Friday, December 19, 2014

Choose It or Lose It

I've recently been going on a nostalgia trip through my library.  This past summer and fall, I re-read my entire collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books from my childhood.  A sad synchronicity with this journey down memory lane occurred last month:

R.A. Montgomery, 78, Dies; Published Choose Your Own Adventure Series

From the picture in the article above, I see at least 10 titles that I own.   I first got into Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was around 9 or 10 years old, so sometime in 1982 or 1983.  The first one I bought was the 14th book in the series, "The Forbidden Castle."  In that story, you journey into the Cave of Time, which takes you back to the Middle Ages where you encounter a couple of knights who reveal a riddle about a forbidden castle.  You spend the rest of the story either trying to solve the riddle or trying to avoid it, depending on your choices.

The excitement of being able to choose different story lines within the same book got me hooked on this series.  I particularly liked the element of time travel and was curious to read the first book in the series, "The Cave of Time."  This was one of my favorite books in the series, where different corridors in the cave would lead you to different time periods.  Apparently, it was a favorite among many of the fans.  Not only was "The Forbidden Castle" an unofficial sequel, but when the series became so popular that they got up to 50 titles, they decided to make the 50th book "Return to the Cave of Time."

Looking back on the series with the passage of 30+ years in some cases, I became aware of a barely perceptible shift in the narrative tone from the first book to the 50th that coincided with the shift in the political tone in America during that period of time.  "The Cave of Time" was written, or at least the first edition was published, in 1979.  While there are 40 possible endings, there were a couple that stood out for their presentation of a hopeful future.  One occurs in which you encounter a girl named Louisa from the year 2022.  She tells you that since 1997, they've allowed no new roads to be built, only bike trails.  The country she describes is filled with bike trails that run through forests and plains instead of alongside buses and trucks.  There's even hostels for bikers paid for by taxes on gasoline.  When you eventually get back to your time (1979), you both see a billboard that says, "CADILLAC - the Car of the Year, every Year!"  Louisa's response is, "What's a Cadillac?"  The second story line illustrating a future scenario occurs in the year 3742.  Through the Cave of Time, you have entered a society that is a sort of paradise.  Computers do everything for humans, so there is no need to work and the world is at peace.  You spend all your time in your beautiful bedroom with a choice of over 10,000 movies.  (Netflix Utopia?)  But when you venture out of your place for human interaction, none of the people you meet are very interesting.  You settle into your new life watching the greatest movies of all time with the awareness of one slightly disturbing thing: no one has made any new movies in the last 300 years.

The 50th book, "Return to the Cave of Time", was initially published in November 1985.  I believe I received a copy for Christmas that year.  It was "morning in America", the first year of the second term for President Reagan.  I've written before about the probability of an October Surprise that decided the 1980 election, but aside from the issue of Iran, voters were at a crossroads with an even bigger issue in terms of our overall well-being: the Carbon Crisis.  The two choices, Reagan and Carter, represented diametrically opposed viewpoints where energy and the environment were concerned.  This opposition was brilliantly expressed in a satirical manner by The Onion:

Campaign '80
Which message will resonate with voters?
"Let's talk better mileage"
- Jimmy Carter
"Kill the Bastards"
- Ronald Reagan
Responding to a question about America's reliance on fuel from OPEC nations, President Carter said "We have an opportunity to use American technology and know-how to develop our own alternate, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, freeing us from reliance on foreign oil. This is sound policy, not just for America, but for Planet Earth". 

Republican challenger Ronald Reagan said "Mr Carter is missing one very important point. That is, if American is to continue to prosper in the 1980s and beyond, we must join together and kill the bastards. Kill them! Kill them!"

Since it was clear by 1985 which message resonated with voters, Edward Packard, who wrote all the Cave of Time books in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, reflected the diminished importance of protecting the environment in favor of consuming our way to prosperity with increased reliance on the Military-Industrial Complex in one of the future scenarios of "Return to the Cave of Time."  To describe this scenario as dystopic is an understatement.  You are on a planet Earth filled with the grey clouds of a greenhouse effect gone wild.  There is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the oxygen content is only 2.3 percent.  You must wear an oxygen-generating helmet at all times.  What little hope exists for the planet consists of a team of alien custodians from a group called the Planetary Council who have improved the planet's environment tenfold "during the past few hundred thousand years" by their own account.  You might even get to witness their most recent accomplishment: rain, albeit in a slicker, greasier form.  The smartest choice, at this point, is to return to the Cave of Time and hope to escape to a time before the planet went to hell in a hand-basket.

After revisiting the halcyon days of childhood, I couldn't help wondering if there were books being written today in that style, but for adults who grew up on the Choose Your Own Adventure thrill.  I believe that I have found a book that not only captures that style, wit and adventure, along with a knowing wink to the adults who know where it's coming from, but also appeals to my own political interests of investigating conspiracy.  It is a Lose Your Own Adventure book, a parody of the original from a smart-ass company that calls itself Despair, Inc.

Lose Your Own Adventure #1 | by Despair, Inc.
It was supposed to be a happy occasion- a visit to your hometown by the President of the United States. But no sooner had he arrived than he was gunned down in cold blood! You're a brilliant kid detective on your toughest case ever! Your Dad, the Chief of Police, has a suspect in custody, a Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald. But is he really the assassin? You're not so sure- since the deeper you look, the more it seems like everyone from the Mafia, the Cubans, and the Military-Industrial Complex wanted him dead! And they might not be finished!
How will you fail to solve this mystery? If you question the suspect in custody, turn to page 4. If you investigate the crime scene first, turn to page 12. Or if you follow-up on a tip from the mysterious Dr. Vivalzi, turn to page 21.
Retro-Sized Edition
4.1875" x 7"
$12Buy 3+ save 33%, 6+ save 40%, 10+ save 50%
Deluxe-Sized Edition
5.38" x 9" | 25% Bigger!
$18Buy 3+ save 33%, 6+ save 40%, 10+ save 50%
Product Details
Author: Justin Sewell
Publication date: 7/21/13
Pages: 190
Over 30 unique endings!
Over 70 retro Illustrations!
Rave Reviews!

Hint to my relatives reading this: my birthday is coming soon and though I haven't read this yet, I think it would make a perfect gift for me!  To everyone else reading this, I wish you a happy holiday season.  I recommend celebrating it by seeing The Interview, which someone told me was a great film and that Seth Rogen and James Flacco are a couple of great guys.  'Tis the season!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Degree Absolute and the JFK Assassination Conspiracy

Having recently been turned on to the joys of internet TV, I spent the early part of autumn with my family watching The Prisoner on Crackle.  This is a British TV series that ran just one season, 17 episodes from 1967-68, but I've had a number of people recommend it over the years.  Now that I've seen every episode from start to finish, I understand why it got so many raves.  It was groundbreaking, truly ahead of its time, not just for its presentation but also its content.  The presentation has its origins in the creator and star (and producer, director and writer of many of the series episodes, often under an alias) Patrick McGoohan, who had risen to fame from 1960-62 for his role as John Drake in Danger Man, playing a secret agent.  Three years later, the series was revamped as Secret Agent.  While this was one of the first British TV series to gain fame in the United States, by 1966, McGoohan yearned for something a little different.

The Prisoner, like Danger Man, has a British secret agent played by McGoohan as the lead character.  This secret agent (there is much debate among fans as to whether it is the same character in both series or not) abruptly turns in his resignation.  However, the agency he works for is not so eager to accept his resignation.  While packing his bags in preparation for departure, his home is gassed and McGoohan passes out.  When he comes to, his home seems just as it was, completely undisturbed.  When he opens the window, he is startled to discover that instead of London skyscrapers, he has the view of a garden.  Upon further investigation, he finds he is in a secluded coastal place called The Village where everyone is either a prisoner or a warden, but there are no identities; everyone is assigned a number.  McGoohan is assigned Number Six (which he resists proclaiming, "I am not a number!  I am a free man!") and is constantly kept under surveillance by Number Two.  In almost every episode, Number Two is replaced by a "new Number Two", either to confuse Number Six or because the 'old' Number Two was outsmarted by Number Six.

I loved every episode from the pilot to the finale, even the episode set in the Wild West, which actually fit into the pattern of interrogation perfectly.  My favorite episode was the penultimate titled Once Upon a Time.  It begins with Leo McKern, who had previously played Number Two in the second episode of the series, The Chimes of Big Ben, returning to the role for one last shot at breaking Number Six.  He asks on the phone to his superior and gets approval to use "Degree Absolute" on Number Six.  Degree Absolute is an extreme form of regressive therapy in which Number Two guides Number Six, who has mentally regressed to a child, through Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man in the hopes of discovering, as every Number Two throughout the series has attempted, why Number Six resigned.  Throughout these seven ages, Number Two conducts tests in which he plays an authority figure and Number Six must react in a subordinate role.  However, Number Six turns the tables eventually locking Number Two in a room for torment as time for the session runs out.  Number Two collapses, apparently dead, and when the Supervisor played by Peter Swanwick enters to ask what Number Six wants, he agrees to give Number Six an audience with the figure he's been asking to confront ever since his imprisonment in The Village: the elusive Number One.

What makes this episode both ahead of its time and incredibly relevant to today is in illustrating how the combination of torture and drugs have been used in the pursuit of mind control.  I've written previously on this blog about the subject of MK-ULTRA, the CIA mind control program conducted in secret during the 1950s.  Yet knowledge of this classified program did not become public until the 1970s.  So in that regard, McGoohan seems to be extremely prescient (or extremely connected) in his enactment of mind control techniques.  As for contemporary relevance, one need only read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine to understand that these same techniques have become the favored method of pressure on "enemy combatants" kept prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.  Not only has this "enhanced interrogation" been applied to foreign detainees, but in the case of Bradley Manning we have an American citizen whose lawyers alleged that while in solitary confinement at Fort Quantico, Manning was alternately kept naked and forced to sleep in a straitjacket, while being "drugged heavily with antidepressants."  Whatever you may think of what Edward Snowden did with his subsequent leak, in the wake of these allegations, can you blame him for escaping from the USA and preferring to spend the rest of his life in exile?

But I digress.  We're approaching another anniversary where JFK's assassins have escaped justice.  Strangely enough, there is an incident where an intelligence operative who sought to expose part of the charade erected by the conspirators faced his own Degree Absolute.

In January 1964, Yuri Nosenko, a KGB agent who had been selling secrets to the CIA while stationed in Geneva since 1962, asked to defect to the United States because he feared Moscow was aware of his relationship to US intelligence.  While one of his CIA handlers George Kisevalter tried to talk him into remaining in place since he was Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko's "watchdog", Nosenko reminded him that he had been in charge of recruiting Americans in Moscow and that he had detailed knowledge of the KGB's relationship to Lee Harvey Oswald during the time Oswald was in the Soviet Union.  The CIA brought Nosenko to the US, much to the consternation of James Jesus Angleton.  As chief of the CIA's Counterintelligence Staff, Angleton was convinced Nosenko was a fake defector.  According to Joseph Trento's The Secret History of the CIA, Angleton's favored defector Anatoly Golitsyn had convinced him that the KGB would send false defectors for the "fools at the CIA" to discredit him.  Angleton then uncovered tiny holes in Nosenko's story: he lied about his rank to inflate his status, plus the NSA was unable to intercept a recall message from Moscow.  As Trento writes on page 285-286:

It was this last bit of evidence that Angleton used to convince Richard Helms and others in the CIA hierarchy that Nosenko should be incarcerated until his reliability could be determined.

At Camp Peary, the CIA's training base for new agents outside Williamsburg, Virginia, construction began on a tiny cement-block house for Nosenko.  Under the supervision of the Office of Security and Pete Bagley from the SR Division, Nosenko was incarcerated under harsh conditions.  He was not permitted outside at night because the CIA feared that, with his naval training, he would be able to look at the stars and figure out where he was.  Nosenko, then 36, spent the next three years being sweated by experts from the Office of Security.  Everything he said, every answer he gave, was picked apart.

For George Kisevalter and others in the Soviet Division, the treatment of Nosenko was shameful.  "What he [Angleton} had done to Nosenko," said Kisevalter, "is a crime beyond anything that we, as Americans would stand for ... to torture a person for nothing."  To Kisevalter, the irony of the United States using Soviet methods to force a confession that never came was something he could never forgive.

The irony gets even thicker when we discover one page later that Nosenko was able to finger a KGB agent that Golitsyn was unable to, which Golitsyn then proceeded to resell as new information to British intelligence.  How bad was the torture?  In his book Plausible Denial, Mark Lane writes, "during the process many of his teeth were knocked out."  Former director of the CIA Stansfield Turner goes into more details about Nosenko in his book Secrecy and Democracy, which like The Prisoner (and allegedly Bradley Manning) also, not surprisingly, includes Nosenko being drugged against his will:

"His prison cell was concrete, about eight feet square, with no windows, only an opening with steel bars in the top half of the door.  A single steel bed with a mattress but no pillow or sheets and an occasional blanket were the only furnishings.  From time to time he was allowed to go outside into a small compound surrounded by walls so high that he could see only the sky.  His clothing was inadequate for the Virginia winters.  He was denied toothpaste and a toothbrush and was permitted to shave and shower only once a week.  During the entire period he was administered one or more of four drugs on seventeen occasions.  Doctors periodically also pressured him psychologically."

What exactly was the nature of the information Nosenko had on Oswald that resulted in his incarceration and torture?  It was that Oswald was definitely not a KGB agent.  This fact ran contrary to the story the CIA, particularly Angleton, was trying to push in getting the Warren Commission to close the case and cover up the truth about the JFK assassination.  The CIA story revolved around Oswald's alleged visit to Mexico City in September through October 1963.  The objective of the story was to show that when Oswald went to the Soviet Embassy there, he met with Valery Kostikov, a KGB operative responsible for planning assassinations in the Americas.  Doing so would insure that any investigation uncovering this information would risk starting a World War III nuclear holocaust if made public, thus necessitating a cover-up.  One problem negating the veracity of this scenario: the phone call in which Oswald allegedly spoke of meeting with Kostikov was proved by the FBI the day after JFK was killed to be someone impersonating Oswald.  We know this because J. Edgar Hoover told President Johnson this in a phone call on November 23, 1963:

jeh (cont.) accommodation will be mad of that He did carry some kind of a package down there which could have bean the gun yesterday morning in the car Nome of us can swear to that But the important thing 
at the time is that the location of the purchase of the gun by a money order apparettly to the Slain Gun Company in Chicago we were able to establish that last night lbj Have you established any more about 
the visit to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico in September jeh No that's one angle that's very confusing for this reason We have up her the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy using 
Oswald same That picture and the taps do not correspond to this man's voice nor to his appearance In other words it appears that thus is a atcond person who was at the Soviet Embassy down there We do have 
a copy of a latter which was written by Oswald to the Soviet Embassy here in Washington inquiring as well as complaining about the harratsmsat of his wit and the questioning of his wife by the FBI Now of course 
that letter information wa process all mail that goes to the Soviet Embassy - it's a very secret operation No mail is delive the Embassy without being sasardned and ops vs so that we know what they receive Such a 
latter wa Iliq1tfiFmhassy bythis fellow Oswald making a oo bsrrassed and being quoatioaed Tb case as it stands now isn"t strong enough to be able to get a conviction Then there is !■s angle...I disk we have a very very 
close plan Now if we can identify this asap who is at the Mexican Embassy at - the Soviet Embassy in Mezdco Qty the Embassy is Mexico Qty -• this man • iwald has still denied everything He doesn't know 
anything about anything but the gun thing of course is a definite trend lbj It definitely established that he -• the same gun killed the policeman jab That is an entirely different gas We also have that gun That was 
a revolver

So who was impersonating Oswald?  This question, along with other inconvenient details, were purposely swept under the rug by the Warren Commission.  LBJ appointed the Warren Commission for the express purpose of avoiding the prospect of World War III and assuring the public that Oswald acted alone, Ruby acted alone, move along, nothing more to see.  Once again, we have a transcript of a phone call as proof, this time between LBJ and Senator Richard Russell, who LBJ appointed to the Warren Commission.  In this conversation, LBJ explains that playing the World War III trump card is how he got Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had previously turned down the request, to head the Commission:

r -6 Now No. that's true I've bothered you more and made you eta spend more hours with me telling me what's right and wrong and.. than anybody except my mother.. DR I've done more than anybody wants to do... 
LBJ No.. No..I never made you do anything that was wrong. I never.. DR I didn't say wrong...I said more things I didn't want to do.. but Bobby and Ernie are two of the most loyal friends you'vIA earth.. they 
both called me up and said you've just got to do whatever Mr Johnson says. LBJ No...I don't want you to do that .I just want to counsel with you and I just want your judgment and your wisdom ...cause 
I haven't got any Daddy and you're going to be it. and you just forget it. DR Well Mr President you know..I think you know me LBJ I do .I do .I know you for your country and period Now 
you just get ready to tni do this and you're my man on there .. DR Well if you hadn't announced it. I would absolutely be. LBJ No. you wouldn't. no you wouldn't. DR Yes I would.. yes I would. 
LBJ I told Warren.. Warren told me he wouldn't do it under any circumstances .. didn't think the Supreme Court Justice ought to go on  .wouldn't have any thing to do with it .he said a man that criticised 
this fellow that went on the Nuremberg trial . Jackson.. he told me what he thought about Goldberg ...he thought he was terrible.. and I said let me read you one report. and I just pied up one report and 
read it to him.. and I said O,K   there's s million Americans involved here.. DR Well you see I may be totally wrong ...I think Mr Warren would serve on anything you'd give xhim any publitity on.. LBJ Well 
you want me to tell you the truth You know what happened Bobby and them went up to see him today and he turned them down cold and said NO Two hoursi later I called him and ordered him down 
here and he didn't want to come I insisted he come. came down here and told me No twice and I just pulled out what Hoover told me about a little incident in Mexico City and I say now I 
don't want Mr Kruschev to be told tomorrow and be testifying before a camera that he killed this fellow . and that Castro killed him and all I want you to do is look at the facts and bring in 
any other facts you want in here and determined who killed the President and I think you can put on your uniform of World War I .fat as you are.. and do anything you could to save one American life 
  and I'm surprised that you sad the Chief justice of the U S would turn me down. And he stalked crying and said well I won't turn you down..1111 just do whatever you say. but he turned the 
General down.. DR Well you ought not to be so persuasive. LBJ Well I think I ought to  DR I think you did wrong in getting Warren and I know damned well you did wrong Copy LBJ Library

Do you notice any contradiction within the chronology?  Why would President Johnson be warning Senator Russell and Chief Justice Warren about the specter of World War III and 40 million Americans dead in an hour if KGB complicity in the JFK assassination were made public on November 29 when J. Edgar Hoover told him on November 23 that the damning phone call came from an Oswald impersonator?  John Newman examines this conundrum in his book Oswald and the CIA and what that implies on page 633:

There was a darker purpose, however, for the suppression of the tapes.  As long as the tapes survived, the story in them was undermined by the fact that Oswald's voice was not on them.  The cover-up of the Mexico tapes began three hours after Hoover told Johnson that the voice on them was not Oswald's.  If this dark detail became widely known, LBJ would not be able to play the WWIII trump card on leaders like Senator Russell and Chief Justice Warren.  It is possible that the order to concoct a cover story saying that the tapes were erased before the assassination came from the White House.

With that loose end tied, the Warren Commission then followed the CIA story about the "little incident in Mexico City" President Johnson described exactly as the CIA and LBJ intended.  Conveniently, Nosenko was never called to testify.

However Nosenko, like The Prisoner's Number Six, was able to achieve a victory, albeit a somewhat Pyrrhic victory, over his Degree Absolute.  After three and a half years of incarceration, interrogation and torture, he was released.  The CIA concluded in 1967 that he was a genuine defector and that the information he provided, both prior to his defection and while incarcerated, was truthful and important.  They purchased a home for him in North Carolina and arranged for him to become a US citizen with an annual allowance of $30,000.

Victory in the form of a courtroom validation came courtesy of Hunt v. Liberty Lobby, in which attorney Mark Lane successfully defended Liberty Lobby against E. Howard Hunt, who was suing their publication the Spotlight for defamation after they published an article alleging that Hunt was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.  Lane wrote an entire book about the case, Plausible Denial, in which he details his defense strategy: for the first time since Jim Garrison in 1969, Lane would try the CIA in open court and prove for the benefit of his client that there was no defamation because the CIA, which employed Howard Hunt, did in fact conspire to assassinate JFK.  Lane was successful, first, because while cross-examining Hunt, he was able to trip him up on his own sworn testimony.  Lane details this exchange on pages 282-283:

At this trial he acknowledged the accuracy of that deposition transcript and asserted that his statements were truthful.  I then asked him about the testimony he had offered at the first trial of the Liberty Lobby case, on December 16, 1981.

Q. Do you recall testifying back on December 16, 1981, that when the allegation was made that you were in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, your children were really upset?  Do you recall testifying to that?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you recall testifying that you had to reassure them that you were not in Texas that day?
A. Yes.
Q. That you had nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination?
A. That's right.
Q. And that you were being persecuted for reasons that were unknown to you?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you say that the allegation that you were in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, was the focus of a great deal of interfamily friction, and tended to exacerbate difficulties in the family?
A. I did.

Although neither Hunt nor his attorneys seemed to sense what danger was about to befall them, it appeared that the jurors were anticipating the next question, confident that they knew what it would be.

I put down the dog-eared copy of the 1981 trial transcript.  I looked at Hunt and softly asked the most difficult question he was going to face at this trial:

"Mr. Hunt, why did you have to convince your children that you were not in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, if, in fact, as you say, a fourteen-year-old daughter, a thirteen-year-old daughter, and a ten-year-old son were with you in the Washington, D.C., area on November 22, 1963, and were with you at least for the next forty-eight hours, as you all stayed glued to the T.V. set?"

If someone had struck Hunt in the face his reaction would not have been more physical.  His head jerked back.  He stared at his attorneys.  Snyder and Dunne, apparently thunderstruck, began to speak to each other in whispers.  The delay before Hunt responded seemed interminable.  In absolute time it probably was not more than half a minute.

Hunt then proceeded to waver and dissemble before the court.  Lane summarizes the full impact of this response on page 285:

Hunt had told so many stories, and given so many differing versions of his actions and whereabouts on November 22, 1963, that he had apparently failed to realize that two sets of stories - that he had been with his children the whole time and that his children did not know were he had been at the time - were mutually exclusive explanations.

The jurors understood, however, and in my view before Hunt's cross-examination had concluded his cause had been lost.  Yet ours had just begun.

What had "just begun" was sworn testimony proving CIA complicity in the assassination of JFK.  Lane did so in the form of a deposition reading of the sworn testimony of Marita Lorenz.  She detailed how she had worked with Frank Sturgis, who along with Hunt was later convicted for his role in the Watergate burglary, during November 1963.  She witnessed Hunt, operating under the alias Eduardo, making payments to Sturgis in a motel room in Dallas, Texas, on November 21, 1963.  Was there anyone else she and Sturgis met at the motel room besides Hunt?  Lorenz testified that after Hunt left, one other person came to their room the day before JFK was assassinated: Jack Ruby.  When Lorenz was cross-examined, she not only stood by her statements, but added upon request the names of others that were in the car with them on the way to Dallas, such as Pedro Diaz Lanz and Gerry Patrick Hemming.

To try to undermine this testimony, Hunt's lawyers brought the deposition of Newton Miler.  Miler testified that as a CIA founder who served under Ray Rocca, who reported only to James Jesus Angleton, he had no knowledge of Marita Lorenz or Frank Sturgis being employed by the CIA.  Hunt's attorney Kevin Dunne tried to make it look as if Miler's credentials were impeccable.  But when Lane cross-examined Miler, he admitted that he couldn't prove either Lorenz or Sturgis were not employed by the CIA.  Then Lane went in for the kill to completely dismantle Miler for having any credibility as an upstanding citizen with his trump card: the story of Yuri Nosenko.  From pages 311 and 314-315 of Plausible Denial:

For years Miler had controlled that interrogation, preparing questions, analyzing the responses and determining, with others including Angleton, that Nosenko should be illegally arrested, imprisoned without access to the judicial system, and routinely tortured.

Q. Have you ever played any part in the interrogation of Nosenko in terms of reading reports or suggesting questions for him?
A. Yes sir.

I questioned Miler about Nosenko, not really in the belief that  he would provide truthful answers, but rather to permit the jury to hear him discredit himself.  The deposition concluded with Miler becoming increasingly uncomfortable.  He perspired profusely in the temperature controlled room, continually looked to his attorneys for help and bolted out of the room the moment the deposition was completed.

Q. Was Nosenko held illegally under arrest for more than three years by the Central Intelligence Agency?
A. I would object to the term illegally under arrest.  According to the House Assassination Committee, according to the Church Committee and so forth, he was held - incarcerated.
Q. Did the House Select Committee on Assassinations find that the holding of this man for some three years was improper?
A. Was it the House Assassinations Committee that did that?  I don't know whether it  was that or one of the other Committees.  Yes, they did.
Q. And did the Central Intelligence Agency admit that this was an illegal action by the CIA?
A. That I am not certain of what it admitted to.
Q. Did Mr. Nosenko agree to be locked up in a cell for three years?
A. I do not know that from my knowledge of Nosenko.
Q. Was he ever charged with a crime after he came to the United States?
A. Not to my knowledge - not under U.S. law.
Q. Well, he was in the United States after he came here wasn't he?  Did any court in the United States order him to be held in a cell?
A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. You were involved then in an illegal operation against the rights of Mr. Nosenko?
A. How do you mean involved in the illegal rights of Mr. Nosenko?
Q. Did you know that he was being held during that period of time?
A. Yes.
Q. Were you not an accessory after the fact in the destruction of the rights of Mr. Nosenko?
A. I can not interpret that in a legal way.
Q. I have no further questions.

After these revelations, Hunt's lawyers called no more witnesses and closing arguments were made.  Unlike the Garrison trial on March 1, 1969, in which Clay Shaw, and by extension the CIA, was acquitted of the charges of conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy, on February 6, 1985, the verdict was for the defendant, Liberty Lobby, and against the plaintiff, E. Howard Hunt.  While there was concurrence in the unanimous decision as to the reason for finding for the defendant, the forewoman Leslie Armstrong was clear that the evidence presented showed the CIA had killed President Kennedy.

How far above Hunt does responsibility with the CIA lie?  In the 2008 Epilogue to his book Oswald and the CIA, John Newman offers his views on page 636:

It is now apparent that the WWIII pretext for a national security cover-up was built into the fabric of the plot to assassinate President Kennedy.  The plot required that Oswald be maneuvered into place in Mexico City and his activities there carefully monitored, controlled, and, if necessary, embellished and choreographed.  The plot required that, prior to 22 November, Oswald's profile at CIA HQS and the Mexico station be lowered; his 201 file had to be manipulated and restricted from incoming traffic on his Cuban activities.  The plot required that, when the story from Mexico City arrived at HQS, its significance would not be understood by those responsible for reacting to it.  Finally, the plot required that, on 22 November, Oswald's CIA files would establish his connection to Castro and the Kremlin.

The person who designed this plot had to have access to all of the information on Oswald at CIA HQS.  The person who designed this plot had to have the authority to alter how information on Oswald was kept at CIA HQS.  The person who designed this plot had to have access to project TUMBLEWEED, the sensitive joint agency operation against the KGB assassin, Valery Kostikov.  The person who designed this plot had the authority to instigate a counterintelligence operation in the Cuban affairs staff (SAS) at CIA HQS.  In my view, there is only one person whose hands fit into these gloves: James Jesus Angleton, Chief of CIA's Counterintelligence Staff.

Does the buck stop with Angleton, or was there a 'maestro' in the conspiracy that he answered to?  I believe the answer to that question is that he did answer to someone above him in the top levels of the Military-Industrial Complex.  The most likely candidate would be Angleton's former boss, Allen Dulles.  As the DCI fired by President Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs, along with his deep ties with the triumvirate that ran the DIA, as well as being the architect of Operation Gladio, swimming with the financial elite as a partner with his brother of the Wall Street law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and initiating talks while head of the CIA with the criminal elite of Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana, Dulles had the means, motive and opportunity to pull it off.  As the most active member of the Warren Commission, he had the means, motive and opportunity to cover it up.

Perhaps in some alternate reality, Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton are facing their own Degree Absolute - and hopefully losing the battle.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Carbon Crisis 2014 Update: Planet Jenga

While this post continues as an update to last year's post on the same subject, that Peak Oil and Global Warming being flip sides of the same coin should be condensed and renamed the Carbon Crisis, I hope to explore the situation from a more anthropological level, as well as defining the impending danger.

On the economic resource front, we face a time of reckoning.  Peak Oil seems like a phantom from the past at this point, a crossroads we had to confront back in the summer of 2008 through which we emerged shaken, but not stirred to any meaningful change.  Oh, we've got a lot more hybrids, few electric cars here and there, but no railway revitalization, no permaculture, no economic relocalization, and God forbid we change the way money works!  Why should we when this wonderful new invention called fracking can just plow shit out of the deepest hardest rock and melted into the fuel we need?  Plus, hasn't shale made America 'energy independent' so that the Middle East doesn't matter anymore?  All our worries behind us?

Not quite.  Thanks to Wombaticus Rex (in his wise estimation, "shale will be much bigger than subprime.") from RI for finding this inconvenient piece of analysis:

It’s been only two months since I last -again – addressed the shale industry, but apparently it’s still not clear enough what a predatory scheme it is. Today, Bloomberg adds even more fuel to the fire. If you want to know how the combination of slip-sliding legal standards and ultra-low interest rates has perverted the US – and global – economy, you need look no further than shale.

The central point the Bloomberg article evokes is simple: does the difference between proved reserves, probable reserves and possible reserves (or resource potential), as reported by oil and gas extraction companies, constitute a lie? And the answer is just as simple: no, it doesn’t. But that’s not where the issue ends, it’s where it begins.

That is, if the difference between the two gets too wide, – potential – investors in company stocks and bonds are not getting the information they are entitled to. The industry may claim, as in the article, that investors are aware of the discrepancy inherent in the numbers, but that’s at best true for most investors, and the bigger ones. Still, the companies shouldn’t be able to use that as some unlimited excuse to claim whatever they wish. Because they can basically throw out any number they want in front of investors, no matter what it’s based on, and it’s legal.

And while there may be a kernel of truth in this bit …

“They’re running a great risk of litigation when they don’t end up producing anything like that,” said John Lee, a University of Houston petroleum engineering professor who helped write the SEC rules and has taught reserves evaluation to a generation of engineers. “If I were an ambulance-chasing lawyer, I’d get into this.”

… there’s also something missing. By the time investors can start any litigation, chances are the companies involved may be long gone. The greater public, and some of the investors, may be fooled, but the industry people themselves? They know about the depletion rates typical of shale wells, of the fact that few wells ever make their owners any real profit, and of the $500 billion(!) the industry lost over the past 5 years.

The shale industry runs on debt, not on energy. And as long as these companies can issue junk bonds at low rates, they will. But that doesn’t mean they will ever be profitable. For their owners, sure, they’re raking in dough like it’s Halloween candy, but for investors in those bonds things don’t look so rosy. Shale is a Ponzi.

Thanks to Raul Ilargi Meijer as well for researching that.   So if what we have on our hands is an expanding Ponzi scheme, when is the bubble going to burst?  I've seen a number of different prognostications; Thom Hartmann has already written a book called The Crash of 2016.  Now I haven't read it, so I'm not sure if he lists the collapse of shale as a reason behind the crash.  But I find it interesting how his timing coincides with the analysis of Dennis Meadows, one of the co-authors of the original The Limits to Growth.

Peak Energy & Resources, Climate Change, and the Preservation of Knowledge

Dennis Meadows Collapse inevitable 2015-2020
Posted on June 3, 2014 by energyskeptic

[Dennis Meadows spoke at the ASPO peak oil conference 2006 in Pisa Italy. Many of the scientists and speakers said Meadows was right about Limits to Growth in their presentations -- indeed, his model appeared to be ahead of schedule. Meadows hates to give dates, but when pressed, did say that although he thought 2030 the most likely time-frame for collapse back in 1972 based on various model projections, the exponential use of resources and population growth appeared to have moved the time-frame forward to around 2020. At the "Limits to Growth" conference in 2014 he said the time-frame appears to be 2015-2020].

Dennis Meadows is a co-author of The Limits to Growth. In 1972, the team of 66 scientists he assembled for the original Limits to Growth study concluded the most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.

Dmitry Orlov on Dennis Meadow’s presentation at the Age Of Limits conference 2014: “Dennis had agreed to present at this conference reluctantly. He has retired from Club of Rome discussions, and has found more cheerful uses for his time. But he seemed happy with the outcome, saying that this is the first time he faced an audience that did not need convincing. Instead, he took the time to add some details that I think are crucially important, among them the fact that his WORLD3 model is only accurate until the peaks are reached. Once the peaks occur (between 2015 and 2020) all bets are off: past that point, the model’s predictive ability is not to be relied on because the assumptions on which it relies will no longer be valid.”

At the 2014 Age of Limits conference he also said that in 1972 we had reached about 85% of Earth’s carrying capacity and today we are about 125%, and every month we delay in getting back within limits erodes Earth’s further ability to tolerate us. “The reason we don’t have a response to climate change,” he said, “is not because we don’t have better models. It’s because people don’t care about climate change.” That may be our epitaph.

“In 1972 there were two possible options provided for going forward — overshoot or sustainable development. Despite myriad conferences and commissions on sustainable development since then, the world opted for overshoot. The two-leggeds hairless apes did what they always have done. They dominated and subdued Earth. Faced with unequivocable evidence of an approaching existential threat, they equivocated and then attempted to muddle through.

Global civilization will only be the first of many casualties of the climate the Mother Nature now has coming our way at a rate of change exceeding any comparable shift in the past 3 million years, save perhaps the meteors or supervolcanoes that scattered our ancestors into barely enough breeding pairs to be able to revive. This change will be longer lived and more profound than many of those phenomena. We have fundamentally altered the nitrogen, carbon and potassium cycles of the planet. It may never go back to an ecosystem in which bipedal mammals with bicameral brains were possible. Or, not for millions of years”.

Video Presentation starts at 17:30, slides below ... s-meadows/

It Is Too Late For Sustainable Development

Smithsonian Institution Washington, DC; February 29, 2012

I will briefly describe what we did in 1970 – 1972 and summarize the main contributions of our study.
Then I will describe five reasons it is too late to achieve sustainable development.

Public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages.
Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
The time horizon of our current system is too short.

As a result, I will suggest that it is essential now to put more emphasis on raising the resilience of the system.

What we did

A team of 16 people worked under my direction to elaborate a computer model representing the causes and consequences of growth in the main physical factors characterizing global development over the period 1900 – 2100. The model was first conceived by Jay Forrester, who described it in his book, World Dynamics. My team wrote and published 3 additional books on the project, The Limits to Growth, Toward Global Equilibrium, and

Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World.

Our focus was on:

Population Nonrenewable resources

Industrial goods Persistent pollution


Our Main Contributions

We did NOT prove that there are limits to physical growth on a finite planet. We assumed it.
We did present information about a variety of physical limits- water, soils, metals, and other resources – in order to make the idea of limits plausible.
We described the reasons growth of population and industrial output is inherently exponential.
We showed that exponential growth quickly rises to any conceivable limit.
Our computer scenarios demonstrated that prevailing growth policies will lead to overshoot and collapse, not asymptotic approach to limits.
We suggested that changes in the policies could lead to a sustainable state, if the changes dealt with both cultural and technical issues and were implemented soon.

The Limits to Growth presented 12 scenarios. Four of them showed a relatively attractive global equilibrium without any collapse. However, it was written in the New York Times: “It is no coincidence that all the simulations based on the Meadows world model invariably end in collapseThe Limits to Growth, Peter Passell, Marc Roberts, and Leonard Ross, New York Times, April 2, 1972

We said: “These graphs are not exact predictions of the values of the variables at any particular year in the future. They are indications of the system’s behavioral tendencies only. P. 93, The Limits to Growth

However a Google today search on “the Club of Rome predicted” yields 13,700 hits, for example: “In 1972 Limits to Growth, published by the Club of Rome, predicted that the world will run out of gold in 1981, mercury in 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and natural gas by 1993”.

Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself. “At every single stage – from its biased arrival to its biased encoding, to organizing it around false logic, to misremembering and then misrepresenting it to others, the mind continually acts to distort information flow in favor of the usual good goal of appearing better than one really is“, Page 139, in The Folly of Fools; The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, Robert Trivers, Basic Books, New York, NY 2011

Evolution of the criticisms

1970s: There are no effective limits.
1980s: There are limits, but they are far away.
1990s: The limits are near, but technology and markets can evade them easily.
2000s: Technology and markets do not always evade the limits, but the best policy is still to pursue GNP growth, so we will have more resources to solve problems.
2010s: If we had been able to sustain economic growth, we would not have had trouble with the limits.

Given enough energy, minerals might be reclaimed from under the sea, or from seawater itself. A virtually infinite source of energy, the controlled nuclear fusion of hydrogen, will probably be tapped within 50 years. “The Limits to Growth”, by Peter Passell, Marc Roberts and Leonard Ross, New York Times, April 2, 1972.

“natural resources are not finite in any meaningful economic sense, mind-boggling though this assertion may be. The stocks of them are not fixed but rather are expanding through human ingenuity. p. 24, Julian L. Simon, The Ultimate Resource2, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1996

The global system is now far above its carrying capacity


Avoiding collapse will require a longer time horizon than our current system provides.

The Easy Oil is Gone

Oil discoveries peaked in 1960s.
Every year since 1984 oil consumption has exceeded oil discovery.
In 2009 discoveries were about 5 billion barrels (bb); consumption was about 31 bb.
Of the world’s 20 largest oil fields, 18 were discovered 1917 – 1968; 2 in the 1970s; 0 since

Global Oil Production is Nearing the End of its Plateau

1995 – 1999 + 5.5%
2000 – 2004 + 7.9 %
2005 – 2009 + 0.4 %

- data from the International Statistical Supplement – 2010 edition, International Energy Agency, p. 18

• 2010 – 2030 – 50%*

* Projection from Crude Oil – The Supply Outlook, Energy Watch Group, Feb 2008, p. 12.

By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.” – U S Joint Forces Command, Joint Operating Environment Report, February, 2010

“Peak Oil Production May Already be Here,” - Science, p. 1510, Vol 331, March 25, 2011

It is essential now to put more emphasis on raising the resilience of the system. It is essential now to start changing our behavior


Mukerjee, M. 23 May 2012. Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return? Scientific American.

Meadows holds that collapse is now all but inevitable, but that its actual form will be too complex for any model to predict. “Collapse will not be driven by a single, identifiable cause simultaneously acting in all countries,” he observes. “It will come through a self-reinforcing complex of issues”—including climate change, resource constraints and socioeconomic inequality. When economies slow down, Meadows explains, fewer products are created relative to demand, and “when the rich can’t get more by producing real wealth they start to use their power to take from lower segments.” As scarcities mount and inequality increases, revolutions and socioeconomic movements like the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street will become more widespread—as will their repression.

Many observers protest that such apocalyptic scenarios discount human ingenuity. Technology and markets will solve problems as they show up, they argue. But for that to happen, contends economist Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge in the U.K., policymakers must guide technology with the right incentives. As long as natural resources are underpriced compared with their true environmental and social cost—as long as, for instance, automobile consumers do not pay for lives lost from extreme climatic conditions caused by warming from their vehicles’ carbon emissions—technology will continue to produce resource-intensive goods and worsen the burden on the ecosystem, Dasgupta argues. “You can’t expect markets to solve the problem,” he says. Randers goes further, asserting that the short-term focus of capitalism and of extant democratic systems makes it impossible not only for markets but also for most governments to deal effectively with long-term problems such as climate change.

“We’re in for a period of sustained chaos whose magnitude we are unable to foresee,” Meadows warns. He no longer spends time trying to persuade humanity of the limits to growth. Instead, he says, “I’m trying to understand how communities and cities can buffer themselves” against the inevitable hard landing.

Keep in mind, Peak Oil happened in 2006.  We're eight years past the global light sweet crude production peak, what Meadows is talking about is carrying capacity exceeding resource demand resulting in what he describes as "a period of sustained chaos."

It gets worse.

On the environmental front, (thanks to RI's fruhmenschen for the link) Jason Box has done some extensive research that he shares with Slate through some shocking visual aids:

Isn’t ice supposed to be white?
Photo by Jason Box

Jason Box knows ice. That’s why what’s happened this year concerns him so much.
Box just returned from a trip to Greenland. Right now, the ice there is … black:

Photo by Jason Box
Dark ice is helping Greenland’s glaciers retreat.
Photo by Jason Box

Photo by Jason Box
Crevasses criss-cross the Greenland ice sheet, allowing melt water to descend deep beneath the ice.
Photo by Jason Box

Photo by Jason Box
This year, Greenland’s ice was the darkest it’s ever been.
Photo by Jason Box

Photo by Jason Box
Box and his team are trying to discover what made this year’s melt season so unusual.
Photo by Jason Box

Photo by Jason Box
Box marks his study sites, appropriately, with black flags.
Photo by Jason Box

Photo by Jason Box
Box’s ‘Dark Snow’ project is the first scientific expedition to Greenland to be crowdfunded.
Photo by Jason Box

What does it all mean, besides the obvious observation that the Arctic is getting ugly?  Well, as Eric Holthaus points out, dark ice melts quicker than regular ice.  But a more important factor that I didn't see noted in the article is that dark snow decreases the albedo of the Arctic snow cap.  Albedo is the reflective power of the earth's surface.  When sunlight hits white snow, it bounces back outside the atmosphere.  The darker the snow, the less reflective, and subsequently more heat is trapped.  This in turn warms the oceans in a self-reinforcing feedback loop where things just get hotter and hotter.

That is exactly what we're seeing happening right now, according to NOAA:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Record June–August Global Ocean Surface Temperature

August 2014 record high land and ocean temperature

The combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was record high for the month, at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F).

June–August 2014 record high land and ocean temperature

June–August 2014, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) higher than the 20th century average, was the warmest such period across global land and ocean surfaces since record keeping began in 1880.

August 2014 record high sea surface temperature

The August global sea surface temperature (SST) was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F). This record high departure from average not only beats the previous August record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F), but also beats the previous all-time record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F).

June–August 2014 record high sea surface temperature

The June–August global ocean surface temperature was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average, the highest on record for June–August. This beats the previous record set in 2009 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).

John Davies comments: 

This was the warmest August on record, primarily due to very high Sea Surface Temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere.
There is no El Nino event in this period, but some sort of event - hopefully an event not a climate shift - is taking place. If this is an event, the situation will become more normal when it ends, which will be in less than a years time at worst. If it is a climate shift, we are in desperate trouble, though I think it is an event.
It is worth noting that these very high Sea Surface Temperatures are likely to lead to high land temperatures soon, as normally land temperatures in the Northern hemisphere can be expected to exceed Sea Surface Temperatures.
The drought affecting California and the whole of the west of North America, Central America, and large parts of the Brazilian rainforest, though preceding this event was almost certainly down to changes which started before this event but ultimately caused it.

Despite the record high combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August, the global economy will continue as normal and no specific action can be expected to be taken to curb emissions. This will change, if global temperatures continue to rise. Temperatures are high enough to cause global concern, however. More later.

Note: NOAA's most recent (Sep 4, 2014) prediction puts the chance of El NiƱo at 60-65% during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter.

Sea surface temperatures (SST) can be expected to remain high in the Arctic Ocean, as SST anomalies are high in the North Atlantic (+1.65°C, image left) and high temperatures are forecast over the Arctic for at least the next seven days (anomalies as high as +2.87°C, image right). For a comparison with October 3 temperatures, see this earlier post.

Additionally, an increasing amount of heat has been going into the deeper parts of the ocean, and the Gulf Stream will for month to come continue to transport water into the Arctic Ocean, and this water will be warmer than the water already there, threatening to unleash ever larger eruptions of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in this earlier post.

Where did humanity go wrong?  Now we get into the anthropological part of the post I mentioned at the beginning.  It's a concept I discovered earlier this year:  totalitarian agriculture.  This clip is the raw footage of an interview inside a great documentary that belongs on this thread, What A Way To Go: Life at the end of Empire which I highly recommend.

Which, of course, on a spiritual and philosophical level, ties back to the Michael Ruppert quote I posted earlier this year:

"There is going to be a die-off. That is a balancing. That cannot be averted. I cannot offer some happy Pollyanna solution to that. Love is the only vibration that's a higher vibration than fear. Our physical reality is a product of our consciousness which is a product of what we carry in our hearts. And if we carry fear in our hearts, to the point where the consciousness is one of fear, then all we would manifest would be more destruction. The means to save, to resurrect, to make amends with, to reconcile with, to heal ourselves with Mother Earth and everything that lives here, will only become available to us once we realize that cooperation rather than competition, that love rather than fear is the only state of consciousness in which we can successfully live, and lo and behold, those are the ways our ancestors lived 40,000 years ago."

Have you ever played Jenga?  It's a game I only recently discovered when someone brought it to work.  You stack 54 wooden blocks into a tower.  Each player in their turn takes one block out from the tower and places it at the top, building the tower higher and higher while being careful not to disrupt the rest of the tower.  The game ends when someone knocks the tower down, the winner being the last player to successfully put a block on top.

I believe, if I understand totalitarian agriculture correctly, that civilization has effectively turned Earth into Planet Jenga.  We've been approaching turbo speed ever since our infrastructure was shifted to be predicated on cheap oil production, whereas prior to that we were on cruise control when our infrastructure was predicated on cheap coal production, which we had been since roughly 1750.  But we were on that course even prior to that with the advent of agriculture.  Not because agriculture itself is inherently environmentally corrosive, but because of the human attitudes that made it totalitarian agriculture as described by Daniel Quinn: "it all belongs to us: everything; every bit of it and we can do with it what we want."

This attitude - this mindset - must be destroyed if there is to be any hope that humanity itself will not be destroyed.  That doesn't necessarily mean human existence must return to it's hunter/gatherer roots.  I don't think that's a very realistic proposition to expect people to willingly switch to.  Perhaps that might be the unwilling eventuality for survival in a post-Peak Everything, runaway climate scenario.  But as long as civilization continues wheezing along, I'm going to continue advocating a more sophisticated means of destroying the Planet Jenga mindset: change the way money works so that it represents energy instead of debt and foster a culture that values sustainability and vilifies greed.

Not that I think my proposition is very realistic either - it's just the only chance for civilization to survive.