Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The great historic house museum debate

Do we have too many? The surprising fight over a quirky, dusty, and endangered American institution

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox.
Add caption
By many measures, the museum world today seems sexier and more successful than ever. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced in June that its annual attendance had topped 6 million for the third year in a row, its highest levels on record. In the Boston area, institutions including the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Peabody Essex Museum have opened sleek new additions or entirely new buildings designed by big-name architects. The Museum of Fine Arts recently opened a glamorous new American wing to great fanfare.
Far outside this moneyed club lies the humbler community of small historic house museums. Located in former private homes, and often run by local historical societies and volunteers, the museums share a traditional template featuring a guided tour, antique furniture behind velvet ropes, and a small gift shop. Sometimes the original residents of these houses-turned-museums are still nationally or regionally famous—presidents, great artists, or titans of industry. But in many cases they were merely wealthy locals, or other citizens whose home just happened to survive long enough to become the oldest building in town. Whatever the original motivation for their preservation, historic house museums have become a ubiquitous feature of America’s cultural landscape. The National Trust for Historic Preservation roughly estimates that there are more than 15,000 across the country—that’s more than the number of McDonald’s restaurants in America.
House museums can seem like the sleepiest corner of the museum world: They tend to be small spaces with small budgets, elderly volunteers, and even older furnishings. But recently they have become the center of a live, even contentious debate. Although some well-known house museums are thriving, many smaller and more obscure places are struggling. Their plight is so drastic that some preservationists are now making an argument that sounds downright blasphemous to defenders of these charming repositories of local history: There are simply too many house museums, and many of them would be better off closing.
The argument has reached a surpisingly fevered pitch. Since the turn of the millennium, high-profile preservationists have published articles in scholarly journals and professional publications with incendiary titles like “Are There Too Many House Museums?” and “America Doesn’t Need Another House Museum.” They have held conferences and panel discussions on the so-called crisis with titles like “After the House Museum.” Stephanie Meeks, the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is among the critics, even though her own organization maintains 20 house museums of its own. Turning old homes into museums has long been “the go-to preservation strategy,” she said. “But there are only a handful I can think of that are really thriving with that model.” Last fall, Meeks delivered a pointed keynote speech at the National Preservation Conference titled “House Museums: A 20th-Century Paradigm,” in which she argued that the traditional house museum model is often financially unsustainable and has been drastically overused, and preservationists must look beyond it. “The time for talk has ended,” she announced, “and the time for action is upon us.”
globe file photo
Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury.
But others parry that house museums—even the struggling ones—play an important role in the culture, and that the basic model isn’t broken at all. “I feel deeply the opposite,” said William Hosley, a Connecticut-based former museum director and current consultant who has become something of a firebrand on behalf of small historic house museums. “The future of not just tourism but our cultural heritage in general are these thousand points of light, these local communities that have some special thing, that have something deep and meaningful. Not every house museum is great, but I’ve never seen two alike.” Creative new ideas for savings or repurposing imperiled house museums are beginning to proliferate. Meanwhile, this tranquil corner of the world has turned into a battleground over cultural homogeneity, public vs. private ownership of community resources, and the decline of public history in America.
Mount Vernon, a 21-room home on the banks of the Potomac River, was the longtime home of the country’s first president, so it is fitting that is also became the country’s first house museum. For history-museum professionals, the story is legendary: The house was falling into disrepair when a wealthy South Carolina woman, Ann Pamela Cunningham, and her newly assembled Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association banded together to purchase and restore it in the 1850s. It remains the most popular historic estate in the country.
The Virginia mansion became the blueprint for thousands of its descendants all over the country, as state and local organizations began saving significant properties in a process critics call “museumification.” The first wave of preservation focused on Revolutionary War sites. By the early 20th century, houses were being saved for their architectural interest, their famous former residents, or simply because it felt wrong to allow them to be demolished. The nation’s bicentennial in 1976 launched a new outbreak of interest in local history; again, the default move was museum creation. “Every community in America in some way got interested in their history” in 1976, said Carl Nold, president and chief executive of the Boston-based “heritage organization” Historic New England.
The typical house museum invites visitors to imagine themselves as residents of a home at a particular moment (or moments) in history, and informs them about a slice of the country’s past. Traditionally, it features a tour led by a volunteer docent, perhaps one wearing a period costume, leading visitors up tight staircases and down hallways and letting them peek into rooms featuring an arrangement of antique furnishings. House museums’ vibrancy and professionalism may vary, but there’s always a certain memorable magic to be found inside. At the very least, many of them tell a local story that might otherwise be forgotten.
A survey of existing local house museums illustrates just how profuse they are. In Massachusetts alone, you can tour the homes of Paul Revere, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Clara Barton, but also lesser-known lights like inventor Benjamin Thompson, ship-owner Jeremiah Lee, minister Benjamin Caryl, and 19th-century activist and author Edward Bellamy, best known for writing a utopian novel set in the year 2000. Some sites wind up competing with each other: In New Hampshire, there are two Franklin Pierce house museums less than 30 miles apart, run by two different organizations.
House museums face obvious problems like competition from rival museums and online distractions. Then there’s the declining emphasis on history in public education. But the problem reaches beyond the classroom, and raises larger questions about contemporary cultural priorities. As Hosley points out, 20th-century philanthropists like Henry Ford and the Rockefeller family devoted millions of dollars to public history museums like Greenfield Village and Colonial Williamsburg. When Calvin Coolidge left the presidency, he became president of the Council of the American Antiquarian Society. Today, the Gateses and Clintons of the world are more likely to invest in public health or STEM education—worthy causes, of course, but not ones that are about public history.
globe file photo
Willard House and Clock Museum in North Grafton.
In her speech last fall, Meeks called Mount Vernon “a beguiling exception, because it established and forever legitimized a model that just doesn’t work very often.” Many house museums are run by small nonprofit organizations, staffed largely by volunteers, and boast minimal endowments. Some limp along on annual budgets as low as $10,000, just enough to fix a leaky roof and pay the bills for heat, electricity, and a security alarm. The National Trust for Historic Preservation survey found that more than half received no more than 5,000 visitors a year. In 2011, the organization produced a “Closedown Checklist” for historic house museums considering their options.
In New England, which boasts more museums per capita than any other region, and whose tourism brand is built around history, the problem is particularly pressing. “House museums in particular have a number of challenges, not least this great competition in New England because there are so many of them,” said Dan Yaeger, executive director of the New England Museum Association, which serves institutions and professionals in the region. “It’s a competition for resources.” The organization doesn’t keep track of house museums specifically, but more than half of its 486 institutional members are history museums, and 73 percent of those have annual budgets of less than $250,000.
What’s the harm in letting a house museum limp along indefinitely, and even fail? Critics point out that this often means deferring critical maintenance that actually works against the aims of preservation, for one. But the larger issue is that if a house museum attracts only a trickle of visitors—some are open by appointment only—it isn’t serving its community as robustly as the building could in another capacity. Turning a historically significant property from a near-empty museum into a bustling community center isn’t a failure, they say, but a success.
The museums’ supporters protest that small historic house museums have something more special to offer than simply a space for community, if given the chance to survive. As museums, they often emphasize the intimate domestic stories of women and family life, frequently overshadowed by grander narratives in larger museums. The offbeat, sometimes haphazard nature of their collections also means they are a repository of the strange and diverse, the kinds of things that might slip through the cracks in more professionalized institutions. (Yaeger points out that these offbeat collections can become a burden, especially as baby boomers begin downsizing into smaller homes and turning over the contents of their attics to local historical societies.) They often serve small and remote communities that don’t have big sparkling art museums: A National Trust survey in 1988, the last major national survey of house museums anyone has conducted, found that 70 percent of all house museums are in rural locations or in places with populations under 50,000.
Hosley argues that if any region should treasure these resources, it’s New England. “The beauty in New England is we’ve got all this content right in our backyards. A lot of it is housed in and dependent on the survival of these local little historical societies and house museums,” he said. “They are the delivery system for the content that tells the story of our national history. It’s great to go to Bunker Hill and Independence Hall, but if that’s all Americans know about our history, they’re missing half of it.”
Some once-struggling house museums have found ways to stabilize their finances, and even to thrive. The Mount, Edith Wharton’s country home in Lenox, found itself on the brink of bankruptcy in 2008. Today, the museum is steadily climbing back to solvency, in part through the kind of creative programming that draws repeat visitors. This month it is hosting “Touchstones at the Mount,” a series of Friday-evening conversations with well-known authors. “Our traditional visitation is holding steady, or maybe declining slightly,” said Susan Wissler, who took over as executive director in 2008. “It’s the programming that is bringing people to the property.”
Franklin Vagnone, executive director of the Historic House Trust of New York City, has delivered a lecture called “The Anarchist Guide to Historic House Museums” all over the country in the last few years. In it, he argues that house museums need to do a better job of engaging with their local communities, by doing things like revitalizing their programming and telescoping out from a focus on one historic (often white) family. Vagnone calls it a “call to action” for the future of historic house museums: “I value them, I love them, but they’re not going to stick around unless we really do some drastic rethinking.”
Today, alternative models are discussed openly among professionals. In her 2007 book “New Solutions for House Museums,” preservation consultant Donna Ann Harris presented case studies describing eight alternative strategies for struggling house museums. Her proposals include merging with another house-museum organization, leasing the property to a for-profit entity, or selling outright. (Hosley, in his brash way, likes to refer to this book as “The Final Solution for House Museums.”)
Historic New England has also assumed a lead role in the discussion about the future of failing house museums in recent years. The organization maintains 36 public historic sites in the region, but it also operates a formal Stewardship Easement Program that offers struggling house museums (and other owners of historic properties) the means to sell while also legally guaranteeing that certain features will be preserved in perpetuity. “There are lots of ways to preserve a building without making it a museum,” Nold said.
A few high-profile house museums have closed in recent years. People who want to visit the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee in Alexandria, Va., which served as a house museum for 30 years, are now out of luck, for example: The Civil War preservation group that owned it shut down and sold it to a private owner in 2000. Several of the National Trust’s 20 traditional house museums are also in transition to new models. But despite the drumbeat of calls to rethink their missions, or even to close, Harris says she has seen little evidence that many house museums have taken her advice since her book was published in 2007. “If you’re talking about a community institution, a landmark that people have been concerned about for generations, getting their stewards, their board of directors, to try to take action is very hard,” she said. “A lot of it is very emotional.”
It seems inevitable, however, that not all house museums will survive forever in their current forms. They may find vital new lives as youth centers, revert to use as private homes, or be pressed into service to house, educate, or entertain their communities in other ways, perhaps even more effectively than they did as quiet history museums. But that’s not to say that they won’t be missed. “You know palpably when you go into a community that’s turned its back on its past,” Yaeger said. “There’s a sense of loss there.”
Ruth Graham, a writer in New Hampshire, is a regular contributor to Ideas.

Astonishing List: 71 Dead Bankers

Before proceeding to the list, I suggest you reading the following piece: 'Suiciding' the Bankers and Billionaires -- Do You Know Why?

I've recently stumbled across a list of top bankers that have been killed in cold blood, died in "accidents" or have allegedly committed suicide. In some of the cases, their deaths are so suspicious that the 'suicide' verdict is simply ridiculous, as you will see.

While searching for news reports documenting their deaths, I've managed to find a lot more cases of high ranking bankers that have been found dead in suspect circumstances. I've added the cases to the list and included the appropriate reference links.

The fact that none of them died of natural causes is absolutely stunning.

1. Nov - Shawn Miller, 42, Citigroup managing director - found dead in bathtub with throat slashed. Murder weapon is missing. - Reference.

2. Oct - Edmund Reilly, 47, a trader at Midtown's Vertical Group, threw himself in front of a speeding Long Island Rail Road commuter train. - Reference.

3. Jan - William 'Bill' Broeksmit, 58, HUNG/POSSIBLE SUICIDE - Reference.

4. June - Richard Gravino, 49, Application Team Lead, JP Morgan, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown/pending

5. June - James McDonald - President & CEO of Rockefeller & Co - apparently self-inflicted, GUNSHOT WOUND

6. May - Thomas Schenkman, 42, Managing Director of Global Infrastructure, JP Morgan, SUDDEN DEATH, cause unknown/pending

7. May - Naseem Mubeen - Assistant Vice President ZBTL Bank, Islamabad, SUICIDE jumped

8. May - Daniel Leaf - senior manager at the Bank of Scotland/Saracen Fund Managers, FELL OFF A CLIFF

9. May - Nigel Sharvin - Senior Relationship Manager Ulster Bank manage portfolio of distressed businesses, ACCIDENTAL DROWNING

10. April - Lydia (no surname given) 52, France's Bred-Banque-Populaire, SUICIDE jumped - Reference.

11. April - Li Jianhua, 49, Non-bank Financial Institutions Supervision Department of the regulator, HEART ATTACK

12. April - Benedict Philippens, Director/Manager Bank Ans-Saint-Nicolas, SHOT

13. April - Tanji Dewberry - Assistant Vice President, Credit Suisse, HOUSE FIRE

14. April - Amir Kess, co-founder and managing director Markstone Capital Group private equity fund, CYCLIST HIT BY CAR

15. April - Juergen Frick, 48, Bank Frick & Co. AG, SHOT Dead

16. April - Jan Peter Schmittmann - former CEO of Dutch Bank ABN Amro, (Possibly suicide, SHOT)

17. April - Andrew Jarzyk - Assistant Vice President, Commercial Banking at PNC Financial Services Group, MISSING/DEAD

18. March - Mohamed Hamwi - System Analyst at Trepp, a financial data and analytics firm, SHOT

19. March - Joseph Giampapa - JP Morgan lawyer, CYCLIST HIT BY MINIVAN

20. March - Kenneth Bellando, 28, (youngest) former JP Morgan, SUICIDE, allegedly jumping from his apartment building. - Reference.

21. Feb - John Ruiz Morgan Stanley Municipal Debt Analyst, died suddenly, NO CAUSE GIVEN

22. Feb - Jason Alan Salais, 34, Information Technology specialist at JPMorgan, FOUND DEAD outside a Walgreens pharmacy

23. Feb - Autumn Radtke, CEO of First Meta Bitcoin, a cyber-currency exchange firm, "Suspected SUICIDE" - Reference.

24. Feb - James Stuart Jr., Former National Bank of Commerce CEO, FOUND DEAD - Reference.

25. Feb - Edmund (Eddie) Reilly, trader at Midtown's Vertical Group, SUICIDE

26. Feb - Li Junjie, JP Morgan, Alleged SUICIDE after jumping from the JP Morgan HQ in Hong Kong - Reference.

27. Feb - Ryan Henry Crane, 37, Executive at JP Morgan, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown - Reference.

28. Feb - Richard Talley -- A coroner's spokeswoman Thursday said Talley was found in his garage by a family member who called authorities. They said Talley died from seven or eight self-inflicted wounds from a nail gun fired into his torso and head. -- Reference.

29. Jan - Gabriel Magee, 39, JP Morgan employee, dead after allegedly jumping from the rooftop of JP Morgan HQ in Europe - Reference.

30. July - Julian Knott, 45, JPMorgan Executive Director, Global Tier 3 Network Operations, allegedly shot his wife multiple times, then shot himself dead. - Reference.

The villa where Julian and Alita Knott were found shot dead

31. Jan - Mike Dueker, Suicide -- “Suicide” By 13 Meter Embankment (40-50 feet). He may have jumped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter) fence before falling down a 40- to 50-foot embankment.” - Reference.

Dueker worked at Seattle-based Russell for five years, and developed a business-cycle index that forecast economic performance. He was previously an assistant vice president and research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. - Reference.

32. Jan - Carl Slym, SUICIDE

33. Jan - Tim Dickenson, Communications Director at Swiss Re AG, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown

34. Dec 2013 - Robert Wilson, a retired hedge fund founder, apparent SUICIDE leaped to his death from his 16th floor residence

35. Dec 2013 - Joseph . Ambrosio, age 34, Financial Analyst for J.P. Morgan, died suddenly from Acute Respiratory Syndrome

36. Dec 2013 - Benjamin Idim, CAR ACCIDENT

37. Dec 2013 - Susan Hewitt - Deutsche Bank, DROWNING

38. Nov 2013 - Patrick Sheehan, CAR ACCIDENT

39. Nov 2013 - Michael Anthony Turner, Career Banker, CAUSE UNKOWN

40. Nov 2013 - Venera Minakhmetova Former Financial Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, CYCLIST HIT

41. Oct 2013 - Michael Burdin, SUICIDE

42. Oct 2013 - Ezdehar Husainat - former JP Morgan banker, killed in FREAK ACCIDENT when her SUV crushed her to death

43. Sept 2013 - Guy Ratovondrahona -Madagascar central bank, Sudden death - cause not confirmed

44. Aug 2013 - Pierre Wauthier, SUICIDE

45. Aug 2013 - Moritz Erhardt, SUICIDE

46. July 2013 Hussain Najadi CEO of merchant bank AIAK Group, SHOT

47. July 2013 Carsten Schloter, SUICIDE

48. July 2013 Sascha Schornstein - RBS in its commodity finance, MISSING

49. April 2013 David William Waygood, SUICIDE

50. Mar 2013 - David Rossi - communications director of troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), SUICIDE

Lethal, but not fatal (more than one way to skin a banker)

51. Fang Fang - JP Morgan, China, DISGRACED

52. Nick Bagnall - Director at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, son accidentally killed himself while trying to re-enact a Tudor hanging

53. Robin Clark - RP Martin -Wolf of Shenfield City banker shot, SURVIVED

54. Kevin Bespolka - Citi Capital Advisors, Dresdner Bank, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, Seriously injured and son dead

55. Robert Wheeler, 49, a Deutsche Bank financial advisor, DISGRACED

56. Chris Latham - Bank of America, ON TRIAL, Murder for Hire

57. Igor Artamonov - West Siberian Bank of Sberbank, Daughter found dead (POSSIBLE SUICIDE)

58. Hector Sants, Barclays - resigned due to stress and exhaustion, after being told he risked more serious consequences to his health if he continued to work - a remarkable turnaround as the Church reportedly approached him two months later and was told he had made a full recovery.

More suspicious deaths

59. April 21st Bruce A. Schaal, 63, died suddenly Banker in Twin Lakes for 35 years

60. April 20th Keith Barnish 58, Died Suddenly (Still working as Senior Managing Director at Doral Financial Corporation. Previously Bear Stearns, Bank of America Senior Vice President).

61. March 12th Jeffrey Corzine, 31, son of MF Global CEO and Chairman Jon Corzine involved in major banking crime was found dead in an apparent suicide.

62. Keiran Toman, 39, former banker who believed he was being stalked by a reality TV crew starved to death in a hotel room, after leaving the "do not disturb" sign on door for TWO weeks.

[Highly suspicious claims, as many of us probably know that the hotel cleaning staff will knock on the door after 24 hours and eventually enter the room if failing to respond].

An inquest was opened after his death in July 2010 but his family asked for a second hearing as they were not informed. Police found all of Mr Toman's possessions in the room, but despite documents mentioning his family, failed to tell them he had died. -- Reference.

63. Nicholas Austin, 49, A former bank manager from Hersden died after drinking antifreeze in an effort to "get high". was found in a coma by his wife Lynn at their home in Blackthorne Road on October 5. He died the same day. - Reference.

"I took special note of the last one - he died drinking antifreeze in an attempt to "get high"! Funny one that is, as if a banker would be stupid enough to try that. The list is shocking, I never saw so many suicides and car accidents. No gall bladder stones, cancer deaths, strokes, or simply falling ill, it is just a litany of action. That pretty much says it all." - Jim Stone Freelance

The list continues...

64. Melissa Millian, 54, Senior Vice President at MassMutual Financial Group, stabbed in the chest near a jogging alley in Connecticut - Reference.

65. Karl Slym, 51, Tata Motors managing director - not a banker, but a top official that could be connected somehow to the others - discovered dead on the fourth floor of the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok.

66. Geert Tack was a private banker for ING and managed portfolios of wealthy clients in Blegium. The cause of death was unknown at the time of the report, but he disappeared in mysterious circumstances, after driving his personal car to a garage from which he took a replacement car to an unknown destination. His body was found in November 2014 near the shores of the Ostend coast. - Reference.

67. Thieu Leenen, 64, Relatiemanager ABN/AMRO, Eindhoven, Nederland

68. Calogero Gambino, 41, Associate General Counsel and Managing Director at Deutsche Bank, America - Alleged SUICIDE by hanging - Reference.

69. Thierry Leyne, 48, banker at Anatevka S.A., Israƫl, "apparent SUICIDE"- Reference.

70. Tod Robert Edward, 51, Vice President of M&T Bank, Lancaster and Harrisburg Offices, and served as President of the Mortgage Banker's Assn - died on August 31st, 2014, on Grindstone Island, Clayton, NY, from injuries sustained in an accident. - Reference.

71. Therese Brouwer, 50, Managing Director ING, Nederland - Died in MH17 Crash - For me, this is absolutely HUGE, as I've spent weeks debunking the official story and, IMO, proving the false flag. - Reference.

If you stumble across more suspicious top banking deaths, please post the link in a comment down below and I will make sure to update the list. Thank you!

By Alexander Light, HumansAreFree.com; | Reference: Hang the banker;
- See more at: http://humansarefree.com/2014/12/astonishing-list-of-71-top-bankers-dead.html#sthash.h13my1cP.dpuf

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Plot To Sabotage US Economy with Frank Luntz

 Daily Kos

Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:15 AM PDT

Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan & Kevin McCarthy: Plot To Sabotage US Economy with Frank Luntz

    On January 20, 2009 Republican Leaders in Congress literally plotted to sabotage and undermine U.S. Economy during President Obama's Inauguration.
     In Robert Draper's book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives" Draper wrote that during a four hour, "invitation only" meeting with GOP Hate-Propaganda Minister, Frank Luntz, the below listed Senior GOP Law Writers literally plotted to sabotage, undermine and destroy America's Economy.
The Guest List:
Frank Luntz - GOP Minister of Propaganda
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA),
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX),
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX),
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA),
Sen. Jim DeMint (SC-R),
Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ-R),
Sen. Tom Coburn (OK-R),
Sen. John Ensign (NV-R) and
Sen. Bob Corker (TN-R). Non-lawmakers present Newt Gingrich
    During the four hour meeting:
     The senior GOP members plotted to bring Congress to a standstill regardless how much it would hurt the American Economy by pledging to obstruct and block President Obama on all legislation.     These Republican members of Congress were not simply airing their complaints regarding the other party's political platform for four long hours.  No, these Republican Congressional Policymakers, who were elected to do 'the People's work' were literally plotting to sabotage, undermine and destroy the U.S. Economy.  
    Mitt Romney, who has hired most of Bush/Cheney Policy Advisers, and the GOP party believe they can defeat President Obama, take control of the Senate and maintaining control of the House of Representatives so long as the economic recovery stalls. So they are actively trying to make it happen ... and that's what hate-propaganda Minister Frank Luntz had in mind when he organized the January 20, 2009 covert meeting.
     Republicans do not pay Frank Luntz to offer ideas for good policy to help America, rather, Republicans pay Luntz' to devise lies that will keep Americans dumb and ignorant to facts on policy. For decades Republicans have paid Frank Luntz to tell them (Republicans) what to say in order to brainwash 'the People' with lies and hate to destroy policy.
     Luntz does not use words to merely have Americans "change their minds."  Rather, Frank Luntz uses words intentionally to dumb-down Americans and fill them with lies and hate so as to brainwash and program Americans to hate a given policy.
     Frank Luntz, like many Hate-Propaganda Ministers, loathes the notion of honesty in debate.  Also, like many Hate-Propaganda Ministers, Frank Luntz wants total control ... total control even it if means destroying America.  So, Luntz uses the tactics similar to Joseph Goebbels: spread hate, lies and fear in order to gain control.  (More on Frank Luntz at the end of this Diary).
     Remember, for months prior to January 20, 2009, America had been losing over 750,000 jobs per month because of policies these same elected Republican lawmakers had enacted and their goal, their goal that night, was to plot ways to sabotage and undermine any and all legislation that would pull American families up and out of the economic calamity they [lawmakers] had helped create.
     Two months after their covert meeting where they plotted to sabotage the US Economy, in March 2009, Rep. Pete Sessions said Republicans should follow the model of the Taliban in its battles against President Obama.
     In the March 2009 interview with National Journal Rep Sessions said:
    "Taliban Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban.  Insurgency is the way they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes. And these Taliban -- is an example of how you go about to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that Insurgency may be required when [dealing with] the other side" ~Rep Pete Sessions, March 2009 to National Journal
    Rep Pete Sessions went on to say:
    "If they [democrats] do not give us those options or opportunities then we will then become Insurgency ... I think Insurgency is a mindset and an attitude that we're going to have to search for and find ways to get our message out and to be prepared to see things for what they are, rather than trying to do something about them"
    Also, at their meeting they plotted to suddenly stop supporting any Stimulus Legislation, even though, they all supported Bush/Cheney Stimulus legislation.
    At the meeting, Rep Kevin McCarthy said,
"We've gotta challenge them on every single bill." "Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies."
    Remember, these same Republican members of Congress supported the very Bush/Cheney policies that caused America to teeter on the brink of the 2nd Great Depression and caused the 2007 US Economic Meltdown.
Here's how they all voted:
-- "Yes" to Bush/Cheney January 2008 Stimulus
-- "Yes" to Bush/Cheney bailing out Bear Stern
-- "Yes" to Bush/Cheney bailing out AIG
-- "Yes" to Bush/Cheney TARP (sept 2008)
-- "Yes" to Bush/Cheney TARP (oct 2008)
   And these same Republican members of Congress:
Supported Bush/Cheney keeping cost of two wars out of the Budget. Supported Bush/Cheney spending $4Trillion while giving Top 1% Tax Cuts; ignoring the fact that taxes pay for wars.
     Not only did these Senior members of Congress plot to destroy the American Economy more than it already was destroyed? They actually carried out their mission:  
    Every one of these Senior members of Congress have threatened Government Shutdown over things like: - Funding planned parenthood,
- Raising the Debt Ceiling which, in-and-of-itself, would cause US Economic turmoil.
... oh, and stay current, these same House GOP members of Congress are still, today, threatening a Government Shutdown again over the Debt Ceiling.
    Last year, during the Debt Ceiling negotiations, Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl abruptly walked out of negotiations and refused to renew discussions with Democrats. As a result, America's credit rating was lowered which put a smile on Republican's faces.
    Senators: Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Bob Corker have: - Filibustered more Bills (over 300) than any Congress combined in US History.
- Voted NO on every single piece of Legislation brought to the Floor including:
NO on Al Franken's Anti-Rape Amendment,
NO on Lilly Ledbetter,
NO on Fair Pay Act,
NO on Anti-Outsourcing Bill (2010)
     How in the hell could any thinking American be against those Bills?  Seriously?!?
    Representatives: Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra and Dan Lungren have voted NO on every single piece of Legislation including:  NO on increasing FEMA during natural disasters.
     These same failed Congressmen have been on tv constantly chanting the lie that they were guilty of ... the lie that "President Obama's policies undermine the US Economy."
Currently: Republicans Using the Transportation Bill to Sabotage the US Economy:
     If the current Transportation Bill expires June 30, there will be no funding for transportation projects and 1.9 million construction workers would lose their jobs.  Eric Cantor and Republicans in the House are refusing to act because Republicans would be overjoyed if almost two million Americans were added to the unemployment rolls this summer before the election.
Other Legislation used to sabotage US Economy
    Republicans in Congress refused to negotiate or even discuss passing President Obama's American Jobs Act that independent economists claim would create 1.3 million new jobs.  God forbid Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan or Kevin McCarthy support an actual Bill that would put people to work building needed infrastructure and provide funds to pay to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public service workers that have been laid off in droves by cash-starved states.
     Republicans are gearing up block President Obama's 2012 Anti-Outsourcing Bill - which is a Bill to discourage the outsourcing of American jobs, which is due to come to the Senate floor around the fourth of July.
     The Washington Post reports that Republicans have made it clear that the Federal Reserve would face fierce Republican criticism if it takes further actions to stimulate the economy before the election. The Washington Post wrote that,
   Republicans... have expressed deep concern about measures taken by the Fed to support the economy -- and could be doubly upset if new efforts goose the stock market and are perceived to work in favor of President Obama's re-election.
Frank Luntz      Like I said above, Republicans do not pay Luntz to offer ideas for good policy to help America, rather, Republicans pay Luntz' to devise lies will keep Americans dumb and ignorant to facts on policy. For decades Republicans have paid Frank Luntz to tell them (Republicans) what to say in order to brainwash 'the People' with lies and hate to destroy policy.
     Luntz is so good at lying, he even lies to himself.  In order to blur reality and not take responsibility for his devising the spread of propaganda through hate and lies Luntz told Matt Lauer
    "I focus on words that cause people to change their minds, change their behavior even change their attitudes." ~Frank Luntz 3/2011 in interview with Matt Lauer
    No, Luntz is not using words to merely have Americans "change their minds" -- Luntz is using words intentionally to dumb-down Americans and fill them with lies and hate so as to brainwash and program Americans to hate a given policy.        Luntz has been the Republican Hate-Propaganda Minister since at least 1993 and his list of words to stop policies that help America are vast:
Don’t say “oil drilling.” Say “energy independence.” Don’t say “inheritance tax.” Say “death tax.”
Don't say "Capitalism." Say "Economic Freedom."
Don't say that the government 'taxes the rich.' Say Government "takes from the rich."
Don't admit Lobbyists are Collective Bargainers for Corporations. Say "Union Collective Bargaining steals your tax dollars."
    Luntz says people hate government so:
Don’t say “healthcare reform.” Say “government takeover.” Don't say "Public workers." Call them "Government workers."
    For the 2012 election, Frank Luntz is training his failed co-harts in the Republican party on what Luntz says are "the three most powerful words to use" to con people is: "I get it." Luntz says:
Don't tell Occupy Wall Street "you don't give a shit." Say "I get it." Don't tell struggling Americans "you're on your own." Say "I get it."
Don't tell Occupy Wall Street "you should protest Wall Street." Say "You should occupy the White House."
   Yes, it is true, the House Republican Leaders: Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy met in secret and plotted to sabotage and undermine the US Economy ... I call them TRAITORS TO AMERICA.      So, the next time you hear the GOP say "Obama wants to destroy the economy" or "Government Shutdown" ... remember ... as Newt Gingrich said after their four hour dinner on January 20, 2009 "You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown."
   To Translate GINGRICH:
 "You'll remember this day as they day we became Traitors to the United States."
    My hope is that Americans and all members of Congress are reminded via twitter, facebook and all other forms of media over and over and over:
     Republican Leaders in Congress literally plotted to sabotage the US Economy on January 20, 2009.

Danny Casolaro’s ‘Octopus’ Conspiracy Theory

By Mike Devlin on Wednesday, September 25, 2013
“I feel the happiness that an Eskimo must feel when he comes across fresh bear tracks before any other sled.” —Danny Casolaro

In A Nutshell

When journalist Danny Casolaro was found with his wrists cut in the bathtub of his hotel room, it seemed like an open and shut suicide. But an investigation determined that Casolaro had been hard at work on a story that involved a massive conspiracy that reached all the way to the presidency, and his family alleges that he was killed to ensure his silence.

The Whole Bushel
On August 10, 1991, 44-year-old journalist Danny Casolaro was found dead in the bathtub of his Martinsburg, West Virginia hotel room. Both wrists had been slashed open. The blood-splattered bathroom was such a gory tableau that one of the housekeepers who discovered it reportedly fainted. A police investigation would determine this was an open and shut case of suicide. There were alcohol bottles in the room, as well as a note which read: “To those who I love the most: Please forgive me for the worst possible thing I could have done. Most of all I’m sorry to my son. I know deep down inside that God will let me in.” The room showed no sign of forced entry. His autopsy indicated Casolaro was in the early stages of multiple sclerosis and toxicology reports showed several drugs in his system, including antidepressants.

After the initial shock and denial common to accepting any death, you would think that Danny Casolaro’s family would accept this overwhelming evidence that he had taken his own life. But there was far more to this story: Danny was actually in West Virginia to meet with a source for a story he was working on about a massive conspiracy that he called “The Octopus.” Journalist Ron Rosenbaum wrote that the case “is enough to drive a sane man to madness.”
At its most basic, “The Octopus” is the story of Michael Riconoscuito, a shadowy figure who made some truly shattering allegations. He claims that he was hired by the US Justice Department to modify a software program called PROMIS (which was designed to organize judicial and law enforcement records), allowing the Department to spy on anyone the program was sold to, which included multiple foreign governments. He also claimed that Earl Brian, a Ronald Reagan insider, had paid the government of Iran $40 million to delay the release of American hostages during the 1980 presidential election between Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Reagan was known for his hard-line approach toward the Iranians, and it is thought that the hostage crisis secured the election for him. It is perhaps not coincidental that the hostages were released 20 minutes after Reagan’s inaugural address. Riconoscuito would later be jailed on drug charges he claimed were a setup to get him to keep his mouth shut.
When Danny Casolaro began following up on Riconoscuito’s incredible story in 1990, he allegedly became a target. He frequently complained of receiving threatening phone calls throughout the night. His housekeeper also attested to answering some of these calls. On the day Casolaro left his home to travel to meet his source in Martinsburg, she claimed to have received multiple chilling calls, including one where a man told her “I will cut his body and throw it to the sharks.”
To this day, Casolaro’s family believes he was the victim of foul play, that someone at the very highest levels of political and economic power had silenced him before he could put all the pieces of a very dark puzzle together.

Show Me The Proof

NY Times: Reporter Is Buried Amid Questions Over His Pursuit of Conspiracy Idea
Casolaro’s Octopus

Project ORCA: Mitt Romney Campaign Plans

Massive, State-Of-The-Art Poll Monitoring Effort

Posted: Updated:
Mitt Romney's campaign is deploying Project ORCA, a large, sophisticated poll monitoring effort to turn out voters. (Jewel Samad/AFP/GettyImages)
WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been quietly assembling a massive, technologically sophisticated poll monitoring program that staffers believe will be their secret weapon in defeating President Barack Obama.
Project ORCA will rely on 34,000 volunteers in swing states on Election Day, in an effort to keep track of who is voting at key polling places. Romney staffers will use the data to help them target their get-out-the-vote efforts before the polls close, in hopes of gaining an edge over Obama's grassroots operation.
"There's nothing that the Obama data team, there's nothing that the Obama campaign, there's nothing that President Obama himself can do to even come close to what we are putting together here," Romney Deputy Political Director Dan Centinello said Wednesday night in a training call for Project ORCA volunteers, which The Huffington Post called into.
On Election Day, the Romney campaign will send one or more volunteers to important swing-state polling places, noting every single person who comes in to vote.
That, in itself, is nothing new; both Democratic and Republican campaigns always monitor turnout to aid their GOTV efforts and generally keep track of progress.
In 2008, the Obama campaign used a system called "Project Houdini," where each targeted voter was assigned a four-digit code. Throughout the day, volunteers then dialed that code into a national hotline to report on who voted.
What's different about the Romney campaign's approach is that it will be utilizing smartphone technology to receive more data in real time, allowing it to quickly redirect resources to areas where there may be low turnout and get voters there out to the polls.
Volunteers will have the Project ORCA web-based app on their smartphone. Once they log in, they will see the names and ages of every eligible voter in that precinct. When someone votes, the volunteer will simply be able to slide a bar and note it. Individuals without smartphones will be able to print a list of voters -- provided by the Romney campaign -- and check off individuals who come to the polling place, and then call that information into headquarters periodically.
If volunteers run into any problems -- such as an incorrect voting list, broken voting machines, fraud or illegal activity -- they can press a yellow button on their phone to instantly report them to the Romney campaign legal team, and staffers will be assigned to help volunteers around the country. Volunteers will also be able to send instant messages -- similar to a Twitter feed or discussion board -- with anecdotes about what they are seeing.
Training materials explaining the technology were provided to The Huffington Post by multiple sources.
At campaign headquarters in Boston, other volunteers will be taking all the information sent in by those working with Project ORCA and combining it with consumer data the campaign has purchased about individuals. They will use the data to organize last-minute campaign efforts, including social media outreach, phone-banking and traditional door-to-door visits.
In addition, Centinello will be in an "inner war room" with the campaign manager, the national political director and Romney himself.
"The governor loves seeing data, he loves seeing numbers and he's a very strategic person; he's a very smart man," Centinello said on Wednesday's Project ORCA call. "So he actually loves being inside these war rooms, seeing the data come in and seeing exactly what's going on out there, so we can all put our heads together and say, 'Okay, we need to move resources here. We need to shift resources from here.'"
On Wednesday afternoon, the campaign sent volunteers a video from Romney, thanking them for their help.
"With state-of-the-art technology and an extremely dedicated group of volunteers, our campaign will have an unprecedented advantage on Election Day," said Romney.
"Project ORCA will give us an enormous advantage on Election Day," added Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement to The Huffington Post. "By knowing the current results of a state, we can continue to adjust and micro target our get-out-the-vote efforts to ensure a Romney victory."
Scott Goodstein, the external online director for the Obama campaign in 2008 and the founder of Revolution Messaging, said that while Project ORCA may use different technology, the overall strategy behind it is nothing new.
"We've already done this through text messaging and interactive voice since the early days of the Iowa caucus in January 2008," said Goodstein, noting that before that, campaigns would give volunteers quarters to call in results at pay phones.
He also questioned whether the strategy would really make as much of a difference as the Romney campaign was suggesting it would, arguing that if a candidate hasn't reached voters by Election Day, it's probably too late.
"In a national campaign, what additional things are the headquarters really going to do to move resources?" he said. "Will an additional auto-call last minute really make a difference in a market like Northeast Ohio, which has been saturated for three months full of auto-calls?"
While some liberal blogs have worried that Project ORCA could be a voter suppression program, the training packet instructs volunteers not to "talk to or confront voters in any circumstances." Centinello also repeatedly told volunteers listening on the training call to follow poll workers' instructions on where to stand and what the rules are in that location.
But Daniel Tokaji, an expert on election law and voting rights at Mortiz College of Law in Ohio, flagged an issue in the "frequently asked questions" section of the training packet that could potentially confuse volunteers.
The answer to Question 13 -- "Am I allowed to speak on my cell phone inside the polling place?" -- states, "Yes you may be allowed to use the smart phone inside the polling place. Please follow your poll manager's instructions." That answer appears to have been swapped with the answer to Question 11 -- "Am I allowed to use the smart phone app inside the polling place?" -- which currently reads, "No, you are only allowed to speak on your phone outside the voting area."
In many polling places, people are not allowed to speak on the phone, and on the call with volunteers, Centinello instructed them not to. They are, however, allowed to use the smartphone app, and the mix-up in the training packet may cause confusion.
In general, Tokaji said, the type of monitoring the Romney campaign is doing with Project ORCA -- and that the Obama campaign will also no doubt be doing -- should be encouraged.
"It's a way of boosting turnout, if the parties are doing this and making sure all their people turn out," he said.
The Obama campaign declined to comment on Project ORCA or whether it has a similar program in place, but a recent memo from the campaign said that in battleground states, it is "recruiting thousands of attorney volunteers to help recruit, train, educate, and observe at polling locations across the country."
Vincent Harris, the founder and CEO of the conservative digital advertising and marketing firm Harris Media, said he wouldn't doubt that the Obama campaign has something similar set up, since it has consistently been on the cutting edge of digital politics.
But he said that Project ORCA will nevertheless give the Romney team a "huge advantage."
"They have so much data and it all is coming to a head on Election Day -- six years of data-capture, six years of data-gathering, all culiminating on Election Day," said Harris. "And this new tool is the key to using that data."

the Death of Danny Casolaro. The Octopus

    Illustration: Rina Kushnir
    Illustration: Rina Kushnir
    On the morning of July 1, 1981, three bodies were discovered behind a shabby, concrete ranch house on Bob Hope Drive, a main drag in a sand-swept stretch of California’s scorching Coachella Valley. The corpses were sprawled in a semicircle, on chairs and beds that had been dragged into the backyard. Each of the victims—the house’s owner, Fred Alvarez, his girlfriend, Patricia Castro, and a guest named Ralph Boger—had been killed by a single .38-caliber gunshot to the head. Police surmised that Alvarez and his friends had been planning to sleep outdoors to escape the heat of the house, which had no air-conditioning, and were surprised in the dark by one or more assailants. There were few clues and no witnesses left at the scene; the crime had all the hallmarks of a professional hit.
    Boger’s daughter, Rachel Begley, who was 13 at the time, says she learned of her father’s death from a television news bulletin. Her parents were divorced, and though she spent occasional days with her dad, riding in his motorcycle’s sidecar, she didn’t know enough about his life to make sense of what had happened. The police would eventually conclude that Boger and Alvarez were killed in connection with shady doings at the nearby Cabazon Indian reservation. But Begley’s mother shielded her from all the murky details of the investigation.
    After the murders, Begley went through a rebellious phase and fell in with a bad crowd. By the time she was 15, she was pregnant and had dropped out of high school. Eventually she got her GED and moved to Iowa. She says she would periodically wonder about the case and check in with the police, who never seemed to have any new information. Beyond that, she didn’t have time or tools to delve too deeply.
    Photo: Andrew HetheringtonThen one night in 2007, she idly typed her father’s name into Google. She didn’t find much, but as she clicked through the few results that came up, she found a book entitled The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro. Based on the work of a fringe freelance journalist, the book argued that the 1981 triple slaying was wrapped up in an enormous plot involving arms dealing, private-security firms, and the upper echelons of the Reagan administration. Skeptical but intrigued, Begley dug deeper and discovered that over the years the murder case had taken on a curious life of its own, preserved on obscure websites and nurtured by a grassroots community of obsessives. To these conspiracy theorists, Boger’s killing was the work of a secret syndicate that they called the Octopus, because its tangled tentacles supposedly reached into some of the most powerful organizations in the world.
    Rachel Begley's hunt started with a simple google search—and became an obsession.
    Photo: Andrew Hetherington
    Begley’s simple Google search launched a four-year-and-counting odyssey, during which she has devoted herself to tracking down forgotten documents, corresponding with federal prisoners, putting questions to Oliver North, and even confronting the man who may have shot her dad. Her work, she says, has placed her own life in danger and made her a target of the same forces that killed her father. And yet she cannot stop. She keeps following the siren song of the conspiracy theory, the same beguiling cognitive path that lures others to the JFK assassination and Area 51. What was once a family tragedy has blossomed into something else entirely, a vast puzzle whose solution promises to illuminate not only her father’s death but the dark forces behind the world’s apparent chaos.
    On a sweltering afternoon last June, Begley was sitting in front of a wheezing Dell Dimension 8300 desktop, beneath a photocopy of a prayer for protection from “evil spirits who prowl about the world,” trying to sum up the dimensions of the Octopus conspiracy. “You’ve got the drug people, mixing with the mafia, mixing with the Hells Angels, mixing with the government—various governments, actually,” she says as she clicks around on the computer. “This is where I piece it all together.”
    Begley lives and works in a rickety house at the end of a gravel road, next to a small pond and a rotting wood barn in a rural town outside Louisville, Kentucky, that she doesn’t want named for security reasons. Out front, her “guard dog,” an aging flat-coated retriever named Lucky, lazes beneath her porch. Begley is 43 and heavyset, with piercing blue eyes. On this day, her air conditioner is broken, and her round face glistens with sweat. She has four children, and for the moment she is collecting unemployment and selling a line of weight-loss shakes to make money on the side.
    Before she heard about the Octopus, she never gave much thought to politics or read the newspaper, and she certainly didn’t size up her dad—a bearded mechanic who liked to drink, smoke pot, and ride motorcycles—as the type to be tied up in byzantine plots. “I thought it was a normal thing,” Begley says of the killings. “Well, murder is never normal, but I thought somebody went to try and rob them or something.”
    In fact, within days of the crime, investigators had fixed their suspicion on John Philip Nichols, who was serving as financial manager for the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, a group of fewer than 30 descendants of a desert people that had long inhabited the Coachella Valley. Nichols was encouraging the Cabazons to open a casino, a radical idea at the time that caused clashes with the police and attracted some alleged mob associates to the reservation. Boger’s friend Fred Alvarez, a dissident tribe member, opposed the plan. Before his death, Alvarez had approached a local reporter to talk about blowing the whistle. “There are people out there who want to kill me,” he warned. No one knew what Alvarez was preparing to disclose, but initial speculation involved embezzlement.
    When Begley stumbled upon The Octopus, though, she found a more nefarious explanation: Nichols proposed to use the tribe’s sovereign status to build an arms factory on the reservation and ship weapons to Central American rebel groups like the Contras. Drawing heavily on a San Francisco Chronicle investigation, the book reported that he had struck a partnership arrangement with Wackenhut, a private-security firm with alleged ties to the CIA and Republican Party.
    Begley's father was murdered along with his friend Fred Alvarez, who claimed to have some powerful enemies.

    Photo: Andrew Hetherington
    Photo: Andrew HetheringtonThat strange story was widely reported in the early 1990s. But since then, others had embroidered those findings with more bizarre information, speculation, and extrapolations. Before long, Begley was tearing through websites and bulletin boards, finding herself drawn into the conspiracy. Much of what she found traced back to Danny Casolaro, the freelance journalist who had been the first to write about a shadowy “international cabal” of covert operatives he dubbed the Octopus. Casolaro tied the Cabazon tribe’s arms company to a Reagan crony, who figured in the so-called October Surprise of 1980 and was connected to a computer program called Promis, which was supposedly used for spying. In 1991, the writer was found dead in the bathtub at a West Virginia hotel, his wrists slashed. Authorities deemed the death a suicide, but others presumed Casolaro was killed because he knew too much.
    “Most of the stuff, I didn’t believe,” Begley says. “I thought all these people were making money off my dad’s murder, writing these books.” She was angry enough, in fact, that she was determined to prove the speculators wrong. At the time, Begley was working in customer service for an Internet service provider, which was moving its back-office operations to another state, and she was spending her days sitting idly at her computer, waiting to get laid off. Begley had once worked for a collections agency, and she knew how to track people down. “I went into it with a mindset, I guess, almost like a police officer would,” she says.
    No one had ever been charged in the killings. Nichols was long gone—he had died of a heart attack in 2001. But Begley talked to Alvarez’s sister, who recounted her family’s thwarted efforts to get the police to pursue the case. She then found William Hamilton, the developer of the Promis software, who had collaborated with Casolaro on his investigation. Hamilton called her back on her cell phone as she was leaving work one day, and he talked and talked until his battery died. “It was like—boom,” she later said. “He dumped it all in my lap.” Begley may have started out trying to resist the Octopus, but she gradually gave in to the theory’s implications: Her father had been caught up in a vast conspiracy, and it had killed him.
    So Begley dove deeper, into the submerged ecosystem of interconnected message boards where initiates continued to discuss and dissect the Octopus. “I was one of those thinking that the conspiracy people were weird,” she posted on one of these boards in 2008. “Then I had my eyes opened, REALLY FAST.”
    As she set out on her search, one of the first things Begley did was fashion a new identity. She came up with a screen name, Desertfae, and introduced her character in a series of YouTube videos. The first ones, set to pounding music, consisted of montages of images—an Indian chief, a close-up of her eyes—and cryptic messages: “I am lost … I need your help and guidance to bring closure … I will be silent no longer … Soon the clues and proof will be found.”
    As Begley plunged into the world of the conspiracy theorists, she found more than facts and assertions—she found a community with its own rules, ethics, and currency. And it was a difficult one to penetrate; the cluster of people devoted to studying the Octopus tended not to throw their arms open to newcomers. Over the years, they had built a kind of gnostic society, a belief system that was both all-encompassing—a grand unified theory of everything sinister—and exclusionary, open only to the select few who could accept the devastating truth. They were suspicious of outsiders and divided into factions that warred over arcane points, often accusing one another of being double agents.
    With persistence and a convert’s zeal, Begley managed to win the trust of some of the leading theorists. She formed a particularly tight bond with Cheri Seymour, a matronly San Diego woman who had been working for nearly 20 years on a book called The Last Circle. The two sealed their friendship with a transaction of weathered documents, the Octopus community’s customary medium of exchange. Copying Seymour’s files, which the author had gathered from archives, courts, and a confidential source’s hidden trailer, Begley glimpsed the far reaches of the speculation: bioweapons, Lebanese heroin shipments, Howard Hughes, the yakuza.
    There were many competing interpretations of the Octopus—Seymour was particularly interested in the alleged role of entertainment company MCA—and they were infinitely adaptable, able to accommodate the Patriot Act or the financial crisis. Devotees found and fought one another on sites like Above Top Secret, conspiracy clearinghouses that host every conceivable thread of discussion. Begley forged an alliance with a retired FBI agent who was exploring a link between the Octopus and Satanic cults. She did battle with a prominent UFO enthusiast who thought the Octopus was hiding the government’s collaboration with a colonizing alien force. (In January, online sleuths discovered that alleged Arizona assassin Jared Lee Loughner was a regular poster on Above Top Secret, but his bizarre ramblings about currency and space travel, widely disdained by other contributors, never touched on the Octopus threads.) Begley also developed a venomous rivalry with Virginia McCullough, a California writer who accused her of being an enemy impostor, not really Ralph Boger’s daughter. When Begley posted a copy of her birth certificate online, McCullough called it “a cut-and-paste job.”
    “I do not believe that Desertfae is a ‘victim,’ and she has not posted any information that she is who she claims to be,” McCullough wrote on one message board. “She is a low-stage puppet reporting to the puppet master and two or three of his minions.”
    The man McCullough called the puppet master is a federal narcotics prisoner named Michael Riconosciuto, Casolaro’s principal source, who had worked for the Cabazon arms company in the 1980s. The convict, who claimed he’d been framed, continued to play a leading role in the factional wars, penning letters in loopy cursive to numerous correspondents. Shortly after Begley began communicating with Riconosciuto, she posted a new video, entitled “OMG Michael Called!!!!!” Looking rattled, she reported that Riconosciuto had warned that the Octopus was watching. Then she cut to shaky handheld footage of a black helicopter that had appeared over her house.
    Begley wasn’t scared off the trail. She interviewed retired cops and unearthed new witnesses. She amassed thousands of documents: news clippings, police reports, Casolaro’s notes, leaked memos, reams of legal filings and depositions. (For a secret cabal, the Octopus was remarkably litigious.) Informants found her website or friended her on Facebook and promised they could tell her about the Octopus from the inside. “If you’re involved with some kind of high-level weird thing,” she explains, “and you’ve held it in for 20 or 30 years, and you can’t talk about it, eventually you’re going to be, like, ‘I want to tell somebody before I die.'”
    Begley continued to post YouTube videos documenting her investigations, and before long they started winning a small but avid viewership—and not just fellow conspiracy theorists. It seemed the police were paying attention as well. Back when she had first begun investigating, Begley called the police department in Riverside County, where Coachella is located, telling them the case was bigger than Watergate. She got a dismissive response. But after she started posting her videos, she received a phone call telling her that the cold-case squad was reopening the inquiry into her father’s murder.
    Soon, Begley focused her attention on one player in the killing: Jimmy Hughes, a former Cabazon reservation employee who worked for John Philip Nichols. In 1984, in the midst of a business dispute, Hughes implicated Nichols to the police, claiming he had ferried a cash payment from Nichols to some unidentified contract killers for the Alvarez hit, which he said his boss had called a “US government covert action.” The police had looked into Hughes’ claims but gradually shifted their suspicion to the informant himself. At that point, Hughes fled town, and the grand jury investigation into the murders fizzled.
    Begley discovered that Hughes had become an evangelical minister based in Honduras. In December 2007, she began trying to contact him, but he ignored her. She had an idea why: On the website of a religious group, she discovered an autobiographic essay Hughes had posted that sounded eerily familiar. In it, he called himself “a hit man with a new mission” and told a story of elite military training and a career as a contract killer, a life that was transformed when he was born again. She also found a list of upcoming speaking engagements, which indicated that Hughes was scheduled to address an evangelical banquet in Fresno, California. Begley booked a flight.
    On a rainy evening in February 2008, Begley sat in the gilded ballroom of a historic Fresno bank building as Hughes took the floor to preach. Inside her handbag, she carried a hidden camera that peeked out through a discreet hole she’d cut just beneath the zipper. Next to it sat a loaded pistol—just in case.
    Hughes, a stocky 51-year-old with a graying buzz cut and raspy voice, bounded around, bellowing tales of his past brutality. Begley, nervous and bleary-eyed from a sleepless cross-country flight, exchanged incredulous text messages with an accomplice who had come along as backup: Mikel Alvarez, Fred’s son. When Hughes finished his performance, Begley and Alvarez came forward with a rush of adrenaline, introducing themselves to the sweat-soaked evangelist as the children of the murder victims.
    “Can’t say nothing about that,” Hughes stammered. “It’s a long time ago—it’s in the past.”
    “Not for us,” Begley said, insistently. “We’re trying to get resolution.”
    “I don’t care who got killed,” Hughes shouted, attracting the bewildered attention of others at the banquet. “I was trainedin the military. I killed people all over the world, right or wrong, because the government ordered me to.”
    Hughes stalked off, fuming, and Begley began to cry. That seemed to bother the minister, because he came back, speaking in a tone that was softer but full of veiled menace. Apparently, he had seen her web videos. “Are you aware that that goes all over the world? Are you a crazy lady?” Hughes said. “Think about your children. They need a mother.” He told Begley and Alvarez that the murder was a “mafia hit,” and though he didn’t explicitly admit to carrying it out, he intimated that he knew much more.
    “Your parents were involved in some very dangerous things,” Hughes said. “It’s a lot bigger than just the murder of this guy or the murder of that guy. You’re talking political people. You’ve got babies to take care of, mama. Go home tonight and be at peace.”
    Suddenly, the murky crime had come into focus, and the conspiracy theorist confronted an unaccustomed feeling: vindication. Hughes’ outburst seemed to confirm Begley’s deepest fears and also her most far-fetched fantasies. After so many decades of false starts and mysterious ends, Begley had finally hit upon something undeniably tangible—an actual lead in the case. Within two days, Begley posted excerpts of the confrontation to YouTube, ending her video with a postscript in stark black and white: “This ‘crazy lady’ wants the murders solved. The Octopus will be exposed.”
    Shortly before Begley confronted Hughes, she began cooperating with John Powers, a Riverside County homicide detective who was investigating the reopened 1981 murder case. When Powers saw the video of her run-in with Hughes, he was impressed. “The statements she got from him,” Powers says, “no police officer would ever have been able to get.” He and Begley went on to form an unusually tight partnership. She shared everything she learned with the man she called “my detective” and helped to persuade a pair of reluctant witnesses to offer damning testimony against Hughes.
    Still, the case had to overcome some curious obstacles. Powers was surprised to find that the records of the 1980s grand jury investigation had somehow disappeared. And it turned out that the district attorney of Riverside County, a long-serving prosecutor, was actually related to Hughes. Because of the conflict of interest, the case was transferred to the California attorney general’s office. After much procedural wrangling, a warrant was finally issued. In September 2009, Hughes was arrested at Miami’s international airport. Begley posted a celebratory video, scored to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” It flashed up an image of Hughes’ mug shot, across which she had scrawled: “Gotcha.”
    As fond as he was of Begley, Powers’ arrest complaint completely ignored the Octopus conspiracy. The detective doubted that a jury would believe—or even be able to follow—the abstruse connections that purportedly linked Hughes to the CIA, the Contras, and all the rest. Instead, he wanted to focus on the old dispute over building a casino on the Cabazon reservation. “Nichols thought he was going to be making millions, and Fred Alvarez was a threat to that,” Powers says. “That was motive enough for murder.”
    Photo: Andrew Hetherington
    Begley's prime target, Jimmy Hughes, at a pretrial hearing in July in Indio, California.
    Photo: Andrew Hetherington
    On the afternoon of July 1, the 29th anniversary of the murders, a grim-faced Begley walked into a courtroom in Indio, California, for an important hearing. The chamber was packed with an expectant crowd of reporters, members of Hughes’ family, and a few supporters from the Octopus community, including Cheri Seymour. Hughes was ushered in, wearing chains and an orange jumpsuit.
    Then Michael Murphy, a dapper prosecutor from the attorney general’s office, rose and delivered a shocking blow. “We have lost confidence in our ability to proceed with the prosecution,” he said. Begley closed her eyes tightly as the prosecutor gave a vague reason for his sudden about-face, something about “new information” and a reassessment of the evidence. Begley was allowed to address the court. “How many people must die or suffer at the hands of Jimmy Hughes,” she asked, “before he is brought to justice?” But the judge dismissed the charges anyway. It was enough to make you wonder, if you were of a certain mindset, whether the fix was in.
    Afterward, Powers stood next to Begley outside the courtroom as she addressed the television cameras, sobbing. The detective was disgusted by the outcome. The attorney general’s office gave no further public explanation for its decision, but Powers sensed that the prosecutors were eager to “dump” the case. Murphy, he said, started to question the credibility of the witnesses Begley had uncovered. Throughout, Begley had used Twitter and Facebook to mobilize the Octopus believers to pressure Murphy, and at least a few called the prosecutor to urge him to look beyond Hughes and dig into the myriad connections they had spent decades documenting. Begley’s devotion and inventive use of the Internet had helped to ensnare Hughes, but the obsessions of her fellow travelers may have helped to undermine the prosecutor’s confidence. (Murphy declined to comment.)
    Powers, for his part, doubts there ever was an Octopus. The detective blames Nichols, the self-aggrandizing adviser who convinced the Cabazons to build a casino, for conjuring the intrigue that continued to befog the case long after his death. “Nichols had a lot of people fooled,” Powers says, “believing that he was some secret spook working for the government.” Even Nichols’ own underlings bought into his mystique; Powers thought it entirely plausible that Hughes truly believed his boss gave orders on behalf of shadowy overlords. In that sense, the Octopus may have existed, if only as a deceived and malignant state of mind.
    On the night of his release, Hughes emerged from jail into a furnace blast of desert darkness. “Only God can justify and vindicate those who are really innocent,” he triumphantly told reporters outside the Indio jailhouse. Fearing retribution, Begley had already split, driving over the mountains to San Diego, where she holed up at Seymour’s house. “It’s not over by a long shot,” she told me on the phone. Her cell phone kept ringing: the Los Angeles Times, Dateline NBC, her newly materialized pro bono lawyer, a victims’ rights advocate who often appeared on Nancy Grace’s talk show.
    Finally, the world seemed to be listening. “Actually, this might be better,” Begley says, sounding curiously invigorated. Though this experience has been draining, it has given her a sense of purpose, of a momentous cause. Hughes might be free, heading back to Honduras, but in a way, defeat offered a perverse validation. The Octopus wouldn’t be the enemy she thought it was if it gave up its secrets so easily. “You’re going to find out real soon,” Begley says, “that the world isn’t what you think it is.”
    Andrew Rice (andrewrice75@yahoo.com) is the author of The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget. This is his first piece for Wired.