Archive for June, 2011

Indulge me, part II

As this piece was first published in 1996, I’m most definately not the first to repost this. Heck, I’m probably not the first to include such a disclaimer as to my taking the easy way out and not furnishing you with a proper post. I could have gone two ways– as before, by sheepishly admitting my unoriginality; or by issuing a terse belch of a comment that would be interpreted as nothing more of me being proud of being unoriginal. So much goes unsaid now, with this prevalent attitude of “everything’s been said and done before, so why expound on it,” but I don’t care. Here, instead of daring you to discover whether I have any thoughts at all, I’m making it easier for you to crack into my thought mechanics and find out what makes me tick. I won’t say anything silly or terse like “Read this it’s good” or “this is awesome!” but I state with no ounce of triviality or condescension: this piece resonates so profoundly for me that I consider it an integral part of my personality. No other piece of work has influenced me so in my first, cautious footsteps into the “world of computers” or, indeed, my growth as a person.

We truly are in a new phase in societal evolution, where the flow of information and thought is beginning to change this planet for the better. Of course, this is threatening the old power structures that have ruled for so long– would these corrupt, dogmatic systems exist at all if everyone knew of their corruption? What if everyone found out about every last dirty lie States and corporations have been telling for centuries? If we found that our problems are the same as people across the world? If we realized that the arbitrary division of peoples was just that, and we could live and love with people half a world away? I will protect this beautiful new world we’re making– because it’s truly free.

The Hacker Manifesto

Another one got caught today, it’s all over the papers. “Teenager Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal”, “Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering”…

Damn kids. They’re all alike.

But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950’s technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?

I am a hacker, enter my world…

Mine is a world that begins with school… I’m smarter than most of the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me…

Damn underachiever. They’re all alike.

I’m in junior high or high school. I’ve listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. “No, Ms. Smith, I didn’t show my work. I did it in my head…”

Damn kid. Probably copied it. They’re all alike.

I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me… Or feels threatened by me.. Or thinks I’m a smart ass.. Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…

Damn kid. All he does is play games. They’re all alike.

And then it happened… a door opened to a world… rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict’s veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought… a board is found. “This is it… this is where I belong…” I know everyone here… even if I’ve never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again… I know you all…

Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They’re all alike…

You bet your ass we’re all alike… we’ve been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak… the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We’ve been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us willing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

This is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can’t stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.

No, don’t ask me what I’ve done; I wouldn’t tell you anyway. I’m not into anything for notoriety, “criminal intent” or monetary gain, I’m just cursed with curiosity.


The United States of Night, Part II of an endless story.

“Jesus christ, these are the types of people who tear up with patriotic pride at Marine Corps commercials,” I thought, scanning the speakers list. After years of covering leftist and rightist rallies, we had come to realize that the right wingers always started at the exact time they claimed to do so– “six am at the lincoln memorial? SURE!” Stiff, military precision and an unflinching obedience to schedules was something the right wing has down pat– they own this concept. Leftists, however, have a far more flexible attitude towards event planning. This is a very welcome attitude for folks who actually want to attend political events as there’s no pressure to bust your ass to get there. It’s completely lost on me why exactly anyone would want to stand around in the thick soup of a Washington DC summer to be lectured at, but this falls under the same reasoning why any reasonable person would sit on a hard, wooden pew in a cold church every week. That’s the joke, you see– people who attend political rallies are engaging the same mental processes as those who attend church. It doesn’t really matter if you profess to be an atheist or a devout christian, everyone has an insatiable desire to be uncomfortable and listen to fire-and-brimstone being preached by some asshole behind a podium.

The more you work around Washington politics, the more you’re drawn into that horribly insular world of the Beltway. We have our own terminology for the geography around us– everything inside the Beltway is “the inner kingdom” while everything outside of it is bumfuck nowhere. This characterization may sound crude, but it’s rare for denizens of locales inside the beltway to travel too far outside of the steel and concrete embrace of I-495– mistresses, big box stores, booze, cigarettes, the need to escape the chemical circadian rhythm of adderall and ambien and not throw yourself off the 14th street bridge– all of these are minutes away. They didn’t satisfy us. Outside of the need to fling oneself into the gears of history and the curiosity of seeing what sort of lunatic supports an having an officious, robotic appendage of the State demand proof that you’re allowed to exist, what was the purpose of this trip? Couldn’t we simply rely on other people’s reportage of this event, use their photos and repost their article? Everyone does this now, regardless of poisitioning on the political spectrum– reportbacks and posts get recycled, reposted, repurposed and then forgotten. Sometimes if you’re lucky, something you report gets attention from the straight press. Fishing. No, instead of being part of the internet’s echo chamber, we were going to go out and GET that damned story. But what WAS the story? Were we expecting Greece? Or Bangkok? The bare bones of the story weren’t terribly sexy– “Anti-immigrant group attended by some; former congressmen, current candidates and other political figures were present.” No, the story wasn’t the rally; if we wanted to cover a rally of crazed racists, we’d just have to wait a week before yet another egotistic nationalist group would appear with ten people for a “march on washington” or a “march to reclaim the constitution” or some other flowery, ironically quasi-maoist example of what they intended to be a name to represent an event that would be revered among their kin for ages, but inevitably winds up being a sad example of delusional thinking. Ok, I thought, you keep trying to raise an armed force of thousands who’ll force the government to reverse 1930’s supreme court decisions about tarriffs on interstate grain traffic, and I’ll act interested.

The rally wasn’t the story, the story was around the rally. What would possess normal, freedom-loving Americans to implement a law that not only doesn’t affect the people it’s advertised to affect, but it hurts the people it’s supposed to indemnify? That was our plan, anyway– but people who let their emotions rule them– such as the emotion of living in mortal fear of people with skintones darker than freshly bleached linens– seldom allow your plans to go unscathed.

I had been looking forward to this trip as soon as the possibility reared its head. I had only left the eastern time zone of North America once, for a trip in my youth to Alaska– and every time I had made any plans to jump in my car and chase the sun down to its western horizon, fate intervened and crushed my plans. It was with a fair amount of discomfort that I learned that one of the major sponsors of this event had pulled out. Americans for Legal Immigration Reform– a group that declared conservative senator Lindsey Graham to be a closeted homosexual because of his support for immigrant rights– had dropped its sponsorship of the June 5th rally and declared that the rally was rescheduled for the twelfth, which effectively excised my participation in this trip like a rectal polyp. Goodby, western adventure.

ALIPAC was keeping mum about the motivations behind their cancellation, but we knew the score. A few days earlier, an article had been posted that laid bare the nature of the man who was in charge of organizing the entire June 5th event– who he was, what company he kept, who he had as friends on facebook and his racist past. ALIPAC read this, of course– and followed up by doublechecking all of this information with their own, which resulted in ALIPAC attempting to steal the thunder from their original organizer. This thorn in the side of ALIPAC, this mote in the eye of the anti-immigration movement was a man named Daniel Smeriglio. A more stereotypical example of racist Jersey trash you’d be hard pressed to find– Smeriglio was every bit the common perception of a bigoted Italian– loud, fat and entirely clueless to the fact that he and his family were the product of immigration. Would this be one hundred years ago, Smeriglio and his compatriots would be fighting the opposite side of this fight, trying to combat the negative stereotype of the looming specter of illegal *italian* immigration. This rally was his brainchild, and he had amassed a hefty tome of endorsements and speakers– the crown jewel of which was ALIPAC, the one group outside F.A.I.R. that had enough national clout to provide his foolish crusade with enough legitimacy to eke a mention in the straight press. Of course, this is all relative; ALIPAC had recently been under tough financial straits and recent pronouncements about the link between Lindsey Graham’s sexuality and his support for immigration reform had garnered nothing more than snickers from some media outlets. What’s that, you said? ALIPAC became uncomfortable with its participation in an event because it made them look bad? Whatever was in that article was serious enough that the loose-with-the facts ALIPAC found cause to not only drop Smeriglio like a sack of boiling urine, but stage another rally a week later with the intent of damaging Smeriglio’s attendance.

Smeriglio’s creaking, rusting political machine began to spin up. For all of their hackneyed teabagger tropes and hand-wringing about being “frustrated with politics as usual,” Smeriglio’s crowd naturally slotted into the duties of a well-organized spin machine. A statement from their keynote speaker, press releases to any outlet that would listen and a torrent of mean and nasty things about the horrible, awful forces of evil and opposition that would stop at nothing to crush whatever masturbatory fantasy they were furiously jacking off to. This is typical of all political campaigns, and Smeriglio handled this as if he were running for office, not planning a pisser of a rally in the middle of the fucking desert. The dance steps go like this: unfriendly news about you or your campaign reaches the public, you play dumb and claim not to know whoever it was you were accused of associating with; still photographs and video of you doing whatever it was you were accused of doing with whoever it was– in public no less, you claim that you can’t keep track of random people who are at your own events, regardless if the videos show said people operating bullhorns with your organization’s name plastered on the side in big, legible letters; you issue acrid press releases about the vile terrorism you are receiving at the hands of the dirty, unwashed mob that’s come for your virtuous and virgin anus; more information surfaces, namely said unseemly people brag about being officially endorsed by your group; your more legitimate friends issue statements praising your moral fortitude and condemning the inquisition-level torture being visited upon you by said evil forces, et cetera ad nauseum. This process goes on until the media– which never really cared about pissants like you to begin with– mercifully pulls the fucking plug on the abomination you life has become. At this point, it’s time for you to bitch about being suppressed by the conspiracy-controlled Media, and you fade into obscurity.

Smeriglio, of course, took this exact track and his speakers began to feel the burn– with the apparent withdrawal of the only politician on his roster that wasn’t a comfortable incumbent or a washed-up has been, McCain challenger JD Hayworth. Hayworth had backed out of the rally and we felt pretty smug– only to learn that what had really happened was Smeriglio had pushed his rally back one hour, from three to six, while Hayworth was to hold a fundraiser and barbecue from seven to nine– at the exact same location on the exact same day as Smeriglio’s rally. Smeriglio’s rally was nothing that Hayworth wanted to be associated with, but he still wanted to leech money and scab votes from that crowd– thus proving the Subgenius truism, “they may be Pink, but their money is Green.” We got a laugh out of that one. We laughed even harder when we discovered that a sympathetic politics columnist started on the track of claiming McCain was responsible for the nazi rumors around Smeriglio’s rally. McCain?! We worked for McCain now? Where’s our fucking money?!

Their machine churned on, collecting two more speakers– a straw-haired beast with a face like someone perpetually smelling boiled cauliflower named Rosemary Jenks from NumbersUSA and a fat wreck of a state congressman from Pennsylvania– Daryl Metcalfe. Metcalfe is a badly drawn caricature of a movie-style evil politician, voting against the state’s attempt to have October declared “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” because the bill “had language in it that brought men into the situation” which Metcalfe saw as evidence of a homosexual conspiracy. Furthering his reputation as a grumpy coot, Metcalfe also bravely stood as a vanguard against the rising tide of islamofascism by courageously opposing the automatic and routine process of Pennsylvania recognizing the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of a Muslim organization in Harrisburg because Muslims “do not recognize Jesus Christ as God.” Metcalfe also railed against veterans who supported a clean energy public affairs campaign, calling anyone who signed on to “Operation FREE” as “lending their name to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change” and “traitor[s] to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution.” It is no surprise that Metcalfe introduced toxic legislation similar to Arizona’s SB1070 to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives. So, he’s a cranky, xenophobic politician– big whoop, they’re a dime-a-dozen.

Rosemary Jenks, however, represents something different. You see, Jenks was there as an official representative of NumbersUSA, which exists to stem all immigration, legal or otherwise. NumbersUSA is part of an umbrella organization that contains FAIR, IRLI and Social Contract press, all of which are nominally helmed by John Tanton. John Tanton draws most of his support from a bizarre funding source: the Colcom foundation. So what, right? Who cares about a wonky policy group getting money from a foundation? Shit like this happens all the time.

Glenn Beck has given investigative reporting a bad name– any idiot with a blackboard can draw connections between meaningless points and make it look like evidence of a massive conspiracy– at the expense of people who really do connect salient points to demonstrate a chain of command or funding stream. So, I understand that you might discard this as more ridiculous pablum, but you’d be wrong; I’ve got the papers to prove it. Colcom is a foundation set up by the late Cordelia Scaife May, a relative of noted cretin Richard Mellon-Scaife– he of the “communist cunt” remark. Colcom, which refers to itself as a “conservation organization” was started after Cordelia reportedly read the works of Margaret Sanger and became convinced that the key threat to the environment was overpopulation. Ok, fair enough– overpopulation really IS an environmental issue, and if Colcom was dedicated to stemming our runaway birthrate by donating to family planning organizations, there wouldn’t be a story. Instead– operating under the delusion that only brown people are capable of littering– Colcom has decided that overpopulation is actually entirely caused by immigration, and it is to anti-immigration causes that Colcom donates nearly half of its yearly activity. Consequently, from 2006 thru 2008, Colcom donated the princely sum of zero dollars to family planning organizations and 29.8 million to anti-immigrant campaigns; most of that went directly to John Tanton and NumbersUSA. Rosemary Jenks is not just another rich, priveleged white woman annoyed that her landscapers might be treated like humans, but she represents large, moneyed interests at play. Perhaps the only aspect of this rally that is somewhat suprising is the smaller role that these Tanton-helmed groups are playing, considering the Tanton-backed Immigration Reform Law Insitute is responsible for drafting SB1070-esque legislation all across the country with help from the Daryl Metcalfes of the world. After all of that, the best NumbersUSA did was sponsor the rally and provide a lower-level agent to speak; they didn’t even provide Roy Beck, their biggest mouthpeice. Oh yes, this trip was happening, I was happening, life was happening. Viva la Vida!

Happy Solstice!

Great Falls Aqueduct Dam, June 1999

Great Falls Aqueduct Dam, June 1999

The sun is coming
The dragon flies
His breath will drown
This world with astral fire

The sun is coming

The United States of Night, Part I of an endless story.

SB1070 was implemented in July of 2010. Barring any hail-mary moves, The June 6th rally in Phoenix was to be either the last, gargling breath of short-lived outrage, or the first, coughing start of a broader pro-immigrant movement that would be co-opted by bleary-eyed liberals with aims to re-create a halcyon hallucination of the Sixties. No, neither of these happened, of course. The federal government stepped in and ordered Arizona to strike parts of SB1070 it deemed unconstitutional, and Jon Stewart’s Sanity Rally filled the need for pointless and futile nostalgia. Nothing changed. The stalemate deepened, with Arizona seeing much conflict in the coming months. Nazi rallies, elections, criminal probes… nothing changed at all. So, what was the point of our trip? Why, to observe, report and–unlike the popular deification of the myth of Murrow’s or Cronkite’s “objective” journalism, to speak about what wrong there was. There was plenty to speak about, as we discovered.

We in the Washington DC area live an insular life that is prominantly at odds with the majority of America– politics are our sports, we drink too much coffee, talk too fast, and eat, digest and excrete political gossip faster than the alimentary tract of the typical resident of Middle America. How is it, then, that three of us decided to cram ourselves into a rented compact and tear-ass through the beige and khaki bowels of this great land for the sole purpose of attending and reporting on what amounts to not much more than the weak-kneed snarl of a bloated, elderly wolf? How much of America could we see at night, from the bug-smeared windows of a non-descript domestic car? Such was America. Much had changed since the definitive road trips of our past– gone are the screaming, bat-out-of-hell tears across virgin plains, the introspective journeys where another mile ticked off on the odometer represents another step into the tightly-woven psyche of men escaping the soul-crushing tedium of middle-class life. We weren’t trying to recreate Duke and Gonzo, the Blues Brothers, Kerouac or Cassidey; we were not escaping life or futily pursuing it, but rather we were part of that elusive creature so many other seekers and True Believers burnt out their lives for the opportunity to chase.

For lack of a better term, yes, we were on a mission. We were heading into the grist of a point of cultural friction– something not uniquely American at all, but endemic to all cultures, whether coagulated into a syrupy mess or boiling over in vulgar displays of power. Xenophobia. The errant belief that the reason your life is in a shambles is due to people slightly different than you with whom you do not interact. That’s why were were on this trip– not for pleasure, not for some burnt-out mantra of “consciousness expansion” but for the tactical purpose of reporting on a group of opportunist local racists who decided to leech some limelight from a crisis two thousand miles away. Such is the fate of those who pursue “independent journalism.” We go where we think the story is, we fight with people with superfluous items like “official press credentials” and “training,” and we get our stories out later. Our pay is measured in negative amounts, our backs are twisted from sleeping on bus station benches and we derive an immense feeling of satisfaction and completeness from the arduous completion of tasks that may seem nothing more than asinine to the casual observer.

Our job was therefore not official, but no less important– ours was the penultimate example of the simple human desire of curiosity taken and stretched to its limit. Sure, we knew in the back of our minds that this rally had every possibility of being a bust– no more than fifty people could show up and no counter-demonstrators– but the whole purpose behind the taking of a road trip and not one by train or airplane is that we were going to get some god-damned perspective. We were hunting the story, and there’s no better way to track the fucking thing than to get some vox-pops from people we meet on the way. SB1070 is something that ought to frighten the tar out of every liberty-loving patriot; we were going to get the truth from the true patriots– either they’d be as shocked and agog as we were, or they’d underscore how hypocritical they were. Fascism, apparently, is only fascism when it happens to other whites.

Perhaps instead we were also chasing the romantic ideal of the muckraker– the lone reporter that lives off of coffee and cigarettes with a fedora pulled low over a trench coat pulled high, lurking in car parks and dusty street corners waiting for the damning evidence that will ruin the lives of total scumbags. We were assassins. Ismaili. Hashisheen. We had no fear of death or career suicide because we had no lives to kill and no careers to wreck– we were free. We had tasted all that the garden of delights had to offer, succumbed to the houris of independent journalism and drank our fill of the wine of life. Heaven was not our reward for a life lived in obedience to a ghost in the sky, nor was it something that would never be ours. We had been given heaven on earth!

Summer, 1998.

A late august evening slides into nightfall, the pained wheezing of insects desperately seeking their final mates eases as the oppressive yoke of the sun is lifted by the glistening tendrils of night the earth sighs and the chorus is stirred by the first cool touches of wind
The fine powdery soil that had mixed with our sweat had already dried leaving a thin film on our hands that stuck us together, the harder we clasped them
Nuit arches her back and we run, the coolness of space licking off the fatigue of the day’s sun We’re spinning in blackness, no lights except for the stars, no one watching us but the countless eyes of the galaxies and when we break apart, we tumble away, raising great clouds of unseen ejecta
We crawled towards the sound of each other’s delirious laughter, grasping and gasping in the dark– and as we blundered against each other, your face veiled in the thin ambient glow of the cosmos, I saw your eyes soften before you grabbed me, kissed me and cartwheeled away, giggling and awing
You and I, dirty cat and dirty mouse, careening through space and time.