Tech

2020 is Hindsight

Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, knew what he was doing when he posed on the Metrorail platform for his 2016 re-election campaign ad promising “More Rail” in bold, white letters. Only days removed from the $76 million-dollar gift he wrapped himself for the private luxury train company, soon-to-be renamed Virgin Trains, we can look back and see that “Metro” was purposefully omitted from the advertising copy.

The move was fraught with political blowback and could have cost him critical support in the Commission had he tried to ram this through earlier. Calculating as ever, he waited until the tail end of his term-limited reign to pull this stunt. As rumors swirl about where Gimenez plans to land after his disastrous tenure in County government, he leaves no doubt where he plans to butter his bread.

Brightline’s imminent re-branding is designed to take advantage of Richard Branson’s name recognition, despite the fact that the eccentric billionaire is only a minority shareholder in Brightline, itself owned by Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) and operated by All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of the latter. All of these, in turn, are owned by Fortress Investment Group, which took more than $3 million dollars from then Governor Rick Scott and wife, Ann, under whose name the Scotts keep most of their largely undisclosed fortune.

Scott claims his multi-million dollar investment was made to a separate division of the New York-based Fortress in “an unrelated debt-financing fund” with no stake in the “success or failure” of Brightline. Scott’s word, of course, is worth less than the all-purpose bond paper in tray #1 of the leased copy machine at Fortress’ Manhattan headquarters. He was the one who killed Obama’s bullet train project, proposed by his Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, as he received $188,000 in campaign funds from the company that operates what is today the only privately-owned passenger rail system in the country. His Chief of Staff, at the time, had also been employed by FECI and Associated Press confirmed that Scott had discussed the rail project with the aid.

MIAMI, FL – February 18: Senator, Rick Scott, 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 Medicare fraudster, Scott, has moved on to the federal echelons of government, but has left behind mentees in South Florida who are looking after his “unrelated” investments. Carlos Gimenez has been the lead dog for the ransacking of public funds by private profits in Miami-Dade County, of which the Aventura Brightline station is just the latest example. He is not alone, however, and it is not a new phenomenon in Miami; a long-time stronghold of plantation-style politics. What is new are the players behind the scenes.

The Troglodytes

SoftBank acquired Fortress Investment Group in 2017 and has outright ownership or controlling shares in what seems like a thousand other concerns. The massive holding company is owned by Japanese multi-billionaire Masayoshi Son, who boasts of having a vision for his company extending 300 hundred years into the future. Megalomaniacal projections, aside, Son has amassed an impressive portfolio of investments in technology startups that span the globe, which are eventually rolled into SoftBank’s $100 billion “Vision Fund” when they are sufficiently mature. Once there, the goal is to fuse their operations into some sort of symbiotic, multinational tech-based empire.

The Vision Fund’s largest investor is none other than the Saudi Royal family, whose $45 billion-dollar contribution played a determining factor in a recent power tussle at the top of SoftBank’s executive hierarchy involving its two highest officers. Marcelo Claure, Son’s “hand-picked” COO for SoftBank Group, tried to insinuate himself into a lead operating role of the Vision Fund by displacing incumbent Rajeev Misra. But, his takeover bid was nixed by the Saudis whose relationship with the London-based banker and SoftBank board member, Misra, predates their investment.

Claure had put a team together called the SoftBank Operating Group, with expertise in “building companies, improving performance and managing key support tasks like government relations”, which he intended to bring with him to lead the “synergies” of companies in the Vision Fund. While Claure had Son’s blessing, he nonetheless saw his ambitions thwarted by the Saudi-backed Misra and his team. Son offered the Bolivian entrepreneur an alternative: Take his 40-man team to the Vision Fund, but work under Rajeev Misra.

Not one to be bossed around, Claure declined the offer and assumed a diminished role in the company, returning to where he had reached his highest peak as an independent business owner before Masayoshi Son had bought out Claure’s telecom startup, Brightstar, and placed him at the helm of Sprint, a company he is credited with saving from certain extinction. Back in Miami after his Vision Fund debacle, Claure heads SoftBank Latin America, as well as continuing as SoftBank Group’s Chief Operating Officer. In addition, Claure oversees operations of Boston Dynamics, ARM Holdings, Sprint, Fortress Investment Group and his original cell phone distributor, Brightstar, as CEO of SoftBank Group International.

His return to South Florida is really just academic, since his interests and those he represents never actually left. SoftBank’s stake in Miami is vast and cuts through the very fabric of this city and the region, in general. From Uber, to WeWork; from the saga of Miami FC and Beckham’s Soccer stadium complex to Brightline, SoftBank is making a play to buy us out with our own money through their proxies in the City, County, State and even Federal government, led by the luckiest business man ever to walk the face of the earth.

Bolivian Son

Raúl Marcelo Claure’s mother always knew that her second-born would turn out to be a great entrepreneur. The clues were plain to see even as a young boy. “As a six-year old,” she recalled, “he was selling marbles in the schoolyard by the case”. His father, René Claure, had hauled the family across the world as his career as a geologist for the United Nations Development Group demanded.

FILE PHOTO – Jorge Mas, Marcelo Claure and
David Beckham at Miami FC MLS franchise announcement

His first lucky break came on the heels of his graduation from Bentley College in Massachusetts where he’d earned a BS in business economics. The 21-year old was flying back to La Paz, though some accounts say he was on a flight to Quito, Ecuador. In any case, the legend goes, he happened to find out Guido Loayza, the man who had just been chosen to lead the Bolivian Soccer Federation (FBF) was on board and convinced a fellow passenger to give up his first class seat so he could bring Loayza to sit next to him.

The rest, as they say, is history and Claure was hired on-route by Loayza to manage the Federation’s marketing affairs. Loayza himself disputes the veracity of this story, saying that he met Claure in Las Vegas during a business conference. But, those are just pesky details or the ravings of an old man with a failing memory, according to Claure.

As his continued good fortune would have it, during Loayza’s tenure, the Bolivian national squad would qualify for the first time ever to the 1994 World Cup, which was to be held – also for the first time – in the United States. Claure was put in charge of the Bolivian Soccer Federation’s marketing operations in the host country, which he knew so well.

Most English-language press accounts of Claure’s biography go no further on this part of the budding entrepreneur’s life and promptly move on to his other dates with Lady Luck. But, this is precisely the point where cracks in the story begin to emerge. Cracks that will open into deep, dark chasms as the layers of his carefully-crafted image are peeled back.

Scalping the Competition

“He [Claure] was the one who managed everything about the ticket sales”, declared then head of the Bolivian Soccer Federation (FBF), Carlos Chavez, to a Bolivian newspaper, “He set up offices prior to the World Cup in the United States and we have information at the FBF, which is known publicly” he continued, “about the 12,000 tickets that were sold”. Chavez initially made the shocking allegations on live Bolivian television, waving documents that he claimed proved Claure and his predecessor at the FBF, Guido Loayza, had embezzled over $9 million in the ticket fraud scheme.

Regarding the allegations, Claure stated that, in his capacity as International General Manager of the FBF during the 1994 World Cup, a decision had been made to purchase 12,070 tickets from FIFA in order to resell them in “Bolivia and to Bolivian fans all over the world who wished to attend the games”. According to Claure, demand was too low and they were stuck with a lot of tickets. At a certain point, he sold the remaining tickets for a lump sum to a licensed ticket vendor in Massachusetts, after FIFA advised him that he wasn’t “authorized to sell the tickets in the North American market”. The lump sum in question was never clarified by Claure, who claimed not to remember the details.

In 2012, Chavez would run, successfully, for a third term as FBF President; this time against Claure, himself, who was (and remains) President of Club Bolivia, the most popular soccer team in the Andean nation. Right in the middle of his negotiations with Masayoshi Son’s Softbank to sell his telecom startup, Brightstar, and take over as Sprint’s CEO, Claure was challenging Chavez for the FBF’s top job. He was disqualified by the voting committee since his only purpose for running was to sabotage Chavez. Claure later admitted that, had he won the election, he would have resigned the next day.

On the day of the election, police had to be called to evacuate FBF headquarters after a bomb threat was made by an anonymous phone call. But, before the committee members were removed, a strange pickup truck pulled up and launched pepper spray into the crowd, causing a panic. Chavez would make his victory speech in a different venue a few blocks away.

“I don’t blame the government because it would be irresponsible,” said Chavez with tears in his eyes from the pepper spray and a handkerchief over his mouth, “but what is obvious… is that there must have been orders from up on high behind this disgraceful act.”

Just a few years later, Chavez would find himself targeted by Loretta Lynch’s DOJ probe into FIFA corruption. He was cleared in that investigation, but separate charges were later brought against him in Bolivia in an unrelated case of illicit enrichment. Chavez was accused and convicted of diverting funds from a charity soccer match and sentenced to ten years in a Bolivian prison. He would only serve two and a half years before succumbing to cancer in 2015.

Claure had filed libel and defamation suits against Chavez in a Florida court, for some reason. But, neither his suits nor Chavez’ accusations against Claure and Loayza went anywhere, perhaps, because Chavez would be dead less than five years after first making the accusations against Claure and Loayza, who also happened to be an engineer in telecommunications and was a business associate of Claure’s in an Argentinian cellular phone venture.

It was in telecom that Claure would make his real fortune. The result of yet another fortuitous turn of events with another vague backstory attached.

Lucky Charms are for Kids

Somewhere between Boston and Worcester on Route 9, a leprechaun nudged Claure to stop at a USA Wireless store. He had just returned from Bolivia, striking out on his own after his stint at the FBF and needed a cell phone. The Venezuelan owner, as claimed, was fond of telling his customers that he detested owning the roadside location. So miserable was he as a result, that he would offer to give the store away to anyone who wanted it. What are the odds, that a young man with Claure’s connections would walk into his retail establishment and, instead of getting that flip phone that was all the rage back then, would propose to give the man selling him that phone a 45% stake in his own store if he just handed its operation over to him?

The odds are about the same as anyone confirming that story. But, that’s the story we are given of how Marcelo Claure came to own one of the largest cellular phone retail chains on the East coast of the United States. From this ‘modest’ beginning and a loan from his father, René, Claure launched Brightstar Corp in 1997, which would take the barely nascent cellular market in Latin America by storm. From $14 million in revenue that first year, by 2003, annual revenue would exceed $1 billion and the company would be operating in 16 countries selling Motorola phones to different carriers throughout Central and South America.

DORAL, FL – August 25: County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez and Miami Archbishop, Thomas Gerard Wenski (back) during U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral on August 25, 2017 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Even the telecom crash of 2000 left Brightstar unscathed because it was just a middle man parsing the continent’s disparate bureaucratic red tape surrounding each countries’ import/export laws, which proved too expensive for the global players to deal with themselves. This niche allowed Brightstar, which took its name from the two largest cellphone distributors of the time – CellStar and Brightpoint – to snatch virtually all of the market share in the Latin American cell phone distribution space. Claure’s success would attract the largest names in the technology universe.

In 2003, Claure was seeking $50 million in venture capital to expand operations to Asia and, he told Inc Magazine, prepare to take Brightstar public later that Summer. When it was all said and done, Claure had hauled in over $60 million in VC money at a $400 million-dollar valuation. The joint fund was comprised of Falcon Investment Advisors, Prudential Capital Group, Ramius Capital Group and Bill Gates’ Grandview Capital Management.

Claure would never actually take the company public and Forbes would list Brightstar as the 58th largest privately held corporation in the U.S. in 2012. Softbank would buy Brightstar for $1.26 billion a year later and Claure would take over Masayoshi Son’s Sprint. But, years before Claure’s successful Brightstar exit, he would join a dubious philanthropic venture with Nicolas Negroponte, founder of MIT’s notorious Media Lab to distribute $100 dollar laptops to children in developing countries.

Shady Aid

OLPC stands for One Laptop Per Child, an idea concocted by Nicolas Negroponte, who recently made headlines for justifying MIT Media Lab’s funding by deceased suspected sex-trafficker and intelligence asset, Jeffrey Epstein. The program was billed as a way to provide millions of children in Third World countries with their own personal Wi-Fi-enabled computer devices at far-below market prices and to promote education.

Negroponte first announced his pet project at the 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos. Not very enthusiastically received, an OLPC pilot was, nevertheless, launched two years later to much fanfare and a few bloopers at a UN meeting in Tunis, Africa. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, accidentally broke off the plastic crank of the prototype he was about to show off to the attendees. The gaff would foreshadow a litany of problems, that plague the non-profit initiative to this day; chief among which was the prevailing mistrust by the program’s target countries, who immediately saw through the ostensibly noble purpose and tagged the cheap laptops as a simple profit-driven agenda with a side of subversion.

Other criticisms revolve around the actual cost of the advertised “$100” price tag, which has yet to materialize. Intel, one the original partners, launched its own version with Microsoft; other start-ups in India and elsewhere developed their own low-cost laptops. Most of Negroponte’s devices are being distributed in Latin America, which is why OLPC headquarters were moved to Miami in 2010. The hardware of the OLPC devices also include an ARM-based chip, manufactured by AMD in partnership with ARM Holdings, one SoftBank’s Vision Fund assets overseen by Marcelo Claure.

Claure, who claims to have no political ambitions in his native country, has used the OLPC laptops and his role in Club Bolivar to forge a relationship with Evo Morales. Morales, who was just re-elected for yet another term as Bolivia’s President, is a known die-hard fan of Claure’s soccer club. In 2008, Claure is reported to have met with Morales and offered to build a cellphone factory in Bolivia in exchange for an OLPC contract. Another OLPC deal in neighboring Peru mysteriously fell through after a visit by Nicolas’ brother, John Negroponte, George Bush’s Director of National Intelligence and Ambassador to Iraq in 2005.

Unfair Play

Miami is not a soccer town and unless its majority Cuban, Dominican and assorted Afro-Caribbean population is replaced by Argentinians and Brazilians, it will never be a soccer town. Anybody who’s spent a week in the city knows that, if anything, Miami is a football town, first and a baseball town, second; there is no third. So, why has Marcelo Claure been trying to bring soccer to Miami since 2008? And why is David Beckham always involved? More importantly, why is the Mayor of the City of Miami lobbying for a ridiculously expensive, publicly-funded stadium complex as if his political life depended on it?

None of these questions have a logical answer. The most benign conclusion is that Marcelo Claure is a capricious man who just wants what he wants and, he wants a soccer team in Miami. There’s certainly some evidence of flaky self-entitlement to his personality, a trait not unheard of among the privileged classes of Latin America, where the offspring of the comparatively wealthy are accustomed to princely lifestyles, regardless of their actual means.

Robert Andrew Powell’s piece in Howler profiles Claure and reveals some of the billionaire’s less flattering proclivities, like how he left the mother of his first two children because, according to Claure, “You can get tired of someone, you know?”. But, Powell also sheds light on a similar stadium-slash-soccer team-slash-development project he proposed in Bolivia soon after taking over the President’s favorite team. Claure put forward a “three-point plan” to revitalize Club Bolivia, the most important of which was, drumroll, a condo tower that “his brother Martin would oversee”.

CORAL GABLES, FL – April 17: Former Mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado, mingles with the guests at the Biltmore Hotel on the occasion of the 58th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs operation in Coral Gables, Florida on February 25, 2019 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2019 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

More relevant to the Stadium drama in Miami is Powell’s account of Claure’s first dealings with City and County officials regarding the location originally proposed for its construction; a spectacular water-front piece of real estate on Biscayne Boulevard. Notwithstanding the multiple changes of address since, the initial spot was not Claure’s or even Beckham’s idea but, according to Claure, himself, a joint proposition by the County and City of Miami Mayors. The fact that we still have the County Mayor and the City of Miami Mayor pushing for this nonsensical project, is telling. But, what really stands out from this story is that one of those Mayors has since been replaced.

At the time the above took place, Thomas Regalado was the Mayor of Miami. Francis X. Suarez, the first Miami-born Mayor, took over after the 2018 municipal elections. The County Mayor, on the other hand, is the common denominator. Once again, Carlos Gimenez appears at the center of a public money-grab tied to a curiously homogenous cast of private persons with a web of financial interests throughout Miami-Dade County.

The Ultimate Land Grab

Months after Marcelo Claure’s losing battle with Rajeev Misra over control of the Vision Fund, Masayoshi Son did something uncharacteristic. He fired the CEO of one of his many startup investments. WeWork’s co-founder, Andrew Neumann, was ousted following a private meeting with company leaders held by Son and just weeks before the “money-losing real estate venture” was about to issue its first IPO. Initially, Neumann had agreed to take a non-executive role on WeWork’s board, but it is now reported that he has accepted $1.7 billion to walk away entirely.

Masayoshi Son is now the landlord of all nine WeWork locations in Miami, which equal 493,000 square feet of real estate, after agreeing to a $11.5 billion-dollar takeover of the ailing company. But, WeWork has $47.2 billion in U.S. debt obligations and leases that cannot be terminated early. Claure will now assume greater operational control, in the hopes that he can recreate what he did with Sprint years ago. However, bankruptcy is still a very real option, in spite of SoftBank’s infusion of debt into the company.

No one must be happier about the news than Carlos Gimenez, who has been leading the charge for SoftBank to put the whole of Miami into its Saudi-funded $100 billion Vision Fund. In an email exchange obtained by the Miami Herald between Jorge Mas, one of the latest partners in the ever-changing Beckham Stadium funhouse and the County Mayor, Gimenez turns into a school girl when Mas floats the idea of meeting the elusive Masayoshi: “How can we meet him? I’m totally into the future of IA [sic]. We have to win that race.”

What race is he talking about? This is a man who is presiding over a County with the second-highest level of income inequality in the country, a cash poor population living paycheck to paycheck earning some of the lowest wages in the nation. Meanwhile, he thinks the Jetsons are coming down in flying taxis from Masayoshi Son’s private space station. The clueless County and City Commissions seem to be drinking the Kool-aide, as well, approving billion-dollar spider bridges, empty sports stadiums, Chinese casinos and high-end train for tourists.

Miami is being handed the equivalent of an OLPC contract by this stable of venture capitalists and their executive bouncers, like Claure, looking to make a quick buck at the expense of our real needs and using our tax dollars to finance their bets. The criticism levied against Negroponte’s $100 computers “as an attempt to exploit the governments of poor nations by making them pay for hundreds of millions of machines and the need of further investments into internet infrastructure” is just as applicable to the machinations of SoftBank in concert with our government officials and their unsolicited bids for a multi-million-dollar stadium complex and  a train stop for a private “transit” venture with an exit strategy.

Loose Ends

In the same email chain published by the Herald, Mas seems giddy over the possibility that SoftBank Latin America could build its headquarters in Miami. “It would be transformational for our economy”, gushed Mas. But, when people like Mas and his good buddy, Carlos Gimenez, are singing a company’s praises, we can be sure “our economy” means their economy.

There are, however, broader questions surrounding the ubiquitous presence of SoftBank and Mr. Claure in Miami. Especially, when their biggest cheerleaders are the usual suspects of South Florida’s circle of rightwing reactionaries who never saw a U.S.-sponsored regime-change operation in Latin America they didn’t like. From Rick Scott who has been front-and-center at all of Trump’s visits to Miami promoting the largely failing Guaidó op in Venezuela and other interventions against regional governments who are venturing too far outside of American party line; to Miami-Dade Mayoral candidate, Esteban “Steve” Bovo, whose wife flew down to Cúcuta, Colombia with Marco Rubio for the occasion of Richard Branson’s laughable anti-Maduro “concert” on the border with Venezuela, which tried and failed to smuggle weapons under the guise of humanitarian aid. Bovo, curiously enough, is in Japan right now on a family “vacation”.

MIAMI, FL – July 18: Jorge Mas Jr., Beckham’s partner in the stadium venture, during the special hearing for the Beckham-Malreese Stadium proposal at City Hall in Miami, Florida on June 23, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Guido Loayza, the man who gave Marcelo Claure his first break, described the SoftBank COO’s personality as “friendly, like a rich person’s dog.” The billionaire executive has certainly been given a lot of responsibilities. His job description could run several pages long and that’s not even counting his MLS and Club Bolivia’s ostensible obligations. How much time is he actually dedicating to any of it?

Other dissonant factors surrounding Claure’s public image are his random comments in support of left-leaning ideas, such as his praise of MLS’ structure as being “communist”, and, therefore, better than other Soccer leagues, like the English Premiere League with their top-heavy ownership. Claure even caught some slack from Miami politicians four years ago after he Tweeted a photo of Che Guevara’s monument in Havana while he was in Cuba on business, forcing David Beckham, himself, to engage in some damage control for his project’s sake. It’s unclear how sincere any of his appeals to socialist concepts really are, considering his family’s station in Bolivia.

The Claure family name is mentioned among other Bolivian elites who belong to the South American nation’s powerful agro-industrial sector and have been the direct beneficiaries of Bolivia’s violently repressive, U.S.-backed dictators. Among the most notorious was Hugo Banzer, who rose to power in 1971 in a coup orchestrated by those same families and significant U.S. logistical and financial support, which was looking to protect the interests of American corporations in the country, like U.S. Steel and others.

But, Bolivia also represents a strategically vital component of America’s broader intentions in the continent, as a whole. Bordering Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina, Bolivia is at the center of all the action in South America and it is part of the reason the United States has historically been very involved in that country’s affairs. The rise of Evo Morales has upset the balance of power in the region, not to mention the country itself.

Bolivia’s propertied classes have been trying unsuccessfully to regain power. Morales’ popularity makes a democratic solution untenable, as the recent election and every other since Evo’s victory in 2003 has proved.

Marcelo Claure, scion of the Bolivian elites, is overseeing what is probably the largest investment portfolio of Latin America from Miami; courted by the most radically conservative, anti-communist, anti-socialist, pro-interventionist community in the United States. At the same time, he has a reportedly forged a close relationship with one of their ideological arch-enemies in Evo Morales.

There’s definitely something rotten in Denmark, which – ironically – may be the only place on the planet where SoftBank has not invested.

Venetian Intentions

Imagine if 16th century Venice, which had a de facto monopoly on Gutenberg’s printing press technology, had managed to keep the world-changing invention to itself and simply cash in on surreptitious “upgrades” to the machine. We would still be in the dark ages.

Fortunately for us, the legal-corporate-intellectual property racket had yet to fully merge or even take shape in the minds of the ruling elites, and a global transformation ensued as book publishing flourished and expanded our consciousness.

That’s not to say Venice didn’t take advantage of the short time movable type was almost exclusively in their hands. In fact, they used this novel ability for mass publishing to literally bring down their mortal enemy, the Catholic Church.

The Reformation Op

Certain parts of history are forever kept from the eyes of the world, no matter how important or relevant to our own times. The story of Venice’s feud with Catholic Europe is one of those.

Venice, itself, is largely ignored in our text books. A tiny maritime republic on the Adriatic with an elected government, which thrived for over a thousand years in the midst of chaotic, monarchic European fiefdoms, was a veritable world power for most of its existence. Only the Western remnants of the Roman Empire, a.k.a. The Holy Roman Empire, was any sort of rival for the well-established and politically savvy Venetians.

For centuries, Venice held its own and the Church comfortably at bay. Their undisputed control of the Adriatic, the most important shipping corridor of the time, provided them both power and riches. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 16th century, that the Catholic Church was able to form a viable military alliance among its subject nations against Venice. Known as the War of the League of Cambrai, Pope Julius II – The Warrior Pope – led an anti-Venetian axis with Spain, Germany and Italian city states in a major European conflict. Although Venice is recorded as the victor, the war forced the majority of the Venetian elites and their fortunes into exile, migrating to the Low Countries and England.

The transition would take several decades, but the Venetian nobility had a long term plan to defeat their nemesis in Rome and establish what would eventually become the British Empire.

A rebel priest in Germany was identified by the Venetian operators; one of many disparate voices within the Catholic territories propounding alternate takes on the religion, more aligned to their own cultural proclivities. Martin Luther and his “disputations” were plucked out from the Teuton forests and given a platform by Venetian printers, spreading his message to virtually every corner of the realm. Without Venice, nobody would have ever heard of Martin Luther nor would have Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon and his four subsequent wives (on the advice of his Venetian counselors), touching off the biggest religious schism in human history.

Marriage, the centerpiece of Catholicism’s social, political and economic power, was successfully subverted by Venice in what was the first case of information warfare, made possible by the latter’s control of the printing press in its early days.

This history is the key to understanding our current socio-political paradigm, as the United States is the direct inheritor and beneficiary of this episode in our not-so-distant past. It’s no accident that divorce plays an integral part of America’s legal system, nor that its foundational mythology revolves around religious “liberty”.

The Means of Information

Silicon Valley can be seen as a latter-day Venetian nobility, using their current monopoly on information technology to further agendas that favor them and their class.

Given the advanced state of corporate organization and its tight-knit relationship with the legal code, their capacity to maintain a monopolistic grip on the “means of information” is much greater now than ever. It’s also vital to their survival.

As I covered in an earlier piece, nothing strikes more fear in the hearts of our ruling classes than the ability of Joe Blowto report anything that comes to his (or her) attention. Hence, the relentless campaign against “fake news” and the concerted effort to get public opinion to support blatant censorship of anti-establishment voices.

In yet another, more recent piece, I delve into what their actual intentions for the Internet and social media platforms are. But, that doesn’t change the fact that we – the people – have an immensely powerful tool at our fingertips. One that rivals, and likely surpasses the power of the printing press.

Everybody on Twitter (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and every other app out there peddling user-generated content) is a journalist.

While this might offend some J-school graduates, assorted press-badge holders and newsroom editors, this is an undeniable reality and one which is at the center of the next transformation in journalism.

There was a time when to write a book, you had to belong to a monastery and take a vow of celibacy. Even then, you could rarely do anything but copy someone else’s work. Maybe years from now we’ll remember when to be a journalist, meant you had to sell your soul to the devil and report what your advertisers told you.

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.

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.

psychics

The investigation had dragged on for three long years already, and there was still no sign of Charles Frank Jordan. As supervisor in charge of the Key Largo Customs office, which at the time boasted the most drug seizures in the country, Jordan was discovered to be one of 23 federal Customs employees working in concert to smuggle several thousand pounds of cocaine and marijuana into the United States during South Florida’s drug trafficking heyday in the 1980’s. In 1985, the self-proclaimed “Ruler of the Keys”, was charged with conspiring to smuggle 52,000 pounds of narcotics into Louisiana, along with 10 other men. The following year, a trial in New Orleans resulted in his acquittal, but after being indicted for perjury in the Spring of 1987, he decided to take his chances and run.

Reagan had just declared the war on drugs a matter of national security with decision directive 221 in 1986, opening the door for the U.S. Department of Defense to take the lead in the interdiction of illegal narcotics, both inside and outside its borders. The Pentagon’s formal role in this capacity was still a few years away, but in the meantime the DIA – official intelligence organ of the DoD – was using a controversial program inherited from INSCOM (U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command) to assist the FBI’s investigation with a highly unorthodox method: Extra Sensory Perception or ESP.

Talking Plants and Psychic Spook Roots

The origins of the government’s involvement in the paranormal can be traced to Grover Cleveland “Cleve” Backster, co-founder of the CIA’s polygraph program, who was at his New York office late one night in 1966 working on a difficult case for the FBI. Cleve Backster was, by then, a well-known figure in law enforcement circles, testifying as an expert witness in state prosecutions with regularity. The evening in question had been a long one, and in a brief moment of distraction absentmindedly fixed his gaze on a house plant his secretary had recently brought to the office. Staring at the plant, his focus suddenly started to coalesce over a harebrained idea. Could he potentially demonstrate plant consciousness by attaching his polygraph machine’s sensors to the leaves and provoke a reaction?

Cleve Backster put aside the case file in front of him and reached for his polygraph equipment. He decided to set one of the leaves on fire, surmising that this would certainly elicit a reaction from the potted organism – if there was one to be had. What happened next changed the course of Backster’s life, and set the stage for the creation of a highly classified, government program comprising a team of men and women charged with gathering intelligence of remote locations and events using their innate or – in some cases – learned psychic powers.

Backster claims that the very act of striking the match on the matchbox produced a dramatic spike in the polygraph readings. The founder of the Backster School of Lie Detection dedicated the rest of his life to the study of plant consciousness and paranormal phenomena, such as ESP and telepathy. He would go on to publish several papers in scientific journals and other publications.

One of the people who came across Backster’s research was a physicist in California, who was also dabbling in questions about extrasensory perception and related topics. Harold “Hal” Puthoff was a young 35-year physicist working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), a think tank in San Francisco. SRI was home to many government-funded programs with close ties to intelligence and the military, which included a cybernetics and artificial intelligence divisions.

Puthoff contacted Backster in a letter, proposing an experiment involving quantum biology inspired by Cleve’s recent work. The former polygraph expert introduced the physicist to Douglas “Ingo” Swann, a gifted psychic Backster had been using as a subject for his own research into ESP. In 1970, Swann would travel west to participate in a sophisticated experiment designed to test his extrasensory abilities under strict laboratory controls at SRI. Six doctoral candidates, in addition to Hal Puthoff witnessed what seemed to them an impossible task as Swann successfully disturbed the operation of a magnetometer – a state-of-the-art piece of physics research equipment created to detect quarks – using only his mind’s intent.

Puthoff shared his findings through a report with a few colleagues at SRI. A couple of weeks later, he got a knock at the door. Two CIA agents, holding Swann’s test results were asking to come in. As a former Naval Intelligence officer, Puthoff was perfectly suited to hear what they were here to tell him. The Agency’s concern over the Soviets’ continued research into parapsychology and possible advances in so-called “psychoenergetic” weapons, was growing and they were looking for a research laboratory, that could carry out their own, low-key investigations into these same phenomena.

For the next decade and a half, Dr. Puthoff would serve as the lead scientist in several iterations of government-funded research of the ‘supernatural’, and develop the protocols for the development of a team of “psychic soldiers”, who would put their sixth senses to work in the service of Cold War targets and other intelligence gathering needs of the U.S. government.

intelligence
FILE PHOTO – Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters building at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington D.C

Where in the World is X

The Army needed to distance itself from the esoteric nature and derisive perceptions surrounding ESP, especially within a military environment. Part of this effort centered on what the advertising world calls copy writing. Scientific-sounding terminology was created to replace much-maligned words like telepathy, psychokinesis and psychics, mainly for the purpose of credibility in the eyes those holding the purse strings on Capitol Hill.

RMS, RP, and RV, were all acronyms designed to give ancient divination methods a modern technological sheen. Remote Map Sensing, Remote Pertubation and Remote Viewing, respectively, appeased the overwhelmingly skeptical Pentagon officials who, nevertheless, dedicated at least two decades to the use of these ‘occult’ arts.

Despite efforts to duplicate the talents of Swann and other innate psychics, who passed through the secret ESP programs and experiments by developing training techniques, the truth is that the military never really ascertained the source of these mysterious forces, and barring very few notable exceptions, were never able to turn ‘regular’ soldiers into psychic mediums. The earliest program, code named “Grill Flame”, employed six “remote viewers”, whose work consisted in carrying out reconnaissance missions of far off places in the world from a building in Fort Meade, Maryland using the power of concentration and, essentially, magic.

Joe McMoneagle was one of those notable exceptions who was able to ”learn’ his psychic abilities, although certain events during his tour of duty in Vietnam point to the possibility that they were simply dormant in him. In any case, McMoneagle was the program’s first (official) star remote viewer, delivering exceptional results in many of his RV sessions. One of his most celebrated occurred during Remote Viewing Session C54, when he was able to ‘see’ a clandestine Soviet submarine project, which contemporary spy satellite imagery could not possibly discover. The Soviets were building a massive new submarine vessel in the Severodvinsk Naval Base, inside a concrete structure several yards inland. McMoneagle described the vessel as it was being constructed, and even discerned its name. Satellite image confirmation arrived months later, when pictures of the “Shark” stationed on the water at Severodvinsk were seen by astounded Pentagon officials.

Regardless of McMoneagle’s success or that of his peers, remote viewing showed little to no actionable value, since confirmation was almost always required. It also didn’t help that the research continually failed to identify the source and mechanisms behind this seemingly supernatural power. As long as no one understood how it worked, trusting it as a viable intelligence tool would be very difficult.

The Gifted One

Angela Dellafiora had known she was psychic since childhood. As a civilian woman in a male-dominated environment – first at the FBI, where she worked filing criminal fingerprints in a database and then at INSCOM working for Army intelligence – her career was not bereft of obstacles. Her paranormal abilities didn’t necessarily make things any easier, even when she became a part of Sun Streak, as the remote viewer project was now named. The black program had been absorbed by the Defense Intelligence Agency after the original INSCOM project was cancelled a month earlier by Brigadier General Harry Soyster, who came on as INSCOM’s new commander, forcing General Stubblebine – the project’s biggest sponsor – into retirement.

Grill Flame had run into some PR trouble as a result of a hoax perpetrated by James Randi, a popular magician, and militant skeptic of the entire psychic/telepath/paranormal milieu. For years, Randi had been aggressively pursuing any avenue to discredit people who claimed to have any sort of psychic powers. Uri Geller, the famous Israeli spoon-bender in particular, was one of his favorite targets. Randi’s latest campaign centered around a new age retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains called the Monroe Institute, which offered psychic training programs to the public, among other things. James Randi recruited two young men to pose as psychics and undergo several of the tests offered at the Institute. Despite largely failing to prove anything with the stunt, Randi – who had a platform – made a bit of a scandal out of the whole affair. While the incident barely caught people’s attention, the fallout in the Army was severe enough to end the program at INSCOM.

The program Angela Dellafiora would be a part of would add many more layers of secrecy and compartmentalization to the already black project, so as to avoid situations like what had occurred with Grill Flame. Her natural talents, however, grated on some of the empirically-minded project managers and her “psychically-trained” colleagues, as well. Having no need to follow the steps established by SRI in their remote viewer protocol designed years earlier, Dellafiora followed her own process, which produced far quicker and more accurate results than any other non-psychic team members.

The day they asked her to locate Charles Frank Jordan, the Sun Streak supervisors had already tried sessions with the other remote viewers, each of whom came up with different locations -from Mexico to Minnesota. Dellafiora focused her mind on the target and, within minutes gave Jordan’s location as Lowell, Wyoming. Fern Gauvin, the operations manager, suggested she meant Lowell, Massachusetts, since the former location doesn’t exist. But, she insisted. After consulting an atlas, Gauvin found a Lovell, Wyoming. Dellafiora confirmed that was the location, and the psychically-obtained intel was forwarded to their point man at DIA, Dale Graff.

A few weeks later, she was asked to do another session on Jordan. Dellafiora then revealed he was living at or near an old Indian burial ground, adding that if they didn’t get him now he would escape them. A few days later, a ranger at Yellowstone National Park recognized Jordan from the alerts issued by the Customs Service. He was apprehended 50 miles from Lovell, Wyoming, where the FBI later confirmed he had been.

The Hidden Hand of Fear

The story of the U.S. government’s interest in the paranormal goes back decades before the creation of Grill Flame and its subsequent – possibly continuing – iterations. In fact, the search for mystical knowledge is a ubiquitous feature of most regimes in the history of mankind. Still, the mystery of the origins and functioning of these abilities continues to escape us.

Yet, it almost seems that the more we look for it; the more we try to find ways to bottle it and sell it on street corners, so to speak, the more elusive it becomes – and, ironically, the more paranoid we get.

MKULTRA, the most notorious mind control R&D initiative undertaken by the American military industrial complex, was born out of the same desire and paranoia. Much of the technology we “enjoy” today has emerged out of these and similar programs. Highly advanced research, dating back to the late 50’s has already yielded a technologically feasible imitation of telepathic communication, where thoughts are transferred directly to the mind of another human being thousands of miles away.

From a certain, trivial perspective, that might seem like an amazing feat. But from another, it is quite sad. In our hyper-connected, increasingly privacy-deficient world, instead of asking how we can distill and package psychic abilities or mind-reading, maybe we should ask ourselves why such faculties occur so infrequently and appear so tenuous and intangible. Or better yet, don’t ask at all. Can we live with the unknowable or are we too afraid?

Author’s Note: Much of the research for this article is based on Annie Jacobsen’s book “Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis”

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.

Emerge

eMerge Americas is a technological innovation conference that takes place in Miami, and bills itself as the “premiere technology event connecting Latin America, North America and Europe”, but should not be confused with the almost identically named political organization Emerge America, whose mission is to further the careers of Democratic women in government.

eMerge Americas was created by the Technology Foundation of the Americas, a non-profit organization founded by Manny Medina, whose company, Terremark, built the NAP facility in downtown Miami, one of the most important IXPs in the world. Medina sold Terremark in 2011 and became a full-time technology advocate, leading the conversation about transforming Miami into a global tech hub.

According to a 2014 piece from the Miami Herald, “The plan for eMerge Americas is that major information technology companies will showcase solutions in the areas of cloud computing, cyber security, big data, mobile applications, and social networking to leaders in the technology sector in the Americas.”

GENEVA, CH – JUNE 8: Sophia, Hanson Robotics Ltd. speaking at the AI for GOOD Global Summit, ITU, Geneva, Switzerland, 7 – 9 June, 2017. PHOTO CREDIT: ITU &copy ITU/R.Farrell

The first eMerge America conference in April of 2015 turned out to be a success. The five-thousand plus attendance surpassed the expectation of the organizers, despite this number being quite modest compared to any number of similar events in San Francisco every year, which can draw tens of thousands of people. Nevertheless, the focus of eMerge Americas to engage the Latin American tech sector is undoubtedly promising, and a natural fit for South Florida.

This year will be the third iteration of the burgeoning tech convention, and will feature some notable guests, like keynote speaker Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico and famous Twitter foil of current U.S. president, Donald Trump. Sophia, the AI robot created by Hanson Robotics, will also make an appearance.

The 2018 eMerge Americas conference will be held in Miami Beach’s revamped Convention Center on Monday, April 23 through Tuesday, April 24. For tickets and more information, visit the conference’s website.

NAP

Analog History

Exactly one century ago in 1917, British Naval Intelligence intercepted a telegram sent from the German Foreign Office to the President of Mexico, Venustiano Carranza. In the missive, Germany proposed an alliance with the burgeoning nation south of the Rio Grande if the United States choose to enter the war. The Germans also offered weapons and munitions to help Mexico regain its lost territories in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, hoping Carranza could be prodded into launching a suicidal offensive against its northern neighbor and draw resources away from the European theater. Known as the Zimmerman telegram, the explosive communiqué would thrust the United States into World War I and forever change the course of human history.

The story of how that telegram ended up in the hands of Sir Reginald Hall, Director of British Naval Intelligence, and eventually on Woodrow Wilson’s desk has enough intrigue to make for a great Hollywood spy thriller. Today, the transmission of messages is far less romantic, but far more advanced as billions, if not trillions, of encrypted communications are transmitted daily and relayed through a central nervous system of servers called Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). There are hundreds of Internet Exchange Points in cities around the world. Yet most of us wouldn’t even know that they exist or that every email, Facebook post, Snapchat or SMS we send from our phone or computer makes a split-second stop in these usually massive buildings before being re-routed to their ultimate destination.

NAP
MIAMI, FL – June 6: American Airlines Arena view from a parking lot next to the NAP of the Americas in Miami, Florida on June 6, 2017 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles.com ©2017 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

Right in the heart of downtown Miami, less than a hundred yards away from American Airlines Arena stands “The Cube”, a 750,000 square foot concrete box that relays digital information from around the globe. The official name of the massive data center is Network Access Point of the Americas (NOTA) and serves as a pathway for digital traffic from 148 countries.

Had it not been for an unscrupulous Mexican counterfeiter, the United States Congress may have never voted to enter the “war to end all wars”. Happenstance was a crucial component of successful intelligence work up until late in the 20th century when analog forms of communication prevailed. In the digital age, however, luck is no longer an issue. Everyone can be spied on and the only thing left for Congress to vote on is whether or not to make it legal.

A Sea Change

NOTA is unique among Internet access points because it actually rents servers to public and private enterprises, making it an information-sharing hub. Terremark Worldwide, a consulting and real estate development firm founded by Cuban immigrant Manuel D. “Manny” Medina, built the data center in 2001. Medina’s background was not atypical in Miami. Fleeing the Castro regime, he came to Miami with his parents at the age of 13 and, like many children of post-revolution, first-wave Cuban immigrants, he attended and graduated college. Armed with a degree in accounting from Florida Atlantic University, he landed a job at the PriceWaterhouse Latin American division and while employed at the UK-based accounting giant, he developed important relationships with investors throughout Latin America, which would prove invaluable in the future.

By the time Castro hit Miami with a second-wave of Cubans via the Mariel Boatlift, the Magic City was booming and Manny Medina was about to make a killing. He quit PriceWaterhouse and incorporated Terremark in 1980. Soon, he was not only advising investors on real estate deals, but also contracting public infrastructure, telecommunications and technology projects around the world. His priorities shifted in the mid 90’s when the Internet burst on the scene and he decided to build his own data center.

With construction already underway in downtown Miami, Medina learned that a public-private, non-profit consortium had issued an RFP to build a Tier-1 NAP of the Americas in Miami. Terremark partnered with Telcordia Technologies, a by-product of the landmark antitrust case United States vs. AT&T, formed by the Regional Operating Companies of the Bell System and considered a major architect of the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. Telcordia was sold to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in 1996, a company with deep ties to intelligence and government services.

Manny Medina, once again, found himself in the right place at the right time. He had worked his way here, no doubt; but his concrete-pouring savvy wasn’t a major consideration when the NAP of the Americas LLC consortium decided to award him the contract over Lockheed Martin and one other company from Silicon Valley. Telcordia’s previous experience engineering three NAPs and their technological knowhow would be the crucial factor. In a decade’s time, he would sell his stake in Terremark to Verizon Communications and pursue other ventures in cyber security and philanthropy.

Fiber Optic Dreams

In the late 1990’s, money flowed to the telecoms who raced to lay down fiber optic cable all around the South American continent. An oligopoly of companies was positioning itself to take advantage of the burgeoning digital bonanza. The colossal infrastructure project connected all the major points along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, through the Andes and elsewhere crossing land and sea, meeting on a relatively tiny 50-mile stretch of land between Miami and Boca Raton on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.

NAP
MIAMI, FL – June 6: Cranes surround the NAP of the Americas as new condominium construction booms in downtown Miami, Florida on June 6, 2017 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles.com ©2017 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

This was to be the nadir of the booming telecom-carrier twin industries until it all came crashing down like the twin towers later that summer. The deluge of investment coupled with unbridled ambition and unrealistic expectations led to a string of catastrophic failures. One of the most notorious cases was the WorldCom accounting scandal, which resulted in the very public arrests of its CFO, John Sidgmore and controller, David Meyers, for claiming nearly 4 billion dollars in expenses as capital investment. The company would end up having to write off $50 billion in 2001.


According to Sir William James, the official biographer of Sir Reginald Hall, the Zimmerman telegram was obtained as a result of a convoluted tale that involved counterfeiting, betrayal and influence peddling.

The story goes that a Mexican print shop owner had discovered that one of his employees was counterfeiting money at work. The proprietor hid the printing plates he found and went to consult with a friend, the administrator of the Mexican telegraph office. Returning to work the following day, the employee discovered he had been found out and turned the tables on his boss, accusing him of being the true counterfeiter. The shop owner was promptly arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad. His friend appealed directly to Hall, who interceded successfully on his behalf with the Mexican government. As a token of appreciation, the administrator provided Britain’s Director of Naval Intelligence with a copy of the infamous telegram.

Odel Gauri
Writer & Editor

The NAP of the Americas consortium initially brought together 43 companies, but would soon expand to include many of the carriers who rolled back plans to have their own separate data centers. Today, the NAP is the largest of three data centers in South Florida, but the only one with the distinction of renting space to Uncle Sam. The facility has six floors, only four of which are built out. The second floor contains the heart of the operation, the so-called ‘peering room’, which is fitted with a dozen giant screens monitoring everything from the weather to the FBI’s most wanted list. The third floor is reserved for the U.S. government. Access to this area requires federal clearance and is restricted to U.S. citizens. It is one of the seven relay points for the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service, which supports U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.

Should the next dispatch that spurs the United States to war come from South America or Europe, chances are it will be patched through the NAP of the Americas. It may also be the case even if it comes from the President’s Twitter account.

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