Thursday Reads: MKULTRA, Offshore Tax Havens, Mitt Romney’s WH Lunch, and a Tom Ricks Update

Good Morning!!

The CIA keeps hoping that their cold war mind control programs (of which there were many back in the 1950s and 1960s), usually referred to by the umbrella term Project MKultra, will disappear down the memory hole; but occasionally it still rears its ugly head.

Yesterday was one of those occasions. The New York Times published an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist James Risen about a new lawsuit by Eric and Nils Olson that accuses the CIA of covering up the real causes of their father Frank Olson’s death.

First, a little background. Frank Olson was a scientist who worked at Ft. Dietrich in Maryland on top-secret research related to Project MKultra. From Wikipedia:

Frank Olson was a senior U.S. microbiologist at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.[1] He was recruited from the University of Wisconsin, where his departmental advisor was Ira Baldwin, the civilian scientist who, along with industrial partners like George W. Merck and the U.S. military, established the U.S. bioweapons program in 1943, a time when interest in applying modern technology to warfare was at an all-time high.

His specific research work at Fort Detrick’s Special Operations Division has never been revealed, but he was clearly involved in biological weapons research. He had been assigned as a contact with the CIA’s Technical Services Staff, run by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb and his deputy Robert Lashbruck regarding experiments with bioweapons, toxins, and mind control drugs. This was the MKNAOMI – MKULTRA program, previously known as Project Artichoke and earlier, Project Bluebird, and justified based on claimed Soviet efforts to create a “Manchurian Candidate.” In 1953, as Deputy Acting Head of Special Operations for the CIA, Olson associated with Dr. William Sargant, investigating the use of psychoactive drugs at Britain’s Biological Warfare Centre at Porton Down. Hence, he was privy to the innermost secrets of the CIA interrogation and biowarfare programs.

In 1953, Olson was dosed with LSD without his knowledge at a retreat with his coworkers. Not surprisingly, he freaked out and became “paranoid.” A week later, he tried to resign his position, but his superiors sent him to New York City to see a psychiatrist involved with the CIA’s research, Harold Abramson. That night Olson supposedly committed suicide by jumping out of his 10th floor hotel room. Robert Lashbrook was in the room at the time, but claimed to have no idea how it happened.

Olson’s family had no idea what he had been working on or the details of his “accident.” All this came out after Congress began investigating the CIA’s insane mind control programs in the 1970s.

According to the the Risen article,

Eric and Nils Olson…said they plan to file a lawsuit in United States District Court here on Wednesday accusing the C.I.A. of covering up the truth about Mr. Olson’s death in 1953, one of the most infamous cases in the agency’s history.

During the intelligence reforms in the 1970s, the government gave the Olson family a financial settlement after the C.I.A. was forced to acknowledge that Mr. Olson had been given the hallucinogenic drug nine days before his death. President Gerald R. Ford met with the Olson family at the White House and apologized.

At the time, the government said Mr. Olson had killed himself by jumping out of a hotel window in Manhattan. But the Olsons came to believe that he had been murdered to keep him from talking about disturbing C.I.A. operations that he had uncovered.

Mr. Olson’s sons said that their past efforts to persuade the agency to open its files and provide them with more information had failed, and that a court challenge is the only way to find out the truth.

“The evidence points to a murder, and not a drug-induced suicide,” said Eric Olson, Frank Olson’s older son, who has devoted much of his life to investigating his father’s death. When the government told his family that his father had committed suicide, “one set of lies was replaced with another set of lies,” he said.

The Olson brothers claim that

In 1953, Mr. Olson traveled to Europe and visited biological and chemical weapons research facilities. The Olson family lawsuit alleges that during that trip, Mr. Olson witnessed extreme interrogations, some resulting in deaths, in which the C.I.A. experimented with biological agents that he had helped develop. Intelligence officials became suspicious of him when he seemed to have misgivings about what he had seen, the lawsuit contends. Eric Olson said Frank Olson also appeared to have deep misgivings about the use of biological weapons that was alleged in the Korean War.

According to Risen, it was after Olson expressed his “misgivings” that he was dosed with LSD. The lawsuit was filed yesterday afternoon.

Of course the CIA has never stopped developing methods of torture and mind control, as we learned during the Bush administration when the Abu Ghraib story broke and we began learning about the torture methods that were used on suspected terrorists and the CIA black sites in torture-friendly countries around the world.

I doubt if anything will come of this lawsuit, but I’m happy that Olson’s story and MKultra are back in the news. Perhaps a few people will read about it and wake up to the terrible things our government has been doing for decades and continues to do today.

In other news, the UK Guardian in cooperation with BBC Panorama and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) are in the process of publishing their research on Great Britain’s network of offshore tax havens. From the Guardian: Offshore secrets revealed: the shadowy side of a booming industry.

The existence of an extraordinary global network of sham company directors, most of them British, can be revealed.
The UK government claims such abuses were stamped out long ago, but a worldwide joint investigation by the Guardian, the BBC’s Panorama and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has uncovered a booming offshore industry that leaves the way open for both tax avoidance and the concealment of assets.

More than 21,500 companies have been identified using this group of 28 so-called nominee directors. The nominees play a key role in keeping secret hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions. They do so by selling their names for use on official company documents, using addresses in obscure locations all over the world.

This is not illegal under UK law, and sometimes nominee directors have a legitimate role. But our evidence suggests this particular group of directors only pretend to control the companies they put their names to.

Another article reveals the real identities behind Britain’s secret property deals. Another article reveals how BBC Panorama filmed undercover in offshore tax havens.

Someone should tell Mitt Romney to turn off Fox News and read the Guardian for the next few days.

Speaking of Mitt Romney, he’ll be having lunch with President Obama at the White House today. The Boston Globe reports:

At some point late on Thursday morning, Mitt Romney will be driven to the steps of the White House. He will get out of the car, be escorted to a room adjacent to the Oval Office, and sit down for lunch.

But rather than arriving as an occupant, the one-time presidential hopeful will be a guest in someone else’s house.

In a meeting that has been weeks in the making, Romney will join President Obama for private lunch at the White House just 23 days after he lost the election. It will be the first time they have met since the election, and it follows several weeks in which Romney has started to contemplate life outside of politics.

I wonder if they’ll discuss the “gifts” that Romney claims Obama gave to the “47 percent” in order to get elected? I’m still waiting for mine.

At the Atlantic, Jen Doll writes about What Obama and Romney’s Lunch Might Look Like — or Should.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are having lunch! Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are having lunch! This is exciting to Americans because we just spent several mortifying days with our several mortifying relatives eating hopefully decent turkey, and now Romney is in our last-week’s shoes, sort of, as he prepares to sit across a table in a strange kind of tradition, breaking bread with a man he not so long ago vowed to defeat. So, yes, that’s slightly uncomfortable, perhaps. Kind of like the opening montage on Project Runway when those people who got kicked off in the first few episodes are all in your face saying how they’re number one and they’re going to win this whole thing, just watch.

This lunch will happen Thursday. Press is not allowed, which seems advisable. The lunch will be held at the White House (Obama’s home turf advantage) Private Dining Room (“next to the Oval Office in the West Wing”), and is the fulfillment of a promise Obama made on election night, as we reminded you earlier, that the president would meet with his former opponent. This is their first meetup since the election, or as the White House statement puts it, “It will be the first opportunity they have had to visit since the election.” Visit, of course, is the euphemism your grandmother uses.

This lunch, between a couple of men who didn’t seem terribly keen on each other just a few weeks ago, brings up a host of modern-day etiquette questions. Here, we do our best to answer them.

Read the rest at the link. It’s very funny.

The Tom Ricks vs. Fox News story continued into a third day. Ricks was invited to appear on MSNBC and said no. According to the WaPo’s Melissa Henneberger, Ricks’ Fox News putdown was

no mere partisan smackdown; it was more subversive than that, and even more bracing. Because as it turns out, Ricks doesn’t want to play on either the red or the blue team, and has no loftier view of Obama-cheering MSNBC than of Obama-jeering Fox.

When I talked to him Tuesday, he said yeah, actually, he had had some other TV invites, but we shouldn’t waste too much time clicking around looking for his next appearance: “MSNBC invited me, but I said, ‘You’re just like Fox, but not as good at it.’ They wrote back and said, ‘Thank you for your candor.’”

Henneberger asked Ricks if he had planned his Fox News smackdown ahead of time.

“It just kind of tumbled out,” he said, after “this fathead comes on and says the pressure is increasing on the White House; no, they’re backing off! Now their spokesman says I apologized; they’re just making stuff up.”

He told the young woman who pre-interviewed him that he felt the whole issue had been exploited for political reasons, “but my impression was she’s new to the game and thought that because I’m pro-military — and I do consider myself pro-military,” he’d naturally agree with the Foxified narrative.

After three years in the archives researching “The Generals,” Ricks said, “I’m blinking my eyes,” in the TV lights, and taken aback at how much a little truth-telling can set a guy apart around here.

Ricks was even more harsh in an interview with HuffPo yesterday.

Ricks hammered the point home when speaking with HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. In response to Clemente’s statement indicating that Ricks “apologized” after the interview, “ignored the anchor’s question,” and doesn’t have “the strength of character to [apologize] publicly,” Ricks had one thing to say: “that’s horseshit.”

He recounted his hallway conversations once again, which included complimenting Fox News host Bret Baier on his weight loss and telling a Fox News staffer he was tired. “It was not an apology for what was said at all,” he added.

When asked about his decision to turn down an invitation to appear on MSNBC, Ricks said, “Fox really seems to sell outrage as its product, and MSNBC doesn’t as much. But they both seem to me to be running political campaigns almost more than they are running news networks. So I don’t particularly like either. That said, I’m not a fan of TV news generally. I think it’s a lousy place to get your information from.”

That’s all I have for you today. Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about?


Late Late Night Open Thread…Storms on Saturn

Insomnia is a bitch…so feeling up for something to spark some wild dreams? Something wonderful to put you to sleep? Or, should I say something to put me to sleep…check this out.

Stunning Vortex on Saturn Swirls in NASA Photos  This is one big ass storm.

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This spectacular photo of a polar storm on Saturn was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 27, 2012. It is a raw and unprocessed image.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Can you believe this photo was shot and sent via Cassini to Earth on the same day!

Amazing new photos from NASA’s Cassini probe orbiting Saturn reveal a dizzying glimpse into a monster storm raging on the ringed planet’s north pole.

Cassini took the spectacular Saturn storm photos yesterday (Nov. 27) and relayed it back to Earth the same day, mission scientists said in a statement. The pictures reveal a swirling storm reminiscent of the recent Hurricane Sandy that recently plagued our own planet.

The tempest is located in a strange hexagonal cloud vortex at Saturn’s north pole that was first discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s, and sighted more closely by Cassini since then. The strange six-sided feature, which is nearly 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) across, is thought to be formed by the path of a jet stream flowing through the planet’s atmosphere.

Science is a beautiful thing.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped this photo of Saturn's hexagon-shaped vortex on Nov. 27, 2012.
Saturn’s mysterious northern vortex, a vast hexagon-shaped storm, dominates this photo taken Nov. 27, 2012, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This image is a raw and unprocessed view.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, was launched in 1997 and arrived at the gas giant in July 2004. The probe has logged more than 3.8 billion miles (6.1 billion kilometers), and made some major discoveries about the Saturn system, including revealing the presence of hydrocarbon lakes on the moon Titan and spewing water geysers on the moon Enceladus.

“Eight and a half years into our history-making expedition around the ringed planet and we are still astounded by the seemingly endless parade of new planetary phenomena,” the mission scientists wrote.

Good night…sweet dreams!


About that Iranian nuclear threat

AP has a big, exclusive story based on a graph of a simulation leaked by they’re-not-saying-who from they’re-not-saying-where. This is Proof the Iranians are working on a big bad nuke.

Glenn Greenwald seems to be getting exasperated at the silliness of such setups:

even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane.

Well, yes, there is that.

But there’s one even bigger piece of evidence suggesting that the Iranians aren’t doing much, and for some reason that’s not being mentioned. They have a border with a huge and powerful country. Russia has zero reason to want powerful Islamic fundamentalists right on its southern border who might encourage friction in other Central Asian majority-Islamic countries.

If the Iranians were really that close to useful nukes, you can bet your Sunday bonnet the Russians would be making noise about it and/or doing something about it.

Crossposted from Acid Test


Wednesday Morning Reads: It’s a man’s world, still.

Ah, Good Morning!

I am sitting here on my bed, with my legs crossed, and my laptop propped up on top of them…it’s cold in here, so my blankets are up over my head. Funny. Just like a child who stays up late at night, reading under their covers with a flashlight. (Damn, do kids even do that these days?) I feel quite insignificant under these cozy blankets, and that was before I read this article on Congress. Now I can add that I am  feeling mad and insignificant.  Congress and its men. Specifically, the House of Representatives. House committee chairs all men

At the top of House committees, it’s a man’s world.

Not a single woman will lead any of the major House committees in the 113th Congress.

Figures, damn it pisses me off!
After a day of meetings closed to the public, the House Republican Steering Committee announced an all-male slate of committee chairs, including 12 returning lawmakers who will head up some of the most important panels in Washington.
They still have not chosen the leaders for the House Ethics and the Administration committees, but…as usual, nothing ever changes.

The top female contender to lead a major committee was Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, who lost a battle for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee to Texas Rep. Mike McCaul.

Women did make big gains in Republican leadership. Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be House Republican Conference chairwoman, Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins will be her vice chairwoman and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx will be conference secretary.

Wow, shame they could not find any women to fill those slots ay?

New chairmen include Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas atop Financial Services, Ed Royce of California on Foreign Affairs, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia on Judiciary, Lamar Smith of Texas on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania atop Transportation and Infrastructure.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was the only lawmaker to obtain a waiver to bypass House GOP rules to remain as a chairman for a fourth term. He will lead the Budget Committee again.

House Democrats are likely to have five women as ranking members committees: Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.) or Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) on Appropriations, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) on Financial Services, Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) on Rules, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) on Science and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.) on Small Business.

Uh, two dudes from Texas are heads of these committees? Well, I guess that Texas and their Secessionist leaning GOP wingnuts are well represented in these committees, don’t you?
I am going to stick with the GOP members of congress a bit longer, in fact…it is about my Congressman, Saxby Chambliss. He got kicked down by Erick Erickson yesterday.  Balloon Juice tackles this latest temper tantrum here:  Erick Erickson for Senate (Primary)!
…the Voice of the GOP Gated Community is very disappointed by his so-called ‘elected representative’ for talking about going off Grover Norquist’s reservation:

In a 900-word indictment of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, RedState editor and CNN contributor Erick Erickson described the Georgia Republican Tuesday as “waffling around like a dog off its leash for the first time.”…The RedState post, which laid out the conservative case in full against Chambliss, read a lot like a campaign manifesto, which maybe it was: Erickson said Tuesday evening on his radio show he’d been approached “by serious people” to consider a primary challenge and is giving it “prayerful consideration.”

An Erickson primary challenge would certainly make for great political theater. He’s won elected office before—he served one term on the Macon City Council—and could complicate Chambliss’s re-election bid. But as a leading conservative blogger, radio talk show host and frequent cable television presence, Erickson’s also got a long trail of writing and video that might not be so helpful in a statewide campaign…

Murphy the Trickster God does not love me enough to make this travesty happen. Almost certainly, Erickson is just scrambling to re-establish his Master-of-the-Universe status with the RedState tribalists while not losing his ‘sane moderate’ credentials at CNN, because C.R.E.A.M. But every bloviator political blogger looks in the mirror and sees a solon, and a ‘true conservative’ challenge to that dishonorable pus-sack Chambliss (the chickenhawk who got his seat by attacking actual veteran Max Cleland) might cause me to break my lifelong commitment to never donating to a Republican primary contender.

Please, someone get me a bucket…and a cleaning lady. Maybe speculating on a Erickson ticket is yet another sign that the Mayans were right about that end of the world thing. If asshole aka son of Erick is seriously considering running, my little part of Georgia will surely love to have the head of Red State as their representative. I am so sick of all of this.

Moving on.

Dakinikat called this weeks ago, New Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Chief of Staff will get the job.

I was considering doing a post with chin-stroking speculation about who the next Treasury secretary will be, but instead let me just tell you. It’s going to be Jacob Lew, the current White House chief of staff.

Why? Well, because the White House has decided that it wants the Treasury secretary to be deeply involved with budget issues, and who better than a former Office of Management and Budget director? What’s more, Obama has been working with Lew for a while now and likes him, and they’ve been working well together. All the other ideas kicking around involve bringing someone in from the outside who’d be taking over midstream and trying to establish a working relationship with the president and the Treasury team while simultaneously hammering out thorny bargains with House Republicans. It doesn’t really work.

See the link if you want to read the rest. Personally it is old news to us, because Dak brought up these points before…

There has been another killing of an unarmed young black man in Florida. Jordan Davis: Another Unarmed Young Black Male Gunned Down | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

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Another senseless shooting death of a young unarmed black man in Florida:

Michael Dunn, of Satellite Beach, Florida, was in Jacksonville this past weekend for his son’s wedding.

Jordan Davis, 17, and some other teens were sitting in a SUV in a parking lot when Dunn parked next to them and asked the youths to turn down their music.

Jordan Davis and Dunn argued over the music, then Dunn, who is a gun collector, pulled a gun and shot eight or nine times, hitting Jordan twice, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Jordan Davis’ father Ron Davis said his unarmed son died in the arms of a friend in the SUV.

Dunn and his girlfriend took off, but witnesses wrote down their license plate number, according to the police.

The couple was staying in a Jacksonville hotel when they heard a news report Saturday morning about the shooting, so they drove home to Satellite Beach, Florida.

Dunn was arrested at his home on Saturday and charged with murder and attempted murder. He is being held without bail.

Because this occurred in Florida, we can expect another round of likely unfruitful discussions about the “stand your ground” laws that were at issue in the Trayvon Martin case. There will be handwringing and a public outcry, but nothing will be done, ultimately, because the ALEC-sponsored gun laws in this country are just fine, and if black kids don’t want to get shot for wearing a hoodie, or playing loud music, then that’s just too damn bad. They should stay home.

It is such a sad thing to read about…think about it for a moment. Makes you mad too?

I don’t want to finish on a down note.

Check out this feature from Vanity Fair, Photos: Iconic Film Stills Photographed in Their Real-Life Locations

Journalist Christopher Maloney walks to work through Central Park on most days, and last summer he made an observation. “Every day I walked past tons of locations from popular—and not-so-popular—movies,” he explains. He decided to start printing out stills from the films and comparing them to their real-life counterparts. “Since then, I’ve re-created more than 250 scenes around the city.” His work—which includes movies as varied as Midnight Run, The French Connection, and Shaft—can be found at his Web site, FILMography. “I’m actually surprised that locations used in the 1940s and 1950s haven’t changed that much,” he says. “But places used in movies last year are virtually unrecognizable.” New York also changes depending on the director, Maloney adds. “You can tell just how much filmmakers like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee love the city. It’s sometimes hard to believe that those three very different places are all the same city.”

Look at this:

Can you guess what film that is from? Yes, it is Cary Grant…in?

There is also this interesting read from Gin and Tacos: THE CONTEST EVERYBODY LOSES  It is a post about writing…crowdsourcing and giving the “middle finger.” Enjoy it…I did.

And I have to end this post with this funny cartoon. (Although I think it is missing something.) 11/28 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Stones | Mike Luckovich

mike112812

There should be a big set of lips on at least one of those stick figures!

Have a great day and let us know what is on your mind!


Evening Reads: Jackpots and Crackpots

Good Evening.

This is a quick post…and from the title you can probably guess what two items I will be highlighting this evening.

Powerball jackpot reaches $500 million

The top prize for Wednesday’s Powerball drawing has reached an estimated $500 million, a $75 million increase in the pot, lottery officials said.

That increase is a result of an uptick in ticket sales that lottery officials said tend to pick up before record drawings as people seek to win big.

You, win the $500M Powerball jackpot? It’s not happening

Now, with a record $500 million Powerball jackpot up for grabs on Wednesday, we figured it was a great time to, once again, dash your dreams. We know, we know — someone will win at least a share of the prize, if not Wednesday, then in some subsequent drawing. But it won’t be you.

The chance of a ticket winning a Powerball jackpot is 1 in 175,223,510 (slightly better than the chance of winning a Mega Millions jackpot, which is 1 in 175,711,536). Here are a few unlikely scenarios that, we’re sorry to say, are much more likely than you taking home this jackpot.

From the Harvard School of Public Health:

— Dying from a bee sting: 1 in 6.1 million.

— Dying from being struck by lightning: 1 in 3 million.

From U.S. Hole in One, which insures golf prizes for holes in one:

— An amateur golfer making a hole in one on a par-3 hole: 1 in 12,500.

— A golfer hitting a hole in one on consecutive par-3 holes: 1 in about 156 million.

From a 2011 State Farm study on collisions between vehicles and deer:

— Hitting a deer with a vehicle in Hawaii, the state where State Farm says deer-vehicle collisions are least likely: 1 in 6,267.

From the National Weather Service:

— Being struck by lightning over an 80-year lifetime: 1 in 10,000.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History, based on U.S. beach injury statistics:

— Drowning and other beach-related fatalities: 1 in 2 million.

— Being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million.

And now for the crackpot…Rand Paul warns of GOP becoming dinosaur, cites robotic squirrels

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who’s known for his libertarian leanings, cautioned Tuesday that the Republican Party could meet the same fate as animals that went extinct millions of years ago. “I think my party, the Republican Party, is shrinking. We’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur,” he said on CNN’s “Newsroom.” “We’re not competitive on the West Coast, we’re not competitive in New England.”

[…]

“What I’ve said is that I won’t deny I’m interested–a little bit different than ‘I am interested,'” Paul said, pointing to a need for reform in the party.

Paul also weighed in on the fiscal cliff–a series of tax hikes and spending cuts to kick in next year if Congress fails to reach a deficit-reduction deal. Focusing on the negotiations to find an agreement and avert the crisis, Paul said entitlement reform–one of the options on the table in debt talks–should happen on its own and not be part of a deal that also includes raising taxes.

“The way I look at it is entitlements are broken, and it’s not my fault, it’s not Democrats’ fault, it’s because your grandparents had too many babies. It’s because we’re living longer. These are just facts,” he said. “Taxing anyone in a weak economy is not good.”

The Kentucky senator also said he’d be one of the few conservatives willing to compromise on military cuts but remained firm against raising taxes. To make his case, Paul cited examples of what he considers wasteful spending and argued an increase in tax rates would be futile while the government spends “$300,000 a year on robotic squirrels” and $2 million “on how we can convince Chinese prostitutes not to drink so much on the job.”

And that is one funny thing, one nut talking about robotic squirrels…This is an open thread.