Friday, August 01, 2014

Mike's Story Part 72: The Beginning

   I first met Mike at a symposium to observe the third anniversary of September 11.  I'd been invited to speak on the environmental disaster that had ensued from the collapse of the buildings and which I'd come to know intimately because at the time, my son had been a student at Stuyvesant High School, located four blocks north of Ground Zero.
   Through attending, and often testifying, at hearings at all levels of government as well as at blue-ribbon scientific panels, I'd become familiar with the infinitely inventive, mercurial ways in which the government lies.  They would announce they found no asbestos but neglect to add they did find exorbitant amounts of some other contaminant; use a test intended for a hard surface on a soft surface where its effectiveness was greatly reduced; not test in a place where they knew they'd be likely to find bad news; use outdated monitors which found 1/9 the asbestos detected by independent scientists; neglect to turn on a critical piece of equipment; allege, in the face of weighty evidence, that particles of a certain size were not dangerous; and in the unfortunate case where they managed, in spite of all precautions, to find anomalies, either bury them under mountains of meaningless data or "average them out" over an extended time or space until they disappeared.  In one case, they downgraded the pH level of the air by a seemingly insignificant one point, neglecting to explain that the scale is logarithmic, so the reduction is not one of approximately 10%, which is how it might appear to the untrained eye, but of a factor of ten.

   They also manipulated the message that filtered out to the public by refusing to testify at a hearing unless they could speak first, knowing that deadlines would preclude the press' being able to hear the truth from independent scientists or citizens later in the day.

   So when Mike spoke at that anniversary convocation, giving an encapsulated version of The Truth and Lies of 9/11, his revelation of corruption at a still deeper level and to a global extent resonated.  It wasn't a stretch to believe the Bush administration not only passively benefited from the attacks but actively abetted them, particularly given the massive amounts of evidence supporting the thesis and the unlikelihood that such a coup could have been pulled off without inside help. 
   Said evidence, some of which has been referred to by Senator Daschle and former Senator Clinton, includes a document by PNAC, the Project for a New American Century, asserting that the US needed to rev up its military program but that the generation of Americans who remembered the Vietnam war wouldn't support that prospect, absent "a new Pearl Harbor;" numerous warnings - which went unheeded - from French, Russian and Israeli intelligence agencies, among others, of an attack the week of September 9; highly anomalous put options on United and American Airlines which the CIA monitored in real time, thus putting the lie to allegations they were clueless that anything was up; and war games which drew planes away from the East Coast the morning of the attacks and introduced chaff onto the radar screens, confounding pilots who might have felt impelled to intercept the hijacked planes.  In direct contradiction of later testimony by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the 9/11 Commission that no one expected a plane to fly into a building, one war game included just such a scenario:  A plane flying into the National Reconnaissance Office at approximately the same time as the real hijacked plane was flying into the Pentagon. 
    Mike's talk that day culminated in the accusation: "Richard Cheney was not only a planner in the attacks but also... on the day of the attacks, he was running a completely separate command and control and communications system, which was superseding any orders being issued by the National Military Command Center - that's the Pentagon or the White House Situation Room."
   The audience gasped.  And the next chapter in my post-9/11 life began.

   There was a room backstage where speakers hung out, partaking of a box of chocolates with vodka centers.  Mike spent most of the day there talking to Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney while intermittently pursuing - both professionally and personally - Indira Singh, a computer analyst who had conducted an investigation into PTech, a Saudi software company.  According to Singh's presentation that day, PTech had infiltrated numerous branches of the U.S. government including, Congresswoman McKinney observed, the House of Representatives.
   Mike had not focused on economics in his presentation but I sensed that his Weltanschauung - his way of looking at the world - might give him insight into a question that had been nagging me for years, waiting for the right person to come along.

   "They always talk about economic growth. Can the economy keep growing forever?"

   "No!" he exclaimed, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet in frustration at our economic system as much as at the naivete of the question.

   In view of his stand on the matter, which I would come to know inside-out, as an introductory question, mine was ironic. For a fundament of Mike's world-view is that, "Until you change the way money works, you change nothing."  And the basic reason for this is growth. 

   Other writers substantiate this idea: Our economic system is based on interest, a notion that was initially condemned by all three major Western religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - when it was introduced. (Islam is the last holdout but even Shari'a banking has reconciled itself to some compromises by replacing the term "interest" with "commission.")  All three understood the unethical nature of profiting from a business while undertaking no risk oneself and doing no work beyond putting up front money.  (In the case of the Federal Reserve, even that front money was not earned; it was simply printed because of an unconstitutional gift bequeathed by Congress when it set up the Fed in 1913.)  But also embedded in the system is the implication that infinite growth is possible in a world with finite resources.

   Money, particularly paper, is the currency of a faith-based economic system.   Every year, the United States digs itself a trillion dollars deeper into debt which it has no intention of repaying because to do so is impossible.  Instead, it simply inflates the system outside the view of the American people, since as of a few years ago, it stopped publishing the M3 money supply. 

   Mike's answer to my loaded question was the first of two times he would confirm a suspicion I'd had my whole life. (The second would also be about economics,   I'd always wondered: When everyone was thrown into poverty after 1929, where did all the money go?  At a press conference held during a break at Petrocollapse, the Peak Oil conference which took place the following year, Mike said, "The Depression was not a loss of money; it was a transfer of money.")

   After the conference I returned to Google, that ever wakeful, impassive eye, as well as to Mike's website,, to educate myself in yet another field which was, as far as I was concerned, virgin.
   His book, Crossing the Rubicon, was hard to take in with only one reading. Each sentence represented a lifetime of work so that when 9/11 took place, his decades of experience paid off in that he knew where to look, whom to call for clarification.  But having read it twice, I'm convinced that few of the people, whether sincere or malicious, who write him off as an alcoholic/kook/conspiracy theorist, have bothered to read it.  (He openly admitted to having been an alcoholic as well as having been hospitalized for suicidal depression.  But when director Chris Smith asked him about conspiracy theories in the movie, Collapse, Mike replied, "I don't deal in conspiracy theory; I deal in conspiracy fact."  At his best, he minimized speculation in favor of just the facts, Ma'am.)

   The main motive for the attacks, Mike and his cohort alleged, was Peak Oil, the point at which the maximum amount of easy, conventional oil is produced on a global scale.  The projections for the date of this watershed event tend to range from 2008 to 2015 but such distinctions are infinitesimal in comparison to the event itself, whose arrival changes everything as it necessitates a reversal of economic growth.  (The introduction of technologies such as fracking, as well as shale and tar sands extraction extends our current economic paradigm of infinite growth but at intolerable cost to the environment.)  
   Einstein spent his life looking for a Unified Field Theory which would tie together gravity and other laws of physics that explain the universe.  It seemed to me that Peak Oil was the Unified Field Theory of global collapse, tying together the increasing volatility in the economy and the climate as well as the environmental destruction wrought by desperate efforts to mine the earth for resources.   
   I sent FTW an article on the environmental disaster of 9/11. Apart from an expose by Juan Gonzalez in October 2001 and further revelations by Andrew Schneider in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by 2004, there was still little understanding among the general public of the cost in lives and health of the aftermath of the attacks.  FTW published the article.

   Then, studying the website's daily dispatches, I developed a sense of what they were looking for and began sending them articles from the mainstream media that might be up their alley.  They featured many of these finds as well 
   As with my research on the contaminants of 9/11, I also emailed this new information to allies from the battles of Lower Manhattan. Some were as hostile as they'd been three years earlier - when they had asserted that the government would never lie to the American people about the air quality - only now the jeers were muted by years of bitter experience. 

   In July of 2005, while speaking at the 9/11 Truth Convergence conference in Washington D.C., I saw Mike again when he served on a panel of questioners at a 9/11 hearing chaired by Congresswoman McKinney at the House of Representatives.
   Among the witnesses were several of the "Jersey girls," whose testimony conveyed outrage and the sort of exhaustive research that is fuelled by a determination I understood only too well.  Although they didn't explicitly accuse the Bush administration of having a hand in the attacks, they appeared to have read Crossing the Rubicon, referring to the stonewalling of investigations by Dave Frasca of the Radical Fundamentalism Unit of the FBI and other red flags that Mike had investigated.

   A couple of weeks later, I got an email from Jan Lundberg of Culture Change who'd read an article I'd written following a brief email correspondence with Robert Hirsch, the lead writer on a report on Peak Oil which had been commissioned by the US Department of Energy.  Lundberg asked if I'd moderate Petrocollapse, the first Peak Oil Conference in New York City, for which he would obtain the seed money.

   Organized with five weeks' notice, (for the last two weeks of August, we could do nothing but wait for the manager of our first choice venue to return from vacation,) the conference took place October 5.
   It was a stark, tell-it-like-it-is event. Although we had some Permaculture experts who offered advice on how society could get itself out of this mess, the over-all impression left a number of volunteers and audience members depressed.  In an effort to dispel the gloom, the next NYC Conference, organized by Phil Botwinick and the NYC Peak Oil Meetup the following April, optimistically called itself Local Solutions.

   But Petrocollapse afforded an opportunity for Peak Oil experts such as Mike and James Howard Kunstler, who'd previously known each other only through their writings or even by appearing in the same documentaries, to meet in person.

   Now part of the regular FTW circle, I let it be known that I'd be interested in a permanent job.  A while later, in February, the phone rang.
   "Is this the wonderful Jenna Orkin?" a male voice asked with an audible grin.
   I affirmed in a neutral tone, not engaging in whatever game this was.
   "The beautiful, intelligent, sexy Jenna Orkin?"  the voice continued.
   I would have hung up except that the confidence of the caller suggested he knew me personally.  Whoever he was hailed from an era when such an overture might have been thought of as flattering rather than sexist.  The approach carried the aura of Hollywood.  Perhaps it was one of my father's friends, some of whom held such attitudes towards women though, God knows, they kept them in check with their colleagues' daughters.
   "Who is this?" I asked.
   "This is Mike Ruppert...  Did you think it was a crank call?"
   "Yes!"  I sighed with relief.  How close I'd come to hanging up on the man I currently held in highest esteem.
   The ensuing eruption of laughter was slightly forced, as though at the absurdity of the notion that his approach generated overtones of an obscene phone-call. 
   He offered me the job of managing the FTW blog which would be launched some time in the next few months.  Naturally, I accepted.  (The blog would become the only remaining functional part of FTW after mid-2006 so that it was later contacted by Julian Assange of Wikileaks before he came to world prominence.)

   Two months later, Mike was in New York again for the Local Solutions Conference.  We hung out together the whole weekend, the first and most romantic in our ten year relationship.  I recited to him my poem, "King George and the Knights of the Oval Office; or:  9/11 for Dummies," which he fully appreciated.  (His compliments were as generous as his insults could be maddening.)

   “I feel so lucky,” Mike said.  “Remember Calvin and Hobbes?  There’s one cartoon where Calvin’s standing at the top of a hill and he trips over nothing and goes tumbling down.  Then he picks himself up and says, ‘Tada!’  After all I’ve been through, that’s how I feel.”
   “Will I see you again?” I asked.  From the way everyone at the conference talked about Peak Oil, it sounded as though the collapse of society was imminent.
   “You?!  Of course!  Come to L.A.  I’ll show you the sights, the old FTW office, where I went to High School...  I’ll play you all my favorite music and you can play me yours.”
   “Do you know anyone with a piano?” 
    “I’m sure I do.”
   He mused about how well we got along.  “But there are some formidable obstacles,” he observed wryly.
   On the last day, Mike, his Office Manager, Monica Psomas and I were in a cab heading west on 34th Street when, without saying anything, Mike pointed out a sign on the second storey of an office building: Spy Store.
   I laughed at the irony of happening upon such a store while in a cab with Mike, of all people.

   "Sorry, driver," I said. "I'm just laughing because....”  It was impossible to give an accurate explanation.  “I used to be a spy."

   Later, when I knew Mike better, I understood how that comment must have spooked him, in every sense of the word.  (He did once ask what it had meant.  It was nearly impossible for him to wrap his head around an upbringing like mine in which the intelligence world is simply the stuff of movies.  From my end, I couldn't imagine how he could think a real spy would risk joking about her m├ętier and arousing suspicion.)
   Once Mike got back to L.A., I elaborated on the fantasy in an email:

   I went to the Spy Store yesterday. My poison-tipped umbrella was broken. The poison tip works OK but the umbrella leaks.

   Mike called on his way to Mary Tillman's house to copy thousands of pages of documents for Stan Goff's series on the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan from friendly fire.  Then he replied to the email:

   On a poison-tip umbrella scale, the danger involved is about a four. When it gets to seven is when I start worrying.

    Perhaps he was closer to seven than he realized. Within two months, the FTW office was burglarized and all seven computers, smashed.