Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Storming of Lugansk local government HQ

Video: Immediate aftermath of Lugansk govt HQ storm as RT's stringer walks into building

Anti-government protesters and self-defense forces have taken control of the regional admin building in Lugansk, eastern Ukraine. Protests continue to intensify as the deadline for the protesters' ultimatum to government expired.

US tornado

The US tornado kills 35


If you want a laugh watch this!

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: General Keith Alexander Extended Interview

John Oliver interviews General Keith Alexander, former head of the NSA. General Alexander discusses Edward Snowden and helps John rebrand a national security organization

Mt Everest

"You could say [that] climate change closed Mt. Everest this year,"

The Year Climate Change Closed Everest
As the world heats up, the Himalayas are becoming more volatile.


30 April, 2014

The deadly avalanche on Everest earlier this month wasn't technically an avalanche. It was an "ice release"—a collapse of a glacial mass known as a serac. Rather than getting swept up by a rush of powdery snow across a slope, the victims fell under the blunt force of house-sized ice blocks tumbling through the Khumbu Icefall, an unavoidable obstacle on the most popular route up Everest. The worst accident in the mountain's history has effectively ended the 2014 climbing season. And some see global warming as the key culprit.

"We need to learn more about what is going on up there. Each day we sit and listen to the groaning and crashing of the glacier."

"I am at Everest Basecamp right now and things are dire because of climate change," John All, a climber, scientist, and professor of geography at Western Kentucky University, told me by email. "The ice is melting at unprecedented rates and [that] greatly increases the risk to climbers."

"You could say [that] climate change closed Mt. Everest this year," he added.

Climbers had warily eyed the serac that collapsed on April 18 for years. In fact, a major expedition outfitter canceled its climbing season in 2012 because of it—a decision vividly reconstructed by Jon Krakauer in The New Yorker last week:

For many years, the most lucrative commercial guiding operation on Mt. Everest has been a company called Himalayan Experience, or Himex, which is owned by a New Zealand mountaineer named Russell Brice. In the spring of 2012, more than a month into the climbing season, he became increasingly worried about a bulge of glacial ice three hundred yards wide that was frozen tenuously to Everest’s West Shoulder, hanging like a massive sword of Damocles directly over the main route up the Nepal side of the mountain.

Ice frequently falls from this hanging glacier on the West Shoulder, and traversing the Icefall has always been treacherous. "Ice doctors" who install ladders and ropes in the area have long adjusted and readjusted the infrastructure in response to the collapses, big and small, that occur there on a daily basis. But experts believe these dangers are multiplying as average temperatures rise. In Krakauer's words, "the pronounced warming of the Himalayan climate in recent years has made the Icefall more unstable than ever, and there is still no way to predict when a serac is going to topple over."

Between increased climber traffic, the sun's rays, and slow-but-sure glacial movement, the Khumbu Icefall has taken a beating in recent years. (Tim Rippel/Facebook)

Or take it from Tim Rippel, who runs Peak Freaks and was blogging from Base Camp last week:

As a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association I have my educated concerns. The mountain has been deteriorating rapidly the past three years due [to] global warming and the breakdown in the Khumbu ice-fall is dramatic, especially at the upper icefall. We need to learn more about what is going on up there. Each day we sit and listen to the groaning and crashing of the glacier.

The Icefall is a formation of the Khumbu glacier, which stretches between Everest and a neighboring peak called Lhotse. And, like others around the globe, this glacier is melting. (A caveat: Glaciers in the nearby Karakoram region, home to the towering K2, appear to be growing, according to the latest research.) The Khumbu glacier shifts by a few feet each day and has shrunk by more than half a mile in length (from 12,040 meters to 11,097 meters) over the past 50 years—though it's by no means the fastest-retreating glacier in the region. Base Camp, which sits on the glacier below the Icefall, has lost about 40 feet in elevation over the same time period, according to the glaciologist Mauri Pelto.

"If it wasn't the tallest mountain in the world, you would never put yourself on a glacier this active," veteran guide Adrian Ballinger recently told the Associated Press.

The Himalayas have been called "the third pole" because the mountain range stores more snow and ice than any other region in the world except the North and South Poles. According to NASA, temperatures in this region have been increasing by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1980, a rate twice as high as the global average. And the impacts of global warming in the Himalayas are similar to those in the Arctic and Antarctic, with one big difference: Many more people live around this "third pole" than around the North or South Poles.

As a result of this relative population density, climate change is exacting human costs not just on Everest but in the entire region. Some 1.3 billion people depend on rivers that run from Himalayan glaciers like the Khumbu. A couple hundred million of those people live close enough to the mountains to be endangered by devastating wipeouts from glacial flood outbursts, which occur when glaciers melt into lakes and the lakes then overflow—"high-altitude disasters in the making," by one environmental journalist's estimation. There are thousands of glacial lakes in the Himalayas, and many of them are concentrated around Everest.

According to NASA, about 10 percent of Earth’s land surface is covered with ice, which is divided into roughly 200,000 glaciers—shown in blue on this map. (NASA/Robert Simmon, using data from the Randolph Glacier Inventory and Natural Earth.)

The UN's climate-change panel may have been wrong in 2007 when it estimated that Himalayan glaciers will be gone by 2035 (it later conceded that its predictions were "poorly substantiated"). But it's reiterating now that the world's tallest mountains truly are melting, endangering the water supplies of hundreds of millions of people in Asia.

These dramatic changes in climate are occurring at a time when human traffic on Everest is increasing. The best time to summit the mountain is in the middle of May, when the fierce winds of the jet stream, which whip around the summit almost all year long, temporarily move north. A perfect day to summit is one with little wind and no precipitation.

But there may be fewer of those days in the future. And yet, with the exception of this year, there will likely be more summit-seekers angling for positions on the route during narrowing, and increasingly unpredictable, windows of favorable weather. The mad Everest traffic jam of 2012 could become an annual affair.

Ralf Dujmovits took this now-iconic photo from Everest's South Col on May 18, 2012: A conga line of climbers en route to the summit, in what turned out to be a disastrous day on the mountain.

Crowded lines to the summit pose a different kind of danger than crumbling seracs in the Khumbu Icefall. The editors of Outside lay out the scenario like this: Hundreds of people show up at Base Camp—some with limited skills and experience but all committed to scaling Everest. As the climbing season reaches its peak, only one or two occasions may arise when conditions are ripe for ascent to the top. When that first "summit window" opens up, climbers race to take advantage of it, leading to dangerous bottlenecks in the mountain's high-altitude "death zone." (One solution to this issue might be to climb Everest at a different time of year; in the 1980s, for instance, more climbers attempted to scale Everest in the fall than in the spring.)

Increasingly volatile climactic conditions on Everest may have contributed to the premature end of the 2014 climbing season. But they're unlikely to put a permanent freeze on expeditions up the mountain—and not just because of the growing demand from climbers. A few years ago, ClimateWire interviewed a Sherpa who had participated in Sir Edmund Hillary's historic expedition and, upon returning to Base Camp in 2011, was shocked by how much had changed since 1953. He predicted the end of snow on Everest within the next few decades.

"It's going to be no more snow, only rock," he told a reporter. However, he also said that the livelihood of his community was of primary concern, and that keeping climbers away was not an option: "If we stop the tourists to save the mountains, we don't have anything to do. Just grow potatoes and eat and sit."

China overtaking American economy

China poised to pass US as world’s leading economic power this year
The US is on the brink of losing its status as the world’s largest economy, and is likely to slip behind China this year, sooner than widely anticipated, according to the world’s leading statistical agencies.

30 April, 2014

The US has been the global leader since overtaking the UK in 1872. Most economists previously thought China would pull ahead in 2019.

The figures, compiled by the International Comparison Program hosted by the World Bank, are the most authoritative estimates of what money can buy in different countries and are used by most public and private sector organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund. This is the first time they have been updated since 2005.

After extensive research on the prices of goods and services, the ICP concluded that money goes further in poorer countries than it previously thought, prompting it to increase the relative size of emerging market economies.

The estimates of the real cost of living, known as purchasing power parity or PPPs, are recognised as the best way to compare the size of economies rather than using volatile exchange rates, which rarely reflect the true cost of goods and services: on this measure the IMF put US GDP in 2012 at $16.2tn, and China’s at $8.2tn.

In 2005, the ICP thought China’s economy was less than half the size of the US, accounting for only 43 per cent of America’s total. Because of the new methodology – and the fact that China’s economy has grown much more quickly – the research placed China’s GDP at 87 per cent of the US in 2011.

For 2011, the report says: “The US remained the world’s largest economy, but it was closely followed by China when measured using PPPs”.

With the IMF expecting China’s economy to have grown 24 per cent between 2011 and 2014 while the US is expected to expand only 7.6 per cent, China is likely to overtake the US this year.

China’s crisis is coming – the only question is how big it will be

Financial crisis in China has become inevitable. If it happens soon, its effects can be contained. But, if policy makers use further doses of stimulus to postpone the day of reckoning, a severe collapse will become unavoidable within a few years.

The country is in the middle of by far the largest monetary expansion in history. On one widely used measure, M2, its money supply has tripled in the past six years, an expansion four times as large as that of the US over the same period.
Continue reading

The figures revolutionise the picture of the world’s economic landscape, boosting the importance of large middle-income countries. India becomes the third-largest economy having previously been in tenth place. The size of its economy almost doubled from 19 per cent of the US in 2005 to 37 per cent in 2011.

Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico make the top 12 in the global table. In contrast, high costs and lower growth push the UK and Japan further behind the US than in the 2005 tables while Germany improved its relative position a little and Italy remained the same.

The findings will intensify arguments about control over global international organisations such as the World Bank and IMF, which are increasingly out of line with the balance of global economic power.

When looking at the actual consumption per head, the report found the new methodology as well as faster growth in poor countries have “greatly reduced” the gap between rich and poor, “suggesting that the world has become more equal”.

The world’s rich countries still account for 50 per cent of global GDP while containing only 17 per cent of the world’s population.

Having compared the actual cost of living in different countries, the report also found that the four most expensive countries to live in are Switzerland, Norway, Bermuda and Australia, with the cheapest being Egypt, Pakistan, Myanmar and Ethiopia.

the Prophecy of the Condor and Eagle

I am posting this in honour of Mike Ruppert.

This was the world that he immersed himself in in the last 2 years of his life, and this is what gave him inspiration and hope.

SOTA: Indigenous Leaders Share the Prophecy of the Reunion of the Condor and Eagle

Indigenous Leaders from South, Central, and North America share the Prophecy of the Eagle and Condor as seen in the award winning film Shift of the Ages. The Shift of the Ages shares the story of Wandering Wolf, Grand Elder of the Maya people, and his ongoing mission to restore peace and health to our world.

Please visit to view the whole film.

An historic picture of the six Chiefs who attended President Teddy Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural parade line-up in full regalia prior to the event. They came to seek justice and the welfare of those they served! From left to right: Little Plume (Piegan Tribe, Blackfoot Confederacy); Buckskin Charley (Ute); Geronimo (Chihuahua Apache); Quanah Parker (Comanche); Hollow Horn Bear (Brule Lakota); and American Horse (Oglala Lakota ). We can only imagine what these old warriors saw and felt when they looked into one anthers eyes!

Another reflection and manifestation of the Prophecy of the Reunion of the Condor and Eagle unfolding between Indigenous Nations across the Western Hemisphere!.

Knowing Mike Ruppert

Mikes Story
by Jenna Orkin

Mike left us an abundance of gifts, not least of which was his story. As an investigative journalist, he loved a good story even more keenly than the next man. And perhaps the one he loved most (as we all do, or would like to) was his own.

It was indeed a fascinating story, which goes some way to account for his thousands of friends and followers around the world, both "Facebook" and otherwise. Whether uncovering dirty dealings between politics and Wall Street that even Matt Taibbi wouldn't touch or enduring the flip side, "I'm done in; I'm about to jump off the roof," the Mike Show was a production which a certain kind of reader - a thinking man's action junkey - yearned to be part of.

It is left to us now to piece together that story and it's an obligation which his friends and admirers are undertaking with a thoughtfulness that would make him proud. Some of the insights on the net, particularly at Rigorous Intuition, are as illuminating as Mike's detractors during his lifetime were maddening. (Beyond a few snarky headlines about the "conspiracy theorist's" suicide, the latter have been lying low this week, no doubt biding their time.) By pooling recollection, we may come to understand better how he could be such a hero to one group of people while at the same time appearing to another as a lunatic. This in turn may lead us to recognize how the whole concept of "hero" is a dangerous drug, not only for the "Leader" who becomes infused with his own importance and deaf to the insights of others but also for his followers, who sell their birthright of independence of thought.

In fact, no one was better acquainted with his "lunacy" than his inner circle. We got the hard-to-deal-with side of his personality in our face as long as he stayed close. I believe this is one reason he moved so often, living with no one person for much longer than a year, a trait he and I shared, by the way. His marriage, to a woman almost two decades younger, lasted eighteen months; his sojourn in my apartment, fourteen. My marriage lasted twelve years but shouldn't have.

He had long since outstayed his welcome in my one bedroom, but he was even more desperate to leave than I was to go about my business without worrying about his disapproval (as I would with anybody.) Not, I hasten to add, that we often argued. There were one or two blow-up fights but mostly, in spite of profound differences of taste - (he hated New York on principle; the machismo of the West, where he felt most at home, left me cold,) - we got along smoothly, frequently slipping into a George and Gracey domestic routine complete with New York accents. Mike was a razor-sharp impersonator and I wish someone had taped his Russian, French and German personas.

Re Mike's story, reading Wesley Miller's account of how Mike came by the gun with which he shot himself is one fascinating piece. Another is Charlton Wilson Cht Ccht's description on Mike's Facebook page of Lakota traditions of giving one's body "for the children" as Mike said in his suicide note to his friend and landlord, Jack. "[I]n Native ways, we don't have money or animals or whatever to give. we have our flesh and our blood." If Mike is going to be cremated as some recent reports said were his instructions, I don't get how the earth will benefit and will be watching for clarification. Anyway, Mother Earth receives our body no matter when we die; in the modern society in which Mike lived, however deploringly, hastening the process doesn't help anybody. But since he was not Lakota by birth or upbringing, though he revered Native American culture and became steeped in it once he moved out west, and since, as shown at, he'd been suicidal for years, a psychologist might opine that the Native American references were a cover for a longstanding suicidal drive.

Here's another piece of the Mike puzzle:

He was born DOA, "dead" on arrival. The doctor who delivered him told him when they met 25 years later, that the medical team had done everything possible to revive him but to no avail. Mike's mother had already had one stillbirth so a second was not much of a surprise.

As Mike was being carried to the morgue, he cried. The rest, as they say, is history...

Part 2

One morning a few weeks after he'd settled in to my apartment in Brooklyn, Mike said, "Honey? I'm having a hard time this morning."

He was supposed to call his therapist but the prospect was causing him such anxiety, he broke down in tears. I comforted him until the storm abated - at which point he said, "Would you make me breakfast?"

Is that what this was about? An appeal for pity so I'd make him breakfast?
"Why?" I asked suspiciously. I provided the first B of B&B since he was otherwise homeless, and the ingredients for the second since he was living on donations from his long-time followers. But why in God's name should I have to make it? Was he seeing how much he could get away with?

Mike's lifeline was honesty. A legacy of AA, it was what had bought him his sobriety from which flowed his connection to other people, their affection and help, his sense of belonging, his credibility, his integrity.

"I want to feel taken care of," he said, but it was not so much an explanation as an admission. The question had brought him up short and he was retreating with the grace that marked his many apologies, both public and private.

We sat down with our respective breakfasts, obtained by our respective selves.
"How does it feel to be taken care of?" I continued, veteran analysand that I am.
"Loved. Indulged. Worthy."

Indulged. Exactly.

"Those feelings may come more readily to those of us whose birth was not met ambivalently by our parents," I commented.

"My parents weren't ambivalent about me; they wanted me. My father did, anyway. My mother may have wanted me in order to please him."

On another occasion, Mike had said that he believed his mother married his father in order to escape her own father.

"They'd tried for a long time to have a child," he went on now. "I was two months premature. My mother spent the two months before that in bed.

'I was pronounced dead at birth. I cried on the way to the morgue."

It was my turn to cry now.

"Who are you crying for?" Mike asked.

"Your mother... I don't know." I believe that in addition to losing a baby before Mike, she also lost one after him.

"I met the doctor who delivered me when I was twenty-five.

'He remembered it. I had no pulse. I was blue. They tried to get my heart going. Then he handed me over to the nurse and I cried."

As he put his dishes in the dishwasher he continued, "Some spiritual people have said I'm a take-over, a soul waiting for a body to enter."

Perhaps it was this entry into the world, or at least his awareness of it, that accounted for his upset when we once happened upon a news article about terminally ill newborns.

Part 3

"My dad had a great life," Mike said one day.  "War hero in two wars.  Fought in one; was a [I didn't catch the term] in the other.  Made money.  Died taking a shit, which he loved.  So do I," he added, with a defiant smile.  "But what did he do to make the world better?  Paid his taxes; took care of [his second wife.]  He just kept the system going."

   On another occasion: "My dad was so in control, even after he had a cerebral hemorrhage while taking a shit, he managed to get himself to his favorite chair."
   A major reason Mike worked so fiendishly to finish Crossing the Rubicon in 2004 was that he wanted to present it to his father before he died.  (The other reason was that he hoped to sway the 2004 election.)

   He succeeded with the first goal and got the satisfaction of watching his father's entrenched Republican views transform into an acceptance of Mike's.  And he got to bask in the pride his father felt about his achievement.

   "He did love me, though," he reflected.

   "When I was five, I had my first eye operation.  When I woke up, I had a patch on my eye.  And next to me on the pillow was a teddy bear with a patch on his eye.  I think the doctor put the patch on.

   'My father did do some things when I was very young.  We went to a Baltimore Orioles game.  He took the cub scouts to something.

   'That lasted 'til I was ten.  He abandoned me to my mother.  He was never there; he couldn't stand it.  He was always traveling.  I thought if I was just good enough, he might come and get me."  His father only showed up, he said, when Mike had won something and Dad could preen.

   One night at a party, Dad gave Mike, who was in his teens at the time, a drink.  Under the influence, Mike told an anecdote which ended, "And then Dad beat the shit out of me."

   His father was furious.

   "He gave me a drink, then got mad when I acted the way people act when they've had a drink."

   From the diary I kept during the period Mike stayed in my apartment:  

January 21, 2007  This morning, he awoke with a start from a nightmare that black-clad guys in jackboots were coming to get him.  This had followed two other dreams in which his father was beyond reach.

   In a fourth dream, Mike was going on a trip, leaving his wife, Lindsay, with their two daughters, ages five and nine, who were in the bath.  He had chosen that moment to leave so the children wouldn't make a fuss.

   In discussing the dream, he said that his father used to leave that way when he went away on business, without saying good-bye, and leaving defenseless ("naked") Mike in the hands of his mother. 

   Long time Ruppert aficionados may remember Lindsay Gerken as the plaintiff in a sexual harassment suit against Mike which she would eventually win.  However, she was never able to collect.  More on this (though it's not worth much time) later. 

   "He was a war hero; he worked hard, made a lot of money.  But he didn't do his duty by me."

   "Not only that," I added.  "He left you to do his duty."  (In many ways, some of them unhealthy, Mike took over his father's role in the household.)

   "Son of a bitch."  He looked towards the ceiling.  "Dad, you're fired.  That son of a bitch.  I used to have a shrine to him in my office in Ashland, with all his war medals.  It's time we execute my Dad."  

Part 4; Friends

 Mike's father's job with the Air Force required the family to move so often that Mike changed schools virtually every year.  It's notoriously hard to make friends under those circumstances and it left him lonely and angry, especially after "Dad" started staying away from home for longer periods.  He took out his frustration on the family dog, kicking and abusing it.  When Dad returned, he immediately got the lay of the land, understanding he was the root cause of the problem.  But he also realized that for everyone's sake, the dog had to go.  I always felt that Mike's yearning for a "dawg" was partly to make amends to that childhood pet.  He needed to prove to himself that he could care for a dog since, as no one questions, he loved them so much.

   One day shortly after the family moved to Denver, a kid in Mike's class said, "Hey, Mike!  We're all down by the pool.  Love it if you could join us.  Bring some cookies!"

   Mike got excited - Could it be he would finally have some friends?

   "I said, 'Ma, quick - get some cookies!'" he remembered.

   "She drove me down there.  They just wanted free cookies.  They laughed at me..."

   As he relived this story, Mike looked like the miserable kid he had been that day.
   This is the background to the pride that shone from him in recent years when he would say with awe, "I have 5000 Facebook friends!

Part 5

When Mike first arrived in Brooklyn from Canada, he was still shell-shocked by the death of Fromthewilderness and by his failure to obtain asylum in Venezuela.  He was physically unhealthy and, as he had been for several months, obsessed with thoughts of suicide.

   Sensing that he needed a break from this endless cycle of horror but that he'd be unwilling to venture too far from familiar territory, one day I asked him about his childhood; specifically, what he'd wanted to be when he grew up. 

   "'Til I was twelve and found out how bad my eyes were," he said, "I wanted to be an airline pilot."  That was what Dad had been and what accounted for his war-hero stature.  "But I didn't have any depth perception."

   (Eyes were still a source of some anxiety; he needed treatment for a cataract, which he got and loved.  He couldn't comprehend why I wore glasses of lesser strength than the doctor prescribed [because I didn't want my eyes to get lazy] and he couldn't stand it if they had smudges on them. 

   "But what if you have to drive?" he exclaimed.

   "I don't have to drive; I take the subway."

   When he couldn't take it anymore, my glasses received a polish worthy of the Hubble telescope.) 

   "After that, I didn't know," he went on, "except that I didn't want to be a businessman.  Law?  Nah.

   'Then when I was seventeen, a captain came to my high school and talked about police science."

   "You mean fingerprints?  Things like that?" I asked guilelessly.

   "No.  You're being a girl.  About being a cop.  The badge and the gun.  The camaraderie.  The humor.  I knew that was what I wanted to be."

   Ah...  Friends at last; even a fraternity.

   His years at LAPD have been written about extensively but some events are not so well known.  He never killed anyone, he said, even when, on one occasion, doing so would have earned him a commendation.  (The perpetrator turned out to be more crazy or high on PCP than criminal.)  But he did once break a prisoner's skull when the guy, also high on PCP and being carried on a stretcher, bit Mike on the testicle.

   After leaving LAPD, he had a series of low-level positions: Selling guns (he loved guns but not the job;) putting together amplifiers; working a UPS route where he met a man who became his hypno-therapist.   
   "I don't like thinking about my past except for the years of FTW, LAPD.  The rest was just so much loneliness and poverty." 

   He also acted as a security guard at the Oscars, escorting Vanessa Redgrave the night she gave her controversial acceptance speech for Julia.

   When he recounted that episode, I mentioned that she was doing a one-woman show on Broadway, in Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking."  We bought tickets and Mike left a copy of Rubicon for her at the stage door with an inscription saying how they had met and how her speech that night had given him courage to write the book.

   Her assistant called the next day to say that Ms. Redgrave thanked him and would definitely like to meet. But we never heard further.

Part 6

  I didn't let Mike smoke in the apartment when I was home so he would go downstairs in front of the building and talk to the doorman or tenants walking their dogs.  But when it was too cold for that (he was a California kid after all,) he simply slipped into the stairwell.

   One night, after returning from his last cigarette before retiring, he said, "When I was out in the hall, all I could think about was men in jackboots kicking the door down and taking away everything.  I think it has to do with Denver."

   Of all the moves Mike had had to go through as he was growing up, none had hit him so hard as Denver.  For the first time in his life, he'd established roots.  He was on the football team and he had friends.

   "When we left Denver," he elaborated, "my dad didn't explain, didn't ask how I felt.  He just said, 'Get your stuff ready; we're leaving for Los Angeles in two weeks."

   "The way you left Ashland," I observed. 

   From conception to realization, that plan to close up shop after the computers were smashed and flee the country for the terra incognita of Venezuela where again, he knew nobody, had taken all of eighteen days.  And like the move from Denver, it involved divesting himself of everything he held most dear; leaving family heirlooms, which I will not describe, for his closest friends, with the stipulation that in the unlikely event he should return, (see his article, By The Light of a Burning Bridge) they would be restored to him.  (For the most part, they were.)  One of the signs of suicidal intent is giving away one's possessions.

   "That's true," Mike said in wonder.  He was not accustomed to the insights of psychotherapy.  "But why would I want to repeat Denver?"  

   "That's one of the weird things about the psyche.  We repeat old behavior because it's comfortable and fulfills predictions; we're not taken by surprise.  It may suck but it's a case of, 'The devil you know is better than the one you don't.  

Also, we may want to get it right this time.'"

   I'm sure this was one reason Mike never stayed in one place very long:  After leaving his home of Los Angeles, he moved to Ashland followed by Venezuela, Brooklyn, Los Angeles again, Sebastopol, Colorado, (where he must have been thrilled to return,) Calistoga.  

 Like anyone else who'd been close to Mike, I assumed the men in jackboots taking away everything to be government thugs.  It's only in rereading this account that I see that they also represent his father.  But in the end, they became Mike himself.

Part 7 

The morning of July 12, 2006, Carolyn Baker called.
"Are you sitting down?"
"Yes." Then I did.
"Mike's in Venezuela. He got there this morning.”

Email to Mike, August, 2006:

When carolyn told me where you were, i was shocked but not surprised. you had left a trail of breadcrumbs: the line, "there are few things that could make me think of leaving this country but the loss of internet independence is one of them." i knew from the very denial that you were thinking of leaving this country. it was a snap to figure out where you would go; you'd mentioned it at petrocollapse [the first Peak Oil conference in New York City, which I'd moderated) in october.

but there was no way i could have known this was all happening at that moment.

i cried "no" nine times. (a pesky sense of rhythm keeps track of such things.) i thought that even if you survived (as you obviously had) you were saying, "i'm making a new life, turning my attentions elsewhere." [That was indeed what he was saying.]she described your final days here. i was with you in your garden of gethsemane (on your porch with michael and carolyn, complete with wine.) [Despite the ironic turn, I now cringe to read the groupie-like idolatry of this. And it gets worse...]

i cried for three days, the chorus in this greek drama. the hero acts. the chorus moans, "woe. oi weh." would your life be an orson wells movie in which you play the joseph cotton role in a panama hat, pursued down nightmare alleys?

would i see you again? would you think of me in the past tense? [Yup. Sure would.]she said that you had said, 'i want you to think of me as dead."
having passed thru the valley of the shadow of death you have been reborn on a brave new continent. the ultimate calvinian tumble down the hill, tada!
you will thrive there. you will finally be appreciated by the powers that be and financially may want a child.fantasy: in a few years i come to venezuela. your wife refers to me as 'esa mujer.' i sing the fishy song with your child. (boom boom diddun daddun wannum - choo.) your wife and i bond.

The fourth day i threw up all day on an empty stomach and thought, "so this is the origin of the word 'wretched.'" i have never before thrown up for emotional reasons, not even during the 17 months my father was dying of a brain tumor.

the gods of vomit were not appeased by my exertions; they wanted work product so i drank some tea which helped...

I adjusted to Mike’s being on another continent - one I’d never been to - particularly after Carolyn, his liaison at the time to his past life, said that once he got settled, he planned to make a place for his closest circle.

I oriented myself to moving there too, by brushing up my self-taught Spanish. Learning a foreign language was a more familiar task than trying to build a house out of grass (a pastiche of the sort of advice that was given to people worried about Peak Oil.) I watched Spanish-language soap operas and religious programs as well as a stream of Surreal movies in the tradition of Don Quixote, El Greco and Dali.

Mike’s leap into the unknown seemed an act of either the greatest courage or nuttiness. I didn’t know him well enough to understand the impulse but trusted that he knew what he was doing. It wasn't so crazy for him as it would have been for anyone else to think the Chavez government would welcome him. Within a couple of weeks, he had a radio interview with Chavez advisor Eva Golinger.

However, there were more things in Heaven and certainly earth than were dreamt of in his philosophy...

Part 8

As mentioned above, before Mike left the US, he disbursed his worldly affects among his loved ones, his FTW (Fromthewilderness) colleagues who were the closest thing he had to family, with the stipulation they be returned to him should he ever come home again; and that for the most part, they were.

The exception was me. My gift, which Mike never asked me to return, was, to all appearances, a small envelope of the size to hold a key, with the imprinted legend, "Thank you - It has been a pleasure serving you;" then, in Mike's scrawl, "For Jenna. Two diamonds." I smiled uncertainly when the gift arrived in the mail, thinking it was an obscure joke. But with this envelope was another one from Carolyn marked, "Please read first."

Carolyn explained that the two diamonds enclosed, which, having no idea of their worth, she'd insured for $1000, were from Mike's father's wedding ring.

It was a while before it occurred to me to look at the diamonds but I knew what they meant: Not real love; he didn't know me well enough for that. But when he fled the US, he needed to feel he was leaving behind someone to whom he was truly close. I fit that role at that moment. The gift was an expression of what might have been.

Like everything else he'd ever known, I had receded into his past while he set about to remake himself as a hero of the Bolivarian Revolution.
If anyone could pull that off, it would be Mike. But one day, I sensed, his past would catch up with him.

Email to Mike:

"what you leave behind will not sink in 'til you've established new roots. a joke will occur to you which no one around you will appreciate. or you'll see a favorite American movie dubbed into Spanish and you will be overcome. by the waters of the Orinoco, you will sit down and weep as you remember us.

'but you are home. it is we who are homesick."

That moment by the waters of the Orinoco came sooner than I had anticipated. During the radio program with Eva Golinger who acted as both interviewer and translator for the show's two hour duration, Mike finally broke down in tears when a call-in came from his Portland buddy, reknowned blues singer and bass player, Lisa Mann.

Email from Mike: 9 - 10 - 2006

I couldn´t function for hours after that interview... I had a serious crush on [Lisa] for a while and she is very, very special. She didn´t even know that [[his fiancée] and I didn´t get married or why.

Months later, at my apartment in New York, we were talking about the Venezuela episode.

"Why didn't somebody stop me?" Mike asked, in wonder.

First of all, because almost nobody knew. But of those who did, there was at least one effort to take Mike through what such a move might mean, step by step.
"Carolyn tried to slow you down but you brushed her off," I said. "You weren't in the mood to listen to anybody."

"Yeah," he agreed. "I knew that as soon as I asked the question."

Part 9

Despite his growing recognition of what he'd lost by burning his bridges, Mike's spirits must have risen when a reporter from an influential US newspaper flew down with the idea of doing a feature on him. But emotionally, the conversation itself seems to have been a precursor of the movie, Collapse:

" [S]even hours with the [newspaper] reporter yesterday. I´m writing a seperate [sic] email which you´ll get. It was in detail and he was serious. [Mike had been burned by mainstream features before, as a colleague was reminding him] but it went back through all the most painful parts of my life. At the end it was like someone had stuck a vacuum cleaner in my ear and all the tastes and smells got tasted and smelled all over again.

Not only that, but he'd gleaned that some of his colleagues weren't handling the press the way he would have liked.

"Could people please stop saying, 'Mike can be a real asshole but...?'" he pleaded. "Because otherwise, that'll be the lead of the story."

On the political asylum front, too, his needs were meeting with obstacles followed by false hopes and setbacks. And then there was the barren solitude of his living arrangement. Advised to keep a low profile while his case was pending, (hard to do when, with his Germanic coloring, he stood out in a Venezuelan crowd) he remained virtually confined to his hotel room.

9-24-2006 ...Life is very unhappy. Three days ago two drug dealers staying at the same hotel I am were gunned down on the street a block away. I´m in an upscale neighborhood where stuff like this never happens.Funny thing is, I pìcked them out for drug dealers the moment I laid eyes on them three days before that. I don´t have time to elaborate but I am getting indications that [an American pundit] may be actually trying to prevent me from getting asylum. That´s not for publication.

In a phonecall, he named two other men (activists I'd met and had never taken seriously) who, he said, should be investigated if anything dire happened to him in Venezuela.

Every day I long for death because I just don´t see how this current limbo is ever going to end. I just keep waking up and going through motions. I wrote a new article today and start another tomorrow. I do miss the US and especially my loved ones but I know I can´t ever go home. That would betray my moral decision and put my life at greater risk than I feel it is here. I may wind up being the writer that no country wants. Then what? Sigh. I´ve been doing the anger thing, especially at those close to me who betrayed me so deeply. That´s what´s really taken the heart out of me.

He signed off with a forlorn, perfunctory, “Love you”

An email of 9-4-2006 reinforces this sense of alienation on both the cosmic and comic levels:.

"This seemingly endless limbo vis a vis the gov´t is a real drag and the tiny beds in my little fleabag suck big time."

La Hojilla, a popular TV show that is Chavez' favorite, invited Mike on but when the appointed day arrived, the show was postponed.

The next day on which he was scheduled to appear, he was pre-empted by a baseball star. Or so he was told. Two friends who watched the show said the baseball star didn't appear either.

Finally, he reached the conclusion he'd never get in to see anyone who could arrange for asylum. "I'm a bargaining chip," he sighed. At the end of the day, Mike was a gringo from a CIA family whom Chavez would have had a hard time justifying to his people, regardless of Mike's street cred.

Part 10: Burundanga

Mike had burned his bridges in haste; now he was repenting in sorrow. With the exception of phone-calls to FTW colleagues, he was reduced to approximately one conversation a week in English. To save money and avoid explaining his status as asylum-seeker to inquiring strangers, he cooked his meals on an electric burner in his hotel room. At night, the car horns honked incessantly.

Not only that, but he'd learned that Chavez had made statements implying he wasn't sure that an actual plane had hit the Pentagon.

Mike had tried to warn the government against adopting this widely-touted but easily refuted conspiracy theory (as opposed to conspiracy fact.) Over 130 eye-witnesses had confirmed that what they saw was a plane rather than a missile. To focus on a debatable theory is to draw the attention away from actual smoking guns.

He'd had it; he was throwing in the towel. One night, with a "Fuck it," attitude he went out for a drink.

And then things started going sideways.

The following excerpt is from a confidential email Mike wrote on 9-26-2006 to a few colleagues:

I could not sit alone in the room one more night with Spanish TV.

I went to a night club and had a few drinks. I was soon approached by two women. What happened after that is both a blur and a mystery. There’s no doubt I got intoxicated but I suspect that something was put in my drink. At about 6 AM the next morning I came to in my hotel room. All of my pocket cash was gone and there were a number of credit card receipts strewn around. I have no idea how much was run on the credit cards that night.

Remember that current tensions between Venezuela and the US are very high. I am obviously a “gringo” in a city where fleecing gringos is something of a pastime. Because of the intense pain and other symptoms I believe that something was put in my drink. Maybe a “roofie”. They are here too I’m told.

I don’t know if I got laid or not. For all that I certainly hope so.

There are those in Ashland who know (as do all of the pre-Ashland FTW staff) that I spent 21 years in AA and resumed normal drinking in March of 2004. The uninformed backyard gossip, the ignorant, and those who achieve superiority by taking other people’s inventory, will quickly assert that I am just an alcoholic who went out, went into a blackout and is now trying to make excuses.

But Ken, Carolyn, Mike, Stan and Jamey have all seen me drink moderately, without cravings or any aberrant behavior for more than two years. There are people who leave AA and do resume normal alcoholic consumption.

However, it is largely because of what I learned in AA that I am writing this 10th Step. I have never stopped practicing AA’s steps or the deep spiritual program I acquired through 21 years of intense work.”

We later learned that Mike's symptoms were consistent with the ingestion of burundanga, "an extract of the brugmansia plant containing high levels of the psychoactive chemical scopolamine." While not impairing some cognitive functions, (Mike retained a dim memory of going to the ATM and withdrawing money, then doing it again until his account was depleted,) the drug does seem to remove "free will," whatever that philosophical enigma might be.

The lapse was to have what the British call "knock on" or ripple effects.