REWIND 2012: The Year In Phawker Interviews

Talk is cheap, especially on the Internet, but at Phawker it’s totally free, baby — at least for you, dear reader. Trolling through the vast and dusty Phawker archives, we have dug up fat sack of conversations from the past year that are worth re-visiting: Dick Dale, King Of The Surf Guitar; graphic novelist Charles Burns, the Edgar Allan Poe of right now; photographer Joe Kazcmarek, who tirelessly chronicles the murder-scarred backstreets of North and West Philly; Jim Reid, lead singer of The Jesus And Mary Chain; Anton Newcombe, cult leader of The Brian Jonestown Massacre; Hardball host Chris Matthews; Anne Rice, queenn of the gothic horror bodice-ripper; John Doe, frontman of west punk legends X; iconoclastic comedian and podcaster extraordinaire; The Layover’s Anthony Bourdain, arguably the coolest man on television; psychedelic rock pioneer and drug war casualty Roky Erickson; retro rock badass J.D. McPherson; acclaimed cartoonist Chris Ware; online privacy expert Lori Andrews; comedienne Sandra Bernhard;  Nick Lowe , elder statesman of pure pop;  Sam Adams, the mayor of Portland; villainous Beach Boy Mike Love; Kinky Friedman, the last of the Jewish Cowboys; Peter Tork from the Monkees; radicalized journalist Chris Hedges; two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest on the rise the Orwellian surveillance state.  Enjoy.



BY JONATHAN VALANIA Surf music? Dick Dale invented the stuff. Pure mainlined adrenaline, it is. Like a pocketful of white lightning. Nitroglycerin on hot wax. Surely you’ve seen the opening moments of Pulp Fiction. Easily the most thrilling marriage of profanity, felony and surf music in the history of American cinema. Rock guitar? He re-invented it. He is more or less the bridge between Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. He worked closely with Leo Fender — godfather creator of the essential machinery of rock, the Fender guitar and the Fender Twin amp — to advance the power and the scope of the electric guitar. He pioneered the idea of guitar as nitro-burning funny car. He made it a fast machine and louder than it had ever been before. When you are packing out the ballrooms of Southern California with 4,000 kids a night, as Dale routinely did in the early 60s, you’re gonna need a lot of firepower. Before Dick, guitar amps didn’t go to 11. After Dick, they did. Now 75-years-old, Dick’s been rocking’ and rolling for more than 50 years. Nothing — not cancer, not diabetes, not renal failure — can stop him. Long may he rock. He plays the North Star tonight, which is why we got him on the horn. Discussed: Surfing, Quentin Tarantino, Gene Krupa, surfing, beating cancer, Leo Fender, John Travolta, surfing, going blind, Egyptian medicine, and the angels of mercy. MORE


Q&A w/ Charles Burns, The Edgar Allan Poe Of Now

Illustration by ALEX FINE

BY JONATHAN VALANIA The Hive, the just-published second installment of No-Libs-based graphic novelist Charles Burns’ mesmerizing new trilogy, picks up where the first installment, X’d Out, left off. As per usual, it is fairly mind-blowing — deeply engrossing and deeply unsettling all at once. There are two realities in the trilogy. One concerns an art school student who falls for a classmate, a beautiful but deeply troubled girl who has a physically abusive ex-boyfriend that’s stalking her. It hasn’t been explicitly laid out yet, but it is strongly implied that in a fit of jealousy the psychotic ex-boyfriend has inflicted unspeakable violence upon the art school student. The second reality takes place in some strange, foreign land — possibly another planet — peopled by surly Mongoloidal dwarves dressed in tighty-whities and foul-mouthed lizard men that are conducting some kind of mass breeding operation inside a giant hive, located in the center of town, that resembles the cooling tower of a nuclear power plant. The book moves back and forth between both realities — usually triggered by a character slipping into unconsciousness, be it through sleep, violence or drugs — and there is a prevailing sense of deja vu, events in one reality seem to have echoes in the other reality. The reader is largely kept in the dark about what exactly is going on and where this is all heading. We are adrift in the stream of consciousness, floating downstream on the currents of Burns’ making. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. MORE




BY JONATHAN VALANIA As a kid, Joe Kaczmarek started scheming to get on the other side of the yellow police crime scene tape the way party people scheme to get on the other side of the velvet rope. He was born into it. His ‘nana’ listened to the police scanner like people listen to the radio. Soon he had his own police scanner and every night he went to sleep with the hiss, crackle and pop of police dispatchers calling all cars ringing in his ears. To Kaczmarek it was beautiful music. When he grew up he wanted to be a cop, but there were no empty seats at the table so he settled for police dispatcher. It was the next best thing to being ‘in the shit,’ where all the action was. Cops and robbers. Murder and mayhem. Fire and casualty. Damsels in distress. Kittens up trees. Trembling old ladies calling 911 to report things going bump in the night. Never a dull moment. It sure beat working for a living. When budget cuts pulled the plug on his dispatcher career, he picked up a camera and taught himself how to point and shoot. Armed with a police scanner, he made it his business to be at the right place at the right time. Soon the newspapers were buying his pictures and the cops were inviting him to cross the yellow crime scene tape and do his thing. That was 12 years ago and he hasn’t looked back since. In addition to the Daily News and Inquirer, his work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time magazine, USA Today, and magazines and websites the world over. He usually sleeps through the day and works at night, when Killadelphia comes alive. Like famed New York City crime scene chronicler Weegee — to whom he is often compared — murder is his business and these days business is good. A little too good. Still, it sure beats working for a living. MORE


Q&A w/ Jesus & Mary Chain Singer Jim Reid

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Hard to remember now but there was a time when the Jesus & Mary Chain divided the population of planet Earth into two camps: Those who were sure they were the Second Coming and those who thought they were the end of Western Civilization. Such was the response 26 years ago to the band’s debut, Psychocandy. History would, of course, judge it seminal and deeply influential classic. In advance of the re-activated Jesus And Mary Chain’s show at Union Transfer tomorrow night, we got frontman Jim Reid on the phone from his home in Devon, England, and he spoke candidly and at length about noise and melody, drugs and religion, and life 26 years after lighting the fuse on a cultural flashpoint that’s still blowing up in our faces like an exploding cigar that just keeps giving. MORE


Q&A w/ BJM Cult Leader Anton Newcombe

BY JONATHAN VALANIA If you’ve not seen Dig, stop reading and go watch it. We’ll wait. [two hour pause while the reader watches Dig and learns everything he/she needs to know about The Brian Jonestown Massacre and probably more than he/she needs to know about The Dandy Warhols] I know, right? Told ya. Anyway, Brian Jonestown Massacre are coming to Union Transfer on August 23rd in support of Aufheben, their 12th LP. So we got mainman Anton Newcombe on the horn from his home in Berlin to catch up. Discussed: drugs, mental illness, early 70s disco, Dig, Dandy Warhols, the CIA, and Marilyn Monroe fucking John F. Kennedy. In other words, the usual small talk. MORE


Talking JFK Blues With Hardballer Chris Matthews

[Illustrations by ALEX FINE]

BY JONATHAN VALANIA We got the former Nor’easter and current Hardball host on the horn to discuss his recently-published Kennedy bio Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. Discussed: Joseph Kennedy’s Nazi apologia; the largely unheralded basic decency of Richard Nixon; why Chris Matthews’ mother was rooting for Joe McCarthy; why JFK banged everything that moved; who really killed Kennedy and why; how the Vietnam war would not have happened Kennedy had he lived to serve a second term; and why the myth of Camelot continues to make a chill run up the leg of the nation. Plus, who will win the presidency this fall. MORE



[Artwork by ANITA KUNZ]

BY JONATHAN VALANIA In advance of Anne Rice‘s reading at the Free Library tomorrow night to promote the publication of Wolf Gift, her 33rd novel, we got the doyenne of high goth on the horn for an in-depth Q&A. Discussed: Why her mother named her Howard; How to kill a werewolf. Why she regrets ever using the word ‘vampire’; the interior lives of zombies. Why she returned to the Catholic Church after years of ardent atheism. Why she then turned her back on the Catholic Church and Christianity itself, but still believes in God. The future of the book and the death of publishing as we used to know it. Why she sold off her 10,000 book personal library, most of her jewelry and wardrobe and her vast museum-scale doll collection. What is a typical day in the life of the woman who has sold more than 100 million books. MORE




BY JONATHAN VALANIA To prep for tonight’s X show at the TLA (with The Reverend Horton Heat!), we got John Doe on the phone to extract deep knowledge about ancient West Coast punk history. Discussed: His alias, Decatur, Baltimore, Los Angeles, The Doors, Raymond Chandler, Charles Bukowski, John Waters, Ramones, Talking Heads, how he met Exene, why Billy Zoom quit, how they got Ray Manzarek to produce them, how they lost their mojo, why they were desperate and how we got used to it, and how the one guy in PT Anderson’s Boogie Nights that’s not doing/dealing/stealing for drugs or making sleazy fuck films with girls who may or may not be underage turned out to be the villain. His name? John Doe.



Photo by Larry Hirshowitz

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Marc Maron pretty much wrote the book on how not to write the book — the book on how to win friends and influence people, how to succeed in showbiz without really trying, how to enjoy harmless recreational drugs like cocaine responsibly. Whatever his books about those topics (in truth, there are no books like that, but stick with me I’m going somewhere with this) tell you to do, do the exact opposite. Unless you want to find yourself on the far side of 40, bottomed out in Lotus Land, with little more than a couple ex-wives, a couple stints in rehab, almost zero career prospects, and a pair of rescued stray cats to show for your trouble. Because then you would have to start a podcast called WTF, even though you have no idea a podcast is, where you interview your comedy friends — Ben Stiller, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, Conan O’Brien, Robin Williams, Garry Shandling, Judd Apatow and the always awesome Patton Oswalt — in your garage and get them to confess painful personal truths with brutal but utterly refreshing honesty. And then the podcast would blow up big and eventually become the No. 1 download on iTunes, and this would revive your comedy career, and bring a book deal and a new TV show based on your life that airs next year on IFC, not to mention a lucrative stand-up tour that brings you to Helium Comedy Club for five shows between Thursday Dec. 6th and Saturday Dec. 8th. So don’t do it. MORE


THE LOU REED OF FOOD: Q&A With Anthony Bourdain


[Illustrations by ALEX FINE]
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Anthony Bourdain is a man who needs no introduction, but for those not in the know or without a consumptive cable habit, understand that he is the enfant terrible of the foodie world who came of age on the Punk Rock Planet of New York ‘77 simultaneously pogoing to the likes of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, and Patti Smith and shooting smack in the shithole bathrooms of CBGBs. Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978, he ran the kitchens of various fancy Big Apple eateries — including the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan’s — before winding up the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in 1998. In 2000, he penned the gonzo fin de siecle memoir Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which expanded on his infamous New Yorker piece, Don’t Eat Before Reading This, that begins thusly:

Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger–risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese and shellfish. Your first 207 Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your 208th may send you to bed with the sweats, chills and vomits. Gastronomy is the science of pain.

Kitchen Confidential soon occupied the New York Times best seller list and led to Bourdain hosting his own show on the Travelbourdain_PUNK.jpg Channel, No Reservations, wherein he trots the globe sampling the outre customs and exotic cuisines of various indigenous peoples and, for fear of offending his hosts, and in the pursuit of damn good television, bravely chomps down just about everything put in front of him, including: sheep testicles, ant eggs, seal eyeballs, a whole cobra with its heart still beating, and, most disgustingly, a wharthog’s anus, which required him to take Cipro for two weeks. In my book, he is pretty much The Coolest Man On Earth. Given that chefs are the new rock stars, I hereby dub him ‘The Lou Reed of Food’ — just remember you heard it here first, folks. Recently, Phawker got Bourdain on the horn to talk about eating dog, shooting smack, dissing Philly and, of course, hating on Billy Joel. MORE


Q&A With Roky Erickson, Cosmic Garage/Punk Avatar

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Cosmic ’60s psych/garage-punk pioneer. Acid casualty. Drug-war martyr. Demon-crazed extraterrestrial ’70s solo artist. Patron saint of alt-rock’s fringe dwellers. In 1968, Roger Kynard Erickson, aka Roky Erickson, then singer for Texas’ psychedelic avatars the 13th Floor Elevators, was busted for possession of a joint’s worth of marijuana and offered a choice: 10 years of hard time or a stretch at Rusk State Hospital For The Criminally Insane. He opted for the padded cell. Already half-fried from Herculean doses of psychedelics, Erickson was subjected to a cruel regimen of “experimental” drugs and electro-shock therapy and was released three years later a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. Perhaps telegraphing the horror within, Erickson released a series of protopunk solo records in the ’70s and early-’80s riddled with lurid references to zombies, vampires, aliens and the devil himself. By the 90s, his appearances were rare, erratic and finally non-existent. MORE



BY JONATHAN VALANIA  I have seen the future of the past, and his name is J.D. McPherson, a thirtysomething cuffed-denim Okie with lacquered hair, iron lungs and, goodness gracious, great balls of fire. McPherson and his gifted retro-rock posse recently released Signs & Signifiers, a bracing collection of tailfin rockabilly, rawboned R&B and sultry moonstruck balladeering. Sign & Signifiers is currently holding the number one slot in our list of contenders for PARTY ALBUM OF THE YEAR. We talked about the usual rockabilly guy stuff: pomade, semiotics, Larry Clark’s Tulsa, early 60s ska, Greg Ginn, Esquerita vs. Little Richard, the sexiest Buzzcocks album, the majesty of Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, how a white man from 2012 can sing like a black man from 1957 and what is the greatest baby-making music ever made. MORE


An Extremely Rare And Largely Factual Q&A With Cartoonist & Illustrator Extraordinaire Chris Ware

BY RITA BOOK* (aka JOANN LOVIGLIO) In the hands of Chris Ware, the funnies aren’t particularly funny. Unless, that is, lonely misfits and their existential lives of quiet desperation is your idea of comedy gold. Ware’s deeply felt, darkly told and beautifully illustrated stories, including the partly autobiographical “Jimmy Corrigan” and “Rusty Brown,” have won awards in the U.S. and abroad, drawn comparisons to “Ulysses” and Duchamp, and landed the Chicago-based cartoonist on bookshelves, museums and galleries, The New York Times, The New Yorker and Esquire. Ware’s latest, the groundbreaking and gorgeous “Building Stories,” has already been called his magnum opus and a new high-water mark for the graphic novel as an art form. MORE


Q&A: With Online Privacy Expert Lori Andrews

BY JONATHAN VALANIA The take away from I Know Who You Are And Saw What You Did is this: As an Internet user your rights are exactly none. Actually, that’s not true, you do have the right not to use it. But assuming you have waived that right, know that you are being watched, probed and profiled, your footprints are being tracked from your front door to the furthest reaches of the digital ether and back. They know who you are and what you did. Somewhere there is a file being kept on you. They know a thousand things about you. Preferences, locations, affiliations. Your best hopes, your worst fears, your darkest desires. Data miners have been hoovering up your digital chem trails and selling them to marketers, corporations, employers, and law enforcement. Anything you say or do, can and will be used against you, according to legal expert Lori Andrews, author of I Know Who You Are And Saw What You Did. MORE


FUNNY GIRL: Q&A With Sandra Bernhard

[Artwork via FREAKINGNEWS]
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Caustic comedienne, fearless actress, incisive social critic, enemy of narrow minds and all-around envelope-pushing cultural provocateur, Sandra Bernhard has somehow maintained a 30-year career as the proverbial bull in the china shop of show business. And for all of that, we love her. We got Miss Bernhard on the horn to discuss, among other things, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Madonna, Roseanne, Philip Roth, Adele and the President Of The United States Of America! MORE


Q&A w/ Nick Lowe, Elder Statesman Of Pure Pop

Photo by Dan Burn-Forti

BY ED KING ROCK EXPERT Nick Lowe’s 45-year career as a singer-songwriter, record producer, and all-around musical instigator is a one-man Village Green Preservation Society, to quote the Kinks’ 1968 mission statement. After brief spell in a Cream-influenced psychedelic rock band, Kippington Lodge, Lowe and his fellow UK mates, including future standouts in the late-’70s new wave scene, got an early start on “preserving the old ways” in the Americana roots-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz. A big push to launch the band in the States flamed spectacularly, and in the US their records would be left for music nerds to dig out of the far reaches of used record bins for the next decade.

In 1976, following the demise of the Brinsleys, he hooked up with veteran Welsh musician and producer Dave Edmunds and carved out a role for himself “protecting the new ways,” as house producer for fledgling punk/new wave label Stiff Records. His “So It Goes” b/w “Heart of the City” was the first single on Stiff, and it heralded the artist’s devil-may-care approach to writing subversive takes on AM Top 40 hits of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. His solo output at this time peaked with his second album, Labour of Lust, on which he was backed by Edmunds and fellow members of Rockpile. The single from that album, “Cruel to Be Kind,” with the shaggy video including scenes from his wedding to Carlene Carter, is the most vibrant expression of the new wave era’s cheerful sense of fatalism. He must have been a good fit for the June Carter-Johnny Cash clan. MORE


INTERVIEW: Q&A With The Mayor Of Portlandia


BY JONATHAN VALANIA No, not Kyle MacLachlan on a Pilates ball working on his ‘core’ — the REAL mayor of Portland Sam Adams (who actually plays MacLachlan’s assistant on Portlandia). He followed us on Twitter, we followed him back. Told him we were gonna be out in Portland working on a cover story about The Shins for a for a national indie-rock magazine and could we get an interview? Sure, he says, he actually has all the Shins albums on his iPhone! How cool is that? At least as cool as our mayor doing “Rapper’s Delight” with the Roots. Anyway, Mayor Adams is a smart, young progressive who has made major inroads in making Portland a greener, more sustainable city — and in the process made many enemies in the coal industry. Openly gay, for a time Portland held the distinction of being the largest city in America to elect a gay mayor, but then Houston, not to be outdone, sent a lesbian in City Hall and knocked Portland into second place in the enlightenment sweepstakes. Sadly, he has decided not to run for a second term, a decision no doubt informed in part by the gay sex scandal witch hunt, resulting in a five month long investigation by the Oregon attorney general that eventually cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing and a failed recall campaign launched by embittered political rivals. Be that as it may, we discussed Portlandia, indie rock, OccupyPortland, how cities can become greener and more sustainable, why he welcomes the hatred of the coal lobby, what comes next for Sam Adams and what Fred Armisen is really like in person. MORE



NOTE: This picture comes from a photo-sharing site where it was posted without attribution but with the caption ‘My mom backstage’

BY JONATHAN VALNIA In the psychedelic American fairly tale that is The Beach Boys, Mike Love is invariably cast as the villain. The pre-maturely balding Philistine. The counter-revolutionary company man. The sexist greed head who saw the band as little more than a singing ATM machine. The one who blanched at any and all attempts to move the band past past the well-trod thematic terrain of hot dogs, hot rods and surfboards. The one who killed Smile because it was ‘too weird and druggy” (read: not commercial enough). The one who sued Brian Wilson for co-songwriting credits and milked his cousin for $13 million. The one who brought John Stamos and his congas on board the good ship Beach Boys. All true, to a certain extent. But let it be said that Mr. Love lived up to his surname when he called Phawker last week from the Green Room at Leno for a pre-arranged phone interview. He was charming, well-spoken and completely candid — to his credit he never shied away from even the hardest questions that were asked of him. Discussed: Killing Smile, LSD, Brian’s mental illness, Pet Sounds, Charles Manson, going to India with the Beatles, Van Dyke Parks, Transcendental Meditation, yogic flying, Ronald Reagan and the ghosts of Fourth of Julys past in Philly. MORE


DON’T KVETCH WITH TEXAS: A Q&A w/ Kinky Friedman


BY JONATHAN VALANIA Kinky Friedman has worn a lot of hats over the years, both literally and figuratively: Satirical cowboy singer-songwriter (“They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed”); serial detective fiction novelist; friend to animals; scourge of the phony, the corrupt and the ignorant; purveyor of fine tequila/salsa/cigars, and failed gubernatorial candidate from the great state of Texas. In advance of his appearance at The Sellersville Theater on 6/14 and World Cafe Live on 6/15 we got Kinky on the horn to explain himself. Discussed: the crimes of Michael Vick; the sexual orientation of Rick Perry; his good time buddies Willie Nelson and Billy Bob Thornton; the disappointing difference between candidate Obama and President Obama; why he wants to bomb Syria; how he almost was killed onstage by a pack of angry lesbians back in the ’70s. And more. Much more. Enjoy. MORE



BY JONATHAN VALANIA There are two kinds of people in this world: people who love The Monkees and sanctimonious assholes who fancy themselves the arbiters of authenticity. Whatever that is. Never trust anyone who tells you they don’t like the Monkees has always been my motto and it’s served me well. As just about everyone of a certain age knows, from 1967 to 1970 The Monkees were Hollywood’s answer to The Beatles circa Hard Days Night. These fab four pop primates — Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork — were chosen more for their looks and personalities than their musical chops by show producers and put in front of TV cameras where they portrayed a band called The Monkees who lived together in a groovy pad, drove around town in their badass Monkeemobile, slapsticking their way from one campy California-in-the-high 60s adventure to another, always too busy singing to put anybody down. Faintly trippy hilarity ensued.

In between all the stoner hijinks they would have weird-beard friends like Frank Zappa and Tim Buckley over to the house to perform for a national television audience. On their first national tour they took Jimi Hendrix along as their opening act, simultaneously blowing the minds and ruining the panties of an entire generation of babysitters. All their early and most enduring songs were written by Brill Building pop adepts like Boyce & Hart, Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Neil Diamond and performed by The Wrecking Crew, which explains why those song still sound deathless. MORE


Q&A With Christopher Hedges, Radicalized Journalist

Christopher Lynn Hedges (born September 18, 1956) is an Americn journalist, author, and war correspondent specializing in American and Middle Eastern politics and societies.[1] His most recent book, which he wrote with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, is “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012). Hedges and Sacco, who illustrated the book, reported from the poorest pockets in the United States including the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, Camden, New Jersey, the coal fields of southern West Virginia, the nation’s produce fields and in the last chapter from the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park.[2]

Hedges is also known as the best-selling author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. A quotation from the book was used as the opening title quotation in the film The Hurt Locker (2009). The quotation reads: “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”[3][4][5]

Chris Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City.[6] He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times,[1] where he was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years (1990–2005).

In 2002, Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received in 2002 the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University[1] and The University of Toronto. He writes a weekly column on Mondays for Truthdig and authored what The New York Times described as “a call to arms” for the first issue of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper giving voice to The Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park, New York City. [via WIKIPEDIA] MORE




BY JONATHAN VALANIA Last December, The Washington Post published a multi-part investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin that attempted to quantify the astonishing growth of the security-industrial complex in the wake of 9/11 and found that the exact parameters of that massive expansion are effectively unknowable. The series, which has been expanded into book form and recently published as Top Secret America: The Rise Of The New American Security State, boils down to this: The national security state “has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” After 9/11, the national security sector was tasked with making sure it never happened again and given wide latitude and a seemingly bottom budget to get the job done. Much of this growth has come in the form of private contractors to mask what is in fact a massive increase in the size, scope and cost of the federal government. Currently, there are more than 250,000 private contractors working on top secret programs. More than 850,000 Americans have top secret clearances. More than 1,200 government organizations and nearly 2,000 private corporations work on top secret programs related to terrorism, homeland security and intelligence matters at more than 10,000 locations across the nation. The “chatter” they monitor — a sprawling amalgam of international and domestic spying that hoovers up phone calls, emails, web usage both here and abroad — results in more than 50,000 intelligence reports annually, a number so vast that most go un-read. MORE