Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Having been down for hours already, www.mastercard.com wasn’t holding the interest of some of the members anymore. The night before they had taken down a number of corporate websites, all the while deciding collectively what their targets would be. Occasionally, attacks are suggested upon targets such as Interpol, Joe Liberman, the Pentagon and the Swedish government, but for the most part the suggestions are commercial entities.
One of the members makes a report: “The LOIC network is crashing!”, and other members concur; the number of computers networked falls from 2800 to 266 in under 15 minutes. But there is hardly a consensus, and other members report numbers hovering around 2300.
The room exists in a state of total anarchy. Hundreds of messages are sent every minute. Every few minutes someone posts an update on the media’s coverage of their work. A link is posted to a live CNN news feed addressing the attacks on corporate networks, where it is reported that while Mastercard has been experiencing some connection problems, their card services are still intact.
4:00, on the mark: with over 3000 members in the room, the only thing being sent by anyone is “FIRE NOW”. 4:02: the reports start coming in. “Visa down in the US, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Portugal, Germany!”, “50% of the LOICs are still configured wrong, fix this please!”.
At 4:41, the radio announcer cuts into a song, announcing that “Ladies and gentleman, you’ve done it, Visa and Mastercard are down both online and in stores”. The +3500 members in the chat room rejoice, and congratulate each other.
Talk of a new target is already bounding about the message board. Facebook, Twitter and Paypal are all on the list. For now, Visa is taking the brunt of the group’s main weapon, the LOIC. Soon their focus will drift to another unlucky target, and soon after that to another until they run out of steam.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
To my left stands the fountain to the National Museum of the American Indian, a large, 30 foot sandstone structure incorporated into the side of the building. Water jets off the tops of its plateaus past the dozens of people who have risked climbing over its slippery boulders and 5 foot drops for a place to sit.
Attendees risk a nasty fall climbing the fountian outside of the National Museum of the American Indian to get a better view of the rally
To my right stands the reason they have risked a fatal fall for a place to sit: 215,000 people taking up nearly every square foot of the East end of the National Mall. An evil clown stands by a dozen people on top of a dumpster, one of the few places someone could catch their breath. Police are seen weaving in and out of the crowd barely able to maintain the crowds organization: every few minutes they are seen pulling people off of in-use porta potties, walls and out of trees. Not even before the officers had fully vacating the potentially hazardous vantage points were there new people climbing back up from the other side.
Costumed ralliers take to the tops of dumpsters to find a place to sit.
Law enforcement attempted to keep people down from dangerous areas, including trees, porta poties, open dumpsters and walls. In some cases it just let to people seeing an empty spot from the other side and taking their place once seconds after the police move on.
Ralliers hang off of the side of porta poties to get a better view.
“Can you dig it!?” screams from the center of the mall, where The Legendary Roots introduce John Legend to the giant stage, where the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is being held. Their music is themed around hard times, and songs addressing the concept of hope are planned for their set.
A stage crew prepares the stage for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall.
The music about the Vietnam War and life in the ghetto gives way to an unexpected duo at a rally on the mall: Mythbusters Adam Savage Jamie Hyneman take over on the stage. They attempt a few rally-inspired experiments, like measuring the size of the crowd by measuring the seismic effects of 215,000 people all jumping at once. The crowd generated enough force to be “a hundred times more powerful than a minor car crash”, said Savage.
After the experiments, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart takes the stage and introduces the US military veteran music group “4troops” to sing the national anthem. With the 3-hour rally only an hour through, it is obvious that music will be a common medium through which the event’s messages will be conveyed.
Stewart’s ‘Rally for Sanity’ is soon interrupted by Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report’s, for his own ‘Rally to Restore Fear’. After a dramatic entrance from underneath the stage in the same capsule which saved the 35 Chilean miners after being stranded underneath the earth, Colbert tries to inspire fear in the crowd by commanding those behind the scenes to “Release the bees!” The mall is filled with the booming pre-recorded sound of bees buzzing, and Colbert commands that the crowd panic.
Two costumed strangers find a moment to celebrate being green.
This is a type of satire which has dominated Colbert’s 4-times-weekly show for a while now. In fact, satire was one of the overlying themes of the entire rally. Drawing on the style of humor which has attracted viewers to the Daily Show and Colbert report for years, the commentary made by the speakers focused on the current state of these United States.
Actor Sam Waterson is called to the stage by Colbert, to read “the greatest poem ever written: Are You Sure?” Penned by Colbert “the night before”, the poem addresses the types of fears which the public has, but for no particular reason. “A mad man could set loose a virus/ for which there isn’t a cure/ and while these things may be unlikely/ ask yourself … are you sure?” reads Waterson. Later, Stewart calls out the 24/7 news media for being the reason that irrational fears of things like Mexicans, muslims and mass destruction have been instilled in the American psyche.
Stewart calls on the public to ignore those things which we have no reason to fear. He calls out Yusuf (formerly Cat Stevens) to sing ‘Peace Train’, which presents a narrative for the crowd to all get along. Colbert interrupts yet again, this time in the middle of the song, to bring out Ozzy Ozbourne. He goes straight into ‘Crazy Train’, inspiring chaos and insanity.
In the end, after neither Stewart or Colbert can stand the other’s choice in music, Stewart offers a compromise: the ‘Love Train’, preformed by the O Jays. Both sides unite, and make a comment on how much better things are when everyone can agree to get aboard the same train.
The message of the rally was clear: while everyone will continue to have their own opinions, the only way the nation will get anywhere is if we all listen to, and respect, each others views. The lack of a major partisan tone was a surprising one, and inspired a sense of national coherence as opposed to an “us vs. them” mentality.
Ralliers signs take to the DC subway after the rally.
In an attempt to bring the nation together as a single, sane unit, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear sends a strong message to a nation only days away from a midterm election. At the very most, it will be an event which people will look back on and hold other rallies to as a standard. At the least, it will be remembered as one hell of a show.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Having been informed less than 30 minutes prior by local street vendors that drug pushers had been using my current location, Berkeley’s People’s Park, to push meth sprayed cannabis to unsuspecting citizens, I politely declined.
I had heard of the methods dealers use to get customers hooked on drugs, but the feeling of culture shock remained as the man stumbled away towards another group of youth. In Berkeley, Ca, cannabis use has been all but legalized. Citizens smoking pot on the street is seen as just another one of the locale’s cultural curiosities.
In addition to the shady man in the park, locals mention a local black-market dealer by the name of “Aquarius”. With access to one of California’s many legitimate and legal medicinal marijuana dispensaries, he hangs out with his two dogs on Telegraph Ave, giving anyone who can pay ‘the good stuff’. He is spoken of as a friend among the community, and provides a safe, affordable product to Berkeley residents.
Sitting in a small metal chair on the sidewalk in front of a busy coffeehouse, ‘Sam’ holds a lit marijuana cigarette as one might hold a Camel: publicly and nonchalantly.” It’s just become such a part of the culture and every day life here. Sure you kind of have to look out for the cops if you don’t have a [medicinal marijuana identification] card, but people smoke on the street all the time" she says.
As of June, California’s policy makers had hammered out many of the policies surrounding medicinal cannabis ever since it’s statewide legalization in 1996. But being the “leader in all things counter culture”, as High Times editor Dan Skye says, the state has continually explored how medicinal cannabis might be implemented into public policy.
In some areas, such as Berkeley, the unregulated black market has reached the point that pot has become a part of the community. It can be seen being smoked on the sidewalk, and is smelled everywhere. It also means that nearly anyone can tell you where to get some. In Berkeley, the lack of regulation and enforcement policies has led to a new weedy wild west, where the majority of the non-marijuana card carrying public is on their own to find good, untaxed sources of cannabis.
But for the majority of California, a system of order and control is emerging from the chaos of this new West. In the 14 years since California’s legalization of medicinal cannabis, public opinion has slowly shaped the policies surrounding the state’s initially controversial medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Patients right’s groups have lobbied for the availability of safe, reliable sources of medicinal cannabis, and have won a number of measures easing restrictions on the legal cannabis market.
Those 14 years ago were in 1996 when California passed Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, with a 56% majority. The proposition stated chiefly that the state would ensure and protect the right of any California citizen deemed by a doctor to be able to benefit from the use of cannabis, to acquire and medicate their ailments by using medicinal marijuana.
In 2005, the Oakland Ca. city government decided to pass a measure regulating how the medicinal cannabis industry would function in the city. It made cannabis the Oakland Police force’s lowest priority, and stated that the city would work towards creating a tax structure and enforce regulation over medicinal cannabis.
By 2007, medicinal marijuana had been legalized for eleven years. The courts had already defined parts of how California’s growing medicinal marijuana community interacted with the state, but the majority of marijuana’s legal issues remain in the grey. State laws still contradict federal laws. No one knew how the free market cannabis industry would look.
Then Richard Lee, a 33 year old marijuana activist, decided to place an ad in San Francisco’s East Bay Express.
Inspired by a visit to a cannabis college in Amsterdam, Lee had decided to test the water of where the lines around commercial medicinal marijuana had been drawn.
His ad, declaring, “CANNABIS INDUSTRY NOW HIRING”, promoted a trade school whose classes aimed to introduce standards to the fledgling cannabis industry on a commercial level. It taught students how to legally, and legitimately, open a medicinal marijuana dispensary.
After an initial public reaction of 200 phone calls in the first week, 20 students assembled in a small storefront on 15th St in Oakland, CA. Soon, the waiting list for classes grew to three months.
As students began to apply what they had learned, “There were a couple rogue agents that just threw up a pot shop,” says Salwa Imrahim, Executive assistant to Oaksterdam University’s founder Richard Lee. Before the city had time to react to the rogues, “16 more popped up in the area, and the market supported it”.
The city, facing the debt generated by several local renovation projects, decided that there might be a taxable market in the sudden crop of medical cannabis dispensaries. “The city decided to permit [the dispensaries], and that’s how they would control them, without shutting them down entirely.” Four dispensaries established permit to sell medicinal marijuana to patients with a doctor’s recommendation.
By 2009, Oaksterdam University had outgrown its storefront’s walls and had moved to its 30,000 square foot headquarters across from City Hall in Oakland, Ca. Satellite campuses had popped up in Los Angeles, Ann Arbor and California’s North Bay.
This growth continued across California, where several municipalities decided to adopt structure and taxation guidelines for medicinal cannabis. According to dispensaryguide.com, there are currently 563 dispensaries across Northern and Southern California.
By last weekend, June 19-20th, things had grown to the point where the High Times had decided to throw a little industry convention, showcasing the state of the medicinal cannabis industry in California. Modeled after the High Times Cannabis Cup, held annually in Amsterdam, this was to be the first event of its kind anywhere inside the US.
A small space just next to the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, the Terra, had been reserved. Massive stuffed baked potatoes had been prepared. Vendors had lined up at a chance to get a booth at the First Annual, 2010 High Times Medicinal Cannabis Cup.
Editor of the High Times, Dan Skye, remarks on the significance of the event with “The industry has advanced to the point where new industries are cropping up all the time. You see this all the time when something reaches its tipping point. All these industries come forward to serve both the consumer and the cultivator. It’s evolving”.
It’s evolving all right.
On the entrance floor, new types of smoking devices, LED grow lamps and entire prefabricated hydroponic grow boxes sit with vendors’ smiles standing idly by for anyone who happens to make eye contact. The occasional cannabis plant stands defiantly tall and healthy among the tables and wares.
Continuing down the stairs into the second part of the convention, anyone in attendance is greeted to a smell familiar to most of those there: somebody's smoking some pot.
If anyone were unlucky enough to arrive on this second section any time between 3-4pm of the first day, they would then enter the mass of people jammed shoulder-to-shoulder, trying to get past the many displays of medicinal cannabis, and a game show booth where free cannabis is given away every hour. The mass of people was there for the third portion of the convention: the Prop 215 area.
In front of the entrance to this special section, a sign sits: “CASH ONLY. Medical Marijuana Recommendations” Anyone who had paid the $35 entrance fee could pay for an on-site doctors consultation. The doctor would provide either a one-year recommendation or, he believed a more detailed medical history was required, would give a 30-day temporary recommendation for the price of $99 cash to any US citizen, regardless of the state on their drivers license.
Those who are given a recommendation are then also given a green wristband, and directed towards a door leading to an adjacent, open air parking lot in the inner city. A doorman checks their wrist band, and they are allowed to freely roam about the Prop 215 section.
Having grown up in the Cincinnati where marijuana still remains in a state of prohibition, I immediately noticed that something was different about the Prop 215 section. The variety of various pipes, bongs, bowls, balloons, vaporizers, joints and blunts was as varied as the people smoking them.
Massive, 12 foot balloons grow from one end of the lot, full of THC laden vapor from a line of cone shaped machines constantly provide samples to anyone who asks.
Innovative new smoking devices are passed among complete strangers. Even on a windy day, anyone in the parking lot has at least a contact high from simply being outside.
A paper tube the size of a small telescope, a medicinal megablunt, begins to circulate around the crowd for over an hour, leaving a cloud of smoke in its wake.
The San Francisco Fire Department stands by to deal with those who collapse in the afternoon sun, and responded to five medical emergencies during the event. Sporadically, a stretcher can be seen working its way through the mass of people, an EMT with an oxygen mask close behind. Coughing is heard from every direction.
And money is everywhere.
Booths line up along either side of the lot and sell medicinal marijuana to any patient with a green wristband. $20 and $50 bills are constantly in exchange between vendors and attendees. Every patient is smoking, and every patient is smoking cannabis taxed by the state of California.
“This is huge state income tax here” Skye remarks, “You have all kinds of taxes here. As far as I know California is broke, New York is on the verge, isn’t it time we start looking at something that will allow states to balance their budgets? ”.
Many of the movement’s earliest members were present, speaking to the public about issues such as patient’s rights, responsible use, and government responsibility. Legal experts also gave advice to anyone with a question.
It has come to the point that in November 2010, California will have near complete legalization on their state ballot.
If the measure passes, anyone in the state of California “will be allowed to carry up to an ounce of cannabis, and be allowed to cultivate up to a 5x5 foot crop for personal use” says Imrahim. The measure would also leave the decision of whether or not to permit dispensaries in a given area up to the Local County or municipality governments. According to a recent statewide Field Poll, a majority of 56 percent of California’s citizenry support legalizing and taxing cannabis to generate public funds.
In the past 14 years, cannabis laws in the states have transformed from total prohibition to allowing a fledgling industry to take root in the shores of the San Francisco Bay.
Thousands of medicinal marijuana patients in the state of California stand on the verge of complete freedom to medicate freely and grow their own medication.
California’s tax regulator, the Board of Equalization, estimates that there is a $1.4 billion unregulated black market for cannabis in the state. Tourism and spin off industries would be expected to generate $12-18 billion yearly for the state, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a California based pro-legalization lobby group.
California stands capable of hosting the only potentially multi-billion dollar cannabis tourism industry in the US, where anyone over the age of 21 can whip out a bowl in Golden Gate park to smoke a bowl of Vortex or Cali Gold, this year’s winners in the Sativa and Indica categories.
Millions of bloodshot eyes stand fixed on the upcoming election.