The Government You Paid For

Number 44 of a Series

People may wonder why I continue to post this series, because, seriously, everybody knows we have the government we paid for. As a reminder, the purpose here is to remind the un-remindable, to embarrass the un-embarrassable, and to shame the un-shamable. If this comes off as my coy way of rubbing it in for all those who voted for Donald Trump and for those who still support him after all that has passed these 19 months and more, then give yourself a star, because that is exactly my purpose. It’s a sorry sight to see a person of my supposed maturity gloat so shamelessly. But to you ignoramuses who bought Trump’s line of MAGA, take this and stick it where the sun don’t shine. I am having my day.

First there was Michael Wolff, who apparently wandered around the White House for weeks, taking notes and not making a lot of noise. He then published Fire and Fury, unleashing a flood of stuff like the  following.

Trump was impetuous and yet did not like to make decisions, at least not ones that seemed to corner him into having to analyze a problem. And no decision hounded him so much—really from the first moment of his presidency—as what to do about Afghanistan. It was a conundrum that became a battle. It involved not only his own resistance to analytic reasoning, but the left brain/right brain divide of his White House, the split between those who argued for disruption and those who wanted to uphold the status quo. In this, Bannon became the disruptive and unlikely White House voice for peace—or anyway a kind of peace. In Bannon’s view, only he and the not-too-resolute backbone of Donald Trump stood between consigning fifty thousand more American soldiers to hopelessness in Afghanistan.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 263). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Then there was Omarosa Manigault Newman, who left the White House and later released a bushel-full of gems from her own notes:

Lara Trump: It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you’ve got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can’t have – we got to –

Next Tuesday Bob Woodward’s new book Fear: Trump in the White House will hit the stores.

Trump critters can push back against this line by passing off these revelations as gossip from grousing White House staff. The bombshell that The New York Times dropped this afternoon clears that hurdle by feet, not inches. An anonymous source, working at a high level in the White House has unloaded in no uncertain terms.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Trump critters, and you know who you are, it’s time to saddle up and get out of town, or else be prepared to ride this dead horse into depths of ignominy. And if you happen to notice me sitting on a rail fence and gloating, then eat it up. You purchased this ticket, and now it is your ride to enjoy. You are getting the government you paid for.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book. Posts follow by 80 years the time line of events.

In 1938 Adolf Hitler began in earnest to solidify control of the Nazi state. His first outward thrust was the annexation of neighboring Austria. Hitler next moved on Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, the German digestion of Austria began to become manifest at the lowest levels. On Shirer’s journey to Rome to cover Hitler’s visit there he met face-to-face with absolute rule:

ROME, May 2

Some time during the night S.S. Black Guards at the Austro-Italian border got me out of bed in my wagons-lits compartment and seized all my money. They argued a long time among themselves about arresting me, but finally desisted. Hitler arriving this evening at sundown. I’m broadcasting from the roof of the royal stables overlooking the entrance to the Quirinale Palace and have it timed for the moment the King and the Führer are due to arrive.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 114). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The continent of Europe was coming apart at the seams, yet Shirer’s bosses back in America felt the need for the mundane:

FLORENCE, May—?

Followed Hitler up here, but did not have to broadcast. New York wanted me to look up some singing birds— of all things!— for a broadcast, but could not find them. Spent the day at the Uffizi, but somehow the Leonardos, Raphaels, Titians, even the Botticellis, pale a little after the Grecos in Spain. Walked along the Arno. Remembered the magnificent view from Fiesole, an old Etruscan town five miles up in the hills from here, but no time to revisit it. Back to Vienna tomorrow.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 115). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

It became urgent that Shirer get his wife and baby out of the hot zone and into neutral Switzerland. The fabric of society was unraveling—he encountered a Nazi spy, who had long posed as an anti-Nazi immigrant. Getting the flight Geneva was wrought with imperial entanglements and peril:

GENEVA, June 10

At the Aspern airport they behaved very suspiciously. I explained to the Gestapo chief that Tess was too weak to stand up and I would go over the luggage with him. I had laid Tess out on a bench in the waiting-room. He demanded that she stand up and explain things during the customs examination. Otherwise we couldn’t leave. I tried to hold her up. Then a police official led me away. I left the nurse to help as best she could. In a little room two police officials went through my pocket-book and my pockets. Everything was in order. They then led me into a side room. “Wait here,” they said. I said I wanted to go back to help with the baggage inspection, that my wife was in a critical state; but they shut the door. I heard the lock turn. I was locked in. Five, ten, fifteen minutes. Pacing the floor. Time for the airplane to leave. Past time. Then I heard Tess shout: “Bill, they’re taking me away to strip me!”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 117). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The world began to take notice of what was rapidly becoming the fate of Europe:

ÉVIAN-LES-BAINS, July 7

Delegates from thirty-two states here, on Roosevelt’s initiative, to discuss doing something about refugees from the Third Reich.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 119). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Coming up next, the relentless progression of events to sell out Czechoslovakia and to pray this awful mess will just go away.

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 32 in a series

1984-01

Opening scene for the movie 1984 (1984 version)

Aw! The party is winding down. The fun is coming to an end.. The time for poking fun is past. No more making the jokes. Matters are getting deadly serious. President Trump has proclaimed the end and has brought down the curtain, this at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City yesterday:

Donald Trump has launched a fresh attack on the “crap” news media, telling a military veterans’ convention that “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”.

In a meandering rant taking in “unfair” trade practices by the European Union, his policy of imposing tariffs on incoming goods and big companies “ripping off the United States”, the Republican accused a major US network of manufacturing an interview in cahoots with “lobbyists”.

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Are we now at that point? Is there no remorse?

Whatever the Party holds to be truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to re-learn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.’

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 3548-3550). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Before it slips away, we need to examine that which is no longer true.

 

I am so glad all that is now settled. At last I can live in peace with my internal conflicts.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 4230-4233). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Rest easy, my friends. The best is yet to come.

The Awful Truth

Number 6 in a Series

Earlier this month I reviewed a companion book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, by James Clapper. Here is another view along the same lines. It’s The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by former NSA director General Michael Hayden. Both writers have long experience in public service, having served in the United States military and in national intelligence agencies. Both take a dim view of the administration of President Donald Trump. Both consider his persistent use of fabrication and his abuse of the intelligence agencies to be scandalous and (my interpretation) and also an abuse of his office.

I’m using the same approach here that I did with the previous review. I will illustrate with pertinent excerpts from the book and add context and elaboration where helpful. Start here:

Two months into the Trump administration, Jim Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, were asked in an open congressional hearing if the president they were serving was misleading the nation with his claims that they or their British friends had wiretapped him while he was president-elect.

They said that he was.

It was a remarkable moment. That question doesn’t get asked very often in open parliamentary session in a democracy, let alone get answered—to say nothing of being answered in that way. It made me proud to have been associated with an intelligence community that felt free to do that.

But that was not the end of the matter, at least as far as the White House was concerned. The administration stuck to its alternate version—Obama wiretapped me—even after the FBI and NSA chiefs had confirmed that objective reality was clearly otherwise.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Hayden has concluded, as have a growing number of Americans, that the current President of the United States is a calculating liar who seeks to persuade his political base that truth is what he says it is, and that hard facts are distortions promulgated by opposing and disloyal sources. For General Hayden the threat to civilized society crystallized during his working intelligence tour in the former Yugoslavia during the events of the 1990s.

The veneer of civilization, I sadly concluded then, was quite thin—perhaps a natural thought for an intelligence officer, whose profession consistently trends pessimistic, whose work is consumed by threats and dangers, and who routinely travels to some of the world’s darkest, most troubled places.

Later I learned that intelligence officers were not so alone in their dark thoughts. Robin Wright, the American chronicler of the Middle East’s woes, told me that Israel’s Shimon Peres once despairingly lamented to her, “We’re so primitive. We’re so very primitive.”

Over the years it became clear to me that the structures, processes, and attitudes that protect us from Thomas Hobbes’s world of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” lives are not naturally occurring things. They are inherently fragile and demand careful tending if they are to survive.

That brought me to the idea of this book, which is not that civil war or societal collapse is necessarily imminent or inevitable here in America, but that the structures, processes, and attitudes we rely on to prevent those kinds of occurrences are under stress, and that many of the premises on which we have based our governance, policy, and security are now challenged, eroded, or simply gone.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 2-3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He summarizes:

Deeply involved in this is the question of truth. It was no accident that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Liberal British academic and philosopher A. C. Grayling characterized the emerging post-truth world to me as “over-valuing opinion and preference at the expense of proof and data.” Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl predicted that the term could become “one of the defining words of our time.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The author bears down on the seriousness of our present situation:

We’re really breaking new ground when, at the six-month point of the new administration, the former head of CIA, John Brennan, and the former director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper—with more than seven decades of experience between them and a record of service for both political parties—spend a rainy afternoon in Aspen telling hundreds that they harbor deep concerns about Russian election interference, openly criticize President Trump for refusing to face that reality, and warn that “in some respects we are a government in crisis.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Like James Clapper, Michael Hayden is unable to escape that the Russian government is working to upend the American  political  process:

And it continues. A quick look at articles pushed by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter in early January shows that attacks on Democrats and liberals comprised more than a quarter, with discrediting Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier at 14 percent, and pushing “deep state” narratives and conspiracies constituting 13 percent. Sound familiar? When Trump speaks, the Russians amplify.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 7). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump campaigned on a policy of “America First,” and the author traveled back to the place of his origins in Pittsburgh, where he connected with friends from his youth and other, like-minded people.

So I resolved to reengage the “America First” issue, in the back room of a Pittsburgh sports bar over some Iron City beer. I asked my brother to arrange for several dozen of his friends, all Trump supporters, to meet with me for a couple of hours.

I knew many of the participants, indeed had grown up with several. But we could have been from different planets. They are angry. They feel abandoned and disadvantaged even though they work hard, pay their taxes, and struggle to raise their kids. They hate Hillary Clinton, I mean really hate her. And for them, it is still midnight on November 8, 2016. Donald Trump is still their guy. “He is an American . . . He is genuine . . . He is authentic . . . He doesn’t filter everything or parse every word.” They don’t seem to be very interested in “facts,” either. Or at least not in my “facts.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden attempts to winkle out what is underlying the disconnect:

About two months after my Pittsburgh meeting, the New York Times’ David Brooks wrote that political partisanship in America had become what he called “totalistic.” It was no longer about better policies as it was with Eisenhower and Kennedy. Nor was it about better philosophy as it was with Reagan. Now “people often use partisan identity to fill the void left when other attachments wither away—religious, ethnic, communal and familial.”6

Around the same time as the Brooks article, conservative ethicist Peter Wehner told me that in today’s America, beliefs are really tied up with identities, and he pointed me to this: “If changing your belief means changing your identity, it comes at the risk of rejection from the community of people with whom you share that identity.” Wehner also reminded me that data is not particularly useful to argue a point that itself was not particularly data-derived (which is not quite the same distinction as true and untrue).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden saw what I often see when communicating with conservative acquaintances:

When I asked in that Pittsburgh back room if anyone really believed that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, most hands shot up. I tried to explain how the relevant agencies (NSA and FBI) had said it wasn’t true. When I asked why they still thought it was so, they simply replied, “Obama.”

“Obama was against the country and did everything he could to undermine it,” concluded one participant.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 23-24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The basis behind “America First” comes out:

It was also true that most in the room had spent their entire lives in or near Pittsburgh. National statistics say that Trump won by nine points among white voters who live within two hours of where they were born and by an overwhelming 26 percent among those who live in their hometown proper. Everybody in the room in Pittsburgh was white, too.

When I asked what they thought “America First” meant, the answer was pretty simple. It meant that someone was paying attention to them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Observers of the 2016 presidential election point to the declining relevance of traditional left-right, Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative divides in American politics. Technological change, the explosion of information, and the erosion of borders have smothered old dividing lines over the size of government, family values, and the national debt. Changes in technology, information, and borders have created winners and losers, and these folks are in that group of Americans who are feeling left behind.

Collectively they view themselves as disadvantaged in a globalized world and they catalog refugees and immigrants as threatening their safety, trade deals as taking away their jobs, and political institutions as wasting their money. Hence the surge of a populism that claims “to speak in the people’s place, in their name, and convey an undeniable shared truth on their

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 24-25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He further analyses his impromptu focus group:

Reading the audience, I decided against asking the group a question I had formed during my preparation: “How many of you have passports?” It had been a pleasant evening and I don’t think they would have appreciated the tone of my question. I also suspect that I wouldn’t have liked their answer. They were polite, patriotic, sincere, and enthusiastic, but foreign affairs wasn’t a strong suit or strong interest.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 38-39). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He analyzes the Trump phenomenon in terms of Hamiltonian and Jacksonian views:

Famed American academic Walter Russell Mead broke down the whole dynamic for me in terms of his four paradigms of the American presidency. He reminded me that there were Hamiltonians, wedded to the tough realism of America’s first secretary of the treasury: America cannot be free unless America is prosperous, America cannot be prosperous unless America is strong. I had limited contact with Mitt Romney as an adviser during his 2012 campaign, but I suspect he would have trended Hamiltonian as president.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 27). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And then there was Andrew Jackson: man of the people, frontiersman, Indian fighter, war hero—the first democrat in the White House whether you write it with a big D or a little d. Jacksonian foreign policy is shaped by an intense patriotism to an America defined by blood, soil, and shared history, and it is largely uninterested in international affairs unless, of course, somebody really ticks us off (like Japan in 1941, or al-Qaeda in 2001). Only half-jokingly do I describe it as a security policy organized around Robert De Niro’s immortal line in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

America’s post–World War II internationalism has been largely shaped by Hamiltonian and Wilsonian concepts. In fact, the history of that era was often written as a struggle between the two factions, trying to balance American interests and American ideals in the conduct of our policy.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That crowd in the back room in Pittsburgh was overwhelmingly Jacksonian…

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There is an analysis on the former president’s relationship with the intelligence community, ultimately to be contrasted with President Trump’s:

Over time the president, who came into office with a liberal Democrat’s distrust of an intelligence community around which multiple controversies had been swirling, grew more comfortable with both the institutions and the people who were serving him. Obama also came to office with little intelligence background, since he had not served on the Intelligence Committee while in the Senate. He had a steep learning curve, but gradually absorbed both the capabilities and the limits of the community. The PDB in the president’s second term was described to me as often a ten- to fifteen-minute tactical update for someone who was now quite familiar with the issues. Both John Brennan and Jim Clapper recall Obama as genuinely appreciative. Jim said the president was gracious and complimentary during his last meeting with him in the Oval Office.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 34-35). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In their comparative views, James Clapper’s book takes readers on a historical ride, bringing the shape of today’s intelligence community ultimately into view, while Michael Hayden’s work is rooted in the present and the recent past. Both heap condemnation on the current administration’s aversion to, and the destruction of, basic truth. I will finish out with some highlights on the author’s observations. First a 30,000-foot view:

Internationalist—nativist. Nuanced—blunt. Informed—instinctive. No drama—all drama. Studied—spontaneous. Fully formed paragraphs—140 characters. America as idea—America as blood and soil. Free trader—protectionist. And then there was the issue of truth. All candidates shape their message, but Trump just seemed to say whatever came into his head. Was he uninformed, lazy, dishonest . . . or did he simply reject the premise that objective reality even existed or mattered?

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 41). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump’s issues with the truth were early apparent:

My little email universe was steadily lit up in the spring and summer of 2016 with commentary on the Trump campaign. That universe comprised a lot of people with backgrounds like mine: intelligence, security, military, diplomatic, and related fields. We had lots of issues, but the key themes of truth, inclusion, and lawfulness quickly emerged.

The most intense buzz was about telling the truth, or, more specifically, about Donald Trump not telling the truth. Or at least not bothering to find the truth in order to speak accurately.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 43). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There follows a litany of Donald Trump’s obvious fabrications:

We had a long list of out-and-out lies, too, like the candidate’s claim that there were pan-Islamic legions celebrating wildly on the streets of New Jersey as the Twin Towers were aflame and collapsing. And then there was the moment Mr. Trump, hammering Obama-era political correctness, departed from prepared remarks to say that the neighbors of the San Bernardino terrorist couple, beyond seeing suspicious behavior, “saw bombs on the floor,” a claim for which there was absolutely no evidence.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 44). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think it fair to say that the Trump campaign normalized lying to an unprecedented degree, and when pressed on specifics it routinely tried to delegitimize those who would disagree with countercharges about the “lyin’ media,” “intelligence” (in accusatory quotation marks), “so-called

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols credits a 1999 study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, research psychologists at Cornell, with driving home this point. Nichols writes, “The lack of metacognition sets up a vicious loop in which people who do not know much about a subject do not know when they’re in over their head . . . and there is no way to educate or inform people who, when in doubt, will make stuff up.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols is Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College.

The concept came to mind again when after a year in office the president riffed on climate change with British journalist Piers Morgan: “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”2 For the sake of history and science, I should add that arctic sea ice levels were at record lows as the president spoke (a generally well-known and accepted fact regardless of your views on human-caused climate change).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It really wasn’t clear that Mr. Trump actually wanted much advice anyway. He told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in March, “My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff, I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain.”

He had earlier identified the source of his foreign policy thinking to Chuck Todd of NBC: “Well, I really watch the shows. You really see a lot of great, you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 62). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One of the complaints that we cataloged was that Mr. Trump “has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 67). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The morning of the first Trump briefing on August 17, he was asked on Trump-friendly Fox News whether he trusted U.S. intelligence. He replied, “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. I mean, . . . look what’s happened over the years. I mean, it’s been catastrophic. In fact, I won’t use some of the people that are standards—you know, just use them, use them, use them, very easy to use them, but I won’t use them because they’ve made such bad decisions.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 68). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The candidate started well: “I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings . . . they were terrific people.” Indeed, one of the IC participants later told me that the candidate walked into the September 7 meeting with a decidedly respectful air, the way a layman would walk into a conference of experts or specialists. But then Mr. Trump alleged that despite the great advice these professionals had given them, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.”

When pressed on how he knew that, the candidate responded, “In almost every instance. And I could tell you. I have pretty good with the body language [sic]. I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 70). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump would have none of it: “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are. . . . Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rejecting a fact-based intelligence assessment—not because of compelling contrarian data, but because it was inconsistent with a preexisting worldview or because it was politically inconvenient—is the stuff of ideological authoritarianism, not pragmatic democracy. And for the American intelligence community, seeing that from someone who could be president would have been very discomfiting.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The president’s charge of “political hacks” at the head of the American intelligence community was part of a broader pattern. When the institutions of the American government refuse to kowtow to the president’s transient whim, he sets out to devalue and delegitimize them in a way rarely, if ever, seen before in our history. A free (but admittedly imperfect) press is “fake news,” unless, of course, it is Fox; the FBI is in “tatters,” led by a “nut job” director and conducting a “witch hunt”; the Department of Justice, and particularly the attorney general, is weak; the intelligence community, in addition to being led by political hacks, is “Nazi”-like; the courts are manned by “so called” judges. Even the National Football League and the Boy Scouts of America have had to defend their integrity against presidential attacks designed solely to protect the president’s brand.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 208). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In early December, McMaster was again called on to defend the president, this time over his retweeting of three videos purporting to show gruesome Muslim violence against innocents that had been originally produced and captioned by a fringe anti-immigrant British group whose leader had been convicted of a Muslim hate crime. The Dutch embassy in Washington said that one of the videos showing its citizens was patently false, and British prime minister Theresa May condemned all of them, at the same time rebuking Trump for endorsing them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 213). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That was clear in February when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee approved a memo written for and signed by their chairman, Devin Nunes, charging the FBI and the Department of Justice with malpractice and politicization for using the notorious Steele dossier to get a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Most folks like me condemned the memo’s thin four pages, especially its injection of hyperpartisanship into what has historically been a matter between career intelligence or law enforcement professionals and the federal courts. The memo was also misleadingly silent with regard to other evidence presented to the FISA judge beyond the Steele dossier and was almost immediately contradicted by press reports that the judge had indeed been aware of the political motivation behind those bankrolling Steele.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 217). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A healthy skepticism teaches that theories (i.e., current truths) are only temporary tools, subject to inquiry and observation, but this is the only path to knowledge, which is—in the Nobel tradition—the only course to betterment. Hence the alarm was sounded at the beginning of the day by Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, that “knowledge and pure facts are being questioned.” Ebadi, the Iranian activist, later warned that “cruelty to man begins with cruelty to words”; she cited “Islam” as a code word for misogyny, “nationalism” for xenophobia, “globalization” for closed factories, but there could have been many other examples.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 221-222). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That theme and the apparent bottomlessness of presidential behavior were borne out two weeks later when, as much of the country was embarking for holiday destinations and the president was landing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pressed the narrative that the FBI was in “tatters,” the Russia plot was a “hoax,” and Bob Mueller’s investigation was a “witch hunt.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 227). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And this president at various times has signaled his distrust, questioned the credibility, risked the capabilities, and downplayed the value of his intelligence community and, after ten months in office, when asked about vacancies in various foreign policy positions that historically have advised the White House, famously responded that this shouldn’t be a concern because “I’m the only one that matters.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 244). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Coverage extends beyond an analysis of Donald Trump’s lies. Much is devoted to intelligence analysis of Russia’s (Vladimir Putin’s) grand campaign to influence the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and ultimately in support of candidate Trump. There is also coverage of fringe players who cooked up imaginative scenarios and the politicians, prior to Trump, who played into them. Famous are Jade Helm and the concoctions of Bill Binney.

Jade Helm has since become a focus of mirth here in Texas and something used to pummel Republican Governor Greg Abbott:

It’s over, readers and fellow Texans. The greatest attempted power grab and threat to civil liberties since the Civil war is over, and vigilant Texans have prevailed. Jade Helm 15, the contrived “military exercise” that flooded Texas and other states with federal troops, concluded on September 15th. And Obama lost, again.

I cautioned of The Gathering Storm a few weeks ago:

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT
April 28, 2015

Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty
Commander, Texas State Guard
Texas Military Forces
2200 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas 78763

Dear General Betty:

To address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15. During the Operation’s eight-week training period from July 2015 to September 2015, I expect to receive regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.

During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed. By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has assured Texas that each location selected for training exercises will pose no risk to residents or property and that they will coordinate with local residents via verbal and written communication.

Directing the State Guard to monitor the Operation will allow Texas to be informed of the details of military personnel movements and training exercise schedules, and it will give us the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with local communities, law enforcement, public safety personnel and citizens.

The action I take today comes with the recognition of Texas’ long history of supporting our military forces and our proud tradition of training, deploying and supporting our active-duty troops and returning veterans. As Governor, I have the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave military men and women who put their lives en the line to fight for and defend out freedom. I remain certain that our military members will keep America the freest and strongest nation the world has ever known.

Binney is a former CIA official, more lately a hair’s-on-fire conspiracy theorist for conservative outlets:

Binney is known for making the claim that the NSA collects and stores information about every U.S. communication. Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 Der Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney’s view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships. Binney stated that the goal was to control people. Meanwhile, he said that it is possible in principle to monitor the whole population, abroad and in the U.S., which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution.

In August 2014 Binney was among the signatories of an open letter by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to German chancellor Angela Merkel in which they urged the Chancellor to be suspicious of U.S. intelligence regarding the alleged invasion of Russia in Eastern Ukraine. In the open letter, the group said:

[A]ccusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

And that should be enough to get you interested in reading the book. It’s fresh, out earlier this year, and the Kindle edition is $15 ($14.99 plus tax). General Hayden is a clean writer, and the narrative flows effortlessly. His experience is deep, and this is the book shows this.

The book touches on a number of issues, but one I found to be close to me:

One evangelical leader (Reverend John Hagee, pastor of a San Antonio megachurch) labeled support for Israel “God’s foreign policy”11 and personally lobbied President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 52). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I receive Reverend Hagee’s newsletter headed Christians United for Israel (CUFI), finding time to comment on occasion:

Hagee has pointed out the correct solution was right under our noses all along. What fools we were:

On his Hagee Hotline show, Pastor Matthew Hagee told his listeners that climate change is not man made, but was foretold in the Bible as a sign that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent, according to Right Wing Watch. Hagee points out that the reports by scientists indicating the climate change can attributed to man made causes should not be believed because “in another place in scripture it says, ‘let God be true, and every man be a liar’.” Citing Matthew 25, where the Bible says that “strange weather patterns” would emerge prior to the arrival of Jesus, Hagee says we must take the word of God over men, “who are wrong, in spite of their education, in spite of their expertise, in spite of their philosophy. Whomever, and whatever, contradicts the word of God, is not correct.” Hagee goes on to explain that man should not waste time trying to “make everything as clean in the air as possible,” and that time would be better spent telling people about the return of Jesus. “The Bible says that whenever we approach the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strange weather patterns,” Ha[g]ee explained. “Jesus said this in Matthew the twenty-fifth chapter. So we have a decision to make: do we believe what an environmentalist group says and choose to live in a world where we’re attempting to make everything as clean in the air as possible, or do we believe what the Bible says, that these things were going to happen and that rather than try to clean up all of the air and solve all of the problems of the world by eliminating factories, we should start to tell people about Jesus Christ who is to return?”

See? All these stupid scientists had to do was to read Matthew (no relation) 25. Actually, it is Matthew 24 that describes these events, but what’s a chapter or two among biblical scholars?

And there’s more. Use the Search box at the top of this page to read more fascinating stuff about wacked out Reverend Hagee.

The Awful Truth

Number 5 in a Series

The title of this series derived from that of an old movie, but I use it to highlight that for some people the truth is often sorry news. The topic today is not a movie but a recent book by James R. Clapper, retired Air Force lieutenant general and most recently Director of National Intelligence. The book is Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence. I obtained the Kindle edition from Amazon after catching an interview with General Clapper on CNN. It’s 431 pages, but it’s an interesting read, provided stuff like intelligence and truth are of interest.

It’s a story of a life, quite literally, in the national intelligence business. Clapper is about five months younger than I am, and his father was in the Army signal intelligence field. So Clapper grew up in that world, traveling with his parents as his father was posted to exotic places following the fall of fascism. An early memory was arriving with his mother in Cairo, a visit that terminated abruptly somewhat later when King Farouk made a pass at his mother, and his father took a swing at the king. Someday let me tell you about my exciting childhood growing up in Hood County, Texas.

Anyhow, young James showed great promise and naturally drifted into military intelligence and eventually into  Wasington  bureaucracy. The key to the book is Clapper’s perspective on the current tussle over fact and truth in the Donald Trump administration, viewed with the vision of a person who spent a long career learning how to sift fact from fiction. He leaves a grim reminder that fiction is on the ascendancy. I’m going to present this perspective by way of showing pertinent clips from the book and adding elaboration when available. Start here with Clapper’s reaction to the outcome of the 2016 election:

I was shocked. Everyone was shocked, including Mr. Trump, who’d continued on Election Day to cast doubt on whether he would accept the election results as legitimate. Having a few minutes alone, I kept thinking of just how out of touch I was with the people who lived in Middle America. I’d been stationed in heartland states repeatedly during my military career, particularly Texas, and I had traveled extensively as an agency director in the early 2000s and again during the past six and a half years as DNI, meeting with Intelligence Community employees outside of St. Louis, speaking at the University of Texas at Austin and with the Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, and visiting many other places. I’d joked to audiences about just how out of touch people in Washington were, and I’d never failed to draw a laugh, sometimes applause. Working down in the “engine room” of our national security enterprise—“shoveling intelligence coal,” as I liked to say—I never recognized just how much frustration with and resentment toward Washington those communities had, and just how deep the roots of their anger went. But Donald Trump had, and he’d appealed to them more than I’d realized or liked.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It came as a surprise to most right-thinking people that fact no longer mattered, being cast aside over a call to our basest impulses. This is from the Introduction, and there’s more from this section summarizing Clapper’s take on the situation.

I also thought about the warning on Russian interference in the election that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and I had issued to the American public a month earlier. We’d agonized over the precise wording of the press release and whether naming Russian president Vladimir Putin as the mastermind and puppeteer of the Russian influence operation would cause an international incident, drawing Jeh’s department and the Intelligence Community into the political fray. Reading responses to exit polls, I realized that our release and public statements simply hadn’t mattered. I wasn’t sure if people were oblivious to the seriousness of the threat we’d described or if they just didn’t care what the Russians were doing.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I wondered what President Obama was thinking and if he regretted his reticence to “put his thumb on the scale” of the election—as he put it—by not publicly calling out the Russian interference while Putin was effectively standing on the other end of that scale. At the same time, I was no longer sure it would have mattered to the people in Middle America if the president had presented everything we knew about Russia’s massive cyber and propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy, disparage former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and promote Donald Trump.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I didn’t realize it then, but the Russians were just as shocked as we were. They’d succeeded beyond their wildest imagination and were completely unprepared for their own success. The Russian propaganda network in the United States, formerly known as Russia Today and since rebranded as just “RT,” was jubilant in calling the election for Mr. Trump: “That’s what this is, a defining moment in global history, that America is willing to turn the page and possibly isolate itself from the rest of the world.” They declared, “The next speech that Donald Trump gives to the world will be one of the most important speeches in the history of the world.” As the anchors reveled in Trump’s victory, the crawl at the bottom of the screen continued running lines intended to delegitimize Clinton’s win, such as SEVERAL STATES REPORT BROKEN VOTING MACHINES. The Russian internet troll factory scrambled to stop its #DemocracyRIP social media campaign, set to run from its fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

After the election, the CIA and the FBI continued to uncover evidence of preelection Russian propaganda, all intended to undermine Clinton and promote Trump, and the Intelligence Community continued to find indications of Russian cyber operations to interfere with the election. At a National Security Council meeting on Monday, December 5, President Obama gave us more explicit instructions. He wanted the CIA, NSA, and FBI—each agency with the mission-specific tradecraft and capabilities to determine what the Russians had done—to assemble all their findings, encompassing the most sensitive sourcing, into a single report that he could pass on to the next administration and to Congress. He also asked us to produce a paper for public consumption with as much information from the classified version as possible. And critically, he wanted all of this done before he left office. The highly classified IC assessment that resulted was, I believe, a landmark product—among the most important ever produced by US intelligence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 3-4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

For me, there was no specific moment in that time, no flash of insight when I understood that our primary adversary for nearly all of my half century as a US intelligence professional was—without exaggeration—hacking away at the very roots of our democracy. That realization slowly washed over me in 2016 in a tide that continued to rise after the election, and even after I’d left government and the new administration had transitioned into power. My concern about what I saw taking place in America—and my apprehension that we were losing focus on what the Russians had done to us—is ultimately what persuaded me to write this book, to use what we had learned in our IC assessment to frame my experience and our collective experience as Americans.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

My hope is to capture and share the experience of more than fifty years in the intelligence profession, to impart the pride that intelligence officers take in their work, the care with which they consider the ethical implications of surveillance and espionage, and the patriotism and willingness to sacrifice that they bring to the job. And finally, I intend to show that what Russia did to the United States during the 2016 election was far worse than just another post–Cold War jab at an old adversary. What to us was a sustained assault on our traditional values and institutions of governance, from external as well as internal pressures. In the wake of that experience, my fear is that many Americans are questioning if facts are even knowable, as foreign adversaries and our national leaders continue to deny objective reality while advancing their own “alternative facts.” America possesses great strength and resilience, but how we rise to this challenge—with clear-eyed recognition of the unbiased facts and by setting aside our doubts—is entirely up to us. I believe the destiny of the American ideal is at stake.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And that pretty much sums up the book’s introduction. Any more, and I would have pasted here the entire text. I will skip over much that details Clapper’s career in military intelligence, highlighting only a few excerpts. Then I will close out with events most of us recall from watching TV. First some career highlights. Here’s something that came up in another book I reviewed recently:

Many of the prominent code crackers of World War II had been women who’d stayed with the agency after the war, and NSA in the 1960s was appreciative of their contributions and more open to having them in leadership positions than the rest of government or corporate America. My dad had worked for several of these women in the 1950s, including Juanita Moody and Ann Caracristi, who in 1980 would shatter the glass ceiling as deputy director of NSA. Hearing him talk about these individuals as smart, capable leaders, without his making a big deal about their gender, made a bigger impression on my views of women than any feminist views my mother ever expressed.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 19). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

His years in military service encompassed historical transformations:

family. The most indelible experience I had was processing the dishonorable discharges of two airmen who were roommates in the barracks, and who had been “outed” (which was not a term used back then) as homosexual. In the day, there was—by regulation—no other recourse. They automatically lost their security clearances and were expelled from the service. At best, homosexuals were given general discharges; some received dishonorable. These two individuals were model airmen: superb Russian linguists, meticulous about their military responsibilities, and devoted to serving their country. I remember thinking what a waste of talent it was, in addition to being a profound injustice, and it viscerally bothered me that I was forced to play a part in their unceremonious dismissals.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 21). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In those days intelligence was largely historical, telling people what had happened, not what was happening and certainly not forecasting what was going to happen.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 22). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Because of the size of the Soviet Union and China, high-frequency Morse code was the primary way to effectively communicate across such vast distances, so the entire Eurasian landmass was ringed with SIGINT sites, stretching from Japan to Turkey to Britain. Each signals intelligence station employed hundreds of GIs—soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines—copying “dits and dahs” around the clock, day in and day out.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In February 1959, the Air Force attempted the launch of its first “overhead” collection capability—Corona. The first launch vehicle never left the pad. In assessing America’s early successes in space photoreconnaissance and just how much they changed the game against the Soviets, people tend to forget that in 1959 and 1960 our first thirteen attempts at Corona failed.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 26). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tensions between North and South escalated, and US Air Force B-52s continued to fly patrols parallel to the DMZ. The North Koreans, in turn, put their air-defense systems on high alert, flew MiG fighters on frequent patrols, and dispatched their submarines out to sea. We intercepted communications indicating that Kim Il-sung might order an invasion into South Korea. I stayed in the office for about three days without going home, communicating via Teletype with an Army major who was my counterpart in South Korea. The sense of an imminent war was palpable through the crisis, and it took several weeks for the situation to stabilize enough for us to fall back into a regular rhythm.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 34). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I had not fully appreciated the consuming siege mentality that pervades North Korea until I visited and engaged directly with senior officials there. The leadership elites in the North work hard to maximize paranoia among the population. Portraying the United States as an enemy that’s constantly on the brink of invading it is one of the chief propaganda themes that’s held North Korea together for the past sixty years. They are also deadly serious about any perceived affronts to the Supreme Leader, whom they literally consider a deity. The DPRK is a family-owned country and has been that way ever since it was founded in the 1940s. Because of its history, the DPRK sees developing nuclear weapons as its insurance policy and ticket to survival. North Korea wants to be recognized as a world power, and its entire society, including their conventional military forces, suffers for the relentless, single-minded commitment to develop and field these weapons and delivery systems to threaten the United States. Neither they nor we really know if their weapons work, but in many ways, it doesn’t matter. They achieved nuclear deterrence long ago, because we have to assume that if they do launch an ICBM at the United States, it will reach our shores and detonate. They have effectively played their nuclear hand to the hilt, for without even proving they have the relevant capability, they’ve capitalized on nuclear deterrence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 49-50). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Reading the account of  his own career, which nobody will deny is factual, you have to conclude that James Clapper came to be knowledgeable about all facets of intelligence gathering and analysis. He gives the impression of one who values true and useful information, but he reemphasizes that the job of intelligence agencies is to present proper detail and the significance of intelligence but at the same time not to extrapolate and not to suggest consequences. Military, law enforcement, and politicians bear the responsibility for taking action.

His service in Washington provided Clapper with insight into  a number of personalities, insight that eventually became reflected in news headlines. One such person was two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. When Clapper applied to head up the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (then NIMA), Secretary Rumsfeld had to sign off on his hiring:

Almost as soon as I sat down, Rumsfeld was off on a rant about Congress, complaining about partisan politics and how too many members catered to their constituents over the best interests of the nation.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper found the meeting uncomfortable, resulting in this exchange:

As my thirty-minute appointment extended to forty-five minutes, I thought that if I was a wagering man, I’d bet he’d be out of the job before Christmas. The interview came to a merciful end. He stood, shook my hand, and wished me luck. Outside, Staser saw my quizzical look and told me I had the job.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“Staser” is “retired Vice Admiral Staser Holcomb, who had been Secretary Rumsfeld’s military assistant the first time he’d served as secretary of defense and who was now serving informally as Rumsfeld’s “executive headhunter,” recruiting people for senior positions in DOD.” [Page 87]

A subsequent encounter with Secretary Rumsfeld led ultimately to Clapper’s firing from head of NIMA.

At that lunch, Mike and I both advocated establishing a strong DNI, rather than creating a weak figurehead that would diffuse or confuse authority, and we told the secretary that he should back legislation that would align the three “national” agencies under a DNI. The agencies could still fulfill their combat support responsibilities, but they would produce better intelligence under an authority whose full-time focus would be on integrating their work. We appealed to him to support improving how intelligence functioned, rather than protecting the existing bureaucracy. Secretary Rumsfeld cut short the lunch and left, missing a good dessert. Mike would later say that my discourse that day was the reason my NGA directorship was ultimately terminated early.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 105). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“DNI” is Director of National Intelligence, and “NGA” is a subsequent abbreviation for the agency that was NIMA.

Another personality eventually to become notable is Lieutenant General Michael Flynn:

When I first went to Russia in 1992, I was taken aback, even disappointed, at seeing the run-down infrastructure and the plight of Russian citizens. It was graphic evidence that behind the formidable Soviet military power was a third- or fourth-rate economy. On a subsequent trip, I visited GRU headquarters—the Russian military intelligence agency that was DIA’s nominal counterpart, much as the KGB was CIA’s. (I don’t know if I was the first DIA director to visit GRU, but I do know that Lieutenant General Mike Flynn was not the first DIA director to visit there in 2013, as he claimed.) There we found Soviet military equipment being sold at bargain-basement prices to raise funds to keep the agency functioning, so DIA bought jets, tanks, guns, antiaircraft systems, and whatever else we thought would be useful to study and exploit, as well as anything we wanted to keep off the black market.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 79). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Flynn served briefly in the administrations of President Obama and President Trump. Prior to that he became noted for keeping his own facts, which facts have come to be called “Flynn facts.”

Mike had spent his career, particularly the decade since 9/11, on the tactical edge of battle. He had never directed a large organization before, and he made some of the same mistakes I’d made as a new DIA director in 1991, including not properly engaging the workforce before undertaking a major reorganization. He could have rectified the situation, but he didn’t address the civilian workforce’s concerns when they were brought to him, and he made matters worse by increasingly demanding that civilians behave like uniformed service members. Stories started leaking out of DIA that he was using analysts to chase down crazy conspiracy theories, which the workforce had dubbed “Flynn facts.” He also clashed with his boss in the Pentagon, Mike Vickers, and publicly criticized the president’s policy decisions, asserting that the president should refer to terrorists as “Islamic extremists.”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 331). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As General Flynn exited military life and entered politics, his persona became more flamboyant and his discourse more strident:

With the Trump team setting the agenda, the convention seemed to revel in pessimism about the state of the nation and the direction it was heading. On Monday, Mike Flynn led the crowd in chanting “Lock her up!” in reference to the Clinton email scandal. He seemed so consumed by partisan anger that I barely recognized the man I’d traveled the world with when he’d still been in uniform.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 341). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper notes with alarm Flynn’s actions as he entered the Trump administration:

Three days after candidate Trump released his December 7 anti-Islam statement, former DIA director and retired lieutenant general Mike Flynn appeared in Moscow at a gala for RT. He was seated beside Putin at dinner and was paid forty-five thousand dollars to speak. I knew Mike well, and it boggled my mind that he would so knowingly compromise himself.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 330). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

RT is the new name for Russia TV, a television network funded by the Russian government.

The book addresses the matters of Bradley Manning—an Army private—and Edward Snowden, both of whom filched classified information, eventually shared world-wide by WikiLeaks. For details of these episodes you might want to read the book or wait for separate blog postings that concentrate on these matters.

People who want to discredit our intelligence and law enforcement services have found a target in Clapper’s statements before a Senate “worldwide threat assessment hearing” on 12 March 2013. His response to a question from Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has become fodder for a host of those seeking to avoid the embarrassment of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections and more. Senator Wyden posed a question during an open session:

And this is for you, Director Clapper—again, on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer, because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer, the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, ‘‘The story that we have millions, or hundreds of millions, of dossiers on people is completely false.’’ The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don’t really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question, does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 207). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Of course, Director Clapper knew of the NSA program to track phone traffic related to conversations that included suspicious foreigners, and he knew that these conversations sometimes involved American citizens, people who might not be involved in illegal activity. The program was a closely kept secret, because it would not be a good idea for spies to know the NSA was doing this. Senator Wyden demanded a yes or no answer, which the question did not deserve. There was hardly any response Clapper could have made, even beyond a yes or a no. If he told the senator that he was unable to answer that question in an open meeting, that would have given a strong signal that the NSA was monitoring telephone traffic, and he would have been guilty of divulging classified information. But the senator referred to “dossiers” on Americans, something which the NSA was not compiling in the manner indicated. Clapper answered no to that question, which was technically correct, but which later turned out to be something used to torch him.

The theme of this book is the fading esteem for fact and truth in the new government, and I will finish with some pertinent quotes.

For the past several years, I’d watched as “unpredictable instability” instability” around the world had prompted angry populations to rise up against their governments and societies. It led to al-Qaida, ISIS, and their ilk proliferating from Afghanistan to Southwest Asia and into North Africa and Europe. It led to civil wars in Libya and Syria and a global refugee crisis unlike anything the world had seen since the end of the Second World War, which my dad had helped end. Unpredictable instability brought pain, war, and suffering to the world. In the United States, it gave us Donald Trump.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 357). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I was far from being the only person who was shocked by the outcome, and as the Russians scrambled to stop their #DemocracyRIP social media campaign, President-elect Trump’s circle seemed to have no strategy for shifting from campaign mode to administration-transition mode. Rather than working with the State Department, or even contacting it, Trump was taking calls from world leaders, apparently from whoever could get his personal cell phone number. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull famously obtained it from professional golfer Greg Norman and was one of eight world leaders to call Trump with congratulations on the day his victory was announced. With no State Department involvement, no one briefed the president-elect on bilateral issues or existing agreements, and the United States has no official record of what was said during those conversations.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 357-358). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There was and remains no doubt the government of Vladimir Putin dreaded the possibility Hillary Clinton would be elected, and they worked against her candidacy from the get-go. When Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee they shifted their focus and worked toward his election. As seen from the foregoing, toward the end they feared Trump would lose and focused on discrediting the American election process.

During his final weeks employed by the government, Director Clapper had the opportunity to read the world’s response to Donal Trump’s election:

I traveled from Oman to Kuwait and then to Jordan, where I had lunch with King Abdullah on Friday. The king tried to hide his pique that there had been no communication between Trump’s team and his government. He ended the lunch early, and I watched wistfully as someone carried off my plate after I’d had only a couple of bites of a superb steak. The next day, I flew from Jordan to Israel, ending another trip to the Middle East with a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He seemed a different person, jubilant with the results of the election. He couldn’t stop smiling and noted that he’d had a terrific conversation with the president-elect within hours of Trump’s delivering his victory speech. I congratulated him, and he gave me another of his cigars.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 359). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The election of Donald Trump is one of the few joys shared by Putin and Netanyahu. There was valid concern the new administration would seek to minimize the actions of the Putin government.  Members of the intelligence community sought to forestall these efforts while they still had the directive to do so.

Regardless of our cooperation with the Trump transition team, we hadn’t forgotten what Russia had done. The FBI and CIA were coming across new evidence of Russian activities relating to the election every day, and I was starting to see that the scope and scale of their effort was much bigger than Jeh or I had understood when we’d released our statement in October.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 361). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The concerns of the intelligence agencies turned out to have merit. The words and actions of Donald Trump following the election make it clear he sees this Russian business as a threat to his legitimacy:

As we discussed those possibilities in the White House Situation Room, the public dialogue about Russian interference was heating up. Seeming to fear it called the legitimacy of his election into question, the president-elect responded defensively whenever the subject was raised. In an interview with Time magazine on November 28, he countered a question on Russian activities with, “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point.” Asked who he thought had hacked the Democrats’ email accounts and IT systems, he responded, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

We knew it was not someone in New Jersey, and I was fairly certain that President-elect Trump knew that as well. At an NSC meeting on Monday, December 5, President Obama told us he wanted CIA, FBI, and NSA to integrate all their relevant intelligence into a single report to pass on to the next administration and Congress. He also asked us to derive from it an unclassified document for public consumption with as much information from the classified version as possible. And critically, he wanted all of this done before January 20—the end of his administration.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 361-362). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

On Friday, December 9, unnamed “officials briefed on the matter” leaked the effort to the press, saying the CIA and FBI had reached the conclusion that Russia had helped Trump win. The leak wasn’t quite accurate, and certainly wasn’t helpful, but the immediate response from President-elect Trump’s transition team was even worse. Under the seal of “President Elect Donald J. Trump,” the team published a press release that—with no preamble—began, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’” It was stunning. Based on rumors from anonymous sources, the president-elect had lashed out reflexively to delegitimize the Intelligence Community—the same IC that would be serving him in forty-two days, that was already giving him President Obama’s PDBs. The attack was disturbing, as was its demonstrably false assertion that his victory was one of the “biggest” ever.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 362-363). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Fact was dying a quick death.

The president-elect seemed increasingly desperate to make the story of Russian interference go away, constantly denying there had been any impact on the election or any interference at all. On December 28, he said that it was “time for the country to move on to bigger and better things.” President Obama didn’t want to focus on the Russian issue during his final weeks in office, either, but he wasn’t simply going to “move on.” On December 29, he ordered new sanctions against Russia and declared thirty-five known Russian spies in the United States to be persona non grata and sent them home. He also closed the two Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York. I didn’t think that response was commensurate with what they’d done to us, but I also knew we weren’t prepared to take more drastic steps. We waited to see how Putin would respond, fully expecting a reciprocal retaliation.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 365-366). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The same day, as was confirmed when he later pled guilty to lying to the FBI about it, National Security Adviser-designate Mike Flynn called Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, assuring him not to worry about the sanctions and asking that Russia not retaliate. On the following day, Putin announced he would not expel anyone from Russia and would not respond in kind to the new US sanctions, saying he would wait to work with the next US presidential administration. Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin)—I always knew he was very smart!”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 366). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper details the Russian propaganda successes:

We showed unambiguously that Putin had ordered the campaign to influence the election, that the campaign was multifaceted, and that Russia had used cyber espionage against US political organizations and publicly disclosed the data they collected through WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the Guccifer 2.0 persona. We documented Russian cyber intrusions into state and local voter rolls. We described Russia’s pervasive propaganda efforts through RT, Sputnik, and the social media trolls, and how the entire operation had begun with attempts to undermine US democracy and demean Secretary Clinton, then shifted to promoting Mr. Trump when Russia assessed he was a viable candidate who would serve their strategic goals. We added historical context to show just how much of an unprecedented escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort all of this represented, and we assessed that the election operation signaled a “new normal in Russian influence efforts.” The Russian government had done all of this at minimal cost and without significant damage to their own interests, and they had no real incentive to stop.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 366-367). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As events moved toward the change in government, the president-elect became strident in his denunciation of truth:

On Tuesday President-elect Trump attempted to undercut our assessment before its release, tweeting, “The ‘intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 367). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

At 8:30 on Friday morning we were back on Capitol Hill, presenting our briefing to the “Gang of Eight”: the party leaders in the House and Senate and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Our presentation was fast-paced and terse, as we had to leave by 9:30 to stay on schedule. I departed the Capitol with the impression that the leaders of both parties were taken aback, both by the extent of the Russian operation and by the thoroughness with which we’d documented the facts and evidence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 373). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The matter of the Steele dossier (think “Pee Pee Tape”) was first broached to :the president-elect at a briefing in Trump Tower:

As we closed the briefing, Jim Comey took advantage of a pause in conversation to address the president-elect. We’d agreed that one of the two of us would bring up “one additional matter,” a subject “best discussed on a one-on-one basis” with the president-elect. The additional matter was a dossier—a collection of seventeen “pseudo-intelligence” reports created by a private company—which I first learned about from John Brennan a week or so after we’d been tasked to conduct the IC assessment. I didn’t know until after my tenure as DNI that the dossier had begun as opposition research against Mr. Trump during the Republican primary race and then, sponsored by the Democrats, had continued to expand during the general election campaign. The memos covered a wide range of topics all related to long-standing interactions between Trump, his associates, and the Russians. It further alleged that the Russian government had compromising material on the president-elect and his team, which it had not disclosed during the course of the election or since.

Some details in the report were salacious, but in our professional opinions, the more ominous accounts alleged ties between members of the Trump team and the Russian government. Because we had not corroborated any of the sources used to generate the dossier, we had not included it as part of our IC assessment. We knew that at least two congressional members and some of the media had copies of the dossier, and that it could be published—in whole or in part—at any moment. While we could neither confirm nor refute anything in the document, we felt what I expressed as a “duty to warn” the president-elect that it existed and that it potentially could be made public. I wondered at the time—and have often done so since—what the reaction would have been had we not warned the president-elect about the existence of the dossier, and he later learned we had known about it and chosen not to tell him.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 375-376). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Steele dossier and the matter of the “Pee Pee Tape” continues to roil the debate and to be a subject of attacks on the intelligence agencies. For me, it’s a never ending source of mirth;

During the course of briefing the incoming administration, Clapper received clear signs there was no plan to follow advice regarding the Russian government operations. He took action to ensure some pertinent facts would get out.

Before we cleared the conference room, the Trump team had already begun drafting their press release about our meeting. I overheard their first point, that the US IC had assessed that the Russian interference did not change the outcome of the election—which was very different from our acknowledgment that we hadn’t, and couldn’t, assess its impact. We had to let it pass. In the hallway I took the opportunity to engage Tom Bossert, who in turn introduced me to the vice president-elect. I spoke with them briefly, suggesting that the new administration consider asking Nick Rasmussen to stay on as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, which it did.

In the car on the way back to Newark Airport, I called Brian Hale (who only requested to be described as “tanned and rested” if we mentioned him in this book) and told him to publish the unclassified IC assessment immediately.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 376). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper emphasized the word immediately.

The facts of the Russian operation continued to be a political football, in play by both parties.

For the next two hours, as the American public, the Russian government, and the rest of the world watched, we answered questions about the Russian cyber and influence operation. The senators, and simultaneously the media, sought to parse our every word, Democrats looking for collusion between Trump’s team and the Russians, Republicans for evidence of a conspiracy that the IC was attempting to undermine the president-elect.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 379). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When I finally had the free time to check on world events, I found that all the contentiousness of the hearings and briefings had been completely overshadowed by other breaking news: BuzzFeed had published the now-infamous dossier on Trump, the one that Jim had warned the president-elect about five days earlier. In a classic case of “shoot the messenger,” Trump publicly blamed us for the publication of the dossier—yet another indication to me that his administration would not appreciate anyone’s speaking truth to power, particularly if the truth was politically inconvenient.

I woke Wednesday to find that Trump had tweeted another early-morning attack on us: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” I was floored by the analogy, and Jewish communities in the United States and abroad called for him to apologize and retract the statement. That afternoon in my office, I watched the president-elect in a televised news conference, doubling down on his Nazi tweet, again alleging that US intelligence agencies had “allowed” the dossier to leak—as though we had any control over a document we’d discovered already “out in the wild.” He continued, “I think it’s a disgrace. And I say that, and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.” Not helping the situation, the New York Times quickly published a story apparently intended to clarify that he meant to refer to US intelligence as the Stasi, not the Gestapo.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 379-380). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Following his retirement, General Clapper watched unfolding events with a combination of humor and horror (my interpretation):

And I watched from the outside as the new administration struggled to govern while contending with the new president’s aversion to inconvenient facts.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Contrary to all the images and data, Sean Spicer berated the media for their coverage, announcing, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Telling them the White House would hold them responsible for misrepresentations, he took no questions.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

An hour and a half later, President Trump was on camera at CIA headquarters. When I’d heard the first place he would visit as president was the CIA, I naïvely wondered if my appeal to his higher instincts had somehow had impact. No. He took to the microphone and began rambling about the “dishonest media,” the size of his inauguration crowd, and his belief that military and law enforcement people had voted for him en masse, lumping the CIA into those categories and saying, “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks.” He expressed his support of the IC with “I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody.” He briefly interrupted himself to say, “The wall behind me is very, very special,” and then resumed his self-aggrandizing diatribe. The problem was that the sacred wall he was standing before—with its 125 stars representing fallen CIA officers—is the CIA’s equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, not a place for politics or boasting. I considered putting out a statement, but John Brennan expressed that he was “deeply saddened and angered” and that “Trump should be ashamed of himself,” and I felt that covered it.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Neither the book nor outside information identify James Clapper as a Democrat or a Republican. Throughout he comes across as holding decidedly progressive views, on the promotion of  women and on equal treatment of people of all kinds. He leaves no doubt he considers the current president as both corrupt and an enemy of the truth.

The Golden Shower

Number 33 of a Series

I recently finished reading James Clapper’s book, Facts and Fears, out last month and available in a Kindle edition for $15 ($14.99 plus tax). Clapper is a retired Air Force lieutenant general, more recently serving as Director of National Intelligence. His final day on the job was inauguration day for President Donald Trump, and during his long career in military intelligence and in the civilian intelligence system he had great opportunity to observe the workings of our government’s very expensive system for gathering information.

In his course he developed a great respect for fact and the telling of truth. As he observed the candidacy of Donald Trump he was dismayed at both the lack of regard for truth and at the same time the ever more obvious fact that Mr. Trump was under the influence of a foreign government. The later chapters of his book deal with his assessment of Mr. Trump and with the influence the Russian government exerted on the 2016 election.

To be clear, it quickly became obvious to American intelligence that Vladimir Putin’s government despised candidate Hillary Clinton, and it set its intelligence warfare apparatus to work with the aim to undermine her candidacy. When Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee, much of the Russians’ effort swung toward support for the Trump campaign. I will write a review of the book, but for now a few excerpts will illustrate James Clapper’s observations.

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 352). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

We knew now that the Russians had thousands of Twitter accounts and tens of thousands of bots that posted more than a million tweets. They posted more than a thousand videos on YouTube with days of streaming content. Facebook has said Russian content reached 126 million of its American users—an astonishing number, considering that only 139 million Americans voted.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 395). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Most interesting was the extent to which members of Congress, dominated by Trump’s party, were eager to support the narrative pushed by Russian intelligence. Particularly, the Fox cable network, which never seems to find a right wing notion it will not support, diligently assisted in the Russian effort.

In April, Mr. Trump first used the phrase “lying, crooked Hillary” to refer to his likely opponent in the primary election. RT, Fox News, and paid and unpaid trolls across social media latched on to the moniker. Russia and the Trump campaign seemed to be quite in sync, but that didn’t necessarily mean they were colluding—coordinating their efforts behind closed doors. They may simply have had a lot in common: a strong dislike for both the Washington political establishment and Hillary Clinton personally; a proclivity for social media, particularly Twitter, which meant they’d end up sharing each other’s ideas on the internet [sic]; and a genuine delight in wallowing in conspiracy theories.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 334). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

If you are not familiar with the RT television network, an excerpt from Wikipedia will be helpful:

RT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian international television network funded by the Russian government. It operates cable and satellite television channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic and Russian.

Government intelligence agencies initiated an intense investigation into the activities waged against the election, and this effort continues to the present. Prior to the end of his term in office, President Obama ordered briefings on these intelligence findings and made them available to the new administration. With great dismay, the intelligence community found that rather than accepting these findings whole heartedly, the Trump administration pushed back with a vengeance. After Donald Trump assumed office FBI Director James Comey declined to put an end to the bureau’s investigation and President Trump fired him. Subsequently a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, was appointed to investigate and to bring criminal charges to those involved in criminal activity. That was 13 months ago, and during all this time the Trump administration, right-leaning members of Congress, and also conservative news outlets, have maintained an effort to end these investigations and, failing that, to undermine public confidence in the findings and in the people working the case.

With some surprise, I find amusement in all this. An element of my amusement is a stream  of imagery running across my TV screen almost daily. Most recently, there was John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight.

Oliver claims this is one of a series he calls “Stupid Watergate.”

Regardless, it’s Oliver’s biting— and at the same time humorous—take, on the massive pushback against the Mueller investigation and on the simultaneous attacks against the American intelligence agencies. I streamed the TV episode on my computer and captured 59 screen shots to illustrate the story line, and I may not use all of them in this posting. Here’s the story.

Fox Network is particularly aggressive in casting the investigation as a witch-hunt. Sean Hannity, who has very close ties with the president, does not have enough time in a day to say all he wants relating to the matter.

Tucker Carlson is no less effusive.

Additionally, Fox has Sebastian Gorka, Roger Stone, Newt Gingrich, and even President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

At this time I need to apologize if somebody in these shots appears in bad form. Truth is I have to watch these stream live on YouTube, and I have to snag the Print Screen button at just the right moment, when nobody’s eyes are closed, or worse. Sometimes I am successful.

Anyhow, they are all calling the Mueller investigation a witch-hunt, prompting John Oliver to declare therefore there must be witches.

New indictment filed against Manafort names ally with Russian intel ties. “… 20 people and 3 companies have been charged.”

From The New York Times:

Mueller investigation enters year two: What comes next — and how it could end “Five guilty pleas.”

Oliver points out the objective of this jawboning the matter has the goal of reducing public confidence in the process and the people. Last July 62% of those polled thought the investigation should continue. By April of this year the level had dropped to 54%. The strategy seems to be working.

On another matter, it is being claimed by the president and his allies that federal authorities planted a spy in his organization back in 2016. This narrative is being pushed relentlessly, despite a complete lack of evidence.

Oliver outlines three tactics employed to deflect the investigation findings. The first is “redefine,” establish a alternate definition of what the investigation is about and attack that.

Here is a woman commenting on Fox News. Somebody please help me to identify her, because I have no clue. Anyhow, we hear her saying:

Mueller is there to show collusion between Russia and Trump, and there is [none] so far, so why not end it.

Hannity is saying:

Where is there any evidence of collusion? Show us. Nothing so far. Not a whiff.

Katrina Pierson, advisor for Trump 2020 campaign:

There is zero evidence of Russia collusion.

And Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway makes the ultimate case, and if anybody can explain it to me, then I will buy them a beer. And I will have one for myself.

Unkindly, Oliver reminds these good people that evidence of Russian collusion is not and never was a part of Mueller’s directive. His task, as originally directed by his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was to [investigate]:

“… any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of  President Donald Trump …”

The second tactic is what Oliver calls “whataboutism.”

Yeah, what about all that stuff others do? Hannity points to our notorious two-tiered justice system, apparently one set of rules for his favorite president and another set for everybody else.

He informs us of the massive load of malfeasance perpetrated by those others.

These are all very bad people, and if anybody can tell me what they have done that warrants my attention, then there is another beer waiting.

Oliver counters with his own list, equally staked out. Almost anybody can put a bulletin board and a list of perps in bold white font.

He notes the utility of this approach. If you produce a movie, and it gets a bad rating, then you can point to the blockbuster hit From Justin to Kelly. “Look at how bad that was, so why am I not getting an Oscar?”

The logic is impossible to challenge.

Then there is the counter narrative.

I don’t watch Fox News much, so I missed out on some stuff. Apparently Hannity has a passel of conspiracy theory story boards that outline the Mueller and Clinton crime families.

Who would have suspected this stuff was going on? Possibly not Hannity, but definitely a basket full of deplorables, who bought into this line and voted for Donald Trump. Sadly, it turns out, there is one graphic which even John Oliver is unable to decipher. Explanation please, and another beer.

More or less echoing what James Clapper details in his book, Hannity has been on the air “night after night” pushing the theory that the investigation is one massive plot to take down President Trump, and it involves the Democrats, the FBI, the “deep state,” and “establishment” Republicans. Hannity repeats a favorite catch phrase, calling the Mueller investigation bigger than Watergate. He says again and again it makes Watergate look “like stealing a Snickers bar.” There follows a sequence of shots similar to the one below and showing Hannity invoking the Snickers comparison.

This gives Oliver the opening to have his own fun with a Snickers bar.

Two of the names on Hannity’s “Waiting to be Raided” board are Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. These were two government workers originally gainfully employed in the Mueller investigation. While so employed, they were also enjoying some sub rosa snuggle bunnies. They were humping on the sly while married to others. Worse, they were found to have exchanged disparaging remarks about Donal Trump, said exchanges being conveyed through their employer’s email system. Mueller dismissed both from the investigation upon learning this, and they have since left government service.

Gone from the taxpayers feed trough, the pair still provide grist for the Fox News mill. Gregg Jarrett does not pass up the opportunity to refer to them: “If these two cheating love birds, who were still married to other people at the time, have any opportunity to still do their jobs at the FBI …”

This is the opening for Hannity. He is ripe to unload on Page with choice characterization:

There she is. FBI love bird Lisa Page …

This is scandalous beyond the pale. I mean, Watergate comes off as filching a Snickers bar by comparison.

That stalwart of moral propriety, Mike Huckabee, joins the chorus. He goes full conspiratorial, cupping his hands to his mouth as he intones “and secret lover” when referring to Page. Hester Prynne somebody else need your A.

Appears to be the same Fox News mystery woman, dishing on Strzok and Page. They are getting off the hook for their misdeeds to keep the anti-Trump scheme on  oxygen.

The pair’s misdeeds are undisputed. From The Washington Post:

FBI officials’ text message about Hillary Clinton said to be a cover story for romantic affair. “… relied on work phones to try to hide their romance from a spouse …”

The views they exchanged were unworthy of government employees:

“God trump is a lothsome human.”

“God Hillary should win 1,000,000,000 – 0.”

Imagine what kind of person would say such a thing about Donald Trump. A possible description might be “sentient life form.”

The picture painted by those pesky facts is less than lurid. From The Wall Street Journal, which went to the trouble of reading the several thousand messages exchanged between the two:

Inside the FBI Life of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as Told in  their Text Messages

The conclusion being “… show no evidence of a conspiracy against Mr. Trump.”

Introducing “Spy Gate,” a more recent Hannity brain storm, according to Oliver.

At this point I pause to weep for the English lexicon. Forty-six years ago the Democratic Party was headquartered in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The etymology for this site has a local history, but at the time I was already acquainted with the need to apply spiffy names to mundane constructions, being acquainted with the newly-constructed Westgate building in Austin, Texas.

Anyhow, for the next two years the word Watergate was on the front page of about every American newspaper, and it got stuck in copywriters’ heads, filling that empty place from which originality is supposed to flow. Since the time it has become the custom to name a scandal of any scale by snagging a tag word and appending “gate.” Shortly there was Koreagate:

 … in 1976 involving South Korean political figures seeking influence from 10 Democratic members of Congress.

After that there was no holding back the flood, producing among many, Tunagate. Alas, “Spygate” was inevitable.

Despite Mr. Hannity’s deepest desires and despite what fuels the fever in his imaginative brain, Spygate is he stuff of yawns. From The New York Times:

F.B.I. Used informant to investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

“… F.B.I. agents sent an informant to  talk to two campaign advisers [who] had suspicious contacts linked to Russia …”

Working at a cut above Alex Jones, Fox News relentlessly pumps the Spygate liturgy. Congressman Trey Gowdy, no stranger to investigative overreach, is seen telling panelists on CBS This Morning that the FBI was doing exactly what the FBI is required to do in such a situation. Not good news for Fox and Friends, and not so good for Congressman Gowdy, as well, his comments drawing immediate fire from Trump supporters.

Fox and Friends want us to know government investigators spooked the Trump campaign apparatus in a dark scheme to undermine the candidate. In a different world, where the sun comes up every morning, newspaper headlines read, “FBI Investigates Possible Crime.”

Oliver characterizes this as reporting that Domino’s delivers pizza. Who would have thought of that?

We see Lou Dobbs, commenting on Gowdy’s remarks:

I’m naming names here. I’m through with it. Trey Gowdy … is schizophrenic … He is absolutely in the service of the establishment. And the deep state, where they are consciously … purposely …

And that is so amusing, because “the establishment” is what left wing radicals used to call the Republican Party 50 years ago.

Oliver reminds us this is in  accordance with Conspiracy Theory 101 [my words]. Anybody speaking against the conspiracy theory is part of the conspiracy.

Something is obvious wrong here. We see Hannity making the case in a most queer way:

No evidence of Trump Russia collusion. Mueller, if you got it, come on the show and tell America. And by the way, if the media, if you have more proof that this is not a witch-hunt. OK. I don’t believe you.

Oh Jesus. They have reached the tipping point. No amount of counter evidence will convince them. This is Conspiracy Theory 101 §1.2. Take note, students. It’s going to be on the quiz.

Oliver cruelly reminds viewers of what is known. In June 2016 Donald Trump Jr. set up a meeting in  Trump Tower with a Russian agent who promised to provide dirt on candidate Clinton.

The hard facts available to us are not the result of any deep state intrusion into a political campaign, nor are they the result of an aggressive FBI investigation. We know these things because Donald Trump Jr., oldest son of the current president, tweeted this information out, from which it was picked up and published in a major newspaper.

Hannity has a masterful comeback to that bit of news.

He proudly reveals that a Russian-American lobbyist at the Trump Tower meeting reports knows Hillary Clinton and associates.

Score for Hannity! Not quite. Supposedly Hillary Clinton sent a Russian agent to a meeting with the aim of spilling incriminating evidence on herself. Oliver properly catalogs this response as the “shittiest conspiracy theory ever.” And I did not even realize this was supposed to be a contest.

Putting it all together, Hillary Clinton, her good friend Trey Gowdy, and the FBI, engaged in a dark  plot to sabotage the Trump campaign. Pardon me while I take a break and have another beer.

If this explanation is correct, then a massive conspiracy involved diverse people and agencies working diligently to cost Trump the election. Then came the time to implement it and they all took vacation. Yes, I believe that. I believe it. I think.

But wait! Please do not come at me with pitchforks and blazing torches, but I have horrendous news for you. It works. All this finagling with the truth and all this carpet bombing the airwaves with cockamamie conjectures actually convinces a large segment of the population. Clips from [apparently] an Emory University focus group study record remarks from adult American  citizens.

They call it a farce, created by the deep state.

It was a witch-hunt to overturn the election. All of this stuff that they say Trump did, they are finding out the Democrats did.

It’s been going on for a year and a half. They found nothing. She told … Oh, there’s something, there’s something. We’ll find it, we’ll find it. There’s nothing.

I hope you are sleeping better tonight. Don’t let me keep you awake.

Oliver likens it to the O.J. Simpson defense, which relied on discrediting parts of the state’s case and then convincing jurors the remainder of the case was similarly flawed. Trump supporters, including a major American news outlet, work with immense energy to keep the story alive while it gradually sinks in.

Oliver leaves us wondering whether, when it is all done, and Donald Trump skates free of any jail time, he will recapitulate O.J. and publish a tell-some book titled “If I Did It.” I will wait for the Kindle edition.

The intelligence community’s investigation continues, and Robert Mueller continues to bring charges and to prosecute people. Despite having President Trump and many others refer to this work as a witch-hunt, Mueller’s team continues to find offenses that require prosecution. At least one party so charged has already served his term in jail.

American intelligence has established credibility for their findings related to Russian efforts to undermine our electoral process and also to compromise the American president. The Steele dossier, which surfaced late in the 2016 election cycle, details Russian efforts to influence Donald Trump, and many of the allegations included in it have good confirmation. Other parts have not, including a humorous section after which this series is titled:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s person  obsessions and sexual perversion in order to  obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew president and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on  one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. the hotel was known to be under FSB control  with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

The vision of a future American President, paying to watch prostitutes pee on a bed in an upscale Moscow hotel would have been difficult to summon up scant years ago. Times have changed, and the Golden Shower is now a meme I promote at every opportunity. I hoist it as a banner against the oft-cited basket of deplorables that allowed themselves to be manipulated by a foreign government to elect the sorriest piece of humanity to ever lead our country. My fondest hope is that when these people close their eyes for the last time, this is the vision what remains burned into their retinas. And that’s just me being gracious.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 17 of a continuing series

I like to tell people that right-wing religious fanatics say the darndest things, and I don’t have far to go when looking for examples. Most recently (see the above link) I caught a video of right-wing religious fanatic Paul McGuire appearing on the Jim Bakker Show. He was there with co-author Troy Anderson, and much of the discussion centered on the book. Jesus will forgive me, but I had to purchase a copy. It is Trumpocalypse, and the Kindle edition is $14 ($13.99), delivered in seconds to my computer. Remember, I read these so that you won’t have to.

Anyhow, it’s worth a stroll through the 316 pages to see what passes for wisdom in some circles. I did that and picked out some bits for your enjoyment. First, some stats:

  • The word “conspiracy” appears 31 times.
  • Hillary Clinton is mentioned 51 times.
  • President Obama is mentioned 58 times.
  • There are 22 references to the Rothschild family.
  • “Apocalypse” appears 18 times, always capitalized.
  • There are 51 references to variations of the term “end-times.”
  • “Occult” appears 113 times.
  • “Deep state” appears 32 times.
  • Variations of “supernatural” appear in  52 places, sometimes in reference to the title of a work.
  • “Multi-dimensional” does not appear anywhere in any form in the book, despite author McGuire’s recent statement on the Jim BakkerShow that President Trump is currently engulfed in a battle with “advanced beings” who possess ‘supernatural multidimensional’ powers.”
  • And finally the book uses “Illuminati” 147 times, always capitalized.

It is worth noting that many of these references occur in passages McGuire quotes from others. Fact is, a significant bulk of text consists of quoted passages. Here is the context of some of these references, with key phrases highlighted.

“[The Economist] also happens to be owned by the Rothschild family and has a knack for touching on Illuminist pictures, hints, and outright disclosures guaranteed to make conspiracy theorists do a double-take,” explained S. Douglas Woodward, an Oracle and Microsoft executive and prophecy expert. “This year it has truly outdone itself. (By the way in 1988 the magazine predicted on its cover that in 2018 there would be a one-world government with a global currency and singular economic system. That is sure to pique any Bible prophecy buff’s interest.)”

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 3). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

Throughout the 2016 presidential race, the world became intensely fascinated with the prophecies involving Trump and former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and how a series of seemingly unrelated events—the populist uprising against the globalist elite and an explosion in occult phenomena—align with what prophecy scholars believe is a convergence in end-time markers.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (pp. 2-3). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

In recent decades, and largely during the Obama administration, many Americans watched with dismay as their nation—one the Pilgrims dedicated to God in the Mayflower Compact four centuries ago—underwent a radical and malevolent transformation.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 7). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

The best-known of the purported thirteen Illuminati families, according to the special publication Secret Societies: The Truth Revealed, are the Rothschilds and Rockefellers. In his book Our Occulted History: Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens?, Jim Marrs wrote that the Rothschilds believe they are descended from Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah. In this belief system, the “Anunnaki/Nefilim,” according to interpretations of ancient stone tablets from Sumer, are extraterrestrials who visited Earth in “fantastic flying machines” long ago and manipulated the “DNA of primitives on Earth”—creating “kings and dynasties” among “the new hybrids.” The term “Nefilim” is the biblical “Nephilim.” A growing number of Bible scholars say Nephilim were the offspring of women and fallen angels as described in Genesis 6:1–4, Numbers 13:30–33, and Jude 4–8. “The practice of dynastic kingship based on a royal lineage traceable to the gods has affected nations and governments up to the present day, as evidenced by the fact that the Rothschilds of today claim kinship with Nimrod,” Marrs wrote.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 100). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

[Referring to Donald Trump] The stunning victory of “the chaos candidate” not only confounded the predictions of pundits and pollsters but also created an eschatological mind-twister for students of the Apocalypse who are convinced the world is on the fast track to the end of human civilization.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 1). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

Since his thunderbolt election, Trump’s presidency has ignited end-time mania among Christians, Jews, Muslims, New Age adherents, and others curious as to how his presidency may fit into an increasingly mystifying prophetic puzzle, and whether the controversial and bombastic billionaire could paradoxically be a “John the Baptist” figure who will help usher in the “Messiah” and ultimately the Second Coming.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 2). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

These allegations of widespread occult influence in Washington, DC, came amid growing concerns about a “Deep State coup” and an explosion in occult phenomenon in America and worldwide.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 87). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

In what was perhaps the strangest presidential election in American history, the headlines shortly before Election Day 2016 hinted at the dark underbelly of a “diabolical scandal”—one that involves not just Bill and Hillary Clinton, but the “Deep State” and occult elite globally:

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 86). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

Finally, potential wars and nuclear conflicts are simmering around the world in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the Pacific Rim, and Israel. A 2015 Brookings Institution poll found that 79 percent of evangelical Christians believe violence in the Middle East is a sign that the end times are “nearer.” The poll found that 81 percent of evangelicals believe Christ will return but are unsure when it will happen. A total of 73 percent say world events will turn against Israel as the world gets closer to the Rapture (the belief that Christians will be supernaturally removed from Earth to join Christ in eternity).

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 34). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

The “Illuminati” is a term that holds tremendous fascination with some right-wing religious fanatics, and the book is loaded with  references:

“We are having an incredible outpouring of occult things, of various alternative religions that are occult-based like Wicca, and even the Satanic Temple group that is getting so much press,” says Rev. William “Bill” Schnoebelen, a biblical authority on alternative religions and the occult and former Druidic high priest. “When I was into this stuff in the 1960s, it was all kind of in the closet. It’s now out in the open and it’s been mainstreamed… We have turned the reins of the culture over to Hollywood, and it’s been a disaster because the media, for the most part, are entirely owned by the Illuminati. All these different entertainers—Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and whatnot—are totally sold out to the devil’s agenda, and because of that, they have this enormous influence on the culture, especially with younger people, and we are losing this battle.”

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 89). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

For many years, an odd mix of investigative journalists, whistleblowers, prophecy experts, and others warned of the dangers of globalism—sounding the alarm that the wealthy elite and secret societies were planning a global coup to launch a world state, cashless society, and New Age–Illuminati-based religious system.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 95). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

The occult elite view themselves as “god-kings.” The term “Illuminati bloodlines” refers to the belief that certain families born thousands of years ago are genetically descended from entities who visited Earth from outer space or another dimension, but whom the Bible describes as fallen angels.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (pp. 99-100). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

Throughout history, members of secret societies have wielded enormous influence over the world’s most powerful empires. The Newsweek publication “Secret Societies: Infiltrating the Inner Circle” lists the names of the better-known secret societies: Druids, the Order of the Assassins, Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, and the Bavarian Illuminati. Semisecret societies like the Freemasons, Yale University’s Skull and Bones, Bohemian Grove, Bilderberg Group, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, and Club of Rome are often the topic of books, films, and media articles. Among these groups, the Bavarian Illuminati—a historical secret society founded May 1, 1776, by Adam Weishaupt, a professor at the University of Ingolstadt—has captured the world’s imagination and has been the focus of blockbuster books like Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code and films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Celebrities often flash the Illuminati “pyramid signal” in music videos and during concerts.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 102). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

And that is as far as intend to take this. Don’t look for a complete review of the book. This should suffice. Readers can view the excerpts and come to their own conclusions. Mine is that there is another world out there. It’s a place where truth and fact tread lightly, being required often to pull back as unfounded thought rumbles through.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 16 of a continuing series

Yes, they really do. Take, for instance, right wing religious fanatic Paul McGuire, as brought to my attention by Dead State:

Last week, End Times author Paul McGuire appeared on the Jim Bakker Show and declared that President Trump is currently engulfed in “the greatest spiritual battle in the history of all mankind.” He expanded on his claim on his radio program this Thursday, this time clarifying that the battle is with “advanced beings” who possess “supernatural multidimensional” powers.

Allow me to restate for emphasis: “supernatural multidimensional” powers. I can get the supernatural part, because that’s what right wing religious fanatics are all about. But “multidimensional?” Whoa! That’s mathematics. That’s supposed to be my department.

But wait. Before this gets even weirder, it’s worth taking a look at the video from the Jim Bakker Show linked above. For those who don’t have time to wade through all 58 minutes, here are a few screen shots and some quotes:

First of all, a big part of this video is about selling McGuire’s book, Trumpocalypse. It is co-authored by Troy Anderson, who also appears in the video.

Of course, there is Jim Bakker, now out of prison:

James Orsen Bakker, born January 2, 1940) is an American televangelist, former Assemblies of God minister, convicted felon, and former host (with his former wife, Tammy Faye Bakker) of The PTL Club, an evangelical Christian television program. Bakker is also known for building Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina, a former Christian theme park which opened in 1978 and closed in 1989. He has written several books, including I Was Wrong and Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead.

A cover-up of hush money paid to Bakker’s secretary, Jessica Hahn, for alleged rape led to his resignation from the ministry. Subsequent revelations of accounting fraud brought about his conviction, imprisonment and divorce. Bakker later remarried and returned to televangelism, where he works on The Jim Bakker Show. He sells buckets of food to his audience on the show, in preparation for the end of days.

Also:

Crimes

The PTL Club’s fundraising activities between 1984 and 1987 were reported by The Charlotte Observer, eventually leading to criminal charges against Bakker. Bakker and his PTL associates sold $1,000 “lifetime memberships”, entitling buyers to an annual three-night stay at a luxury hotel at Heritage USA, during that period. According to the prosecution at Bakker’s fraud trial, tens of thousands of memberships were sold but only one 500-room hotel was ever finished. Bakker sold “exclusive partnerships” which exceeded capacity, raising more than twice the money needed to build the hotel. Much of the money paid Heritage USA’s operating expenses, and Bakker kept $3.4 million.

A $279,000 payoff for the silence of Jessica Hahn, who alleged that Bakker and pastor John Wesley Fletcher drugged and raped her, was paid with PTL’s funds through Bakker’s associate Roe Messner. Bakker, who made the PTL organization’s financial decisions, allegedly kept two sets of books to conceal accounting irregularities. Charlotte Observer reporters, led by Charles Shepard, investigated the PTL organization’s finances and published a series of articles.

On March 19, 1987, after the disclosure of a payoff to Hahn, Bakker resigned from PTL. Although he acknowledged that he met Hahn at a hotel room in Clearwater, Florida, he denied raping her. In late March 1987, Bakker was succeeded as PTL head by Jerry Falwell. Later that summer, as donations declined sharply in the wake of Bakker’s resignation and the end of the Bakkers’ PTL Club TV program, Falwell raised $20 million to keep PTL solvent and took a promised water slide ride at Heritage USA.

Fraud conviction and imprisonment

After a 16-month federal grand-jury probe, Bakker was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. In 1989, after a five-week trial which began on August 28 in Charlotte, North Carolina, a jury found him guilty on all 24 counts. Judge Robert Daniel Potter sentenced Bakker to 45 years in federal prison and imposed a $500,000 fine. At the Federal Medical Center, Rochester in Rochester, Minnesota, he shared a cell with activist Lyndon LaRouche and skydiver Roger Nelson.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Bakker’s conviction on the fraud and conspiracy charges, voided Bakker’s 45-year sentence and $500,000 fine, and ordered a new sentencing hearing in February 1991. The court ruled that Potter’s sentencing statement about Bakker, that “those of us who do have a religion are ridiculed as saps from [sic] money-grubbing preachers or priests”, was evidence that the judge had injected his religious beliefs into Bakker’s sentence.

A sentence-reduction hearing was held on November 16, 1992, and Bakker’s sentence was reduced to eight years. In August 1993, he was transferred to a minimum-security federal prison in Jesup, Georgia. Bakker was paroled in July 1994, after serving almost five years of his sentence. His son, Jay, spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to the parole board advocating leniency. Bakker was released from Federal Bureau of Prisons custody on December 1, 1994.

Tammy Faye has since died, and Jim Bakker now appears on television with his new wife, Lori Bakker.

Apocalypse and The End Times feature prominently in these religious programs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9SXamL_Nh4Banners at the bottom of the screen hawk the book.

Paul McGuire is not angry at his book. He’s just angry.

Some quotes

Troy Anderson: And now we’ve watched the media become so liberal and so biased and so all-out…attack on our president.

Jim Bakker: That’s what this book is all about. How can God use Trump? Trump is God’s wrecking ball.

Paul McGuire: God was looking for a man [pauses for emphasis] to take care of business.

Paul McGuire: He’s not a cream puff. He’s a warrior. So, who is going to defend our Christian liberties? Who’s going to keep the Constitution safe for freedom of religion? [Screen is filled with a photo of President Trump with the White House in the background and an on-screen banner that says “Donald J. Trump 45th President of the United States.”]

Paul McGuire: [Speaking of President Trump] We watch the man’s back, but not only that, but we watch his back as he drives every scoundrel, skunk, thief, deceiver, two-faced liar… [pause for emphasis, camera shifts] …with all the credentials, three-letter words… [An obvious reference to agencies such as the FBI, CIA, NSA]

Paul McGuire: He’s a mortal man. They want to kill him.

And that will about do it for quotes from the video. You need to watch it. It gets deeper than I have revealed.

It’s a curse. Somewhere in my youth I crossed the wrong god, and now I find myself having to atone. I get started writing one of these through a link that crops up on a news feed, and I innocently figure to write a short blurb and take my afternoon  nap. Then it happens. I get sucked down into the rabbit hole as I follow link after link, and I end up purchasing the book. It’s $13.99 from Amazon for the Kindle edition, but there is tax, despite what President Trump has promised you. But the book gets delivered in under 30 seconds, and you can’t pour yourself a diet soda during that time.

So here are a few quotes from the book. First from a chapter titled “Deep State Coup and Occult Explosion.” It’s a quote from somebody besides the authors of the book.

Well, I found some examples that I’ve seen firsthand in Washington—evidence, the influence of occultism, certainly witchcraft… You have a lot of witchcraft. You have a lot of hedonism. You have all the issues. When I think of Sodom and Gomorrah I often think of Washington, DC, in the same thought.

—LIEUTENANT COLONEL BOB MAGINNIS (RETIRED), SENIOR FELLOW FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AT THE FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 86). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

The Family Research Council is another of those rabbit holes you might want to check out.

In what was perhaps the strangest presidential election in American history, the headlines shortly before Election Day 2016 hinted at the dark underbelly of a “diabolical scandal”—one that involves not just Bill and Hillary Clinton, but the “Deep State” and occult elite globally:

  • “Is Hillary Clinton the Antichrist or an Illuminati Witch?” (Jennifer LeClaire, Charisma News, August 11, 2016).
  • “Witchcraft on the Campaign Trail” (Stacy Schiff, New York Times, October 30, 2016).
  • “No, John Podesta Didn’t Drink Bodily Fluids at a Secret Satanist Dinner” (Abby Ohlheiser, Washington Post, November 4, 2016).
  • “The Devil Is a Woman: Ben Carson Ties Hillary Clinton to Lucifer as GOP Swaps Campaign for Witch Trial” (Gideon Resnick, the Daily Beast, July 20, 2016).

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (pp. 86-87). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

The articles also involved speculation by former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson at the Republican National Convention about a “Democratic-Satanic alliance.”

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 87). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

These allegations of widespread occult influence in Washington, DC, came amid growing concerns about a “Deep State coup” and an explosion in occult phenomenon in America and worldwide.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 87). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

The concept of the “Deep State” can be traced to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning in his farewell address in 1961 about the growing power of the “military-industrial complex.”

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 88). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

We live in the time predicted by the ancient Hebrew prophets and prophesied by Jesus Christ and his apostles—an era of mass deception unparalleled in human history.

Today, the level of deceit, subterfuge and disinformation in politics, media, Hollywood, business, academia, and religion is truly mind-boggling. The “Mystery, Babylon” thought-control matrix is fully operational. In today’s occult-entangled and technology-addicted culture, it’s not hard to envision how the world and church could be duped by what is known in prophecy circles as “the Great Deception.”

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (pp. 112-113). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

At 120 Wall Street in New York City, the Arcane School at Lucis Trust—formerly Lucifer Publishing Company—is working on behalf of the “spiritual Hierarchy of the planet” to carry out the “Plan” to create the “New World Order.”

Lucis Trust defines the “Hierarchy” as the “inner spiritual governance of the world led by enlightened beings.” It’s also known as the “society of Illumined Minds.” Lucifer is known as the “Light Bringer, the Illumined One.”

As astounding as this may seem given its obvious occult connotations, it’s all detailed on the website of Lucis Trust, a nongovernmental organization that has “consultative status” with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and whose political lobby, World Goodwill, is accredited by the UN Department of Public Information.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 188). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

As many of you discovered in The Babylon Code with its extensive documentation, the Illuminati is as real today as it was in 1776 when its founder, University of Ingolstadt professor Adam Weishaupt, first called for a “New World Order through Revolution.” Today, the Illuminati network—operating through countless front groups and an interconnected web of multinational corporations, international banks, government agencies, think tanks, foundations, and secret societies—is believed to be in the final stages of implementing its Plan to launch the New World Order. Illuminati whistle-blowers and others claim this could start soon with an engineered financial collapse, outbreak of war, or a sophisticated global deception involving a “fake Antichrist” before the “fake Second Coming of Christ.” We’ll delve more into these claims later.

McGuire, Paul. Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code) (p. 189). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

Those are a few highlights I picked up while eating my cheese and crackers and vegetable soup for lunch today, and I will leave it at that. Look for more from this fabulous testament to early onset dementia. The book is solid gold.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book.

In 1938 Adolf Hitler began in earnest to solidify control of the Nazi state. His first outward thrust was the annexation of neighboring Austria, a German nation to the south. Nazis there had been gaining strength all during the rise of Nazism in Germany, and they worked to facilitate Hitler’s tactic of intimidation and subterfuge. During this time Shirer was in Vienna, having relocated to what he considered a safe zone. His wife Tess was preparing to give birth, which event happened during the time of the takeover and was associated with great personal peril.

VIENNA, February 5, 1938

Doings in Berlin. Today’s papers say Blomberg and Fritsch, the two men who have built up the German army, are out. Hitler himself becomes a sort of “Supreme War-Lord,” assuming the powers of the Minister of Defence. Two new generals appear: Wilhelm Keitel as chief of the High Command, and Walther von Brauchitsch as commander-in-chief of the army in place of Fritsch. Neurath is out as Foreign Minister, replaced by Ribbentrop. Schacht is out, replaced by Walther Funk. Göring— strange!— is made a field-marshal. What’s back of all this? The meeting of the Reichstag which had been set for January 30 and then postponed is now to be held February 20, when we shall probably know.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 91). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Events move to Austria.

VIENNA, February 7

Fodor tells me a strange tale. He says Austrian police raided Nazi headquarters in the Teinfaltstrasse the other day and found a plan initialled by Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy, for a new Putsch. Idea was, says Fodor, to organize a riot in front of the German Embassy in the Metternichstrasse, have someone shoot Papen and the German military attaché, and thus give Hitler an excuse to march in.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 91). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Fodor is Marcel Fodor, a writer for various newspapers.

Hitler feels he was now in a position to employ threats in his scheme to annex Austria. Nazi allies in the Austrian government, such as Arthur Seyss-Inquart, work to engineer the collapse of the government of Kurt Schuschnigg. Seyss-Inquart served as Austrian chancellor for two days following the Anschluss and went on to serve the Nazis as Reichskommissar in the Netherlands during German occupation. Taken prisoner after the war, he was executed in October 1946 along with a bevy of other top Nazis. Schlussnigg was imprisoned by the Nazis but survived the war. Advancing Allied troops liberated him and his family from a prison camp in the final days of the war.

VIENNA, February 16

A terrible thing has happened. We learned day before yesterday about Berchtesgaden. Hitler took Schuschnigg for a ride, demanded he appoint several Nazis led by Seyss-Inquart to the Cabinet, amnesty all Nazi prisoners, and restore the political rights of the Nazi Party— or invasion by the Reichswehr. President Miklas seems to have balked at this. Then yesterday Hitler dispatched an ultimatum: Either carry out the terms of the Berchtesgaden “agreement,” or the Reichswehr marches.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 92). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

On February 20 Hitler issues a stern ultimatum, signaling the coming end of an independent Austria.

“There must be no doubt about one thing. Political separation from the Reich may not lead to deprivation of rights— that is, the general rights of self-determination. In the long run it is unbearable for a world power to know there are racial comrades at its side who are constantly being afflicted with the severest suffering for their sympathy or unity with the whole nation, its destiny, and its Weltanschauung. To the interests of the German Reich belong the protection of those German peoples who are not in a position to secure along our frontiers their political and spiritual freedom by their own efforts.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 93). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer goes on to write that British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigned on this day, possibly due to Hitler’s dissatisfaction. In truth, the Brits were beginning to tire of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s weak foreign policy dealings.

Also on this day Shirer notes Hitler’s public grumblings concerning ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was to be his next target after he digested Austria.

It is during these tense times the Shirer’s baby is born.

VIENNA, February 26

When I stepped off the train at four p.m., Ed Taylor was on the platform and I could tell by his face it had happened.

“Congratulations!” he said, but I could see he was forcing his smile.

“And Tess?”

He hesitated, swallowed. “She had a bit of a hard time, I’m afraid. Caesarean. But she’s better now.”

I told the taxi-driver to hurry to the hospital. “Aren’t you going to ask the sex?” Ed said.

“What is it?”

“A girl,” he said.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 93-94). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Then comes the event that shook the world—a prelude to the carnage that was to last until 1945.

VIENNA, March 11– 12 (4 a.m.)

The worst has happened! Schuschnigg is out. The Nazis are in. The Reichswehr is invading Austria. Hitler has broken a dozen solemn promises, pledges, treaties. And Austria is finished.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 95). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Schuschnigg wanted a plebiscite to give the people an opportunity to rebuff Hitler’s entreaties.  That same day:

“Plebiscite.”

“What plebiscite?”

“The one Schuschnigg ordered.” He did not trust me and would say no more.

I climbed the stairs to our apartment puzzled. I asked the maid. She handed me a stack of newspapers for the last three days. Over breakfast I caught up on the news. On Wednesday night (March 9) Schuschnigg, speaking at Innsbruck, had suddenly ordered a plebiscite. For this Sunday. The question: “Are you for an independent, social, Christian, German, united Austria? Ja oder Nein.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 96). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Austrians were to be given the choice to vote yes or no. As will be noted later, not much of a choice was ever given.

While the political landscape is unraveling, Shirer’s personal life is in turmoil.

Breakfast over, I hurried to the hospital. Tess was not so good. Fever, and the doctor afraid of phlebitis in the left leg. A blood clot. A hell of a thing, after the other. I stayed with her for two hours until she dozed off. About eleven a.m. I took a taxi into town and went to the Schwarzenberg Café on the Schwarzenbergplatz to see what was up. Fodor and Taylor and some Austrian newspapermen were there.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 96). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Same day. The Nazis are coming into the open.

Shortly before four p.m. I set out for the hospital to see if Tess was any better. Crossing the Karlsplatz to catch a subway train I was stopped by a crowd of about a thousand people. They were Nazis and it was a bit comical. One lone policeman was yelling and gesticulating at them. And they were giving ground! “If that’s all the guts the Nazis have, Schuschnigg will win, hands down,” I mused. “And he’s arming the workers. That’ll take care of the Nazi toughs.” I hurried along to my train.

About six o’clock, returning from the hospital, I emerged from the subway to the Karlsplatz. What had happened? Something! Before I knew it I was being swept along in a shouting, hysterical Nazi mob, past the Ring, past the Opera, up the Kärntnerstrasse to the offices of the German “Tourist” Bureau, which, with its immense flower-draped portrait of Hitler, has been a Nazi shrine for months. The faces! I had seen these before at Nuremberg— the fanatical eyes, the gaping mouths, the hysteria. And now they were shouting like Holy Rollers: “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! Hang Schuschnigg! Hang Schuschnigg! Hang Schuschnigg! Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!” And the police! They were looking on, grinning. What had happened? I was still in the dark. I shouted my question into the ears of three or four jammed against me. No response. Couldn’t hear. Finally a middle-aged woman seemed to get me. “The plebiscite!” she yelled. “Called off!”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 97-98). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

What is happening begins to sink in.

There was no need to learn more. That was the end of Austria. I extricated myself from the swirling dervishes and made my way down the Ring to the Hotel Bristol. Taylor was there. He introduced me to his wife, Vreni, pretty, brunette, intelligent-looking, who had just arrived. He confirmed the news. It had been announced an hour before on the radio, he said. We took a taxi to the American Legation. John Wiley was standing before his desk, clutching his invariable long cigarette-holder, a queer smile on his face— the smile of someone who has just been defeated and knows it.

“It’s all over,” he said quietly. There had been an ultimatum from Berlin. No plebiscite, or the German army marches. Schuschnigg had capitulated.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 98). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The upending of a nation continues to unfold.

We sprint over to the Ballhausplatz, Metternich’s Ballhausplatz… Congress of Vienna…. Twenty storm troopers are standing on one another before the building, forming a human pyramid. A little fellow scampers to the top of the heap, clutching a huge Swastika flag. He pulls himself up to the balcony, the same balcony where four years ago Major Fey, held prisoner by the Nazis after Dollfuss was shot, parleyed with the Schuschnigg people. He unfurls the flag from the balcony and the Platz rings with cheers.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 100-101). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Nazis continue to come out of the woodwork.

Emil Maass, my former assistant, an Austro-American, who has long posed as an anti-Nazi, struts in, stops before the table. “Well, meine Damen und Herren,” he smirks, “it was about time.” And he turns over his coat lapel, unpins his hidden Swastika button, and repins it on the outside over the buttonhole. Two or three women shriek: “Shame!” at him. Major Goldschmidt, Legitimist, Catholic, but half Jewish, who has been sitting quietly at the table, rises. “I will go home and get my revolver,” he says. Someone rushes in. Seyss-Inquart is forming a Nazi government. It is a little after eleven p.m. Time to go over to Broadcasting House. Five p.m. in New York.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 101). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The new order begins to become manifest.

In the Johannesgasse, before the Ravag building, men in field-grey uniforms stand guard with fixed bayonets. I explain who I am. After a long wait they let me in. The vestibule and corridor are full of young men in army uniforms, in S.S. and S.A. uniforms, brandishing revolvers, playing with bayonets. Two or three stop me, but taking my courage in my hand I bark at them and make my way into the main hall, around which are the studios. Czeja, the General-Direktor of Ravag, and Erich Kunsti, program director, old friends, stand in the middle of the room, surrounded by excited, chattering Nazi boys. One glance. They are prisoners. I manage to get in a word with Kunsti.

“How soon can I go on the air?” I say.

He shrugs his shoulders. “I’ve ceased to exist around here,” he laughs. He beckons towards a scar-faced chap who seems to be the boss, for the moment anyway.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 101-102). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

To get the story out, Shirer must abandon his wife and baby and fly to London by way of Prague, Dresden, and Berlin. There is difficulty getting out of Vienna, as flights are booked solid by fleeing Jews. From Berlin:

More luck. A seat on a Dutch plane straight through to London. I had an hour for lunch. I bought the morning Berlin newspapers. Amazing! Goebbels at his best, or worst! Hitler’s own newspaper, the Völkische Beobachter, on my lap here. Its screaming banner-line across page one: GERMAN-AUSTRIA SAVED FROM CHAOS. And an incredible story out of Goebbels’s evil but fertile brain describing violent Red disorders in the main streets of Vienna yesterday, fighting, shooting, pillaging. It is a complete lie. But how will the German people know it’s a lie? The DNB also has a story today that sounds phony. It claims Seyss-Inquart last night telegraphed to Hitler to send troops to protect Austria from armed Socialists and Communists. Since there were no “armed Socialists and Communists” in Vienna last night, this obviously is also a lie. But interesting to note Hitler’s technique. The same which was used to justify the June 30 purge. Any lie will do. Croydon now just ahead of us.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 103-104). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer comments on the news dispatches going out.

Hitler, say the dispatches, entered Vienna in triumph this afternoon. Nobody fired. Chamberlain has just spoken in the House. He is not going to do anything. “The hard fact is,” he says, “that nothing could have arrested what has actually happened— unless this country and other countries had been prepared to use force.” There will be no war. Britain and France have retreated one step more before the rising Nazi power.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 107-108). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Later Shirer describes Hitler’s review of the takeover and also an encounter with Churchill.

LONDON, March 15

Hitler, speaking in Vienna from the balcony of the Hofburg, palace of the once mighty Habsburgs, today proclaimed the incorporation of Austria in the German Reich. Still another promise broken. He could not even wait for the plebiscite, scheduled for April 10. Talked with Winston Churchill on the phone this morning. He will do a fifteen-minute broadcast, but wants five hundred dollars.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 108). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The dominoes continue to fall.

LONDON, March 16

Ed [Murrow] telephoned from Vienna. He said Major Emil Fey has committed suicide after putting bullets through his wife and nineteen-year-old son. He was a sinister man. Undoubtedly he feared the Nazis would murder him for having double-crossed them in 1934 when Dollfuss was shot. I return to Vienna day after tomorrow. The crisis is over. I think we’ve found something, though, for radio with these round-ups.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 108). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The true nature of the Nazis continues to become manifest.

VIENNA, March 19

“I live here,” I said, suddenly angry.

“Makes no difference. You can’t go in,” one of the guards countered.

“I said I lived here!”

“Sorry. Strict orders. No one can enter or leave.” He was an Austrian lad, his accent showed, and polite, and my anger subsided.

“Where can I find your commandant?” I asked.

“In the Rothschild palace.”

He gave us a towering S.S. man, who escorted us into the gardener’s house which adjoined our building and where Rothschild had actually resided the last year. As we entered we almost collided with some S.S. officers who were carting up silver and other loot from the basement. One had a gold-framed picture under his arm. One was the commandant. His arms were loaded with silver knives and forks, but he was not embarrassed. I explained my business and our nationality. He chuckled and told the guard to escort us to my door.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 109). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The ugliness of their new life under the Nazis begins to sink in.

We stayed until after dinner. Then wishing to go downtown we crept down the stairs, waited until our guard had paced several steps away from the door, and sneaked out on tiptoe in the darkness. We found a quiet bar off the Kärntnerstrasse for a talk. Ed was a little nervous.

“Let’s go to another place,” he suggested.

“Why?”

“I was here last night about this time,” he said. “A Jewish-looking fellow was standing at that bar. After a while he took an old-fashioned razor from his pocket and slashed his throat.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 109-110). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The gloom and the grim reality deepens.

VIENNA, March 22

Tess’s condition still critical. And the atmosphere in the hospital has not helped. First, Tess says, there was a Jewish lady whose brother-in-law committed suicide the day Hitler entered town. She screamed all the first night. Today she left in black mourning clothes and veil, clutching her baby. There was a second Jewish lady. No one in her family was murdered, but the S.A., after taking over her husband’s business, proceeded to their home and looted it. She fears her husband will be killed or arrested, and weeps all night long.

On the streets today gangs of Jews, with jeering storm troopers standing over them and taunting crowds around them, on their hands and knees scrubbing the Schuschnigg signs off the sidewalks. Many Jews killing themselves. All sorts of reports of Nazi sadism, and from the Austrians it surprises me. Jewish men and women made to clean latrines. Hundreds of them just picked at random off the streets to clean the toilets of the Nazi boys. The lucky ones get off with merely cleaning cars— the thousands of automobiles which have been stolen from the Jews and “enemies” of the regime. The wife of a diplomat, a Jewess, told me today she dared not leave her home for fear of being picked up and put to “scrubbing things.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 110-111). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The oppressiveness of the new order:

VIENNA, March 25

Went with Gillie to see the synagogue in the Seitenstättengasse, which was also the headquarters of the Jewish Kultusgemeinde. We had been told that the Jews had been made to scrub out toilets with the sacred praying-bands, the Tefillin. But the S.S. guards wouldn’t let us in. Inside we could see the guards lolling about smoking pipes. On our way to lunch in a little Italian restaurant back of the Cathedral, Gillie had a run-in with some storm troopers who took him for a Jew though he is the purest of Scots. Very annoying and we drowned our feelings in Chianti. Knick here, and Agnes, though Knick will depart shortly as he is barred from Germany and is not supposed to be here. Huss here trying to get the local INS correspondent, Alfred Tyrnauer, out of jail. His wife most frantic when I talked with her on the phone. The Fodors have gone to Bratislava, taken there on the initiative of John Wiley, who sent them out in a Legation car. Schuschnigg under arrest, and the story is that the Nazis torture him by keeping the radio in his room on night and day.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 111). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer describes the real  nature of the Nazi-ordered plebiscite:

VIENNA, April 10 (Palm Sunday)

The “plebiscite” passed off today in a weird sort of holiday atmosphere. The Austrians, according to Goebbels’s count, have voted ninety-nine per cent Ja. Maybe so. It took a brave Austrian to vote No, as everyone felt the Nazis had some way of checking up on how they voted. This afternoon I visited a polling station in the Hofburg. The room, I imagine, had once been occupied by the Emperor’s guard. I went inside one of the booths. Pasted on the wall in front of you was a sample ballot showing you how to mark yours with a Yes. There was also a wide slit in the corner of the booth which gave the election committee sitting a few feet away a pretty good view of how you voted!

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 112). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Quoted without comment:

VIENNA, April 14

Czechoslovakia will certainly be next on Hitler’s list.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 113). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Czechoslovakia will certainly be next:

PRAGUE, April 16

Put on President Beneš and Miss Alice Masaryk in a broadcast to America tonight. Yesterday I expressed the hope that Dr. Beneš would say something about the German question, though their theme tonight was ostensibly the Red Cross. Dr. Beneš obliged me beautifully, though his language was moderate and reasonable. Strange, then, that when he got to the German question he was badly faded out. Unfortunately New York booked the show via the German short-wave station at Zeesen instead of through Geneva as I had asked. I suspect the Germans faded out Beneš on purpose, though Berlin denied it when I spoke with the people there on the phone after the broadcast. They said the fault was here in Prague. The Czechs deny it. I had a long talk tonight with Svoboda, chief engineer of the Czech Broadcasting System, urging him to rush work on his new short-wave transmitter, explaining that if the Germans got tough, that would be Prague’s only outlet. Promised our co-operation in making transatlantic tests. A good-natured fellow, he does not think the Germans will do anything until they’ve digested Austria, which he thinks will take years. But he promised to get along with the new Sender.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 113). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition. [Emphasis added]

Coming up next, the Nazis exert their power, exposing the cruelty and the criminality for which they will soon become world famous. Shirer will find it necessary, under extraordinary circumstances, to ferret his family out from under the Nazi thumb.

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 7 in a series

The way I got around to this book was another book I was reviewing by writer Stephen Moore and would-be political appointee Kathleen Hartnett White, titled Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. That book makes a couple of references to another book: The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe by Sebastian Luning and Fritz Vahrenholt, and I purchased the Kindle edition to follow up. My original intent was to read the book and post a thorough diagnosis. After some reading I decided, “No way.” I will explain why.

Published by The Heartland Institute 3939 North Wilke Road Arlington Heights, Illinois 60004 phone 312/ 377-4000 fax 312/ 377-5000 www.heartland.org [link added]

That shows up on page 2, and it’s drop-dead indication this is not going to be a scientific treatment of the subject.

I forgot all about Heartland Institute. Yes I did. The last time I paid them any attention was back in 2012. What I stated then was that Heartland Institute appears to use money rather than actual science to counter inconvenient facts of science.

Yes, we have been down that road before. However, it is worth some examination to determine whether Luning and Vahrenholt (Heartland) have anything new to add to the discussion. Here’s what I was able to glean. Despite the title, the book does not appear to be about the neglected sun and why the sun precludes climate catastrophe. The book appears to be more an argument for avoiding “carbon-neutral” energy sources, a prime Heartland agenda. Before getting into several chapters discussing the sun, the book reveals its heart with a few paragraphs in the preface.

In 2011 Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would implement the Energiewende (energy turnaround) in an attempt to replace nuclear and fossil fuel power plants with renewable sources. At the same time, she promised that Germany would no longer need to import electricit y and that electricit y prices would not go up. Within less than a year this grand declaration proved to be little more than wishful thinking. 1 Today electricit y prices in Germany are soaring out of control due to unlimited subsidies given to renewable power, and the German power supply can be secured only through emergency decrees. Power companies also have to keep unprofitable power plants on standby and large power consumers may find their supply cut off in the event of unexpected supply bottlenecks. Within less than a year, Germany has gone from having a power supply that was one of the world’s most stable to one that is on the brink of collapse.

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 43-49). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Yes, carbon-neutral sources are a bane on modern society, and the book is going to explain why anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is of no concern, even a hoax. The arguments are many, and after much reading you may begin to wonder: if these arguments are of any worth, why are there so many of them crowded into this book? If the the sun precludes climate catastrophe, then a single scientific finding should suffice, and the argument could have been put to  death in a few pages. From all appearances—I’m pulling from several excerpts—there is not a lot of sound science behind the sun argument, and those remaining arguments the authors do push are off-base and generally are not relevant to the case. Before I get into some of the arguments laid to the sun, let’s examine a few that make absolutely no sense in this discussion. Here’s one.

Scientists find themselves in a quandary. How are they to deal with the politically incorrect scientific results? Two American researchers, Jackson Davis and Peter Taylor, recently came across something astonishing. While studying an Antarctic ice core covering the past 12,000 years, they identified a total of forty-six strong natural warming events throughout the pre-industrial era. The mean warming rate of these events was approximately 1.2 ° C per century, more than the 0.7 ° C warming we have seen since 1900.

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 101-105). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Assuming the above is correct, what does it have to do with the issue hand? Maybe a restatement of the issue at hand will be helpful. Here is mine:

Human activities are raising atmospheric levels of CO2 to levels not seen in thousands of years, and the expected, also observed, result is a rise in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures at a rate the world economy cannot accommodate.

If the authors want to talk about past disasters, they could bring up catastrophic asteroid impacts classified as extinction-level events. None of these arguments have relevance to the issue at hand. Besides that, the authors’ statement appears to be false.

This plot is labeled “Annual surface temperature compared to the 1981-2010 average from multiple, independent research groups. NOAA Climate.gov graph adapted from Figure 2.1a in State of the Climate in 2016,” and it appears to show about a 1.0° C rise since 1900. To be sure, the authors are citing the work of others, but this does not excuse the inaccuracy. Rather, their choice of references indicates they are picking sources that please them. There is more. The authors criticize what they contend is bias reporting by mainstream media.

Similar problems occur with the media coverage of new scientific climate studies. Interestingly, while new results inconvenient to the IPCC are often ignored, the latest climate scare stories – some paid for by insurance companies with a vested interest – are widely carried by the mainstream media. For example, how many of us have heard that winter temperatures at the Antarctic Ross Sea have significantly cooled over the past 30 years? [7].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 111-114). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

The footnote is to “Sinclair, K. E., N. A. N. Bertler and T. D. van Ommen (2012) Twentieth-century surface temperature trends in the Western Ross Sea, Antarctica: evidence from a high-resolution ice core. Journal of Climate 25 (10), 3629– 36.”

First I will congratulate the authors on missing the irony of this statement. “[P]aid for by insurance companies with a vested interest.” From all appearances, their own reporting has been paid for by an organization with a vested interest in denying AGW. Considering this section’s topic, of what significance is the matter of winter temperatures at the Antarctic Ross Sea to the global temperature average? I am not sure the authors think this is significant, but it is clear they think it will be significant to their readers, the ones they were paid to impress. Here is a bit more along this line.

One might think that a study documenting that temperatures in southern Italy during the Roman Warm Period were slightly higher than they are today would be a worth reporting [9].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 115-116). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

The reference is given in the footnote indicated. Again, a local or regional event is called upon to  put the lie to an observed global trend. Where have we encountered this before? How about here?

Yes, somebody expanded a piece in The Washington Post from nearly 100 years ago to throw as evidence against AGW. Good for them, the authors of this book did not include this as part of their argument.

Turn now to the book’s main theme, the impact of solar activity on global temperatures. The authors saturate the remainder of the book with the solar argument. Here are a few samples:

Geological climate reconstructions exhaustively show that temperatures on earth have followed solar activit y for thousands of years. That is not surprising when we consider that 99.98 per cent of the total energy of the world’s climate comes from the sun. Would it not make sense to suspect that even small changes in solar energy could have huge impacts?

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 577-580). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

I am especially fond of the appeal to logical deduction: “Would it not make sense to suspect that even small changes in solar energy could have huge impacts?”

Similar irradiation maximums occurred 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period) and 2000 years ago (the Roman Warm Period). In both periods, pronounced climate warming took place. The Roman Warm Period, the Medieval Warm Period and today’s Modern Optimum (since 1850) are well documented. Between those warm periods the sun’s activit y decreased and this led to distinct cold phases – the Vandal Cold Period and the Little Ice Age.

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 583-586). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Solar magnetic field strength increased enormously, parallel to the increase in solar irradiation over the last 100 years, having more than doubled [133– 134] (Figure 3.8). The solar magnetic field protects the earth from cosmic rays because it forms a protective shield around it. As a result cosmic rays have decreased 9 per cent over 150 years up to 2000, when cosmic ray levels started to increase once again [135].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 1047-1050). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

I find this last bit most interesting. The magnetic field? Cosmic ray flux? Relevance, please. The authors need only a single scientific finding to make their case. If they have it, then they are holding it back and showering their readers with case studies. Figure 3.8 mentioned in the above has the following title:

Figure 3.8 Synchronicity of solar activity, temperature, sea level and Arctic Sea ice cover during the last 400 years. Sources: sunspots [136]; total solar irradiance [39]; visible light [39]; UV [39]; solar magnetic field, [134]; CO2 [51]; temperature (extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere) [109]; sea level [137]; Arctic sea ice cover [138].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 1050-1053). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Here is a screen shot from the Kindle edition, computer-enhanced to clarify details:

Here is another plot, not from the book.

This plot shows global warming with respect to solar flux. While solar flux has been more or less constant from 1880 to 2005, the planet’s warming has shown a persistent rise. Where is this graph presented, even in an effort at repudiation? Here is another interesting graphic.

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

Yes, this is what The Heartland Institute is all about, and it bears no resemblance to real science. Juxtaposed to Luning and Vahrenholt’s inferences of media bias and tilted research is the picture of two writers funded at least in part by The Heartland Institute to propagandize against anthropogenic global warming. This is the nature of the case being made against AWG, and it does not get any better than this.

The Hartnett Delusion

Continuing a review of the Kathleen Hartnett White book

I previously reviewed chapter 1, Energy at a Crossroads, subtitled Doomslayers vs. Doomsayers. That chapter, with a number of failings noted, is a determined argument, largely successful, that fossil fuels are a boon to modern civilization. Here I am going to cover chapters 2, 3, and 4 in a single posting, which about measures the limits of my endurance. I will post a some pertinent excerpts along with assessments.

Start with

Chapter 2, How the Shale Revolution is Changing Everything.

In fact, the shale revolution is changing everything. Forty years ago we were forecasting petroleum production to peak in the 21st century. We always knew there were vast stores of oil locked in stone—shale—impractical to extract. Advancing technology has turned that around. With liquid crude oil pumping at $40 per barrel and higher, oil from shale is now competitive.

Strangely enough, the energy bonanza has coincided with the presidency of a man hell-bent on eliminating fossil fuels to avert alleged global warming.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 602-603). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The writers (Moore and White) are, of course, speaking of liberal President Barack Obama, in office at the time the book was published. As I advance through the book, I recognize more and more the pen of writer Stephen Moore, his style and agenda coming to the surface. Here we see the calculated implementation of loaded phrasing with terms like “hell-bent” and “alleged” appearing close by in the same sentence. “Hell-bent” nods to mindless intent on the part of Mr. Obama, and “alleged” reminds us that the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is faulty, even devious. A stroll through the book will disclose that Moore and White string out a slew of true statements, which soon become undercut by a number of scientific misconceptions and blatant falsehoods. For the remainder of the book I will attribute the content to Moore for the sake of simplicity.

Yet after more than eighteen years without warming global temperatures, the president seeks to increase our dependence on these thuggish regimes and declares that global warming is a greater threat than ISIS.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 606-607). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Here Moore displays a couple of miscues:

  • His statement about global temperatures is wrong.
  • He published too early, his reference regarding ISIS now overcome by events.

This chart is “Global mean surface temperature change since 1880. Source: NASA GISS” Contrary to what Moore states, we do not seem to have experienced “more than eighteen years without warming global temperatures.” In the meantime, opposing forces, including the United States military, have driven ISIS from its world headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, and ISIS has ceased to  exist as a territorial entity. Also, contrary to Moore’s proclamations, ISIS will cease to  be an issue long before the effects of AGW have dissipated, if ever.

We know that ISIS terrorist networks are funded to the tune of $ 1 million a day through oil dollars.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 638-639). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I’m still trying to  figure out how that fact supports the intent of this book.

The oil and gas extracted in the shale fields began as small aquatic organisms in an ancient inland sea covering the central region of North America from the Great Plains to what we now call Pennsylvania. And by an ancient inland sea, we mean ancient— formed sixty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 738-740). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

While I am prepared to concede that the vast body of oil being pumped today comes from the geological Cenozoic Period, I will not agree that 60 million years ago represents the Cretaceous Period, which ended about 66 million years ago. While this technical gaff does not bely Moore’s tale about the origin of these deposits, it does reflect on sloppy writing and a lack of deep understanding.

One presidential signature can deprive Americans of critical natural resources. In 1996, for example, President Bill Clinton designated 1.7 million acres of land in Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante as a national monument, putting the largest store of low-sulfur coal in the country off limits. This is the least polluting form of coal and in the highest demand.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 854-856). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Obviously this signals a disconnect of priorities. The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a national treasure, which was given protection by President  Clinton. When George W. Bush became president he revoked that protection as one of his first actions. That action produced a backlash, especially from people in  the region, and President  Bush quickly rescinded his revocation. While I concur with Moore and White that our natural resources need to be exploited for the good of all, there is bound to be something that is too valuable to put on the block.

Bringing the narrative up to the present, President Trump was elected on the strength of his commitment to put business interests first, and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is proposing to again  reverse government protection of the area.

Over the last four decades, American industries have dramatically reduced air and water pollution.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Location 866). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, that is true. I hope Moore and White do not seek to convince us these reductions are being made voluntarily. The hard truth is that government regulations account for these reductions, which regulations, by the way, are now being lifted by the industry-friendly Trump administration.

Some of the book’s language is curious, even puzzling. Take this from the previous chapter:

Yet a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of this magnitude would mean curtailing the use of the carbon-rich fertilizers that have fed the world since the 1950s, putting the developing world at risk of famine.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 499-500). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I hope everybody agrees that fertilizers do not contain carbon or its compounds as active ingredients. Paging through the chapter I come to  this:

Eliminating fertilizer made from natural gas would reduce the food supply— increasing the chronic hunger now suffered by five hundred million human beings.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 897-899). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, natural gas is used in the production of nitrogen fertilizers, but what the authors possibly do not realize is that the process uses hydrogen from natural gas. In the production of ammonia, NH3, the hydrogen from natural gas, CH4, combines with nitrogen in the air. There are many examples like this, indicating the need for some technical assistance in writing the book.

In 2015, the ethanol mandate absorbed 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop. Multiple studies now conclude the production of ethanol is a net energy loss and increases genuine pollution and carbon dioxide. Ethanol policy is a prime example of counterproductive, outdated, and ethically offensive federal energy policy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 932-935). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I’m tossing this bit out to illustrate the number of valid points made in the book. I’m not bothering to check the facts on this one, because, if the stated numbers are not completely accurate, they are closely enough accurate. Anybody having better information is invited to challenge me here. I look for someone to dig into this more deeply.

Any good points in the book are quickly blunted by statements such as the following:

However disappointing to some who have pledged their careers to politicized climate science, carbon dioxide is not a genuine pollutant capable of harming human health. Fossil fuels— abundant, affordable, concentrated and versatile— are superior to other energy sources at this time.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 944-946). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I am going to take that as saying that all the scientists concluding that AGW is a problem are politicizing climate science. Moore and White want us to know that AGW is not a problem and also that these scientists are lying.

Chapter 3: Saudi America, How Energy is remaking the U.S. Economy

Lots of numbers get thrown around here.

The oil wells of Williston seem to be bottomless. In 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated there were one hundred fifty million “technically recoverable barrels of oil” in the Bakken shale. By 2013, geologists were estimating twenty-four billion barrels. Current technology allows for the extraction of only about 6 percent of the oil trapped one to two miles beneath the earth’s surface, so as the technology advances, recoverable oil could eventually exceed five hundred billion barrels.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1003-1007). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

And I  don’t know where Moore and White get these numbers.

In April 2008, a USGS report estimated the amount of recoverable oil using technology readily available at the end of 2007 within the Bakken Formation at 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels (680,000,000 m3), with a mean of 3.65 billion. Simultaneously the state of North Dakota released a report with a lower estimate of 2.1 billion barrels (330,000,000 m3) of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken. Various other estimates place the total reserves, recoverable and non-recoverable with today’s technology, at up to 24 billion barrels. A recent estimate places the figure at 18 billion barrels. In April 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey released a new figure for expected ultimate recovery of 7.4 billion barrels of oil.

Chapter 4: The Light of the World

Let’s start with this:

Steve Moore was once quoted in the New York Times as saying that “our oil supply is infinite. We will never run out,” a statement that provoked outrage. One high school science teacher wrote, “Mr. Moore: Even my fourteen-year-olds know that oil is finite.” That teacher probably became a top science advisor to President Obama.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1272-1275). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is good. The author quotes himself—which quote I was unable to locate—and steps outside his area of expertise. Moore’s NYT statement is technically untrue, as no material thing in this universe seems to be infinite. Whether we will ever run out of oil is another question. A number of things can make this true, including we could all die first. Another possibility is we could reduce our consumption rate to the point we are using oil at the rate the planet is producing it.

To become more prosperous over time, we don’t want to conserve energy, we want to use it.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1288-1289). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Again a bit of over-inflated rhetoric, and I am sure Moore and White did not intend this to come across the way it did. However, I am not inclined to give them a break. Yes, we want to conserve energy. Energy consumption costs money, and if you want more money in your pocket at the end of the day you will use energy wisely. I reviewed this topic a few years back.

Yeah, a conservative site posted this, presumably to poke fun at the foolishness of energy-saving electric lamps. Here’s a recap:

If only there were any substance to it. Let’s take a look at some reality. A quick visit to Home Depot reveals the following:

$6.97 / package:
$8.97 / case:

What happened to the $6.34 each for CFLs? Where did that price come from? How long did it take the person composing the little ditty above to come up with such a number? It could have taken a while. Writing fiction can be tedious. How about the $0.42 each for incandescents? Let me know where I can get them. Home Depot has its own price:

Model # 60A/RVL-6PK
$8.77 / package

Which brings us back to “I love using liberal clichés to illustrate the absurdity of liberal policies.” By now you are beginning to think what I’m thinking. This is a joke, right? I mean, nothing goes this far off the rails without a little nudge from somebody. I’m guessing this particular somebody was thinking, “I’m bored, so what I’m going to do is have some fun with dim-witted libruls.”

All right. I concede. It was fun. If this was somebody’s idea of a joke, the joke was well and truly joined. If it was not a joke, then… Then oops! Somebody’s got a problem, and it’s not the kind of problem I’m prepared to help with. Let’s all hope this was just a wall-laid spoof and let it go at that.

Whatever it was, let me describe a bit of the real world.

  • 2600 square foot all-electric residence in San Antonio, Texas
  • Compact fluorescents installed throughout
  • Lamps purchased at Home Depot as shown
  • April last year $61 electric bill
  • July last year $105 electric bill

Since then I have replaced maybe 26 CFLs with LED lamps equivalent to 60W incandescents but consuming only 9.5 Watts.

Stephen Moore, you are going to  have to start getting serious if you want people to take you seriously.

What do we use our energy resources for? That seems like a question with a patently obvious answer, but it’s shocking how few people know where energy comes from and how it is used. When we speak to high school and college kids, we ask, “Where does your electricity come from?” And most of the kids point to the outlet in the wall. Ah, the millennials. They know everything, don’t they? For those who are wiser and know what they don’t know, here are some energy basics.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1294-1297). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

To which I respond, “In your dreams, Stephen Moore.” Public school students are connected to the same sources of information Stephen Moore is, and his humorous characterization is a bit over-played. Reading through this book leaves the impression it is Stephen Moore who could benefit from technical education.

Compounds derived from fossil fuels are the raw materials for thousands of synthetic materials. How would a zero-carbon economy replace these goods and the services they provide?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1323-1324). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Wait. Wait! Moore is being deliberately deceptive here. Scientists say “zero-carbon,” and they are talking about zero introducing carbon (dioxide) from fossil fuels into the atmosphere. They are not talking about uses of carbon from petroleum to produce consumer products. Unless these synthetic materials are burned, their carbon (dioxide) hardly makes it into the atmosphere. True, the stuff might bloat our landfills, and it often ends up floating somewhere in the ocean, but that is not the same impact as burning fuel oil.

Moore and White venture into the world of physical science and beyond their area of expertise. Some results are amusing.

Damming the flow of rivers in order to generate hydroelectric power is an example of converting gravitational energy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1391-1392). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The truth be known, hydro-electric power is ultimately solar power.

The muscles of human beings and animals act as a kind of heat engine to generate mechanical energy for movement and work.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1399-1400). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

No. Just no. Muscle power is not an example of heat conversion to mechanical energy. Muscle action is direct chemical to mechanical conversion.

Chemical energy is the most pervasive form of energy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Location 1407). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I recognize this book is not intended as a technical treatise, but additional exactitude would be beneficial if sprinkled throughout. On this planet, chemical energy is not an ultimate source. The ultimate source of practically all chemical energy is the sun.

The egg stores almost as much energy as the barrel of oil!

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1433-1434). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Is there a proof reader in the house. Somewhere along the chain Moore has slipped a link. This brash statement is coupled to an external reference:

Vaclav Smil, Energy and Nature in Society (2007), Table A. 8 Energy Flows and Stores at 393.

I don’t have a copy of the book. It’s $38 for the Kindle edition, and I most recently spent my last thousand dollars on a vacation to the tropics. In any event, missteps such as this bolster the impression that precision is not Moore’s strong suite.

Throughout, Moore spells BTU as Btu. It’s BTU.

Moore takes great lengths to emphasize “power density.” For example:

Hydrogen has an energy density by weight far higher than that of any other fuel at 143 MJ/ kg,

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1465-1466). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

For the record, about ten years ago I had this discussion with another engineer, and I went so far as to write on paper, sign the paper, and hand over, my statement that the future of powered transportation, particularly automobiles, is hydro-carbon fuel. The high energy density of these fuels makes automobile transportation practical. If petroleum becomes problematic, we will need to manufacture something like gasoline from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Keep in mind that modern air transport relies 100% on hydrocarbon fuel. Since 100 years ago large military operations have been impossible without high-density fuels such as hydrocarbons. Destroy the enemy’s fuel supplies, and you win the war.

Moore gets around to attacking climate science directly.

The theories of man-made global warming and predictions of catastrophic climate change are based on assumptions about the earth’s climate system that are not confirmed by observational evidence. The empirical sciences have long understood that measurement, observation, and experiment are the essential means of validating a scientific hypothesis. Claims of consensus cannot trump physical evidence. As the renowned paleogeologist Ian Plimer, of the University of Adelaide, argues, “The theory of human induced global warming is not science because research is based on a pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored, and the analytical procedures [climate models] are treated as evidence.”

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1496-1501). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I found this interesting, because I have prior (indirect) experience with Ian Plimer. From the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics:

Of course, the creationists have their embarrassments, as well, and this little pamphlet has been one of them. As reported by Chris Stassen in the talk.origins archive (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/gish-exposed.html) Ian Plimer debated Gish in Australia in 1988, and the topic of Brainwashed came up. Stassen quotes from a video tape of the debate. His transcript has Plimer talking about the pamphlet:

    There is a diagram there that says, “precambrian: void of fossils.” That is a lie. The Precambrian is not void of fossils; the Precambrian is extremely rich in fossils. He [Gish] has come to the country where there are many Precambrian fossils going back to 3 thousand 3 hundred million years ago.

Plimer has long been known as a champion of real science as opposed to creationism. Moore has quoted Plimer and has provided a footnote:

Alan Moran, Ed., Climate Change: The Facts, “Chapter 1: The Science and Politics of Climate Change,” Ian Plimer (Stockade Books, Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne, 2015).

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 4637-4638). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The book is available in Kindle, and this morning I clicked a link and had it delivered to my computer. Plimer’s section in the book is succinct, and a quick analysis is in  order. His statement, “The theory of human induced global warming is not science because research is based on a pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored, and the analytical procedures [climate models] are treated as evidence,” is worth some analysis.

I interpret the first clause as saying that research into AGW is aimed at confirming a conclusion. That statement hangs out there with no visible means of support. None is given here by Plimer, and evidence does not support the conclusion.

It would be helpful if Plimer  would cite some of the huge bodies of evidence that are being ignored.

And finally, no. Climate models are not treated as evidence. Climate models are matched against the evidence and corrected to better conform. Furthermore, when the evidence is examined we find the planet (oceans, atmosphere) is getting warmer year after year. See the above graph.

Plimer has more to say, part of which I will excerpt:

Point (ii) has shown to be invalid on all time scales. There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. However, the main greenhouse gas is water vapour. The first 100 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 have a significant effect on atmospheric temperature, whereas any increase from the current 400 ppm will have an insignificant effect. Furthermore, because CO2 has a short residence time in the atmosphere, it is naturally sequestered into the oceans, life, or rocks in less than a decade. In fact, only one molecule of every 85,000 in the atmosphere is CO2 of human origin, and yet we are asked to believe that this one molecule drives hugely complex climate change systems. We are also asked to believe that the 32 molecules of CO2 of natural origin in every 85,000 molecules play no part in driving climate change.

Abbot, Dr John; James Delingpole, Dr Robert M. Carter ~ Rupert Darwall ~; Donna Laframboise, Dr Christopher Essex ~ Dr Stewart W. Franks ~ Dr Kesten C. Green ~; Dr Richard S. Lindzen, Nigel Lawson ~ Bernard Lewin ~; Dr Patrick J. Michaels ~ Dr Alan Moran, Dr Jennifer Marohasy ~ Dr Ross McKitrick ~; Nova, Jo; Dr Willie Soon, Dr Garth W. Paltridge ~ Dr Ian Plimer ~; Steyn, Mark; Watts, Anthony; Andrew Bolt; Dr J. Scott Armstrong. Climate Change: The Facts (Kindle Locations 201-208). Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

“However, the main greenhouse gas is water vapour.” Yes! What of it?  Water vapor in the atmosphere contributes immensely to keeping the planet warm. The effect of carbon-dioxide is an add-on.

“The first 100 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 have a significant effect on atmospheric temperature, whereas any increase from the current 400 ppm will have an insignificant effect.” This statement would be helped if some substantiation were provided.

“Furthermore, because CO2 has a short residence time in the atmosphere, it is naturally sequestered into the oceans, life, or rocks in less than a decade.” [Emphasis added] This is contrary to known facts. The life span of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is in the order of 200 years.

“In fact, only one molecule of every 85,000 in the atmosphere is CO2 of human origin.” I don’t get the same number that Plimer does. Starting with 280 ppm CO2 we are now at 400 ppm, due to human activity. That’s a 120 ppm human contribution, or one molecule for every 8333 in the atmosphere. Where did the 85,000 come from?

The remainder of Plimer’s statement is an argument from incredulity, something Plimer must have seen a lot in his debates with creationists. You don’t believe something, so it must be false.

Anyhow, Moore and White choose citations from sources that fit their purpose, apparently with little regard for fact.

To oversimplify, it is said that the relatively small increment of man-made carbon dioxide added to the natural atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution disrupts the natural dynamics of climate. Adding more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere could lead to some warming, but could the relatively small additional increment of man-made carbon dioxide overpower the natural variables of climate, leading to planetary catastrophe?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1502-1505). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, the rise in temperature due to  AGW is small, something in the order of 1 – 3 C. People, that’s  the problem we are talking about. That is only through the end of  the 21st century, and it assumes additional concentrations of CO2. Take another look at the graph above. I see a rise of 1 C since I was born. The effects are already noticeable. Please let me know if you do not think this is a problem.

In a 2009 scandal popularly known as “Climategate,” e-mails between key authors of the IPCC’s 2008 assessment report revealed an even darker side of the IPCC: active efforts to suppress, destroy, and manipulate data, to exaggerate temperature records and to prevent the publication of works by dissenting scientists in academic journals. 32 Several investigations followed, and some leading scientists called for a dissolution of the IPCC, but the UN-driven process limped on.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1520-1524). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Really? A deeper look at the supposed scandal is worthwhile.

Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. However, the reports called on the scientists to avoid any such allegations in the future by taking steps to regain public confidence in their work, for example by opening up access to their supporting data, processing methods and software, and by promptly honouring freedom of information requests. The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged throughout the investigations.

AGW skeptics continue to cite this story, indicating this is one of their best arguments going. My take: a good argument must be made of stronger stuff.

For instance, the way the human body burns the chemical energy contained in food is similar to the way the internal combustion engine of an automobile burns the chemical energy in gasoline.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1544-1546). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Again, no.

This makes the concentration of carbon dioxide in human expiration about forty thousand parts per million (ppm)! The current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is now about four hundred ppm, including man-made contributions from the combustion of fossil fuels. 39 Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide in 1850 are thought to have been about 280 ppm.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1562-1565). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is a strange argument. I wish somebody would explain what Moore is getting at.

The earth’s location in our solar system is also essential to its ability to support life.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1565-1566). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Really, again. And this has what to do with the discussion?

“That the sun influences our climate should not be surprising . . . when we consider that 99.98 percent of the total energy of the world’s climate comes from the sun.”

Oddly, the UN’s IPCC, whose “science” is the authoritative support for climate policy to supplant fossil fuels, largely dismisses the sun’s effect on climate. The IPCC assumes that the increased man-made emissions of carbon dioxide over the previous two centuries overpower the influence of the sun— and of all other natural climactic variables, such as water vapor, clouds, and aerosols— on climate.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1574-1579). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The reference is to a book by Luning and Vahrenholt, and this seems to be the quote of interest.

What makes us so sure that the sun, which is dismissed by the IPCC, plays a central role in climate events? That is relatively easy to answer. Geological climate reconstructions exhaustively show that temperatures on earth have followed solar activit y for thousands of years. That is not surprising when we consider that 99.98 per cent of the total energy of the world’s climate comes from the sun. Would it not make sense to suspect that even small changes in solar energy could have huge impacts?

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 576-580). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

What is odd is that Moore is telling us the IPCC discounts the sun’s effects on global warming. Actually, all of AGW is due to the sun. Somewhere it has gotten lost that AGW results from the action of additional CO2 trapping additional heat from the sun.

What is not odd is the publisher of the Luning and Vahrenholt book is the Heartland Institute.

Human Activity Trumps the Power of the Sun?

To get a sense of the power of the sun, consider that it burns over six hundred million metric tons of hydrogen every second.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1592-1593). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Moore and White continue to impress us with the power of the sun, deliberately missing the irrelevance of this argument.

Major advances in the scientific understanding of energy and its engineering applications have occurred only within the past two centuries. Although we know more about how energy operates in the natural world and how it can be harnessed for human purposes, we still lack a clear understanding of what energy is. Is it a particle or a wave?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1603-1605). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yikes! Is there a physicist in the house? Energy is a particle or a wave? Does Moore want to take another cut at that statement? Reading through the book, I get an indication of why the Kansas City Star no longer prints Moore’s contributions.

And the agent is the most fundamental natural energy conversion on the earth, commonly known as photosynthesis catalyzed by atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1617-1618). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Now we need help from a chemistry major. Strictly speaking, carbon dioxide does not catalyze photosynthesis. It is consumed in the process.

Many machines, or “prime movers” as engineers call them, that convert energy from one form to another, like the turbines used by modern thermal power plants, can convert 99 percent of the turbine’s mechanical energy into electricity.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1645-1646). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

While likely true, also irrelevant. The conversion of mechanical energy to electrical energy is a notably efficient process. The turbine turns a generator rotor, driving an electric current through the coils. What is critical to the operation of a turbine generating system is the efficiency of converting available energy from the coal (oil, natural gas) into mechanical energy. This is much less than 98%. And none of it matters to the topic under discussion.

Many senior scientists in the field conclude that it is time to declare the IPCC’s methodology and computer models a failure. A portion of the federal research funds should be allocated to those highly credentialed scientists— now marginalized as skeptics— to assess the IPCC’s work over the last several decades and to offer alternative theories and evidence.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1657-1660). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, get rid of the scientists who are coming up with conclusions you disagree with and get in  some of your own people. Changing the researcher is the best way to change the facts. Except, it does not work that way. The facts are going to remain the same.

Natural carbon dioxide accounts for a minuscule 0.039 percent of the atmospheric gasses we actually breathe at the tropospheric level.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1668-1669). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I know. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” However, is it too much to ask Moore not to state the concentration of CO2 is 400 ppm and then a few pages later state it’s 399? And wait! He’s calling the 399 ppm “natural CO2,” when 120 ppm of that is due to human activity. Forget about consistency.

Governments and the private sector have already directed hundreds of billions of dollars to ridding the world of carbon. Betting on the success of this effort would be a highly risky investment. Carbon, after all, is defined as “the chemical basis of all known life.” 55 Have people forgotten this fact?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1686-1688). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I know of one household where this is not forgotten. What seems to be forgotten by Moore is that the conversation is supposed to be about carbon in the atmosphere in the form of CO2 produced by human activity.

The global warming alarmists and many educated elites have lost their faith in man’s ability to adapt and to tame his natural surroundings. Making carbon the enemy of the planet means that mankind is the enemy of the planet. Our bones, blood, and flesh are made of carbon.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1710-1712). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

My impression: this is the level of thinking that went into  the writing of this book.

Am I allowed to take a small victory lap and then head off for a nap? No, I still have to read chapters 5 through 11. It promises to be fun. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Hartnett Delusion

Continuing a review of the Kathleen Hartnett White book

As mentioned previously, I was so taken by a video featuring Kathleen Hartnett White‘s confirmation hearing that I felt compelled to  purchase her book. White and also Andrew Wheeler appeared at the same senate hearing,. In White’s case, she had been submitted by President Donald Trump to head the Council on Environmental Quality. From Wikipedia:

The CEQ produces an annual report for the president on the state of the environment, oversees federal agency implementation of environmental impact assessments, and acts as a referee when agencies disagree over the adequacy of such assessments. NEPA tasks CEQ with ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act, granting the body a significant role in environmental protection. Through inter-agency working groups and coordination with other EOP bodies, CEQ also works to advance the president’s agenda on the environment, natural resources, and energy.

One would hope the person filling that slot would have some background related to environment (nature) or possibly human physiology as the matter relates to air and water quality. White seems to  have none of that, her academic exposure being in the humanities and religion with an emphasis on religion, spotlighting some time spent in a comparative religion doctoral program at Princeton University. She also completed a year of law school at Texas Tech University. Her previous work experience included Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a period of six years, acting as chairwoman for part of that  time. None of this seemed to have prepared White for the grilling she was destined to receive before the Senate panel, which panel eventually declined to approve her appointment.

The book is an item to itself. The title is Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, and it is co-authored by Stephen Moore, about whom we will learn more in due time. The title is a dead giveaway to the tone of the book. This is going to be about fuel (fossil fuel) and an off-kilter war on energy, the term used here to mean the production and consumption of energy. The cover art is suggestive.

I covered the book’s introduction in the previous posting. This is going to be an ankle-deep look at chapter 1, Energy at a Crossroads, subtitled Doomslayers vs. Doomsayers. Summarizing, White extols the benefit fossil fuel has heaped on humanity since its rise to prominence 200+ years ago, beginning with coal and going forward to include petroleum and natural gas. And she makes a passel of good points. We would not be where we are today without the advent of these cheap and accessible sources of energy. She also decries extremists on “the left,” many of whom demolish their own case by foolishly mishandling the facts.

White seeks to use the first chapter to lay out the benefits of fossil fuels and to expose the unthinking attacks on the fossil fuel industry. And this she does, but in a clumsy manner that damages her case. I will post some excerpts and add some discussion of my own. Start with this:

Emissions of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity are here used as a surrogate for consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 202-203). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

My interpretation: energy derived from fossil fuels equates to additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, to be sure, but a sinister implication is detected.

Throughout history, a small group of privileged persons, of course, could afford expensive energy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 206-207). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I want to say, “Really?” That is one strange perspective. Let’s look back at energy sources and usage in the centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution. Just prior to 1800 there were these sources of energy available:

  • Muscle (human)
  • Muscle (animal)
  • Water moving under the influence of gravity
  • Wind

And that was it. How did the elite benefit more than the common worker? A serf working on the estate of his master was essentially a slave, and his muscle power drew the water from the well and hoisted the bricks to build his master’s house. If there was a horse, it likely was the master’s horse, and the serf used the horse to plow the master’s fields. If there had been a gasoline-powered tractor, it would still have been the master’s tractor and the master’s fields. It is hard to imagine how available mechanical energy sources would have changed the serf’s position.

Except… Except if they wanted to go into to town the master rode his horse, and the serf likely walked. Most likely the serf did not get to ride in the master’s coach.

Anyhow, whichever point White is attempting to make will need to be supplied by the reader’s imagination.

White brings up Malthusian economics and the foolish statements of Paul Ehrlich. Thomas Robert Malthus is noted for an economic model that influenced Charles Darwin. In a given environment, living things will increase in population until resources necessary to sustain life are exhausted, and then the increase will halt. More so, and this is what caught Darwin’s attention, a living organism that has an advantage over others would continue to increase in population to the detriment of the others.

White wants us to know that a failure of Malthusian economic model is that people have the advantage of managing their environment and have therefore been able to increase their population far in excess of what would have been imaginable 200 years ago.

Paul Ehrlich is famous for his book The Population Bomb. Some predictions in the book turned out to be outrageously wrong, making him the punching bag for anti-environmentalists.

Throughout this chapter, White states the obviously true.

Never before has mankind been better nourished. As we shall show, you can thank fossil fuels for a global food supply that exceeds the demand of more than seven billion mouths.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 246-247). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

As Michael Kelly, a fellow of the Royal Society, reminds us, “A decarbonized global economy is going to have to outperform the achievement of fossil fuels.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 263-264). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

A number of statements appear to have either no basis or else no relevance:

Most green energy policies undermine human progress. They are regressive, disproportionately hurting low- and middle-income families by driving energy prices higher, thus eroding their standard of living.

As the Obama administration was drawing to a close, the lower end of middle-class income in the United States appeared to be sliding toward the poverty level. Numbers released by the Social Security Administration in the fall of 2015 revealed that 51 percent of all U.S. workers were making less than $ 30,000 a year— only twenty-five hundred a month after taxes. Income for middle-class families declined by 3 percent on Obama’s watch, and the average worker went ten years without a raise.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 289-294). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

She starts out stating that green energy policies are detrimental to low-income citizens, but then she attempts to lay this on President Obama’s environmental policies. No. Just no. A quick reading of history discloses the actual circumstances.

Statements are made in complete absence of corroboration.

For the Obama White House, it has been full speed ahead with this destructive agenda.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 296-297). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

To conclude that the Obama administration’s agenda was destructive you would have to accept that which White is attempting to demonstrate. Statements such as this do not stand alone.

Some of what is said requires unraveling.

Even before the Clean Power Plan took effect, many coal-fired power plants had closed and major coal companies had declared bankruptcy, at a cost of thousands of jobs. In response, President Obama, by executive action, froze coal production on federal lands, where 40 percent of total U.S. production is located.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 301-304). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The statement seems to be that coal-fired plants were closing already due to unprofitability and were not affected by the Clean Power Plan. I have no formal training in economics, but it would appear that if the government restricts the available source for mining coal, competition would increase for those not affected. These places would more likely become profitable. It’s difficult to figure out where White is going with this.

In addition to killing Americans jobs and raising utility bills by hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars a year per family, shutting down the U.S. coal industry will actually harm the environment. Clean coal technologies have sharply reduced emissions of lead, sulphur, soot, and carbon monoxide. The air we breathe today is much cleaner than in previous decades. More importantly, U.S. coal is much cleaner than Chinese coal and that produced in other nations. The Clean Power Plan will reduce consumption of clean coal and increase the burning of dirty coal.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 309-313). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

If there is some rationale for the first part of this statement, it does not show prominently in the text or in the references. For the second part, we are left to  conclude that shutting down the American coal industry would boost the Chinese coal industry, which is multiply more polluting. No rationale is given for this conclusion.

Modern societies remain utterly dependent on fossil fuels. See Figure 1.2. The climate crusade is indeed a mad war on human welfare.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 315-316). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Again hyperbole has supplanted rational discourse. Climate management is not a crusade with people heading off to do battle. It is a reasoned approach to forestall a future calamity. Yes, modern society is dependent on fossil fuels. What White will not acknowledge is that this dependence is about to have consequences far in excess to any benefit. Throughout the chapter she reminds us that human ingenuity has been our ultimate salvation and that we should continue to apply it. The problem is, she puts her commitment to the fossil fuel industry ahead of any obligation to the truth, and the truth is that human ingenuity will be applied to  resolve our future energy needs while avoiding the destructive effects of fossil fuel consumption.

Here’s a statement that should convince readers of the nefarious intent of environmental regulation.

The Clean Power Plan is not merely another heavy-handed, expensive environmental regulation. It is nothing less than a federal take over of our nation’s entire electric sector.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 337-338). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The problem is, this statement is made without substantiation. There is a link to a reference. It is reference number 18. Here is the refrence:

Laurence Tribe, “The Clean Power Plan Is Unconstitutional,” Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2015.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 4416-4417). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, the justification for saying the Clean Power Plan is a federal take over of the nation’s electric sector is a commentary piece in The Wall Street Journal:

As a law professor, I taught the nation’s first environmental law class 45 years ago. As a lawyer, I have supported countless environmental causes. And as a father and grandfather, I want to leave the Earth in better shape than when I arrived.

Nonetheless, I recently filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency urging the agency to withdraw its Clean Power Plan, a regulatory proposal to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s electric power plants. In my view, coping with climate change is a vital end, but it does not justify using unconstitutional means.

Although my comments opposing the EPA’s proposal were joined by a major coal producer, they reflect my professional conclusions as an independent legal scholar. I say only what I believe, whether I do so pro bono, or in this case having been retained by others. After studying the only legal basis offered for the EPA’s proposed rule, I concluded that the agency is asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority.

That’s right. Not a court ruling or a finding of fact. Instead, an opinion piece published in a newspaper and supported by “a major coal producer” gives truth to the statement that the Clean  Power Plan “is nothing less than a federal take over of our nation’s entire electric sector.” We are beginning to see what was behind Kathleen Hartnett White’s faltering testimony at her Senate confirmation hearing.

Even the architects of these schemes admit that the green plans don’t work. According to the calculations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the so-called national pledges at the heart of the Paris climate agreement of December 2015 don’t add up to enough reduction of carbon dioxide to control warming.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 340-343). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! The best we can do right now is not good enough. I think I have mentioned this before. We have gone too far down the road, and we cannot avoid the coming consequences. We are screwed, and the best we can  do is to begin to extricate ourselves from the hole at the same time we make preparations for the consequences. White appears to believe we should increase our reliance on fossil fuels.

By now I’m coming to believe this is a book written for the enjoyment of believers needing to  confirm what they already know. And those believers may not include Kathleen Hartnett White and Stephen  Moore.

There are additional indications this is an incestuous work, not to be confused with an objective treatment of a serious subject. Here is an interesting excerpt from the chapter.

Even the architects of these schemes admit that the green plans don’t work. According to the calculations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the so-called national pledges at the heart of the Paris climate agreement of December 2015 don’t add up to enough reduction of carbon dioxide to control warming.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 340-343). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

There is a reference cited to  bolster this claim, whether true or not. Here’s the reference:

Stephen Moore, Washington Times A Times, November 8, 2015.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 4411-4412). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, to back up what he says in his book, Stephen Moore cites something he previously penned for The Washington Times.

Founded on May 17, 1982, by Sun Myung Moon, the Times was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the Unification Church, until 2010, when Moon and a group of former executives purchased the paper. It is currently owned by diversified conglomerate Operations Holdings, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the church.

I’m going to have to move on to chapter 2, “How the Shale Revolution is Changing Everything.” That will be sometime late tomorrow. Keep reading.

People Unclear

This is number 39 of a long series

Sunday morning, and I was catching a video on YouTube, and all I can say is, “Holy shit!” Somebody is totally unclear, and that person would be Kathleen Hartnett White:

Kathleen Hartnett White is a Republican American government official and environmental policy advisor. Currently serving as a senior fellow at the free-market think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. She was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the Council on Environmental Quality; the nomination was later withdrawn.

I watched the clip—you should, as well—and was astounded. I know it’s a favorite pastime of liberals to paint all Republicans as scientifically illiterate and environmentally backward, but I need to remind readers this is most unfair. There are many in the ranks who see what is for what it is and might deserve your vote. Others, whether real or not, may be pretending to be illiterate and backward. White appears to be neither of these. She scorches the Earth to establish an absence of clarity.

Another in the video, which depicts a Senate confirmation hearing, is Andrew Wheeler:

Andrew R. Wheeler is an American lawyer and lobbyist who specializes in energy and environmental policy. Since 2009, he has been a co-leader of the energy practice at the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels. Wheeler was previously an aide to U.S. Senator James Inhofe and a staffer on the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Wheeler is a critic of nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions and has supported the continued use of fossil fuels.

In October 2017, Wheeler was nominated by President Donald Trump to become Deputy Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His nomination was returned to the White House on January 3, 2018 under Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6.

Passing over Wheeler for the moment, White’s performance before the Senate committee led me to purchase her book, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. I obtained the Kindle edition, deciding not to wait for a price drop, and took a few minutes to read through the introduction. The book is co-authored with Stephen Moore, a writer credited with a famous body of nonsense:

Stephen Moore (born February 16, 1960) is an American writer and economic policy analyst. He founded and served as president of the Club for Growth from 1999 to 2004. Moore is a former member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. In 2014, The Heritage Foundation announced that Moore would become its chief economist. In 2015, Moore’s title at The Heritage Foundation changed from Chief Economist to his current title, Distinguished Visiting Fellow. Moore is known for advocating free-market policies and supply-side economics. In 2017, he left Fox News Channel to join CNN as an economics analyst.

His Wikipedia entry also notes a lack of candor, leading to The Kansas City Star to quit using stuff he writes.

Whether White or Moore wrote the book’s intro, I am going to lay it all on White. A few passages are worth some Skeptical Analysis and some comment. Start with this. She kicks off the intro with the tale of a liberal family beset by a black out, a loss of electrical power, for several days. For a while they enjoy the experience, knowing their carbon footprint has been reduced. The situation soon becomes tiresome as electric power in modern day life is not only a convenience but a necessity. She warns of dire consequences coming out of renewal energy.

But we are convinced that rolling brownouts are coming— especially in states like California, which are trying to rely on unreliable green energy sources— thanks to the radical environmentalists who have achieved a choke-hold on our politics.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 88-90). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

White is alluding to times when the sun does not shine, and the wind does not blow. It turns out (my analysis) that such outages will become vanishingly small with the scaling up of the renewable energy industry. Dark days in one region will be offset by sunny days elsewhere, and guess what, wind turbines work on as little as three mph wind, besides which, wind is a given and is constant all over.

White discusses the “war on coal.”

Technological progress is making this cheap and domestically abundant energy source cleaner all the time. Yet the global-warming alarmist James Hansen, a scientist at NASA, has compared the railroad cars carrying coal across our country to the “death trains” that transported Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 92-94). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Actually, no. Coal is not becoming less clean. Early environmental pressures required (some) coal fired plants to reduce particulate emissions, and that progress has since bottomed out. No improvement is currently being experienced. What White does not let on is that burning coal, a fossil fuel, continues, unrelenting, to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Appearances are that the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump will be relaxing emissions regulations for coal-fired plants. Whatever scientist James Hansen said about “death trains,” assuming he did say such, has no relevance to the argument against eliminating the use of coal.

White writes unknowingly about greenhouse emissions.

Natural gas is our second major source of electrical energy. The technological miracle of hydraulic fracturing—“ fracking”— has given us hundreds of years’ worth of this clean-burning fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 94-96). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

To be clear, natural gas is a fossil fuel, and burning natural gas puts extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. White seems to take the point that, when burned, natural  gas produces less carbon dioxide than does coal for the same amount of usable energy, and then she runs with it, much too far.

Watch the video. White concedes at her (non-) confirmation hearing that she is not a scientist. She reassures us of that fact in the following statement.

If global warming is a threat, we will be saved not by building windmills or riding our bicycles to work, but by applying advanced technology and electrical power to find ways to keep the planet cool.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 103-104). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! Advanced technology and electrical power to keep the planet cool. Lady, the way to keep the planet cool is to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Please do not laugh. Here is this.

Almost all other inventions— the steam engine, the printing press, life-saving medicines, the microchip, the iPhone, you name it— are derivatives of electric power. Where electricity is in wide use, there is prosperity. Where electricity is lacking, poverty and deprivation are the norm.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 115-117). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Technically, no. In most cases, absolutely no.

  • The invention of the steam engine came many decades prior to the development of electric power.
  • The printing press was developed in the 15th century, perhaps 300 years prior to the advent of electric power.
  • Life-saving medicines, e.g., the small pox vaccine, were developed independently and often in advance of the advent of electric power.
  • The microchip and the iPhone typically run off 5-volt supplies, obtainable from chemical batteries, and not really part of the electric power grid. True, you will not have a cell phone grid without an electric power grid to support it.

White is correct on one point. I will not cite the source, but I will simply state that quality of life roughly tracks energy consumption. Energy consumption moves goods to market, performs the heavy work in factories, and keeps us warm and safe in our homes. The electrical power grid has turned out to be the best way to support most of this activity. We need electrical power, and the cheaper and the more reliable the better for all concerned.

White makes this point.

And the data recently gathered by economic historians surveyed in this book show that wind and water wheels never provided much power. It wasn’t until man harnessed fossil fuels— predominantly oil, gas, and coal— that industrialization achieved unprecedented productivity.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 119-121). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Duh, yes. She is talking about the pre-industrial days, and there was not much in the way of available power, wind, water, anything back then. The advent of the steam engine, burning wood or coal, made the industrial revolution. White wants to impute that we cannot go back to wind and water as a source of power. Actually, hydro-electric power is about maxed out in this country. We may have tapped all the available rivers for that purpose. However, the Dutch windmill has been replaced by giant wind turbines that produce mega watts.

Every now and then she gets something right.

Energy, in short, is the wellspring of mankind’s greatest advances.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 125-126). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

What she fails to acknowledge is that proponents of renewable energy are not against energy production. They are against energy production that produces damage to the environment. Coal, for instance.

Barely correct:

Today, hundreds of years after the Industrial Revolution began, most of the human population is dependent on fossil fuels for 80 to 90 percent of its energy supply.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 130-131). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The industrial revolution started in England a little over two hundred years ago, so technically it is hundreds of years since the advent of the industrial revolution.

She appeals to the masses, supposedly her working-class base.

Throughout history, elites, of course, have enjoyed comfortable wealth. They were rich; they could afford expensive energy. They weren’t the ones who did without light or heat or transportation or enough food and leisure time. Someone else did the back-breaking and time-consuming work for them.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 133-135). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So, it’s the elites who want renewable energy at whatever price. Actually, you might want to review Senator Cory Booker’s comments made in the video. He discusses the particulate pollution that plagues those in his state, New Jersey. They are poor and also working class constituents, who often have to endure the lower quality of life and the health damage wrought by industrial pollution. These people are definitely not “elites,” and they would appreciate having cleaner sources of energy.

As the close of the intro approaches, White prepares to escalate the rhetoric.

The inherent limitations of wind and solar are physically intractable.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 140-141). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

No. Simply no.

She closes with a flourish.

Green energy policies assume centralized control of the sources, production, and consumption of energy, and that means centralized control over all economic activity and consumer choice. Name a product that doesn’t depend on affordable and reliable energy. United Nations bureaucrats talk about “wisely planned [energy] austerity,” guided by apparently omniscient “planetary managers.” Not only is our material prosperity in peril; freedom itself is at stake.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 145-148). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Actually, a following paragraph urges us to read the book to get the full story, but those are her closing remarks, laced with fabrication and hyperbole. She seems to agree that if you say it often enough and loudly enough, then it will become true.

No it does not, and I am hoping this sets the stage for the remainder of the book, because I will be reading it and applying some analysis.

It is difficult to reconcile the flamboyant and straight-forward language in the book with White’s performance before the Senate committee. Watch the video. Asked a straight question, she seems unable to find the answer, any answer. For example, when asked whether she believes scientists are lying about global warming, all she needed to do before the committee was to  repeat the language from the book. Yes, those scientists are a bunch of self-serving liars, and maybe they should be put in jail. At every point she pivots and equivocates, leading senators to wonder what they are doing wasting their time watching this spectacle. The only thing I found recently more painful to watch was Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos floundering through her (barely) confirmation hearing. From Wikipedia again:

At White’s Senate confirmation hearing in November 2017, she stated that her top three environmental concerns are air quality, the potential failure of waste water and drinking water systems, and climate change. During her hearing she said: “I am not a scientist, but in my personal capacity I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy. We need to have a more precise explanation of the human role and the natural role.”

In February 2018, the White House confirmed their intention to withdraw their nomination of Hartnett White as a senior advisor on environmental policy.

Yes, we could stand more clarity from the people we hire to work at the highest levels in our government.

Little Bongo

This is from Matt Groening 30 years ago [partial transcript]:

My name is Little Bongo
I’m known as a ding-dong-go.

What got me to thinking about that is this:

By now everybody knows that Vice President Mike Pence does not have a dog. More explicitly, there is no Mike Pence family dog. Full disclosure: I do not have a dog. Anyhow, the family does have a pet rabbit, and his name is Marlon Bundo. [Any implication of the late movie actor Marlon Brando is spurious.] And a cute bunny he is, as well.

There is more. Mike Pence’s daughter Charlotte wrote a children’s book featuring the rabbit, and it was released this week, soaring on the Amazon charts. See the cover above. The title is Marlon Bundo’s a Day in the Life of the Vice President. You need to accept my apology, because I Photo-shopped the image to make it easier to read.

But that’s not all. Owing to the Vice President’s historic opposition to all things homosexual, transgender, or otherwise deviant, some decided to have a bit of fun and to troll the VP. Particularly, the creative staff of John Oliver’s TV show Last Week Tonight created produced their own book. Follow the link and watch the video.

 

Playing the game of One-Up, the Oliver team put their book, by Jill Twiss, on the market a day in advance of the Pence book, and I purchased a copy (Kindle Edition). Here it is:

Again, I souped up the image, because the cover is Hell’s version of pastel on white and barely shows up on my monitor.

But wait! There’s more. In the Twiss book, Marlon Bundo is gay. Queer, if you will. The VP’s anti-queer notions are mocked throughout. Here are some choice pages (it’s a short book):

Marlon meets Wesley, another boy rabbit. The attraction is mutual.

The two play together, romping among the feet of important politicians.

They enjoy being together so much, they decide to be together forever. They decide to get married. But the authoritarian Stink Bug, of all the animals, decides he is in charge, and he insists they must not be allowed to marry, because that kind of thing is not done.

But all the animals rise up and defy the Stink Bug, and Marlon and Wesley are married in a beautiful ceremony.

THE END

And here is the score so far: The Jill Twiss book is outselling the Pence book handily, posting as number 2 in paid Kindle sales.

Number one (today) is Melinda Leigh’s Say You’re Sorry. The Pence Book (Kindle) is further down:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #853 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

I’m guessing the popularity of the Jill Twiss book is due to the VP’s deep undeliverability among those who read. John Oliver cites a significant connection. A book tour for the Pence book includes a 26 March stop at Focus in the Family in Colorado Springs. That’s significant, as FotF is the premier American institution (a church since 2015) seeking to relegate homosexuals and other sexual deviants to second class status:

Focus on the Family (FOTF or FotF) is an American Christian conservative organization founded in 1977 in Southern California by psychologist James Dobson, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is active in promoting an interdenominational effort toward its socially conservative views on public policy. Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s. As of the 2015 tax filing year, Focus on the Family declared itself to be a church.

Focus on the Family’s stated mission is “nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide”.It promotes abstinence-only sexual educationcreationism; adoption by married, opposite-sex parents; school prayer; and traditional gender roles. It opposes abortion; divorce; gambling; LGBT rights, particularly LGBT adoption and same-sex marriage; pornography; pre-marital sex; and substance abuse. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and social scientists have criticized Focus on the Family for trying to misrepresent their research to bolster FOTF’s fundamentalist political agenda and ideology.

All said, nobody doubts the Pence book is a worthy children’s book, and I would purchase a copy ($9.99 for the Kindle) except for three things:

  • My youngest child is 46.
  • My grandson is 16.
  • Such a purchase could implicate me in the promotion of the Pence mindset.

 

People are voting with their pocketbooks, highlighting a groundswell of unpopularity for the Vice President. Such is the level of disdain that whenever talk among friends comes up concerning whether the current President should be impeached, the conclusion always boils down to “no,” Mike Pence being the reason. My personal view: we must continue to endure Donald Trump and to make him the poster child of what has become of American conservatism. If anybody can kill this wrong-headed mindset it will be those two dust bunnies at the top of the ticket.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Crazy From On High

A Reading Of High Delusion

A few weeks ago I reviewed a posting on Evolution News. It’s a site sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and the posting was by somebody not readily identified. Whoever they are, the topic was Dennis Venema’s book Adam and the Genome, and the matter of Francis Collins came up regarding his book The Language of God.

That covered, there is more of interest. The post dips into  a discussion of The Language of God, a book by Francis Collins:

Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.

Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

In order to continue following the discussion I obtained a Kindle edition and will be covering that in future posts.

As promised, I obtained copies of both books and have finished reading the Collins book. Considering the author’s obvious deep intellect, I can only remark, “What a load of warmed over drivel!” Thank you, Dr. Collins. Now for a brief dissection.

First the book is well written. If Francis Collins ever comes to the point he can no longer find work saving the human race through science and medicine, he has a future as a writer. There are very few unintentional mistakes of fact. This one caught my attention.

William Paley’s parable of finding a watch on the moor—which would cause any of us to deduce the existence of a watchmaker—resonated with many readers in the seventeenth century, and continues to resonate with many people today. Life appears designed, so there must be a designer.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 148). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It is unclear where the reference to the 17th century comes from, but earlier in the book Collins mentions the Blind Watchmaker theme was published in 1802.

THE “ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN” dates back at least to Cicero. It was put forward with particular effectiveness by William Paley in 1802 in a highly influential book, Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 86). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beyond all that, this is an argument for God by a person who grew to maturity absent any push in that direction, becoming committed to non-belief well into adulthood. His rise to greatness in human endeavors left him unfulfilled, but he could not reconcile the richness of the human spirit and the beauty of natural wonders with strictly natural explanations. There must be more. He became convinced of the existence of God:

I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven, now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 30). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

That should have been satisfactory, and that  should have been the end of the book. Unfortunately Collins feels the need to rationalize, and it is in this effort he stumbles badly. Some citations are in order. Consider what he accepts as true in an effort to shore up his faith. Here is an example:

All religions include a belief in certain miracles. The crossing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, led by Moses and accompanied by the drowning of Pharaoh’s men, is a powerful story, told in the book of Exodus, of God’s providence in preventing the imminent destruction of His people. Similarly, when Joshua asked God to prolong the daylight in order for a particular battle to be successfully carried out, the sun was said to stand still in a way that could only be described as miraculous.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 48). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It would be generous to allow that these are put up to illustrate what is deemed to be miraculous and no more. The problem is there is little doubt left by the context that he believes these miracles occurred. Elsewhere, his interpretation of reality goes askew, as with his reference to “Mother Teresa.”

Mother Teresa has consistently ranked as one of the most admired individuals of the current age, though her self-imposed poverty and selfless giving to the sick and dying of Calcutta is in drastic contrast to the materialistic lifestyle that dominates our current culture.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 25-26). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The cold fact is that Mother Teresa never seemed to have given physical aid and comfort to the “sick and dying.” Collins seeks to illustrate the benefit of religion by pointing to the good works done by famous religious leaders.

As just one example, consider how religious leaders have worked to relieve people from oppression, from Moses’ leading the Israelites out of bondage to William Wilberforce’s ultimate victory in convincing the English Parliament to oppose the practice of slavery…

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to include the martyrdom of Martin Luther King. The obvious problem with this line of argument is that Moses is a fictional character. No such person ever led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Religion (and by this I assume his favored blend) Collins asserts is essential to answer the matter of Moral Law. An actual scientist, he believes we came about by biological evolution, but that does not explain the existence of Moral Law, an innate morality, traces of which are found in all Earth’s people, regardless of region, culture, or religious environment. God must be the answer, and religion must be the vehicle. How then does Collins explain the evil committed by religious people. No problem for Collins. Here’s how:

But the second answer brings us back to the Moral Law, and to the fact that all of us as human beings have fallen short of it. The church is made up of fallen people. The pure, clean water of spiritual truth is placed in rusty containers, and the subsequent failings of the church down through the centuries should not be projected onto the faith itself, as if the water had been the problem.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He invokes the “rusty container” at multiple points in the book, and that, in itself, is a crock of poop. In various instances the origin of the universe is attributed to God, and people are the special creation of a caring and loving God, one for whom human well-being is held dear. How then does one explain how an omniscient, all-caring God fails to show himself (itself) in times of great human suffering? May I never eat another chocolate ice cream bar, but Collins invokes the principle of “stress makes strength.”

This notion that God can work through adversity is not an easy concept, and can find firm anchor only in a worldview that embraces a spiritual perspective. The principle of growth through suffering is, in fact, nearly universal in the world’s great faiths.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 46-47). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! I’ve seen that before.

It is also told to me the following was found scratched into a cell wall in some Nazi death camp: “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” I also note an incident recounted by Richard Dawkins:

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Atkins splendidly growled, “May you rot in hell.”

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion (p. 64). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dawkins is one of Collins’ least favored atheists. Collins considers Dawkins to be doing harm to the atheist cause due to the stridency of his attacks on religion (see above).

Even stronger words have emanated from Richard Dawkins. In a series of books beginning with The Selfish Gene and extending through The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, and A Devil’s Chaplain, Dawkins outlines with compelling analogies and rhetorical flourishes the consequences of variation and natural selection. Standing on this Darwinian foundation, Dawkins then extends his conclusions to religion in highly aggressive terms: “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”3

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 163). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

If you can get past Collins’ inexplicable acceptance of the supernatural, you will find a scientist unwilling to accept the absurdities of religious apologetics. His debunking of creationists of the first and second kind is just short of scathing. Particularly the young Earth creationists (YEC) are called out as a disgrace to the Christian faith.

Assisted by Henry Morris and colleagues, Young Earth Creationism has in the last half century attempted to provide alternative explanations for the wealth of observations about the natural world that seem to contradict the YEC position. But the fundamentals of so-called scientific Creationism are hopelessly flawed.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 176). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Collins’ diagnosis of the Intelligent Design movement is practically complete.  Collins properly characterizes ID as a God-in-the-gaps argument, all the while laying out the history and the substance.

ID’s founder is Phillip Johnson, a Christian lawyer at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on trial first laid out the ID position. Those arguments have been further expanded by others, especially Michael Behe, a biology professor whose book Darwin’s Black Box elaborated the concept of irreducible complexity. More recently, William Dembski, a mathematician trained in information theory, has taken up a leading role as expositor of the ID movement.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 183). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The exception I take to the foregoing is the reference to Dembski as being trained in information theory. No evidence of that appears in his c.v. Also, not mentioned is Dembski’s severance from Intelligent Design, which came about recently.

Besides all that, this book provides a first rate read of how studies of genetics point to the common ancestry of life on Earth. Particularly explored is the close relationship between humans and chimpanzees and the relationship between those and the other apes. There is an appendix, which I did not read, but the book’s closing lines come off as a special pleading for giving religion a place at the table.

It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths. That ancient motherland of reason and worship was never in danger of crumbling. It never will be. It beckons all sincere seekers of truth to come and take up residence there. Answer that call. Abandon the battlements. Our hopes, joys, and the future of our world depend on it.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 233-234). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

A truce? Never. We continue to lie in witness to The Years of Living Stupidly.

The Years of Living Stupidly

Time to start a new series.

A fellow skeptic keeps posting stuff from Evolution News, and my Facebook feed picks it up. Evolution News is the blog of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, an enterprise started up by creationist Stephen C. Meyer in 1996, and he is currently the director. I’ve spent a lot of time the past two years trying to  ignore output from the Discovery Institute, but something about this post brought me back. Here’s what it’s about:

Adam and the Genome and Human-Ape Genetic Similarity

Evolution News @DiscoveryCSC January 18, 2018, 7:54 AM

In Adam and the Genome, Trinity Western University biologist Dennis Venema covers many other subjects besides what you might expect from the book’s title. We have been reviewing this material by the prominent theistic evolutionist and BioLogos author; find the series so far here.

Thus, Venema cites the high degree of genetic similarities between insulin genes in humans and other mammals as evidence for our common ancestry. He writes:

[W]e can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past … What we observe for this short segment is that the gorilla sequence is identical to that of the human except for one letter; the chimpanzee is identical except for three; and the orangutan is identical except for five. As before, this level of identity far exceeds what is needed for functional insulin, and strongly supports the hypothesis that humans share a common ancestral population with great apes. Indeed, the similarities between these sequences make English and West Frisian look like very distant relatives by comparison.

(Adam and the Genome, p. 30)

Yes, it appears Evolution News is having a go at biologist Dennis Venema’s new book (2017) Adam and the Genome. What the Discovery Institute wants to convince us is that life forms and all we see about us could not have come about by natural processes. A creator, an intelligent entity of some sort, must be behind it. That’s what’s going on here. Here Evolution News is digging at Venema’s evolutionary explanation for the similarity between the human genome and that of some of our close relations. Venema is using the origin of languages to make a comparison. I have the Kindle edition of the book, which allows me to provide the context of the above:

In looking at the sequences above, we can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past, just as “butter, bread, and green cheese” and “bûter, brea, en griene tsiis” do. The principle is the same: they are far more similar to each other than they are functionally required to be. In principle, any words could stand for these concepts in either English or West Frisian; similarly, any matched pair of hormone and receptor could function to regulate blood sugar levels in humans or dogs. Yet what we observe strongly suggests, in both cases, that the present-day sequences are the modified descendants of what was once a common sequence.

Now that we understand the redundancy of the codon code, we can see that for genes this rabbit hole goes even deeper. Many of the amino acids in insulin can be coded for by alternate codons. For example, “Leu” in the diagram indicates the amino acid leucine, for which there are six possible codons. This short snippet of the insulin gene codes for nine leucines, and eight of them use exactly the same codon in dogs and humans (and the ninth differs by only one letter). For these nine codons, there are 96 (= 531,441) possible combinations that will correctly code for just these nine leucines, to say nothing of the other 101 amino acids found in insulin, most of which can be encoded for by multiple codons. Is it merely by chance that what we observe in these two species is only one letter different for these nine codons? A simpler, more reasonable explanation (or what a scientist would call a more “parsimonious” explanation) is that these sequences come from a common ancestral population and have been slightly modified along the way.

Of course, scientists have sequenced the genomes of many other species, so we can test this hypothesis by looking at a larger data set. Humans are not thought to have shared a common ancestral population with dogs for a very long time; other species are thought to be our much closer relatives due to other shared features, such as anatomy. When the pre-Darwin biologist Carl Linnaeus (1707– 78) drew up his taxonomy of animal life (i.e., a system that organized life into categories), he famously placed humans and great apes in a category he called “primate,” from the Latin indicating “prime” or “first.” While he was certainly not thinking about common ancestry, he naturally recognized that these species (such as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans) have a closer anatomical affinity to humans than other animals. In light of such an affinity, evolutionary theory predicts that these species share a more recent common ancestral population with humans than nonprimate species, such as dogs, do. Therefore, their gene sequences should be a closer match to human sequences than what we observe in dogs. Not surprisingly, this is exactly what we observe. Let’s return to our example of the insulin gene and extend our comparison of the same short stretch to include three great apes (fig. 2.6).

What we observe for this short segment is that the gorilla sequence is identical to that of the human except for one letter; the chimpanzee is identical except for three; and the orangutan is identical except for five. As before, this level of identity far exceeds what is needed for functional insulin, and strongly supports the hypothesis that humans share a common ancestral population with great apes. Indeed, the similarities between these sequences make English and West Frisian look like very distant relatives by comparison.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 30-31). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I highlighted the portions the author reprinted from the original. Use of this partial excerpt is legitimate, since it does not change Venema’s original meaning and intent. What is to be found in the complete text is a fuller explanation, plus a tie-in to Venema’s language analogy.

The history of languages makes for an interesting study, and for English readers there is particular significance. The book The Story of English, by Robert MacNeilRobert McCrum, and William Cran is a companion book to the PBS television series of the same name. I have a similar book, The Stories of English, by David Crystal. It rehashes the history of English in much the same way:

We can note both of these processes happening for the Germanic group of languages during the period. In the late second century, the Goths moved into Europe from southern Scandinavia, eventually arriving in the Mediterranean region. During the fourth century, Bishop Wulfilas translated the Bible into Gothic. The language had changed so much during this short time that scholars now consider it to be a distinct, eastern branch of the Germanic family. On the other hand, the westward movement of peoples along the north European coast and into England resulted in a group of languages which had much greater similarities. English and Frisian, indeed, were so close that they would probably have been mutually intelligible for many centuries, especially in Kent. Even today, though mutual intelligibility has long since gone, English people listening to modern Frisian sense a familiarity with its expression which is not present in the case of Dutch or German. Genetic anthropologists have discovered a significant Y-chromosome identity, too (p. 31). 3

Crystal, David. The Stories of English (pp. 20-21). The Overlook Press. Kindle Edition.

I once visited the northwest coast of the European continent and was struck by the similarity. At a company cafeteria I picked up a coupon good for two desserts and had no trouble reading it, even though it was written in the local  language.

Anyhow, the background is fascinating, but the intent of Evolution News is to demonstrate that Venema is wrong—genetic similarity does not indicate common descent. Evolution News sometime ago quit identifying authors, but whoever posted this item failed to get the message. Traditionally, Intelligent Design, a concoction of the Discovery Institute, does not rule out common ancestry. These people tend to allow for that, but they also want us to know that natural, and especially random, process are not at work. The whole line of descent process was managed by an intelligent entity, yet unnamed. With some exceptions:

If the Associated Press writer confused a challenge to common descent with “Intelligent Design,” it could be because Intelligent Design proponents with the CSC on occasion do challenge common descent. For example, Ray Bohlin is a CSC fellow and supposedly a spokesman for Intelligent Design. At the Texas Faith Network conference in Dallas on 3 November 2003 Bohlin addressed a large room full of people and stated that common descent was true for all life forms, except humans. You can imagine the confusion of all in attendance.

Retired law professor Phillip Johnson is considered the godfather of the modern Intelligent Design  movement. At a symposium titled “Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference,” held on the campus of Southern Methodist University in March 199, .I had a chance to talk with Johnson and get his views firsthand. He expressed some surprising points for an opponent of evolution:

n 1992 Johnson attended the conference on “Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference” at Southern Methodist University (SMU). The conference was inspired by Jon Buell, a local creationist. Buell’s Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) published the book Pandas and People, an early work pushing Intelligent Design. At the conference the departure from young-Earth creationism was stark. Johnson and Buell were standing together when I asked them the question. Their answer was significant. Yes, the Earth and the universe really are billions of years old, and yes, present life forms share a common ancestry. These were not your grandfather’s creationists.

Here is a copy of the proceedings.

Anyhow, Evolution News is now having none of that. Continuing from the post:

The obvious answer to this argument is common design — that humans, gorillas, and orangutans were designed based upon a common blueprint. This would explain genetic similarity between humans and other species quite well.

Then the author presents an additional excerpt and promptly goes off the rails with this:

There he goes again, telling God what he can and cannot do. It’s a bit of chutzpah, don’t you think? He’s also telling God what God must intend when he does certain things. In particular, Venema is telling God that if he designs two species to be similar then God must thereby intend to tell us that those species are related through common ancestry. And if those species aren’t really related, then Venema tells God that he is being deceitful.

But what if Venema is putting thoughts into God’s head that aren’t there? What if God could have entirely different purposes for designing two species as similar — purposes that have nothing to do with trying to communicate some message to humans about relatedness or unrelatedness?

Oh, Jesus! You gave away the store. Intelligent Design is not supposed to be about God. It’s supposed to be science, real science, well-researched science, science that reveals there is a Designer, not identified and definitely not identified as G*d. G*d is the word that keeps Intelligent Design out of public classrooms, which is where its proponents, despite much public posturing, in their heart of hearts want it to be. Possibly we are now seeing the offshoot of all those years of living stupidly.

That covered, there is more of interest. The post dips into  a discussion of The Language of God, a book by Francis Collins:

Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.

Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

In order to continue following the discussion I obtained a Kindle edition and will be covering that in future posts. Also, and free on Amazon, is Intelligent Design the Final Proof of God. Go for it. Kindle readers are free for tablets and computers.

Media Research Center

Number 5 in a series

I’ve mentioned Media Research Center before. I’m going to mention them some more. They are a hoot. Their running theme is that mainstream media outlets have a liberal bias. Surprise! The real world swims in liberal concepts, one such being straight-up telling things like they happened. Anyhow, the MRC is committed to providing a counterweight to  liberal bias, and they have an interesting way of going about it. I receive their daily mailings, today’s which I figure to unload on my readers.

Let’s start with the item numbered 1:

1. Networks Stuff Shows With Over 2 Hours of Wolff Gossip Book Insults

The Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks engaged in a feeding frenzy over Michael Wolff’s gossip-filled book, as they ate up the salacious details in Fire and Fury. From January 3 through January 9, the networks stuffed their evening and morning programs with over two hours of coverage of the Wolff book and the subsequent fallout for former Donald Trump aide Stephen Bannon.

“The networks stuffed their evening and morning programs with over two hours of coverage of the Wolff book?” Really? Only two hours. Geeze, people. I logged onto  Amazon and purchased the Kindle the minute it became available. And the nets only allocated two hours? Wimps.

“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” said an astonished and derisive Bannon, not long after the meeting was revealed. “The three senior guys in the campaign,” an incredulous Bannon went on, “thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor—with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 255). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, this is the language that got Bannon on the outs with the Trump administration and subsequently on the outs with the rich and powerful Mercers and out the door at Breitbart News. And the nets only gave it two hours? And MRC is calling them out? Let that sink in.

2. ‘Morning Joe’ Portrays Trump as Doddering Old Schizophrenic Who Listens to ‘Voices in His Head’

On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, reacting to President Trump’s comments during an open door meeting with top members of Congress about DACA and immigration reform, co-host Joe Scarborough argued that Trump’s performance was indicative of his supposedly deteriorating mental state and even stooped to mocking Trump as a doddering, forgetful, and schizophrenic old man who listens to “voices in his head” for political advice.

Wait. Wait! President Trump really is a doddering old schizo who listens to voices in his head. Anybody who has not noticed should come in for a head check.

3. ‘Be an Apple, Don’t Be a Banana’: Conway Schools Cuomo on Drug Trafficking

Sparks flew during Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time when White House adviser Kellyanne Conway sparred with rude and demeaning host Chris Cuomo as they discussed the news of the day. But during one section, in particular, Conway took Cuomo to task for twisting the facts about the administration’s response to the opioid crisis and the border wall’s effectiveness on drug trafficking.

“Conway took Conway to task for twisting the facts?” That is a twist.

On CNN, though, her phrasing was a bit more fraught. “I’m not Inspector Gadget,” she said. “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.”

“However,” she continued, “I’m not in the job of having evidence…”

[Emphasis added]

And she said more. Over the past year and more Conway has established the benchmark for “fact-deprived.”

4. Sour Grapes: MSNBC Upset Trump Only Called on ‘Conservative Outlets’ for Questions

MSNBC flashed some bitterness on Wednesday afternoon following President Trump’s first joint press conference of 2018, complaining that Trump only called on “conservative outlets”Washington Examiner and the Fox News Channel with only the latter one offering “a challenging question.”

In this case MRC is dead on. What were those clowns at MSNBC thinking? That Donald Trump was going to  call on an actual for-business news outlet” And this all the while Fox News was standing by with the tough questions of the day? Tough questions such as, “What wonderful things have you accomplished since nine this morning, Mr. President?”

This, people, is why I check my MRC feed first thing each morning. There’s more to come. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Fire and Fury

The Start of a New Series

The monkey spit has certainly hit the fan, and on-lookers are choking with joy. Especially am I in another level of Heaven. The book went on sale at 8:00 a.m. Central Time Friday, and at 8:00 a.m. plus a second or more I hit the button on Amazon and pulled down a Kindle edition, $14.99 plus tax. Let the fun begin. Images are screen shots from ABC World News Tonight with David Muir, streaming on Hulu this morning.

Of course the President of the United States had some objections.

“Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past …” People, your President is totally irony-deficient. Being a world authority on these matters, he is definitely one to spot lies, misrepresentations, and sources that don’t exist when he sees them. And, to be sure, many reviewers have spotted such in the book.

The author is Michael Wolff, who wrote from a few month’s history with the Trump presidential campaign and also from inside the first year of the Trump White House. Wolff apparently draws most of his material second hand from  sources close to the President. For example:

Trump, observed Walsh, had a set of beliefs and impulses, much of them on his mind for many years, some of them fairly contradictory, and little of them fitting legislative or political conventions or form. Hence, she and everyone else was translating a set of desires and urges into a program, a process that required a lot of guess work. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 113). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

The author is seen on ABC saying, “They all say he is like a child,” citing what staffers have told him about the President. “Walsh” is Katie Walsh:

Katie E. Walsh (born November 2, 1984) is an American Republican political operative who briefly served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. She is currently working with the Trump-aligned 501(c)(4) America First Policies.

Wolff talks of the President’s need for “immediate gratification.”

But it wasn’t Bannon versus everybody else so much as it was Bannon Trump versus non-Bannon Trump. If Trump, in his dark, determined, and aggressive mood, could represent Bannon and his views, he could just as easily represent nothing at all—or represent solely his own need for instant gratification. That’s what the non-Bannon people understood about Trump.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 174). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

“It’s all about him,” Wolff says, again from close sources. He drills down, using terms like “moron” and “idiot.”

In early October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s fate was sealed—if his obvious ambivalence toward the president had not already sealed it—by the revelation that he had called the president “a fucking moron.”

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 304). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

From a White House email:

Purporting to represent the views of Gary Cohn and quite succinctly summarizing the appalled sense in much of the White House, the email read:

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything—not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family. I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 186). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

We see Wolff stating, “This is a man who does not read, does not listen.”

But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen. He preferred to be the person talking. And he trusted his own expertise—no matter how paltry or irrelevant—more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 114). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

The president did not truly listen to anybody. The more you talked, the less he listened. “But Steve is careful about what he says, and there is something, a timbre in his voice and his energy and excitement, that the president can really hone in on, blocking everything else out,” said Walsh.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 182). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Others have noted this:

In early August, less than a month after Ailes had been ousted from Fox News, Trump asked his old friend to take over the management of his calamitous campaign. Ailes, knowing Trump’s disinclination to take advice, or even listen to it, turned him down. This was the job Bannon [took] a week later.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 3). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Wolff notes Donald Trump’s unsettling repetition. From ABC News, “Wolff paints a portrait of a mentally unstable man, saying the President often repeats the same story every three minutes.”

The president’s advisers felt he shouldn’t put himself in a position where he would be compared with Bannon. The worry among staffers—all of them concerned that Trump’s rambling and his alarming repetitions (the same sentences delivered with the same expressions minutes apart) had significantly increased, and that his ability to stay focused, never great, had notably declined—was that he was likely to suffer by such a comparison. Instead, the interview with Trump was offered to Sean Hannity—with a preview of the questions.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (p. 309). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

At Mar-a-Lago recently the President failed to recognize life-long friends ABC News reports, although my copy of the book does not appear to recount this episode.

Of course, President Trump is slinging back.

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reminds us how ridiculous these accusations are. From the video:

It’s disgraceful and laughable. If he was [sic] unfit, he probably wouldn’t sitting there. … This is a strong and great leader.”

And that, readers, has to be one for the history books. Being unfit did not prevent Donald Trump from becoming President. He became President through the intervention of a mass of American voters who, themselves, may be unfit. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. “A strong and great leader,” completely defining the meaning of the terms “strong” and “great,” with “leader” thrown in for good measure.

The scene from the White House news briefing closes with a view of Sanders’ backside as she exits stage left. Hey! How would you like to have that job?

President Trump weighs in, saying he never spoke to Wolff for the book. Sanders has conceded Wolff did interview Donald Trump, and Wolff says it was for the book, regardless of what Trump thought.

ABC White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega delivers the coup de grace.

… This is a West Wing used to dealing with crisis, David. As one senior White House official told us, quote, “People expect us to be running around with our hair on fire, but it’s hard to do that when it’s already been burned off.”

There is going to be much more of this. I have not had so much fun since cousin Elroy stuck the dynamite down the outhouse. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book.

In September 1937 Shirer began a series of radio broadcasts for CBS from Europe. Up to this point Hitler was confining his reign of terror to Germany. As 1937 drew to a close, events leading up to Armageddon were developing in Germany. This episode covers Shirer’s notes from 5 September to the end of the year.

BERLIN, September 5

Did my trial broadcast this Sabbath day. Just before it began I was very nervous, thinking of what was at stake and that all depended upon what a silly little microphone and an amplifier and the ether between Berlin and New York did to my voice. Kept thinking also of all those CBS vice-presidents sniffing at what they heard.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 81). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

By this time Shirer’s wife Tess was pregnant, and the family was preparing for the birth in Europe. Shirer’s trial broadcast was well-received back home, and his position became “permanent.”

NUREMBERG, September 13

Murrow called and said I’m hired. Start October 1. Wired Tess. Celebrated a little tonight, I fear, on the very potent local Franconian wine. Prentiss Gilbert, our counsellor of Embassy, has been here, the first American diplomat to attend a Nazi Party Congress.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 82). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

During this period Hitler’s campaign of oppression began to be everywhere manifest:

BERLIN, September 27

Tess back, feeling fine, and we’re packing. We are to make our headquarters in Vienna, a neutral and central spot for me to work from. Most of our old friends have left— the Gunthers, the Whit Burnetts— but it is always that way in this game. Go to London next week, then Paris, Geneva, and Rome to meet the radio people, renew contacts with the newspaper offices, and, in Rome, to find out if the Pope is really dying, as reported. We are glad to be leaving Berlin.

To sum up these three years: Personally, they have not been unhappy ones, though the shadow of Nazi fanaticism, sadism, persecution, regimentation, terror, brutality, suppression, militarism, and preparation for war has hung over all our lives, like a dark, brooding cloud that never clears. Often we have tried to segregate ourselves from it all. We have found three refuges: Ourselves and our books; the “foreign colony,” small, limited, somewhat narrow, but normal, and containing our friends— the Barneses, the Robsons, the Ebbuttses, the Dodds, the Deuels, the Oechsners, Gordon Young, Doug Miller, Sigrid Schultz, Leverich, Jake Beam, and others; thirdly, the lakes and woods around Berlin, where you could romp and play and sail and swim, forgetting so much. The theatre has remained good when it has stuck to the classics or pre-Nazi plays, and the opera and the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, despite the purging of the Jews and the year’s disciplining of Fuertwängler (who has now made his peace with Satan), have given us the best music we’ve ever heard outside of New York and Vienna. Personally too there was the excitement of working here, the “Saturday surprises,” the deeper story of this great land in evil ferment.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 83-84). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The note from 27 September contains additional indications that Germany was at the time girding for war.

But Germany is stronger than her enemies realize. True, it is a poor country in raw materials and agriculture; but it is making up for this poverty in aggressiveness of spirit, ruthless state planning, concentrated direction of effort, and the building up of a mighty military machine with which it can back up its aggressive spirit. True, too, that this past winter we have seen long lines of sullen people before the food shops, that there is a shortage of meat and butter and fruit and fats, that whipped cream is verboten, that men’s suits and women’s dresses are increasingly being made out of wood pulp, gasoline out of coal, rubber out of coal and lime; that there is no gold coverage for the Reichsmark or for anything else, not even for vital imports. Weaknesses, most of them, certainly, and in our dispatches we have advertised them.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 84-85). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Much of what is going on and will go on could be learned by the outside world from Mein Kampf, the Bible and Koran together of the Third Reich. But— amazingly— there is no decent translation of it in English or French, and Hitler will not allow one to be made, which is understandable, for it would shock many in the West. How many visiting butter-and-egg men have I told that the Nazi goal is domination! They laughed. But Hitler frankly admits it. He says in Mein Kampf: “A state which in an age of racial pollution devotes itself to cultivation of its best racial elements must some day become master of the earth…. We all sense that in a far future mankind may face problems which can be surmounted only by a supreme Master Race supported by the means and resources of the entire globe.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 85-86). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

He says in Mein Kampf: “A state which in an age of racial pollution devotes itself to cultivation of its best racial elements must some day become master of the earth…. We all sense that in a far future mankind may face problems which can be surmounted only by a supreme Master Race supported by the means and resources of the entire globe.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 85-86). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

During this time the Shirers left Nazi Germany for what they thought would be the safety of Austria.

I leave Germany in this autumn of 1937 with the words of a Nazi marching song still dinning in my ears:

Today we own Germany, Tomorrow the whole world.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 87). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Christmas day is the final entry in the diary for 1937:

VIENNA, December 25

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 89). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

VIENNA, December 25 Christmased this afternoon with the Wileys; John our chargé d’affaires here now. Walter Duranty there, as always, the Fodors, etc. Chip Bohlan, on leave from the Moscow Embassy, came with me to the studio of the Austrian Broadcasting Company to help me shepherd the youngsters of the American colony through a Christmas broadcast. A childish job and one that I do not like, being too much interested in the political situation at present.

We are nicely installed in an apartment in the Ploesslgasse, next door to the Rothschild palace. The owners, being Jewish, have removed themselves to Czechoslovakia for greater safety, though Schuschnigg seems to have the situation fairly well in hand here. Vienna, though, is terribly poor and depressing compared to our last sojourn here, from 1929 to 1932. The workers are sullen, even those who have jobs, and one sees beggars on every street corner. A few people have money and splash it at the night-clubs and a few fashionable restaurants such as the Drei Husaren and Am Franziskanerplatz. The contrast is sickening and the regime is resented by the masses, who are either reverting to their old Socialist Party, which is fairly strong underground, or going over to Nazism. The great mistake of this clerical dictatorship is not to have a social program. Hitler and Mussolini have not made that mistake. Still, there is more to eat here than in Germany, and the dictatorship is much milder— the difference between Prussians and Austrians! Next to Paris I love this town, even now, more than any other in Europe, the Gemütlichkeit, charm, and intelligence of its people, the baroque of its architecture, the good taste, the love of art and life, the softness of the accent, the very mild quality of the whole atmosphere. A great deal of anti-Semitism here, which plays nicely into the hands of the Nazis, but then there always was— ever since the days of Mayor Karl Lueger, Hitler’s first mentor on the subject when he was down and out in this city. Have had much good talk with Duranty, who is living here for a few months; the Fodors, she lovable as before, he a walking dictionary on central Europe and generous in telling what he knows; Emil Vadnai of the New York Times, a Hungarian of great charm, knowledge, and intelligence. Had Duranty broadcast the other day, though New York was afraid his voice was too high. Came a cable the same evening from Chicago: “… your clear, bell-like voice…” signed by Mary Garden, who ought to know.

We wait for the baby, due in seven weeks now, arguing the while over names.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 89-91). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Darwin’s Doubt

Number 5 in a Series

If there remains any doubt regarding the underpinnings of Intelligent Design, one only has to review the day-to-day endeavors of its key proponents. Stephen C. Meyer founded and currently heads up the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is the principal organization supporting this attempt to cloak religious creationism and disguise it as cutting-edge science. The above image is a screen shot from  Does God Exist, a video series hosted by Stephen C. Meyer and produced by Focus on the Family, an organization whose purpose is the promotion of a conservative Christian viewpoint.

This is a continuation of my review of  Stephen C. Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. It draws on a an item posted to the Evolution News blog. That posting excerpts a number of passages from the book. I previously reviewed three of these excerpts. Here are the remaining two:

Intelligent agents can generate new structural (epigenetic) information and construct functionally integrated and hierarchically organized layers of information as we see in animal body plans:

The cited text being:

The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents— and only intelligent agents— produce. Indeed, based on our experience, we know that intelligent human agents have the capacity to generate complex and functionally specified arrangements of matter— that is, to generate specified complexity or specified information. Further, human agents often design information-rich hierarchies, in which both individual modules and the arrangement of those modules exhibit complexity and specificity— specified information as defined in Chapter 8. Individual transistors, resistors, and capacitors in an integrated circuit exhibit considerable complexity and specificity of design. Yet at a higher level of organization, the specific arrangement and connection of these components within an integrated circuit requires additional information and reflects further design (see Fig. 14.2).

Conscious and rational agents have, as part of their powers of purposive intelligence, the capacity to design information-rich parts and to organize those parts into functional information-rich systems and hierarchies.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 366). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Some analysis will be helpful. Take the first two sentences: “The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents— and only intelligent agents— produce.” Meyer insists that examination of the lowest level of structure of living organisms suggests the work of an outside living agent. Here he is appealing to intuition without providing a factual basis. He compares the functional organization of living organisms to the construction of intricate systems devised by people. By implication, he wants the reader to consider that an entity with human-like qualities is behind the development of living organisms.

Finally:

Meyer concludes that “both the Cambrian animal forms themselves and their pattern of appearance in the fossil record exhibit precisely those features that we should expect to see if an intelligent cause had acted to produce them” (p. 379) He summarizes his argument as follows:

Here is the text from the book:

When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin. Thus, when we encounter these same features in the Cambrian event, we may infer— based upon established cause-and-effect relationships and uniformitarian principles— that the same kind of cause operated in the history of life. In other words, intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of information and circuitry necessary to build the Cambrian animals. It also provides the best explanation for the top-down, explosive, and discontinuous pattern of appearance of the Cambrian animals in the fossil record.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 381). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Again some analysis. Take the initial sentence: “When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin.” Standing alone in the book this would seem to be a bald proclamation of fact. It will be interesting to peruse the remainder of the book and see whether Meyer has, indeed, demonstrated that “invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin.” I suspect this phrasing represents considerable overreach on the part of the author. In following posts I will examine the arguments Meyer makes in the book, and I will keep coming back to this matter of conclusions well-jumped. Keep reading.