Saturday, January 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no idea where this situation will go but I'm extremely interested to watch. Get your popcorn ready because it's going to be a wild ride. I just hope we're not being set up with the old Texas Air National Guard ploy.
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Jon Stewart must be nearing orgasm

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

Today, we were given two such gifts. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did King Abdullah make a sex tape?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put it all together and it spells blackmail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for this.
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Briefing on Bibi and beyond...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the Larry Flynt shooting, I wasn't surprised by it, only because violence by religiously-minded white supremacists was hitting a peak at the time, as psychopaths such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell fanned the flames. As a lefty political organizer, I had already learned to live with death threats. Maybe they would actually follow through and shoot me or more likely, they were just trying to frighten me. Who knew?
Well, Crumb himself has something to say about it....and apparently he lives in France. Ignore
disinfo's typical clickbait headline.
As I recall, it was not a cartoon, but a pictorial spread depicting "Peaches" and a black man that triggered the attack on Flynt.
Gareth, you really think Crumb's work could not be mean-spirited? Have you SEEN the way he drew black people? Not to mention what he did with women...!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penny and Jack

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

SOTU: "Love, blood and rhetoric"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9:47: USE OF FORCE? NO!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C'est tout! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it all gets stranger still.

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

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

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

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

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

Syrian Girl, meet the new girl in town

The video embedded above is mandatory viewing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Where was I? Oh yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massive cities. Million-man armies. Spectacle galore.

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

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

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

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

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

[Huck:] “Which Holy Land?”

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

“What do we want of it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the relevant question is...

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

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

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

Twain even became more critical of the US's position in foreign affairs, but I forgave him for anything he said offensive, because of his great kindness towards Pres. Grant, when Grant was dieing. ;)
The Mark Twain they didn't teach us about in school.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Obama did it again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am the one true Anonymous. Accept no subsitooties.

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

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

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

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

He's got your fix.

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

It will only get worse with 2016
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nothing is what it seems

Three important national security stories command our attention right now...

1. The nukes that weren't. Marcy Wheeler and others are looking into a huge damned story -- ignored, naturally enough, by the mainstream media -- concerning a CIA effort to feed false nuke info to the Iranians. You can read about it in David Swanson's excellent piece.
The story is this. The CIA drew up plans for a key part of a nuclear bomb (what a CIA officer on Wednesday described in his testimony as "the crown jewels" of a nuclear weapons program), inserted flaws in the plans, and then had a Russian give those flawed plans to Iran.
It was called Operation Merlin. The idea -- supposedly -- was to goad Iranian scientists into pursuing an unworkable plan. But Swanson implies that this stated goal was not the real goal. The real goal, he says, was to make the oft-heard allegations of an Iranian nuke program into a reality, thereby justifying the neocon dream of "regime change" in Iran.
Why give Iran flawed plans for a key part of a nuclear weapon? Why fantasize about giving Iran the thing already built (which wouldn't delay Iran's non-existent program much). Because then you can point out that Iran has them. And you won't even be lying, as with forged documents claiming Iraq is buying uranium or hired subcontractors pretending aluminum tubes are for nuclear weapons. With Operation Merlin you can work some real dark magic: You can tell the truth about Iran having what you so desperately want Iran to appear to have.
The more I look into this murky affair, the likelier it seems that the United States was actually trying to give Iran the ability to build nuclear bombs.

Marcy's unique reporting on all of this can be found at ExposeFacts. And -- hot off the presses! -- we now have Norman Solomon's take in The Consortium.

The tale of Merlin was exposed by journalist James Risen. In 2003, the NYT squelched his account, but three years later, he included a chapter about Operation Merlin in his book State of War. A former CIA employee named Jeffrey Sterling is now being tried for providing information to Risen.

There is strong support for Sterling:
As Risen documented in his book State of War, Operation Merlin was ill-conceived and dangerous.
In the name of countering nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked promoting it.

The prosecution of Sterling smacks of selective prosecution. General James Cartwright, who reportedly leaked information on far more recent and sensitive counter-proliferation efforts against Iran, has not faced prosecution.
As a whistleblower, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling went through channels to inform staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the ill-conceived and dangerous CIA action known as Operation Merlin. The current effort to prosecute Mr. Sterling, for allegedly providing information about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen, comes 15 years after that CIA operation took place. This prosecution serves no valid purpose.
Once again, this administration has proven itself incredibly (yet selectively) vindictive in its treatment of whistleblowers. We'll be talking about this important matter in greater detail soon, I hope.

2. The terror that wasn't. In The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman cast a skeptical eye on the claims the the FBI foiled a plot to attack the US Capitol. This plot seems to be a one-man conspiracy. That one man is a near-friendless 20 year-old video gamer named Christopher Cornell who calls his mother "mommy."

The case against him comes down to a few pro-ISIS tweets and information supplied by an informant looking for leniency in an unrelated case. I have not seen the tweets and thus cannot judge them. Even if we stipulate that this report is accurate, it should be noted that a pro-ISIS tweet, although foolish, is not the same thing a plot to attack the Capitol building.

As for the tale told by the self-interested informant: We've seen this movie before, haven't we?
The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.
This is pre-emptory prosecution: targeting citizens not for their criminal behavior but for their political views. It’s an attempt by the U.S. Government to anticipate who will become a criminal at some point in the future based on their expressed political opinions – not unlike the dystopian premise of Minority Report – and then exploiting the FBI’s vast financial, organizational, and even psychological resources, along with the individuals’ vulnerabilities, to make it happen.
3. The "expert" who isn't. This story is hilarious. Terror "expert" Steve Emerson recently made some outrageous statements on Fox News (where else?), in which he spoke about Muslim-only zones in Europe that are "no-go" for non-Muslims.
Identified as the founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Emerson got specific about this matter: “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones. There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” he said. Prime Minister David Cameron had a strong reaction to the comments: “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.”

The backlash against Fox News has been fierce all week, and Emerson’s claim about Birmingham even earns a “Pants-on-Fire” rating from PolitiFact.
I'm not usually a big fan of Mr. Cameron, but I must applaud him for saying what needed to be said in this case. Bravo!

I learned to detest Emerson long, long ago -- well before 9/11, which marked his emergence as an alleged terrorism expert. Some of you will recall the controversy over the 1980 "October Surprise" allegations. This "conspiracy theory" -- once widely discussed, now largely ignored -- actually reached the level of congressional hearings.

The charge was, of course, well-founded; I consider the matter proven. The basic story was verified by a number of important people, including French spy chief Alexandre de Marenches, not long before his death. As I wrote some years ago:
The October Surprise thesis has been confirmed by:

* French intelligence chieftain Alexandre de Marenches
* Former Russian prime minister Sergei V. Stepashin
* Israeli secret agent Ari Ben-Menashe
* Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr
* Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
* Former Israeli prime minister Yitshak Shamir.

I doubt that you could ever have gotten those six guys to agree on anything else. They probably would not have agreed that the sun is hot. But they all said that, to their personal knowledge, the October Surprise thesis describes actual events. After a certain point, we have to consider the matter resolved beyond intelligent debate.
It might be possible to assail the credibility of one or two of those witnesses -- but all of them?

Nevertheless, the October Surprise story is still considered a mere conspiracy theory. Why? Because four people worked assiduously to deep-six the investigation.

One of those guys was a former intelligence agent named "Frank." I won't give the last name because I don't want to get into a pissing match with the guy. (I also don't want to have to dig up the story he wrote, because I lost the clipping ages ago and I can't even recall where the hell it was published. Was it The Village Voice...?)

The second man was a spooked-up former prof named Oswald LeWinter -- and boy, was he a piece of work!

The third man was an even more flamboyant deception agent named Gunther Russbacher, whose outrageous story about flying George H.W. Bush in an SR71 was believed by very few (although Ross Perot looked into it briefly).

Steve Emerson was the fourth man.

For a good debunking of Emerson's "debunking" of the claim, see this piece (and this piece) by the superb Robert Parry. A few days ago, Parry offered some important observations about the latest Emersonian brouhaha:
That ploy – of palming off his falsehoods on others – is typical of Emerson when he gets caught in a deception. In the early 1990s, when Emerson was riding high as “an award-winning journalist” and took aim at me by falsely claiming that I had lied in a PBS documentary, he responded to my protest to his editors by threatening a lawsuit against me.

Only after I was able to prove that it was Emerson who was lying did he grudgingly back down and blamed one of his researchers for the falsehood.
This all goes back to the October Surprise scandal -- specifically, to some Secret Service records which would have proven the whereabouts of "Poppy" Bush on key dates. Emerson had said in a major piece that Bush had not gone to France for a much-discussed meeting with the Iranians. The documents, if uncensored, would have proven the matter one way or the other.

Unfortunately, Parry's copies of the documents (attained via FOIA) were redacted.
Writing for The New Republic, Emerson claimed that he had received copies of the Secret Service records under a Freedom of Information Act request without any redactions, suggesting that I had lied.

After talking to the Secret Service and being told that Emerson’s records had redactions like everyone else’s – even Congress and federal prosecutors received redacted versions – I challenged Emerson’s account in letters to his editors, including one to CNN where he had been hired as an investigative reporter.

Emerson was subsequently dumped by CNN and I was promptly threatened by one of his law firms with a libel suit for having criticized him in letters to his editors. Apparently, I was supposed to apologize for saying that Emerson was lying when he claimed to have Bush’s unredacted Secret Service records.
After much expensive legal wrangling, Emerson finally admitted that he never received these records. He blamed an assistant, although I don't see how that deflection of responsibility can even be possible.

That should have been the end of Emerson's journalistic career, but there will always be employment for a writer willing to say the things that the Powers That Be want said. And so he embarked on a new path as a professional "terrorism expert," linked to the Likud party and bankrolled by the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife. His documentary "Jihad in America" was broadcast on PBS.
Only gradually did a few brave reporters begin criticizing Emerson and his cozy ties to right-wing Israeli officials, including Israeli intelligence officers. Typically, Emerson would hit back by issuing legal threats from his vast stable of high-priced lawyers.

Emerson’s use of lawyers to bully other journalists, which I had witnessed firsthand, became part of his modus operandi, as Nation reporter Robert I. Friedman discovered in 1995 after criticizing Emerson’s “Jihad in America.”

“Intellectual terrorism seems to be part of Emerson’s standard repertoire,” Friedman wrote. “So is his penchant for papering his critics with threatening lawyers’ letters.”

Friedman also reported that Emerson hosted right-wing Israeli intelligence officials when they were in Washington. “[Yigal] Carmon, who was Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s adviser on terrorism, and [Yoram] Ettinger, who was Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s man in the Israeli Embassy, stay in Emerson’s apartment on their frequent visits to Washington,” Friedman wrote.
Former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky calls Emerson "The Horn" because he trumpets what Mossad tells him to trumpet.

It is said that Emerson's "Birmingham" comment was so ridiculous that he may not be booked on Fox ever again. Where to go now? Well, there's always...Brietbart.

Oh Sure. then again Thanks
Subject nr. 1

Same goes for Pakistan?

See this:

and this:
"Why did the CIA resist the arrest of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan?"

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Friday, January 16, 2015

To Hell and back

In 2010, the Malarkey family -- O, sublime nomenclature! -- came out with a bestselling addition to a growing Christian genre: The I Done Died an' Gone to Heaven an' It Was All Right Purty and Jeezafied an' Stuff book. The Malarkeys now admit that the whole thing was a concoction. I would have been more impressed if Dad made this admission while lighting up a big see-gar with a C-note.

Is the genre now over? For the past couple of years, I've considered coming up with a cool million by putting together my own I Done Died book.

My variant would be I Done Died an' Gone to Hell an' It Was All Dimmycrats an' Libruls. Do you think it would sell? I was thinking of writing under the name Joe "Bo" Gussman. That name isn't as perfect as "Malarkey," but one should not expect to top that which cannot be topped.
I think it's unfortunate that the point person for this entire episode is a young person who was only six years old when he became a quadriplegic, because if ever I'd be willing to support someone in their belief in a god and potentially a better life, it'd be under those circumstances.

The parents and all the other craven liars who parlayed this suffering child's misery into their own personal profits? They should be put in small boxes for the rest of their miserable lives.
I'm not sure this makes much difference, really. How is The Boy Who Made Up Some Stuff To Get Attention really any different from The Boy Who Hallucinated (aside from actual intent to defraud, that is)?

Didn't they make a movie out of this, as well?
Write it under the name Jeffrey Taxil just for kicks.
Yes, it would sell like crazy. In the 1980s a friend of mine, who was trying to sell a novel about drug running in the Caribbean, attended a cocktail party in New York. A publisher he met told him he could pay a $20K advance, after the usual three chapters and a summary, for a book confessing to a sinful life of sex, drugs and rock & roll, until he found Jesus and was led to the light.

When my friend objected that it would be a complete lie, the man responded that it didn't matter because the Christian fundamentalists couldn't get enough of the stuff. It was easy money. The offer wasn't taken up and as it turned out he never sold the Caribbean novel either. So it goes.
Malarkey, what else is there to say?
(grammar corner)

"I done died" - what's that tense called? who uses it? and what's its history?

I first came across it in Gil Scott-Heron's brilliant poem "Whitey on the Moon", in which the opening line is "A rat done bit my sister Nell".

Here's a film of him reading it:

b, if ever I knew the answer to your question, I done forgot.
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