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By Ronald Bleier.
I was agreeably surprised to find that my modest expectations for a book dealing with a single year of Hitler’s life were more than exceeded by Peter Ross Range’s 1924: The Year That Made Hitler (Little, Brown; 2016). I regard Range’s book as one of the most important works on Hitler’s political development. Range’s lucid and well-paced narrative details the critical events during the thirteen months between November 1923 and December 1924. By the end of 1924, at the age of thirty-five, Hitler rose from the ashes of his failed Munich beer hall putsch, emerging from prison unbowed and confident, poised to pick up the reins of his Nazi Party and drive it to its next level.
Range’s focus on Hitler’s consequential year also opens the way to examining some of the elements that will figure for the remainder of Hitler’s career: his key anti- Semitism and lebensraum watchwords; his homosexuality and his fateful plans for Germany, Europe, and the whole world.
Range’s account covers the critical details of Hitler’s failed power grab, some of the main personalities involved, and the reasons it failed. The debacle landed him in Landsberg prison near Munich, on charges of high treason and sent Hitler into the deepest depression of his life. So despairing was he at first that he determined on suicide–his lifelong and life-ending obsession. He refused food for a week before allowing himself to be talked into resuming his life.
In due course his spirits were lifted in prison by the surge in support he experienced from his many well-wishers. His spiritual renewal enabled him to take on the preparations for his trial with the vigor and purpose that led to his triumph. Famously, he turned his trial into a political victory and became a national and international phenomenon. Due to politically sympathetic judges and the nationalist feelings which he tapped into, Hitler was paroled after only eight months of a strikingly lenient five-year prison sentence, to be added to the four months he had served on remand.
Hitler made very good use of his prison time, especially by writing his political memoir, Mein Kampf. Range provides evidence that Hitler typed all of Mein Kampf himself, thus puncturing the widely believed story that Hitler dictated his book to Rudolf Hess, his fellow prison inmate. Range quotes a 1952 letter from Hess’s wife, Ilse Pröhl Hess, published in Der Spiegel in 1966, asserting that Hitler pounded out Mein Kampf “’with two fingers’ on his little typewriter.” In Range’s telling, Rudolf Hess, though not his amanuensis, was Hitler’s first reader and sounding-board, patiently listening and providing feedback.
More than half of Range’s sources–if they can be estimated from his notes and bibliography–come from German books and documents, enabling him to provide readers limited to English with important new details. For example, until I read Range’s book I was unaware that during the course of Hitler’s nearly day-long seizure of power in Munich, on November 8-9, 1923, his Storm troopers demonstrated ugly and unspeakable foreshadowing of what life was to be like in a Hitler regime. His thugs arrested dozens of people, mostly Jews, beating up some of them and threatening others with death. Some of Hitler’s victims came from a prepared list of his political enemies who were in attendance at the Munich Burgerbraukeller beer hall where Hitler announced his intended coup. Others were rounded up from the prosperous neighborhood in Bogenhausen where it was thought many Jews lived. There, Hitler’s men broke into the homes of those with Jewish-sounding names, fired shots into ceilings, and caused general mayhem. One Nazi suggested executing some of those they had arrested, but Hermann Göring, already a top lieutenant, wisely countered with: “We don’t have the right to shoot them yet.”
At the same time, other Nazis targeted the Münchener Post, a Social Democratic newspaper that had exposed Hitler’s extremist views. Hitler’s men destroyed everything they could: they smashed windows and tables, made off with or destroyed typewriters, and wrecked the presses and typesetting equipment.
Lebensraum, Living Space for Germany
More substantially, Range takes a critical look at two of the watchwords most closely associated with Hitler: anti-Semitism and Lebensraum. In both cases, Range highlights evidence that whatever may have been Hitler’s essential beliefs, he used these concepts cynically to advance his political agenda. In prison, Rudolf Hess introduced Hitler to the term Lebensraum, literally, “living space” for the German people. Hess was a close disciple of Karl Haushofer, a quirky ex-military man turned university professor who often visited Hess in prison, and who had developed the term. Hitler had earlier put forth in his Nazi Party manifesto the slogan that extraterritorial “land and soil” was required for Germany’s future. Since the “living space” Hitler wanted for Germany was to come at the expense of sovereign countries, it was no secret that from the beginning of his political career, he intended aggression. As Range puts it, “military invasion was now elevated to a law of nature, and Hitler had a shiny new name for one of his fundamental principles.”
Range is also skeptical of Hitler’s claim in Mein Kampf that his anti-Semitism was stimulated in his pre-war Vienna period by suddenly noticing an Orthodox Jew–“an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks”–as he walked the streets of Vienna in his pre-war period–1908-1912. As Range argues, such Jews were a constant presence in Vienna at this time, so that Hitler’s claim “smacks of a stylized eureka moment to dramatize Hitler’s developmental tale.” Range quotes historian Othmar Plochinger that Hitler only began using anti-Semitism as a political weapon in Munich, after WWI, presumably because he saw it “as the winning horse in the existing political environment.”
Before WWI Hitler appears not to have been a fanatical anti-Semite. Well known is Hitler’s feeling of indebtedness to Eduard Bloch, his Jewish family doctor in Linz, Austria, not least for the care he gave to Hitler’s mother in the course of her suffering, and eventual death, from breast cancer. After Germany absorbed Austria in the March 1938 Anschluss and Austrian Jews faced dire oppression, Hitler went out of his way to ensure the safety of Eduard Bloch and his family. Hitler saw to their safe emigration and they finally arrived in the U.S. in 1940.
Testimony from Reinhold Hanisch, Hitler’s close companion in the years 1909 and 1910, reveals that Hitler was not a Jew-hater during those years. Hanisch cited Hitler’s Jewish friends and acquaintances in the Men’s Home where he lived for three years. Hitler even preferred to sell his paintings to Jewish dealers. In 1912 one anonymous resident of the Men’s Home commented, “Hitler got along exceptionally well with Jews, and said at one time that they were a clever people who stick together better than the Germans do.”
Were Germans, Too, Hitler’s Intended Victims?
Jews of course were not Hitler’s only victims. Among the 60 million WWII deaths were also eight million Germans. Were the Germans who died merely collateral damage, or were they also Hitler’s intended victims? Joachim Fest, one of Hitler’s German biographers, tellingly wrote in 2004 of Hitler’s “hatred of the world and his thirst for extermination.”
In March 1945, a month and a half before ending his life, Hitler issued his scorched-earth orders for Germany, similar to the orders he issued as his troops retreated from occupied territory. (Hitler had ordered the destruction of Paris, but mercifully his orders were not carried out.) But when it came to similar orders for Germany, Albert Speer, Hitler’s senior minister for armaments, objected, arguing that Hitler had no right to doom Germany’s future.
Risking his life, Speer spoke up forcefully, actually upbraiding Hitler for his demonic plans: “No one,” said Speer, “has the right to take the viewpoint that the fate of the German people is tied to his personal fate. . . . At this stage of the war it makes no sense for us to undertake demolitions which may strike at the very life of the nation.”
Hitler’s reply (as reported by Speer) was as cold as ice. Since Germany had fallen to its eastern enemy, asserted Hitler, she didn’t deserve a future.
If the war is lost, the people will be lost also. It is not necessary to worry about what the German people will need for elemental survival. On the contrary, it is best for us even to destroy these things. For the nation has proved to be the weaker, and the future belongs solely to the stronger eastern nation. In any case, only those who are inferior will remain after this struggle, for the good have already been killed.
Hitler’s last testament, written shortly before he committed suicide, can also be read as a disguised acknowledgement that by engaging in war, he was responsible for the destruction of Germany. In his testament he wrote that the Jews were “’the real people to blame for this murderous struggle,’ calling upon Germany and the Germans ‘to observe the racial laws precisely and to resist pitilessly the world-poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry.'””
Hitler used the device of his last public pronouncement, typically a special moment of sincerity, to deflect blame away from himself onto the Jews. One clue is his use of the meaningless intensifier “real” when he wrote: “the real people to blame would be the Jews!” The real person to blame was of course himself. Ever the ultimate cynic and con-man extraordinaire, Hitler attempted to obscure his use of Allied personnel and Allied weaponry as his means of killing his own people and destroying his country. His last testament, was indirectly his sardonic boast that he was going to his death knowing that he had accomplished much more of his agenda of destruction, suffering, and death than he could have expected to fulfill ten years earlier.
Hitler Finds a Career
After WWI Hitler had no prospects for, nor any interest in, pursuing a civilian career. He resisted demobilization and remained in the army, doing odd jobs like pulling guard duty and taking on temporary assignments. In June 1919 he was recruited into an intelligence unit to spy on leftist elements. It was at one of his training sessions that his extraordinary gift for oratory emerged. “I can speak,” Hitler is reported to have said, as he became aware of his political potential. Range believes that this was “the moment that created Adolf Hitler, the politician.”
As an army spy, in September 1919 Hitler was sent to Munich to report on a new political group, the German Worker’s Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). In the discussion period at the end of the meeting Hitler displayed his verbal gifts and his ability to think on his feet when he was roused to speak against a participant who favored Bavarian secession. Afterwards, Anton Drexler, the Party’s co-founder, pressed on Hitler his own forty-page manifesto, inviting him to return to future party meetings. Hitler wrestled for two days over whether to join the little group. In the end, of course, he did join the German Worker’s Party, understanding that he would acquire a ready-made speaking platform, and a political base. As early as that first meeting, Hitler is likely to have sized up his chances for a future leadership role.
The Tottering Weimar Republic
Hitler’s intuition was accurate. Relatively soon, he defeated those in the party who opposed him and eventually he was recognized as the Nazi Party’s unchallenged leader. In fewer than two years he built up his name to the point where he successfully addressed a crowd of four thousand people. Not long after, in January 1923, the French (and Belgians) invaded Germany’s Ruhr, as punishment for defaulting on German reparations payments and to ensure the continuation of German coal exports. In response, Germany devalued the mark, presumably to make Germany’s mineral resources less valuable to the French.
Large-scale printing of German marks led to the notorious hyperinflation of 1923-1924, resulting in widespread misery—a terrific boost to Nazi Party membership. About ten months later, in the midst of Germany’s social turmoil, a politically surging Hitler tried to reproduce, in Germany, Mussolini’s successful March on Rome of the year before.
I will never let those swine take me. I will shoot myself first.
—Adolf Hitler, November 11, 1923
It is widely understood that Hitler’s inexperience, his naiveté, doomed his power grab of November 8-9, 1923. But the larger point to be made, in hindsight, is Hitler’s resilience reflected in his willingness and ability to learn from his mistakes. His flexibility was due to a realistic self-appraisal of his extraordinary political, administrative, and rhetorical abilities, and to his clear understanding of the turbulent politics in which he operated. Before his release from prison, he had come to the realization that henceforth he would have to operate nominally within constitutional limits and with the approval of the military.
His 1923 plan to take power in Munich, and then Berlin, had been founded on the three Bavarian power brokers: Gustav Ritter von Kahr, Bavaria’s commissioner general; General Otto von Lossow, Commander of the military region that included Bavaria; and Colonel Hans Ritter von Seisser, Commander of the Bavarian State Police. Although he understood that these three men were not one-hundred percent on board with his plan to overthrow the Berlin government, one of his big mistakes was to count on forcing them into obedience. Range details other key mistakes that derailed the putsch, such as failing to control the communications system. In the final confrontation, when Hitler’s march with 2,000 men was stopped by the Bavarian State police, four Bavarian police and sixteen Nazi marchers were killed. Hitler was captured two days later and held on charges of high treason. His twenty-four day trial began at the end of February 1924. He was found guilty, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and paroled after only eight months.
At his trial, Hitler turned the political tables on the prosecution by embracing, rather than denying, his treason, which he held up as the mark of his patriotism. He pointed out the stark truism that, “High treason is the only crime that is punishable only if it fails.” He argued that the traitors of 1918 should be held responsible for treason, but not Hitler himself, for “I do not consider myself a traitor, but rather simply a German who only wanted the best for his people.”
The decisive factor responsible for Hitler’s getting much his own way in the course of his trial was chief judge Georg Neithardt’s tolerant and openly partisan treatment. The judge had a nationalist track record of harshness against leftists and leniency for rightists. He revealed his bias when he granted Hitler early parole a year earlier on a breach-of-the-peace conviction. Neidhart had also commuted to life imprisonment, the death sentence of the assassin of Kurt Eisner, the Bavarian Minister President. Judge Neidhart’s tendentious rationale was that Eisner had such low standing in the polls that it was not such a terrible murder. When Hitler came to power he duly rewarded Neithardt.
Rare Opposition to Hitler Noted
At his trial, Hitler had pretty much his own way, suffering little pushback–with an exception noted below. This was not the case earlier when, like other minor politicians, he was buffeted by the sort of opposition an extremist rabble-rouser might expect. Range cites one such case from March 1923, some months before the putsch. By then, Hitler’s political star had risen to a point where he was granted an audience with the formidable General Hans von Seeckt, commander in chief of the German army. At the meeting, Hitler had no problem treating the general to a trademark four-hour harangue in which he inveighed against the “November criminals”–those in Hitler’s eyes who were responsible for Germany’s defeat in WWI–and the threats from the “perfidious Jews.” At one point Hitler declared, “We National Socialists will see to it that the members of the present Marxist regime in Berlin will hang from the lampposts. We will send the Reichstag up in flames, and when all is in flux we will turn to you, Herr General, to assume leadership of all German workers.” When Hitler was finished, Seeckt simply replied: “From today forward, Herr Hitler, we have nothing more to say to one another.”
Later, during Hitler’s trial, General Otto von Lossow, whom Hitler had attempted to suborn into treason, ably defended himself. With great effect he called Hitler a liar, claiming that Hitler had given him “his word of honor that he would not stage a putsch.” Lossow noted that “Hitler is obsessed with the word ‘brutality.’” Lossow’s effective speech turned out to be one of the few moments in the trial when Hitler was exposed for who he was. As we know, Hitler never won a majority in any free and fair election. Many were opposed to his policies, but the Hitler phenomenon was one of those terrible cases where the majority did not prevail.
Parole and Escaping Deportation
Hitler was eligible for parole on October 1, 1924, after serving less than a year in prison and only five months after his conviction. One looming crisis he faced was whether he would be deported to his native Austria, which could ended his political career. Though Hitler had the friendly Bavarian courts on his side, he was still facing some formidable opposition from the Bavarian bureaucracy. The Munich deputy police chief strongly opposed Hitler’s release on parole due to the “permanent danger” he represented to the “internal and external security of the state.” As “the soul of the volkisch [nationalist] movement,” if Hitler was to be released, then he should be deported, wrote the deputy. The prosecuting attorney, Ludwig Stenglein, also weighed in, citing Hitler’s responsibility for the violence, kidnapping, and theft during the putsch, as well as his 1922 conviction for assaulting opposing politician Otto Ballerstedt, for which Hitler was still on parole!
In the end, the friendly Bavarian courts beat back all the opposition to Hitler’s release, although there was an almost three months’ delay until December as appeals made their way through the courts. Hitler managed to escape deportation to Austria in large part because the Austrian government, challenged by the strain of its own pro-Nazi elements, refused to allow him to be returned to Austria. The Austrians used the legally dubious argument that Hitler’s service in the German army meant he was no longer an Austrian citizen.
German professor Lothar Machtan’s exposé in The Hidden Hitler (2001) has convinced many “by the sheer weight of direct and circumstantial evidence,” that Hitler was a homosexual — of the type that could not bear the slightest intimacy with women. (Hitler’s homosexuality is not addressed in Range’s book.) In Machtan’s view, Hitler was able to conceal his sexual nature because he relentlessly pursued and destroyed whatever evidence he could find. He was also determined to silence, even by means of murder, those who could expose him. When he became Chancellor of Germany he made a point of confiscating the six-volume file kept on him by the Munich police. Similarly, in 1938, when Germany absorbed Austria into Greater Germany in the Anschluss, Hitler sent agents to confiscate the files that the Vienna police had compiled, presumably because in addition to whatever else, it contained records of his sexual contacts.
In Explaining Hitler (1999), Ron Rosenbaum stresses that Hitler was a frequent target of blackmail attempts. Machtan asserts that it was the threat of exposing his sexuality that spurred much of the blackmail efforts, some apparently successful. Along similar lines, Machtan provides a revisionist angle to at least part of the motivation for Hitler’s bloody purge of June 30, 1934, known as the “Night of the Long Knives.” Among the hundreds Hitler ordered murdered was his mentor, friend, and perhaps lover, Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA, the Sturmabteilung, Hitler’s paramilitary wing. Doubtless others were also murdered during that time due to their knowledge of Hitler’s sexual activity.
During his time at Landsberg prison, Hitler and his fellow conspirators enjoyed relaxed special treatment. Machtan reports that in the so-called Feldherren wing, Hitler and Hess and others took pleasure in sporting contests, rowdy evenings, and hot baths in the “modern bathroom reserved for us alone.” The prison governor had to restrain their unruly behavior from time to time with such messages as: “Nudity outside the fortress living room . . . is not allowed. The proprieties have to be observed everywhere, especially when several fellow inmates share a room with you.”
Effect of Hitler’s Homosexuality on His Politics
Clearly it wasn’t Hitler’s homosexuality which turned him into one of history’s most horrific mass murderers. If his sexual orientation had anything at all to do with Hitler’s vicious ruthlessness it would likely have been his alienation in reaction to society’s prevailing homophobia. Once Hitler became Chancellor, Machtan theorizes, Hitler lived under self-imposed celibacy for the rest of his life, a condition that would seem to have done little to diminish his murderous resolve.
Machtan’s findings may also spur new investigation into the radical change Hitler underwent when he was an adolescent. He began as leader of his boyhood friends as they played cowboys and indidans, and attained good marks in school. And all of a sudden, around 11 years old, he became anti-social and his schoolwork suffered dramatically to the point that he never graduated from high school. Perhaps it was his isolation, anger and frustration at the emergence of his sexual identity that played a critical role in his “hatred of the world and his thirst for extermination.”
One of the best things about Range’s 1924 is that it points to the need for a similar book equally deep in German sources, a book that would give a sense of what political life was like in the years leading up to January 30, 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Such a book would detail the terribly destabilizing violence and anarchy caused in large part by Hitler and his storm troopers, especially the murders of political opponents whose elimination helped pave the way to Hitler’s rise to power. In Explaining Hitler, Ron Rosenbaum offers a window into some of the “politics” of those years.
Scarcely an issue [of the newspaper] went by in those final years without one and usually two, three, or four brief dispatches reporting the blatant cold-blooded murder of political opponents by Hitler Party members. Cumulatively, what one is witnessing is the systematic extermination of the best and bravest, the most outspoken opponents of the Hitler Party as they’re gunned down or clubbed to death with truncheons or as bodies are found stabbed, strangled, drowned, or simply never found at all. Followed frequently by reports of how one court after another has allowed the murderers to go free or get off with sentences more appropriate for petty theft.
Rosenbaum’s details were based on his research in German archives, where he found contemporary newspaper articles. A book-length treatment could provide the context that made it possible even for Hitler’s opponents to accept the new reality when they woke up on the morning of January 31, 1933 to their new Nazi Chancellor. Optimists might have hoped to regain some of the law and order missing in the last months–if not years–of the Weimar Republic. Unfortunately, they got the order, but not the law they preferred.
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By Ronald Bleier.
When Trump speaks of vote rigging he’s intending voter suppression, especially blacks. No big secret. I suspect that until he met with Karl Rove months ago he was ignorant of computer vote flipping; and that virtually all computer vote counting is done on Republican controlled companies which are routinely strategically manipulated. (See Professor Mark Crispin Miller’s recent compilation of the evidence. http://markcrispinmiller.com/2016/11/election-theft-a-conspiracy-theory-only-an-ignoramus-or-a-troll-would-say-so-heres-the-evidence/)
One dramatic example of such flipping I’ve cited in the past is the theft of the 2002 election from Don Siegelman for governor of Alabama. It was a close race and one county reported a set of results from electronic machines that made Siegelman governor. Then in the middle of the night the computers recalculated and reported a different set of results. He lost the race. (He now sits in jail, afterwards railroaded by Karl Rove and his cronies. President Obama refuses to pardon Siegelman, nor did the White House make any effort to intervene to keep him out of jail in the first place.
Computer vote flipping to reverse election results on a state and local level goes back to the 90s if not before. On a national, presidential level I’m not aware of such interventions till 2000 when the votes in Florida were flipped to give the race to George W. Bush. In 2004 the flippers learned their lesson and they made sure it wouldn’t be close and they gave the national vote to Bush as well as shifting the electoral college. Is it amazing that they could get away with giving the election to someone who was so deeply unpopular after four years in office, not least because of Iraq? Kerry was well aware that Ohio was stolen but he turned out to be one of a long line of Democrats who didn’t want to be president. He apparently was also briefed on the the long planned US attack to retake Falluja which would have to be indefinitely postponed if he contested the election.
Needless to say the major media – as well as the left alternative media – are unwilling to report on such high level hijacking of a presidential election. One symptom that they prefer to look the other way is that is that they refuse to engage in exit polling in critical areas which would reveal the discrepancy between official results and how people actually voted.
Interestingly, a similar high profile signal of election rigging happened in two presidential elections — in 2012 and in 2000. In 2000 Florida was so clearly won by Gore that the TV media were calling it for the Democrats by around 10 pm. Soon a surprise national interview was granted by the Bush family as they watched the results on TV in their hotel room. The Bush spokesperson warned that no matter how clearly the results in Florida seemed, the Bush camp were still confident it would change in their favor. In hindsight, we can deduce that that they preparing the country for a contested election, not to mention that the fix was in.
On the evening of the 2012 election, despite the overwhelming numbers, Karl Rove also tipped his hand that he had intended to reverse a potential Obama victory. Search: “Karl Rove’s election night melt-down on Fox News.” On national TV he kept insisting that it wasn’t over, that late results would swing the race to Romney.
A fly on the wall reported to me that in Karl Rove’s meeting with Trump a few months ago, the substance of their talk was that Rove assured Trump that in a close election, he could shift the results in crucial states. Because Trump’s opponent is Hillary, it’s far from clear, how hard Karl Rove might have to work.
For the latest iteration in computer vote flipping see http://blackboxvoting.org/fraction-magic-1/
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By Ronald Bleier.
Although I’ve had a healthy political repugnance for Hillary Clinton for years, it was only after reading Roger’s Stone’s Clintons’ War on Women (2015) that my eyes were opened to the unspeakable extent of the Clinton crimes and corruption. Indeed the book should be called: The Crimes and Corruption of the Clintons. I had lately taken to calling Hillary “a monster,” largely due to the baleful, destructive foreign policy outcomes that she oversaw in Syria, Honduras, Libya, the Ukraine and the Maldives – and surely elsewhere. The Stone book showed me that I had only scratched the surface of how deeply debased were both the Clintons and what might be the prospects if she reached the Oval Office.
Regarding Bill, I had a passing acquaintance from the work of Christopher Hitchens of his history of his sexual assaults on women. From Stone I learned that it was Hillary who was Bill’s chief enforcer; compelling the silence of many of Bill’s victims. Stone insists that it is Hillary who is the dominant figure in their marriage, and his portrait is one of those larger- than- life figures – a force of nature that overwhelms those who oppose her. Stone portrays her as intimidating, powerful, ruthless, and as corrupt perhaps, as anyone in public life.
While I had assumed that ethics was not the Clintons’ highest priority, I hadn’t realized the extent to which they were in the major leagues, scoring into the hundreds of millions of dollars for their various “charitable” and non-profit organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Clinton Presidential Library. Stone alleges that some of the funds from these organizations went to support their extravagant and grandiose lifestyle. A measure of the Clintons’ brazen hypocrisy was exposed when Hillary was forced to concede that it was “inartful” to claim that they were broke when they left the White House.
Roger Stone is a long-time senior Republican operative currently working for the Donald Trump campaign. Obviously, he has every reason to dig up as much the dirt as he can. But since he eschews policy debates, and writes only of their personal histories, I found him a more reliable source for the reality behind Bill and Hillary than I could expect from Democratic Party operatives and from Clinton supporters. Stone makes clear that he understands that it would do him little good with much of his intended audience to print accusations that are not credibly supported. He quotes from sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post and he includes the traditional scholarly apparatus of an index, a ten- page bibliography and hundreds of footnotes.
Potential readers will decide for themselves whether to take his charges seriously and whether to read his book. For the most part I found Stone’s narrative persuasive, revelatory – and shocking. I was made aware that much of what I had known about the Clintons was largely restricted to what appeared in the mainstream media. I was also largely persuaded that the Clintons’ public relations and intimidation campaigns were generally successful in that they have managed to keep a great deal of damning information from acceptable public discourse.
Co –president Hillary of the sharp elbows
Stone alleges, and had little difficulty persuading me of his finding, that Hillary was a sharp elbowed, foul-mouthed bitch, capable of cursing out her aides, not to mention her security detail. Nor was her husband or colleagues spared her often brutal tongue lashings. A terrible example may very well be the case of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, (her former lover, claims Stone) whom she publicly humiliated in a July 1993 White House meeting. According to FBI agent Copeland, Hillary told Foster “that he didn’t get the picture, and he would always be a little hick-town lawyer who was obviously not ready for the big time,”(208) It was this public humiliation, opine insiders, that pushed him “over the edge” to suicide. (see below)
According to Stone, when Hillary thought it appropriate, she both verbally and physically abused her husband. Stone includes several pages of examples of Hillary’s “outrageous, nasty, and even violent behavior,” which took place both before and during Bill’s presidency. Among other examples, Stone cites an article by David Brock for the American Spectator entitled “His Cheatin’ Heart: Living With the Clintons: Bill’s Arkansas bodyguards tell the story the press missed.” According to state trooper Larry Patterson, once, when Hillary was unhappy with a quote Governor Bill gave to the [Little Rock] morning paper, she unleashed her “garbage mouth” calling him a “motherfucker, cocksucker, and everything else. (190-191)
One of Hillary’s bursts of “shrieking profanities” allegedly occurred on the day of Bill Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993 when Hillary made her feelings known after her husband stubbornly refused to accede to her demand that he transfer to her Vice President Al Gore’s office. (190)]
In March 1993, when Hillary learned that her husband was partying in D.C. with Barbara Streisand while she and Chelsea were in Little Rock, attending vigil on her dying father, Hughie, Hillary rushed back to the White House and beat her husband to the point where Bill sported a “nasty-looking scratch on his neck.” Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said that “it was a big scratch, clearly not a shaving cut.” (192-193)
Bill’s and Hillary’s Co –Presidency
While it was public knowledge that Hillary wielded great political influence, I had not been aware of Stone’s assertion that Hillary was effectively co-president. Stone claims that on key issues she was very often or most often the decider. If that’s true, then at the very least she shares responsibility for some of the worst of his politics. Prominent among Bill Clinton’s presidential betrayals, were:
— the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 for which both Bill and Hillary have lately been forced to apologize in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Sanders challenge for advancing the New Jim Crow.
— The Gramm–Leach/Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 overturned New Deal banking and investment restrictions. Critics have charged that the law opened the way for banks too-big-to-fail. Graham Leach led to the “creation of giant financial supermarkets that could own investment banks, commercial banks and insurance firms, something banned since the Great Depression.” (Wikipedia)
— the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which many, not least this writer, have to thank monthly for our ever-rising cable bills in exchange for mediocre service. Among the lowlights of the Act are media consolidation; the loss of scores if not hundreds of independent radio stations, and the “corporate welfare” which freely gave away valuable public digital broadcasting licensees.
— the Waco 1993 standoff and assault
Stone is particularly exercised by the ruthless role he claims Hillary played in ordering the U.S. assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in April 1993 ending a 50-day standoff with the FBI. The assault took the lives of 76 women, children (eighteen younger than eight) and men — some burned to death. Stone devotes a page to listing the names and ages of the victims at the front of his book.
Stone’s charges that it was Hillary who was largely responsible for needless death at Waco is at variance with official story claims that Attorney General Janet Reno, representing the FBI, persuaded President Bill Clinton to ok the attack. Stone’s allegation is bolstered by phone-log evidence pointing to Hillary’s role, along with Vince Foster and Associate Attorney General Webb Hubbell, who together coordinated the crisis. Stone cites a source that claimed that an impatient Hillary, frustrated with the long standoff, pressured a reluctant Janet Reno to act. (199-200)
Bill’s assaults on women
Stone goes into some of the details of Bill’s alleged myriad assaults on women including details alleging three assaults, citing one rape (Juanita Broaddrick, pp. 49-56) one inappropriate advance (Paula Jones, pp. 58-61) and one assault/attempted rape (Kathleen Willey 77–88). Stone alleges that these instances are a fraction of the sexual assaults committed by Bill that Hillary and her team had not managed to squelch. As Stone put it on reddit, these accusations are not about consensual sex or merely adultery or one night stands.
It’s about sexual assault and rape. The number of women who have accused Bill Clinton is staggering, and they are entirely believable. They have not been paid by anyone to bear false witness against Bill.
Early in Stone’s book we get a glimpse of where Bill might have picked up his “cavalier attitude toward sexual conduct” and where both Clintons might have learned lessons regarding the impunity that comes with high office. It seems that Bill told Cliff Jackson — one of his buddies during his Rhodes Scholar days at Oxford — a story about how President Lyndon Johnson had sex with an anti-war hippie on the floor of the Oval Office. It seems that they were in flagrante when a secretary walked in on them. The lesson Bill took away from the incident was: “How slick, how neat that Lyndon could get away with this.” (p. 341)
Stone cites reports that Bill was a notorious assaulter of women going back to his twenties. As a Rhodes Scholar, Bill was one of the few who left Oxford without a degree when he was expelled at age 23 in 1969 “for sexually assaulting a 19-year- old coed named Eileen Wellstone … at a pub.” (40-41)
According to Stone, Bill was a close associate of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Stone claims that Bill took seventeen flights on Epstein’s private jet, the “Lolita Express,” routinely used for orgies at 30,000 feet, often with underage girls. (See also “The Billionaire Pedophile Who Could Bring Down Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,”)
Stone alleges that it was due in large part to Clintonian political influence that Epstein received a mere slap on the wrist prison sentence of thirteen months during the course of which he spent most of his time out of jail, only retiring there in the evenings since the judge allowed him a sixteen-hour-a day pass.
Stone cites widely quoted remarks by an exercised Mitt Romney, in April 2015, where he points to some of the alleged corruption which could be the motivation behind Hillary’s decision not to allow her emails to flow through government servers. Romney said:
I mean, it looks like bribery. I mean, there is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of [perhaps] 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia, and then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails. And you know, I presume we might know for sure whether there was or was not bribery, if she hadn’t wiped out thousands of emails. (352)
Stone claims that Hillary never followed through on the promise she made to the Obama administration to “disclose the names and seek approval on donations” to the Clinton Foundation as a means of inhibiting conflicts of interest. (339-340).
In the most recent flap over ongoing Justice Department inquiries regarding Hillary’s emails, the mind boggles – even after reading Stone – at the Clintonian sense of impunity. What could Bill have been thinking, one wonders, when he found or created an opportunity to engage in a 30-minute “largely social” conversation with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in her plane at the Phoenix airport on July 2, 2016? The New York Times reported that, when the inevitable outcry exploded, an all-too-obviously embarrassed Lynch joked that “she should have acted more swiftly to keep [Clinton] from boarding.” If, in the course of their conversation, Bill did indeed read Lynch the riot act, spelling out her career prospects if she did not decide in Hillary’s favor, then the Clintons may very well have made a cold calculation that a few days of unpleasant headlines is a smallish price to pay for dodging a government indictment and a presidential campaign in shambles. (See for example: “Former president delayed Phoenix takeoff to snare ’20-25 minute encounter’ with Attorney General”)
The Clinton Foundation – A Cash Cow
I had heard of the Clinton Foundation before I read the Stone book but I hadn’t realized how seemingly easy it has been for the Clintons to brush aside regulatory restrictions intended to prevent charitable donations from leaking into personal accounts.
Stone charges that while Clinton was Secretary of State she oversaw large contracts to corporations like Boeing, G.E., Lockheed Martin which in turn made donations to the Clinton Foundation of $5 million, $1 million, $250, 000 respectively. One example of extraordinary amounts going to the Clintons was the $600,000 NBC (49% of which was owned by General Electric) paid to Chelsea Clinton just before an enormous U.S. contract was awarded to General Electric while Hillary was Secretary of State. (346)
Nor does Stone have many kind words for Chelsea Clinton whom, he charges, is a “grifter” just like her parents. Stone cites witnesses describing her as “loud and demanding,” offensive to top staff at the Clinton Foundation resulting in a good deal of turnover. Nicknamed by them as “the Princess,” she has been termed “opinionated and aggressive.”(347)
Stone spends several pages detailing a number of complicated deals beginning when Hillary was a senator in 2009 and later as Secretary of State which involved transferring control of uranium mining from Kazakhstan to a Canadian company and finally to Rosatom, a Russian state-owned company. Stone claims that Russia now controls uranium mining holdings stretching from Central Asia to the American West; and that the Russians control one-fifth of the uranium mining in North America.
In addition to the national security implications of these uranium deals, Stone alleges corruption, citing payments from these deals going to the Clintons. Stone points to, among much else, a New York Times April 2015 article headlined: “Cash flowed to Clinton Foundation amid Russian Uranium Deal.” Stone says that the New York Times “confirmed” that investors who profited from the deal “’donated’ an astounding $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.” Bill was paid a $500,000 speaking fee by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment firm with ties to the Kremlin in June 2010, the same month that a key contract was signed for Rosatom control of the uranium holdings. (349-353)
Stone lists about a page (of “instances in which the actions of the State Department benefitted the immediate interests of the Clinton Foundation.” 341-342) Stone details the amounts in these cases that flowed to the Foundation and to the Clintons.
— a developer donates $100, 000
— Chevron donates between $500,000 and $1 million
— Swedish telecom company Ericsson pays Bill $750,000 for a single speech
— a Chinese firm Rilin Enterprises pledged $2 million to the foundation’s endowment
The Haiti Earthquake Opportunity
Stone charges that the Clintons were deeply involved the corruption surrounding recovery efforts consequent to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The Clintons were crucial brokers “involved in every phase of the relief effort including a UN donors conference at which 150 nations and organizations pledged an “astonishing” $9 billion. Stone charges that the Clintons controlled the disbursement of this money and tapped it for their own benefit and for the benefit of “their foundation and friends.” (345) Stone writes that only 900 homes were built with the “millions and millions” donated.
Stone notes that in one Haiti-related case, a Clinton pal from Florida, one Claudio Osorio, acquired federally backed tens of millions of dollars in 2010 to build hundreds of homes there but constructed nothing and pocketed the money. He was a contributor to Hillary’s 2008 campaign and also to the Clinton Global Initiative. (374)
Along with Osorio, Stone lists details of Clinton pals and “crony-funders:” Vinod Gupta, Sant Chatwal, Amar Sigh, Victor Dahdaleh, and Gilbert Chagoury who were all variously charged with, and in some cases convicted, variously, of fraud, illegal campaign financing, obstruction of justice, illegal campaign donations, and tampering with witnesses.. Among the monies that went to Clinton and/or to the Clinton Foundation or to the Clinton Global Initiative from these persons was $3 million from Gupta, millions from Chatwal and Singh, and millions in fundraising for Clinton and/or the Democratic Party from Chagoury. (374-375)
Clinton and Drugs and Mena and the CIA
While Clinton was president I had heard of CIA drug smuggling at the airfield at Mena, Arkansas –about 135 miles from Little Rock — that allegedly took place during the period of Clinton’s governorship — 1983 – 1992. (Clinton was also governor of Arkansas from 1979-81.) Not until I read Stone’s book, did I see allegations that a portion of those drugs were for Bill Clinton’s personal use.
Stone’s evidence for Bill’s drug use comes from several witnesses, including
— Betsey Wright, his chief of staff when he was governor, who said that Clinton had to be sent to drug rehab multiple times;
— from “party girl” and self-confessed drug courier Sharline Wilson, who saw him “messed up” one night (131);
–from his long-time lover Gennifer Flowers (who witnessed him taking marijuana only);
— from Sam Houston, “a respected Little Rock doctor” who claimed that Clinton “was admitted to the University of Arkansas Medical Center for emergency treatment for cocaine abuse and overdose.” (132)
Stone also asserts that an investigation into Bill’s half-brother, Roger, who pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine,, had to be cut short because the “trail led directly to the governor.” (132-134) According to a book by R. Emmett Tyrell, Madame Hillary (2004): “Half a dozen or more Arkansans have testified to doing drugs with both Clinton brothers or to witnessing them doing drugs.”
The testimony from Betsey Wright comes second-hand from Larry Nichols, a Clinton former associate, whistleblower, and Clinton nemesis. Nichols went to work for Governor Clinton as marketing director for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (AFDA) in the summer of 1988 and was fired a few months later in December 1988 after confronting Clinton regarding the corruption he saw in the AFDA. (69)
Stone writes that like the Clinton Foundation years later, the AFDA, an agency intended to provide low interest loans to schools, churches and small businesses, was a cash-cow for the Clintons. The AFDA turned out to be a vehicle for “grants” to wealthy contributors, a portion of which came back to Clinton in campaign contributions. Nor was Clinton, Stone alleges, averse to “dipping in to get cash from the agency.” (68)
Clinton, the CIA, and GHW Bush
How did it happen that, as Stone alleges, Mena, Arkansas became a major site for drug drops and distribution?” Stone alleges that Bill along with the CIA and Vice President (and former CIA director, and later president) George H. W. Bush, provided protection for Barry Seal, “one the biggest drug smugglers ever brought before [a U.S. court].” (146) Stone reports that Clinton himself was a “CIA asset recruited at the University of Oxford in 1968 as documented by authors Roger Morris, Cord Meyer and … Christopher Hitchens.” (148)
40 Clinton Murders?
In his introductory chapter Stone notes “widespread claims” of Clinton responsibility for 80 murders. Stone thinks that that is too large an estimate by half. ( 25) Does Stone believe that Clinton oversaw 40 murders? Even Lyndon Johnson was accused of fewer than a dozen murders.
In any event, Stone explicitly examines circumstantial evidence of only one Clinton-related murder, that of Jerry Parks, a decade-long associate of Clinton. Stone believes that it was “Parks’s knowledge and participation in the Dixie Mafia/CIA drug running at Mena. Stone’s claim is that what “Parks knew threatened the Clinton presidency” and he was murdered in 1993.
In one other case, investigator Robert Morrow, Stone’s co-author, charges that in 1992 the Clintons and Buddy Young sent “three goons to beat up and nearly murder Gary Johnson” the next door neighbor of Bill’s inamorata, Gennifer Flowers, whose security camera happened to record some of Bill’s comings and goings. (170)
The boys on the tracks
On the night of August 22-23, 1987 two teen-age boys – Kevin Ives (17) and Don Henry (16) were killed under mysterious circumstances. Their prone bodies were run over by a train as they lay on a stretch of track known to be a hub of “prolific illegal activity” in Saline County Arkansas, not far from Little Rock, (137) Stone doesn’t actually accuse Bill Clinton of their murder but presents evidence of his participation in the cover-up and his close association with one of the key players, Don Harmon.
At first the boys were officially deemed to be killed by accident. They were incapacitated, claimed Arkansas medical examiner Fahmy Malack, from “twenty marijuana joints” and they fell into “a trance on the railway tracks … side by side.”(139). Later this account was seen to be a cover for murder. The mother of one of the boys, Linda Ives, relentlessly pursued the case and her story was told in a book by Mara Leveritt, The Boys on the Tracks.
A key player in these events was one Don Harmon, a Defense Attorney who was named as special prosecutor, presumably by Governor Bill Clinton. It turned out that Don Harmon is likely to have had a deep conflict of interest. One witness, Sharline Wilson, drug courier for Harmon, puts him at the scene of the crime on the night and hour that it seems likely the boys were killed. Sharline Wilson claimed that Harmon and his men were at the railway tracks, watching over a drug drop — expecting to pick up three to four pounds of cocaine and five pounds of marijuana. While she waited in the car some distance away she heard two trains, then she heard screams. “When Harmon came back [she reported], he jumped in the car and said, ‘Let’s go.” He was scared. It looked like here was blood all down his legs.” (138)
Clinton protected Arkansas medical examiner, Fahmy Malack (138) whose controversial finding of accidental death for some time managed to cover up alleged murder. Clinton subsequently gave Malack a $14 thousand raise and when Malack became a political liability he was moved to a new job at three quarters of his old salary. (140)
According to Stone many “other witnesses, close to the deaths of Ives and Henry, also met brutal, mysterious deaths.” (142) Stone details four other potential witnesses who died or disappeared in 1989 and briefly details their connection to the incident. They are: Greg Collins, Daniel “Boonie” Bearden, Jeff Rhodes and Richard Winters, a grand jury witness, whose murder, Stone believes, was “staged to appear as if he were gunned down during a robbery.” (142-143)
Stone doesn’t subscribe to conspiracy theories that the Clintons murdered Vince Forster. Stone seems to agree that Vince Forster committed suicide in 1993. The conspiracy theory that Stone does advocate, for which he provides persuasive circumstantial evidence, is that after Foster committed suicide in his White House office, his body was secretly and illegally moved to Fort Marcy Park, a public park in nearby McLean, Virginia.
Stone deduces that the body was rolled up in a carpet and moved so as to keep investigators away from his White House office which otherwise would have become a crime scene. In that case, the Clintons would not have been able to retain control over Foster’s presumably highly sensitive files. Hillary later wrote that “sweeping” Foster’s office [of Whitewater documents] was ok because it wasn’t “a crime scene.” (213)
At the end of his book, Roger Stone wonders why an aging Hillary (born in 1947, she’s nearly 68) wants to run for president since doing so focuses intense attention on what she has been attempting to hide throughout her career. My own guess is that she may be on the corruption treadmill. Absent her candidacy she would lose the leverage she currently enjoys with those seeking multi-million dollar favors.
A voter’s dilemma
This election has thrown up perhaps the worst two choices of major party presidential candidates perhaps in U.S. history – although to some it might seem that every quadrennial election does the same. Stone’s book has made it that much harder for me to support the Democratic ticket. I voted Green in NYC in 2012 though I supported President Obama’s candidacy to the extent that I hoped he would defeat George Romney. I hoped that he might be constrained in some cases by his party affiliation.
While I applaud Donald Trump’s attack on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I panic at the thought of him in the White House. As for Hillary, I’m now less convinced than I might have been that the former Goldwater girl has the least interest in working for any segment of the American people beyond herself and the .01%
This is going to be a tough year and an even tougher future.
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by Ronald Bleier
At the heart of the Great Recession of 2008 were the millions of underwater homeowners — those whose mortgage debt had risen more than 20 percent higher than the value of their homes. At the peak of the 2008 crisis, there were 15 million such homeowners. By late 2015, their numbers had dropped, according to various estimates, to as low as 4 million – or as high as 7.4 million..
That the numbers had fallen from their highs were no thanks to the Bush administration which was nearing the end of its term — nor did their Republican party remit do more than barely feign interest in such matters.
‘What about the incoming Obama administration? Supporters of the new president might have expected that helping distressed homeowners would be a priority since a goodly number were surely among his core constituency. Not to mention assisting more than 10 million families would provide a crucial boost to the economy and would immeasurably strengthened his party and burnish his national appeal. Yet, apart from lip service and misleading press releases, the Obama administration turned out to have just as little interest as had its predecessor in assisting Main Street. Indeed, looking back, we can now see that, just like his predecessor, his agenda, when he entered office was to block aid to homeowners, despite its negative effects on the economy..
Two books that emerged in 2012 which trace the Obama administration’s refusal to assist middle and lower class homeowners are Neil Barofsky’s Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street; and Sheila Bair’s Bull By the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself . Both books are insider accounts attesting to the authors’ struggles against the Treasury Department run by Timothy Geithner – and by implication, the president who appointed him and supported him.
Indeed, it turns out that Geithner, while following his elite predilections, was basically following orders. Neither books come right out and nailing President Obama as chiefly responsible for setting US policy, but there can be little doubt that Geithner acted throughout with the complete backing – and understanding of the White House.. By 2012 and certainly by the time I read the Barofsky and Bair books in 2014 and 2015, I was clear that President-elect Obama chose Geithner because he understood that the former head of the New York Fedeal Reserve (and tax dodger) favored Wall Street over Main Street on principle and would act accordingly. It was evident that Obama chose Tim Geithner to be his point man blocking reform.
In the spring of 2012 I had blogged on the homeowner crisis issue when evidence emerged that, as he began his third year of office, President Obama was again breaking his promises. A New York Daily News op ed revealed the administration’s treachery. The two authors of the op-ed, Mike Gecan and Arnie Graf, had hoped that at long last, the president was indeed serious about “speeding assistance to homeowners.” That many were still suffering there was no question. Gecan and Graf reported that in 2012 there were 12 million homeowners who were collectively $700 billion underwater. The writers were exercised when they found that the administration’s newly formed “Residential “Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group” was a sham even though it was to be co-chaired by high profile New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
They cited the experience of a hopeful Schneiderman who twice travelled to Washington to take up his duties with the mortgage fraud Working Group. There he found that there was no sign of an office, no phones or phone number, and no staff. According to Gecan and Graf, this newly formed group was the sixth such group that the White House had created and that the total number of staff hired for the previous five groups, “according to a surprised Schneiderman,” was one!
By 2013 White House’s opposition to supporting Main Street was so widely understood that half a dozen states attorney’s general for a time refused to sign off on the administration’s clearly insufficient plan to stem mortgage fraud. They couldn’t support a program whereby the government offered merely $25 billion – as annoucnced in the President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union speech – amounting to merely !0% of what homeowners who were victims of “predatory banking practices” required.
A little hint from Barofsky?
President George W. Bush had appointed Neil Barofsky Inspector General to monitor the $700 billion bank bailout program called TARP – the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Barofsky’s oversight position was created as a concession to Congressional members who hoped to ensure that at least a portion of the bailout funds would go to struggling homeowners. Barofsky, a Democrat, apparently was chosen for the post of SIGTARP –Special Inspector General of TARP — largely because Congress hoped to put in place a man who would stand up to powerful banking interests. He had been serving with distinction for the past eight years as Assistant District Attorney for the Southern District of N.Y.
Barofsky recounts an incident from early in Obama’s presidency that at the time had dismayed and confused me and later made me reconsider what I took to be the new president’s priorities.
In February 2009, President Obama spoke at the Dobson High School gymnasium in Mesa, Arizona to announce a $50 billion mortgage modification program. Arizona was a not inappropriate venue for Obama’s presentation, reeling, as it was, from an avalanche of foreclosures,. Barofsky points to some of the statistics: Nationally there were “2.3 million properties receiving foreclosure fillings and more than 900,000 bank repossessions in 2008 alone.” Unemployment had shot up 2% in the previous six months.
While many were heartened by Obama’s speech, behind the scenes, Barofsky and his team were concerned, (as well as was Sheila Bair for slightly different reasons, see below). Treasury hadn’t given SIGTARP any details about the program. This was especially worrying when it was announced that the plan guidelines would be issued in two weeks. Barofsky felt it was too short a time “put together a well thought out program.” Barofsky’s office was in the loop because SIGTARP was created to oversee government expenditures on these programs and to insure a clean, fraud-free disbursement of funds. (Barofsky 124-127)
The day after the president’s mid February announcement in Arizona, Barofsky was working with his colleagues in his Washington office with the TV in the background when they heard some shouting. They looked up at the TV monitor and saw
Rick Santelli, a CNBC anchor, in midrant against the new TARP mortgage modification program. He described it as a plan for “losers” and compared it to Castro’s Cuba. At one point, he turned to the roaring traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and asked, “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hands.” Finally, in a phrase that would change the landscape of conservative politics in the country, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July.”……
Santelli’s rant , and the political movement it inspired, hung over the [SIGTARP] program for the rest of my time in Washington. (p. 127)
In February 2009 I wondered if Rick Santelli was to have the last word and if his rant would be sufficient to kill U.S. action to help underwater homeowners? Barofsky’s narrative helped remind me of the timing and suggested an otherwise outlandish conspiracy theory – defined as any theory not sanctioned by the authorities and their media messengers. I wondered if the Obama administration may have had a hand in engineering Santelli’s high profile public relations attack on his own mortgage modification program — perhaps via a leak from someone in Geithner’s Treasury Department,
I wondered about the timing of Santelli’s rant. How could he know in advance that President Obama’s newly announced program would allow “losers” to mooch on government largess? Barofsky writes that the details of the program, “the nuts and bolts of how the program would work” were not yet in place, and so could not yet be public information. President Obama, in his remarks in Arizona, had emphasized that his plan would focus on “rescuing families who’ve played by the rules and acted responsibly.” The president was careful to emphasize that his plan
will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans. It will not help … speculators who took risky bets on a rising market and bought homes not to live in but to sell. It will not help dishonest lenders who acted irresponsibly, distorting the facts and dismissing the fine print at the expense of buyers who didn’t know better. And it will not reward folks who bought homes they knew from the beginning they would never be able to afford. So I just want to make this clear: This plan will not save every home. (my emphasis)
While Santelli might have simply ignored Obama’s cautious guidelines and rushed to judgment about the way “losers” and speculators might get their hands on taxpayer funds, how could he know –without a heads up – that his remarks would not face a strong White House inspired rebuttal from sympathetic spokespeople inside and outside the government? Santelli’s reference to the Tea Party later made me wonder if the White House and Treasury actually welcomed – and encouraged Tea Party and Republican opposition.
The White House rebuttal never happened. By not engaging in strong pushback, the White House was effectively green-lighting the upcoming Tea Party campaign and Republican and grass roots opposition.
Widely perceived as an effective reformist and an opponent of banks that were “too big to fail,” Sheila Bair served as Chairperson of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006 to 2011, for two years into Obama’s term. Also, appointed by President George W. Bush, Timothy Geithner was Sheila Bair’s bête noire as well, forcing her to work around the obstacles he often put up, as she did her best to look after the public interest. Well before the end of her term there was no question that effective as she was, she would not be reappointed by the Obama administration.
Cheating homeowners, not helping
As it happened Sheila Bair was at the president’s side in Arizona when he announced his home modification program in mid February 2009. Bair cringed when the president announced that he aimed to help three to four million homeowners. She was frustrated because she understood that Obama was announcing figures he should have known (or surely knew) were inflated since her own, more aggressive program –turned down by Treasury — would at most help about 1.2 million homeowners. Three years later, by the time she wrote her book, fewer than 900,000 homeowners were making lower modified mortgage payments.
Worse than merely inflated claims, an adverse effect of the White House’s inadequate program, was that about a million homeowners were cruelly thrown into foreclosure by the program even though they had been making modified timely payments for months. These homeowners had signed up for “trial modifications” — an administration idea to quickly show off high numbers – but were later informed that they had not filed all the extensive documentation required. Thus more homeowners were hurt than helped as the unlucky ones were duped into premature or unnecessary foreclosures.
Geithner’s motive vs Obama’s
Geithner’s motive for blocking administration support for Main Street is comprehensible, though reprehensible. He seems to have viewed his area of responsibility as a zero sum game: i.e., his policies reflect the view that help for Main Street conflicts with the interests of big banking and Wall Street. What’s clear is that Tim Geithner should have been among the last people tapped by an supposedly reformist incoming Democratic president to administer programs in a manner so damaging to the interests of the middle class and others. Nor is it accidental that regimes such as Bush’s and Obama’s should especially target the middle class since they are the ones with the wherewithal and the interest in challenging injustice and inequity.
The question remains: Why did Obama choose someone like Geithner who represented the interests of the 1%, or perhaps more accurately the .001% Why didn’t Obama take seriously his mandate to serve the national interest?
What was Obama’s motivation? Why would he deliberately sabotage his own constituency, his own reputation and that of his party, not to mention the health of the US economy and the resulting international ramifications? Why did he pursue a malevolent agenda, why did he become the more effective evil, institutionalizing retrograde and destructive policies? Why did he act in a way that would make him unpopular and greatly weaken his party? Why would he deliberately give up the opportunity to gain public acclaim and enhance his legacy?
One thing we can construe from the Barofsky and Bair narratives is that they portray an Obama administration that has not been passive. Barack Obama has not been conflict averse, nor disengaged. The president’s destructive and obstructive record instead bespeaks an aggressive, focused, determined mind, as, or even more ruthless and relentless as the people he placed in powerful positions.
Obama’s appointments to senior and mid-level positions all-too-often represent the president’s counterintuitive agenda. Geithner was not alone in subverting the policies that Obama’s supporters hoped to see. There were and are too many others — often Republicans — who served and continue to serve as Obama’s point men and women, pursuing policies antithetical to the hope and change the country and the world so sorely needed. Some of their names are Eric Holder, Larry Summers, Robert Gates, James Comey, David Petraeus, John Brennan, Michael Hayden, Hillary Clinton – and more..
Barack Obama is, or ought to be, known by the company he keeps.
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By Ronald Bleier.
On October 9, 2015 it appeared to blogger Moon of Alabama (MoA) that the US was giving up on its war against Syria due to Russian determination to employ heavy duty military force in support of Assad. The next day, MoA reported that Obama is, instead, doubling down, risking war with Russia.
The person who told the Saudis to deliver 500 TOW missiles to Syria ASAP was likely CIA chief Brennan. He also ordered to plan for attacks on the Russian base.So instead of a calming down and cooperating with Russia to fight the Islamic State the Pentagon was told to shorten its program and to hand out weapons to everyone who asks. The CIA is feeding more weapons to its mercenaries via its Gulf proxies and is planning for direct attacks on Russians.The war on Syria, and now also on Russia, is unlikely to end in the near future. With the U.S. throwing more oil into the fire the war will burn not only in Syria but in every other country around it.(Obama Launches A Proxy War On Russia In Syria, 10.10.15, MoA http://www.moonofalabama.org/)
Ruthless Obama? Yes, he’s been ruthless since the third day of his administration in January 2009 when he launched his first drones strikes on West Waziristan. But reckless? Up to now he’s only been reckless with the lives and homelands of foreigners. But to let Brennan loose on Syria, and allow the U.S. to escalate the proxy war with Russia is cause for concern about a recklessness that we haven’t seen before.
Up to now Obama seemed to be content with winning the domestic public relations war attacking Assad and Putin, while covertly arming ISIS, al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and all the other jihadist factions. His agenda has not been to topple Assad, but to keep the war going indefinitely. But with this new escalation the administration now seems to be ready fight Russia on more level terms.
Hopefully Obama will maintain the flexibility to pull back from red lines that shouldn’t be crossed. In that case, the only ones who will suffer will be millions of Syrians and Iraqis and Turks, etc.,. – and hundreds of millions of Europeans who will continue to be flooded with a continuing mass of refugees.
At his next press conference, reporters might like to ask what the president thinks will be the effect on the world economy and polity of the continuing unrest, destabilization and suffering his policies have been causing.
MoA (10.12.15) published evidence – a photo of a downed drone — of U.S. special forces operating in South Syria, in contravention of international law.
MoA concludes on an optimistic note citing Russian plans to triple its daily sorties in support of several thousand new fighters from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon in support of Assad. He feels this ought to be enough to expel “the intruders from South Syria.”
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By Ronald Bleier.
When I told my nephew, Mike, that I found that sneezing is an indication that I need to drink water, he asked me how I arrived at this theory. Before he challenged me, I hadn’t really given the question much thought. I’ve simply understood for years that there’s a connection. In the end, most of my 3-page, 1260 word article, turned out to be context and commentary – and seems short enough to include in an email. I’ve also squeezed in two additional tips which have also helped me understand when I need to drink more water.
How do I know if I’m drinking enough water? From time to time media reports feature “experts” asserting that we need to drink only when we’re thirsty, and also, not to worry, we get plenty of water from the foods we eat. A similar view seemed to be the point of a couple of New York Times articles in the summer of 2015. In the first the Times pushed back against the familiar 8 glasses of water a day prescription. (“No, You should not have to drink 8 glasses of water a day,” 8.24.15) In the second the Times went so far as to dig out reports of two college football players who died after drinking 4 GALLONS of water, presumably in the course of a practice session. (“For Athletes, the risk of too much water,” 8.26.15)
In my experience I’ve found that the counsel to “drink when you’re thirsty” is far from satisfactory. Eventually I came to the conclusion that much of the time I was probably walking around inadequately hydrated. I’ve learned that drinking enough water takes focus and continual diligence.
Nature makes a compromise
It seems reasonable to reflect that humans have evolved, along with other mammals, so as to be able to survive for long periods while moderately (or even mostly) dehydrated. I suspect that the compromise that nature makes with survival lands us with a thirst function that is not optimal for modern life. If this is true, then even though we can operate “normally,” without sufficient water for long periods, the resulting lack of sufficient hydration can have cumulative ill effects.
In my case, I suspect, insufficient water intake has, from time to time, lowered my resistance and helped bring on colds or even the flu when illness might have been prevented by timely water intake. I also suspect that for some people, lack of adequate hydration could result in even more severe symptoms like gout or kidney stones and who knows what else. A recent NYT article (“For Older Adults, Questioning a Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease, 9.15.15)
reported research findings that half the population over 70 may suffer from chronic kidney disease. I wondered if persistent under-hydration could be a factor. (Later I found in a NYT article from 2011 that supported this guess. See below.)
The good news?
Fortunately, over the years, I’ve discovered some tips which help indicate when I need to drink more. The first, the cue the body receives from sneezing, seems the least well known. I once took the opportunity to mention my theory to a doctor, an experienced internist. He said he had never heard of it, but he seemed interested and he didn’t immediately reject it.
Drinking Water prevents sneezing!?
I’ve found that sneezing is an indicator that I need to drink water. Trying to reconstruct how I figured this out, I suppose that by trial and error I found that when I felt a sneeze coming on, I could prevent it by a timely drink of water. Perhaps what prompted these initial trials, was that after a sneeze, when I drank some water I felt a sense of relief which suggested there might be a connection.
My working theory is that when sensors in the body’s nasal and sinus passages detect inadequate hydration, a sneeze is provoked. In my case, I’ve found even subtle changes of temperature, like moving from one room to another where the temperature might be lower or higher, are sometimes enough to stimulate these sensors. Unsurprisingly my sneeze sensors are more dramatically stimulated by the changes of temperature and humidity when I enter a steam room or sauna.
Sensors may provide limited warning
Nor is keeping up with my body’s water requirement always a routine matter. All too often I’ll be caught up in whatever I happen to be doing, and the sneeze will catch me before I can get to water. After a sneeze I try to make a point of drinking water. I’ve found that the sneeze – sensor function does not continue indefinitely. If I don’t promptly rehydrate, typically I won’t be warned in the same way again. I suppose we’ve all noticed instances where someone sneezes half a dozen times or more in a row. Multiple sneeze episodes may very well be the body’s last dramatic notice that water is required. Afterwards, without prompt re-hydration, the body presumably retreats into water deficit mode. Long periods in this mode may lead to both short and long term health consequences.
As for the 8 glasses of water a day rule, I’ve never found it useful. I don’t count the number of glasses I drink. What I try to do is pay more attention to my body’s hydrological needs. It’s not so easy, but I’ve got my sneeze function and two other tips (see below) to help me out.
I usually make use of a handkerchief or two when I go abroad in cold weather. I finally figured out that I wouldn’t need to clear my nose so often – or at all – if I were adequately hydrated. Not so easy to do in cold weather as in warm. Thinking along these lines also made me wonder about what happens when we’re sick in bed with a cold. To what should we put down our sneezes in these circumstances? By this time readers can imagine my conclusions.
Drinking water with Meals
Years ago I happened to read that WWII concentration camp inmates learned from experience that digestion was facilitated by drinking water before eating. This prescription has worked very well for me whenever I can so remind myself. I’ve also learned to drink water during and after eating as well.
I’ve also found that after overeating, the best medicine is water. A sign that I’ve overindulged is the discomfort I feel when I try drinking water after a bout of gluttony. I soon find that it actually gets too uncomfortable to drink more than a relatively small amount. Then I need to wait awhile before I drink more to allow my system to go through its processes. Such thoughts reminded me of those football players forcing down gallon after gallon until they dropped. They might have been taught that they merely had to wait till the discomfort passed before continuing their water intake. Perhaps it was their sports mindset that encouraged them to persevere despite their pain. It would seem a good idea, with drinking water, as with all things, to keep in mind the golden rule of moderation.
And what about the New York Times? Does the Times contradict itself? An internet search yielded a NYT article from 2011 that seems to support my experience (“Really? The Claim: Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day to Protect the Kidneys,” 11.7.2011). Researchers found that a moderate intake of extra water, above two liters a day, helps the kidneys clear the body of toxins and reduces long term kidney problems. The brief article concludes: “A moderately increased intake of fluids may protect the kidneys.”
Two more tips
More people seem to know about the next two tips, about which I have little to say other than they’ve been useful.
The color of urine
Over time I came to realize that if I were adequately hydrated the color of my urine would NOT be yellow. If I’m drinking enough water my urine will be clear.
I’ve found that chapped lips are one of the body’s indicators of dehydration. It took me years to make this connection which became obvious once I recognized it. I can’t recall the last time I used lip balm.
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By Ronald Bleier.
Part I — The Two Minute Video
As soon I saw “Flight 175 – Slow Motion Video,” a two minute video on youtube (h/t JG) regarding the strike on the South World Trade Center Tower on 9/11, I realized that I had finally found a vehicle — and the magic words — that would get the attention of friends and family
. Since the video was only two minutes long I was able to approach people whom I suspected would otherwise balk at entertaining conspiracy theories, especially on this topic.
The video supplied me with the magic words:
It worked beautifully. Reactions more than fulfilled my optimistic hopes. Virtually everyone among the handful of people to whom I showed it was profoundly affected. Viewers were thrown into confusion if not outright disbelief about the government’s version of what happened that day. After watching the video, as often as not, conversation ensued about the implications of what was seen.
The first anomaly
As the video title — “Flight 175 – Slow Motion Video” — indicates, we see, in “super slow motion,” the purported United Airlines flight 175 passenger jet crashing into the South Tower on 9/11. The narrator/producer, Kevin Walsh, an independent researcher, announces that by slowing down the video he’s going to point to two “impossibilities.”
The first impossibility is that when the “plane” strikes the building, we see that it doesn’t break up into pieces as might be expected, but disappears and is swallowed up into the building which returns to its per-contact state as if it had never been struck. Already this suggests a physical impossibility since a building struck by a passenger jet would not return to its pre-strike state, nor could a crashing plane slip into a building.. As Walsh puts it: “a real airplane couldn’t have sliced through a building with a steel façade with reinforced concrete flooring, with 47 steel support beams. A jet’s wing can’t slice through a steel building like a hot knife through butter.”
9/11 activist, Morgan Reynolds, author and chief economist in the Bush administration (2001-2002), helps explain why a jet plane could not be swallowed up by a steel tower. The fuselage of an airplane is relatively fragile and is not built to penetrate a tall steel building. “With only minor hyperbole,” he writes, a plane’s fuselage is essentially “a hollow aluminum tube.” Compared to the weight of the building — half a million tons—vs the weight of the plane – 140 tons – “the plane, of course, would be crushed.”.
Among large jetliner components, only engines and landing gear would retain serious structural integrity in a collision although small parts like actuators would remain intact too. …[P]lanes running into ,…, concrete barriers, and steel buildings very poorly, just as speeding hitting a … telephone or do. A plane flying into a WTC tower should break up, shatter and scatter pieces everywhere.
The Second Impossibility
Walsh explains that the second impossibility is in plain sight – pun apparently intended – though he says with chagrin that the anomaly is sufficiently subtle that it took him almost twelve years to spot it. He begins with a still picture and points to a building that’s clearly behind the South Tower. Walsh explains that if the video was what it was purported to be, a real amateur video credited to Michael Hezarkhani, a diamond merchant from Los Angeles, the wing of the plane, as it moves toward the Tower, would appear in front of the background building. As the video proceeds, we see that the plane’s wing appears behind the building, not in front of it. Something is wrong.
Walsh identifies this as a “glitch,” a layering CGI (Computer Generated Image) “glitch.” Once it’s pointed out, it seems an absurdly obvious mistake, and goes a long way to cracking the video’s credibility. It seems clear that this video, so critical to upholding the official story of hijackers, crashing planes and falling towers, cannot be trusted. It is a fake. My brief experience showing Walsh’s video indicated that it is this second anomaly of the wing appearing in the wrong place is that most persuasively exposes it as a scam.
Complacency and fear
As it happens, I’m an atheist so I don’t believe in God, nor do I believe in alien abductions, or shape shifting illuminati. However, if someone presented me with the opportunity to spend two minutes looking at what they claimed was evidence for the existence of any of these phenomena, I suspect I wouldn’t mind taking that much time out of my busy schedule to satisfy myself or to please my informant.
Yet I suspect that my willingness to look at such evidence arises from my confidence that nothing shown me in two minutes – or two hours – could rock my world view. But what if someone were to offer me the opportunity to look at evidence that I actually feared might overturn my belief system, the means by which I manage to control and navigate in my own little world? Would I have the courage to spend two minutes looking at such evidence?
Part II — My journey to No planes on 9/11
For about three years after 9/11 I believed the official story – I believed that fanatical Muslims used planes as weapons to bring down the Twin Towers – and all the rest of the 9/11 fable. What I lacked that day was very little. All I needed was someone to point out that steel-framed buildings do not, cannot and never have been brought down by fires, no matter how large or intense.
It wasn’t until 2004 that my belief in the official story was overturned by watching a one hour presentation on controlled demolition by 9/11 researcher Jim Hoffman. From Hoffman’s talk and from other videos on 9/11 research, I learned that for a tall building to collapse at the speed of gravity – less than 10 seconds in the case of the Twin Towers – the intervening resistance, floor by floor, must be removed. For example, the resistance provided by floor 89 must be removed before floor 90 can fall freely; and so forth all the way down. Only by means of controlled demolition, where explosives are used to remove resistance floor by floor can such free fall take place, By the end of Hoffman’s presentation, I agreed with his conclusion that 9/11 must have been an inside job since Osama Bin Laden (OBL) could not have arranged for the controlled demolition of the Towers.
A prominent real world example of an even more massive fire which did not cause the collapse of tall buildings was the One Meridian Plaza fire in Philadelphia in 1991 which burned for 18 hours and was described by local officials as “the most significant fire in this century.” Other such examples include the First Interstate Fire (1988), the One New York Plaza Fire (1970), the Caracas Tower Fire (2004) and the even more severe Windsor Building Fire (2005). Sufficiently hot fire above 2500 F – not the relatively small fires which were quickly going out on 9/11 — will cause steel to melt and bend but will not remove the intervening resistance from floor to floor – the only means by which free fall collapse can occur.
Hoffman’s convincing presentation stimulated me to seek additional information about what really happened on 9/11. I found an authoritative voice regarding anomalies in the official story in books by Professor David Ray Griffin. Known by his fans as the Guru of 9/11, he has written at least eleven books on the subject. After reading his first two books, The New Pearl Harbor (2004) and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions,(2005) I was convinced that 9/11 was an inside job. Griffin’s clear and eloquent prose offered persuasive evidence that reinforced my understanding that since OBL and fanatical Muslims could not have arranged for controlled demolition, the alternative must be that the 9/11 terror attacks were planned and executed by the U.S. government. In that case, they would have been masterminded by Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld et al. Their motive? They intended to jump start their permanent war agenda via the “war on terror,” beginning with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
I learned that the term “a new Pearl Harbor” – which Griffin used as the title of his first book on 9/11 — was coined in the 1997 founding document of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The phrase encapsulated their stated objective to maintain a high level of military spending despite the end of the Cold War. They hoped to effect a “revolutionary” program of unprecedented U.S. global dominance through unbounded militarism. They actually had the chutzpah to write that an extraordinary terror event would be necessary to “catalyze” the drastic change they desired in the political culture — to move America off its complacent course as they saw it, into a new world of endless aggression. As they put it: “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor.”
No Planes on 9/11?! Some of the evidence
About a year after I was convinced that 9/11 was an inside job, an email from a colleague pointed me to “the best single article on 9/11.” My friend’s praise turned out not to be hyperbole. I was soon convinced by Gerard Holmgren’s ten-page article, “Manufactured Terrorism – The Truth About Sept 11,” (2004) – that no planes were involved in the 9/11 attacks. Holmgren’s article was also the stimulus for a follow up article by Morgan Reynolds, author and chief economist in the Bush administration (2001-2002), “We Have Some Holes in the Plane Stories,” (March 2006). Reynolds’s article added gravitas and more detail to the theory and together, the two articles made for me a powerful, credible case.
Among their strongest points is one similar to the first of the anomalies pointed out by Kevin Walsh’s video: if a plane with a mostly aluminum body was to strike a tall building it wouldn’t be swallowed up by the building: it would break up and parts of the planes would fall to the ground. The steel jet engines would survive in recognizable form and wreckage of all types would be available for independent verification. A real plane crash would leave behind body parts, seat cushions, luggage, and similar evidence. Yet no such evidence has ever been produced for independent inquiry. (A more recent terrible real world example of visible post-crash debris can be seen in media photos of the remains of Germanair crash in the French Alps in March 2015.)
John Lear, a celebrated professional pilot, the son or grandson of Bill Lear, the founder of the Lear Jet, whose experience in 40 years of flying included flying jets of all types, has lambasted the official account of 9/11. In a 2008 affidavit he flatly asserts that no Boeing passenger jet crashed into the Twin Towers because such an event would have left visible evidence of wreckage. With regard to Flight 175 – the same flight as in the Walsh video – he argues that “a real Boeing 767 would have begun ‘telescoping’ “when it struck the steel framed building. “The vertical and horizontal tail would have instantaneously separated from the aircraft, hit the steel box columns and fallen to the ground.”
In another article Reynolds argues that the ‘unprecedented collapses in steel framed skyscrapers, bear all the hallmarks of demolition – virtual free fall speed of collapse, pulverization of concrete … film and photographic evidence of explosions.” Reynolds dismisses theories that anything other than explosives caused the WTC collapses. “In sporting parlance, the contest between two rival scientific theories produced a rout: demolition 100, impact-fire-pancake-collapse theory O. The official ‘pancake’ story cannot account for the wide range of incontestable facts involved in the collapses while demolition can.”
Holmgren directs attention to the contradiction between the almost instant claim that Osama bin Laden was responsible, and the surprise of the Bush administration at the attacks. He points to the apparent inaction and disinterest of President Bush and Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, during the attacks. Holmgren cites the immediate threat to invade Afghanistan when it turned out the decision to do so had already been made by July 2001 and the plans were on Bush’s desk by Sept 9. He takes special notice of the urban myth that Bin Laden claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Indeed Osama bin Laden’s denial that he had anything at all to do with the attacks was was briefly reported in the major media. Six days after 9/11, CNN reported Osama bin Laden saying: “I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons.” In its report, CNN included President Bush’s response. “No question he [OBL] is the prime suspect. No question about that.”
Where are the Muslims?
Holmgren wonders how credible it was that the FBI was able to so quickly identify 19 Arab hijackers within a few days. We later learned that the FBI was ready with the list even before the last plane crashed. Canadian author and researcher extraordinaire, Peter Dale Scott, reported in 2006 that by 10 a.m. on 9/11 the “FBI had distributed a list naming 18 of the 19 alleged hijackers.” Holmgren is also skeptical about the allegation that passports of some of the hijackers as well as suicide notes were found at the crash sites. He found it “miraculous” that the luggage of the purported ringleader, Mohammed Atta, just happened to be left for the FBI to find at Logan airport. The FBI also found Atta’s written instructions to his fellow hijackers.
More reason for skepticism appeared when some of the alleged hijackers began turning up alive after 9/11 and denying any part in terror activity. Nor were there any Arabic names on the passenger lists provided by the airlines. Circumstantial evidence that no hijackings occurred was that “not in not one of the four alleged hijackings did any of the crew punch in the four digit hijacking code to alert Air Traffic Control.” Holmgren also wonders why there was no distress call from Flight AA 11 (which allegedly struck the North Tower) when there was a purported 25-minute standoff, including shooting and stabbing of passengers.
More important work researching the lack of evidence for hijackers has been done by Elias Davidsson, author of Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11: Counterfeiting Evidence (2013). Davidsson goes into great detail pulling together evidence that there is no authenticated CCTV video of the hijackers at the departure gates; there are no authenticated passenger lists or boarding passes; there has been no positive identification of the hijacker’s bodily remains; nor are there any witnesses who have seen the hijackers at the security and boarding pass checkpoints.
The “key to acquiescence in the government’s war on terror and global domination project is public belief in Arab hi-jacked airliners and crashes,” writes Morgan Reynolds. Widespread belief in Muslim responsibility for 9/11, Reynolds believes, explains some of the “intense resistance” to the theory of No Planes. Muslim culpability for this extraordinary terror event supports the Israeli-Zionist agenda of viewing the Islamic world as an existential threat and helps to ensure pro-Zionist support for the official story. It’s difficult to imagine the planners of 9/11 going forward had the official story not been in support of the Zionist, anti-Muslim agenda.
Practical Difficulties with Planes
Holmgren takes up some of the practical difficulties of actually pulling off the 9/11 attacks by means of passenger jets. For example, the planners would have to choose between using suicide pilots or piloting the jets by remote control. He writes that the difficulties of using real pilots are not difficult to imagine.
What if, for example, the Arab pilots haven’t been trained to fly jets? Or if they haven’t been trained to fly jets without responding to ground control? What if they don’t wake up in time to make their flights? Eric Hufschmid, an advocate of the theory that the passenger jets were piloted by remote control asks similar questions: “What if the hijackers decide to switch from hitting the World Trade Center to hitting the U.S. Capitol…or they miss the towers and hit some other building?”
What about the option of remotely controlling the planes — which some researchers believe gets around the unlikelihood of U.S. officials coordinating with Muslim terrorists to drive planes into tall buildings? Holmgren writes that the option of using remotely controlled planes either with or without passengers runs into “potentially insurmountable problems with the cover up.” A remotely controlled plane might “hit some other building, just clip its wing on the tower and crash into the streets or cause a cascade of damage on other non-targeted buildings, miss altogether and finish up in the Hudson.”
To the planners of 9/11, even the smallest risk of missing the target exactly would be unacceptable, writes Holmgren, since difficulties with the alternative scenario – perhaps employing cruise missiles, for example – would be “easily manageable.”
Holmgren suggests some of the problems that the planners might envision. “For example, an unacceptable outcome would be if the plane missed or slightly missed its target and it was found that there were no passengers. Similarly if there were passengers and one or more survived to tell their story. Even if no passengers survived, innocent rescue workers might arrive before the cover up crew and discover and release forensic evidence inimical to the cover story.” Holmgren argues that any of these outcomes would be “far worse” than the relatively negligible risk involved with potentially contradictory witness testimony in the “18 minutes between the two tower strikes.” “
Media: The Key to the Official Story Fortress
If the circumstantial evidence against the official 9/11 theory is so strong, how does one explain its popularity and its durability? Although none of those responsible for 9/11 has come forward and no smoking gun documentation has as yet come to light, circumstantial evidence is routinely acceptable as the basis for prosecution and guilty verdicts. The reason the official story continues to be so durable, it seems, is that most people will tend, as I did, to accept the government’s version when it is backed up by the media. Since we rely so strongly on the government for our security and the stability of our system, we tend not to seek out or take seriously contradictory scenarios. Especially in such dramatic, high stakes cases, when there is a media consensus, a magic circle, a fortress of allowable discourse, is created so that skeptics tend to be marginalized or invisible.
When Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged murderer of President John F. Kennedy was himself murdered two days later on live television while in police custody, many instantly suspected that he was shot in order to prevent the exposure of a conspiracy. Such a shocking and blatant silencing of an indispensable witness was so obviously scandalous that it seemed a certainty that it would be followed up vigorously by the media and by high profile politicians and others, forcing a government response. But in the succeeding days and weeks there was no such follow-up and no outcry developed. As a result, in time, the public was lulled into complacency and fell back on reliance upon the government account. For all practical political purposes, an impenetrable magic circle developed around the official story, which has lasted – in respectable discourse on both the left and right — to this day.
Is the Slow Motion Video a fake?
Two of the dozen or so people to whom I showed the Walsh video
Comparing the Walsh video with the CNN video will convince many that the Walsh video is genuine; that Walsh has simply slowed down the CNN video exactly as he represents. Yet some might still complain that the real time CNN video proceeds too quickly to observe Walsh’s first impossibility — that the building has swallowed the plane and closed up afterward without a trace of damage. The building’s absorption of the plane cannot be easily seen if at all in real time.
Is (the lack of) Plane Wreckage Decisive?!
By replaying the early part of the CNN video — seconds 6-12 — as the plane strikes the building, viewers can see that the crash yields no visible evidence of plane wreckage falling to the ground or stuck into the building. No independently verifiable evidence of plane wreckage has ever been produced. Morgan Reynolds believes the question of wreckage is pretty close to decisive.
The most obvious defect of the official story is an at each crash site. Government could have ended controversy over planes long ago by allowing independent investigators to examine part numbers and compare them to each plane’s maintenance logbook. This did not happen following the 9/11 crashes. (my emphasis)
Reynolds adds that it is actually difficult to find proof that airplanes crashed on 9/11 since “no air accident investigations were conducted,” The government’s theory apparently, is that since there is no doubt that the events of 9/11 were caused by Muslim terrorists, there was no need to proceed with air accident investigations. 
It didn’t take long to find an on-line rebuttal to the Walsh video entitled ,9/11 WTC Second Plane – Michael Hezarkhani Footage – NOT FAKED by one Thomas David Dilley. Dilley speaks with a British accent, and provides a photo of goateed young man, perhaps in his late 20s. At first I wondered if he was an independent activist or a government sponsored disinformation agent. Dilley claims that Walsh’s second impossibility, the apparent layering CGI mistake of a wing appearing behind a building which is itself behind the South Tower, is NOT actually a mistake. He claims that the wing is really in the right place because if you look from another angle, the building supposedly behind the South Tower is really in front of it. Therefore, he concludes, the (CNN) Hezarkani video is not faked because the wing is really in the right place.
I had little difficulty dismissing the Dilley video as witting or unwitting disinformation. His argument seemed, after I thought about it for a bit, deliberately confusing. It’s hard to imagine a building behind another from one view, and in front of the same building from another view. In the end, I wondered whether whoever might be behind the Dilley production considered that they might unintentionally be lending Walsh support by tacitly granting that his was indeed a bona fide slow motion copy of the CNN video.
I also noted that the Dilley video didn’t address the way the “plane” was absorbed by the building and closed up afterwards – which can only be seen when the video is slowed down; nor does Dilley address the question of the lack of evidence of plane wreckage.
Part III – No Planes
Controlled Demolition Means No Planes
Critical to my understanding of 9/11 as an inside job has been, what I believe is incontrovertible evidence for controlled demolition – steel high rise buildings cannot fall at the speed of gravity into their own footprints absent controlled demolition. They never have done so before or since.
While working on this paper I was startled to belatedly realize that those like me who believe that the Twin Towers (as well as Building 7) were brought down by controlled demolition should ALSO by default understand that no planes were involved in the 9/11 events since both at the same time requires the unrealistic scenario of remarkable coordination between those U.S. based elements who arranged for controlled demolition of the Towers with Muslim hijackers. If it were the case that the U.S. had planned to bring down three tall buildings in NYC via controlled demolition it was hard to imagine, for example, agents of Vice President Dick Cheney on the phone to Mohammed Atta, warning him not to indulge in his usual routine of night clubs, alcohol and women the evening before his big day. 
It’s not that U.S. government agents don’t routinely traffic with “terrorists” – those willing for money or ideology to take up terror assignments. Rather, in an operation like 9/11 where all the damage was arranged and conducted in house, Occam’s Razor suggests it makes no sense to enlist outsiders.
My view of the incompatibility of employing both planes and controlled demolition was corroborated by a high profile critic of the official story who, even while he embraced the controlled demolition theory, nevertheless insisted that planes actually crashed into the Twin Towers. My colleague resolved the difficulty with the theory that the planes that crashed were remotely controlled. As noted above, Holmgren helped me identify this theory as impractical and essentially unsatisfactory. In the end, I concluded that proponents of remotely controlled planes were tacitly admitting that in the real world there would have been no coordination between U.S. officials and Muslim hijackers.
I later recalled that years earlier the late great left journalist, activist, and author, Alexander Cockburn, pointed out that the planes were just a distraction from the shock and awe of the collapsing Towers. He reasoned that if the Towers were brought down by controlled demolition, planes were unnecessary. To be sure, Cockburn was writing from the perspective of someone supporting the official government theory of hijacked passenger planes. As with the assassination of JFK, he supported the government theory because he was opposed to conspiracy theory on principle.
Cockburn’s point about the planes as a distraction was intended as a rebuttal to those – in the great majority of the 9/11 research movement — who still strongly maintain controlled demolition AND hijacked passenger planes. I suppose they support this arguably illogical position because they fear they will be discredited even within the ranks of their own supporters if they risk venturing onto No Planes territory.
I had anecdotal evidence that it was for political rather than evidentiary reasons that many 9/11 skeptics insisted on both controlled demolition and planes when one of my activist 9/11 colleagues admitted as much to me some time ago. Years earlier he had been far more optimistic than I that our 9/11 activism would actually lead to a media and political breakthrough. At that time he argued that embracing No Planes would damage the 9/11 truth movement since everybody “saw” a plane crashing into the South Tower. In a happy twist, it turned out that it was this same colleague who was the one who emailed me the link to the Walsh video, with the report that due to the video, he had now been converted to No Planes.
Cockburn’s view is characteristic of the anarchists/Marxist systemic critique of capitalism and imperialism which holds that individuals are merely weeds tossed about on history’s great currents. Such a position seems to be the basis for Chomsky’s (in) famous statement that the assassination of JFK was relatively insignificant because he was “just a man” – meaning that the blame should rather fall on the entire corrupt system and not on conspiracy theories that require specific individuals as decisive historical forces. As David Ray Griffin has written in The New Pearl Harbor, it’s not clear why a systemic critique should not be compatible with an understanding that particular actors in positions of power can also change history.
Our post 9/11 history has taught us, there can be a high price to pay for accepting uncritically self-serving stories from the government and the media. Too many millions have already paid their terrible price in death, destruction and suffering since 9/11 and the future only seems more bleak for many many more millions. Even in relatively untouched countries, government encroachment on liberty and privacy are ominous signs of a loss of democratic protections and a drift toward totalitarian control.
On the day of 9/11, I readily accepted the notion that fanatical Muslim pilots had the operational skills to steer a passenger jet plane into the Twin Towers. Years later, I was to learn that such a thing was impossible in practice. I learned that the technical impediments were such that even the most skilled jet pilots could not routinely manage it. John Lear confirms that even he couldn’t do it without practice – and how does one practice flying a passenger jet into a skyscraper? The lack of a realistic basis for the government theory that planes crashed into the Twin Towers was compounded when we learned that the alleged pilots of September 11th, were amateurs, trained only on small propeller planes and whose proficiency on these planes was judged “average” or “poor.”
Some of the impossibilities of using a plane as a weapon
John Lear’s 2008 affidavit supported a lawsuit brought by Dr. Morgan Reynolds challenging the government theory “as to how and why the World Trade Center buildings collapsed on 9/11.” Although the lawsuit was dismissed “with prejudice,” Lear’s affidavit provides striking practical and technical details explaining how difficult it is in practice to steer a passenger plane from cruising altitude of 35,000 ft into a tall city building. Lear believes it “would have been impossible … for anyone with little or no time in a Boeing 767 … to have taken over and then flown the aircraft at high speed, then descend to below a thousand feet above sea level and then flown a course to impact the twin towers.” He says that even he couldn’t do it on his first try.
What is so difficult about steering a Boeing 767 into a skyscraper? Lear begins his explanation citing the government theory that the hijackers would have to murder pilots with box knives. In that case, he points out, “there would be blood all over the seat, the controls, the center pedestal, the instrument panel and floor of the cockpit.” The dead pilot would have to be removed; the seat would have to be adjusted, spreading more blood over the controls and throttle, making them more sticky and difficult to operate.”
After disposing somehow of the pilots, the hijackers would have been confronted with an “’EFIS’ (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System) display panel, with its several screens and clusters of hard instruments. Lear finds it hard to imagine how an amateur would be able to interpret the display panel if they had not had the requisite training. How would such a pilot use the controls, “including the ailerons, rudder, elevators, spoilers and throttles to effect, control and maintain a descent? The Boeing 767 does not fly itself nor does it automatically correct any misuse of the controls.”
Even on a clear day a novice pilot would be wholly incapable of taking control and turning a Boeing 767 towards New York because of his total lack of experience and situational awareness under these conditions. The alleged hijackers were not ‘instrument rated’ and controlled high altitude flight requires experience in constantly referring to and cross-checking attitude, altitude and speed instruments. Using the distant horizon to fly ‘visually’ … is virtually impossible particularly at the cruising speed of the Boeing 767.
The next difficulty Lear addresses is the irritating clacking sound that would have sounded in the cockpit as soon as the air speed went above 360 knots (414 mph) since such speeds exceeds FAA guidelines. This clacker could not be turned off on 9/11/2001, but has since been changed since it interferes with pilot decision making. The clacker and speed of the airplane figures in the Lear affidavit because the government version explains the lack of wreckage due to the high speed of the Boeing jets flying into a steel framed building, thereby crushing all the wreckage into invisibility.
Last minutes of purported flights into New York City
Another reason a hijacker would have difficulty finding a relatively straight course into New York City was “because of the difficulty of controlling heading, descent rate and descent speed …” And what would happen, Lear wonders, after the pilot has managed to effectively use the 67 seconds it would have taken to navigate the last ten miles to NYC? At that point he would have had “to line up perfectly with a 208 ft wide target … and stay lined up with the clacker clacking plus the tremendous air noise against the windshield and the bucking bronco-like airplane.” The added difficulty would arise out of the plane “exceeding its maximum stability limits and encountering early morning turbulence caused by rising irregular currents of air. [In addition] the control, although hydraulically boosted, would be very stiff. Just the slightest control movements would have sent the airplane up or down at thousands of feet a minute.”
To propose that an alleged hijacker with limited experience could get a Boeing 767 lined up with a 208 foot wide target and keep it lined up and hold his altitude at exactly 800 feet while being aurally bombarded with the clacker is beyond the realm of possibility. … At the peak of my proficiency as a pilot I know that I could not have done it on the first pass. And for two alleged hijackers, with limited experience to have hit the twin towers dead center on September 11, 2001 is total fiction. It could not happen.”
Cell phone calls are impossible from cruising airliners
Central to the government’s version are the cell phone calls that were supposedly made from cruising airliners on 9/11. From these calls we learned that Muslim hijackers had taken control of the planes. Years later I learned that successful cell phone connections from cruising airliners were (practically) impossible in 2001 and were impossible as late as 2005 for the same technical reasons (and may also be to this day for the same reasons).
The reason cell phone calls from cruising airplanes were impossible in 2001 was because a cruising aircraft at 30,00 – 35,000 ft, travelling at 500 mph will pass beyond the range of the ground cellphone tower before the electronic connecting procedure, known as the “handshake” can be completed. The speed of the airplane and the limitations of cellphone transmitting power of only five watts (usually only three) make cellphone communication unworkable from a cruising aircraft. Cell phone power is deliberately limited to keep the costs of the phone down and to preserve battery life.
Experiments in the wake of 9/11 to determine the range of cell phones in airplanes have confirmed that the higher – and faster — a plane travels – the fewer chances of success of a cell phone connection. Both Elias Davidsson and Italian award-wining documentarian, Massimo Mazzucco in his five hour 9/11 documentary, “September 11 – The New Pearl Harbor,” cite a well known experiment conducted in Ontario, Canada, in 2003 by Prof A. K. Dewdney. Dewdney found “a distinct trend of decreasing cell phone functionality with altitude” such that chances of success were less than one in a hundred for “a typical cell phone call from cruising altitude. (p. 218). Supporting such experimental findings, we learn that the basis of the business model of the airphone industry was to provide a service not available with cell phones.
When it became clear that claims that cell phone calls on 9/11 were problematic, supporters of the government version shifted their talking points to claim that the calls were made mostly on airphones. Mazzucco cites the example of U.S. Solicitor General, Ted Olson, who first claimed that his wife Barbara, a passenger on AA Flight 77, (Pentagon crash), called him with her cellphone. However, he later changed his story and claimed she made her calls on an airphone.
The difficulty for the switch to the airphone version is that there is official testimony from FBI interviews with the recipients of calls from the 9/11 passengers that the calls came from cell phones, not airphones in at least nine cases. Recipients of calls reported that they could tell from their caller IDs that the calls came from cell phones. This testimony was so definitive that the government and debunkers alike were forced to acknowledge that in two cases the calls were made from cell phones, with the implication perhaps that in these two cases, the odds were defied and the cell phone calls were connected despite the technical challenges. Left unaddressed, apparently, by official sources are the testimonies of at least seven other calls.
Both Mazzucco and Davidsson present a good deal of additional evidence that suggests that the phone calls did not take place on cruising airplanes. The official record is rife with all sorts of inconsistencies and anomalies. Typically there is no convincing airplane noise or sounds of struggle or panic, or credible witness testimony of what might be expected to happen in the case of a hijacking. In more than one instance the time of the phone call doesn’t match up with the government scenario of when they were hijacked.
A notable example is the celebrated case of Todd Beamer, a passenger on UA 93, whose widely reported “Let’s roll,” battle cry, as reported by Lisa Jefferson, a GTA Airphone operator, decisively established in the public mind, the scenario of the passenger uprising that supposedly caused his plane to crash near Shanksville, PA.
Mazzucco summarizes some of the anomalies in the record. According to the 9/11 Commission the hijacking took place at 9: 28. His call to Lisa Jefferson was connected at 9:43, but the contents of his call are strikingly at odds with the official narrative. Beamer stated that the plane was about to be hijacked by three individuals with knives including one with a bomb strapped to his waist. Jefferson estimated that the call lasted 7 minutes before the hijackers entered the cockpit. This would have been at about 9:52, but according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the hijacking took place at 9:28. Mazzucco asks how Beamer could be describing events that are supposed to be happening in front of his eyes, when in fact they had already happened half an hour before. How could they be preparing to take control of the flight when they had already been in the cockpit for 15 minutes?
And this is only one of many anomalies that Davidsson records in his fifteen pages record of the details surrounding Todd Beamer’s call. Davidsson opens his discussion of this call citing Blogger John Doe II’s summary: “There is basically not a single sentence of the call that is not in dispute…. Even the famous last words, “Let’s Roll” are in dispute. (Davidsson, p. 185)
Calls on 9/11 actually came from cell phones
Since it’s clear that cell phone calls were made and that they could not have been made from the air, the question becomes where and under what circumstances were they made? Mazzucco’s five hour documentary includes a twenty minute section analyzing this question (the last section of DVD 1) with chapter headings such as “What happened to the passengers?,” “The cell phone calls” and “If not from the planes, from where?”
What happened to the airplane passengers on 9/11?
Mazzucco frankly admits that we are not likely to ever get the true story of what happened to the passengers, but from the available evidence he is able to suggest a not unlikely two-part scenario. In the first part, the government arranges for a mid-air swap in order to confuse the air traffic control system. In the second, the government lands the passengers in an unknown location and persuades them to participate in a “terror drill” before, we deduce, they were murdered and their bodies disposed of.
Mazzucco explains that the first part, the swap scheme, would have been similar to the CIA plan proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Chief-of-Staff and rejected by President Kennedy in the 1960s. Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plan called for the shoot-down and murder of airplane passengers to be attributed to Fidel Castro’s government as a pretext for a full scale U.S. attack on Cuba. The proposal “involved the in-flight swapping of commercial airliners with military drones.” On 9/11, the airplanes could have been swapped “with a military drone in mid-air unbeknownst to the air traffic controllers. After the swap the airliner[s] would be landed in a military base. The drone would continue to fly appearing on radar as the original plane and would be remotely guided all the way into the target.” The airline passengers would have been taken to a military base (or some other unknown location) and under the pretext of cooperating with a terror exercise, pressured into making the cell phone calls.
Perhaps the most striking bit of evidence that the phone calls were scripted and the callers under duress comes at the end of the voicemail to her husband left by flight attendant Cee Cee Lyles in United Flight 93. At the end of her cell phone call — her mobile number was recorded on their caller ID — she says good bye to her family and whispers a clue at the very end.
Mazzucco gives the text of her revealing message. She begins by addressing her husband:
Baby, you have to listen to me carefully
I’m on a plane that’s been hijacked.
I’m on the plane.
I’m calling from the plane.
I want to tell you I love you
Please tell my children that I love them very much and I’m so sorry babe.
[The narrator adds that we notice the absence of background noise.]
I don’t know what to say.
There’s three guys
They’ve hijacked the plane
I’m trying to be calm
We’re turned around and I’ve heard that there’s planes that been, been flown into the World Trade Center.
I hope to be able to see your face again baby.
I love you.
[Narrator: “After saying good bye she seems to fumble with the headset as she whispers a few more words into the mouthpiece.”]
It’s a frame.
The narrator repeats her last whispered words, “It’s a frame,” several times so that the audience can clearly understand that she is trying to send a subversive message. Adding support to the view that the phone calls were scripted, Davidsson notes the intriguing detail that at the end of Cee Cee’s call, some acute listeners claim to be able to hear someone whisper … ‘You did great.” (p. 303)
Davidsson writes that if someone actually praised her performance, it could lend credence to the theory “that she was acting within the framework of a hijacking drill.” (p. 303) It’s not difficult to imagine why Cee Cee Lyles’s handler would have been pleased. Cee Cee made two important points. She gave the impression that she was witness to a hijacking. Also, she puts a human face on the tragedy as we get a snapshot of someone who knew her life was in danger.
Zeus and Leda
Yeats’s famous poem, “Leda and the Swan,” begins with a rape, “a sudden blow” when Zeus, the most powerful actor in the universe, in the guise of a swan, a false flag, exploits his dominion to achieve his purpose. In Yeats’s retelling of the myth, Zeus’s rape leads step by step to the fall of Troy, to the end of a civilization.
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
The 9/11 attacks were also a beginning: the beginning of a crusade, stoking permanent war, making the world a battlefield, in accord with the vision of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et al, continued, escalated and institutionalized by the Obama administration.
Kevin Walsh’s two minute production, “Flight 175 – Slow Motion Video,” helps to put the lie to one of the signature videos that helped propel the U.S. and the world into its “global war on terror,” and perhaps into a tailspin from which it seems more difficult to escape, month after month and year after year.
 Morgan Reynolds, “We Have Some Holes in the Plane Stories,” (March 2006)
 For a more detailed one page explanation why the physics are such that the fires in the Twin Towers on 9/11 could not have caused the collapses see Jim Hoffman’s, “The Twin Towers’ Fires and Their Possible Effects.”
“9/11 Airplane Affidavit By John Lear, Son Of Learjet Inventor,”
 The singular popular culture phenomenon of Oliver Stone’s remarkable movie, JFK (1992) exposing much of the falsehood of the official story had a remarkable, unprecedented and long lasting effect on public opinion. Wide scale rejection of the conclusions of the Warren Commission is evident even today. ; But the lesson seems to be that if there is no official follow up in these cases, and no pointed media coverage to stir public protest, there will be no substantive political consequences.
 Morgan Reynolds, “We Have Some Holes in the Plane Stories,” (March 2006)
 See Daniel Hopsicker Welcome to Terrorland: Mohammed Atta & the 9-11 Cover Up in Florida (2004) for a detailed account of the lifestyle of Mohammed Atta and some of the other “hijackers’” in the run up to 9/11 in Florida.
 Reynolds felt that the court’s dismissal was highly likely if not certain since his case had the potential to expose the 9/11 conspiracy in a formal and high profile setting. Had his lawsuit gone forward, plaintiffs world have had the opportunity to seek answers from government officials who would be subject to charges of perjury. Reynolds suggests that “when push c9mes to shove” there is no realistic opportunity to get justice because “the powerful will be served.” And since the government would not be able to withstand discovery, it was not surprising that in June 2008 Judge George B. Daniels dismissed his and two other 9/11 lawsuits with prejudice.
http://911scholars.ning.com/profiles/blogs/cell-phone-calls-from-hijacked Cell phone calls from hijacked 911 Airliners were impossible.
 Author Elias Davidsson, Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11: Counterfeiting Evidence (2013) and documentarian Massimo Mazzucco, September 11 – The New Pearl Harbor, 
No Planes on 911 – the two minute video
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By Ronald Bleier.
If there is a list somewhere of great American novels, Henry Roth’s remarkably accessible and powerful masterpiece, Mercy of a Rude Stream, must surely be at, or near, the top. Mercy is Roth’s massive, four-volume follow-up to his classic first novel, Call it Sleep, published in 1934, when he was 28. Roth’s first book is an autobiographical narrative of Austrian- born David Schearl, the son of Jewish immigrants opening when the two year old David and his mother joined his father in the U.S. in 1908. David’s family lived first in the tenements of Brownsville, Brooklyn, and then on the Lower East Side. The novel ends with a dramatic incident when David is 6 or 7.
After Call it Sleep Roth didn’t publish another novel for 60 years until the first volumes of Mercy appeared in 1994. Mercy picks up the story of the same youth in 1914, now an eight year old named Ira Stigman, when his family moved to Harlem. Ira is uncomfortable in his new surroundings since he is removed from his circle of friends as well as his cheder — his after- school Jewish studies group — which helped to center and give him focus. There are few Jews in his new neighborhood and he is often too intimidated by the local Irish boys to go out and play like he was used to.
As the years of the Great War (1914-1918) come and go, we follow Ira through his ups and downs — mostly downs — in grade school, middle and high school up until his last year at City College. Academically, with one or two outstanding exceptions, he never rises above the mediocre. Nevertheless Ira shows sufficient personality and promise to win the heart of Edith Welles, an NYU professor ten years his senior, and to befriend Larry, a popular Jewish boy from the upper middle class who also recognizes something special in him.
Reviewers have noted that the narrative momentum of Mercy builds until the end when Ira is involved in two tension- filled, highly suspenseful incidents, one which is drawn out for more than forty breathtaking pages. Roth here achieves a narrative tour de force perhaps unequalled in serious 19th or 20th century fiction. Roth’s great gift is the way he manages to invest everyday life with drama and conflict. His style has been called lyrical. His writing is down to earth and immediately draws the reader in.
As in Call it Sleep, his father is the great ogre of his life, intimidating when not terrorizing him. His mother is his great teacher and protector, creating the security and love that will in time allow his genius to blossom. Unlike some of the great talkers in his two books — his father and grandfather, his mother and her sister Bertha — both David and Ira are generally quiet and monosyllabic, reserving their talk for their narration. Roth is a great master of dialogue, brilliantly capturing the slang and rhythms of everyday life and including something of the Yiddish flavor of David’s and Ira’s talk with his family, especially his mother.
It was only in 1979, forty five years after Call it Sleep appeared, that Roth began to write the drafts that eventually made up Mercy. Ira’s mature perspective is incorporated via discussions with Ecclesias, his computer alter ego, set off in different type. This device affords Ira the opportunity to fill in some of the key details of his declining years, living in a trailer in New Mexico with his wife M. of 50 years and suffering more and more with the years from rheumatoid arthritis.
Most critically, Ira employs Ecclesias to prepare the reader for the stunning revelation of his youthful “abomination” — Ira’s incestuous relationship with his sister Minnie, beginning when she was 11, and he was 13. Only when Minnie was 17 did she put an end to their sexual relations. At about the time their intimacy ended, Ira began to have sex with his fourteen year- old cousin Stella. The book ends when 21 year old Ira begins his first of his two adult relationships — his ten year long affair with Edith Welles.
Only after hundreds of pages in Mercy is Ira is ready to divulge his secret – the guilt and shame surrounding which we infer has been at the heart of Roth’s decades long writers’ block. A considerable difficulty Roth/Ira confronts is that neither in Call it Sleep, nor until well into the second volume of Mercy, has the existence of his kid sister Minnie been mentioned.
(It’s noteworthy that while David Schearl in Call it Sleep doesn’t have a sister, Ira Stigman does. At one point David is directly asked if he has a sister and he replies that he doesn’t. Perhaps Roth is signaling his real life sister Rose that however closely his novel may mirror events in their lives, he nevertheless intends to keep their secret.)
With Ecclesias, Ira wonders how he will manage now that he has decided he must include Minnie if he is to continue his writing. Must he go back and rewrite the first 350 plus pages of his text or can he get away with simply inserting Minnie into the narrative at this point. Thus, by means of Ecclesias, Ira prepares the reader and solves his problem. Ira may have left Minnie out of the first part of Mercy in order to avoid portraying a clever and determined 12 or 13 year old imposing his sex drive on a reluctant but finally compliant Minnie as is later suggested.
Once Minnie is introduced Ira writes unreservedly about the joy of his transgressions. As Nathaniel Rich writes in the New York Review of Books (“A Prodigal Struggle with Demons,” April 23, 2015), “Ira, despite his deep feelings of shame, writes shamelessly about the thrill of incest.” For Ira, incest is “the jackpot of the transcendental abominable… Better, more obsessively sought after, for being a sin, an abomination! Boy, that fierce furor … He wouldn’t miss it, exchange it, for anything else in the world.”
But Ira pays a terrible psychological and emotional price. Rich lays it out.
Ira is painfully aware of how his desire cripples him, warps him, stunts his growth, and turns him inward. He is immured by his sexual appetite, “appetite always mortised to fear and self-reproach.” His life shrinks to the size of his incestuous compulsion. His sin infantilizes him, keeps him in a perpetual tawdry adolescence. He feels that he’s been ruined for adult relationships, and adult responsibilities. And like any obsessive, he can’t stop.
By 1979, most of the principals in Roth’s life and fiction had died, including his parents as well as Eda Lou Walton (1890 -1961), the model for his lover, Edith Wells of Mercy. His sister Rose was still alive. She stoutly denied the affair, threatened to sue, and received a $10,000 settlement
Only in his 70s was Roth finally able to rise above his guilt and shame and take up his mission.. Both in Mercy and in An American Type, the continuation of his story, we get the portrait of an aging, and after his wife’s death in 1990, a grieving and inconsolable old man. Despite all his physical and emotional struggles, for the five years Ira survived M. he persevered, using all his remaining energy to finish his novel and to oversee the publication of as much of Mercy as he could. In the end Roth lived to help direct the publication of the first two parts of Mercy, and he left the rest of his thousands of pages of typescript in capable hands.
Redemption in Mercy
The theme of compassion and clemency is in the very title of Mercy of a Rude Stream. Roth opens his novel with an epigraph from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII where the King, old and broken, fears that the “rude stream” will show him no mercy.
… My high flown pride
At length broke under me, and now has left me,
Weary and old with service, to the mercy
Of a rude stream that must forever hide me.
In a unique commentary to his epigraph, Roth declares that, unlike Shakespeare’s Henry, whose reference to mercy Roth reads as ironic, he, another Henry, in another age, intends the mercy of his title to be taken literally. “The rude stream,” he insists, “did show me Mercy.”
Robert Weil, in his “Editor’s Afterward,” confuses the issue but he does so instructively, posing the question some might ask:
[Why would Roth] so deliberately debase his alter ego Ira? Few people like seeing their idol so compromised or disgraced; no one indeed wants to see his revered novelist revealed to be a predator, an agent of incest, and victimizer himself. So why then did Roth in his eighties [choose] to make Ira as sexually compulsive and loathsome as possible? (1258-1259)
Weil’s comment seems to indicate that either he doesn’t believe that Henry Roth committed incest with his sister; or that if they did, Roth either should not have admitted it or should have softened the characterization of Ira. I suspect that most readers would reject Weil’s notion that Roth chose to make Ira “sexually compulsive.” Instead, Roth’s difficult choice was whether or not to tell all of his story, a choice it took him decades to make. Roth began to write only after he found his way to fashion his novel with the Universalist themes of mercy, absolution and responsibility.
Weil’s comment is instructive because he points to the courage that it took for Roth to own up to the disgrace of his youthful behavior, even if it meant putting his reputation at risk. Some authors, like Roth, have one story to tell – their own. Roth believed that he had the ability and thus the responsibility to recreate his world. By the time he came to write Mercy he had come round to understanding that if he were not to remain silent he must wholly confront his past. Thankfully he embraced his responsibility and recognized that his youthful transgressions and his unique abilities had put him in position to blaze a trail, to serve as a type for others who might also be living with discreditable secrets.
Roth lived and believed in the possibility of a second act. He offered his story as an example to show that people can graduate from their mistakes, even their outrages, and go on to live meaningful and valuable lives. Moreover, Roth wanted to do for his readers what literature and in particular, James Joyce, had done for him. He credits Joyce with providing him with a model, showing him how to turn leaden everyday existence into art.
Roth and Joyce
Roth had mixed feelings about James Joyce. After the first few pages of Ulysses, Ira labored to get though much of the rest of the novel. (He never mentions Joyce’s best book, Dubliners.) Ira believes that it was due to cowardice that Joyce took the road to obscurity. He guesses that obscurity was Joyce’s means of escaping critical personal issues. Finnegan’s Wake, says Ira, is “a verbal shroud.” On the other hand, Ira credits Joyce with showing him how the banality and the tawdriness of his own poverty-stricken, immigrant background, “the baseness of his days,” could be transmuted into art.
…Ulysses demonstrated to him not only that it was possible to communicate the dross of the mundane and the sordid into literary treasure, but how it was done. It showed him how to address whole slag heaps of squalor, and make them available for exploitation in art…;.
Weren’t fourteen years of school, from kindergarten to college, the raw material of literature? Didn’t it qualify for alchemical transformation? … If that was latent wealth in the domain of letters, why, he was rich beyond compare: his whole world was a junkyard. All those myriad, squalid impressions he took for granted, all were convertible from base to precious, from pig iron to gold ingot. (710)
I suspect that one has to share something of Roth’s genius in order to glean the writing lessons that Roth learned from Joyce. Roth’s style on the other hand, is much more accessible to readers than is Joyce’s. Roth’s fiction is vibrant and sparkling with the tensions and turmoil of his character’s life, amazingly and breathtakingly crafted into art — an open road with many signposts.
Absolution from Edith
At the end of the novel, Ira, understanding that he will get the absolution that he needs from Edith, reveals all. He tells her first about his affair with Stella, and he finally also admits to his years-long sexual relations with his sister. He also confesses that once, when her period was a few days late, he contemplated murdering her to shield himself from disgrace and ostracism. In love with Ira, Edith is ready and eager to begin their affair and she gives him the total absolution he seeks.
[Edith ] quelled [his] fears and guilts, as if bleaching them out of sight with her objectivity…. She reduced the onus of his wickedness, eliminated much of the sense of heinousness, quenched the shimmer of guilt, stealth, risk …,” (1208. Quoted by Weil 1261)
But Ira argues that his sins are irremediable: he is a “louse,” he says, “a schlemiel.” He confesses that he began with Stella when she was only 14; he is not fit to be considered someone worthy of a real relationship, someone fitting to be with her. Edith understands what he needs and she continues with her rationalizations.
“The thing I wanted you to realize … was that in other times and places, other cultures, [a fourteen year old girl like] Stella would be considered nubile, marriageable.. You needn’t feel as if you had committed a grave offense. You needn’t feel you were vicious. You’re not.” ( 1206 -1207)
An admission Ira makes to Edith that was perhaps even more difficult than others, was that the earth moved when he had sex with his sister Minnie. It wasn’t like that with Stella.
With Stella I told you most of the time I felt like a criminal. …That was bad enough. But when I was with Minnie – everything started to dazzle, the walls, the green-painted walls, when she said yes. The calendar on the wall, the furniture … They lilted. (1218)
(I couldn’t help speculating that this might be one of those admissions intended more for Roth’s readers than it was for the particular fictional character, in this case, of Edith Welles. Perhaps Roth felt that he needed to go into the darkest, most shameful of his secrets, if he were going to complete his mission to serve as a model for others.)
Edith’s love for Ira comprises her understanding of his potential as a deep and worthy human being and especially as a gifted writer. Ira had patiently waited for his chance to be with her, because he correctly understood her nurturing mission and how many were the ways she could help him. He came to her because he understood that she would not let him sink, despite whatever she might learn about his abominations. He registers no surprise when she says: “I’m not going to let you go to waste, do you understand?” (1217) In real life, with the support and love of Eda May Wells, the woman to whom he dedicated Call it Sleep, the young author wrote his first masterpiece,
Mercy and Responsibility
Ira makes plain in an exchange with Ecclesias that writing his novel and telling his story is the motive, the purpose that gives meaning to his last years. Their discussion comes immediately after one of the most explicit of Ira’s descriptions of his trysts with Minnie. Ira narrates that afterwards the two young people haggled over how much money he should give her for her complaisance. This time she wants an extra dollar.
Ecclesias is abashed at the details of Ira’s escapades. Echoing Conrad, Ira acknowledges “the horror, the horror,” of his actions, and he pleads for forgiveness and understanding. Ira begs for “a buffer against my demon, my dybbuk, my nemesis.”
“[H]aven’t I changed [over the last fifty years],” Ira begs, and he quotes an Italian text, perhaps from Dante, “O me, Angnel, come ti muti!“(Oh my Angel, how you’ve changed!)
Nevertheless, continues Ira, even so my past crimes are such that I have reason to wish that I had never been born.
Well, now you’ve reached this advanced age, responds Ecclesias, what stops you from putting an end to your life?
Ira’s answer is that he has the “illusion,” that he still “owe[s] something to the species, as a specimen.” Even Ecclesias must agree: “Your offering may be of value. There’s no telling. In any case since you’ve chosen this mode of oblation, chosen to live, to scrive, then there’s no undoing the done. There’s only the outwearing it., the outwearying it, the attenuating of remorse, and guilt. … there’s always room for enhanced comprehension,” (p, 391)
Finally Ecclesias puts into words the author’s hope and his mission: “[Y]ou’ve breached a mighty barrier within yourself, and done so, witting or unwitting, for the benefit of others.”
It’s hard to think of another great writer who has breached such a barrier, telling his transgressive story, risking his reputation. (Perhaps Proust comes close, broadly hinting in the early 20th century, that he was a homosexual.) Through Roth’s brilliance as a writer, his mastery of narrative, and his courage, his work triumphs as a model, showing how he searched deep into his rude stream for mercy and redemption — for his own benefit and for the benefit of others. 
 In 2014, the four parts of Mercy of a Rude Stream were reissued in one 1279 page volume. It includes an “Introduction,“ by Joshua Ferris as well as an “Editor’s Afterward;” and a glossary of Yiddish terms. An American Type, the continuation of Roth’s story ending with his marriage to M. in 1939 — crafted by Willing Davidson, an assistant at The New Yorker, from 1900 pages of Roth’s typescript — appeared posthumously. Roth died in 1995 at age 89.
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By Ronald Bleier.
One sentence stood out in a NYT article on the two brothers — not yet captured at the time of writing – who are allegedly responsible for the terrible Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.
Chérif’s interest in radical Islam, it was said at the 2008 trial, was rooted in his fury over the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, particularly the mistreatment of Muslims held at Abu Ghraib prison.
What Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld did by initiating massive war with their invasion of Iraq was horrible enough, made even worse in that their agenda has not been broadly understood. In a word, their purpose was to destroy the country and keep it destroyed as a means of fighting endless war. They (still do) believe that war fighting is the only legitimate foreign — and domestic — policy activity.. And thanks to Obama, the U.S. has been continuing and expanding their work. The public watches as the U.S. pours oil onto the fires of many countries, either overtly with drone attacks and U.S. troops on the ground, or covertly where reportedly dozens of countries suffer as U.S. special forces do their dirty work.
Is it not worth asking whether the Paris attacks would have happened if President Obama had brought significant change to the destructive U.S. policies he inherited in 2009? Is it not a real question whether those poor victims and their families and their society, along with tens of millions of Iraqis, Syrians, Afghanis, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and others are not martyrs to President Obama’s dedication to endless war?
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld had the excuse of their ideology. They believe war fighting is good – for Israel and for the United States. But President Obama knows it’s wrong.. What’s his excuse?
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By Ronald Bleier.
It’s hard to know which is worse when contemplating the climate crisis – the inability of our collective politics to address the issue, or the vast new power of nature to overturn our world now that we have supercharged its processes via the burning of fossil fuels. Since it’s hard to face such a crisis when we can’t see a practical path to viability, it’s too tempting to escape into denial.
Thus, when I first noticed an article on the climate crisis by Moishe Blechman, Sierra Atlantic’s Chairman of the Publication and Climate Crisis Committees in their Fall 2014 newsletter, my first reaction was to skip it thinking I already know all the bad news I can currently handle. But later I was drawn back perhaps by its provoking title, “Arctic ice is the key indicator of climate crisis,” and perhaps also by its brevity. In the space of less than 1200 words, Blechman was able to effectively draw attention to three of the crucial issues. Interestingly, it was only after I decided to look more closely into the details that I was able to puzzle over just how sweeping and desperate is his conclusion.
Blechman points to three climate tipping points. Perhaps for reasons of space, he doesn’t define “tipping point.” I found Wikipedia’s definition helpful.
The first tipping point Blechman outlines is the change and speed of the jet stream. It’s a change, he stresses, that is permanent. He explains that the new path of the jet stream circumscribes a huge loop bringing cool air much further south than it has in the past. As we might have feared, the new cool air in the south allows mid-latitude warm air to flow into the Arctic in a warming cycle that reduces its ice cover at disquieting speeds.
The second tipping point is the warming of the oceans that are delivering extraordinary heat to Arctic ice which is melting faster than Antarctic ice because the former rests on water instead of land. We are temporarily insulated from some of the effects of global warming because 70% of the extra heat is absorbed by the ocean but this warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that that it’s now predicted to be gone by 2016!
Loss of Arctic ice entails loss of the reflectivity of solar energy not only from the Arctic but from all of the northern lakes and expanses of Canada and Siberia, destabilizing the radiative balance. Blechman avers that humanity is already under siege with only the 0.80 C increase in average temperature since the advent of the industrial age so that the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change call for average temperature increase to be limited to 20 C is wholly inadequate.
The third tipping point
The third tipping point is the melting of the permafrost now gaining momentum throughout the Arctic seas and across Alaska, Canada and all of Siberia. The permafrost consists of ancient deposits of organic matter which are released as methane and CO2.. Even scarier than CO2, methane is released in uncountable numbers of gigatons and is 125 times more powerful than other greenhouse gasses, with CO2 merely the trigger. Blechman reports that in the Siberian tundra a crater emerged between 60 and 80 meters wide, reaching deep into the earth and spewing explosive vents of vast quantities of methane. Later, two more such craters were found.
Blechman underscores the threat that methane may become the “dominant climate forming agent, warming the planet inexorably … creat[ing] unsupportable changes.” He says that the key to stability is maintaining historical Arctic ice. And then he writes: “The only possibility to avoid a dead world is to start to cool the Arctic. A living Earth depends on putting the ice back.”
What did he say?
He wants us to put the ice back!!!!
I guess Blechman means to emphasize that we have to start now!! if we’re going to have a chance at holding back the catastrophic loss of the Arctic ice sheet.
Yes, indeed, many will agree that it’s well past time to look the devil in the eye. While we still have energy and hope, we must do what we can to preserve as much as we can of our global heritage.
Blechman ends with pointers to more information. He suggests that we Google the following important resources.
Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak
Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG); and
Arctic News, especially a video: The Arctic Monster’s Rapid Rise
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By Ronald Bleier.
Operation Protective Edge begins July 8, 2014
“Locals describe intense bombardment” — BBC radio report, July 29, 2014
On August 7th near the end of the first three- day cease fire and the exit of Israeli ground forces, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, producer and guiding spirit, cited some of the grim statistics. In addition to about 1900 deaths, and many more injured, Democracy Now reported that some 500,000 Palestinians have been displaced with 187,000 still living in U.N. emergency shelters. An estimated 10,000 homes completely destroyed, and 30,000 homes partially destroyed. At least at least 11 UNWRA officials in Gaza were killed and electricity, sewage and water facilities were destroyed.
How much of this carnage did Israel intend? The question seems almost silly. Professor Noam Chomsky, on Democracy Now’s August 8, 2014 program addressed the question with his usual incisive clarity.
It’s a hideous atrocity, sadistic, vicious, murderous, totally without any credible pretext. It’s another one of the periodic Israeli exercises in what they delicately call “mowing the lawn.” That means shooting fish in the pond, to make sure that the animals stay quiet in the cage that you’ve constructed for them. (See below for another definition of “mowing the lawn.”)
About a week earlier on Democracy Now‘s July 30, 2014 broadcast (“They Thought They’d Be Safe. They Were Wrong”: 20 Gazans Killed in Israeli Bombing of U.N. Shelter) , a correspondent described Israeli bombing protocols. Viewers were informed that the assaults on Gaza
are always heavier at night. They continue throughout the day, but the heaviest assaults come at dark. And we wake up to see many people dead and to hear their stories and to see people burying their dead. And these people at this U.N. school in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza were killed while they slept. Many of these people had come from border areas. They had heeded Israel’s warnings. Some came after leaflets were dropped on their areas, others came after their homes were destroyed by Israel, and they thought that they would be safe in a United Nations-run school. They were wrong.
None of this is new or even strange to many readers familiar with the issue. But perhaps because I was inured to (or cynical about) most major media coverage, I was more than surprised to see in the New York Times some of the details of Israel’s battering of Gazan industry. ( “Conflict Leaves Industry in Ashes and Gaza Reeling From Economic Toll”) The Times gave the story a generous half page on A10 for August 7th and included a photo of a bombed out Gazan factory. The story went into some of the details of the destruction of 175 of Gaza’s most successful industrial plants.
The Times quoted Ali Hayek, head of Gaza’s federation of industries “whose group represents 3,900 businesses employing 35,000 people.” Mr. Hayek believes that the “occupation intentionally destroyed these vital factories that constitute the backbone of society.” (The Times article included a statement from the IDF “categorically” denying that factories were targeted; only “facilities and locations that have been involved in manufacturing or launching rockets” were attacked.)
The Times article ended with a quote from Ahmad Tawasi, 30, a technician at Al Awda Co.’s 180,000 –square foot factory which had employed 600 workers. Mr. Tawasi said that if his home was destroyed he could “earn enough money to rebuild. But without the factory, he said, ‘I don’t know what will happen.’”
The WWII Comparison
One of my colleagues likes to compare Israel’s barbarism to the Nazis. I tend to avoid such equations since they often provide interlocutors with a knee-jerk, simple, means of running away from the issue. Also, comparing Nazis to Israelis tends to blur the unique elements that distinguish each historical era, For example, Hitler had the military and political wherewithal to direct the death of about 6 million Jews, Gypsies, etc., and to oversee another two score or so millions of deaths of others, including about 5.6 million Germans.
Although the combined casualty lists in Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009, about 1400 killed); the eight-day aerial assault o f November 2012, 100 Palestinian deaths); and the July – August 2014 assault on Gaza do not bear comparison with Hitler’s numbers, I take my friend’s larger point. The critical factor is the intentionality. What the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians in Gaza amounts to the most brutal and merciless savagery that current political circumstances allow. The death and devastation especially in the current assault has gone well beyond that which might have been predicted outside of elite Tel Aviv councils before July 8, 2014.
There’s another and deeper personal connection. As a member of a family that narrowly managed to escape Hitler’s exterminations, I grew up wondering how ordinary Germans were able to rationalize and live with the horror that their government was perpetrating. Part of the answer must lie in the power of denial facilitated by media and government propaganda. An ambiguous, even uncertain example that somehow stuck out for me was the brief comment, as reported in the New York Jewish Week (April 8, 2014), of a woman pained at news reports of civilian Palestinian casualties. At a “communal dialogue” at a Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, entitled “Israel Talks,” a woman affiliated with a Jewish Reform Temple who described herself as “deeply attached “ to Israel, asked, in regard to the ongoing Gaza operation, “Why do they strike at hospitals? Their mistakes are so painful.”
I wondered if she, unlike many of her co-religionists, understood on some level that there was Israeli intentionality behind attacks on hospitals, UN shelters, schools, etc. Of course, in the end, at least in public, she felt that she had to come down on the side of “mistakes.” Was it because he was a member of the Reformed congregation rather than Orthodox that she was unable to filter out news of some of the effects of the Israeli assault? I felt certain that while she could not accept Noam Chomsky’s characterizations , yet perhaps it was possible that there was more of the Palestinian truth that she might be able to absorb.
Interview with a victim –what means terror?
At the end of July, Democracy Now interviewed Amer Shurrab a Palestinian from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, currently doing his graduate studies in the U.S.. Shurrab is one of the survivors of a family ravaged by Israeli firepower and oppression. Five years ago, in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead operation, Amer’s two brothers were killed. They were shot while driving home in the Fukhari region, in the middle period of a “cease fire,” a few hundred yards after getting clearance from an Israeli tank crew. In the end, Amer’s brothers died from their wounds when the Israelis refused to allow an ambulance to the scene for 20 hours.
Amer’s personal horror was compounded in July 2014 when he learned that four of his cousins had been killed in Gaza. On the question of intentionality, Shurrab was clear: “Israel is deliberately targeting civilians from day one of this attack. …They have been bombing houses, wiping entire families to try to scare people into submission.”
Shurrab’s last phrase raises the questions of whether it is Israel’s intention to “scare the people into submission? I doubt it. Palestinians have had more than six decades since 1948 to be familiar with the terror of Israel’s “purity of arms,” lately including drones, F-16s, shrapnel and phosphorous bombs, explicit graffiti and human waste left by departing Israeli soldiers.
Far from requiring Palestinian submission, it seems that, on the contrary, Israel deliberately provokes rocket attacks and as much Palestinian resistance as they can manufacture in order to create pretexts for their assaults, for mowing the lawn. And by “mowing the lawn,” we mean periodic pogroms on a scale of Cast Lead and Protective Edge. These large operations are intended emphasize the message that Palestinians are not wanted in the land and that they will be made to suffer more and more until that time when one way or another they can be removed entirely.
A review of the timeline of the 2014 assault by Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut, writing for the London Review of Books, (“Israel Mows the Lawn”) helps set the context. Rabbani writes that, stymied by Palestinian diplomacy, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, seemed “a drowning man” when he was thrown a “lifebelt” with the disappearance of three settler youth on June 12, 2014. Rabbani sees a connection between Netanyahu’s escalation and the June 2, 2014 inauguration of a new Palestinian Authority government following the April reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Despite the lack of evidence that Hamas had anything to do with the teens’ disappearance, Netanyahu
held Hamas directly responsible and launched a ‘hostage rescue operation’ throughout the West Bank. It was really an organized military rampage. It included the killing of at least six Palestinians, none of whom was accused of involvement in the disappearances; mass arrests, including the arrest of Hamas parliamentarians and the re-arrest of detainees released in 2011; the demolition of a number of houses and the looting of others; and a variety of other depredations … On the night of 6 July, an Israeli air raid resulted in the death of seven Hamas militants. Hamas responded with sustained missile attacks deep into Israel, escalating further as Israel launched its full-scale onslaught.
Rabbani’s timeline adds piquant substance to the conspiracy theory that the teens were murdered, not by Palestinians, but in a false-flag operation by the Mossad in order to create a suitable pretext for the coming operation against Gaza. (See Cintayati, “10 Reasons .. Hitchhikers June July 2014 was an Israeli False Flag”)
The U.S. Role
BBC radio interviewed a Palestinian with U.S. citizenship who voted for Barack Obama twice. The unnamed Palestinian said: “It was a mistake [to support Obama.] He helping Israel.” 4 August 2014
One of the points, touched on from time to time on Democracy Now’s coverage is that the U.S. has done little or nothing to stop the slaughter. On the contrary, President Obama seemed effectively to be smoothing the way and condoning the butchery, even past the point of previous Israeli operations. On Democracy Now’s August 6 broadcast, professor and author Norman Finkelstein, a well known critic of Israeli policy, emphasized that the U.S. was uncritically signaling its full support for the Israeli assault when it repeatedly insisted that “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
The July 31, 2014 edition of Democracy Now provided a lesson in how the U.S. can get caught in the middle as it attempts to balance its role as neutral observer with its unconditional support for Israel. On July 31 the U.S. condemned Israeli shelling of a UN school (see above) killing at least 20, but “refused to blame or condemn Israel for carrying it out.” That same day the Pentagon “confirmed its approval of an Israeli request to restock Israel’s supplies of ammunition.” Weapons to be restocked included “mortar rounds for tanks and ammunition for grenade launchers.” The very next day, Democracy Now reported that the U.S. got much more specific in its condemnation. The shelling of the school, Washington said, was “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”
At first I wondered why the U.S. would make public its restocking of Israeli weaponry since officials were well aware of international condemnation of both the U.S. and Israel. Later I theorized that the White House decided it needed to reassure both the public and Congress that despite it’s denunciation of the Israeli shelling it continues its solid support of Israel.
It’s a world tragedy that President Obama has turned out to be as hostile to the Palestinians – not to mention other Arabs and Muslims, and others — as were his predecessors. In his five years in office, I don’t recall him once acting in a way that would help Palestinians in a matter of any significance. ***
The Limits of Left Zionism
One of the highlights of Democracy Now’s coverage was its interview with the charismatic Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli captain and Air Force pilot. Shapira was one of the organizers in 2003 of 27 Air Force pilots who refused to participate in Israeli military operations against Palestinians.
One point he made in the interview could serve as a reply to those who justify what the Israelis are doing as self-defense. He uses the analogy of the rapist and victim. Apologizing for his strong language, he imagines the Israeli onslaught as “gang rape.”
I would imagine it as gang rape. And forgive me for using this hard language, but when you have a group of people raping someone, and this person that is being raped [is] starting to scratch, the first thing you want to do in order to stop the scratches is to stop the rape. And what Israel … is trying to do is to continue the rape and deal with the scratches.
And I say, stop the rape, stop the occupation, stop the apartheid, stop this inhumane ghettoization of Palestinians, and then—then—we can start talking, and we can reach peace agreements and all these beautiful words that now don’t mean anything for us.
Yonatan is probably as good as it gets as a representative of the Israeli left. Yet I couldn’t help wondering what he meant by “stopping the apartheid.” If he’s a Zionist, as I suspect, he would intend Jewish primacy over non-Jews. I guess also that like many left Zionists, he favors the Two -State Solution not as something real for he must understand that that no present or foreseeable Israeli government will permit an independent Palestinian state in the Middle East. This has been the case ever since November 1947, when the UN General Assembly passed the Partition Resolution opening the way for the Jewish state.
The so-called Two-State Solution is merely a talking point, a way of putting off serious consideration of a modus vivendi for both peoples. It’s also a deliberately fanciful means of thinking about the “the demographic problem” – the higher Palestinian birth rate — as well as the issue of according human and national rights to Palestinians. As long as the Two-State Solution remains “on the table” Yonatan can picture in his mind a future resolution that will deal with the practical problem that Palestinians face as all the land for their “state” is gobbled up dunam by dunam (about a quarter acre), not to mention the daily oppression and humiliation they undergo.
It’s a separate question to ask whether leftists like Yonatan worry that despite their opposition to certain Israeli policies, their moral and political support for Zionism – a Jewish state in the former Palestine – indirectly aids those policies including ongoing, never-ending pogroms – mowing the lawn? Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian takes up the question of “The Liberal Zionists,” in an article in the New York Review of Books . He points to the phenomenon on the Israeli left of “shooting and crying” (yorim u’vochim) defined as condemning “the horror of killing Arabs … while the killing … continues.” The critique is that by doing both –crying and shooting — the left has its cake – expressing condemnation for Israeli policy – and they eat it too – they enjoy the benefits of continued Jewish supremacy.
The Wish and the Dream
I later wondered if I could be wrong about whether or not Yonatan is a Zionist. Is it possible that he’s anti-Zionist? Wishful thinking soon inspired some daydreaming. I imagined Yonatan seeking me out to say that like me, he has dropped his Zionism; that he has come to believe that Palestinians and Israelis ought to be equal before the law. He has decided that Jewish preeminence in Israel/Palestine was no longer acceptable.
In my daydream Yonatan was super serious and as charismatic as ever, intent on the struggle to find a way for the twelve million souls between the Jordan and the Mediterranean to share the land in a spirit of equal justice, respect for human rights and democracy for all. In that case, he explained, it could make the need for U.S. resupply, or drones, or F-16s, or hostile graffiti, supererogatory.
Palestinian girl stands in a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike in Gaza City on July 08, 2014 – the first day of Operation Protective Edge . (Photo: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMSMAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images) posted on Mondoweiss 7.14.14 — http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/israels-assault-rocket.html
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By Ronald Bleier.
By mid June 2014 the march toward Baghdad by Sunni ISIS militias had overtaken the headlines, nevertheless there was no diminution of suffering and destruction in the ongoing Syrian civil war. That the international community has been unable to put together even a fig leaf of ongoing diplomacy was underlined in mid-May 2014, when Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations mediator for Syria, resigned after two years of frustrated efforts. In his last press conference, Brahimi called out “everybody who has a responsibility and an influence in the situation” reminding them “that the question is: How many more dead? How much more destruction there is going to be before Syria becomes again the Syria we have known?”
I suspect I wasn’t alone in surmising that Brahimi had in mind the U.S. and Israel as the major powers preventing an end to the war. The cynicism driving Israeli policy is understandable. The war weakens Syria’s position as a front-line state opposing Israeli hegemony and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. The war also forwards Israeli suppression of Hezbollah and Iranian influence. Nevertheless I didn’t expect to see pro-Israeli sentiment so baldly proclaimed as it was a year ago in a New Jersey Jewish community monthly, The Jewish Voice and Opinion, where the long headline regarding the Syrian war concluded: “The Best Scenario May Be for No One to Win” (April 2013).
Surprisingly or not, a similar wish for continual fighting was advocated in a New York Times op-ed just a few months later by military strategist and historian, Edward N. Luttwak. In his article, “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins,” (August 24, 2013) Luttwak argued that it would be “ disastrous” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wins, since Israel and the Sunni Arab states would be the losers. Nor, he wrote, would it be better for the U.S. and its allies if the rebels win, since, once in power, they would probably turn against their Western and Arab supporters.
Evidence that U.S. has intended long term stalemate in Syria appeared a year ago in Z Magazine in an article by British journalist and author Nicolas J.S. Davies under the unambiguous title: “How the West Fueled the Ever-Growing Carnage in Syria,” (May 2013). Davies wrote:
The more one studies the actions of the U.S. and its allies throughout this crisis, the more they seem to have been designed only to lead to ever-escalating violence. This raises the inescapable question whether, in fact, the slaughter and chaos taking place in Syria are in fact the intended result of U.S policy rather than the tragic but unintended result of its failure, as Western propaganda would have us believe. (my emphasis)
In stark contrast to cautious statements by U.S. officials, their actual policy appears to have consistently fostered the militarization and escalation of the crisis and to have undermined every peace initiative. In fact, their public statements may be only a smokescreen for a darker, more cynical policy.
Davies listed a number of glaring instances of “actual” U.S. policy – which he averred contrasted with Obama administration rhetoric. For example, after Kofi Annan launched his peace plan in April 2012, the U.S. joined France and other allies for “Friends of Syria” summits promising aid, weapons and money to their Syrian proxies, ensuring the frustration of any peace plan. And after the Western allies dropped their preconditions for Assad’s departure they returned in June 2012 and “reasserted all their preconditions, killing the plan before it could get off the ground.” The U.S. also, Davies implies, tolerated, if not promoted, increased supplies to the rebels since June 2012 from the Saudis, Qatar, Libya, and other Arab monarchies.
Similarly the author of a recent article on “The shadowy flow of US weapons into Syria,” (April 2014) doesn’t see U.S. policy as contributing to peace and stability in Syria. The “ middle path being pursued by the US, of covertly training and arming assorted rebel groups, is likely to perpetuate the conflict, destabilize the region, and accelerate the growth of a new generation of international jihadists.”
By 2014 it’s become public that the U.S. is providing lethal as well as non-lethal aid to the anti-Assad forces. In May 2014, Ahmad Assi al-Jarba, Syrian rebel president of the (presumably moderate) opposition coalition, led a delegation to Washington and confirmed reports that the rebels had received American TOW antitank missiles. In what may have been a trial balloon, the Syrian leader pressed the Obama administration for even more powerful weaponry, including antiaircraft missiles.
Optimism in some quarters that Assad’s government may be gaining the upper hand, and might be on the verge of winning the war, especially after the ouster of rebel forces from the key Syrian city of Homs in early May 2014, seem to be premature. Bill Weinberg’s WW4 Report summarized some of the evidence that the rebels remain a potent force.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) and allied groups are gaining ground in the areas around Latakia, Dara’a, al-Qunaitra and Aleppo. The FSA is in control of most of Dara’a, where a southern front is reportedly being organized. And the most reactionary elements in the insurgency, the Nusra Front and ISIS, are engaged in their own mini-civil war in Deir Al Zour and north of Aleppo.
Evidence that the suffering only increases has been noted in media reports such as a New York Times story headlined, “Syria Death Toll Reported to Rise by 10,000 in less than 2 Months,” (20 May 2014) The story cited a Britain based group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which found that the death toll ‘in the three year war had risen to 162,000.” The director of the group, Rami Adbdul Rahman, suggested that the death count could well be even higher: “No one,” he said, “can claim to know ‘the entire reality.” The Times speculated that the conflict has “also displaced nearly half of the country’s population” of more than 21 million. The regional instability due to the flight of millions of Syrian refugees can hardly be measured. Jordan and Lebanon are the leading hosts with about a million or more refugees in each country.
Lakhdar Brahimi was not the first high profile UN sponsored mediator to recognize that he could do nothing in the face of strong powers determined that the conflict should continue. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, took on the job of UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, but lasted less than a year (February –August 2012) before he resigned in frustration. Among other things he had called for Iran to be part of the solution — a proposal opposed by Israel and the U.S.
In mid-May 2014, The New York Times took note of a growing consensus that the U.S. has been a decisive actor perpetuating the crisis. The pull-quote from an article entitled, “U.S. Envoys See a Rwanda Moment in Escalating Syrian Crisis,” pointed to the Syrian “shadow that hangs over the Obama White House.” The article highlighted a comment made in early May 2014 by Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U. N., in a speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which amounted to a rebuke of White House policy. Power rejected the all-or- nothing U.S. position on the Syrian crisis which President Obama had offered: either disengagement – as if the U.S. was actually disengaged — or the dispatch of U.S. troops. She “bluntly declared that the world’s response had been inadequate,” making an implicit connection to U.S. inaction in the face of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Similarly the anguish of David Miliband, the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, was evident in his op-ed entitled “Why Syria is America’s Concern,” (New York Daily News, May 7, 2014.). It is not in the U.S. interest, he wrote, to be “witness … to the violent disintegration of a country at the heart of the Middle East, with untold consequences not just for innocent civilians but for the future of regional and global policies.”
There is every reason to think that President Obama well understands that the “violent disintegration” of Syria is not in the interests of the U.S. — not to mention the Middle East or the world. The disturbing question is why he continues to promote policies that further the continued destruction of the country and the endless suffering of its people.
Is it simply that President Obama is bound to Israeli interests, that he is in effect a prisoner of the potent Israel lobby? Personally I doubt it. I think it more likely that he mirrors the policy of the previous George W. Bush administration and uses the screen of the Lobby to promote policies that he understands will receive pro-Zionist support.
Ironically, when it comes to Syria and other foreign and domestic policy issues President Obama has been lambasted for indecisiveness, and weakness. But when it comes to the sheer ruthlessness that it takes to implement plans resulting in such massive suffering as we have seen, for example, in Syria and Palestine, a rather different Obama can be discerned behind the screen of his rhetoric and his projection of a disengaged, even passive executive.
Instead of decelerating from the bloody path of unprovoked aggression of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice et. al. he has double downed on their terrible precedents and, in his own fashion, he continues to oversee the continuation of endless war and boundless suffering,
A terrible example of such ruthlessness is President Obama’s drone assassination program which has been operative since his fourth day in the White House in January 2009. The drone program is in conflict with international law, destabilizes countries, makes civil society difficult or impossible, promotes terror rather than suppresses it, and sets a horrific precedent, as it encourages copycat imitations by state and non-state entities.
The drone program together with the Joint Special Operations Command assassination/destabilization squads in as many 50 or more countries, highlighted in the work of journalist and author Jeremy Scahill and others, are continuations and escalations of President George W. Bush’s unprovoked aggression. The existence of such programs points to the unstated mission of U.S. Empire which seems bent on the promotion of maximum international instability and terror as pretexts for intervention and control.
Who is Barack Obama?
Whatever one thinks of President Obama there is little doubt that he’s been a disappointment to his supporters. The key difference between the Obama and Bush regimes is that the latter enabled strategies that satisfied or delighted their base. Except on the margins, Obama has done the opposite: he has overseen and institutionalized programs both at home and abroad which have demoralized and frustrated his partisans. If we take it as a rule that policies enacted over the course of an administration are the result of White House intentions, we are left with the question of: Who is Barack Obama?
Many of the people of Syria and their neighbors and much of the rest of the world know the answer to this question.
— Ronald Bleier, June 2014
 The complete headline reads: “The Syrian Civil War is a Microcosm of the Religious Shifts in the Middle East that Israel Will Have to Contend With; The Best Scenario May Be for No One to Win”
 “Rebels to Ask for Antiaircraft Missiles,” New York Times, 8 May 2014. By Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt
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By Ronald Bleier.
I’ve written earlier of my admiration for Cambridge Professor Richard J. Evans’s fluency, the extent of his learning and his indefatigable industry. I’ve also complained that I see him standing like a colossus astride the scholarly gates blocking views not to his liking.
His dismissive review of a new book by Paul Kennedy, Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, is another case in point. In his NYRB review, “ What the War Was Really About”( December 5, 2013 distributed about two weeks earlier), Evans derides a recent example of a view I’ve recently stumbled upon, namely that Hitler had to work night and day against his military commanders to keep Germany from winning WWII, and from blocking Allied victory.
My letter to the NYRB follows:
Professor Richard J. Evans dismisses Paul Kennedy’s suggestion that the Germans might have won the war as “beside the point,” writing that “Defeat was preprogrammed for the Axis by the very nature of its war aims.”
Regarding Japan few would doubt that her resources were unequal to destroying U.S. might, nor that its “brutal and sadistic behavior” in pursuit of a Co-prosperity Sphere served to doom its prospects.
But Germany is another story. Evidence suggests that it wasn’t horrific Nazi war aims, but radical interference by Hitler himself that brought German ruin. Early victories in Operation Barbarossa unveiled remarkable and still not adequately explored possibilities. Bevin Alexander (How Hitler Could Have Won WWII: The Fatal Errors that Led to Nazi Defeat [(2000]) writes of Army Group Center’s “astonishing success” advancing 440 miles in only six weeks.
With few Soviet troops in their way, Guderian’s and Hoth’s tanks were only 220 miles from Moscow when Hitler issued orders that amounted to self-sabotage. He ordered a halt to the drive on Moscow, forcing instead Center’s panzer groups south to the Ukraine and north to Leningrad. Guderian was so outraged by Hitler’s deflection orders that he struggled, ultimately unsuccessfully, to force Hitler to allow him to proceed to Moscow before the end of the summer.
Surely the possibility of an early Nazi victory over Stalin and the prospect of Hitlerian world domination are topics worthy of further study.
By Ronald Bleier.
Talk about Obama’s Teflon. Here’s a quote from Marci Wheeler, whose invaluable blog, Emptywheel, is as critical and skeptical as it gets. Yet she’s persuaded that Obama is basically a good guy getting bad advice – this time on the NSA dragnet. Marci writes:
I suspect Obama, having been convinced by partial briefings the dragnet is great for America, also believes he can persuade the rest of us (who aren’t stuck in his partial briefing bubble) to love it too.
See more at: http://www.emptywheel.net/#sthash.7iMPDaKA.dpuf
Reminds me of what loyal Party victims said of Stalin as they were marched off to be shot.
If only Uncle Joe knew.
And Stalin reminds me of a passage from the brilliant Primo Levi who wrote that he entered Auschwitz — the Lager — as an atheist, and he left a year later with the same belief.
In discussing his atheism, Levi mentions one passing moment when he briefly considered saying a prayer to god when it seemed not unlikely that he would be chosen for the gas chambers. Levi writes that he quickly returned to his atheism, explaining: One does not change the rules of the game at the end of the match, not when you are losing.
And then he goes on to explain why believers may have had an easier time in the Lager.
Not only during the crucial moments of the selection or the aerial bombings but also in the grind of everyday life, the believers lived better…It was completely unimportant what their religious or political faith might be…all held in common the saving force of their faith. Their universe was vaster than ours, more extended in space and time, above all more comprehensible: they had a key and a point of leverage, a millennial tomorrow so that there might be a sense to sacrificing themselves, a place in heaven or on earth where justice and compassion had won, or would win in a perhaps remote but certain future: Moscow or the celestial or terrestrial Jerusalem.
Their hunger was different from ours. It was a divine punishment or expiation, or votive offering, or the fruit of capitalist putrefaction. Sorrow in them or around them, was decipherable and therefore did not overflow into despair. They looked at us with commiseration, at times with contempt; some of them, in the intervals of our labor, tried to evangelize us.
As an example of the power of faith, Levi writes that not long after the Soviet forces brought them freedom, he made some banal—as he calls them—comments to a fellow former inmate who was giving him a haircut. Were we not fortunate, Levi asked, to have survived our ordeal? The barber, astonished at such an attitude, replied in French: “Mais, Joseph [Stalin] était là! [But Stalin was always there to save us!]
I guess the moral is: We all need to believe what we need to believe. And by providing us with meaning, our belief can enable our survival.
by Ronald Bleier.
This essay looks at the manner in which President Obama has handled two issues mostly affecting women — abortion rights and sexual assaults in the military – raising questions about the disparity between his earnest rhetoric and the effects of his policies.
We begin with a damaging development which appears to threaten prosecutions of sexual assault in the military.
The essay concludes with brief remarks about the implications of White House policy on wider national and international matters.
The issue of sexual assaults in the military rose to media prominence in the spring of 2013 largely due to news of a Pentagon study that estimated that 26,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted in 2012 up from 19,000 in 2011. In May, NY Senator Kirsten Gillebrand stirred debate when she grilled military brass in a Senate hearing and pressed for removing sexual assault prosecutions out of the military chain of command.
President Obama, in turn, made a strong public statement supporting the victims of sexual abuse at a press conference. Weeks later a front page story in the New York Times informed readers that “Remark by Obama Complicates Military Sexual Assault Trials.” The word “complicates” actually seemed to downplay the effect of the president’s remark since the Times’ story indicated that it could mean an end to “almost all” prosecutions for sexual assault in the military.
What did the president say?
Answering a reporter’s question, Mr. Obama said that those who commit sexual assault in the military should be “prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged.” While these directions may have seemed appropriate to a general audience, the Times explained that Obama’s remark “mudd[ied] legal cases across the country” because “Mr. Obama’s words as commander in chief amounted to ‘unlawful command influence,’ tainting trials as a result.” The Times report explained that the bulk if not all prosecutions for sexual assault in the military are now under question because “defense lawyers will seize on the president’s call for an automatic dishonorable discharge…arguing that his words will affect their cases.”
The Times cited five cases where the president’s remark has already had the effect of “complicating” matters, including one at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where “a judge dismissed charges of sexual assault against an Army officer, noting the command influence issue.”
The president’s statement raises the question of his intentions. Did he purposefully enumerate the various penalties in order to squelch such military prosecutions? The main piece of evidence is the unusual specificity of his instructions.
President Obama said offenders should be:
stripped of their positions,
The Times article cites a precedent could have provided him with a suggestion on how to proceed if he wished to block these cases.
The president’s comments have not been the only ones cited as influencing sexual assault cases. Last year, lawyers in more than 60 Marine Corps sexual assault cases filed motions claiming “unlawful command influence” because of a series of remarks made by Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, according to a McClatchy-Tribune news report.
If the president really intended to block military prosecutions in these cases, he would be reinforcing his first term policy when there was no detectable White House action to address the problem.
In any event, the president’s unguarded statement is one of a number of examples where, largely under the radar, he seems to be pursuing Republican rather than Democrat objectives on issues of particular interest to women, especially with regard to abortion rights and reproductive services.
Ronald Reagan and Abortion Rights,
Ronald Reagan’s high profile support of the anti-abortion movement was arguably the key turning point on the road to the evisceration of abortion rights in the U.S. President Reagan’s consistent championship of the movement gave the somewhat disreputable anti-abortion forces a new legitimacy. Since then they have moved from strength to strength.
A generation and a half later, when Republicans took lop-sided control of many governorships and statehouses in the 2010 election, another a decisive nail was driven into the coffin of personal freedom. Although women in the U.S. are nominally free to obtain abortions, their practical access has been narrowing decade by decade. According to a mid 2012 report, a third of women of reproductive age resided in one of the 87 percent of U.S. counties without an abortion provider. And only seven states have abortion providers in more than 50 percent of their counties. (Search: lack of abortion providers in U.S.)
A self- proclaimed fan of Ronald Reagan, President Obama, over the years has largely refrained from any practical steps in support women’s concerns, and he has also presided over what has amounted to the greatest threat to their rights: the Republican takeover of state legislative seats in the 2010 election. In addition to gaining 63 House seats, and taking control of the House, Republicans in 2010 seized a total of 680 legislative seats, breaking the previous record when Democrats added 628 such seats in 1974 in the aftermath of Watergate. Five states, Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina and Alabama saw both state legislative chambers switch from Democrat to Republican. (United States elections, 2010)
Once again the question of Obama’s motivations arises. President Obama came into office at one of those unique moments of history when he had a powerful reformist wind at his back. Had he so chosen, he could have marshaled his political capital and put into effect much of the change and hope for which America and the world was so desperate. In the event, however, the 44th president turned his back on such Democratic priorities as: accountability for the crimes of the previous administration, Medicare for all, diplomatic rather than military solutions in foreign hot spots; putting a brake on Big Brother snooping, accountability for bankster crimes and reform of Wall Street; aid to millions of underwater homeowners and those in danger of foreclosure; real movement on climate change, etc., etc.
Had he gone in the direction many of his supporters hoped and expected it’s likely that, as FDR before him, he would have bolstered his Democratic majorities instead of presiding over the calamitous Party reversals that eventuated. The question is not so much whether President Obama deliberately intended a Republican takeover of the House and perhaps also the Senate, but rather one of responsibility. Was it not predictable that if Obama had the opportunity to institute a reformist agenda and chose not to, then his supporters would be confused and his opponents energized?
The Abortion Propaganda war
Those fighting to maintain abortion rights in the U.S. have largely lost the propaganda war from the moment when anti-abortion forces successfully made the issue the life of the unborn child. Focusing on the unborn effectively marginalizes the rights of women, making it far more difficult for many to compete socially, economically and politically. The larger society is also negatively impacted since the exclusion of women from so many productive spheres restricts their opportunity to contribute.
Pro-abortion forces have had difficulty pushing back against the totalitarian impulse to repress women, to lock them in their poverty and to handcuff them politically. Understanding the authoritarian anti-abortion movement for what it is, would also help shine a light on the Catholic Church’s exactly similar motives in prohibiting most forms of contraception and abortion services. The Church has a financial and political stake in limiting the options of their constituency, believing that repression and lack of education and opportunity helps to maintain its power.
Many of those fighting against the abortion rights of women will protest that their motives are sincere and deeply felt. Is it fair to charge many of the grassroots right to life supporters with same authoritarian motivations of many politicians, Church leaders and other stakeholders? The answer may be to note the disparity between their declared devotion to the human rights of the unborn with their tendency to oppose government assistance for pregnant women and their children once they are born.
There are always reasons that people choose one side or another, one political party or another, one policy or another. The key is to look not at what people profess, but at the effects of the policies they advocate.
President Obama and Abortion
Is there a connection between President Obama’s gaffe with regard to sexual assault in the military and his position on abortion? As a Democrat, President Obama is at least nominally 100% supportive of a woman’s right to choose. But on the margins he has preferred, on more than one occasion, to snip away at abortion rights. The first such noticeable occasion was on the occasion of the “compromise” he struck with Republicans in the spring of 2011 over the remainder of the 2011 budget.
One wonders, first of all, why such legislation couldn’t have been passed routinely in 2010 when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress instead of waiting until Obama would be forced to bargain with the House Majority Leader and other Republicans. A similar point was made by none other than Bill Clinton in his 2011 book, Back to Work, where he asked why the country had to go through four months of angst over the issue of raising the federal debt ceiling when appropriate legislation could have been passed when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress in 2010.
The “compromise” that President Obama struck on the remainder of the 2011 budget included agreeing to $38 billion in cuts to Democratic priorities like nutrition for poor women and children. In addition, to the apparent surprise and delight of Republicans, he allowed language barring the District of Columbia from using its own tax dollars to finance abortions.
Democratic outrage at the details of President Obama’s compromise and the way it was reached behind closed doors with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker, John Boehner, seemed to reach a peak in the spring of 2011.
Democratic House member’s fury at the debt ceiling deal Obama “negotiated” with the House Republicans was reflected in a tweet by Eldridge Cleaver a mild mannered Democrat from Missouri who fretted about the way in which the $38 billion in cutbacks would hurt the most vulnerable Americans.” We don’t have enough time to talk about the ways it violates our values,” he told The Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast quoted a senior Democratic lawmaker who seemed to sum up the outrage of many of his colleagues. “I have been very disappointed in the administration to the point where I’m embarrassed that I endorsed him”…“It’s so bad that some of us are thinking, is there some way we can replace him? How do you get rid of this guy?”
The morning after pill
Had Obama been a Republican president his opposition to allowing unrestricted sales of the morning after pill would not have been notable. As it is, his opposition to such sales dismayed many for whom the controversy was more than a passing headline. In December 2011, just as the Food And Drug Agency (FDA) was about to approve over-the-counter availability without restriction, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA, preventing young girls from purchasing the pill on their own. President Obama stated that he agreed with Secretary Sebelius’s decision.
After federal judge Edward Korman (appointed by Ronald Reagan), in blunt language , overruled the administration, writing that it had behaved ”in bad faith,” the Obama administration backed down and allowed over the counter sales for one type of morning after pill, known as Plan B One Step. Nevertheless the administration continues to use its remaining power to oppose the cheaper two-pill version, preferring to restrict sales to young girls. The administration says they are concerned that they might not understand how to take two pills.
Whose side is he on?
The policies that discourage, even outrage many of President Obama’s current and former supporters are not limited to the relatively narrow issues of sexual assault in the military and abortion rights. The Snowden/NSA surveillance revelations along with the Obama administration’s bitter, even ferocious attacks on whistleblowers have helped unmask some of the president’s positions on freedom of the press, civil liberties, and fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Such policies also call to mind the administration’s operation in a zone free of laws, such as his escalation of the Bush-Cheney drone attack program, the reported 75-85 special operations squads (including the Joint Special Operations Command – JSOC) engaged in assassination and destabilization around the world (including the reintroduction of such special forces assassination teams into Iraq); the administration’s apparent determination to indefinitely maintain a core group of prisoners at Guantanamo prison, and more such hard line positions on “terror “and imperial reach. President Obama’s policies on women and the poor are only somewhat more subtle and less high profile examples of the right-wing, authoritarian orientation of his regime.
Paraphrasing an anonymous senior Democrat at the height of Party revulsion with his tactics: “Who is this guy?”
A New York Times July 2013 front page story on the Republican’s upcoming “offensive on Obama’s goals” outlined deep cuts that Republicans say they plan to make to administration priorities. The Times cited such cuts as 34% to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget; 50% cut to the National Endowment for the Arts and humanities, 27% reduction to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The House bill also zeros out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, cuts education grants for poor students by 16% and the Labor Department by 13%.
Many Democrats in Congress will certainly fight to maintain their budget priorities. The question is how sincerely and actively will they be supported by the White House? And to what extent will the president “submit” to compromises? Past practice suggests that President Obama will not merely preside over allowing an agenda weighted toward Republican desiderata, but that is actually the direction he prefers.
Similarly, in foreign affairs, the subject for a separate investigation, President Obama’s policy has largely been rhetoric for peace and stability while the facts it supports on the ground undermine his professed goals.
By Ronald Bleier.
A New York Times feature story, “FDR and Jews: Book Tries for Balanced View on Roosevelt and Jews” March 9, 2013, took up a subject I addressed some seven years ago. As suggested by the Times headline, the new book attempts to revise the widely held understanding of FDR as unwilling to do much to help save Europe’s threatened Jews. According to the article, FDR and the Jews contends that while FDR might have done more, he saved, by means of “little known initiatives … several hundred thousand Jews” a total which “exceeds that of any subsequent president in responding to genocide in the midst of fierce political opposition.”
As it happens I had a slight personal connection with the subject in that as an infant I was one of about 1,000 (mostly Jewish) refugees that FDR managed to bring to the U.S., by ship from Italy, in the summer of 1944, on condition that we be repatriated to Europe at the end of hostilities. (In the aftermath, under the Truman administration, a law was passed that allowed us to remain in the U.S.)
Two books were written about our little group. One of those books, Haven, (and an undistinguished TV movie based on the book), was by noted journalist and author, Ruth Gruber, whom I and my family met around 1990.
My understanding (backed up in part by the March NYT article) is that the view of FDR as unwilling to help European Jews is still widely held. In a typical instance, I recall happening to catch Madeline Albright on CSPAN II Book TV last year discussing her memoir where the subject came up. As a young Czech girl, her family – one of the fortunate ones — had to relocate more than once during the Hitler years. Although I don’t’ recall that she actually used the word reprehensible, she didn’t hide her indignation at what seemed to her to be FDR’s lack of compassion behalf of the wartime refugees.
Ruth Gruber’s book repeated the same theme of FDR’s indifference (at best) to the fate of the Jews with the added twist of her research findings in State Department files in preparation for her indispensable and much appreciated mission as liaison to our little group.
(Here I copy from my 2006 article on the subject,” FDR, Gruber and me: Zionists stymie WWII rescue plan.” (available on the internet)
According to Gruber (Haven, Ch.2),President Roosevelt was forced into making some kind of demonstration on behalf of European, especially Jewish, refugees because of the embarrassing publication of war time cables from the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland to Washington. In these documents, the State Department revealed its disinterest if not outright anti-Semitic hostility toward the mostly Jewish victims of Nazi persecution by ordering their colleagues in Switzerland to discontinue sending Washington such news.
In Gruber’s version, the shocking disclosure of these communications empowered members of the Jewish community to apply to a reluctant President Roosevelt, with a proposal to save hundreds of thousands of European Jews. In Gruber’s version, FDR finally agreed that the U.S. provide temporary haven for 1,000 refugees.
I believed Gruber’s story and repeated it often to friends. Only later did I learn that the very opposite was the truth. The real FDR was very much aware of and troubled by the plight of the wartime refugees and he proposed a plan to save half a million or more. He envisioned an agreement with such countries as the UK, Canada, Australia, and others, with the U.S. and the U.K. leading the way. Both countries would shelter some 150,000 “displaced persons” as they were then called. FDR’s emissary for this plan managed to get agreement in principle from the British but in the end the plan was vetoed by the Zionists. The Jewish leadership were afraid that providing haven for European Jewish refugees anywhere but Palestine would be at cross purposes with their plan for a Jewish state.
Lilienthal rebuts popular view of FDR –- Points to Zionists
Noted anti-Zionist author Alfred Lilienthal tells this story in his important and effectively buried book What Price Israel. www.alfredlilienthal.com/what_price_israel_2.htm
President Roosevelt was deeply concerned with the plight of the European refugees and thought that all the free nations of the world ought to accept a certain number of immigrants, irrespective of race, creed, color or political belief. The President hoped that the rescue of 500,000 Displaced Persons could be achieved by such a generous grant of a worldwide political asylum. In line with this humanitarian idea, Morris Ernst, New York attorney and close friend of the President went to London in the middle of the war to see if the British would take in 100,000 or 200,000 uprooted people. The President had reasons to assume that Canada, Australia and the South American countries would gladly open their doors. And if such good examples were set by other nations, Mr. Roosevelt felt that the American Congress could be “educated to go back to our traditional position of asylum.” The key was in London. Would Morris Ernst succeed there? Mr. Ernst came home to report, and this is what took place in the White House (as related by Mr. Ernst to a Cincinnati audience in 1950):
Ernst: “We are at home plate. That little island [and it was during the second Blitz that he visited England] on a properly representative program of a World Immigration Budget, will match the United States up to 150,000.
Roosevelt: “150,000 to England—150,000 to match that in the United States—pick up 200,000 or 300,000 elsewhere, and we can start with half a million of these oppressed people.”
A week later, or so, Mr. Ernst and his wife again visited the President.
Roosevelt (turning to Mrs. Ernst): “Margaret, can’t you get me a Jewish Pope? I cannot stand it any more. I have got to be careful that when Stevie Wise leaves the White House he doesn’t see Joe Proskauer on the way in.” Then, to Mr. Ernst: “Nothing doing on the program. We can’t put it over because the dominant vocal Jewish leadership of America won’t stand for it.”
“It’s impossible! Why?” asked Ernst.
Roosevelt: “They are right from their point of view. The Zionist movement knows that Palestine is, and will be for some time, a remittance society. They know that they can raise vast sums for Palestine by saying to donors, ‘There is no other place this poor Jew can go.’ But if there is a world political asylum for all people irrespective of race, creed or color, they cannot raise their money. Then the people who do not want to give the money will have an excuse to say ‘What do you mean, there is no place they can go but Palestine? They are the preferred wards of the world.”
Morris Ernst, shocked, first refused to believe his leader and friend. He began to lobby among his influential Jewish friends for this world program of rescue, without mentioning the President’s or the British reaction. As he himself has put it: “I was thrown out of the parlors of friends of mine who very frankly said ‘Morris, this is treason. You are undermining the Zionist movement.’ ” He ran into the same reaction amongst all Jewish groups and their leaders. Everywhere he found “a deep, genuine, often fanatically emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian movement” in men “who are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own.”
This response of Zionism ended the remarkable Roosevelt effort to rescue Europe’s Displaced Persons.
By Ronald Bleier.
Note: I wrote the following brief letter to the London Review of Books in reply to Cambridge Professor Richard J. Evans’s review of a new book on Hitler’s illnesses. I had occasion to think Evans an academic bully as I say in my letter because he seems to take the “my way or the highway” approach to his readers.
I was moved to write when Evans attacked Lothar Machtan’s brilliant and persuasive finding that Hitler was a homosexual (The Hidden Hitler) without proffering any evidence. . Similarly Evans dismissed a key finding in H. Trevor-Roper’s remarkable and indispensable The Last Days of Hitler, a book which provides essential evidence for my own views and theories about Hitler (see below). –RB
To The London Review of Books
Re: Richard J. Evans, “Thank you, Dr Morell,” LRB, 21 Feb 2013,
February 20, 2013
To the Editor:
I’ve long since learned to be wary of many of Professor Richard J. Evans’s assertions. While I have the highest regard for his research and writing abilities, ever since he explained that he was substituting “Leader” for “Fuhrer” and “Hail Hitler” for “Heil Hitler” in the first volume of his WWII trilogy, I felt that he was gratuitously imposing his authority on his readers just because he could: the proverbial academic bully.
In his review article Evans doesn’t make clear whether his refutation of Lothar Machtan’s superbly researched and more than persuasive expose of Hitler’s homosexuality is based on his own research or on what he learned from the Newmann-Eberle book under review.
Typical of Evans’s bullying is his claim that “Hitler is known to have had affairs with a number of women, and spent his last years in a conventional heterosexual partnership with Eva Braun.” This seems a classic case of begging the question. Why doesn’t Evans name one of those women? What evidence does Evans have that Hitler actually had sexual relations with Eva Braun?
Since Evans could have strengthened his argument by pointing to evidence in the book under review or elsewhere, but chose not to, I wouldn’t be surprised if such proof doesn’t exist and that Evans’s assertions are simply meant to uphold the conventional view of Hitler as heterosexual.
I agree with Evans’s conclusion that Hitler was “fully responsible for his actions” but I’m not sure what to do with his contention that “Hitler was sane according to any reasonable definition of the term.”
I believe that Hitler was a suicidal psychopath, bent on destroying as much of culture and civilization as he could, and taking down with him as many scores of millions, especially Germans, as possible. There’s plenty of evidence that Hitler well understood his criminal liability and for me his pathology does not conflict with his “full responsibility.”
By Ronald Bleier.
Note: In connection with my research on WWII, specifically, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s collusion with Hitler, I had occasion to quibble with an excellent review article in the New York Review of Books (perhaps the most important intellectual periodical in the United States) by veteran journalist and historian, Norman Davies, on “Poland: Malice, Death, Survival,” NYRB, Jan 10, 2013.
The New York Review of Books,
To the Editors:
Readers may wonder if Norman Davies’s expressed annoyance at the burden of reviewing three new books on “a few small corners of Polish history,” is in some way connected to his omission of crucial context relating to the beginning of WWII. Davies might have mentioned that Stalin’s decision to ally with Hitler allowing the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, was largely a reaction to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s refusal to negotiate in good faith a common allied front against Hitler’s aggression.
Similarly Davies’s reference to Stalin’s invasion of Finland, was based, as William Manchester records (The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940: , p. 598), on the need to guard his Baltic flank from a future Nazi attack, especially to protect the entrance to Leningrad. Russia was so vulnerable that before the November 30, 1939 Red Army invasion of Finland, Moscow signed pacts with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Stalin then attempted to negotiate with Finland, offering 2,134 sq miles in exchange for 1,066 Finnish sq miles.
Manchester concludes: “In retrospect … Russia’s need to defend Leningrad is clear. The city came perilously close to conquest by the Germans later, and would certainly have fallen to the Nazis without the strip taken from the Finns.”
Are We Alone in the Universe?
by Ronald Bleier
The October 2012 discovery of a planet orbiting one of the stars of our sun’s nearest neighbors, the triple star system Alpha Centuri, about 4.4 light years away, spurred media attention to the possibilities of human interstellar exploration. The newly discovered planet also prompted personal reflections regarding the dramatic change in my thinking as to the existence and possibility of communicating with intelligent aliens. In 1985 I read an article by Professor Edward C. Olson in Astronomy magazine entitled, “Intelligent Life in Space,” which completely overturned my views about such prospects.
A New York Times article regarding the new extra-solar planet emphasized the great distances and the challenging (if not insurmountable) logistics involved in sending a probe to the Alpha Centuri system. For example, merely PLANNING for such a probe to Alpha Centuri B -– the star with the newly discovered planet — would take about a hundred years, although some hope that this could be shortened. The Times noted, by the way, that the newly found planet, named Alpha Centuri Bb, is so close to its huge star that it is an uninhabitable 1,200° C ( 2,192° F).
After the planning period, the 27 trillion mile trip itself would require 78,000 years if a space probe headed in that direction were to travel at 11 miles per second. Such a speed would match our fastest and most distant spacecraft, Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977 and is now, some 35 years later, about 11 billion miles away, fairly close to escaping the sun’s influence. However, the Times assures us that travel time to Alpha Centuri could be cut to less than a human lifespan if schemes that have been proposed employing “existing or about to be existing technology [including] solar sails and thermonuclear rockets” pan out.
As a high school student, when I learned of that our universe was populated by billions of galaxies, many of which are similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy, it seemed logical to suppose that the laws of chance alone would be sufficient to produce any number of examples of alien intelligence. In those heady post WWII years, I had little doubt that human destiny included and was given purpose by inter-stellar and perhaps also inter-galactic travel. By no means, I believed, were our frontiers restricted to our own solar system.
My optimism in those days was such that I produced a half jocular theory to deal with the difficulty of traversing the insurmountably vast distances of space. I proposed that Einstein must have been wrong to limit human speeds of travel to a fraction of the 186, 000 miles per second turtle-like speed of light. Subsequently theoretical physics arrived to support my daydreams in the form of theories that wormholes — shortcuts through spacetime — might make intergalactic travel possible, at least notionally. (By the time I learned about wormholes I was already disabused of my optimism regarding extra-terrestrial existence.)
A turnaround decades later
Reading Professor Edmund Olson’s article, “Intelligent Life in Space,” in Astronomy Magazine in July 1985, was sufficient to convince me that it was not unlikely that our own relatively sophisticated technological civilization was the only one in existence. I also came to accept that the enormous distances separating objects and worlds in outer space make it practically impossible that we will ever discover or communicate with aliens if any exist or have existed.
Physicist and best-selling science writer, Dr. Mitchio Kaku, undoubtedly speaking for many, argues that it is arrogant to think that intelligence is limited to our own planet. But there may be another kind of arrogance at play: the anthropomorphic view that our intelligence is important enough to be commonly replicated.
The possibility of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligent life may be of more than academic importance in that it helps to focus attention on critical issues concerning the survivability of our civilization. As we move past the first decade of the 21st century, it’s becoming clearer that limits to resources, the deterioration of our environment, and the unpredictable political effects of rising per capita scarcity seriously threaten the long term and even short term existence of our modern technological civilization.
It seems more evident now that such phenomena as overpopulation, global warming, species extinction, loss of forest cover and diminishing rainforests, the disappearance of glaciers, the rise of invasive species, the growth in military spending, the intractability of the nuclear waste problem, the Malthusian requirement for war and violence, including the increasingly menacing possibility of nuclear war, are some of the significant signs that our social order is all- too-rapidly crashing into impenetrable political and environmental barriers.
Points to consider
The bulk of Professor Olson’s article is devoted to critically examining the famous Drake equation (see below), a formulation based on the theory that alien intelligence is likely to be a common occurrence. The key point underlying Olson’s article is that we need to take seriously the alternative possibility that we are indeed alone in the universe. Two critical themes in Professor Olson’s article, summarized below, deserve special emphasis:
1. Life in the universe is not as prevalent as we might think.
2. Cognitive intelligence is not a necessary or even a desirable survival trait.
In addition, there are two other considerations that make the possibility of human contact with an alien civilization less likely in the lifetime of our civilization.
The first is that there is not necessarily a high probability that our brief instant of awareness as a technologically advanced society will coincide with the flower of an alien culture that could make their presence known to us. For example, if aliens were to encounter our planet even as soon as 500 years from now, there may not be any intelligent beings available with whom they could dialogue. Or had extra-terrestrial visitors landed on earth 500,000 or a million years ago, they would have undoubtedly been fascinated with our flora and fauna but there would not have been any anatomically modern humans with whom aliens could have communicated.
Secondly, if a small or large number of technological civilizations had arisen capable of interstellar travel, it’s not at all unlikely that they would have made their presence known by this time. Since they haven’t yet given such unequivocal evidence, it’s possible that if such societies existed they may have faced similar struggles over limited and finally exhausted resources. In such cases they may never have reached a level sufficiently advanced to explore regions in space much beyond their own localities. They may have fallen back, as we may do, into internecine struggle, decay and oblivion.
In light of such difficult realities and dim projections, the urgency of uniting our talents and devoting our remaining resources toward achieving sustainability here on earth is manifest. Roman civilization and countless others, great and small, couldn’t manage it. But our task must surely be to find our way.
Edward Olson’s “Intelligent Life in Space” summarized
Olson begins by re-stating the common sense notion that given the enormous number of stars in our galaxy, it is reasonable to assume that many must have planets which could host life and that some fraction of them must harbor technological civilizations. Olson writes that the principle behind this thinking goes back to the Copernican idea that there is nothing special about life on earth and therefore there are likely to be other intelligent civilizations in our galaxy capable of communicating with us.
Professor Olson cites a book by Carl Sagan and I.S. Shklovskii published in 1966, Intelligent Life in the Universe which spurred many to predict N, the number of technological communicating civilizations present in our galaxy. Many astronomers and a few biologists have expressed differing degrees of optimism about N.
Olson introduces the Drake equation which was conceived as a way of assigning a value to N, the number of extraterrestrial civilizations. It defines N as the product of a series of probabilities. Included in the equation are such elements as the rate of star formation, the number of stars believed capable of supporting advanced organisms on surrounding planets, and five more related variables.
The ability to put numbers, however uncertain, into this equation lends an air of plausibility to the exercise. Optimistic estimates for these quantities yields the high figure for N of 100,000 technological cultures in our galaxy that remain active for a million years. Pessimistic estimates range as low as one, our own.
As Olson sees it, the problem with the optimistic inputs into the Drake equation and indeed into the idea behind the equation itself, is that the chemical, biological, evolutionary, anthropological, and sociological factors are extremely complex and it is difficult to assign numbers to them. Olson quotes the chemist Richard E. Dickerson who remarked that proposing scenarios for the origin of life is one thing, but it is quite another to “demonstrate that such scenarios are either possible or probable.”
The bulk of Olson’s article is devoted to an alternate view of the probability of extra terrestrial life in our galaxy. Olson emphasizes the randomness and improbability of the repetition of the great experiment that has taken place on Earth. He tackles the subject by going beyond sheer numbers and by considering some of the biological issues that make it less rather than more likely that intelligent beings comparable to homo sapiens have ever existed or are likely to exist currently or to be in a position to contact our modern civilization.
Olson considers the probability that life will appear elsewhere in the galaxy on a favorable planet. Optimists note that since “some `life-precursor’ organic molecules have been observed in highly improbable places, like interstellar molecular clouds and carbonaceous meteorites, their synthesis on planetary surfaces is plausible.” And indeed scientists have concluded that “even under the mildly reducing conditions now regarded as probable in the early terrestrial atmosphere, molecules as complex as certain amino acids could form readily.”
From this, optimists jump to the conclusion that the synthesis of amino acids is vital for life to begin. But laboratory experiments highlight the fact that we are very far away from understanding the critical step in the formation of life, “the actual origin of a replicating system” much less duplicating the inception of life itself in our laboratories.
If chemists in their laboratory experiments cannot give us a value for the possibility that life will appear on every suitable planet, what then does the geological record show? “The micro-fossil record suggests that primitive cells were present within a billion years or less of Earth’s formation.” Does this suggest that life is close to appearing on every suitable planet? Perhaps. However, biologist Leonard Ornstein has argued, “from life’s exclusive use of L-symmetry molecules, that life may have originated only ONCE on Earth, and that from a single event no statistical conclusions can be drawn” (my emphasis). Life could happen on every suitable planet or could be as low as any value down to the infinitesimal. “Ornstein likes the value 10-6. Others are less pessimistic, but if the argument developed below is correct, it may not matter.”
Turning to the probability that life, once begun, inevitably evolves to cognitive intelligence, we face questions of biological evolution. Olson writes of our tendency to believe that “intelligence has survival value and that evolution by natural selection tends to produce more complex species of life. Can we not therefore be optimistic about life elsewhere?”
The difficulty, Olson argues, is that natural selection contains no “self-perfecting” principle that guarantees a particular outcome such as intelligence. Olson argues that mammals, including primates, would never have existed had not a complex and diverse environment, with its associated food chain, evolved to support them. Hence, “the evolutionary process is more subtle than the operation of some law of nature which unfailingly generates complex intelligent creatures.”
Olson calls the next section of his article “Factoring fi” (life leading to cognitive intelligence) where he details five critical Precambrian biological inventions, including anaerobic photosynthesis and the manufacture of new amino acids that were all necessary to evolution. He elaborates some of the necessary steps that led to intelligence and he asks: “Would something like them occur on other planets? … These were laborious inventions, each taking, in round numbers, half a billion years to achieve. One can hardly say that they were either pre-ordained or even particularly likely to occur in another setting.”
On the critical transition of life on earth from the ocean to the land, Olson quotes Loren Eiseley, a well known science writer, who wrote that the transition which developed during the post Cambrian period “was not the magnificent march through the breakers and up the cliffs that we fondly imagine. It was a stealthy advance made in suffocation and terror, amidst the leaching bite of chemical discomfort.” And Olson points out that “any one of a large number of environmental particulars could have delayed — even aborted this crucial step [toward cognitive intelligence]”.
Olson then explores some of the steps that led from landed animals to Homo sapiens. Critical was the “rise of angiosperms, flowering plants whose origin Darwin termed an `abominable mystery’… With flowering plants came nectars and pollens, insect pollination, and — above all — fruits and seeds which concentrated food energy to previously unknown degrees.” He speaks of the rise and demise of the dinosaurs, the advent of warm-blooded mammals, tree-dwelling primates, protohumans, bipedalism and finally cognitive intelligence.
“The human brain appears to have arisen in part because it improved the chances of living through a very specific sequence of environmental changes. It does not seem likely that the evolution of intelligence was a sure thing…the probability of its occurrence elsewhere … is not likely to be even close to unity.”
Thus, added to the five critical Precambrian factors in life’s evolution, Olson cites “at least six pivotal developments” in the post Cambrian period that led to intelligent beings. Olson argues that these eleven steps are the minimum necessary to yield cognitive intelligence and “more knowledgeable writers would add to the list and expand on the simple arguments presented here” and that all these steps were contingent developments and not inevitabilities.
Next, Olson raises the question of the survival value of intelligence and challenges the common notion that intelligence implies survival. He points to cases in the record where more intelligent species failed to compete successfully against less intelligent animals. Olson emphasizes that while it may be surprising to us, intelligence doesn’t necessarily aid survival in general.
Olson makes the point that while this discussion doesn’t necessarily imply that life is rare in the universe, “even after life begins on a planet, evolves energy sources, becomes complex — even after all that — communicating across the interstellar void may have low probability.”
Do we have any way to broaden our sense of the possibilities of cognitive intelligence developing on a planet that can support life? To answer this question, Olson cites Loren Eisely’s discussion of examples on earth of other “worlds” which provide examples of alternative evolution. He points to Australia and South America which, as a consequence of continental drift, separated from the huge landmass we call Pangaea some 200 million years before the emergence of mammals. In Australia there is “no hint of the emergence of intelligent mammals like the primates.” In South America we have monkeys but “there are no great apes in the New World, no evidence of ground-dwelling experiments… Here ended another experiment which did not lead to man, even though it originated within the same order from which he sprang.”
One conclusion we can draw is that in both cases, the environment didn’t provide the proper ecosystems. Olson emphasizes that natural selection merely tracks the environment; the process does not guarantee intelligence as its final product.
Estimating N from the Expanded Drake Equation
With this discussion in mind, Olson is ready to factor in the biological probabilities into the Drake Equation. Bearing in mind notions that there is nothing inevitable about cognitive intelligence, and at the same time assigning “generous” estimates to some of the biological uncertainties, Olson provides a new set of numbers for N that are not optimistic. In his new equation:
N = 6 x10-7 x L
where L is the communicative lifetime of a civilization. If L is roughly a million years, Olson writes, “then we are the only technological civilization in two Milky Way spiral galaxies. If L is only 100 years, then we are unique among 20,000 such galaxies.”
Olson warns that his “pessimistic” conclusion is still theoretical and admittedly quite speculative. It ignores, for example, alternate biologies.” He reminds us, however, that if we are indeed alone in the universe, “such an outcome could carry far deeper implications for us than would a galaxy full of other chattering civilizations.” He quotes James Trefil who wrote that “[I]f we succeed in destroying ourselves, it will be a tragedy not only for the human race but for the entire Galaxy, which will have lost the fruit of a 15-billion year experiment in the formation of sentient life.”
Olson concludes by quoting one of his students, Sally Green. “I walk away from here with a delightful reverence for the amazing, chancy development of carbon-based life on this planet … we are caretakers of the most fragile bloom in the universe.”
1] Edward C. Olson, “Intelligent Life in Space,” Astronomy Magazine, July 1985
 Dennis Overbye, “Discovery Rekindles Wish for a Journey to the Stars,” New York Times October 22, 2012
 A theory similar to Fermi’s paradox – the conjecture that since there’s no evidence of aliens, they don’t exist.
 Frank Drake, Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. devised the equation below in 1961. (Wikipedia)
His equation reads:
N = R x fG x nCHZ x fL x fi x fT x L
where R is the rate of star formation per year,
fG the number of stars like our sun believed to be capable of supporting advanced organisms on surrounding planets,
NCHZ is the number of planets in the continuously habitable zone per suitable star,
fL is the fraction of those planets on which life begins,
fi the fraction of life-bearing planets that produce cognitive intelligence,
fT is the fraction of intelligent civilizations that develop both the technology and desire for interstellar communication and
L is the lifetime that such planets communicate.
 The Pre-Cambrian era is the period from the time the earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago to the period known as the Cambrian explosion — dated at 543 million years ago. The Cambrian period is remarkable for the production of an astonishing array of multicellular animals.
 In connection with his article, Professor Olson provides a list of books and articles for further reading. Among them he offers:
Leonard Ornstein. “A Biologist Looks at the Numbers,” Physics Today, March 1982.
Robert Rood and James S. Trefil. Are We Alone? Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1981.
R.A. Schorn. “Extraterrestrial Beings Don’t Exist,” Sky and Telescope, September 1981.
A recent title on the same theme is John Gribbin’s: Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique (2011).
By Ronald Bleier.
Twenty years ago I wrote an article for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs entitled, “ Alone Among My Peers at My Yeshiva University High School Reunion,” outlining my political evolution from Zionism to anti-Zionism. The good news and the bad news is that the main theme seems as relevant as ever.
I’ve since made a number of mostly minor edits, annotated a couple of historical references and I’ve added a paragraph defining Zionism.
Alone Among My Peers at My Yeshiva University High School Reunion
From Zionism to Anti-Zionism: A Personal Journey
By Ronald Bleier
In the spring of 1990 I was one of some forty men and a handful of spouses who attended a reunion on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the graduation of 75 young men in 1960 from Yeshiva University High School of Brooklyn. In the congratulatory atmosphere of renewed camaraderie that suffused those few hours on a blustery Sunday afternoon in April, not a word of politics was spoken. Nevertheless I found myself deeply isolated because, from the many references to Israel by my former classmates, I suspected I was alone among my peers in my support for self-determination and justice for the Palestinian people.
At Crown Heights Yeshiva, my elementary school in Brooklyn, we were all, as a matter of course, indoctrinated in Zionist ideology. As was usual among yeshivas in those days, we all received pale blue and white Jewish National Fund coin solicitation boxes to raise money in support of Israel. I remember the day one of my fourth grade classmates, a tough little guy named Martin, broke into tears because our rabbi insisted that he take a new coin box and turn in the already heavy old one before Martin could fill it to the top.
I recall my confusion by the assertion of one of my rabbis in elementary school that Israel was not an expansionist state, and had no designs on the territory of the surrounding Arab countries. Until then I had no idea that anyone had charged Israel with aggression against its neighbors; nor did I understand how Israel could change its borders. At the same time, I was surprised, when for the first time I saw on a map the tiny size of Israel compared to its neighbors and especially when compared to the vastness of the United States. I was also pained at the way the Jordanian-controlled West Bank jutted out into Israeli territory, taking away so much of “our land.”
I didn’t question my belief in Zionism for almost a decade after my yeshiva training. After I graduated Brooklyn College in 1964, I joined the Peace Corps and served for two years as an English teacher in Iran. I came to know individual Iranians in ways that I knew my friends and family back home. No longer could I dismiss Iranians and others as faceless third world people irrelevant to me and my concerns.
My Peace Corps experience, however, did not immediately alter my Zionist views. During the 1967 war I recall my joy and exultation at what I considered a wonderful victory for Israel and for the Jewish people. I was spending an academic year at Reading University, not far from London, when, shortly after the war, in a blaze of enthusiasm and naiveté, which still mortifies me, I approached two Egyptian students and asked them if they didn’t agree that the Israeli victory established the basis for a lasting peace. “Never,” they responded with the greatest passion. “We will never give up. We will continue to fight.”
A few weeks later I had my first political discussion about Israel with someone with strong anti- Zionist views. Lunching with a lecturer in the English Department, I was shocked to hear that she felt the Israeli victory was a disaster for Middle East peace. She went on to explain that in her view the very establishment of the Jewish state was profoundly unjust. I disagreed with her very strongly. I couldn’t understand how a progressive person could attack the state of Israel on principle.
Nevertheless, the views of my British interlocutor may have set the stage for the cognitive dissonance I experienced following the 1967 war. During the 1969-70 “war of attrition” I was amazed and dismayed to read in the New York Times that Israeli planes were dropping bombs ten miles outside of Cairo! The Times printed a map with Cairo at the center of a bull’s eye. The circles around the area showed how close to the city center the bombs were falling. As I read of the destruction of schools and factories and the loss of life I found my pro-Israeli views stretched to the limit.
Fear of Menachem Begin
As a committed Zionist, I put doubts about Israeli policy as far from the center of my consciousness as I could until the June 1977 elections in Israel approached. I remember asking a friend at the time: “Is it possible that Menachem Begin will actually become prime minister?”
Begin was the charismatic founder and leader of the right wing Likud party. I regarded him with the kind of fear and loathing that I felt for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. I was particularly distressed when, in the aftermath of Begin’s election victory, the powerful American Jewish community didn’t rise up in protest against the redoubling of Israeli settlement and land annexation policies. Menachem Begin helped me to understand, perhaps for the first time, that there was a government in Israel that was not interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Arabs.
At the time I attributed Menachem Begin’s belligerent attitude to his annexationist, greater Israel world view. So I was surprised to read an op-ed article in the Times which argued that even if the Labor party were to take back power in the upcoming 1981 elections, there would be no significant change in the basic policy of an indefinite military occupation of Palestinian territory. I began to understand that there was no fundamental difference between the Likud and the Labor parties because the policies of both were rooted in a huge injustice that was done to the Palestinians when Israel was established.
My developing understanding led me to explore the meaning of Zionism. I understood that proponents defined it as the national movement for a Jewish “homeland.” But that definition omitted consideration of the political and civil rights of the non- Jewish residents. I came to understand that the ideology that a Jewish state should replace the former Palestine – my own definition of Zionism — meant in practice and also in theory, the expulsion of the bulk of the non-Jewish residents and the restriction to second class citizenship and military occupation for those who remained.
By 1982, like many concerned Israelis and Americans, I could see war coming again. The absence of a legitimate casus belli did not hinder the Begin government’s defense minister, Ariel Sharon, from invading an essentially defenseless Lebanon that June.
The Palestinian Refugees
The media spotlight on the 1982 attack on Lebanon illuminated the terrible cost in lost and devastated Palestinian and Lebanese lives and helped me to focus on the effects of Israeli policy, in particular, on the Palestinian refugees. In my yeshivas, the Palestinian refugees were never humanized as people with legitimate rights to self-determination. As a result, I started out with the vaguest of notions of who they were and how they came to be where they were.
From time to time as I was growing up, I would notice media references to Palestinian doctors or diplomats or lawyers. I couldn’t understand how they managed to become members of the professional classes. I had imagined them as poor and miserable denizens of awful refugee camps, out of whose ranks arose the terrorists who stubbornly refused to allow the people of Israel to live in peace.
Media reports that 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese were killed and that many more thousands were made refugees by Israel’s war against Lebanon led me to reconsider the original Palestinian refugees of 1948. I realized that some of the Palestinian refugees so recently uprooted in Lebanon must be the same people the Israeli military forced out of their homes and lands in Northern Palestine in the 1948 war — — termed the “War of Independence” by Israelis, and the “Nakba,” “the great catastrophe” by Palestinians.
That was the first time I recognized the phenomena of refugees expelled from their homes multiple times by the Israelis. I began to realize that just as there were many thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, there were hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip who were forced out in 1948 and 1967. And, contrary to my previous notion that the Arab countries had stabbed the Palestinians in the back, I realized that neighboring Arab countries were forced to expend limited resources on the Palestinian refugees ever since Israel expelled them.
In 1987, when I read Simha Flapan’s The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, I was so confused that it took me a second reading to come to terms with what he wrote at the outset: that the 1948 war was as needless and unnecessary for the “security” of Israel as was the Israeli invasion of Lebanon of 1982. Flapan argues that the Arabs were unprepared for war and would have eagerly reached an accommodation with the new Jewish state if only the Israelis would have been willing to reach an agreement on territory and the Palestinian refugees.
I learned that, according to this so-called revisionist view, the 1948 war was not defensive, but an opportunistic, proactive war waged by the Israelis to gain more territory than the U.N. had allotted for the Jewish state and to “cleanse” the area of Palestinians. I learned that even before the May 15, 1948 declaration of the State of Israel, Jewish forces had succeeded in expelling some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. Yet another 400,000 Palestinians remained in areas that the Jews coveted. Since the Jewish population of Palestine in 1948 was about 600,000, the Israeli leadership decided on war in order to rid the new state of most of its Arab population.
It took me twenty years, but I finally decided that my British lunch companion was right.
By demonizing Palestinians we were essentially blaming the victims of expulsion and land acquisition policies followed by Ben-Gurion’s and every successive Israeli regime. Such policies demanded endless belligerence and war, and explain why Israel’s leaders were determined to build a nuclear arsenal. The Israelis understood from the beginning that they required the military power to prevail against the supporters of those who wished to regain their territory.
I returned home from my class reunion convinced that I would find no understanding there for my defense of Palestinian rights. I understood that many of my former classmates championed the state of Israel, and blinded themselves to the crimes committed in its name, because they too were seared by the Holocaust that traumatized their parents’ generation. But couldn’t they see that by politically and financially supporting persecution and oppression, they were perpetuating that which they professed to abhor?
At my reunion I found no opportunity to talk politics. If there had been, I doubt that I would have found others ready to question with me why there should be an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine rather than a sharing of the land by all of its people. Perhaps this article will be my way of challenging my classmates and others to take a similar journey. I would invite them to join me on a path that substitutes friendship and peace for the arrogance of power and the yoke of oppression.