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East of East
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From Under the Slush Pile
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Your Man at the OED
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The Cloacal View
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'Goatbreath Babble' by Sir Castor BayleyGoatbreath Babble
by Sir Castor Bayley


Valentine’s Day, that wonderful time of year: wonderful for most. But as with anything, there are at least two schools of thought. Now, just to set the record straight, I enjoy Valentine’s Day, and go out of my way to show my love and appreciation to my loved one on this day. Of course, it is my contention that a show of appreciation should be a daily matter; not neatly confined to an established holiday or commercial event. But enough of that; I am not here to discuss my personal bent on relationship maintenance. No, today I want to talk about the other side of Valentine’s Day: the ugly side.

First, there is the single population, who, if unattached, find this day to be lonely indeed. Imagine how much more dramatic the feeling of isolation, as the world around you is transformed into a parade of lovers, ostensibly displaying their undying affections with gaudy shows of large floral bouquets and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Love, love, love. An exclusive party to which you are not invited. And if you are even more unfortunate to have recently separated from your companion, you receive both barrels of the gun, as the day becomes a loud accusation of your inability to sustain a relationship long enough to make it to this most momentous of all lover’s occasions. This of course creates a uniquely painful conflict unnoticed by those who, happily coupled and soon to be happily coupling, celebrate the day in joyful exuberance.

Second, there are those who are attached, but for whatever reason, do not receive the expected acknowledgment; in fact, are entirely forgotten by their spouse, etc. Woe to he who returns to his loved one empty of hand on this day. This is equivalent to hanging a sign around your loved one’s neck with the words “I Am Rubbish” written across it, in big red letters, and parading her through town. The sound and horror of an air raid strike will pale in comparison to the fusillade of abuse that will be rained upon the unfortunate miscreant who subjects his loved one to this humiliation.

I have not been so foolish as to knowingly step in front of a firing squad, so my experience with this particular oddity is secondhand. Amazing, that in this time of enlightenment, such atrocities still occur.

My next observation is one that is most easily witnessed in large groups of people.
I have had the opportunity to work at many large corporations and I could never help but feel in the midst of battle come Valentine’s Day. Here, it was clear, looking at row upon row of desks and cubicles, each prominently displaying their bestowed gifts of floral bouquets, etc., that the eyes of envy and murderous malcontent were alive and well in the near vicinity. All of the women, proudly strutting by, noses in the air, glancing down at each other’s acquisitions, sizing up the competition. “Hmmmm…she got a pitifully small vase of flowers…poor thing. Not as grand as mine, most assuredly.” I could hear these words as surely as if they had been spoken. The betrayal came from a certain tilt of the head, a pause in the step, a glimmer in the eye…unmistakable. Remember what I said about hanging a sign about the neck? Especially dangerous in this environment.

I conclude with the traditional Valentine’s dinner outing, or in keeping with the spirit: “The Parade of Whores.” It is darkly comical to observe the processional nature of the Grand Feeding. First, of course, comes the entrance: doors swing open wide, man holds door, and woman sweeps into the room, dressed to the nines, often with bouquet of flowers in hand — if, of course, she is in contention for Parade Queen — with her humble servant for the evening in tow. The schedule that follows is the same almost without exception: first some drink to loosen up the mademoiselle, then fine dining, charming conversation, politesse unlimited, and perhaps, an evening of dance. If the man has honored the traditional aspects properly, his partner will reward him with an evening of glorious, “Praise be to God!” sex. If he has not, the forthcoming days of sexual drought will serve as a stinging reproach to his thoughtlessness.

Presumably, any mistakes that were made this year will be well heeded if he is to “get lucky” the next time. And so, as the night turns to day, winter to spring, and the floral bouquets to botanical dust, time steps boldly ahead, preparing the path for the next Valentine’s Day celebration. Pay close attention…your life may depend on it.

Readers may write to Sir Castor Bayley c/o Place "Goatbreath Babble" in the subject line of your email.

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Carol Novack
Image © 2007 Phil Nelson
Better Than Court TV: Sensational Cases from the NYC Courts



1/28/2008 6:54 PM EST

Mitzy Mankowitz. a.k.a., The Poetic Defense Attorney, was sent to the clinker for “refusing to speak plain English” during her cross-examination of a police officer in the misdemeanor marijuana possession case of People v Anonymous M. Judge George A. Harrison, III, an appointee of the former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and longtime Board member of the Union of Religious Leaders against Pornographic Literature and Art, banged his gavel repeatedly as he pronounced Mankowitz guilty of contempt after the following exchange:


Mankowitz: Officer Flub, isn’t it true or is it not perchance, pray tell, that the northwest corner of 113th Street and Lexington Avenue at the nigh ebony hour of 8:35 pm was bathed in shadows?

The People: Objection! What’s she talking about, George … I mean, your Honor?

Judge: Sustained. Question stricken. Jury instructed to disregard defense counsel.

Mankowitz: Well, Officer Flub, is it not a fact or not perchance or by happenstance that you stated in your arrest report, and here it is, Exhibit H for identification … and I quote, to refresh your memory, if you have such, that you saw the Defendant, “as clear as a my mother’s pendulous mammary glands when I emerged from the womb?”

Officer Flub: I, what? Now look here, lady … . what the fuck’s a mammary gland?

Judge: Stricken. Don’t answer the question and don’t swear.

The People: Objection!

Judge: Now really, Arthur, I already struck the question AND the answer. Erase your minds, member of the jury. Proceed with caution, Ms. Mankowitz.

Mankowitz: Officer Flub, is it not a matter of veracity that a pale, anemic moon shone barely in the starless sky?

Officer Flub: Wha?

Judge: I strongly suggest that you phrase that question less poetically, Ms. Mankowitz. This Court won’t tolerate irrelevant flourishes of bad poetry.

Mankowitz: Yes, your Honor. But bad poetry? I object, your Honor!

Judge: Objection overruled. Move on, it’s almost lunchtime.

Mankowitz: For the record, the Court has parsimoniously derided defense counsel.

Judge: The Court and jury is losing patience, counselor. Move on.

Mankowitz: Officer, do you remember a moon?

Officer Flub: What do you mean, do I remember a moon? I gots my eyes on the Defendant there. What do I need a moon for?

Mankowitz: Your Honor, the witness is refusing to answer a simple question. Please direct him to answer yes or no.

Judge: The question wasn’t put clearly, counselor. Try again.

The People: Objection. Confounding, compounding, and confusing.

Judge: Objection noted for the record.. Continue if you must, defense counsel.

Mankowitz: Objection, Judge. “if you must” is a biased comment. You’re prejudicing the jury against the defense, Judge. This is an impeachable offense, and I cite People v Ooppy, 889 NY2d 449, where the Court said….

Judge: I’m familiar with People v Ooppy, Ms. Mankowitz. Ooppy is irrelevant. The Court of Appeals was reviewing a cross-examination of a defendant by the People. But your objection is duly noted. Proceed please.

Mankowitz: Thank you, judge. Officer Fuc…

The People: Objection.

Mankowitz: Excuse me, Officer Flub, did you perchance happen to notice a moon at 8:35 PM, February 31st, 2007?

The People: Objection, beside the point.

Judge: Sustained. Counselor, would you kindly leave the moon alone and move on?

Mankowitz: Isn’t it true, Officer, that there was only one streetlight on the northwestern corner of 178th Street and Lexington Avenue, and said lone streetlight had expired from an invasion of genetically altered, suicidal moths?

The People: Objection, your Honor! Defense counsel is calling for a conclusion from facts not in evidence.

Judge: Counselor, I’m warning you!

The People: You talking to ME?

Judge: No, Arthur. Relax.

Mankowitz: Officer Flub, you are aware, are you not, of the moon?

The People: Objection. The moon is irrelevant.

Officer Flub: Whatdya mean, aware of the moon?

Judge: Objection sustained. Counselor, move away from the moon.

Mankowitz: I object, your Honor. The moon is never irrelevant in a case where the defense is claiming misidentification. I’m moving for a mistrial. The Court is poisoning the jury against the defense.

Judge: Mizz Mankowitz. You know very well that I am the jury.

Mankowitz: I’m still moving for a mistrial on the ground of bias.

Judge: Denied. Proceed if you must. Quickly and plainly, counselor. For the record, this Court has a headache, as does the jury.

Mankowitz: Officer, is it not true that the sun was no longer visible at 8:35 pm on February 31, 2007?

The People: Objection. Facts not in evidence. Who says the sun was ever visible on February 31st? Counselor is making assumptions. It could’ve been raining all day.

Mankowitz: Officer, was it raining that day?

Officer Flub: Let me consult my memo book. Hey, there’s nothing here for February 31st.

Mankowitz: So, in fact, this alleged crime was a hallucination … a mirage of the mind, catatonic contortion of synapses, perhaps even a dream or wish fulfillment, was it not?

The People: Objection. Defense counsel is prejudicing the jury against the People.

Judge: I’m warning you, counselor.

The People: Who, me? What did I do?

Mankowitz: And is it not a fact, Officer Flub, that you were hoping to collar anyone at all in order to merit overtime compensation?

The People: Objection. Counselor is harassing the witness!

Judge: Now, where were we? No suns, no moons, unless you want to put astrology charts in evidence, Miss Mankowitz. And NO insults to witnesses are permitted.

Mankowitz: For the record, broken beyond reparation, I move once again for a mistrial. This Court is demeaning and dislocating defense counsel, which is having a deleterious effect on her client’s right to a fair trial, under State and federal constitutional law. I also move that this Court recluse itself on the ground of misogynism. The sole remedy for misogynism is reclusal. People v Adenberry, 297 NY2d 899, 906.

The People: Miss what?

Judge: Denied. Denied. And denied again till the end of time. And if defense counsel refuses to speak in plain, simple, precise English one more time, this Court will hold her in contempt of this Court.

Mankowitz: Officer Flub, how would you describe the Defendant’s skin tone, on a pallette range from whitest white to blackest black, metaphorically similar to Desdemona white and Othello black.

Defendant: Objection, your Honor. That’s a racial remark. I want a REAL lawyer, not some fuckin asshole assigned woman lawyer!

The People: Objection! Irrelevant and irritating.

Judge: Now you, Mr. Anonymous shall kindly shut your big mouth unless you want me to return you to Riker’s Island. As for you, Miss Mankowitz, this is the nth time I’ve asked you to speak in plain, simple English, which you’ve consistently and defiantly refused to do. If you do not apologize to this Court, I’m going to hold you in contempt.

Mankowitz: I move again for a mistrial on the grounds . . . .

Judge: And I hold you in contempt. You will be detained for three days unless you apologize to this Court.

Mankowitz: I cite People v Burtkoff, 567 NY2d 431 . . .

Judge: I cite the Penal Law of Contempt, whatever that section is. Officer Brancollo, remove defense counsel. You’re off this case, Mankowitz.

Mankowitz: I demand habeas corpus!

Defendant: So, I get to have a new lawyer, Judge?

Judge: This Court is adjourned till another attorney may be appointed. Remand the Defendant.

Defendant: No shit. I still don’t get a real lawyer? Fuck.


How long Ms. Mankowitz will remain incarcerated is unknown at this time, as it is reported that she has sworn not to offer an apology and demand the judge’s censure.. A small crowd of lawyers is gathering in front of the courthouse, demanding Ms. Mankowitz’s immediate release.


Readers may write to Carol Novack c/o Place "Carol Novack" in the subject line of your email.

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'The Cloacal View' by Rae Desmond JonesThe Cloacal view, or Gazing Up from the Anus of the World


Election Night in the Antipodes

It is, therefore, wiser to have the name of a miser, which produces disgrace rather than hatred, than to incur of necessity the name of being rapacious, which produces both disgrace and hatred.
— Machiavelli, The Prince, Trans. Luigi Ricci.

The weather on the 24th of November was not unusual. A government has lost an election for the first time in eleven years, but this should be expected in a democracy. Democracies from the age of Pericles on have not always been particularly caring for those who are not part of the demos, and have been known to act with startling brutality to those within its borders. Take, for example, our careless treatment of our own indigenous people, with their democratic tribal structures preceding our own.

It is still autumn in Australia and on the coast we have had enough rain in the last few months to reassure us of the distance between ourselves and the calamity of the drought which persists west of the mountains. It is nearly a full moon and she glows with her ancient benevolence through the streaky clouds, illuminating crowds of people moving along the paths. In the houses, televisions and computers flicker. The smell of beer mingles with the acrid ropey smell of dope, while in the parks couples shuffle or dance on the grass, and beneath the trees pallid buttocks reflect in their rotund motion the shimmer of the reflective moon.

The King is dead. Long live the King. Prime Minister John Howard, the bulwark of the coalition of the willing, master of euphemism, twister of words, an owlish small man able to look directly through the eyes of the camera into the hearts of the gullible before telling an untruth breathtaking in its audacity. As one who has modeled mediocrity with genius, he led a government which held individual excellence as a tenet, and has defeated opponents of flair. He may have been defeated finally by one who has reflected his own nerdish doggedness against him. Whether new Prime Minister Rudd continues this tradition is yet to be seen, but it seems that for many of the Australian public, this is what they expect and hope for.

There will be debate about Howard'’s achievements. With absolute control of both houses of Parliament, Howard used his power to reduce union power and destroy one hundred years of industrial relations. The Harvester judgement of 1907 was designed to ensure that a worker could keep his wife and children healthy and comfortable. The cautious man went back to 1906 too fast. He involved Australia in East Timor, much to the irritation of the Indonesians, but then his government did its best to diddle the Timorese of their off-shore oil. He has turned a blind eye to Indonesian brutality in West Irian. He was the deputy sheriff to the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific. Indications are that Rudd will not be quick to pin on the tin star, but he quickly signed the Kyoto Protocol on global warming,– although Kyoto sounds as important as a fart in the desert in 2007. Rudd has promised to withdraw (with dignified lack of haste) from Iraq. With the U.S. dollar sliding and China gobbling up our minerals, he may be able to afford to.

Howard also became only the second prime minister in Australian history to lose his own seat. To be thus humiliated – by a woman –would bring many a determined chauvinist to incoherence, but not Howard. Among his recent predecessors, Whitlam responded with noble rage when he was dismissed; Fraser became weepy; Hawke loved nothing better than a good cry; Keating hissed like a trapped cat. With thousands of vengeful opponents waiting to watch his lower lip tremble, Howard spoke with clarity, coherence and more than usual grace. He may have lost, but with the puritanical dignity of a true bastard, he has denied us the unalloyed joy of watching his humiliation.


Readers may write to Rae Desmond Jones c/o Place "Rae Desmond Jones's Column " in the subject line of your email.

'Step to the Rear' by Rich AndrewsStep to the Rear:
Tales from a Lapsed New York City Bus Driver
by Rich Andrews


The year is 1974. It's 6:30 a.m. This old man with a Jimmy Durante nose gets on the bus and drops a quarter and a nickel into the fare box. Now in New York, the fare is 35 cents, while in Chicago, it's 50 cents, Pittsburgh, 60 cents and in Las Vegas, you could lose your shirt for a bus ride.

So when Banana Nose drops in 30 cents for the third morning in a row, I finally gotta put my foot down. Had I known what kind of excrement I was stepping into, I woulda put my foot down on the guy's nose.

"Awright, pops, cough up the udda nickel," I says to him, this hockey puck.

"Aaaa, whatsa big deal?" he says. "I been riding these buses forty-two years, whatta you tink, before you was born and you gonna tell me how much I gotta put inna box?"

I says, "Every day you put in thirty cents. Today you're gonna put in thirty five or we don't go nowhere." With this, I am pulling up the emergency brake because maybe he thinks I am being facetious. He starts mumbling and fumbling into his pockets, a song and dance I have seen at least a million times. He sees me smiling, which sets the old geezer off again.

Retirement Gift - Signed Picture
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"Hey, whatta you tink? I come to this country futty-two years ago." Great. It's gonna be Death by Repetition Torture. "Look at this," he says. Instead of a nickel he takes out of his pocket a piece of paper so raggedy he musta wiped his nose on it. He shoves it under my chin and says, "See? Datsa me!" His picture is at the bottom of this horror. He looks thirty-something.

"Hey, come on driver! We gotta get to work," says some instigator in the back, a nothing with no style. But he starts a revolution.

"Yeah, how bout it driver?"

"What's the big deal for a nickel?"

I says, "Can I have some quiet here? Can't you see I'm trying to read this man's last will and testament?" I release the emergency brake and floor the accelerator. This sends the braggiole with the shnozzole heading for the rear of the bus. Inertia is a beautiful thing, at times. People reach out to prevent his falling on them, but if he falls on the floor, that's okay.

I look at the paper he left me and it's some kind of advertising flier. The title says: "ANTHONY IMBOLE - DOCTOR OF MOTORS." Hmmm, maybe this dishmop could tell me what's wrong with my car.

"Hey Anthony! Where ya goin'? Ya didn't pay me the nickel yet," I say in a loud voice.

"Like you really care," says this hard hat who's been watching the whole show in silence. "That guy does the same routine with all the drivers. Drop him off here." He points to the police station we happen to be passing. "That'll fix his ass. Oh, sorry lady," he says to the secondhand Rose sitting next to him. She decides for her 35 cents, she's gonna have her say now.

"You oughta be ashamed of yourselves," she pipes up. "Can't you see he's an old man? Maybe he don't got no money." She's so tiny, her feet don't touch the floor.

"Lady, if he's a mechanic for forty-two years, he got money comin' outta his ... uh, nose," I says.

"Well so what? You should show a little respect," she peters out. She's about 99 years old so I don't argue. I'm getting bored with the show anyway.

"Yeah, show some respeck or I make-a you lose a job," says Anthony, coming back up to the front. Now I'm no fish but I know a baited hook when I smell it.

"Imbole the cannole. Go on, Anthony, I use your nose for an antenna," I says, pulling into the stop where I know he gets off. Just outside the door, he turns his head to me.

"Hey, whatta you tink, futty-two years I come to this country..." His voice fades as he walks away. I close the doors and take off. In the picture on that dirty paper flier, Anthony looked in his thirties. Plus "futty-two" would make him seventy-something. Ya can't help admiring a feisty old guy like that. I start looking around the driver's compartment for the flier. At the end of the route, I search high and low but it musta got sucked out the window. I never saw him or his 30-cent routine again. I never got my car fixed, neither.


Readers may send comments to, Subject line: Step to the Rear. Comments may be published.

'From Under the Slush Pile' by Helen RuggieriFrom Under the Slush Pile
by Helen Ruggieri

I’d like to talk about rejection letters. When I was young and masochistic, I used to save them, take them out when I was feeling good so I could resume my normal state of despair. I saved them up and one day, why I don’t know, I weighed the bag. It was slightly over one pound. A pound of rejection notes. I was turning 40 and my life was already a mess. Some shrink said that 40 is the age when we truly grow up. We can look ahead and see where our life is going. I did not want to end up an old lady in a house filled with balls of string and rejection letters. I tossed them.

However, when you accumulate a pound of rejection letters, you become something of a connoisseur, an expert. They can be classified several ways. By size: ordinary little squares (suggesting the magazine is too cheap to devote a whole sheet of paper to you); and long standard 8 1/2- by 11-inch letters that spend most of the time trying to sell you a subscription (never pass up an opportunity to cultivate a customer). Yes, as if you’d subscribe to a magazine that just dumped you. Bad timing for this marketing strategy, no matter how they sugarcoat it by saying, “perhaps if you read our little mag, you’ll be able to decide which of your poems would best fit our needs.” Yeah.

Classification by tone is more subtle: letters go from being snotty to being too sorry. My favorite is from a Chinese journal: “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. IF we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of a lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”

Yes, I know. It’s over the top by a Superman leap.

Lately, I’ve noticed the new trend is being sorry. The editors are so sorry about this that you want to call them up and say, hey, don’t worry about it. I can’t even remember what I sent to you and I probably sent it to four other places at the same time. Don’t sweat it.

The best rejection letters are the ones that notch up you systolic blood pressure. These kinds are the “don’t bother me with your pathetic little poems, I’m an editor!”

I just got one from a contest that shall remain nameless. When I hadn’t heard within a reasonable time I sent off an e-mail asking what was what. The reply was, “We notified those who were selected.” Guess that lets me out, but, gee whiz, thanks for taking the time when you weren’t rushing to the bank to deposit my check.

I keep a record of most of my “sends” by leaving them in the “sent mail” file. Very efficient. It lists them in order of dates so you can delete them if you haven’t heard in a “reasonable time.” That could be anywhere from one to ten years in many editors’ viewpoints.

What was once a very civilized correspondence between writer and editor (think of Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Parish) has become a contest of oneupmanship or oneupwomanship — I’m more important that you are, nyah, nyah, nyah. Or, I can’t be bothered responding; I am too busy polishing the brass “editor” plate on my kitchen table.

And if you think this is irony, hey, don’t. I’ll leave you with a little anecdote about an encounter with an Atlantic Grove editor (who had no idea what Barney Rosset did!) He was a graduate of a “prestigious” New York City course in publishing that I am sure covers all the high points in eight months — advanced schmoozing, making the perfect Cosmo, making the transition from New Jersey to Manhattan, etc. He says to me in front of witnesses, “It’s very humbling to be able to decide what America will read.” And thinking of this twerp deciding what I’ll read was worse than any rejection ever received.

Now, what to do about them.

Your immediate response is to go to their home and pound on the door and beat them with your keyboard. Don’t do that. Do not go near their home or office, do not call and do not send off a nasty e-mail unless you have the software that allows you to remain anonymous. Mark the letter in red and suggest corrections for tone, style, voice, etc. If you find a grammatical error or an error in syntax or awkwardnesses, all the better. Point them out.

Perhaps you have a sharp object nearby. Cut the note into strips and rearrange the words. Make a collage. Harms no one and is temporarily amusing.

Write a pompous academic reply about the symbolism that they’ve missed and the true, deep meaning of your poems that they failed to penetrate. Lambaste them about obscure ramblings masquerading as neosurreality that usually appear in their publication. Tell them that language material is just a way for those with nothing to say to cover up their failings. Tell them those paragraphs they call prose poetry are just prose; there’s no poetry in them at all. Tell them officiously as you can whatever comes to mind. Feels so good. But remember that the poetry world is small and editors in this business have a long memory. I’m sure your name goes on a list somewhere like the old 1950s Black Book with an asterisk after it.

Now, lastly, for those who bend toward the kinesthetic, hang the note from a clothesline. Take a sharp object and stab at it. Icepicks are good. Notice that the harder you attack, the less penetration you get. Put that into your poems.

Readers may send comments to, Subject line: From Under the Slush Pile. Comments may be published.
'East of East' by Pete DolackEast of East

Choosing between a flat earth and a movement


The worst aspect of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign is that one of these characters is going to have to win. Most frightening of all is that one of the flat-earthers contesting the Republican Party nomination will run in the general election and, at least in theory, could be elected.

Watching the New Hampshire debates, it was impossible not to notice that the Republican candidates were all competing over who could administer the surest punishments. And, despite their newfound nebulous promises of “change” — already 2008’s catchiest buzzword — they were all vying for the honor of being seen as the one who would continue the work of President George W. Bush.

Bush has the lowest approval ratings ever recorded by a U.S. president, so one might think this would not be the best of approaches. But then we peer at the spectacle of the “opposition” Democratic Party, who represent people who are burning with rage at the disaster of the past seven years and desperate for a reversal. But yet Democrats continue to roll in the dust at Bush’s feet, meekly capitulating to a lame-duck president who is massively unpopular and controls neither house of Congress. The latest is the “stimulus package” the Democratic congressional leaders negotiated with Bush in which the Democrats failed to get even one concrete proposal they sought — not an extension of the period in which the unemployed can receive benefits nor infrastructure projects that could provide some economic stimulus and provide jobs — but instead settled for the sure-fire gimmick of a small tax rebate to individuals masking massive giveaways to business. And Democrats are fully prepared to hand Bush a total victory on Internet privacy — allowing the U.S. government to eavesdrop on e-mail and phone communications and give the giant telecommunication companies immunity from responsibility for opening their networks to government spying. The U.S. government has a long history of spying on its citizens to weed out political dissidents, and the Bush administration is more willing to do this than the average White House gang.

If this is how the “opposition” acts, should it be any surprise that the Republican contenders are calling for more of the same, but with some extra punishments for immigrants? All this despite the fact that Bush's approval rating hovers around 30 percent while 75 percent of U.S. residents believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. The Democrats are offering “Bush-lite” despite their strenuous efforts to promote themselves as agents of “change.” (Dennis Kucinich, who dropped out of the race in January, was the exception.)

Perhaps this watered-down weak tea liberalism is best illustrated by the competing proposals for health care. Forget about the Republican proposals — they could best be described as variations on the “Don’t Get Sick Plan.” But are the Democrats really offering anything much better? No. Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards are offering plans under which the 45 million Americans currently living without health insurance will be required to buy health insurance. Oh, there will be some sort of “assistance” in the form of subsidies, but one can not help but point out that people do not go willingly without health insurance — they can’t afford it. And just how are people going to be forced to buy insurance? Fines? Jail time? These are plans to punish the victims of a miserable, inhuman system interested in profits, not human life.

Senator Barrack Obama acknowledges that people can't be made to get insurance without coercion, so he simply throws up his hands and offers some incentives while admitting that millions will remain without insurance under his plan. Obama revealed himself in the New Hampshire debates — he said if he were “designing a healthcare system from scratch” it would be a single-payer system with all included, but, alas, we are “stuck” with what we have. He therefore offers a piecemeal approach that tinkers at the edge, at best. So much for Obama’s self-touted “audacity of hope.”

All the healthcare ideas being floated by Republican and Democratic candidates have one striking commonality — they are all designed to keep the current dysfunctional system firmly in place by not only guaranteeing windfall insurance company profits, but by elevating those profits ahead of human life.

A civilized country makes healthcare a right, not a privilege. The United States is not a civilized country by this standard.

But people in the United States are continually told that having a single-payer system would be bad because it would be — gasp! – “socialized medicine.” We’re supposed to faint in horror at the mere utterance of the most dangerous word known to humanity, but, oddly, Americans seem to like having Social Security, our national government retirement plan. And no worries about stock-market crashes with it. If uttering the word “socialized” doesn’t do the trick, the favorite fallback is to declare that the government will ration healthcare. The problem here is that healthcare is already rationed by insurance company bureaucrats. And frequently denied altogether for the sake of increasing insurance company profits. The final fallback position is to simply lie — the U.S. mass media is completely dominated by large corporations and screaming right-wing fanatics, who tell us such whoppers as Canadian women are denied pain medication when giving birth.

I have certainly heard Canadians complain about their health system, but I have never heard someone who actually lives in the country make a claim such as that. Just last year, a friend of mine here in the U.S. died because he was denied medication for his heart problems, and as a result he died of a heart attack in his 50s. Such a sad occurrence happens all the time in the United States, and that will not change until a single-payer system is adopted. These sorts of tragedies will continue to be routine under any of the remaining presidential candidates’ healthcare plans.

In part this sad state of affairs will continue because none of the Democrats wishes to face the withering attacks they would face from the corporate mass media by implicitly challenging corporate power and profits, which a single-payer system would do. But this massive right-wing corporate power is not total — pressure from below, from the masses of the people, would act as a counter-pressure and change the terms of the debate. Democratic voters, by giving unconditional support without asking for anything in return, gives their candidates the freedom to move to the right, which, in turn, provides the space for the Republicans to become still more extreme. It is one thing to sell out, but what do we call it when you sell out without receiving anything in return? So many organizations have given away their endorsements and offered their help in getting out the vote, and so many voters have given Democrats free passes, that there is little or no leverage to get them to stop selling out, shifting to the right and slowly making offering more appeasements to still active, extremely dangerous religious fundamentalists.

But a big part of the problem is that Democrats are agents of Corporate America, just as are Republicans; the difference is that the two parties represent different segments and interests within the corporate elite. Those differences are real and there is serious money marking those differences, so the two parties do genuinely oppose one another. The only way out of this corporate duopoly is a radical change in the political and economic systems. But until then, while we continue to be saddled with two miserable choices that are no real choice, the majority of Americans who hope to see Bushism put behind them might well organize and make demands. We could have universal healthcare — by asking for it. We could have a social safety net again — by demanding it. And by not giving away votes, without asking anything for them.


Readers may write to Pete Dolack c/o Place "Pete Dolack Column " in the subject line of your email.
Tantra Bensko 'Strange as it May Seem Column'Strange as it May Seem


Itís Time for Fiction to Catch Up

I am here suggesting that writers look around us, directly at the world, rather than looking through the lens of acceptability. We forget that familiar lens is there, as it has become so much a part of the commercial fiction market, mass media, polite conversation. We have become so used to it, most writers may not even think of setting the lens aside. But when we do, we may pioneer a field that will nourish the people out there who question what has become traditionally acceptable. We can write more honestly about the lives so many of us in our culture are experiencing. And more publishers can open up to such topics if we push together for this to be acceptable, and the audience is already there, as evidenced by the interest in learning from alternative media about subjects which are hidden by the filters of acceptability.

Of course, many writers write scatological, perversely sexual, searingly gory, or iconoclastic works that push the range of acceptability. There is much subversive literature about going beyond gender, or genre. I am asking for something even beyond that. I am calling for writers to take the chance of being laughed at by taking subjects seriously that are serious, but that can illicit nervous laughter among some people. Let’s don’t be afraid of those people. This covert training of the public to make fun of certain topics which challenge the status quo has been done in order to protect those who want to put one over on us, and thus making the subjects inapproachable is a way of hiding. Hiding the facts is a way of disempowering the public. Let’s empower ourselves instead. Let’s not be part of that training by the media. Let’s break out of that.

Many perfectly reasonable subjects are allowed to be written about in Science Fiction, which are not broached in non-Speculative Fiction. People have been speculating about “what if” for so long, setting the scenes in this time period, because there is some likelihood that by, say, 2008, these amazing things may turn out to be true. What if there are actually other-dimensional beings, what if the New World Order secret government and military are actually mind-controlling people through all the technology they have patented and creating plagues on purpose, such as the documents suggest? What if we live in a Quantum Many Worlds Theory world which involves parallel universes? What if time travel has actually occurred successfully as the Montauk research puts forth?

If there is ample evidence for these and many other such things, why keep putting them in the realm of speculation? Why not finally, for once, honestly address those sorts of things in mainstream or experimental literary fiction that sticks to the facts and educates while entertaining? What if our sense of reality itself has been an illusion all along, and we are different from what we have been led to believe? Can we explore the very nature of humanity and the essence of life rather than going on and on with one plot after another that accepts the consensus version? Can we write about it outside the Sci Fi formula, as innovative fiction?

How can we truly write accurately about actual real fleshed-out characters if we don’t include a full world around them? There are subjects which, when we submit to mainstream, will be off-limit. The is supposed to be nothing about aliens, or the agents of the New World Order pretending to be aliens, as our example, because that is only for Sci Fi. In Sci Fi, we can’t just tell a normal, human tale set in the present, which includes aliens, because that is not for Sci Fi. There is no genre open for this particular subject. It is as if it cannot be considered, simply does not exist. There are other topics not allowed in any available genre, which are the very topics people are abuzz about, desperately logging in hours in forums searching, networking, reading. This essay is a call for magazines as well to open their doors to what will truly satisfy a growing sector of our society. There is a gap in submissions. This needs to be remedied.

The world does indeed include a huge number of well-documented studies of abductions, with evidence worth paying attention to suggesting that it could be aliens and some which are undeniably humans. Sometimes one pretends to be the other. The aliens, or the humans pretending to be aliens, are apparently involved in creating hybrid races, which many, many have documented seeing, and they tell us many lies to pull this off. This is a fiction worth exploring in fiction. The illusion of who is whom, and what is what, as it is breaking down around us more than ever these days.

The world does include a vast storehouse of information of the corruption of the government and its mind-control, enslaving programs using multiple-personality syndrome, non-lethal weapons — Cointelpro continued into our century — and deceits perpetrated upon the public are now more out in the open than ever.

The world does include telepathy and various other psychic phenomenon, as well as spiritual experiences of expanded states of consciousness, such as those experienced with Kundalini awakenings. There are quantum discussions of Many Worlds Theory which leave one to believe this is the true nature of the world, not Sci Fi. Books such as the Montauk Project set published by Peter Moon have suggested that time travel is a given, and has been going on for decades. Peter Moon is a perfect example of the kind of writing I am promoting here, and he has launched into fiction with his excellent, recent book, Spandau Mystery, in which he explore the hidden history left out by the official books that create the lie of our society.

The myths of our society that become religion face the public reluctance to delve into that in literature for fear of stepping on toes. While people pretend to be going into the real histories that are behind the scenes, they still go on the assumption that Jesus existed as a human. Rarely is religious history shown in literature to include the myriad other Messiahs throughout the world with the same history as Jesus. For example, Mithra, who was born to a virgin in a cave on December twenty-fifth. At about age 30 he began his ministry with twelve disciples. Known as the “Redeemer,” “Way, the Truth and the Light,” the “Saviour” as well as the “Messiah”; he also was labelled the “Good Shepherd” and the lamb of God. After his Last Supper with wine symbolizing his blood, and wafers for his body, he was buried in a tomb for three days until he resurrected. While I am not saying all fiction should include any of these topics, these are waiting to be mined now, in a more truthful way than ever. I think the public may be ready.

We really can write about those things in a truthful sense, without distortion into the imaginary, can’t we? I would like to see more people writing in a new literary genre I call “Lucid Fiction.” While authors may already write about such things, they still change the stories from the facts about the world, and people are thrown off the track. To some degree, this is often necessary to avoid censorship, especially in any mass media markets. Right now, we have to make a difficult decision about how vocal to be, considering the government’s criminalization of the truth. But as a group, maybe we need to stand up and just say “No Way!” We can get away with the truth safely than the brave journalists writing in alternative media. Perhaps now it is up to us.

People have a hunger to know the truth, and are drawn to literature that helps them understand it, that makes them feel they are getting closer to insight into their own lives inspires them to do something about what they see going on around them. Let’s take advantage of our opportunity to educate readers who want to learn more. Yes, there may be some danger in telling the truth, though less in fiction than in non-fiction. But is there not more danger in letting people get away with orchestrating a mass illusion because no one will write about it? Is there not more danger in perpetrating limited ideas of human nature, rather than allowing for its expansiveness?

I also call this genre “Lucid Fiction” not only because is it shedding clear light on factual reality, but because it also allows the fictional sense we have of reality to glow from within. It lights up what has been going on politically that people are just now willing to admit in the vast majority. It lights up the common theory about our human social or religious history, our physics theories, evolutionary theory, and shows them for what they are. They are fiction. They are not fact. The idea that they are fact has been perpetrated on us by those it benefits. We have believed it. But now, we are realizing that is a fiction, a manipulated illusion, or, sometimes, just a best guess. As the outdated notions fall away, it is time for fiction to catch up and portray the new insights without fear.

I am particularly interested in the fiction of the very nature of reality becoming lucid. Our fiction itself can wake up, can become transparent, and we can look vertically instead of along the usual horizontal plot arc of the traditional story. I grow tired of one fictional work after another presenting one more story based on needs and desires thwarted and gained, romantic love lost and found, murders solved, and so forth. As I see it, and as metaphysical teachers would suggest throughout the history of the world, these are part of the fiction that our higher selves have chosen to live in these incarnated individual lives. They are part of the Maya, or illusion that we are trapped in these seemingly separate bodies. We are more than that, and can’t we write fiction that explores the cracking apart of this fiction that we are such limited beings with only the small perspective on life that is normally assigned to the unenlightened?

Can’t we write more from the viewpoint of enlightened awareness, including not only these lower selves but the higher selves and connections? Can’t fiction sometimes take us flying out of the morass of plot, into the state of being that goes beyond plot, that glows from pure being, pure bliss of expanded states, beyond boundaries, beyond physical gratification? That is what I am calling for from my heart.


Readers may write to Tantra Benski c/o Place "Strange as it May Seem " in the subject line of your email.
'Dear New York' by Debbie Ann EisDear New York


Dear New York,

Hey sweetie. I know I just wrote, but I'm not writing about me. I am forwarding this strange letter from Arnold. Remember Arnold, my friend the cockroach? He left you about the same time as I did? New York, let me tell you, Arnold has changed! And guess where he is?

I didn't even know he was in the country. I though he went on that boat across the ocean. Anyway, I'll let you read this, sweetie. Then please write me!


To: Katy Did

From: Arnold

Dear Katy,

How's it going, Doll? I'm sorry I never wrote, but I've been busy. And hungry. The boat didn't work out and I ended up on a truck. Long story. And one that I will tell you later. First, I have to tell you what happened to me here. Man!

I got to make this quick, cause it's a strange world I'm in.

Anyways, a few weeks back, I wake up smelling that sticky round food the creatures eat. I figure there are crumbs around cause I heard them up late last night, crunching. I tried to get a good look at where they kept the food, but I can't do much with these antennas announcing my presence. Ya gotta watch it around here. They see you and next thing you know they get that cloud can. And when that fog comes your way. Whoa! Forgettaboutit, Jack. Those are some mean thunderstorms you don't want to be in.

We lost Seemore that way. He smelled some food one morning, and, being born with a head not fit for a cricket, (no offense, Katy, just saying…) marched out there, sticking his antennas into everything like some jackass. Bam! They blasted his butt good. He goes nutso, flying around, crashing into chairs, finally landing on the table. All of them, at least the ones with the bumpy chests, were making high-pitched noises. So then a fat one removes his black foot and holds it way up in the air. I ducked back into the crack right before the slap. It was a bad thing.

Anyways, when I wake up, I'm ready to search for leftovers from the night before. I open my eyes, but I'm not in the wall. I'm right out in the open, and everything is in my face. And those huge pieces of round food I saw on the ground the night before are now so small they wouldn't nourish a baby ant. I'm talking nothing.

But, hey, I'm cool. I figure I just get back to the wall, and Louie and I will take the vent to another place. Sometimes these other rooms have food nearby.

So I try to move, and I can only feel four legs. Like I lost two legs.

I'm freaking out, let me tell you, Katy. Oh and get this. The crack? Gone. It's like this slit now.

I go, "Hey, Louie. Out here!" Nothing. I go, "Come on, Louie. I'm on the floor out here, and I can't fit in the crack no more. And I only got four legs and they're useless. I can't move, I tell ya. Come out here."

When I see the antennas, I am beyond freaking. Louie is smaller than my nose. He peeks out, then runs back in real fast. I go, "Come on Louie! Hey, it's me, Arnold. I'm out by the food box."

Here come the antennas again. Louie always was a cowardly ass. He finally comes out, looking pretty grungy now that he's so small. I don't know, but I have this urge to step on him. Just a real quick urge. I don't do it, but it sure is tempting. He goes, "Arnold, you're one of them! Christ! You're one of them!"

I sit up and take inventory of myself. I look over my four legs, the top ones kind of puny and spread out into five parts at the end, the bottom ones big. Well damned if I don't look just like them. Then the next thing I notice is all this stuff on me that can come right off. Like removable fur or something. But it isn't fur. It's light and covers my chest and legs. And at the end of my bottom legs I got those removable feet, like the kind that got Seemore.

So I grab a chair and pull myself up. I stand on my bottom legs, the way I see them do, you know. I go, "Hey, Louie. This ain't so bad." I start thinking about the donuts, and it occurs to me. I go, "Hey Louie. This crap on the ground just ain't gonna do it no more. Know what I mean?"

Louie is back at the crack, peeking out. I bend over and put my ear practically to the floor so I can hear him. He goes, "Arnold don't go getting ideas about all the food in this place. You could suck down the whole joint now. Then where would that leave all us?"

I go, "Louie, like duh? How am I gonna find enough scrap? And how am I gonna fit back inside the wall?"


"Hello? When they come, do you expect me to stand out here and chat? I gotta get inside the wall."

"You can't fit in here with me. Maybe there're bigger cracks or something."

The footsteps don't sound as loud when you're as big as them, so Louie hears them first and disappears. The door opens and here I am, standing by Louie's crack, like some idiot waiting to greet these monsters who smashed my buddy Seemore and blew clouds all over our house.

The creature comes in and I figure my ass is fried. His eyes get wide and he looks like he is surprised or frightened or something. He's one of those I've seen late at night breeding. The old round ones come in here and breed. Weird. Anyway, he goes, "Hey sir!" I nod my head. He goes, "The meeting is about to start. I was going to grab some water."

I go, "I was hungry so."

He says, "Well, not much on the agenda today." He stands like this a while, his hands tucked inside an opening in the fur on his hips. I keep quiet. "We first gotta meet with the cattle lobbyists. Same ole thing, you know — a dead cow is a dead cow, so what if it got sick first. Our boys will always need Texas, so we've got a bill that will look good to the public."

I'm thinking, bill? Is that food?

He makes that loud blasting sound they all make. He goes, "We got a staff guy helping out with our boys' bills now. We're going to put him on speeches, too." He leans so close to me I'm like scared he's gonna bite me or something. "Real creative. Used to write fiction. He wrote it up to say we will test all cows. What it won't say is what we will test them for. That's in the fine print." He smiles, like he has something real good inside his mouth. "Measles. We test them for measles. What cow has measles, right?"

He stops when the thing on the wall makes those bird sounds. He picks up half of it and talks. "Yeah. Well, show them to the conference room. Have them sell the Super Bowl tickets to Martha downstairs, like for ten dollars. I'll get them from her. OK?" He puts the thing back together. "Sir, it's time to go to committee."

My legs feel slightly unstable, but I manage to follow him. I turn around before I leave and wink at Louie, peeking out the crack. I go, real soft so only Louie can hear, "Go figure. Maybe there'll be some donuts there."

Anyways, so that's where I'm at, Doll. I don't see Louie much. And, like, I found some friends here just like me. They got here, hid in the cracks, living off them pieces of food on the ground. Then blamo — their ass turned into a creature. Weird, huh?

Write me back! And give my regards to New York when you write her, OK?



Can you believe this, New York? Write me!

Katy Did


Readers may write to D. A. Eis c/o Place "Dear New York Column" in the subject line of your email.
'Your Man at the OED' by Domenick CapobiancoYour Man at the OED

Ask Your Man at The OED.
This from Chumbly E. of Manchester.


Dear Mr. Man at The OED:

What is the meaning of bettong?

Dear Chumbly:

The Bettong was a New York City Chinese gang, now extinct. They religiously believed that if one bet often enough one would eventually win and they saw winning as the purpose of life. Unfortunately, they never realized that they had to count their losses. The club had a life span of a little under three weeks and was reorganized into The Dontbettong which has not only survived but has managed to successfully keep its books balanced.

There is a Dontbettong club on the corner of Broome and Eldridge streets in New York's Chinatown. It has by now been reduced to six members who sit and sun themselves all day. It is said, by non-member Chinese, to be "very boring club, most exciting moment monthly financial report."


From Bill S. of Stradford


What is the meaning of flocculate. I overheard it in a tea room.

Dear Bill:

Flocculate is sometimes a verb, sometimes a noun. It is a process used during extreme cases of constipation, done with or without drilling. When drilling, the flocculent (noun) is a lubricant, but when used without the drilling it is a method (verb) for breaking up large masses into smaller masses.

During the 19th century, before the need for fiber in the diet was known, there were many more cases of constipation then there are in these enlightened times. There existed then 'flocculators' (noun), specialists in the process. It was a highly respected profession and the dream of many a father that their daughters would marry one, so lucrative was the practice. Many mothers then were fond of dropping, in company, the line, "My son the flocculator."


From B. Wrigley Spinosa, Barneston


I came across the word waddy and tried, without success, to look it up, Can you help me?


Dear Wrigley:

Waddy n. A fat person; is also used for the plural, fat persons.

Waddy is a relatively new word in the American language — it has now spread to our England — and it has an interesting birth.

The late 20th century ended with the general population being reluctant to offend and an insistence on being politically correct. This resulted in some things being impossible to talk about.

At the same time, the rise in overweight persons in America went to an all-time high. Some estimates put two out of every three persons being overweight with one out of three being severely overweight.

The subject, however, was taboo. Doctors and dietitians were in a bind, helpless.

Eight-year-old Jonathan Percy Sylvester of Anglewood, Kansas — who is not overweight — was informed of the problem in a social studies class. He wrote a letter to the local newspaper, The Anglewood Bi-Weekly , suggesting that, since the words "fat" and "overweight" were taboo, the word "waddy" could be used since — in his words — "fat people waddy when walking."

President George W. Bush then created and immediately awarded Percy "The Children's Medal of Honor" for "having contributed to the American language a sufficiently important and needed new word."

At the awards ceremony Percy was told by Mr. Bush that when he dies he has the option of being buried at Arlington National cemetery. This made Percy very happy.


Got a word that you do not know the meaning and origin of? Write to:

Man At The OED
Strand Towers 15th Fl.
688 Nelson Place
London SE, England


Readers may write to Domenick Capobianco c/o Place "Domenick Capobianco Column " in the subject line of your email.
Lockie ConfidentialsLockie Confidentials
Solutions to Your Most Profound Questions
by Lockie Hunter

Confidential to Perplexed About Personal Ads in Poughkeepsie

It can be daunting…all those abbreviations. Lockie is here to help. With the practical guide below I am certain that you will manage to find the man/woman/BFF/spanking partner/political running mate/companion of your dreams.



DDF-Drug/Disease Free

DDFA- Dirty Daddy Favors Asians

FTA - Fun Travel Adventure or:

FTA- Fond of T and A

GSOH - Good Sense Of Humor

GSOS- Good sense Of Smell

GBF- Gay Black Female

GUG- Gay Until Graduation

GUDFO- Gay Until Daddy Finds Out

GLLT- Goth Likes Long Toenails

HWP - Height and Weight Proportional

HWPI- Happy Wiccan Prefers Irishman

HWPIB –Have Weird Problems In Bed

LDS-Latter Day Saints

RC- Recovering Catholic

LTR- Long Term Relationship

LSPOT-Light Spanking Preferred on Tuesdays

MM-Marriage Minded

MMM-M&M Minded


NSA-Nervous Sex Addict

NSAF-Normal Seeming At First

NF- Nietzsche Fan

ROYGBIV- Red, orange, yellow green blue indigo violet. An mnemonic for remembering the colors of the rainbow…or

ROYGBIV-Roy, Gay Black Into Vegans

SWM- Single White Male

SWP- Sadomasochist With a Plan

SDDIBP- Sugar Daddy in Big Pants


Confidential to Tongue Tied in Toledo

Brandy has always helped me loosen my tongue. Tequila works as well. If that fails, next time the mother-in-law has you searching for just the right words, then I suggest you abandon words altogether and try gestures. There are many creative ways to communicate your displeasure without saying a word. Good luck!

Confidential to He's Never Leaving His Wife, Is He?

No. He's not. Sadly, I too was once the other woman. Listen to your girlfriends. It's never worth it. Unless of course there are diamonds.

Readers may write to Lockie Hunter c/o Place "Lockie Confidentials" in the subject line of your email.
Fatima Shahnaz ColumnThe Hot Zone



The seismic upheavals rocking the South Asian subcontinent at year’s end 2007 are a grim replay of the devastation that gripped this area in the aftermath of the tsunami of Christmas 2005. The single defining feature this time is that the political turmoil today is an ominous symptom of more to come: unlike the killer wave, a maelstrom of fear and death follow in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan’s former premier, Benazir Bhutto.

This global syndrome escalates the festering wounds of asymmetric warfare, “the terrorist international,” that have metastasized since 9/11. No longer is the land of Gandhi shielded from the bloody seepage of Iraq, the spillover of the chaos scenario played out in southwest Asia. Neighboring countries bordering Pakistan such as India dread the fallout of political anarchy that has made the Islamic state, and America’s “loyal ally,” Pakistani General Parvez Musharraf, the epicenter of two oxymoronic forces: the war against terrorism and the war against Islam. As defined by the “clash of civilizations” dogma (scripted by former British imperialists), both mean the same today. Muslims have become synonymous with “terrorists” in the modern political lexicon. This, then, may be the first stigma of Orwellian “doublespeak” that needs to be de-codified these days.

The second, more sinister outgrowth of trends may be the codification of “double-entendres” around the significance of “democracy” (read: “regime change” or “world dictatorship”). Such, unfortunately, is the depth of the “anti-Americanist” paranoia coloring mindsets on the subcontinent, and through much of Asia. The U.S. “revolution in military affairs,” as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld named it in 2003, evokes a visual imagery of World War II and storm-troopers of the Third Reich in a militaristic putsch through Europe. The privatization of the military that followed this “revolution” regurgitated violations such as those involving Blackwater, the private security company mired in scandals in Iraq. British and Israeli contractors are equally tainted in similar subcontracting deals with the United States, and the BAE arms scandal involving the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia display the seedy underbelly of how military ethics have been “revolutionized,” blurring the lines between covert ops and conventional military practice — or “terrorism” and military institutions.

The key question hovering over Asia after Bhutto’s murder is no longer “whodunnit?” It is merely a matter of: Who next? Asian fatalism, like the proverbial elephant, has a long memory: The Mahatma, Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv, like Bhutto’s own father, former Prime Minister Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, were all martyred, murdered or subject to legalized execution, as was Bhutto. The nagging question is whether any patriotic Asian leader will survive this mass extermination campaign, and, inevitably, the finger points to the old arch-nemesis hovering over the subcontinent: the British empire. Some inner circles in the political sectors of the Indian capital, Delhi, suspect the hand of British foreign intelligence, MI6, in the latest Bhutto assassination. As in the Kennedy assassination, the string of official cover-ups has already been unleashed, although it no longer really matters who the assassins are. A fact of more global concern is why they did it? Cui Bono? Who benefits?

In this paradigm, the problem crosses geographic and ideological boundaries, underlining the pandemic civilizational dysfunctions stemming from a systemic financial breakdown. Financial analysts who saw the iceberg long before the Titanic struck rang alarmist bells no sooner had the Bush-Cheney administration placed the ship on automatic pilot in 2000. The United States was headed for an internal economic collapse even then, causing the rudderless economy to lose its moral compass as the world’s leading democracy. The rest, as the scribes say, is history: the endemic paralysis of the Democratic Party majority is merely one symptom of the broader breakdown. While free-market economics were touted through “globalization” overseas, they sugarcoated the bitter pill of an international financial dictatorship that disempowered Third World governments, under the collective power of private financier interests. Economic systems teetered on the edge of unpredictability, spiraling into the dollar collapse, the mortgage and automobile industry crisis in the United States, and the general breakdown of social institutions such as healthcare, pensions and others that ravage Americans themselves.

How, then, asks the educated enquirer in the Third World, can the First World continue to maintain Kissinger’s “balance of power,” Brzezinski’s “spheres of influence” or any other neo-Caesarian visions of messianic conquest and world domination? The rejection of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal by masses of the Indian public across the political board sends a loud and clear message of rebuttal both to the “Iraqification” plan, and to a Western hegemon in Asia. It is political reductionism and denial to minimize the debate as a contest between American capitalism and a residual Left-wing in India soured after the demise of Soviet communism.The rejection runs much deeper in the Asian psyche. And as the chips fall where they may, or pawns, puppets and stooges are played or “eliminated” on the global chessboard, the old Eastern mythography prevails: the wounded tiger, it is believed, kills. Its rampage is as deadly as its bloody molars. Leaving a trail of death and destruction, it maims, tortures and feeds its predatory instincts before it, too, succumbs to its own flesh-wounds.

The only question is how many victims it will consume before that wretched end. The real challenge confronting Asia is not Osama bin Laden and his mythical hordes. The real challenge is: Who will bell the rabid killer Beast whose lethal supra-militaristic fangs terrorize the world?


Readers may write to Fatima Shahnaz c/o Place "Fatima Shahnaz" in the subject line of your email.
Mad Hatters' Review, Edgy and Enlightened Literature, Art and Music in the Age of Dementia
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