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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Notable... (updated)

From beyond:  I'm not the sort of person who believes in stories of the supernatural. I enjoy hearing stories of the supernatural, but that doesn't mean I believe them. But even the most obdurate realist will get the heebie-jeebies from this story, about the officers in Utah who rescued a baby from a car submerged in near-frozen water. Also see here.

If real life had a soundtrack score, this is the part where you'd hear the theremin.

Fox News: Most of us have seen studies like this one before, in which Fox News watchers are compared to Other News consumers in terms of current events knowledge. But this finding really astounded me...
Researchers discovered that people who said they consumed no news over the past week fared better on the questionnaire than people who had been using Fox News to find out what was going on in current events.
Is that even possible?

Two simple questions about ISIS. All of the victims of ISIS wear orange jumpsuits. Where does ISIS get all of those orange jumpsuits? And why would they even bother to make their prisoners wear orange jumpsuits?

Ed Epstein calls Bill O'Reilly a liar. As reported earlier, Bill O'Reilly lied when he claimed that George de Mohrenschildt (usually identified as a "friend" of Lee Harvey Oswald, although he was really his intelligence "babysitter") killed himself the moment O'Reilly knocked on his door in Florida. Bill-O was provably in Dallas at the time. There is a recording, available on the net, of a phone call in which Bill -- who makes clear that he is still in Dallas -- learns about the de Mohrenschildt death from Gaeton Fonzi, a congressional investigator then working for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. De Mohrenschildt killed himself shortly before his scheduled meeting with Fonzi.

I met the late Gaeton Fonzi briefly, some twenty years ago. Wonderful guy. The only thing I can say against him is that he, for whatever reason, decided to befriend a young reporter named Bill O'Reilly. Fonzi's book The Last Investigation is a masterpiece, and a good choice for those who feel that they have time to read only one book about the assassination.

Now Ed Epstein chimes in with an article in Newsweek titled "O'Reilly's JFK Reporting Was Impossible. I Know Because I Was There."

Epstein is a troubling character in many ways. He wrote a popular early criticism of the Warren Commission titled Inquest. Shortly thereafter, he came under the wing of the CIA's ultra-paranoid counter-intelligence chieftain Jim Angleton, one of the most dangerous kooks ever to attain power in this country.

(If you have time to read only one book on the CIA in that era, that book should be Tom Mangold's superb Angleton biography, Cold Warrior.)

As longtime readers know, I believe that Angleton was the mastermind of the JFK assassination, and that his plan was to pin the blame on the USSR -- a gambit that might well have resulted in World War III. The Warren Commission (in which former CIA head Allen Dulles was the key figure) went with the far less dangerous "lone nut" scenario. Nevertheless, and for the rest of his life, Angleton continued to push tales of Soviet involvement.

In the late 1970s, Edward Epstein (functioning, I believe, as Angelton's literary tool) wrote a bizarre book called Legend -- published by Reader's Digest, which had strong links to the Agency. This work, which promulgated a watered-down version of Angleton's anti-Soviet fantasia, functioned as part of a generalized effort to squelch detente and re-heat the Cold War.

For more on Epstein's background, read this fine essay. Also see the discussion here:
His book Legend is a classic, though it is more significant for what it leaves out than what he tells you, a classic piece of disinfo, and that's disinfo in the official meaning of the term, as his sources include very high ranking intelligence officers.
Interestingly, Epstein used to tell people that he thought "the CIA" killed JFK. But in public, he has long claimed that he always thought that Oswald was the lone gunman. (Nevertheless, my 1966 copy of Inquest has the words "Is one of the murderers of John F. Kennedy still on the loose?" on the cover.) Legend promotes the idea that Oswald was a tool of the KGB, an idea most recently expressed by the execrable Phil Shenon.)

When not functioning as an "old Angletonian," Epstein likes to dig into the various scandals involving Hollywood celebrities. His mug shows up fairly frequently in old episodes of Hollywood Mysteries and Scandals, which you can see on YouTube. I've always liked that show, but whenever the dreaded Head of Ed pops into view, I want to toss crockery at my monitor.

As it happens, Ed Epstein (who had already earned the mistrust of most Warren Commission critics) was indeed dealing with de Mohrenschildt at the time of the man's suicide on March 29, 1977. There are those who say that the suicide may not have been genuine, despite the tape recording which conveniently documented the gunshot. There are even a few ultra-paranoid souls who have offered the outlandish suggestion that Epstein might know more than he is willing to say about the man's death.

That's a preposterous idea, of course. Put it out of your mind. Forget I even mentioned it.

In his new article, Epstein makes one important point that no-one else has mentioned...
For one thing, O’Reilly put himself at the wrong house. He writes he was on the steps of the home of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter when he heard the shot. But de Mohrenschildt was not at his daughter’s home (158 Villa Longine in Mexico City); he was at Tilton’s home in Florida.
If readers are interested, I can devote a long-ish post to the many mysteries of George de Mohrenschildt. We can talk about his CIA connections, and about the possible reason (aside from mere self-aggrandisement) for O'Reilly's fib.

If you're interested.

German intelligence thinks we've gone nuts.
That's the bottom line of this piece in Der Spiegel, which avers that American conservatives are so hungry for war with Putin's Russia that they've been concocting truckloads of false intelligence, which the German's ain't buyin'. The article focuses on General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, who made some outrageously bellicose statements even though the recent ceasefire agreement has been holding steady(ish).
"The German intelligence services generally appraise the threat level much more cautiously than the Americans do," an international military expert in Kiev confirmed.

At the beginning of the crisis, General Breedlove announced that the Russians had assembled 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and warned that an invasion could take place at any moment. The situation, he said, was "incredibly concerning." But intelligence officials from NATO member states had already excluded the possibility of a Russian invasion. They believed that neither the composition nor the equipment of the troops was consistent with an imminent invasion.

The experts contradicted Breedlove's view in almost every respect. There weren't 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.
The Americans have also been wildly inflating the numbers of tanks.

Spiegel also notes that Victoria Nuland is a "possible secretary of state should the Republicans win back the White House in next year's presidential election." Ew. If Nuland is part of the deal, then let's work hard to get the Democrat elected no matter who the candidate turns out to be.

Here's an interesting question: If the American military/intelligence complex is giving ridiculously skewed data to the Germans, then are they giving the same false data to the President? In other words, is Obama making decision based on bogus information?

That would explain a lot. The Germans have ways to verify such reports independently, but the President does not.

Going after unions. Here's a distressing report on the way Republicans across the country have targeted labor...
In West Virginia, a union PAC spent $1.4 million trying to keep the statehouse in Democratic hands but couldn't reverse the cultural trends turning the state red. Exit polls found that even union members were almost evenly split between the Republican and the Democrat in the major statewide race for U.S. Senate.

Now Republicans, in control of the state legislature for the first time since 1931, are taking advantage of their opportunity, pushing measures to expand non-union charter schools and scale back requirements that public projects pay higher, union-scale wages.
On one hand, the dummies brought it on themselves. On the other hand...

...jeez. Is there another hand? I mean, there's only so much sympathy one can expend on workers who won't pursue their own interests. If you beg to be screwed, you can't complain after. 

Of course, we must consider the effects on voting patterns...
Belonging to a union increases the odds of a voter supporting Democrats, and labor increases the participation of lower-income voters who tend to back Democrats, said Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. "If you have more unions, you have higher rates of voting, especially in places that are poor," he said.
If you can think of a way to reverse this trend, please share with us all.

Don't trust your phone; don't trust your laptop. Here's a rarity: A story which discusses what Ed Snowden has revealed without getting bogged in a discussion of Snowden himself. Remember our earlier post on the Great Firmware Hack?
Being able to compromise firmware gives an attacker total control of the system in a way that is stealthy and lasting, even through software updates. Which means that the unsuspecting victim can never get rid of it.
The second revelation, last month, came from a GCHQ presentation provided by Snowden and reported in online publication the Intercept. Documents showed that a joint NSA/GCHQ team had hacked into the internal computer network of Gemalto, the world’s largest manufacturer of sim cards, stealing, in the process, encryption keys used to protect the privacy of mobile communications internationally.
Gemalto probably made the sim card in your phone.
The implication of these latest revelations is stark: the capabilities and ambitions of the intelligence services mean that no electronic communications device can now be regarded as trustworthy.
Ok, I have Annals of Unsolved Crime by Epstein. While I think Oswald did act alone (and I think Truly is the really bid problem for me), Epstein's theory of Russian or Cuban involvement is just nuts. But there is another crime that is interesting, Lincoln's assassination. Clearly Booth did it and was later killed by Boston Corbett. But the interesting thing is why did the plotters target Seward? While the Secretary of State is an important position, it was not next in line to the presidency, Lafayette Foster, president pro tempore of the senate, was. I checked the Confederate States laws to see if perhaps the Confederate secretary of state would have been in line, but apparently the Confederates hadn't gotten around to having a law of succession to the presidency. Epstein suggested the possibility of Confederate Secret Service involvement, but the leaders of that service were former members of the US government and surely would have known the law of succession. Any ideas?
I'm interested.

Regarding the Lincoln assassination, Dave Macgowan has a series about it on his site, which is full of interesting observations.

Yes, Joseph, please tell us more about George DM. Clearly he was CIA affiliated, and functioned as Oswald's babysitter on behalf of the agency's ' J. Walton Moore in Dallas. Moore and George had dinner on a monthly basis. When George left Dallas for an agency assignment in Haiti, he handed the keys to the Oswald project to Ruth Paine, who would get Lee the job at the depository. I also think it was Ruthie who added anti-Oswald evidence to the pile in the months after the assassination, particularly the backyard photo on which Oswald supposedly wrote in Russian that he was a hunter of fascists. That photo appeared in George's possessions after he reclaimed a pile of books and record albums from Ruth. It is also good ghoulish fun to speculate about George's suicide, since the audio recording of the event, produced when the housekeeper recorded a soap opera, also contains beeps that indicate the home alarm system had been circumvented moments earlier. There is much here, but I have not heard speculation about Epstein's darker involvement. If you ask me, Ruth Paine is the most important and diabolical living connection to the assassination.
Here's a good laugh. Gemalto was formed by the merger of two companies, one of which was part of Schlumberger at one point. Schlumberger was founded here by a Russian who had married a French (and used her family name). Of course he was good friends with...George DM.
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