Columns and op-ed pieces
by John Kendall Hawkins
“I know what you mean, Steve.”
-Jane Martin sitting in a car at Lover’s Lane, The Blob (1958)
“Hideously plausible suspense… [that] will glue you to your chair.”
-Detroit Free Press review, The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Recently, someone online suggested reading Journal of the Plague Year by Willem Dafoe, I mean Defoe. Daniel. I kept looking at an illustration of the 14th century German Plague Doctor, thinking it looks an awful lot like my imagined picture of Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat,” and Zimmy singing, “He had a face like a mask,” and “People don’t live or die people just float she went with the man in the long black coat.” The Germ Man.
Holed up, but internetted, in my no-panic-but-getting-there-room, wondering what the fuck I’d do if the tubes went down, now that they’re shuttering customer service centers, I’m told, and I had to make my way Out There, gingerly, as if the air between here and there were now all jungly with corona vines hanging everywhere, to sift through my paperback collection in storage, only to find one dega book left — The Foucault Reader. Fuck me.
But back to Herr Doktor Daniel Defoe. There I was self-isolating, like Robinson Crusoe listening to his parrot squawk “Poor Crusoe” for 30 years. Me thinking Dafoe, who played Christ, could have played Crusoe (he has that kind of range) in a kind of combined performance. There’s the why-have-you-forsaken-me self-pity that became the Church. There’s that spooky crossover pagan element that comes out at Easter. In fact, at one point, Crusoe, “flung down by corpse evangelists,” ensmirkled by the love-smiling cannibals of transubstantiation, is saved by good Friday. What I want to know is why Defoe has Crusoe, after he returns to England, abandoning his young family for more crazy adventures (Vol.2), and why Dafoe isn’t starring as Defoe in a post-mod TV movie about all this shit.
Some people think Idle thoughts during times of plague and pestilence. Me, I prefer a good lip-doodling frenzy. Strange things happen to people in these global crises of ours — and I’ve had my share of them, starting with the Cuban Missile crisis, when the organic gardening craze began (wink) — strange ways of thinking that bring strangers together worldwide to contemplate the One Thing. The threat’s to the body, but it’s the psychology that fascinates. We haven’t been down this road since 9/11, but there are no politics here, Corona virus isn’t Islamic (Inshallah), and even as we fall like Sartrian flies it feels like a test of the Emergency Broadcast System, like cover for something else, but then conspiracies and pandemics are French-kissing first cousins, another version of the mind-body problem we can’t solve.
I have idle thoughts, too, and I wonder: What happens to the homeless during Corona? Are they given digs to self-isolate in? A Good Will box each, maybe? And if we’ve found a solution suddenly (by necessity), then where are we on this issue all the other days? Also, while we’re idling, if we can come together on Corona, everyone on the same page, then how come we can’t put out a pandemic — issue a public service virus — that forces us to think together about climate change? And, also, is it me, or is Trump looking these days like he’s got a sibling jealousy of Corona?
Too much self-isolating can lead to self-alienation and you have to wonder if we’re all up to nunnery-getting any more, now that God’s Dead. Corona has me thinking about childhood. With Corona, I just want to know what makes her tick. But like Nietzsche said, ‘Hey stupid, if you fuck with an abyss, the abyss will fuck with you.’ But I went ahead anyway, and re-watched a movie I never would have re-watched, if not for you, Corona: The Blob. 1958. It was the first horror movie I can recall watching on TV and I have to admit the corny blob from outer space had my nerves on the rack for a while in childhood. I would have nightmares — imagining swallowing myself, or maybe I was imagining being swallowed by the blob and was still conscious inside.
The blob is a life force that absorbs other life forces it comes into contact with. There have been many interpretations of the blob over the years. The self-evident Freudian theory. (Right?) And the Red Menace theory: At the beginning of the movie, as Steve McQueen is getting nowhere in Lover’s Lane, his girl loves him but she fears he’s a wolf, a whistling meteor comes to his rescue and hurls to earth (bomb whistles were terror tactics, making the meteor a terrorist). The blob was red, and liked to spread — call it a commie comet and kill it dead.
But then, more germane to our Corona problem, there was the We Are Not Alone theory. The blob as an amoeba, an alien form of life that came out of nowhere and confronted civilisation and our biology. Suddenly you’re staring at cytoplasm, cell walls, osmosis in the face. It absorbed a doctor and mechanic, maybe giving it, symbolically, a kind of auto-immune system. Subliminally, if you looked real quick, the found meteor even looks like Corona. It gimme a chill. The kind of movie that makes you think. Think: there but before the grace of God go I: why, I coulda been that. And if it’s up to the Blob, I will be blob. What if I were Corona, I thought?
It got worse. Stupid me, I went ahead last night and watched the old classic The Andromeda Strain. Not the musical (in case there was one), but the Crichton flick. When I think about it, what an evil fucker Mikey could be: Velociraptors that come at you like riveting gangsters and flank you: you look and see them balooppidiloop before you’re taken by the extra-species sadists; terminal people being harvested for body parts; Coma; West World, and Yul Brenner with no face. But Andromeda was a strain from outer space. A “hideously plausible” depiction of how an alien could make its way to earth and, again, the human species-level danger it represents. It’s a crystal life-and-not-life form that mutates and replicates at the same time, and the scientists see it as intelligent, so naturally they want to blow it up.
But what got under my skin about the movie was the little scientist-to-scientist crack about the human species that didn’t go over well in my self-isolation ill-humor (albeit, mellowed by red wine). One doctor says to the other that “the human body id one of the dirtiest things in the known universe.” What else aren’t they telling us? In the end I was reminded of something Stephen Hawking warned about humans being too eager to contact aliens, given we don’t know what we’d be confronting. Blobs, Strains, Cook Books.
And speaking of evil cracks, who can look the other way at Agent Smith’s snide little commentary in The Matrix. You’d go to cold cock him, but you know you’d miss and miss. He said essentially humans are viruses and he’s the solution. (See the disturbing video evidence for yourself.)
But recently, all those fantasies about alien life forms fucking with us in the cinemas took a sinister turn when I began reading about some seriously inconvenient possibilities. We’ve known for a long time that terrestrial life most likely had its beginnings in outer space. But a few days ago I read an article that began a train of thought that has me worried, and if you’re the worrying type, too, you may want to go do something else now. The headline asks: Could Giant Viruses Be the Origin of Life on Earth? Sweet Jesus.
The National Geographic (multiply-sourced) article goes on to ask: What if viruses predate bacteria, rather than the other way around? Here’s a thought-provoker for your isolation:
[S]ome scientists say the discovery of giant viruses could turn that view of life on its head. They propose that the ancestors of modern viruses, far from being evolutionary laggards, might have provided the raw material for the development of cellular life and helped drive its diversification into the varied organisms that fill every corner of the planet.
The two married virologists from Aix-Marseille University say that their “discovery” of the Giant Virus and its existential priority means it was the essence that human being was waiting for along the evolutionary path.
If you’re at all a Three-Aber oriented you’d better look the other way now, because the news for modern man get worse. Now, we’re also being told that “An Ancient Virus May Be Responsible for Human Consciousness.” Isn’t that a kick in the head. That’s right, the crazy quilt of thoughts you’re having right now might be Old Man Virus just fuckin’ with his host. As the scientists tell us in this piece, “You’ve got an ancient virus in your brain. In fact, you’ve got an ancient virus at the very root of your conscious thought.” And here’s more on it. Deal with it, they seem to be telling us.
Well, I was just starting do deal with the organic paradigm shift in my pants, when — what rock through yon window breaks? — could we moderns and Corona be distant relatives? Now, that’s a mind-fuck, achieved without acid or shrooms. Could viruses be behind civilization; civilization a kind of concentration camp of milling ideas? Could art be viral? That would certainly explain some of the abstract expressionism I’ve seen, if a virus were calling the shots. I pictured a cluster of humans for a giffy moment seeming like a virus and cringed at its hypnotic effect. Are we dealing with a Sam Huntington Clash of Civilizations thing? Who’s to say Corona is not a better class of virus than the one science is saying currently controls our brains? Maybe Corona is the “Ubermensch” we’ve been waiting for and we should kow-tow. That crown must be there for a reason.
I don’t know any more. How come I always felt chuffed when Carl Sagan was explaining how we were all “star stuff,” literally, same material, but I felt good afterwards, teleologically-speaking? Maybe it was the Vangelis soundtrack. But also, I liked the Moody Blues back then and that may have added stained glass windows to what might otherwise have a horror show. All I know is,
I’ve never felt more like a water bag with legs, some carbon, and a jelly fish for a brain than now. How do I measure up? Corona did this to me. Hell, maybe all this self-isolating everywhere is the real virus. We’ll be more dedicated to the central internet brain ‘they’ say is coming than ever now. What if Corona slips a mickey in the works and upgrades our collective consciousness while we’re sleeping (and we always are)?
My friend turned to me and said after watching The Matrix years ago, “Who knows, we may already be in the Matrix.” I replied, “Yeah, and maybe we really are viruses.” And he said, “Shut up, Donnie,” because we liked to quote movie lines at each other.
Two Neo liberals talking. At the end of time.
by John Kendall Hawkins
“…people don’t live or die, people just float.”
Bob Dylan, “Man in the Long Black Coat”
Nothing reveals the decline and fall of the American imperial mind better, at Das Kapital’s end, than the inane debacle concerning the use of masks in our current pandemic. For days and days, I’ve been listening to talking heads trash Trump and blame him for the poor response to Covid-19. Fine, he deserves some trashing, as he called Coronavirus “a hoax” back when the keen mobilization of an American response might have made all the difference. Probably, his ignorance should be an impeachable offense. A reporter asked him the other day about WHO, and the fool said something like, “Who’s on first,” and it was on with the Press.
¡Ay, Corona! What are we going to do with you? They’re now talking that the epoch of human hugs and kisses (handshakes are kisses, too) may be over as we extend our periods of self-isolation well into the future, afraid to be intimate ever again, onnacounta catching an evil virus. According to the Daily Mail, the UK’s breathless paper of record (Kathy Scruggs would be proud), “The coronavirus pandemic could spell the end of hugging and handshakes for years to come, social scientists warn.” However, the scantily clad paper adds, women started the whole “distancing” thing with the #MeToo movement backstepping, away from men. So, you could see Corona, and its distancing vibe, as an off-putting Überfeminist.
Which is quaint, as fear of catching Epstein-Barr has never stopped us from getting sloppy with each other’s labia, even at the risk of an apoca-lip-tic outbreak. Handshake deals will continue to be made between Wall Street heavy lifters and their spotters, sans sanitation. And Trump’s ignorance about masks and malarial manifestations, has stirred up confusion and wonder (is Prez Doofus a doctor or just a quack?) that two guys talking has taken on deadly new dimensions in avoidance behavior: You see in your mind’s eye Neo and one of the Smith brothers dodging each other’s bullet-like ejectiles. ¡Ay, Corona! Conversation will never be the same. Take cover.
Well, as usual, the rich seem to have it all figured out. The question is, what did they know and when did they know it? Most recently, amidst this crisis, Jeff Bezos was discovered to have had Fortune smile on him yet again with some trading that made him richer in the crisis. Just before Covid-19 freefell the Wall Street market, Bezos unloaded 3.4bn worth of Amazon stock. Look at him laughing all the way to bank. No pictures of the buyers were available, but you remember those awful images of people jumping from the North tower, right? Of course, some would argue that it’s a fine line between winning and losing on the market, but it’s the only chance the “little” guy really has.
What they knew and when they knew it. Remember back in ‘18 when the MSM blithely (they love that word) informed the public, as if it were a fashion update (check out their Covid-19 masks), that the little squirrels and weasels of Silicon Valley were preparing for the Apocalypse? And that, Fodor-like, they were leaving soon for New Zealand, property already purchased, holograph machines being shipped ahead for anticipated boredom bouts with their over-privileged kids, who may want to e-conjure up an interactive tour of Jacob Riis’ Lower Manhattan.
One report has the elites building “doomsday shelters” (the rich going underground: are we not in the Days of Hallucination, or what?) and that “the 1% make up the largest private bunker community on earth” (good, now let’s hand them lugers and tell them the Russians are coming). Hell, Peter “Cotton” Thiel, owner of PayPal, had the foresight and foreskin to grab 477 acres of virgin antipodes Mother Nature pussy. Mofo 1%ers, right?
And, as you might have predicted, “The first reported US case of a homeless person dying due to Covid-19 has surfaced in Silicon Valley,” according to Vox. The article goes on to detail the healthwise helplessness of the homeless in general, but potential catastrophic effect of Covid-19 on a population, often seeking safety in numbers, and challenged with developing reliable hygiene habits — volunteers bringing “weekly shower stations to these encampments, it’s simply not enough to ensure the safety of homeless people during this outbreak.” And as with all other American foresight these days, it hasn’t kicked in that a tanking economy will lead to mortgage defaults and rental evictions. And yet, we’re told, “In the recent $8.3 billion bill passed by Congress, there were no funds specifically allotted to homelessness.” Not a single dega dollar.
When homeless person Donald Neely was arrested in Galveston, Texas last year for “criminal trespassing” (what they call homelessness inTexas), and brought to the halls of Just Is, lead by ropes and horses and some female cop warning: keep walking or be dragged, Neely, the homeless man, was wearing a welder’s mask. Nobody has wondered aloud about mask; there have no press queries. Maybe Neely knew Corona was coming, like a posse for a Black man, and said with the mask, “Come at me.” No viral ejectile will penetrate his eyes or mouth. Jeff Bezos has plans to use a 3D printer to pop out masks, with that smile. Maybe he can work with Neely on 3D paper welder masks, and use the proceeds to fund Covid-19 services for the homeless. Yay.
Of course, I’ve got a modest Swiftian proposal for dealing Corona-driven homelessness. Red Salvation Army and blue Goodwill donation boxes have junkyards, too, like, think, smashed cars. What I propose is implementing a Jacob Riis type housing project of stacked up donation boxes, one homeless person per box,ideal for self-isolating in the self isolating times, with, naturally, Republicans assigned the red boxes and Democrats assigned the blue boxes. It will be a delicate set-up, so no gerrymandering will be allowed. Let ‘em mix. To disguise the implicit blight and moral vacuity of allowing people to live this way the architectural design will feature postmodern posturing — think: A donation box city that looks like that goddamn Groninger museum in Holland. Allow tourists there (especially holographic tourists) to choose between making a donation to residents, or, preferably, being rolled, depending on the level of authentic experience they’re after.
When people aren’t running away like plague doctors to New Zealand, or avoiding (like the plague) the advice of the malpracticing doctor in the White House, they seem to have settled into a nice capitalist funk-y, vis-a-vis the mask issue. Tala Alamuddin, George Clooney’s sister-in-law is, we’re told by the MSM, selling fashionistical surgical masks on her website aimed at the discrete and discerning buyer (use PayPal). All akimbo, a team of edgy millennials models the wares — Camo, leopard, denim. Grrr. George Clooney, still taking shit for those sorry-ass Nespresso ads, was said to have said by those who say such things, “I could just die.”
And Naomi Campbell’s been making a Corona fashion statement: Shouldn’t we listen when a girl has the cheek to wear ‘hazmat chic’? Typical topical Americans have also gotten into the swing, too. An American flag over the mouth can mean either your breath has died and you’re honoring it, or you want to see America great again. Even crash dummies want a piece of the action.
Well, who knows how long we’ll last. A talking head was saying yesterday, in a blame-it-all-on-Trump voice, that America is not number 1 in Covid-19 preparedness and prevention. Thing is, America is not Numero Uno in a lot of things any more — health (nyet), education (nyet), welfare (nyet) — except student loans, home mortgages, meaningful jobs (see homelessness above). We’ve been seeing things coming for a long time and doing not much about it except making a lot of zombie movies and getting ever more addicted to the Internet that will one day kill us all with a stuxnet of the mind. Aliens looking down at us must be laughing their asses off (you know, if they have asses).
By John Kendall Hawkins
First of all, let me say that I love Bob Dylan. Love him.
As I wrote here in an overwrought piece last year, I have, like a latter day Prufock, measured out my life with Dylan tunes. I wrote a concert review piece for the Melbourne Age back in 1997 (Time Out of Mind period) that swooned toward the momentum for seeing him eventually being awarded the Nobel prize. The fuckin’ guy’s a legitmo genius. Nat Geo has a series called Genius, that so far has profiled Picasso and Einstein (with Aretha Franklin and her Pink Cadillac up next), and I could easily see Dylan in the cue: Cubism, Relativity, Soul, and that Harmony-in-One-Breath he self-references in “Precious Angel.”
But Dylan’s new song, “Murder Most Foul,” sucks. It sucks historically. It sucks so bad, I felt an obligation to nominate the song for the 2020 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature. And so passionate was my plea for recognizing this song for what it’s worth that I got an email back from the editor of Improbable magazine, sponsors of the Ig Nobel, a simple, “Uh, thanks, John.” I wrote, in part:
It’s horrible. In an historic way. Bad lyrics, bad arrangement, Dylan’s voice channeling — of all people — Wolfman Jack. It’s the worst Dylan music since the whole of Self Portrait, on which, ironically, were the first Dylan tunes I really liked — “Wigwam” — where he just hums and hums while the Band stuffs behind him, and “Quinn, the Eskimo,” where everyone’s waiting, like for Godot, to jump for joy, but with Quinn it’s because he’s bringing hothouse igloo ganja. Everybody knows Godot, if he arrives, will be bringing re-fried Sartre,
“Murder Most Foul” is like an acid trip within an acid trip, where the inner one went really wrong, and the outer trip couldn’t pick up the slack. One of Dylan’s greatest abilities as a songwriter over the years has been his magical talent at turning cliches and truisms into lyrical gold. Just a fucking master at it. With “Murder Most Foul,” he’s turned into the Alchemist of Shit. I mean it. It’s even bad conspiracy theory. There are professional theorists out there who will now have to go through strange and mysterious changes as a result of this song. I like to think that when Dylan wrote “Ring Them Bells” for all of us who are Left, he had someone like me in mind. But now I’m thinking Quasimodo, ringing dem bells, and pouring some hot liquid down on the mob (former fans, I understand) below.
It’s like he can’t handle his legacy going the way of Marley, his One Love turned into muzak delivered from Trump Tower-like elevators on which you are always in fear someone might fart just as you’re singing the lyrics in your mind, your index fingers automatically doing that parallel index finger dance thing,like windshield wipers : Let’s get together and feel alright. Pfffft. If Dylan is a genius to me, then Marley was once like a god. But not a stinking god of Muzak. How could the CIA not be behind this post-mortem humiliation? I’m thinking.
The lyrics of “Murder Most Foul,” the title derived from an Agatha Christie novel, border on inchoate. Some really crazy shit going on here, even by Dylan’s loose associative poetic license standards. Dig it: Dylan sings, from JFK’s POV, “Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb / He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?” Aside from the blatherscheissen this rhetorical question represents, “Wait a minute, boys” sounds all too familiar: A cop from “Hurricane,” another conspiracy-enticing song about the wrongful conviction of boxer Ruben “Hurricane” Carrter, said the same thing: “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead.”
Then he WolfmanJacks, “You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect.” So, with “we’ve,” Dylan is now officially a conspiracy theorist. Kennedy died because he over-owed someone, it seems. Gee, who could you owe who would take you out if you didn’t pay, without caring about the consequences for the nation or democracy? Verse 4, with all its play this, play that, depressed me to the point of suicidal ideation. “And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day / Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues.” That’s factually impossible, if you do the math, but also a truly horrific image. The pagan wolfman speaking in tongues: come again?.
In these days of locusts, no end in sight, Dylan might have written about something relevant. He could have written “I Dreamed I Saw Covid-19 Land.” To be current and all scared-up, like the rest of us are supposed to be. Or, he could have written “The Climes They Are A Changin’”. Nuff said on that front. Or he could have reprised the implicit threat included in his song “Precious Angel” (“Men will beg God to kill them / but they won’t be able to die”) by icing a precious angel, no-prisoners-taken Revelations style. But such dross instead!
Well, we’ve been down this road before with Dylan. When he wrote “Titanic” for his album Tempest, now, he purportedly was at home on the couch watching Leo and Cate go upstairs/downstairs on TV and went to town on some paper and produced what had been his worst song before “Murder Most Foul.” (Playing at the edges of conspiracy theory, he released that album on 9/11.)
You can well imagine Dylan couch-potatoing on the same sofa, years later, not once in his career having brought up JFK before, suddenly, digging into the popcorn, while watching The Irishman, the Netflix film about Jimmy Hoffa directed by Martin Scorsese and starring De Niro, Pesci and Pacino, and having sold the viewer early on the notion that the Mob took out Kennedy for reneging on his promise to lay off if he delivered Illinois’s electoral votes to Kennedy, he reached the Joey Gallo murder scene in the movie, and wondered to himself if Scorsese was true to Dylan’s depiction in his song “Joey,” where Dylan says of Joey, eating dinner in a clam bar in New York, “He could see it coming as it he lifted up his fork.”
Dylan’s depiction of Dallas, November 22, 1963 is awful. But he’s been criticized for making shit up before. But he was also taken to task for his portrayal of the facts surrounding the Hurricane Carter murdercase. His song, “Hurricane,” off Desire, the same album as Joey, was made fun of by National Lampoon magazine in a send-up piece titled, “Ex-Singer Held In New Jersey Slaying,” which implicates Dylan and The Boss. More serious criticism followed, with one sleuth calling Dylan out, line for line, for the alleged factual inaccuracies of his song.
It’s difficult not to think that Dylan, despite garnering every prize and plaudit imaginable for his contribution to American culture, and civilization in general, as evidenced by his Nobel prize in literature a few years back, still worries, as Shakespeare never did, whether his legacy is safe. But nobody really gives a shit about JFK any more, what with Trump in the White House (and what that implies about the nation), and Climate Change, and Covid-19 breathing down our necks. So the choice of this song, its quality, and release timing are very suspect.
It’s hard to not think of Dylan as akin to Hemingway’s fading fisherman, Santiago, the Cuban hero of The Old Man and the Sea, not long after which Papa won the Nobel prize for literature. In that novella, old man Santiago goes fishing, one last time, for marlin in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba. After many hours and much struggle, he lands a biggie and hauls it, along the boat, and heads for port. But sharks come and, despite Santiago’s best efforts to ward off destruction, they end up eating all the meat off the marlin, so that Santiago ends up arriving home with a skeleton.
Sharks have been circling Dylan for years, and maybe the realest cruelty of “Murder Most Foul” is its exposure of a genius with nothing left. On Time Out of Mind, there are two great vintage Dylan songs on the album — one is “Trying To Get To Heaven” and the other is “Highlands.” The former has mind-blowing lyrics like, “When you think that you’ve lost everything / You find out you can always lose a little more” and “I’ll close my eyes and I wonder / If everything is as hollow as it seems.”
But the scatalogical character in “Highlands” could sum up Dylan, in the context of our times:
The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it’s not like the sun that used to be
The party’s over and there’s less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away
If there were gods still who had pity, you’d want them to lead Dylan gently away and fade, to the Highlands where he belongs, before he feels the blow of what he must already know, that, like the worn-out character Dylan wills through Time Out of Mind, he is himself a ghost who must let go.
There are no more marlin for him left.
Sung to the tune of Bobby Dylan’s “Corrina, Corrina”
I been thinking bout you
You thinkin bout me, too?
Donkeys, poultry, camel, foxes
Just left in nine assorted boxes
Flown round the world
I got a bird flu whistles
Got a bird flu sings
I got a bird flu whistles
Got a bird flu sings
But I ain’t yet got Corona
Death don’t mean a thing
(bluesy mouth harp riff)
Got me double bind
Got me testing blind
O, I just can’t believe the data
Hmm, I might just lose my mind
I been thinking bout you
You thinkin bout me, too?
Hazmat badgers, hedgehogs and rats
Mice so squirr’ly, they were chasing cats
Flown round the world
I got a bird flu whistles
Got a bird flu sings
I got a bird flu whistles
Got a bird flu sings
But I ain’t yet got Corona
Death don’t mean a thing
(bluesy mouth harp riff)
Got me double bind
Got me testing blind
O, I just can’t believe the data
Hmm, I might just lose my mind
I been thinking bout you
You thinkin bout me, too?
You’ve cancelled ball games, travel’n too
Now just please cancel the Election
That’d be something (ooh)
I got a bird flu whistles
Got a bird flu sings
I got a bird flu whistles
Got a bird flu sings
But I ain’t yet got Corona
Death don’t mean a thing
(bluesy mouth harp riff)
Got me double bind
Got me testing blind
O, I just can’t believe the data
Hmm, I might just lose my mind
Just can’t believe the data
Corona, might just lose my mind
(repeat, extended bluesy mouth harp riff)
By John Kendall Hawkins
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? [sinister laugh] The Shadow knows.”
– from The Shadow, a radio drama from the ‘30s
What a difference a week makes, the kind where you feel more certain than ever that signs are mounting that we are historically placed somewhere between the profligate days of Caligula and a postmodern Apocalypse where God is taking no prisoners. An Iceberg-looking submarine smacking at the Titanic — like a taunt. The Burger King ad featuring Thanatopsis, making a time-elapsed burger look like a picture of what smoking does — you wondering, if the burgers are better at Burger King, then what next? Joe Biden speaking in tongues. King Trump grinning, threatening Romney like a crime boss, while contradictorily claiming to be the nation’s top law enforcement agent. Buttery margarine, human-y AIs: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.
Things finally got back to what passes as normal when the Ukraine government recently announced through their local press that they had begun work on turning their government itself into a “service-sector” function of their young democracy. They call it Diia, “the state in the smartphone.” All government services would be available through an app on a smartphone, including, the most important function for a modern democracy, voting for politicians.
The Idea means well. Many countries have super-apps like this that feature aspects of Ukraine’s proposed system, including Australia, but voting on-line makes the proposition iffy. Ukraine is drawing on the experiences of Lithuania and Estonia, two former Soviet-bloc nations that have gone digital, and include e-residencies and tax havens, and voting, for citizens, tossed in. According to a New York Times piece, most Estonians seem to agree that a paperless bureaucracy is vast improvement over the officious inefficiencies of the Soviet past. According to Wired, “Estonia is the world’s most digitally advanced society” and there is shared euphoria, maybe gone too far (“a digital Estonia would never cease to exist”), as it flaunts its Brand of freedom.
But Ukraine is no puckish Estonia. Her corruption is world-renowned. And if you had half a brain, you probably would have to worry when your government flat out wants to crow about your service-sector future. One pictures mattresses and a nation on its back. Mikhail Fedorov, the ‘mastermind’ of the system, both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, envisions a ‘fast-track rollout’, from the late 2019 unveiling of the project to February’s introduction of a working device. (The original unveiling was scheduled for January, but had to be moved back to accommodate Federov’s “illness.”)
Ukraine has many problems, other than corruption, to overcome to make such an enterprise even conceivable — let alone do-able. Oliver Boyd-Barrett, a political researcher and media specialist for the region, cites the national decline after Ukraine refused an IMF offer in 2014 leading to a CIA-influenced coup, an “oligarch democracy,” and a “historical brain drain” that leaves the impression that a nation of Borats was left behind. But also, not many people in Ukraine have smartphones. So there’ll have to be a massive gifting of such mobiles by the government or industry (no doubt, with backdoors installed) before the benefits of e-government can kick in and Ukraine can be a successful brand™ like Estonia. Five months from concept to rollout. Unh-huh. That’s funny.
There’s also the problem that the Ukraine government has not budgeted any funds for the DIIA project. Money has been obtained through a “private-public partnerships,” says Federov, who further explains, “”I rely on an effective team and international technical assistance, public-private partnerships, volunteering.” Volunteering? One of the “private” funders is old friend USAID, coming along with its easy-to-obtain high interest rate loans. Curious citizens were directed to a YouTube explanation and were (are) met with hunh?
If anyone can do it, maybe Federov is the man. President Zelinsky came to power in 2019 through the prowess of Federov’s machinations and Facebook manipulations. The ex-actor and comedian won in a landslide, with Federov behind him, fighting heroically against “disinformation,” pressuring Facebook to take down ‘fake ads’ and ‘news’ from Russia meant to futz with the election. If true. But Federov seems far more interested in making a long term buck. When asked during the campaign Why Zelensky? What can he offer? It wasn’t a democratically satisfying response: he can monetize stuff. Oh, Fredonia, don’t you cry for me.
One claim that NYT seemed to let stand, without critical appraisal ,was that Russians were approaching everyday Ukrainians and offering to pay cash-money to “rent” their Facebook accounts for disinformation purposes. Again, suggesting a Borat-like nation nimcompoopery. The NYT piece inexplicably referred to this as “an evolution in tactics.” What, are we evolving to a clown species?
As if such absurdity weren’t sufficient, the Times went on to blatherscheiss — “Facebook Tackles Rising Threat: Americans Aping Russian Schemes to Deceive” — that Americans were emulating the Russkies by way of pressuring tactics. Still, signing up for Facebook with multiple (perhaps paid) troll accounts is different than having to picture some swarthy stranger coming up to you and pssssting that you could make a buck airbnbing your Facebook account. Wouldn’t you run?
Strange news comes out of Ukraine that nobody really pays much attention to. For instance, last week a Ukrainian publication reported that Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor Joe Biden had successfully got fired for, ostensibly, failing to aggressively pursue corruption allegations at Burisma Holdings, had himself, on February 7, appealed to the National Police to prosecute Biden for the “commission of a criminal offence by Biden both in the territory of Ukraine and abroad…In particular, Biden was accused of interference in the work of a law enforcement body under Section 2 of Article 343 of the Penal Code of Ukraine.”
Shokin Gun? Did Trump push him to appeal? (More impeachableness.) Funny stuff, out of Ukraine.
Of course, DIIA, the smartphone government for stupid people, got me thinking about high tech in America. Gadgets and gizmos, smartphones and apps, seems to be the way we’re going, and not necessarily in a benign way. For instance, the Diebold machines that helped fuck up the 2000 Florida election, along with Gore not winning his home state and Nader offering an alternative with integrity, just sold to another company, which reportedly has the same problems with hackability. Jeesh.
But also, and finally, when one thinks of Ukraine’s new infatuation with service-sector politics, Iowa comes to mind. One problem with Shadow, the app meant to calculate the caucus vote, was that it was fanfared with much promise and too few people to roll it out properly. Brand recognition was the game. Now, Acronym, the non-profit agency that used the device at the caucus is ducking from the fallout after the app’s catastrophic failure. It makes the Dems look techo dumb.
Perhaps the real worry, though, should be what the names evoke. When I think of Acronym, I think of FBI, CIA, NSA, and all the funny ones that Edward Snowden describes in Permanent Record that don’t mean anything in themselves and cover something else up. Shadow we know, or don’t, thinking along a Jungian strain. When the acronyms and the shadows merge you just know some SHIT is going to hit the FAN.
By John Kendall Hawkins
In his memoir, Permanent Record, Edward Snowden insists there’s a serious distinction between whistleblowing and leaking. “A ‘whistleblower’, he writes, “ is a person who through hard experience has concluded that their life inside an institution has become incompatible with the principles developed in…the greater society outside it, to which that institution should be accountable.” Snowden has often referred to Daniel Ellsberg, distributor of the Pentagon Papers, as a model for the type. He compares whistleblowing to leaking — “acts of disclosure done not out of public interest but out of self-interest, or in pursuit of institutional or political aims.”
Daniel Ellsberg, who has said of Katherine Gun, the depicted GCHQ whistleblower in Official Secrets, that her heroic decision to risk everything (career, marriage, freedom) to blow the whistle on Great Britain’s collusion in blackmailing UN Security Council members into supporting an illegal war (the US and the UK knew there were no WMDs) against Iraq in the spring of 2003 was a “model for other whistleblowers. She’s my hero.”
He has used similar accolades to describe Snowden’s revelations. In recently announcing Snowden’s addition to the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founded by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, to enhance and strengthen first amendment rights, Ellsberg said: “He is the quintessential American whistleblower, and a personal hero of mine…Leaks are the lifeblood of the republic and, for the first time, the American public has been given the chance to debate democratically the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.”
These whistleblowers are citizens we should be most proud of, as they have the public interest of America at heart: they see terrible things happening when secretive governance works to evade accountability and undermine the Constitution with their actions. They often hang out together. To hear Ellsberg, whistleblowing is as American as Mom’s Apple Pie. And is always a la mode.
But not every whistleblower is equal. Take Mark Felt. When he was known as ‘Deep Throat’, telling heroic journalists (Redford and Hoffman) from the Washington Post to follow the money and uncover the Watergate era shenanigans of the Nixon administration, Americans were sucked into the intrigue of his deep state doings. In the newspaper, whose motto is: Democracy Dies in Darkness, insider Felt was painted as a hero of the Republic.
But many years of political sobriety later I’ve come to the conclusion that Felt was no whistleblower. He was what Snowden calls a leaker; he acted “out of self-interest, [and] in pursuit of institutional or political aims.” You could argue that the MSM – and the rest of us — got played when Deep Throat helped take down a hated president, Richard Nixon. Had Felt been made director, we never would have had Deep Throat. It was nice to see Nixon go, but Felt was a leaker, not a whistleblower. And the fact that Felt was close friends with journalist Bob Woodward — even before Watergate — is never mentioned.
There is an alternative way of looking at what Deep Throat accomplished. In an article titled “The deeper truth about Deep throat,” author George Friedman of Stratfor writes,
This was not a lone whistleblower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.
Even as we consider the source (Stratfor), considering an alternative way of reading Deep Throat’s patriotism is — obligatory. And may be relevant to what has happened recently with Trump’s impeachment. Felt’s no Ellsberg.
In fact, while it’s ‘obligatory’ to bring intel secrets to the grave with you, Felt probably did the right thing when he went public in old age and outed himself as Deep Throat. He was evidently pressured not by vanity but by the sensible desire to help his grandchildren pay for university. Vanity Fair jumped on his confession. A book contract followed. Then a movie. Felt, for money, told ghosts how he blew minds back in the day, so that his grandkids wouldn’t be just more debt slaves to Sallie Mae. $1.6 trillion and counting. (Fuck. If he’s only framed it that way in the end, he’d been a national hero all over again: follow the money, he’d a-said, about the student loans.)
In the context of Ellsberg, Snowden, Gun, Radack, et al, where does the Ukraine whistleblower fit in? Did he deliver a Pentagon Report or StellarWind revelation or NSA blackmail-for-war report? No. Did s/he have first hand information about the phone call that President Trump had with Ukraine’s President Zelensky? No. Someone told him about the phone call and the quid pro quo and he went to the appropriate authorities to begin an abuse of power probe, but at third hand. Afterward, unlike the whistleblowers described above, our Ukraine whistleblower went back to work for the CIA.
Whether you are Left or Right of the political spectrum, when we begin to examine the motivations of why this whistleblower came forward, one has to wonder if there is any public interest in that motivation. Quid pro quos are the bread and butter of Congress, definitely including the anti-opponent kind Trump is said to have been caught up in. Put differently, had Obama been “caught” qpq-ing a foreign power, say, against McCain, would the MSM have given a shit? Many people would like to see the non-politician Trump deposed, but if the whistleblower is more akin to Mark Felt than Daniel Ellsberg I’m not interested in doing it through partisan hypocrisy.
Despite the fantasy game that the MSM is playing regarding the Ukraine whistleblower, indulging in the idea that s/he is motivated by public interests, and hiding his identity, so many journalists have looked into the background of the alleged whistleblower, outed in several middle and conservative publications, that if it’s true that this whistleblower once worked for Obama’s NSC in Ukraine until just after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, and that they have an established relationship with Joe Biden, then there is a conflict of interest, and the protected whistleblower, call him Deep State Thoat, is more akin to Felt than Ellsberg or Snowden.
To date, the CIA whistleblower that the left-center MSM refuses to name, is supposedly protected by whistleblower legislation, which any sensible American citizen should want to honor. But the name is out there. The same name. And it becomes surprising, given the rhetoric about this person’s need to be guarded 24 hours a day, why they simply haven’t just come forward and averred that they are not the whistleblower. If it turns out that they do have connections to the previous administration, it pays to do what the previous Deep Throat suggested: follow the money.
Even controversial CIA whistleblower, John Kirikaou has weighed in on the Ukraine whistleblower (in a generic way). He says, “If he’s a whistleblower, and not a CIA plant whose task it is to take down the president, then his career is probably over.” Elsewhere, he opines even further:
“I don’t think this is a whistleblower, not at all,” Kiriakou told FNC’s Tucker Carlson. “I think this is an anonymous source for the Democratic staff in the House of Representatives. You can’t hide this person’s identity just to save him from embarrassment or trouble of being recognized. It’s just not appropriate. If this is a whistleblower, he needs to come forward in public, testify in open session and blow that whistle.”
In the CIA, you are a pariah, after “ratting.” Somehow, the Ukraine whistleblower went back to work at the CIA. Either, like Mark Felt, his job was to take down a president, like Mark Felt, or, if he is a real whistleblower, he will be ‘reluctantly’ pushed out into the world of Snowden-like contractors, unknown, and unaccounted for.
Like most sane and sensible people I detest Trump’s presidency, but there’s a danger that MSM journalism will take a further tumble into absurdity if it slavishly follows partisan bicker-streams and refuses to wonder what the Ukraine whistleblower’s motivations are. I favor a whistleblower law that totally protects the whistleblower: if they need to quit as a result of their leaks, then the law should provide full salary for a career; a pension should be safe; health insurance guaranteed, plus, if necessary, they should receive paid protection. But if our Deep State Throat is just another political blow-hard with a partisan agenda, then they get no protection beyond what their handlers can provide.
Why isn’t a single journalist wondering aloud what Cofer Black is up to on the board of directors at controversial Bursima Gas (since May 2017) in Ukraine? Is there any relation to Deep State Throat’s whistle and Black in Ukraine. Has the whistleblower ever been in contact with Black?
Let’s see those phone transcripts.
By John Kendall Hawkins
- Abbie Hoffman, his war cry from Fuck the System (1967)
The System Is the Solution
- AT&T ad, circa the 70s
One of the funniest bits I can remember reading about Abbie Hoffman was the time he tried to get himself arrested at a police station and the cops wouldn’t bite. His friend, and fellow Yippee, Paul Krassner said, “We went to the 9th precinct. Abbie wanted to get busted to show solidarity between the hippies and the ethnic groups. But they wouldn’t arrest him.” The Yippies had a sit-in outside the police station, where Abbie carried on, telling cops: “I want to be arrested because I’m a nigger. You’re arresting my black brothers. Arrest me.” He was invited inside the police station to talk.
Inside the station house he jumped from desk to desk, and demanded to be arrested. They laughed at him. So he leapt off the desk, “going, ‘Na, Na!’” and kicked out the glass from a trophy case and ran. One cop yelled, “You goddamn bastard, now you’ve had it.” They chased, but he got away. He called days later to arrange his arrest. About 40 cops were waiting for him at the rendezvous point, when a van pulled up “and about seven guys come running out who look exactly like Abbie Hoffman with the big Afro and they run into the crowd and the goddamn cops are chasing all of them!” Then, Hoffman called to them, “Yoo Hoo! You Hoo! Here I am!” And disappeared.
Vintage Abbie. Seven cops holding up seven Afro wigs — like they scalped ‘em.
In Steal This Book, his street survival manual, Abbie had advised the reader to keep on hand a few costumes for street theater and escapades. You never knew when a ‘nice’ suit bought at Salvation Army might come in handy to score a free meal at a decent restaurant (bring your own cockroach or broken glass). Costumes had played their role in spoofing justice at the Chicago 7 trial in 1969, when Abbie and Jerry Rubin had come to court one day wearing judges robes — and, when told to take them off NOW!, they revealed cops uniforms underneath. The judge was a Hoffman and Abbie had even called him Dad and offered to set him up with some Hoffman (LSD). The whole trial was a trip, including the outrageous bounding and gagging of a black man.
But serious contemplation was also at work behind Abbie’s modus o; it wasn’t all hippie razzmatazz. This week we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sentencing of the Chicago 7 and for Abbie’s later writing of his introduction to his timeless paean to freedom, Steal This Book, which Abbie called “a manual of survival in the prison that is Amerika.” With all the proliferating criminal breaches of privacy and freedom by the System since 9/11, as described in copious detail by Edward Snowden’s revelations in Permanent Record, Abbie’s description of Amerika has never been truer. On February 19, the Chicago 7 were found guilty of inciting a riot during the DNC convention of 1968, as well as, for their courtroom antics, 175 counts of contempt of court. The convictions were later overturned on appeal.
In his introduction, Abbie simplifies his Yippie war cry with a three-part approach to take in the counterculture revolution against the System — i.e., the Military-Industrial (MIC) system that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in his farewell speech. First, we must Survive. Abbie writes, “Revolution is not about suicide, it is about life.” And that really is the serious thread of practical philosophy that informs Steal This Book. There are ways of surviving, essentially off the grid, if you’re willing to live the lifestyle — and a lot hippies did. Free food, free clothes, free communications, free books, free accommodation all there to be had.
The second part is Fight. “We cannot survive without learning to fight,” he writes, and “The purpose of part two [Fight] is not to fuck the system, but destroy it.” The System is definitely not the solution. And, again, with the prospect of a Democratic party offering no real alternative to the economic plight many Americans find themselves in — and people getting themselves ensconced in debt slavery by taking one of those candy-colored credit cards they practically give away (and you thought sub-prime mortgages were a potential global economic disaster) to pay their bills. Remember how much fun it was to play personal pyramid scheme by paying off one credit card with another? Fuck the system. Destroy the MIC.
Finally, there’s Liberate, which is essentially a guide on how to live free in four cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and LA. But it’s the attitude of community action that comes through that makes it worth reading. Steal This Book is not anachronistic, it’s alive and well, and remains a feisty little blueprint for expressing your freedom in a locked-down world.
Abbie took ‘taking the mickey out of’ the MIC to heart. He didn’t just talk the talk, he strat the strut. Just a year before he and the Yippies ran Pigasis for the presidency in their Festival of Life outside the DNC convention, Abbie had had a go at the Industrial (or corporate) side of the MIC by leading revelers to the NY Stock Exchange and raining dollar bills down on the brokers below. As Larry Sloman describes it,“The brokers started scrambling, pushing each other, grabbing for the money. When the avalanche subsided, they actually looked up at the gallery and demanded ‘More’!” As the straight press chased him with the 5Ws, Abbie shouted over his shoulder, “Guerilla Theater,” laughed, and hopped into a getaway cab.
In October 1967, during a mass protest march on the Pentagon, Abbie took the mickey out of the Military side of the MIC when he convinced officials he could levitate the Pentagon and entered into negotiations as to how high. Said Daniel Ellsberg, working on the Pentagon Papers at the time, “Levitating the Pentagon struck me as a great idea because removing deference from any of these institutions is very important….” Abbie’s friend, Sal Gianetta described the scene: “Ab was adamant that the fucking building was gonna go up twenty-two feet… If the fucking building went up twenty-two feet, the foundations were gonna crack, so there was discussion about foundations and cracks, it was fucking unbelievable.” Abbie and the officials negotiated the levitation down to three feet and “they sealed it with a handshake.”
Just before the event, Abbie had contacted John Garabedian, a reporter for the New York Post, who relates how Abbie informed him that
hippie chemists had invented a new wonder drug which combined the best properties of LSD with a drug called DMSO…[and] on the day of the march to the Pentagon…hippie chicks would fill squirt guns full of this love potion…and squirt them on the soldiers or anyone else of an evil or war like frame of mind thereby causing them to want to stop making war and immediately make love.
Talk about love as a battlefield.
Ironically, the military developed this idea later. It became the Gay Bomb, winner of the Ig Nobel Peace prize in 2007. It, too, would have caused the enemy soldiers to ‘turn on’ each other and orgy-up the battlefield. Presumably, the idea was scrapped when an ear got whispered into and some General Studly suddenly realized, like a freight train, that with a shift of wind the blowback could be devastating. More Pentagon levity.
After Abbie went underground in 1974 to avoid going to trial for dealing cocaine, he continued, as Barry Freed, to be an advocate for change and to defend communities from the destructive powers of the System. Living in upper state New York, he helped fight against the dredging destruction of the St. Lawrence River system by the Army Corp of Engineers. However, having to keep his head down and his psyche out of the limelight didn’t suit Abbie and, word is (p.277), he became gloomier and more depressed as time went on. Being without his wife, Anita, and son, america, deepened his suicidal ideation. Still, his work with Save the River was extraordinarily important.
Abbie showed he still had a working protest finger in 1986 when he and Amy Carter (and others) defended their arrests following disruptions of CIA recruitment efforts on a college campus in Massachusetts, successfully arguing in court with a ‘Necessity Defense’ that their minor criminality had the far greater public benefit of shedding light on the criminal activities of the CIA in Central America. This event was a welcome alternative celebration to the crap provided to the public during the televised Iran/Contra hearings, during which Oliver North successfully marketed himself as a hero.
Not long before Abbie committed suicide, he was still at it, trying to rouse the troupes, in a series of debates with his old Yippie pal Jerry Rubin, who’d gone over to the other side. In his last Yippie versus Yuppie debate, in Vancouver, in 1988, the two tangled over the same ol’ question: Can the System be effectively resisted from the outside, or must change come from inside? Rubin made some good points, noting that “male chauvinism helped take down the movement,” and that Yippies “were not open to self-criticism,” but when he calls the Babyboomers Yuppies taking over the reins of government, Abbie rightly points out that Rubin is just a “born-again capitalist” and that Yuppies are not new; they’re a throw-back to the so-called Status-Seekers of the 50s, making Rubin a regressive, not a progressive.
As if to demonstrate how much air has gone out of the 60s party balloon, during the Vancouver debate one female student ran up on stage and attacked Rubin with a cream pie, disrupting the event. It was almost comical watching the woman make her escape, nobody giving a shit; even the camera seemed indifferent. It was hard to tell who it was more embarrassing to — Abbie or Jerry. The entire debate is worth watching. It’s available here.
Looking forward to the horror show ahead in November, what with Democrats seeming in disarray — Warren fading fast, Bernie looking ancient, Biden looking done, and Buttgieg on the ascent: You can almost see Trump handling any of them on stage with his nincompoop’s invective in October; you can smell re-election; you can almost predict the world’s end can’t be far behind. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Abbie here for some guerilla theatrics; to maybe lead Congressmen in an Augustus Boal tactic or two — Legislative Theatre, making laws as psycho-drama, senators acting out citizens without health insurance, representatives acting out young people crushed by student debt, Pelosi tearing up the military budget, and Abbie presiding like some genius clown shaking us loose from the gravity of the situation.
By John Kendall Hawkins
Who is this guy, Jim Mitchell? Evidently, I overslept and woke up smack dab in the middle of the post-Truth era. Where does a man get the moxie to have his work comprehensively condemned and declared illegal by a Senate Intelligence sub-committee, and then turn around, look us square in the eye, and declare he would “do it all again’? But that’s what Mitchell, the so-called “architect” of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) did the other day at a pretrial hearing before the military commission at Guantanamo.
How can this guy be a self-described “strong supporter” of Amnesty International? Has he read what they’ve published about his tactics? Look: “The perverse ‘work’ of these psychologists has dramatically set back the global fight against torture. The interrogation methods they championed have had a rippling effect around the world.” Amnesty International should immediately cancel his subscription, telling him they refuse to take money bloodied by torture. But maybe it was a generous donation.
The American Psychological Association (APA) is appalled enough by his behaviorism, although he is not an APA member, that they’ve tried to take away his license to practice counseling (presumably) in Texas. Emotion denied. Why Texas? It’s like he’s performing some kind of stations-of-the-Cross — first Alaska, then Florida, then Texas, sweet Jesus, can a presidential run be far behind? Or maybe he’s angling for a job in the recently relocated to Texas Black Museum — where it — and he — spiritually belong.
Where did this guy get his hubris? Who inflated his ego? Why was he hired in the first place? Sydney Gottlieb must be rolling over in his grave. We have a country that for little more reason than amped-up paranoia brought into the USA after WW2 some of the most evil war criminals known to Man under Operation Paperclip, whose rhetorical motto was: Why hang them at the Hague when we can hire them to help kill baddies before the Russians do. Vivisection. Mind control. Eye-ball poppings. They really knew how to take the glove off back in the day.
But Mitchell? Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Alaska. Specialty: counseling. Not Maslow’s arty-farty Self-Becoming kind, but the woof-woof-inspired salivation army of those who’ve learned to be helpless and who only Jimmy can rebuild with his science degree. (I try to picture Mitchell’s Alaskan clients and their unique delusions.) And then, lo, there’s more: a PhD in nutrition. Thesis: For hypertension, what works better exercise or diet? After he’d relieved Zubaydah of his hyper-tension, did he offer dietary advice? We already know there was plenty of exercise. What am I missing? Just how long did I over-sleep? Is it some kind of CIA gag?
And Mitchell didn’t like it when he was called “a pussy” by some CIA hombre calling himself “The Preacher,” who detained the psychologist himself at a “black site” against his will, and forced Mitchell to continue waterboarding Zubaydah — even after Mitchell had reached a breakpoint rapportment, and said, “no more.” But, Mitchell tearily explained at the Gitmo hearing, he went ahead and pseudo-drowned his newfound poetical buddy again anyway, because he was ordered to (remind you of another famous psychology experiment?). Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, when all was done and done. And he’d do it again.
But he did ‘rat out’ Charlie Wise, the Preacher, to the ICIG for bringing to the EIT table Sydney Gottlieb’s KUBARK manual that Wise used to train Contras in Nicaragua, including rectal feeding. Wow. That IG report makes Jim Mitchell a bonafide whistleblower. I don’t know if that’s irony or what. But Mitchell ended up winning his “turf war” with Wise, because soon thereafter the asshole Preacher, and his laying-of-hands-on approach, retired from the CIA, lived a cloistered life (as far as we’re allowed to know), and died of an apparent heart attack in 2003.
However, nothing Mitchell did surpassed his “I’d do it again” overzealousness of waterboarding the presumed, and to this day merely alleged, Mastermind of the 9/11 attack, Khaled Sheik Mohammed. KSM was blubbooled 183 times. In the film, The Report, Jim Mitchell is depicted as panicky, because the effectiveness of his EIT is being seriously called into question. (In the film, his CIA colleagues don’t look convinced from the beginning, as he shows powerpoint slides of his intended techniques). Because the legality of what they’re doing depends on the effectiveness of EIT (“It’s only torture if it doesn’t work.”), Mitchell and the CIA are keen to show amazing results. KSM is broken, becomes genteel, and writes “tribute” poetry to an interrogator’s wife, they claim.
Of course, it was CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, in an interview with ABC’s Brian Ross, that provided most of the details of what happened to Abu Zubaydah and KSM. Kiriakou claims that, because “they hate us more than they love life,” drastic measures are required to get through to them. A conflicted Kiriakou told us that waterboarding worked (p.5), that it provided valuable information (p.6) that helped thwart future attacks, and that though he now regarded it as torture he left open the door for using it again. Like Abu Zubaydah, waterboarding produced another poet. (p.12) The CIA, he said, now had sufficient leads developed. “And — as a result, water-boarding, at least right now [my italics], is unnecessary,” (p.8) Kiriakou said.
But one wonders how Kiriakou and Mitchell would answer Dianne Feinstein’s question posed in the film: “If it works, why do we need to do it 183 times?”
I try to avoid thinking of the Torture Report any more, because then I have to remember Feinstein’s committee report was only necessary because the CIA destroyed the video tapes of their interrogations of detainees before they could be evaluated. I’d also have to recall that CIA Director John Brennan ordered a breach of the sub-committee’s computers — almost certainly a criminal violation of the separation of powers. (And he’d certainly do it again.) When I do find myself thinking of all this depressing shit that must betoken the end of empire (if not more), I try to use an alternative entryway — like Sid Jacobson’s visual learner-friendly version of the Feinstein committee’s findings: The Torture Report: A Graphic Adaptation.
But probably we should honor the artist and poet-in-residence at Guantanamo, Abu Zubaydah, which probably has more emotional depth and verisimilitude embedded in the arresting drawings than Jacobson’s. I don’t know if KSM draws, but I have a gut feeling he’s going to turn out to be some kind of beat poet. Recently, I filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain copies of KSM’s poetry. If it was written on Uncle Sam’s dime, then it belongs to our exceptional democracy and we should be able to see it.
I would love to read KSM’s paeans and tributes to CIA rapport-specialist Deuce Martinez’s wife. (Did he show her pictures?) I almost feel inspired enough, in thinking about it, to write a paean to her myself. I would volunteer to collate and honestly edit Gitmo detainee poems, illustrated by AZ and other graffiti artists, and publish them on Amazon for Kindle download.
I pace, wondering what sounds I will hear, and think of the office water cooler blubbooling — in iambic pentameter. The Misfit at the end of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” free-associates. John Donne comes back, like Quasimodo, to fuck with this old tolled-out “soul.” I hear:
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Fucked, and under water.
By John Kendall Hawkins
You should never judge a book by its title, but with whistleblower Edward Snowden’ s Permanent Record the reader gets as close s/he can possibly get to the soul of a narrative before actually reading it. He means it: The American government, with help of its data-gathering partners, is gathering up information on every mobile or Internet-connected individual on the planet. They have a permanent dossier on each and every one of us. Snowden writes, “We are the first people in the history of the planet for whom this is true, the first people to be burdened with data immortality, the fact that our collected records might have an eternal existence.”
As Snowden puts it, “At any time, the government could dig through the past communications of anyone it wanted to victimize in search of a crime (and everybody’s communications contain evidence of something)… this is tantamount to a government threat: If you ever get out of line, we’ll use your private life against you.”
This implied threat is not conspiracy theory, not paranoia, and it is not new; it represents the criminal intentions of some agencies of government, often working in collusion with the Executive. The Intelligence Community (IC) has, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer once admonished Trump when he lashed out against them, “Six ways to Sunday at getting back at you.” (Apparently, Schumer accepts their criminality as ‘the norm’.)
We have seen how the system can be abused already. Frank Church told us all about it in the 70s, and so did the . The CIA was involved in the Watergate break-in. told us what the CIA was up to in Nicaragua. We all know now, and apparently have come to terms with the fact, that the IC was criminally involved in the brazen televised false testimony about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that was forced upon the world as a pretext for an unnecessary and illegal war against Iraq.
This latter criminal activity was recently the subject of the whistleblowing film, Official Secrets, in which GCHQ analyst Katherine Gun blew the whistle on her agency when she discovered that they were being coerced by the Americans into finding kompromat on members of the UN Security Council to force them to vote in favour of the war (to make the war technically “legal”). The UN was formed, in part, to prevent such future nation-state aggression. But Gun was really blowing the whistle on the NSA, who requested the kompromat – in fact, she was blowing the whistle on the blackmail activity of the GW Bush administration, who would have directed the NSA to gather such “intel.” An impeachable offense.
Snowden and Gun are whistleblowers, and not politically-motivated leakers. What they released were very serious revelations of the criminal behavior of government officials. Snowden revealed that the real war was not on Terror, but on human privacy. As he wrote in PM, “Any elected government that relies on surveillance to maintain control of a citizenry that regards surveillance as anathema to democracy has effectively ceased to be a democracy.”
Official Secrets also revealed that after suspect government actions leading to Britain’s decision to go to war with Argentina, the so-called Falklands War, the government tightened its whistleblower laws to make what Gun did illegal. She would have gone to jail for reporting a data burglary of Watergate proportions. Since a trial might have compromised American intelligence, the British government dropped their charges. We might have even seen how the Brits, too, use contractors, like, say, Orbis, to do the dirty work of dossier-gathering.
Now that the has been released, we have learned that Christopher Steele is no whistleblower along the lines of Snowden or Gun. His dossier was full of shit, and he may one day be hoiked into his own spittoon. How did he ever get to be called a whistleblower in the first place? Because he had the attentive ear of the MSM, in hate with the Trump administration, willing to listen to his off-the-record kompromat story (September 2016). It’s easy to understand MSM motivation, but they got sucked into a self-degrading compromise of their own. They might as well have been sitting down in a secret meeting with the National Enquirer. They got played.
(You could argue that the MSM – and the rest of us — got played before this way, when another whistleblower, Deep Throat, helped take down a hated president, Richard Nixon. But Mark Felt had an agenda: He resented not being appointed director of the FBI after Hoover died, and didn’t like it one bit when Nixon made a political appointment to the vacant seat. Had Felt been made director, we never would have had Deep Throat. It was nice to see Nixon go, but Felt was a leaker, not a whistleblower.)
As the Horowitz Report makes clear, , which was meant to titillate our late Capitalist prurience-conditioned minds, contained little ‘information’ (and let us recall, from the Stasi’s work, that information is not necessarily fact or truth) more intriguing than references to an alleged incident where Trump, while he was attending a beauty pageant, back in 2013, had some prostitutes piss on a hotel bed that he was told the Obamas had slept in.
Steele’s dossier was salacious and not verifiable. Instead, its veracity was built on Steele’s “reputation” (which was amped up, as they do, when building arguments from authority). Steele was to be seen as an expert on Russian affairs, even though he hadn’t been to Russia in years. He relied on so-called ‘assets’, who were either anything but, or non-existent by virtue of the protection of asset ‘cover’.
Off the record with the MSM, in October 2016, Steele approached David Corn to spread his smear to the Left through Mother Jones. Dossier information was published in MJ, and later in Buzzfeed, in each cased marked unverified. But let’s just say, Steele’s revelations were something less than the sinister implications of the Stellar Wind program whose details the New York Times quashed in October 2004, to prize-winning reporter’s James Risen’s dismay.
Though clearly unverifiable by the supposed best IC services in the world, the Horowitz Report makes clear that in October Surprise Month 2016, the FBI fudged information on the FISA warrants they obtained to legally gather information on Carter Page and, through him, the Trump Campaign. The Report makes clear that the FBI abused its power by essentially lying to the FISA court. Once again, government agencies, with tremendous spying power, opted to use the presumed veracity of their authority to lie instead, when the information didn’t suit their agenda.
Russia may have tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, in the same way America was all to when they did it to Russia in 1996, but so did Ukraine (according to and pieces), and, if the Horowitz Report is to be understood, our “special friends” the Brits. Maybe we should be asking – who didn’t try to interfere in the election?
But more seriously, the Report strongly suggests that elements of the FBI (at the behest of the Obama administration?) were messing with the American electorate themselves by using tainted information, developed by the Clinton campaign through FusionGPS, to get warrants issued against an opponent of their campaign in October Surprise Month 2016. In essence, it sounds like we might have been messing with our own elections.
Speaking of messed up elections, the 2016 Jeb Bush presidential campaign was, , the party that originally hired Steele to “build” a dossier on Trump. (One recalls that Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida when his brother George W. eked out a tiny victory in 2000 – a margin so slim, and contested, that the fact that his brother was running should have required an automatic recount of votes.) Bush has denied any direct link to Steele, but you imagine him placing a call to Hillary, one dynasty to another, and telling her about the Steele work and where to get it.
Trump has been rightly castigated by the MSM for buying into conspiracy-sounding stories about Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election. In his infamous telephone call, he mumbled something about Crowdstrike, and the DNC servers in the Ukraine, and Biden – to hear him speak: There’s a lack of intelligence between his ears that must make the IC insane. You could see him just mumbling state secrets to Putin, because he’s a dumb shit. But, at the same time, bringing up Crowdstrike is not totally daft. (Now that we know that the “DNC Server” was not LAN-based but WAN-based, the hacking/leaking question takes on a new dimension.) It’s true that Dimitri Alperovitch, CTO of Crowdstrike, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, where Hillary Clinton received a Distinguished International Leadership Award in 2013, and so that’s an obvious connection.
Not necessarily a big deal, but left out of the equation is the fact that Crowdstrike’s president, Shawn Henry, was arguably the most important agent at the FBI, before he retired after 24 years to join Crowdstrike. According to his , “he oversaw half of the FBI’s investigative operations, including all FBI criminal and cyber investigations worldwide, international operations, and the FBI’s critical incident response to major investigations and disasters.” One wonders: Did he retire to become what Snowden was – a , better paid, virtually no public accountability for deeds done on contract jobs for the government? More importantly, perhaps, was he CCed in when FBI-Steele transactions were taking place?
But speaking of homo contractuses, why was Mandiant also brought in as back up to the DNC server investigation, given that they are one of Crowdstrike’s main rivals? They came to the same conclusion: The Russians did it. But it’s interesting to note that . So, again, it’s fair, given what Snowden tells us, to ask if Kevin Mandia took an early retirement from his Pentagon position to be a contract employee?
But back to whistleblowers. Our Citizen X, the Ukraine quid pro quo whistleblower. The MSM has released very little information about him, other than acknowledging that he’s a CIA officer, because they don’t want to publish details that would inevitably allow free-thinking individuals to work out who he is. The name of this whistleblower has been circulating for weeks in alternative-to-MSM publications, such as realclearinvestigations.com, run by, ahem, a former NY Times editor. There’s a lot of jumping ship going on: The Intercept is staffed with star reporters from the MSM who couldn’t hack it anymore.
If our third-hand-wringing whistleblower is who these alt-Indies say he is, then he doesn’t fit the criteria that Edward Snowden lays out — a Daniel Ellsberg type — but rather a pawn in the Deep State game. The one-and-only CIA analyst to ever go to prison (albeit deeply minimum) for whistleblowing, John Kiriakou, has weighed in on the master debate. “If he’s a whistleblower,” , “and not a CIA plant whose task it is to take down the president, then his career is probably over.” (I find this amusing, because I always thought of Kiriakou as a plant to apologize for the CIA torture program – he said it worked, but the Torture Report said it didn’t.)
Elsewhere, , “[I]nside the CIA, I guarantee you that people are saying, ‘Well, if he’s willing to rat out the president, he’s probably willing to rat out us.’ And so no one is ever going to trust this guy again.” So, according to K. either he’s a plant or his career is over. We’re told he’s back at the CIA resuming his career. But, because he’s anonymous, he might actually be another homo contractus by now. That’s what the Indie word is.
Unfortunately for the fused agendas of the MSM, our intrepid Deep State Throat, if the alt media information holds up, was a confidante of Joe Biden when he was the “point man” for Ukraine affairs after the CIA-encouraged coup there in 2014. In fact, according to Real Clear, the ‘whistleblower,” was more than that: Deep State Throat was Obama’s NSC director for Ukraine. This has been neither conformed or denied yet though.
There may or may not be anything to the Joe Biden quid pro quo he successfully executed in 2016 and bragged about on live TV, with minor hand-wringing by the MSM, but it is worth noting that the continued investigation into Burisma that Trump was pushing would also have resulted in the question: Why is Cofer Black on its Board of Directors (since just after Trump’s inauguration in 2017)?
It’s speculation, but not wild, that Deep State Throat, Obama’s former NSC liaison for Ukraine, received a call of his own, perhaps from the American embassy anxious to continue the anti-Russian work of the previous administration. As Edward Snowden writes in Permanent Record, “The worst-kept secret in modern diplomacy is that the primary function of an embassy nowadays is to serve as a platform for espionage.”
Because Western democratic citizens live in a politically dysfunctional world — Five Eyes nations are enforcers for nation-state gangster goons guarding their ever-acquisitive interests — without a respected unifying governmental agency, such as a real league of nations, we get nothing crucial done as a globe — see climate change. We’ve become hive-minded, interconnected in uncomfortable ways, and seem to be suffering from some kind of colony collapse of consciousness.
This would help explain how these things keep happening under our noses, while the MSM looks the other way. Or leads us in a rendition of Two Minute Hate. Prey to tiny cornball characters in cyberspace who see themselves as swaggering Gods. Snowden opines, “America remains the hegemon, the keeper of the master switches that can turn almost anyone on and off at will.”
By John Kendall Hawkins
Last week was a shocker for news.
First, there was the Guardian resurrection of Cambridge Analytica “whistleblower” Brittany Kaiser putting out the clickbait headline, ‘global data manipulation is out of control’. She was promising to release more damaging data about the 2016 US presidential election — in the coming months. Her book marketing tactic (Targeted, see the Times review) was endorsed by another self-described “whistleblower,” Christopher Steele, the British contractor who sold the dossier of turds to the FBI.
Steele commented, “…these problems are likely to get worse, not better, and with crucial 2020 elections in America and elsewhere approaching, this is a very scary prospect.” Both Kaiser and Steele interfered in the 2016 election themselves (on opposite sides! maybe even cancelling each other out.) So, what’s scary is that they’re promising to ‘do something about it’ again, and seem to be in league this time. Why the Guardian chose to link them this way is a mystery for the oracle.
Before I could fully recover from that prospect, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist James Risen went apoplectic over at the Intercept: “Donald Trump is a murderer.”
While I was digesting that, over at Rolling Stone, Andy Kroll was proffering the sadistic notion that holding up Nancy Pelosi’s deliverance of impeachment articles to the Senate was her possible tactic of holding back one article in order to try Trump on the other one later, closer to the election. A kind of political double-tap, and a precedent. But there’s been talk of multiple impeachments too. (Think Joe Pesci: Die, die, die.)
That’s all bad enough, but then you go ahead and make the mistake of thinking: Fuck, if Biden gets elected in November, the Democrats had better maintain a majority in the House at the mid-terms, because the Senate’s solidly Republican, and when he get’s impeached (fuckin count on it) probably for his Burisma/Ukraine doings, he could be the first US president to be canned. Mitch McConnell threatened as much on TV just yesterday. These professional quid-pro-quoers in Congress have been going tit-for-tat since Nixon. It was amusing until the circus distraction led to the 1% taking over.
But perhaps the biggest bullshit item of the week was the recent New York Times piece claiming Russians hacked into the servers of Burisma Gas. Forget the convenient timing of it and lack of logic — the suggestion that the same Russian GRU group that “hacked” the DNC in 2016 was now doing Trump another solid by seeking diabolical data on Burisma servers, while the MSM, at the same time ,claims the existence of such data is nothing but “conspiracy theory.” Well, wouldn’t the Russians know the score already? Can it be both ways?
Area 1 is the name of the security firm announcing the breach. No link to the website was offered, but that’s alright, I know how to do a little research, and soon found my way there. “It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for,” write our intrepid Times reporters, but this assertion is contradicted just a few graphs later, when the Times tells us that the “firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.”
Well, by gum, if their specialty is watching the hackers hack live, as they claim, wouldn’t that suggest that they were watching the Russkies do their B-and-E in real time? And wouldn’t they have followed the mean red hackers all the way back to the mother lode of kompromat? There would have been forensic trails. See, logic tells me that’s what would have happened. But maybe the strangest thing about the Times piece was the presumably unintentional gaffe in one paragraph:
The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta,” the Clinton campaign manager, Mr. Falkowitz said. “Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.
Has the Times become so careless that they don’t bother with a quick copy edit? If Falkowitz was the Clinton campaign chair, we may have a Constitutional crisis on our hands.
Okay, who are these newbie-sounding Area 1 technologists? Well, all three co-founders of Area 1 — Oren Falkowitz, Blake Darché, and Phil Syme — are former hackers or programmers for the NSA. One notes that Darché was formerly a “principal consultant” at Crowdstrike, the DNC-contracted security firm. Then with a little data digging and dot matrix control, one discovers that one of the founders of Crowdstrike — no, not the Russian guy — is Shawn Henry, a 24-year veteran of the FBI, who “oversaw half of the FBI’s investigative operations, including all FBI criminal and cyber investigations worldwide.”
But back at Burisma, why is there no mention in the Times article of Cofer Black, the ex-CIA director of the Center for Counterterrorism (CTC), who once vowed something like he’d fight terrorists until flies were skating across their eyeballs like they were at the Rockefeller Center. He joined the Board of Directors of the under-investigated Burisma shortly after Trump’s Inauguration in 2017? Did Black, who Burisma’s web profile describes as “an internationally recognized authority on counterterrorism, cyber security, national security,” get consulted, questioned, or de-briefed by Area 1, given Black’s expertise? Might Black have had conversations with the NSC officer (the unnamed Deep State Throat) assigned to Ukraine when he arrived — to go over the political terrain, as it were? Burisma employees were said, in the Times piece, to have been deluged by a Russian phishing expedition in an effort to get someone to take the bait: Did Black bite?
All of this ex-Intelligence Community (IC) activity in the private sector made me think of Edward Snowden’s memoir, Permanent Record, and, more specifically, his chapter Homo Contractus, which details how the system works. Snowden says that the main reason for the huge surge in private contracting since 9/11 is to get around congressional limits on hiring more IC operatives. There are kickbacks, he writes: cooperating Congressmen get “high-paying” positions at “the very companies they’ve just enriched.”
So, some ex-government employees and retired military types start up security companies and at job fairs poach government IC workers with high security clearances. “After all,” writes Snowden, clearance can take a year to obtain from the government, and rather than “pay you to wait around for a year for the government approval. It makes more financial sense for a company to just hire an already cleared government employee.” And, after he negotiated his salary upward at his interview, Snowden was hired by a private company to do public work — with no real accountability to the public.
Snowden seemed to be working for Booz Allen Hamilton and Dell Computers, but he was actually working for the CIA and, later, the NSA — at their offices. In other words, the jobs were just cover. If something went wrong with an operation conducted by a contractor, then the contractor could be blamed, which is what happened with Snowden, he says; his leaks were a ‘rogue contractor’ problem.
So, considering Snowden’s insider observations, many questions emerge about these various doings: Are Oren Falkowitz and Blake Darché still working for the government, but under the cover of private contractors? What about Crowdstrike’s Shawn Henry? Hell, for that matter, what about Cofer Black — is he a homo contractus in the Snowden style, doing the US government’s bidding at Burisma? What’s Black’s take on Trump’s telephone pressure on Zelensky to start up the investigation of Burisma again?
I am reminded of something I read from Kevin Mandia, founder of Mandiant (since merged with the CIA-startup FireEye), a few years back. He gave testimony before a congressional subcommittee on intelligence back in 2011 and it was double-take stuff:
The majority of threat intelligence is currently in the hands of the government. Indeed, more than 90 percent of the breaches MANDIANT responds to are first detected by the government, not the victim companies. That means that 9 in every 10 companies we assist had no idea they had been compromised until the government notified them.
Think of what he’s saying here. Back in 2011, in 90% of the cases companies victimized by hackers first found out about it from the government. The other part of the equation is that companies like Mandiant, FireEye, Crowdstrike, etc., are called in to be ghostbusters to the presumed spooks hacking at company secrets.
I don’t blame James Risen for his rage. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who may have been driven from the Times due, in part, to the timidity of their national security reporting: In October 2004 they quashed an extremely important public information story just before the election that would harmed George W. Bush’s re-election chances by revealing that his administration was illegally eavesdropping on Americans — information that would have come nine years before Snowden ended up detailing it, in 2013.
But I never read Risen refer to Bush as a murderer in the media, although his illegal devastation of Iraq was nothing short of mass murder. Risen never called Obama a murderer, although his use of drones, especially in targeting American citizens overseas (including a teenager sitting at a cafe), was premeditated as can be. Poor Risen may have snapped with Trump, and who can blame him. We have a cartoon figure in charge of real people.
Similarly, talk of multiple impeachments is pure crazy talk, and sadly, once again, the Democrats, who aren’t much better than the Republicans (remember: Americans vote the lesser of two evils) and play right into the hands of would-be electoral manipulators who seem intent on making the 2020 election a referendum on the Trump presidency rather than a contest of the best ideas for progressing a 200-year old democracy into the 21 century with devastating issues to solve — like Climate Change..
What the fuck are we going to do if He wins again — or worse: we accept the crypto-mandate that states He must lose at any price, even a secret Banana Republic intervention (think: Henry Kissinger) that will finish off any pretense that the country is free?