B. F. Spath has just released a masterpiece of psychogeography, a little-known occult art form that emerged out of the French counterculture of the late 1960s and one that’s been evolving through a small handful of radical European artists ever since. With this book, Spath strikes his claim as an American grandmaster of the order.
Psychogeography involves telepathic emanations and psychological impacts of specific locations and also improvisational wanderings through new environments, a quest whose purpose is the act of questing into the unknown. In Spath’s case, however, this translates into a fascination with Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, once a sacred site for Native American ceremonies, and from the 1770s through the 1800s, one of the premier ceremonial sites for Europeans in North American. Before the advent of Ellis Island, immigrants arriving in Manhattan landed mostly here, and it was from these docks many clipper ships departed for distant shores in search of opium, spices, silk and china. For someone buried in the basement of a Lower East Side tenement, Battery Park becomes the key psychological escape from the suffocating claustrophobia of modern life.
The book involves the sacramental use of cannabis for making telepathic contact with ghosts of ancient ceremony and ritual, and the perils that sometimes afflict the intoxicated.
Since Spath is one of the founders of the Pot Illuminati, I’m hoping this book sparks great interest in the coming revolution in cannabis spirituality, a movement I expect to overtake many established fundamentalist religions someday.
The most important thing about the Pot Illuminati is the one rule: “don’t hurt anybody,” and while we respect the rituals of ancient religions and study their histories, we reject all dogma as false, and don’t recognize leaders, except in respect to the most creative among us. We don’t fund-raise or collect money from anyone for anything, which make us the only non-corruptible religion on the planet.
The ancient city of Balkh, once a jewel of the Silk Road although now long abandoned, is some of the geography I’d like to explore someday, perhaps even following the Oxus River down to the Caspian and Black seas, a route traversed by the original stoner tribe. There are spiritual sites dotted all through the Caucasus Mountains created by this cannabis-using tribe, as well as a ring of settlements buried in mud around the rim of the Black Sea, settlements that were engulfed by a tsunami created when the Bosphorus Strait was breached due to rising sea levels. Someday this area will become a mecca for pilgrims seeking a connection with the origins of cannabis spirituality.
Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, two Columbia University film students, learned about Steven Avery from the New York Times and decided he’d make an interesting documentary. Those who watched the Paradise Lost series will experience a sense of deja vu, for this is another murder trial in which the real murderer likely appears as a witness against a designated patsy. Meanwhile, the wheels of justice remain on a narrow track that allows the culprit to walk free.
One thing Stephen Gaskin taught me about enlightenment: it doesn’t require a high IQ. The learning disabled can attain serenity as easily as the geniuses among us. Steven Avery is a real life Forest Gump and his sense of dignity far exceeds that of the villains and stooges conspiring against him.
Mostly, however, the documentary series shows how police, the justice system and media circle wagons to guard against exposure of corruption in the system. The police have become laws unto themselves and woe betide any individual who dare question their ability to game our legal system to insure convictions. Evidence presented at this trial was more than sufficient to exonerate Steven. The key pieces of evidence in his favor are two recorded phone calls between him and his girlfriend while the actual murder was taking place, and the fact the DNA on the latch key was obviously planted, likely from a toothbrush. Until Zellner came around, Avery never had a truly competent attorney.
Since Steven was suing the local police department, they never should have had access to the alleged crime scene. All evidence is tainted because the local police took charge of the investigation and were the ones who discovered the suspicious evidence days after the property had already been searched multiple times by more appropriate authorities.
The real crime scene should have been uncovered when the cadaver dogs led the handlers into the quarry pit, where rib and vertebra remains were eventually located. Only the larger fragments had been moved to Avery’s burn pit. Avery’s blood in the vehicle must have been planted simply because his fingerprints were not found inside the vehicle.
I don’t think America can sleep soundly until justice is served and it’s time for a national commission addressing police violence and corruption as well. Communities should not be living in fear of their police, yet many are.
The biggest lesson learned from Paradise Lost is often the most obvious suspect turns out not to be the killer, so I’m wary of jumping to quick conclusions, but a new suspect emerged as the front runner after the second series was aired. We don’t know exactly where Teresa was shot 11 times, but she was never loaded into the back of her vehicle. Zellner shows how the blood marks on the inside of the rear hatch are much more likely the result of splatter flying off an ax head used to chop up the corpse. That SUV was reported to an officer, who seems to have had it driven back to the Avery junkyard, while most of the charred bones moved to Steven’s fire-pit.
There are two crimes here, the murder and the frame-up. In cases of murder, the primary suspects initially investigated are typically people close to the victim. But in this case, only Avery was investigated, while Teresa’s ex-boyfriend and any possible other stalkers ignored.
Ryan Hillegas quickly became my primary suspect, an opinion formed while watching him in the role of search leader.
He now works as an out-patient therapist at a Lutheran hospital.
Since Hillegas admitted accessing Teresa’s cell phone after her disappearance by guessing her password, he’s the most likely person to have erased any final messages, and we know at least one was erased.
Zellner also implicates him in helping someone move the vehicle onto Avery’s lot, where it crashed into another vehicle, damaging one headlight.
Another suspect from the first series was Scott Tadych, who has had a long series of encounters with the court system.
Tadych also has a history of violence, and a previous lawyer representing him was Mark Rohrer, Manitowoc County DA (and now a judge). Rohrer’s firm, Roher and Fox, included Jerome Fox, who became the presiding judge in Brendan’s trials, the authority who signed off on two blatantly coerced confessions.
Thus we have a cluster of self-interest circling Tadych, who became a key witness in the rush to judgment against Avery. And thanks to series two, it seems possible Tadych may have had an accomplice in Bobby Dassey, who apparently changed his testimony of what happened that day and joined his step-father Tadych in becoming a key witness against Avery.
The police who tweaked the evidence to insure a conviction could also have been the murderers, however, simply because the insurance company refused to cover the county based on a loophole, which left the police department and individual officers liable for millions. So not only were some officers in jeopardy of losing their careers, but all their assets as well. They certainly had the ability to put Steven under constant surveillance while searching for any possible solutions to their legal dilemma.
Len Kachinsky comes off as a completely corrupt toady of the Republican Party who’d just lost an election when he was inserted into the case as a public defender. He was later rewarded with a judgeship, although he’s recently contracted cancer.
His sadly comical machinations resemble the nervous William H. Macy in Fargo as he led his client down a garden path to making a false confession. How many public defenders like him have been steered into politically sensitive cases? Suffice to say the strategy is probably not that unusual. You simply never know who that pro bono attorney is working for if you aren’t paying for him yourself.
James Lenk, who appears to have retired since the trial, remains the most suspicious person in planting evidence. Lenk and fellow officer Andrew Colborn had just recently been deposed for Steven’s lawsuit, and during their deposition some valuable evidence emerged pointing toward a conspiracy involving their boss Sheriff Tom Kocourek to keep Steven Avery in jail after it should have become clear another party had confessed to the crime. After Steven was exonerated, Colborn wrote a “cover-your-ass” memo concerning a phone call he’d received six years earlier, which was six years too late to save Steven.
On November 3, 2005, the day Teresa was reported missing to police, Colborn placed a request to his dispatcher to run license plate SWH582. Minutes before, he’d been informed about the location of the vehicle but filed no report. This is crucial info uncovered by Zellner.
One of jurors who was recused during the trial remains haunted by the outcome. The original vote taken was 7 to acquit and only 3 to convict. It appears the police may have had some strong allies on that jury who convinced the others to render a split verdict on the charges, convicting Steven of a murder he obviously never committed.
From the opening sequence, when the narrator introduces Colombia as the center of gravity on magical realism, I knew two things were happening. One, these writers were a lot more inventive than the average action-adventure hack, and this series was going to play fast and loose with the facts. And I was not disappointed on either account. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had such a satisfying TV binge since Netflix released the Euro version of the Borgias. I watched all ten episodes of Narcos in two days.
Side note: Although you’ve been led to believe the term “magical realism” began with Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it actually is as old as time and had surfaced in Europe during Germany’s Weimar Republic, one of my favorite periods, alongside expressionism and surrealism. A generation later, it was being used to describe the work of painters like Ivan Albright, who received a commission for the film version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, one of the great horror classics, and an immensely rich (though heavily censored) philosophical ramble through the corridors of hedonism and spirituality.
Dorian is a remarkably beautiful young man, who somehow retains his youthful good looks while everyone around him ages. Only his portrait changes and with each sin Dorian foments in the aid of his career, the painting becomes progressively ugly. When the film was released in 1945, the painting must have had a profound effect on a generation. Although shot in black & white, the film flipped to color at the very end, when the painting was finally revealed. The painting makes a wonderful illustration for the soul of Pablo Escobar.
Magical realism has a history that predates Borges, who is Argentinian, although Marquez is the most famous Colombian. Too bad the series doesn’t delve into Pablo’s relationship with Marquez, who served as go-between with Castro, whose brother was put in charge of cocaine smuggling. Much of the cocaine moving into Miami comes through Cuba, where smuggling has been an art form for centuries.
There is a ton of magic in Colombia, however, and I prefer to think the origin is related to the country’s biodiversity. Only one other country has more plant and animal species and that’s Brazil, and they have 7 times the acreage. And when it comes to birds, Colombia beats out Brazil. And bird feathers have always played a huge role in ceremonial magic. But then, so have intoxicating substances.
Narcos is told from the point-of-view of the DEA agent who claims credit for bringing Pablo down, so this is the officially sanctioned, DEA-approved version of the story, so viewer beware, disinfo rabbit holes abound. Still, there’s a remarkable amount of magical realism conveyed, like when the DEA employs terror tactics and becomes the bad cop in the good-cop versus bad-cop games. Reminds me of our CIA agents on the ground in Vietnam, who laid the groundwork for the Phoenix Project, our nation’s largest assassination program that’s been officially admitted to in Congress.
So when CIA asset Barry Seal is shot down, they refer to him as “ex-CIA” and don’t discuss his destination (Mena, Arkansas) or the fact he was ID’d by Oliver North’s testimony in Congress, and a Colombian hit squad hired so it would look like the cartel killed him, when the real problem was Seal was threatening to tell the world he worked for George Bush and Oliver North if they hung him out to dry, which they did. Bush’s phone number was found on Seal’s dead body.
When the Cali cartel emerges to compete against Escobar, who is making $60 million a week tax free and spending thousands every week just on rubber bands to hold the cash together, the series isn’t going to delve into the long and murky relations between the Cali cartel and the CIA.
Just google “Michael Abbell.” He was the top dude at Justice overseeing extradition of drug kingpins before departing to become the lawyer for the Cali Cartel. He eventually earned a 5-year sentence for money laundering, but that offense must have gone away, because he maintains his Washington DC law practice as well as his expertise in fighting extraditions.
As long as a drug kingpin runs his money through the right bank and makes the right payoffs, he won’t be bothered. Problem is, Pablo got too big, and his pride got to him, and he had a burning desire to be President of Colombia, but after he engineered a seat in Congress, the oligarchy shamed him and made it clear he would never be allowed to join their sons and daughters in their private ceremonies. I don’t know if Pablo was a psychopath before that happened, but he certainly became one afterwards, evolving into one of the most vicious serial killers in history, and paid out millions in assassination fees over the years.
The Cali Cartel assisted the DEA and Colombian forces take-down of Pablo, and afterwards, upped Pablo’s 80% world market share to 90% for a time, and were just as ruthless and vicious as Pablo, but a lot more low-key in the media. Plus, they had the advantage of amazing intel, and always seemed to know what the Americans, police and military were up to. And they ran their money through the right banks.
“If we had met five years ago, you wouldn’t have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me … And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job … The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.” —Gary Webb
Gary Webb never wanted to be anything but an honest investigative journalist and after Watergate exploded in the national news, he dropped out of college three credits short of a degree to take a job as a cub reporter. He spent two decades working his way up the reporter ranks through a half dozen papers, and even participated in a Pulitzer, but then the story of the century dropped in his lap, courtesy of Coral Baca, who would much later be revealed as the wife of Carlos Lehder, founder of the Medellin Cartel.
Baca became aware of Gary after he’d written an expose on forfeiture abuse for a San Jose newspaper. Drug war forfeiture began in the early 1980s and quickly became a major source of law enforcement funding. Baca used Gary as a ploy to help get a drug smuggler friend of hers released from custody. She was working as a manager for the insurance giant AIG when she contacted Gary. Most people are unaware of the deep political connections between AIG and the CIA and their possible involvement in drug money laundering, but if you trace the history of AIG, you’ll find opium funded-anti-communist efforts at its origins. And 80 years later, that was the op Gary bumped into, only this time around it was cocaine funding an illegal Contra war on a Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.
HBO just added the wonderful and explosive feature, Kill the Messenger, based on the biography by Nick Schou of the same name as well as Gary’s book Dark Alliance. Although produced on a relatively low budget, the film has some big names and provides a riveting account of Gary’s spiral of doom down a CIA-infested rabbit hole. The film leaves Gary’s suicide in 2004 as an open question, although I believe Gary took his own life in a moment of despair. However, the CIA had already destroyed his career and played numerous dirty tricks to break him down emotionally. The last straw seemed to be the theft of his prized cafe racer motorcycle combined with the sale of his home, as he could no longer afford the mortgage payments. He was about to downsize into his mother’s apartment and decided he’d endured enough abuse.
I was editor of a national magazine when Gary lost his newspaper job and immediately offered him a monthly column. But Gary had a lot of pride and demanded $5 a word, which is more than I could afford. I ended up hiring Mike Ruppert (and eventually regretting that decision).
Had Gary lived, he’d be a rock star journalist today since history has completely vindicated his work. And anyone famous can self-publish with ease these days. Seven corporations with ties to the military-industrial complex no longer have a monopoly stranglehold on publishing like they did two decades ago. At the highest level, these corporations work hand-in-glove to assist the CIA, not investigate it, and that’s the fallacy and myth created by Watergate. When you see investigative reporters getting giant book and film deals and being lionized by the national media, like what happened with Woodward and Bernstein, you are looking at CIA ops in progress, which is why I don’t trust Wikileaks or Snowdon. Gary, on the other hand, was the real deal, a truly honest reporter who just wanted to get to the truth, no matter the consequences. He was not lionized, he was crucified.
Funny when this movie came out in the theaters, it disappeared almost instantly before it could find an audience. Not exactly what happened with All the President’s Men, eh? But now you can watch Kill the Messenger on demand on HBO, at least for this month, so please check it out because it may help open some eyes. And if you want to keep following the rabbit hole even deeper, just subscribe to this blog, because it’s one of the few places that peers into the dark corners.
One thing I’ve learned after 30 years hanging around the marijuana industry: it’s stuffed with spooks and scam artists. When the CIA wanted to use drug profits to prop up a Contra army, they were able to double and triple dip profits along the way. First they fronted a mountain of cocaine to street dealers while arming those dealers with advanced automatic weapons, something that forced the police to militarize in order to combat the street gangs. The military-industrial complex was cashing in on weapons sales on both sides of that divide. Then, after a decade of insane profits, they began taking down the street dealers and having the government seize their assets. They only built them up so they could take it all away later. And only the spooks walk free to dance through the raindrops and nary a drop lands on them.
You’ll find similar games played in world of cannabis.
If you want to check out a recent documentary that covers Gary’s story, I suggest Freeway: Crack in the System by Marc Levin.
Somerset Maugham was well on his way to becoming a doctor when he published a novel and after the first edition sold out in a week, he chucked his career in medicine and became the highest-paid author in England, forging a trail now ruled by J.K. Rowling. It wasn’t until recently that MI6 admitted Somerset was a spook.
While frauds like Mark Passio scare people with complex dogmas constructed out of coincidence, I will reveal the real secrets of brainwashing. Somerset had an agenda and inspired Ian Fleming to create the dashing James Bond, but that’s another story.
Very early in his career, Somerset wrote a book titled The Magician, a thinly-veiled attack on Aleister Crowley, accusing him of ritual murder and other unspeakable acts of black magic. Strange that eventually both these characters would be unmasked as agents of MI6, which leads to the possibility their little mini-war may have been staged all along. Crowley’s sinister reputation was sealed by Somerset’s book. It made Crowley famous, while splitting the world into two factions, one fearing, despising and hating Crowley; the other just wanting to learn his secrets.
After the first World War, there were a lot of PTSD-damaged Americans left behind in Europe seeking healing and many were self-medicating with alcohol, hash and opium. Somerset wrote a highly influential book about these times titled The Razor’s Edge, and that book, like his one on Crowley, left many false impressions that linger today.
When I think of Somerset, I picture him as Herbert Marshal, the English actor who played him in the original 1946 movie. In fact, a new hardback edition of the book was soon published, and it used the two lead actors from the film for the cover. Marshal captured Somerset’s homosexuality in a very understated and elegant manner, although he ignored Somerset’s stuttering problem.
But the book and film actually led people away from enlightenment, while pretending to point them in the right direction.
This is because intoxication is painted as the greatest evil. The protagonist winds up in India seeking enlightenment and is told by a swami to meditate alone in a cave until he reaches some satori moment, after which he returns to Paris an expert in mind control and hypnosis. He winds up trying to stop a friend from medicating herself and when he discovers her in a hash and opium den, gets into a huge fistfight while attempting to remove her from the scene.
Because of this film, millions of young people around the world were led to believe enlightenment could be found on a mountain top in Tibet, and not through sacramental substances.
Which happens to be the reverse of the real situation. Yes, deep meditation can be very useful and may be required to quiet a restless mind, but the magical and medicinal plants are important tools deserving respect. The guru portrayed by Somerset did not really plunge into real enlightenment at all, and was a one-dimensional caricature who paved the way for a parade of charlatans to profiteer off popularizing Eastern philosophies.
Whenever I find an effort to lead people away from cannabis and other medicinal plants, I suspect the forces of propaganda may be at work. Had Somerset really wanted to enlighten people, he would have been explaining how wars were staged for profit and social control, and the prohibition of medicinal plants was just a part of the scam to reap higher profits and construct monopolies.
This is how paradigms are actually forged and how memes are seeded into the mass media by intelligence operations. And the wonderful thing about the Internet is how all this information is gradually being filtered and processed so as to make it harder to conceal such operations in the future.
Dr. William Petit and his family had every reason to feel safe and secure living in Cheshire, Connecticut, birthplace of John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil, and one of the more classic All-American towns in New England. However, since 2007, Cheshire has been known as the site of a gruesome home invasion eerily similar to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. And it’s funny how we’ve learned so little since that book came out, as revealed by a spell-binding HBO documentary so powerful it takes you deep into the dark side. I missed this film the first time around when it appeared two years ago, but the documentary is back in rotation on HBO this month and I urge you to watch it provided you have a strong stomach.
“KK” is the smiling 11-year-old blonde in the above picture, and also the reason Joshua Komisarjevsky decided to visit the Petit house that night. He spotted the little girl with her mother at a supermarket and followed them to their nearby home. Because it was a nice, big house, he decided to target them for his next creepy-crawly adventure. Joshua had recently met fellow ex-con Steven Hayes at a halfway house and Steven was desperate for money having just been kicked out of his mother’s home for falling off the wagon. Stealing money was easy for creepy-crawly Josh. He was probably more interested in raping KK. The part about psychos many people don’t understand is how easily they mimic compassionate people and use fake empathy to get inside someone’s head before launching some devious plot designed to inflict emotional and physical distress. Josh obviously has a high IQ and talents as an artist, but preferred donning a black hoodie and black jeans, putting on night-vision goggles, and creepy-crawling around the neighborhood, sometimes just to listen to people breathing in their sleep, but mostly to steal whatever he could.
Like many psychos, Josh had been sexually abused as a child. His initial tormentor was an older foster brother, and soon Josh was abusing his younger foster sister as well. This is the real vampire culture because many children who are sexually abused go on to abuse other children, perpetuating an endless cycle of terror and violence on kids. Josh was an adopted child himself and raised by a famous Russian family of the arts. He’d also become a father after impregnating a teenage girl, and was in the process of trying to wrest sole custody of his daughter, probably so he could rape her. Here’s an example of Joshua’s art, so you can see his skills. Perhaps with the right therapy, he might have been rehabilitated, but probably not. Josh didn’t get therapy, however, because his parents were devout Christians who felt the solution to problems could be found in prayer. Steven was also the father of two young children, although he’d spent most of his life either behind bars or on drug binges. He’d managed to stay sober for four years before flying off the handle. Like Josh, Steven had been having emotional problems since early childhood.
Aside from three violent deaths and two rapes, there are two other sad elements to this story. The police response is a scandal never properly addressed. The police established a perimeter around the home before anyone was killed, and had they gone immediately into the house everyone might have survived. But when the two perps realized the house was surrounded, they lost it. Steven went into a rage and strangled the mom for ratting them out at the bank. They poured gasoline on the two girls who were tied to their bed posts upstairs. Then they set a massive fire in the kitchen, got into their vehicle and tried to drive away, although they ended up ramming a police car while exiting the driveway. At that point, both girls were still alive, although police would soon hear screams from the upstairs. They seemed far more interested in catching perps than saving victims. A lawsuit could have been filed against the police for ineptitude, but that never happened because the family was more interested in getting “justice.”
If you understand In Cold Blood, you realize it’s a passionate plea to end all state-sanctioned murder, and fortunately that’s the direction our country is moving in. The two killers were willing to plead guilty and receive life imprisonment with no hope of parole to spare the agony of a long, protracted trial, but instead the state spent over $7 million to secure a death sentence. It’s eerie how hard the surviving family pushed for execution, believing it was needed to provide closure, when, in fact, closure only comes when survivors forgive perpetrators.
One of the children’s grandparents is a United Methodist minister who’s church has fervently opposed the death penalty for over 50 years, yet he also ended up fighting hard to get the two killers executed, something that will likely never happen, and it shouldn’t because an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
Perhaps someday someone will make a film of my book Art After Midnight and explore the New York social scene born in the shadow of CB’s by freshman art students from around the world, converging at a time when world’s collided and paradigm’s began shifting in downtown New York City.
I selected Tseng Kong Chi as a primary photographer for my 1985 book, although I included all the great photographers who documented the scene, especially Harvey Wang, who took this photo of Tseng performing with Keith Haring at Club 57. I’m pretty sure this was before Tseng assumed his Chairman Mao identity, and that Club 57 was the lab where Tseng honed some skills. Club 57 was an orgy of creativity in action.
When they finally make a great film about this scene, it won’t be about Basquiat, Haring or anyone else, but the entire community because everyone who attended these ceremonies made a contribution. Like most movements, 50 stars were involved, but there were 500 in the audience, and the audience is just as important as the stars when it comes to birthing new movements because they add the necessary psychic energy to lift the movement higher. And Tseng was certainly one of those 50, so its wonderful the Grey Art Gallery has recognized him with a long overdue major exhibition.
Without Tseng, where would Borat be? If only I had a video camera back then and the foresight to follow Tseng around like he followed Keith—only Keith was chalking subway panels while Tseng was crashing the biggest old-money events in town with a self-created VIP name-tag and a non-speaking Mao persona. He even got photos with Henry Kissinger and Henry thought he was some visiting dignitary from China and not a performance artist. But this was performance art on a whole new scale.
Maybe you know this movement took massive energy from the collision of hip hop and punk? I like to think of Tseng’s work as 3D graffiti because it was all about getting up. When a writer starts, the first mission is to formulate a word, tag, nickname, message to be promoted. The Mao character was Tseng’s tag in a way and I think he remained mute because Tseng was shy and it took a lot of confidence for him to launch into these epic social scenes and remain in character.
The Grey Art exhibit includes an enormous print of a photo Tseng shot for the back cover of the book, inspired by a continuing series Tseng was working on, in which he was photographing Keith, Kenny, Bruno, Carmel, Ann, John, Min and a few others. He had a series of group shots taken just before some big ceremony or night on the town. I asked him to do the same thing for the back cover, only I wanted to include some other major characters in the book, like Patti Astor, Steve Maas, Animal X, Joey Arias, David McDermott and Peter McGough. I probably talked it over and we decided it should be kept down to a dozen to be manageable. And at the last second, Kenny Scharf dropped out, and although Jean Michel was invited of course, I didn’t realize including Jean could only be guaranteed if we’d taken the photograph at his place on Great Jones. There may be people left out of this photo still harboring faint grudges today, and I wish we’d just invited all 50 stars and made it like Sergeant Pepper’s. Next time I’ll know better.
As the objective reporter, I didn’t want to insert myself into the photo, so I didn’t even attend the shoot. In hindsight, another mistake. But Tseng did call me as soon as John Sex walked in the door. “He doesn’t have his hair up,” said Tseng, massively disappointed. I think we’d both envisioned John in the center with his giant pompadour. “Don’t worry,” I said. Later when I saw the photo, I noted Joey had come prepared to upstage John’s hairstyle with something more epic than a giant blonde pomp—black devil horns.
Marc Levin has a new film, and it’s a mindblower: the true story of Ricky Ross (Freeway: Crack in the System/Blowback Productions).
I was fortunate to be invited to a debut screening last night and it propelled me back to the 1980s, when crack appeared in LA and NYC, and Iran-Contra-Cocaine started to explode onto the front pages.
Ricky started as a ghetto teenage tennis prodigy, and was well on his way to becoming the next Arthur Ashe when it was uncovered he was illiterate. After losing that career path, Rick turned to street hustling to survive, and became LA’s biggest cocaine dealer in short order, making over a million a day at his height, and working directly under a CIA-asset Danilo Blandon, who was flying arms to Nicaragua and filling the planes up with cocaine on the return trip—coke supplied via a system setup by Carlos Lehder (who now walks free thanks to his testimony against Manuel Noriega).
Gary Webb stumbled into Rick’s story, only he didn’t stumble, he was directed by the voluptuous and highly-educated Coral Baca, who some say was/is Lehder’s girlfriend and was allegedly working at AIG, a company with notorious offshore connections. Baca dropped out of sight for years after Webb’s book was published, while the CIA went after the groundbreaking journalist with everything at their disposal, eventually destroying his career and causing his suicide. (Webb was not the only significant journalist attempting to investigate Iran-Contra-Cocaine, that dangerous mission included one Danny Casolaro, who was murdered while his precious octopus conspiracy files disappeared.)
At the height of the game, Ross was unexpectedly betrayed by Blandon and became the designated patsy, and was put away for life via a manipulated Federal three-strikes law, while Blandon and the CIA assets soon walked free. Rick lost everything, ending up in prison in Texas, where Levin first visited him a few years ago. At that time Rick told Levin he’d be getting out soon via appeal. And he did.
Obviously, Rick is a force of nature, and used his years in prison as an opportunity to teach himself to read. He became a voracious reader and now lectures on literacy in schools and prisons across the land, sharing his hard-earned wisdom.
Maybe you know a Florida-based rapper stole his identity and made millions pretending to be a cocaine kingpin, when in fact he was a correction’s officer on the other side of the divide. When Rick got out of jail, he sued for $10 million and half the royalties, but the judge got vicious and threw the case out while ruling Rick had to pay the rapper nearly a half million dollars in legal fees. I have to wonder if somebody got to that judge, because this should have been an open-and-shut victory for the real Ricky Ross.
When the film comes around next month, check it out. It makes a great follow-up to the recent Kill the Messenger, which focused on Gary Webb.
Where are the counterculture journalists of today? The sixties produced a bunch of us, but we desperately need reinforcements because our society has become awash in idiot culture, short-term attention spans, click-baits, celebrity gossip, and runaway narcissism. But it wasn’t always like this. There was life in America before the dumbing-down campaign reached epidemic proportions.
PM Press published two of Paul Krassner’s penetrating essays on life behind the curtains in the seventies, one on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and the other on the murder of Harvey Milk. This book is a quick read designed to appeal to even the shortest of attention spans, but it also plumbs deep into the murky waters of the national security state, which took over the country long ago, and apparently had numerous operations ongoing in California in the seventies designed to derail the counterculture revolution.
The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and brainwashed her into joining their violent revolution, which included robbing banks, territory already well charted by the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany as well as the Weather Underground, a pro-violent off-shoot of a once non-violent Students for Democratic Society.
If you can’t get control of a movement through penetration ops, the other way to co-opt any movement is by creating a more fanatical and violent alternative that can accuse the movement leaders of being too timid. This sort of game has been played for a long time, yet few journalists ever catch on.
Krassner caught on, although his groundbreaking conspiracy research often got all mixed up with his political satire. Real investigative journalists in America tend to die young: just ask Steve Kangas, Danny Casolaro or Gary Webb. It’s unfortunate, Krassner dropped his conspiracy investigations because they began making him paranoid. To make matters more confusing, Krassner practically invented fake news in the 1950s and 60s by writing satirical stories in The Realist. His favorite trick was to make up something so outrageous it couldn’t possibly be true, but fill it with details that fooled people into thinking it might be. The best example would be his account of LBJ fucking JFK’s head wound in order to alter the direction of the fatal shot, something a few people in the Beltway seemed to have briefly swallowed.
Fortunately, satire is not a part of this collection, not really. While covering the Patty Hearst trial, Krassner discovered the family of an SLA member had hired Lake Headley, an ex-police intelligence officer, to find out what the SLA was all about. Headley soon informed them the SLA was part of the CIA’s CHAOS program. Donald DeFreeze, founder of the group, was a documented police informant who had probably been subject to mind control during his incarceration.
It’s strange how the publisher promotes this as “satire,” when, in fact, it’s just good journalism, the sort we need more of today.
I had high hopes for Boardwalk Empire when the show first arrived, but got alarmed after I realized there was zero attempt to maintain historical accuracy. After the shark jumped ten times, I began losing my passion for the show, so I was not shocked by the fizzle-out ending.
If they had only told the real story of Nucky Johnson and his epic feud with William Randolph Hearst, but I guess that was too close to the real oligarchy. Nucky was not rubbed-out on the boardwalk, but jailed for tax evasion, the same fate that brought down his buddy Al Capone. After four years in jail, he returned to a much downsized Atlantic City, which had been crushed by the 1929 stock market crash. Although production qualities and acting remained peerless on this show, the script was mostly concerned with creative staging of moments of extreme violence. But meaningless violence is on the rise everywhere these days.
I was especially annoyed how they transformed Harlem numbers king Casper Holstein (left) into a completely heartless dope peddler. In fact, Holstein was the genius who figured out how to engineer a gambling racket based off the daily stock market tally and was a great supporter of charities and known as the black Andrew Carnegie.
Boardwalk Empire pretended to tell the story of the birth of organized crime, but they distorted the story beyond recognition. Lucky Luciano is mostly known as the first gangster who made a deal with an intelligence agency. He did not invent the concept of a Sicilian “Commission of Peace.” According to Joseph Bonanno, who was there at the beginning with Luciano, the idea of this commission predated Bonanno’s arrival in the United States (1908). National conventions had been held infrequently over the decades and the network was not uncovered by law enforcement until the 1950s, but the concept had been floated after a war broke out between two Italian families in New Orleans over rights to unload banana boats owned by Italian shipping lines, resulting in a lot of bad publicity and crackdowns against Italian-Americans nationally. The society was organized similar to the many Masonic secret societies, only with one grade instead of the usual three. The important part of these secret societies is promising to keep the secrets or give the society permission to snuff out your life. These vows proved effective as the first turncoats from inside would not emerge until the 1960s.