Talking war and secrecy with William M. Arkin

For the last 40 years, William M. Arkin has been studying war: first for the Army, when he was a military analyst stationed in West Berlin, then for groups like the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Human Rights Watch. He has also been a columnist for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. In 2010, Arkin made waves coauthoring the series “Top Secret America” with Dana Priest for the Washington Post (later published as a book of the same name). Recently he launched Phase Zero, a Gawker blog covering national security issues. His latest book, Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare, arrives July 28.

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James Tracy and the Boston Marathon bombing deniers

On April 8, Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found guilty of the bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others. His life now hangs in the balance, as jurors decide whether he should face the death penalty or life in prison. To jurors, Dzhokar’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. But for a small crowd of conspiracy theorists, the defense team’s admission of guilt was just the latest in a series of lies told to the public in service of a larger, false narrative.

There’s no modern conspiracy theory that’s more counterintuitive or flat-out mean than the belief that the victims of the Tsarnaev brothers (roughly 260 injured and three killed) were merely actors. According to this theory, the dead and wounded are the real criminals, working in league with a secret government to hoodwink the American people.

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I Was A Teenage Transhumanist!

I recently reacquainted myself with Timothy Leary’s books when I wrote an article for The Kernel. In it, I took a critical look at some of the more ridiculous aspects of transhumanism — the five-figure corporate seminars, the technolibertarian greed, the bizarre belief that Technological Singularity is imminent — as well as some of the cooler, more down-to-earth folks that make up the scene. Or the meme. Or whatever it is.

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In the basement with transhumanism’s DIY cyberpunks

When he isn’t working at a parking lot in Uptown, Kukulski publishes books under the Six Gallery imprint. A local institution, the press publishes everything from experimental fiction and poetry to essays and memoirs. (And yes, I’ve worked on a couple projects for the press in the past.) It also published its fair share of speculative fiction and science fiction, literary genres that hold a special place in Kukulski’s heart.

Tonight we’re talking transhumanism, the nebulous belief, prevalent among Silicon Valley’s monied elite, DIY body hackers, and some very well-trod zones of Reddit, that with advancing technology, humanity is inevitably going to take the reins of our own evolution and become something post-human. (Or multiple kinds of post-human.) Strains of it appear in everything from William Gibson’s early cyberpunk work to the video game Deus Ex to David Cronenberg’s adaptation of The Fly. As a method of extrapolating the present into any number of potential futures, it appeals to a particular breed of cerebral sci-fi fan.

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Peter Levenda on Cthulhu, Kenneth Grant, and the ‘sinister forces’ in American history

If you want the maximum bang for your book-buying buck, you could do worse than Peter Levenda. Aside from his probable authorship of the Necronomicon, Levenda has written something like a dozen books on occult history. His most ambitious work, Sinister Forces, is a three-volume set that details the dark side of the American story, from whatever happened to those pre-Colombian American civilizations to CIA mind control experimentation and beyond. Ultimately, Sinister Forces is an examination of America’s failure to acknowledge the existence of evil — and it does this through a relentless deluge of conspiracist high weirdness. The books are fascinating, and they’ve earned kudos from fellow authors Jim Hougan (who called it “one of the darkest and most provocative books that you are ever likely to read”) and Norman Mailer.

I interviewed Levenda a while back about these sinister forces, and about his book The Dark Lord: H.P. Lovecraft, Kenneth Grant, and the Typhonian Tradition in Magic. The transcript was edited for space and clarity, mostly because I had a fever when I did the interview, and really I wasn’t making all that much sense. This didn’t seem to bother Levenda, however. He’s able to be erudite and well-spoken with very little prompting.

In The Dark Lord, you discuss the occult significance of H.P. Lovecraft’s work — an idea that Lovecraft himself would disavow. When did you become interested in the subject?

It was the paradox that intrigued me initially. Lovecraft was a self-professed atheist, and someone of a very scientific bent. He started writing articles for an astronomy magazine, he had wanted to become a scientist and an astronomer. He just wasn’t able to do that because of his family situation, living at home and the fact that he was sickly through most of high school and had a very hard time graduating high school because of that. So, one thing led to another and he wasn’t able to gratify that urge that he had. But he considered himself a scientist. He had no patience with mysticism, occultism, or religion for that matter. Yet he is considered the father of modern gothic horror, which for him is based on a scientific appreciation of the fact of science, of the fact that reality as we know it, being at its heart composed of vast distances and vast amounts of time. He found that to be unsettling. He was totally opposed to any idea of their being any kind of spiritual forces or entities coming into this world from the outside. And yet, that’s all he wrote about.

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Alex Jones, the death of Bill Cooper and the rise of the Conspiracy Creeps

For many years I sincerely believed that an extraterrestrial threat existed and that it was the most important driving force behind world events. I was wrong and for that I most deeply and humbly apologize.

— Bill Cooper

The conspiracist M. William Cooper (but you can call him Bill) was born in 1943. According to his bio, he was a Vietnam-era veteran of both the Navy and the Air Force, and later some sort of photographer, before making a name for himself in the “UFOlogist” counterculture of the 1980s with extraordinary tales of extraterrestrial races, secret human populations on the moon, and his predilection for championing known hoaxes (such as the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion) as documentary evidence of a worldwide global conspiracy of the rich and powerful intent on enslaving every last one of us. Cooper even had a term for you and I, the everyday schlubs who refuse to see the truth in his message and join him on his crusade. We were mere “sheeple,” he’d say — a portmanteau of ‘sheep’ and ‘people’ — “cattle by choice and by consent.”

“I read while in Naval Intelligence,” he claimed, “that at least once a year, maybe more, two nuclear submarines meet beneath the polar icecap and mate together at an airlock. Representatives of the Soviet Union meet with the Policy Committee of the Bilderberg Group. The Russians are given the script for their next performance. Items on the agenda include the combined efforts in the secret space program.” (The secret space program, of course, being that which has established a military presence on the moon and Mars.)

Cooper continues: “I now have in my possession official NASA photographs of a moonbase in the crater Copernicus.”

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Whole Foods and the Boston Marathon bombing

A certain website has apparently gone off the rails (further off the rails?) in its attempts to crack the alleged conspiracy behind the Boston Marathon Bombing. One of the current obsessions of this publication, according to an insider who wishes to remain anonymous, is the recent courtroom revelation that after triggering the explosions that killed three and wounded almost 260 people, the Tsarnaev brothers went to a local Whole Foods to buy milk.

Questions loom ominously: Was this an attempt to establish an alibi? And why did they choose Whole Foods, of all places?

In the hope that I might save these beleaguered conspiracists some trouble, I’d like go ahead and point out the mind blowing connections that lay below the surface of the Boston-Whole Foods-New York-9/11 conspiracy matrix.

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The presidency is unsustainable: an interview with Joseph G. Peschek

 

Joseph G. Peschek is the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Hamline University. His latest book, The Unsustainable Presidency: Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Beyond, argues that the the modern American president’s power largely exists within a narrow context: to produce unlimited economic growth and national security through the expansion of empire.

Do you believe America now has an “imperial presidency,” as John Boehner has charged, in which President Obama is exercising power beyond constitutional limits?

That ‘imperial presidency’ charge is short-term politics. In the context of some of the things that Obama has done on immigration, in particular maybe relations with Cuba and a few other things, there’s nothing new about that. I would say that we do have an imperial presidency, but it’s not because presidents issue executive orders from time to time that upset the other side of the aisle. We have an imperial presidency because America is an imperial power.

Just to refer to Obama’s State of the Union address, he did talk about the troops coming home and so forth, but at the same time he asked for authorization to attack ISIS, and those sorts of operations will continue. And that’s part and parcel with a modern imperial presidency. America’s a global superpower with military and undercover operations all over the world, and that’s probably going to continue. And there’s very little debate about that, because both sides are pretty much committed to that approach—whatever differences they might have about relations with Cuba, for example, the show goes on.

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Wikileaks meets Surveillance Valley: An interview with Julian Assange

“The problem,” says Julian Assange, is that “a lot of groups that would normally criticize Google, the nonprofits that are involved in the tech sector are funded directly or indirectly by Google. Or by USAID. Or by Freedom House. Google and its extended network have significant patronage in the very groups that would normally be criticizing it.”

Assange is speaking over the telephone from his exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. I’m 3,700 miles away in the eastern United States. The connection is awful, which makes the conversation stilted and weird. It also lends the whole affair a certain degree of intrigue. It feels like the secret police could bust in and confiscate our shortwave radios at any minute.

“For example,” he continues, “the EFF is a great group, and they’ve done good things for us, but nonetheless it is significantly funded by Google, or people who work at Google.”

I wanted to make sure I heard him right: “Are you saying that if it didn’t have those ties, that the EFF would be more outspoken against Google?”

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From Pittsburgh to the End of the World

Adam Parfrey writes of “individuals who have the audacity to consider themselves their own best authority, in repudiation or ignorance of the orthodoxy factories of the Church, University or State. The constructions of these folk researchers may often seem wildly amiss, laughable, disreputable, but are more revealing cultural barometers than the acculturated pabulum of compromised and corrupt professionals.” This type of “folk researcher” is an American institution, as exemplified by such eccentrics as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and C.T. Russell.

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