Friday, July 3, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road - A Carbon Crisis Allegory with Review by Guest Blogger Don Crandall

There have been a number of movies that I've wanted to review over the years that I felt could be deconstructed through the prism of Peak Oil awareness.  Previously I did write a blog post attempting to do that.  As my understanding of the interrelationship between Peak Oil and Global Warming increased to where I now refer to both as the Carbon Crisis, I became aware of just how disastrous this ongoing event could potentially become.  One of the more extreme apocalyptic scenarios would be if global warming affects our ability to grow food combined with oil depletion destroying our economy, civilization could collapse.  With the collapse of civilization, we face a severe nuclear threat, either intentionally (nuclear war) or accidentally (nuclear meltdown).

But no deconstruction is necessary where the Mad Max movies are concerned.  Since its inception with George Miller's 1979 classic Mad Max, we are set in a world teetering on the edge of collapse.  The only thing standing in the way of total lawlessness is one good cop, Max Rockatansky.  But when his best friend, his wife and his baby are murdered, Max goes over the edge in his quest to get revenge against an ultra-violent motorcycle gang led by the vicious Toecutter.  When we next see Max in the 1981 sequel The Road Warrior, what had been a civilization nearing total social breakdown is now a civilization no longer.  Why did this happen?  The opening narration paints a very vivid picture:

Narrator: My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos... ruined dreams... this wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called "Max." To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time... when the world was powered by the black fuel... and the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now... swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war, and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They'd built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the roads it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. And in this maelstrom of decay, ordinary men were battered and smashed... men like Max... the warrior Max. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything... and became a shell of a man... a burnt-out, desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.

Sounds a lot like the Carbon Crisis with perhaps a bit of nuclear war?  This is the background for the milieu of Mad Max, which continued in 1985 with Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  The whole trilogy is an allegory for our darkest fears about where the Carbon Crisis is collectively taking us.  I always felt that out of all the trilogy series of movies that came out around the 1980s (Star Wars, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones), Mad Max was the darkest and grittiest.  When I found out that after 30 years a new sequel was coming out, I was curious but felt a bit cautious about getting too excited.  I've been burned before by some legendary names: Steven Spielberg, who single handedly coined a "jump the shark" colloquialism for movie series with "nuke the fridge" through his resurrection of the Indiana Jones franchise with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and George Lucas, who did an entire prequel trilogy for Star Wars that is inferior to the original trilogy on every conceivable level.

Fortunately, Mad Max: Fury Road does not disappoint.  I'll let my friend Don Crandall guest blog the review, as his words reflect my feelings:

I have hope for the future of cinema again.  This film is lovingly made for old school (or is it old fart?) movie fans like me, and is done "80's style" in many ways. It's a return to the greatness that made me want to write scripts & move to Hollywood when I was a kid. By "80's style," I mean it's not the ADD generation's churned out, CGI heavy, tell-don't-show, even-good-movies-have-plot-holes-today kinda piece. There's none of that here (well, there is the one scene in the nuclear storm that's CGI, but it looks beautiful.) I was struck hard with a nostalgia that I haven't felt since the 80's, and for some scenes I had to contain giggling like a giddy child. It's cinematic bliss.

Writer / director George Miller returns to the Mad Max world without missing a beat, unlike others (Lucas, Spielberg, etc) who have botched their own franchises lately. Many reviewers never saw the original 3 films, but they still love this flick, so you don't need to see the old ones. I'd liken it to James Bond, where we now have a new lead actor, and everything's been updated just enough, but it's still a continuation. I'd say the Mad Max films did for modern action & car chase movies what Star Wars did for Sci Fi, and it's so refreshing to now have another worthy film in the canon, perfect in every way.

I am sensing that very young people may have trouble with the throwback film techniques that today's films have sadly abandoned, things like: establishing tracking shots, long continuous takes to pull the viewer into the scene, action servicing the story instead of being tossed in, practical special effects with next to no CGI, naturally unfolding narrative instead of piles of exposition, no forced humor, etc. I had lost hope I'd ever see these long missed techniques in a big summer movie, but here it is, and it's been sorely missed. Many reviewers are saying it's as if 70 year old veteran George Miller is telling filmmakers like Michael Bay, "This is how it's done, Son."

About all this "feminism propaganda" talk... Is it feminist? You bet, and that's a good thing. We're talking Sarah Connor from T2, Ripley from Aliens iconic stuff here. Are all men evil in the film, and all women good? Mostly, but that didn't bother me (and it's kinda true, sadly.) You can get that I'm plugging Charlize here, who is the real star of the film. As terrific as Tom Hardy is as Max, Charlize as Furiosa is even better. The film does start out pretty sexist toward women, then slowly redeems itself, and does a 180 (pun intended,) and becomes a superb piece about action heroines (yes, plural.) Hint, hint, take your lady friend to this one!

The car chases and "vehicular action" are the best ever filmed. Truly, the best. And I'll stress "filmed," not cooked up in cyberspace CGI. There's more action in this one film than all 3 of the other Mad Max's put together. One reviewer stated, "It makes Fast & the Furious look like a Hot Wheels commercial." Is it one long car chase like everyone says? Not a continuous one, but it is an overall pursuit storyline (like Han & Leia's story half in Empire'.) Of course George Miller knows the audience needs a few breathers, and here's where the story & character development the Oscar caliber director and stars shine. Here's also where anyone younger than 30 might shuffle in their seats, as witness by our friend Eric. I've always considered the Mad Max films the "art house" version of a "grind house" movie, and they're clearly foreign films. This new one is in perfect sync with the others.

Fury Road's over the top, bat shit insane in many ways, from the relentless, jaw dropping stunts and car action to the "world building" of costumes, sets, props, etc. But it doesn't overwhelm you or make you car sick, because you'll savor every shot on screen, every performance, and that wonderful score by Junkie XL (I know, WTF is up with that name?) Many reviewers have used the word "beautiful" to describe the chaos and insanity on screen, and that's accurate. Like the (at least first two) other Max films, this one's a work of art, lovingly crafted, long gestated (I guess the closest thing we've had to this opus in a while is Avatar.)

For the first time in ten or more years, I can proudly say I honestly loved a film with zero reservations, found zero plot holes, was completely immersed without the distraction of CGI, and best of all, felt like a kid again for 2 good hours.

To Don's review, I only want to add my observations I shared with him earlier regarding the allegorical perspective:

I saw it in beautiful 2D and from my perspective, this was a Road Warrior movie, taking place either sometime right before or right after chronologically.  There was definitely a similarity in tone with both Road Warrior and Fury Road right from the beginning; both have a similar narrative exposition.  I think I may have even liked the Fury Road expository material a little better as it really went into details that made it clear that this movie is a cautionary tale of a post-Peak Oil, post-global warming, post-nuclear war world.  All three crises come sequentially: first Peak Oil, ("Oil Wars") then global warming ("running out of water"? "Water Wars"? Must be pretty hot!) and then the nuclear coup de grace ("thermonuclear skirmish").

What's great, what's truly timeless about these movies, is that they will always be futuristic.  Always, that is, unless the horrifying fiction becomes our reality.  If that were to occur, there would be no more movies in what's left of society, storytelling would revert back to oral traditions.  What shape would oral traditions of storytelling revert to in a Western culture that has revered moviemaking for the last century?  The plots and characters may evolve into the myths that shape the new culture in a society struggling to survive.  In other words, Mad Max could become the Odysseus of a dystopian reality.  How does that thought strike you?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rockefeller Road: Paved With Good Intentions

The good die young.  It's a cliche repeated thousands of times throughout the ages to memorialize the exit of important or beloved people who leave us too soon.  But if it's true, is the reverse true of those who stay far too long?  Check out this murderer's row of imperial blowhards yet to kick the bucket: President George H. W. Bush just turned 91 today, Henry Kissinger is 92, Andrew Marshall, the "Yoda" of the RAND Corporation whose proteges include Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, is 93, George Schultz is 94, and Licio Gelli, Grandmaster of the P2 Lodge behind the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and Operation Gladio's "strategy of tension" in Italy, and an original "Black Shirt" fascist who was a liaison between Mussolini's government and the Third Reich, is 96 years old.

They're all young bucks compared to David Rockefeller.  Son of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the only child of original oil monopolist John D. Rockefeller Sr. who lived to be 97, David just turned 100 today.  Among his many accomplishments in a century of life on this planet, David is probably most well known for being the chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Corporation and one of the founders of the Trilateral Commission.  Perhaps you might be familiar with these quotes that have been splashed across the internet over the years:

That last quote is reportedly something he said at a Bilderberg conference in 1991.  Since all Bilderberg conferences are conducted in secret, it is impossible to authenticate.  But as someone who joined the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as their youngest director in 1949, who is the founder and honorary chairman of such policy groups as Americas Society, Council of the Americas and the previously mentioned Trilateral Commission, and the only member of the Member Advisory Group for Bilderberg Meetings, it certainly fits within the character of the first quote.  And that quote is authenticated; it is from Rockefeller's own Memoirs that he wrote in 2002 on page 405.

I suppose it is too easy to read those words of being "proud of" "conspiring" "to build a more integrated global political and economic structure; one world, if you will" as the glib arrogance of an evil overlord who sees himself above reproach.  It's certainly something I've been guilty of in the past with many of the other names I mentioned above, it's way too easy to look at the Machiavellian misdeeds of Kissinger or Gelli for example, stamp it as evil and cluck away with moral indignation.  But the reality is much more complex.  With some exceptions, they usually don't see themselves, or the actions that they take, as being evil at all.  They not only see themselves as good people (or when feeling particularly proud, exceptional people) but view their own plans and actions within a visionary or even missionary context.

To understand David Rockefeller in this context, it is important to understand his brother Nelson Rockefeller.  I highly recommend reading Thy Will Be Done The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil by Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett* for a more thorough comprehension of the phenomenon, particularly how the Rockefeller family worked with actual missionaries William Cameron Townsend and his Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) to pacify tribes where the Rockefellers were attempting to develop the economies of Latin American countries.  Both brothers really were the figurative Twin Towers of globalist nation-building during the mid-20th century.  Perhaps it should be no surprise then that both brothers were responsible for building the actual Twin Towers, the World Trade Center; according to PBS, New Yorkers nicknamed both towers David and Nelson.  To some degree, Nelson was the giant in the political sphere and David was his herculean counterpart in the economic sphere, though on many occasions those roles would overlap.  In the case of Latin America, it might be helpful to consider Nelson as the Coordinator and David as the Facilitator.

During World War II, Nelson was head of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA).  It was essentially a propaganda department that would saturate Latin America with news and feature stories by expanding shortwave broadcasting facilities to Latin America, producing newsreels, political cartoons and films featuring American culture with a positive spin.  The hidden economic agenda was to draw Latin America into the economic matrix of the war-supplies programs being run by corporate leaders.  After World War II, he brought his brother David into a broader development plan for Latin America.  As senior vice president of Chase National Bank in 1948, David convinced his uncle, Chase National Chairman Winthrop Aldrich, to found a Latin American Department with David at the helm.  Targeting countries that might be soft on communism, David and Nelson selected two for special treatment: Venezuela for its oil and Brazil for its size and natural resources.

Part of the plan for "development" of its natural resources involved deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, hauling away lumber to be replaced by cattle ranches.  Another part included exploration, exploitation and refining of oil.  The Rockefeller efforts in this arena began producing results by the 1950s; the CIA became involved in a broad front of covert action as Latin America emerged as an area of the Cold War.  Both Rockefeller brothers had extensive CIA connections: David, through associations with Richard Helms and Allen Dulles, whose brother John Foster was an in-law of the Rockefeller family, and Nelson, through chairing the Special Group, which oversaw such CIA activity as spying on American citizens at home, instigation of coups in Iran and Guatemala, and expansion of MKULTRA mind control experiments for programming assassins, among many other reprehensible activities.  The Rockefeller efforts produced more results by the 1960s; in 1964, President Joao Goulart was overthrown in a coup after advocating the nationalization of Brazil's mineral resources and replaced with a military dictatorship.  The CIA's pointman on this coup was Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division J.C. King, who worked with Nelson at CIAA during the 1940s.  King, as CEO of the Amazon Natural Drug Company, scoured the rainforest for samples of poisons and hallucinogenic flora and fauna for potential profits in agricultural, medical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as specimens for MKULTRA mind control experiments.

In the wake of this coup, as well as instability in other Latin American countries that made them ripe for corporate profits, David Rockefeller stepped up his leadership.  In 1965, he became chairman of the finance committee for the National Committee for the Alliance for Progress, chairman of Business Group on Latin America and the International Executive Services Committee.  After reporting to President Johnson on his trip to Rio to understand the financial needs of the Brazilian junta's development plans, Johnson appointed David in April 1965 to a special review panel on AID (which often fronts CIA activities) called the General Advisory Committee on Foreign Assistance Programs.  This AID review panel gave the Rockefellers strong influence on policy deliberations, along with David's founding of the Council of the Americas, which united more than 200 corporations with more than 80% of U.S. investments in Latin America into a common business front.  David used the CFR's influential magazine Foreign Affairs to explain what was happening: the "emphasis on economic development" was restoring the confidence of companies considering investments in Latin America through the removal of tariff protections for local industries and agriculture replaced with free trade in a hemispheric community.  Free trade would spur "modernization, diversification and expansion of agriculture" based not on redistribution of land to the peasants who worked it, but on the transformation of landed estates into capital intensive commercial farms using modern machinery and fertilizers for purposes such as a "scientific program of seeding, feeding and breeding" cattle.

So what was the end result of all this "development"?  One result was genocide.  More than $62 million worth of Indian property were stolen throughout the decade of the 1960s.  Attacks by outsiders using everything from poisoned food to clothing infected with smallpox resulted in deaths of men, women, and children ranging anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000.  Another result that continues to this day is the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.  This ongoing destruction, which is visible from space, is destroying the origin of 25% of all pharmaceuticals that benefit the world, as well as much of the world's species of plants and animals and whole groups of people.  To understand the full importance of this, I'll quote from Thy Will Be Done on page 822-823:

The source of much of the world's oxygen lies within the 1 million square miles of the Amazon basin: almost two-thirds of the trees on the planet.  Yet, despite this role as as the lung of the earth, much of the Amazon rain forest is being burned down and turned into the source of dangerous increases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  In 1992 Canadian investigators reported that Brazil's rain forest alone was being burned at a rate of an acre every minute; every thirty seconds, an area the size of a football field was being destroyed by fire; every year, the equivalent of one-half the size of California was being devoured by flames.

Whatever the actual rate of destruction, most observers agree that the gases released into the upper atmosphere are creating a greenhouse effect, allowing the sun's rays to enter and preventing heating from escaping.  Soil protected for centuries by the forest's 200-foot-high canopy is now exposed to the sun and increasing doses of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.  Its fertility has declined, often leaving a sun-baked wasteland and prompting still further slashing and burning of virgin forest.  Fortunes are being made, but not by small farmers or would-be settlers.

That was written in the 90s.  How are things 20 years later?  The Amazon rainforest has degraded to the point where it is losing the ability to regulate the climate.  Depending on which study you consult, "the lung of the earth" may only be around for a matter of decades, not centuries.

Whoever said "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" really had no idea how destructive that path could be until Rockefeller Road was paved.

*Footnote: Not only do I have admiration for Charlotte Dennett for the wonderful book she wrote, but also for being the only nominee to date to run for public office with the platform of prosecuting the Bush administration for murder as detailed by the late great Vincent Bugliosi in his book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder when she ran for Attorney General in the state of Vermont in 2008.  As I wrote in a previous blog entry, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bugliosi and receiving his autograph on my copy of that book.  I know it must have troubled him that more public officials weren't taking that template that he crafted and running with it.  That Charlotte Dennett wasn't elected is a loss of justice for everyone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Is this the best we can do?!"

"Is this the best we can do? ...  If this is the best we can do? Then our best isn't good enough and we have to ask some hard questions about our political system."

While this quote from former Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich is specifically referring to the debate over the creation of Obamacare, I find it a very pertinent question to ask as we see preparations unfold for the 2016 Presidential Election.  I'm looking at a range of potential and declared candidates for the upcoming race and despite the vast quantity, I'm finding a dearth of quality.  The measure of quality is something I base not just on what they say, not just on what they do, but also how they gather support.  Kucinich is a perfect example of this.  As a Congressman, I love everything that he said.  In that same capacity, I love almost everything that he did.  But as a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, he did a terrible job gathering support for his campaign.  Sad to see a nice guy fall short, but that's the reality of the cold mean world of politics.

Let's start with the Democrats, or in the case of 2016, Democrat.  That is the pitiful reality at play today.  Sure, it's fun to cheer the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders.  It's fun to think that he might really present a "challenge" to the nomination, that in the course of inevitably debating Hillary Clinton during the primaries that he might "push her to the left", or whatever meme you want to push pretending that Sanders' candidacy has viability.  But that's all it amounts to: pretending.  Barring some unforeseen calamity equivalent to the 2008 Economic Meltdown, this is not a 'change' election, aside from the obvious term limits.  And socialism is not the new black.  Sanders, in terms of the Democratic nomination for president, is in the same camp as Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee and anyone else who wants to throw their hat in the ring: next in line in case Hillary Clinton is photographed abusing an endangered species or in bed with anyone other than Bill.

That's the reality for the Democratic primary season - there is no serious challenger capable of unseating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination except Hillary Clinton.  Any "challenge" to her nomination is in name only.  Pardon my lack of enthusiasm, but I'm just not excited that a candidate who voted for the Iraq quagmire we're still embroiled in after 12 years, who hires a former Monsanto lobbyist to run her campaign, and who refuses to take a public stand on Keystone XL is the best we can do.  But listen to how money talks: Clinton is planning on raising $200-300 million for the Super PACs that back her.  There simply is no other potential nominee on her side of the aisle that even comes close to her numbers.

What prompted her to do this is that on the other side of the aisle the fundraising is just as blatantly aggressive, primarily from Jeb Bush.  Yep, that's reason number two why I'm throwing my hands in the air echoing the Kucinich complaint.  Really?!  Reveling in 90s nostalgia can't just be limited to reviving The X-Files and Twin Peaks, we have to have another Clinton-Bush presidential showdown?!  Sure, the ideologues on the right can pretend that their commitment to 'purity' will win the day and put Ted Cruz or some other bottom-feeding troglodyte in power, but we all know the truth is that money talks and bullshit walks.  The Bush family and money go together like the CIA and plausible deniability.  (Actually, all four things go together, don't they?)  Jeb already has decided to let his Super PAC run his campaign.  Though he has refused to release the numbers on his record-setting fundraising, it's impressive enough that he has instructed his donors not to donate more than $1 million, presumably so they'll have more to give deeper into the campaign.  All this from someone who still hasn't declared his official candidacy.

Plus, this is all a warm-up to the real money yet to be laid out.  Not the million dollar contributors, the billion dollar contributors.  Bush is reported to have "impressed" casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.  Adelson is one of the GOP's wealthiest donors with a net worth of $27.8 billion.  But as far as combined wealth is concerned, nobody beats the Koch brothers.  David Koch and his brother Charles are worth $42.8 billion according to Forbes, though Bloomberg estimates their combined wealth at $100 billion.  So when the Koch brothers say they are hoping to raise $1 billion for their favorite Republican candidates, that may only represent 1 percent of their total net worth.  So congratulations to for publishing one of the most honest headlines I've seen about the electoral process in years:

Koch brothers will offer audition to Jeb Bush

Charles and David Koch are considering throwing their massive wealth and sophisticated organization into the Republican presidential primary for the first time, a potentially game-changing boost that could make even a second-tier candidate instantly viable.

In another surprise, a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz debated at the Koch network’s winter seminar in January, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a separate appearance. Those were the candidates who appeared to have a chance at the Koch blessing, and attendees said Rubio seemed to win that round.

But those four — plus Jeb – will be invited to the Kochs’ summer conference, the aide said. Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner. Other candidates, perhaps Rick Perry or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, may also get invitations.

That's the slimy reality concerning the wealthiest .01 percent: they run this country.  Anyone who wants to be President must pass their audition!  Maybe Jeb won't pass the audition.  Aside from his recent ridiculous flub on the question of the Iraq war, aside from his prior membership in the group that originated the phrase "New Pearl Harbor", the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), where he supported a call for "bioweapons that can 'target' specific a politically useful tool" (thanks to temp-monitor at RI for that find), aside from appearing to be even deeper in denial about climate change than his brother George W., there is the question of his involvement in narcotics trafficking.  There is the recent news of Jeb's four mysterious companies that all share the same address, yet have never done any known business.  While that shady story is not definitive proof, it takes on sinister connotations in light of the claim that Jeb Bush chaired a meeting attended by Iran/contra conspirators Dewey Clarridge, Richard Secord and Oliver North discussing the assassination of CIA drug smuggler Barry Seal five months before he was assassinated.  Then there's that other nagging question Jeff Wells asked: why did Jeb Bush and federal agents seize records from Huffman Aviation, the Florida flight school of Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers owned by a man whose Learjet was seized with over 30 pounds of heroin in July 2000, and fly away on a C-130 cargo plane at 2AM on 9/12/01?  What happened to those records?  And how did Jeb know where to look less than 24 hours after the attacks?!

Then again, I'm sure the ultra-wealthy industrialists who run this country already know the answers to those questions and wouldn't bother to put Jeb through the sort of inaugural christening that Bill Hicks described over 20 years ago.  Jeb already knows his agenda - just look at the foreign policy advisor team he has already compiled.  You think that brood of vipers won't be waiting in the wings even if Jeb doesn't win the nomination?!  The news isn't that the fix is in, it's been in - and not enough people care to put a stop to what ails us.  It's an overall national apathy that Sibel Edmonds has spelled out in grueling detail.  We know the "independent" 9/11 Commission was a farce - commissioners Charles Kean and Lee Hamilton wrote a book where they admitted that Pentagon officials were dishonest during their hearing - and nothing is done.  The head of the FBI's anthrax investigation said the whole thing was a sham - and I hear crickets chirping.  Our public officials are bought and sold before their names are even printed on our ballots - and we think calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United will make a difference?!  All Citizens United has done is taken a process that normally took in the shadows, behind the billowy curtains of Oz, and rubbed it in our faces.  Why?  Because it's easier and because, post 9/11, post Patriot Act, they know they can get away with it.

Focusing on Citizens United ignores the fact that money has always found a way to get their interests represented by the government.  It's obvious, I've said it umpteen times on this blog, but I'll say it again: until you change the way money works, you change nothing.  So why don't we?  Why don't we change the way money works so that, among other things, we can actually have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people?  Well, aside from all the examples of apathy I listed above, I'll leave it to George Carlin to explain.  His explanation was made almost 20 years ago, but is still timely as it gives a pertinent answer to Dennis Kucinich's question:

“Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.”

So keep staring at that monitor, folks.  You'll see another election.  You'll see another war.  You'll see another piece of your Social Security stripped away.  You'll see another piece of your civil rights stripped away.  Because until the lights go out, until our cars don't run, until our climate starts cooking our farmlands to the point we can't grow food for first world citizens, that's exactly where we'll collectively stay.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reviewing Sibel Edmonds: The Lone Gladio

Years before I began this blog, I had been following Sibel Edmonds' story for clues about what larger, darker truths would be revealed.  From the 60 Minutes story of her FBI whistleblowing to the gagging by Attorney General John Ashcroft, the State Secrets Privilege Gallery and sworn testimony in Schmidt v. Krikorian, the story kept getting more vast and labyrinthian.  But of all the stories that Sibel Edmonds' time as an FBI translator bore witness to, the story that fascinated me the most concerned what she learned about 9/11.  Most of this was detailed in her book Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, an autobiography of her experience with the FBI.  But she has always been meticulous about strictly stating the facts that she uncovered, without resorting to speculation about what those facts mean in the context of the larger question: how did 9/11 really go down?

She found the perfect venue for elaborating the details of how she thinks it all went down: a fictional novel.  The Lone Gladio is a spy thriller written by Sibel Edmonds that deals with her experiences in a fictional manner, but has multiple story lines that weave together in unexpected ways.  If I were to approach this as a regular review, I would give this my highest praise for being a genuine page turner, filled with memorable characters, exciting plot twists and riveting confrontations.  But rather than approach this as a review of just the book itself, I want to review this through the context of what I have learned about Sibel Edmonds' experience through her public revelations.  Specifically, I want to review portions of the book in the context of her revelations in 2013 on The Corbett Report about Gladio B, which I synopsized here.

As Sibel Edmonds alludes to in her interview on The Corbett Report, 9/11 was a Gladio B operation. While I employed my own hyperbole to describe her allusion that 9/11 was an Operation Gladio false flag operation on steroids, a more accurate description in light of what Edmonds has illustrated in The Lone Gladio is that 9/11 was a highly compartmentalized Gladio-within-Gladio operation.  Though there is a character in the novel based on Edmonds named Elsie Simon, the character who really does the most to expose the Gladio B network is Gregory McPhearson.  Also known as OG 68, his story begins on June 18 2001, working for "the company" in Azerbaijan.  Greg seems calm, cool and impenetrable, though when the target of the false flag terror operation he is working on is switched to a Moscow day care center to ensure Russian retaliation against the Chechens, he seems bothered by the possibility of messy, unanticipated consequences.  When we see him next, it is October 6, 2003, in Mui Ne, Vietnam.  While still outwardly Greg appears the same strong, cold operative, his inward calculations now seem focused against the company.  The reason is that since he knows Operation Gladio did 9/11, and he was excluded from involvement, he was considered by the top tier to be not suited or undetermined, and would have to eventually be eliminated.  Besides his own safety and security, he has another motive: he fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Mai.

Part of the fun for me in reading this book was deciphering who some of these people named in the book might be in real life and who some of the organizations named really are.  I find it interesting, especially after reading a different book that I hope to review later that addresses memetic propaganda, that Edmonds never refers to 9/11 as 9/11; throughout the book she refers to it as the "2001 attack."  The attack was carried out by "al-Hazar", obviously al-Qaeda.  Greg found out about it at Frankfurt Airport watching "BCB", or BBC.  She refers to it as "a tool of the company", as well as "NCN", or CNN, and "New York Corp", or New York Times.  As she writes on page 84, "The entire thing was a supreme cosmic joke.  Yes, he was deliberately placed outside the loop: before, during, and after the attack.  And why?  They knew he'd know, of course; it was Greg and the rest of the company who had created al-Hazar in the first place.  They created a brand and coined it with a name that started as a joke among company men, and somehow it had stuck."

Greg is confronted at his place in Vietnam by an operative begging him to negotiate with the CIA for his life after running afoul of the agency by taping a politician with prepubescent girls that the agency was trying to blackmail.  The politician, Donald Keller, seems to me like an improbable cross between Dennis Hastert and Henry Waxman, though with Edmonds' physical description of him and his arrogant protestation, "I am the WHIP.", I couldn't help be reminded of Newt Gingrich.  Greg rebuffs the operative, but keeps the DVD evidence of the politician.  Desperate to save his life, the operative follows Mai to a coffeehouse to tell her to try to convince Greg to help him.  But he is too late; they not only gun him down in the coffeehouse but kill Mai as well.

For Greg, taking out his woman gives him an even stronger motive to take down Gladio B: revenge.  This resolve only increases his methodical and calculated approach.  He kills the CIA agent who killed Mai, as well as the pimp responsible for the child prostitutes, in a ritualistic fashion designed to take suspicion off of him.  He then travels, posing as a French tourist, to Turkey to kill Mehmet Turkel, a former Turkish lieutenant general involved in narcotics trafficking for Gladio since the 1980s.  Based on what Edmonds elaborates on in the six part Gladio B series, I think Turkel is most likely Mehmet Ağar or possibly some Turkish general pissed off by the Hood Event like Hilmi Özkök.  Next on Greg's agenda is a trip to Brussels where he deftly carjacks a NATO Colonel, using his identity to sneak into NATO headquarters to kill two Gladio operatives and a State Department liaison named David Perleman.  I'm not sure who the Gladio operatives are, but I'm pretty sure the State Department guy is Marc Grossman or Richard Perle.  Then Greg flies off to Washington, D.C. to take care of things on the home front.

As Greg continues his Gladio takedown in the USA, his path crosses fatefully with Elsie Simon.  Like Edmonds herself, she is an FBI translator who faces termination when she uncovers criminal activity connected with the Gladio B network.  She finds classified documentation of David Perleman and other top government officials holding meetings with, among others, Turkel, Amin al-Zakiri, who as "leader of al-Hazar" is probably Osama bin Laden, and Yousef Mahmoud, who seems to be a cross between Ali Mohammed and Ayman al-Zawahiri.  Elsie tries to become a whistleblower, but unfortunately, the Congressperson she decides to blow the whistle to is none other than Donald Keller.  Unknown to her, Greg bugged Keller's office, so when he finds out that Elsie has scheduled a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) meeting with Keller's Chief of Staff, he views this complication as a threat to his plans and decides to neutralize her.

However, after tailing her and learning more about her, Greg decides to not only let Elsie live, but have her help him with his plans.   He even reveals personal information about himself to her and how he came to work for Operation Gladio on pages 244-245:

"I began with the army; Special Forces, and after that, DIA.  I have a solid education and a good set of language skills, like you.  That moved me to another unit: Joint CIA-Pentagon Operations.  A year later, I became one of the chosen ones for the company.  That's where I spent the last twenty years."

"The company?  But that's the agency - the CIA."

"Well, yes and no.  The company is a special operations unit made up of several units: the Pentagon, on the top; NATO, CIA, and MI6.  There are less than two hundred operatives in the company.  All divided into their own small units.  Separate pockets.  Rigidly compartmentalized.  The top tier, OGs one to ten, oversees the entire operation without ever coming into direct contact with the bottom units."

Elsie tilted her head to the left and began stroking the nape of her neck.  "OGs?"

Don't, Greg thought.  He looked into her eyes.  "Operation Gladio.  Are you familiar?"

After detailing how Gladio, which Elsie is aware of, morphed from Cold War false flag operations in Europe to Operation B, utilizing Mujahideen and other Islamic operatives, Greg directs Elsie to a safe motel where she can help him with two parts of his plan - publicizing Gladio B and its role in 9/11 and stopping a new terror attack about to happen in D.C.  As they take the steps necessary to accomplish this, Elsie learns more about what the Deep State really is.  For anyone who ever had any doubt that George Tenet knew what was coming down the pike on 9/11, this next passage from page 305-306 should erase all doubts:

Seizing the moment, she'd asked her first question. "How deep does it go, the 2001 attack?  Exactly how deep?  Do you know?"

He had hesitated before answering with a question.  "Not sure what you mean...remember what I told you about pockets?"

"Yes, about compartmentalization; but I know you know more.  You said Gladio, for example, has two or three operatives inside the bureau, never the director himself.  We identified two: Assistant Deputy Marshall and Drake; yet what about inside the agency?  How many, and how far up?"

She could hear him thinking; did he know?  "I would least a dozen.  A minimum of twelve OG operatives within the agency.  Unlike the FBI, the CIA director is directly involved.  I would say somewhere between OG ten and fifteen."

"How about the president?  Does it go up that high?"

She'd heard something like a laugh.  "No, it doesn't.  Presidents don't want to know.  They have a general idea but that's it.  No details."

"The president doesn't know about 2001?  That's impossible."

"I didn't say that, did I?  Look...they do the same as they do with people like Keller.  You can't be president without certain qualifications: criminal background, sex maniac, mafia connections, you name it.  Those ingredients are necessary for any viable presidential candidate.  Without them, they haven't a chance in hell..."

"So we're talking CIA and the Pentagon; then why did you rank the CIA director in the OG teens?"

"You're making a false assumption: that the absolute top must exist inside the government.  Not so.  There are others outside the government, and they are the ones on top.  They are the true power that controls the second tier: the government front system - because government is a front.  The CIA too sets up front companies; it's strikingly similar.  The real power - the Deep State, let's call it - is out and above the actual visible government."

She'd heard of the shadow government, but never from a source like this.  "Major companies?  The military-industrial complex?  Oil companies?  Is that what you're talking about?"

"Some of those; but maybe some others, who serve those companies under what they call their vision.  They see themselves as visionaries and consider themselves gods.  They analyze and set the agendas.  They have one foot in and one foot out, and appear to have every leader's ear.  You know them.  I believe they would be within the first ten OG ranking."

She had been quiet, thinking permanent war and infinite death.

"You get the gist.  This is what I meant by Gladio Gods, and what they consider collateral damage: a small price paid for their vision..."

She didn't need to ask any more questions.

She was ready.

Ready, willing, but are they successful?  I don't want to give away the ending of this book, (and believe me, I have left out a ton of details, including many important characters and plot lines) but I will say that if you're a fan of how Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds changed history for the sake of enacting a tasty revenge, you'll get a kick out of how Sibel Edmonds ties it all up at the end of The Lone Gladio.

If there's any criticism I have of this book, it's regarding the torture.  Not that I personally had any problem reading literary descriptions of torture, which Edmonds does get quite graphic about.  My issue is that it's become something of a cliche in popular entertainment for the protagonist to torture the antagonist as a crisis approaches and - almost without exception - the antagonist gives up intelligence that solves the crisis.  My understanding of reality is that rarely, if ever, has torture produced actionable intelligence to stop an impending terror attack.  It's not as cliched as, say, your average TV show; Edmonds does create an extenuating circumstance through which I could buy someone as high up the Gladio food chain as Yousef Mahmoud giving Greg the appropriate intel.  I also found it fascinating that through Yousef, we find out the 9/11 patsies didn't believe they were on a suicide mission but were part of a drill.  After reading how dubious the description of these patsies being "devout" was in Daniel Hopsicker's Welcome to Terrorland, this is yet another hypothesis Edmonds presents in The Lone Gladio with enough circumstantial evidence to qualify as a valid theory.  But getting back to the fictional construct, was torture really necessary to elicit this evidence?  Perhaps that question, however you answer it, is part of the conversation Edmonds is hoping to stimulate by writing this book.

Overall, I have to give this book a high recommendation both for being an extremely suspenseful spy thriller and for digging deeper into how 9/11 happened than any other work of fiction I can think of.  I wish my recommendation was enough to give it a wider audience.  I suppose it's too much to ask for Hollywood to grow a pair and produce a faithful movie adaptation.  But then again, I never thought we would see a movie about Gary Webb and that got made.  There's even a project in the works with Tom Cruise set to play Barry Seal

Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An American View of Greece Revisited

Almost five years ago, I interviewed my father and wrote a blog post regarding his experience of his most recent visit to Greece.  At the time, Greece was undergoing a strike where buses and trains had curtailed their services.  Economic growth had sputtered, debt had ballooned and unemployment had skyrocketed to double digits.  When I asked my Dad what he thought of James Howard Kunstler's insight that Greece might resort to communism, he responded, "As far as I'm concerned, they're really close to it, they're crazy over there."

Fast forward to today.  My father is no longer with us, passing away almost four years ago, but almost all the problems that plagued Greece then have magnified and multiplied.  Unemployment is now at 25%, as bad as it was in America during the height of the Great Depression.  Instead of communism, the extremist threat on the rise is from the far-right in the form of the fascist Golden Dawn, which took third place in parliamentary elections earlier this year.  But the biggest immediate problem is the debt.  To address the debt crisis, there had been a debt restructuring program set up by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Eurozone countries and the European Central Bank (ECB) which was initiated around the time I wrote my original post.  When the first restructuring obviously wasn't working, a second restructuring which carried over the bailout of the first one was ratified by all parties in February 2012.  But with the January election which brought the left wing Syriza Party to power, a new coalition government declared the old bailout agreements cancelled.  They were given until May 31 to negotiate with creditors.

How will this all play out?  The current outlook isn't very positive:

Greece is probably already defaulting on its debt. Here’s why

Avoiding a ‘hard’ default doesn’t rule out the softer forms, and there seems little reason to suppose that they won’t become visible soon.

The bad news is that Greece is already (probably) defaulting.

The good news is that it’s not going to be on you, dear taxpayer (and indirect contributor to the International Monetary Fund).

After a week of alarms, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis promised IMF head Christine Lagarde at the weekend (and subsequently Treasury under-secretary Nathan Sheets) that Greece won’t default on a €450 million (roughly $490) payment to the IMF on Thursday.

But avoiding a ‘hard’ default doesn’t rule out the softer forms, and there seems little reason to suppose that they won’t become visible very quickly now. Tax receipts are falling well behind schedule, the government is making ever-more aggressive raids on whatever cash is left in public-sector entities such as the state pension fund, and the European Central Bank is still refusing to let Greek banks lend more to the government in the form of Treasury bills. As such, the only way to cover a widening funding gap will be to default on other commitments — to pensioners, public employees, suppliers of goods, and services to the government. In short, all those who don’t hold the immediate power of life or death over the country and its banking system.

In what is likely to be a last throw of the dice, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to visit Moscow on Wednesday to see if Greece’s crucial veto rights over European Union sanctions on Russia can be parleyed into some hard cash in the short term.

He’s likely to be disappointed, because President Vladimir Putin has already seen his foreign exchange reserves fall by over a quarter in the last year, and he’s in no hurry to take on such an obviously acute credit risk, especially when his immediate entourage is telling him that the same reserves are needed to dig Russia’s own economy out of the hole his policies have left it in.


If Greece defaults, then what?  Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan recently weighed in on how he foresees the shape of things to come.

Alan Greenspan: The euro is doomed

alan greenspan

Alan Greenspan has harsh words for Greece: hit the road jack.

The former Federal Reserve Chairman told the BBC that Greece's best course of action is to leave the Eurozone. But Greenspan didn't stop there. He predicts Greece's exit is the beginning of the end for the euro.

"Short of a political union, I find it very difficult to foresee the euro holding together in its current form," Greenspan told the BBC's Mark Mardell on Sunday.

Greenspan went as far as to say the world would be better off without the euro. He says the currency union is too complex unless Europe decides to have one unified governing body to call all the shots.

Greece is a good example of the uneasy strain of the currency union. The country is mired in debt that it can't figure out how to pay back. The Greek people are so fed up with all the cutback measures imposed by Eurozone leaders that they recently elected a new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, who campaigned on a platform of fighting back.

"I don't see it being resolved without Greece leaving the Eurozone," Greenspan said. "It's just a matter of time before everyone recognizes that parting is the best strategy."

Tspiras and European leaders are in ongoing talks about Greece's bailout for the rest of 2015. There's not a lot of optimism about a good solution. Greece's stock market is tanking again and dragging down much of Europe with it.

More headwinds for the euro: Greenspan never liked the idea of the euro to begin with. When European leaders were negotiating the Euro in the mid-1990s, the desire for unity after two World Wars masked the difficulty of an economic tie, he says.

"Fundamentally, what clearly was a driving force was the fact that we had two World Wars," says Greenspan. The Euro, "was a geopolitical decision with economic wrappings."

When asked if it would be a catastrophe for the global economy if the euro broke up, Greenspan said no.

"I think the system would function. Holding the system together is putting strains on everybody," he predicted.

While it remains to be seen if Greenspan is correct about Greece leaving the Eurozone and the ultimate demise of the Euro, I find it hard to believe that such an event would not have catastrophic implications for the world.  Perhaps Greenspan doesn't view another huge global recession qualifying as a catastrophe.  Or perhaps he's not thinking clearly through the implications that if the desire to create the Eurozone in the first place was born out of the horror of two world wars, what might the geopolitical implications be in Europe if you destroyed that unifying force?

The elephant in the room where these implications are concerned is Germany.  National Geographic recently had a great article exploring the current relationship between Greece and Germany.  The short version is while Germany has the appearance of the strongest economy in the Eurozone, because they are tied to Greece through their currency, the bailout may have the effect of targeting the economic holes in Germany's armor and dragging them down with Greece.  What the article doesn't explore is how this strained relationship might be exacerbated if Greece defaults.  If, after seven years of a crippling depression, the people of Greece have become so desperate that the rhetoric of a neo-Nazi party became appealing enough for them to finish third in a snap election, could we expect a similar or worse reaction in the birthplace of the Nazis if the collapse of the Euro brought the German economy to its knees?

Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn

German neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD)

In addition to reflecting on the death of my father, I'm also reflecting on the suicide of Michael C. Ruppert almost one year ago.  When interviewed for the documentary Collapse in 2009, he described the events unfolding in Greece as a "revolution."  As the situation threatens to grow out of control, I wonder how different things might be if Greece took his advice into account as he wrote in Crossing the Rubicon on page 593: "If you decide that you want to change things, I am telling you right now that you will change nothing until you change the way money works."  Haggling with the Troika (IMF, ECB and the European Commission) over how much debt to pay and which services to cut changes nothing.  Zigzagging from the far left to the far right changes nothing.  The only way for the Greeks to truly change their circumstances is to change the way money works.  That goes beyond the name of their currency, though their exit from the euro may be an inevitability.  It means switching from the pyramid scheme of fiat currency, fractional reserve banking and compound interest where there can be no escape from debt because under the current paradigm, money is debt.

Whether they choose to do that by having a currency rooted in energy credits, as Ruppert advocated, or having a currency rigidly tied to the gold standard; I'm not sure what would be best for them, but it should be their choice.  My hope is that the people of Greece will remain positively focused on searching for sustainable solutions.  Because if they lose focus in the search for solutions, my fear is that the dark undercurrent of fascism will become the mainstream.  The search for solutions will be subsumed by the search for scapegoats.