Tower Fort Lauderdale, a waterfront property that Mr. Trump described in marketing materials as “my latest development” and compared to the Trump tower on Central Park in Manhattan.

“There was no disclaimer that he was not the developer,” Mr. Davis said.
Davis was ripped off to the tune of $100K.

Investors sued, and Trump arranged a settlement in 2013. (This is a point that Mr. Machi should have mentioned.) But even the settlement revealed that the whole operation was rather cheesy...
Trump told The Times that the developers were to blame, saying he merely licensed his name to the 525-unit oceanfront project and was not involved in building it.

It was not an unusual arrangement for Trump. He made his name in real estate and casino development but now is best known for his reality TV hit, "The Apprentice," and frequently licenses his name to real estate projects that are managed by other developers.
Again, one wonders why someone who has the kind of money that Trump claims to have would do this kind of business. I can't think of a parallel to found anywhere in the annals of the ultra-rich. Can you? I mean, John D. Rockefeller did not license out his bird-like profile to be plastered all over ads for dubious enterprises...
Trump is 100% fraudulent, so nobody should be surprised when his hustles are exposed. Frankly, he represents one of the better litmus tests for determining idiocy I've seen yet.
I stand corrected, the investors eventually got some or maybe all of their money back.
However, I recall seeing Mr. Trump on national TV declare that the winner of that year's Apprentice would OVERSEE the construction and creation of those BAJA units, so he WAS INVOLVED on some level, or so he made it seem to his television audience that easily exceeded 10 million viewers if I'm not mistaken.
I guess Mr. Trump perhaps managed to help right that wrong and one has to be impressed that his ex wives don't hate him. Hey, I'm getting Trump Fever!
Alessandro, of course you are right. He was indeed involved.

Trump also said that he would win the Latino vote.

In terms of policy, Donald Trump is not the most distasteful candidate out there. He has said a few good things. But that man is THE most brazen liar I have ever seen on the national political stage, and I've been around for a while. We've all seen some pretty brazen lying, but no-one else is like unto The Donald.
I think Trump signed the pledge because he really believes he will win the nomination (and he could). That same pledge would then require the other 16 signers at least to endorse him. That would have to sting a little. But I completely agree about Trump having a pre-fabricated escape clause. The Washington Post reported him saying that he sees “no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge. ... I have no intention of changing my mind.” But this doesn't sound at all definitive, does it? The ready-made qualifier is simple: "Back then I had no intention of changing my mind, but now circumstances have changed." One morning he wakes up, see that the Republican establishment has successfully forced him out and - bang - there it is: a circumstance that he had never foreseen and - poof - there goes the pledge.
I think this article is relevant:

Sounds like Presidential material to me........
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Trump says he's "really rich." But is he really bright?

Before the citizens of this country put Donald Trump in charge, we should take a closer look at how he handled his own finances. He didn't have a hardscrabble beginning, unless you call getting $40 million from his father in 1974 hardscrabble.

True, he is allegedly worth billions today -- although sources differ as to how much he actually has. (Don't expect to see The Donald's tax returns.) But as Vox points out (in a piece derived from this National Journal article) Trump would be probably be worth roughly the same amount of money "if he had taken $40 million from his dad and thrown it into an index fund."

In other words, his fortune has nothing to do with investment savvy.
But if you compare Trump's performance since 1982, when the stock market started to take off after the early-'80s recession, it looks pretty abysmal. Forbes estimated that Trump was worth $200 million that year. If he'd put that money in an index fund that year at a 0.15 percent fee, he'd have $6.3 billion today after dividend taxes, almost certainly more than he actually does. This jibes with analyzes prior to Dáte's which have found that Trump has underperformed compared with the market since 1988; an AP analysis found that if he'd put his money in an index fund that year, he'd have $13 billion today; the S&P calculator similarly suggested he'd have $11.3 billion, after fees and dividend taxes.
The point is that after decades of touting his business acumen, his ability to negotiate tough deals and spot good investments, and after spending this entire campaign season arguing that he's qualified for the presidency based on his skills in the market, Trump nonetheless has an investment record that at best roughly matches and at worst underperforms the market.
Side note: Inspired by Bill Maher, I had planned to make a joke about Trump's father, Fred Trump. The joke was going to involve the claim that the elder Trump made his initial grubstake by appearing on the Today show under the name J. Fred Muggs.

A quick visit to Google uncovered a surprising fact: J. Fred Muggs is still alive. He made his first appearance on the Today show in 1953.

The average lifespan of chimp in captivity is 60 years, so the former Today Show mascot has already sailed past that number. The average lifespan of a chimp in captivity is 30 to 40 years. The average orangutan in captivity lives 50 years. Fred Trump died in 1999 at the age of 93. Either Bill Maher is wrong or Fred beat the odds.

Incidentally, Fred Trump's middle name was Christ. And the family name was originally Drumpf.
Many years ago at the end of an Apprentice season the prize given to the non-celebrity apprentice winner was overseeing luxurious condos that were going to be built either in Florida, California, or Mexico. People watching the show called in to make down payments on these condos for anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 dollars.
The condos were never made and the investors LOST all their money. These were middle class people with 401'Ks who figured buying a condo on the front end on the cheap would be a terrific investment because they would get to own it outright, live in it, and the value would grow. Instead the investors lost all their money. The weirdest part was NOTHING GOT BUILT. It's not like the condos got built halfway, or only half of the condos were made, NOTHING was made but the artist drawings and probably very little else. How did Trump get away with that? If he is going to brag about what a great businessman he is, he has to address CondoGate and explain why a mulit-billionaire did not give even a partial refund to his blue collar investors.
Trump might also explain his Trump University scam or his dealing with less than savory, Tony Soprano types in his casino holdings/buildings. The idea of Trump having an 'ashes to riches' story to win American hearts is a sad joke. He made his money the old-fashion way--he inherited a small fortune, which [according to a number of financial analysts] would have landed him in the same money pot had he merely invested Daddy's money in the stock market over the last 30+ years. Instead, he slapped up ugly buildings with his name scrawled all over them, the behavior of a willful child. Have you seen the Trump bldg on the outskirts of Las Vegas? What an eyesore!

Is Trump really bright? There's all sorts of definitions to that question. He is very clever and market savvy, running circles [at the moment] around his political competition and the yelping press that cannot get enough of the Trumpster and his latest bizarre, contradictory proclamations.

As for his supporters? I have no reasonable explanation beyond nihilism is in vogue right now.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015


The latest on the Jeff Epstein case. I'll admit it: I haven't yet heard this podcast, but I'm told that it offers some fresh material.

Big lie. Did several Democratic senators vote in favor of the Iran deal because Iran bribed them? That's the story pushed by David Horowotiz' group and republished by any number of right-wing bloggers. As it turns out, the accusation is pure bullshit, granted a rare Pants On Fire rating by Politifact.

There was no bribe. There were some not-particularly-hefty campaign contributions from a group that represents Iranian-Americans, the vast majority of whom would prefer to see the current Iranian government replaced by a democracy. The same interest group has given money to Republicans. Almost needless to say, if every campaign contribution were construed as a "bribe," then we'd have no politicians left. (Some of my readers would approve of that outcome.)

Why does anyone continue to pay any attention to Horowitz or his confederates-in-craziness?

The real evil is being done by groups like The National Endowment for Democracy, The American Enterprise Institute, and The Committee on the Present Danger. There's also something called the Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, which turns out to be a front group for AIPAC. For more, see here.

Despite the best efforts of these bar sinisters, the Iran deal is going through.

James O'Keefe is at it again. Here's another well-known liar who simply will not go away. O'Keefe runs hidden cameras at Hillary Clinton campaign rallies, looking for every possible instance that might be construed by the right-wing propaganda machine as an impropriety. He announced this campaign at a press conference.

One journalist, cognizant of O'Keefe's own incredibly shady history, asked: "Is this a joke?"

For more details about just how shady this guy is, check out the NYT coverage at the other end of that link. O'Keefe also received prominent mention in an amusing Cracked piece titled "5 Successful People Who Everyone Forgets Are Exposed Frauds." Jim-Boy is right up there with Peter Popoff (fraudulent faith healer), David Barton (the right's go-to guy for bogus history), fake medium Theresa Caputo and demon-hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Great company you keep, Jimmy!

The ISIS lie. Marcy Wheeler discusses David Petraeus' new idea (which is really an old idea): Use the Nusra front as a bulwark against ISIS. Of course, Nusra = Al Qaeda.
But I’m most interested in this claim:
Petraeus was the CIA director in early 2011 when the Syrian civil war erupted. At the time, he along with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly urged the Obama administration to work with moderate opposition forces. The U.S. didn’t, and many of those groups have since steered toward jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, which are better equipped and have had more success on the battlefield.
While it is true that Obama did not systematically arm rebels in Syria in 2011, it is also a public fact that the CIA was watching (and at least once doing more than that) Qatar and Saudi Arabia move arms from Libya before Petraeus’ departure in 2012, and Obama approved a covert finding to arm “moderate” rebels in April 2013, with CIA implementing that plan in June.

That’s all public and confirmed.

So how is it that we once again are pretending that the CIA — the agency Petraeus led as it oversaw a disastrous intervention in Libya that contributed to radicalization both there and in Syria — didn’t arm purported moderates who turned out not to be?

In other words, the story here should be, “David Petraeus, after overseeing a series of failed training efforts and covert efforts that led to increased radicalization, wants to try again.”
Let's admit it: All of this nonsense about a moderate opposition to the Assad regime is pure fantasy (to use President Obama's terminology). Let's not fall for this revisionist historical line -- pushed by Hillary, Panetta and Petraeus -- that there were masses of moderates who were ready to take up arms against Assad only to be ignored by Barack Obama.

The administration aided the jihadists because the jihadists had numbers, motivation and muscle. Yes, it is true that the DC did not fund the Islamists directly; Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunny powers did the dirty work. But everyone knows that when we wage covert war, we use proxies. That's the way we have played the game for more than 60 years.

ISIS was a creation of our allies -- and thus, in a very real sense, ISIS was created by us. We could have strangled the demon-child in its crib had we so desired. We turned against ISIS only when they went rampaging into Iraq. They were supposed to stay focused on Assad.

That's what really happened. Don't be misled by bullshit.

Ha'aretz portrays the IDF as a fascist fighting force. Why is Ha'aretz allowed to print truths that are forbidden to American (or British) journalists? Any American journalist or opinion writer who offered up the exact same text would be labelled an anti-Semite.

Donald Trump cheats at golf. I'm not surprised, and I don't really care. What I do care about is the double standard: If (say) Bill Clinton cheated at golf, every right-winger on the radio would be screaming louder than Black Bolt with a stubbed toe. Regnery would put out an insta-book titled Demon on the Green: The Arrogance of Megalomania.

(Does Regnery still put out books like that? Or has the great Propaganda River found new ways to flow?)
David Petraus is currently in Australia trying to drum up support for Australia to send fighter aircraft to Syria in a war against ISIS:

"To be sure, ISIS is an enemy of Bashar al-Assad and also of the moderate opposition that we have been trying to support and that we have to support ultimately to defeat ISIS and, by the way, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate, the Khorasan group established to try to project terrorism into Europe and the United States," he said.

Notice the phrasing, as if al Nusra is some kind of offshoot of Khorosan.

It's never too early to start stocking up for Christmas. Hi Ho. Hi Ho. It's off to Tehran we go.
I keep thinking: If someone had told me on September 12, 2001, that the day would come when a man who headed the CIA would recommend working with Al Qaeda -- how would I have responded?
I listened to the Epstein podcast a few days ago. It was interesting but I didn't learn very much new. I find that very few writers, (whether newspaper, blogger, YouTube etc) are able to bring these pederests networks into the present. It all happened years ago. It seems obvious that there is a NETWORK. So, how does that operate and who is involved today? I would say it crosses party lines (totally irrelevant) and that most states have an intelligence network which keeps the thing afloat.
In much the same way Batman needed the Joker in order to justify his existence, the war machine and its fascist leaders need terrorist threats to justify theirs. The day no terrorist threats exist is the day people realize they're financing their own oppression, and our rulers certainly won't stand for that.
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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A new theory of email-gate

People wonder why Hillary Clinton communicated via a private email server. The answer is obvious: She wanted to communicate with friends and family about the world situation -- and about private matters -- without having to share those communications with any oppo researcher waving an FOIA request.

No, her intent was not to share classified information. Why on earth would she want to do that? As we've seen, none of that stuff was classified at the time.

Even the Obama administration's retroactive overclassification campaign has made clear that none of the "sensitive" info came from intelligence sources. We've known for a long time that this infamously secretive administration could put a classification stamp on a ham sandwich.

Much of what you've been hearing about emailgate is garbage: "Hillary exposes classified materials! She did it because she's arrogant! Arrogant arrogant arrogant! Clintons think they're above the law!"

Propaganda. All of it. The only thing it proves is that trolls will type if you toss a few quarters at them.

Hillary's email system existed to give confidantes -- not least among them Sid Blumenthal -- a chance to express themselves freely: Shoes off, tie loosened, belt unbuckled and no snoops.

Or so they thought.

As I predicted would happen, the name of Max Blumenthal (Sidney's son, and the world's most effective critic of Israel) has popped up in this controversy. In one of the emails, Hillary praises Max's first book, Republican Gomorrah. Although that book is not about Israel, the email establishes that Hillary considers Max to be worth reading. She probably has read Goliath, although she will never admit it.

From Politico, we learn that...
[Sidney] Blumenthal had lots of frustrations with Israel, in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He forwarded opinion pieces critical of the Israeli leader and government, some of which were written by his son, Max Blumenthal.

In one email with the subject line “an idea, perhaps useless, but nonetheless,” Blumenthal argues that the U.S. may want to reveal its own position on the latest attempt at peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, one that “should incorporate at its heart what the Israeli government has already agreed to in the final status negotiations at Camp David, along, of course, with certain adjustments and amendments" to account for the past 10 years in terms of boundaries, etc.

The upshot? “This puts the burden on Bibi [Netanyahu] to repudiate [former Israeli Premier Ehud] Barak in principles and details if he pushes back, splitting his coalition, and appearing to be the rejectionist. Also it makes the U.S. seem utterly reasonable...” Blumenthal writes.
Sid may keep his true feelings hidden in public, but the emails reveal that he is not exactly fond of Bibi Netanyahu. Although this anti-Bibi stance is shared by many other American Jews, it is considered Thoughtcrime in DC.

Moreover -- and this is the sweetly shocking part -- Sidney Blumenthal obviously thinks that his message will fall on receptive ears when transmitted to Hillary Clinton. Example:
For: Hillary
From: Sid
Re: AIPAC speech
This memo does not address specific policy initiatives. What I've written are options. Use what you like, or none at all. Here are some ideas:

1. Hold Bibi's feet to the fire, remind everyone he was at Wye, his key participant event in the peace process, and that it was successful.

2. Reassure all players of our commitment to the process and the solution (whatever the language is).

3. Perhaps most controversial, I would argue something you should do is that, while praising AIPAC, remind it in as subtle but also direct a way as you can that it does not have a monopoly over American Jewish opinion. Bibi is stage managing US Jewish organizations (and neocons, and the religious right, and whomever else he can muster) against the administration. AIPAC itself has become an organ of the Israeli right, specifically Likud. By acknowledging J Street you give them legitimacy, credibility and create room within the American Jewish community for debate supportive of the administration's pursuit of the peace process. Just by mentioning J Street in passing, AIPAC becomes a point on the spectrum, not the controller of the spectrum. I suggest a way how to do this below.
The elder Blumenthal also emphasized the surprising results of recent polling of American Jews:
March 23, 2010
For: Hillary
From: Sid
Re: US Jewish and Israeli public opinion

Three new polls released: from AVO07 (all US), J Street (US Jews), and Ha'aretz (Israelis). I've sent Lauren the whole J Street poll to print out for you; its internals are the most detailed, relevant and suggestive. My reading of that poll is that the administration is in a pretty good spot with US Jewish opinion and that the drag (about 10 points, I think) has less to do with the Middle East and Israel than with the economy. Jewish opinion is far more solidly supportive of the administration generally than the general population (except minorities). Those adamantly opposed to the administration stance on Israel are preconceived to be against; they are predictable, a minority of the US Jewish community and have reached their natural limits. The institutional US Jewish position backing Bibi and against the administration does not have majority support among Jews.
When Blumenthal wrote these words, he did not expect the messages to be leaked.

So how did the leak come about? Whodunnit, and why?

Ostensibly, the leak first came to us by way of a Romanian cab driver named Marcel Lehel, a.k.a. Guccifer, the same fellow who revealed Dubya's oil paintings to the world. Lehel is a nutcase who thinks that Dubya is a Klansman and that Sidney Blumenthal is a secret neocon.

More importantly, the guy -- by his own admission -- isn't much of a hacker. High-level hacking requires high-level smarts, and Lehel has a whole bunch of loose nuts and bolts and springs rattling around his noggin. So how did this conspira-kook skulk his way into the secret communications of George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton?

I think he had help.

Secret help. So secret that even Lehel didn't know about it.

It would have been child's play for those lovable scamps at Unit 8200 or the NSA or GCHQ to commandeer Lehel's computer. They could stay hidden as they arranged for Lehel get "in" -- all the while allowing him to think that he was doing the job all by himself.

Here's how the NYT described Lehel in action:
Instead of burrowing into his victims’ email accounts using computer worms and other hacking tools, the prosecutor said, Mr. Lazar trawled the web for information about his targets and then simply guessed the right answers to security questions.
There are several problems with this claim, but we need not go into those issues here. My point is this: Unseen helpers could have allowed Lehel to slip into the secret places of George and Hillary, and Lehel did not even need to guess that the correct passphrases were "ImTheBestestPainterSinceAdolf" and "DieMonicaDie."

Lehel was the perfect cyber-patsy.

The purpose of this operation is clear: To humiliate Hillary by exposing the Blumenthal correspondence. (The Dubya infiltration was unimportant, except insofar as it establishes that the hack was non-partisan.)

I have little doubt that the spooks were reading Sidney's emails to Hillary in real time, back in 2009. The problem was figuring out a way to let the world know about those messages without also revealing that spooks read the private emails of American politicians.

It's not just a matter of hurting Hillary Clinton's public image, although this country's right wing will never miss an opportunity to do just that. The main purpose of this operation is to thin her wallet.

To illustrate the point, let me run one name past you: Haim Saban.

He's the ardently pro-Netanyahu billionaire who has been backing Hillary, and who has advised his wealthy friends to do likewise. How do you think Haim reacted when he read those letters from Sidney?

In July, Hillary felt obligated to send a letter to Saban outlining her opposition to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel -- a movement which Max Blumenthal has embraced. I believe that she was trying to minimize the damage of those email leaks.

Even if she wrote another dozen letters of that sort, the damage has been done. I doubt that Saban will ever cut Hillary another check. You can have Haim Saban as a friend or you can have Max Blumenthal's dad as your friend -- but not both. That's the way the world is.

Moreover, it is fair to presume that the Kagan clan is now reconsidering its support of Hillary.

Of course, the Blumenthal correspondence makes me like Hillary more. Alas, I do not have a billion dollars. Sorry, Hillary!
Where is your Snowden post? I read it this morning, now it's gone. Google still allows a search for it so I know I didn't imagine it: Monday, August 31, 2015 ... The combination of the intelligence gleaned from Edward Snowden and from ..... I can do no better than to quote from an article I wrote on September 12th, 2001, the day after the 9 / 11 attacks. ..... posted: 1:28 PM.
“The Clinton diary hack came at a time when Williams’s work with America was of the most sensitive nature,” the source is reported to have told the newspaper.
“It was a diplomatic nightmare for Sir John Sawers, the new director of MI6 at the time.”
Anon: Thanks for bringing that up. I should post about that.

For years, the Brits have been trying to convince us that the guys locked himself in that bag. It was a hilariously stupid story and nobody bought it, but they stuck to it. And now, NOW, they are saying that maybe it WASN'T suicide. And -- but of course! -- Bill Clinton has something to do with this.

The source? Anonymous British spooks speaking off the record.

Of course, it was anonymous British spooks who spread the story that Harold Wilson was a Soviet spy.

The reporter who broke the story was Jenny Stanton. I guess everyone figured that Con Coughlin no longer had even a shred of credibility.

Maybe next time, the spooks will try the good old "You can read these documents but you can't copy them" ploy on Jennikins.

As it happens, I am multitasking at this moment. I'm listening to Jon Stewart's parting words about bullshit. Appropos.
My apologies. The person who originally wrote about the Clinton diary link to the Garth Williams case was a reporter named Tom Morgan. Not Jenny Stanton. I got my stories mixed up.

That's what I get for watching YouTube while trying to do research.
"We've known for a long time that this infamously secretive administration could put a classification stamp on a ham sandwich."

Is this the same ham sandwich a grand jury would indict?
Ok, you're just sorted kinda winning me over on this one. I would never vote for Hillary for any office but the concerns you raise are important.
The question I keep asking myself is this though: wouldn't you expect to have ALL of your correondence checked by the spooks if you have that high a level position in government, no matter what server you put them on? Not saying its right, but isn't it to be expected.
I expect ALL of my correspondence is checked and I'm not even in a high level government job. I'm just your every day ethical rabble rouser.

Secondly, we had the same sort of email fishing expedition in Wisconsin. Only it concerned a republican governor. The cop/detective/lawyer guy who came forward to say this is so, is now dead.
Doesn't it raise your hackles that the "Kagan clan" would support Hillary in the first place?
Here's a NY Times piece from last December, where Haim Saban acknowledges Hillary's "private sympathy" for Palestinians.

("Can Liberal Zionists Count On Hillary Clinton?")

She hugged Suha Arafat!Outrage!lol
I know give it time all the pieces will fit.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Is it Obama vs. Hillary AGAIN?

Many more of Hillary's emails have been deemed classified by the State Department. I'd like to say that this news is driving the right-wingers batshit crazy, but I can't. They were that way to begin with.

You have to read well past the headlines to discover the key point: None of these emails were classified at the time. Since we can't see the documents in question, we have no way to determine whether the texts are being over-classified. I feel quite certain that they are.

Many on the right (and some on the left) have compared Hillary's email debacle to the case against General David Petraeus. Anne Tompkins, one of the prosecutors in that case, pooh-poohs any claim of similarity:
As the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, I oversaw the prosecution of Gen. Petraeus, and I can say, based on the known facts, this comparison has no merit. The key element that distinguishes Secretary Clinton’s email retention practices from Petraeus’ sharing of classified information is that Petraeus knowingly engaged in unlawful conduct, and that was the basis of his criminal liability.

The facts of Petraeus’ case are a matter of public record. During his tenure as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Petraeus recorded handwritten notes in personal journals, including information he knew was classified at the very highest levels.
These journals contained top secret and even more sensitive “code word” national defense information, including the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities, diplomatic discussions, and quotes and deliberative discussions from National Security Council meetings, including discussions with the president of the United States.
When questioned by the FBI, Petraeus lied to agents in responding that he had neither improperly stored nor improperly provided classified information to his biographer.
Hillary is guilty of none of these things.
Indeed, the State Department has confirmed that none of the information that has surfaced on Clinton’s server thus far was classified at the time it was sent or received. Additionally, the Justice Department indicated that its inquiry is not a criminal one and that Clinton is not the subject of the inquiry.
Fox News (of all venues!) just published an interesting take on all of this by Paul Goldman. His piece more-or-less admits that the charges against Hillary are mostly hooey. But in today's political world, mere reality doesn't matter:
The point being: After all that has transpired to date, perception may have already become reality to most Americans, indeed most commentators, not to mention defenders and detractors, on both sides. Or put another way: Another batch of emails isn’t going to change the bottom line.

The drop in Clinton’s support from 69 percent among Democrats nationally when she announced in April to now only 45 percent in one recent poll surely has some cause and effect relationship to the email issue.
Here's a worrying possibility: What if Hillary is being undermined by the Obama administration?

This theory would explain a lot.

After all, Obama is the person ultimately in charge of the State Department, which suddenly deemed 150 emails on that server to be classified. A mere two days ago, those very same missives were thought to be non-sensitive. The State Department took this step knowing full well that misleading headlines would convey the impression that the emails were classified at the time.

Obama favors Biden. That much is clear.

Added note: There are smears and then there are smears. This piece in Forbes (by one Paul Coyer) achieves full-body smeargasm. Example:
Hillary’s comments at her Friday press conference just repeated the behavioral patterns that the Clintons have long been known for – a non-apology apology and carefully parsed denials that do nothing to dispel the broadly-held view that this scandal is merely further evidence, if any were needed after nearly a quarter century of seeing Hillary’s pattern of behavior in public life, that Hillary (like her husband) has a pronounced penchant for dishonesty and dislikes playing by everyone else’s rules.
It is highly unlikely that Hillary’s use of private email servers (and her private email account had no encryption at all for the first few months of her tenure as Secretary of State) were not penetrated by foreign intelligence, particularly the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians, all of whom would see such a target as high priority, and that such emails did not provide such hostile foreign powers a critically useful insight into foreign and national security policy decision-making at the highest levels of the Obama Administration.

The combination of the intelligence gleaned from Edward Snowden and from Hillary’s emails are likely to have contributed to Putin’s aggressive course of action in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
This inside knowledge told the Kremlin that the Administration was not likely to take forceful actions that would raise the costs to Moscow of such actions to unacceptable levels, but would be limit its response primarily to economic sanctions. Putin, who has a long-term horizon, has calculated that the Russian economy (and his regime’s stability) can withstand these sanctions, no matter what the short to medium term consequences on the economy.

And the intelligence coup to Moscow provided by Hillary’s emails says nothing of what the benefit may have been to other American opponents, including Tehran as it prepared for the critical nuclear negotiations with the Obama Administration, and Beijing as it made decisions regarding how far to go in attempting to coercively alter the status quo in the South China Sea. It is a certainty that America’s opponents knew far more about the Obama Administration’s attitudes and decision-making processes and about what Hillary and Mr. Obama were doing than did the American people or the Congress.
"It is a certainty..." Oh, for chrissakes...

None of the emails were classified at the time. Nothing indicates that any of this material was discussed. Nothing indicates that Russia or China or Tehran considered Hillary's email server to be of great importance. (Perhaps needless to add, nothing links the Ed Snowden revelations to any of Putin's actions vis-a-vis Ukraine. Snowden's material was entirely about the NSA.) This Forbes piece is the kind of over-the-top propaganda that even the John Birchers would have considered crude and bombastic.

This nonsense is illustrated with an ominous photo of Huma Abedin. Apparently, we're supposed to think that she is some sort of Mata Hari employed by the dreaded Russia/Chinese/Iranian conspiracy.
If the former Secretary of State had followed the proper procedures, none of this would be happening. If she had shown any respect for the appearance of propriety, none of this would be happening. If she had shown any respect for the wishes of the President under whom she served, none of this would be happening.
I haven't heard any legitimate explanation why a Secretary of State, or a Secretary of Defense, or an Attorney-General would think that he/she ought to conduct the government's business on a computer system not controlled by the government itself.
The fact that she could not foresee the consequences of her actions, or felt that she could laugh and smirk her way around them, is to me a total disqualification of her for any office.

This is nonsense, Phil. The whole thing was set up so that Hillary could talk to friends and intimates without her emails being subjected to Judicial Watch-style examinations. Your "laugh and smirk" comment is right in step with the right's propaganda line.

That is your cue to pretend that you are not a rightwinger and not a troll.
"driving the right-wingers batshit crazy, but I can't. They were that way to begin with."

Look _dude_, your site is on my (very) short list of sites/blogs that I check most every day. I have seen some pretty good insights, and a lot of *really* interesting commentary here. Otherwise, I wouldn't be interested in it and it wouldn't be on my short list.

But, c'mon - By many measure, I am very right-wing, and I am NOT batshit crazy. Well, at least *I* don't think so. You do both yourself, and your readers, a glaring disservice by buying into the left/right on/off crazy/sane 0/1 binary model of political awareness where the people that believe as you do are rational, sane, and good...while those who do not believe as you do are irrational, insane, and evil...'batshit crazy' peeps.

I also hold many left wing beliefs sacred as well.

I also hate both formal Republican and Democratic parties with the greatest passion you can imgaine, as they are both corrupt to the core.

Then again, I grew up in an area of Oregon where the Christian fundamentalist loggers got baked on weed and listened to the Grateful Dead and Bob Marley as they chopped down old growth doug firs, before getting off work & going shooting w/their semi-auto rifles at beer cans up in the woods, and then in summer drove their VW bus to the Oregon Country Fair so they could buy some free-range egg omelettes, pick up some nifty leather goods and candles for the ranch, then go check out the latest solar panel developments, and finally ogle some bare-breasted hippy-chicks to boot.

So, maybe I am the exception to the rule.

But seriously, to call a whole class of people 'batshit crazy' is beneath you. You are smarter then have proven *that* by most of your previous posts & good content.

Don't ruin a good thing, eh? :)
The attacks on Hillary Clinton are generally from the batshit crazy neo cons and progressives. As for the Forbes article, it is a guest columnist, or should I say "Guessed Columnist".
I guess we don't say bat Shit progressives even if they are
If Obama wants to undermine Hillary, all he has to do is endorse her. Baddabim, baddaboom, Hillary is out.
If people who are attacking Hillary on the emails issues are genuine, they would have gone against the whole administration. After all its all one body. He is her boss he knew about this for four years. It is well known practice that heads of an organization resigns because someone below them did something wrong. Also the heads of home land security, the FBI CIA they were sleeping on the job. But they won't because it's made up scandals they pretend, reclassify, leak and whatsoever their conniving little brain can come up with. And the public who's brain long ago fried by reality tv is soaking it
The odd thing about the Hillary email "scandal" is that I read about it everywhere online and the talking heads can't stop babbling about it but when I'm out in the real world I hear absolutely nobody mention it. The politically obsessed are very concerned but ordinary people don't give a shit.
I can't be completely sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if Joseph has used "batshit crazy" to describe certain progressives. The left has never been spared criticism and insult by Joseph if it was warranted. Of course, the right almost always gets that treatment, but Cannon has never pretended to be objective when it comes to left and right, and the two dominant political parties. He's a Democrat lefty, and I think he's mentioned before that if you don't like it, you can go to some other blog. For myself, I agree with Anon 10:01, that both parties are corrupt to the core. I'm more of a lefty myself, with a few conservative leanings, so Cannonfire usually covers things I'm interested in. I don't always agree with Joseph, but that's my problem, not his (it's his blog, his establishment, if you will). Besides, I worry if my view agrees with a bloggers 100%.....
I'll grant you the right wing crazies and the Obama administration as being terminally hostile to Hillary, but I would add certified neocons to the list as a separate category from the crazies. I'm no fan of the Clintons, but go to and read the piece by Daniel Greenfield titled, "Last Days of Hillary." A crueler, more vicious hatchet job would be hard to devise. Torpedoes are being fired into Hillary's campaign on a daily basis, and it's been going on all summer. There's more going on than just a right wing conspiracy. I'll leave it to others to analyze who and why.
If the criticisms of the HRC email scandal were legitimate and not partisan in nature, then they would be referenced in the context of the GWB/Karl Rove email scandal. For those who may not recall, the Bush administration relied heavily upon private email servers and intentionally deleted 21 million emails prior to their departure from office. Adding to the intrigue, Michael Connell, the tech-guru who ran the company responsible not only for maintaining those email servers but also for handling the counting of Ohio votes in the 2004 election, conveniently died in a small plane crash immediately before being deposed in the Ohio election lawsuit.

But Hillary's scandal is definitely much more serious.
Thanks, James, for bringing up Michael Connell and his IT work for Karl Rove. I had forgotten about the plane crashed that killed Connell, and his bizarre involvement w the Ohio election website in 2004. For those interested, Maxim did a great story on him after the crash, raising lots of questions. We'll never know if Rove stole the Ohio election, but Connell's very involvement in the vote counting is astonishing enough.
@James : 2:04 PM
Thank You, it was exactly what I was going to reference.
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Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Atlanta child murders (Added note: A mystery man identified!)

Today's post will head into some rather fringe-y territory. If that kind of exploration bugs you, stop reading now. (As regular readers know, this blog's weekend offerings occasionally veer away from "hard" news and politics.)

I have been re-reading a book called Programmed to Kill, in which author Dave McGowan offers a bizarre revisionist history of the serial murder phenomenon. Frankly, McGowan is bit of a crackpot, even by my generous standards. But he has his virtues. Unlike most crackpots, he writes well, and he offers some truly fresh material and insights. Unfortunately, a certain predictability sets in toward the end: The automatic gainsaying of consensus belief eventually becomes as tiresome as consensus belief itself.

Nevertheless, McGowan's section on the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-1981 had me hooked. All readers of a certain age will recall how the killings of some 29 African American children and young adult males caused a national uproar. The killings were ultimately ascribed to a young, locally well-known black musical entrepreneur named Wayne Williams. He was tried only for the murders of two adults; the legal system offered no closure in the cases involving children. Williams maintains his innocence to this day.

In 1985, a three-part TV movie -- starring James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Martin Sheen and Jason Robards -- dramatized the case; it's available on YouTube starting here. I saw this docu-drama when it was first broadcast; it holds up quite well, thanks in large measure to the excellent acting. Although clunky exposition mars the first segment, the script offers a gripping argument that Williams was railroaded.

Gripping, yes -- but not wholly persuasive. I'm not at all convinced of this man's innocence. It's easy to see how a young musical promoter -- someone known to be looking for the next Michael Jackson -- might well have gained the trust of young black kids. No other suspect in the case had that ability to entice the young.

Before the cops identified Williams, many black people believed that the Klan committed the murders. There was an obvious objection to this theory: How could any white person prowl the black neighborhoods of Atlanta unnoticed, especially during a time of great tension and fear? Children were repeatedly warned to avoid all strangers. How could a Klansman lure young blacks boys into a vehicle?

It is nevertheless the case that an informant named Billy Joe Whittaker told authorities that a local Klansman named Charlie Sanders had confessed to the murders. A wiretap recorded Sanders announcing his intention to "ride around a little bit" to find another kid. Infuriatingly, this recording was later destroyed by the Georgia Bureau of Intelligence.

This site offers a look at Sanders and a number other intriguing suspects.

I don't have the space here to go into all of the details of this complex case. In short and in sum: Even though I lean toward the view that Wayne Williams belongs in jail, I do not think that all -- or even most -- of the important questions have received answers.

In 2010, CNN broadcast a documentary which I should have discussed in this column years ago. Here it is. The documentary, hosted by Soledad O'Brien, addresses some of the controversies surrounding this case; other issues (such as the Sanders angle) are ignored. The presentation concludes with a bombshell interview (excerpted here) with Wayne Williams, in which he is confronted with a little-known 1992 document called "Finding Myself."

In this autobiographical text, Williams claims that -- when he was all of 19 -- he received CIA training for possible missions in Africa. This assertion is not so outlandish as many people may believe. At the time, there were several hotspots on the continent, and the Agency did not have nearly as many black field agents as it needed. And Williams was nothing if not ambitious.

Nevertheless, a number of internet commenters have scoffed at the idea. Skeptics presume that Williams is a blowhard hoping to draw attention to himself. None of the scoffers have asked the obvious questions: How did CNN acquire this document? When was it written, and under what circumstances?

Why isn't "Finding Myself" online? I have yet to find a copy. (If you know where to look, please pass along the URL!)

Our most important question is this: Does the document contain information which can be verified through other sources -- information that Williams could not otherwise have known? We cannot address the issue of credibility until we see the details.

Right now, all we have is the following:
O'BRIEN (voice-over): When we returned to prison for our final interview with Wayne Williams, we had one question he was not expecting, what Wayne had written about being recruited for espionage training as a teenager. At a secret government camp hidden in the woods near this north Georgia lake, where he was given what could amount to a license to kill.

(on camera): It's called finding myself. What is finding myself? It reads like an autobiography.

WILLIAMS: Go ahead. I'm listening.

O'BRIEN: It's an account of your CIA training.

WILLIAMS: We're not going to get into that.

O'BRIEN: Why not?

WILLIAMS: We're not going to get into that.

O'BRIEN: I have a copy of it.

WILLIAMS: We're not going to get into it.

O'BRIEN: Why not?

WILLIAMS: We're simply not going to get into it. O'BRIEN (voice-over): By his account, Wayne was fresh out of high school, just 18 years old, when he was approached by an associate of an old World War II spy living in the Atlanta area, and was initiated into a secret world.

(on camera): You're not going to answer a single question on this.

WILLIAMS: No, ma'am.

O'BRIEN: Is it fake? Is it fictional writing?


O'BRIEN: Did you work for the CIA?

WILLIAMS: We're not going to get into it.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): In these pages, he said he spent his summer weekends in those woods, learning how to handle plastic explosives, hand grenades, and something even more chilling.

(on camera): So I'll do the talking part and you can answer what part of it you want. You write how you fired rifles, sub-machine guns, handled assault weapons, grenade launchers, C-4, learned unarmed combat techniques, through this training group over weekends. Is it true or is it false?

WILLIAMS: I'm not going to comment on it.

O'BRIEN: When you were 19 years old? You're saying you worked for the CIA. You've been recruited.

WILLIAMS: I'll let the document speak for itself. I'm not going to comment on that.

O'BRIEN: Did you work for the CIA?

WILLIAMS: I cannot comment on that.
The problem becomes more confounding the more one gnaws on it. The reader should understand one key point: The "CIA training" allegation does not bolster the case for Williams' innocence. (This fact may explain why he seemed visibly surprised and upset when CNN's Soledad O'Brien brought up the document.) At trial, Williams' lawyer emphasized that his client was small and physically unimpressive, and therefore unlikely to have choked to death two larger men. "Finding Myself" calls into question the closing statement made by Williams' attorney.

Why did Williams write "Finding Myself" if the text harms his case? Never mind, for the moment, the question of whether this memoir is based on fantasy or reality: Why on earth would a man desperate to prove his innocence undermine one of the primary arguments offered in his defense?

Although the document bears a 1992 date (according to CNN), we have some reason to believe that Williams, before his arrest, had broadly hinted that he had acquired specialized knowledge of hand-to-hand combat. The aforementioned 1985 made-for-TV movie reconstructs -- accurately, I hope -- the testimony offered by various prosecution witnesses. Around 19 minutes into part three, one such witness says that Williams bragged of knowing a special choke hold which induces rapid unconsciousness. Later, this same witness says that Williams has a "split personality."

(This witness was devastating to Williams' case. Even more damage was done by Williams himself: Testifying in his own defense, he went on a tirade that alienated the jurors.)

CNN uses "Finding Myself" to demonstrate that Williams had acquired the training necessary to murder larger men with his bare hands. But if we accept the document at face value, then the Wayne Williams story veers off into very strange territory.

Who was this "old World War II spy" living in the Atlanta area? Offhand, I can't think of a possible candidate -- and I'm a bit irked that CNN has kept the name hidden. (If you can fill in the blank, please share!)

Why did CNN refuse to identify the "north Georgia lake" close to the "secret government camp"? If CNN had investigated Williams' claim and found this camp to be non-existent, Soledad O'Brien would surely have mentioned that fact, and would have named the lake.

(At first, I thought that the reference might go to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. But that complex is located in central Georgia, and it is hardly a secret.)

We must add one other point. In 1981, none other than Vice President George Bush created a federal task force which investigated the then-unsolved series of murders. Vice presidents do not usually take on such duties; in fact, I can't think of a single parallel. Bush had once headed the CIA, the very organization which -- allegedly -- trained Wayne Williams.

Although I'm irked by Dave McGowan's more outlandish theories, I must admit that many aspects of the Atlanta story do not add up. This case deserves a new investigation.

Added note: Boy, do I feel like an idiot! A kind reader mentioned the name of the notorious Mitch WerBell, an OSS veteran then living in Atlanta. He was an amazing, larger-than-life character who perfectly matches what we know of the man described by Wayne Williams. WerBell had an anything-goes training facility called The Farm off of Georgia State Route 360, near Powder Springs, located north of Atlanta.

Jim Hougan's remarkable -- and, these days, very hard-to-find -- book Spooks offers a vivid picture of WerBell and his crew. Basically, these guys were (are?) the real-life equivalent of The Expendables. Although I lost my copy of Spooks ages ago, a new copy came into my hands quite recently. And if I had bothered to re-read the damned thing, that CNN documentary would have caused all sorts of lightbulbs to flash over my noggin.

Wayne Williams is talking about Mitch WerBell. It's gotta be him. Everything fits.

God damn. I should have seen this immediately.

Added added note: Turns out that my humble blog was not the first humble blog to identify Mitch WerBell as the man who trained Wayne Williams. See here.

Before you read that entry, I should explain that WerBell hobnobbed with all sorts of very strange people, including Lyndon LaRouche, who made the transition from left to hard right in the 1970s. Many LaRouchies received training at "The Farm."

The story gets wilder from there. Check out the link...
Interesting point you bring up Joseph, Why would he write that book while in jail? Maybe he was hoping the CIA would panic and help get him out of prison?
John Douglas, the FBI criminal profiler and author, wrote about the case in "Mindhunders." He was there and deeply involved in the investigation. He says that Williams committed some, but not all, of the murders. I think you have to take very seriously the people who were there at the time. As an aside, Bill James, the great baseball writer, said that while Rabbit Marranville did not have the statistics to justify his Hall of Fame selection, that the sportswriters of the time consistently voted him among the best of his time has to be taken seriously. As a further aside, I believe a strong case for the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald is the Will Fritz, a veteran homicide investigator and the one who interrogated Oswald, was convinced of his guilt.
The last comment can be ignored, when you tote up the number of well-informed people who thought otherwise. I can't judge Douglas' book because I have not read it. Nevertheless, "profiling" seems rather questionable. It's a bit like tea leaf reading, isn't it?

Consider the record:
Mitchell WerBell ran a counterinsurgency training camp near Atlanta at that time. He had old CIA connections and trained some terrorists for the CIA's Central American campaign, as I remember it.
I suggest you read the chapter entitled "Atlanta" in Mindhunters because Douglas AGREES WITH YOU! As to the value of profiling, read about Dr. Brussel
And it was late at night when I sent the last comment. I should have said that while not dispositive, Fritz (the only policeman who actually had an extended interrogation of Oswald) has to be at least considered and taken seriously in the case.

Hey Joe, just FYI: that Kid Kenoma blog that you linked to has a murky connection to trickster Neal Rauhauser and other bad actors, so caveat emptor and all that.
Anon...seriously? How do you know? I know nothing about that blog.

But even if the devil himself had written that blog post, I would have had to cite it. When a writer gets there first, that fact should be acknowledged.
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Friday, August 28, 2015

The Big Smear

I really do not want to defend Hillary Clinton. Yes, she deserves to be criticized -- for the right reasons. This nonsense is not one of the right reasons. Perhaps it was a bit over-the-top for Hillary to liken the Republicans' stances on women's issues to terrorism. But so what? These days, over-the-top sentiments are as common as raindrops in a rainstorm.

If you hit the link given above, check out the comments -- many of which, we may fairly presume, are pure astroturf. These commenters pretend to be incensed by Hillary's intemperate language, yet the writers always express themselves in the most outlandish terms imaginable. Hypocrisy is hip, it seems. I found the following to be particularly amusing:
I will be more happy when she is in jail for treason and misdemeanor homicide
There's such a thing as "misdemeanor homicide"? Just who, prithee, is the alleged victim? (The same commenter says that Hillary won't go to jail because she is a "Clition.")

In a similar vein, here is the latest attempt to smear Bill Clinton.
ABC News has obtained State Department e-mails that shed light on Bill Clinton’s lucrative speaking engagements and show he and the Clinton Foundation tried to get approval for invitations related to two of the most repressive countries in the world -- North Korea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Yada yada yada. Basically, ABC News is giving us the usual smear job. If you read their piece carefully and skeptically, you'll discover the truth of the matter: Clinton runs a charity, and he goes around the world trying to drum up millions for his charity. Where the money comes from doesn't matter as much as where it goes to. As far as I'm concerned, if dictators and thugs pony up some dough and starving villagers in India receive the benefit, fine. Would you feel comfortable telling the starving villagers to keep starving?

Unfortunately, our "unbiased" news media insists on writing stories which convey the impression (without directly stating) that the money goes into the Clintons' own pockets, not to the starving villagers. A number of alleged progressives go along with this hallucination, because doing so makes them feel hip. This situation persists even though the watchdog groups who keep track of charities all say that the Clinton Foundation is clean and transparent.

Incidentally, Clinton did not speak at any function involving the North Koreans or the Congo. His foundation simply told the State Department that the invitations had been received. That's it. This, we're told, constitutes some kind of scandal.

And so it goes.

Hillary's numbers are going down not because of her policies, not because of anything real, but because the Clinton name is being subjected to daily smears. As the saying goes: If enough bullshit hits the wall, some will stick.
I believe that in America treason requires a state of war and active collusion with the enemy. America doesn't do official states of war any more.

I watch some intrigue-based American TV and that always annoys me. No, you can't charge them with treason for that.
This is from the Constitution, Stephen:

"Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

This definition is, in my view, both too narrow and too broad. It is too narrow in that it says nothing about those who have no allegiance to a foreign power yet seek the overthrow of the government. It is too broad in that the phrase "aid and comfort" can be given a very loose interpretation, especially in a quasi-hysterical time, such as the McCarthy era or the run-up to the Iraq war.
>>If enough bullshit hits the wall, some will stick.

It's the Big Lie, as taught by Josef Goebbbels. Just repeat it enough, and send out your minions to beat people over the head with it, and suddenly it becomes truth.

I find it hard to believe that anyone calling him- or herself a progressive would help promote this kind of crap against any Democrat. If it's Bernie supporters doing it, just stop. Put that energy into electing more liberal Democrats to Congress so we have a better chance of getting fairer legislation passed.

Helping the right wing smear Hillary is self defeating. That's why I think it's shills doing it. Just as there were internet shills against Al Gore, and against John Kerry, and against Hillary in 2008 (and they ended up getting a president who has been more conservative than she is). We need to call these people what they are, because they're promoting apathy that will keep likely Democratic voters from going to the polls next year. Meaning more Republicans in Congress.

Julius Caesar taught us the lesson more than 2,000 years ago: Divide and conquer.

P.S. I sent you an email, since you said you wanted to ask something.
To some progressives Clinton is most threatenin than the most conservative. So given a choice they would rather have them win than her. So they can keep the big lie.
Do you realize how crazy you sound, Anonymous? What you're saying is, let's open ourselves to permanent defeat, continuing to attack people who are at least partly on our side. Why? Just so we can claim some sort of intellectual purity? That sounds exactly like what the most reactionary right wingers say.

As Bob Somerby keeps saying, if we're so much smarter than the right wing, why do we keep losing to them?
Ever heard of Feminists For Life?
There are plenty of conservative socialists who believe it is terrorism to sanction the killing of fertilized eggs for any purpose other than to save the life of the mother and some don't even make that exception.
So Hillary is a fail on another issue besides taking sociopathic delight in helping murder Khadaffi.
But I assume Joe reserves the right to vote for her.
Caro, which is it?

Don't you realize in her vote for the Iraq War Hillary could have cared less whether WMDs were found as long as a quick victory was achieved, and a puppet pro-American, pro-Israel government installed, allowing a quick departure with minimal loss of life and limb?

Or you realize it and like Hillary, you're a hypocritical liberal imperialist who just doesn't care?
So Ken, you're able to read Hillary's mind? You know for a fact that she takes psychopathic delight in doing certain things?

I was against the Iraq War and still am. But I don't have to hate people who have opinions different from mine, even one of the differences of opinion is about war. I think it's a shame that so many Democrats allowed themselves to be bullied into support for that war, but the hysteria was palpable at the time. I don't have to hate them for not having the courage to go against the tsunami of feeling, based on lies, ginned up by Bush/Cheney and friends.

How is your stance on this issue any different from how the right wingers view abortion--that people should be hounded and hated for believing that a woman shouldn't be forced to carry a pregnancy to term?

You throw the "hate" and "hounded"s around pretty freely. Okay, I'll give you poetic

I believe it's a shame multitudes of woman will vote for Clinton , if it comes to it, rather than a Jill Stein. I could and did make analogies on the right/GOP re McCain and Romeny.

The info about the false intelligence was out there for Hillary too before the war, proffered by everyone from Buchanan on the right to Ray McGovern and Scott Ritter on the left.

Speaking of another bully, Nancy Pelosi who squashed legislation to cut off war funds early, sponsored by Kucinich and Ron Paul and bullied other Dems on the "don't let them be able to call you a surrendercrat", got to keep funding the war issue. Which even Sanders
acceded thereto.

Vote only for outliers on the right or left. Or help strengthen alternative parties; the
duopoly is hopelessly and irredeemably corrupt. Do it without any excessive hate and hounding even for those who might deserve it.

Thanks so much for your permission, but I don't need it to decide how I express myself.

I voted for Cynthia McKinney in 2008 and Jill Stein in 2012. No way I'd ever vote for that fake, Barack Obama.

I'm not telling you not to vote for an outlier. That's your privilege. Just as it's my privilege to vote for Hillary.

But what I'm suggesting to you is that expressing hatred for any of the candidates who are left of center could help depress the vote on our side. Promote your candidate all you want, just don't tear down mine, unless your intent is to help get more Republicans elected.
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Is there a peace candidate?

The invaluable Bob Parry demonstrates, once again, that our political culture has been so thoroughly neoconned that no candidate in either party can openly favor peace. Even Bernie Sanders, who voted against the Iraq misadventure, seems to have lost his way.
When Sanders has spoken about the Mideast, he has framed his comments in ways that make them acceptable to Official Washington but that ultimately make little sense. For instance, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Sanders suggested that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich sheikdoms replace the United States as the region’s policeman in the fight against Sunni terrorists in the Islamic State (also called ISIS).
Ridiculous. Saudi Arabia is one of the major backers of ISIS -- a fact of history seldom discussed out loud, but a fact nonetheless. The murderous behavior of the Saudis in Yemen demonstrates that King Salman has no interest in peace, justice, or international opinion.

Joe Biden once blurted out this unspeakable truth about Saudi Arabia. (Biden is one of this country's truly great blurters.)
“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down [President Bashar al-] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Whenever Biden emits one of his honesty farts, pundits mutter about the vice president's tendency to commit gaffes. Those "gaffes" are the main reason to welcome the idea of a Biden presidency. On the other hand, Hunter Biden's involvement in Ukrainian affairs is more than a little worrisome.

Parry does not mention the name of one candidate who might challenge the war consensus: Jim Webb.

Some aspects of Webb's foreign policy plan bother me -- especially point 4, which is is nothing more than a new way of sucking up to Israel. But his key point, the one that overshadows all others, comes at the end:
7. Congress must step up and restore its relationship with the executive branch.

Senator Webb identified a shift in war-making power from the Congress to the presidency. He drew on Libya and Iraq as examples of executive military maneuvers that bypassed legislative approval. In both cases, Webb felt that no vital national interest was at stake.
When the public applies pressure to Congress, Congress feels it. Right now and for the foreseeable future, the public does not want war.

In 2013, every "respectable" pundit was screaming for Obama to rain hellfire on Syria. Obama, boxed in and seeking a way out, hit upon a brilliant strategy: In a rare (and purely tactical) show of respect for the Constitution, he left the decision up to Congress. After the people of the United States made their feelings known, Congress had to shun Ares.

Although the administration made clear that the Great Syria Dodge was a one-time deal, Webb wants to transform 2013 into the new normal. He clarifies his foreign policy stance here:
However, there is an important caveat to how our country should fight international terrorism. The violation of this principle has caused us a lot of trouble in the recent past. I can do no better than to quote from an article I wrote on September 12th, 2001, the day after the 9 / 11 attacks. “DO NOT OCCUPY TERRITORY. The terrorist armies make no claim to be members of any nation-state. Similarly, it would be militarily and politically dangerous for our military to operate from permanent or semi-permanent bases, or to declare that we are defending specific pieces of terrain in the regions where the terrorist armies live and train. We already have terrain to defend – the United States and our outposts overseas – and we cannot afford to expand this territory in a manner that would simply give the enemy more targets.”

And finally, a warning spurred by the actions of this Administration in places such as Libya. There is no such thing as the right of any President to unilaterally decide to use force in combat operations based on such vague concepts as “humanitarian intervention.” If a treaty does not obligate us, if American forces are not under attack or under threat of imminent attack, if no Americans are at risk, the President should come to the congress before he or she sends troops into Harm’s Way.
Do these words mean that Webb deserves to be called "the peace candidate"? Many of you will say No.

My response: If Webb turns war into a congressional problem, peace will finally get a chance -- because Congress, for all of its many corruptions, must listen to the people. True, many Americans are easily fooled by propaganda. Many Americans are dumber than a rock that failed rock school. But even the more obtuse citizens of the United States understand that the Iraq misadventure cost trillions, and that our nation would now be far more prosperous if Dubya's disaster had never happened. Not all Americans love peace -- in fact, many Americans are bellicose boobs. But nobody wants to run up that kind of debt again.

Reagan adviser Martin Anderson used to say: "In politics, the question is always 'Compared to what?'" Compare Webb to Hillary Clinton, to Bernie Sanders, to Joe Biden. Compare Webb to anyone who participated in the Republican debate. Ask yourself: Which candidate is least likely to let the neocons dictate foreign policy?
"In politics, the question is always 'Compared to what?'"
-> In SCIENCE the question is always 'HOW related is it to WHAT?'
Different worlds, altogether
I wish Sanders foreign policy matched his domestic policy. I don't think we can ever expect Hillary to defy the neocons, since she seems to have become one of them. I don't know enough about Webb, but I doubt his chances. He doesn't seem very charismatic and I don't think many people even know who he is, let alone his policy stances. I just know I'll vote for whoever keeps someone like Trump (or any of the Republicans for that matter) out of office. I usually vote 3rd party, but things are getting so bad with the Republicans I don't think I could do so this time in good conscience.
I heard Webb in fox talking about the rights of working WHITE people. It seems the neocons is already dictating to him.
Good post Joe, spot on, but, even a guy like Webb will be crushed by the weight of the Empire's desires.
Full disclosure: I am a Bernie supporter, although I do find his campaign's relative inattention to foreign policy somewhat disconcerting.

That said, I actually think his stance on Saudi Arabia/ISIS is pretty sensible. Yes, the despicable Saudi regime played a major role in the creation ISIS and is committing innumerable horrors in its criminal war in Yemen- but how much of that is due to their confidence in the fact that the U.S. will take the lead in the ISIS fight while enabling their meddling in Yemen? The U.S. needs to remind the Saudis that they're the client state in this relationship, and we're sick of sending our young men and women to be killed and maimed to take out their regional rivals and clean up their messes (i.e. ISIS) while they use their own very expensive military to needlessly meddle in the internal politics of their neighbors.

Again, I would very much like to see Bernie beef up on FP and I won't be entirely comfortable with his position on this issue unless he elaborates and condemns the Saudi war in Yemen, but I don't find his current stance particularly objectionable.
Forgot to include this in my earlier comment, but you left out Lincoln Chafee, who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, has called for the drone program to be scrapped, and has even suggested that we enter negotiations with ISIS. Although his nonexistent campaign infrastructure and nonentity status in the polls makes it unlikely he'll remain in the race past New Hampshire, I could certainly see myself supporting a Chafee candidacy if, by some miracle, he actually managed to make himself competitive. If not, he'd make a great SoS in a Sanders administration ;)
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

What a burn! Or: Bohemian grave

Burning Man is now officially for assholes only. Fucking libertarians always gotta ruin everything.

When I read the article at the other end of that link, I thought: How many times have we seen this process play out? Bohemians (or "hippies," as they were called during one brief historical moment) shout "Freedom!" and initiate Coolness. Rich people respond: "Yeah! Freedom! Freedom for the rich to take over!" -- and then they turn Coolness into Uncoolness.

Many people don't know that the Bohemian Grove -- you know, the thing with the giant owl -- also began with a group of artsy types from San Francisco who sought to create an anything-goes enclave out in the woods. It didn't take too long for a bunch of stuffy bigwigs to take over the show.

This pattern will continue until a new generation of Bohemians finally understands that the pattern is a pattern. Next time the artists and visionaries and crazies construct a Bohemian enclave in the wilderness, they have to erect barriers against the One Percenters: "Sorry, but this is an exclusive club. Only actual human beings are allowed inside. You wouldn't understand."

Speaking of the Bohemian Grove: I just found the damnedest photo...

This is a picture of various members of the Bohemian Club in the woods circa 1904. (The Bohemian Club founded the Grove.) The painting is of none other than Gustav Mahler, then very much alive -- in fact, his best work was ahead of him. Now considered one of the world's greatest composers, Mahler's music was, at that time, thought to be unfathomably avant-garde; he was famous as Vienna's most celebrated and controversial conductor. It seems that his fame had spread to the redwoods of California.

Why had the club fixated on Mahler? Perhaps because he was literally a scion of Bohemia, being born in the center of what later became Czechoslovakia.

There's another possible explanation. In the 19th century, a secretive artist's society called the Schlaraffia (a German term for "fairyland") sprang up. Mahler belonged to this group, although I doubt that he took it very seriously. It was a bit like the Dead Poets Society, and their symbol was the Owl of Minerva (goddess of Wisdom). Writer Terry Melanson argues that the Schlaraffia may have given birth, so to speak, to the Bohemian Club.
There was a branch of Schlaraffia instituted in San Francisco as early as 1884, so there is the possibility of real connections and influence among the two groups.
(He meant "between the two groups.") The intersection of Bohemia and Big Money always seems to fascinate the more easily-gulled conspiracy researchers. Artsy-fartsy Bohemian-types love to play with symbols and riddles and mystical murkiness. Conspiratards consider all of that stuff to be very spooky and scary. Most conspiratards are poorly-educated Christian fundamentalists, and when these apes try to comprehend what the Bohemians have been getting up to, hilarity ensues.
Joseph, would you care to comment on the rumor that Richard Nixon's behavior at one Bohemian Grove celebration resulted in his being blackmailed by fellow Clubbers?
First I've heard of it. I know that he went to the Grove (was photographed there) and privately complained that the pace was -- well, I seem to recall that he used the term "faggy" or "queer." He wouldn't have used the term "gay" because it had not yet entered into general parlance.
"The intersection of Bohemia and Big Money always seems to fascinate the more easily-gulled conspiracy researchers. Artsy-fartsy Bohemian-types love to play with symbols and riddles and mystical murkiness."

And the one-percenters love it. They don't want to have either the same sexual practices or the same religious or spiritual beliefs as the hoi polloi.

Major input into the Green ideology came and still comes from the devotees of Rudolf Steiner. Their bank, Triodos, is a big player right now among greens and so-called "anti-capitalists". Several other vehicles and positions could also be mentioned. But one can point too to figures such as Thomas Malthus, who wasn't a mystic even if he was a religious minister. Yet conspiratards fixate. They don't understand how ideology works. Not that it's easy to understand. The same goes for money.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

More proof of the unspeakable

Our regional allies back ISIS. Phil Giraldi:
From the start, Turkey, which nominally opposes radical rebel groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, has been curiously absent from the fray, instead arguing that the major effort should be focused on defeating al-Assad. Indeed, when I was in Istanbul last July bearded rebels were observed in the more fundamentalist neighborhoods collecting money for ISIS without any interference from the numerous and highly visible Turkish police and intelligence services. Turkey has also been surreptitiously buying as much as $3 million worth of smuggled oil from ISIS every day, virtually funding the group’s activities. Ankara has allowed ISIS militants to freely cross over the Syrian border into Turkey for what might be described as R&R (rest and recreation) as well as medical care and training. Weapons have been flowing in the opposite direction, cash and carry, some provided by the Turkish intelligence service MIT.
The Kurds have been some of the fiercest fighters against ISIS. Turkey -- which will not tolerate a Kurdish state -- has launched hundreds of air strikes against the Kurds under the pretext of fighting ISIS.

We are now being told that Turkey is finally going to get serious about bringing the fight to ISIS. You can bet your last drachma that we will see more "war by oopsie," as bombs that were supposed to fall on ISIS and Nusra accidentally hit the Kurds.

Remember those alleged "moderate" fighters against the Syrian government? The ones that are forever described as "vetted"? They are few in number, and serve primarily a fig leaf function as Nusra and ISIS do the dirty work of overthrowing Assad.

Recently, a group of those moderates got screwed -- by our friends in Turkey. From McClatchy:
The kidnapping of a group of U.S.-trained moderate Syrians moments after they entered Syria last month to confront the Islamic State was orchestrated by Turkish intelligence, multiple rebel sources have told McClatchy.

The rebels say that the tipoff to al Qaida’s Nusra Front enabled Nusra to snatch many of the 54 graduates of the $500 million program on July 29 as soon as they entered Syria, dealing a humiliating blow to the Obama administration’s plans for confronting the Islamic State.
“Only the Americans and the Turks knew” about the plans for the train-and-equip fighters to enter Syria, said an officer of Division 30, the rebel group with which the newly trained Syrians were to work. “We have sources who tell us the Turks warned Nusra that they would be targeted by this group.”
Propaganda blitz. The Iran deal is one of the few things this administration has done right. But can it survive an onslaught like this?
No sooner had the deal been announced then anti-deal television ads attacking it went up all over the country. AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, launched a massive campaign to pressure lawmakers to nix it, literally marching on Capitol Hill to intimidate Congress into voting no.

The budget for this coordinated campaign: upwards of $145 million.
That kind of money buys a lot of lying.

As the old Rogers and Hammerstein song put it: You have to be carefully taught. In 2003, the American people were carefully taught a lot of nonsense about Saddam Hussein's WMDs. It's happening again...
Three years ago the Chicago Council on Global Affairs asked Americans, in a multiple choice question, what was the assessment of the U.S. intelligence services about Iran’s nuclear program — an assessment that has been constant over the last several years and repeatedly expressed publicly in statements and testimony.

Only 25 percent of respondents picked the correct answer: “Iran is producing some of the technical ability to build nuclear weapons, but has not decided to produce them or not.” A mere four percent erred in the reassuring direction by choosing “Iran is producing nuclear energy strictly for its energy needs.” A plurality, 48 percent, incorrectly chose “Iran has decided to produce nuclear weapons and is actively working to do so, but does not yet have nuclear weapons.” An additional 18 percent chose “Iran now has nuclear weapons.”

It is easy to see how deficient public knowledge on such a subject undermines support for an agreement such as the one before Congress.
How many weapons of mass destruction does the US have?
How many weapons of mass destruction does Israel have?
How many weapons of mass destruction does Iran have?

How many times has the US used WMD's?
How many times has Israel used WMD's?
How many times has Iran used WMD's?

Case closed.

Thanks for your continued reporting on this.
Hildy pretty much sums it up. Americans are largely stupid, uninformed, and completely uninterested in contemplating the human cost of their ignorance, let alone changing that state of affairs. I love America, I think the constitution was and is brilliant, and I think that not everything America has done is terrible. These days though, no matter how cynical I become, I just can't keep up (to paraphrase Lilly Tomlin, I think?).
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