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The Fact of Sisyphus

Barrett Brown, whose column received the 2016 National Magazine Award
for columns and commentary, is an imprisoned U.S. journalist and the
founder of Project PM, a crowd-sourced investigation into the
cyber-industrial complex. In 2012, the FBI raided his house, and later
that year Barrett was indicted on 12 federal charges relating to the
2011 Stratfor hack. The most controversial charge, linking to the
hacked data, was dropped, but in 2015 Brown was sentenced to 63 months
in prison. For more information about his case, and to contribute to
his legal defense fund, please visit the Free Barrett website. If
you’d like to send him a book, here’s his Amazon wish list. Brown's
ebook, Keep Rootin' for Putin is available as a free download.

    Barrett Brown #45047-177
    FCI Three Rivers
    Federal Correctional Institution
    P.O. Box 4200
    Three Rivers, TX 78071


Barrett Brown

Partly as a consequence of my natural rambunctiousness, I’ve spent a
total of five months over the past few years of incarceration being
held in 23- to 24-hour-a-day Special Housing Unit confinement cells,
collectively and informally known as “the hole,” at three different
prisons and in stints ranging from six to 60 days; indeed, my first
three Intercept columns were composed from the SHU over at Federal
Correctional Institution Fort Worth. But as these were given over
largely to rambling self-promotion and some rather intemperate attacks
on several contemporary novelists, I’ve never gotten around to
providing a real sense of what it’s actually like to live in one of
these federal dungeons.

The chief thing to keep in mind is that dungeons vary. The most
fundamental division lies between those in which inmates are kept
singly in cells along a corridor set off from the rest of the prison
and purposefully denied human contact to one extent or another, and
those in which two prisoners are kept together in such cells, usually
with a window or metalwork grill on the door through which inmates can
communicate with others in their corridor via the age-old medium of
shouting. The first — known as solitary confinement to everyone but
prison officials, who’ve gradually replaced the term with an
assortment of euphemisms — is often conflated in the public mind with
the second, lesser-known setup, but at any rate the nature of one’s
detention is such that human contact is either intentionally and
elaborately absent or haphazardly and excruciatingly omnipresent.

Even within these two categories, one finds a great deal of variation
from institution to institution, but day-to-day SHU life at FCI Fort
Worth should make for a useful baseline. There, a weekday begins at 6
a.m. when the lights in one’s cell come on. A few minutes later the
rectangular slot in one’s door is unlocked and a guard pushes in a
plastic tray containing breakfast along with a couple of little
plastic bags of milk. It’s rather dehumanizing, this matter of having
to drink milk out of bags like a common Canadian, but getting
breakfast in bed every day makes up for it. Fifteen minutes later the
guard comes back and takes up the trays, and then one of his
colleagues will walk down the hall jotting down the names of those who
want to go outside for one’s permitted daily hour of weekday
recreation. Having compiled the list, the guard goes back to his
station and tries to arrange things such that incompatible inmates
aren’t placed together in the same recreation cage. This sort of
reminds me of the old riddle about the farmer who has a fox and a
rooster and a bag of corn but can only take one at a time across the
river in his boat and the fox will eat the rooster and the rooster
will eat the corn if either pair is left together unattended (the
solution, incidentally, is to shoot the fox, because it’s a fox).

If you are indeed going to rec that morning, the guard opens the hatch
and you back up to it and put your hands through to be handcuffed, and
then your cellmate does likewise regardless of whether or not he’s
going out as well, as the door isn’t ever supposed to be opened until
both occupants are cuffed. When the door does open, you walk out
backward before being patted down and scanned with a hand-held metal
detector, led out to the courtyard, placed in one of several large
cages with your scientifically designated playmate, and then uncuffed
through the slot in the gate. After an hour of kicking around a
deflated basketball while yelling old Symbionese Liberation Army
slogans at the other prisoners, you’re cuffed back up through the gate
slot and returned to your cell. A bit later we get lunch, and then
dinner a few hours afterward, followed by mail. Three days a week
we’re cuffed up and taken to the other end of the hall for showers. On
weekends we generally don’t leave our cells at all.

It’s a schedule that leaves prisoners with a great deal of free time,
much of which tends to be spent in sleep or exercise. The chief
workout routine in the SHU, as well as in jail units and other locales
where even improvised equipment can be hard to drum up, is something
called burpies, which entails an alternating series of push-ups,
squats, and leg thrusts and which I refer to as Berbers because
“burpies” is vulgar. Not that I do them anyway, or any other exercise,
and I’ve never approved of excessive sleeping, either, for life is not
meant to be spent in rest, but rather in conflict or preparation for
future conflict.

There is one common SHU activity in which I do happily participate,
though, simply because it’s something that can’t be done elsewhere and
naturally I’m trying to experience all the touristy prison things
before my release just in case I don’t come back for a while. The SHU
is the only place of which I’m aware where it’s socially acceptable to
yell random nonsense where other people can hear it. Now, much of the
yelling that people do through gaps under the door or the crack
between the door and its mounting or the metal grills that serve as
windows in some units, as the case may be, is entirely purposeful
communication consisting of gossip, plots, threats, lyrics, Symbionese
Liberation Army slogans, vows, requests, and commercial offers, and
this sort of thing will go on throughout the day, with peak times
occurring after meals and other periods when everyone tends to be
awake (as to how those commercial offers are accepted, there is a
process known as “fishing” or “shooting the line” by which small items
may be transferred among inmates, but a full column’s description will
be required to do it justice; suffice it to say that string and
persistence are involved).

But in addition to all of this more or less mundane intercourse,
there’s also a wholly distinct and inimitable element of
shouting-for-the-sake-of-shouting. Some of this takes the form of
memes; at Seagoville Federal Detention Center, for instance, the
guards once brought in a drunk off the compound who, after being
placed in his cell, spent the next hour banging on the door and
yelling out some sloshy, inconsequential narrative that he would
punctuate every few sentences with the refrain, “They hear me but they
don’t FEEL me, though!” Thereafter this phrase became a very popular
meme that would be shouted out several times a day; it had been
incorporated into the vibrant oral culture of our particular SHU

But SHU shouts can be, and often are, more or less apropos of nothing.
I myself was fond of drinking six or seven lukewarm cups of the
freeze-dried instant coffee we can buy from the weekly commissary
cart, going up to the door grill, and calling out in a raspy, feminine
voice, “My brother is coming … with MANY FREMEN WARRIORS” about 20 or
30 times in a row, often capped off with a triumphant, “Meet the
Atreides Gom Jabbar, grandfather!” And it wouldn’t occur to anyone to
inquire as to why I’d done this; people in the SHU wake up every
morning with a sort of preternatural awareness that someone could
start yelling out lines from David Lynch’s highly underrated 1984 film
version of Dune at any moment and will either assume that the yeller
needed to do this to feel self-actualized or, alternatively, that he’s
one of the untold thousands of mentally ill prisoners whom U.S. prison
authorities have allowed to languish in punishment cells for years on
end (though in my case, people tended to recognize me by voice as the
guy who was always kicking around the deflated basketball and calling
for death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people).

Aside from sleeping, screaming, and exercising, there’s also reading.
Federal SHUs generally have book carts that are rolled up the hallway
once a week; inmates crouch next to their door slots to view the
selections and point to what they want. Prison book carts are always
exciting, tending to be largely composed of donations from ancient
rural branch libraries that have just given up and closed down or
whatever, such that one can always expect to find a stray gem or
hilarious oddity. On one occasion I grabbed an award-winning 1962
volume on Jefferson by Dumas Malone in which the claim that the third
president engaged in a sexual relationship with the slave Sally
Hemings is dismissed as “wholly unwarranted.” But my best find to date
remains the early ’80s sci-fi novel I came across a couple of years
back in which the U.S. has fallen under a dystopian theocracy after
having rather unwisely elected a Mormon president.

Fortunately, SHU inmates are allowed to receive books through the mail
from commercial retailers just as we can in the prison itself, with
the only difference being that we can’t get hardcover books lest we
use them to make shanks. When the editors at The Intercept sent me a
hardback copy of the new Jonathan Franzen tome Purity last year, I was
only given it after a guard tore off the cover. This was a rather
upsetting thing to have witnessed, though halfway through the
narrative I was kind of wishing he’d finished the job.

I try to keep a copy of something by Hegel with me at all times as
well, not so much with the intent of reading it straight through, but
rather as a means by which to play a little game I’ve invented called
Shut the Fuck Up, Hegel, You Fucking Fraud. What you do is, you flip
to a random page in any volume of Hegel’s works and look for the
inevitable instance of hyper-oracular nonsense, such as this line I
just randomly came across from page 129 of Lectures on the Philosophy
of History:

    The spread of Indian culture is prehistorical, for history is
limited to that which makes for an essential epoch in the development
of spirit. On the whole, the diffusion of Indian culture is only a
dumb, deedless expansion, that is, without a political act. The people
of India have achieved no foreign conquests, but have been on every
occasion vanquished themselves.

Then you write in the margin, “Shut the fuck up, Hegel, you fucking
fraud.” And from page 51:

    What spirit really strives for is the realization of its own
concept; but in so doing it hides that goal from its own vision; it is
proud and quite enjoys itself in this alienation from itself.

“Whatever, douche.”

Indeed, to live in the hole is to be thrust into a world in which
everything must be repurposed and all possibilities pursued. One day I
decided to compose a list of unnecessary people throughout history and
had jotted down Ezra Pound, the Emperor Aurangzeb, Carlos Mencia,
Charles IV, and Gary Bauer when it became clear that I’d cast my net
too wide, at which point I abandoned the project. Instead I tried to
decide which city I’d destroy if I had the chance, other than Houston.
I eventually decided on Singapore, which I feel has been setting a bad
example for the other cities.

SHU time is a time for remembrance. I thought of all the strange and
interesting people I’d met throughout my incarceration, such as the
fellow who would conclude all of his assertions with the phrase, “Even
a small child knows that.” Among the things a small child knows, it
seems, is that sentences handed down for conspiracy to distribute
methamphetamines tend to be much harsher in Texas than in California
and that a particular guard who works the morning shift is kind of a
dick sometimes but not always. There was also the guy who feted me
with coffee and candy bars during a weeklong transit stop at a local
jail, at one point showing me the program from his father’s funeral a
few years prior; the cover bore a photo of a man dressed all in
yellow, right down to his cape and top hat, and who apparently went
only by the name Yellow Shoes. As noted in the program text, Yellow
Shoes was survived by well over 30 children. His father had been a
famous East Dallas pimp, my friend explained, somewhat unnecessarily.
Now he himself had been indicted as a drug dealer when in fact he was
a pimp like his father before him, something he planned to explain to
the judge at the first opportunity. Frankly, I’d say he had a strong

Finally, SHU inmates also spend some variable portion of each day
reflecting on the astonishing degree of injustice they’ve had the
chance to observe, as well as cultivating a healthy contempt for the
system that perpetrates that injustice and the society that continues
to permit it. Some months ago I asked The Intercept to file a Freedom
of Information Act request with the Bureau of Prisons in pursuit of
all records pertaining to yours truly in hopes of documenting further
instances of government misconduct to add to my collection. Recently
the BOP provided us with 175 pages, all of which we’ve posted online —
including the fully one-third that the BOP has completely redacted.
Tellingly, some clear and potentially criminal wrongdoing actually
crops up even among those pages that the agency has not gone so far as
to completely blank out, as we’ll see in a moment. First, let’s get
the vital statistics from Ben Brieschke of the BOP’s notoriously shady
South Central Regional Office, who prepared the cover letter:

    After a careful review, we determined 89 pages are appropriate for
release in full; 28 pages are appropriate for release in part; and,
[sic] 58 pages must be withheld in their entirety.

Most of these redactions are being justified under two FOIA
exemptions, one of which is intended for those files or portions
thereof “which would disclose techniques and procedures for law
enforcement investigations or prosecutions,” with the other pertaining
to those bits of information “which could reasonably be expected to
endanger the life or personal safety of an individual.” This latter
consideration certainly sounds serious, and one can get a sense of the
peril to which BOP staff are forever subject by the fact that first
names are blocked out with the “(b)(7)(F)” box throughout these
documents, lest they be tracked down by violent ex-prisoners or what
have you. One can likewise get a sense that even the BOP doesn’t buy
its own bullshit in this regard by the fact that it has failed to
block out the first name of a member of the BOP’s Special
Investigative Services (SIS) security division, and in another
document has left in the typed-out first, last, and middle names of
some dozen other officers and staff, an act of negligence that — what
was that phrase again? — “could reasonably be expected to endanger the
life or personal safety” of the individuals it itself has just fully
identified, if we take the BOP’s own word for it (though in my
infinite benevolence, I’ve asked The Intercept to block out the names
in question, for all men know of my great regard for the comfort and
well-being of American law enforcement officials).

Of course, the reality is that despite these names having sat on the
internet for weeks before I came across the regional office’s slip in
my paper copies and had them redacted, no one has been endangered by
the BOP’s incompetence here, as the (b)(7)(F) exemption is less a
necessary security measure than it is a convenient smokescreen by
which to cover up its own misconduct. And at many institutions,
employees tend to be less wary of inmates than they are of the
administration itself; when medical staff at several BOP prisons spoke
to USA Today earlier this year about the bureau’s despicable tendency
to regularly use them as prison guards rather than, say, having them
work full-time providing the medical care that’s already in short
supply, all of those coming forward chose to remain anonymous for fear
of retaliation.

Speaking of retaliation, have a look at this inmate progress report
prepared by two Fort Worth staff at the end of August 2015 in which I
am commended for my “good sanitation” and continued FRP payments (the
monthly restitution I’ve been ordered to pay to my corporate
“victims”). Elsewhere it’s noted that I’m “currently participating in
the GED program” (until recently the BOP refused to acknowledge that,
in addition to my good sanitation, I’m also a high school graduate; as
a result I had to sign up for high school equivalency classes). And
here are the signatures of the staff members in question, S.
Vanderlinden and M. Gutierrez, along with my own, perhaps not terribly
impressive signature. Now take a look at this other document composed
12 days later, after I’d been thrown in the hole again, and signed by
the very same two staff members, which I was never supposed to see.
Now it seems that I’ve shown “poor institutional adjustment,” “poor
program participation,” and even “poor living skills” — true enough if
we’re talking about signature design — and thus must be moved to a
medium security prison immediately.

This would be my new favorite illustration of the casual criminality
that has long marked the BOP’s operational culture had I not also
acquired this other, even more extraordinary specimen — the latest
response from the BOP regarding the Administrative Remedy complaint I
filed over a year ago regarding the retaliatory seizure of my email
access, the first of a string of bizarre incidents at Fort Worth that
would culminate in the confiscation of my notebook outside the law
library. As I’ve noted before, the Prison Litigation Reform Act of
1986 — passed during a period in which U.S. domestic policy was being
determined largely on the basis of questionable anecdotes — requires
that inmates who wish to sue the BOP and its employees first complete
an arcane and multilayered regimen of paperwork to the satisfaction of
the BOP and its employees. Inmates who find that the process itself is
being violated by the BOP and its employees are free to file another
complaint for review by the BOP and its employees. Astonishingly, this
process is not always free from abuse by the BOP and its employees.

When we last checked in on my own complaint about my email access
having been seized by BOP Washington liaison Terrance Moore an hour
after I’d used it to alert a journalist to BOP misconduct, the
regional office had rather despicably claimed that my appeal had been
late, even though it clearly hadn’t, as the failure by the warden’s
executive assistant Jerry McKinney to respond to my BP-9 form within
20 days of the day he logged it in, as well as his failure to request
the 20-day extension to his own deadline until well after his first
deadline had passed, as well as his failure to meet even that extended
deadline, allowed me to consider this a rejection at the institutional
level and freed me to proceed to the regional level, as is noted in
the BOP’s own policy guidelines — except that I couldn’t, because, as
I’ve also documented via forms signed and dated by McKinney himself,
McKinney failed to return the original documents to me for another
month despite messages I sent over the internal staff notification
system requesting that he do so.

Finally he brought me back a triply late and thus invalid rejection —
even handing it to me nine days after the date it was signed, as is
again documented by his own dating and signature. The regional
counsels know this fully well, and also know that just a few days
later I was placed in the SHU and thereafter shipped to Oklahoma for
processing and then to my current prison, where I filed my regional
appeal as soon as I received the box containing my legal papers. They
know this because, as I learned recently when I complained that the
BOP was now apparently violating the law by holding some of my mail
for nearly two weeks, I’m on some ultra-rare and secretive
classification known as “Inmates of Greatest Concern,” which requires
that everything I do be monitored and scrutinized for the benefit of
some unspecified outside agency.

Nonetheless, the region rejected my appeal due to it being “untimely,”
made an inappropriate request that I obtain “staff verification” that
this wasn’t my fault from staff at a prison I am accusing of
systematic retaliation and whom I have no means of contacting since
I’m no longer housed there, and demanded that my appeal be reduced to
a single typewritten page and resubmitted, all within 15 days of the
date of this rejection, which just happened to be 15 days prior to my
receipt of it. Thus I’d been given zero days to comply, including mail

I documented the entirety of this in a column months ago and wrote
back to the region’s legal counsel, explaining in detail why his
requests were impossible. Several weeks later I received another
rejection notice in which the counsel ignores my explanations and
maintains that I missed the deadline, although he himself seems
confused as to when that deadline actually was since he lists it as
having fallen on two different dates.

And just so I understand that the zero days thing wasn’t a mistake,
the rejection notice is dated December 4 — and they’d delayed mailing
it to me such that it didn’t even arrive at the warden’s office until
December 29. This time, then, I’d been given negative 10 days to

My email access was finally reinstated several months ago by the
security staff at my current prison, who immediately determined that
there was no legitimate reason why I shouldn’t have it; my continued
pursuit of this process is intended to force an admission of
wrongdoing from the BOP as well as to illustrate how it actually
operates. This, after all, is the only procedure by which my 200,000
fellow federal inmates are able to protect the last human rights
remaining to them, whether they’ve been subject to ongoing
retaliation, or they’ve been kept in the hole for years on end
contrary to law and all decency, or they’ve been beaten while in
handcuffs, or they’ve been denied basic medical care — all issues that
have been encountered by people I’ve known and interviewed over the
past few years. Here’s a list of grievances logged in at Fort Worth in
2014 and 2015, which we’ve obtained via another FOIA request; keep in
mind that for every complaint filed, there are dozens of incidents
that go undocumented because veteran inmates are aware of the near
impossibility of getting heard by the court under a system that can be
violated without consequences.

Imagine spending a year in the hole due to a mistake, trying all the
while to get a court to order your release, and getting back a demand
that you include two extra copies of a document and that you do this
six days ago. This sort of thing happens regularly, throughout the
system, although the problem appears to be particularly systematic in
this regional district.

The truly disturbing part is not that this happens in the first place,
but rather that it will likely continue happening despite now having
been fully documented. For it is not just the prisons that are broken,
but the media as well.

To help illustrate the manner in which the press has become largely
incapable of performing its necessary watchdog role even when large
parts of its job are done for it, and how certain parties have managed
to benefit from this state of affairs, next time we’ll discuss why it
is that I happen to be in prison. We’ll also talk about a man named
Peter Thiel. As it happens, these subjects are very much intertwined.
Quote of the Day:

“At the very outset we have the antithesis between the goal of the
state as the abstract generality on the one hand, and the abstract
person on the other; but when subsequently, in the course of history,
personality gains the ascendant, its breakup into atoms can only be
held together externally; then the subjective power of rule comes
forward as if summoned to fulfill this task. For abstract legality is
this; not to be concrete from within, not to have organization from
within; and this, having come to power, has only an arbitrary power as
contingent subjectivity as what moves it, as what rules it; and the
individual seeks in the developed private law solace for his lost
freedom. This the purely secular reconciliation of the antithesis.”

— Fucking Hegel

Drawing by Paul Davis. Fee donated to Barrett Brown’s legal defense fund.

Threads Latest
William St. George
July 10 2016, 5:37 a.m.

The Hegel quotes, especially the last one, are extremely reminiscent
of the sort of thing a university student might write having taken a
Benzedrine tablet the previous night before a test in the Philosophy
of History — obviously a mistake as witness the incoherence of the
types of thoughts resulting. So what might Hegel have been taking. I
do not think even in the original German the last quote could really
be said to have any meaning but rather pieces of meaning stuck
together by a beleaguered mind.

Great piece of writing by B. Brown. Eventually fitting all this
together in a book will be wise. Another Soul On Ice or Soul On
Computer Chip.
↪ Reply
July 10 2016, 3:34 a.m.

    We’ll also talk about a man named Peter Thiel.

I can’t wait.

    — Fucking Hegel

↪ Reply
July 10 2016, 1:14 a.m.

Fucking brilliant. Hang on.
↪ Reply
July 10 2016, 1:00 a.m.

You’re brilliant, Barrett. Stay strong. You deserve so much better
than your current situation and I hope that it will change for the
better as soon as possible.
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 9:21 p.m.

I always enjoy your posts, Barrett; they’re good for at least 5-6
belly laughs. I’m glad you’ve kept your sense of humor in a system
that has run aground against its Peter Principle. Corrections by
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 7:34 p.m.

Always entertaining and enlightening BB.

A few questions came to mind-

How was the $890.000 or so in restitution calculated?
I saw no mention in the documents, nor whether it was being collected
for disbursement to the “victims” or kept by the state.
I’d appreciate it if anybody has a link… or perhaps BB will cover it
in the forthcoming piece he alluded to this round?

Why are they redacting publicly accessible news articles?

How is it that cursive is used by guards on these forms?
Is printing or at least legibility not a consideration?

How is that nobody else in the SHU is familiar with Dune?
I never understood the “grandfather” thing though… anybody?

↪ Reply
nfjtakfa ↪ altohone
July 9 2016, 8:35 p.m.

She was talking to her grandfather on her mother’s side at the time.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen was Lady Jessica’s actual father under the
secret Bene Gesserit breeding program, and so Alia Atreides was his
the evil Baron’s granddaughter – just as her brother Paul, the Kwisatz
Haderach, was his grandson.
↪ Reply
altohone ↪ nfjtakfa
July 9 2016, 10:45 p.m.

I should have expected that to be the question that gets answered.
Not that I don’t appreciate the reply.

OK, so why the big stink about Jessica only having daughters so the
two families could finally be brought together?
The grandfather thing seemingly makes that redundant… but also
explains the unexpected success of the breeding program.

It’s been 30 years or so since I read the book… maybe I should pick it up again.
The movie made no prior references to these facts.
Maybe it was too hard to suspend disbelief that the Baron could spawn
a beauty like Jessica.
But grandchildren marrying each other makes Herbert a bit more twisted
than I remember.
↪ Reply
photosymbiosis ↪ altohone
July 9 2016, 11:15 p.m.

“But grandchildren marrying each other makes Herbert a bit more
twisted than I remember.”

That’s just the modern perspective; it was pretty common in the era of
divine kings and queens – they didn’t want to pollute the royal blood
with that of commoners, so keeping it all in the family was not
unusual, accounting for the relatively high rate of inherited genetic
disorders in various royal dynasties.


Other good Frank Herbert quotes:

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the
little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I
will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone
past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has
gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    “We are plagued by a corrupt polity which promotes unlawful and/or
immoral behavior. Public interest has no practical significance in
everyday behavior among the ruling factions. The real problems of our
world are not being confronted by those in power. In the guise of
public service, they use whatever comes to hand for personal gain.
They are insane with and for power.”
    (Dosadi Experiment)

↪ Reply
nfjtakfa ↪ altohone
July 9 2016, 11:26 p.m.

It was never about just bringing any two families together in
particular so much as the Bene Gesserit were always trying to produce
a truly prescient male (that they could control) as a main goal of
their breeding program. By producing a son a generation or two earlier
than they wanted (for her Duke Leto Atreides) it meant they weren’t
yet prepared, it wasn’t at the time and place of their choosing and
they would never control him.
Back-story: The Reverend-Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam blackmailed The
Baron, who didn’t like women sexually, into their breeding program and
he was so angry he raped her violently. She in turn used her Bene
Gesserit abilities during the rape to get some revenge of her own and
infect him with the disease that then plagued him for decades, making
him grossly fat with ugly sores everywhere. (book “House Harkonnen,” I

In the original Dune, the Baron only learned of his grandchildren as a
died at Alia’s hand from her personal Gom Jabbar. Jessica and the
BeneGesserit never told him Jessica was his daughter with Helen
Mohiam. And Alia was, after all, a Reverend Mother with access to
“other voices” (ancestors, mostly previous Reverend Mothers) from
before she was born, as Jessica went through the water of life
transformation while pregnant, making Alia what they called an
abomination. She knew from her ancestral voices within what he didn’t,
and informed him of it as he died.

Some of this back-story was filled in years later in a series of many
books written by Frank Herbert’s son Brian together with Kevin J.
Anderson. They’ve written some 14 books in the Dune Universe filling
in the complete back story of the Butlerian Jihad and the Great Houses
with prelude, including the Machine Universe of Omnius and Erasmus –
and even series far into the future of Frank’s original Dune. Um, I
guess I’ve sort of read them all – for decades now.
They’re in fact still at it with a couple more already in the works
according to Wikipedia:
↪ Reply
photosymbiosis ↪ nfjtakfa
July 10 2016, 12:51 a.m.

Please, the Brian Herbert books are awful, awful, awful! One of the
most pathetic efforts to flog a parent’s name into a literary cash
payoff ever seen. Utter garbage, bottom of the barrel scrapings.

Frank Herbert had a real grasp of how dictatorships and empires rise
and fall, and he wove in ecology and history in a unique way. That
drivel produced by his son is embarrassingly bad in contrast.
↪ Reply
nfjtakfa ↪ photosymbiosis
July 10 2016, 2:58 a.m.

Some weren’t that great, but some weren’t nearly as bad as some of
Frank’s own efforts either.
Especially in my younger years I devoured fantasy / sci-fi realms as a
form of escape, although less so for that reason the last decade so
much as author chasing. For instance, for a year or three in the ’08 –
’10 time frame I couldn’t get enough of R.A. Salvatore and read most
everything he ever wrote. When I read for entertainment or escape it’s
never about construct so much as storytelling and being taken
elsewhere, like with good music – if the storytelling transports you
places that can be enough.
And please yourself, btw, I never recommended the books or made any
claims about them whatsoever. But I’ll tell you this, I’ve never read
a single Brian Herbert / Kevin J. Anderson book of the Dune universe
as bad as Dune Messiah, which I read the year it was released, by
Frank Herbert himself.
↪ Reply
altohone ↪ nfjtakfa
July 10 2016, 4:54 a.m.

Well, I was specifically referring to the dialogue in the movie where
Jessica was berated… I skipped the quotation marks due to uncertainty
about the precise wording, but the gist is accurate… bringing the two
families together part.

I’m sure the movie isn’t true to the book, but your response suggests
the dialog in the movie was actually false, and that is surprising.
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 7:06 p.m.

Thanks for the inside view of the federal prison complex, it’s very

My immediate inclination was to compare-and-contrast the above report
with the Russian prison complex as described in Don’t Trust Dont’ Fear
Don’t Beg, by Ben Stewart. I don’t think I’d like either one much,
although the Soviet system seems to have more opportunities for
cell-to-cell communication via the sock relay system – doroga. On the
other hand, the quality of the food in Russian prisons seems much


Here’s how the Greenpeace detainees were welcomed by the other
prisoners – an educational note:

    The best of day and time to you, all arrestees! Here is hoping
this note finds you in good health and strong of mood. Here is the
deal. There is us and there is them, there are thieves and there are
stars. The stars have stars on their shoulder plates, and those, dear
friends, are the guards. Then there is us, we are the arrestees. We
are the thieves. Now, the doroga is most important, it keeps us as
one, together, in solidarity. It is what keeps us alive. If there is
anything you need, you will have it. All you need do is ask. You will
not sell or buy things, no, you are expected to give. If you have
something, you give it. If you need it something, it will be given to
you. If you want to be a part of the doroga, you are welcome to join
our community of ropes, you will be supported, you will be given what
you need. If however you are afraid to be a part of the road, we
understand, and you will still be given support. But do not interfere
with the doroga. If you interfere with the road, you will be punished,
you will no longer be one of us, you will be one of them. You will no
longer be a thief. You become a star.

Here’s another nice feature of the Russian prison complex:

    “You are not permitted to be rude. Hard cursing is not allowed
against another prisoner. One is permitted to say, “I hate this
fucking shit” but you can’t say “Fuck you.” You will treat other
arrestees with respect.

Hilarious, Russian prisoners treat each other more politely than many
TI commentators do. Funny isn’t it? But then, those who engage in such
tactics are most likely “stars”, I’d say, out to disrupt conversations
– although when you have to share a cell with people, it’s probably
wiser to be polite. Food for thought?

Here’s another interesting feature of the Russian prison complex, one
that could be imported to the United States:

    Below that there’s another category. Former employees of law
enforcement agencies. Cops. Prosecutors. There are a lot of them in
prison, there’s lots of crime that goes on in that sector of society.
Bribery, murder, everything. And they end up here. They have their own
cells as well. They keep themselves to themselves, otherwise they tend
to get killed.

One of the reasons killer cops and dishonest prosecutors and dirty
federal agents from outfits like the FBI and DEA and ATF tend to avoid
prison time is that judges worry about their fate in prison; they’d be
hated by everyone. However, if you set up segregated prison units for
such people, the justice system might be more willing to throw them in
jail. Great idea, isn’t it? Works for the Russians, apparently.

Here’s some more good advice:

    “Don’t trust anybody in a uniform,” says Vitaly. “The more faith
you put in the authorities, the more it hurts when they screw you
over. To trust the police is to disrespect yourself. And don’t fear
because whatever you’re scared of, you can’t stop it happening. What
will be will be. Your fear changes nothing, but it hurts you, so let
it go. And don’t beg because it never works. Nobody ever begged their
way out of SIZO-1, so don’t sacrifice your dignity on a false promise.
There’s no point being nice to the guards, the investigator, the
prosecutor or the judge. Your pleading only makes them despise you

All in all, It seems like the U.S. federal prison complex is the more
Stalinist one, with all the solitary confinement games and efforts to
prevent prisoners from developing support networks and obsessive fears
along those lines; in addition the U.S. won’t put crooked members of
the justice system in jail, while the Russians do.

Again, thanks for the report from the inside.
↪ Reply
Stuart Meade
July 9 2016, 7:05 p.m.

Thx for the good read Barrett and for getting the systemic nonsense
meant to silence and bury prisoners in the system and protect the BOP
from the law, out there. One question for a future column? Does this
‘stonewall’ extend to those attempting to get review of their
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 6:55 p.m.

Love to you Barrett. Thanks for documenting the outrageously unjust
processes suffered by incarcerated persons & sorry you are going
through this.

Totally with you on both Franzen and Hegel.

You might enjoy the very straightforward “Listen Little Man” by
Wilhelm Reich, just a thought. ??
↪ Reply
Lana ↪ Lana
July 9 2016, 6:57 p.m.

Those question marks were supposed to be a smiley face, what a mystery
↪ Reply
br'er rabbit
July 9 2016, 6:35 p.m.

Love the Hegel bits . . imagine the translator. I’d suggest “Jung’s
seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra” next but don’t want to destroy
your angst. Look forward to your next dispatch.
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 4:48 p.m.

Barrett Brown’s verbal flyswatter led me in a few steps to
http://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?view_collection=344 , a
collection of the mimeographed newsletters of the “above-ground
support group of the SLA”, and truly a wonderful resource for the
budding historians around here. (Apparently the group would be much
easier to understand if one or more of the people reporting about it
in media would try) Alas, I don’t know if there’s any way he could
read it.
↪ Reply
Baldie McEagle
July 9 2016, 3:09 p.m.

Barrett had better be careful. Next time they will give him negative
TWENTY days to comply. The bureaucrats are inhuman but, thankfully,
they prefer round numbers that can easily be recorded.
↪ Reply
Brian T
July 9 2016, 2:13 p.m.

Wonderful writing, Barrette. You are our new Hunter S. And though many
do not realize it, we desperately need your artful pros in our lives.
Not to mention your important work reviewing books.
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 2:06 p.m.

I agree, Hegel is a bit of a chew. Instead, we should send Mr. Brown
the collected books of Carlos Castaneda.

Start with The Active Side of Infinity and read backwards.

In solidarity with Mr. Brown , I shall reread the book Camp
Concentratin by Thomas Disch.

    Louis Sacchetti is a poet and pacifist imprisoned for refusing to
enlist in the war against Third World guerillas. Sacchetti and the
other inmates are used in perverse scientific experiments, and
Sacchetti is infected with a germ that raises intelligence to
incredible heights while causing decay and death.

↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 1:51 p.m.

Poor Barrett. Thrown in the hole for refusing orders, drinking toilet
hooch, and taking morphine.

A real victim.
↪ Reply
Brian T ↪ Nate
July 9 2016, 2:06 p.m.

“They hear me but they don’t FEEL me, though!”
↪ Reply
John Kelly ↪ Nate
July 9 2016, 4:17 p.m.

Poor Nate, throws in his petty and sadistic little jabs, not realizing
that he seems like an execrable little TWAT by comparison with the
brilliant and hilariously anti-authoritarian human being he is
attempting to smear. The poor Nate. It must feel very small.
↪ Reply
Nate ↪ John Kelly
July 9 2016, 8:31 p.m.

How are they petty and jabs when he’s the one publishing them for all
to see. At least I read them! You should as well, they give you a much
better idea of what happens.

Here’s some other facts from his file, some of which are just the full
quotations that he referenced in his article:

* “Mr. Brown has maintained poor institutional adjustment since his
arrival at this facility on February 25, 2015. He has received two
Greatest severity level Incident Reports.”

* “His security level increased as a result of poor program
participation, poor living skills, and three Incident reports.”

* Barrett has paid less than one percent of his restitution.

* When busted on opiate use, stated: “I am guilty, I did it.”
Sanctions included 90-day loss of phone, email, commissary (ouch),
visits (man, that’s harsh), and 30 days in the hole. “Inmate
Brown…displayed a poor attitude during this investigation.” Barrett’s
characterization of taking the morphine pill: “I’m afraid I’m back in
the hold after failing my latest ‘random’ drug test which tested
positive for one of the little morphine pills that people sell here. I
know it was stupid of me, so it’s not necessary for everyone to
explain that to me again. Please keep in mind that I’m an untreated
substance abuser living in a ??? with literally a thousand drug

* Two months before this, Barrett was placed in the hole for alcohol
use. An officer searched “Brown’s locker and found a coffee mug full
of homemade intoxicants” which “tested .400 with the Alco-sensor IV”
(potent!!) When the officer questioned Brown if he was intoxicated he
responded. “No, but have you?” (LOL). “He bought it from the hooch
distributor within the unit.” “At his hearing he stated “I’m guilty.”
This time “he displayed a fair attitude during the investigation.”

* So to put this in a timeline, Barrett got sent to the hole for
alcohol in June 2015. He got out in July 2015. One month later he was
back in the hole for drugs.

* Despite his abuse issues and comments about being untreated, his
August 2015 Progress report says “Mr. Brown declined interest in the
Residential Drug Abuse Program. He has not participated in any drug
education programs.” The next review indicates he has to “enroll and
complete the 100-hour drug abuse program within 12 months. Remain
incident free until next review.”
↪ Reply
Sillyputty ↪ Nate
July 9 2016, 7:11 p.m.

Dammit, Nate. I thought you were better than that.

I was reserving Barret’s fantastically creative Hegel line for
CraigSummers, but:

“Shut the fuck up, Nate, you fucking fraud.”
↪ Reply
Karl ↪ Nate
July 9 2016, 7:56 p.m.

Hey Nate, don’t let the rabble get you down. I suspect that Mr. Brown
would rather have one honest response to this self-deprecating
conveyance of his Sisyphean misadventures than a hundred obsequious
reflections whose feigned sympathies utterly fail to reflect even a
rudimentary understanding of the author’s comical madness as he
attempts to reconcile his unfailing propensity for self-aggrandizing
craftiness and deceitfulness in a penal system that is designed to
view such behavior as being antithetical to its unyielding intention
of frustrating, and eventually pacifying, such anti-authority
↪ Reply
nfjtakfa ↪ Karl
July 9 2016, 8:48 p.m.

Say, decent “Fucking Hegel” impression.
↪ Reply
Karl ↪ nfjtakfa
July 9 2016, 9:26 p.m.

    Say, decent “Fucking Hegel” impression.

This comment is a perfect case in point of those whose demonstrable
ignorance requires them to reflexively focus on and reflect a single
element of a deeply nuanced and highly sophisticated article with the
hope that they too can be perceived as being aesthetically possessed
of the author’s artistic sensibilities. Yes, we get it nfjtakfa… You
hear him, and you feel him, and you would be him, but for the fact
that you are not him.
↪ Reply
Kitt ↪ Karl
July 9 2016, 9:01 p.m.

Excerpts: ‘The Elements of Style’ Strunk And White
↪ Reply
Karl ↪ Kitt
July 9 2016, 11:20 p.m.

Hi Kitt. Long time, no insult. Let me respond to your criticisms of
style by referring you to the opinions of your fellow sheep on such

    Your fawning over the rules as if some benign entity made them is
a pure authoritarian wet dream, and you are a petty oozing carbuncle…
especially when compared to B.B.

– John Kelly

    Nicely said. I’m reminded of the types who dwell on typos and
grammar to avoid the content too.

– Altohone
↪ Reply
altohone ↪ Karl
July 10 2016, 4:38 a.m.

And, speaking of twats that aren’t here for the content…

The true sheep can’t face reality.
↪ Reply
Nate ↪ Karl
July 9 2016, 9:22 p.m.

Karl, I don’t even consider them a rabble, just some people commenting
in a forum. I don’t believe their sympathy is faked (maybe hollow) but
that they don’t know any way to express it other than fawning and
drooling all over his articles. As if his pariah status renders his
articles immune to criticism. They don’t seem to mind that in spite of
Barrett’s intentions to “expose wrongdoing” in the prison system, he
himself keeps breaking the rules and doing wrong. He mostly takes the
low hanging fruit: talks about screaming in the SHU for comedic
purposes, when a lot of people in SHU are mentally ill and not just
creating funny material for TI; the guards are morons, admin staff
cannot spell, etc.

So as is clear, I don’t sympathize with Barrett’s self-inflicted
plight. But reviewing his 177-page FOIA record attached to this
article, the one thing that made me feel for the guy was seeing his
visitor log: Mother, father, grandmother. That’s it for the timeframe
presented. I’d imagine while serving time, you learn who your real
friends and family are.
↪ Reply
Karl ↪ Nate
July 9 2016, 9:56 p.m.

    Karl, I don’t even consider them a rabble, just some people
commenting in a forum.

Rabble are defined by their tendency to act as a herd as they have a
natural tendency to engage in group think. Group thinkers are
reflexively prone to attacking anyone who reminds them that they
themselves lack authenticity. It is deeply ironic (and highly
humorous) that demonstrable group thinkers like Kitt, Mona, nfjtakfa
etc. find themselves defending the very person who would clearly hold
their type in utter contempt.
↪ Reply
altohone ↪ Karl
July 9 2016, 10:59 p.m.

And, speaking of projection…
↪ Reply
John Kelly ↪ Nate
July 9 2016, 10:09 p.m.

No. I enjoy the in-your-face bravery of this man. Your fawning over
the rules as if some benign entity made them is a pure authoritarian
wet dream, and you are a petty oozing carbuncle… especially when
compared to B.B. Those, like you, who care more about rules than they
do about the incredibly cruel punishment meted out by your sadistic
masters, are mentally ill, empathy-free little toadies who just can’t
resist piling on when someone is being made to suffer for no fucking
reason. “He broke the rules”… oh well then, chop off his hands and
make him eat them. No punishment is too harsh for these terrible rule
↪ Reply
altohone ↪ John Kelly
July 9 2016, 11:09 p.m.

Nicely said.
I’m reminded of the types who dwell on typos and grammar to avoid the
content too.

But I’m laughing that he spent time reviewing and quoting the FOIA
release to attempt to defend himself by regurgitating information we
all already knew but couldn’t care less about.
↪ Reply
Nate ↪ John Kelly
July 10 2016, 1:02 a.m.

    Your fawning over the rules as if some benign entity made them is
a pure authoritarian wet dream

Yep, I sleep with a copy of prison rules under my pillow.

Seriously, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that a prison must
have rules, including ones that restrict drugs and alcohol.

    Those, like you, who care more about rules than they do about the
incredibly cruel punishment meted out by your sadistic masters, are
mentally ill, empathy-free little toadies who just can’t resist piling
on when someone is being made to suffer for no fucking reason.

Made to suffer for no reason!? Alcohol and drugs = “no reason.” Got it!

    He broke the rules”… oh well then, chop off his hands and make him
eat them. No punishment is too harsh for these terrible rule breakers.

Very melodramatic.
↪ Reply
John Kelly ↪ Nate
July 10 2016, 1:42 a.m.

Thanks for making the case for your consideration as authoritarian
tool of the day. Winning! Rules that have excessive punishments
attached are not about anything but sadism. I don’t give two fucks
whether or not B.B. gets drunk or high… well, actually I think he
should be able to if he so desires. There is no harm attached except
for the punishment… the punishment that gives sad little fucks like
yourself a such a raging hard-on. Prisons need to be abolished for
non-violent “offenders”. They are place of rape, torture, medical
neglect, and murder… not to mention taking people’s freedom for trite
reasons. You are sick, and there is no cure for what ails you.
↪ Reply
Nate ↪ John Kelly
July 10 2016, 3:10 a.m.

    Thanks for making the case for your consideration as authoritarian
tool of the day.

sighs I think we need to wrap up this discussion. You get more
juvenile by the moment.

    I don’t give two fucks whether or not B.B. gets drunk or high…
well, actually I think he should be able to if he so desires.

It really doesn’t matter what you think. Your safety isn’t at stake.
Drugs + Alcohol + Criminals = What Could Go Wrong!? I’m sure that
while pondering your decision you considered the safety of both the
guards, inmates, and the public. Those rapist and murders that
describe would surely show restraint with the drugs & liquor. Get a
grip. The irony of your argument is that if a federal prison was
knowingly allowing drinking and drug use, or facilitating its
smuggling into the facility, there would be criminal charges directed
at the staff involved. But Barrett is a brave guy so he get’s a
waiver. Uh, no.

    Rules that have excessive punishments attached are not about
anything but sadism.

Hey, there is one thing we can agree on! Segregation should not be the
punitive option of first resort, and that the list of punishments
assessed for Barrett’s drinking and drug use was very harsh.
Especially the length of stay in segregation and the removal of

    There is no harm attached except for the punishment… the
punishment that gives sad little fucks like yourself a such a raging
hard-on. Prisons need to be abolished for non-violent “offenders”.
They are place of rape, torture, medical neglect, and murder… not to
mention taking people’s freedom for trite reasons. You are sick, and
there is no cure for what ails you.

Again, stop typing your emotional response and ponder what harm there
may be if inmates are using drugs and alcohol in the institution. This
is not controversial.

And spare me your faux indignation and breathless insinuation about
hard-ons for punishment; it only makes you sound like a petulant
↪ Reply
John Kelly ↪ Nate
July 10 2016, 3:50 a.m.

Impressive levels of stupidity demonstrated by authoritarian ass-hat.
Thanks, very revealing. Harm? hah! The only harm is perpetrated by
sadists like you.
↪ Reply
Nate ↪ John Kelly
July 10 2016, 4:32 a.m.

Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong.

I wish you a good night Mr. Kelly!
↪ Reply
Rick ↪ John Kelly
July 10 2016, 1:19 a.m.

Well said. I’m passing this one on.
↪ Reply
Donald Brown ↪ Karl
July 10 2016, 12:00 a.m.

Reactionaries are often a hoot, but pseudo-intellectual reactionaries
are a hootenanny.

How painful it must be to fall short of the level wittiness and
intelligence one fancies oneself to possess. Perhaps belittling one’s
superiors, like a yappy chihuahua nipping at the pack’s alpha’s
ankles, offers some consolation, offers a fleeting sensation of
↪ Reply
Karl ↪ Donald Brown
July 10 2016, 2:08 a.m.

    Reactionaries are often a hoot, but pseudo-intellectual
reactionaries are a hootenanny.

Reactionary? This is a very interesting charge. Care to provide one
jot of evidence to back it up? I have dozens of posts on the intercept
website – so you can begin there. Of course terms like “reactionary”
become very malleable to anonymous putzes like yourself when
challenged. Yet I am enticed by the prospect of your brilliance.
Please enlighten us all with your insight and I will gladly consider
the rest of your claim that you and yours are my “superior.” Absent
that evidence however, you will just prove to be another one of Mona’s
many sock puppets like nfjtakfa et al… (Hi Mona). keep it coming,
every insult from the likes of you (and yours) is merely another
feather in my bonnet.

P.s. Nice touch using Barret’s last name.
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 1:48 p.m.

First of all Barrett Brown, chin up: it’s clear this fucking Hegel
dude likes to talk just to hear his own head rattle. There’s a lot of
that going around. He’s probably a big wig at some prestigious
university of higher education.

Having gone all the way through the 9th grade, I read Dune. While I
enjoyed the book, I could detect no semblance between it and ‘the
movie’. Idk what’s wrong with you … but it’s severe whatever it is.

What I don’t understand is: why do you owe Peter Thiel money and how
do you get/access Email?

    This sort of reminds me of the old riddle about the farmer who has
a fox and a rooster and a bag of corn but can only take one at a time
across the river in his boat and the fox will eat the rooster and the
rooster will eat the corn if either pair is left together unattended
(the solution, incidentally, is to shoot the fox, because it’s a fox).

Ah, this is most likely why you’re in Jail Barrett Brown. First you
take the chicken over. Then you take the bag of corn over and Bring
Back the chicken. Then you take the Fox over. Finally, going back for
the chicken again.

↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 12:39 p.m.

Hang in there Barrett your half way thru
I talked to you in the past on one of those mini-chatroom thingies
you were brilliant and you still are
When you get out you’ll stake your claim
you already have a good job and rep
↪ Reply
July 9 2016, 12:35 p.m.

You give me great hope, Alia, I too might survive such torment with
humor and sanity intact.
↪ Reply