Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Behind the DaVinci Code: I BBC’in You

Bérenger Saunière’s story first came to public attention in 1969 when Gérard de Sède published Le Tresor Maudit (The Cursed Treasure). British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news producer Henry Lincoln happened to pick up a copy while on vacation (excuse me, on holiday--he’s a New Zealander) and became fascinated by the real-life mystery. Lincoln later interviewed de Sède, and found him cryptic and evasive, especially when the BBC journalist pointed out a number of ciphers in the book. Despite de Sède's cat-and-mouse games, Lincoln felt that his book would make an excellent news magazine story. His boss did him one better, thinking there existed enough material to merit a full hour-long special program. Lincoln made that special and two others over the course of the 1970s, and in 1982, with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, published The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (abbreviated here as HBHG by BLL)

Lincoln made the specials and co-wrote the book because every time he researched one topic of the Saunière mystery, it only led to more mysteries. The results of the authors’ research would eventually take them deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of revisionist histories and international conspiracy. Lincoln really became fascinated when he suspected that de Sède and his secret associates were giving him a little too much help, almost as if they wanted him to make these discoveries and then report them on TV.

According to de Sède, Saunière made the initial discovery during some minor church repairs. Trying to help out, the priest struggled to remove the heavy stone altar so that workmen could get at the floor. They discovered a stone slab, its underside decorated with carvings of mounted knights. Instead of floorboards, there was only bare earth, so they all started digging. They found two skeletons and “a pot of worthless medallions.” The workmen then called it a night, leaving Saunière alone in the church.

Shortly after everyone had left, Saunière reached into the hollow part of the altar and found four parchments. Two were genealogies of local families; the others texts from the New Testament. The Bible passages didn’t seem particularly important except that they featured capitalization in unusual places. Writing down the capital letters, Saunière decoded the following message, written by a former Pastor, Antoine Bigou, sometime during the French Revolution:

A Dagobert II roi et a Sion est ce tresor et il est la mort.

[This treasure is the property of King Dagobert II and Zion, and it/he is death (i.e. it is a capital offense to open it, or Dagobert’s the dead guy you just found--the phrase could mean either).]
Saunière showed the parchments to his bishop, Felix-Arsène Billard, who immediately sent him to Paris where Émile Hoffet, a young seminary student hailing from a well-to-do family, presented him to famed composer Claude Debussy, who subsequently introduced Saunière to the biggest names in French society. After spending a few weeks with his chic new friends, Saunière purchased a copy of a Nicolas Poussin painting, Les Bergers d’Arcadie (The Shepherds of Arcadia), then went back home to Rennes.

Figure 1. Les Bergers d'Arcadie

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Behind the DaVinci Code: A Vow of Luxury

Last Year, the movie version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code stoked controversy among Catholics and other religious sects. It also provoked Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who with BBC producer Henry Lincoln brought new light to the Grail legend in 1982. This is their story.

Nowadays, we hear a lot about get-rich-quick schemes. For most of us (myself included) we have as many fantasies about winning the lottery as we do about sex. If standing in line for a forty million dollar pie-in-the-sky ticket doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s always the dream about breaking the bank at the Vegas craps table, or the easy money you can get from Internet pyramid schemes, or e-trading, or buying large quantities of the biggest-selling Christmas toy the previous July. In earlier centuries, the predominant get-rich-quick fantasy consisted of finding buried treasure--especially gold.

Abbe F. Bérenger Saunière, (left) began his quest for riches in 1885, after his appointment as Pastor of the Chapel of Rennes-le-Château in southern France. As an ordained Roman Catholic priest, he had sworn to lead a life of poverty. For a while, he honored that vow, somehow making ends meet on $15 a year.

Then suddenly, inexplicably, he started spending money hand over fist. Some of this went to worthy causes. He built new roads leading into town, and remodelled the chapel in super-deluxe fashion. Most of his largess, however, went to his favorite charity: Beranger Sauniere. He built a villa for himself and his young maid. Marie Denarnaud, complete with a three-story tower where he housed his library. He travelled in high social circles, a welcome guest of such celebrities as Claude Debussy, Emma Calvé and Stéphané Mallarmé. He also entertained them with the finest wines and food when they happened to drop by his new digs.

The obvious question: where the hell did a poor priest get all this money?

There wasn’t a Powerball lottery operating in southern France at the time, so we can safely rule that out.

Wherever Saunière got it from, he kept it a secret until shortly before his death on January 17, 1917. His deathbed confession so shocked his priest that the latter refused to perform the ritual of Last Rites. This other priest never divulged what went on between himself and Sauniere at the hospital, so the secret remained safe.

Denarnaud took great pains to keep the secret after her employer’s death. In 1946 the French government directed all citizens to account for any money they might have had, in order to ferret out wartime profiteers and Nazi/Vichy collaborators. Faced with the decision of having to divulge the secret, or get rid of the money that Sauniere willed to her, she chose the latter. She built a huge bonfire on the estate, then methodically, laboriously tossed in bill after bill until she was flat broke.

The only thing she had left was the villa, and she decided to sell that in 1953 to a man named Noel Corbu. In order to get a better price, she sweetened the pot by promising to sell him the secret, which she claimed would make him both rich and powerful. Before she could, she suffered a stroke that left her speechless. Seven days later, she died.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Covert Comedy

Long ago, when the Web was young, and the years began with 19s instead of 20s, I often found myself at the page of the Covert Comic, a CIA case officer who may (or may not) be named John Alejandro King (left). Although it's rather conservative and sexist, the inside-Langley humor posted by him and fellow spy contributors fascinated me. King's site gives us a rare glimpse into CIA culture, and a tiny bit of insight into how spies think.

His site ruthlessly mocks the CIA and the weirdness that sometimes happens between its secret walls. According to a story in The New York Daily News, he lampooned a number of real life spies, among them: (1) an analyst obsessed with UFOs; (2) A case officer who moonlighted as a pornographer; (3) a female staffer who kept male sex slaves; and (4) a Special Agent who believes he’s Jesus Christ. King also pokes fun at conspiracy theories with a wink and a nod.

As you might expect, King’s bosses didn’t like him goofing on the Company. In 1999, they “froze him out,” which in spy parlance means they reduced his security clearances. CIA spokesperson Mark Mansfield declined to discuss the particulars with the press, but anonymous sources within the Company stated that the disciplinary actions against King were for giving classified software to another government agency, a charge King vehemently denied.

Below are a number of quotes and a couple of poems written by King and his contributors, many of them fellow spooks.

In a July 1, 2005 post on rendition :

The Washington Post says that torture is illegal and immoral. Alexander Woollcott says that anything good in life is either illegal, immoral or fattening. Now, if we can just figure out a way to make torture fattening, rendition will be a good thing--Paula L., linguist.
I just dropped in to see what condition my rendition was in--Anonymous.

Who Killed the Covert Comic?

In 2004, the Covert Comic faked his death, and then asked for help in solving his own murder. The responses sometimes had little to do with the case:
Who killed The Covert Comic? My theory is that, because he worked for the United States Intelligence Community ('USIC' for short) and therefore wasn't well known outside Government circles, the list of suspects can be limited to anyone who ever attended one of his intelligence briefings or visited his web site.

In other words, at this point I'm thinking The Covert Comic may have committed suicide--Unidentified CIA official.

[Name classified]: How did he die?
The Covert Comic: Natural causes.
[Name classified]: ... Natural causes? Looks like a bullet hole in his head there, wouldn't you say?
The Covert Comic: Well, to die if you get shot in the head, that's natural, isn't it?

The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy. By the way, that information is classified--[Context classified].

One technical term I think needs clarifying: Is it up the wazoo, or out the wazoo?--Covert Comic, extremely near the State Department.

When, Precisely, Was The Covert Comic Killed? One does not ask 'when' The Covert Comic was killed. One asks 'where' the restrooms are--Unidentified CIA official.

I used to wonder why Europeans were so critical of American food, American films, and American music. Then I went over there and saw the problem: Europeans are confused - they've been eating American films, listening to American food, and watching American music--Covert Comic, while chompin' on a Hebrew National.
The best way to stop racism is to stop racists. And the best way to stop racists, in my opinion, is to develop some sort of very potent 'stopping' technology--Covert Comic, at the United Nations.
It’s sobering to think that there was a time in this country when women couldn’t vote. I mean, how hard is it to vote, for crying out loud?!--Covert Comic, to a women.
Who killed The Covert Comic? The problem with this question is that it assumes John Alejandro King actually had a life in the first place--Unidentified CIA official.

"I Killed JFK," a Poem by John Alejandro King

As I stood on a street one day,
I killed a man named JFK.
I calmly blew his brains away.

Why did I kill JFK?
Because I work for the CIA.

Five years later, to the day,
After I killed JFK,
I killed his brother, RFK.

And if you’re wondering, by the way,
My other name is ... James Earl Ray.

Who knows what deep dark secrets may,
Lie locked away at CIA.
One thing I, for sure, can say,
Is that aliens are invading the USA.

... And all these aliens are Gay.
... Or Lesbian.

In a little room at CIA,
I meet with doctors everyday.
And every day these doctors say,
"Please don’t say you killed JFK."

To which I say,

“Cointelprose,” a poem by John Alejandro King

If I neither confirm nor deny it
Someone's sure to buy it

Back in the '50's
The FBI proposed
A new kind of poetry:

The moment you conceal it
Is the moment you reveal it

Then came the '60's
When J. Edgar Hoover chose
To frame a bunch of Yippies
Using Cointelprose

What rhymes with Weathermen?
How about: Forged-Letter-Men?
Or: Plant-Dope-In-His-Sweater-Men?
No? Whatever then

The moment you confess it
Is the moment you suppress it

On to the '70's
When the Government disclosed
It was brainwashing lefties
With Cointelprose

What rhymes with Black Panther?
I got the anther
Give 'em all canther

They're trying to tail this poem
To find out where it goes
Well I ain't gonna snow 'em
And I can't overthrow 'em
I'll just let this poem show 'em

The moment it's detected
Is the moment you're infected

Along came the '80's
When the truth was exposed
That instead of spreading AIDS we
Spread Cointelprose

If I told you, you'd have to kill me
If I sold you, you'd have to bill me
If I hold you, you'd have to thrill me

Fast-forward to the '90's
A controversy arose
When the CIA was cited
For selling kilos and kilos
of Cointelprose

If you're a Blacktivist
We'll claim you're a Cracktivist
See, we got our own Hacktivists
Your files to recompose

The moment you hate it
Is the moment you fellate it

Now in the Year Zero
We'd best be on our toes
For all the hippie weirdos
The terrorists, and the queer-o's
And even the poets are cleared, so
The end is surely near, no?
For Cointelprose

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Auntybellum Tag

Aunty Belle tagged me. Unfortunately, this isn’t the kind of tag that I received before, where I can squirm out of it by turning the rules on their ear. This time I have to post a picture of myself as a child or a teenager.

Now most of you know I don’t like doing tags. Moreover, I don’t post pictures of myself. But because Aunty asked me, here’s a picture of me taken in March 1966 at my Montessori school, St. Mary’s of the Spring, and published in The Columbus Dispatch.

That’s my friend Jane, on the right, with Sister Mary Margaret. In this shot, you can clearly see my shoulder, which, as you’ll notice, Sister Mary Margaret often used as a hand rest.

There’s a story behind this picture. The school itself was really pricey, and tuition was more than my mother’s salary. My dad was finishing his undergraduate work, so he had a lot of school expenses himself.

Dad paid for his education by playing football, and working as an orderly. One of his patients, an elderly nun named Sister Xaviera, took a liking to him. Sister X. happened to be the headmistress of the school, and as a favor she arranged for me to attend without my parents paying one red cent.

The school taught me quite a bit, and I realized the head start it had given me some thirty years later when I found myself using an example from there to explain phenomenology to my undergraduate students. While visiting the grandparents in Columbus that summer, I told Dad about it, and we began to talk about those days.

After awhile, Dad’s spontaneity got the best of him. “You know, the school has a graveyard on the property. Let’s go there now and pay our respects.”

That sounded like a good idea to me. We arrived at on the desolate campus shortly after twilight, and went directly at the young monk manning the information desk. “We know it’s kinda late, but we’d like to visit Sister Xaviera,” I explained.

"Yes," said the monk. "Follow me.”

We went directly toward the cemetery, and entered. I started getting the creeps as the cemetery grew darker, almost with every step, it seemed. In fact, we walked for quite a ways down the main path, wondering where her grave was, and why they buried her in the back. Eventually we followed him out of the cemetery towards a dormitory.

Dad and I exchanged glances wondering if we were headed to another graveyard. After all, we only knew of the one. After following the monk into the dorm, we began to wonder if she were still alive. Dad couldn’t imagine how that could be, though, for she was in poor health and in her late-sixties or early-seventies, back when he worked as an orderly.

“When did you attend St. Mary’s?”

“1965-1966,” I replied.

“Wow, that’s a long time,” he said, his face scowling in deep concern. “I have to level with you. Sister Xaviera is very ill. She doesn’t remember anyone. She doesn’t remember her friends. She doesn’t remember her family. I tell you this so that you won’t be upset when she doesn’t remember you too.”

I understood. It didn’t matter if she didn’t know me from a hole in the wall. I had come to pay my respects. The fact that I could do it to her face, and that she could hear it was an unexpected bonus. So after the monk gently announced visitors, I eagerly entered the room to find Sister Xaviera slumping over in her wheelchair, her eyes cast to the floor and dim as if looking at another place and time.

“Hello,” I said, to the young nun attending her, naively, perhaps rudely, assuming that Sister X. was paying no attention to me.

Before anyone could say anything else, Sister Xaviera raised her head and said, “X. Dell?”

I saw stunned looks on the faces of the nurse, the monk, and Dad, so I reckon I must have looked pretty much the same. “Yes,” I replied. “I’ve come to thank you.”

“Tell me all about yourself,” she gently commanded. Her face beamed with pride when I told her about my own students. Looking back on it, I’m thinking that she must have fought some battle to get me into that school--let alone without paying--and that she had finally been vindicated for what seemed like a controversial decision at the time.

Dad and I only stayed five minutes before Sister Xaviera began to tire from excitement. After saying goodbye, she tugged on the young nun’s habit and nodded, not saying a word. She then drove her wheelchair into one room, while the nun disappeared briefly into another one. When the nun reappeared, she handed my father and me two shellacked plaques: portraits of Christ wearing a crown of thorns.

“She made these in arts and crafts this morning,” said the nun, “because she felt certain that she would receive visitors later today, and she wanted to give them a gift.”

I don’t hang onto to many pictures of myself, but I still have this one, for it reminds me of two very important lessons. First, anything good I have done, or can do, came to me by the grace of Sister Xaviera and the dozens of dedicated educators and mentors who followed her. Secondly, it reminds me that despite our logocentric post-industrial reality, miracles still occur.

Okay, maybe there’s a psychological, physiological, medical, or scientific explanation for how Sister X. managed to survive from the Nineteenth Century to the brink of the Twenty-First, how she managed to remember someone she knew briefly thirty years earlier, or prepare for a visit despite the fact that the visitors didn’t have her on their minds when they woke up that morning.

I don’t doubt that there is a rational explanation for that day. But it wouldn’t make that day any less miraculous.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007


Just letting you know that my Internet went out last Tuesday. Comcast cannot send a technician until sometime next week, so I am dependent on my local library branch, where there is a sixty-minute limit.

I'll be kinda sparse until next week, so don't think I'm dissing you. And thank you for the kind responses to Jean. I deeply appreciate that.

Update 7/24/07--Comcast has finally restored my service after figuring out what went wrong. Apparently, they came over last Tuesday to shut down the cable of one of my neighbors, who was in arrears on his bill. After they shut down his service, he simply stole mine, by using my connection to the nearest telephone pole, and shunting my line to a non-connected, jury-rigged splitter.

Instead of finding out which line was stolen, however, the repairmen simply cut a new line. They noted active cable service for seven out of twelve apartments, but only two billing accounts belonging to me and someone else.

So out of all the stolen lines this moron could have tapped into, he tapped into one half of the paying customers.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Community Rally

About a year ago, I stumbled across something in cyberspace that struck me so profoundly that I was moved to write about it. As soon as I saw it, I knew that a community of sorts had developed naturally all by itself here in cyberspace. Even though I really didn’t participate in it (only once, and then as an example, I posted one photo of my hand), I developed a number of friendships with community members, whose comments, input and websites are mentioned throughout The X-Spot.

In January 2007, the community aspect of HNT really hit home with the sudden and tragic passing of a prominent HNT’er, a young woman I’ll only refer to by handle as Betcha Can’t Guess Who. In an online obituary, HNT founder Obsosso expressed the grief of over two hundred people around the world, who at that time really began to feel the community aspects of cyberspace:

This week has brought about a deep sense of what this little community is all about. Many of you commented on that over the past two days. Even lurkers who stopped by could sense it. Thank you to all who expressed their condolences. …..

Don't ever let someone tell you that the rest of us aren't real. Unless they blog themselves, they don't have a clue.
One of my closest friends through HNT is a woman who’s comments have frequently appeared on The X-Spot under the handles Tragic and JeannieGrrl. Over the year, I have watched helplessly as her physical health has deteriorated, first from the occasional bad day to now the rare good day.

She suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic illness that has no cure. Crohn’s occurs when the body cannot, for whatever reason, absorb nutrients. While the disease itself isn’t fatal, common complications of Crohn’s, such as gastro-intestinal blockages and fistulas, can be. Unfortunately, Jeannie has suffered two complications, one of which forced her into a horrendous dilemna, and two that are disguring. She has also developed fistulas. All on it’s own, the disease has has caused her nearly constant pain (which is typical of Crohn’s), and fatigue. At 5’7” tall, she struggles to keep her weight over 100lbs (47 kilos) (click here for literally gory details)..

Her ordeal has given me some insights into Canada’s national health program, as I have looked up various items over the past year concerning Canadian healthcare administration procedure and standards of Crohn’s treatment. Although as a Canadian citizen she’s entitled to healthcare, getting treatment hasn’t been the easiest thing to do. In a volley of letters back and forth to her provincial health care ministry and MPs, she’s been given the runaround for the longest time. She’s elligble to receive, for instance, Remicade a drug necessary to speeding her to remission. But because of the expense ($3,000 every six weeks), getting it into her hands requires a ton of paperwork. Because of a severe doctor shortage in New Brunswick and other Maritime provinces, paperwork seems to be at the low end of the priority scale.

Worse yet, there are deductables and expenses that she has to pay out of pocket, not the least of which is $500 for dentures—Crohn’s can cause abscesses, and one side effect of medication is brittle teeth. She has been unable to work since her relapse, and her husband’s job cannot meet all of the expenses needed for treatments scheduled within the next month.

She’s now placed in the very awkward position of having to ask her cybercommunity for financial help. On her donations page she has taken the extraordinary step of posting her ID, containing her real name and address, so that readers will know she is on the level. Bellarosa and others in the HNT community will be sending in what we can afford (which in my case is extremely little), and soliciting donations on our sites. I reckon if 50 people can send in $20 dollars, then that’s $1000 she didn’t have. Then again, if someone’s looking to find good homes for their old stuff, then he or she can auction their wares on Ebay, and send the procedes to her.

And now, a word from Jeannie’s daughter, Bee.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Crazy Conclusion

The two schools of psychiatric thought on schizophrenia, chronicled in earlier posts in this series, are the more mainstream ones. But there is another one that comes from the school of existentialist or phenomenological psychiatry founded by Dr. Ronald David Laing (left) of London’s prestigious Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

Here’s something that you probably don’t know about me. As a grandstudent (i.e. the student of a student of) pioneer phenomenologist Norwood Russell Hanson (Professor of Physics, Indiana University), I’ve taught phenomenology as part of my university courses, for it explains quite a bit about life in general, and TIs in particular. Hence, I am more drawn to Laing’s view of schizophrenia than perhaps a layperson should be, and I admit my bias front and center.

Here’s a crash course in phenomenology.

There is the empirical world, and there is reality. People almost always mistake the two. The empirical world is the world and universe as it actually exists. Unfortunately, humans can only experience the empirical world with the limitations placed upon them by what their senses tell them, and what their reasoning powers can figure out. And we know from so many of nature’s examples just how limited our senses and reasoning can be. A dog can hear far more frequencies than we can, and its sense of smell is far more acute than ours. We can, however, see more colors than the hound, but not nearly as many as the bee. The fact that we disagree about lots of things, even within families, and even if we sense the exact same stimuli, proves that we do not all reason the same way. In that case, either one party is at odds with the empirical world, or both parties are at odds with the empirical world.

Can conflicting parties both exist in harmony with the empirical world? Maybe. Problem is, we can't tell from where we're standing. We can only estimate the empirical world by making a conceptual, or cognitive recreation of it, a construct that we call ‘reality.’

When realities collide (i.e. when they conflict with each other), then we either negotiate a new reality, or one reality triumphs over another. Sometimes a reality beats out another reality because it is more helpful to more people. Sometimes political, economic and social factors influence how we construct such realities as prejudice, ideology, and so forth.

What Laing and other psychiatrists of the existential/phenomenological school would say is that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are not hampered by impaired cognitive function, but rather reconstructing reality differently from those around them.

You might think of this as part of humanity’s survival mechanism. Paradigm shifts require a restructuring of reality, which allows us to figure out new solutions, to create culture, and to warn us of problems within our society. While everyone likes to believe that they think outside the box, those who actually do are usually considered unstable by authorities and the public. When Robert Goddard insisted in the early years of the 20th Century that rockets would work in a vacuum, The New York Times science editor essentially called him crazy, saying that Goddard couldn’t even grasp the scientific realities ladled out in public high schools.

Yet, NASA, ESA, and others have created whole space programs based on Goddard’s basic premise. Likewise, we often hear about the tortured artist--the Beethovens, the painters, and writers who produce cultural icons inspired primarily by their demons.

Perhaps the mechanism necessary for genius doesn’t differ much from that which causes schizophrenia. Perhaps each is a flip side to the other. While we can see the societal benefits of having such people as Beethoven and Goddard (or Einstein, or Nikola Tesla, or Sylvia Plath, or Screaming Jay Hawkins or other “mad” geniuses), we might wonder about the need for such people as Margaret Ray, whom I referred to in an earlier post. After all, what purpose does it serve society for a woman to stalk David Letterman?

On a short-term, rational level, nothing. The stalking didn’t do anything for society. It did even less for Ray and Letterman.

But on a meta-level, we can see Ray’s life and death as a caveat about our now very mass-mediated culture, its reliance on celebrity, and its reliance upon us to connect with celebrity. She’s hardly alone in having a more intimate connection to people she never met than to the people who knew her. She was, however, rare in that she restructured her reality to incorporate what most of us in the 21st Century have come to know as the cult of celebrity. Looking at her actions exposes the perniciousness of one-way intimacy, especially at the expense of families and friends who actually know and love us.

In one of my first posts to The X-Spot, I partially explained my interest in conspiracy research: namely a hard-hitting lesson taught to me by a Holocaust survivor. When I asked her why no one could see the Nazi plans for systematically murdering every single Jew in Europe, she replied that people would have viewed you as paranoid if you even thought that. Since then, I’ve always wondered if the devastation of that episode in human history might not have been mitigated if there had been an epidemic of schizophrenia. After all, she, her family, and her neighbors accepted as benevolent the Nazis’ reasons for fencing them in, copying their registers, dispatching the Storm Troopers to their ghetto, and ultimately relocating them to such “secure” locations as Auschwitz and Dachau.

But what if, say ten percent of them, believed something crazy? Imagine them screaming at some rally, “The National Socialists are doing these things because they want to herd and breed us like cattle! They’re going to slaughter us like chickens, and sell us to the butcher stores for money!!!”

To my knowledge, Nazis never instituted cannibalism as a policy. Moreover, I have seen no evidence at all that the Nazis had plans to eat anyone. So, the crazies would be inaccurate. Nevertheless, they could have raised at least some doubt as to the Nazi’s true intentions. That would have afforded German Jews the opportunity to rethink their cooperation, making implementation of the Final Solution that much harder, and thus saving thousands, if not millions, of lives in the process. And given the brutality of the death camps, cannibalism seemed rather mild compared to what actually went on.

When we examine the claims of targeted individuals (TIs), conventional wisdom tells us that we have only two ways to view them: either they’re spot on, or they’re insane. Sure enough, mainstream psychological views would provide a mixed response on the latter suggestion. Depending on which model of schizophrenia/psychosis one uses, one can make a case that they are all suffering profound mental illness, and that they all have a serious break from reality.

On the other hand, TIs and other researchers have credibly documented a number of things that bolster their position. Most important, they have discovered very real, and stipulated technologies designed to cause the exact symptoms they complain about. Secondly, they have access to a body of evidence stipulating that the US government, the CIA and military in particular, has a history of covert psychological experimentation (where the victims aren’t even aware). These agencies also exhibited an enthusiasm for such testing, and only claimed to have stopped once they were caught red-handed. Furthermore, same government--the CIA, Army Intel, FBI and NSA--has a history of illegal acts of domestic espionage. These acronyms only claimed to have stopped when caught red-handed. The same governmental agencies also have a history of harassing private citizens in order to exercise social control over such things as civil rights, gender equality, and pacifist movements.

The existence of certain technologies indicates that some people indeed have the capability to harass others from a distance. History of governments indicates a willingness to employ such weapons, even if outside the law. Sure, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Pentagon and others claim that this is all in the past, and that they would never consider doing stuff like this nowadays. However, when the public asks for verification of this, we are told that these are national security items, and therefore none of our business. For us to have blind faith that Intel has stopped illegal activity because the public caught it once, is kinda like a parent catching his or her offspring’s hand in the cookie jar, and expecting the daughter or son never to do it again because of a single warning. Could you imagine if the parent had no legal rights to verify whether or not their kid actually obeyed? The notion that the kid might legitimately say, “I’m not going to tell you for your own good” should strike us as ridiculous, for parents have damn good reasons for regulating the use of cookie jars.

MindJustice founder Cheryl Welsh, a law student who became active in the TI movement after her own harassment, has busily been assembling “courtroom-quality evidence” to demonstrate that these activities did not only happen in the past, but are ongoing. Her “2003 Survey of Evidence Regarding Mind Control Experiments” reviews the verifications of seven elements of mind control: (1) Cold War EM weapons development; (2) experimentation law and history in the US; (3) the nature of EM radiation and mind control weapons, according to experts; (4) symptom clusters in the US and Russia; (5) two exposed EM operations occurring in Russia; (6) mind control laws; and (7) the 2002 endorsement of her previous findings by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

Although it isn’t evidence in and of itself, the UN endorsement is important for it tells us that very serious, and competent people, after examining the claims of TIs in depth came to the opinion that TIs are credible, and not a part of some lunatic fringe. Further evidence of their believability came when US Rep. Dennis Kucinich intoduced HR Bill 2977, in 2001. Section 7, Subsection II of this bill specifically prohibits:

...the use of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems using radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations.
Then too, we have the case of another former NSA spy, John St. Clair Akwei, who sued the NSA in December of 1991 for allegedly targeting him with psychotronic weapons. In the prosecution of Federal Civil Action 92-0449 (Akwei v. NSA), he offered as evidence his own first-hand experience and knowledge in the construction and testing of such weapons, and the terminology adopted to discuss them within the agency:

NSA Signals Intelligence uses EMF Brain Stimulation for Remote Neural Monitoring (RNM) and Electronic Brain Link (EBL). EMF Brain Stimulation has been in development since the MKUltra program of the early 1950's, which included neurological research into 'radiation' (non-ionizing EMF) and bioelectric research and development. The resulting secret technology is categorized at the National Security Archives as 'Radiation Intelligence,' defined as 'information from unintentionally emanated electromagnetic waves in the environment, not including radioactivity or nuclear detonation.'
There’s very little doubt that the capability for remote psychological manipulation exists. But as Gloria Naylor wrote in 1996, “...while you can prove it exists, you can’t prove that it’s happening to you.” This is the situation that TIs live with, and is perhaps the best context in which to view them. Are they schizophrenic? I don’t doubt that some of them are, and that their suffering will end once they find an effective treatment regimen. Maybe most of them are, although I doubt it.

But let’s assume that they’re all smurfing nuts. Let’s assume that nobody in government gives a damn about their lives, and that no one has spent one red cent to make them miserable. Let’s assume that their dangers are all make-believe. If (and that’s a gargantuan “if”) that is the case, then we still owe TIs a debt of gratitude for sounding the alarm, and giving us all time to press for greater accountability in national security matters. After all, institutions really can do this to innocent people. Most important, government organizations have no legal impetus to disclose whether or not they have violated civil rights in this manner. Worse yet, if any government wanted to “outsource” such operations to private security firms, Congress would have little wherewithal to provide any oversight.

That poses dangers to everyone. And I’m not talking about the make-believe kind.

That does it for this series. My thanks to JohnB, Infinitesimal, The Red Mantissa, Apocalypto, Ray X for their vocational and avocational expertise. My thanks to the rest of you for your anecdotes and for hanging in there with me.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cloak and Dagger Targets

Edited for accuracy 9/30/07.

A fairly prominent individual within the TI community, Derrick Robinson, maintains a website dealing with gang/vigilante stalking and street theatre and pscyhoelectronic experimentation titled Freedom from Covert Harassment and Surveillance (FFCHS). From Cincinnati, he occasionally produces television programming that presents gang stalkers and their stories. He also has lobbied the US Congress in an effort to spur hearings and investigations into the matter, and he organized

What separates Robinson from many other TIs is his former employer: The National Security Agency (NSA).

As of yet, I haven’t been able to pin down exactly what Robinson’s work with the agency entailed, and information about Robinson himself is scant even on his own website. As a former member of the most secretive US spy organization, and one of the most pervasive—twice as large as the CIA, with a black budget to match—-Robinson most likely has no authority to tell us, other than to say that he was. Sharon Weinberger, in the Washington Post article cited earlier, confirmed his former status, and as a very prominent TI, his claims have not been challenged by the NSA.

Since signals intelligence (SIGINT) is pretty much the NSA’s turf, electronic harassment via microwaves would certainly fall within the Agency’s purview. So Robinson’s claim about experimentation would seem to carry more weight. At the same time, however, I am curious as to whether TIs (at least a few) consider him a plant, perhaps, an agent provocateur. As of yet, I have found little evidence that they do so, and I have little reason to think that he is. He actively participates in discussion groups and activist organizing within the TI community, and many, including Eleanor White, link to his website.

Another ex-spy, former US Army Intelligence officer Julianne McKinney, has little contact with TIs, although she lists herself among them. In December 1992, she published a study titled “Microwave Harassment and Mind Control” as the Director of the Electronic Surveillance Project of the Association of National Security Alumni (ANSA). As to electromagnetic harassment, she came up with a number of startling findings.

1. The technology exists for the types of harassment and experimentation reported to us.

2. About a dozen U.S. citizens have informed us of continuing experiences with effects which directed-energy weapons are designed to produce.

3. U.S. Government-sponsored research into the bioeffects of exposure to microwave radiation is extensive and continuing.

4. The U.S. Government has a past record of having engaged in mind-control experimentation; and various agencies of the Government have a record of circumventing legal restrictions upon their activities.

5. Neither Congress nor the courts appear willing to look closely into ‘black’ intelligence and weapons procurement programs.

6. A number of U.S. Government agencies might have interest in testing directed-energy technologies on U.S. citizens under non-clinical/non-controlled circumstances—DoD, to test ranges and degrees of “non-lethality”; DoE, to explore “safety” limits; CIA, to test “mind-control” capabilities, and NSA, for technological refinement.
The evidence establishing the validity of the first point is fairly strong, as stipulated by official Air Force Laboratory spokesperson Rich Garcia, at least in 2007, and as Weinberger noted had most likely been in existence by the time McKinney confirmed this in 1992. That TIs make complaints that can be explained by such weapons is fairly evident (I’ve listed them the entire series, as a matter of fact), so item two is quite accurate. Item number three was discussed and documented in a previous post. Items four and six were confirmed by the 1977 Senate MK-ULTRA hearings. Qualified by that exception, number five is obvious.

McKinney also addressed concern for the street theatre phase of harassment, stating that the methods used (impersonation of intelligence officers, informants doubling as agent provocateurs, tailing, etc.) were consistent with standard techniques taught to any real-life spy. In a 2005 interview, she characterized the vigilante surveillance attempts as extremely amateurish, which made it all the more obvious to her.

ANSA, the organization that McKinney belongs to, is indeed legitimate. Founded by former CIA analyst David MacMichael and others, it is comprised of ex-spies who wish to reform the intelligence apparatus. Like former President Harry Truman, ANSA believes that eliminating the operational capacity of espionage is paramount to improving US national security:

Covert actions are counterproductive and damaging to the national interest of the United States. They are inimical to the operation of an effective national intelligence system, and corruptive of civil liberties, including the functioning of the judiciary and a free press. Most importantly, they contradict the principles of democracy, national self-determination and international law to which the United States is publicly committed.
ANSA members appear on television and radio programs as non-partisan experts on intelligence issues, and the organization publishes a professional journal, UNCLASSIFIED, on a quarterly basis. In other words, these people are real pros. So if they happen to take a serious interest in TIs, we still may not agree that what they say actually occurs. However, their interest strongly suggests that TIs are anything but silly.

After all, TIs don’t even wear tinfoil hats like mainstream media say they do.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Behind Blue Annotated Tags

Our friend Diana has tagged me. This isn’t the usual list-five-goofy-things-about-yourself kind of tag, but one dealing with literature. As she put it:

Here are the rules. Show why someone should read the book you are reading. Show this by quoting a line or short scene, a paragraph, a description... something.... anything... that you feel somehow epitomizes the book. It does not have to describe the subject of the book, though it can. It doesn't have to even make sense to anyone but you. But whatever you pick, it should be something that you feel should make a person curious about the book and think that they might possibly want to read it.
Those of you who know me know that I never do a tag response exactly as the tagger intended. After all, she’s probably thinking I’ll pick some pretentious piece of literature like Feodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (which I actually liked), Perception and Discovery: An Introduction to Scientific Inquiry by N.R. Hanson (one of the most important books I’ve ever read), or maybe even something elegant, such as the Liber Catulli (my favorite collection of poetry).

Instead, I’m selecting a book that perhaps none of you would be caught dead with: an edition of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader titled Wonderful World of Odd published by the Bathroom Reading Institute (BRI).

In case you’ve never heard of it, The Bathroom Reader is published annually, during the fall. The BRI also publishes special editions such as Wonderful World of Odd duing other times of the year. As the title would indicate, they contain a bit of history and humor about the porcelain chair in every volume. But mostly it contains a hodgepodge of quotes, little-known histories of many a familiar item (e.g. one chapter discusses the origins of Post-It Notes) and cultural icons (e.g. the story of how Jay Ward brought Rocky and Bullwinkle to prime time television). It’s also packed with brainteasers and trivia.

My favorite part is the trivia. So, I’ll quote an entire chapter titled “Strange Statistics” (pg. 26) But to further complicate this tag, I’m going to annotate, or comment upon each strange statistic offered.

According to Popular Science Magazine, 1,000 fans holding up cigarette lighters at a rock concert will produce about 2.6 pounds of carbon dioxide.
This estimate sounds low, to me. Back in college, I knew guys who could belch three pounds of carbon dioxide in two minutes all by themselves.

The average pitch of Australian women’s voices has decreased by 23 hertz since 1945.
That means that our friend Fatty gets to sing alto.

Harvard’s library has two books bound in human flesh.
If I ever find myself teaching at Harvard, I’m assigning those two books, no matter what their subject matter.

One in four British veternarians say they’ve treated a drunken dog.
Hey, at least they’re not high on smack.

Since 1990, cheerleading injuries in the United States have increased by 110%.
Apparently, cheerleaders are becoming more sensitive to what their audiences really want to see.

Since 1960, there have been 55 movies that feature an albino villain.
Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll comment on this one.

It costs the U.S. Treasury 1.73¢ to make and distribute a penny.
Your tax dollars at work.

On his Web site, singer Art Garfunkel keeps a full list of the books he’s read since 1968. As of October 2006, he’s read 980.
Too bad he didn’t read the script of Good to Go before agreeing to star in it.

Each year, approximately 13 people die from being crushed by falling vending machines.
I can see it now, a made-for-TV documentary titled When Vending Machines Attack!

Three people die annually from using their tongue to check if a battery works.
That’s really shocking!

Parasites account for 0.01% of the average person’s weight.
Why do I get the feeling that somebody will take this bit of information and start a new weight-loss fad?

40,000 Americans participate in ‘fantasy fishing’ leagues.
I guess some folks can’t handle the intense pressure, excitement and fast-paced action of croquet.

Three sisters in Scotland have a $1.84 million insurance policy to cover the cost of raising Jesus Christ, should he be born to one of them.
This makes you wonder how He’ll spread the message this time around. As a writer? A pop star? An actor? Maybe a politician?

I can see Him as a politician. Of course, he couldn’t just be the Prime Minister right off the bat. He’d probably have to start at the bottom, perhaps as the local mayor.

Figure 1. Mayorial Campaign Speech?

In a recent poll, 1% of Americans named Jesus ‘the greatest American of all time.’
It’s true that He was an American. But like many of his countrymen with the same first name, Christ was always hounded by the INS, the Border Patrol and the Minutemen.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dangerous Boxes

Thanks to Infinitesimal for her imput on this post. Edited for clarity 7/4/07.

Since the 1960s, military and police forces the world over have discovered the usefulness of incapacitate people—from individuals to large crowds—without killing them. At the Second Non-Lethal Defense Conference held in 1996, US Army Communications (USACOM) chief Gen. John Sheehan said that he had received a directive to provide “program recommendations…for stimulating and coordinating non-lethal weapons requirements.” Thus, a whole new category of arms emerged.

Generally called ‘non-lethal,’ ‘less-than-lethal’ or ‘compliance’ weapons, they consist of many things that you’re probably aware of: rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, tasers, and so forth. Despite the name, some of these arms can be quite deadly, given the situation. Prisoners have been known to asphyxiate under pepper spray, for example. Other arms can cause accidents that result in serious physical injury or death.

Also in 1996, the United States Air Force published a study on the contemporary state of electronic harassment weapons. The editor of the project, Dr. Robert Bunker, Adjunct Professor of National Securities Studies (University of California at San Bernadino), gave a run-down of a number of arms either in use or on the drawing board. Among those actually produce were a number that utilized electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF):
Electromagnetic, Engine Kill. The use of high-powered microwaves to kill the electrical system of an engine.

Electromagnetic, High Power Microwave [HPM] , Weapons. Energy generated by a conventional electromagnetic apparatus, such as a radar transmitter, or released from a conventional explosion converted into a radio-frequency weapon which causes the disruption of electronic systems. Usually an ultra-wide ban source focus due to target vulnerability considerations. HPMs can also cause human unconsciousness without permanent maiming by upsetting the neural pathways in the brain and/or death [256,278].

Electromagnetic, Maser. Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A microwave generation device.

Electromagnetic, Radio Frequency [RF], Weapons. A class of weapons which transmit short, high-powered pulses of electromagnetic radiation over significant ranges [278].

Electromagnetic, Thermal Gun. A device that directs energy to produce heat, in concept similar to a microwave oven [565].
These weapons are designed to produce some of the effects reported by targeted individuals (TIs) . From earlier posts you might recall that TIs complained about electronic equipment frequently breaking down. A device that can kill the electronic systems of your automobile might work fine on household appliances too, especially if enhanced by a Maser. Eleanor White complained about suddenly conking out at strange times, to the point where she had to take a cot with her to work because they sometimes struck in the middle of the day. The HPM was designed specifically to produce that effect. Likewise, microwave heat delivered from a distance by RF weapons might very well feel like pinpricks of pain—I say very well because people describe pain differently, sometimes. The target might also begin to itch if the pinprick causes damage to the skin. One might guess that if the initial hit were small enough, a victim might not see a rash.

Defense research and development groups have also designed another, more sophisticated, group of compliance weapons that rely upon the interaction of Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) and microwave energy with the human body. In a 1992 article for the Russian newspaper Stolitsa, Alexi Myasnikov reported
Victor Sedletsky, a scientist from Kiev, claims that the practical testing of a 'new kind of weapons based on the impact of certain frequencies on the human body occurred back in 1965. Besides, the development of an entirely new radar system allowing one to control any place on the globe began in 1982. Such equipment could be used for creating a 'psychotronic field' for brain-control.
The US Armed Forces actively pursued the development of voice-to-skull (V2K—the military’s actual term for such weapons) microwave transmissions as early as 1965, the year in which, according to Myasnikov, the Soviets first began using such weapons. In that year, Walter Stoessel, then-US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, became overwhelmed by severe headaches and bleeding around the eyes. A DIA investigation into Stoessel’s incapacitation found that the Soviets had repeatedly aimed low-intensity microwaves at the ambassador’s head in order to influence his thoughts and emotions. Defense Research experts had already known by the mid-1960s that ELF waves could have a detrimental effect on human tissue, especially brain tissue. And microwave bursts, like ELF waves, can transfer information too. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) consequently embarked on Project PANDORA in 1965 in order to build their own microwave mind-control machines.

In 1970, the DIA disbanded PANDORA, and moved into other research efforts. During the early 1970s, they successfully transmitted an electroencephalogram (EEG) with “informational significance” (specifically, a series of tones) to volunteers at Lorton Prison in Virginia. The next step would have been to transmit intelligible words, or in other words, true voice-to-skull transmissions. Dr. Robert Becker and Gary Selden, in their 1985 book The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life, made clear the tactical benefits such weapons could have:

Such a device has obvious applications in covert operations designed to drive a target crazy with ‘voices’ or deliver undetected instructions to a programmed assassin.
There have been other machines invented over the past years that could produce a similar effect to a true V2K. One such invention, developed by Dr. Joseph Pompei, founder of Holosonics Incorporated, was the Audio Spotlight. Selling for about $2,500, the Audio Spotlight focuses amplification to a specific point in space. Thus, people standing around a target cannot hear transmitted sounds directed at the targeted person, even at fairly close range. The company markets the machine as a way to enjoy music or television shows without disturbing others.

In 2002, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) patented a working V2K machine. But even though the USAF patented the device in 2002, it would appear that the device had been operational as early as October 1994—approximately the time when many TIs began experiencing V2K transmissions. When pressed by Washington Post reporter Sharon Weingberger on the functionality of this particular device was during the early-1990s, Lab spokesperson Rich Garcia declined to comment.

Right now, a number of thought-reading devices are currently in development. These technologies are based upon magnetic resonance imaging, which remotely scans your brain and analyzes the highlighted areas representing the location of oxygenated blood in the cerebrum. If the USAF had developed this technology too (obviously it would have many strategic implications), do you suppose Mr. Garcia would comment on whether they had already been testing them on human subjects?

What this boils down to is that TIs complain of very bizarre things that are symptomatic of psychosis and schizophrenia. Yet, there are a number of technologies that can accomplish much of what they claim to experience. Most important, these technologies have been around for quite some time. So now it becomes a question of whether TIs are experiencing actual psychosis, or are subject to these very real machines that can mimic psychotic symptoms.

To answer this, we draw upon the work, and subsequent (alleged) targeting of three former spies. These former intelligence officers have become quite active within the TI community, and each insists that they have good reason to believe that targeted individuals aren’t loonies, but rather exactly what they say they are: targeted individuals.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Causing the Stalkers: Infiltration

David Lawson became curious about the issue of gang stalking after listening (on his business band radio) to what seemed (and later proved) to be an organized group, consisting of dozens of people, participating in the very type of street theater described by TIs. Intrigued by what he heard, he investigated them on his own. He infiltrated that and other such groups, interviewed a number of their members, and published what he discovered in the 2007 book Cause Stalking. In addition to providing copious evidence that such groups exist, Lawson examined the history, mechanics and rationales behind what most would probably refer to as ‘vigilantism.’

Lawson himself does not purport to have any information on potential electronic harassment, and doesn’t validate that particular aspect of the TIs’ claims. He does, however, give a very interesting overview on why people become vigilantes/stalkers, how they begin to form, and how they work. In effect, he confirms the general notion of street theater.

Lawson began his history with the Ku Klux Klan, and their stalking methods, developed during the 19th Century. Yet, prior to the Klan, San Francisco, CA formed the Vigilance Committee (SFVC) in 1856 to avenge the shooting death of a reformist journalist named James King. The SFVC enlisted at its peak over 6,000 volunteers to stalk, harass and murder a number of targets, yet had no government sanction to do so. The Klan boasted over a million members from 1914-1935, who often acted without fear of arrest because of secret ties to law enforcement. Their tactics were about the same as the SFVC, but they included organized terrorizing—letting the victim know that they were indeed a target, being within sight of the target at every turn, burning crosses in front of their houses, and so forth.

The stalkers observed by Lawson bore a number of similarities to the KKK and SFVC. Both required large groups of people to focus on a relatively small number of targets. By trading surveillance and harassment assignments back and forth between members, the target would see a different set of people every time, never the same ones. Also like the KKK and SFVC, today’s street theater performers have a solid belief that the person targeted deserves to be targeted, harassed, or possibly even destroyed. Oftentimes, they are told that the target is a drug dealer, pedophile, or rapist--charges that are usually unfounded—and thus have a moral obligation to "find justice" outside of the law. Lawson found that they are often unemployed (thus giving them an opportunity to stalk), or underemployed, or unappreciated at their workplaces. Thus, the opportunity to act upon a strong moral conviction, coupled with a quasi authority, attracts aggressive recruits of many ages—from young children to senior citizens.

Most interesting, Lawson examined the history of some of these groups and found some major similarities in their origins. Often, they’re formed by people who are new to a community. These people do not provide a lot of background information about themselves, and often hint at having ties to the federal government. They sometimes claim that they have been following the target for a number of months in another town:
Most of these leaders have backgrounds that are not known to their supporters. They are from ‘somewhere else,’ and there isn’t much information available about them from independent sources. This provides a basis for the larger-than-life stature the leaders assume in these gangs. Many claim to have connections with the CIA, or other intelligence agencies, which do not reveal the identity of their employees, or ex-employees.
Currently, most law enforcement organizations at the local, county, state and federal levels openly discourage vigilantism. As Lawson insists, however, today’s gang stalkers have another commonality to the KKK: namely, many have ties to local law enforcement—either their rosters include local police and firefighters, or they serve as invaluable informants through recognized and unrecognized neighborhood watch groups.

If we imagine what vigilantism looks like from the point of view of the person stalked, then we could see their actions as the type of street theater reported by TIs. Furthermore, group stalking has historical precedents in North America. Since it has occurred for many years, and since there are enough small towns all over the world to make such systems viable, then the supposition that people presently engage in gang stalking/street theater is quite plausible.

But even if this type of behavior actually goes on, we have yet to connect it to either TIs or intelligence services. One can understand that a community might not welcome criminals, or even innocent people who happen to represent a religious, political, sexual or racial minority (minority as compared to the rest of the community). So we have to wonder why people, who previously had no strong political convictions or criminal record, and who are often in the demographic majority of their neighborhoods would receive such abuse.

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