A Muckrakers Life, Interrupted
Last week, after almost four months of silence, I published a 2400-word initial account about what’s been learned about the man who became a daily fixture on cable and network news when his nephews were accused in the Boston attack. Ruslan Tsarni is also—and not coincidentally—an unacknowledged spook with ties to the CIA.
On a personal note, I figured the astonishing news would let my four-month absence here pass unnoticed. I was wrong. Major scandals and jaw-dropping disclosures no longer pack the wallop they once did. After last week’s story I received expressions of concern—”Daniel, I was getting worried that we’d lost you!”— and more pointed questions as well: “Where have you been?”
So that—the personal note—is mostly what this story is about. That, along with a few observations about the extraordinary world of Ruslan Tsarn, filled with people who run the gamut from fugitive billionaire bankers to England’s Prince Andrew, from what a Judge in London called an “international network of criminals,” to Chechen terrorists.
It’s an odd mix. But the most disquieting thing about spooked-up “Uncle Ruslan” Tsarni is this: America’s mainstream media remains uniformly silent about who he really is, which has to be an open secret in Washington, D.C.
Billionaire bankers, England’s Prince Andrew, & Ruslan Tsarni
In the aftermath of the Boston Bombing terror attack, people couldn’t get enough of “Uncle Ruslan,” who heaped ridicule on his two “loser” nephews, one dead, one barely alive . But there were some discordant notes too. Graham Fuller, for example, a former top Reagan-era CIA official, was careful to shield Tsarni’s real identity in an interview.
Also, while Ruslan Tsarni was delivering up nightly sound bites on television, he was simultaneously up to his hubcaps in international financial intrigue over six billion dollars discovered “missing” from a Kazakh bank, where he was accused of helping to launder the missing cash to ensure it stayed missing.
The scandal also featured titillating hints that a few million dollars of the missing money had been shoveled (through the sale of a dilapidated estate for millions more than it was worth) to a personage near the heart of another current and highly-publicized scandal…England’s Prince Andrew.
Accused of taking part in orgies with underage girls on disgraced billionaire banker Jeffrey Epstein’s airliner and yacht, the randy Prince, it turns out, had also been mucking about with associates of “Uncle” Ruslan Tsarni, whose nephews terrorized Boston, and whose “associates” were called, by the English judge on the case, “an international network of criminals.”
There is one final, truly bizarre note: Only readers of The MadCow Morning News know anything about any of this.
“He like to died!”
But back to the personal note. In the interest of transparency, I want to explain where I’ve been these past months. Last Fall, in early October, I nearly died. Or, as they say in the South, “I liked to died.”
Months earlier, I’d noticed some shortness of breath at a speaking engagement in Los Angeles, been diagnosed with bronchitis, and prescribed antibiotics. Whatever was causing the worrisome shortness of breath, I assumed, was lung-related.
It wasn’t. During a second visit to the doctor for more antibiotics, he uttered this fateful line, “I want you to get an EKG.”
Long story short, in early October my younger brother (we both live with our aging-yet-ageless Mom) drove me to the Emergency Room at Venice Regional Hospital. When the triage nurse at the admittance desk asked why I was there, I replied, truthfully, “Because I can’t breath.”
It was as if someone had pulled the fire alarm. I’d apparently just said the magic words and was swiftly dragged to the front of the line with what felt like unseemly haste. Minutes after shambling through the Emergency Room’s sliding-glass door, I’d been admitted, placed on a gurney, and wheeled down a long featureless corridor to the cardiac care unit, where one week later I underwent open heart surgery to replace a faulty aortic valve.
Breathing: It’s simple. In. Out. Repeat.
When the operation began, they discovered my heart was weaker than they’d thought, he told me, and it had inhibited the anesthesiologist’s ability to sedate me, out of fear it might stop my heart. Whoa!
Coincidentally, the date of the operation, October 13th, is famous as the date of the Western World’s first extraordinary rendition. On Friday the 13th of October, 1307, hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested in France, then moved to secret locations (not on CIA planes), and tortured into confessions of heresy. Ever since, or so the story goes, Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day.
But the 13th of October was not an unlucky day for me. (For one thing, it was a Monday.) Today, almost four months later, I am enormously grateful and humbled just to be alive, feel healthy, even fairly vigorous.
Of course, the experience changed me. Typically the imminent prospect of death focuses the mind on seldom-asked questions. Like, what really matters, or, more precisely, what really matters to me?
“In a New York minute, everything can change”
Now I’ve been blessed with a choice: During the time remaining to me, do I want to continue? Or pursue something altogether different? (I don’t know why, but sheep-ranching in the Australian Outback is the image which comes to mind.)
Didn’t I realize the inherent absurdity of believing my feeble efforts would ever change anything? Wasn’t it childishly naive to think the truth will set you free?
Did I really envision forcing the same Government that allows certain military-industrial complex-friendly figures to handle the import of cocaine and heroin turn around and legalize it, while freeing a million people in American penitentiaries for selling small amounts of what they’re bringing in to the U.S. by the ton?
Would my puny efforts ever get to the bottom of the collusion between corrupt Saudi-friendly officials in Florida and the 9/11 hijackers? Would they expose secret agreements whose beneficiaries most definitely did not include the American middle class taxpayers who fund their traveling circus?
Didn’t I know that if demonstrations and protest marches accomplished anything, they’d have already been banned?
“You can’t arrest me. I’m with the CIA.”
Nothing I’ve unearthed or exposed—from the CIA’s continuing role in the international drug trade to the FBI terror alert in the Pacific for Wolfgang Bohringer, the German pilot who’d been Mohamed Atta’s best buddy in Florida—has had the slightest impact.
You might cite the FBI manhunt for Bohringer; however after the first words out of his mouth when they caught up with him, they let him go.
According to someone who happened to overhear a telephone conversation between an agent from the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the FBI agent who took him in, what Bohringer said was, “You can’t arrest me. I’m with the CIA.”
And even when evidence I uncovered did momentarily threaten to break through— the persistent investigation into the the flight schools in Venice Florida, for example, that were the unexamined interface between the U.S. and the terrorists—the only result was a a brief seizure, on the Internet, a spasm of agent provocateur activity obvious in retrospect, but baffling at the time.
Face facts. Why bother?
Take the stunning evidence proving that just three weeks after Mohamed Atta arrived to attend flight school in Venice Florida, the Lear jet belonging to the owner of the flight school was busted in Orlando carrying 43 pounds of heroin, what’s known as “heavy weight.”
That did change things. But not for the better. Because before you could ask, “Is this just coincidence?” people were emerging on the Internet like zombies from the grave desperate to pitch a variety of classically-bizarre conspiracy theories to the puzzled masses. When one was discredited, another would pop up, each more unlikely than the last.
A retired professor of theology at a conservative bible college in California who had nothing to say, but said it anyway, in book after book after book…And a succession of professors from Red State Universities, with gobbledygook theories that never led anywhere…
But that of course, was the point. They accomplished nothing. But they made the half-baked “official story” of the 9/11 attack sound almost reasonable. Almost…
It was classic misdirection, like after the JFK assassination, when the investigation was focused on Dallas, while the conspiracy had been in New Orleans. Note to self: Stop using writer Thomas Pynchon’s quote just as soon as it ceases to be relevant: “If they can get you to ask the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”
I’m not of a particularly philosophical bent. But while I convalesced I got very “Think on These Things-y” for a while, reliving my old semi-hippie days, when The Eagles still lived in Laurel Canyon, and I could still get ‘stoked’ just by reading a book from the Bodhi Tree, or trucking to Ojai to sit under a 200-year old oak tree and listen to J Krishnamurti talk.
“What’s happened to you was an event we like to call the ‘perceived end of middle age,’” I read, in a book about what was happening to me.
“It acts, we hypothesize, as a general summary of the subjective rate of ageing. The age at which your own middle age ends predicts your future health outcomes.”
Well, all right, then.
A sojourn in another world
Last October I carefully laid down the various strands of my life. Today I’m finally beginning to pick them back up. Just before entering the hospital, for example, I got a note (through Facebook!) from a friend in Los Angeles I hadn’t spoken with in almost 20 years.
Just seeing her name reminded me of my gloriously footloose days in Southern California, where the weather report always seemed to call for “late night and early morning low clouds and fog along the coast, turning to hazy sunshine by mid-afternoon. A high of 72.”
Carol was—is—an accomplished woman who brightens every room she walks into. Well-placed in Hollywood, she runs a playwriting workshop to ‘give back, I think, from which emerged an instantly-forgettable comedy I wrote that I was lucky enough to watch play all summer at a nifty little theater on Sunset.
After each night’s performance, I would “hang” with the actors at semi-famous places around town. I was the sole writer there, they liked to remind me, privileged to be invited, because “this is an actor’s hang. “
I wrote telling her we’d have to wait to catch up; we’d communicated literally three days before I entered the hospital for what turned out to be open heart surgery. I’d compose a proper note in the next several days. Four months later, this is that note.
What I learned
Anyone who watches the news know that we live in a world filled with rape and plunder, war and starvation, while ever-more scary diseases rampage across the globe. Things are going to hell in a handbasket, right?
Not exactly. During my time in the hospital I learned that wasn’t true, or was, at most, just a part of the truth. Back in the 70’s, I’d watched my father undergo open-heart surgery twice. The first was at Yale New Haven Hospital; he had one of the early bypass surgeries, when they were still something of a novelty. Then he had basically the same operation again five years later.
But because of how far medicine has advanced, just in this one medical procedure, and just in the past 40 years, when it was my turn the experience was nothing nearly as hard as what my dad went through. It was astonishing. There hadn’t just been improvements in care; there’d been exponential improvement. They knew a lot more now. Way more.
It made me realize the same thing is true in so many areas of our lives that we’ve lost count. Maybe what we’ve lost is our ability to be dazzled when we realize what a steep learning curve humanity has been on for the past three of four decades, which makes this, in many ways, a wonderful time to be alive.
Another good thing: I learned, at age 63, that I have no real fear of death. I’d been inducted into enough of life’s mysteries to not feel cheated if “This Was My Time.” Of course, I wanted more; everyone does. But, crucially, I felt more or less at peace, and I concluded that the reason was because, for better or worse, I became the person I was supposed to be. Not my highest best self, maybe, but not too damn far off, either.
Giving up the glamour of sheep-ranching.
Like I said, I’ve been blessed with a choice: During the time remaining to me, do I continue investigating subject, like official complicity in the drug trade by a cabal of elite deviat greed-heads? If so, I had a lot of strands to catch up with.
What happened after that drug plane was found on a private runway at Paris Hilton’s 6000-acre ranch in Costa Rica recently, being loaded with 400 kilos of cocaine and almost $2 million in cash stuffed in plastic bags. Her parents were supposedly at the ranch when it happened. Did investigators ever hail them in for questioning?
And what’s the latest on the saga of the “ American “mystery plane” busted with 35 kilos of heroin outside Sydney, Australia?
The twin-engine plane was picked up in Punta Gorda Florida at the Charlotte County Airport, which is to general aviation what the Black Hole of Calcutta is to after-school detention. To get to Australia it flew an amazing two-month long journey, from Florida to Alaska, south across the Pacific to Hawaii, then over to the Philippines, and on to Australia.
The pilot was a professional plane mover with a sterling resume: former British Special Forces; former ace Australian military pilot and Commander; Member of the British Empire MBE.) Was his the resume of the unlikeliest drug pilot in history? Or the likeliest?
Finally, when the plane first rolled off the assembly line 40 years ago, it belonged to the CIA. Did it still? I don’t know. I want to find that out, too.
Finding stuff out is addictive
And whatever happened to the big DEA investigation into aviation honcho Don Whittington, one of South Florida’s most storied ‘pirates?’ More than 100 Federal agents from the FBI, the DEA and Homeland Security swooped down on his headquarters at infamous Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Then everyone clammed up. The whole case was sealed.
Nothing’s been heard since, no one will say why, and its been mover a year. Why is drug trafficking so often treated as if it were a matter of “grave” national security?
And where is major Colombian drug trafficker Juan Carlos Ramirez-Abadia, known as Lollipop, who the DEA said was the biggest drug cartel boss since Pablo Escobar?
They say he led the world’s biggest drug cartel, exported more than 500 tons of cocaine to the U.S. alone, then was extradited to the U.S., and convicted in Federal Court in New York on charges that normally guarantee a life sentence. Yet the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has no record of him in its system. So where is he? Once again I don’t know.But I’d like to find out.
And what happened to Laura Chinchilla, who was Costa Rica’s President when she was discovered using a drug plane from a major Colombian drug trafficker to fly to Venezuela for the funeral of Hugo Chavez? Was that embarrassing for her? Some of these are rhetorical questions. Chinchilla and her ilk remain as protected as Wall Street bankers. And they don’t live in my country.
But in my country there are as-yet unnamed Americans making more money from the drug trade than any Mexican drug lord with an AK-47 and bandoliers of ammo strapped cross-ways across his bare chest ever could even conceive.
Taboos don’t just exist in places like Borneo, and among people in the pictures in National Geographic. They exist here, too. Right here. Right now.
The real fun, Gary Webb told me once, is in dragging the dead body (the taboo subject) out from under the bed, and then watching what happens. He was right.
Even though it pays less than anything I’ve done since I was twenty, I’ve got the best job in the world. Before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I have a fighting chance of finding out just what the hell had been going on while I was alive.
You could say I’m having the time of my life.