Packet Rat: Packet Rat roves for raves

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

On a crisp fall Sunday afternoon at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, the Rat was busy maxing out the newest WiFi hotspot by downloading the latest set of security patches to his notebook PC.

Then his cell phone chirped. The wired one looked at the caller ID and nearly swallowed his tongue.

'Must be a wrong number,' he said to himself. He pressed the talk button. 'The number you are calling ... ' he said with his nose pinched.

'Cut it out,' the voice at the other end said. 'I know it's you, and you obviously know it's me.'

The Rat cleared his throat and wiped the beading perspiration from his brow. 'Is this Karl? Oh. Hi. I thought it was a prank call from my buddies at Fort Meade. How may I serve you?'

'We're getting a little concerned about developments on the Internet,' the voice said.

'Yeah, everybody's torqued at VeriSign, but ICANN already slapped their wrist, Karl.'

'Not that development, furball. I'm talking about Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.'

'Dean and Clark have generated big momentum with their Web presence,' the voice droned on. 'And frankly, we here at'ahem, you know where'are concerned about this webfogging thing they're up to.'

'Weblogging, Karl,' the whiskered one corrected. 'Or blogging, for short. Yes, I've seen their sites.'

Presidential candidates Dean, Clark and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) had all taken the blogging plunge. Dean's blog had rapidly turned into the nexus of his campaign, used by his supporters to coordinate activities and build buzz. And his Internet fund-raising had gone through the roof.

'We've determined that we need a counterstrategy,' his caller continued. 'Some sort of big Web push to take the wind out of their sails. And we want your help, since you are plugged into this sort of thing.'

Sensing an advantage, the Rat played hardball. 'It's a little out of my job description, Karl. I have two words for you: Hatch Act.'

'Oh, no, this is definitely not a chain-of-command thing,' the caller backpedaled. 'We value your, er, independent opinion, and some of our friends would like to offer you a consulting position, part-time of course, and totally off the books.'

Ka-ching, thought the Rat. 'So, you want me to do a blog for the prez?'

'No. We want you to launch an independent candidacy weblog.'

'Uh, sorry, Karl, a seagull just buzzed me. I thought you said you wanted me to run for president and launch a weblog.'

'You heard right. We figure you've got enough tricks up your sleeve to pull some of the cybervote from the Demo-crats, and that way we've got total plausible deniability. Your country needs you, Mr. Rat.'

Something wet and white splatted his keyboard.

'Got to get me some better air cover,' the Rat sighed as he considered the two loads that had just been dropped on him.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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