War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Monday, November 22, 2004

From the Archives: Ashcroft, OPB & Tweak

I wrote this little piece about six months ago, directly after smoking up the last fat chunk of crystal that I had. I think the whole thing took me about 20 minutes to write, which is shocking. I have tried to keep as much of it intact as possible while correcting the numerous errors in spelling and grammar that existed in the original draft. Sadly, the general drift of the piece is somewhat precient given the recent election, but at least the big A (hole) is gone.

What follows is a very strange story, one that I stumbled on only by luck, or providence, and one that will surely be denied by all of the principles involved, if they are ever asked about it now.

At exactly midnight Monday morning I was laying awake when the eerie blue glow of my silently ringing cell phone caught my eye. I picked it up, and looked at the caller ID, which was displaying a number I didn't recognize. Normally I would not have answered, but something told my I should.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"It's Bruce," came the reply, and I immediately recognized the twisted voice on the other end.

"How did you get this number?" I asked.

"I'll tell you later, I don't have much time now." He said.

"Well, what are you calling about?" I asked, the impatience rising in my voice, as I began to think this was some kind of cheap fuck off.

"I'm not sure what it is," he said, "but I picked up some bad vibrations, and I think something very heavy is coming into town. I don't have all the information yet, but I want to get the word out." He paused, and the asked, "Do you know anything?"

I understood what he was saying immediately, and I was quite alert now. "No, but believe me, I'm onto it. Let me know if you find out anything more."

"I will," he replied, "and you do the same. I won't be at this number, but leave a message - I'll get it."

The line was dead, but it didn't matter. There was nothing more to say or hear. If Bruce felt something in the air, I knew it was big. I don't know how he does it, but if an administration official is in town, the Republican Party is holding a fundraiser, or any other group worth protesting against - or demonstrating for - is going to meet, then Bruce will know about it, and be there. If he had contacted me, it meant something, and I was damn well going to find out what.

I lay still again for a moment, considering my next move, and then I picked up the phone, and placed a call to a local "extras" casting director I knew. It was late. But I was sure he would be up.

At first Rubin (not his real name) tried to plead ignorance, but I knew he was lying to me. It may have been the frantic desperation on the edge of his otherwise confident speech, or maybe it was the continual sniffling - that he claimed was due to "horrible allergies," but something told me that he was a man with a price. After some petty haggling, he told me everything.

At 8:00pm the night before he had received a call from a man, claiming to represent the Justice Department, who had a rather extraordinary request. He said he would need 20-25 individuals of mixed age and sex, but all Caucasian for a "special" acting assignment. He needed about 15 relatively clean cut persons, who would be playing journalists, and 10 more scruffy looking "pothead" types for camera men and assistants. The man on the phone said they would meet at an airport motel at 10:00am Monday for costume and prep, and then would need to provide their own transportation downtown to the Hilton, where they would complete the assignment.

Rubin had asked what the contract was worth, but the man on the phone only laughed mockingly, and made some dark references to an underage sex liaison Rubin had been hooked into a year before. "Do your duty Rubin - as an American Citizen," the man had said. Then the phone went dead.

Luckily for my man, actors willing to work for "in-kind" compensation are not a hard thing to come by on a Monday morning, and he already had most of the spots locked up. I told him to count me in, and he said as long as I could pull off a journalist, it was mine. I said it wouldn't be a problem, because, after all, I am a professional.

At that point, I had some time to kill, so after leaving a message for Bruce, telling him that it was on for the Hilton at noon, I drew a bath, and lay, soaking in the dark for about two hours, trying to focus, and calm my nerves.

At the hotel they had us separated into groups of about five, with each group lead by a suited drone. My drone didn't give us a name, and nobody asked. The people with me acted like they were used to this sort of thing, and I did by best to play along. Each of us was provided with a few questions, written in a notebook, and told that if we were called on, we were to read the question EXACTLY as they appeared on the page. This was repeatedly emphasized by our handler, and she had each of us read back questions a few times - just to be sure. We were then given our press passes and, told to drive directly to the Hilton, stopping nowhere in-between. My pass identified me as William Schmidt, of the Seattle Free Press.

As I sped down I-84 toward the city center, I still didn't know who would be at the press conference, but all the signs pointed to only one man - Ashcroft himself.

Outside of the Hilton, at the Sixth street entrance, I had to walk through a cluster of about 15 ragged protestors. I saw Bruce at the forefront, holding a sign showing a mug shot of Ashcroft, with the words "Wanted - Violating Your Constitutional Rights." It wasn't the uneven syntax that interested me. Obviously Bruce had sensed that Ashcroft was the one as well, so it had to be true. I walked past him with confidence, making no sign of recognition, and he didn't either.

In the conference room an expertly lit stage sat at one end, and at the back, a table laid out with coffee, herbal tea, and bagels was set up. A woman at the door was handing out press releases to us as we walked in. I immediately recognized one of the "handlers" from the airport hotel, except that now he Was carrying a large HD television camera with a Fox News logo on the side of it. "Sweet Jesus," I thought, these people have no shame.

Using an old trick I learned during a forced interrogation, I began committing the Press Release to memory. Earlier I had held it up to the light, and as I suspected, it was watermarked with what looked like a unique serial number. Obviously these press releases would be collected at the exits, and if any were missing - well, we wouldn't want it to come to that.

-------For Immediate Release---------

United States Department of Justice

Attorney General John Ashcroft convened a press conference today to announce a sinister new threat to America's children. Still relatively unnoticed to the general public, it has come to the attention of the Department that children are increasingly experimenting with a previously unknown drug, which is known on the street as "OPB." Currently the distribution of this drug seems to be most prevalent in the urban centers of Portland and Eugene Oregon, but it is also known to be distributed across the country, often being referred to on the street as "PBS."

Although users of this drug claim that it is harmless or even beneficial, they are very mistaken, and the public should not be mislead by their claims.

Although they have only been studying it for a short time, top scientists have already determined that the negative side effects of OPB can include but are not limited to the following.

-Anti-Social Behavior
-Anti-Government Actions

Withdrawal from OPB can cause users to become irritable, and they may make complaints to friends, family, and congressional representatives about how "lack of funding" for "OPB" is interfering with their ability to support their addiction. Invariably these individuals spend more and more of their own money on "OPB" only to receive less and less satisfaction from use. Desperate "OPB" users may turn to theft, from their cable companies, when they cancel their cable subscriptions, and use the money for "OPB" instead.

Although more corroboration is necessary, some informants have told the Justice Department that "OPB" distribution is linked to and supported by terrorist organizations that have the stated goal of "overthrowing the administration," and brainwashing the public with the so called "truth" about their government.

In particular, "OPB" seems to be a tool that these groups are seeking to utilize in their attempt to cripple the war on terror by convincing the public that laws such as the "PATRIOT Act," infringe on their civil liberties, and that Department of Justice initiatives, such as the mass incarceration of Arabs, are not in the best interest of all Americans.

Most disturbing of all is information, from informants, that "OPB" is being distributed IN CLASSROOMS, directly to unsuspecting children, whose parents are completely unaware of what is taking place.

Even though "OPB" has not been classified as a Schedule Substance yet, and it is not an analogue of any scheduled substance, the Attorney General is acting now, both to bring about an Emergency Scheduling, and to immediately begin surveillance of all those involved in the manufacturing and distribution of this dangerous drug, so that when it is classified, they can be quickly swept off of the streets.

For additional information, please contact:

Lynn Woodward
Public Relations
U.S. Department of Justice

-------End Release---------

I read, and memorized the demented language in shocked horror. Had Ashcroft finally flipped off the rails? Was he trying to classify political free speech as a controlled substance, or was he so hopelessly inept that he actually believed OPB was some rare chemical substance? Who could know, but in either case, the ramifications of this move were staggering.

My musings were interrupted when Ashcroft swept through a side door. He walked with purpose, and confidence - his face fixed with a mask of grim determination. He mounted the stage in one stride, and made his way to the center where he swung sharply toward the gathered "reporters," then violently thrust his fists high above his head, and with a terrible leer on his face, shouted out the word "victory."

The assemble crowd stood frozen in dazed shock. The image was simply too disturbing for one us, who I recognized from my prep group, and he staggered to the side of the room, where he fell to his knees on top of a gold plated ash tray, and retched into the shallow pan with a quavering scream. Two men in dark blue suits were on him instantly, and they carried him out the rear door, holding him up by his arms, dragging his limp bumbling feet along the floor behind him.

My own vision began to go grey, but I took a deep breath and held my ground as Ashcroft launched into his speech, which was essentially a regurgitation of the press release.

Ashcroft delivered each line with the kind scorching intensity that can only be born of deep, nay-religious, conviction. His face seemed to swell, and he pounded the podium with his fist, shaking the entire stage with each of his hand-falls as he drilled home each point. When he was finished he looked up and grinned at out at the room - smugly surveying us as we stood cowering like whipped dogs. His face suddenly relaxed into a warm smile, which seemed even more grotesque, and he asked for questions.

After an uncomfortable pause a grey suited man in the front row drew up the courage to read his first question. He started with confidence, but then half way through he began stuttering, and was forced to stop. Somehow he got a grip on himself, and finished it off - reciting the remainder in a high pitched monotone.

Ashcroft stared at him intently for a moment, as if he were pondering whether to strike him down with lightning, or answer the question. But before he could make up his mind, things got really weird.

The room went dark, and at the same instant I heard the unmistakable sound of a battering ram tearing through the door at the front of the room. Wretched blood-curdling screams and teeth-gnashing wails began to rise in the room. I suddenly felt someone clawing at my ankles, clutching desperately in their terror at the first thing they could find. I was trying to kick them free when the flashbangs went off, and I fell to the floor as well.

I was still at the fringes of consciousness then, and I could see dark shapes moving at the front of room. Then I heard the hair-raising crackle of a tazer being discharged, and the arcing electricity provided enough light for me to see two men, wearing SWAT style gear and night-vision goggles, dragging the enormous hulk of Ashcroft toward the door. One of them yelled for help, gasping with fatigue, and two others grabbed the body - which looked like the carcass of an enormous swine - by its fat ankles, and together, they all disappeared out the front-side door. It was over, and I collapsed into oblivion.

I awoke with no concept of time, lying in my own bedroom, with my clock showing 5:30pm. When I staggered upstairs, and picked up the newspaper, it read Tuesday, which meant that I had lost an entire day. That realization hit me low in the stomach, and I felt weak again, so quickly filled a glass with water, which I drained along with two Advil.

Before any more time passed, I wrote down everything I could, exactly the way I remembered it.


Apparently someone in the Bush administration decided that Ashcroft had crossed the line, and this time they took action, before he could finish another one of his cowboy press conferences and get his warped shit out onto the airwaves. He was stopped, for now, but how long will it be before he tries again? How long will it be before Karl Rove decides that the American People are ready to accept the classification of Free Speech as a Dangerous Drug? Naturally it will be classified as Schedule I - because it has no medical purpose - and anyone involved in its distribution will face a mandatory minimum sentence of no less than twenty years, without the possibility of parole. I don't know the time table, but credible sources say that six-months is the number being batted around in the oval office.

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