Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Algorithm

This was written for the 2011 Creative Loafing Short Fiction Contest. This year's theme was math. You could use math as a theme, metaphor, whatever. This entry didn't win but I enjoyed writing it and I hope you might enjoy reading it.

Knox would never get used to it, two small metallic slits just behind his left ear. Every morning it was the first thing he noticed. He reached behind his ear and felt them. It didn’t really hurt; it was more like an itch he couldn’t scratch. On the nightstand was his implant. It was a small crescent shaped device, with two-fork like studs protruding from the back. Knox slid the mechanism in place behind his ear; it fit like a glove. The implant was supposed to be virtually unnoticeable to the user but Knox noticed it, even more than that peculiar itch he felt every morning. The moment it clicked in place he was connected. The first thing the device delivered to Knox’s cerebral cortex was the news. Almost instantaneously he knew that the markets were up and that crime was down, no surprises there. But the big news of the day was the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Algorithm. Had it really been ten years? A small chirp emanated from the implant.

“Detective, this is Director Lantz, “ a man’s voice said in the implant.

“Director?” Knox said with surprise in his voice.

“There’s a situation at the Complex.”

“What kind of situation?”

“Your presence is required,” Lantz answered back. “Twenty minutes.”

The connection was severed.

As a detective for the National Police Force, he hadn’t gone anywhere but the office in nearly ten years. Ever since the Algorithm was put in place he had done little more than paper work every day. He couldn’t remember the last time an actual crime was committed.

It was an overcast day in the city. Only neon lights and video displays illuminated the morning gloom. His bones were stiff today. They said that sixty was the new thirty but Knox didn’t feel like it today; he felt old, like he’d been left behind. The Hyper-Tram zipped by overhead, you barely noticed, just a slight buzz.

Knox had never actually been to the Algorithm Complex before; he knew it was big, but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. It was the biggest man made structure on the planet, a city unto itself. The Algorithm Project employed hundreds of thousands of people in the city, millions worldwide. It was a joint venture between Synth Corp and the world’s government’s but it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended. In the front lobby a 100-foot wide video display was playing a short film commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Algorithm.

“…Our founder Aldous Schroder developed the most complex computer ever invented and an even more complicated mathematical formula known as the Algorithm.” At the front desk, a biometric machine scanned Knox’s retina. The film continued, “…An Algorithm that can predict the outcome of any circumstance with 99% certainty.” A set of double doors opened down the hall with a slightly audible hiss. A camera followed Knox through the doors and down a pristine white corridor where Director Lantz met him.

“This way detective.” Knox followed the Director through another set of double doors marked TECH SECTOR 9. Lantz was a good twenty years older than Knox, not far from retirement, though it wasn’t unusual for a man to work well into his 100’s these days. Lantz led Knox through a labyrinth of electronic equipment; he had never seen so much tech but knew it was only a small part of the Algorithm Complex. “Tell me detective, when’s the last time you were surprised by something?”


“Surprised? Do you remember what it’s like?”

Knox wasn’t sure what the Director was getting at. There wasn’t much to be surprised about these days. The Algorithm changed all that. But Knox played along. “I suppose it was 6/6.”

The Director only met Knox’s eyes at that response as he opened another set of sliding doors. Through the doors a man was lying in a pool of his own blood, a bullet hole through the back of his head. “Well detective?” Lantz asked. “Does it still feel the same? To be surprised?”

Knox was speechless. He knelt by the body for a closer look. It had been a while but the old instincts came back. A bullet in the back of the head, this man was executed.

“Most of the other guys on the force have never investigated a real crime,” the Director said, “let alone a murder. That’s why you got the call.”

Knox wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or horrified. “Any witness’?”

“No.” Lantz replied

“What about the cameras?

“No.” Lantz chirped back

That took Knox aback. “How can that be,” he said while motioning around the room to the many cameras. “They’re everywhere.”

“We were hacked.” The voice came from behind Knox, when he turned he found an old Asian man, even older than Lantz. He was impeccably dressed, not the slightest hint of emotion showing on his face.

“Detective Knox, this is Hiro Koshi,” said Lantz.

Knox didn’t need to be introduced. He was well aware of who the CEO of Synth Corp was. “Mr. Koshi,” Knox said as he bowed.

“Detective Knox is one of our best and he’ll be the sole investigator on this case,” said the Director.

Koshi was showing emotion now. “One detective? I assumed you would have the entire force working on this.”

“I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how sensitive this matter is,” Lantz said. “The first murder in ten years and it just happens to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Algorithm. If word gets out about this, there will be panic in the streets. I have every confidence that Detective Knox will bring this matter to a speedy close.”

Knox was just as surprised as Koshi but he went along. “For right now the less people who know, the better.”

“Of course,” replied Koshi. “Whatever you think is best.”

“Who was this man Mr. Koshi?”

“His name was Gomez, one of our system analysts.” Koshi handed Knox a small tablet computer. The security footage had a time stamp of 12:07am when Gomez was seen coming through the door of sector 9 and then the screen went black. The next image was Gomez lying on the floor dead; the time stamp read 12:16am.

They were interrupted by Hiro’s implant going off. Koshi lightly tapped the device behind his ear. “Yes? I’ll be right there.”

“Gentlemen,” said Koshi, “if you will excuse me?”

“Of course. Detective Knox and I will be in touch”

“Very good.” Hiro bowed slightly then he was gone.

“Gomez’s work log will be uploaded to your implant. Keep me apprised of your progress Detective,” said Lantz as he too left.

On the way out Knox synched his implant. Gomez seemed to have had a pretty routine night at work but the one thing that did stand out was an IP address. Internet Protocol Address’ had been phased out in the late twenty-first century. So how the hell did Gomez come across one? “Well, it should be easy to trace,” Knox said aloud to himself.

The Gates. Knox frequented this area even less than the city; there was no reason to unless he was looking for cyber drugs, a prostitute, or just down on his luck in general. The IP address was definitely in Gatestown but Knox could only narrow it down to a few blocks. He had been walking for an hour when he came to dilapidated apartment building. The door wouldn’t budge and the intercom was busted, if it ever worked at all. “Fuck.”

“That’s usually my reaction when I get home everyday.” She couldn’t have been a day over twenty-five, jet-black hair with neon green highlights. She had taken Knox by surprise.

“You live here?” he asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t call it living, per say, it’s more of a dwelling,” the girl said bugging her eyes out playfully. “If a guy like you is living here though, you must be way worse off than me.” She reached past Knox. “There’s a trick to the door, gotta jiggle it.”

As the girl fussed with the door, Knox noticed a twenty-first century style laptop in her shoulder bag. “Nice computer,” he said.

The girl froze and locked eyes with Knox. She tried to run but

Knox restrained her and took out his Pulse-Shock. It wasn’t a lethal device but it could be extremely painful. The weapon fired a concentrated electronic pulse that would paralyze the target for about a minute. He held it in front of her face. “I could use this.” The girl stopped struggling. “But I won’t.” Knox put the device away. “What’s your name?”


“Ocea, I just want to talk.”

Her apartment was like a museum; post twenty-first century technology everywhere. Old CPU towers, laptops, servers, and everything seemed to be in working order. “What is all this?” he asked.

“My office I guess,” Ocea replied.

“Why did you run?”

“General principle, you’re NPF.”

Knox wasn’t buying it. He pulled out a picture of Gomez and slid it across to her. “You know this guy?”

She glanced down at the picture then back at Knox. “Nope. What he do, download too much kiddy porn?”

“No, he was a tech at the Algorithm Complex”

Ocea rolled her eyes and shuddered, “Even worse.”

“He’s dead.” That shut her up. “Shot in the back of the head and right now you’re my number one suspect.” She was fuming now; angry, scared, both? Knox couldn’t tell.

“Where were you last night around midnight?”


“Doing what?”

She didn’t answer.

Knox got up and looked at all the old tech in the room. “You hacked the Algorithm, with all this?” The girl didn’t answer. “That’s how you slipped by. The Algorithm or the Machine wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails out of this old gear. And what about Gomez?”

“My guess is he saw something he wasn’t supposed to.” Suddenly a red light began to flicker in the room. Ocea shot up, “Who knows you’re here?”

“No one!”

Ocea flipped on a large video display. Grainy footage showed a squad of NPF officers storming in the building. “Liar!” she screamed.

“I’m telling you, no one knew I was coming here!”

“Then you were followed.”

“Look, I can help you,” said Knox. “If you’ll just cooperate.”

“Cooperate? I may have hacked that unholy machine but I did not kill that guy. I’m being set up and I can prove it!” Ocea packed a few things in her shoulder bag. She flipped up a rug on the floor; underneath there was a hatch.

Knox pulled out the Pulse-Shock and pointed it at her. “Ocea, I can’t let you leave.”

She walked towards Knox, stopping an inch from his face. “Then come with me. I’ll show you, I’ll show you everything.”

Knox looked in her eyes, they were green and radiant, and then he felt something. Something he hadn’t felt in a long a time: a gut feeling.

Knox’s legs were throbbing by the time they finally hit the ground. He had no idea how deep they had gone in the tunnel, it seemed like they had been climbing down forever. He wasn’t sure where they were at; it looked like an old train station. No, it couldn’t be. Knox wiped some soot from the wall, underneath it read:


He looked at Ocea, “The old city.”

“What’s left of it,” she said. “C’mon this way.”

There wasn’t a day that went by that Knox didn’t think about 6/6. An entire city reduced to rubble, millions dead. But we came back from it, we rallied, built the city back; made it better. It was better right?

Ocea led them up the main concourse; a scorched American flag still hung from the ceiling. “Start talking Ocea and it better be good. When this is all said and done, I’m likely to end up in jail with you.”

They came to a door that was marked as restricted access. “When’s the last time you were surprised by something Knox?”

“The last time someone asked me that, a corpse was involved.”

Ocea gave the door a brisk shove with her shoulder and it was open. “Well, let me ask you another way. Do you know what the Algorithm does?” Ocea hit a switch on the wall to power up the old control room. Dozens of ancient computers and video displays came to life.

Knox didn’t have time for this but he humored her. “Sure,” he said with resignation in his voice, “It’s a mathematical formula, that’s way to complicated for a guy with my pay grade to understand, and it can predict the outcome of any given scenario with 99% certainty. Did I pass?”

“Close,” she said as she sat down in front of a computer. “Thanks to your friends up there I had to nuke all my data in my apartment but I back up everything to this control room. This place is kinda like my Bat-Cave. “

Who is this girl? Knox thought.

“My father always told me that the Algorithm was meant to help people and it did… for a while.”

“And what was he?” Knox asked. “Some kind of tech philosopher?”

“No, he was Aldous Schroder.”

Knox was stunned. “I wasn’t aware that Schroder had any children.”

“Something tells me there’s a lot you’re not aware of.” Ocea pounded on the keyboard and brought up a map of North America. “When my father was first developing the Algorithm his vision was to give people certainty in an uncertain world. It was a noble endeavor but shortly after the program went online 6/6 happened and everything changed.” Ocea hit a button on the keyboard and the map on the screen was suddenly filled with tiny orange dots. The map was completely covered, hardly a map at all now, more like a big orange glob.

“What am I looking at?” he asked.

“Each dot represents an implant logged on to the network. A lot of people right?” Ocea then brought up a global map. “This is every implant on earth.” The entire room was bathed in orange light.

“Jesus,” Knox said. “Where’d you get this?”

“This is off the Synth Corp mainframe.”

“Where are you going with this Ocea?”

“After 6/6 happened the government and it’s top scientists, my father among them, ran every possible scenario against the Algorithm to find out how they could prevent another attack.”

Then Knox began to understand.

“Time and again the solution the Algorithm produced was to monitor every bit of data from every single implant on earth.”

Knox sat down.

Ocea pointed to Knox’s implant. “Do you have any idea how much of our lives are stored on those things?” Knox reached behind his ear and felt his implant and that’s when he noticed that Ocea didn’t have a port behind her own ear. “Your father never allowed you to have one?”

Ocea shook her head. “Never, and he only agreed to let our government and Synth Corp spy on the entire planet until the city was rebuilt. Unfortunately he died before that could happen.”

“But that still doesn’t explain who killed Gomez.”

Ocea brought up a new screen on the computer. “What time was he killed?”

“There was a gap in the security footage last night between 12:07 and 12:16am.” Knox watched as Ocea shuttled through the security video. She stopped when the time stamp read 12:07am. Gomez was seen going through the doors of tech sector 9. He stopped to check something at one of the terminals, he seemed confused, and then a man with a gun stepped into the frame. The shooter’s back was to the camera. He raised the weapon and fired; the front of Gomez’s head exploded. When the man turned to leave, Ocea paused the video: it was Hiro Koshi.

They made it into the Complex easily enough which didn’t sit well with Knox. As they made their way towards Tech Sector 9 Knox noticed the cameras weren’t following them. “Something’s wrong.” The double doors in front of them hissed open. It was Lantz and Koshi.

“Good work Detective,” the Director said. “We’ll take it from here.”

“Sir you don’t understand,” Knox pleaded. “Koshi killed Gomez!”

“No you don’t understand!” he fired back. “There are things going on here bigger than you and I, the Algorithm keeps us safe and this girl is going to destroy that!”

“I only want people to know the truth,” Ocea said. “Let them decide if it’s worth trading privacy and freedom for safety.”

Lantz pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “Knox put these on her and I’ll forget about your little indiscretions today.”

Knox didn’t even have to think about it. He drew his Pulse-Shock and fired two quick bursts at Lantz and Koshi. The two old men fell to the floor writhing in pain. Ocea couldn’t believe it. “Go!” Knox beckoned her.

Ocea scurried over to a terminal and got to work. “They won’t be out for long,” Knox said.

“You’d be amazed how quickly you can undo ten years of tyranny,” she said.

“So how’s this work?”

“I’m uploading everything from the mainframe to the Network. Everyone who’s logged in will know the truth about the Algorithm, Synth Corp; everything. Then they’ll make a choice.”

“What choice?”

“Whether they want to live a life of certainty or freedom.” Ocea went through a few more keystrokes, and then brought up the screen with the orange dots. One by one, they disappeared. Knox took out his own implant and smashed it under his boot.

The complex erupted in chaos, workers scrambling and a squad of NPF officers stormed in but seemed more interested in Lantz and Koshi than the couple boarding the Hyper-Tram.

Inside the car Knox asked, “What now?”

Ocea looked at Lantz and smiled, “Surprise me.”

Monday, November 15, 2010


And I feel fine, mostly because I’m stinking drunk. That’s right it’s 11:30pm here on the east coast on election night and the Republicans have taken control of the House. My, my, well at least the good people of Delaware were able to break the spell of anti-masturbationist Christine O'Donnell but that didn’t stop the rubes in Kentucky from electing Tea Party golden boy and self certified optometrist Rand Paul to the Senate. The loss of Feingold in Wisconsin was particularly painful and the Defeat of Prop 19 in California crushed any last hope that we were moving into a new age of progressivism. The dream is dead, the whole thing’s been turned back over to the wolves and to make matters worse I’m out of bourbon. Fuck this I’m going t0 bed

It’s exactly 24 hours later and the world hasn’t exploded but my head felt like it this morning. Been watching the news today and all the talking heads want to know what it means and all my friends want to move to Canada. As appealing as all that Canadian bacon sounds, though I think they just call it bacon there, I think we all need to calm down. Sure, I felt pretty grim last night but this is just how things go, the system is doing its thing. Two years ago the country took a hard swing to the left, now we’re swinging back to the right because Obama and the Dems haven’t been able to fix things fast enough for our wily and schizophrenic electorate.

So what does it mean? It means the Republicans are going to actually have to do something besides say, “no” and Obama is going to have to take the gloves off. The biggest mistake the GOP can make is to make good on their threats to repeal healthcare. Obama still has a veto pen and the Republicans aren’t going to have the votes to override him. If they go down this road or even worse use their newly gained subpoena power, nothing is going to get done in the next two years and the independents are going to swing back to left in the next election cycle. The Government is designed to work with differing opinions and some would even argue it works better that way. But you know what? All this ranting and raving about who controls what is beside the point. It really doesn’t matter who holds the reigns in Washington, the Democrats or the Republicans, because they don’t really represent us. They represent the likes of Goldman Sachs and BP. It’s high time that this country wakes up and realizes that we’re not living in a Democracy but a Plutocracy. So don’t get too caught up in searching for the significance of this midterm. It’s very simple. It means nothing. Nothing is going to change. The rich will simply continue to rule while the rest of us live off their scraps. That is unless we can get past all the partisan bickering and I’m not talking about Washington. I’m talking about us. Me, you, your neighbors, co-workers, friends, frenemies, and family. I’m just as guilty as anyone, probably more so but it’s time to stop attacking each other and start holding our so called leaders accountable for selling the American Dream to the Corporate Oligarchy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tea Baggin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo

April 15 tax day and if you’re a member of the Tea Party you wait all year for this. There are rallies all over the country; it’s like D-day for the Tea Baggers. In Atlanta, the action is down at the capital. On the way over I heard on the radio that they were expecting over 5,000 people, it looks closer to 2,000 to me. The demographics are pretty much the same as they were at the meeting I attended a few weeks ago but there are more minorities and young people than I expected. Looking around at the teaming masses the first thing that catches my eye is a sign, which reads:




(which isn’t much now)

On the bottom there’s the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ emblem and of course the ever-popular Hammer & Sickle image from the Soviet flag. The guy proudly wielding it is in his late 20’s and I gotta say it’s a beautiful sign, sure his talents are misguided but it was one of the better-made signs I saw that day. I asked him why he had the Hammer & Sickle on it and he said, “Because that’s what we’re going towards,” and that he was “just tired of paying for other people.” When I ask him to elaborate, he tells me about his neighbors whom are on section 8 but can somehow afford a new $50,000 Tahoe. This is not the first time I’ve heard this argument. Many in the Tea Party see what the Democrats are doing, with Healthcare in particular, as a form of welfare. But before I could press this young man any further something happened. Suddenly my blood runs cold and "I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced." I turn to the stage and I immediately realize where this ominous sense of cold-hearted dread is coming from. Under the lights, in front of this unholy gathering is none other than Sadie Fields giving the invocation. Sadie is the chairman of the Georgia Christian Alliance, which in 2004 spearheaded the effort to have the Georgia Marriage Amendment placed on the ballot. Now why would the Tea Baggers align themselves with a Christian Lobby? Aren’t they supposed to be ‘constitutionalists?’ The founding fathers (which the Tea Party are totally gay for) saw the wisdom in separating church and state; the Georgia Christian Alliance does not. It seems illogical for the Tea Baggers to be hooking up with these guys. But that’s not nearly as illogical as what I see next… A black guy, that’s right I said a black guy, holding a sign that says:




First of all, the work on this sign was nowhere near as good as the first guy I spoke to. This was real shotty work. Plain red letters glued on black cardboard and I could totally see gobs of glue oozing from under the letters. This guy did not bring his A-Game. Secondly, is he really comparing the Democrat’s agenda with the Transatlantic Slave Trade? Well no, he explains to me “its enslavement of the mind.” Oh, the old enslavement of the mind trick. Those bastards! Why didn’t I see that coming? Because it’s fucking crazy, that’s why! Want to criticize Obama and the Dems? Go ahead. But criticize them with facts. Using words like ‘socialist’ and ‘slavery’ are nothing more than simplistic scare tactics. Don’t like the fact that your taxes may be raised. Fine I get that, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I get it. We have to get rid of the deficit and you can’t realistically talk about doing that without considering raising taxes to help pay for it. Just spending cuts are not going to cut it. We are all going to have to pay for it one way or another. At least with the Dems, the most fortunate among us will pay the lion’s share. Don’t like that? Okay, but we tried it your way for 8 years and look where it got us. Let someone else run with the ball for a while.

All right enough preaching. Back to the rally; sure ‘Repeal New Slavery’ guy’s sign was messy but he was a bit of a novelty. I mean a black Tea Bagger! That’s unique in and of it self and besides at least he could spell. The next sign I see reads:






Yes, you read that right, Kevorian, not Kevorkian. Jeez, these people are killing me.

Things didn’t get much better when Denny Schaffer took the stage. Schaffer is a local talk radio host and to listen to him talk about him self on his web page, you’d think he was a really mellow spiritual guy, kinda preachy, in the literal since but mellow. To hear him speak in front of a frothing mass like the one here today you would think you were listening to a ranting, raving lunatic. Calling the ACLU “Satan’s law firm” and saying that this once great country is no more because the national philosophy has gone from ‘ask not what your country can do for you’ to “what can I do for myself without lifting a finger?” Again we get into the welfare argument. Denny talks a lot about Jesus on his webpage, a lot of the Tea Baggers do, and Jesus talked a lot about giving and compassion. That’s not something I’ve heard a lot about today.

The next speaker, Ginni Thomas, wasn’t nearly as hateful as Schaffer but did a good job of getting the crowd whipped up. Ginni is the wife of Clarence Thomas; yes that Clarence Thomas, and she is also the founder of, which chief among its many noble duties is securing “the blessings of liberty.” To Thomas this is a fight about whether we as a country want to be “self-governed or ruled” by the “elitist” in DC, whom, by the way, are “scared to death” of the Tea Party. According to Ginni, and she’s been working in DC for over 30 years, the Tea Party movement is “the biggest thing that has ever happened.” Wow really? Bigger than women’s suffrage or the civil rights movement? I must really have my head up my ass because I had no idea! Thomas goes on to tell the crowd that this is our generations’ time to stand up to tyranny! By the end of her tirade she has the whole crowd chanting, “Remember in November! Remember in November! Remember in November!”

Now that the crowd is worked up nice and proper, we slow things down with a performance from country music star John Berry. Berry is a bit of a folk hero to the Tea Baggers. You see a year ago on this day John was sitting at home watching all the Tea Party events taking place across the country and he thought to himself “what can I do?” Well, “I write songs and sing,” he continues. “So I went in my office and I penned this one.” The song is called ‘Give me back my America’ and it is a Grade-A piece of Ameri-Porn. Just check out these choice lyrics:

I want to work with my hands down at the mill

Plowin' a field or forgin' the steel

With out interference from Capital Hill

Give Me Back My America

If that doesn’t give you a patriotic boner then you may want to check your pulse! After Berry was done jerking off the crowd with the American flag I notice the guy beside me is crying like a 14-year-old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. As I’m watching this guy weep I realize two things. 1) Most of these people have a genuine love for their country and 2) They really and truly believe they are losing their country and that scares the hell out of them.

On the way out I some how managed to lose my car even though I only parked about a block away. After walking around for an hour I had a lot of time to think about all the craziness of the past few hours. And the more I thought about it, I just felt sorry for the Tea Party because some of their points are valid. The Government is going to have to reign in spending for instance and that’s one of their core beliefs. But even that most basic of concepts gets drowned out by all the “Obama is a Socialist,” fervor which scares off the sane people. Then there are the groups like Americans for Prosperity who exploit these poor bastards for their own gain. The Tea Baggers would be a lot more respectable if they would drop their association with lobbies and lay off the socialism scare tactics. The former contradicts their claim of being a grass roots organization and the latter is just flat out sensationalism.

Think they don’t matter though? You may want to re-think that. Just look at Arizona, that’s a product of Tea Party Governance. A state that cut taxes so much that they’ve been forced to sell their capital building to raise revenue only to rent it back from the buyer! Yeah, that’s prudent spending. And there’s a Tea Party caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives now. Clearly the right people are paying attention. Unfortunately the right people aren’t always the best people.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tea Baggin': My Secret Life with the Tea Party

My first exposure to the Georgia Tea Party was at a volunteer meeting held at the Cobb County public library. I expected maybe a handful of people and I wasn’t sure who or what to look for. When I pulled in the parking lot the first thing I saw was a young preppy guy (about 25 or 30) getting out of a car completely wrapped in decals from This was a professional job; the car was like a moving billboard for not wanting to pay taxes. So I locked on Mr. FairTax, if anyone knows where this thing is, I thought, it’s him. And as I walked into the library I couldn’t help but sense irony in the fact that a bunch of people who don’t want to pay taxes are meeting at the PUBLIC library, you know the one that’s funded by tax dollars! Oh well, that surely won’t be the craziest thing to come out of tonight.

I was stunned! This place was packed; besides me and preppy guy there were at least 60 people in the room! There were five or six under 30 years of age but the rest were mostly mid 50’s or early 60’s. I counted two minorities, both female. One was Asian (about 60) and the other Black (about 40). So demographic wise we basically had a bunch of old white people. Or to put it more accurately, a bunch of pissed off old white people. This was about a week after Obama signed the new Health Care Bill into law and I kept hearing whispers from the crowd about “Socialism” and the “Mafia in the Whitehouse.” I was getting nervous, if these people figure out that I’m a godless liberal, they’ll tar and feather me or they might even tea bag me! So I was relieved when a kid in his mid 20’s, Michael, complete with a polo shirt and name tag adorned with the Tea Party logo, called the meeting to order. Mike gave a brief intro and railed on Healthcare for a minute to get the crowd fired up. And fired up they got, I heard cries such as, “They’re destroying our country!” and stop “Obama’s Tyranny!” Then something happened that surprised me. It was a voice of reason that came from a little old lady in the back of the room. In the past week there have been bricks thrown through windows and even death threats to Democratic lawmakers. This sweet little old lady was calling on people to be civil and she was no sooner shouted down by a hateful old bat that accused her of being a Democrat, which she wasn’t. This venomous old bitch, we’ll call her Jan, claimed the recent threats of violence against Democrats was a “set up” to make the Republicans look bad. Jan was a nuisance throughout the entire meeting. If she wasn’t interrupting then she was fawning over the few young people there and bringing the entire meeting to a halt. You have to understand that the Tea Baggers are desperate for youth in their movement. A few teenagers trickled in towards the end of the night and you would have thought Glenn Beck himself had walked in the room. Jan forced these precious little patriots into telling their stories to the crowd and I couldn’t help but think, Good god! What are you poor bastards doing wasting the golden years of your youth at a Tea Party Meeting? You should be out chasing girls or at the very least hurling bricks through the windows of your local Democratic lawmaker! Ah to be young. But I’ve gotten grossly off track here. Where was I? Oh right, Jan was in the middle of her tirade with one of the few sensible people there that night. Thankfully Mike was able to get her to shut up for five minutes and then we had the obligatory opening prayer, which was led by a volunteer from the crowd, we’ll call him Jimmy. A quick fun fact about Jimmy, he’s unemployed and someone like him has the potential to benefit the most from our new healthcare system but that’s not the fun part. The fun part is his former employer: AIG! How weird is that? But back to the meeting, now that everything has been consecrated Mike turns the meeting over to Virginia Galloway from Americans For Prosperity.

The AFP is a conservative advocacy group, which is a polite way of saying that it’s a lobby and Virginia is a lobbyist. Here’s a fun fact about Virginia: her babysitter was Newt Gingrich! So what chance did she have but to become a blood-sucking lobbyist for what she calls the “non-partisan” Americans For Prosperity. Ms. Galloway would basically run the rest of the meeting. In fact Michael, who I thought was leading the meeting, left and I didn’t see him for the rest of the night. The AFP is into all the stuff you would expect; free-market ideology, cutting taxes, limited government, and so on. I guess it’s a natural fit for the Tea Party mentality but I came there to listen to the Tea Baggers not some vampire lobbyist who doesn’t give a shit about these people but only her corporate benefactors; not least of which is the Koch Family Foundation. Koch (arguably the nations largest privately held energy company) and Americans For Prosperity were behind the infamous Hot Air Tour that warned us against the dangers of global warming alarmism: lost jobs, higher taxes, and less freedom. Galloway was here tonight to shore up support for a big effort being taken up by Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue and the Republicans in the State Assembly to sue the federal government over the mandate that all citizens buy healthcare insurance. Oh yeah I almost forgot, Virginia was also there to pimp the Next Step Training seminar where you too can learn to promote the AFP agenda. But Ms. Galloway was really just the opening act for State Senator Judson Hill (R), whom authored the legislation to exempt Georgia from the Healthcare mandate. But the good Senator is running a little late so we have a little Q&A session while we wait. First up is a woman in her early 50’s; we’ll call her Anne. Anne would like to know why the public could not vote on healthcare rather than let those fat cats in Washington muck everything up. Virginia told her that the Democrats probably would not want the public to vote on it but she also politely reminded Anne that we live in a REPUBLIC not a Democracy. Jesus Christ, I thought, this lady is old enough to be my mother and she doesn’t know that! Next came a young, borderline dwarf of a man who we’ll call Andy. Andy was in his early 20’s and very short but also fairly muscular, he had a very strange build and he said more than one thing about guns that night. Andy just got out of the Marine Corps and before I go any further here I want to say that I fully respect and appreciate Andy and the countless others who have sacrificed so much for our country. But having said all that doesn’t mean that Andy’s not a homophobic, 2nd Amendment nut with a Napoleonic complex; which, leads me to why he was there that night: according to Andy a lot of the higher ranking officers are really fed up with all of the “shenanigans” that are going on with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In fact they are so fed up with the “commies” in D.C., that many of them would like to resign their post over the matter. But if they were to do that, they would forfeit their pension, benefits, and all the other things that come with serving your country honorably. What’s Andy advocating? Allowing members of the military who choose to resign if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed, full access to their benefits. Now I’m not sure why Andy thought this would be a good forum to bring up this matter and even Virginia did not seem to want to go near this issue, but no one in the crowd seemed to object to what he was saying. So here’s what I say to people like Andy; first of all, do you honestly believe that gays are joining the military to pick up guys? You realize that gay members of the military are fully aware that they will be going to somewhere like Afghanistan not Spring Break on Fire Island? Secondly, you don’t think it sets a dangerous precedent to allow members of the military to resign every time they disagree with a policy? Further more when you make a commitment, whether it is the military or a business contract; you fulfill your part of the bargain or you don’t get paid; it’s that simple. But what I’ve come to learn about people like Andy, whether they are homophobes, gun nuts, or other extremists, is that they don’t really represent the Tea Party. People like Andy just tend to graft on to the Tea Party because they’re the only conservative movement that’s gaining any traction right now. Fuck, I said to myself, will someone save me from this ignorant rube? Wait whose this silvery haired gentleman entering the room? He’s impeccably dressed and adorned with a “Don’t Tread on Me” lapel pin. Could it be? Yes! It’s Senator Hill, here to save me from this madness!

Hill made the conversation sound a little more sophisticated than my friends Andy and Anne but he basically continued upon what Galloway was preaching. And speaking of preaching, he was telling it to the choir. The Tea Baggers ate up everything he said. Along with spearheading the effort to exempt Georgia from the healthcare mandate, Judson also wants to give the citizens of Georgia the ability to buy insurance across state lines but that effort was killed through a bipartisan effort in the State Assembly. “What are their names?” the crowd called out as if they were ready to get a posse together and string these guys up. Hill calmed the crowd and then continued on to a pretty standard Republican diatribe of the nations new healthcare plan; “socialized medicine,” “government takeover,” you know the standard stuff but my favorite was when Hill called the IRS the “Healthcare Police!” Oh the Tea Baggers loved that. Judson did have some ideas of his own though (well maybe not his own) like, TORT reform and of course allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines. Both of which, seem like reasonable proposals and I don’t know why the Democrats did not include them in their plan. But Hill lost me when he started comparing Medicaid to “crack dollars.” I had been there for over 2 hours and I hadn’t learned a damn thing about these people that I didn’t already know: they’re scared and angry. So I got the hell out of there and I was pissed because what was supposed to be a Tea Party meeting turned out to be nothing more than a forum for the agenda of Americans for Prosperity and State Senator Judson Hill. But I wasn’t done with Tea Party yet…

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Congressman Phil Gingrey

Re: A Better Way Forward

Mr. Gingrey, in your newsletter this week you slammed President Obama and the rest of the Democrats in light of the new report released by the United States Department of Labor. Yes, the unemployment rate did rise from 9.7% to 9.9% but as the AP points out, that’s because people who had given up on finding work are gaining confidence to go out and look for work. And the Wall Street Journal, hardly a liberal bastion, goes on to say that, “when people re-enter the market to begin a job hunt again, they boost the number of the unemployed until they find a new position, boosting the overall unemployment rate.” In Your little tirade you ask, “Where are the jobs?” Well Phil, as it turns out there were 290,000 created in April, the biggest monthly total in four years! Should we be out dancing in the streets? No but the economy has clearly been brought back from the brink and your latest diatribe completely misrepresents the facts. As an elected official you owe your constituents better.

But guess what Phil? We don’t disagree on everything. In your email you mention the current economic crisis in Greece and its effect on Wall Street. I absolutely agree with your contention that this should all “serve as a stark reminder and a lesson to Washington of the precariousness of growing debt and its devastating global consequences.” So I’m sure we can count on you to reign in Wall Street by voting on a strong financial reform bill that regulates big banks like Goldman Sachs (who played a big role in both the U.S. & Greek economic disasters) and creates a Consumer Protection Agency. But that’s not all we agree on! You go on to say that, “we need to ensure we are on better fiscal footing, with a balanced budget and a reduced federal debt.” Yes! I could not agree more! Then I guess we can also count on you to begin reigning in our bloated military budget, because how could anyone who’s really serious about cutting spending and reducing the deficit not do so? It’s very encouraging to see your support on these issues.

Lastly, in your newsletter you bring up your visit to Guantanamo Bay. As you point out, “the Obama Administration has been trying to close down Guantanamo Bay to ‘improve’ our world standing,” and after your third visit you say you are even more convinced that this is the wrong decision. I agree, in fact I think since you like it so much, you should stay! I’m sure it’s very quiet, so you can probably get a lot of work done. I mean what other congressman gets to have an office on the beach? And I hear that help is cheap and easy to come by. It’s just a thought Phil. Let me know what you decide, I’ll even help you pack!


Your constituent in the 11th district of GA,

Chris McDaniel

May 8, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Beer With RJ Hadley

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon and as always, whenever I’m meeting someone for an interview, I’m so worried about being late that I end up arriving entirely too early. Today I’m meeting RJ Hadley, who’s looking to sew up the Democratic nomination for the U.S senate, and I have an hour to kill inside the Brick Store Pub before he gets here. The server comes over and asks if he can start me out with a drink. Well this is a working lunch, I thought to myself, so I better take it easy. “I’ll have two shots of whisky and a beer,” I tell the young lad. “Oh and a dozen raw oysters.”

“We don’t have oysters sir.”

“What! Well, what’s the closest thing you’ve got?”

“Tuna steak?”

“All right, lay it on me but make it rare god damn it!”

The kid was back in no time with the drinks and I felt a little bad for giving him such a hard time about the shellfish. But I had a real lust that day for raw oysters, I explained to him, and when I get like that I can be a little crazy. The whisky and beer calmed me down and the Tuna was a little done for my taste but still pretty good all the same. I looked at the clock and it was nearly two, Jesus Christ! Hadley’s going to be here any minute and I’ve spent the last hour arguing about raw oysters; I haven’t even looked at my notes! No sooner than I get my notebook out, do I see RJ walk through the door. I quickly skimmed over my notes, which were written in something similar to the English language and would only make sense to me but to my surprise they were actually pretty good. I may get through this after all. Hadley picked me out the crowd pretty easily. RJ is a big guy with a bear grip of a handshake. He is not intimidating in the least but I had the feeling he could be if wanted to. Hadley ordered water and a turkey sandwich. I had another beer with the fish and chips and we got down to business.

Wait a minute; let’s back up to how I got this interview in the first place. A few weeks ago I was wondering who, if anyone, would be challenging our loathsome incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson (R) in the good ole’ red state of Georgia. And low and behold the only person I could find who was balls crazy enough to take on Johnny boy was the former Chief of Staff from Rockdale county; RJ Hadley (GA Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond announced his candidacy a few days after this interview took place). I started following RJ on Twitter to keep abreast of what he was up to and the first tweet I saw from him was a plug for his online store. Now bare in mind that I had been following Hadley for a week or so and this was the first thing that I saw him post and it pissed me off. I wanted to know how he was going to beat Isakson, not how much an RJ Hadley Snuggy was going to set me back. So I tweeted something close to what I just said above and this cheeky bastard not only replied to me, he offered to give me an interview! From that point on, without even meeting the guy, I liked him. It took moxie to call me on my shit and moxie is something that is greatly lacking in the 21st century politician.

Now where were we? Oh yeah, the pub and the nitty-gritty on RJ. As a child in rural New Jersey Hadley’s family lost their home to foreclosure, so even from a young age he was no stranger to hard times. To rise above the hard times, RJ’s family always taught him that “education was key” and through support from his family, church, scholarships, and a lot of hard work Hadley would eventually attend Dartmouth. Next it was on to law school at the University of Tennessee but RJ’s time there was cut short due to a family illness. Hadley would also excel in several IT ventures but it was in Atlantic City, as a social worker, that he found his passion for public service.

Public service “has a lot to do with the kind of candidate I am,” says Hadley.” “I know it’s kind of a catch word now but I am about the people. I can get wonky if you want to and we can sit down and get into the meat of it but that’s not my real interest. I’m interested in the policy issues as they relate to the guy that’s on the ground.” “Public Service,” he says. It’s right in there in the words “serve-the-public.”

RJ cut his political teeth as a volunteer on the Obama campaign and would eventually become an Obama delegate at the 08 Convention in Denver. After the Convention RJ ran the campaign for Rockdale’s first African American Chairman of the County, Richard Oden. “It was one of those not gonna happen, never gonna happen in Rockdale County” kind of races. “My kind of race,” RJ says. After they won, Hadley was brought on as the Chief of Staff. There were those in Rockdale who were skeptical about RJ in his new role but then after about a month on the job “I wrote a grant for some foreclosure stabilization money and got the grant. It was about 2.7 million dollars, after that we were fine,” RJ says laughing. A lot of those same naysayers would end up becoming some of RJ’s most enthusiastic supporters for his senate bid. “Rockdale County has been very supportive.”

“So what encouraged you to run for the Senate,” I ask.

“A mix of things, I think the incumbent encouraged me just because of his approach and his attitude to things; just the overall environment and wanting to see things get better.” Make no mistake, Hadley does NOT want to be a career politician; in fact he thinks that’s part of the problem in Washington. “I think you go, you do the best job you can, and then you come home.” RJ rejects the notion of term limits though. Instead he seems to take the tact that, if elected, the voters will let him know when it’s time to hang things up.

All right, enough with the background stuff, let’s “wonky” and find out where RJ stands on the issues.

Financial Reform: Hadley is basically on board with the Volker plan but stopped short of saying if he would vote on the bill as it stands right now in the Senate. “I don’t necessarily have a problem with big banks,” he says, but “My concern is what are those banks allowed to do.” RJ thinks that “banks should get back to being banks” and that other institutions should handle things like credit default swaps. Hadley went on to say that, “We need to establish again the guidelines of what a bank should be doing” and that he would support a return to Glass Steagall.

When asked about healthcare reform the first thing RJ said was, “I really wanted to see a public option” and that he “believe(s) in healthcare as a right.” And what about Georgia Governor Perdue’s effort to sue the federal government over the healthcare mandate? “I feel like it’s a little disingenuous” and that it “just seems like political posturing.” Hadley dismisses the argument that all of this won’t cost anything and seems to think it’s kind of a waste of time, “It’s almost like the leadership, they pick these other things that they can focus on,” rather than focusing on the issues that matter; jobs, clean energy, and other things that are going to “create some new opportunities for Georgia.”

Shifting gears, I really try to get RJ to come out for legalizing Marijuana but couldn’t get him to budge. He pretty much sees it as a gateway drug and worries about easier access of the drug to our youth, “That’s the social worker part of me” says Hadley.

“Do you think there is a legitimate medicinal use for it?” I ask.

“That I don’t know,” says RJ, “I mean, I’ve never used it myself. I don’t really have any experience with…”


“No. Never.”

“Never, ever smoked pot?” I say.


“Never, wow.”

“I know, I know,” says RJ. “I’ve lost a number of jobs over that because…”

“Because you haven’t smoked pot?”

“Yeah because it’s like,” ‘no you must be lying,’ he says laughing.

But as far as medicinal use, RJ seems agnostic at best. “I guess if it deadens pain, which I guess is what they’re saying, it’s like hey I’m in pain and I smoke this pot and it takes the pain away; I guess there’s value there.” He doesn’t come off as judgmental about the whole thing but at the end of the day Hadley just worries about “any public policy initiative that’s going to make this drug possibly more accessible to our youth.” I guess that’s just the social worker coming out of him again. “But the economic argument,” for legalization he admits with a smile, “is hard to ignore.”

So what about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?”

“End it,” RJ says, without nuance, then goes on to say that one-day, maybe not in our lifetime, we’ll look back on that policy as “silly.”

“What about gay marriage,” I ask.

“I’m a Christian ok.”


“I’m for it.”

Oh! Phew, He’s for it!

“I’m married, I want people to have the same rights that I have. It’s just that in my Christian belief there is no such thing as gay marriage, per say.”

Wait what? “Let’s leave the spiritual aspect out it,” I say. “In the eyes of the government is it okay for two gay people to be married?”

“Yes!” RJ says. When it comes to transferring property and being covered on your spouses health insurance, and all the other LEGAL benefits that come with getting married; “Why not?” he asks. “It’s just pure judgment,” to say that, “I don’t agree with your lifestyle, you’re a sinner,” that shouldn’t be in the argument at all, he says. There’s a “governmental realm and a spiritual realm” and RJ sees the importance of separating them. And when it comes to the argument against gay marriage, “If you take the spiritual aspect out of it?” Hadley asks. “What’s your argument? You-have-no-argument.”

Okay fair enough, “What about the War on Terror?”

“We spent $125 billion last year,” on both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “$160 billion this year,” for something that is still questionable as to whether or not it’s, “making us safer.” RJ fully understands that there are people out there who want “to harm us, I get that” but he thinks that our money and resources could be spent better by “boosting foreign intelligence” and bringing in other diplomatic partners such as China and Russia. “This is a world issue, we can’t afford to be the ‘911’ for the world as much anymore.”

Should we bring home the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?

“As a start, yes.” But the next part, according to Hadley, is bettering intelligence work through our various agencies and carrying out more strategic strikes. RJ believes that this is not a conventional war and can’t be fought as such.

“This isn’t us storming the beaches at Normandy,” I say.

“No, I think those days are behind us.”

But just as important as how we fight the War on Terror is what we do with our troops when we finally get them home. RJ thinks that the $160 billion we’ve already spent this year on the wars could be better spent on “getting our VA hospitals up to snuff” so we don’t have these “horror stories,” like Walter Reed. Then there’s the issue of destitute veterans; “why are there over a million of these vets,” he asks, “that are homeless on the streets?” Hadley suggests that a more robust GI Bill and a government jobs program could help alleviate these problems. “It’s one thing,” he says when the Republicans cry out for a strong national defense, “when you’re over there but when you come home” and “you need services and support;” the GOP changes their tact to “well we’re not so much behind you anymore, you know, because now your taxing the system. You’re taking money out of my pocket.”

“Climate change,” I ask next, “is it a problem and what do we need to do about it?”

“I think it’s a problem,” says RJ and “I believe that our actions are altering our world and environment.” Hadley says he would like to see us “have a bold vision toward clean energy” not only because of the environmental issues but also for national security reasons and the potential for jobs created by an influx of green technology. So how do we achieve all of this? Is a Carbon tax the answer? “I don’t know,” he says, “because that’s going to be a real big blow to Georgia,” and it’s agricultural economy. RJ does, however, see opportunities for wind and solar power in Georgia but is skeptical about nuclear, “my problem with nuclear is that, I just think we haven’t solved what we’re going to do with the waste.” Hadley’s not too crazy about Cap and Trade either, “I think for Georgia it’s going be a real strain,” if we go to Cap and Trade. In my opinion RJ sees the scope of the problem here but like most of us doesn’t know what the hell we should do about it.

So that’s how it went down at the Brick Store Pub. And how do I feel after sitting down with the prospective senator for an hour? A little buzzed, the beer was rather strong, and Jesus Christ I’m stuffed! A tuna steak and an order of fish and chips, what was I thinking? But oh yeah about Hadley, he hasn’t been in politics long enough to be poisoned by it and in my book that’s a big plus. He wants to bring the troops home, also a big plus. He’s for repealing “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” and is pro gay marriage (at least in the legal terms and for me that’s the whole argument), which is another plus. He wants universal healthcare; plus, plus! I would liked to have seen him take a stronger stance on financial reform but he did say he was on board with a return to Glass Steagall and that’s a hell of a lot more than you would get out of most politicians. I disagree with him on Marijuana but he makes a reasonable argument. My biggest disagreement with him though is his views on what to do on climate change, specifically on a carbon tax. I understand a tax is never popular but we can’t truly begin to combat climate change until we start to ask people to make sacrifices and some of those sacrifices will have to come out of our wallet. But the real question is would I vote for him? In a heartbeat! Compared to anyone else running for the senate (especially the reigning douche bag Isakson) RJ is a welcomed breath of fresh air. So come next fall, if I have anything to say about it, he’ll be on his way to Washington.