Stranger Things

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Sometimes there is a flash of lightning. A singular event comes out of the blue, so unexpected and dramatic that it blinds us, permanently enshrined in our memory. Almost overnight it becomes an unforgettable monument of the times, a touchstone connecting a generation, a ground wire connecting our own individual life with the universal experience of our whole generation. For my generation, I think it was the Kennedy assassination in 1963. Without exception, everyone I know of a certain age remembers exactly where they were around noon on November 22, 1963.

My own memories are crystal clear, perhaps suspiciously so. I was a socially challenged freshman in high school, treating myself to lunch at Tom & Jerry’s Drive-In, a purveyor of fine Tasty Treat (sloppy joe) sandwiches. Most days I skipped lunch or went to Tom & Jerry’s as going to the school cafeteria was to endure a gauntlet of closed groups reinforcing my sense of exclusion. Sitting at the counter with me was an equally socially inept country cousin. As we waited for our scrumpdillyicious Tasty Treat, the waitress came out of the kitchen looking like she had seen a ghost, “Somebody shot the President!!”

She slumped down on a counter seat, looking blankly out the window while her husband the cook turned up the radio so everyone could hear it. The remainder of my lunch period was passed in silence, listening to the radio. We walked back to school and my next class, Freshman English. After everyone was in their seat, the teacher looked over the room and announced – “The President is dead.”

What air remained in the room was gone. I looked at the girl in the desk beside me – Judy Green, a girl who actually said “Hi” to me – most days anyway. A look of total bewilderment came over her face and she put her head down in her arms and wept. The rest of the day passed in a daze.

A farm kid with no social media or neighborhood hi-jinks to distract, I followed the aftermath of the assassination in the Denver Post, along with the magazines my Dad subscribed to – Time, Life, Look. The suspected assassin, a troubled young man with a mysterious past named Lee Harvey Oswald, was quickly arrested. Two days later surrounded by police, somehow Jack Ruby, a New Orleans strip club owner with a mysterious past was able to accost Oswald at arms length, pistol clearly visible. And so Jack Ruby shot Oswald at point blank range, killing him.

As the news of the next few days played out, there were so very many strange events, bit players with mysterious backstories and coincidences. Rumors began to circulate about a conspiracy, a second sniper on the grassy knoll, maybe even a third gunman. The newly elevated President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, called upon Washington’s tribal elders to investigate the assassination, hoping to calm the increasingly agitated waters. To quell the growing hysteria of “misinformation” being created, chief among the Illuminati sent to calm the herd was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren – for whom the investigating commission was named. But another of its members was Allen Dulles, who was by far the most active member of the Commission, overseeing the process in intimate detail. Mr. Dulles was the brother of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, and the ultimate Washington insider as well as a spider at the center of many webs.

It is worth noting that Allen Dulles was a senior OSS operations officer (predecessor of the CIA – US Army Office of Strategic Services)  during WWII as well as one of the founding fathers and longtime Director of the CIA. In the score settling aftermath of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Mr. Dulles had been fired by JFK some two years previous. Said Bay of Pigs fiasco was reputed to be the brainchild of Allen Dulles, a covert operation of which he had considerable experience.

As CIA Director, Allen Dulles had masterminded the 1953 Iranian coup d’etat that overthrew Iran’s elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, restoring the Shah of Iran to power. The following year, he had followed up that success in Iran with a successful coup d’etat in Guatemala, deposing the elected government of Jacobo Arbenz, in favor of a military junta favorable to US interests.

Bitter over his policy of disengaging from Algeria, the late 1950’s saw numerous attempts by French military officers to assassinate Charles de Gaulle of President of France. It so happened that le grande Charles was also a major thorn in the side of America, a severe critic of NATO. One of my favorite movies, “The Day of the Jackal”, adapted from Frederick Forsythe’s novel of the same name is based on these attempted assassinations. It turns out, the CIA was deeply involved with these men.

The Bay of Pigs was another CIA backed effort to depose an unfriendly regime, in this case Fidel Castro of Cuba. Allen Dulles was furious at its failure, blaming the fiasco on a failure of nerve by JFK, whereas JFK believed Dulles had deliberately deceived him. Both men were in fact correct.

After 9 months of fact finding, testimony and investigation, the Warren Commission released its findings. In essence, Leslie Nielson in the movie Airplane summarized the findings of the Warren Commission: “All right, move on . . . Nothing to see here, please disperse”. Lee Harvey Oswald was a deranged killer, a sole assassin. There was no deep conspiracy.

I, along with the vast majority of Americans, accepted the Warren Commission’s findings as the end of the matter. Told there was nothing to see by our trusted government leaders, we moved along and dispersed. Not everyone – there were some that remained suspicious, black sheep who wandered away from the herd. Most prominent among them was Georgia Senator Richard Russell, one of the 7 members of the Commission, along with Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans. But these men were staunch Southerners, thereby tainted with Jim Crow segregation. Even back in the mid-60’s, this was beyond the pale. It was child’s play to reduce them and anything they said to a Bull Conner caricature in the national media.

Ah, the national media! Allen Dulles happened to be best friends with Henry Luce, their families frequently vacationing together. Henry Luce founded and exercised an active editorial oversight of a magazine empire, including Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated. He was described as “the most influential private citizen in the America of his day”. Allen Dulles, a networker par excellence, was also good friends with Hays Sulzberger – publisher of The New York Times, William Paley – president of Walter Cronkite’s network; CBS, the Alsop brothers, Joseph and Stewart – the most influential political columnists in the nation, the list goes on.

There were others in the public eye who thought there was more to the JFK assassination as well, Bertrand Russell and Thomas Buchanan among others. But most of these skeptics were on the left fringe politically, suspected Communist sympathizers. Their public thoughts were published in magazines such as The Nation – the voice of progressive America prone to publishing rapturous accounts of communist fantasies. Again discounted in the national imagination.

Vietnam, racial tensions, the rise of the drug fueled “Youth Culture” quickly buried the JFK assassination in the past. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and JFK’s brother, Robert, under equally mysterious circumstances briefly ignited renewed speculation, but in both cases were quickly squelched. The intensely polarizing atmosphere around the Vietnamese War, the deeply divisive candidacies of Richard Nixon and Gene McCarthy took all of the oxygen in the room leaving no energy for anything else in the national conversation.

Back then, we had so much trust in our institutions and our leaders that the idea of conspiracy was little different from the possibility of space alien invasions. It was outside of our imagining other than in fantasy novels or the pages of the National Enquirer. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” was neither joke nor threat back then.

We went through the 1970’s and 1980’s steeped in our innocence. But our eyes were gradually being forced open, even as we resisted waking up. Every once in awhile something would surface about the JFK affair, one would come across a strange little factoid that briefly caused one to puzzle. The infamous movie maker, Oliver Stone, gained occasional headlines with his single minded pursuit of conspiracy. But Oliver Stone pursued each and every balloon with such vigor that he joined Jerry Springer in the common imagination.

Then there was the Iran-Contra affair in the second term of the Reagan Presidency. A C-123 went down over Nicaragua. Survivors of the crash testified to CIA facilitated arms sales to the pariah state of Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. The profit from the arms sales was used to buy weapons for the Contra rebels fighting the communist government of the Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. The partisan domestic warfare over the discovery of arms sales to Iran and the Contras obscured any logic or deeper suspicion as partisan emotion very much controlled our view of the conspiracy.

And then came the Clinton Administration. There was the suspicious suicide of Vince Foster followed by the even more suspicious death of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown in a Croatian plane crash, a mysterious plane crash. Again, partisan emotion overwhelmed logic in the Clinton years. There were so many scandals associated with the Clintons, any particular scandal was like trying to grab an individual herring in a school of them darting this way and that.

And then Monica Lewinsky became a cause celebre, something so indefensible, so gauche, it required the media to sprinkle holy water over any and all Clinton transgressions. One remembers prominent feminists standing up to offer both pardon and magnanimity. Exemplifying the spirit of the time was Nina Burleigh, Time magazine’s White House correspondent, making a truly cringe worthy public statement. In this time before #metoo changed the calculus of calculating women, Ms. Burleigh opined, “I’d be happy to give Clinton a B*** just to thank him for keeping abortion legal”.

Given Ms. Burleigh’s daily presence in and around the White House, one cannot help but speculate that the priapic President Clinton may well have accepted this offer. But beneath the frequently risible corruption of the Clinton machine, one could not help but sense the hidden gears moving in our country’s government.

One could hardly miss the hidden machinery during the Bush years. References to mysterious disappearances, “black” ops and facilities, “extreme renditions” made frequent appearance. The CIA/FBI/NSA/etc. were given broad powers to gather intelligence on US citizens. Most of us accepted this, after all it was the War on Terror. We were at war, there were genuine bad guys out there cutting off heads on television. We accepted that the CIA/FBI/NSA were going rogue, but they were our rogues and “all’s fair in love and war”.

During the eight years of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s turn as Secretary of State, the media’s administration of holy water over unexplained events returned but required a fire hose instead of sprinkler. Even so, we learned that the sainted Barack had taken delight in selecting targets for the “extreme rendition” of suspected terrorists, including US citizens. There was Benghazi, the “hot mike” incident with the Russian President, Loretta Lynch’s meeting on the tarmac with Bill Clinton, the exposure of IRS targeting, etc. Even though we tried to avert our eyes, the light was getting pretty bright.

And then came Donald Trump’s election. Not only was the light blinding but our face was getting slapped repeatedly. And then came the Hunter Biden laptop.  Fifty one high ranking serving officers in the CIA signed a letter that Hunter Biden’s laptop was probably “Russian disinformation”. Coupled with the Keystone Kop-like Trump/Russian interference burlesque of 2016 facilitated by the FBI/CIA, only a willfully blind idiot could ignore the existence of something, call it the “Deep State” or whatever you wanted to call it. There were clearly agencies in the government pursuing their own agenda.

I was always a fan of Los Angeles noir, movies from The Maltese Falcon to Chinatown to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, One of my favs was L.A. Confidential adapted from a novel of the same name by James Ellroy. I decided to read it and developed a strange fascination for the realistic but abbreviated writing style of its author, James Ellroy. In addition to a quirky narrative technique married to a relentlessly cynical world view is his seamless interweaving of a detailed and encyclopedic knowledge of the historical events his novels are based on, historical events like the JFK assassination I lived through.

I wound up reading his Underworld USA Trilogy; American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover. These novels offer a fictional look at America in the late 1950’s to mid-1960’s, but they really ring of reality. There is the Catholic Kennedy family intertwined with the Mafia, the WASP elite, the entertainment industry, the CIA and the FBI. If you lived through the times and remember them, it is like a Teacher’s Guide – a key with the answers to all the questions about the events you remember.

Obviously, if you are like me and come from a perspective of rock solid belief in the integrity of your country’s government, you tend to write off the imagination of James Ellroy. His imagination is based on a very realistic but unflattering look at human nature.  But Mr. Ellroy is not alone by any means in his speculations, simply a prominent member in a rather large genre making similar speculations about the events of that time.

You want to believe, but then you remember other things that have gradually surfaced over the past fifty years. My generation’s view, certainly my own, of the FBI is Elliot Ness (Robert Stack) in The Untouchables, Frank Hamer who took down Bonnie & Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly and Baby Face Nelson, their many captures of Nazi and Communist agents in the 40’s and 50’s. We see them as ultra-competent incorruptible agents of The Law, people we can trust.

But then we remember the actions of James Comey and Robert Mueller around the “Russian disinformation” circus, the strange happenings of Hillary’s email server. Well, maybe that’s just what things have come to in the age of Donald Trump and woke pieties. But then we remember their predecessor; J.Edgar Hoover – Director of the FBI for 50 years. J. Edgar was notorious for compiling dirt on everyone in Washington. His agents were diligent in filming secret trysts, ferreting out the details of secret lives and indiscretions of the powerful and not so powerful in our nation’s Capital. His office filing cabinets contained a vast archive of secrets enabling him to blackmail just about anyone opposing his agenda, as well as ensuring the sacrosanct nature of his own promiscuously and flamboyantly gay secret lifestyle.

I came across a fascinating book that explores the hidden workings of those times from a totally different angle. I have now read it twice. The book’s title is “Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon – Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops and the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream” by David McGowan. The book is by no means a masterpiece of finely wrought prose. It could have been much improved by having a better editor wielding a brutal red pen, but its facts are eye opening.

Mr. McGowan comes from an unbelievably deep knowledge of the LA rock music/entertainment scene during the 60’s – 80’s. He went to his eternal reward some 10 years ago and he bears a resemblance to the movie maker Oliver Stone in that he doesn’t seem to have met any conspiracy theory that he didn’t like.

In many cases, he seems to be grinding a series of well honed ax’s, but – he marshals an incredible mass of facts. In the course of reading the book, I checked out many of the strange intersections, backgrounds and coincidences from Wikipedia Without exception, they all checked out. As Sigmund Freud said:

“The paranoid is never entirely mistaken”

McGowan’s book centers on Laurel Canyon, located in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. It is a proto-typical neighborhood in the foothills of the Santa Monica range, a winding road through a steep and heavily wooded canyon that has become the setting of a secluded and upscale idiosyncratic suburban neighborhood. Virtually anyone who was anyone in the rock music scene of the 60’s-70’s lived or hung out in Laurel Canyon.

Mr. McGowan points out that back in the day if you followed the Laurel Canyon Road to its end, the top of the canyon, you would finally arrive at a heavily guarded secret government installation, the Lookout Mountain Laboratory. Abandoned now, during the Cold War it was the largest self-contained film studio in Hollywood, maybe even the world. It produced thousands of films, all classified, as well as . . . . Who knows?

Little is known about the Lookout Mountain Laboratory other than it was a secret facility employing hundreds of Hollywood professionals, working with various U.S. intelligence agencies, both military and civilian. A film historian who recently tried to pierce this veil of secrecy in the process of writing a book investigating the facility had this to say:

“It served as a regular meeting spot for atomic scientists, military brass and Hollywood professionals. More than any other site on earth, Lookout Mountain visually chronicled the activities of the U.S. Cold War state”.

“The studio and its people were ‘very, very good at what they did . . . Their engineers and technicians problem solved in really amazing ways, designed many new tools and techniques. They stretched through crazy time and space constraints to get things done.”

Lookout Mountain Laboratory – a bizarre unknown factoid from the Cold War; a secret facility rumored to be the birthplace of the many special effects technologies and techniques revolutionizing the movie industry in the 70’s and 80’s.

But then Mr. McGowan connects into the biographies of artists, movers and shakers, hangers-on, groupies and “facilitators” of 1960’s rock music scene that hung out in its neighborhood. Surprisingly, a large – very large – number of them were children of career military, most of their fathers (and mothers) with a background in military/civilian intelligence. Additionally the families and their then children had spent considerable time in the Washington D.C. area, coincidentally near the headquarters of the CIA, FBI, etc.

To cite one example – Jim Morrison of the Doors. The Lizard King, according to McGowan, was “quite possibly the unlikeliest rock star to ever stumble across a stage”.  A boy who never sang, couldn’t play an instrument and had no interest in learning such skills, emerged, virtually overnight, as a fully formed rock star. Even more bizarre was the fact that even though he demonstrated no musical talent or interest, he arrived in the business with enough original songs to fill The Doors first few albums, including all of their hit songs. One unanswered question among many was – If Jim Morrison was musically illiterate, in that he couldn’t read music, how did he compose and put on paper all of those rock classics? How did he get them out of his head onto paper?

Okay, maybe Jim Morrison was a product of the general wackadoodle juju typical of the Sixties. But – it so happens that Jim Morrison’s father was Rear Admiral George Morrison. Strangely enough it was Jim Morrison’s father, Admiral Morrison, who commanded the naval task force involved in 1964’s “Gulf of Tonkin Incident”. If you are of a certain age, you might remember the “Gulf of Tonkin Incident”.

In August of 1964, a small U.S. naval task force was engaged in “intelligence gathering operations” off the North Vietnamese coast. During the night of August 4, two destroyers, the Maddox and Turner Joy, were supposedly attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in international waters.

This “unprovoked attack on the high seas” led President LBJ to make an unannounced address to the nation on television, putting the incident in stark terms – an Act of War. I can summon up vague memories of that night. I believe we were watching the Andy Williams Show, when it was interrupted for a message to the nation from the President.

LBJ came before the television audience and in a somber voice committed us to, with the exception of the Civil War, the most divisive war in US history:

“My fellow Americans – As President and Commander in Chief, it is my duty to the American people to report renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply.

The initial attack on the destroyer Maddox, on August 2, was repeated by a number of hostile vessels attacking two U.S. destroyers with torpedoes. The destroyers and supporting aircraft acted at once on the orders I gave after the initial act of aggression. We believe at least two of the attacking boats were sunk. There were no U.S. losses.”

Showcased the next day on The Evening News w/Walter Cronkite were video clips of aircraft launching from US carriers, going in harm’s way to attack “targets”.  I can remember making sure to see them if my irrigation duties allowed. Wow, this is real!! Those first few days were surreal, real carrier operations on TV. Even though such clips became wearisomely commonplace in the coming years, I can remember the sense of violation, of tension and even fear in late 1964. Real war – a shooting war! Naval Phantom F-4’s tangling with Mig-21’s.

In its time and place, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was an event akin to the Twin Towers forty years later. Just as in the time of the Twin Towers, Congress promptly stampeded over an emotional cliff, passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Vietnamese War was off to the races.

As the years went by, various revelations, including the Pentagon Papers and Robert McNamara’s mea culpa interviews, established that there was no attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Was it the “fog of war” or the deliberate misdirection of an “intelligence operation” designed to create a desired outcome? Said revelations revealed that no one, with the possible exception of the destroyers’ gun crews, ever believed. That night, the Turner Joy and Maddox maneuvered to avoid phantom torpedoes, their guns firing at shadows in the night. Sounds like a CIA operation to me, i.e. Iran, Guatemala, France, Cuba, etc.

Jim Morrison is simply one of the Laurel Canyon musicians cited, but his resume is almost a template for so many Laurel Canyon contemporaries. A child of military/intelligence parent(s), no musical background or evidence of ability, sudden stardom. And one more thing – if they grew erratic, perhaps disenchanted or rendered unpredictable by drugs, they tended to die by suicide or in strange accidents in lonely surroundings. Another thing – these suicides/accidents, there were virtually no autopsies or police investigations.

During their time in Laurel Canyon, they hung out with a lot of interesting people with mysterious backgrounds – mafioso like Bill Mentzer whom LADP called “a member of some kind of hit squad”, the infamous Charles Manson who evidently had real musical talent, Timothy Leary – The High Priest of LSD, etc.

There is a veritable blizzard of bizarre facts and strange coincidences floating in the air of the Laurel Canyon music scene, but then the music business attracts the weird and unstable anyway – right! People that take a lot of drugs are known to commit suicide or run their car into a tree at high speed on lonely roads in the middle of the night. What would the CIA want with a bunch of rock musicians on their payroll anyway?

Why indeed? One of the CIA’s more interesting initiatives was a program called MK-Ultra. It was a program initiated by – CIA Director Allen Dulles – on April 13, 1953. Per Wikipedia, MK-Ultra was:

“an illegal human experimentation program . . . intended to develop procedures and identify drugs that could be used during interrogations to weaken people and force confessions through brainwashing and psychological torture.”

MK-Ultra was born in the shadow of North Korea/Chinese/Soviet brainwashing rumors during the Korean War. It was believed that the Chinese had been able to make US prisoners of war cooperate with them through their brainwashing techniques. Lurid reports circulated of Soviet mind control and ESP techniques. A best-selling novel, The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon written during this era captures the thinking of the times.

Under the top secret auspices of MK-Ultra, the CIA “investigated chemical, biological, and radiological methods of mind control”. Virtually all mind altering drugs were looked at, experiments conducted on both volunteer and unsuspecting test subjects. Drugs like mescaline, psilocybin, sodium pentothal, scopolamine, etc. were investigated, but the star of the show was clearly LSD.

Through the murk of time, one is almost tempted to believe that LSD et alia was the beginning of a cottage industry for the CIA, the creation of artisanal drugs and developing markets for them. In the decades since then – in Afghanistan, in the Golden Triangle of SE Asia, in Columbia and Central America – the illegal drug trade and the CIA appear to have spent a great deal of time in bed with each other.

Returning to a member of that menagerie of the 60’s in Laurel Canyon, Timothy Leary – The High Priest of LSD. Sixty years later, numerous documents have come to light by a variety of paths. But in an otherwise innocuous accounting summary, it appears that Timothy Leary received significant funding from the CIA through its many “front” organizations for years.

Some kind of MK-Ultra involvement with rock music culture is plausible, could make some sense, but doesn’t seem to merit the extent of the connection. There were a lot of people, a lot of moving parts requiring substantial logistics and infrastructure. What else could be a possible motive?

There is the quotidian need for a funding source for “off the books” operations. It can be such a drag having to go before all those posturing politicians in Congress for the money you want. And as Iran Contra proved, the CIA is hip deep in off the books operations and has been for decades. Somebody needs to pay for all this “black” stuff.

Returning to that time of Laurel Canyon in the 60’s, we tend to forget the intelligence communities’ intense interest in the anti-war movement, Black Power organizations and the radical drug infused youth culture on college campuses. American intelligence was keenly interested in all these groups, fearing them prone to communist infiltration as well as serving as potential centers of violent rebellion.

If one revisits the memoirs, the interviews, the memories from the people in these groups, a common refrain was their belief they had been heavily infiltrated by undercover CIA/FBI/etc informers. Revelations coming out in later years prove their suspicions well founded. Evidently, most if not all of the “radical” groups were heavily infiltrated by informers. As one looks into the times, one begins to believe the radical groups resembled East Germany, entities with more informers than those informed upon.

As an example, the coup d’état that expelled Eldridge Cleaver from the Black Panther Party was engineered by Elaine Brown, who replaced him as chairman. Ms. Brown has remained silent on the matter, but she has been long regarded as an FBI informant. Over the years many more luminaries, as well as just rank and file, have been outed, either voluntarily or by the release of heretofore secret documents. For instance, Gloria Steinem, an icon of the feminist movement, was forced to admit having been in the pay of the CIA for many long years.

Obviously, the rock music subculture was an ideal avenue into this subculture of bubbling revolution.  This was a time of urban riots, of societal upheaval. Remember the Watts Riots, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, etc. The Little Red Book, Quotations from Chairman Mao, was a best seller on elite college campuses. It was a common sight even walking around the University of Nebraska campus, certainly no bastion of radical sentiment.

Who is going to suspect Frank Zappa or Mama Cass Elliott if they seem interested in what you’re doing? You’ll probably try to impress them by spilling all you know, especially if you’re sharing a reefer with them backstage. And access to all those fawning groupies could be a powerful incentive to stay connected to the likes of David Crosby, or The Beach Boys, or Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds or The Monkees.

What does this all mean? I have no idea. Talking about this with a friend, his conclusion was that the CIA/FBI/NSA work for the Democratic Party. After all, one must conclude that the aim of the scandals uncovered over the past 15 years coincide to a remarkable extent with the interests of the Democratic Party.

He may be right, but I think he might have the relationship reversed. My own belief is that the Democratic Party, as well as a substantial part of the Republican Party, are in thrall to the CIA/FBI/NSA.

This is not to say that there is a vast underground conspiracy going on. Conspiracies involving real people just don’t happen. And if they do, they don’t stay secret. Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said, “Three people may keep a secret if two of them are dead”.

I think that it more likely a very real game for very real power is going on behind closed doors, between players that we don’t see for stakes that we don’t know about. They may even be true blue patriots. There is so much that happens under so very strange circumstances. Circumstances that our “free” press seems strangely uninterested in looking into.

There is the strange case of the Nord Stream pipelines. Three out of four 48” natural gas pipelines over a 100 miles offshore in water 300’ deep are blown open. What?? This is like a James Bond movie or Mission Impossible. It is all very mysterious, but US opposition to the construction of these pipelines was strong. Who did it? Most fingers point at the US as having both motive and means. But it doesn’t sound like a CIA operation at all does it?

And then there is Covid. No mysteries there. And again, the strange hesitancy to investigate with any rigor.

Changing gears – Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire whose sources of wealth are mysterious. Jeffrey Epstein, a man who operates a “Pleasure Island” catering to the rich and powerful. In the intelligence game, Epstein’s “Pleasure Island” is what is known as a “honey trap”. Back in the day, the Soviet KGB even had a school for young girls and boys to learn the art of seduction, equal opportunity – LGBTQ before it was cool. The graduates of this school, State School 4, were known as “red sparrows”.

To believe that the CIA ignored this powerful extremely effective intelligence technique is rather naïve, while J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI was a notorious practitioner. Epstein’s “Pleasure Island” practically has a blinking neon sign – Honey Trap Island. And then Jeffrey Epstein commits suicide in a heavily guarded prison. Gee whiz, this doesn’t sound like a CIA operation at all does it?

And then there is the strange case of “secret” documents stored in President’s and ex-President’s garages and closets. Does anyone doubt that many many garages of present and former politicians contain boxes of “secret” documents. What is that all about? Why on earth would politicians keep “Top Secret” documents around?

The public’s imagination immediately leaps onto national security, military secrets, etc. The press and “Deep State” are eager to imply this to be the case. But what if these “secret” documents are about other things. Perhaps these paper troves are something else, maybe a case of “Mutually Assured Destruction”? If you tell my secrets, I will tell yours.

Ben Franklin’s dictum about the difficulty of keeping secrets is certainly valid, but then he probably didn’t account for the power of ruthless retribution. When one follows the trail of strange events, the number of suicides and fatal accidents becomes difficult to believe. If one gives credence to these suspicions, one is forced to conclude that ordinary restraints on behavior do not apply.

Our Founding Fathers knew human nature and were no strangers to hidden machinations in governments. They counted on a free press to keep the game honest and above board. Certainly some of the press can be suborned by threat, by enticement, by blackmail, but not all. However in modern times, the press is interested in what generates “clicks”, what sells copy; and partisan emotion has been doing a great job of providing cover for those who act in the dark for unknown ends.

When we see things through the lens of woke and anti-woke, of climate hysteria and climate deniers, of conservative and progressive, we become blind to that which does not fit the narrative. It is hard not to believe that much of what we think we know about how we are governed is simply a Potemkin Village, a construct meant to divert us, to present a false picture that serves the ends of those pursuing different agendas.

In closing, I will point out another strange factoid regarding the point at which this little essay began – the JFK Assassination. Like a smoldering coal pile, the unbelievably blatantly suspicious circumstances around the JFK assassination sustain a slow burning fire of investigation. Congress is periodically roused to investigate – or do something!

Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK, came out in 1991 and made the case that the CIA/FBI/military were behind the assassination. It roused the moribund investigatory juices of those who doubted and public opinion began to be stirred. In response, Congress passed the “President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992”.

This act of Congress required the release of all “secret” documents relating to the JFK assassination still withheld from the public. Wow – who knew that there was still a vast archive of “secret” documents from back then, nearly 30 years in the past? In 1992, Congress required these all remaining “secret” documents to be released to the public by – Oct. 26, 2017, another 25 years in the future.

October 26, 2017 arrives. President Trump allows some documents to be released, but puts a “delay until 2022” order on most of them. And then five years later, President Biden issues some more heavily redacted documents and then delays. On the same day that the Supreme Court monopolizes public attention with its decision on the forgiveness of student debt, President Biden puts out a Presidential order that in essence is a “screw you we’re not going to do it” order on the rest.

Imagine that, both President Trump and President Biden believe it best that the public remain ignorant of truths behind a Presidential Assassination 60 years past. One is reminded of that final scene in the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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    What I’m Reading

    The Twelfth Department
    By William Ryan

    What happens when we forget, or never bothered to learn, what we believe in and why we believe? What happens when the emotional whirls of Facebook and Twitter are the depths of our understanding? Evil, great evil, is regularly found lurking in the unexamined depths of good intentions. Mathew Arnold put our present political climate in memorable words years ago:

    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night

    Novels, good stories, provide a lens to see life, including our beliefs, without camouflage. As an example, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the finest Bible commentaries ever written. Progressive political ideals may lack in recent electoral success, but have undisputed possession of today’s moral high ground. And while death and taxes may be the only sure bets, the eventual victory of those holding the high ground have very good odds in any battle.
    And so fiction provides a look at eventual victories. There is no question that the outlines of today’s progressive agenda can be clearly seen in other times and places. William Ryan takes us to a time and place fondly imagined, idealized at the time, by the forefather’s of todays progressive leadership. In The Twelfth Department, we see a police captain in 1930’s Moscow. Captain Alexei Korolev is just a man trying to be a good father, a good citizen, a good police officer. In many ways Alexei is a fortunate man, with a good reputation and many more material advantages than the average citizen. But a high profile murder brings him into ambiguous circumstances. The tone of the book is respectful of life in Moscow, with no axes to grind. It is just a portrait of a man trying to do his job, bringing a gruesome killer to justice, among ordinary human beings seeking only to live normal lives in a progressive paradise.

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