Date: Wed, 17 Apr 96 12:21:49 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: CWD-Pool Cool
From: "Brock N. Meeks" <email@example.com>
CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1996 //
Jacking in from the "Green Felt" Port:
Boston, Mass. -- He smokes, he drinks, he swears on occasion. His face
twists into a kind of ironic smile when he reels off the phrase,
"female genitalia nailed to a board." And he knows how to handle his
stick ... as in pool cue.
"He" is Bruce Taylor, president and director of the National Law Center
for Children and Families, arch-defender of the Communications Decency
Act (CDA) and gargoyle of Truth, Justice and the Moral Way.
Taylor, a former prosecutor, takes pride in recounting how many
perverts he nailed to the judicial cross during his time before the
bench. Now that he's hung up that gig, he's moved into the legislative
boneyard of Washington; he is largely responsible for drafting the
bill that Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.) first introduced. And since that
time he's logged more TV time than some of the failed GOP presidential
Taylor must have balls of titanium. He appeared on a panel here during
the Computer, Freedom and Privacy Conference to defend the merits of
the CDA before an openly hostile crowd. This move is akin to
voluntarily jumping into the lion's den after having smothered yourself
in bar-b-que sauce and then whistling "here, kitty, kitty, kitty."
He wasted no time in telling the late-night session that all their
concerns were, well, fucked up. "There's nothing in this law that is
going to put people anyone in jail for posting classic works of art or
literature," he said. Apparently, you can even salt your on-line
comments with a few well chosen scatological phrases and still feel
safe. Taylor said he'd just come from a panel in Philadelphia where
someone asked him if it was okay to use the word "bullshit" on-line.
Taylor said, "yes," though he about choked on the word when he said it.
This stumbling over uttering the word "bullshit" was a bit amusing,
because later Taylor had no trouble trotting out the sentence, "nothing
protects pictures of a women's genitalia being nailed to a board."
Taylor and his disciples love to parade the description of this picture
at any and all forums. He uses it as an example of how perverted
Internet content is and that if left unchecked, the Internet will
become nothing more than a huge swirling cesspool of pornography, if it
But there's a small problem: No one's ever seen this picture. Taylor,
unfortunately, doesn't carry a copy with him to back up his claims. In
fact, I'll pony up $10 to the first person that sends me this picture,
in digital form. It's not that I don't believe these fine upstanding
folks... it's just that no one I've ever talked to has seen it.
During the question and answer time I asked Taylor: "So, if I write,
'Bruce Taylor's arguments were nothing more than total bullshit,' you
wouldn't have any trouble with that as indecent?" Unfortunately, I
also asked two other questions and in dodging all of them, never
directly replied to the first.
I left this exchange wondering what kind of twisted bastard would
subject himself to such treatment. Surely the man had to be stopped,
and as soon as possible. I figured it was my duty to find out the
answer to his strange behavioral quirk and in the process, hatch a plan
that would be [his] undoing.
Attending a CFP conference is a unique experience. It's like being
caught in some kind of cyber-slipstream that sucks you into a parallel
universe where the lions lay down with the lambs. Everyone agrees to
disagree at certain times and a good time is had by all. FBI agents
mix openly with cypherpunks and take notes on cracking techniques; the
agents usually respectfully decline to indulge in any recreational
hacking, though I've heard stories that, on occasion, they do fire up
a doobie, just in the spirit of unity.
I figured I'd tap the closest Fed, buy him enough drinks to get him
loose and then ask him to call a buddy at Quantico and have him run a
personality profile of Taylor for me. These FBI types love this
stuff... it's like running a person's horoscope to them. Plug in a
few parameters and out pops the deep-seated secrets that make a
Hannibal Lecter or a Bruce Taylor for that matter, tick-tock.
It was just my luck to hook up with a Fed that drinks like a fish; it
cost me a small fortune in booze to soften him up enough to make the
call. But it was money well invested.
The Quantico profile came back encrypted, but a near-by cypherpunk
broke the code in about 5.7 seconds by tapping into a mainframe at the
nearby MIT. The Fed watched over his shoulder, boozy and smiling, his
only comment was, "fuckin' A... wait till I tell [FBI Director Louis]
Freeh about this." And then he passed out, his wallet spilling onto
the floor with the log-in codes to his Dockmaster account landing face
up. I hear they were put onto the Net sometime later that night...
Taylor, according to the profile, has a jones for women with breasts
that float and a body you can break bricks on. No surprise there. His
obsession with the "nailing" picture also led to some surprising
insights, but if I reproduced them here, I'd be jailed under the CDA...
With this profile in hand, I called a local escort service and ordered
up a date for Bruce. My plan was to have her seduce him while I hid in
the closet with my digital camera. At the optimum moment, I'd click
away. I'd burst out of the closet and boot up my Powerbook and jack in
the camera, showing Bruce a set of pictures I could have on the Net
before his johnson went limp. The price for dumping the pictures? He
would hold a Washington press conference to announce his "retirement,"
in order to join a Tibetan monastery.
Now, all I had I had to do was occupy Taylor until the hooker showed up
at the hotel. As I wandered around the hotel bar, trying to scheme a
way to lure him into the trap, someone leaned over and said, "I can get
Taylor in here... maybe he'll shoot some pool."
That's it! The perfect "plan B." If the hooker didn't show or got
hi-jacked by one of the politicians hanging out at the conference, we
could always start a bar fight, bust a few pool cues over some heads
and get the rat bastard arrested on assault and battery charges.
This was all too easy, of course, and nothing works quite as well in
real life as it does inside one's own twisted, whiskey-soaked mind. And
so it was here. Taylor walked into the pool room and everything turned
black and white, like a scene from some old Robert Mitchum movie or
maybe a bent version of Burt Lancaster's "Elmer Gantry."
Here was Taylor, shirt collar open, tie loosened and sleeves rolled up.
He was jocular, cocky. Smiling and at ease. He should have been
watching his back. He couldn't care less.
From his shirt pocket he grabbed a crumbled soft pack of Lucky Strike
filter cigarettes and lit one. Inhaled deeply and blowing the smoke
out in one huge puff strode to the pool table where I'd just had my
clock cleaned by Spencer Ante of PC Magazine On-line.
"I got next game," Taylor said, tossing a quarter on the table as his
From this point on things get a little blurry. I know that I tapped
Spencer as my partner to play Taylor in a game of doubles; no way I was
turning my back on him. Todd Lapin of Wired Magazine was drafted into
service as Taylor's partner. I made Lapin swear to me that he would
put his body between me and Taylor if he went crazy and came after me
with a broken pool cue. Todd, the warrior he is, agreed. (Of course,
a quick call to my life insurance broker, taking out an instant
$250,000 policy on the Todd-man helped ice the deal...)
Taylor broke like a pro; knocked to balls into corner pockets. He
chalked his cue, took another big drag off his Lucky Strike and sank
two more. Then he missed a fairly easy side pocket bank shot. "Shit,"
he muttered loud enough to hear across the table.
Spencer was first up for our team... hell, Spencer carried me the whole
game, but I'd down a bet with some booze addled bookie in the corner,
betting a C-note against us so I wasn't particular shook about the
I did keep wondering when Fifi the Escort would show; she never did.
As I imagined, some cheap jack politician whisked her away before she
got five steps into the hotel.
Taylor ambled over, chalking his cue, the Lucky hanging from the corner
of his mouth. Hoisting his draft beer, he vamped on the evils of
tobacco. "Yeah, I started late. Didn't start smoking until my
mid-twenties, after I got married. Well, tobacco that is..."
Egad! Taylor, a pothead! I was speechless and pissed off this Memorex
moment would only be recorded in my hastily scrawled hand on a damp
You see, I was caught in a strange optical vortex where my mind didn't
believe what I was seeing. My brain was rebelling at the input coming
in from the ears and my entire sensory network was about to breakdown
from sheer overload.
After he shared this bit of historical data, I felt fairly safe in
broaching the subject of his alleged body piercing. He'd just
finished drilling the 14 ball on a 5-10 combination into the corner
pocket. "Nice shot," I said. He muttered a thanks and then screwed up
the next shot. "Shit," he said again. Okay, his profanity is
"Hey, Bruce, you know, I just have to ask you a question," I said.
"It's a bit personal."
"Go ahead, but make it quick, we're blowing you off the table here and
this game won't take long."
"Yeah, yeah, so I never learned to play pool; I was into
Three-Card-Monty... but I digress. Listen, is there anything to this
rumor that your right nipple is pierced?"
He scowled. "Where'd you hear that?"
Not important really, you didn't answer the question, I noted. "No
truth to it at all... now, can I finish up this game?"
And as he ran the table, I raced to a payphone and called in the story
to Wired magazine's new "Bodily Wired" section.
But I kept thinking this guy should be Evil. That he should be
Holier-Than-Thou, spouting his anti-porn rhetoric like a Donna Rice
hand puppet. But no, here he was cursing, divulging his days as a
Head and beating me at pool like a red-headed step child on a rented
I know they say "know thine enemy" (but it beats the hell out of me
who "they" are or when "they" actually said it, but if it's not true it
ought to be). But this whole black and white celluloid-cyber saga
racked me to the core of my being. Who could we pillory from now on?
This guy was all smoke and mirrors, with the emphasis on smoke. Did
he really believe the gig he's taken on or is he just a mouth piece
that loves the fight?
I decided to go back to the FBI profiler to find out. But he avoided
me. Seems he got an urgent page that a thousand or more hacks had
been shoved through the Dockmaster front door inside an hour and forty
five minutes, all using his I.D. He blamed me for some reason.
I dragged my tired, pool playing ass up to bed. Smelling of smoke and
spilt beer. My ears ringing and my head spinning. I'd felt this way
only once before, when I'd ravaged a bad batch of Ibogaine on the
campaign trail a few months ago...
I was hoping it was all just a bad dream and that I'd wake up and it
would all be over. But the next morning when Pete Lewis of the New
York Times tracked me down for some quotes on the incident, I stepped
back in horror. It must have been true. The New York Times never
chases a rumor.
Now we'll have to look for a real enemy, not a puppet with a law degree
and mortgage to pay. Next year, we get Donna Rice in that pool
room... I'm putting in a call to Gary Hart right now.
© 1996 Peter Langston