Portland ranks among the Top 10 Most Surveilled U.S. Cities, according to Cybernews. Atlanta tops the list.
We live in a world where surveillance is a fact of life. Any encrypted software product may be backdoored, and even if it is not, you have no guarantee that the person on the other end does not have spyware such as keystroke monitoring or screen video capture running on their system. Encryption enthusiasts and amateur hackers, no matter how valiant, simply cannot compete with a nation-state in this game. Cf Pegasus.
Sneak and Peek, or “No Knock,” Warrants have been around since the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, but they receive scant attention from the media. What they mean is that you may have your home searched, and items removed from your home, without any official notice from law enforcement. Ditto for electronic files. If you file a FOIA request and the investigation in which you are named is still ongoing, you will not receive any confirmation that a warrant exists. (Pat Eddington, Cato Institute)
The most frightening aspect of these warrants is the potential for planting false evidence. The second most frightening aspect is the potential for planting surveillance devices for tracking and listening — as if cell phones were not effective enough.
“Nothing to Hide?”
Like roughly 2/3 of the U.S. population, I reside within the 100-mile “border zone” where Border Patrol agents are granted additional authorities and the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment no longer apply. You may think all of this is irrelevant if you are a law-abiding citizen.
The problem is that who you know can get you put on a list.It can also make you a target. To put it another way, we all know somebody who has a cousin who is a drug dealer.
Laws in this country are changing, and not (in my opinion) for the better. Roe v. Wade is gone, and civil rights for gays and lesbians may soon disappear as this country takes a hard shift right. Remember ICE? Children in cages? Forced sterilizations?
Come 2024, they may all be back.
If you don’t feel like being a freedom fighter, if your first priority is keeping your family safe and saving for your children’s college tuition, I am not here to judge. Just remember that in a world where power rules in place of law, abuse of that power is an inevitable consequence.
Get in a traffic accident with somebody employed by the surveillance state? What if one of them rapes your daughter? Or your son? When a large class of individuals are above the law, nothing good will come of it. This is especially true when the same individuals fear consequences from their actions. They tend to lash out and do everything they can to harm and intimidate witnesses and injured parties.
I am not an America-hater. Far from it. The country I grew up in gave me 40+ years of freedom in its purest form: freedom to explore, to create, to love and befriend those I chose, to work as much or as little as I liked. Freedom to just be. I am a GenXer. I don’t mean to talk like a crusty old-timer, but I believe I’ve seen this nation at its absolute best.
Or maybe the best is yet to come.
Nothing is fixed. Nothing is certain.
The combined 2022 budget of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the 17 different United States spying agencies (of which CIA and NSA are only two) is over $150 billion.For comparison, that is roughly one fifth of the Department of Defense 2022 budget of $742B. But remember, the DOD budget covers submarines, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, helicopters, tanks, nuclear weapons, and anti-missile defense systems, not to mention an active network of bases around the world. That’s a lot of people and hardware.
What exactly are we paying for? This remains largely unclear. Marijuana is now legal in 19 out of 50 states, but the DEA’s funding continues to grow. If you were an officer monitoring wiretaps and running undercover operations in Colorado or Washington State, where and to what were you reassigned? And as far as truly terrifying threats to health and safety, the surveillance state could be doing a much better job. We read about mass shootings in the news practically every week. It failed to prevent the violent attempted coup at our nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021.
Your tax dollars at work, my friends.
Government salaries range from $20K (GS-1) to $147K(GS-15) — much less than the equivalent in the private sector. If we assume that wages (including benefits) average $100,000 per year, we would expect that the surveillance states employs as many as 1.5 million people in the United States. Keeping in mind, that is not accounting for slush funds to be distributed overseas, or James Bond style gadgetry, server space, or the cost of buildings and operations.But if we slash that number in half, that is still one federal domestic spy for every 440 U.S. citizens.
And that’s a lot.
Regarding terminology, “federal domestic spy” includes FBI informers, often recruited under duress or experiencing economic hardship. It does not include state or local police forces.
I am an extremely law-abiding citizen. That has protected me to some extent, but not completely. Somebody who has cheated on their taxes or who runs a warez server with their friends is at high risk of being “turned” and pressured by law enforcement to inform on others and further widen the surveillance network.
If you wish to minimize the risk that a conversation will be overheard, consider the New Yorker Protocol.
The New Yorker protocol consists of three simple steps:
Assume good intent. I am not interested in contact with people for purposes of criminal profiteering (drugs or other contraband) or with groups that instigate violence. My philosophy is nonviolence except in the case of self-defense. I am only interested in working with people who share these values.
Confirm receipt as soon as possible.If somebody emails you asking to meet for coffee, say, “Hey, I got your email. Swamped right now! Will be back in touch to coordinate a time.” If somebody you know leaves a signed, sealed note taped to your front door with instructions to communicate only by dropping messages in yonder hollow tree, then by all means, drop them a note asking, “Did I get the right tree?”
Allow up to 90 days when making a major decision. Depending on the stakes involved, this might be anything from agreeing to meet somebody for the first time for coffee to participating in civil disobedience or leaking a story to the news media. If you feel certain of your course of action sooner than that, of course it is ok to let the other person know. Likewise, if you know you are not down for whatever the person is asking, don’t feel that you need to respond at all. The basic courtesy of acknowledging receipt (Step 2) is enough.
Two of these three steps come directly from the New Yorker writer’s guidelines for submitting unsolicited short fiction manuscripts. I was so taken with these guidelines (in particular, their clarity and brevity) that I submitted a short story almost on the spot. I don’t expect that it will get published, but I do appreciate that 90 days after sending it in I am free to re-submit wherever I like. I also appreciate that immediately after emailing my story as an attachment, I received an auto-responder email acknowledging receipt.
The New Yorker protocol should by no means be restricted to clandestine activities. I consider it an effective strategy for social and business networking as well.
Creating an expectation to observe and respect these simple guidelines is an essential first step to initiate an effective communications process that is platform- and technology-independent and minimizes surveillance risk.
Your outfits are great. What gave you the inspiration?
Our spacesuits are just average clothes on our planet, Issia.
I felt that by sharing our customs, I could further inspire our listeners. Silver is transcendent!
And we’ve been heavily influenced by David Bowie, Bjork, T-Rex, Prince and Devo. Hence, outifts.??
How long have you been making music, and how would you describe your creative evolution?
I grew up going to a German Polka Club every week. So I was dancing to waltzes and polkas for most of my adolescence. I didn’t start to work fanatically with music until my thirties.
Jo, however, has been singing since the crib. Legend has it she learned how to escape her cradle so she could re-load the stack of records.
Our creative process usually starts with a pad or synth progression just to get things rolling. I send that to Jo and she creates a melodic and lyrical story based on the mood. We work together to shape it into a song often with at least 15 iterations until we get it right.
I noticed you list both a Priestess and Scientist on your website. Do you believe it is possible to harmonize spirituality and rational knowledge in our current era of information overload? Can music play a role?
Yes! Music is a perfect example. There is a concept that science and spirituality are separate but in fact, they are the same. Look at Kirk and Spock! ? Whether the technology is Bach or today’s software, music inherently blends math and spirituality. To be more accurate, music IS the math of spirituality. On our planet, we’re able to heal disease with music. It’s a wondrous place!
What is the hardest thing about making music in quarantine?
There were so many challenges this year! Where to start…It was hard being separated from each other. I went from having weekly rehearsals to having to work remotely with The Priestess. We did lots of Zoom meetings. I think the limitations pushed us to grow our online fanbase and of course, we had to grow emotionally.
Your new single is called “I Won’t Dance for You.” Do you think music venues and dance clubs will be able to recover in Portland over the next year, or will it take longer for the scene to recover?
I love going to see live music and I so hope it recovers. Live music is so magical! Transformational. So I hope so and soooooon. I love to watch the people dance! It’s sad to see some of favorite venues closed. I’m still sad that La Luna and Satiricon closed. Some places are holding on like the Alberta Rose—and we can support them now. Here is the link: https://shopalbertarose.square.site
If you had to choose, would you rather share a rocket ship with Ziggy Stardust, Barbarella, or Sun Ra?
So hard to choose! All great options. But Barbarella because there might be a hot tub and shag carpet!
It’s a shame that everybody in America assumes that if you’re talking about class you are Marxist. It’s a shame that in these United States populism became a dirty word — shades of racism and authoritarianism. I wrote an essay a while back trying to unpack the ways that class dynamics entrench and deepen divides around race and gender.
It was based on my own personal, lived experience. And oh yeah, there was a song that went with it.
The personal is political. That’s an ethos underlying hip hop and also feminism. I remember the day I took my friend for a walk in Forest Park. I don’t know if he’d ever been out that way before, even though he grew up in Portland. We were recording video for a crowdfunding campaign we had planned. Don’t know whatever happened to that footage. It’s probably lost until the end of time.
I don’t know what your street name is by now. You went through at least three in the time that I knew you.
We’re already socially distant. The pandemic is reaction to the systemic distortion of academics. 5G is radioactive pollution while the body succumbs to inner confusion designed and spread by mass media controlled execution. Mistrust is a must in a world built on ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The meek won’t inherit the earth as stock markets crash and cryptocurrency gains its worth. All in all as hysteria rises the unseen government builds firewalls to prevent a scenario that ends in total recall and catastrophic downfall. The love frequency has been corrupted by mental meltdown and deviant delinquency. Stay aware and resilient, maintain your militant stance, we’ve been infiltrated by reptilians. Tomorrow never knows but today the heat signature in the atmosphere grows causing an unprecedented increase in the force of tidal flows. We must dwell and excel together as we have crossed the threshold into the new forever.
Interview with Portland comics artist Andrea Rosales
Artist Andrea Rosales
Can you summarize for our readers briefly what happens in Nine Twilights?
Nine Twilights is a magical girls meets Norse mythology coming-of-age action adventure webcomic series written by Anne Mortensen-Agnew, drawn by myself, and edited by Chris Hansbrough.
The comic tells the story of 16-year old Wanda Dusekova, a Romani girl from the Czech Republic who discovers that she is the modern reincarnation of the Norse god Odin. With her mentor Baldur (The Norse god of light and life, and her son from her previous life as Odin), she has to journey across the world to find the other reincarnated Norse gods (other teenage gals) to join her in fighting against various monsters and beasts from Norse folklore such as draugar and frost giants in order to prevent a second Ragnarok brought about by an unknown foe.
This comic isn’t your usual coming of age story as Wanda and her friends have to not only navigate their own lives, but they also have to deal with the consequences of the decisions they made with their past lives as the Norse gods. Each of the girls have different circumstances compared to their past lives and it makes a great difference in the types of decisions they make as they come to terms with their new powers and responsibilities.
The central theme of the comic is being better than you were before, and having the courage to make the right choices having a second chance at life. This comic explores those themes of redemption and internal strength in depth.
Many of our lifelong passions and inspirations can be seen in the pages of Nine Twilights. This comic is inspired greatly by the likes of Sailor Moon, Thor, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to name a few. What we were drawn to in these stories were the ideas of reluctant protagonists struggling to find their way as heroes, making sacrifices to do the right things, and growing in tremendous ways as individuals.
How did you and the writer and the editor find each other and begin working together on this project?
Anne and I know each other from college. We both went to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California and were introduced to each other by mutual friends within the animation program there. I was a graphic design major and animation minor and Anne was a screenwriting major, so we find a lot of common ground and overlap in our interest in wanting to tell stories via comics and animation. Anne and Chris met online by arguing about a long-dead RPG video game series from Konami (Suikoden). That argument turned into a friendship and Anne told Chris that she had a concept for a comic series. Chris told Anne he was a comics editor and they teamed up and went about their search for an artist. In the summer of 2014, they came to me, Anne recalling my interest in creating comics, and the rest is history. We started working on concept art of the comic in late 2014 and early 2015 and made our launch in fall of 2015. Our first chapter concluded in early 2017. Currently we are in the middle of chapter two and our teamwork and friendship is going on strong. We meet pretty regularly to chat story, go over pages, coordinate social media promotions and plan convention appearances.
How has your time in Portland shaped your artistic style and evolution as a creator?
I think that growing up in Portland shaped my artistic evolution significantly in that the fact that it was almost always raining meant that I was indoors much of the time, reading and/or drawing. All those rainy days resulted in many drawings and paintings! I grew up in the Aloha/Beaverton area and I fondly recall my parents often taking my siblings and I to the libraries near us. It was my love of reading that inspired me to want to tell stories of my own. I also loved spending days at Powell’s City of Books downtown and perusing through galleries in the Old Town Chinatown area and around the Pearl District. I always gravitated towards comics and the presence of comic shops and major comics publishers has been a significant source of inspiration to me. Growing up in Portland definitely meant I read a lot of comics. I went to university and lived in Los Angeles for a few years before moving back in 2016. Since coming back to the area it has been incredible to see how much the area has grown and changed. I’ve certainly taken notice of the growing big comics scene here of incredible creators and it’s something I’m excited to be a part of. I think Portland has always been a major hub for creative folks from all walks of life and from all sorts of different places and I hope it will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future.
As a woman and person of color in comics, do you feel like you have a supportive community in the local region?
As a woman I’ve definitely noticed a really encouraging community of ladies making rad comics and I’m over the moon that I’ve been able to befriend many of these fantastic artists through conventions and I look forward to meeting even more! I feel like I’m greatly supported with the friends I’ve been able to meet through comic-creators meetup groups around town. I like to frequent “Crafty Night” on Tuesday evenings brought to my attention by the amazing Rebecca Hicks of Little Vampires Comics and I love hanging out with the PDX Comic Crew Group organized by incredible Nichole Robinson that meets every Thursday night at the Books With Pictures comics shop. Being a part of these groups has helped me a lot in being able to combat the sense of isolation I’ve tended to feel in creating comics. I’ve been making comics on my own for a while and it’s really nice to feel like there are places I can go to work on them with other creators, I’m far from so many of my friends still in Los Angeles, and in other places, and while I keep in touch with them, I have also made new friends in Portland and it’s great to be a part of this growing community. This year I’ve been able to connect with incredible comics creators such as Terry Blas (Dead Weight, Briar Hollow), and Luis Silva (Creatively Queer Press). I’ve met more Mexican comic artists and other creators of color and it’s refreshing to be able to meet folks who have similar experiences and share in my wish to create comics that are more inclusive and offer cultural representation for a new generation of comics readers. I’m endlessly impressed and appreciative of just how welcoming, supportive and encouraging these communities have been.
Who are your greatest influences?
My greatest influences art wise have been Marvel superhero comics, Studio Ghibli films, classic Disney animated films and Japanese shojo manga, as well as art nouveau, art deco, impressionism, Mexican folk-art. From all of these artistic styles and mediums, I’ve been drawn to the expressiveness and energy of characters, and the vibrancy of the colors. The compositions of these art styles and movements have also been exceptionally influential to my work as an illustrator, graphic designer and illustrator.
Out of all the Norse deities, who is your favorite?
Of the Norse deities, my favorite has to be Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility, beauty, wealth, wisdom, life and war. She’s a member of the Vanir, who were gods that specialized in fertility, wisdom and the ability to see into the future. I love very much that she rides around on a chariot drawn by cats. While Freyja is very revered among the gods and is graceful, her incarnation in the Nine Twilights is a bubbly, clumsy, energetic girl named Aishwarya “Aish” Narayan who loves playing games on her phone, taking selfies, and living her best life. To an outsider she seems to be taking a lackadaisical approach to life, but Aish is always ready to get down to business when monsters come to attack. The Aish/Freyja character is considered the “tank” of Wanda’s team of magical girls, as she has the strength to easily dual wield a giant battle-axe and a chain whip sword at the same time. It makes for some fun battle scenes to draw. While the Aish/Freya character hasn’t been introduced yet to the main Nine Twilights storyline, readers can see her in action in the Nine Twilights mini-comic up for sale on Gum-Road right now.