Jan 19, 2013

Freedom Fries --- Chapter 2: "The President is on the line for you!" (Part 2)

Previously, there have been hints that George W. Bush may experience a change of heart in retirement, that Samuel Fisher, founder and CEO of the Lynx (LYNX) network, is concerned about the ratings, and that George Lukacs, the charismatic hedge-fund titan, can't handle fair-and-balanced news. We've also learned that John Yoo, professor of constitutional law at Berkeley University and author of the infamous torture memos of the Bush era, is in some kind of trouble. Change of scene, and scenery: meet Alberrt, a young polymath prodigy in the employ of the Fisher Laboratories, LYNX's research arm, who's soon going to fiddle with the electronic copy of President Obama's birth certificate stored on the server of the Hawaii Department of Health---or is he?

Sangre de Christos mountains

A lab with a view. The pay is good, the canteen is okay, the other guys are usually okay, and the vista of Sangre de Cristos is an extra. Commuting is difficult, almost 40 miles, but it is a nice ride through the mesa, and the Mexican chicks in the retro bars of Santa Fe are always happy to have him back when he returns late from work. Joe always returns late from work since he has nothing else to do. He is supposed to assist Alberrt, the resident whiz kid, but Alberrt never asks for assistance, hiding instead under his head gear and doing his whiz-kid stuff. So Joe hangs around while Alberrt works late into the night — if it is work; it is possibly more some kind of therapy. Having nothing else to do, Joe play the role of a body guard, and he makes sure he looks the part with his shaved scalp.

Alberrt, with his slender body, beautiful mulatto face, short, cropped, light hair is sitting at his desk, the head gear in place, the green eyes fixed on the screen. A virgin version of Tiger Woods, sort of. Joe is bored. Everybody else has left. Joe takes the remote control of the Walkera model helicopter that the lab has ordered for unclear reasons — reasons are never clear at the Fisher labs — and decides to practice. He starts the rotor, has the thing lift off, and hover below the ceiling. It can go up and down. It can go fast. And it can make tight turns, which it does around Alberrt’s head. It can also touch down, which it does on Alberrt’s desk. The model is practically as large as a real chopper. Alberrt ignores it.

Joe crosses the out-sized room and puts his arm on Alberrt’s shoulder. “Man,” he said. Alberrt reacts to Joe’s touch, he is apparently in a good mood. “What are you doing?” Alberrt lowers his head gear. “Skinhead,” he says, “I’m into the computer of the State of Hawaii Department of Health. With System’s Administrator privileges.”

Joe looks at a large green sheet displayed on Alberrt’s screen. It says “Certificate of Live Birth” at the top, above what looks like the seal of the State of Hawaii. To the left, under “Child’s name” it says “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA II.” According to the certificate, he was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The mother’s maiden name is given as “Stanley Ann Dunham,” race “Caucasian,”, the father’s name as “Barack Hussein Obama,” race “African.” He was apparently born at 7:24 pm on the Island of Oahu. The sex is male.

The whole display is overshadowed by a popup window, which asks the question “Delete Permanently?” with the usual alternatives YES, NO, and CANCEL. Alberrt’s cursor hovers over the YES.

-“In 2001, the state of Hawaii’s health department went paperless,” Alberrt continued, speaking in cadences now. “Paper documents were discarded. The official record of Obama’s birth is now an official electronic record, as Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the health department, informs us via the Honolulu Star Bulletin, the leading newspaper of the archipelago. I am holding this document — the only official proof of Obama’s American citizenship — in my hands, under my mouse, actually, the able mouse of a fringe hacker imposing as system’s administrator, and if its cursor clicks yes, the document is gone, and Obama has lost his citizenship.”

“Cool,” Joe observes casually, but then he gets it. “Go for it man, just do it, do it, do it,” — walking off with the grand slam against Kenya, his torso a single gesture now. “He can’t stay president without it.”

An angel moves across the room. “What holds you back?” Jim asks. Alberrt clicks ‘NO.’ “I think I need a raise,” he said. “Besides, there is too much corroborative evidence. A copy of the birth certificate resides in the vault of Obama’s Chicago office.” Alberrt’s screen changes to the image of an Obama official holding up the certificate with both hands in front of a large crowd. “The copy has no legal value independent of the health records, but provides a straw to which Obama could cling. Next” — Alberrt brings up the picture of a newspaper column, looking like an obituary column, no, a birth column — “the birth was announced on Sunday, August 13, 1961, in the Honolulu Advertiser.”

Yes, in fact, Joe can read the fine print: “Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, son, August 4.” So what?
“Sunday, August 13, 1961 was, as you may recall, the birthday of the Berlin Wall, Alberrt continues, “and we do believe in coincidences, or don’t we?” Joe isn’t sure; I get it, he thinks.

“And lastly, there is the entry in the Honolulu Birth Start Bulletin.” Alberrt’s screen changes to the image of some newspaper clip with the heading ‘Marriage Applications, Births — Deaths.’

“Through…”Alberrt hesitates, then points with his index finger at his left temple, “through my brain, I have acquired system administrator privileges to all these sites, but there are backups, there is physical stuff, tapes, disks, in vaults, which I cannot access myself. And the Honolulu Advertiser still keeps a physical record. Now, this,” — Albert brings up the mug shot of a Polynesian face — “is the system administrator of the Honolulu Advertiser. He got recently divorced, and has several violations for drunk-and-driving.”

“And this is the system administrator of the Hawaii Health Department.” Another guy’s mug shot, puffed, dark complexion, a mustache, too much hair, especially on the chest, eyes drooping. “He never got married, for obvious reasons, but is about to be foreclosed on his mortgage payments, apparently spending too much money in the Waikiki Bananas, the infamous venue for exotic surfers.” For proof, Alberrt brings up the picture of a typical beach bar that labored under the weight of an enormous neon sign on its corrugated roof. Sarah Palin could possibly see it blinking ‘WAIKIKI BANANAS’ from her back porch in Wasilla, Alaska.


Pamela arrives early at Oakland International. It would not do to miss the plane. How many dreams come true? Well, it’s just the short list. How short is it? Five names? It’s always five names. The president doesn’t have time for more. The interview is scheduled to last one hour, so it is serious. Five names. Prior unconditional probability of acceptance: twenty percent. There would be three female candidates on the list, and two males, for balance. Tomorrow we’ll know, the list always leaks out. The entire legal profession of the United States would speak of nothing else for days and bill the hours to its long-suffering clients.

They are to replace a female Justice. So, the males are out. Three names. Prior conditional probability, thirty three percent. Would it be a plus to look good? It’s always a factor. Okay, we are down a bit. Twenty five percent? She is up against…she knows them all, of course. Victims of — what’s the scientific word — entropy, one by one. Gravely so. Okay, back to thirty three percent. Perhaps thirty five. Thirty six. You shouldn’t take the red-eye, you’ll look horrible tomorrow. Her appointment is at nine in the morning. Perhaps breakfast with Obama? No. He had breakfast already with his family. She should book a hotel room and refresh for an hour. Can one book a hotel room for an hour at six in the morning? ‘I’ll have an appointment with the President, she could say. ‘Shall I send him up when he arrives?’ the receptionist could reply. Perhaps they’ll let her use Michelle’s powder room in the east wing.

Oakland International Airport
Her carry-on bag follows her on its squeaking wheels. A Delta crew strides past, bags in tow, wheels quiet. Very handsome, the pilot; even handsomer, the vice pilot. Co-pilot, not vice-pilot. Co-pilots are always handsomer than pilots, who are always handsomer than vice deans. Pamela’s law of transitivity. Check in the squeaking bag. Get rid of it.

She checks in. She get through security without striptease. She has nothing to do.

Somebody is spinning the rotating newspaper rack at the newsstand, and it comes to a halt with the Silicon Valley News under her nose. A picture of what looks like a souped-up Blackberry, accompanied by the header: It knows your thoughts: computer telepathy gains ground. I need to stop thinking, she thinks. Get something to read. Take my mind off the telepathic president. She enters the shop and lets her eyes wander across the racks. Muscles. Cars. Palm trees. Smut. Lewdness. Smut. Foreign Affairs. She hasn’t spent a thought on foreign affairs in a decade — con law is very much a domestic thing, and writing nine books takes a lot of time. Kissinger et al. would put her to sleep, yes.

Oakland International Airport

The Magazine of Foreign Affairs displays an oriental face, but it isn’t Yoo’s. Older. Good black hair, roundish cheeks, arched eyebrows, large gold-rimmed glasses atop a mechanical, yet reticent smile, conservative attire. “Asian Diplomacy Transcends Confucian Thinking,” the headline rans. This mechanical, yet reticent smile. Strangely sympathetic. No, it isn’t sympathetic objectively, anybody can smile like that, but it is sympathetic subjectively, because, because…it is familiar. The face is familiar, too. All Chinese look the same. Not true. Oh, my God, she suddenly realizes.

She leaves the shop, finds a bench, and plops down. Everything is lost, she thinks.

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