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 lost all passion for the show.
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.
Give credit to the Elf for pioneering the concept of a solar-powered trike that can replace gas-guzzling cars for commuting and shopping locally.
A few years later, the PEBL was created as the Elf competitor. Last spring, however, Elf shut down their production and is currently seeking a financial rescue that may or may not come. Since over 800 Elfs were sold over the past six years, it’s not difficult to find a used one on the Internet, often at a fraction of the $10k cost of buying a new one. The Elf started at half that price, but the cost kept rising as improvements were made and features added.
Although the Elf is bigger and wider, remarkably, it weighs much less than the PEBL, which means it’s also easier to pedal. In fact, if the battery gives out, and you don’t have an outlet to plug into, or time to let the solar panel refill a completely dead battery (something that takes around 7 hours), it’s not that difficult to operate the Elf on pedal power alone, something that would be far more difficult with a PEBL.
But on just about every other feature, the PEBL blows away the Elf, mostly due to its suspension system. The Elf works fine on flat level roads with no potholes, but the ride can be bone-jarring over bumps. The antler arms can also be difficult to wrestle over bumps. Not so with the PEBL, which is easily steered with one hand. The Elf has a more recumbent position, while riders are more upright in the PEBL. I prefer upright, but some others may prefer a more recumbent posture.
You won’t often find a used PEBL for sale, which is likely a testament to customer satisfaction. I recently saw a fully-loaded model going for $7,000. At the present, there are two used Elves on the market, one for $3,000 and the other for $4,000. Since many two-wheel ebikes cost over $5k, the used Elf is typically a great bargain. I expect these bikes to eventually start increasing in value as they become more famous.
Because it is charged while in the bike, the PEBL battery is bigger and easier to charge. It also holds more juice. The Elf battery can be removed, or left in place to charge, but the connection and position of the battery makes the operation far more difficult than it should be.
The Elf has an open floor and unfinished interior, while the PEBL is fully enclosed and carpeted. For use at the beach, the Elf makes more sense and is easier to sweep clean of sand. The PEBL is more narrow and has a shorter turn radius, but that may also make it more susceptible to rollover.
The PEBL is a four-season bike easily ridden through rain and snow, unlike the Elf which is designed for warmer weather. Remarkably, the price between the two was not very far apart, which accounts for the PEBL being a great value, even with the recent price rise.
As for modifications, I replaced the Elf mirrors with larger ones that folded in completely. On the PEBL, I put a Batman logo over the BB logo on the front. I’d urge BetterBike to explore a better logo.
The Elf logo was stylized letters for Organic Transit, but many see it just as a “T” for “Tesla.” The logo for a futuristic vehicle like this should be simple and iconic, like the Tesla in my opinion. The PEBL also needed a strip of clear tape on the rear hatch hinge because it leaked rain water into the cabin. This did not solve the problem, but PEBL was nice enough to come pick up the trike and fix the leak free of charge. I also installed a better, wider handlebar with cork handles, front derailleur, and NuVinci transmission, all of which were big improvements and now available as add-ons.
Update on May 11, 2020: I flipped my PEBL after hitting a bump while turning. I was leaning the wrong way at the time. It’s super important to lean your weight into the turns. This forced me to ride the Elf again after a long layoff. I put a backseat pad in the Elf and it made a world of difference. Makes up for the lack of rear suspension. I highly recommend this pad and ended up putting one in the PEBL as well.
After riding both trikes for hundreds of miles, I found I prefer the Elf in summer, but need the PEBL for the cold months. I added two small mini coolers to the Elf to keep the dogs out of the wheel well, and also use small boogie boards as doors to keep them from jumping out during stops. I also put battery-powered electric fans in both vehicles. I’m currently experimenting with various tinted film to put over the windows on both vehicles in the summer. The Batbike will likely be mirrored all around, while the front windshield on the Elf will be clear but still heat-blocking.
If you are considering using this vehicle for commuting you’d probably be happier with a PEBL, but if you are using it primarily as an exercise machine, you might be better off with a used Elf, especially at one third the price.
Update July 2020, the new PEBL 100 looks amazing, and they took my advice on the front logo. This is now the model to have as it has numerous upgrades over previous models.
Update September 2020: Covid really slowed down PEBL deliveries, and some who ordered Spring of 2019 are still waiting. Meanwhile, it’s been reported that the delays are a result of difficulty getting essential parts out of Europe. The owners are presently planning to move the factory to Europe, which will likely result in a big increase in shipping charges and more delays. However, they may have a few refurbished models ready to ship now. Meanwhile, if you want either an Elf or a PEBL anytime soon, better stick with a used model. Hopefully both Elf and PEBL will be back up and running soon.
The award-winning 1966 film Battle of Algiers documented the explosion of terror and violence that paved the road for Algerian independence. As Africa’s largest country…and rich in natural gas…Algeria was a choice plum for European imperialism. In 1830, under the shakiest of pretenses, the French invaded and within a few years 825,000 Algerians (one third the population) were dead.
The French confiscated choice lands and awarded real estate to European immigrants who arrived in droves, eventually becoming the majority in the capital city of Algeria. Citizenship was granted to Europeans, Christians and Jews, but Muslims were denied. The Jews became the go-between Muslims and French, and both sides initially tried to recruit them, although most sided with France, something they may have regretted after Vichy France began persecuting Jews. The Nazis built an ideological bridge between fascism and Arab nationalism fueled by mutual hatred. When the British and Americans landed in Africa, the Vichy forces initially tried to repel the Allies, but were eventually allowed to switch sides, greatly angering the free French forces led by Charles de Gaulle.
On May 8, 1945, the same day Nazi Germany surrendered, Muslim activists held victory marches that provoked violent responses from French occupiers. The ensuing street massacres put a lid on the simmering independence movement for almost a decade, but in 1954, the movement resurfaced in force through the appearance of the National Liberation Front (FLN), a merger of Communist and Islamic ideologies. The FLN began a savage campaign of assassinating Harkies and their dependents. Harkies were Muslims serving in the French army who acted as police. As many as 150,000 may have been murdered. Harkies and their families weren’t the only casualties as the French launched a counter attack on Muslims. As many as 700,000 perished and two million displaced during the eight years of unrelenting violence.
Shot in black & white, Battle of Algiers had the look and feel of a behind-the-scenes newsreel. Rather than take sides or mine the subject for emotional response, it coolly revealed turpitude and affinity for violence shared by both sides. Within a few months, the FLN became the template upon which the savage Weather Underground was created. Strangely, the leaders of that movement (which effectively destroyed the non-violent Students for a Democratic Society), were sons and daughters of the super wealthy, although they rounded up a handful of acolytes by preaching a twisted form of self-hatred for the American middle class, an indoctrination accompanied with drug-fueled orgies designed to break down individuality and moral codes. It had all the makings of a intelligence mind-control operation.
After the Weather Underground declared war on America and went into hiding, they divided into cells exactly like the FLN and began releasing communiqués exactly like the FLN, and informed their ranks millions would soon die in the coming war. Many of their parents would be forced into concentration camps once the revolution succeeded. The war was quietly launched with some small pipe bombs planted in police parking lots in the Bay Area, set to go-off during lunch hour. Although they never took credit for these two bombings, rest assured they were most likely the initial attempts to spark war between police and the emerging counterculture. Like all Communist revolutions, the Weather Underground cell structure was designed to protect the organization’s leaders from exposure once the killing began. In truth, the Weather Underground cells had been penetrated on inception, although the many FBI informants planted in the lower ranks, had no idea the key lawyer running and funding the organization had his own mysterious connections to counterintelligence.
The springboard used to catapult the organization into the national spotlight was the murder of Fred Hampton by Chicago police connected to counterintelligence. Not so coincidentally, Bernadine Dohrn was immediately on the scene leading the press on tours of the murder site (strangely left wide open by Chicago police) while giving lectures on the need for reprisals, despite Hampton’s total dedication to non-violence. Hampton was rising inside the Black Panthers, the most respected black rights organization, and leading the membership away from armed insurrection and toward what Hampton dubbed “the rainbow coalition.” Hampton was the biggest detractor of the Weather Underground inside the counterculture and dubbed the group as insanely “Custeristic.” So you can see how killing Hampton served the interest of the Weather Underground while also allowing them to exploit his death as a fulcrum for convincing clueless teenagers to support violence as the only logical response.
The blood bath they plotted was severely hampered, however, when their first major bomb blew up while being constructed in New York City and killed three of their own. The mega-bomb had been planned for a cadet dance at Fort Dix but instead destroyed a million-dollar townhouse in Greenwich Village. The deaths sent shivers through the organization, and the leaders rapidly dialed back on future murder plots, although the “kill-cop” rhetoric continued unabated and infected many others. Eventually the Weather Underground would be responsible for four police murders, but played a role instigating at least fifteen others fomented by the United Freedom Front (1), Symbionese Liberation Army (1), and Black Liberation Army (13). But that’s just the tip-of-the-iceberg, because our interventions in Indochina resulted in 3.5 million deaths, and many of those could have been avoided had the senseless war ended sooner. Had a vast majority of Americans rejected the war early on, President Nixon would have been forced to dial back. But by presenting the counterculture in such an intensively negative light, the Weather Underground made sure middle America sided with the President’s reasonable requests for the rule of law and order to prevail.
Even stranger is the fact that after Timothy Leary was renditioned back to a high security cell and held in isolation while enduring the most savage interrogations of his life, he caved and told everything he knew about the Weather Underground that had broken him out of jail, provided him with a fake passport and whisked him off to Algeria to join forces with Eldridge Cleaver in fomenting a wave of violence. They even had put out a press release claiming Leary was now “armed and dangerous” and ready to join the ranks of the immortal cop killers, unrepentant murderers the Weather Underground lionized. Strange that upon his caving, the word immediately went out that Leary was a stool pigeon. Predictably, the head of the National Lawyers’ Guild called for someone to assassinate Leary, a feat designed to send a message to future traitors to the Communist cause. Unpredictably, Leary was taken out of prison and driven around the country so he could point out the safe houses he’d stayed at while describing the occupants in great detail. During this escapade, a revolver placed on the floor of the vehicle by the FBI agent in the passenger’s seat slid back into Leary’s view, and he realized he could easily pick it up and assassinate both cops. Fortunately, he declined to touch the weapon, and that likely saved his life, for I feel sure had he picked up that gun, he would have been instantly killed on the spot. Strangely, although Leary spilled all the beans he could, his confession never amounted to an arrest or interrogation of anyone. Soon the principle leaders of the terrorist Weather Underground would emerge from hiding, but only after all the FBI files on them mysteriously disappeared, which allowed them to accept high-paying gigs at major universities. Now retired, they continue to collect pensions.
Meanwhile, there’s an attempt to whitewash the Weather Underground as being led by earnest radicals, instead of exposing the organization as the state-sponsored counterterrorism psyop it really was. The purpose of the organization was not to foment a revolution as that concept never had a prayer of success due to their tactics. The real purpose was to frighten middle America away from supporting the peace movement sweeping the country, something they were easily able to accomplish with some random bombings and advocation of Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan as counterculture heroes. But there’s a karmic load that accompanies violence and a day of reckoning is coming. You only have to turn this log over to see the vermin hiding underneath.
The proletariat must organize lawyers in various countries who sympathize with the liberation struggle. Together with the legal bureau of the International Red Aid (IRA), organize in every country, in particular England, the USA and Japan, and strive to enlarge the number of new cadres. IRA directive issued in at the Second International Conference, Moscow, 1927.
Admission to the bar is not just about training, but moral character and a sacred oath to uphold the Constitution. Participation in conspiracies involving subversion, violence and terror is a gross violation of this oath. The National Lawyers Guild was founded by Communist Party members to spread a Communist agenda. Of course, propaganda was designed to make the Guild appear as a do-gooder champion of the little guy. Behind the scenes a different story was unfolding.
It would be naive not to realize the Communist Party has been dotted with spooks of all persuasions since inception. They did not provoke the revolution in Russia, they subverted a democratic/socialist government that had emerged. The first act of the revolution had been to abolish the death penalty, as the Czars secret police had murdered so many. The first act of the Communists (Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin) was to reassert the death penalty and use it on the Czar and his family, including the children. This is all you need to know about the origins of Communism.
My thesis is that a group of secret agents were sent into this orbit for the purpose of managing counterintelligence operations. These lawyers were pretending to submit to Communist dogmas, but were really spooks reporting to the highest levels of the national security state.
In the 1960s, the primary mission of this operation was to outflank the emerging peace and freedom movement by fomenting acts of terror that would drive the population toward the political right.
The spearhead of this infiltration was Louis Boudin (working with John Reed and Jay Gladstone), and later passed to Boudin’s nephew, Leonard, whose daughter Kathy would join the Weather Underground, assist the assassination of three police in a failed bank robbery, and wind up a tenured professor at Colombia University. Go figure.
In 2008, Boudin was Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at New York University’s School of Law, lecturing on “the politics of parole and re-entry.”
The takeover of the Russian revolution by a small cadre funded by Wall Street was mirrored by the Weather Underground takeover of the SDS funded by the National Lawyers Guild.
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 evolved into the highest-paid author in England, forging a trail now ruled by J.K. Rowling. It wasn’t until recently that MI6 admitted Maugham was a spook.
While frauds like Mark Passio attempt to frighten people with complex dogmas constructed out of coincidence, I will herein reveal the real secrets of brainwashing. Maugham had an agenda and helped inspire the creation of James Bond with his earlier dashing secret agent named Ashenden, who deployed trickery and blackmail to achieve goals, rather than murder.
Before joining the Red Cross Ambulance crew, where he was allegedly recruited into the secret services, Maugham 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 could have been staged all along. The book made Crowley famous, while splitting the world into two factions, one fearing, despising and hating Crowley; the other wanting to learn his secrets. It introduced an entire generation to the obscure occult bibles, books Crowley had raided to create his alternative to Christianity. Strangely, however, it ignored Crowley’s principle influence, French priest and alchemist François Rabelais, who introduced the mythical Abbey of Thelema, where enlightened monks did as they wished, provided they harmed none. Crowley ignored that last part, however. He did not believe hurting people was an obstacle to enlightenment.
Although Crowley became somewhat corpulent later in life, Maugham’s book falsely painted him as obese. It mostly portrayed him as an evil enigma with mysterious powers. “Another strange thing about him was the impossibility of telling if he was serious,” writes the narrator. “There was a mockery in that queer glance, a sardonic smile upon the mouth, which made you hesitate how to take his outrageous utterances.”
Both Crowley and Maugham were bisexual and England’s greatest literary talent (Oscar Wilde) had only recently been jailed and financially ruined for committing sodomy, even though like many other gays in England at the time, he’d married and sired children. The painter Gerald Kelly (brother to Crowley’s first wife) introduced Crowley to the bohemian expats at Le Chat Blanc, a crew that included Maugham, who formed an instant negative impression based on Crowley’s towering ego and affection for cannabis and opium, both of which Maugham detested as “oriental intoxicants.”
“Magic is no more than the art of employing consciously invisible means to produce visible effects,” says Oliver Haddo, the Crowley character in the book. “Will, love and imagination are magic powers that everyone possesses; and whoever knows how to develop them to the fullest extent is a magician.”
One imagines some of these quotes originated straight from Crowley’s mouth during drinking sessions in a Paris bistro. When asked how one accesses magic powers, Haddo replies: “They are enumerated in a Hebrew manuscript of the sixteenth century, which is in my possession. The privileges of him who holds in his right hand the Keys of Solomon and in his left hand the Branch of the Blossoming Almond, are these twenty-one. He beholds God face-to-face without dying, and converses intimately with the Seven Genni who command the celestial army.” Just a fancy way of saying it’s all done with a secret book of Hebrew spells and magic wand.
In the novel, Haddo hypnotizes, marries, and then murders a virgin so he might harvest her soul to create new life. Crowley responded to the book by exposing the magical sections influenced by Eliphas Levi and other famous occultists, accusing Maugham of plagiarism. Today most of those appropriations would probably fall under “fair use.” Crowley then went on to write a book on cannabis under the name Oliver Haddo. All the chapters open with quotes from Zoroaster taken from the Avesta. In his Confessions, Crowley wrote: The Magician was, in fact, an appreciation of my genius such as I had never dreamed of inspiring. It showed me how sublime were my ambitions and reassured me on a point which sometimes worried me, whether my work was worth while in a worldly sense.”
Crowley probably enjoyed the book because Maugham did not seek to expose him as a hoodwinker faking powers, but a real magician. Yet despite his encyclopedic knowledge of all things occult, Crowley never realized haoma of the Avesta and soma of the Rig Veda were references to cannabis. He specialized in ceremonies involving the oil of Abramelin, also known as the holy anointing oil of Moses, but his formula replaced the primary ingredient (cannabis) with galangal, which is not psychoactive, which is why you can buy Crowley’s recipe online but not the real thing.
It doesn’t matter if you choose Christianity or occultism, both are equally corrupted by hoodwinks and neither side holds a monopoly on magic or spiritual truth. The real secret to magic and religion is it only works on believers, and hoodwinks are needed to capture and contain believers. In this self-fulfilling prophecy, one gets a lot farther faking divine power and promising eternal life than one gets admitting we don’t know what happens after death. The most likely scenario is nothing happens. The concept of an eternal soul is comforting but defies the laws of the universe, where nothing lasts forever and change the only constant.
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 hash and opium. After joining the secret service, Maugham wrote a highly influential book about these times, The Razor’s Edge, and that book, like his one on Crowley, left many false impressions that linger today. It also delved into oriental mysticism, only this time the magician was a good guy.
When I think of Maugham, I picture him as Herbert Marshal, the English actor who played him in the original 1946 movie. Marshal captured Maugham’s homosexuality in a very understated and elegant manner, although he ignored his stuttering. But instead of conferring a path to enlightenment, the book and film led people away from it.
I say this is because intoxication is painted as the greatest evil. The protagonist winds up in India seeking the meaning of life and is instructed by a sadhu to meditate alone in a cave until reaching satori, after which he returns to Paris an expert in hypnosis. He attempts to stop a grieving friend from medicating herself by dragging her out of a hash and opium den. Because of this film, millions of people around the world were led to believe enlightenment could be found in a cave on a mountain top in Tibet, and not through intoxicating substances.
Which happens to be the reverse of the truth. Yes, deep meditation can be useful and may be required to quiet a restless mind, but the magical and medicinal plants are important tools deserving respect. Cannabis is at the root of almost all religion, including occultism. Maugham’s guru was a one-dimensional caricature who paved the way for a parade of charlatans to profiteer off popularizing Eastern meditation techniques.
Whenever I find an effort to lead people away from cannabis, I suspect the forces of propaganda are secretly at work. Had Maugham really wanted to enlighten people, he would have explained how wars are staged for profit, and how prohibition of medicinal plants is a scam to reap higher profits while demonizing users. But this sort of information is held close to the vest by the secret services. There’s a reason why Britannia rules both magic and spy-craft and it’s because those two arts have always been joined at the hip.
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.