Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Identified as a trouble maker by the authorities since childhood, and resolved to live up to the description, Charles Carreon soon discovered that mischief is most effectively fomented through speech. Having mastered the art of flinging verbal pipe-bombs and molotov cocktails at an early age, he refined his skills by writing legal briefs and journalistic exposes, while developing a poetic style that meandered from the lyrical to the political. Journey with him into the dark caves of the human experience, illuminated by the torch of an outraged sense of injustice.

Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:38 pm


8:10pm, February 11, 2006

Artwork by Joshua Carreon

Jack Abramoff is a Pisces, and he’ll turn 47 on February 28, 2006. Depending on how things work out, he’ll probably be turning 57 in a Federal prison, unless Mary Butler, the career Department of Justice prosecutor who bagged his sorry ass, is very pleased with his cooperation in her investigation of Congressional corruption. His plea agreement provides for a sentence from 108 months to 135 months, with reductions below that level only for providing “substantial assistance” to Ms. Butler’s ongoing investigations.

Meet The (Unindicted) Lawyers

Abramoff, a lawyer himself, chose Abbe Lowell, a well-known Democrat-defender from the Washington legal shark-tank, to negotiate with Butler. Lowell helped Democratic Congressman Gary Condit dodge a bullet after his intern Chandra Levy disappeared, got Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli out of hot water over illegal campaign donations from Buddhist nuns, and served as Chief Investigative Counsel for the Democrats during Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. His lawfirm’s website proudly announces that Lowell “has represented more than 35 elected officials or their campaign committees, providing advice … concerning rules and regulations governing campaign contributions, filing of election forms, filing of financial disclosure information and gifts.” It is worth noting at the outset that Abramoff hired a Democratic fixer rather than an established Republican sleaze-defender. Perhaps he wanted a lawyer who wouldn’t have any scruples about deploying Abramoff’s damaging recollections against Republicans. Abbe Lowell would, presumably, be free of pro-Republican scruples.

Abramoff certainly needed a good lawyer, because Butler is considered on of the best anti-corruption lawyers in the DOJ’s Public Integrity Division. Profiled in a recent National Law Journal article, one of Butler’s colleagues observed: “She’s one of the special ones who will turn over every piece of paper, look at every credit card receipt and phone bill.” Butler spent her first twelve years prosecuting corrupt officials in the South Florida US Attorney’s Office. She convicted a DEA chief of stealing a million dollars in “buy money,” convicted a banker for lying about bribes he paid to the major of Miami Beach, and after a year of investigating corruption in Miami and Dade County in “Operation Greenpalm,” took down Miami’s city manager, a lobbyist, and a clutch of crooked local commissioners. After achieving that career capstone, like a number of other Florida prosecutors, she moved north to Washington when Janet Reno got the top law-enforcement job under Clinton, and led investigations into Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s management of the Department of the Interior, after he blocked establishment of a gambling casino that was opposed by another Indian gambling tribe that had donated over $350,000 to Democratic campaigns.

Butler’s experience investigating Babbitt no doubt aided her investigation of Abramoff, who developed a niche-market in fleecing Indian tribes out of beau-coup bucks in exchange for promises to pull strings with Republican lawmakers. Abramoff developed his bribery skills while at the Seattle-based megafirm of Preston, Gates & Ellis (“Preston”), where he worked from 1997 until 2001, getting Congressmen like Tom DeLay to back his client’s legislative interests.

Keeping Down The Cost of Making Shirts In The USA

The Northern Marianas (also known as Saipan) depends primarily on Japanese tourists and garment factories for income, and receives development assistance from the United States government. Clothing manufacturers in the Northern Marianas are in a US free-trade zone, but enjoy a lower minimum wage and provide fewer worker protections, which lowers the cost of production. As an additional bonus, clothing made in the Northern Marianas is lawfully labeled "Made in USA," and produced under sweatshop conditions. That’s a free economy that Tom DeLay could love, and love it he did. During New Years, 1997, at Abramoff's invitation, DeLay and dozens of other congressmen and aides toured the Northern Marianas, an occasion that found DeLay effusive about the man who made the whole trip possible: "When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made." Although many Northern Marianas garment-workers are procured through the human-trafficking network, and all live in virtual slavery, working 84-hour weeks, for miniscule wages, DeLay pledged to block any legislation harmful to the $1 billion garment industry, and at a banquet hosted by Saipan’s rag trade magnates, urged the beleaguered island capitalists to "Stand firm. Resist evil." Stand firm they did, and DeLay, eager to reward industry, got them the exemptions from US immigration and labor laws that they need to keep us in cheap shirts. Preston Gates earned $6.7 million in Marianas lobbying fees, of which $3.1 million were paid improperly, without the contract required by law, according to the Seattle Weekly.

Gamblers Fix Congress

Preston clients represented by Abramoff could look forward to having DeLay support legislation they favored. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2000 that DeLay had received over $50,000 from Abramoff and the Choctaw tribe, and that he and his staffers had visited the Choctaw reservation four times. The Choctaws paid Preston over $1 million annually. On May 25, 2000, the Choctaw tribe and eLottery, another Abramoff client, each contributed $25,000 to the National Center for Public Policy Research (“NCPPR”). In a coincidence that will stick in one’s memory, on the same day the Choctaw and eLottery donations were made, Abramoff, DeLay, his wife, and four others left for a trip to Britain, allegedly sponsored by the NCPPR. In fact, Abramoff funneled the gambling donations to pay for the trip, and DeLay broke the law by getting on the plane. A couple of months later, eLottery and the Choctaws got their payoff, when DeLay helped defeat the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would have criminalized Internet betting.

The Revolving Door Between Government And Business Flies Off Its Hinges Altogether

Preston has been good to DeLay, and DeLay attracts talented staffers. Those talented staffers need jobs where they can make lots of money after they finish with being Congressional staffers, so sometimes they go to Preston and get a job. Michael Scanlon and William Jarrell were both DeLay aides who moved over to Preston to work for the Choctaw tribe after they left Federal employment. Sometimes it goes the other way, and Preston employees want to go into government so they can garner more influence. This easy interflow between positions of government influence and positions that influence government was deliberately encouraged by the Republican leadership through what they called “the K Street Project.”

The K Street Project is why David Safavian, who lobbied for the terrorist organization Hamas, and at Preston, became the top procurement officer for the Government Services Administration, and why Patrick Pizzella, who worked at Preston lobbying on behalf of the Saipan sweatshop bosses, became Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Labor. It’s why Tony Rudy, former Deputy Chief of Staff to DeLay, and Neil Volz, former Chief of Staff for Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, just got big jobs at lobbying firms on K Street. It’s why Karl Rove hired Susan Ralston to be his secretary. Previously, she had been Abramoff’s secretary at another lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig. When you’ve worked for one master criminal, it makes it a lot easier to work for the next one. Congress has done a tremendous job of ignoring its own moral defects. Abramoff’s influence peddling has befouled the halls of government since the Republicans took the White House and the Congressional majority. The naked rule of power under DeLay’s regime silenced what ethical qualms might have disturbed the conscience of our lawmakers, and the budget has exploded as every representative roots in the trough for some nugget of value to deliver to their corporate sponsors. In the race for campaign cash, our representatives may as well abandon their pin-striped suits and don racing attire, complete with corporate logos. For today’s Congress, it has turned out to be easiest to relax and enjoy the looting of the country, to stand straight and tall as they sign one bloated spending bill after another, endow more government boondoggles with rubber dollars, and run, run, run as fast as they can for the safety of a patriotic soundbite.

The roots of Abramoff’s political influence go deeper than simple political palm-greasing. Abramoff’s career has been obscenely presumptuous, and in retrospect, his persona was preposterous. Even as an admitted felon, swathed in a black overcoat, his face cast in a mask of implacable determination. That confidence must have been magnetic and overwhelming before the fall. Like a Pied Piper for fat cats, he played a tune that none could resist, ensnaring them with the lure of illicit influence, destroying dozens of careers and the last of the trust the American people had in their Congress. If someone had planned a sting operation to reveal the avarice and arrogance of our national political elite, they could not have done as well. Abramoff knows people’s weak points, and the weakest point of every greedy bastard is his desire to like himself. This desire to feel like a good guy accounts for the grandiose, self-congratulatory boosterism of Republican politics these days, and Abramoff was ready-made for this political climate. What Would An Omnipotent Deity Do?

In his college years, Abramoff got right in tune with the coming age of smug, judgmental religiosity sitting comfortably next to naked, brutal militarism. Making a big deal out of his religion held Abramoff in good stead with DeLay, who has often proclaimed his belief that God guides his steps and has directed him to smite the unrighteous. Abramoff wears a yarmulke and blew about $4 million on a school with a Judaic name in California that educated his two children and then folded, leaving bill collectors with matzo crumbs to cover the school’s debts. Abramoff maintained Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who has alliances with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, on a $20,000 per month stipend paid by the Capital Athletic Foundation, a phony nonprofit Abramoff organized to dodge taxes and raise money by promising to provide programs for inner-city youth. Abramoff’s emails with Lapin show that Lapin happily forged scholarly Jewish credentials for Abramoff to fatten his resume with religious virtue. Beware the pious man. Seizing The Moral High Ground With the Christians

Like attracts like, and so the smell of refined bullshit emanating from Abramoff attracted his fellow-hypocrite, Ralph Reed, another man of God. Together with Grover Norquist, the tax-cut fiend, Abramoff and Reed created the College Republicans National Committee, with Reed as its Executive Director. With the turn of the Millennium heralding not the return of the Messiah but rather the dawn of a new, vice-driven economy, Reed and Abramoff started a protection racket for gambling enterprises. For a fee, Reed would oppose any gambling project or pro-gambling legislation that you might designate. He was an anti-gambling crusader, and could credibly rustle up a lynch mob to hang gamblers of any stripe – riverboat gamblers, casino gamblers, lotto players, you name it. On the other hand, for a fee, he could just go interfere with someone else’s livelihood. The most brazen swindle was worked upon the Texas-based Tigua Indian tribe, that had put its campaign contribution eggs in the wrong (Democratic) basket. In 1999, triumphant Texas Republicans, enjoying the results of DeLay’s extensive vote-manipulation, were busy punishing in them by closing their casino. Abramoff, working for the Louisiana Coushatta Tribe, hired Reed to rile up religious support to close the Tigua casino. Regarding the Tigua casino, Abramoff told Reed in an email, “We should continue to pile on until the place is shuttered,” and later, “I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I’d love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.” A week after bemoaning the “moronic” attitude of the Tiguas, Abramoff and Scanlon offered to help the Tiguas reopen, concealing of course, the fact that they’d just shut them down. Tigua Tribal Governor Arturo Senclair testified before Congress that Abramoff and Scanlon “came in as knights in shining armor [and we] had not an inkling that they were doing anything against us.” Desperate to reopen, the Tiguas paid Abramoff $4.2 million in fees, and $300,000 more for the Republican and Democratic candidates, including $32,000 the Tiguas paid to Congressman Bob Ney’s political action committee. Ney duly supported an amendment to a House bill that would have aided the Tigua in their efforts to reopen, but ultimately the casino remained shuttered. The sin of supporting Democrats is not lightly forgiven in today’s Texas. Bound together with their competition in a spiral of financial self-exploitation, the Tiguas, Coushattas, Saginaw Chippewas and Agua Caliente tribes jointly contributed $30,000 to the Missouri Millennium Fund established by Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican, and attended several of the PAC’s fund-raisers.

From 2000 – 2004, Abramoff and Reed played these good-cop-bad-cop games with the Indian tribes mentioned above, and others, ratcheting up the cost of influence peddling for the sin industry. Nowadays, however, Reed is taking a hiding in his campaign for Governor of Georgia. We must remember, though, that memory loss is common for those who hold government office, and Reed has been Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor for several years, so it’s not surprising he can’t remember those cozy years of comfortably squeezing the tribes of their excess funds. But the paperwork remains.

What? Those Indians Want An Investigation?

According to first public statement of The House Committee on Indian Affairs, that revealed some of its findings on September 29, 2004 after reviewing thousands of pages of emails and other documents, Abramoff garnered over $66 million from Native American tribes by engaging in unlawful activities like backing tribal elections to put their pals in power so they could pay Abramoff more money, overcharging for services and products Abramoff and Scanlon fleeced the gambling tribes as energetically as the first generation of lawyers stole the entire West, using the same tools: firewater, manipulable chiefs, bogus agreements, and promises to make sure everything went all right with “The Great White Father.” No less than their forebears, Abramoff and Scanlon were equipped with forked tongues, gold watches, and fountain pens. Plus, they had cell phones and Blackberries, with which they could refer to their Native American clients as “monkeys,” “troglodytes,” and “idiots.” Thus, Abramoff arranged the descendants of the original inhabitants of America to reconnect with their roots by playing the fools at the National Greed Olympics, duping the tribes into funding their abuse at the hands of people who hate and revile them, and take joy in bilking them out of what remains of their self-respect. Talk about “Manifest Destiny!” Some folks are just born to lose.

David Safavian – A Gifted Student of The Abramoff Method

David Safavian learned a few tricks about swindling Indians from Abramoff at Preston, and put them to work building the fortunes of his new lobbying shop, “Janus Merritt” with skinflint Grover Norquist. (Please note that Janus is the two-faced god of the Romans, an oddly appropriate description of how the Indian-swindling gambit worked.) Janus and Safavian took on a slew of Internet gambling firms, bringing in $2.5 million from those accounts. But in 2000, Safavian apparently wanted to build his influence more than he wanted bags of cash. In Utah Republican Congressman Chris Cannon, who had been elected in 1996 on an anti-gambling platform, Safavian had found his bad cop. Safavian started by seeding the relationship by arranging for himself and two other Janus employees to donate a total of $2,750 for Cannon’s 2000 campaign. After getting Cannon elected, Safavian joined Cannon’s staff in 2001, but kept both oars in the water, playing both staffer and lobbyist. He set up a soft-money fund for Cannon, but listed his Janus email address as the contact: The email address remained on IRS filings while Safavian served as the congressman’s chief of staff. In an interview with the Federal Times Register, Safavian admitted: “In Congressman [Chris] Cannon’s office, I was a chief of staff … I was a lobbyist. Very much behind the scenes.” From this two-faced position, Safavian was able to pay Janus the occasional disbursement. A short time after Safavian signed on with Cannon’s staff, the Congressman paid $7,500 to Janus, and the next year sent Janus another $5,960.

Safavian’s goal wasn’t just swindling Indians, though. He had a slew of gambling clients who shared a simple agenda –keep the Net safe for losers to gamble their wages away in the privacy of their own home, garage, office, or nursing home. Nationally, the average online gambler is an elderly southerner on disability. These are the same people who chain-smoke and generate huge public health expenses due to their ignorance, while complaining about huge verdicts against Philip Morris and insisting on their right to smoke cancer sticks. Safavian had an idea that he put to work. Let the old, chain-smoking gamblers aid in their own destruction! So with the help of the online gambling entrepreneurs, he started a website called “” where visitors could contact their Congressional representatives and “urge them to preserve … your rights to gamble online.”

Eager to demonstrate his zeal, Safavian wrote one client the following breathless description of his lobbying activities on their behalf: “Our entire team has been essentially camped out on Capitol Hill and at the White House for the past two weeks … urging the negotiators to reject any Internet gambling rider that might come up.” On May 14, 2002, Safavian’s efforts produced a valuable victory for Janus’ gambling clients, when Cannon burdened two Internet-gambling bills with “virtuous riders” that removed exemptions for online horse and dog betting. This was a for-sure deal-killer, because horse and dog betting is ubiquitous throughout the nation, and many Congress people represent constituencies that enjoy this form of gambling, including Illinois Republican and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL). If the bill reached the floor, it would probably die. Cannon’s virtuous insistence on killing off all online gambling torpedoed the legislation, allowing the Mormon Congressman to claim the moral high ground, while actually accomplishing what Safavian’s clients wanted – the freedom to keep skimming about $6 Billion per year in online gambling revenue from sick, poor, old, bored Americans. Safavian took credit for the achievement, telling his alumni magazine that he managed the “minutiae of the legislative process,” from his ambiguous position as a lobbyist on Cannon’s staff. Two days after the fix was in, and the Internet gambling bills were dead, Safavian moved to a new job – Chief Procurement Officer for the General Services Administration (“GSA”). However, Cannon has developed a permanent addiction to gambling money, as the Kansas City Star reported in its August, 28, 2005 edition: “Along with the Viejas and the Choctaws, Cannon also enjoyed donations from … the Agua Caliente tribe in California, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe of Michigan and the Tigua Indian Reservation, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.” Donations to Cannon from Indian gambling tribes increased from zero to over $38,000 during the period of Safavian’s influence. The cost to the nation for this paltry sum was, of course, far higher.

A Trip Most Wish They Had Missed

With it clear to all that the vice economy was treating them very well, Abramoff threw an international party trip to St. Andrew’s golfing range in Scotland for his posse. All of those who made the trip have lived to regret it, among them Tom DeLay, Abramoff himself, Bob Ney, Ralph Reed, and Safavian. Safavian told the Washington Post he’d paid back $3,100 for his expenses, saying the trip was "primarily for golfing," and "had no business orientation to it." Unfortunately for him, this was a documentable lie. In emails months before the trip, Abramoff had lobbied Safavian extensively to get something that he thought Safavian had it in his power to grant – sweetheart lease deals on two tasty pieces of Federal real estate – the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C., and a rural estate of several hundred acres. Abramoff had even sent Safavian some draft letters that he could have some Congressmen sign to support the idea of leasing the properties to Abramoff’s front groups. As the incriminating emails sat in his inbox, however, Safavian solicited an opinion from a government “ethics lawyer” about whether he could fly to Scotland with Abramoff and his crew. Safavian lied to the ethics lawyer, however, saying he had no pending business with Abramoff, and would pay for his own expenses. The ethics lawyer said he could take the trip.

When the Indian Affairs committee started sniffing around, Safavian stuck by his lie, and showed them the receipt for $3,100 that he said had covered the costs of the trip. He of course did not produce copies of his emails with Abramoff about the Old Post Office and the other federal property they were trying to hijack. Further, the $3,100 number is too low, because Safavian’s expenses for lodging alone on this luxury trip, which included a stopover in London and golfing at several top-knotch golf courses in the British Isles, certainly far exceeded that expense. These small concealments were revealed when Greenberg, Traurig, the lobbying firm where Abramoff went after he left Preston, kicked Abramoff out, and gave all of his emails to the FBI.

Loot, Loot, Who Gives A Hoot?

Greenberg donned a white hat with alacrity once its partners saw that a wind had begun to blow, threatening Abramoff’s house of cards, but telling that story requires introducing you to yet another Republican lawyer with less scruples than an old meth head has teeth. This one’s name is Timothy Flanigan, and despite his Irish name, he’s a Mormon who got his undergraduate degree from BYU, his law degree from University of Virginia, has fourteen kids, and until November 21, 2004, worked in the White House directly under Alberto Gonzales. He left the West Wing for a trip through the revolving door the White House shares with Tyco Corporation, which had been hammered by the markets for allowing Dennis Kozlowski to loot it, and needed to improve its corporate governance procedures to nudge its stock price back into the double-digits. What better way to burnish your bonafides than to tap the personnel of the most scandal-ridden administration since Andrew Jackson’s?

Once in the top lawyer spot at Tyco, what did Flanigan do? He gave Greenberg, Traurig $2 Million of Tyco’s money for lobbying services to thwart the enactment of laws then pending in Congress that would deprive Tyco of a huge tax loophole it was exploiting by offshoring paper assets in Bermuda. After accomplishing this important private-sector task of thwarting the enactment of legislation hazardous to tax loopholes, Flanigan’s former boss Alberto Gonzales beckoned Flanigan to hop back into bed with government, offering him the position of Assistant Attorney General, the nation’s Number Two Prosecutor, reporting directly to Gonzales. However, coming fast on the heels of the Katrina disaster, the Mike Brown cronyism flap, the indictment of Scooter Libby, and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Flanigan’s nomination came up looking like something the cat dragged in.

Flanigan did poorly under the lights of a Congressional inquiry, and had a particularly hard time explaining why, as soon as he switched over from his job in the White House, he hired Abramoff to rig legislation for Tyco, a company that had just packed its last CEO off to prison, and had been hoping for an ethics makeover, not a further descent into sleaze. The questions sharpened when it was revealed that, of the $2 Million Tyco paid Greenberg, Traurig for lobbying services, Abramoff had stolen over $1.5 Million, redirecting it to his own companies. Doubt turned to disbelief when Flanigan, who had come on board at Tyco to protect it from further looting, was unable to explain why he had not discovered Abramoff’s theft of Tyco money before Greenberg, Traurig. As the Washington Post reported on October 8, 2005:

In April 2004, Greenberg Traurig informed Tyco that Abramoff had misspent $1.5 million of the more than $2 million that Tyco had paid him in lobbying fees, by diverting the funds to companies that Abramoff controlled. Flanigan assured the committee, in his written answers, that he had cooperated in the firm's investigation and also that Tyco had turned over pertinent evidence to the Justice Department. But the Democrats then wondered why Flanigan - who said he was "shocked and disappointed" by Greenberg Traurig's disclosure - had not caught the alleged misconduct himself. Flanigan responded that Abramoff had fooled even his own employer.

The obvious answer, that Flanigan could not speak for fear of going directly to jail without passing go, was that the money was not for lobbying, but a straightforward wealth transfer from the private sector of the Republican scam operation to the government sector of the same operation. In this scenario, people like Flanigan further the greater good, not only of Tyco, but of the entire world, by giving it away in neat little stacks to Republican lawmakers, who make the world safe for all of us. This makes Tyco shareholders kind of altruistic, but in the brave new world of governance by an elite corps of public/private servants, we must make allowances for these new arrangements. The corruption of Republican lawmakers by a flood of money drawn from gambling interests has been widespread and extensive. While the identities of many remain undisclosed, we can attempt a list. We have spoken of Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, both of whom decided to shed their leadership posts in Congress after they were identified anonymously in the plea agreements that Abramoff and Scanlon have agreed to. With Abbe Lowell in possession of numberless incriminating documents, there is every possibility that a plethora of deals are in the offing, because the rule in Federal prosecutions is that the first ones to roll on their pals get the best deals. Honesty becomes the best policy when your lies have been found out. Mary Butler, with her methodical approach, is very likely to bag her limit of slimy bottom-fish, but some people are wondering if Abramoff and one of his partners are literally going to get away with murder.

I Steal Your Gambling Company – You Complain – I Kill You

Murder of whom, you ask? Of Konstantin “Gus” Boulis, the former owner of SunCruz, a Florida cruise line that specialized in “trips to nowhere” or better put, anywhere far enough offshore that Florida and US gambling laws wouldn’t apply. Apparently the boats were popular places, because as you can deduce, if gambling laws don’t apply, then none of the other laws do, either. Welcome To Terrorland, Daniel Hopsicker’s book about flight schools in South Florida, reports that Mohammed Atta, leader of the 911 hijackers, was a strip-bar habitué and a cokehead, and enjoyed the pleasures available on SunCruz facilities. Boulis’ floating dens of iniquity plied the waters off the Florida coast for several years with nothing more than minor harassment, but Boulis’ happy days came to an end on August 3, 1998, when Federal authorities file a sealed, civil complaint against Boulis, alleging he purchased some of his SunCruz gambling boats before he became a U.S. citizen. On February 10, 2000, Boulis threw in the towel and agreed to sell SunCruz within 36 months and never go back into the gaming industry. Abramoff even displayed a little Congressional muscle to keep the heat on Boulis, so he would be strongly motivated to find a seller.

Abramoff, smelling blood in the water, began maneuvering to acquire SunCruz, and got his friends in Washington to turn up the heat. March 30, 2000, Bob Ney entered a statement into the congressional record attacking Boulis. On September 27, 2000 Boulis contracted to sell SunCruz to Abramoff, Adam Kidan, and a third partner, Ben Waldman, for $147.5 million, following a protracted nine-day closing in Manhattan. Ney spoke up again in Congress after the deal was closed, praising the new management as a great change for the better. Boulis kept a silent 10 percent interest, and accepted a $20 million promissory note in lieu of the $23 million cash down payment. Within a few months, though, both parties declared that the deal had gone bad.

By the end of 2000, Kidan and Boulis had publicly accused each other of lying and cheating, and Kidan told reporters Boulis was trying to kill him. It was just another prequel to what looked to be acrimonious litigation, but someone decided that Boulis had enjoyed enough of the good life in South Florida, and shot him to death as he drove home from his Ft. Lauderdale office. The police said there were no suspects, but the Boulis estate sued Kidan in Broward Circuit Court, alleging in their complaint that Kidan was linked to various organized crime figures. In Florida, the facts emerge slowly, like a bloated body rising from the depths of a swamp. Kidan and Abramoff had looted SunCruz rapaciously, leaving nothing to pay Boulis for the business he had built like an ordinary decent gambling magnate. The October 2, 2005 Miami Herald reported the following facts in an article entitled “Kidan’s Story Stranger Than Fiction:” Court records show that Kidan, along with Abramoff, drew a $500,000 annual salary; rented a $4,500 condo on Williams Island in Aventura; bought a 34-foot powerboat for $90,000; and leased an armored Mercedes-Benz for $207,000. Kidan and Abramoff also diverted $310,000 in SunCruz money to pay for a luxury skybox at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, according to court documents. It was part of Abramoff's Republican fundraising enterprise at that stadium, Camden Yards and MCI Center in the Baltimore-Washington area. Kidan also tapped SunCruz coffers to pay about $250,000 to Moscatiello and Ferrari, who claimed to be a relative of Gambino boss Gotti, for catering and security services.

So that’s not bad – a half a million in salary each for both Abramoff and Kidan, over three-hundred grand to fete politicians in a “skybox” at FedEx Field, forty-five hundred a month for an island condo, and a paltry ninety-grand for a cigarette boat to get there. After downing all those goodies, it was a no-brainer to pay Moscatiello and Ferrari a quarter-million to clinch the deal by silencing the clueless Boulis, who didn’t know when he’d been fleeced by a couple of guys who were on the Republican sweetheart list. What is particularly tasty is the fact that, during all of this looting of a gambling boat company, Abramoff, Reed, and Safavian were intensively engaged in strategically blocking the expansion of Indian gambling casinos. Perhaps it was all innocent, though. Maybe Mohammed

After Boulis’ murder, Kidan tried to pull a corporate coup by putting SunCruz in bankruptcy, but the Boulis estate bought out Kidan in bankruptcy court, and until April 7, 2003, held control of the company until a bankruptcy judge authorized sale of SunCruz for $36.1 Million to a group led by Boulis’ nephew, Spiros Naos. As the bankruptcy court proceedings were creeping along, in May 2002, Lenders Foothill Capital and Citadel, who had backed Abramoff and Kidan with funding based on the $20 Million transfer, alleged that the payment to Boulis had indeed been fraudulent. Then, in November 2002, a Federal grand jury began investigating the SunCruz sale and financing. The other shoe dropped loudly on September 27, 2005, when Fort Lauderdale police arrested of three men for Boulis’s murder: Anthony Ferrari and James Fiorillo were arrested in Florida, and Anthony Moscatiello was arrested in New York. Moscatiello, described by the Miami Herald as “Kidan’s pal,” has longstanding affiliations with the Gambino crime family headed for years by “Silver Don” John Gotti. Although Kidan claims he met Moscatiello through the restaurant business, police say Moscatiello’s true occupation was as an enforcer for a Mafia loan sharking operation.

No stranger to mob violence himself, Kidan’s own mother was murdered in what was called a “botched mob robbery” in Florida by the Bonanno crime family. But Kidan found a silver lining in that cloud, skimming $15,000 in funds posted as a reward for information concerning the murder, a trick that cost him his New York law license. So you see, not all of Abramoff’s friends are lawyers. Some of them used to be.

Let’s Make A Deal

With this storm of flying fecal material whirling about their heads, it is no wonder that Kidan and Abramoff both decided to plead to the Florida SunCruz fraud indictments. Kidan’s deal should net out at under five years, and Abramoff has been assured that any time that is imposed in the Florida case will likely “run concurrent” with the years he’s assessed in the corruption case. In other words, the SunCruz fraud is a twofer for Abramoff. While their admissions of guilt in the SunCruz case don’t foreclose prosecution for murder in Florida state court, Abramoff is likely to be a very busy, and still very important man for the next several years. With Abbe Lowell as his choirmaster, his stool-pigeon performance will be orchestrated for maximum advantage to Abramoff, and minimal disclosure to the public. Lowell will sell every bit of information as dearly as he can, and whatever the look on Abramoff’s face says, it does not bespeak repentance. His canny mind is unfazed, and he will attempt to finger his former associates with an eye to preserving future benefit and paying off old scores.

Certainly many powerful Republicans are quaking silently in their richly-paneled government offices. These people thought they were on the fast track with Jack Abramoff, but they didn’t realize how crazy, how wild and uncircumspect their partner in greed would become. Few expected Greenberg, Traurig to put him on the pavement and turn over his emails to the FBI. There may be a silver lining for true conservatives, however. Since most Washington politicians and operatives are lawyers, and since conviction of a felony results in a canceled law license in all fifty states, Abramoff may have unwittingly advanced the stated Republican goal of reducing the number of lawyers in government. A goodly number of politicians may need to trim their resumes of legal qualifications, and add some references from the Bureau of Prisons, once Abramoff’s house of cards completely collapses.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:40 pm


9:11pm, February 12, 2006

Dick is such a prick
It serves him right
That we should flick
Him copious shit
For shooting Harry Whittington
Right in his fucking face
And then taking no blame
Eschewing all shame
To proclaim
That the fellow
Sneaked up behind him
Was where he shouldn't be
And caught himself a blast
Of shot in the piehole
On account of his own
Stupid self

Shailagh Murray and Peter Baker wrote:

Cheney Shoots Fellow Hunter in Texas Accident Companion in Intensive Care With Upper-Body Wounds
Washington Post
Monday, February 13, 2006; A01

Vice President Cheney accidentally sprayed a companion with birdshot while hunting quail on a private Texas ranch, injuring the man in the face, neck and chest, the vice president's office confirmed yesterday after a Texas newspaper reported the incident.

The shooting occurred late Saturday afternoon while Cheney was hunting with Harry Whittington, 78, a prominent Austin lawyer, on the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas. Hearing a covey of birds, Cheney shot at one, not realizing that Whittington had startled the quail and that he was in the line of fire.

Whittington was treated on the scene by Cheney's traveling medical detail before being taken by helicopter to a Corpus Christi hospital. He was in the intensive care unit at Christus Spohn Health System and listed in stable condition yesterday evening.

Katharine Armstrong, the ranch's owner, saw what happened Saturday and told reporters yesterday that Cheney was using a 28-gauge shotgun, which shoots fewer pellets and has a smaller shot pattern than a 12-gauge shotgun, making it harder to hit the target. Whittington was about 30 yards away when he was hit in the cheek, neck and chest, she said.

According to Armstrong's account, she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail. Whittington shot a bird and as he went to retrieve it, Cheney and the third hunter discovered a second covey.

Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong said, according to the Associated Press.

It was Armstrong's decision to alert the news media. Cheney's office made no public announcement, deciding to defer to Armstrong because the incident had taken place on her property. Armstrong called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and when a reporter from the paper called the White House, the vice president's office confirmed the account.

Cheney's office referred other reporters to Armstrong for a witness account, but after speaking to some members of the media yesterday afternoon, Armstrong stopped returning phone calls.

She told reporters that the small shotgun pellets "broke the skin" and that the blast "knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that."

"Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been," she said. "The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came."

The International Hunter Education Association, which represents safety coordinators for fish and wildlife agencies and tracks incident reports by state, said on its Web site that hunting accidents in the United States have declined about 30 percent over the past decade. In 2002, the most recent year for which data were available, 89 fatal and 761 nonfatal incidents were reported. In 26 of the cases, including one fatality, the intended target was quail.

"The vice president visited Harry Whittington at the hospital and was pleased to see that he's doing fine and in good spirits," Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said yesterday. Cheney returned to Washington last night.

"The vice president was concerned," said Mary Matalin, a Cheney adviser who spoke with him yesterday morning. "He felt badly, obviously. On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the [rules]. He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do."

White House aides said President Bush was notified about the incident, although he had not spoken to Cheney as of late yesterday afternoon. "The president was informed after the accident and received updates today," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday.

Whittington is well known around Austin, an old-school Texan whose friends include a retired Catholic bishop and who plays cards with a former Texas Supreme Court chief judge. Feisty and outspoken, he is a millionaire real estate investor who is known for a reformer's streak through his service on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, which oversees the state prison system, and the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

"His dignified presence belies a fierce competitive spirit and antipathy toward government power," the Austin American-Statesman wrote in a profile of Whittington published last July.

Cheney, an avid hunter, usually visits the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch, settled in 1882, once a year. He also hunts regularly at sites in Georgia and South Dakota.

The Armstrong family has a long history in Texas Republican politics and has been close to the Bush family, as well as to the vice president.

Tobin Armstrong, Katharine Armstrong's father, was a Pioneer, an elite fundraiser for Bush. After Tobin Armstrong died last October, Cheney spoke at his funeral. Tobin Armstrong described previous outings with Cheney in an Associated Press interview in 2000: "We go out when the dew is still on the grass, and then hunt until we shoot our limit. Then we pick a fine spot and have a wild game picnic lunch."

His wife, Anne Armstrong, served as co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, White House counselor to President Richard M. Nixon, ambassador to Britain for President Gerald R. Ford, and co-chairman of Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign. Bush put her on the board of Texas A&M University when he was governor, and she was on the board of Halliburton when the company hired Cheney.

Katharine Armstrong also was a Bush Pioneer, along with her now ex-husband, Warren Idsal, according to Texans for Public Justice, which monitors political fundraising.

As governor, Bush appointed Katharine Armstrong to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, which regulates hunting, among other duties. People familiar with the Saturday outing said that Cheney had obtained the proper seasonal license.

Some Cheney critics pointed out that this is not the first Cheney hunting controversy. Two years ago, the vice president was criticized for going duck hunting with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia soon after the court had agreed to hear Cheney's appeal in an lawsuit related to his energy task force. A month earlier, he had bagged about 70 stocked pheasants at a private shooting club in Pennsylvania.

"Cheney needs to start setting a less violent example by switching to target practice and leaving animals and people in peace," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement.

"We'd advise him to pursue a less violent form of relaxation and get on with the important business of leading the country," Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

Staff writer Sylvia Moreno in Austin contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:41 pm


2:50am, February 15, 2006

I was just over at** tonight, and my posting privileges were promptly revoked! All I wanted to do was post some rules for Quail-Hunting that I got from the NRA. The site is loaded with gun nuts, many of whom want to restart the Mexican-Maricon war, and brag about their military and law enforcement background. So I figured they'd take a fair view of this Cheney thing. I read their posts and came up with a theory that perhaps the Cheney camp will want to consider. Based on the attitude of slavish loyalty at sites like fr**republic, I think this one has legs.

The Vice President has been the victim of a plot hatched by the Quail themselves. Quail are in fact smart creatures, unlike the politician of the same name. One of the things that makes them smart is the way they fly away from people who are trying to kill them. Cheney of course has hunted quail many times, and they have thus developed a grudge toward him.

Realizing how embarrassing it would be to Cheney if he shot one of his friends, several quail deliberately lured his fire in the direction of Harry Whittington by flying between him and the armed Cheney. While several of the quail participating in this suicide attack were in fact killed by the heroic Cheney, several escaped and are being sought for questioning.

According to a posting on a pro-avian website, causing a human to shoot another human is "the start of a worldwide avian revolt." Airline security is expected to be beefed up, particularly in places where there are lots of bird droppings that Scott McClellan might slip on.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:45 pm


3:03am, February 15, 2006

What are "export controls?" Well, they prevent companies from selling certain types of technology to other nations. Nuclear weapons and anthrax weaponizing technologies are probably on the list of tech that you can't export regardless of the profit to be made. Don't you think that the technology that China is importing from MicroGoogYa to censor the Internet and capture thought-criminals might be that type of technology that we ought not to export?

Let's theorize — why do we prevent export of military tech? It might be used against us!

Why does the Chinese oligarchy censor the speech of its people? To consolidate their hold on power!

Does the use of MicroGoogYa technology assist them in consolidating their hold on power? Yes!

Is the Chinese consolidation of non-democratic power over its people in our national interest? I don't think so — our official policy is that democracy makes the world more peaceful, fairer and safer, and that tyranny has the reverse effect.

Therefore, call your Congressperson, and call Bill Gates, Terry Semel, and Sergei Bryn and tell them to KNOCK IT OFF! Tell them we know damn well if they'll censor the Chinese, they'll censor us. All they need is a ruling from the FCC or a lawsuit from the RIAA and they'll be snipping and clipping our data like Big Brother's own Ministry of Information.

Foster Klug wrote:

US Firms Face Question Over China Internet

Associated Press

Four U.S. Internet companies eager for a foothold in China face hard questions from lawmakers worried that the communist regime is using American technology to crush political dissent.

Rep. Chris Smith said Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YAHOO - news), Cisco Systems Inc. and Google Inc. are "enabling dictatorship" by helping China censor the Internet.

"Cooperation with tyranny should not be embraced for the sake of profits," said Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on global human rights.

Smith was among several lawmakers from both political parties who said they would use a congressional hearing Wednesday to convey their qualms to executives of the four companies, which have drawn strong criticism for their operations in China.

U.S. tech companies eyeing China face a dilemma, analysts say: While keen to tap a market that could soon eclipse America's, they must also worry about the perception they're helping China harass dissidents.

"They are in an extremely dicey position," said John Palfrey, a Harvard Law School professor who studies the Internet.

The potential for profit is great. China is estimated to have more than 100 million Internet users.

But to do business, U.S. companies must satisfy a government that fiercely polices Internet content. Filters block objectionable foreign Web sites and regulations ban what the Chinese consider subversive and pornographic content, requiring service providers to enforce censorship.

A survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists called China's efforts to control its media "unique in the world's history."

"Never have so many lines of communication in the hands of so many people been met with such obsessive resistance from a central authority," the report said.

China says its aims are benign — to protect its citizens, and especially children, from "the immoral and harmful content" of the Internet.

Critics say the limits China imposes go further and are aided by U.S. companies. They point to a new Google search engine that censors some results. Yahoo!, they say, helped police identify and convict a journalist who had criticized human rights abuses.

U.S. businesses that have adopted Chinese Internet standards say they must obey local laws. They lack the leverage, they say, to influence world governments.

Lawmakers and observers have a different view.

"The hugely successful businesses that come before Congress ... will have to account for their complicity in China's culture of repression, and to begin to make amends," Rep. Tom Lantos (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., said Tuesday.

Robert Dietz, who monitors Asia for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said other repressive regimes are closely watching the way the U.S. Internet companies act in China. What happens with China's Internet, he said, probably will serve as a model elsewhere.

"We sense that people are standing back, watching the technology evolve, watching the attitude evolve, seeing how far countries can go in pushing their ... Internet censorship," he said. "We don't think this will end in China."

Andy Sullivan wrote:

State Dept. to push for online free speech Tue Feb 14, 4:27 PM ET The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had set up a task force to help U.S. technology companies protect freedom of expression in countries like China that censor online content.

State Department officials said they will push to encourage foreign countries to allow greater freedom of expression online and help U.S. businesses figure out what to do when called on to enforce repressive laws in countries where they operate.

"Many technology companies ... want to work to help those who lack the freedom that we often take for granted," said Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, a member of the task force. "If we band together, we can make significant progress on this issue."

Several U.S. tech companies that operate in China have faced criticism in recent months for helping China enforce censorship laws and track down government critics who communicate online.

Microsoft Corp. pulled the Web log, or blog, of a critic of the Chinese government after getting a government order to do so, and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) has been criticized for helping Chinese authorities link journalist Shi Tao to a U.S.-based Web site, leading to a 10-year prison sentence for Shi.

Google Inc.'s Chinese search engine blocks many terms associated with topics related to democracy or independence for Tibet and Taiwan.

All three companies applauded the task force.

"This embraces the government-to-government approach that we've been urging," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said.

The three companies, along with Cisco Systems Inc., are scheduled to address the issue at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

An online civil-liberties advocate said the United States can exert much more influence on foreign governments than individual companies can on their own.

"If the government is going to figure out how to use its powers to help these companies, then that's probably a good thing," said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington.

Harris said that the United States will need to push back to ensure that China's censored version of the Internet does not become a global standard.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:48 pm


9:16pm, March 13, 2006   

Speaking of the secret spying program on the Senate floor, Sen. Arlen Specter declared himself unable to judge the lawfulness of the President's conduct. "I don't have any basis for knowing, because I don't know what the program does," he said in the Senate." He would rather sound stupid than run afoul of Dick Cheney, and he sure does. What the fuck is he doing in the Senate, not knowing what the fuck the goddamn program does? Jesus Christ, we have fallen to a low, low point in history. They could put all the honest men in Washington in a teacup.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:54 pm


March 14, 2006

Artwork by Joshua Carreon

The Rules of Quail Hunting With Dick Cheney

Hunting accidents happen, yes — but not among the best sportsmen. So, it was surprising when Dick Cheney came within a hairsbreadth of killing a perfectly good member of his lawyer posse, Harry Whittington, mistaking him for a flurry of quail. In Whittington, the people of Texas stood to lose their industry-loving Funeral Service Commissioner. But imagine if the target of Cheney’s misdirected blast had been Scooter Libby, or the President himself. In the first case, he’d be accused of trying to silence a witness, in the second, of paving his way to the Oval Office with a little accident. I can imagine the brouhaha in Congress as he tried to swear himself in with Justice Roberts at his side, while Ted Kennedy is hauled from the chambers in a foaming fit, and Cindy Sheehan sets herself ablaze on Pennsylvania Avenue. Finally, imagine if the fortunes of the hunting buddies had been reversed, and Whittington had blasted Cheney with a snootful of birdshot. No doubt Whittington’s corpse, riddled with the .40 caliber and 9 millimeter rounds favored by the Secret Service, would ultimately have received a state funeral, once his status as a security risk had been dealt with through standard operating procedures. After all, Cheney’s bodyguards would be faulted for allowing Whittington to take a second shot.

That so many humorous and Strangelovian scenarios can be spun from a few stray pieces of birdshot speaks volumes about the man who is their focus. As the dust settles, a few new pieces of the Cheney puzzle have fallen into place as well, and the picture that emerges is more than disquieting. Cheney can no longer be perceived as merely a robust specimen of American manhood, because engaging in incompetent gunplay is not the sort of behavior you expect from a robust executive. Withdrawing like a beast into his lair, Cheney lurked in radio silence until the taunts of late-night comedians drew him forth to make a statement on home ground – Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network. When he spoke, Cheney told us that it was the worst day in his life. What about Harry Whittington’s life? He lay in a hospital with a sphere of metal lodged in his heart, causing him to suffer little heart attacks now and then. Enjoying the benefits of a double standard has clearly become a way of life for Dick Cheney, and he has been sorely put upon by those who charge that he uses his office to flaunt the law, and dares anyone to interfere. With an ever-loyal President at his back, Cheney has succeeded in having his cake, and eating everybody else’s, too.

The Friendly Fire Was A Little Fierce

While initial reports from the hospital were delayed, it is now clear that after he was felled by Cheney’s shotgun blast, Whittington was within an ace of his life. Although Kathryn Armstrong, who hosted the hunting party on her Texas ranch, told the news that Whittington’s injuries were minor and he wouldn’t have been hospitalized but for the convenient presence of the Vice President’s entourage, this was a blatant lie. By Cheney’s own account given four days later, Whittington fell to the ground immediately upon being shot. Armstrong said she thought Whittington had a heart attack. Perhaps if he’d been hit by a truck she’d have considered that an attack of the flu, but no matter, all are agreed he went down like a sack of potatoes. At that moment, no one knew whether the man would live or die. He was helicoptered first to a local hospital, and once he was stabilized, to a larger hospital where he was attended by top level specialists in intensive care. Two days into his stay, it was reported that a piece of birdshot had migrated into his heart, causing a minor heart attack. Reportedly, if all goes well, Whittington will have this souvenir of the event for the rest of his life. When he checked out of the hospital on Friday, he looked such that no one would want to trade places with him. There was yellow bruising all over the right side of his face, purple bruises on his neck and hidden below his high collar. He had a half-dozen puncture wounds on his right cheek and in the eye socket. With what we know about the perforation to his chest cavity that has impinged on the operation of his heart, he looked pretty far from being a happy camper.

Could A Real Prosecutor Please Stand Up?

Whittington might not be happy, but he’s still a team player, and he didn’t suffer brain damage, so he still knows what side of his bread is buttered. So he knew better than to make a fuss by demanding an investigation, say, just for the sake of the insurance claim. There was no police investigation of this near-fatal shooting of the Texas Funeral Service Commissioner, and the law never talked to the shooter. The Secret Service kept Cheney safely behind bars the night of the shooting, turning away a deputy who came to see him, and it is clear that Whittington has done nothing to encourage an investigation. Without the benefit of any evidence, the local District Attorney, who might as well have been born without clearly discernible genitalia, cleared Cheney of all criminal culpability.

Some things, we say in the law, are “res ipsa loquitur” – the thing speaks for itself – but that could hardly be said of this situation, where everything hangs from the shooter’s mental state at the time of the shooting. Apparently, to the local DA, it is impossible for the Vice President to possess the requisite criminal mental state to commit a gun crime, for it is clear he committed the physical act of shooting another person. In legal terms, Cheney unquestionably committed the “actus reus,” the wrongful act of shooting Whittington, and the only remaining issue would be whether he possessed the “mens rea,” a wrongful state of mind, when he shot him. Such cases are not only charged, but also prosecuted to conviction, quite frequently, because people handling guns, which are deadly weapons, have a duty to handle them with great care and never when under the influence of alcohol. Accordingly, many people have been convicted of homicide after shooting friends with what they believed were unloaded guns, and in all such cases, the shooter’s use of alcohol before the shooting would count as evidence of guilt. As you can see, this is not much different from mistaking your friend for a flurry of quail. When a shooting does not result in death, careless shooters may be convicted of reckless wounding or assault. Finally, it is notable that after a shooting, it is considered mandatory to cooperate with a police investigation, and very few accidental shooters attempt to secret themselves away and avoid questioning, fearful of drawing suspicion by avoiding contact with police.

Just A Minute, I Think I Have A Judge Here In My Pocket

If Harry Whittington had been run over by a carhop in the parking lot of The Million Dollar Saloon in Dallas, he would’ve certainly demanded a police report. You can sue the valet parking company and the saloon. But there really isn’t much point in suing Dick Cheney. Ask the Office of Management and Budget. They still haven’t gotten any information in response to the subpoenas they served on Cheney five years ago to discover what he, Ken Lay, and numerous other energy magnates talked about when they crafted the nation’s energy policy. No matter that Cheney’s energy policy has given car owners the highest gas prices, and oil companies their highest profits in history – the Bush appointees on the D.C. Circuit Court agree with Cheney that it would impede his freedom to discuss important matters with his corporate cronies if he had to disclose those matters to the OMB. Cheney has made a lot of smart investments in people, and as a result, is about as free to tread on other people’s toes as a man can be without actually having, like James Bond, a license to kill.

Cheney’s Little Row With The Intelligence Community

Cheney would give our real James Bonds licenses to torture “terror suspects,” if he could, so convinced is he that our anti-terrorist forces would use such license discreetly. Then again, it’s possible that the CIA has construed its mission differently from Cheney, who believes in staffing every government agency with yes-men from top to bottom. When it appeared, for example, that Ambassador Joe Wilson, a State Department employee, had dared to write an article for the New York Times disclosing that the President lied to the nation in his State of Union address during the run-up to the liberation of Iraq, Cheney’s office put out the smear that Wilson had no real knowledge, and had merely gone to Niger for fun on a trip engineered by his wife, Valerie Plame, the “well-known” CIA agent.

The Plame Leak occurred in July and August 2003, shortly after US Ambassador Joe Wilson published an article in the New York Times criticizing the President for saying in his State of the Union address that Saddam Hussein bought yellowcake uranium from Niger, when Wilson’s own investigation had determined that the story was bogus. Wilson’s story got lots of attention, because this particular lie had gotten very stale from overuse, and it was simply embarrassing that Bush was caught using it months after Condoleezza Rice got the word that the Niger story was kaput. As we now know, this embarrassing kickoff for our thoroughly modern Crusade to liberate Iraq, like so much other garbage that was fed to the nation via broadcast media, was part of Cheney’s plan to keep using lies even when they had worn out. While some of his advisers might have advised him to simply make up new lies, Cheney is the master of The Big Lie, and his handling of the Plame affair showed why. Getting a lie off the ground isn’t as easy as it seems, and once you’ve got it going, you don’t want to destroy your credibility by admitting it was a lie. No, you’ve got to stand by your lies, or soon nobody will believe them.

Wilson’s story threatened to become a bigger story than Iraq itself. Cheney worked for Nixon, and he knows how dangerous it can be when everyone’s running around saying, “The President is a liar.” Then, just as Wilson’s story, drawing strength from his personal credibility as a career diplomat, picked up steam, putting Bush and company in a very bad light, suddenly “everyone in the press” knew all at once that Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson’s attractive blonde wife, was a CIA agent, and some people were saying that Wilson’s trip to Niger was just a diplomatic safari. Scooter Libby, indicted now by Special Prosecutor Mike Fitzgerald for obstructing his investigation into the sources of the leak, has now disclosed in legal filings, that his “superiors” put him up to it. Since Scooter Libby was the top slime-slinger in Cheney’s office, that should put Cheney himself directly in the crosshairs of Special Prosecutor Mike Fitzgerald.

The President Flees Washington To Escape The Stink

The explosive potential of what Scooter Libby knows, and might reveal, was evident back when the news broke at the start of last November. Trying to escape the stink wafting from Cheney’s office, Bush went as far as Argentina, from whence the news networks aired repetitive footage of violent demonstrations at an international trade conference. Even Fox gave extensive air time to the anti-imperialist declamations of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, and Chavez is no Fox network favorite. He’s the type of leader who says no to Bush’s economic plans for the region, and last week responded to Condoleezza Rice’s saber rattling in the Caribbean by telling an elated audience of Venezuelans — “Hey babe, don’t even try it!” Ordinarily, he would not be given twenty-one inches of TV screen to make objectionable points, but with the name “Scooter Libby” on every reporter’s lips, the networks decided that keeping The Big Lie in place required a different strategy at this treacherous moment, when someone might trace the vile odor emanating from the West Wing first to Cheney’s very own person, and perhaps, to other people, even higher up the food chain.

There could be only one reason why the networks would bury us in footage of Argentines rioting against Bush and adoring Chavez. Because, hidden like a bulging boil under the surface of the President’s thin skin, lay the toxic deposit of Libby’s indictment, an unhealthy condition that the Commander in Chief was eager to avoid discussing. The obliging media outlets therefore showed only a few seconds of Bush’s agonizing press conference in Rio de la Plata, where the traveling press pool peppered him exclusively with questions about Rove and Libby. The spectacle of masked men hurling gasoline bombs in the streets interested the press corps far less than what Karl Rove knew, and when he knew it. Questioned about how he planned to correct a situation where a majority of registered voters question his personal honesty, Bush characteristically declined to be pushed around by public opinion. Finally, realizing that the reporters would not drop the Rovegate questioning-style, he launched into a stock outline of his antiterrorism, disaster recovery and prosperity agenda and ran out the clock, waving off the last Rove-related question to create the shot that all the news agencies ran that night. The truncated exchange eliminated all the tasty shots of the President dodging fire like an agile elephant.

A High-Flying Conspiracy

What all the reporters wanted to know, but none directly asked, was this – “Why is Karl Rove still be working in the White House when he was aboard Air Force 2 on July 13, 2003, with Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby, when the three very likely agreed to blow the cover on a CIA agent?” The answer is probably a simple aeronautical and legal fact – when he’s in Air Force 2, flying 30,000 feet above the United States, Dick Cheney is literally above the law. I believe Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote a memo about that for Dick. But for this legal exemption, we would call the meeting of these three top politicians a “criminal conspiracy” to commit high treason, for which all the participants could likely be imprisoned for life, maybe even tortured to learn the identities of their co-conspirators. The word “conspiracy” is just Italian for “breathing the same air,” which would certainly be the case in the elegant cabin of AirForce 2, where the air is constantly recirculated. Lately, there’s started to be some talk about whether Cheney had the power to unilaterally “declassify” the information about Plame’s undercover status, so perhaps there’s some question about the reliability of the AG’s “above the law” analysis, but let’s take the easy approach and not bother our pretty little heads about it. Leave it to the liberal nutcases to hurl horrible epithets like “traitor,” “conspirator,” and “dirtbag.”

We could quibble about the facts of this airborne conspiracy, but it would take a mind utterly innocent of the Hobbesian realities of Washington to conceive of any scenario in which the AirForce 2 conspirators intended anything other than to destroy Wilson and his wife for having the temerity to contradict the President’s lies. Feeling betrayed by Wilson, the conspirators sought to repay Wilson in his own coin – by betraying his wife. After all, why were the conspirators talking about Wilson’s wife? Perhaps Scooter, who like Cheney’s wife and other elite deviants, enjoys writing pornography, had suggested sending him a kinky anniversary present. No, they were talking about Valerie because they were looking for a way to break Wilson’s knees. What was the cover story for this act of treason? One that only Cheney, with his love of brazen outrageousness, could have orchestrated. They would just claim that “everybody knew” Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. To create that “suddenly everyone knew” effect, the conspirators leaked the news to Richard Novak, Chris Matthews, Judith Miller, and perhaps several other reporters near-simultaneously. Doubtless these reporters knew they were treading on thin ice, inviting criminal sanctions for breaching national security, but they devoured Valerie Plame like a female sacrifice, apparently certain that the Vice President would protect them from liability. Which undoubtedly Cheney intended to do.

The Worm Turns

Cheney should have known better than to initiate a vendetta with the CIA, because the agency was mad already about all the dung they had to swallow over the last five or six years. First they were excoriated after 9/11 for being caught flat-footed by the attackers. Then the agency was swallowed by Homeland Security, had its rules rewritten to authorize torture, and was tasked with the job of inventing and marketing a nonexistent Iraqi weapons threat to fuel the push to war. The agency was further humiliated when George Tenet, the CIA head, took the fall for the “bad intelligence” that caused the President to repeat the lie that Iraq had obtained uranium from Niger in his State of the Union address. Tenet got the Medal of Honor for taking an exquisite dive, just like Paul Bremer received the same high honor for completely abandoning his job as the transitional czar of the American occupation of Iraq. But individual CIA agents got no medals, and the outing of Valerie Plame was the last straw, and a little bit more. As the old saying goes, you can push a worm, that is to say a dragon — only so far – and then it will turn.

The AirForce 2 conspirators misjudged CIA culture. Spying is built on deception. Deception is based on secrecy. Secrecy is ensured by loyalty, and intra-Company loyalty is supposed to be an absolute article of faith. Undercover CIA agents who die in action are supposed to remain anonymous even after death, honored only in a secret book kept at CIA headquarters. (See “The Book of Honor” by Ted Gup.) Yup, the Cheney team, comprised only of sold-out courtiers equipped with greasy palms, greatly miscalculated the mettle and institutional loyalty of the CIA. The humiliated spooks decided to do more than get mad – they decided to get even, and demanded appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate the source of the leak. In response, the President stood up like a tin soldier, saluted, said he didn’t know who the leaker was and he would like to know and the White House would fire anyone responsible for it. Now he explains that he will fire anyone who is convicted of leaking, which in lawyer-speak means, anyone who is convicted, whose criminal appeals have failed, and who is somehow ineligible for a Presidential pardon. Under those circumstances, Karl Rove might be fired. It is probably more likely that Karl will be stuffed into a 2.5 liter soda bottle and fired into low-earth orbit.

Betrayed by The Fickle Media

No, breaking the law is not Cheney’s problem, nor is the President his problem, nor are his sleazy friends and their unethical schemes. It is the fact that his pet reporters in the media might roll on him. Right after the offal began striking the turbine, reporter Robert Novak cut a deal, and even though Miller did over eighty days in jail, she got out by agreeing to testify and thereafter lost her job and a lot of credibility points when she claimed she had forgotten who told her that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent, even though she wrote the name “Valerie Flame” on a notepad while she was talking to Rove. The loss of a scumbag like Miller is a grievous one for Cheney. Before the Iraq war that Cheney so deeply desired to incite, Miller worked the bellows at the New York Times, channeling anti-Saddam rhetoric and false intelligence churned out by Cheney’s office. Miller and the New York Times gave credence to WMD fantasies propagated by international criminal Achmed Chalabi. Miller stoked the neocon fantasy that our soldiers would be welcomed as heroes, liberating Arab people for the very first time. Now, she’s on the sidelines, nursing her wounds, of no use to anyone but her detractors.

Yes, aside from Bill O’Reilly, Republican media personalities confronted with Cheney’s slime-trail Republican these days barely have the courage to unload their usual barrage of abusive epithets. Perhaps they are afraid that one day soon, being Dick Cheney’s friend could turn into a liability. Perhaps they realize that TV viewers are beginning to catch on to the verbal tricks and sleight-of-camera the media uses to cloak a lawless thug like Cheney with impunity. Certainly they want to avoid the possibility that one day, having opened their mouths to publish another batch of pro-Cheney propaganda, their smarmy lies might be greeted by a volley of hurled TV remotes smacking screens hard enough to break them, accompanied by the massed voice of an enormous viewing audience shouting “Shut up!”

Listen to Dick Cheney’s Folsom Prison Blues or on March 8th podcast of The Hour of Dave at
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:59 pm


March 14, 2006

1. The Stealth Agenda

The item wasn’t on the agenda, and although City Attorney Mike Franell was present, he couldn’t give any advice on the issue. After all, it concerned the impending hiring of his brother as head of AFN. Pseudo-legal advice was provided by outgoing City Administrator Gino Grimaldi to the affect that the nepotistic character of the appointment could not be considered by the council. Brushing aside the objections of Councilor Jack Hardesty, the remaining claque of councilors voted to give a second plum job in the City of Ashland to the Franell Family. Richard Franell will relocate here at your expense from Florida. I hope his family like skiing and cappuccino.

2. A Fait Accomplished

Since it wasn’t on the agenda, no one had signed up to speak on the issue, so no one could speak against it. It was, as they say, a fait accompli, a done deal. The maneuver left no doubt that what is most important to at least three members of the City Council is exercising power, and confirming the perception that their rule is law. They will have their way, however wayward that be. Some people might think that the point isn’t whether the City Attorney’s brother is the City Attorney’s brother, but rather, whether he is “the most qualified for the job.” If the City Council’s top lawyer had been in action, providing the advice to the City that he is paid to provide, they would have known that Richard Franell’s qualifications were irrelevant to the issue of his fitness for the job.

One of my favorite fairy tales will illustrate why this is the case. In “Donkey Skin,” the lovely princess (played by Catherine Deneuve) dons a donkey skin to conceal her beauty and flees her father’s castle because, deranged by the death of his lovely wife, and seeking to fulfill her deathbed request that he marry only a woman as beautiful as herself, he has chosen his daughter to wed. Fortunately, the princess’s fairy godmother provides ethical guidance in a song that reminds us all that “fathers do not marry their daughters.” Some of the most important moral lessons are locked away in children’s stories, and “Donkey Skin” reminds us that, before we even consider an applicant’s fitness for a salaried position on the public payroll, we must consider whether they have any characteristics, such as blood relations, that would disqualify them from assuming the position. While the omnipotent will always disregard such limitations -– witness the marriage of Caesar Borgia to his sister Lucretia with the approval of their father the Pope — certain boundaries must be respected. In a world governed by sense, a princess cannot ascend to her mother’s throne via her father’s bed. Similarly, however qualified Richard Franell might be, he cannot properly ascend to the status of a top municipal official using his brother’s high office as a stepping-stone.

3. Yee-Ha!

Let us presume the rogue Councilors are merely ignorant of the dangers of incestuous relations in City government. We would hazard a guess that they are acquainted with the concept of avoiding the “appearance of impropriety.” But like a truck full of kids in dad’s four-wheeler facing a super-mudhole, the rogue Councilors simply threw it into high and hit the gas, and you know how that works out. The Council’s decision (from which only Jack Hardesty dissented) will dishearten all who hoped, despite past evidences, that Ashland enjoys honest government. That notion is dead. As if the danger of cronyism had not been the subject of the last six months of national news, the Rogue Five -— Cate Hartzell, Russ Silbiger, Kate Jackson, Dave Chapman and Alex Amarotico – hijacked our civic vehicle and drove it directly into a filthy swamp of unknown depth.

4. A Setup For Failure

Why would the Rogue Five do this? Surely Mr. Franell’s brother could not have risen so far above the ranks of the other 59 applicants that he has to be the one to lead AFN. Surely, somewhere among the clever, intelligent techies already peopling the Pacific Northwest, or even in our own little town, we could have found someone to do this job. Aha, now you’ve hit upon it. What is this job? No one knows. Two hours after they decided to hire Richard Franell, the Council batted around four proposals on what to do with AFN, and Kate Jackson even came up with a hybrid concept that combined the worst elements of the non-profit spin-off (no City control over management) with the worst aspect of the “Open Carrier” proposal (no ESPN).

Like the job of managing FEMA, that the President thought could be managed by a connoisseur of horse-flesh, no one really knows what the new AFN head will do. Perhaps, like “Brownie,” all he has to do is “a heck of a job,” sitting around with his opposable digit shoved firmly into one orifice or another while the chips fall where they may. Such a person would be ideal for this position, since no one knows just what he will do to “manage” AFN, since even the business model for this orphan agency is up in the air. Many capable people would avoid such a job, since it is a setup for failure. It is thus doubly suspicious that the candidate we are told is the “best” would in fact accept the job. It would be far more believable to hear that the best candidate, after learning the vague particulars of the position, would reject it. There is every possibility that, like “Brownie,” who was chosen to dismantle FEMA, not manage it, our new AFN manager has been hired by Finance Director Lee Tuneberg and Gino Grimaldi to deliver the coup de grace by demonstrating, once and for all, that AFN is a failure.

5. Who Says We Can’t Make A Decision?

As Mayor Morrison asked rudimentary questions, he made it clear he had not studied the proposals that have been on the website for weeks. Dave Chapman, Russ Silbiger, and Cate Hartzell, who put their plan together in non-open meetings despite being a subcommittee of a public body that should hold open meetings, tried to explain things to the Mayor, but some of us thought it was a little late for that. Civic observer Tom Gaffey left in disgust, deeming the exercise a “study session” should’ve been completed long before the meeting. “They’re not going to decide anything,” he said, echoing the comments of former Mayor Cathy Shaw, who said the day before the City Council meeting that she didn’t plan to attend because it was inconceivable that the Council would decide anything. Of course, she didn’t know the appointment of Richard Franell of Florida as AFN head was on the stealth agenda.

6. The Problem of Managing “A Wonderful Man”

Political-correctness maven Leah Ireland, fancying herself charming, first insulted Joel Kramer by laughingly objecting to sharing a seat next to him because she doesn’t like JPR’s content offerings (not PC enough). Then she turned prophetess, telling us that if JPR were selected to manage AFN, there would be hell to pay. People would mount petitions, hit the streets, and massively reject the plan by popular referendum. By such skillful communications, Leah showed her ability to forge agreements, because after her mini-tirade against JPR, Joel Kramer didn’t want to sit next to her, either.

Then Leah got into another mode, gushing about “this wonderful man” who would be the new AFN head. She just thought this nepotism thing was ridiculous, and he should be given a chance. The other citizens were left wondering what she knew about Richard Franell that the rest of us didn’t. There has been little information about his qualifications released by the City, certainly not enough to know that he is “wonderful”. Even if he were wonderful, though, he would still be a terrible choice based on his blood relation to the City Attorney, which generates what lawyers call a “potential conflict of interest” that should be avoided whenever possible. Once you ignore a potential conflict, you move forward to the next stage of corruption, called “an actual conflict of interest.”

An actual conflict of interest arises when a lawyer would be required, due to his dual loyalties, to take opposite positions for two different clients. How would an actual conflict of interest for Richard Franell arise in this situation, and what would it mean for the City? Essentially, his brother has taken a job as a turnaround specialist, regardless what “option” is adopted by the council. The performance of this individual, who will take the reins of AFN, a department that loses about $10,000 a week, should be under a microscope, and he should be subject to some strict financial progress requirements tied to his compensation. The City Council will likely fight tooth and nail to prevent disclosing the terms of his contract, but we may assume it provides many protections for the employee and no provision for performance-based compensation. If his work is not satisfactory, his contractual performance should be reviewed, and at that point, the City Attorney would be consulted by City leaders charged with reviewing his performance. At that point, the City Attorney would be unable to perform his job.

If things go well with the new Franell, the conflict would just simmer in a potential form. Some obvious negative effects will be felt. Nepotism is almost always bad for work morale and productivity, as fellow employees move from feeling jealous to thinking how to get their own relatives hired. Other problems will arise. People will say that, in Ashland, it’s who you know, not what you know, that gets you hired, and that will be hard to refute. If the new Franell does well, it will be discounted as luck. If he receives raises, it will be thought of as favoritism. If his faults are overlooked, people will say he “has pull.”

Of course, things might not go well, because they rarely do at AFN. The new Franell’s faults might be of any type. We don’t know if his contract provides for a probationary period. We don’t know what conduct or misconduct would constitute grounds for discipline or firing. We might doubt whether anyone in the City would have the guts to criticize the City Attorney’s brother, which is an inherent problem here, but assuming someone did, we might need to impose some discipline on the new Franell. At that point, we clearly would not be able to rely on the legal advice of our City Attorney, who would be ethically unable to provide such advice, because of the conflict of interest between his loyalty to his brother and his duty to us. He would have to call one of his friends at a law firm in Portland and pay them a retainer of about $10,000, so a firm with a name like Stoel, Rives can bill us $350/hr for the services of a municipal employment lawyer. City lawyers make friends referring work out like this, and all things work together for good. There is less work for the City Attorney, a good connection with a big lawfirm, and perhaps a nice settlement for the outgoing Franell.

Oh, I can hear the optimists among us scoffing. Things like that never happen in Ashland! Right, and there are no ducks in Lithia Park. The City has wasted plenty of money on employment issues that result from poor hiring choices. Last time the City paid off a departing employee, Lisa Brooks of Ashland Police Department, she settled her harassment suit for $250,000. The legal fees certainly exceeded that amount, so the Brooks disaster probably cost half a mill. The City was once sued after it fired the Fire Chief, who was grossly obese, on grounds the City had failed to accommodate his disability -— weighing so much he couldn’t climb a ladder. Of course, if the Fire Chief had been the City Attorney’s brother, he’d probably still be sitting in the new station house, putting out bureaucratic brush fires. Last year, the City Council paid $35,000 to consultants who papered over the still-simmering antagonism toward Chief Mike Bianca, who insists on seeing the town as a peaceful place, and does not mistake himself for Clint Eastwood, to the great chagrin of the would-be gunslingers hired by the previous Chief, that Bianca can’t fire until he catches them committing some criminal act. Indeed, under the surface, the rift at the heart of the APD is still bubbling like an undersea heat-vent that will in time generate its own volcano. But let’s focus on the problem at hand.

The Rogue Five don’t want to see the employment disaster they have engineered by ignoring the laws of nature and the ethical law that governs lawyers. They are pleased to send the message that their will is law, common sense and legalities be damned. Of course, since the City Attorney finds it convenient to remain silent about the looming dangers of hiring his brother, the Rogue Councilors can claim ignorance. Deniability is built into this plan. Some might think, that placed in the City Attorney’s position, they would not even want their brother to get the job. For example, my brother has been one of the top City Attorneys in the City of Phoenix, Arizona for twenty years, but even when I’ve been between jobs and hard against it, he has never suggested that I apply for an opening there. After all, it would only taint his reputation and cause people to suspect my qualifications.

Then again, with hurricanes devastating the Gulf Coast, our City Attorney might be placing a premium on getting his brother out of harm’s way, and into the safe bosom of Ashland. To bring these two siblings together, currently separated by the entire length and breadth of the continental United States, all we have to do is pay the new Franell’s relocation expenses, his salary and benefits, the costs of extra legal advice to negotiate his contract and monitor his performance, and whatever costs arise from having him take a job that no one can tell you what it is. And for that, as Leah Ireland put it so well, we get a wonderful man.

7. Kissing Off the White Knight

Having demonstrated their imperviousness to sense, the Council found it easy to commit further blunders. They gave Joel Kramer of JPR all the excuse he needed to leave the discussion table for good. Of the “four” options on the table, many citizens liked the idea of passing management of the business to JPR, that has built a heck of a listener base and is one of the largest ISPs selling AFN Internet access. But it was clear to Kramer, probably even before the meeting, that three of the Councilors — Hartzell, Chapman, and Silbiger — were certain to vote against a JPR spin-off, and eager to proceed with the new “Open Carrier” model that the three prefer. And in predictable fashion, as these things always play out, the Council voted to focus on developing the Open Carrier option.

The Open Carrier model sounds very sensible, and quite frankly, I would support it, if it were possible. Before I explain why it’s not possible, however, I’ll tell you how the Council hopes it will work. An Open Carrier system would maintain City ownership of all of AFN. All households would receive mid-speed Internet access and a “base level of TV” (all broadcast and local channels, and CSPAN). The City would jettison costly TV cable channels that many AFN users shun. The City would add a new charge to the utility bill of between $7 and $15 per month for this service, thus going directly into competition with local ISPs like Jeffnet, Info structure, Ashland Home Net, and Open Door.

Practically speaking, of course, the financial part of the plan has already received a popular rejection. The City Council backed into a buzz-saw last year after Lee Tuneberg convinced them to add a monthly AFN charge to our utility bill. They withdrew the plan when it exploded in their face. Granted, the Open Carrier plan will give people something for their money -— Net access and basic TV – but the plan to charge everyone for service on the utility bill will not be made more palatable to those who objected they didn’t want to pay for AFN if they didn’t use it.

But let’s say, that like me, you think the Open Carrier proposal sounds good. Why do I say it can’t be done? The answer is simple. You will note that what is getting trimmed under the Open Carrier proposal is City spending “on TV.” What does that mean? That means not sending checks to the media magnates like Warner Brothers for that TV programming Ashlanders don’t seem that interested in, and that is equally available at lower price from Charter.

The high-priced question is, of course —- can we stop sending checks to Hollywood? According to Joel Kramer of JPR, the answer is a resounding “No.” Why? Kramer explained his answer in this fashion: “I would never have signed the contracts that the City signed to get television content. Most are binding until 2014. One, for religious programming, is effective until 2009.” Asked directly whether he thought these long-term TV contracts posed an insuperable obstacle to the adoption of the Open Carrier plan, he unequivocally answered, “Yes.”

So the City has signed contracts that obligate it to provide television channels like HBO, Disney, and Warner Brothers through AFN for the next eight years, and to pay the TV studios set rates per subscriber. Kramer said he was very disappointed to discover, once he got his hands on some of the contracts, that they had many onerous provisions, but was most taken aback by two things —- the extremely long terms and the fact that the contracts had been signed by the City without prior review by legal counsel. At this point, AFN’s Rick Holmboe chimed into to inform us that the assistance of a lawyer couldn’t have resulted in better terms -— the studio contracts are “take it or leave it.” You can see why the City Attorney isn’t worried about being unable to consult on AFN’s operations – they think his assistance would be of no value. Besides, our City Attorney is more than busy enough cutting deals with developers to manage the steady inflation in our residential real estate market, that is making many Medford realtors wealthy. Let AFN continue on its merry way, leaking money like a sieve! That’s entertainment!

I asked Kramer where the City’s action left JPR, and he answered: “We’re done. If the city had said they wanted to go forward with us, we would have worked on it with them. We do not want to be seen as pushing anything. If they had said ‘yes,’ I would have written up a report. Now I don’t have to write a report.” Then he was gone.

8. They Must Have Been Kidding

Joel’s statements rocked my world. I had walked into the Council meeting thinking that Open Carrier might be a tough sell to the citizens, but it seemed a logical approach to administering a valuable City resource. Though the nepotistic choice of the new Franell to do a vague job disturbed me, I felt I could still support the Open Carrier option. Now, that view had taken a serious hit, since I am disinclined to attempt the impossible. Being well-acquainted with the rapacity of entertainment lawyers, having practiced cheek by jowl with them in Century City, LA’s premier lawyer anthill, the likelihood of weaseling out of the agreements those guys build like steel traps to extract maximum revenue seemed slim. Hollywood is not to be toyed with. Through her handlers at Mattell, for example, Barbie is the nation’s most litigious woman with plastic tits.

While I was standing in the lobby area thinking about the dark side of Hollywood, out came the power troika that was rocking the cradle of their latest newborn horror — Hartzell, Chapman and Silbiger. Silbiger and Hartzell were frankly giddy. And why not? They had swept all before them. They had hired the wonderful man, they had given JPR the kissoff, and they had embarked on a course that, according to Joel Kramer, would lead straight to a brick wall. I was about to ask them if they had a plan for how to get out of these contracts, but I didn’t have to. As I listened to Cate Hartzell talking with Russ Silbiger, intermittently giggling with delight over their victory, my concern ripened into horror. The two were talking about how they could get out of the TV contracts by pricing the service so high that no one would buy it! Ha-ha! It was so funny, I joined in the joke. I said maybe we could just put one TV in the plaza, and we could all drop by and watch it, and just pay one subscriber fee. Humoring me, no doubt, and perhaps not quite getting the point of my sarcasm, even Cate laughed at the notion. I am afraid, however, that it will not be funny when the citizens realize that the Open Carrier option finances are built on the mistaken notion that the expensive TV contracts can be made to go away. Of course, the City Attorney has probably not been consulted on the binding nature of these media contracts, because he is keeping his nose out of all AFN business to avoid a conflict of interest.

9. Proceed Directly to the Status Quo

Having determined that the long-term TV contracts exist, although Joel did say he didn’t even see half of them because they are “confidential,” I was considerably let down. The Open Carrier proposal has no legs. We will have to either keep servicing those media contracts, and cutting TV out of the equation is not only theoretically going to cost you subscription revenue in the short run — it will cost you in litigation in the long run.

As Yogi Berra said, “The problem with not knowing where you’re going is, you may never get there.” He might have been talking about AFN. No one has any idea where it’s going, and it’s not likely to get there. Strangely, for an institution that is founded on law, the City has run AFN as if lawyers were a hindrance. They signed long-term contracts for television content — a product we can’t sell at a profit – and kept the agreements secret from ordinary citizens and even from prospective corporate suitors like JPR. The City has hired a new AFN director without the advice of outside or inside legal counsel to perform a job that cannot even be described. This path leads directly to more of the same treatment the citizens have received all along. Figurehead management, unconstrained spending, and a tax bill for the citizenry that expands to fit the demands of an ever-increasing, self-protective empire of bureaucrats.

When is comes to AFN, the City refuses to look at the cause of the problem, and persists in coming up with imaginative ways to hide a debt that has already been incurred, and must be paid. City spending cannot grow and grow. The town is no larger, by population, than when I moved here in 1978. But the budget, particularly under Finance Director Lee Tuneberg, has swelled in volume. Now weighing in at 423 pages of paper to describe the disbursement of $93 Million, the Ashland budget is verbally extensive and factually spare, omitting essential figures like the amount of Tuneberg’s salary, or that of the other top officials whose nests are so amply feathered. The annual report for General Motors, with total revenue of $35 Billion, is about half that length, and it lists the compensation of all top officers.

According to the census, there are 2,009 government workers in Ashland – one out of five people. We spend $4 Million per year on police. With a population of under 20,000 people, that’s $200 per year for each one of us to receive police protection, or harassment, depending on your age. Personally, I’d rather have a fourth as many cops, pay fifty bucks, and just exercise a greater degree of circumspection. If I see Dick Cheney or any other thug coming, I’ll take cover and phone Chief Bianca to talk him down. Ashland City government is a greedy little creature, and Lee Tuneberg is always looking for another place to slip in a hidden tax. Thanks to this philosophy of “we’re special and it costs more to be special,” we are the only town in Oregon where you pay sales tax on meals. In every other town in the state, your restaurant bill is 5% cheaper. Soon, if Tuneberg and the Council have their way, we will enjoy another distinction, and be the only city to tax people to give them Internet and local TV. After all, it’s the cost of being special.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:28 am


by Charles Carreon
March 14, 2006

It was summer 1970 in Boston. I arrived at Logan airport, and had a layover in Boston for the night, so I stuck out my thumb outside the airport and quickly had a ride with a guy in a cool Porsche. I was fourteen years old, and I was sailing on the after-images of a day flying in a 727 on a hit of orange sunshine. The guy in the Porsche was really nice, had his professional trip and casual style. He said he’d take me to his place to crash and drive me back to the airport in the morning, but he needed to pick up a book downtown by this guy who had just given a talk in town. When we got back to his place, he said he had to crash because he’d been burning himself out. He gave me two hits of purple microdot, saying they weren’t really that strong, and left me to sit out the night. I dropped the two hits of purple microdot, which were tiny little pills, domed on each side, with a flat ridge around the edge, a dull purple color. They weren’t that strong, but they weren’t that weak, either. As the night wore on, sitting in the nice man’s living room, I had the company of the book he had just bought, that was also purple, and had a chair on the front of it, locked in a circle at the center of intersecting lines. Around the edge of the circle it said “BE HERE NOW.”

Image Image

It was a long and beautiful night, a strange trip away from myself. I didn’t follow all of the logic and reasoning, not really, but the flow of images of saintly men and women, of dancing gods and goddesses, illustrating the world as a vast golden loop of infinity, drew me in like a net of seduction. By morning, when my very gracious host rose to ferry me back to the airport as promised, I had one more favor to ask of him – could I please buy this book from him? I still have the book, and it bears on the inside front cover a wacky fourteen-year-old-on-acid attempt to claim ownership of the book on behalf of a non-self. It’s hilarious, and warming to remember when I wrote those words, sailing aloft on wings of steel, peering out at the earth below, glorying in my mind and in the fact that I had found friends. For years I had been navigating the byways of psychedelic space with no vocabulary or context to guide my explorations. My prep school pals and I had no tools for confronting the inner landscape that yawned open before our youthful eyes. Seeing is believing, and we had seen a world we had never suspected existed within us. Now this guy, Ram Dass, Tim Leary’s pal that also got kicked out of Harvard, was teaching this Indian guru path and making it look cool.

Three years later I was seventeen, living in Tempe, Arizona, going to school, wearing sandals, flowered shirts and cutoffs, and I had a friend named Jane who was a waitress at Earthen Joy, the extremely wonderful natural food restaurant next door to Gentle Strength Coop and across the street from Changing Hands Books and the Buffalo Exchange. One day I met Jane on the ASU campus and she told me she was going to see this cool guy speak, so I went with Jane. It was Ram Dass, the guy who wrote the purple book, that frankly I hadn’t thought about in quite some time. It must’ve been hosted by the Yogi Bhajan crew, because they had the front-circle position, and seemed to know what they were doing. I was a young kid far more interested in girls than God, and yet, there was something about his voice that I really liked. After an hour or so, Ram Dass said it was time for some of us to go, and that’s when Jane and I parted company, she staying, me going.

Of Death & Compassion

I went off into the Arizona night, bicycling on the broad concrete arteries of the ASU campus, off into my life. I met a beautiful, slender blonde girl during the spring semester, and in one of those silly rebound things, I swapped my lukewarm relationship with a Catholic girl who acted Jewish for a wild head-over-heels obsession with the blonde. That summer we took a hitchhiking trip from Denver to Dallas to Florida, back up into Tennessee and Kentucky, north to Michigan and then back to Phoenix. We could cover some territory in those days. My girl had a yard of flashing gold streaming from her head, legs like a gazelle and a toothy smile. We made good time, but in the American South, that just means you hit trouble faster.

One night in Kentucky, we found ourselves on the wrong side of Green River, having a verbal dispute in a car with a man who was drunk, very big and strong. My girl said she had bad vibes from the guy when the car lurched to a stop next to us as we walked down the road. Our suspicions grew when he drove the car onto a one-car ferry that, he advised us, stopped running at nine, and took us to the other shore. As we drove on, the place he said he was taking us was just always a little farther, a little farther into the darkening Kentucky hills until the sunset turned to dusk turned to dark and at last in the pitch black night he declared that we were at the place, out in the middle of nowhere, and just needed to walk down to a lake. Nope, nope, nope. That wasn’t something my girl was going to do. And besides, she said, we had to trade places, because he’d been squeezing her leg during the whole ride. He was mad when we decided not to walk down to the “lake,” madder still when I insisted on sitting between him and my girl, and really mad after he pulled off the main road and I said “Whoa, whoa, whoa, where are we going?” He said he was taking a shortcut. I told him he was scaring us. He told me he got scared sometimes, too, which is why he kept a 357 under the seat.



Quick thinking was required, but what I remembered was that guy in Tempe, in the robe with the beads and the beard. I remembered the page in the Be Here Now book where Ram Dass is looking at his own image in the mirror. It suddenly occurred to me that the man behind the wheel, basically announcing that he was going to kill us, was a very unhappy man. It occurred to me that Ram Dass might say we should feel compassion toward this person. I remembered the page of Be Here Now where Ram Dass wrote that as his torturers were nailing him to the cross, Christ was probably feeling sorry for them. The driver got back on the main road, to my relief. Suddenly it occurred to me that I was not drinking or smoking, but the man was. I realized I must appear to be a strange person, a skinny guy with long, curly hair who doesn’t smoke or drink. I had quit smoking years before, and didn’t like beer much at all, but I asked the man if I could have a beer and a cigarette. He said yes, of course. I lit up and popped the beer can and drank and smoked, genuinely thankful to our host, who suddenly began expressing the earnest hope that we would not miss the last ferry and get stuck in the dark on the wrong side of Green River. He was driving about as fast as you should on the two-lane road, and when we saw that the last ferry was still there, we were all joyful. As we reached the other shore, the man apologized for the events of the night, explaining that sometimes he went kind of crazy. He would like to make it up to us, he said, but we were out of the car, hauling our huge backpacks as fast as we could, and literally tearing through the woods away from the terror car at top speed to get away.

Go East, Young Seekers

My girlfriend and I didn’t actually change our hitchhiking habits, just our choice of rides, but the fact was, life in other people’s cars was hazardous. We married young and traveled around the country. We got our own cars, but they were miserable experiences, always breaking down, costing too much, sending you back to the grinding system of cash generation with its boring, downer bosses, tedious material trips, and of course, restaurant jobs. Reading gets you out of your space, though, and I read anything I could find on yoga. Autobiography of A Yogi was everywhere, being pushed through the food coops and head shops where you found eastern spiritual literature in those days, and I was seized by the miracles of consciousness laid out in the book. Paramahansa Yogananda’s story was romantically beautiful. All of the problems of life were intended to be resolved through inner peace. Nothing seemed more likely to me. I had been on this subjective approach to reality for a long time.


So had Richard Alpert, the Harvard professor who would become Ram Dass. Until adulthood he enjoyed being a rich man’s son, intelligent and handsome, a doctor, a professor with money and friends. He was a tenured professor at Harvard before age forty, and the world, as he put it himself, “was his oyster.” Indeed it was. Psychedelic experiences, however, upped the ante. No longer good enough to be rich, good looking, admired and respected. Now he needed to discover the who-less who of himself, that he had become so acquainted with while flossing his brain cells with Doctor Hoffman’s mold extract. For that, only a trip to India, toting along a little medicine kit stuffed with White Lightning, 305 micrograms per little white pill, would suffice. And yes, at the top of a high mountain. Yes, at an old temple! Yes, a funny old man! Who can take all the White Lightning in the bottle, enough to make your face melt off and run down into your bellybutton, and just tease you about it. Yes, it’s God – the acid-free acid-head! LSD was the fulcrum of Richard Alpert’s psyche, the philosopher’s stone of consciousness, and like a redneck who will respect anyone who can hold his liquor, Alpert had to bow down to someone for whom acid was nothing. Not much of a well-reasoned philosophy there, but it has a certain je ne se quois.

Having gotten out of Boston and into the invigorating air of the Indian highlands, Richard Alpert found a new source of authority to make up for his loss of his teaching position in academe, the mysterious little-known holy man, Neem Karoli Baba. Neems are a type of Indian pine tree, so you can deduce that this Baba lived way out in nowhere, where nobody ever went to see him. The perfect guru for a man starting over. And indeed, according to Ram Dass, the only recorder of the events he described, they hit it off famously. Neem Karoli Baba once even told an old disciple who wanted to touch his feet to go touch Ram Dass’s instead. When the guy gave Ram Dass the devotional foot-touch, Neem Karoli Baba smiled at him. You can take the meaning any way you want. Ram Dass certainly did. The newly-named Ram Dass went to work on his image with a lack of subtlety that would have caused comment if anyone had understood what he was doing. We were so relieved to get someone who could talk about Indian philosophy without an accent, who could wear a robe but not be a priest, who had a beard like Freud, and joked about being Jewish and getting bloated after eating ice cream, that we just didn’t criticize. When he said we had to read the Bhagavad Gita, and we became the Arjunas of our personal Mahabharata epics, we knew we had Ram Dass to thank for entry into the mysterious East. No silly turbans like stage clairvoyants. No table-tapping and parlor stunts like spiritualists. Just good old fashioned internal holographic displays like you saw on acid, that had to be real. Meditation isn’t that hard, man. You’ll be tripping out in no time – Ram Dass is already on a much higher plane than the rest of us. His guru told him to feed people. His guru could read his thoughts. His guru was already so high that acid did nothing to him. Really! Talk about mind over matter. That was proof that the West had nothing on the East. They would just meditate those mushroom clouds into lotus blossoms.



So I and my girlfriend, like lots of other people, followed Ram Dass’s example and traveled all the way to India. We hitchhiked from Eugene to Phoenix to New York, caught the Icelandic cheap fare to Luxembourg, Belgium, hitchhiked to Munich, caught the train to Istanbul, and took buses through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, before we arrived at the Sacred Ganges river. There we sought out the grandson of Yogananda’s guru. We found him without much trouble. His address was as listed in the Spiritual Community Guide, but he wasn’t, as the Guide claimed, “giving strong Kriya Yoga teachings.” He wouldn’t teach us at all, he said, because a Guru took on a big job, a lifetime job, with each disciple, and he couldn’t do it if we lived in America. He had only one English-speaking student, and he spoke Hindi and had read the Upanishads in the original language before they ever met. He was sorry, and unmoved. We would have to get the yoga lessons through the mail that Yogananda’s group offered. That was for us.

So the Hindus had no use for us, and generally didn’t allow non-Hindus into their temples. While Ram Dass had led us all to believe that spiritual bonhomie was the general rule in India, we found this to be untrue. The Indians had little use for foreigners entirely, unless they could sell us something, haggling with earnest sincerity. As poor as we were, we took classes in tabla and bonsuri from three men who were all from the same Brahmin family, and through this contact gained some familiarity with the attitude of ceremony and gentle arrogance typical of the Indian upper class. We wondered without understanding as we saw people thronging the streets of Benares, carbuncled with temples great and small, overgrown with banyans, populated by orange-robed sannyasis, moving along the shores of the great Ganges river, lined with burning ghats and temples, edge to edge for miles and miles.

We studied some Buddhist meditation with an English monk named Luong-Pi, who taught mindfulness meditation. I couldn’t abide the stuffy stillness of the Buddhist approach, the tedious attention to little sensations. I enjoyed the colorful style of the Hindus, the gods and goddesses, the stories, the tales of how one deity created illusions that other deities would purify and redeem. India was a great vacation from the Western mindset, as Ram Dass had promised. We came back more alienated from our homeland than before. The remedy for this feeling was total immersion in spirituality.

Neo-Tibetans Take To The Woods

In 1978, my wife and I became the disciples of a bonafide Tibetan Rinpoche, and we built a house in the woods with help from several friends who knew nothing about carpentry, and lived there for three years on next to nothing, exploring the life of the spirit and the emptiness of the natural world. I dedicated myself to the life of the spirit, trusting that the material world would take care of itself, and in 1982 that had all lined up. I was living with my wife and two kids in a yurt out in an Oregon meadow. We were homesteading as Buddhist pilgrims in a field of alfalfa gone to seed and teasle making a comeback. We lived on student aid, food stamps, and what I could make cutting wood at about $2.80 an hour, not figuring the cost of saw-sharpening and other necessary expenses.


Poverty – not having the money to buy anything you wanted, and only some of what you needed – was our difficult friend. It kept us simple, but it kept us weak. We had very little power or independence. Like poor people all over the world, we kept as still as circumstances permitted, to keep our expenses as low as possible. We knew how long the honey, the peanut butter, and the whole wheat flour were likely to last, and when we’d get food stamps next. I just read last night in “The Intelligent Investor” by investing guru Benjamin Graham that from 1972, when I got out of high school, until 1983, when I left Oregon to get a law degree in LA, the cost of living doubled — the largest ten-year rise in US history. So times really were tough, and we bore them pretty stoically, raising a couple of little kids in a little house in a meadow, just like the Waltons, the TV family in “Little House on The Prairie,” a popular show of which I never saw a full episode. Ironically, it made us feel cutting-edge to be out of touch, because we were living the reality other Americans were watching, since like the Waltons, we had no electricity and no reception, and thus also like the Waltons, we weren't distracted from the beauty of the natural world by television. We maybe went to the movies twice a year, and ate out only under the direst circumstances of necessity. Our main source of entertainment consisted in feasting on scenery and silence, studying the shade of the sky, listening to the birds and crickets, and hating the deer for eating our garden. These were all healthy pursuits that cost nothing, except the loss of the garden to the deer, hence the anger. Everyday living left us with nothing extra to put towards pleasure travel.

So when we heard that our guru was giving a talk along with Ram Dass up in Eugene, it was a conundrum. The drive was four hours, and we didn’t want to risk the trip if it would cause us to suffer a car breakdown. We could not abide the thought that our car might break down. It was our lifeline to town. Everything depended on it. It was local hippie lore that the drive to Eugene, over all the insane passes north of Grants Pass, Rice Hill, etcetera, had put an end to more than one good workaday vehicle. We didn’t know what to do, because we really wanted to go. I had never thrown the I Ching before, but the matter seemed to demand some third-party input. I tried to figure out the method of casting the lines, and in fact got it backward, but derived a hexagram that said, in the John Blofeld version: “The superior man does nothing that is trivial.” The changing line added the commentary that “There is great power in the cart axle.” The heavens had spoken. The matter was settled. We roasted a chicken, made potato salad, packed the car and made the trip to Eugene. Of course everyone went up to see Ram Dass, and no one paid a lick of attention to my guru, who was an unromantic Tibetan man with bucked teeth and a wicked sense of humor that, however, you had to take the time to appreciate. I remember Ram Dass’s words to me as our eyes met briefly when I went up to see him. He gave me a friendly guy-to-guy word of encouragement – “We’ve been doing this for a long time, haven’t we?” It felt great, like a shot of encouragement right in my heart. We’d been doing it a long time, together, me and Ram Dass and all the other folks on the liberation train. All of us.

Secret Teachings

A month or so later, I was talking with my buck-toothed guru on a hill where there’s now a big temple. At that time, all we had were underfunded projects, so we built things out of logs and poles, and on that day we’d been working on a deck where some teachings were going to take place that summer. My guru said to me that Ram Dass, or “that guy,” as he called him, had taught him a lot. He said yes, that he had spent three days reading over his texts, preparing with his translator to deliver the teaching he gave in Eugene, but that Ram Dass had just sat there on a chair with his legs folded under him, smiling like he was having the greatest time, and talking about just anything. The Buddhist Dharma, he said to me, was not very sexy. It was, he said, like a big, ugly old truck with a noisy engine and a cab that fills up with dust and exhaust. Still, all the great masters of the past, Guru Rinpoche, Milarepa, Naropa, all of them, traveled in that same, ugly old truck, so we must use it. Ram Dass, he said, offered a much more flexible, stylish alternative. He recognized that, and was amazed at how Ram Dass had derived spiritual lessons from everything. His teachings, my guru said, were like the CIA – they might be hiding anywhere, behind any rock or tree. As he said this, he jumped around, looking behind this tree and that rock until I grasped his wacky analogy and laughed. I was in total agreement with his confessional about the geeky appearance of our Dharma vehicle, but also, I heard the ring of noble adherence to tradition in his voice, and was attracted by it. The Dharma truck, yes, I would ride in the Dharma truck.

Around that same time, I encountered Bhagavan Dass, the surfer-dude-cum-yogi who introduced Ram Dass to Neem Karoli Baba, in the kitchen of our Ashland Buddhist center on 2nd Street, in a location that has been turned into a garden restaurant because of its sunny exposure in an above-the-boulevard location. It was a sunny day when I met Bhagavan Dass, and while I was thrilled, he seemed to be a totally regular guy, not a spiritual leader in any sense. You could say he was unassuming, perhaps. What seemed strange was that in Be Here Now, Ram Dass had described Bhagavan Dass as a stellar spiritual exemplar, a man who was literally always in the flow and in the know. Perhaps, I figured, he needed the hash he was smoking in India to keep his Shiva-baba mojo going, and just slid down the psychic totem pole without it. I assumed Ram Dass had told Bhagavan Dass to check out Oregon, because his joint appearance in Eugene with Gyatrul Rinpoche had a huge turnout of over three-thousand people. Of course, he might have been headed for Antelope, Oregon, the town that the Osho/Rajneesh cult took over and turned into the last known preserve where antique Rolls Royce automobiles could roam freely in the open fields. Certainly such an environment would have been more congruent with Bhagavan Dass's interests, that struck me as regrettably concrete. I would have liked to ask him the whereabouts of Neem Karoli Baba, or his reminiscences of sojourns in the upper Ganges regions where sadhus have lived and grooved the life ecstatic for millennia. But he was focused on prospects for immediate financial improvement, and just asked about money-making opportunities in the astrological field, his wife's specialty, to which I replied that in Ashland we were historically overstaffed in that department. He and Mrs. Bhagavan Dass left town the same day they arrived, as I recall.

I wasn't critical of Bhagavan Dass being focused on his own welfare rather than ministering to the flock like his friend Ram Dass — after all, everyone has to pay for their brown rice and tofu, and indeed my own attention was increasingly focused on material matters. Certainly the idea of me meditating had turned into a huge joke with Gyatrul Rinpoche — once when I asked him what the secret mandala offering was, he responded that it was the Chod practice of exorcism, but that the real secret was how I'd been supposedly doing my preliminary hundred-thousand mantras and mandala offerings for years now, and still hadn't completed anything. About that time he also started calling me “Grandma Lawyer,” apparently because I was as loquacious as an old Tibetan woman. By alluding to my future career choice, my guru was gently showing me the door to the yurt. It was time to venture out of the vajra circle and attend to concrete reality.

I began to recognize that poverty was an obstacle to fulfilling my life desires. Further, it became a source of humiliation after wo students bought the land we were living on in a homemade yurt, and gave it to Gyatrul Rinpoche. Now we lived on the Buddha's land, and officious Dharma jerks would come by and critique the layout of our yurt, the location of the outhouse, and the fact that our refrigerator was under the porch. I wanted to buy land, and be close to my guru, but I was so broke that owning land was a ridiculous pipe dream, and my guru obviously took affluent people more seriously and regretted that so many of the Dharma simpletons drawn to esoteric Buddhism literally lacked even pots in which to piss. We were so obviously penniless that no real estate agent would have even wasted time talking to us. Reagan had become president, and was “staying the course” through the worst of the post-cold war recession, and it seemed harder times lay ahead. My mom had died unexpectedly, my father was sunk in grief, and the world without mom was mighty unfriendly — she had always helped us financially in little ways, and her death left us literally poorer than ever. In the summer of 1982, after my mom died, Gyatrul Rinpoche started work on the monumental 32-foot high statue of Vajrasattva Buddha, and told me to work only on that project, to dedicate all the merit to my mother as the representative of all sentient beings, and not to worry no matter how poor I got. I got so poor I couldn’t buy shoes. I wrote a poem about it, but it didn’t make me feel much better. I really had no shoes. My wife and I had created a third child, a lovely little girl, and I started to feel motivated toward material independence like never before in my life. Three months of continuous hard physical labor for ten to twelve hours a day, working on the foundation of the statue, had a healing effect on my grief-stricken mind, no doubt. When the academic year began, I returned to college, finished my last year of undergraduate work, took the LSAT, and got ready to join the rat race I had avoided for a decade.

Professional Buddhists


With Gyatrul Rinpoche’s strong encouragement, I went to law school at UCLA. We moved to LA with three kids and Tara at the wheel of a white and blue 61 Econoline church window-van, and me pulling a U-Haul with no blinkers behind a slant six Dodge half-ton pickup piled high with domestic belongings and crowned with Tara's rocking chair. We looked painfully like the Beverly Hillbillies, and were literally jeered by a drunk guy in a satin jacket crossing the street and eating a slice of pizza — we startled him so badly with our parade that he almost lost his cheese. Somewhere in the back of the pickup was a Vespa scooter I got from Mitchell Frangadakis in exchange for a kickass little gas-powered portable water pump that had been our running water source in the yurt that we had lived in for three years and was now lying disassembled inside an old barn in Colestine Valley. I sold the Vespa to a black mod kid who would have pushed his grandma off a cliff to get it, and a few months later he showed me the brutal gash on his shin where he'd piled it into an open car door while lane-splitting. I sold the truck a year later to an appreciative surfer dude from Tujunga for $425. But the van I would not let go of. I drove out of Topanga one day with my hand reaching into the engine compartment, grabbing the carburetor throttle with my bare hands, a drive of about ten miles through stop and go traffic on PCH. It was a goner, though, after some jerk yelled at Tara in Century City as she toodled down Avenue of the Stars, “Get that junker off the road!” We swapped it for a Mercedes 240D my dad spotted as a bargain in Phoenix, that served until I burned it up three years later and traded up to a Cherokee in preparation for our return to Oregon. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My wife got straight clothes, put on a little makeup, got a job with no experience from a guy with no class by agreeing to work two weeks for free. She worked as a top-flight legal secretary for the next twenty years. I got a haircut, a California bar license, large debts, and the means to earn money to buy land. I worked in a skyscraper in a big city, about twelve hours a day, and in the evenings we hosted Dharma events at our house, which was one of the main Tibetan Buddhist centers in a large metropolis. Life was simple, and we kept it that way. With the guru at the top, everything else fell into line. Sometimes when he came to the big city, he stayed at our house.

My guru was almost always very pleasant with me, and had a generally good feeling about my spiritual potential. He had spotted me hundreds of thousands of mantras so I could take teachings I wasn’t qualified to receive, but he figured I’d need a lot of retreat time to grind off the worldly professional patina I was acquiring in my big city job, and paying for the standard three-year retreat was another conundrum. The years went by, and I remained stuck in the big city, and when I came back to visit him, he would always ask if I was making progress toward moving back. I often told him I needed to get out of debt to move back near him, and once, after I’d been gone nearly ten years, he asked, “Are you getting out of debt?” We were, but so slowly, at times it was imperceptible. Eventually, debt or no debt, we had to get out of the metropolis. The Rodney King uprising blighted the energy of the city severely, and so in 1993, ten years after we exchanged hippiedom for yuppitude, we reversed course and headed back to the woods to reclaim our spiritual roots.

Back To The Compound

We built another yurt on a parcel of twenty acres overlooking the impressive three-story temple my guru had built with Chinese dollars and American sweat. My life seemed stable, and although the isolated country setting was inconvenient for my kids’ social lives, everyone had to sacrifice so we could be close to the Dharma. As luck would have it, the whole thing was not a happy homecoming. There was a terrible anticlimax about the whole situation. We had moved to the big city, lived there for ten years, bought land and moved back to the country to be near our guru, and built a house from the driveway of which we could see the golden roof of his house every morning. What was wrong? Well, by the time we got there, the guru was effectively gone. He had experienced a marital upset – his wife running off with a young Tibetan monk to whom my guru had shown great generosity. But there you have it – no good deed will go unpunished.

I and all of the other students had thought my guru and his wife were the Divine Couple, and as their relationship unraveled, various students were drawn into intrigues, enlisted as allies by the wife and guru respectively, and in several cases, watched as their faith was sacrificed to the newly-pragmatic order of the day. Strange new faces showed up around the temple – a Hollywood martial arts actor newly-recognized as a reincarnated tulku and his entourage. It was enough to give the most hardened stomach vertigo. The guru spent time huddled with top disciples, planning countermoves, and students stayed away in droves. A sorrow that would not disperse pervaded the place.

My guru seemed to lose all pleasure in being at his temple, a place that had been built so tantric practitioners could perform Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Trek Chod and Togyal meditations, and realize the rainbow body. The place was lonely as hell. The mountain beauty surrounding the temple became desolate and sad. The hearts of the students were dazed, confused, and silently aching. Nothing made sense. The looming temple, the monumental statues, the rows of gleaming water bowls, the multicolored brocades, the bundles of incense, the flickering butter lamps, all their colors faded when deprived of the presence of the guru whose inspiration had brought it all together, then abandoned his creation.

My guru ultimately moved away to a windy hilltop near the sea, a few hundred miles from the temple. The house was provided for his use by a wealthy young woman who had appeared about a year before at the temple. They moved into a big house on a hilltop hear the Pacific, and the coterie of devotees who must be close to the guru, and have no children or other ties to bind them, moved down there and assembled a new court.

So after ten years in the big city and moving back to the country to connect with my spiritual circle, after a couple of years back in the compound, the whole arrangement unraveled like an old sweater when somebody pulls the wrong thread. An empty temple is a lonely place that engenders a lot of strange game-playing among the students. Once in Benares we walked through a temple where a single lonely sadhu was dolefully playing a drum and singing. The local fellow who was showing us the way to our destination told us it was a temple where the guru had died. Well, that had struck me as a problem with gurus – succession planning might be difficult – but I didn’t do anything to deal with it. When the time came, and my guru effectively abdicated his throne to deal with a case of personal depression, it left me, and more importantly, the devoted members of my family, bereft of direction.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:28 am



For my wife, losing faith was about as painful as losing her skin. For over twenty years she had invested every waking thought in the project of self-perfection according to the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. She had performed a hundred thousand prostrations, many more than a million mantras, transcribed and edited teachings by our guru, built thrones, sewed every ecclesiastical fabric creation requested of her, and managed hundreds of meals and ceremonies, large and small. When she realized that nothing good had happened to her mind as a result of all her efforts, and that she was just as far from clear on the meaning of Buddhism as she had been years before, she was enraged. As the thought-structure she had created began to come apart, it was about as dramatic as the Challenger explosion, and for several years she was condemned to repeat it daily. Self-deprogramming from a delusive worldview can be painful.

My faith in Buddhism had always been tenuous, but losing it altogether was no fun. By tenuous, I mean that I always felt like a phony practitioner. My mind is incorrigibly active, and meditating had always made me more uptight, to be honest. I certainly didn’t get the hang of trancing out in meditation, like Ram Dass, who found it an adequate substitute for drugs. I generally considered myself more lucky than good, but luck is all about associating with the lucky. The lucky ones in my pantheon were the Siddhas and Mad Saints who overleaped the restraints of this world to declare the triumph of the human spirit. I had gotten quite used to relying upon their company to enliven the dreary confines of the workaday world. I was also very used to the company of wrathful and peaceful deities whose presence I had cultivated. My Buddhist lifestyle had made me able to balance various different personalities on the theory that my inherent nature was empty, but in actual fact, I had gone somewhat crazy. I woke up to my condition one day after reading a book by a Miriam Williams who had spent fifteen years of her life in the Children of God Christian sex cult, a cult that I myself had been in just before it went altogether freaky. I realized I’d been in one cult, then gotten into another one, and spent twenty years in it. My self-delusion that I hadn’t been in a cult crumbled as I reviewed the last years of my life, how I had ended up living in a remote backwoods location near an empty temple where an old Tibetan lama had broken up with his wife, and nothing very interesting was happening at all.

When we lose faith, we lose several sources of psychological comfort. We lose the social agreement and ritual activities we shared with other believers. We will no longer share homilies with the Sangha. We will not regularly read Dharma books with a reverent air. We will not push ourselves on toward the goal of enlightenment for the sake of all beings with that terribly earnest style. We will not wear special clothes, sport prayer paraphernalia or religious fashion accents. The evenings become strangely lonely when you have no fellow-believers to shore up your self-image.

I have recounted how my experiences first led me to embrace, then reject, spiritual doctrines of the sort endorsed by Ram Dass, because few people experience religious disillusionment after a long period of belief, and apostates are often not very outspoken about their despair. The faithful certainly don’t want to hear about it. Therefore, it is significant that Ram Dass clearly states in Fierce Grace that after a lifetime of faith, his near-death experience devastated his beliefs, leaving him far less certain of his beliefs than he appeared during his long and apparently self-deluded career as a spiritual teacher.

Ram Dass’s Excessively Real Visualization


During the last quarter of the twentieth century, Ram Dass was iconified as the epitome of a New Age guru with unquestioned credentials. His achievements were logged in the hall of fame and required no further confirmation. As he passed into middle age, he kept cranking out lectures that were turned into books, and kept certifying the experiences and writings of other spiritual lights. Like a restless explorer always looking for new places to discover, he at last settled into “aging” as his next big frontier. Of course, he subjected his encroaching decrepitude to the same internal scrutiny he had perfected with his meditator’s eye. One day he was visualizing what it would be like to have failing eyesight and other weakened faculties, when it stopped being an experiment, a speculation. Most human potential fans say that if you visualize something really clearly, it becomes reality, and Ram Dass should’ve probably taken that promise more seriously.

Ram Dass had just answered the phone when he began exhibiting severe symptoms caused by a cerebral hemorrhage from a ruptured blood vessel in his brain. A cerebral hemorrhage leads to unconsciousness, coma, brain damage and death as blood pressure increases inside the braincase. Ram Dass had begun to slur his words, and his friend on the other end of the line, concerned, called the paramedics. “When I answered the phone, my right side wasn't working, my words were slurred, and the friend on the phone was worried,“ Ram Dass said about the stroke. ”My friends called 911. I was on the floor when these big young firemen came. They stared at me and suddenly, I knew what it was to be old. On the gurney I remember the pipes and the long faces of the doctors and nurses. Later, I found out they thought I was dying.” An attending physician said, “Ram Dass had a massive left hemorrhagic stroke and I believe he had chronic hypertension. Since I am not his personal physician, I cannot tell you how closely his blood pressure was followed nor if it was controlled, so that may have played a part in his stroke.” The lay name for hypertension is high blood pressure. When the blood pressure went up too high inside Ram Dass’s blood vessels, one of them ruptured in his brain, and then the pressure started going up inside his braincase, and then he started dying.

Ironically, most doctors today will tell you “yoga” is good for reducing your blood pressure. The doctors of course are thinking of hatha yoga asanas and pranayama, the rhythmic stretching, relaxing and breathing exercises that some yoga practicioners perform. Apparently Ram Dass was dedicated to a subtler “heart yoga,” which he sometimes taught people to practice by imagining that they had nostrils in the middle of their chest. It must have worked for him, but he apparently missed the fact that he wasn’t taking care of his body. Like many spiritual athletes filled to the brim with the adulation of disciples, his specialness had inflated to such a dimension that it blocked an honest view of himself. In the midst of the last thirty years of hoopla, it had slipped his mind that, when it comes to death, one size fits all.


Some of us don’t look forward to dying, but Ram Dass had been anticipating the moment when death would remove the fleshly barrier between himself and “Rama” the big blue God-king from ancient India whose name he had by now repeated millions of times. Constant recitation of Rama’s name was said to be like “placing a lamp at the door of the mouth, so there will be light within and without.” Pronounced with the last “a” silent, as in “Rahm,” Ghandi shouted out the holy name the moment his assassins cut him down. Ram Dass was fond of this story, of course.

But to his own great disappointment, during the moments when his brain was failing and he was plummeting toward death, Ram Dass didn’t remember Rama, God, guru, enlightenment, or anything spiritual at all. Of course, you can hardly blame him, since nothing happened to remind him of his planned after-death scenario. He didn’t travel through a long tunnel, he wasn’t drawn to a beautiful light, no guides showed up to meet him, and he didn’t return to this world because he still had work to do among the living. He just stared at the pipes on the ceiling, noticing that they were there. He didn’t think about God, not one little bit. There’s no mystery here, unless you want to invent one. Ram Dass’s malfunctioning brain couldn’t access the programs he’d stored to know when he was dying, and how to act. He’d locked his spiritual keys in his material vehicle, and wasn’t going anywhere.

Ironies abound in Ram Dass’s situation. Ram Dass apparently thought the power of the spirit could trump physical limitations, but his physical collapse has underlined the folly of ignoring one’s physical health if one wishes to enjoy continued mental clarity. He didn’t even know he had high blood pressure, or must’ve figured he’d just muddle through on good vibes. High blood pressure kills, and you don’t argue with the numbers – you get your blood pressure down or you die.

Ram Dass believed, however, that spirit and body were fundamentally distinct, and that he had set things up in such a way that his consciousness would trend upward into clarity and peace, gradually freed from earthly constraints into “liberation.” That is the fairy tale. Now, paralyzed and cognitively impaired, unable to drive his new car, to roll his own wheelchair, to speak clearly or express his intentions unambiguously, he is a living demonstration of how the mind depends on the body to experience suppleness and beauty.

The entire wisdom of Ram Dass’s teaching is of course called into question by his own sense of complete befuddlement when faced with precisely the event for which he’d been preparing for the last thirty years. Ram Dass’s philosophy flowed from his first psychedelic experience, when he believed he suffered “ego death,” and discovered that even though “nobody was home,” his existence-less self was still “minding the store.” After getting over the shocking effects of ego-death, Richard Alpert decided it was a good thing to go through, and that it should, logically, turn you into a holy man, which is why he became Ram Dass by means of the available route – going to India with a stash of psychedelics and looking for God among the hash-smokers of Benares. But whatever Richard Alpert’s ego-death was, it must have been really different from Ram Dass’s near-death experience, because he clearly did not conceive of it as a good thing, and it didn’t turn him into a holy man. It turned him into a very sad man.

Ram Dass placed his faith in the power of the spirit to soften the reality of life. By dint of good fortune and a kindly disposition, he did in fact make his life pleasant, and he articulated a cozy philosophy that has no doubt comforted legions of believers. The history of his popularity and the adulation he received are in the record books. But when death came it didn’t stop to look at the clippings and the videos and the audiotapes. It came straight for him, and he was unable to take proactive, conscious steps to manage the death experience. In the Mission Impossible moment when the smart yogi hot-wires reality and flies off with the dakini in a magic vehicle, he froze. Nothing looked right, and he forgot what to do. Whoa! Had he been studying the wrong map? Was he like an old convict who had always said he would escape, but dozed through the big jailbreak, and woke up inside the same old slammer? Or was the whole escape story just bullshit? Was there no “outside?” Perhaps what we see is all there is. Certainly Ram Dass couldn’t testify to anything different based on direct experience. He fell from a height of certainty into a chasm of doubt about our mortal destiny. Based on his own spiritual criteria, Ram Dass announced at the beginning of the film: “I failed the test. I have a lot of work to do.” Ram Dass never recants this dark declaration, and all by itself, this statement undermines a lifetime of confident pronouncements, as both his theory and practice appear to have left him a goodly distance short of the finish line.

Revisiting The Legacy

Fierce Grace doesn’t retell a fraction of Ram Dass’s career as a guru, and indeed, doesn’t pretend to be an entire biography. Nevertheless, to leave out the scope of his life activity presents a one-sided view of the man. His involvement in pyramid schemes like The Circle of Gold in the late seventies, which siphoned money into the hands of a few spiritual and political elitists based on a ridiculous metaphysical proposition that a pyramid scheme was just a brilliant method of investing money that would make the whole world rich if we’d just let it do its work. I remember two local healers brought two of the official Circle of Gold chain letters up from the Bay Area, that you had to buy for $150, and conveyed the right to sell them to two people for the equal price. A big selling point was that Ram Dass and other spiritual luminaries appeared as senders of the original letter. The healers were unable to sell the letters to the unventuresome Ashland hippies, who wanted to buy large bags of granola and dried fruit, not silly letters that anyone could write. A few months later the whole scheme went bust. Quite a saintly venture, that.


Left out entirely is the saucy story of Ram Dass’s humiliation at the hands of Chogyam Trungpa during the early years at Naropa Institute, when Trungpa, a throwback feudal lordling with eleven incarnations in the Tibetan Ancien Regime, showed him how a tulku wields spiritual power. Ram Dass felt unable to compete when Trungpa talked about lineage. He hadn’t even asked Neem Karoli Baba what his lineage was. In a painful humiliation that ran the spiritual circuit worldwide like a satellite transmission, Ram Dass’s friend, the Hindu troubadour, had his ass-length sadhu braid cut off by Trungpa as he lay unconscious after a night of drinking at Naropa. Trungpa explained that the braid was for sannyasis, not drunkards. After that major tonsorial event, Bhagavan Dass acquired a permanent shit-eating grin that he still displays in the movie, and although the braids are back and look okay, his eyebrows are ridiculous.


Fierce Grace also completely misses the Joya Santanya scandal. Ram Dass indiscriminately legitimized a lot of mediums and holy people. One of his channel-surfing buddies, Hilda Charlton, introduced him to Joya, a thirty-something Brooklyn Jewish housewife who fell into trances from doing “the yogi breath” in the bathtub for six hours as an appetite-reduction thing. Guess she was really hungry, and Samadhi was her only refuge. After falling into trances, she developed this problem of seeing “an old man with a blanket.” Hilda asked Ram Dass to see Joya, and just like catching a fever, dear old Ram Dass went head over heels for Joya. He decided the old man in the blanket was Neem Karoli Baba, so he got his guru back, because Joya was a channel. Better yet, she was a channel with huge capacity, a virtual spiritual television who could channel anyone from Crazy Horse to Mohandas Ghandi. Joya was a scandalous divine mother given to salty language and straight talk. A little bit of Dr. Laura, a little Leona Helmsley, and a lot of Helena Blavatsky. She grabbed Ram Dass and took him like an elevator straight to the top. She taught Ram Dass what it meant to have superstar status, and locked him into a lie – they were having sex, but publicly claimed to be celibate. There was of course a discovery, more discoveries, a coverup, a scandal, an explosion, an implosion, and egg all over Ram Dass’s face, as he admitted in his book Grist For the Mill.

Ram Dass’s complete failure to perform as a guru on an equal level with Trungpa, or as a partner with Joya, is omitted from the movie, and the filmmakers don’t ask Ram Dass about those years. I would have thought they merited as much attention as the silly “Millbrook experiment,” a free-floating assemblage of self-conceived geniuses dosing on acid in a groovy mansion owned by those signal exploiters of humanity, the Hitchcock-Mellons. Wow, utopia. Not. Leary and Alpert had just been kicked out of Harvard because they had given in to the desire to proselytize and liberate the chemical sacrament, as they conceived it. They had been giving LSD outside the parameters of their job authority, and were proving for everyone that LSD caused people to lose their sense of social reality. Indeed, the fact that both Leary and Alpert seemed totally fine with their disgrace was virtual proof that the drug they championed had caused them to lose the very rationality that had been the whole reason for being Harvard professors at all.

We can thank this incredibly stupid faux pas by the Leary-Alpert pair for giving the DEA a huge win in its effort to ban an expanding spectrum of mind drugs of every type, including traditional native medicines. But even after living through a lifetime and a near-death experience, Ram Dass doesn’t realize that by getting run out of Harvard in disgrace while sporting a silly acid smile, he squandered the opportunity to experiment legitimately with psychedelics in one of the world’s finest educational institutions. Instead of defaming psychedelics with his own childish behavior, proving unable to apply scientific protocols to a serious endeavor, he could have kept his head. He could have been more like the discoverer of LSD, Dr. Albert Hoffman, for example, who died recently, mourned by all, and fit as a fiddle until he stepped off the stage.

Ram Dass also seems a bit of a selfish child grown large. He seems willfully oblivious to the shock his abrupt decision to kamikaze his career must have given his father. Shock or no, Ram Dass’s father aged far better than his youngest son Richard. As has Ram Dass’s older brother William, a silver-haired, tanned gentleman. He reminisces briefly about how Richard once wrecked a brand new boat within seconds of taking control. The future guru manhandled the shifter, causing the boat to slam back and forth between the dock and another obstacle. That was all the boating they did that day. With a resigned note in his voice, William wraps up the story with an explanatory declaration — “That was Richard” — tilting his head, raising his brows, and twisting his mouth wryly in a tolerant expression.

Yes, that was Richard, the same Richard who returned from India as Ram Dass to host flocks of barefoot young people on the golf course adjacent to his father’s country estate. That was Richard, earnestly but self-impressedly telling the crowd through closed eyes, “Now, we will meditate … for about …” here pausing for a self-adoring smile, the better to select a mystic number, “seven minutes ...” No doubt seven minutes became the right amount of time to meditate for dozens of people that day. Richard, now Ram Dass, never realized how silly he must have looked to his relatives, and how sorry his brother must feel for him now. No wife, no kids, no one to care for him. Sure, he had a hell of a good ride, the incense smoke and the adulation, but it wasn’t very virile or very challenging, and now it’s tired, cold and lonely with a crew of hangers-on standing in for a family.

We Can Do This

The moviemakers are not very receptive to criticism of Ram Dass’s past or present personality or “teachings.” Ignoring the obvious fact that a great part of Ram Dass’s spiritual value to students and devotees has been crushed under God’s careless hammer, this film highlights the silver lining in the clouds that have engulfed Ram Dass in their darkness. The feel-good machine has to be turned on high to accomplish this transformation, but after all , what is the New Age all about but doing amazing things with film? As the movie maneuvers to a feel-good conclusion, the background music becomes more encouraging. Ram Dass, it turns out, has come out of his funk. He’s battling back against the paralysis, getting on his feet, blending his own arcane grief with the pedestrian sufferings of others. He is writing a book with a man who finishes his sentences, although at the beginning of the movie he said he prefers that people not finish his sentences. The “writing” process comes across, literally, as a charade. Ram Dass is trying to make his mind produce speech from thoughts that aren’t even fully there. The writer is sitting there putting words in his mouth, writing stuff down, just guessing what to say, and he has no gift for this – he knows he’s failing, but he keeps trying. After the writer manages to come up with a complete cheeseball of a closing line, Ram Dass, smiling beatifically the while, ekes out the comment, “You’re so … New York schmaltzy”. The writer backs up, exposed. Okay, we’ll just cut that last part, he volunteers. Ram Dass says no, let’s finish it. So it is finished, but when books are written this way, by civil negotiation between a wordsmith and an aphasic older gentleman formerly-famous for his metaphysical eloquence, something has gone seriously awry. Spiritual leadership has been redefined at this point. In Ram Dass, the New Age has found its Reagan, an old warrior venerated even in dotage. Reagan had Nancy. Ram Dass has the publishing industry.

Thanks to the publishing industry, Ram Dass has got his groove back, and in so getting it back, he echoes what Wavy Gravy says to the camera with total non-seriousness – he is going ahead of us baby boomers into the tunnel of aging, bringing back the information we need to make it through. We’re not going to be let down by this movie, I realize. It’s a recovery story. As the theme sweeps onward to its conclusion, Ram Dass is interviewed in front of a hall that is never quite shown to be full of people. Baby boomers, particularly women, come to say hello, to express deep warmth, to give hugs, and Ram Dass is back on his game. He’s talking better, and he has a new rap down. A somber moment falls when his caregiver rolls him out of the empty hall, shown in its unfillable expanse for the first time. It is a lonely moment.

What’s a little lame about Ram Dass’s recovery is how he doesn’t own the bummer he was on after he first recovered from the stroke. He blames it on other people – everybody around him thinking “poor Ram Dass,” causing him to believe their negativity. Okay, I don’t want to beat up on an old man trying to get through a very hard day such as Ram Dass faces daily. But at the beginning of the film Ram Dass said he’d been jolted by his failure to manifest spiritual awareness during imminent death, and was deeply grieved by mental and physical deficits resulting from brain damage. That’s enough for anybody to be entitled to be a little bleak of spirit, but it’s typical of Ram Dass’s willingness to rise to the role of role model that he preserves his image even under hellish circumstances. At this point, his time for naked honesty is past. He needs to survive and keep on, so he is now buying into the revisionist history constructed by his handlers.

Like a Hallmark greeting card that rises to any occasion, Fierce Grace tries to make everything all right. Doggedly, the producers plow on, attempting to show how Ram Dass is carrying on. He explains to the camera that he had lost faith, and reclaimed it when he realized how bleak life is without it, so again he's a believer. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Ram Dass is saved from a permanent bummer, and we won’t have to digest his grief! But what Ram Dass believes in is a pretty vague quantity. His faith seems like a cup that’s been broken and glued back together – marginally functional and unable to bear ordinary use. It’s not entirely clear that it is an unalloyed pleasure for this old man to sing bhajans anymore. As he claps to the rhythm of a roomful of blue-state Americans singing Hindu holy songs, he gets a pained, confused look on his face. Behind closed eyes, Ram Dass seems to be digging for meaning, until he gives up the process, his emotions carry him away, and he starts to cry wretchedly. Throughout the uplifting singalong, Ram Dass’s face reveals difficult emotions, and he looks very little like the other devotees, affecting serene transports as their reward for devoted crooning. Among his many expressions, one recurs most often – ambiguous bewilderment – the look of a man who is trying to laugh along, but is not sure if he has exactly got the joke.

This is a big loss for everybody, because before his stroke, Ram Dass knew, and taught his beliefs with confidence. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his close disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth. If the salt shall lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” Jesus was telling his disciples that they had to be filled with faith, to communicate faith to others, just as salt must be salty to be of any use. Ram Dass was the salt – he communicated the flavor of the Buddho-hippie-Hindu-reincarnationist philosophy to all of us. By his own admission, however, he has slid considerably down the scale of relative saltiness. He isn’t very salty at all any more, in fact, he probably needs salt, but as the former saltiest man in America, where would he get a supply?

Despite the obvious fact that it’s time to scale down the myth to fit the reality, the makers of Fierce Grace have quite another story to tell. Ram Dass, they push us to believe, deserves continued veneration as a saint. However, they simultaneously disregard his true message, perhaps because Ram Dass isn’t consistent in communicating it, and really no one wants to hear it. Ram Dass’s true message was politically unacceptable for those in the religion business, so the filmmakers sweep it under the rug.

Instead of airing the truth that Ram Dass is disoriented by his brain damage, and is recovering from depression, the movie is intent on burnishing his credentials and piling up fuel to fire the funeral pyre of his legacy. For example, at the start of the movie, a couple from Ashland describes how Ram Dass’s letter to them after the sudden death of their daughter helped them heal from their bereavement. This scene seemed ill-conceived, like several others in the film. Granted that he wrote good consolatory correspondence with students, Ram Dass can no longer perform at that level of intellectual and emotional subtlety. Besides, what is the point of this bit of character-testimony? Obviously no one was willing to say he’d healed the blind or made the lame to walk, but why get into the competition at all? Perhaps because, with a bit of nostalgia, we can honeycoat this reality and pretend that, notwithstanding Ram Dass’s disheartening cry of pain and fear at the moment of his rude awakening, it is all okay. We’ll just crank up some emotional footage with guitar music to cover it up. Don’t worry folks, we can do this. Just close your eyes to reality, and the movie’s spin will take you to a good space where it’s “all good.”

A Diagnosis and Report of Cure




Reviewing the evidence, I would submit that Ram Dass suffered from a form of narcissism I have dubbed TIDS (“Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome”), a proposed entry for the Diagnostic Symptoms Manual for Mental Disorders. TIDS comes in three flavors – Student-Side, Guru-Side, and Transitional. Student-side TIDS causes the slavish, self-hating behavior typical of many cult adherents. Guru-side TIDS leads to a “god-realm” attitude in which internal and external events reinforce delusions of wisdom, greatness, goodness, and significance in the subject, who floats ever-higher on a spiral of self-reinforcing self-adulation. Transitional TIDS is an advanced stage of Student-side TIDS, in which the subject develops the delusion that they are turning into a guru, something that so rarely happens as to be discounted entirely from the realm of possibility. Transitional TIDS-sufferers are often highly energized and competitive, and thus are found in high levels of spiritual organizations, currying favor and partaking of the true Guru’s reflected glory, fancying themselves greater than they are ever likely to become.

Image Image

While hardly anyone gets Guru-side TIDS without the aid of outside persons who “recognize” the spiritual genius within them, virtually no one recovers from it. The self-delusive lock is self-reinforcing. Having experienced the impossible pleasure of complete guru-hood, their minds just won’t go back. Even if Andrew Cohen ends up living in a dumpster, he will still think he’s a guru. But I think Ram Dass is off the high. At the start of the movie, Ram Dass was terribly put out because he failed to think of God at all, and became absorbed in the appearance of pipes on the ceiling above him. Perhaps if he’d been practicing “bare-awareness” meditation, this sterile perception wouldn’t have disturbed him so deeply, but Ram Dass was apparently expecting some confirmation of his beliefs when the death process began, and there was none. His Guru-side TIDS condition collapsed when it was punctured by the sharp point of reality.

The proof comes from a sad scene toward the end of the movie, shot with a young girl who has come to Ram Dass distraught over the murder of her activist boyfriend by a Central American death squad. Ram Dass tries to comfort her by saying that God doesn’t follow our desires, but he clumsily invokes as an example his own disappointment at being unable to do a radio show he’d been planning before he lost his mental capabilities. Most people would say that was an insensitive response to death – to compare not doing a radio show with never seeing your sweetheart again – and the girl’s face shows it. She seems to be wondering, “What the hell? This is helpful?” By the time Ram Dass blurted that malapropism, though, the interview had turned into a debacle. He had harvested a rejection when he tried to give the girl a flower. Smiling beatifically like a sweet old grandpa didn’t work either. This girl wanted answers to deep questions, and Ram Dass struggles to converse about everything. He said to her that “losing a lover is a path,” but that didn’t help. She told Ram Dass about a dream in which she communicated with her dead boyfriend, but with his limited vocabulary, Ram Dass could barely get out a crippled exclamation that evoked a rudimentary mental state: “Yummy! Oh, yum, yum!” It’s a tortured scene. Ram Dass can’t express himself clearly; the girl’s not getting any empathy; she’s having to cover for his frailties; the whole exchange is humiliating. Ram Dass breaks down. The young lady leaves after they exchange a cute hug and she gives him a kiss. Who the hell thought this was a good idea? Well, at any rate, his career as a guru is clearly at an end.

As a Guru-side TIDS sufferer, Ram Dass’s prognosis for recovery was terrible, but he beat the odds when the outer and inner framework supporting the delusion fell apart. From the outside, he lost the charming eloquence that made him a spiritual personality in modern media. He lost the chance to do a radio show. The few cooling embers of his career can’t get his kettle boiling. And on the inside, Ram Dass lost the illusion that he enjoyed for all the years when he thought that his spirit, independent of his body, would travel on into eternity to continue the joys of consciousness. He knows death is coming with a gun loaded with darkness that he can’t see into, and he doesn’t believe the pretty pictures he painted on the darkness for a lifetime. He is free from TIDS, and subject again to the normal constraints of humanity. But don’t try to tell the moviemakers. They’ve got TIDS themselves.

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace, directed by Mickey Lemle
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:34 am


April 13, 2006

Warrior Tweakers, Good! Citizen Tweakers, Bad!


They’re tweaking again. The military, I mean. It’s not just the throttle jocks, I’m sure, who are popping Dexedrine to stay alert. It’s a war on, man, and if you can’t sacrifice a little sleep to the war effort, then what kind of patriot are you? That’s speed thinking. Compelling, so compelling of course that virtually all of the pilots flying combat missions in Iraq are in an altered state.

An altered state, may I remind you, that in an ordinary citizen is considered illegal in the extreme, a dangerous self-indulgence in a forbidden psychic kick that renders you outré. You’re a meth-head, a dangerous, child neglecting, spouse-abusing, larcenous scab on the body of society, in need of treatment and scorn. As a former prosecutor and criminal defender, I know the depictions are not far-fetched, either. Cranksters can be vile creatures, and meth induces a callousness of character that is definitively anti-social. Delusions of grandeur can feed notions of gangster mystique, and facilitate violence. I once had a client tell me in jail about how he brutally broke the kneecaps on a total stranger after taping him to a chair in his garage, because he had mistaken the poor fellow for some guy who ripped him off. After another tweaker friend came home and informed my client that the fellow was not the ripoff, they put him in the back of a pickup and threw him out in front of the emergency room and sped off. Of course, some meth users merely become weasely thieves, and do not commit mayhem. At all events, it has a corrosive effect on character.

So why do the military rate? Eliminate from your mind first the notion that the drugs are not the same. Dextroamphetamine is what the Air Force hands out to pilots, and they take extras along in the jet to self-administer as desired. Dextro just means the molecule “turns to the right” instead of to the left, but to your brain it’s all the same – left turn, right turn, speed on. To fight fatigue is said to be the reason. But a great side effect is the creation of the callous, anti-social character necessary to drop weapons of mass destruction on fellow humans. It takes a certain distance to do this sort of thing. Speed helps.

It makes me think of the lyrics from “Lucretia,” by the Sisters of Mercy:

“I hear the roar of a thin machine,
Hot metal and methedrine.
Love lost, fire at will,
Dum-dum bullets and shoot to kill,
I hear a dive bomber …
Empire Down …
Empire Down …”

Returning to the question – why do the military get to take speed? Because they need to, we are told. The Iraqis are probably doing speed, too. They’re not stupid. It gives them a little bit of advantage, what with having to stay up all night soldering together bomb-timers, and repairing assault rifles, not to mention keeping a prayer schedule. Speed helps.

Where’s The Money?

The origins of amphetamine are recent. Discovered just before the turn of the century, methamphetamine was synthesized by Smith, Kline & French in 1929. The company filed two trademarks on the trade-name “Benzedrine” in 1936, one as a tablet “medicine for the stimulation of the nervous system,” and another as a decongestant inhaler, citing first use in commerce in 1933. Glaxo, Smith Kline is still the big distributor of Dextroamphetamine for the military, and related stimulants like Adderall, for obnoxious little boys who won't sit still in school. Merck developed a simplified synthesis during the second world war to fuel the Blitzkrieg. I assume we aren’t holding back from giving infantry their share of the crank. After all, the infantryman and mechanized armor guys have the hardest work. So they’re speedin’ legally, driving humvees, tanks, fuckin’ rockin’ and rollin’ for real, and their commanders don’t mind that they’re listening to death metal with titles like “Cook Your Balls and Eat ‘Em,” ‘cause it’s a new crankin’ Army muthafucka.

War Is Hell, But Peace Is Sooooo Boring!

Our little cranksterized killers are going to have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. Death metal they’ll still have, but speed will be dearly bought with social ostracism. And they may begin to reflect on the horrors that they committed when the tunes were crankin’ and their reflexes were cleanly, smoothly distributing ammunition among the Iraqis. It seemed like a video game, but after the smoke and heroics are blown away, there is a terrible wound that the heart does not know how to heal. I knew that wound in some of my uncles who were in the infantry during world war two. They drank a lot.

Of course, the speed experience is not all exhilaration. There’s depletion and exhaustion and paranoia. No amount of speed will move the weariness out of bones that have been worked sore, and the business of dispensing ammunition is terribly wearying. I like to shoot my daughter’s .44 magnum lever-action gun, but it doesn’t have a cushion on the butt, and I’ve never shot a whole box of 50 rounds at a time. My shoulder just gets too sore. I’d hate to have to use that rifle in a war. They’d win just because my shoulder would get sore. Speed might help.

This Shit Works!

I wonder if it’s just possible that the policy makers, munitions makers and pharmaceutical makers might have realized how beneficial it would be for them to encourage the use of a drug that makes people more productive, less sensitive, more able to commit mayhem, less concerned with how they feel about what they are doing. Alfred Nobel created dynamite, some nameless chemist created speed. Who did the more powerful deed? Well, certainly their inventions worked hand in hand to make the world a far more detonated place.

Celebrity Cranksters, Celebrity Killers

Genies have a habit of getting out of the bottle, and the meth genie has been out of the bottle for about seventy-plus years now, fueling an expansion of manic energy that has probably resulted in the unnecessary damming of rivers, cutting down of forests, annihilation of entire tribes, species and ecosystems. And the toxic mentality has spread from the top down. Both Adolf Hitler and John F. Kennedy had “Dr. Feelgoods” who injected them with methamphetamine daily. Dr. Theodor Morell was Hitler’s psychiatric physician and constant companion, just as Dr. Max Jacobson was always present to serve as Kennedy’s pharmaceutical nursemaid. Both doctors supplemented the stimulant regimen with downers to moderate the manic effects of speed. It has been observed that Hitler’s mania for annihilating the Jews developed in intensity during the period of Morell’s influence.

Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

Hitler’s allies, the Japanese, were also tweaking freely throughout the second world war, as the Imperial government doled out speed to the military and civilian populace alike, to keep up the “war effort.” The Rape of Nanking, a horrific war crime perpetrated by Japanese soldiers against no fewer than 369,366 Chinese men, women and children during 1937-38, was a murderous orgy that continued for months, during which the Japanese troops raped no less than 80,000 women of all ages. Reliable historical reports indicate that the Japanese killed many millions of Chinese during the second world war, although this Sino-Japanese holocaust has received little attention or commemoration. This type of lethal productivity has the feel of a meth-fueled murder nightmare. The suicide pilots of the Japanese air force were given amphetamines to overcome the desire to survive. The Japanese reversed course on their people after the war, made meth illegal in 1952, and arrested over 50,000 people. The country still has a serious problem with intravenous methamphetamine users, who comprise a large proportion of the 2 million meth users in the land of the Rising Sun.

African Children Turned Into Killing Machines

Many of the approximately 100,000 children under arms in the world are manipulated with amphetamines. For example, in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burma, and other war-torn nations, children are taken captive, raped, starved, brutalized, and then injected crudely with amphetamines, cocaine, and other drugs, and directed to commit murderous rampages. A Washington Post article by Douglas Farah, published April 8, 2000, quoted international aid sources as follows: “In Sierra Leone, said social workers and the child combatants, taking drugs-especially amphetamines and cocaine-was a regular part of ‘military training.’ Human Rights Watch found in a 1999 report that ‘child combatants armed with pistols, rifles and machetes actively participated in killings and massacres, [and] severed the arms of other children. . . . Often under the influence of drugs, they were known and feared for their impetuosity, lack of control and brutality.’”

American Children Turned Into Substance Abusers

That’s one way to get folks into drugs young, but we are more subtle in the USA, and we use what is called “treatment.” Under the guise of treating ADD and ADHD, two “diseases” that seem to afflict little boys who eat junk food and watch a lot of TV, our little preschool punk rockers are “treated” by school nurses who dole out speed from a jar. Of course, first they started out using “methylphenidate,” aka Ritalin which supposedly “wasn’t an amphetamine.” This label-switching was ordained by the pharma marketing geniuses who started this project to turn kids into cranksters back in the fifties, because the diet pill craze was winding down, and amphetamines, bennies, white crosses, pink hearts, and black beauties had all got a bit of a bad name at the courthouse and in popular literature. The Rolling Stones helped break the bad news about diet pills in their song, “Mother’s Little Helper,” with its pleading refrain “Doctor please, some more of these!” and its jabbing rejoinder, “Outside the door, she took four more!” But the pharma hacks are always good at finding another use for powerful substances, and now, it turns out that Dextroamphetamine, mixed with meth, in a formulation called “Adderall,” is even better than silly old Ritalin. So what good is it to give speed to kids who are speedy?

Thanks for asking. To answer, I must introduce the vaunted “paradoxical effect” of amphetamines on children under some uncertain age. Marvelously, the pharma hacks explain, speed slows down speedy kids! And you know, with proper medical care and monitoring, maybe it is helpful in extreme cases. But in the USA, what’s good can get force-fed down your throat, whether you need it or not. Think lobotomies for excitable mental patients. The same thing has happened to children. Researcher Nadine Lambert recently presented data at the Consensus Development Conference indicating that prescribed consumption of stimulants during childhood predisposed young adults to cocaine abuse. This sort of obvious connection occurred to me when I heard that one of my nephews, a longtime Ritalin-kid, was doing hard time in the penitentiary because he couldn’t stop using meth. Soon, some criminal defense attorneys are going to wake up and realize that when the state gets you addicted to a controlled substance, that should be a defense to criminal possession.

Houston, We Have A Problem!

Meth has crept into our lives very quietly, and will not leave easily. It may very well explain the extreme bellicosity and hardheadedness of many white American males, who develop a strong loyalty to the drug because of its association with productivity, the work ethic, and a positive, can-do attitude. There is a great false optimism that is brimming over among the nation’s military leaders. We are going to export democracy, uproot tyranny, and kill all the bad guys. With a little crank, it’s all in a day’s work, because speed helps. On speed, we can do more. Somewhere Hitler is smiling.
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