Monday, October 31, 2005

The Zoning of Free Speech

Aerials, in the sky,
When you lose small mind,
You free your life.
Aerials, so up high,
When you free your eyes,
Eternal prize.

- System of a Down, Aerials

My fellow countrymen lend me your eyes. Open your minds for a moment, even if it hurts. And I know it really, really hurts for a few of you. My friends, today our freedoms are under assault from within. The most sacred of these, the freedom of speech, is now embattled to the point where it can only reside in small, fenced-in areas far away from the target of dissent. That target, in the case of this particular column, is our current president, George W. Bush.

‘Oh boy,’ you’re thinking. ‘Here goes one of those liberals on a soapbox.’ And you may be right. I’ll say it outright; as clear as possible: I AM A LIBERAL, and Extremely Proud of It. I keep myself Aloof, and vote for politicians of various allegiances. I support free thinkers, and Distain Partisanship. As far as I am concerned, the established corporate parties are the propagators of the current Oligarchy we call our government, and both are Equally Guilty of this Treason. That Oligarchy is trying, again, to shunt our freedom of speech by corralling dissent into little pockets far away from the subject of public ire.

I am talking about the so-called “Free Speech Zones” that have become all the rage since Sept. 11, 2001. If you are an avid politicker, you likely remember the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Mass. As the career politicrats filed into the stadium to talk about Their Agenda and Their Philosophy, over 4,000 dissenting voices gathered a half-mile away inside one of these “Free Speech Zones” to protest. They were kept behind razor-wire and watched by guards with guns and dogs. Inside, presidential-wannabe John Kerry sang on and on about how great freedom is. Those shoved into the detainment camp - I mean, Freedom Camp - had a different view.

Weeks later in New York, the Republican National Convention set up a similar “Free Speech Zone” nearly a mile away from the where their own Godless Orgy was to be held. Hours before the event, a few hundred protestors had been quarantined in a Gitmo-esque camp, far out of sight and earshot. Even the mass media had a hard time finding them.

But a few sly protestors put the coming storm on notice. Using cell phones to send text messages, they notified other protest groups of the constitutional infringement and warned them to stay away from the cages. When the storm of dissent finally arrived – over 1,000,000 people – the NYPD, Secret Service and FBI could do little to stop the crowd. They walked right through the blockades and directly past the RNC with only a few TV cameras taking notice.

Inside, Mr. Bush stepped on stage to give the speech that would define his campaign. He was interrupted by infiltrating protestors five times. Pardon me for taking pleasure in this, but I had not seen anything like it since 2000’s Inauguration Day. Remember that day? It was an odd day in America. As Bush’s limo puttered down Capitol Blvd., the crowd that came to greet him turned into an angry, snarling mob of dissenters armed with signs and eggs. Over 100,000 angry citizens earmarked the event as one this president should never forget.

And he apparently hasn’t. The American Civil Liberties Union has been decrying what they feel to be the Executive Branch trampling our right to protest. Citing 10 separate cases, the group charges that citizens with dissenting opinions are placed in these internment camps by the Secret Service while those supportive of the P-rez are allowed to stand just feet from the royal limo. Many peaceful protestors have been arrested for a variety of made-up charges, ranging from trespassing on public property to protesting without a permit.

Okay, so you’ve heard me out. And I know, I know – a whole lot of you support Bush and all his bushiness. But consider the other side of this coin. Recently, California Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin ordered that all public areas of the Los Angeles County Courthouses be declared “no speech zones.” This ruling was passed down to prevent two local Christian ministers from standing in front of one particular courthouse and sharing their beliefs. These two men had been participating in this free speech for nearly three years with no complaint against them. On Sept. 30, 2005, police officers escorted the men off the property and drove their point home: come back and you will be arrested. What was their offence? They did not have a “permit.” They were “trespassing” on public property.

This is the same charge being used against political protestors – particularly those in opposition to the Bush régime. Let us not forget Nixon's Enemy List. Have we forgotten Senator Joseph McCarthy’s rampage? Remember Filegate? What about Woodrow Wilson's Espionage Act and Sedition Act? Does history condone Roosevelt's forceful detainment of Japanese-Americans? Need some help absorbing all of this? I’m told truth goes down a bit easier with a helping of jell-o. Hm. Make that Freedom Jell-o.

Friends, this cannot happen again. You may disagree with today’s loudest dissenters. And you may express your disagreement with just as much volume. But please, before the rhetoric blinds us all, know that those you disagree with so passionately would bleed every last drop of life they have to ensure your freedom to call them idiots.


Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North Texas weekly The News Connection. Republished with permission.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Doomed Weekend

From Electronic Horizons, my weekly column in The News Connection ...

Last Saturday I made a rare outing to the local grind house to take in one of those moving pictures that seem to be all the rage. Oh, the excitement that befell your faithful muckraker when I laid eyes on the sparkling awning housing titles of the week’s flavors! In the rear pavilion at the consumer’s buffet known as Grapevine Mills, I found myself rubbernecking the double-helixed blueprint of my technologically-infused formative years. That instant, I knew my weekend was for naught.

Or, Doomed, as it may be.

Yes, I was one of the many who twittered away hours upon hours decimating droves of digital demons, planting them back to their equally decimated digital domiciles. And for the record, that alliteration did require a small bit of effort. Ho-ho. As a youth, I spent almost as much time on my school work as I did with Doom II. And Dark Forces. And Duke Nukem. And Quake, and Half-Life, and Unreal Tournament, ad nausea. Hopefully by now you can see the common link: I like violence. Imaginary violence, that is.

My weekends were long, orgiastic bloodbaths spent interlocked with my schoolyard chums in what can only be described as a geeked frenzy. Our drug of choice was Mountain Dew; caffeine keeps the trigger-happy sharp. We kept late hours, and slaughtered untold numbers of competitors. Those were the days.

For what seemed like years, I was transfixed, front and center, watching with shock and awe as the first-person genre grew up. It more or less started with Castle Wolfenstein, a quaint, by comparison, little romp through a Nazi castle. The company responsible, Texas-based id Software, followed up with a trumpeting, resounding success: Doom.

I am sure you know of it. Doom was responsible for more change in the PC gaming industry than the advent of Windows. The game inspired a series that redefined what PC gaming really was, and where it was headed in the future. Easily the most influential angle the id crew took was the first-person perspective that inspired – and still inspires - consternation and dread in the aging, conservative class. Played from the eyes of the hero, a nameless “space marine” in this case, Doom was thrilling because it was sort of like being there, behind some massive gun dreamed up by a puny nerd … hunkered down inside some murky, pixilated world full of right-angles and repetitive mono tunes.

Okay, nostalgia is not so great in retrospect. Ha.

In the context of a video game, Doom makes perfect sense: run, shoot, flip switch and repeat. Easy, right? Thanks to the interactive medium, the production studio did not have to riddle it with bits of filler, or even a semblance of a narrative. It was raw; it was visceral; it was Doom, and after all, and who are we to question that?

But I’ll be damned if the Doom I watched for an hour and a half on Saturday afternoon was anything like the game I spent so much time with. Sure, you’ve got your murky space station, your rugged marine archetype, the cliché wimpy scientist, and a whole bunch of lip-smacking, tooth grinding ugly-types with malicious intent. Mix in a hollowed-out shell of a plot, a few broken husks of character development, and id’s trademark contrivance, the B.F.G. (the movie calls it the “Bio-Force Gun,” but devotees know what the acronym really means), and some Hollywood exec will wave his wand of necromancy. Vola! There you have it. The worst piece of tinsel town turd this term. Zang.

I’ll not waste your time with the details of the film. Film? Hm. Not quite. More like caterwaul; the ultimate in malodorous, feted, unworthy nidorousness that is Doom’s cinematic throes. That’s more like it. It is a centerpiece film. The entire length of it hinges on a short segment in which the main character, newly infused with ridiculous super powers, goes on a zombie-blasting rampage through the acrid halls of perdition. The catch? It is shot in first-person perspective. Oooooooooooohhhh.

I feel, somehow, bereft. I had better get back to my gaming PC. I feel a round of Quake 4 coming on.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Apocryphal Death of Doctor Gonzo

*Bang!* *Splat!* Hunter S. Thompson, the Gonzo Godfather, is dead, slain by his own hand … Maybe.

The “official” story is that on Feb. 20, 2005, Hunter S. Thompson put a Smith & Wesson 645 Semi-automatic handgun to his head and fired one round, dying instantly. The first reports of his passing said Thompson was in his home’s kitchen on the phone with his wife, Anita, talking about finishing his latest ESPN column. Anita claims he set the phone down and she heard a “loud, muffled noise” and she was “waiting for him to get back on the phone.”

Rocky Mountain News reporter Jeff Kass got the story from another angle. Anita reportedly told Kass, “I did not hear a bang.” In another report, Anita is reported to have said, “I heard the clicking of the gun.” Hunter’s son and daughter-in-law, Juan and Jennifer Winkle Thompson, were also at the home that day. Anita told Kass that Juan heard a noise, but characterized it as the sound of a book falling from a shelf, not a gunshot.

Then, a second account of Hunter’s death surfaced. This new telling claims that Hunter was sitting in front of his typewriter near the kitchen table. This recounting has replaced the first story of Thompson being in the kitchen at the time of his death. He was, supposedly, sitting at a table pecking away at keys and talking to Anita on the phone when he died. He set the phone down mid-sentence and pulled the trigger. In his typewriter was stationary from the Fourth Amendment Foundation, a group established to defend citizens from illegal search and seizure. His final written word: “councilor.” That’s it. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. Citizen Kane, anyone?

The shell casing was found behind his body, resting in the stove’s hood in the kitchen. At Thompson’s feet rested a felt-lined gun case, where he kept his Smith & Wesson 99.45 ACP (automatic pistol cartridge). The S&W .45 caliber is a powerful weapon; a super-handgun, so to speak. I have fired a 45 handgun, though not that particular model, and it really packs a wallop! However, there is reason to suspect this gun may not have been used in the suicide.

The firearm, Smith & Wesson model 99.45 APC, had six bullets remaining in its clip. There was no bullet in the chamber, however. The reason this is significant is because the ACP version of this semi-automatic would have immediately slapped another slug into the chamber once it fired. Police Investigator Joseph DiSalvo said he did not check the gun, but had it been set on manual cycle the clip would not have automatically reloaded it. Problem is, the S&W 99.45 APC does not have a manual cycle. The gun would have had to malfunction in order for this to happen. Given Hunter’s renown as an Outlaw Journalist and Weapons Expert, the possibility that a gun he kept in a velvet-lined case malfunctioned just after he used it to kill himself is certainly poetic, but highly dubious.

Also questionable is why there was no forensic investigation to establish gunpowder residue. If Hunter shot himself in the head using that gun, then there would be residue all over the gun, the table, and his typewriter, not to mention his hands and face. Matching the gunpowder residue on two surfaces at the scene of a possible crime is standard operating procedure for forensic teams. Why was this study not conducted in this case? So far, there is no answer to that question.

On Feb. 19, 2005, Hunter S. Thompson calls Paul William Roberts, writer for the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. According to a report written by Roberts, later published in the Toronto Globe, Thompson had phoned him that night, frantic over something. The article reads, “It wasn't always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: ‘They're gonna make it look like suicide,’ he said. ‘I know how these bastards think.’”

So, we know that Hunter was working on a story about the World Trade Center. Many people believe that two 747 jetliners could not have been enough to topple the towers. Hunter’s assertion that demolition charges were planted in the basements of either tower has an enormous following, and a very persuasive argument. Had Thompson discovered new information about this?

In 2003, Hunter gave an interview to KDNK radio in Colorado where he suggested he may be silenced. “Bush is really the evil one here and it is more than just him,” he explained to talk show host Alex Jones. “We are the Nazis in this game and I don't like it. I am embarrassed and I am pissed off. I mean to say something. I think a lot of people in this country agree with me...we'll see what happens to me if I get my head cut off next week -- it is always unknown or bushy-haired strangers who commit suicide right afterwards with no witnesses."

After his death, The Alex Jones show hosted Paul William Roberts, Hunter’s friend from The Globe and Mail. During the show a caller phoned in asking about Thompson’s connection to a decade’s old child prostitution story, “going all the way back to Kissinger.” Roberts confirmed that Thompson was working on the case. You can listen to the full audio of the program here.

A paraphrased transcription …

ALEX JONES: We're talking to a renowned journalist and writer, Paul William Roberts. Wrote a story for The Globe & Mail up in Canada where he talked about Hunter S. Thompson before he died mysteriously a few weeks ago, saying he believed the government may have been involved in 9/11, and he was concerned. He lived basically in a little armored compound... now they're saying he committed suicide.

But Paul has also interviewed people like Saddam Hussein; has written on the subject -- just this whole global empire...

CALLER "Scott from Texas": I was just wondering if you guys might be able to clear up something I heard through the journalist Sherman Skolnick. He is reporting that another story or book, I don't remember exactly which, that Hunter S. Thompson was working on was about this gay prostitution ring in the White House and supposedly that was another touchy topic that he brought out, and the whole...

JONES: Had you heard that from Hunter?

PAUL WILLAM ROBERTS: Yeah, I had heard that quite a lot from Hunter. It goes back to Kissinger, I believe.


ROBERTS: Yeah, in fact Lyndon LaRouche published some stuff about that. And although, you know, a lot of his material was not that trustworthy, in this particular case there were a lot of sources cited and there was no lawsuit. And where there's no lawsuit you can be almost guaranteed that it's true.

CALLER: And I'm wondering if that might not be a hotter issue otherwise, because you get into the Jeff Gannon case and the whole gay prostitution and that's a national security issue.

JONES: Well, Skolnick is saying that now, we're talking about some of the fake reporters, and we know that ... again I haven't confirmed that part of the story but I'd like to get some confirmation on that.

CALLER: And also it's interesting too because it dovetails with Jeff Gannon possibly being the leak that leaked the story about Valerie Plame ...

JONES: Well let me just add this. I mean, we have the New York Post: 'Top gay porn star services moguls at Bohemian Grove... I mean I have Parade magazine articles, Spy magazine articles from the 80s where, as I said they bus in the gay prostitutes like Beluga caviar for our "Christian conservative" leaders... And is that what Hunter S. Thompson was on to?

ROBERTS: He certainly knew all about that and I believe had written about it. I don't know whether there was a book in the works, but he certainly had published columns on it …

JONES: Well it certainly looks pretty suspicious. Man let me tell you.

Most people, and journalists, dismiss the idea of the powerful being serviced by little boys and fake reporters/gay prostitutes (like Jeff Gannon turned out to be). But there is some evidence to support the suspicion anyway. And who better to bring this to the forefront than Hunter S. Thompson? For those not in the know, Thompson was the journalist that drew the curtain back on the CIA’s drug running cabal. The intelligence group was funneling crack, LSD and cocaine into lower class and black communities to generate money for clandestine operations “off the books.” I do not claim to be an expert in this circus of deviancy. Nevertheless, there is enough reason to be suspicious ...

I admit to liking Thompson’s muckraking mostly because he struck hard with massive amounts of evidence, and it always touched someone with the “higher ups.” I am not above the speculation that Thompson was the only well known American journalist who could speak the truth about the perversion in seats of power.

Yet a higher cause for doubt was the arrest of a photographer who had been linked to the sex ring. His name was Russell E. "Rusty" Nelson, and he was incarcerated just two days after Hunter’s death. Nelson was supposedly a former employee of a Republican activist who set up social gatherings for the world’s most powerful pedophiles. Why was he arrested? I cannot find a reason. When he was incarcerated, a media blackout descended upon the circumstance. The link between the two was only made by journalist Tom Flocco, whom I find to be more entertaining than educational. Nevertheless, Thompson was working on the case. Had he discovered something damning?

Two days before his death, Hunter’s neighbor Mike Cleverly came over to watch football with him. He later told reporters that Hunter had broken his leg and was in a substantial amount of pain. Add that to his recent hip surgery and one could easily imagine an uncomfortable situation. However, Cleverly’s own words cast doubt of their own. "[Hunter] is the last person in the world I would have expected to kill himself,” he said. “I would have been less surprised if he had shot me.” Even the Sheriff Department’s Director of Investigations Joseph DiSalvo, also one of Hunter’s friends, said "This was not the way I expected Hunter to die."

"He wanted to leave on top of his game,” said Anita Thompson. “I wish I could have been more supportive of his decision." ‘‘One thing that he said many times was that, 'I’m a road man for the lords of Karma.’ It’s a cryptic saying,” said Juan Thompson. “But there’s an implication there that he may have decided that his work was done and that he didn’t want to overstay his welcome; it was time to go.’’

‘‘He’d gotten a good night’s sleep, he was calm, he was relaxed, he was quite clear,’’ said Juan. ‘‘He believed very much in controlling events rather than being controlled by them. I would hope that people see it in that light: That we’ll never know why he chose this time, but that he had a good reason, and that it was completely consistent with his life, rather than an act of despair.’’

I agree that an unexpected suicide would be contextually aligned with the life of Thompson. However, my puny little mind cannot grasp how a coroner failed to do an autopsy on Thompson’s body, how the police forensic unit failed to even detect the presence of gunpowder residue (let alone analyze the residue from two surfaces to verify the weapon), and how the automatic pistol cartridge failed to reload the chamber. To me, these reasons are enough to raise doubt in Hunter S. Thompson’s so-called suicide.

The final speculation: As Hunter spoke with Anita on the phone, an assassin entered his home confronted Thompson at gunpoint. Hunter saw the gunman and put the phone down slowly, eying the firearm. The intruder raised his gun and fired a single shot from a .45 caliber pistol with a silencer, putting the slug in Thompson’s head. As Hunter tumbled backwards, the assassin took the shell case and placed it in the stove’s hood. This is important because the stove was directly behind Thompson, in the kitchen several yards away. Shell casings fall down and away from the direction the gun was pointed. Hunter’s Smith & Wesson 99.45 ACP (said to be his favorite weapon) was nearby, as he was likely cleaning it at the table. The killer unfastened the clip, removed one bullet, then replaced cartridge. The murderer then put the gun next to Hunter’s fallen body, positioning the case near his feet. As Anita called out to her fallen husband on the other end of the line, his killer slipped away as quietly as he/she came.

Or …

As Hunter spoke with Anita on the phone, an assassin entered his home confronted Thompson at gunpoint. Hunter saw the gunman and put the phone down slowly, eying the firearm. The intruder presented a folded piece of paper to Hunter, motioning for him to take it as quietly as possible. The note may have contained several sentences: “Remain calm, or your family will die. If you want your son and wife to survive, you must kill yourself. Do it now.” Hunter, being a man of the brass tacks as he was, did not think twice. It was a simple motion; a flick of the wrist. He grasped the firearm, put it to his skull and pulled the trigger. As Anita called out to her fallen husband on the other end of the line, his killer slipped away as quietly as he/she came.

Since there was not even the semblance of a professional investigation into the death of Hunter S. Thompson, I put it to you: was the famous author murdered? Despite my history in journalism, this report should not be taken as fact. This is mostly speculation. The gun, the stories, the interviews, the gloom and doom, the sexual panorama … that is all true. It is my opinion that Hunter S. Thompson was murdered. It should be said that, in spite of a wealth of information suggesting otherwise, Thompson’s suicide is still a definite possibility.

But, with this thought in mind, I Insist that We Cannot Rule Out the forces of Old and Evil in the Apocryphal Death of Doctor Gonzo.

“If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”

- Hunter S. Thompson


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Bosnian Connection

Remember when Bill Clinton, at the height of his power, committed U.S. troops to Bosnia? That was a political debacle, to be sure. As is always the case in American politics, the minority party at the time, the Republithugs (as opposed to the ruling Corprocrats) were in an uproar over this "adventure" into a foreign nation. Here are a few quotes ...

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
--Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

High-tide for hypocrisy in American politics has finally arrived. The coin has flipped, and the weight of good and evil is measured in gallons of blood. When will we just sack the governing lot and start fresh? This government, the American Government, on both sides of the isle, has become just as oppressive and corrupt as the British government of Jeffersonian era.

The new theme of American life is gloom and doom. Our "representatives" do nothing more than regulate us. The United States government is no longer of the people, or by the people. It is over and above the people, to the point where many do not understand the basic workings of the beast.

By the time this whole gory cyclone winds down, dropping so many body parts on our heads, the accounting of such monumental crimes will yield another bloody mess. Just like it was centuries ago. Just like it is today.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The grinding jaw

Did anyone notice anything slightly amiss about Bush's last few speeches? I knew something was wrong with him ... something had changed. His body moved somehow differently. He seemed detached, and his jaw kept kicking around and shifting from side to side.

By a show of hands, I'm sure only a couple of you reading this have done coke. I've never done coke, and I don't plan to. However, I have put myself through the paces over the years, and I can only think of a few other things that can make a man grind his jaw like that. Someone close to me is on some pretty potent anti-depressants, and the facial spasms and jaw grinding is a constant issue with certain drugs. Also, sometimes after heavy boozing (only on the weekends), I'll wake up in the morning and have a shivering jaw. I'm also really sensitive to light, so I squint and sort of grimace.

I mention this because all these things are telling signs of substance use/abuse. Under the care of a doctor, it is acceptable, despite the fact that the drugs they give are far more life-altering than most street drugs. Heroine is legal with perscription. It is called Oxycotten, Rush Limbaugh's old favorite. So is Speed, Cocaine, Morphine ... and all the other little nasties like zanax or xanax (I'm not sure how it is spelled), Lexapro or Ambien. It has all been legalized and renamed to deter public outcry.

Drugs like this, especially when mixed with alcohol, can make for one out of control, insane night, believe me. And the question falls to the White House Press Core: ask about Bush's jaw. Get Scott McCllean on PUBLIC RECORD with an explanation. Why?

Keep your eye on the birdie.

Notice, in that video linked to above, that his jaw is constantly twitching. This can only mean one of several things:

1. He is abusing coke or methamphetamine.
2. He is on perscription(s) such as Adderal or Lithium.
3. He is drinking liquor heavily - this is especially true the morning after a vodka binge, I've found.
4. He is on a perscription(s) and mixing them with alcohol, which is just as bad as option 1.

Some have suggested it is a byproduct of stress, because he is working so hard to protect our country. I have seen people under tremendous stress, and none of them have aquired this condition because of the pressure. I do not discount it altogether, but there is a much greater potential that our President has been perscribed MAOI's, and is running this ship in an altered state.

I am not leaning toward any illegal activity on his behalf ... at least not on THIS ONE MATTER. However, if Mr. Bush is on Lithium or Adderal or Zanax, I have terrible fear for this country. I have known plenty of people who were perscribed these drugs, and their decline was harder and faster than any of the coke or meth heads I've ever known.

It's a crazy world. And I would not be shocked if one of my reasonings were dead on.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Gonzo Muckraker gets a facelift


I am installing a new template for this 'ere gonzo journal. Pay no mind if the damn thing explodes. It should be looking all nice and spiffy soon enough.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Photo Manipulation is Fun and Profitable

I spent about two hours today at work making a "haunting" image. My editor said that we have a story about a local haunted house, and he wanted a photo of it to look "ominous" or "ghostly." Well, this is what I turned out. I don't know if you can see all the details -- it mostly depends on your display device and screen resolution.

I'm actually proud of the picture. I do not get graphics assignments, and I've had an affinity for PhotoShop since my time spent making images for Binary Culture. My editor really liked it too. Bob said he was going to put it on the front page. I'm not sure how well the face in the clouds will show up in the newspaper, but I suppose I'll find out by Friday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Is abortion the only issue facing Americans?

Abortion. Hmmm ...

This issue has dominated our national dialog simply because the corporate party system hinges on wedge issues. It is the principal of Sun Tzu; The Art of War: divide and conquer. It is a tactic used most clearly and most recently by Presidential adviser Karl Rove, who is said to have been heavily involved with the selection of Harriet Myers. Could this be a "fake" nominee, only to be knocked down by Conservatives and replaced with an extremist? Or perhaps Mr. Bush is only thinking of his own protection. Given the close ties between he and Myers over the years, how do you think this potential "justice" would vote concerning matters of possible impeachment? It seems as though nearly everything any recent sitting administration does has been weighed against the principal of Sun Tzu. How much further divided can this nation be before it fails us all?

And the problem is not necessarily our disagreement on social or economic policy. It all boils down to the application of this ancient text. It is the dogma of capitalism and corporate warfare, both real and financial. It is the guiding light of our current administration, and many past political campaigns. It is the key to the underlying truth of our society: Federal politicians are literally at war with the public.

It is because of this that Roe v. Wade will never be overturned. Without it, we would not be so evenly split in the polls. If a right-wing judge overturned it, the corporate parties could no longer function, regardless of what anyone thinks of the morality of abortion. Republicans currently have the votes to pass anti-abortion laws. Why has there been no effort made? No matter what corporate Democrats claim, Roe v. Wade is not really under threat. No matter what bigwig Republicans say to get your vote, they will never really make good on their promise to outlaw abortion. It is an essential wedge for both parties.

So, everyone just calm down a bit, eh?

Monday, October 10, 2005

RFID: Reasonable Fear of Information Disclosure

"There's something happenin' here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children,
What's that sound,
Everybody look what's goin' down"

-- Buffalo Springfield

Keep those tin hats on, campers. America just got another big dose of Big Brother's Good Medicine, and its not going down so easily.

RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is a no-so new technology that is pervading our society at an alarming rate. And depending upon what your news outlets are, you may not have ever heard of it. Similar to the barcode, RFID is a system of identification that, originally, would have allowed large companies to maintain more orderly, accurate inventories of products.

Devices carrying this technology come in a range of sizes from a 1 in. x 1 in. square chip to a transmitter half the size of a grain of sand. These microchips do not carry an electric charge or battery, instead relying on a scanner to issue a radio frequency which it converts into a charge, enabling it to issue a respond broadcast carrying its unique ID signature. Believe me, corporate America, especially IBM, Wal-Mart and BellSouth, is cheerleading the effort to tag every item of material value on the face of the earth. Even the Pentagon is championing the new tech, slapping RFID chips on practically everything in Iraq.

To be sure, RFID is a double-edged sword. It has the potential to strengthen supply chains, increase inventory efficiency reduce product shrinkage. One company offers RFID-enabled pajamas for parents concerned about their children's security. Yet another firm is embedding RFID chips in prescription pill bottles given to seniors with limited vision. A handheld reader announces the contents of a scanned bottle, time of last consumption, and the expected date of refill. If you have a Mobil Speedpass for refilling your gas tank, a toll tag to cruise unimpeded on the pay-way, or a pet-chip in your dog, RFID is already a part of your life. And the further applications are nearly limitless.

But many privacy advocates deride the use of RFID as a marriage of convenience and corporate greed. Wal-Mart is already testing RFID in its Texas stores. Chances are if you shopped at the big blue in Big Tex, you are already broadcasting. Retailers have started imbedding the chips in products en masse. Many have not, and will not, disclose if their swag has RFID. IBM has already patented means of tracking consumers both in and out of stores. BellSouth, the Texas phone company, has devised a means of scanning trash to determine how consumers use disposable goods. Others are working on alternate uses, such as RFID ink that tracks the location of a document, and badge systems to identify employees.

There is currently no law regulating the use of RFID. There is, however, a new book on the subject. Spychips, by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre details how the powers that be plan to track everybody. It is a grim prediction of the neigh-inevitable Orwellian society. The authors also plan a revision of the book, detailing why Christians should be concerned about RFID and its potential for "Mark of the Beast" status. Could the Christian Right be on course to side with the "evil" ACUL? Stranger things have happened.

Imagine this scenario: you are an underprivileged member of society, living on a severely limited budget. Since second-hand material goods are the most viable option to you, a slightly worn jacket at a thrift store finds its way into your closet. A few days later, wearing the jacket in public, cadre of law enforcement officials close in and pin you to the ground. An hour later you sit in a cell, waiting for DNA results to return from a crime lab. It turns out the previous owner of your jacket killed a child, but the authorities, well intentioned as they may be, nabbed you by pinpointing the RFID signal coming off your clothes. By the time your DNA is analyzed and verified, a week has past. Finally emerging from the cell, your entire life has been altered by the assumption that you may have been a child murderer.

Or worse! Imagine an electronic marauder armed with a $20 RFID reader, ganking consumer info on the low. Walking past you on the street, a simple press of a concealed button would silently nab RFID numbers from every chip within a broadcast radius. That hacker could then easily uncover, or even legitimately buy, your personal information from companies that associate RFID's with consumer data. If you thought the corporations knew a lot about you already, just wait until the RFID flood gates are opened.

Oh wait, they already have been. Dead bodies found in the wake of Hurricane Katrina now have implanted RFID chips for easy identification. At least we'll know which mass grave they were burried in.

"Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step outta line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound,
Everybody look what's goin' down"

Citizens not looking forward to the age of spychips have few options. For one, if you want to ensure that an RFID chip has been disabled, the only way to be certain is to microwave the item. Since these chips can be as small as, or smaller than, a flake of pepper, most of the time you cannot detect their presence. The only other option is to create a transient electromagnetic device, such as an explosively pumped flux compression generator, which delivers a single, devastating electromagnetic pulse that disables these chips and other electronic equipment within the pulse radius. On the downside, the government considers devices like this to be objects of cyber warfare, and likely illegal. Turn off the spychip and you'll get popped by the man!

Welcome to the REAL dawn of the information age. If you think supermarket membership cards are annoying, just wait until personalized advertising, a la Minority Report, shows up at Macy's. It is coming, much sooner than you think. Call it whatever you want; this technology is one beast that needs to be corralled.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

The undulation of a legacy

Do you remember Pat Tillman? I'm sure you do. He was the Arizona Cardinals football player who turned down millions of dollars to be an Army Ranger. An elite. A man among men. A patriot.

We can sing his praises all day. Praises that, with all due respect, all our soldiers deserve. The war is on, and they don't complain.

Well, they don't complain loudly anyway.

I remember reading about Tillman. I couldn't help but think there was something more to this person. He was the unbending patriot, willing to lay down his life for his country. And he did. When he died, it was a tragedy, just as much of one as every single other soldier's death.

But what I cannot get over was the cover-up. His family waited for five weeks to find out how he died. When the word finally broke that he was cut down by Americans, not Taliban fighters, I couldn't do more but shrug and shake my head. These things happen in war.

But what really got me was how the conservative pundits couldn't get enough of this guy. It was sort of a feel-good death for their viewers. "People like his should be talked about more in the media." It was, more or less, a smoke screen. With a story like this, FOX News does not have to talk about the other, much more disturbing facts.

And now we know that Tillman himself would not have approved.

According to some of Tillman's friends, he considered the Iraq war "fucking illegal." His family, never actually in the media's spotlight, called him a fiercely independent thinker critical of Bush and the war. He considered Noam Chomsky to be one of his favorite authors (as do I).

The Pentagon could hardly resist offering Tillman a contract to become the poster child of the recruitment effort. He turned them down. After he died, politicians who knew nothing of the man sang quiet lies and damning eulogies in praise and thanks to someone who would have been protesting their prior actions, were he not wearing a military uniform.

He did his duty, but didn't agree with it. That is true patriotism. Not this constant flag-waving, cheerleader crap we get back here in the states. And in the end, he really does set a positive example - not as the unquestioning republican idol, but as the patriotic liberal.

Tillman was like most of us. Current polls put 63% of Americans in opposition to the prez. Tillman questioned the war, but fought it anyway. Now that we know who the hero REALLY was, we can just secretly hope that the very mention of his name causes slime like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity to choke on their own hypocrisy.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A photo editorial from The Nation magazine

I was browsing The Nation magazine online ( this morning and came across this image. It is not so much the photoshop job of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfield being lead away by men in black suits as it is the quote.

I could never have hoped to put it better. As for the politicians, they'll get theirs sooner or later. Mahalo.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

President Bush personally pardons drug dealers, terrorist

Last week, on the very day Republican Tom DeLay was indicted, the White House released a list of pardons. It slipped under most people's radar, which was the intention. This simply cannot be! Several of those pardoned were convicted of crimes ... shall we say ... not usually pardoned by a president. This includes:

Jesse Ray Harvey, Scarbro, W.Va.
Offense: Property damage by use of explosives and destruction of an energy facility; 18 U.S.C. 844(i) and 1366(a).

Larry Paul Lenius, Moorhead, Minn.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine; 21 U.S.C. 846.

Larry Lee Lopez, Bokeelia, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to import marijuana; 21 U.S.C. 952 and 953.

Mark Lewis Weber, Sherwood, Ark.
Offense: Selling Quaalude tablets (one specification), selling, using, and possessing marijuana (three specifications), U.C.M.J., Articles 92 and 134.

Adam Wade Graham, Salt Lake City, Utah
Offense: Conspiracy to deliver 10 or more grams of LSD; 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(v), and 846.

Are we to assume that cocaine and LSD are acceptable to this president? Or perhaps "use of explosives and destruction of an energy facility" is really just a piddling little crime, not even worth the brand "TERRORIST."

Mr. Larry Lee Lopez is one lucky bastard. Millions of our citizens rot behind bars, subject to cruel and unusual punishment every day, because of an herb. A plant. A substance less intoxicating than liquor, consumed more commonly than wine through over half the world. I agree with a presidential pardon for a marijuana offense. But why is that not legal precedent? I think it should be. Tomorrow, millions of people would walk out of our prisons. Next week, our country's budget problems could half-way solved.

It'll never happen. They should have blown something up instead of smoking pot. Seems like they would have stood a better chance of getting a 'get out of jail free' card.

Read the full list here:

The Flying Car or: How I learned to stop worrying and love The Bomb

Good morning, America. Hello Sports Fans. This year is a landmark year for us all. This year, we have reached the apex of our great American Dream. Remember the comic books of yore, lauding the future of automobiles that take to the sky? That great, World's Fair so many years ago that heightened America's imagination as to what the end of that era could bring? It was the dawn of the flying car.

Not, The Flying Car, but the flying car's ideal. Then it was nothing more than sparkling paint and a glimmer in an engineer's imagination. The Flying Car, on the other hand, somehow carved its place in this generation's collective memory. It has become tantamount to the American Dream. That notion of life, liberty and happiness. The ultimate; the pinnacle; the perfect existence.

So, this Flying Car, THE Flying Car, goes on sale in a month. The 79th edition of super-percunious retailer Neiman Marcus' "Fantasy Gifts" Christmas 2005 catalog displays a few mock-up action shots of this albatross, complete with a $3.5 million price tag. The car obviously compliments statements made by Brendan Hoffman, prez and C.E.Oh. of Nieman Marcus Direct. "We have something for everyone," his press release reads. Obviously.

So here we are. In seven years we went from a country at peace - poverty finally dropping, inner-cities improving, and national surpluses growing – to a country at war – deficits swelling, corporate profits skyrocketing, poverty rising, and the middle class suffocating. Now, today, the American dream is to never own a home. Interest rates may be low for borrowers, but home values teeter, basically, on the will of school districts, all of them strapped for cash. At least in an apartment I do not have to worry about Escrow payments. At least in an apartment I do not have to take out a loan. At least with a lease I am not in fear of slipping into bankruptcy, which is nothing more than an empty, non-actionable term now.

The New American dream is to stop paying for the consequences of oil. Like some sort of shadow tax, this liquid is practically pure politics, injected right into your tank. The Government recently struck down a move to notify drivers that their unleaded cars can run on ethanol, which is actually CHEAPER than gas now. An extension of this American dream is the cost of just getting a car – with prices so daunting that any of the millions of people living on minimum wage, or damn near, could never hope to afford.

But now, thanks to the "something for everyone" book, the upper class does not have to deal with sitting on the highway behind the poor and their shabby earth-mobiles. The affluent and wealthy can just whirr overhead, finally free of the lowly incapable. And hey, the thing gets 23 miles to the gallon, and zooms to speeds of 350 mph. Who wouldn't want one?

I can picture it now. Instead of driving any car in a fleet of multi-colored Hummers, the ultra-aristocratic slush heads can just jump in The Flying Car and blow off your hat, or maybe rain bits of paper on your head. What wonderful news. I'm just wondering what will become of so many Hummers.

Perhaps these gaudy, unnecessary tanks will be abandoned to used car dealerships. Then, facing Total Hummer Overflow, the smooth will work a deal with the paid to pass them on to The Government and The Military for untold amounts of our taxes. Could 2006 be the new dawn of a stylish H2 fleet in Iraq? I mean, glistening Hummers of all polychromasia in the desert make better FOX News clips than the actual fighting and maiming and death. Hell, I'd drive the orange one.

Beware of Hummers in the Darkness. Bring on The Flying Car. And screw The American Dream. Mahalo.

Stephen Webster's column, "Electronic Horizons", is published in the North Texas weekly, The News Connection. Republished with permission.

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