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Part Four of Multi-part series | go to part one >> / part two >> / part three >> or go to long read >>

Latter-day Nazis

If you were to call Charles de Ganahl Koch a Nazi to his face, you’d probably get escorted out of wherever you are by a member of his large security detail. But, you wouldn’t be very far from the truth. While his views on socialism or anything approaching the communist ideology are more than clear, the tacit approval of fascist ideology that runs in the family is less well-known.

In 1932, as told in a Koch-commissioned family history, Fred Koch collected $500,000 for building 15 oil refineries for Joseph Stalin, forming the backbone of the Soviet Union’s petroleum industry. The contract had been won through a referral, of sorts, after the senior Koch had helped build one in Great Britain with his future son’s namesake and mentor, Charles de Ganahl. Fred continued to provide technical assistance as the Soviets went on to build 100 more. The family-approved lore leaves this last detail out, contending Fred Koch’s distaste for the communist regime led him to renounce all future involvement.

An eight-year gap is left in the official Koch story, but various independent accounts have him traveling to Hitler’s Germany from 1933 onwards. According to archival records unearthed by Jane Mayer in her seminal book, Dark Money, Winkler-Koch Engineering of Wichita – Fred’s company – “provided the engineering plans and began overseeing the construction of a massive oil refinery” in Hamburg. The company that hired Koch’s firm was led by American Nazi sympathizer, William Rhodes Davis, who met with Hitler himself to secure the deal. Completed in 1935, the refinery had the capability to produce the high-octane fuel German Nazi war planes required.

Fred had a real soft spot for the Third Reich and the other fascist regimes. Just before hostilities broke out in ‘39, Fred Koch decried America’s “dependence on government” and expressed his wish that the “course of idleness, feeding at the public trough” he saw as an affliction the United States could “overcome”. Perhaps it was this desire to correct the nation’s “course” that inspired him to bring a fervently pro-Hitler, German governess to rear his two first-born sons, Freddie and Charles. The boys were subjected to the nurse’s rather harsh methods, which included force-feeding and enemas for much of their early years until she returned to Germany of her own accord in 1940.

Winkler-Koch unit at the Eurobank oil refinery
in Hamburg, Germany | Photo: United States Strategic Bombing Survey

Physical, emotional and psychological abuse in the Koch household was the price Fred Koch exacted from his offspring for being born. The patriarch was known to let his rage loose on them with tree branches and belts. A family member witnessed the “twins” get “whipped like dogs” after disturbing some rocks in a stone patio. For Freddie Koch, the eldest son, life offered more than this and he would never participate in the family business, choosing instead a career in the arts and a close relationship with his mother. Charles, on the other hand, would rationalize it as the actions of a man trying to instill a “work ethic” in him.

Younger brothers, Bill and David, would round out the Koch heir pool. But, Charles would prevail in the end wresting control from Bill who would challenge him in court before accepting a multi-billion-dollar buyout. David would assume a subordinate role, preferring to indulge in his Manhattan lifestyle, but still own half of Koch Industries. Eventually, he would join his older brother in pursuance of their shared goal to bring government to heel wherever their interests were threatened.

Scorched Earth Freedom

At the center of the fossil fuel barons’ nightmares was what Lew Ward, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, called “The radical environmentalist ‘off-oil’ agenda”. In 1997, when the Koch-connected and former Oklahoma oil man said this to a room-full of colleagues, the scientific consensus had already arrived at the conclusion, that 80% of the word’s fossil fuel reserves had to remain in the ground if we were to make it to 2050 with tolerable temperatures. Such warnings represented a death knell to an industry dominated by mostly private, but fabulously wealthy hands with a long tradition of bucking government regulation.

Historically and for obvious reasons, this powerful faction had maintained their position in the pecking order despite blatant anti-government stances and even public expressions of the racism, like that of Texas oil magnate Hugh Roy Cullen who, in defiance of FDR’s policies decided create a new political party promulgating “the restoration of the supremacy of the White race”. His grandson, Corbin Robertson Jr., a prominent member of the Koch network, owns one of the largest coal caches in the country, second only to that held by the government of the United States.

A full list of Koch’s donor network is yet to be compiled, but Jane Mayer’s tour de force accounting of this massive subversive political operation, provides a comprehensive sample that gives us a clear image of the scope and reach it has. The players are not limited to the fossil fuel industry either. Sheldon Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire and Stephen Schwarzman of the embattled Wall Street hedge fund, Blackstone Group are only two of the enormously influential characters with whom Charles Koch has partnered with to face off increasing pressure from a planet, which can no longer support the activities they profit from.

Koch was already years ahead of Lew Ward’s admonitions in the late 90’s, having poured millions of dollars to political front groups, foundations and think tanks dedicated to the Oligarch’s cause. But, the new century would, indeed mark a stronger push by the richest men in the country to put a stop to the “siege” their extractive industries were under.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Koch’s political machinery was hard at work mounting attacks on what he and Henry Manne had identified as their number one enemy all those years ago and which Ward had warned against in his retirement speech at the IPAA. The environmental movement, in the mind of the fossil fuel oligarchy, was nothing more than an attempt by an entrenched government bureaucracy to restrict their property rights and rescind the divine edict passed down by the gods of “free markets” to devastate any ecosystem in the name of profit.

Foremost in their sights was the EPA; the single government agency they despised above all others. Taking it down required a long term strategy, which Charles Koch embraced. In concert with the vast array of think tanks and political lobbying organizations masquerading as foundations, as well as straight forward lobbying efforts, the Koch network went about the work to overturn, subvert or neutralize any environmentally-friendly legislation.

In Washington D.C., Koch Industry lobbyists were not only among the most active, but also among the most numerous. In a time when 90% of U.S. corporations did not employ one full time lobbyist, Koch Industries had five full time lobbyists who were industry leaders in their own right, fighting the company’s top issues: chemical safety, rate billing and tax rates. The bigger operation, however, was happening at the state level where Koch through ALEC and other groups like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) were pushing through legislation and even candidates favorable to their anti-environmental aims.

One of the most salient examples was the fight to reverse Kansas’ renewable energy mandates passed by the state legislature in 2009. Koch and friends zeroed in on state lawmakers two years later, sending Cato Institute scholars and other “heavy hitters” to testify about the “damaging” effects of wind power on the economy and other critiques of the mandate, which had been adopted as a compromise to the construction of a coal fired plant.

Republican Kansas state senator, Dennis Hedke, a geophysicist who had done consulting work for the oil and natural gas industry was the chairman of the House Energy and Environment Committee pushed a bill in 2013 to repeal the renewable energy mandate. The bill had been crafted by ALEC, which Hedke put forward with a few modifications. Parallel to this, Koch dumped $50,000 in the local primary races – a huge amount for the mostly rural state. The money was used to run negative ad campaigns against opponents, while the Koch-picked candidates were advised to simply stay home.

Hedke’s repeal passed in 2015 and, by then, Koch had managed to fill the Kansas state house with Koch Industry drones. Republican Senator Tom Moxley had joined the legislature in 2007 and sat in the same Energy and Environment Committee Hedke chaired. Himself a climate change skeptic, Moxley had changed his views after reading the science and, after witnessing the underhanded tactics used by the Koch network to defeat the bill and flip the house, he retired in disgust.

These same moves were executed in over a dozen states by the same Koch funded institutions and political operatives. Ohio and West Virginia passed similar bills against renewable energy. In these particular cases, the bills were not even modified from the drafts written by Koch-funded Heartland Institute and presented by ALEC. Through these machinations, Koch managed to redraw the country’s political map, setting the stage for the coup de grace in 2016.

Koch’s President

There’s no such thing as an outsider in American politics. No matter how seemingly removed from the established order an individual in either of the two sanctioned parties might be, a network of sponsors must exist behind the scenes to put wind in the sails of any prospective candidate for public office. Donald Trump, despite claims of being beyond the reach of special interests because of his wealth, is no exception. Certainly, no one can reach the highest office in the land, beset as it is by a multiplicity of foreign and domestic policy issues, without a powerful coterie of intensely interested patrons.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence during the 2016 Presidential campaign | Photo AP – Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

Charles Koch had been working, greasing and diverting the political pipelines for decades by the time Donald Trump ran roughshod over the Republican Party and captured the electoral victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. A narrative was quickly spread about Koch’s distaste for the New York real estate developer and media personality. Rumors of the billionaire brothers balking at Trump’s veiled, derisive references to their donor network fundraisers helped the NBC reality star appear to be a kind of anti-establishment, anti-oligarch maverick. Trump’s running mate would have been a red flag for anyone entertaining such ideas, if the Manhattan billionaire’s own status wasn’t a clear enough indication of the opposite.

Mike Pence was closely aligned with Koch’s Americans for Prosperity as Congressman and later Governor of the state of Indiana. Just six months into the new Trump administration, Charles Koch took an unscheduled, hour-long private meeting with Pence in Colorado where the fossil fuel baron, the Vice President and a few staffers discussed the President’s legislative agenda and, significantly, strategies to take after the midterm elections, which they already foresaw being a ‘blue wave’.

As Trump filled cabinet positions, Koch’s hand was more than visible to anyone with eyes to see. Rex Tillerson’s appointment as Secretary of State, while not directly tied to Koch Industries was, nevertheless, a blatant gift to the oil industry, in general. But, once Tillerson exited he was replaced with a Koch politician through and through in Mike Pompeo who was a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee during the 112th Congress during Obama’s second term, when Republicans took control after the 2010 midterms.

Pompeo was then a freshman Republican from Wichita, Kansas, home of Koch Industries. Known as the “congressman from Koch”, Pompeo not only received funding for his political campaigns from Koch, but for his own aerospace company, as well. The future Director of the CIA even poached Koch’s lobbying team to find his Chief of Staff, Mark Chenoweth.

The Republican-controlled Committee featuring Pompeo had signed a “No Climate Tax” pledge invented by Americans for Prosperity. 156 Republican house members would go on to sign the same pledge and initiate the attack on their donors’ nemesis, the EPA, by taking away 27% of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget.

Mike Pompeo (center) flanked by Senator Bob Dole (right) and Senator Pat Roberts (left) | Photo Joe Raedle – Getty

The radical transformation Koch and his cadre of billionaires had carried out in the nation’s political landscape was beginning to reach critical mass. The red lines their policy think tanks and front groups had drawn across the country had delivered a whole new species of politician to the halls of state and municipal power and, in turn, to the floor of the U.S. Congress. The next step was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Destroying the EPA

The plan to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency would take six years to complete, according to David Schnare, the man tasked with putting it together. Schnare was a part of Trump’s EPA transition team, which also included AFP organizer, Charles Muñoz, senior research fellow at Weyrich’s Heritage Foundation and outspoken EPA opponent and climate change denier, Myron Ebell.

Schnare’s 47-page “Agency Action Plan” was a veritable wish list of the fossil fuel industry: elimination of the Clear Act Greenhouse Gas regulations, rescinding of federal fuel efficiency standards known as the CAFE standards and the end of Clean Coal laws. As for the agency itself, it would be broken up and its functions assigned to other agencies or ignored altogether.

Trump’s initial pick to lead the EPA, Scott Pruitt, was yet another creature of the oil interests. Attorney General of Oklahoma where oil reigned supreme, Pruitt ultimately proved to be to incompetent to see the job through and resigned a year later. His replacement, and EPA Administrator to this day, is former Coal industry lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler.

Koch Industries had been pegged as the largest toxic waste producer in the United States, responsible for 950 million pounds of hazardous material in 2012 alone. The company emitted the equivalent of 5 million cars a year in greenhouse gas pollution. Koch boasted of its “10,000%” compliance policy throughout its huge, cross-industry private corporation, but evidence of it is scant and often contradicted by the public record.

In 1998, the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) fined Koch $6.9 million for pollution from the Pine Bend refinery. An additional $11.5 million followed after federal criminal charges were brought against the company. One of Koch’s own employees, whose job it was to make sure the refinery was abiding by the clean water laws, had to blow the whistle on Koch after they tried to silence her when she tried to report the violations.

New Money, Old Game

The FBI’s case in the Osage murder investigation in the 1920’s revealed a plot so evil, that it transfixed the whole nation when the details were published in the biggest newspapers and projected on the earliest movie screens as news reels. William K. Hale had built a solid reputation in the Osage community as a stand-up citizen purporting to protect the interests and livelihoods of the Native Americans in this corner of Midwest America, who were sitting on a fortune beneath their feet. The people looked up to this White man as a beacon of righteousness and integrity.

Convicted murderer, William K. Hale; one of the
masterminds of the Osage murder plots

When it was discovered that he had masterminded the cold-blooded assassination of several Osage Indians in a plot to secure their headrights, worth millions of dollars, his name and face would become synonymous with the devil himself for the descendants of the Osage tribe. The satanic scheme was not limited to Hale, however, and while the FBI would never pursue any of the other leads in the epidemic of Osage murders, subsequent investigations have shown that dozens of other ‘masterminds’ and accomplices were killing hundreds of Osage Indians during this period in order to take over their oil fortunes.

The murderous “Indian business”, as it was called by the perpetrators themselves, reached high up the social ladder. Far beyond the relatively limited capabilities of a former ranch hand like W.K. Hale. But, Hale was enough for J. Edgar Hoover to establish himself as the nation’s top law enforcer. After all, the case was sensational enough to grab the public’s attention and peddle a reassuring tale of good triumphing over evil. But, the truth was that nobody really cared much about Native American lives and the 12 years Hale served of the “life sentence” he received for the single murder he was convicted of was more than most would have expected in those days.

A similar game, on a far larger scale, is being played out today with the calls for “liberty” and “free-markets” by the billionaire Koch network, posing as defenders of the everyman and patriots who seek only the best for America, have angled to trick an increasingly exploited and economically insecure population into supporting policies that, in the long run, cause us all irreparable harm.

The truth of their self-serving greed will make itself evident in its own time, much as it did when a repentant Koch oil gauger, unbeknownst to him, struck up a conversation with a relative of the very first victim in the Osage murder saga. Charles Whitehorn was shot between the eyes for his oil wealth and his corpse left rotting on a hill over a mile north of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Osage Chief, Dudley Whitehorn, sat with the former Koch employee as his car was being repaired at a local gas station. “We did steal from you”, the remorseful man admitted.

 

Part Four of Multi-part series | go to part one >> / part two >> / part three >>

 

Works cited in this series: Kochland, The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard; Democracy in Chains, The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean; Dark Money, The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer; Killers of the Flower Moon, The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Foundational Discrimination

Miami’s image of a multicultural melting pot of Caribbean and Latin American cultures, all co-existing together in an idyllic setting of palm trees and warm beaches hides a deeper history of Black disenfranchisement and state-sponsored population transplantation, unprecedented in American history.

The area’s first black community was settled by Bahamians in the 1880’s, well before the incorporation of the city in 1896. It was called Coconut Grove then, as it is now, and provided many of the black male registered votes used to reach the required quota for the official creation of Miami. Slave-descended Black Americans and other Afro-Caribbean groups were likewise used for the same purpose. All were subsequently stripped of their voting rights, as the region was transformed into an international metropolitan hub and Jim Crow laws spread throughout the South during the early part of the 20th century.

Black labor was the primary source of man power used to build Flagler’s pivotal railroad and to develop the earliest farming settlements, which would make South Florida the breadbasket of America. As the country emerged out of World War II, “benign tools of segregation” began to replace the violent lynch laws, and racist zoning practices started to carve out the real estate along the skin color line. Overtown, a thriving enclave of black culture in the middle of the city known as “The Harlem of the South” and with 45% of Miami’s black population, was bisected by the construction of I-95 – along with many other black and minority neighborhoods across the nation – as part of Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway system.

PHOTO – Gathering at the boat house. Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood was the first black settlement in southern Florida | Courtesy of History Miami Museum

In order to build the massive vehicular artery, the government invoked eminent domain, seizing the land and property of black businesses and homes, displacing over 40,000 people in the 1960’s. The livelihoods of hundreds of “black doctors, lawyers, shopkeepers, entertainers and hotel owners” were destroyed, as a result.

Simultaneously, the federal government was implementing a population transplant operation from a Caribbean nation just 90 miles away from Miami, which had been snatched away from the entrenched, mob-affiliated political class by a bearded revolutionary, who was just beginning his 5-decade tenure as America’s most iconic nemesis.

Mayflower of the Caribbean

The first wave of Cuban immigrants, that touched South Florida shores are collectively referred to as the “Golden Exiles”. Arriving between 1959 and 1962, 31% of the Cubans who came to the United States during this period were educated professionals with resources. Many already had bank accounts in the U.S. and further benefited from extensive help from the American government, unprecedented in scope and generosity.

The Cuban Refugee Program assisted the exiles with resettlement, job training, housing and education programs to the tune of US$ 1 Billion in those early years. In addition, they benefited from special business loans and accreditation of their foreign-earned degrees. The program continued for decades and US$ 3 Billion more were invested through 1996.

PHOTO – Fidel Castro | Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Policies like affirmative action also gave Cuban arrivals a leg up at the expense of Black Americans, reducing the latter community’s already shrinking employment opportunities in Miami.

After the “Golden” wave of immigrants, the second stage consisted of mostly middle-class, mostly white Cubans, who were able to take advantage of the groundwork laid by their immediate predecessors as part of a so-called “ethnic economy”. The transformation of the city’s demographics was well underway. By the 1970’s, the relentless Cuban exodus would overtake the Black population as the second largest in the city, behind White Americans.

Third Wave

The McDuffie Riots was a watershed moment for Miami. Sparked by the acquittal of all 7 police officers indicted in the killing of African-American accountant, Arthur McDuffie, the violence expressed a subconscious recognition of a changing of the guard, literally.

The MPD officers who were involved in the incident with McDuffie on the morning hours of December 17, 1979 were White Americans, except for one. Alex Marrero, the officer who beat Arthur McDuffie to death, was Cuban.

In the most macabre way possible, this signaled the success of the Cuban exiles’ political and economic ascent. Aided by the generous hand of the state, they had firmly established themselves among the higher rungs of the city’s pecking order and were beginning to take hold of several seats in municipal governments.

A new swell of Cuban migrants would soon flood the streets of Miami, but this group occupied a far different social stratum than their state-side cousins and looked more like Arthur McDuffie than Ricky Ricardo. Unlike their predecessors, who had come in through the customs gate at the airport after a short flight on Pan American Airlines, the latest arrivals were processed like cattle by the Coast Guard.

PHOTO – A firemean battles a building set on fire during the McDuffie Riots in Miami, 1980 | Courtesy Miami Herald

The Mariel Boatlift dropped tens of thousands of Cubans on South Florida shores in 1981. Many were sent to different parts of the country as the sheer number of people became unmanageable for a single city. Carter sent thousands of “Marielitos” to Arkansas, then governed by Bill Clinton, who blamed the loss in his 1982 reelection bid on the influx.

Although the Mariel Cubans also received special assistance by the federal government, it was a fraction – in dollar terms – of what the first two groups enjoyed. It was, nevertheless, a king’s ransom compared to the roughly 80,000 Haitians who had taken refuge in Miami during the same period, who instead of getting help were looked upon as a drain on public resources.

The Politics of Color

A recent study entitled “The Color of Wealth in Miami” takes a deep dive into the economic reality of the various ethnic groups, nationalities and races that comprise the residents of Miami-Dade County, revealing a stark picture of racial marginalization and an economically segregated population.

Ranking 8th among the poorest regions in the nation and 3rd least affordable metropolitan area according to HUD, Miami-Dade County presents one of the country’s biggest disparities of wealth-inequality, which the data shows is heavily skewed by skin color, irrespective of ancestral origin.

Latinos comprise 65% of the population, far and away the largest in the County. Of these, Cubans are the most numerous, representing 18.4%. The rest are broadly spread out among Colombians, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, as well as many other Latin American nationalities  in smaller groups. West Indian and Afro-Caribbean immigrants such as Haitians, Jamaicans and Trinidadians and Tobagonians add up to about 8%. African-Americans (non-Latino Blacks) in Miami-Dade County come out to roughly 7%. Non-Latino Whites in the Miami area comprise only 33%, almost half than their numbers in the state as a whole.

The median wealth gap between Whites and other ethnic groups in Miami is incredibly wide. Calculated at around US$ 107,000 on average for White households, the closest group was the Cubans, who nonetheless hold just US$ 22,000 median household wealth or about 20% of the median household wealth of Whites. Puerto Ricans, for example, report a negative US$ -3,940 median wealth position.

The study analyzes differences and relationships between income, wealth, education and race as they pertain to Miami-Dade County, and finds that people who self-report as White (Latino or otherwise), tend to show better socio-economic indicators than their Black and Latino counterparts. One of the most telling observations is how Cubans, Colombians and Dominicans who self-identified as White “did not report substantially higher rates of college educational attainment than their co-ethnic counterparts who racially identify as Black. But they did report substantially higher incomes.”

PHOTO – Pool party scene at the Sir John Hotel in Overtown, Miami in 1962 | Courtesy of History Miami Museum

Home ownership is, likewise, one of the clearest signs of Miami’s wealth-inequality with nearly 71% of non-Latino Whites owning homes, followed by Cubans, Colombians and Dominicans who self-identify as White with approximately 53%, 49% and 47% home-ownership rates, respectively. Among black Miamians, home-ownership rates are between 40 and 60% lower, regardless of nationality.

A home, of course, is the most basic economic anchor there is. The difference between having a stable place to live and raise a family and not can determine a person’s future economic success. From education to employment opportunities, there are many variables this one factor can influence during the course of our lives. In Miami, non-white home-ownership has been under attack by speculators and irresponsible government. And climate change is about to make it worse.

The Last Wave

The 2008 crash left thousands of Miami’s most vulnerable in a very tenuous position, after foreclosure affected 1 in 14 homes by the end of 2009. Real estate developers, encouraged by local leaders, have since returned with a vengeance and are aggressively targeting low-income, minority communities who happen to live on the higher ground elevations of the County.

Sea-level rise and the constant risk posed by an ever-more active hurricane season, coupled with rampant property speculation and gentrification represents a serious threat to the already frail socio-economic fabric of Miami, which could devolve into widespread violence of the kind the city experienced almost forty years ago.

According to a report issued by The JP Morgan Chase Institute on the “financial implications of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma”, the inflow of checking accounts of both businesses and individuals in the wake of the natural disasters fell 20% below baseline. Of the two cities, Miami showed a slower rate of recovery than Houston.

The precarious financial position of the majority of Miami’s residents, with 51% of households lacking enough cash to survive more than three months in the case of an emergency, along with predatory real estate developers salivating over their land should raise all sorts of red flags.

PHOTO – Aerial shot of the destruction brought on by the McDuffie Riots in Miami in 1980 | Courtesy Miami Herald

During preparations for Hurricane Irma, tens of thousands of people from low-income communities were evacuated as part of a county-wide operation unlike any that had ever been attempted. Many weren’t even in an evacuation zone, yet were urged to flee to a number of improvised shelters throughout the county. After the storm, thousands lined up to receive D-SNAP aide, because they had no cash on hand to replenish their refrigerators.

A majority of Miami stands on the brink of financial annihilation as a result of decades of racist policies. The Pew Research Center ranked Miami 10th in the nation among economically segregated cities, close to doubling its “Residential Income Segregation Index Score” of 30 in 1980 to 49 in 2010. Only certain Latino groups have experienced some relative level of economic mobility. It’s no accident, perhaps, that these are also the same groups who play a role in the goals of American foreign policy in Latin America: Cubans, Venezuelans and Colombians.

In recent years, the mayors of four South Florida counties signed an emergency plan that contemplates mass evacuations and other crisis measures in the case of sea-level rise. Given the history, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to assume that our County and city leaders would take advantage of a climate-related crisis like this to dislodge people from their homes, counting on the fact that they couldn’t afford to come back.

Rule 1.04

On Monday, former Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, delivered the keynote address at the 6th annual Safe Streets Summit held right here in Miami, among the top five cities in pedestrian fatalities and the second-ranked city in America for poverty and income inequality.

The Obama-appointee’s remarks revealed how design is at the center of America’s most marginalized communities and how technology is contributing to the reformulation of personal mobility. Foxx, who is now Lyft’s Public Policy Director, nonetheless stressed that “There’s no algorithm that can push us beyond the unavoidable questions of humanity or the existential questions we face in this country now, probably more than [at] any time in my lifetime about how we all live together”.

He began his presentation talking about Major League Baseball’s Rule 1.04, which suggests the most desirable location of home plate on the field, so that batters always hit with the sun at their back. The same kind of deliberate intent informs the building of our roads, bridges and all other parts of our urban landscape. “There’s no infrastructure,” he stated, “that is randomly placed anywhere.”

Home Base

Anthony Foxx’s political career began relatively recently, in Charlotte, North Carolina where he grew up. He became a City Council member in 2005 and Mayor just four years later, at one of the most daunting times for the city. As the second-largest financial services center in the country, Charlotte was especially hard-hit by the 2008 financial crisis. Foxx’s success in turning the city’s fortunes around and his innovative approach to the foundering Blue Line Extension project, earned him nationwide attention and, eventually a nomination to become the 17th Secretary of Transportation in 2013.

MIAMI, FL – February 25: Former Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, delivers keynote address at the Safe Streets Summit in Miami, Florida on February 25, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Streets are a personal issue for him. He understands how the immediate environment affects communities and how the interstate highway system lies at the root of much of our problems today. “The highway system has been a marvelous economic success. It has accomplished what it was intended to do, but let’s be clear,” Foxx said, “…the impact on urban communities was severe.”

The interstate highway system, ushered in by Eisenhower in 1956, was originally designed to link farmers with market centers. The program, however, continues to this day and has cost nearly $130 billion, so far. As Foxx points out, there has also been a great cost levied on urban spaces. The highways literally cut right through the center of most major cities, bisecting neighborhoods and displacing millions of people.

“When I look at the neighborhood that I grew up in,” Foxx recounts, “it was actually constrained by these very freeways I’m taking about… I-77 and I-85 actually meet just about two blocks away from where I grew up.” He continues, “…when I looked out in front of my grandparents’ house I saw a freeway. When I looked to the right I saw a freeway.”

One of the most telling graphics Foxx presented was a side-by-side map of the city of Charlotte before and after construction of the interstate highways. Marked in blue were the areas populated by the lower-income communities and in red the more affluent ones. The pre-1960’s map showed the affluent neighborhoods concentrated in the city’s urban core and the poorer ones surrounding it, on the periphery. The current map shows a complete reversal, with the affluent areas moved out into the suburbs and the low-income neighborhoods clustered in the center, hugging the freeways.

He cites examples of how highways are also used to effect so-called “slum-clearance” strategies to push low-income communities out of areas identified for redevelopment. “There is an area of Baltimore, where the city is literally bisected by a freeway and actually stops cold.” Foxx tells us. “It’s called the ‘freeway to nowhere’. This was done, in part, as a slum-clearance strategy.”

Marginalized by Hue

Cities and neighborhoods all across America have suffered the same fate over the years. Staten Island, St. Paul, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, Montgomery and our own Overtown were among the few places Foxx mentioned as he laid out the facts of a story told again and again, which he insists is “the product of design… not the product of benign neglect.”

Pointing out that remuneration was non-existent in the 50’s and 60’s, Foxx highlighted the fact that the compensation given to many of the displaced families for their homes was based on severely depreciated values since their properties were about to be razed to the ground. This is a reality, which affected a disproportionate number of African-American communities, like the one in Brooklyn – a neighborhood in Charlotte, NC that, according to Foxx, had “1,200 or so African-American owned businesses”, and was just one of many neighborhoods, that came under assault when “thousands” of urban development agencies wreaked havoc in communities nationwide.

GOOGLE EARTH – Satellite image of Overtown in the city of Miami showing the bisection of the area by several large arteries and I-95

The impact on lower-income areas is hard to overstate, but Foxx perfectly illustrated the effects that displacement can have on marginalized groups with the story about a neighborhood in St. Louis, “that abutted what’s now the international airport. And that community was… low-income, high African-American population. That community was displaced to create room for the airport. That group of people moved to a place called Ferguson.”

A Matter of Life and Death

The day-to-day reality on the ground for pedestrians in Miami and other major cities around this country is the stuff of nightmares. Lack of sidewalks, dangerous crossing areas, heavy vehicle traffic and all manner of disincentives and obstacles for walking or biking make for a very segregated lifestyle. For people in low-income areas, it can be deadly.

“Let’s say you’re a single mom, you have three children,” Foxx suggests, “You just spent two hours at the grocery store, an hour taking a bus to get from the grocery store to home. You get dropped off at the bus stop and the house that you live in is 90 feet across the street. The nearest crossing area is more than half a mile down the road. How many people would walk half a mile to the crossing area?” Foxx asks. “Well,” he continues, “this mom carried her kids across the street. The youngest child who is about 3 years old, loses his mother’s hand and is struck by a car and killed.”

People with cars would be hard-pressed to even imagine such a scenario. But, this is not just a scenario. This is a tragic true story out of Atlanta, Georgia. But, something like this could have just as easily happened – and certainly has happened – anywhere in South Florida.

“These streets don’t really exist for the people who need to use them on foot.” Says Foxx. Indeed, Miami is among the least walkable cities in the world and our public transit system is an abject failure. Meanwhile, County Mayor Gimenez, floats red-herrings like flying taxis and Chinese concept buses as he tries to push through yet another highway project.

I have a feeling the former Secretary of Transportation is familiar with Gimenez’ absurd propositions. At one point during his presentation, he brought up a picture of Saudi royals surrounding a drone-like, multi-propeller flying car. “I’m just showing you this. This is a flying car or whatever, um… good luck with that.”, he quipped.

“If you look at long term trends,” Foxx went on, “in fact, the city we’re sitting in today – you’re going to see so much more growth, that it’s going to be difficult to keep up with the infrastructure, with the needs of a growing population.”

A Fork in the Road

We have to start making better choices and undoing some of the bad ones, that were made in the past. As technology quickens the pace of change in the world, we have to find ways to ground ourselves and not become the victims of convenience.

MIAMI, FL – February 25: Former Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, delivers keynote address at the Safe Streets Summit in Miami, Florida on February 25, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

There is a grand illusion surrounding our new digital age, expressed succinctly by an anecdote Foxx shared with the room about his wife and her online Christmas shopping habits. After completing all of it, she proudly turned to her husband to brag about how many “trips” she had “saved” by making all her purchases over the Internet. “And me, 17th Secretary of Transportation,” said Foxx to the amused crowd, “has to say to her: ‘Honey, you just created 25 trips… god knows how many miles of trips you’ve created!’”

The virtual world is dangerous because it makes us even more blind to how the world really is. And, before we become like Stephen King’s Lawnmower Man and fully fuse with our silicon simulacrum, we have to take a step back and take a good, long look at where we are and what we are doing.

Over the last half-century, our cities have become nothing but massive parking lots. There are hardly any trees anywhere and our quality of life is diminishing by the minute. “People are recognizing that the personal automobile has its limitations.” Said Foxx. “We spend the second-highest amount of our wallet, as a country, on transportation. And yet, the cars that we buy are used about 5 to 6 percent of the time.”

The interstate highway system served its purpose, but we are outgrowing it as a society. We also might recognize that the problems it created may turn out to be more harmful than any of the benefits accrued over the time of its use, and that a car-centric view of the universe is a net-negative for the world, in general. “I frankly think there are urban freeways,” Foxx concludes, “that could be torn down and replaced with open space or affordable housing or other assets that would be more valuable.”

Single File

It’s smack in the middle of Winter, but yesterday was as hot as a Summer’s day in Miami and the VIP’s slated to sit in the bleachers behind the President had been standing in the scorching weather, dripping sweat under the suits and makeup for hours. The only respite turned out to be a garden hose, fortuitously attached to a spigot on the wall, which a few of the less self-conscious invitees used to splash their faces and take long, refreshing drinks.

“One line!”, was the repetitive refrain shouted by the Miami-Dade Police contingent assigned to door #3 of the Ocean Bank Convention Center in FIU, as they tried to move the Very Important People backwards to facilitate the seemingly interminable security screening process happening inside the air-conditioned paradise just through the double-doors. Most of the guests pretended not to understand the instructions, feigning a language barrier to avoid losing their spot.

The surprisingly small venue began to fill out by three in the afternoon. Soon thereafter, three people ascended the stage. One led those present in a prayer, another followed with the Pledge of Allegiance and, finally a third delivered a slightly over-the-top rendition of the National Anthem to get the political performance underway.

Setting the Stage

I have never seen former Florida Governor, and now Senator Rick Scott so animated. He almost seemed human, projecting a commanding stage presence and flawlessly executing his messaging behind that podium. There’s no doubt that speech writers and coaches at the federal level are a cut above. Unfortunately, all that good work was somewhat diminished towards the end, when he reverted to his bad habit of addressing Hispanic crowds in his stabbing attempts at Spanish.

MIAMI, FL – February 18: Pro-Venezuelan opposition rally-goers at the Ocean Bank Convention Center of Florida International University in Miami, Florida on February 18, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Ultimately, though, it was about one thing: Socialism is evil. Maduro is evil, because socialism. Socialists commit evil by simply drawing breath. Evil, thy name is socialism.

This was the premise for every speaker who followed, up to and including the President of the United States. “Little” Marco Rubio whom Trump would call a friend and an expert about Cuba and Socialists, in general, came out to deliver his own variation on the theme of the evils of socialism. He started issuing ultimatums to the Venezuelan military, whom – he said – had until Saturday to decide whether they wanted to cooperate with the Atlanticist’s dictums regarding the delivery of so-called “humanitarian aid” or become fugitives from justice.

Newly elected Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, made an appearance, as well. He also exhorted the Maduro regime to step down and provided his own list of grievances against evil socialists around the world, blaming the ideology for the “starving Venezuelans” and other distorted pictures painted about a country, whose economic woes have been imposed not by Socialist policies, but by direct economic warfare from the Atlanticist block.

MIAMI, FL – February 18: President Donald J. Trump, waves at special guests at the Ocean Bank Convention Center of Florida International University in Miami, Florida on February 18, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

After these relatively minor political celebrities, National Security Advisor, John Bolton, took to the stage and sealed the anti-socialism narrative with his trademark phrase – designed to create a media-ready soundbite, which can be drilled into the mainstream consciousness. Bolton, who just might be a cloned Mark Twain, pointed his accusative finger to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – The “Troika of Tyranny”. Catchy. Also the three countries, which happen to be the places of origin of the most prominent exile communities in Miami.

Intermission

Everybody was expecting Bolton to finally introduce the man of the hour, Donald Trump. The hour, however, had originally been 4 o’clock and we were well past by this point. Instead, he pulled what looked to be – at first – a stroke of crowd-pleasing genius when he announced that none other than Juan Guaidó, the self-sworn President of Venezuela was there to speak to them.

The audience’s surprise and excitement was palpable, but soon fizzled when it became apparent that Guaidó wasn’t actually present and that the video of him coming through the big screens wasn’t even a live feed, but a run-of-the-mill, pre-recorded message made in an undisclosed location somewhere in Venezuela.

The Guaidó speech was over quickly and thereafter, the stage sat empty for a good three-quarters of an hour or more. The rally-goers were free to mull over the opening acts and their main takeaways: Socialism is evil; Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are run by evil socialists; and don’t vote for evil socialists in the United States.

MIAMI, FL – February 18: Senator, Marco Rubio, addresses audience at the Ocean Bank Convention Center of Florida International University in Miami, Florida on February 18, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

The main attraction had to wait until a few local luminaries arrived fashionably late and took their places in the reserved seating area stage left, along with the previous speakers. Among the special guests were the Mayors of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, Francis X. Suarez and Carlos A. Gimenez. Mario Diaz-Balart, who had just been in Cúcuta, Colombia with fellow Senator, Marco Rubio, making threats against a foreign military also took his seat.

Finally, The Rolling Stones were muted for the announcer’s voice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the First Lady of the United States

You know that when Melania deigns to visit, the fashion and political stakes are higher. True to form, the First Lady dazzled in a white dress with a colorful “Latin American-ish” pattern. She was led down the catwalk by Trump and after a few twirls for the crowd, took center stage at the podium to deliver a short, trite speech like a regular beauty pageant contestant.

Her husband, much like a pageant host, followed up with compliments for his wife and egged on the audience to back him up on her physical attributes as she walked back to her spot in the reserved seating area, waving at the people.

MIAMI, FL – February 18: President Donald Trump and First Lady, Melania Trump, stand together on stage at the Ocean Bank Convention Center of Florida International University in Miami, Florida on February 18, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Donald Trump would now bring it all together. The red hatted crowd held up their iPhones and their multi-colored flags. The evils of socialism had marinated. It was time for the Commander In-Chief to expound on the concept and accentuate the narrative with emotional cameos by for the Venezuelans in the room – the mother of a man killed by Maduro forces and exiled Venezuelan politician David Smolansky.

Red Scare

The Atlanticist-created crisis in Venezuela dovetails with the incumbent’s strategy for 2020 and what happened yesterday at FIU was nothing less than the President’s inaugural campaign speech.

Miami will be a republican stronghold, as always. It is, after all, the refuge of the oligarchs who were thrown out of their own countries when popular uprisings and revolutions reversed their multi-generational fortunes, built on the backs of exploited underclasses.

They are the politically expeditious demographic who are pandered to every election cycle and, now, also serve to advance a foreign policy goal, which has nothing to do with the “freedom” and “democracy” being peddled at these type of events.

“The communists are coming” has been used for decades to win votes and commit crimes against humanity. It’s an old and tired MO. But, it still works here, just blocks away from Calle Ocho where the voting base continues to drink from the same political poison well.

Feeding Trough

There is a beast lurking under the Internet. A leviathan thrashing about in a colossal, silicon cage. An elite group of gate keepers guard against its discovery. The big data Brahmins, with their clickers and turtlenecks, distract us with fancy lingo and shiny toys as they lead us to the slaughter. Stupefied, we line up like cows; vacuum tubes attached to our proverbial udders.

Unaware of its very existence, we give it nourishment day after day. All of our insights, thoughts and attention – the milk of humanity – is usurped to satisfy this monstrosity. Instead of enriching our real lives with our conscious awareness, we forfeit the pleasure of our own company to rub and tap our fingers on a screen for hours on end, producing the binary coded sparks devoured by the grumbling behemoth.

So massively and so quickly does the creature grow, that its abode must be expanded almost daily. Warehouse after warehouse is commandeered to accommodate the arrays of plastic and metal, which make up its gargantuan presence. Its scale has no limits and as long as we continue to provide it sustenance, the enormous obscenity will keep getting bigger and bigger.

They call it Artificial Intelligence, and virtually every social media platform we use is a front for its development. Any ostensible uses Facebook, Twitter or similar websites claim to offer are simply hooks to entice us. They are designed to approximate actual social interaction and fool us into “talking” to the machine. Our “friends” and “followers” may or may not see our posts, but the machine is always listening, always watching and always recording. Even what we catch and delete mid-post is kept in its memory bank.

The quality of your connection to other human beings is of no value to the Big data Brahmins. They aren’t trying to help you talk to your neighbor or achieve meaningful social rapport through their sites. They are just after your social cues and responses, and they will come up with any and every trick to get you to engage with their big data-crunching machines. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, death itself; you name it… Any excuse is good enough to prod you into engaging. ‘Like’ buttons, emoticons, share functions, photo filters; all of these are just peripheral user-experience tools, that allow them to manipulate the instinctively human need to belong, and trick you into feeding the machine.

Snake Oil Transhumanism

Animating the covert motivations of this latter-day Sanhedrin is a quasi-ideology based on a childish notion of existence; one that flagrantly ignores the unfathomable mystery that operates human consciousness.

The idea of “Transhumanism” has been floating in the world’s collective consciousness for a good while, now. With Hollywood, as usual, churning out one cheap plot after another with some variation of a human-robot amalgam over the last half-century. From Star Trek to Ex-Machina, the concept is well-ingrained in popular culture, and buttressed by pseudo-academics like Raymond Kurzweil – the leading transhumanist evangelist – who present ideas such as the “singularity” with the hubristic inflection of a fiat accompli.

The tenor of inevitability many of its evangelizers employ is, frankly, offensive. Just a few months ago, I witnessed as much at a conference for one of the world’s most important financial organizations. The closing plenary speaker introduced herself as a “Cyborg Anthropologist”. Whether this was a cute, made-up title she gave herself to sell more books, or an actual degree issued by Harvard – the institution said speaker graduated from – is not something I’ve yet decided to research. It’s enough, for now, that she used it to identify herself before the representatives of the world’s financial elite.

In her address and subsequent Q & A with the organization’s CEO, the charming young lady framed her comments about the merging of technology into our daily lives with the same casual inevitability of her peers. In this particular case, she was speaking to the fusing of banking and payments into the fabric of our normal, day-to-day routines, so that such “mundane” tasks could be as seamless as possible. To illustrate her point, she told the audience about a smartlight installed in her kitchen, which automatically shifted hue and temperature depending on the time of day. She remarked how comforting it was to wake up in the morning and make her coffee under the warm glow of a time-appropriate light source – which, she emphasized, didn’t require any thought or effort on her part or even the unwelcome intrusion of real weather conditions, which might affect her artificially preordained atmosphere.

Presumably, this would be the goal for a technologically-enhanced life. The elimination of perceived inconveniences or undesirable conditions through algorithmically programed delegation. Like paying those pesky banking fees, for instance.

For decades, film buffs and critics alike, have been trying to figure out the meaning behind the next-to last scene in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “2001 – A Space Odyssey”, where astronaut, Dave Bowman, appears to spend his last few hours of life in a room featuring 17th century European decor, but with a markedly futuristic feel. All creature comforts seem to be available to the frail man until his death finds him lying in bed, surrounded by what can only be described as a morbid sterility.

When that movie was made, our current state of technological dependence was still decades away. But, perhaps because 1968 was close enough to glean the possibilities, a visionary genius like Kubrick could easily intuit the ultimate consequences of life fatally tethered to technology.

The big data Brahmins believe their programmatically modulated LED lights are an acceptable substitute for the sun, just as they think a silicon circuit board or other substrate moving binary data around is an acceptable substitute for the human brain. Ultimately, these are nothing but the megalomaniacal musings of insane individuals, who have lost touch with reality – or perhaps sold their soul – and should be treated like the good Dave Bowman treated the HAL-9000 super computer.

Shut Down

Have you ever considered the fact that millions of people are working to provide corporations, like Facebook and YouTube with the product they turn around and use to make vast fortunes – for free? Why are we investing our time creating content so that the Zuckerbergs of the world can get filthy rich?

There’s nothing social about our “social media”. At most, it magnifies the worst about us and their ubiquity provides cover to the shameless propagation of our vanity, pettiness and self-pity. Only momentum, falsely-inflated user numbers and the device-consumption cycle has allowed it to persist to this point.

But, what are these shiny, colorful, computerized objects if not just interfaces to get your data into the data aggregators, and data aggregating devices themselves? Every release will have some new bells and whistles to help close the sale. Usually, a marginally better camera to “up” your Instagram game, or some other unnecessary “convenience”.

Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) in the sights of the onboard computer HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” | Warner Bros.

Not everyone will have the wherewithal to understand the implications of what the big data Brahmins want to impose on us. Most, in fact, will readily brush off any concerns as the paranoid thoughts of neo-Luddites. Others may actually want such a world to come to fruition, whether as a result of their own ignorance or because they are somehow invested in its implementation. Only a few of us will comprehend what is really at stake.

Big data has its uses. And fantastic uses they certainly are. From Google Earth to real-time parsing of information for complex systems like agriculture or genetic sequencing, big data is a revolutionary leap forward in technological capability. But society and community, are no place for big data.

In as much as society constitutes an interconnected cohesion among groups of people, big data is a detriment; a peerless tool for pattern analysis and broad scheme implementations, it is, nonetheless, a poor social glue. After all, what does an algorithm know about the enigma of life? Absolutely nothing. We cannot rely on the law of averages or geo-location to determine who we will fall in love with; who our friends or even our enemies will be. These are strictly human endeavors and no amount of so-called social concept-sites will ever replace the journey we undertake as individuals to find ourselves and each other.

Open the pod bay doors, Hal. I’m getting out.

Morbid Curiosity

P.T. Barnum could not have imagined a more salacious character to feature on his marquee posters. Donald Trump doesn’t even need make up; the orange skin, discoloration around the eyes and the bright yellow hair already give him a naturally clownish appearance. The act itself is grotesque. The elephant man, himself, would struggle to cause such revulsion. But, any apprehension by circus-goers, would fail to overcome the irresistible urge to see, once and for all, if the lion will eat the lion tamer.

The 45th President of the United States is the greatest show on earth, and the mainstream media are cashing in day-in and day-out. The Don Lemons, the Rachel Maddows, the Sean Hannities and the Tucker Calrsons climb on their fiber-optic high horses nightly to deliver their inflammatory monologues and preside over faux-opposition panels while behind the big top, animals are whipped and starved in their cages. The business of empire continues unabated while the people are transfixed by the loudmouth on the pulpit. The real actions and persistent policies of the American government are completely ignored.

MAGA hats and border walls make for riveting campaign rallies in the poorly educatednooks and crannies of this nation. Promises to “bring back jobs” and restore America to shining beauty are nothing but empty rhetoric designed to maintain the pretense of a popular base; to keep the illusion of democracy alive and give the voices of political analysts that flavor of sincerity. Underneath the pomposity and vulgarity of the Piñata Don extravaganza, hides an increasingly worried contingent of powerful corporate interests trying to salvage a global investment trade regime, which has been slipping away over the last decade.

The Best Laid Plans

When the Berlin Wall came down in the late eighties, Western investment bankers, lawyers and assorted capitalist enterprises went to work on the world with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers. Decades of slogging through the slow, and – in their eyes – ineffective protocols of the Bern Convention and WIPO, spurred corporate American giants like Pfizer, IBM, Dupont among others to change the focus of world trade from goods and services to intellectual property rights, setting their sights on the ongoing GATT negotiations.

They attacked the Uruguay round of talks, led by Pfizer CEO, Edmund Pratt, and managed to introduce IP into proceedings with the Basic Framework document. Though only a modest gain, it marked a significant victory for American multinationals, most of which relied heavily on investment in research and development to drive growth.

Out of the ashes of GATT, that drew to a close after Uruguay, emerged the WTO. What followed was a deluge of bilateral and multilateral trade deals largely benefiting Western corporations, and a tiny clique of lawyers, who cornered the market on writing, executing and arbitrating any disputes arising from these deals.

Hundreds of trade deals would be signed over the following ten to fifteen years. Riding the post-cold war propaganda wave of MTV, blue jeans and Michael Jordan, the U.S. hooked country after country on onerous agreements, which stipulated private companies could sue sovereign governments over internal legislations or other national developments, which might infringe on their investments and patent protection rackets. According to a study published in 2012 co-authored by Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute, the number of investment arbitration cases ballooned from 38 to 450 between 1996 and 2011.

Over the last several years, many countries have either reneged on existing deals or have simply refused to renew their relationship with Western corporate entities. African nations extricated themselves from these agreements altogether, terminating existing ones and issuing a moratorium on signing new ones. Meanwhile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela withdrew from the World Bank’s body, that administers trade disputes, the ICSID. Even Australia, a fellow Western nation, decided it would no longer include investor-state dispute provisions in its trade agreements.

The legal fees and the punitive judgments arising from the lawsuits pursued by corporations against sovereign countries can threaten the vital social services of many developing countries. Cases like Plama Consortium vs Bulgaria and Fraport vs The Philippines highlight the risk these legal fights pose to the sued nations’ populations. In the first lawsuit, although Bulgaria was awarded US$7m in legal fees, it remained on the hook for US$6.25m – which could have covered the salaries of over 1,700 nurses during a healthcare crisis, which was affecting the country at the time. The Philippines, was forced to spend US$58m to defend against two cases involving one plaintiff.

UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) found that legal and arbitration costs average US$8m. Adding insult to injury, “tribunals most frequently [require] parties to share tribunal and administrative costs equally and absorb their own legal fees”, which means that sovereign nations lose even when they win.

Coliseum Politics

This secret tug of war between profit-driven behemoths and foreign national interests, which has been unfolding over the last few years never makes it to the nightly news in America. As usual, people are only fed narratives which will serve to sway public opinion, that will justify the necessary measures – whether the soft stick of economic sanctions or the outright use of Apaches and Cruise missiles.

The story lines are always simple and geared towards the common denominator. Even if Americans were so frivolous as to get behind the bombing of Brazil for better prices on tin for General Electric, it’s probably easier to make up a narrative of evil doers and bad hombres.

Lurking behind the “free trade” infrastructure is the other arm of the hegemonic beast, expressed alternatively as the drug war in Latin America or Western-funded terrorism in oil-rich Middle East. These are points of entry for the muscle when Western diplomats and arbitration lawyers fail to get their point across.

Donald Trump’s job is to signal to the world, on behalf of Western corporate interests, that the trade regime is not going as they wish and that all bets are off until the world gets back in line. In the meantime, the military-industrial complex is sharpening its knives and waiting for the go-ahead. The trade-dealer in Chief already has his marching orders.

Alex Jones

Free Speech Inc.

Before we get into it, a few things should be clarified. The planned and synchronized removal of Alex Jones from the world’s largest digital and social media platforms is not a question of free speech. This argument is nothing but a straw man designed to be burned in effigy by the droves of TOS (terms of service) goons, who have taken it upon themselves to become pro bono, corporate defense attorneys on our social media feeds. Arguing about moral obligation and constitutional principle when it comes to the fundamentally amoral structure of capitalist organization is a fool’s errand. We should all know how that argument ends. Usually in a court of law and many slapped wrists.

The mercenary nature of the American business model also belies the reasons Apple, YouTube, Facebook and the rest of them gave for taking this Orwellian action. Namely, the idea that they took offense at the content being produced by Jones is laughable. One simply has to peruse the catalog of offensive, scandalous and disgusting content all of these platforms continue to offer and always have offered – from pornography to graphic images of gratuitous violence and all manner of basic crap people are bound to come up with.

It is this last point, if anything, that could truly be used against these billion-dollar, publicly traded companies. We are, after all, the source of all the content they are profiting from at grotesque levels, and unlike other media networks – ABC, CNN, NBC, etc. – who buy or produce the content they deliver, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all lining their pockets with content we create and we produce at exactly zero cost to them. A serious question of whether these companies have any right at all to ban, silence or censor anyone for any reason is one that a competent lawyer should have no problem before a judge. A smart prosecutor would surely win millions for a client of Jones’ heft, in retroactively enforced punitive damages.

Alex Jones’ content was no less or more egregious than anything you might find on the Internet, but his content had the distinction of having a wide circulation, to use legacy terminology. But, how did Alex Jones achieve such a massive audience in the first place? The answer to that question is at the core of what all of this is really about. For all we know, Jones himself is in on the plot. Given the rampant disinformation and his absurd treatment of many of the stories he covers, it would not surprise me in the least if Jones was a plant from the very beginning.

The Ghost in the Machine

The San Jose Mercury News was ready to make a splash in the new, exciting world of the Internet. This small, West-coast publication had just revamped their entire website in 1996. The information superhighway was barely in its infancy and most people were still trying to figure out what a 56k modem was, but the Mercury was about to blow it all out of the water.

Gary Webb was a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist at the daily, and he had just completed a three-part series called Dark Alliance – an explosive piece, that disclosed the unbelievable truth about the direct involvement of U.S. government agencies in the crack cocaine epidemic of South Central L.A. The Mercury chose to make it the lead story for the grand unveiling of the website that Summer. Nothing would ever be the same.

The site went down several times. Traffic was so heavy, their severs could not withstand the barrage of hits. For the very first time, a story on the Internet went viral.

The mainstream news media did not know what hit them and immediately began trying to discredit Webb’s allegations in the midst of their confusion. How had this tiny paper in the middle of nowhere pull it off? It had barely been two years since this strange, novel piece of technology had come on the scene and these behemoths were still trying to decipher a business model that worked. Now they had to deal with this upstart spreading cross-checked, factually-sound reporting everybody wanted to read? Outrageous.

Alex Jones
UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 11: CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS FOUNDATION ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE–Gary Webb, the reporter with the San Jose Mercury News who broke the story of the CIA supplying drugs to the Contras to sell in Southern California, at an issue forum called, “Connections, Coverage, and Casualties: The Continuing Story of the CIA and Drugs.” (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

They went after Webb and the Mercury hard, though it took them three months to come up with their smears. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times published several invectives against the story, publisher and author in November of that year. The pressure from these journalistic ‘eminences’ grew stronger and, eventually forced the Mercury to disavow the series completely, despite editor Jerry Ceppos acknowledging the story contained no factual errors. Webb was forced out of his job and less than ten years later was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in an apparent “suicide”.

The CIA’s own internal investigations following the publication of the Dark Alliance series, not only vindicated Webb’s research but implicated the agency and U.S. government even further. Despite this, mainstream news sources have never recanted their attacks on Webb, and some have continued to publish diatribes against the heroic muckraker as late as four years ago.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Strawman!

As threatening as Gary Webb’s stellar work turned out to be for the tightly-controlled news rooms of the mainstream publishers, it paled in comparison with the veritable army of independent researchers and citizen journalists his story and its fortuitous dovetailing with the emergence of the Internet created.

Alex Jones himself is among them. But, he is only one among many more who have pioneered a revolution in journalism, which the corporate news outlets have been trying to put down ever since. The un-vetted dissemination of information is a nightmare for the powerful, who rely on the so-called fourth estate to shape the narratives, which benefit and further their interests. The prospect of unsupervised, unruly bunch of nobodies doing their own investigations – and worse – having a platform to publish their findings is utterly unacceptable to them.

The mainstream media itself will do whatever their masters decree, but a reality they have yet to escape is the persistent lack of a viable business model to supplant their analog days and are struggling to survive, in general. The vital loss of public trust, however, is a hurdle too high to jump by innovation alone.

What we are seeing now, with the heightening of moralistic rhetoric and the fomenting of the outrage culture on social media is but a backdrop for clearing the field and an attempt to regain absolute control over the creation and distribution of information. Russian “bots”, #metoo, Alt-right, Antifa and all the pseudo-social issues infecting our digital public spaces are designed to inflame and infuriate the masses so the ‘lords of the Internet protocol’ can justify their blatant clamp down over the flow and distribution of content.

Is the timing of this obviously coordinated attack by the thought police not slightly suspicious, coming as it does on the heels of the end of Net Neutrality? Have you asked yourself why these ‘private’ companies, who may go under in a couple of years, have any say about what we can and can’t do, say or think online?

Alex Jones may very well be a puppet. A straw man they built in the spirit of Gary Webb. A phony anti-establishment figure, embodying the hundreds of thousands of independent seekers Webb woke up, who they could amplify and prop up only to eventually burn him at the stake. Jones’ recent legal trouble could have softened him up enough to consider an exit strategy, if he wasn’t already a known quantity.

It’s too late, though. You can have Alex Jones if you want. 22 years ago today, a real, uncompromising truth-seeker walked among us and delivered a fatal blow to the dishonest news media, unmasking the perfidious extent of their spin and willful omissions of fact by exposing a conspiracy so large and so embedded in our government institutions, that those who claimed, until then, to be the watchdogs of America would never be believed again. Gary Webb paid for it with his life, but he left the truth behind as his unrelenting witness.

U.S.

HOMESTEAD, FL – The detention and separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border has sparked a swell of protests and marches across the country, as the mainstream media made this not-so-new problem headline news last week. The immediate outpouring of support for migrants and the, by now, predictable social media sniper fire from both sides of the proverbial aisle is part of a cycle, that began with the inauguration ceremony of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.

Since then, the polarization of American society has been razor sharp, and its subsequent manipulation by complicit media organizations, a case-study of Goebellian propaganda tactics. Nevertheless, at the center of it all, is the American people’s cognitive dissonance regarding what their country actually does around the world. Hollywood and network television have conditioned generations to believe in the righteous, virtuous American profile. On the surface, between L.A. and New York city, this narrative is plausible enough. But, once the metaphorical stars and stripes engages with resource-rich nations outside its borders, a fog of ignorance descends upon Americans, who by-and-large have little understanding of how their government’s foreign policies affects the populations of the rest of the world.

Demonstration Day

On Saturday, June 23, over a thousand people gathered under the intense heat of one of the farthest reaches of Miami-Dade County – a stones-throw from the most biologically vibrant part of the Everglades ecosystem – to march a few hundred yards towards a detention center, where reportedly dozens of youngsters, intercepted with their families at the border, are being housed away from their parents.

Earlier that day, two politicians were given a tour of the facilities. Scandal-plagued Wasserman-Schultz, who’s running for Congress and Senate candidate Bill Nelson, who had been turned away the day before. Nelson’s opponent, and current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has not weighed in on the matter. A third politician, Nicolas Kimaz, was there to meet the marchers, busy propping up his foam board campaign signs, which kept toppling over from the winds of encroaching rain clouds. Kimaz, is seeking to fill the seat for Florida’s 22nd district, which includes the site of the recent school massacre, Parkland, FL. After informing me, unsolicited, about his qualifications to speak about the issue at hand, due to his own experience as a child soldier in Lebanon, he told me – with no sense of irony – that he was in Homestead that day to condemn the political exploitation of the children detained in the compound behind us.

HOMESTEAD, FL – June 23: A tall woman in dreadlocks carries a sign in support of the children over the other marchers at the March to Keep Families Together in Homestead, Florida on June 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Right in front of the building in question, three senior citizens, had arrived early to set up their pro-Trump, pro-detention counter-protest ‘kiosk’. Recycling a few hand-made signs seen before at other Trump-related events in Miami, these die-hard Trump groupies sat comfortably on their portable lawn chairs, equipped with water to keep hydrated and umbrellas to shield them from the scorching sun. As they awaited the marchers, the men indulged in a few wise-cracks about the protestors who were still nowhere to be seen. They seemed to feel safe, surrounded by a half dozen police cruisers and, at least, a dozen Miami-Dade police officers – themselves somewhat more apprehensive as they decided the best way to cordon off the area. As storm clouds got closer and darker, one of the old men remarked that “God” was going to punish the marchers with what, at this point, looked like an inevitable deluge. A comment only possible from someone who’s never had to cross a desert with a child in tow.

The Flood of Humanity

The silhouette of cardboard signs and flags began to be distinguishable in the distance at around 5:30 in the afternoon. A wave of protestors started to make their way down 288th street; the heat mercifully subsiding as incoming clouds produced a canopy over the area. Monitored and followed by policemen on foot and motorcycle, the demonstrators marched past two enormous petroleum silos belonging to the Homestead Air Force base, located just north of the detention center.

U.S.
HOMESTEAD, FL – June 23: Soaked participants of the March to Keep Families Together take shelter from the rain underneath a gas station canopy in Homestead, Florida on June 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Media presence was limited to a few local TV stations, but otherwise not significant. The crowd’s chants started to filter in, as the large multitude approached. Within minutes, the cul-de-sac created by police tape and parked cruisers was crammed with hundreds of protestors, with hundreds more following behind. Upon seeing the three Trump-supporters happily perched in front of the center, one of the marchers smartly suggested to a cop that they might want to remove them, given the numerical disparity between them and the imminent mob. The police officer agreed, in principle, but soon there would be no time to maneuver.

Just as the first flank of the demonstrators flooded the detention center’s entrance, many bringing stuffed animals and toys to leave at the gates, the skies opened up to a torrential downpour, which drenched everything within a 5-mile radius. Caught as they were between the anti-child detention horde and the actual child-detention complex, it would be a miracle if the three Trump supporters were able to save their signs from mother nature’s wet wrath. Unfortunately, I was unable to determine their fate, as I walked through the rainstorm hoping for a miracle of my own – that my expensive camera and lenses wouldn’t get soaked.

Keep Families Together
HOMESTEAD, FL – June 23: A father carries a sign in support of migrant families with his young daughter on his back during the March to Keep Families Together in Homestead, Florida on June 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Ideals vs Reality

Thankfully, I reached the small roof cover of the gas station half a mile away with perfectly functioning photographic equipment. I took some last shots of the marchers, some of whom also took cover alongside me, while others continued on undeterred by the rain and thunder. These were essentially good people who felt the need to express their opposition to something they believe is wrong. The three Trump supporters, are good people, as well. They, too, felt the need to defend something they believe is right. Neither (for the most part), understand the reality, that has brought them here on this day to stand by their respective principles.

The foreign policy of the United States towards Latin America is a very complicated, but consistent regime of oppression and economic subjugation framed within the parameters of the Monroe doctrine, which basically claims everything south of the Rio Grande as the exclusive purview of American interests. Strategy and implementation have varied throughout the decades, but the ultimate goals of resource extraction, debt burdens or perpetual trade advantages have been achieved through the subversion of the political processes in Latin America, including direct interference in presidential elections and actively backing the region’s most repressive dictatorships, while assisting in the overthrow of many others.

HOMESTEAD, FL – June 23: A young, Hispanic girl chants along her mother at the March to Keep Families Together in Homestead, Florida on June 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

America’s policy in Latin America over the last forty years has been dominated by the war on drugs, which has decimated subsistence economies and is largely responsible for the constant flow of migrants northward, in search of deliverance from the clutches of increasingly powerful drug cartels and the corrupt governments, which run their countries. The fundamental role, that the United States plays in this state of affairs is never examined by mainstream news sources, and rarely by anyone else.

In my documentary series “Borderline – The Unhinged Truth About the Drug War”, I break down how this so-called failed policy is really a vital tool of American hegemony. Part one details an event, which occurred in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila just a few years ago, and which shows the horrific reality that people only a few miles away from the border are facing.

The true scope and consequences of the U.S.’ foreign policy in Latin America are exposed as the series unfolds. I’m sure that at its conclusion, viewers will see the immigration crisis in America through a new, and more informed lens. I’ve included a special access link to part one at the end of this article, and I invite everyone to watch and share.

HOMESTEAD, FL – June 23: Protesters approach the child detention center along 288th street during the March to Keep Families Together in Homestead, Florida on June 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.


The Trump Sink Hole

Like Saturday’s washout, any energy we waste shaking our fists against Donald Trump or screaming our support for him, is energy that will never be used to address the real causes behind the problems that lie at our doorstep. Instead, we keep falling into the big, orange sink hole, because we lack the necessary information.

The children being separated from their families and detained in so-called “tender-age” camps are a symptom of a much bigger and systemic problem. Eight U.S. administrations have waged the disastrous war on drugs, year after year, decade after decade. Trump will continue to wage it. Hint: it’s not really about drugs.

BORDERLINE – PART ONE | Access Password: “borderlinepremiere”

NXIVM

What do you get when you mix a former child-genius who grew into an adult with a pathological god complex, two sister heirs of a multi-million-dollar fortune with daddy issues, and an endless supply of emotionally unstable, aspiring actresses? The answer, apparently, is a sex-cultish pyramid scheme called NXIVM, masquerading as a self-empowerment program, which engages in child trafficking, blackmail, branding, and rape.

Keith Raniere, the 57-year old founder and mastermind of the organization pronounced NEX-i-um, was arrested by Mexican authorities in late March at an estate in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, and deported to Texas, where he was arraigned on charges brought against him by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY.

Raniere, who had been in and out of the public (and law enforcement) eye for almost two decades, had so far avoided too much attention, despite a 2003 Forbes Magazine cover story, that painted him and his organization in a most unflattering light. The secretive self-help “guru” had continued to dispense his unusual brand of personal empowerment techniques to thousands of paying customers through his so-called ESP (Executive Success Program) seminars, imparted internationally by several franchise-like partnerships with some very influential people around the world.

Kryptonite

His relative anonymity came to a screeching halt as a result of his arrest in Mexico, followed by the detention of one of his co-conspirators (as defined in the FBI’s filing), Allison Mack. Widely known to the younger generation as “Chloe” of the hit Television show, Smallville, Mack’s arrest sent shockwaves through the Internet, which has latched on to the story, ever since. Curiously, her sycophantic character in the teen melodrama somewhat mirrors her current ‘real-life’ drama, which revolved around a not-so-subtle worship of the show’s hero, an adolescent Superman. Even more odd is the apparently factual claim that fellow star, Kristin Kreuk, who played the treacherous “Lana Lang” character on the same series, was the one who brought Mack into Raniere’s group after taking one of the organization’s “intensives” – a multi-day empowerment course. According to Barbara Bouchey, former member and NXIVM bookkeeper, Mack created a program within the organization called The Source, which targeted actors to bring into Raniere’s lair.

Much of the press has focused on the shocking details of the physical and psychological abuse endured by the group’s inner circle sorority members, who have been subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual coercion, and the brutal heat stamping of their skin with a cauterizing pen during a 30-minute, video-taped ritual imposed on selected female members by other female members, upon induction to DOS, an acronym for the Latin “Dominus Obsequious Sororium”, which loosely translates to Master Over the Slave Women. Allison Mack is said to have functioned at the highest level of the sorority, and is alleged to have benefitted financially from her participation, receiving compensation for bringing women into the Raniere-created group.

As disturbing as the involvement of a well-known actress may be, that might just be the tip of the iceberg. In an interview with WNYT, Bouchey remarked that, “as the story unfolds, the branding and the women’s group is what’s getting everybody’s attention, however, I think there’s so much more underneath…” As we delve further into the NXIVM story, her warning becomes unassailable.

The Higher Ups

NXIVM’s tentacles extend all over the world. But, when the Eastern District of New York launched a full-on investigation into NXIVM and Keith Raniere, the self-styled messiah fled south of the border, where some of his most important friends could put him up for a while.

The man who led NXIVM’s operations in Mexico was Emiliano Salinas Occelli, son of none-other than Carlos Salinas de Gortari, former President and one of the most powerful, if reviled figures in the country. Despite the fact that Gortari had to flee to Ireland and then Fidel’s Cuba in the wake of his calamitous presidency (1988-1994), marked by the massive heist known as FOBAPROA, he is once again living in Mexico, but is careful (and powerful enough) to remain out of the spotlight. Gortari is a known psychopath, who murdered a maid in his house when he was a young boy. Much of the wealth he stole, and which he continues to generate through various financial interests, is hidden behind one of Forbes’ so-called “richest men in the world”, Carlos Slim, who is simply a frontman for the illicit Salinas family fortune, and other Mexican one-percenters who wish to remain anonymous.

Police in Mexico do not operate independently, and do not initiate investigations – that job is left to the judicial branch, who, in turn work at the behest of whichever political clique happens to be running the country. Mexican cops are low-paid grunts who spend their time extorting the population for their own survival, and only execute arrests like Raniere’s in Puerto Vallarta when they are directed by someone higher up on the food chain. The go-ahead to apprehend the American might have come from Salinas himself, as the heat had started to build on his son, and began to pose a problem for Salinas’ future political ambitions. Initially, the scion of the notorious ex-President was forced to distance himself publicly from the allegations against DOS, citing the same excuse given by Raniere himself, who asserted that the “sorority” of women who had branded each other with a mysterious symbol, combining both his own initials and those of Allison Mack, was in no way connected with the NXIVM organization.

Raniere’s other Mexican partner, Alejandro Betancourt Ledesma – who managed the Mexican NXIVM operation with Salinas Occelli, had previously availed himself of his lawyer’s services to send threatening letters to the guru’s detractors and legal challengers in America, and even managed to procure a worthless, but perhaps frightening “cease and desist” order from a Mexican federal agent, which was sent to at least twenty of Raniere’s enemies in the U.S.

Rosa Laura Junco, daughter of the publisher of one of the country’s largest newspapers, Reforma, is allegedly a member of DOS, and has also been branded, according to sources. In addition, Raniere is also partner in another company with Emiliano Salinas Occelli, along with Alejandra González Anaya – sister of Mexico’s Secretary of the Treasury, called Ánima (Spirit), which has received several Mexican government contracts over the years, including the Pan-American Games of 2011, which took place in Guadalajara.

Since Raniere’s arrest, Emiliano Salinas has divested himself completely from any interests in NXIVM, though none of the statements issued by him or his communication vehicles give a specific reason for the break.

The Luthers

Edgar Bronfman Jr. royally pissed off his father, original heir to the Seagram’s wine and spirits empire, when he married Sherry Brewer, a beautiful black woman. “Are you telling me that I couldn’t be president of Seagram if I married Sherry?”, asked a defiant Edgar Jr. “No.”, was Sr.’s matter-of-fact answer. But, marriage in the Bronfman clan was never a ‘till death do us part’ kind of thing, and in good time, Edgar Jr. would assume the reins of the company, and Sherry would make way for Jr.’s second wife, the New York educated Venezuelan daughter of the Chairman of Petroleos de Venezuela. Bronfman Sr., himself, had recently remarried for the third time, to Rita Webb, aka, Georgina, who would bear his last two children, Sara and Clare Bronfman. Edgar Jr.’s mother, Ann Loeb, heiress of the Kuhn, Loeb & Company banking dynasty, had divorced his father just two years prior; a union that produced five offspring altogether.

The Bronfmans are in the pantheon of 20th Century royalty. Samuel Bronfman, the patriarch who’d started it all, had been President of the World Jewish Congress. Seagram’s growth, a basic spirits company founded by the “gruff Russian Jew”, was made possible by the more than two billion dollars in stock dividends from stock in DuPont owned by the company. By the time Edgar Jr. joined the company in 1982, Seagram would be a six-billion-dollar multinational behemoth, that owned such noteworthy assets like Chivas Regal, Crown Royal and Absolut Vodka, among many others.

But the young Bronfman Jr. had a strong creative streak, and was first attracted to a career in film production; an itch he scratched before taking a position in the family business with a couple of movie ventures. He never fully relinquished his love for show business, and in 1993, Edgar Jr. persuaded the Seagram board to purchase 4.9 percent of Time Warner, just under the 5 percent threshold that would require public disclosure. Eventually, Seagram would acquire 15 percent of the massive media company, setting off rumors of a hostile takeover, which never materialized.

In 1995, Bronfman Jr. approached DuPont to propose a deal where the chemical giant would buy back Seagram’s stock for $9 billion; a move that drew heavy criticism on Bronfman Jr., who proceeded with the deal nevertheless, and used to money to make further inroads into the content and media business, buying a controlling interest in MCA, which included assets such as Universal Pictures. Five years later, Bronfman Jr. sold controlling interest of Seagram’s entertainment division to the Vivendi corporation, and its beverage division to Pernod-Ricard. In 2002, Seagram’s assets – in excess of 250 by then – were auctioned off by the French company. Seagram was no more. Charles Bronfman, Edgar Jr.’s uncle, called the events leading up to Seagram’s demise “a disaster… It is a family tragedy.”

Sugar Tits

It was around this time, as the once mighty wine and spirits colossus was crumbling to the ground that Edgar Jr.’s young half-sisters, Sara and Clare Bronfman, were making the acquaintance of the eccentric genius guru in upstate New York. At just 25 years of age, Sara would take the first leap, undergoing one of the NXIVM’s “intensives” in the fall of 2002. The course, a combination of hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) was ostensibly designed for self-improvement and personal empowerment. The younger Clare, was less enthusiastic about the course, but relented under her sister’s prodding and took one herself soon thereafter.

Edgar Bronfman Sr. had a strained relationship with Clare and Sara, whose mother he had divorced when they were just 4 and 7, respectively. Much of their lives had been spent traveling between England and Kenya, where their mother and Richard Leakey, a renowned Paleontologist, carried on an affair. The old man was eager to rekindle a relationship with his youngest daughters, and in the early part of 2003 took one of Raniere’s courses himself. Bronfman Sr. turned out to be so impressed, that he arranged for private therapy sessions with NXIVM’s second-in-command, Nancy Salzman, who was flown in his helicopter from the group’s compound in New York to his estate in Virginia. This went on for months, until, it is said, Clare revealed to her father, that Raniere had borrowed $2 million dollars from her.

Bronfman Sr. was reportedly livid, and cut ties with NXIVM immediately. In October of that year, Forbes would publish the hit piece on Keith Raniere, entitled “Cult of Personality”. The article would reveal all sorts of previously unknown information about the man, including his sketchy business past with Consumers’ Buyline, a marketing concern, which had been shut down by regulators in 1993 over claims it was a pyramid scheme. The Forbes piece also went into some detail about NXIVM’s odd practices and Raniere’s obsession with the works of Ayn Rand. Bronfman Sr. himself was quoted in the article, calling the group “a cult”. For Sara and Clare, this was nothing short of betrayal by their father, who saw their progress at NXIVM as a personal achievement.

Raniere, perhaps intuiting how to benefit from this rift, suggested that the Bronfman girls become clients of Barbara Bouchey’s asset management firm. Bouchey, who was then part of NXIVM’s board of directors, and one of Raniere’s girlfriends, is today one of Raniere’s biggest detractors. At the time, Bouchey didn’t grasp the conflict of interest, as she signed check after check, drawing funds from the Bronfman girls’ accounts to finance Raniere’s ambitions.

Between the years of 2004 and 2010, according to legal filings and public records, $150 million was withdrawn from the Bronfman’s trust and bank accounts. Among the expenses were $30 million in real estate investments, $11 million for a private jet, and over $65 million to cover Raniere’s trading losses through First Principles, a company registered under Nancy Salzman’s name. At one point, in need of more money, the Bronfman girls sought to access a trust reserved until Bronfman Sr.’s passing, by changing the trustees, who oversaw it.

Bronfman Sr. began to consider the possibility of having his daughters declared legally incompetent, to stem the financial bloodletting, but was dissuaded by the idea of stigmatizing the family name with such a recourse.

Raniere put Sara and Clare on the NXIVM board, with Sara given the title of “Minister of Humanities”, which put her in charge of organizing all events. She arranged a V.I.P. session with Richard Branson on his private island in the Caribbean, and continued to climb the NXIVM ladder. Clare, meanwhile, was also becoming closer to the organization practically abandoning her equestrian dreams – she was a trained jumper, and in 2004 she was running for the U.S. Olympic trials – but, on Raniere’s advice, decided to sell most of her horses, and a $7 million-dollar training center to continue financing Raniere’s projects.

In 2009, the Bronfman sisters organized what seemed like the biggest success of their lives, when they managed to book the Dalai Lama to speak in Albany, New York. The event’s announcement caused an uproar in the local press, which decried the holy man’s association with the “cult-like” group. Two potential venues, including Raniere’s alma mater, refused to host the event, and after a slew of emails sent to the Dalai Lama himself, complaining about said association, he cancelled his appearance.

Alas, the reincarnated spiritual master is a practical man, and after Sara Bronfman flew to India to plead with him (and the Dalai Lama Trust was registered in New York State), the visit was back on. Sara and Clare beamed when he called them “friends” only a few feet away from him on the stage at the Palace Theater in Albany in May.

Black Rainbows

The newborn appeared out of nowhere in 2007. Gaelen, as they call him, arrived in upstate New York with then NXIVM member Kristin Keefe. The boy’s provenance was as mysterious as that of little Clark Kent when the farmer couple found the kid of steel in the middle of their wheat field. Keefe claimed the baby’s grandfather had simply handed him over to her after his mother had died a few weeks earlier in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Barbara Bouchey, who was then still Raniere’s confidante, said that she overheard the child “would be raised utilizing Keith’s methodology, and the child would be exposed to certain kinds of music, certain kinds of physical exercise and language.”

Gaelen would be the first test-case for Raniere’s so-called “Rainbow Cultural Garden”, a controversial program developed with Dr. Brandon Porter, a New York doctor, who was being investigated in December of 2017 for traumatic experiments on women, which allegedly consisted in making the female subjects watch videos of rape and murder.

Keefe, and the boy escaped NXIVM with the help of the New York State Police in 2014.

In a lawsuit involving former NXIVM attorney Joseph O’Hara and the Bronfmans, Ethical Foundation, a non-profit O’Hara says was being used to illegally hide funds for for-profit activities, was turned over to the group with $230,000 in funds. O’Hara complained to Andrew Cuomo’s office, but didn’t hear back. The funds have since been directed to a new foundation called Ethical Science Foundation, led by Clare Bronfman, which claims to do brain research by the aforementioned Dr. Porter.

Rainbow Cultural Garden LLC, which is affiliated with another company called Ethical Principles, Inc., has 11 branches around the world. Described as an “early child-development program which, through careful, progressive exposure to multiple languages, cultures, representational systems, and aesthetics, seeks to inspire and capture the miraculous, creative, learning lives of children.”

Late in 2017, Rainbow Cultural Garden U.K., which listed Sara Bronfman as CEO on its website, before it was taken down, was placed under “review” by a watchdog group. Just yesterday, the Miami New Times reported that Rainbow Cultural Garden Miami, was ordered closed by state authorities. The school, located close to Miami’s posh Design District was inaugurated by Raquel Perera in 2015. Perera is the wife of Spanish pop star, Alejandro Sanz. She claimed to “direct” the school, and credited Raniere with creating the school’s curriculum in an interview with Spanish-language television station, Univision, that same year. Their son, Dylan, is supposedly a student.

According to Frank Parlato Jr., who has been exposing NXIVM for years on his blog (FrankReport.com), the schools are “an attempt to train children to become sociopaths who can never bond with their parents”.

Struck Stars

The parade of celebrities who have passed through NXIVM, and the methods used in their courses and seminars, bears more than a passing resemblance to another cult-like organization: Scientology.

Linda Evans, Richard Branson, Allison Mack, Kristen Kreuk, and Sheila Johnson, founder of BET, are just a few of the well-known people, that we know have had close dealings with this nefarious group.

Keith Raniere, who makes his followers call him “Vanguard”; a man has expressed a megalomaniacal desire to start his own country – going as far as collecting names of people with Native American heritage, in hopes having enough of them to claim sovereignty for a future land purchase; whose former girlfriend and former NXIVM member, Toni Natalie, has been warning others and counseling ex-members for almost twenty years; and, finally, has been known to authorities for at least as long, is finally facing justice.

Raniere may be an evil genius, but whoever has been protecting him all these years must be the devil himself.

SOURCES:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/nyregion/allison-mack-smallville-sex-trafficking.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/nyregion/nxivm-women-branded-federal-investigation.html
https://frankreport.com/2018/03/05/nxivm-is-a-company-not-a-sect-emiliano-salinas/
https://frankreport.com/2017/10/12/betancourts-new-super-lawyer-threatens-expians-with-arrest-in-mexico-if-they-dont-shut-up-about-dos/
https://www.proceso.com.mx/527546/cae-el-fundador-de-la-secta-nxivm-vinculada-en-mexico-con-un-hijo-de-salinas-de-gortari
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/26/nxivm-cult-co-founder-keith-raniere-arrested-charged-sex-trafficking-texas
https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/04/13/mexico/1523579870_424276.html
https://www.huffingtonpost.com.mx/2018/04/13/emiliano-salinas-deja-esp-vinculada-a-la-secta-nxivm_a_23410478/
https://aristeguinoticias.com/2603/mexico/empresa-de-emiliano-salinas-defiende-inocencia-del-lider-de-nxivm/
https://aristeguinoticias.com/2212/mexico/fbi-ya-investiga-a-nxivm-en-estados-unidos-nyt/
http://wnyt.com/news/nxivm-keith-raniere-sex-trafficking-charge-fbi-halfmoon-women-branded-group-toni-natalie-barbara-bouchey/4844678/
https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/20/entertainment/allison-mack-arrested/index.html
https://nypost.com/2011/01/31/guru-blow-off-taxes/
http://www.oxygen.com/crime-time/frank-parlato-keith-raniere-sex-cult-NXIVM
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/27/nxivm-leader-keith-raniere-arrested-charged/462685002/
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nxivm-leader-keith-raniere-charged-sex-trafficking/
https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/NXIVM-co-founder-Keith-Raniere-charged-in-federal-12782354.php
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4925050/posh-brit-school-founded-by-american-cult-leader-under-review-by-watchdog/
https://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Secret-mission-A-child-589818.php
https://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Secrets-of-NXIVM-2880885.php
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-sex-trafficking-female-slaves-20180326-story.html
http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/alejandro-sanzs-wifes-miami-school-closed-by-state-tied-to-nxivm-sex-cult-founder-10295903
https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/11/bronfman-201011

Fox

MIAMI BEACH, FL – Trump nemesis, and former Mexican President, Vicente Fox Quesada delivered the inaugural keynote address in front of a few thousand guests, exhibitors, and invitees at the fifth iteration of eMerge Americas, one of the newest technology conferences in the country, focusing on Latin American and local tech startups.

Known for his straightforward style, and colorful language, Fox got right to the point, beginning with a soliloquy on what he called the “underground” threat to globalization. Citing Brexit and the separatist movement in Catalonia, he then singled out Donald Trump as the new driving force behind the sinister plot to break up the “progress” and “enlightenment” so far achieved by the breaking down of national barriers to trade and people.

Fox warned, with the tone of a man with inside knowledge, that President Trump was not revealing his true intentions to the American people.

Trump “Has not yet shown what is below the surface; has not clearly stated to the American people where he is taking this nation. He’s got a plan,” Fox said, “he knows where he’s going. But, I don’t think U.S. public opinion knows what the path is.”

Fox
MIAMI BEACH, FL – April 23: Vicente Fox Quesada, former President of Mexico, delivers keynote speech at the eMerge Americas tech conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center on April 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

He continued with a look into the future, in which he forecasted human lifespans of 130 years, and a civilization enjoying the fruits of robot labor. The six-foot-four, one-time Coca-Cola executive, declared that NAFTA had achieved its goal of bridging the economic gap between north and south, and predicted that all of North America would reach one-to-one economic parity in the coming years.

After his relatively brief address, Fox sat down for a discussion with John Harwood, Chief Washington D.C. Correspondent for CNBC, who pressed him on his remarks about Trump.

“Now, if I understood you correctly,” Posed Harwood, “you said you thought that the president, our president has only revealed part of what his agenda is. But, there’s much more coming, that we have not seen. What do you mean by that?”

Fox, however, didn’t provide any hard evidence for his claim, and instead went on to talk generally about the dangers of populist governments, like those which litter the history of Latin America.

The conversation then veered off into the speaking engagements he’s taken on since his exit from public office, candidly telling his audience, that he only does it to generate revenue for his three foundations. Harwood, at one point, asked him how his anti-Trump t-shirt sales were going, to which the former president responded, that he had yet to see the numbers.

Fox
MIAMI BEACH, FL – April 23: Vicente Fox, and John Harwood hold a discussion at the eMerge Americas tech conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center on April 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

His mention of a Cannabis conference he will be hosting at Centro Fox in Mexico, opened the door to expounding on his views concerning drugs and legalization, as he is in favor of complete legalization. After Harwood asked sarcastically whether he didn’t believe Mexico was at fault for the drug problem in the United States, Fox stated categorically that the “headquarters” of the big drug cartels are not in Mexico, but here in the United States.

“Those who distribute here. Those who raise the money here. Those who benefit from the crime and drugs are the U.S. cartels.” Said Fox.

Eventually, the topic would inevitably turn back to Trump and his protectionist policies, pointing out the folly in shutting out 80% of global GDP, or the rest of the world. “What’s going to happen with GM, with Chrysler, with Ford?” Asked Fox, “They make the profits out there.”

Harwood ended the discussion with a question he’d been trying to get an answer to from the beginning; whether Fox thought there would be a new NAFTA deal. Fox came back with an emphatic yes, but left a 5% chance for a negative outcome.

“This is another false promise…” Fox said, referring to Trump’s threat of scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico’s newly expanded trade deal with the EU, agreed to in principle only days ago, might be the reason for his optimism.

But with presidential elections looming south of the border, and a populist candidate from the left leading in all polls, the only certainty is that you won’t live to 130.

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