Krystian Woznicki on Wed, 24 Apr 2002 19:36:24 +0200 (CEST)

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[sterling speech @ CFP] Re: <nettime> Roger Clarke: Personal <...>

Closing Speech
Computers, Freedom and Privacy 12
San Francisco, April 19, 2002

by Bruce Sterling

     Hello.  The last time I saw you lot was in my home
town four years ago: CFP in Austin, 1998.  I also closed
that conference: I closed it by inviting everybody over to
my house for free beer.  If you weren't in Austin in 1998,
too bad for you.  You should have seen that user response.
Man, they came out of their seats in a wave!

     I won't pretend to match that performance here. My
house is half a continent away, and besides, in 1998, that
was a bubbly, sparkly, cheap-champagne kind of CFP.
Whereas this is a sober, spooky, post-9/11 CFP, with grave
political responsibilities.  When you start drinking
heavily under those conditions, the next stop is the Betty
Ford Clinic.

     You may well wonder what I've been doing in the past
four years, after congratulating CFP people on their
stellar defense of electronic free expression.  Well, I've
been expressing myself freely by electronic means, that's
what.  It's kind of the point there.  That's the game
plan, that's the victory condition.  So, in 2002, I've
got, like, an active Internet mailing list, and a couple
or three vanity websites, and I'm conducting a local
writers' workshop with some Internet aid, and I'm involved
in diffuse, chatty, epistolary relationships with authors
on other continents.  I've got a blog -- a weblog, and how
could I not? -- on  It's on a wide
range of topics -- an *alarmingly* wide range of topics.

    And of course, being a novelist, I've published some
novels in the past four years.  So, if you go to the
little bookstore there outside the hall, where they are
selling books by CFP attendees and such.... Well, mine are
the *fiction* books, which have *attractive covers.*  The
books that are actually *fun to read.*

     If I were to ship you all the free expression I've
punched up on my quivering keyboard in the past four
years, I could bury you all alive.  But the final speech
at an event like this can't be too short.  You've been
through a lot here.  I have pity.  I have a warm sense of
human solidarity for your info-burnout, and your glazed
eyes, and your myopia, and your carpal tunnel.  After 12
years together, we should know one another well enough.
We should be frank and confiding now.  We should be crying
on each other's shoulders here.  We should be
commiserating, and chucking each other's chins.

     So let me tell you all about my email.  You know, back
in 1990, at CFP One, I had a freshly minted Internet
address.  I used to get about five messages off the
Internet, every day.  They were all from guys with
engineering degrees.  Guys like Dave Farber.

     But the last time I took my daily look at my daily
email, which was just before I got on the plane to San
Francisco, I had 44 pieces of email. A very common ration
of email for me, 12 years after 1990.  And what were those
44 emails?

      They were six pieces of spam from Korea.
      Five pieces of spam from mainland China.
      One spam from Hong Kong.
      Two porn spams.
      One marketing spam.
      One job spam.
      One music rave spam.
      One toner cartridge spam.
      One inexplicable message with a missing attachment.
      One message bounce.
      Two items related to my business as an author.
      Fifteen messages from various useful and entertaining
mailing lists.
      Four messages relating to a list I run myself.
      One weekly digest from a news website run by Indians.
      One issue of the "Daily Corruption," from the NGO,
Transparency International.
      And, finally, one pleasant personal message from a
good friend.

      Oddly, I got no viruses that day.  I get five or six
viruses a week.  In 1990, there were fewer than 500
viruses.  By 2000, they numbered about 50,000.

     So, my email is a decidedly mixed blessing.  I find
that I'm perfectly happy without it.  I haven't read my
email all week.  I feel nothing but relief.  You see, at
CFP One in 1990, I'd already been a published writer for
12 years.  I wrote my first two novels on manual
typewriters.  I still own my manual typewriter -- an
Olympia B-12.  I was tempted to bring it here and sit in
on the sessions with the thing on my lap.

     I'm sure I would have received many awestruck
compliments.  From an engineering perspective, an Olympia
manual is a far, far better-crafted machine than any
laptop ever made.  You can drop one to the floor from
waist height and it will rebound undamaged.  However, I
didn't have a ribbon for my manual typewriter.

      Still, the thought of not reading email was so
liberating that I decided not to bring a computer to
"Computers, Freedom and Privacy."  Nor did I bring a
handheld.  Not even a lowly cellphone.  I know this goes
against the grain of this event.  That was my point.  I
knew that I had to write the final speech here.  I decided
to do it with -- *a fountain pen.*  Yes!  It was a
Waterman "Phileas" Jules Verne memorial fountain pen, for
you hardware freaks in the audience.

     I'm not a fanatic about my abstinence.  I'm still
wearing my digital wristwatch.  Kind of a brainy little
wristwatch.  It has the storage capacity for 30 names and
addresses.  Of course, I had to replace its dead battery
last month, so all those names and addresses instantly
vaporized.  I haven't gotten around to the cruelly
laborious work of replacing them.  But -- technically
speaking -- I've got a computer strapped to my wrist.

     So, I went to my hotel room here.  Very nice,
perfectly acceptable.  It has a bedside digital clock that
was never reset for daylight savings time.  There's even
digital media on the hotel TV.   Did anyone else notice
Channel 19?  It's supposed to be showing a promotional DVD
for San Francisco tourist sites.  But it's a scratched
DVD.  So there has been a scratched record, repeating the
same 5 to 7 seconds of video, around the clock, in this
hotel, all week.  DVDs really suck.  When they
malfunction, the visual damage on the screen is just awe-
inspiring.  Why several hundred computer experts at CFP
never complained to hotel management about this stuck DVD,
that is beyond me.  I mean, it is a commercial DVD, so
maybe they were afraid of being prosecuted under the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  But come on!  How long
has this thing been malfing?  Maybe it's been screwed-up

     Having no laptop, I was spared a further moment of
distress when the hotel security guys freaked out over the
number of laptops at this event.  There are laptops just
lying in careless heaps, apparently, like stale bread
slices abandoned to thieving pigeons.  At every event we
get that customary CFP soundtrack: that dry rattle of
keyboards in the audience, a sound like a flock of hens
pecking corn.

     I'm not surprised that CFP people would be so reliant
on these devices.  Obviously they are of dubious
usefulness if you are genuinely interested in what the
speakers are saying.  But at CFP, laptops are like peace
tokens or protective armor.  At CFP One, twelve years ago,
computers were the one topic that everyone could talk
about.  Those were the electronic frontier days, when the
woods were full of owlhoots, and Comancheros, and
guntoting sheriffs.  "So, Sheriff, what kinda box you
packing there?" "Why, it's 256K, son!"  Wow!  And if you
asked nicely, you could even get the banditos to take you
up to their crash room and show you a Redbox!  "Look at
this!  I saved a dollar-seventy-five on long-distance
phone calls, and I only had to commit three state and
federal felonies!"  Boy, those were the days, weren't
they?  They were good people, but they still measured in

    So I figured that, armed with my fountain pen, I'd be
able to offer you guys some bracing historical
perspective.  I might point out that some extremely fine
speeches have been written, on the road, with handheld
writing implements.  Like the Gettysburg Address, for
instance.  Famously written on a scrap piece of paper --
and a good thing, too, because there isn't any writing
paper in my hotel room.  Not even an envelope.  Not a
hotel postcard.  There's a Gideon Bible with a few blank
pages in it, but although I like to cite Abraham Lincoln,
I'd feel a little funny about trying to out-compose God.

     Besides, after I bought this cheap, one-dollar
notebook at the neighborhood Japanese grocery, I found out
that my pen couldn't websurf to Google.  So I couldn't
find out all the particulars about how Abe Lincoln wrote
that speech.  I'm sure that you wireless 802.11 Pringles-
can characters can find that out right now, though.
'Lincoln,' 'Gettysburg,' 'scrap paper,' that ought to
keyword it.  So, you know, just email among yourselves.

     I've got bigger fish to fry here than Abraham Lincoln.
Let me mention something rather fishy that I've noticed at
this CFP.  Since the beginning, people at CFP have worn a
lot of hats.  They never have just one job.  CFP is always
about the guy who's a Supreme Court law clerk, and a Linux
installer, and a Greek History major.  CFP people tend to
play both sides of every possible fence.  They had to.
There weren't any fences.  It was all frontier.

     At CFP, it's like the plot of every Hollywood Western
you ever saw.  First, they shove the hobbyists off the
tribal lands.  They bring in the railroad and the
telegraph.  The schoolmarm and the newspaper man show up.
Somebody robbed the stagecoach, and every year they bring
in more lawyers in those derby hats, and finally
STATEHOOD!  Hallelujah!

     Well, this was the CFP where people started sidling
over and telling me about their tie-ins with security and
intelligence.  "Well, Bruce, I don't exactly approve of
the Attorney General's rash actions, but I am on this, uh,
telecommunications security policy network thinktank...."
And I heard about Richard Clarke, the cyber-security czar.
When exactly did it become the custom to refer to this guy
as "Dick" Clarke?  Is he the host of "American Bandstand"?
Is "Dick" that swell a guy?  He sure seems to be making a
lot of friends.

     I'm rather unsurprised to see CFP people drifting in
this direction because, really, who the hell else is there
to do it?  Every network activist does seem to take on a
mild flavor of spy, after a while.  It's pretty well
beyond a mild flavor at CFP 12.  I would have to describe
this as the chile pequeno flavor of spy.

     Even the Indymedia guys...  I mean, like, even the
hairiest Indymedia guys, with tatts and piercings and
Circle-A sweatshirts...  When you really look at their
cool, alternative set-up, aren't they kinda running this
vast, independent, global, surveillance and tattletale

     I'm clicking on the ol' Indymedia site there, and it's
kind of hard to miss, isn't it?  "Here's the latest
RealPlayer videos of the cops in Genoa beating the crap
out of us...  It's part of a 30-part series...  Lots of
digital photos here, every speech, every spray of
peppergas..."  Big Brother, c'est moi!

    It saddens me that most Americans, Joe Sixpack, Jane
Winecooler, they still watch that capitalist slave media.
They miss out on the bracing spectacle of European
peaceniks sleeping on bulldozed rubble in Jerusalem.  The
only hacktivist that American TV consumers know is the
domesticated, mediatized, corporate sell-out, G-rated
version of a hacktivist.

     And that would be -- Steven the Dell Dude.  "Dude,
you're getting a Dell."  This guy has become the public
face of the computer consumer.  Steven has got the facade
of being a knowledgeable computer user... but he certainly
never says anything challenging or complicated.  For
instance, he never tells you how to get the lingering
venereal curse of a Microsoft Outlook virus out of your

     Ladies and gentlemen, as you well know, I am the least
judgmental of men.  But I have to confess that the Dell
Dude is beginning to creep me out.

     Especially in the most recent Dell TV ad campaign.
That's the one where Steve is in the fancy car with his
girlfriend, that wardriving 802.11 phreak, or whatever she
is.  In this ad, we see Steve's innate sneaky dishonesty
clearly asserting itself.

     "Steven... isn't this your father's car?"

      But Steven the Dell Dude is trying to deceive his
nubile girlfriend into granting him some sexual favors,
who he replies "Uh.... No?"

     To hell with Dad's convertible!  What is Steven doing
with his *Dell*?  That's the operative question here.
That mischievous look on his mug, that augurs very poorly.

      "Steven... isn't that *Mr Eisner's movie* on your
Dell?"  "Uh...  No?"

       Steven... isn't your hard disk crammed with other
people's MP3s?  Oh yeah!  You bet it is!  And is our
Steven an academic musicologist?  Are those the complete
road bootlegs of Michael Tilson Thomas's classical
performances in there?  I find myself doubting that.

      Who wants to bet that what Steven has in his Dell are
the exact items that will make his girlfriend beam on him
approvingly?  Would that be vi and emacs?  RedHat Linux?
Stochastic analysis programs for Yugoslavian war crimes?
Why no!

     Steven has mysteriously acquired the commercial
products of Britney Spears, Pink, the Backstreet Boys and
NSync... the very items his girlfriend no longer has to
buy from Wherehouse Music!  Now she can have them from
Steven for -- let's be charitable here -- for a hug.

     Is Steven, our Dell Dude expert, going to buy himself
an audio set of ProTools, so that he can create and
distribute his own, original, digital music?  Uh... No?
Steve could also mow enough lawns so that he could buy his
dad's convertible.  But why would he?

      What's the upshot here?  One would idealistically
hope for a vast Internet ocean of cool free music created
by the Stevens of the world.  I live in a town crowded
with Stevens, many of them the children of Dell employees.
They're cool guys fresh out of high school, guys who love
music so much that they're sacrificing every hope of a
bourgeois life, waiting tables and hoping they can be Kurt
Cobain.  Kurt at least could sell his records and buy
himself some heroin.  But these poor guys live in 2002,
not 1990.

     So they have to make their music in this shell-torn
commercial crossfire!  This culture war, where crazed
monolith behemoths struggle to cut off each other's market
oxygen!  You innocently stick some legitimately purchased
music CD into your Macintosh, and the evil thing blows up
your RAM BIOS!  It's a suicide-bomber CD, disguised as
Celine Dion!  There's this anguished invisible scream from
the whirring guts of your Ono-Sendai Cyberspace Seven, as
the Black Ice takes hold of your system!  Oh my God!  It's
a hellish security nightmare!

     But it could be worse!  You could be one of those
trusting suckers who innocently bought a federally-backed
digital HDTV.  Too bad there's no product for it.  It's a
giant *television* that's gonna die like the Clipper Chip.
And for the same reason... because corporations and
content owners won't go there.

     It's the Wintel Gates OS versus Hollywood and the
music industry, and as elephants fight, the grass is
trampled.  This is one of those *new* kinds of war, where
the soldiers are perfectly safe and the *consumers* supply
all the casualties.  The hallowed halls of Best Buy and
Circuit City are strewn with broken glass and broken
promises.... The supposed explosion of digital creativity
on a million websites and a thousand channels... Well,
come 2002, it boils down to 95% market share by a single
ruthless feudal empire!  And you wonder where your
excitement's gone?  A thing like Linux...  that isn't a
competitive free-market innovation, that thing is like a
slave revolt.

     But it gets weirder.  The public interest in public-
domain intellectual property freezes dead with the humble
birth of a cartoon mouse on a tabletop in Kansas City. The
Mouse is flash-frozen in legal ice.  He's unrotting.  He's
undying.  He's cryogenically preserved....  In ancient
Rome, folks thought it was pretty decadent when the
Emperor Caligula made his horse into a Senator.  But in
the modern US Senate, there's a Senator who's a cartoon

      I have to say I felt deeply moved when Mr. Eisner of
Disney-ABC complained that the rampant digital piracy of
his products was debasing the morals of the American
population.  The gentleman has a point.  The situation as
it stands only allows behavior that is squalid, and
unworthy of a free people.  It *is* corrupting.  It's
devious.  It's disingenuous and cynical.  What really
bothered me was Mr. Eisner's obvious and growing anxiety
to punish the public at large for the failure of his own
political tools.

     If Mickey's old enough to be preserved in Jurassic
amber, then how come we human beings, who are still alive,
are so unworthy of Mr. Eisner's creative services?  Maybe
we're no longer a 1920s America, but come on, Mr. Eisner
is certainly no Walt Disney.  It's like that weird tantrum
from Microsoft, when they swore they'd *stop producing*
Windows if the mere Justice Department didn't stop nagging

     These people are supposed to be our captains of
industry.  How on earth did it come to this?  It's a
corporate lockout policy, where the entire American
population is pitched outside the factory gates of
Hollywood and Redmond.  Our wealthy and powerful moguls
are fed up with the behavior of the voters!  They're
anxious to teach us a lesson.

     "Where do you want to go today, Mr. and Mrs. America?"
"Hey, I want to cruise in Steve the Dell Dude's borrowed
convertible, playing borrowed MP3s!"  "But no no NO,
that's not what we meant!  We meant, where do you want to
go today, to GIVE US SOME MONEY."

     Since I'm an artist who spends a lot of my time
dangerously flirting with digital media, I suppose I ought
to say something tiresome and obligatory about the growing
likelihood of my starving to death.  But since so many of
you guys are lawyers, let me put this in a more
complicated way. When "creative acts are not
incentivized," there are some pecular and painful
consequences on the structure of media.

    Case in point.  I can see a thoroughly corrupt popular
media system in my own neighborhood. No, it's not FOX
News.  It is the local Indian grocery, which is an
absolute, decadent, Mom 'n' Pop hotbed of street-level
media piracy.

    Here we have a fine example of a movie production
system in which almost every sin that Mr. Eisner thinks is
terrible happened decades ago.  In Bombay, movies somehow
do get made.  Sometimes they are even made relatively
honestly.  But quite often, the finances for these movies
are supplied by swinging, with-it, murderously violent
Bollywood gangsters.  They are Muslim minority gangsters,
actually.  They spend a lot of their time offshore in the
Gulf States, especially Dubai, where they are intimately
involved in the money-laundering systems that were so
intensely useful to Al Qaeda.  Really, you guys with the
wireless laptops out there, you could look that up.  You
could Google it.  'Bollywood,' 'mafia,' 'Dubai,' give that
a try.

     Bollywood itself even makes movies about this.  Like
the recent release "Company," directed by Ramgopal Varma.
That Varma guy is a rather gifted movie director.  I'd
love to see what he could do with the budget of Disney or
DreamWorks, but I hardly see how he'll ever get the
chance.  Mr. Varma's talent and dedication are beside the
point, because his production system is corrupt and
dysfunctional.  I have a tender conscience.  When I watch
Bollywood cinema, my natural feelings of enjoyment are
muddied with guilt and dread.  It's spoiling my joy as a
patron of the Bollywood arts.

    Indulge me for a minute here.  Let me, as a working
American artist, make my disquiet more fully known to you.
Let's take, for instance, the compelling topic of my
favorite Bollywood actress, Kajol Devgan.  And who is

    You see, India boasts about 500 million women.  You
techies in the audience: imagine that you do this
stochastic winnowing of this huge database of women, with
maybe some Bayesian analysis.  You find the cutest and
most endearing one.  That would be Kajol.  She's the star
of numerous Bollywood blockbuster superhits.

    I don't believe that a single dime I've ever spent on
Bollywood vehicles -- and they cost about a dime, because
they're pirated -- has ever reached the mehndi-patterned
mitts of Kajol Devgan.  I feel genuinely offended by this.
Really, I do.  Because of a fundamentally dishonest, badly
maintained, commercial media system, against my own will,
I have been coopted into a conspiracy to exploit this
woman and harm her interests.  Now, if this were Fox, or
AOL Time Warner, or ABC Disney, or some other universally
loathed and feared corporate arm of American cultural
imperialism, really, the urge to rip them off would speak
for itself.  I scorn to do such a thing, but I understand
the impulse.  But people: I'm am American fan of Bollywood
movies who is ripping off artists who live IN BOMBAY!  In
Mumbai, where whole families sleep on the pavement!  We're
moving into the realm of blood diamonds and sweatshop
sports shoes here.  It's unethical.  It's creepy.  I feel
soiled by it.

    Now, Kajol isn't perishing of a vitamin deficiency.
She's a movie star, so unless she's shot by the mafia,
she's probably going to live.  But I have to say -- as a
fan of a major actress -- this offends my sense of
masculine gallantry.  Practically speaking, what am I
supposed to do about this?  PayPal?  Should I fly to
Mumbai, knock on her mansion door and slip her a nice
crisp fifty?  How come I know her, and her art, and her
actions, so well -- yet our economic relationship is so
crazy? It's bad!

     Then I read, in my favorite tell-all Bollywood gossip
website, that Kajol's disgruntled chauffeur has looted her
house and driven off in her car!  This poor woman must be
experiencing some genuine sense of Spenglerian cultural

     I'm pulling for you, Kajol, okay?  I get it about the
problem.  I'm complaining aloud to informed people who
should take a coherent interest.  I hope you're ego-
surfing the web.

     Now, it's easy to say that India is a crooked country
with deep, endemic corruption.  I lived there once, and
yes, it definitely is.  You don't need personal, local
experience to tell you these things.  You can read them
every day in the global headlines from the "Daily
Corruption," from Transparency International, the German
NGO.  I read that e-publication with great interest.  I
recommend it highly.

    But!  As a necessary consequence of globalization,
Bollywood is finding a growing audience inside the USA.
I'm one of them.  Nothing odd about that -- it's like my
wife's fondness for Hong Kong costume dramas, or my
daughter's ferocious need for anime cartoons.  The
question is: as we globalize, is India Westernizing, or is
America Indianizing?

    Just maybe, you live in a nation of arrogant maharajas,
sinister influence peddlers, dubious elections and corrupt
accountants.  With big software industries, and alarming
gaps between the privileged and the underclass.  Where
multi-generational political dynasties reign over
Congress, in a center of government bedevilled by Moslem
terrorists.  Is that your country?  Really, pick any two.

    So.  After having expressed my partial sympathy for Mr.
Eisner's point of view, I'd like to add to your cognitive
dissonance by saying some warm and supportive things about
the Bush Administration.  Because, like a lot of CFP
people, I too have been hanging out in Washington with
spooks, lately.  I've been covering the war.  I saw the
Pentagon.  I saw Ground Zero.  By my nature,  I'm a
whimsical, paradoxical sort of fellow.  Those two sights
didn't make me a happier guy.

    So:  John Ashcroft.  Yes, I know that Attorney General
Ashcroft is our designated Beast of the Apocalypse.  But
people: it is one of the oldest rules in politics to
distribute rewards yourself and punishments through a
subordinate.  Complaining about John Ashcroft is like
biting the whip.  John Ashcroft is the lightning rod for
American popular discontent.  He's the designated heavy of
this Administration.

    I get it that Ashcroft, as a bogey, is useful for
partisan maneuvers on both sides.  But really, do we at
CFP have to get all bent out of shape about this guy?
That's like hissing uncontrollably when the melodrama
villain parades on stage.  I've got no stomach for it.
People with a serious interest in governance shouldn't be
reduced to this behavior.  It's sappy.  It's naive.

     Let me level with you here.  John Ashcroft didn't have
to cover himself with villain's greasepaint just so the
likes of Cheney and Condi Rice can look moderate.  He's
doing it because he has no genuine political base of his
own, because he lost an election to a corpse.  He could
have gone home to some trailer park to eat banana chips
and watch Bollywood movies.  Instead, he decided to be the
heavy Enforcer inside the Beltway, most likely because he
was asked by the President, and he thinks it's his duty.
He's gonna go to his own grave as this hissable villain
figure for the Left, this arrow-riddled scarecrow.... His
real problem is that the US Senate, where he used to work
and have some dignity, is harassed by vicious anthrax
mailers and he, John Ashcroft, can't find them.  Now
*that* -- that is a genuine problem.

     Now, without particular enthusiasm, let me say a few
kindly and supportive words about the Bush Cabinet.  It's
true that their behavior often seems secretive, erratic,
and peculiar.  It's easy to read sinister overtones into

     My belief is that there is a central motivation in the
Bush Cabinet.  It doesn't get much press play, but this is
the enlightening, analytical key to most of the vagaries
of their behavior.  The key is that the Bush Cabinet does
not want to get killed.

     You see, there are marked peculiarities in America's
New Kind of War.  It's a war whose center is nowhere and
whose circumference is everywhere.  If you are going to
wound a superpower in a war without battlefronts, you
might as well shoot it in the head.

     To attack the military nerve center in a nation's
capital shows a distinct taste for decapitation.  Al Qaeda
has had enough of killing diplomats and sailors.  The Bush
Cabinet expects Al Qaeda to try to kill the American
command structure.  In other words, them.  If they were Al
Qaeda, that's certainly what they would do:  they would
bunker-bust.  If they, the Bush Cabinet, have to take out
Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, that's certainly what they
will do.  They're redesigning nuclear missiles to bust
government headquarters bunkers right now.

     This is what the Cheney "undisclosed location"
business is all about.  This is what the Cheney "secret
government" is all about.  I don't know where all those
midranking officials are going, with their toothbrushes
and their pyjamas, but I can promise you one thing: it's
out of nuclear blast range of downtown Washington DC.

    This is what the "Axis of Evil" is about.  Of course
they're not actual allies.  North Korea isn't a radical
Moslem state.  Iran and Iraq hate each other's guts.  What
these nations have in common is nuclear ambitions and the
fact that they manufacture Scud missiles in large numbers.

    They don't have to imagine a way to destroy Washington
and its imperial ruling class.  They can read Donald
Rumsfeld's own pronouncements in his "Commission to Assess
the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States."  You
put the Scud inside a tramp freighter -- probably hiding
it under several convenient tons of heroin -- and you park
it in international waters.  You launch a nuclear-tipped
warhead into Washington.  In the resultant horror and
confusion, you act just as surprised as everyone else.

     That is the source of the Bush Cabinet's discontent
with the Axis of Evil.  They don't want to be killed en
masse with surreptitious, cheap, covert, untraceable,
weapons of mass destruction.

     They're not making a big public deal over this
likelihood of Washington DC getting incinerated.  That
would definitely put a crimp in tourist visits to the
cherry blossoms.  But add up what we've seen in the past
year.  Congress subjected to a biowar attack.  The
Pentagon blown up.  In India, Moslem carbombers raided the
national Parliament and did their level best to kill every
lawmaker they could find.

    The decapitation scenario is a hard thing to keep a
level head about.  Once you've gotten it about this, and
internalized it as a likely enemy initiative, it makes
everyone else seem quite childish, and very poorly-
informed.  The Bush clan are paternalistic, noblesse
oblige, right-wing aristocrats with an intelligence
background.  They think they know more about global
realpolitik than the American public can face.  That's why
they treat us like idiots.  They expect us to panic.  They
are trying to spare us that.

     Here is the proof of their sincerity.  The Bush
Administration has a secret, back-up government, in case
they get killed.  It's parked outside Washington, with a
spare-tire Vice President to run it when and if the
President is turned to glassy slag.  Does AOL Time Warner
have that?  Or Disney, or Microsoft?  How about you?  Does
your law firm have a strategic action plan for what to do
when the Supreme Court is turned to ashes?  How about you
NGO activists?  Who's the first guy you plan to email when
you hear that Washington has had a nuclear, biological, or
chemical strike?  *Can* you email them, without routing
the traffic through Washington?

     The Bush Cabinet isn't afraid about the danger.
Rumsfeld is not a jittery guy.  Wolfowitz is a little
pocket Bismarck.  Condi Rice is scary.  Colin Powell is a
general, and he's the softie of the group.  Bush himself
is ticked-off.  He's personally insulted.  He's got a dead
cop's badge in his desk drawer and he looks at it every
damn day.  Their courage is not the problem here.  The
problem is that they consider the rest of us to be
children.  Like the Congress, for instance.  The Congress
are children.  Today, I noticed that the Congress is
getting around to building themselves a backup Congress.
Saw it on the news just this morning.

     I don't consider myself a child.  I've got my own
children.  When I'm at CFP, I tend to be in my journalist
mode.  That means I'm in the Danny Pearl contingent.  If
Al Qaeda had any idea who I was or what I most enjoyed
doing, they'd be eager to cut my head off. I'm a major
league Salman Rushdie fan.  You ever read that novel,
SATANIC VERSES?  You should go home and read that book
right away. That's a much better book than you think.

     I can remember, back in the old days, when the cops
and prosecuting lawyers at CFP used to warn us about the
"Four Horsement of the Infocalypse."  Those would be
Terrorists, Mafia, Drug Dealers, and Pornographers.
Supposedly, if computer law and order ever failed us,
these four guys would be all over the Internet.  Well,
here it is, 2002, and Al Qaeda is using Yahoo and hotmail.
They're terrorists.  They're mafia.  They grow poppies and
sell heroin.  They're Drug Dealer Mafia Terrorists.
Obviously there's been a certain amount of industry
consolidation here.

     So far so good -- except the part we didn't get is
that the Taliban are also the cops.  They hang people from
lampposts.  They insist on imposing Koranic Sharia law,
som that makes them the lawyers to boot!  They're a Lawyer
Cop Drug Dealer Terrorist Mafia.

     I finally got that figured -- but what's in it for me?
That's my question.  Well, I kinda like Bollywood
actresses.  I admire and appreciate women. I encourage
women to shed those stifling burqa robes and take a public
role in public life.  So, I'm probably a pornographer. I'm
glad we've got ourselves an order of battle here.  If this
is netwar, bring the noise.

     Let me tell you what bothers me most.  It's when we're
in a war, and the government does childish things.  Pretty
soon, this speech of mine will be over.  I'll be going
home, to face my 900 pieces of email.  I'll be seeing my
abandoned computer, and I'm not going to be falling on it
with glad cries of glee, because I have to work there.
You know what I'm really missing right now?  I'm missing
what everybody here is missing, except maybe the native
San Franciscans.

    I"m missing my Swiss Army Knife.

     What's that about?  They're banning a 3-inch length of
edged steel?  That's eyewash.  It's hokum.  It's banal and
stupid.  It's got nothing to do with our security.  Nobody
is every going to hijack an aircraft with tiny knives,
ever again.  They used that stunt up. It's over.  Why am I
deprived of a corkscrew and a nailfile?

     I can live at CFP without a computer.  Look, the gig
is over, I did it.  I had a pretty good time here.  I
wrote you a speech.  But your speaker has brushed teeth,
combed hair, and ragged, dirty fingernails!  I'm an
inkstained wretch because I wrote with a fountain pen, but
really, is there any affront more intimate than the tips
of your own fingers?  The same must be true of conferences
all over America!

     Cruise missiles, we got.  Daisy-cutters, we got.  Nail
files, we don't have.

    Our security people are going nuts over kids' toys.
Could we shape up and be a little less juvenile, please?

    I'm going home now.  Thanks for listening.  Have a safe
flight.  Long live Victorinox.  And long live the Net.

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