Sunday, June 24, 2007

Truest statement of the week

AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy, how often do you get to talk about war at school?
JIMMY PRESSON: We very rarely to never talk about the war through the curriculum. In classes in which we discuss current events, we are required to not bring in current events that relate to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, what do you mean? What about social studies or history?
JIMMY PRESSON: In history classes, the current events that we bring in are -- we've been instructed to have the articles be unrelated to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: You're not allowed to talk about war in your history class?
JIMMY PRESSON: We're not allowed to talk about the war.
JIMMY PRESSON: Because it's too controversial, I guess. Because they don't want kids arguing in class.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any class that you can talk about it?
JIMMY PRESSON: We can talk about it a little bit in Middle Eastern studies, a little bit, but it's not even that much in that class.
BONNIE DICKINSON: That class is not offered.
JIMMY PRESSON: Every year. It's only offered every other year.
AMY GOODMAN: So this past year, it wasn't offered?
JIMMY PRESSON: It was not offered this past year.
AMY GOODMAN: So the only class to discuss this was in drama?

-- Democracy Now!, June 20, 2007, "War and Censorship at Wilton High: Connecticut High School Students Perform Play on NY Stage After Ban by Principal." See also Amy Goodman's "War and Censorship at Wilton High" (Truthdig).

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Sunday and we're making fairly good time for us. (Dona swears when she's done with her diet soda and two more cigarettes, the edition is done, whether or not the note is.)

First let's note this week's credits:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
and Wally of The Daily Jot

All of the above worked on this edition as did Dallas and we also thank Isaiah for the use of one of his comics.

What have you got?


It's our third annual summer read edition. Yes, there have been two others. The archives are a joke but you can refer to "The summer reads" from last April for links to the summer 2006 edition and the summer 2005 edition. If you check the dates (Jess just did, Dona was curious), we are about the same time period this year as in 2005 but we are several weeks behind 2006.
That may have been why we felt like we were running late on this all month.

Truest statement of the week -- an interview by Amy Goodman that everyone should know about.

Editorial: Iraq silences -- our editorial for this week on the silences surrounding Iraq and wondering why Congress is the only thing disgusting many people currently.

TV: Hidden Yawns -- Ava and C.I. go creative for this review to fit the summer read edition. They'd planned to do something with this show last week, when it was planned that we'd be doing the summer edition before events changed that. In this commentary, Ava and C.I. visit Hidden Yawns, er Palms, and find out what's what.

Base Is Hell -- We had twenty ideas coming into this session but an ex-Marine saw our list Friday and suggested we do something on the "cushy commanders." We're always open to suggestions from people we know. C.I. adds, "Don't say 'ex,' he's in IRR and, as we've seen with
Liam Madden, Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh, the brass doesn't consider a discharge a discharge anymore." (That also cleverly allows the third set of links for Madden, Richards and Kokesh this edition.) We read the first draft over the phone to our friend right before midnight. He said good but punch it up. We did. This is also the closest we have to a sci-fi piece.

The Tired Tryst -- This was the hardest one to get a handle on. There were probably ten drafts of this until Elaine asked, "What was that thing on Bruce Springsteen back in the 80s?" C.I. immediately said, "Tama Janowitz' 'You and the Boss'?" Yes, said Elaine. Did anyone have a copy of that? C.I. found one. (It ran in Spin's November 1985 issue.) The piece, about a groupie who waylays Bruce Springsteen's first wife to take her place, was written in second person ("you") and with that and Janowitz's own tale, we found our way into this on the eleventh try. In this short story, YOU get to sleep with Bono.

The Asbury Park Murder -- Susan and Dale both e-mailed back in May asking if we could offer some sort of mystery. Susan wanted it so badly, she said "even a really bad attempt would do." Susan, we may have pleased you. (Though not exceeded your expectation!)

Creation Theory -- Barack Ba-Boring gets born.

Samantha Power Between Her Knees -- We were listening to the Tori Amos collection (Tales of a Librarian) a lot recently and it includes "Sweet Dreams" (about Poppy Bush) and the line, "You've even got their zipper between your teeth" which led us to ponder other things. Ty's saying right now, this actually is a sci-fi piece. In this tale, a woman encounters Samantha Powers and is invaded.

Cut The Fat! Newt Takes It Off! -- C.I. had nixed another advice column from Cokie ("too simple unless someone's got something extra to add") which left us wondering what else we could do and "a diet book" was proposed. Who better to write one than Newt! We wrote 12 pieces and whittled them down to what we felt were the best six (after Ty and C.I. pulled a prose poem that they'd worked on).

So that's what you've got and, on this end, we think it's better than 2006 which none of us have still yet to read over since it published. How does it fare compared to 2005? We don't want to make that judgement. We're just glad we're able to post with minimal embarrassment.

Hopefully, you'll enjoy the summer read, fiction edition. If not, take comfort in the fact that you don't have to see it again for twelve more months.

Highlight -- No one caught that it was "Highlight" and not "Highlights" until it posted. We thank Mike, Betty, Wally, Rebecca, Cedric and Elaine for doing this feature.

Ava and C.I. bonus -- If you missed it, doubtful judging by the e-mails that came in, Ava and C.I. did a joint-entry at The Common Ills Tuesday. We repost it here this week.

And that's it. We'll see you next weekend.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Iraq silences

The young combat veteran stared at the letter in disbelief when it arrived in his mailbox a few months ago.
The Marine Corps was recommending him for "other than honorable discharge." The letter alleged he had violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by wearing part of his uniform during an anti-war rally. Furthermore, the letter accused him of being "disloyal," a word hard to swallow for a man who had risked his life to serve his nation.
"All this because I have publicly opposed the war in Iraq since I came back from it," said former Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, 22.
Madden is not alone.

So begins Kirsten Scharnberg's "Veterans: Military curbing free speech" (Chicago Tribune).
Liam Madden is not alone, Scharnberg is quite correct. Already Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh have also been targeted. Scharnberg tells you Richards has been certified 80% disabled as a result of wounds received in Iraq. But that didn't stop the military brass from strong arming him. It's a strange kind of "thank you" which sounds more like an F-you.

And it really hasn't been a focus in All Things Media Big and Small. Among the outlets that have consistently refused to address it are The New York Times and The Nation magazine. Strange when you consider how both love to work themselves up into a free speech frenzy on even the most trivial of minors (see Plamegate on the first and Howard Stern on the second). But, when you think about it, for most media, big or small, Iraq really is nothing but trivia.

The low flying Moonbat is at it again calling for an end to air travel. While anything that keeps the Moonbat on his side of the pond is supported in theory, has anyone stopped to ask him when he intends to write about the air war in Iraq? Surely those flights are far more damaging as are the chemicals that have been used in Iraq. Moonbat is aware, right, that the Poodle is stepping down and England's about to 'crown' Gordon Brown? He is aware that England remains the chief supporter of the illegal war. (John Howard talks big but, when it's time to send troops, he knows Australians have severely tied his hands there.) With Brown coming in, perhaps Moonbat could try focusing on Iraq for just two weeks? One if two is taxing for the fair weather fellow.

"A chill winding is blowing in this nation," warned Tim Robbins in a speech to the Washington Press Club on April 15, 2003. If anything's changed in that time, it's largely that many now censor themselves -- not out of fear but out of . . . boredom?

While the US military brass tries to silence Iraq Veterans Against the War (Kokesh, at the kangaroo hearing this month, was asked if he was a "card carrying member" of IVAW), we learn that our public schools also censor. From last week's Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy, how often do you get to talk about war at school?
JIMMY PRESSON: We very rarely to never talk about the war through the curriculum. In classes in which we discuss current events, we are required to not bring in current events that relate to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, what do you mean? What about social studies or history?
JIMMY PRESSON: In history classes, the current events that we bring in are -- we've been instructed to have the articles be unrelated to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: You're not allowed to talk about war in your history class?
JIMMY PRESSON: We're not allowed to talk about the war.
JIMMY PRESSON: Because it's too controversial, I guess. Because they don't want kids arguing in class.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any class that you can talk about it?
JIMMY PRESSON: We can talk about it a little bit in Middle Eastern studies, a little bit, but it's not even that much in that class.
BONNIE DICKINSON: That class is not offered.
JIMMY PRESSON: Every year. It's only offered every other year.
AMY GOODMAN: So this past year, it wasn't offered?
JIMMY PRESSON: It was not offered this past year.
AMY GOODMAN: So the only class to discuss this was in drama?

High school students who can enlist (if they are 18, on their own; younger, with their parents permission or via the delayed entry program) are attending a public school while their country is engaged in (an illegal) war and the topic is forbidden? Exactly what does Wilton High School believe it is preparing its students for?

The chill wind Tim Robbins spoke of has become a gust of apathy for too many. We're not speaking of the public whose opposition to the illegal war only continues to grow. We're speaking of our institutions like schools and the press. We're speaking of our vacationing press that largely takes a pass on Iraq unless some event really forces them to address for a few minutes every now and then.

Writing at OpEdNews (which does address Iraq daily), Timothy V. Gatto rightly calls out Congressional cowardice. But what about press cowardice? Especially within independent media? The illegal war has certainly added to the disgust with the Bully Boy and helped drive up circulation and listenership, but where's the focus on Iraq?

Charlie Gibson recently demonstrated on ABC's so-called World News Tonight that Iraq 'coverage' could be reduced to two minutes of airtime in a week's worth of broadcasts and where's the outcry?

The House of Representatives, last week, voted to recommission the James Baker Circle Jerk. For those who have forgotten, the James Baker Circle Jerk was the right-leaning group tasked to study Iraq and report back with proposals. Few in independent media called it out -- in fact several names endorsed it, including one who had a snit fit when Laura Flanders rightly criticized it -- but the privatization of oil? That's in the Circle Jerk's report.

Now Congress, elected with a mandate on Iraq in 2006, Democrats reclaiming both houses, wants to outsource their own job so that they can hide behind a right leaning group. Americans didn't vote them back in power to cower and hide. As for right leaning, supposed bi-partisanship, the 2006 elections didn't result in a split down the middle in the House so why the House feels that they need to now bend to the right to end the illegal war is a mystery.

It's also a mystery how 'benchmarks' get portrayed as so benevolent by the press and there's no outcry. The administration can dispatch one person after another to Iraq to strong arm the puppet Nouri al-Maliki about the theft of Iraqi oil but mention women's rights and they go silent. They don't even send out Laura Bush on another charm offensive on that topic. Women are suffering in Iraq and, when the illegal war is over, will continue to suffer because of the Constitution the US pushed through. But no one from the administration is rushing to the heavily fortified Green Zone to address that topic.

And last week, [PDF format warning] the "Independent Report on Iraq" was released and who bothered to cover it? On last week's CounterSpin, Janine Jackson interviewed Celine Nahory, who co-authored the report, about it. Jackson noted that the only mainstream coverage she'd seen was a write up by AFP. Jackson wondered if the fact that it's been greeted with so much silence has to do with the revelations in the report that the US military is responsible for so many Iraqi deaths?

Oh, you say, what about all that good reconstruction work going on? From chapter eight of the report:

Iraq faces a growing humanitarian emergency, with unprecedented death and displacement. As of April 2007, the United Nations estimated that up to 8 million people were vulnerable and in need of immediate assistance. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been forced to flee from their homes and hundreds of thousands more are casualties of the violence through death and injury. Education has broken down. Unemployment has reached about 60% and the annual inflation rate peaked at about 70% in July 2006. An estimated 54% of the Iraqi population lives on less than a dollar day, among capacity. Electricity is in short supply. Only 32% of Iraqis have access to clean drinking water. The Public Distribution System food ration has stopped functioning in certain areas of the country, leaving 4 million Iraqis acutely vulnerable due to food insecurity. Severe malnutrition doubled between 2003 and 2005. Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level that compares with some of the world's most urgent calamities.

Links to the report (all PDF format) are:

Executive Summary [Read] [French]

Map of Major Coalition Attacks, Bases and Prisons [See map]

Political Map of Iraq [See map]

1. Introduction [Read]

2. Destruction of Cultural Heritage [Read]

3. Indiscriminate and Especially Injurious Weapons [Read]

4. Unlawful Detention [Read]

5. Abuse and Torture of Prisoners [Read]

6. Attacks on Cities [Read]

7. Killing Civilians, Murder and Atrocities [Read]

8. Displacement and Mortality [Read]

9. Corruption, Fraud and Gross Malfeasance [Read]

10. Long-Term Bases and the New Embassy Compound [Read]

11. Other Issues [Read]- Iraqi Public Opinion and the Occupation- Cost of the War and Occupation

12. Conclusion and Recommendations [Read]

There's enough in the report for several broadcast of Nightline or a full issue of The Nation but we won't count on encountering either.

Citizens have fought back against the "chill wind" in the last four years. It's only our media that's fallen silent.

TV: Hidden Yawns

The way Jim hard sold it to us, we should have been suspicious. The ultimate nearby get away. As though we were headed to La Costa Hotel in San Diego. He hyped it and piped it up so much we should have known this was the face to face version of a pitch for a time share. You may have already won a black & white TV!

Still, we loaded up the car and headed to Palm Springs, a sub-section, apparently new, entitled Hidden Palms. It all sounded so sticky and, frankly, prepubescent.

One look at a guy striving hard to be the local dreamboat, Johnny Miller (Taylor Handley), and we knew we'd been hyped. Johnny was working that whole nice guy teen routine overtime -- hard to buy with the ridiculous bleach job going on up top and the non-existent body tone around the mid-riff as he dashed here and there around the pool, sporting plenty of crack in his sagging swim trunks. Johnny said he was a teenager but we'd place his age easily at 24. Just one more California wanna-be, if you asked us.

We waited and waited for someone to bring over some fresh towels. What could be the hold up? Then we looked out a window and saw young Liza Witter (Ellary Porterfield) spend hours making goo-goo eyes at Johnny before making time to dig around in Cliff Wiatt's pants. She seemed to be the only worker at Hidden Palms and really intent on feeling around inside Cliff's pants so we decided not to bother her. Besides, a gal lusting after Jason Hervey lookalike Johnny had enough problems. Instead, we headed for the club house.

Big mistake. Club house? More like the old folks home. There was Karen Hardy (Gail O'Grady) and her second husband Bob Hardy (D.W. Moffett) obsessing dully over Karen's son, 'young' Johnny. We couldn't blame Karen for repeatedly steering the conversation to Johnny. We'd probably do the same thing if we were married to Bob. We'd talk about Johnny, the cosmos and maybe even the second season of California Dreams if it kept Bob at arm's length. We tried to corner her and explain that, thanks to the brave and pioneering work of Cher, hot babes across the country need never again be saddled with decaying structures just because he might be your same age.

Skip Matthews (Kyle Secor) was giving us the once over from across the room and looking like he thought he hit the lotto. We laughed wondering if sleeping with him required changing his Depends before or after sex?

Skip? Who would sleep with a man over forty who answered to Skip? The only thing more comical than his name was his hairdo. Bangs? We'd noticed Bob sported them too. Was it Peter Pan Night?

Just then a jealous looking Tess Wiatt (Sharon Lawrence) saddled up to Bob and muttered something about offering the name of her plastic surgeon who could take care of those "lower lids for you."

Oh good. It wasn't just us who'd noticed how elderly all the men looked despite obvious and repeated use of Just For Men hair coloring. Maybe she'd next explain that, when coloring your hair, the trick was to go for shades and highlights and not look like you just squirted a bottle of shoe polish on your head?

Nikki Barnes (Tessa Thompson) hurried through the room and over to the bar. She was 23 but trying to play underage -- and then wondering why it was so difficult to then get a drink? We walked toward her but she hissed, "Don't speak to me. I'm only the token. Sometimes it's a gay male and sometimes, like me, it's an African-American female." Downing her drink, she grabbed her subplots and was out of there.

Far less shy was Greta Matthews (Amber Head) who walked up in search of advice for looking like she belonged. We suggested she lose the raccoon eye make up, do something with the hair and learn to dress worth sh*t. Sighing, she hurried off saying she needed to find Johnny but, we're sure, she was just anxious to follow up on our suggestions and discover the world of style. Then again, maybe she just wanted to find a mirror and practice her pouting some more?

Cliff (Michael Cassidy) was leering at us now. As if, Cliff, as if. He explained he was the local bad boy and, due to his excited, high pitched and girlish voice, we had had to wonder just how sheltered the region was? When not speaking in a range that only dogs can decipher, he repeatedly fluttered his hands to the point that we had to stop him and ask if he did magic tricks?

He laid a tired and bad line on us so, like any women not confined to the world of Hidden Palms, we ditched him and went of search of life, if not excitement.

We found it in the form of Liza. Who, for the record, had still not brought us fresh towels. She was obviously upset so we let the lack of service issue slide.

"Eddie Nolan is dead," she informed us as she snuck glances to make sure no one else was listening.

Eddie who?

"Nolan! He's dead!"

"Did he just die?" we asked.

"No, he died months ago!"

Well shouldn't that be, Eddie Nolan is still dead?

We didn't know Eddie Nolan, we'd never seen Eddie Nolan, he'd died long before we'd arrived so we're supposed to care why?

"He was dealing with a lot of issues," Liza went on, ignoring us. "He hated Tennyson. He found the writing pretentious."

We exchanged a look. Alfred Tennyson? That passed for pop cult refs in this part of California? We attempted to hurry away before she started going on about the new Schubert mix that had just dropped.

But we couldn't shake her.

"Eddie's dead --"

Still dead.

"-- and he was my best friend. Only nobody knew it. We kept in on the down low."

We could certainly understand why.

"People call me 'Garage Girl'."

Twin Peaks damage, we whispered to one another.

"But Eddie didn't commit suicide. He was murdered. By Cliff and Greta. I found Greta's Halloween costume. That's when Eddie was murdered, on Halloween. Her costume was an angel and it's covered in blood, bright red blood."

Well actually, eight months later, blood would probably be browning. We weren't having any luck at shaking Liza.

"Where are our towels!"

That sent her running.

We made our way to back to our suite. Flipping on the lights, we saw Cliff and Johnny on either bed which surprised us only because we would have expected them to be naked and making out with each other.

"Who's into the tortured, sensitive, cares too much for this world type?" Johnny asked sticking out his lower lip.

"And who wants the bad boy so bad you'll have to keep him on a leash? You can put a collar on me! Just so long as you scratch my belly and . . ."

He shut up when we threw a drink on him. Maybe because it was the sort of move his mother, Tess, was prone to do repeatedly and so he respected it? Or maybe just because the last thing a guy on the make wants to be reminded of is Mommy?

That still left us with the free association rambles of Johnny who couldn't stop whining about how tough it was to have a rich step-father and how tough it was to be in love with a hot blond (and he was in our suite why?) and how tough it was to take up so much time talking about his own self, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day.

Well, you know, we informed him, in the world beyond Hidden Palms, many people your age have been forced into an illegal war. In Iraq, nearly a million Iraqis have died over the last four years and 3558 US service members have died thus far.

"Back to me!" he whined, adding about sixteen syllables to "me" and stomping one foot on the floor.

"Honestly, Johnny," we informed him, "not only are you not all that in the looks department, you really aren't very interesting. You're far more of an undeveloped sketch than a fully dimensional character."

Cliff snorted at that so we informed him that he was actually even less than Johnny.

Dejected, both boys left our room, mumbling about how nothing ever happened around here. We'd have to agree with them on that. If a tumbleweed had blown past, that would have provided more action than we'd seen all day.

First thing the next morning, we rushed to the front desk. Liza tried to hide behind the counter but we told her we weren't there for the never delivered towels, we just wanted to check out.

She nodded and prepared our bill. As we handed over the plastic, she leaned in and whispered, "Eddie Nolan's dead."

Oh no. We were back to that again.

We told her Eddie Nolan was a war resister. He'd signed up in the early recruitment program. Gotten a United States Delayed Entry and Delayed Training Program ID card. Then he'd hit 18 and been unsuccessful, unlike Cliff and Johnny, in lying about it. He'd been shipped to Iraq and, when he was back in the States on leave, decided he couldn't fight in an illegal war anymore so he'd self-checked out.

"Not dead, dear," we informed her. "He's underground."

The news appeared to blow her mind. Too much reality and far too many plot points for her narrowly drawn and mousy character.

Then, like viewers across America, we quickly said goodbye to Hidden Palms. Forever.

Base Is Hell

The ground shook and seemed to do so either just before or right as the blast was heard. A ball of fire filled the immediate area but still the troops marched on, walking right through the flames, right into them.

A drone picked up everything and relayed it back to Centcom where multi-star generals and colonels worried that the temperature of the blast might be too hot and could severely damage the drone.

Another blast went off. They saw some heads and limbs blown off and the broadcast from the drone go in and out.

"Don't do this now, come on, baby, we need you!" hollered General William B. Bravado as all eyes remained fixed on the flat screen monitor.

Then, quick as a flash, the reception was back displaying hundred of US service members dead on the field.

The generals and colonels cheered! The drone was back online!


Back at the barracks, General Bravado flipped on his TV and walked from his sunken den to the kitchen where he picked up a butcher knife and used the non-blade side to scratch his back. No sissy lofa sponge for a he-man like him. After five minutes of this, he examined the knife and saw the little skin flakes, like dandruff. He blew them off the knife and put it away. Grabbing a wine cooler, he headed back to his sunken den, adjusted the temperature of the room to 71 degrees, noting how hot it had been at Centcom -- probably seventy-nine degrees. Plopping his fat ass down on the overstuffed sofa, he saw that Rollerball was on. The original! Thank God for the satellites and modern technology.

Watching James Caan off and on, he reflected on America's New Military. He silently praised Jesus and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for insisting spy chips be implanted in all recruits upon induction. The first benefit was easy enough to spot: no more self-check outs.

No more worries about Mark Wilkersons, Kyle Snyders or Agustin Aguayos. Yeah, go ahead and try to resist, try to self-check out. We'd find you. They were experimental then and left a big bulge on the back of the neck, due to the power source needed to supply them, but they could track anyone around the globe.

It had been his daddy that had figured out spy chips could be used for more than tracking. Behavioral modifications. Montgomery McFatty had signed on immediately.

Overweight and prone to rejecting anything that resembled independent thought, McFatty was happy to abuse her knowledge of the social sciences in service of the Almighty Dollar. A shock collar could prevent a dog from barking or leaving the yard, what might they be able to do with spy chips?

$37 billion later -- the US had stopped funding public schools at that point -- the program produced verifiable results. The automatic zap -- which sounded like one of those bug lights -- had worked to make the test group agree to any action, regardless of whether it was a War Crime or not. Thanks to that research, there would be no more Ehren Watadas. Someone started raising legal arguments, hit the switch and, ZAP, their eyes clouded over and they forgot immediately.

The switch was a bit of a problem but McFatty eventually reduced it to the size of a mini-Oreo which wasn't surprising to anyone when the government got her per diem bill and had it itemized -- the woman was obsessed with mini-Oreos and assorted other junk foods. Now, in the palm of your hand, you could control it all. As the research progressed, it became possible to control entire brigades with one tiny remote device.

The TV screen flickered and Rollerball was replaced with scenes of a live battle. It was a group of Marines and General Bravado had to marvel over the one who had both a leg and an arm blown off but continued hopping forward. Modern day technology, nothing like it. It had reduced the time needed for the basic socialization and re-education civilians knew as basic training. Woops, land mine. That Marine was down for good.

These things happen in a war.

He did wonder, though, why they interrupted his movie feed to show him this?

It was late. Probably he should turn off the tube, hit the jacuzzi tub and chill for a few hours.

After he'd done just that for a few hours, he crawled into bed, between his silk sheets, and quickly fell asleep dreaming of two weeks from now when he'd be leaving this hell hole and returning Stateside.

The soft purr of his wake up call greeted him far too early. He wondered what the woman really looked like but hopped out of bed and hit the john.

As he dressed, he dreamed of seeing his second star. He felt a little less-than, a little inferior, with only one star. He'd been on this base for nearly five months and the fatalities for the US had climbed to 32,000. Surely, his second star was just around the corner.

He marched on over to headquarters.

"Men, and McFatty . . ."

Yes, McFatty was here. Probably eighty-three-years-old now and bigger than a double-wide trailer. But the chips had been her baby and she was determined to see them through, to measure their results until someone finally dug a plot big enough to hold her.

". . . we've suffered tremendous losses this week and, last night alone, we lost 4,229 troops. Brave men, controlled men. Men who continued marching straight forward, into the ambush, while requiring only three zaps."

McFatty held three fingers up and smiled with what little teeth she had left.

"Our losses have depleted our combat readiness and, while we wait for the twenty brigades the President is in the process of shipping over, we'll all have to make a few sacrifices."

General Bravado grimaced. First month here, he'd put in his requisition form for a skylight only to be told that due to events on the ground, he'd have to sacrifice a few weeks and live without it. Being a mere one-star general meant he was always low man on the base's totem pole and no one ever let him forget it.

Wait. They were being told they were being sent in?

"What!" he hollered from a gut reaction.

"That's right. All one star generals will be headed to the battlefield ASAP. Our fighting forces have been severely depleted."

"But what about the staff sergeants?" General Bravado insisted.

"All blown away. All Lieutenants, Captains, Majors, Colonels and one star generals are going to get to see some action! First hand!"

"B-b-but, I don't want to go. I want to stay on base. Who will Tivo my stories for me? Will the base masseur follow us to the battlefield? I'm used to chow like veal piccata and eggplant parmesan. I ain't eating no MREs!"

"Bravado! I am shocked by your statements! Shocked! Man, here is the chance for you to earn another star! To serve your country on the battlefield! To personally take part in this glorious battle!"

"Truth is, sir, I don't believe in this war. I don't think we ever should have invaded France in the first place and certainly not on so flimsy an excuse."

"Flimsy, Bravado? President Jenna Bush said the new line of French haute couture was designed solely to make her look fat. Our president is not fat! And did you see what the St. John's Bay French terry shorts did to Attorney General George P. Bush's ass? Those shorts made him cry! Are you going to stand by while America's morale is threatened?"

"With all due respect, sir, I don't believe St. John's clothing is made in France. I believe these are trumped up assertions designed to allow the United States to enter into an illegal war of choice."

"Good God, McFatty! I thought we had drummed all of this talk out of today's service with your gadgets!"

McFatty worked furiously with her remote device, so furiously that she even stopped stuffing her mouth, attempting to zap General Bravado.

"Sir, I request a C.O. application immediately."

"Bravado, we don't even have those anymore. McFatty!"

"Sir, since the Revolutionary War, the United States has allowed for C.O.s. I respectfully request that while you attempt to locate a form, I be allowed to remain on base --"


McFatty pointed to the remote.

"There were some crumbs preventing the button from going all the way down," she explained with a shrug.

General Bravado began marching . . . off to battle. His first and, two days later, his last. On the plus side, President Jenna Bush called an armistice when her grandmother introduced her to the wonders of stretchy pants.

The Tired Tryst


You saw him for the first time in 1988. You were six-years-old. You've followed him over the years and what was interest grew to obsession, especially on the sexual front. By 1998, when you were sixteen, you'd have jumped his bone in the middle of church on a Sunday, with the entire congregation, including your parents, looking on. That's how much you wanted him.

And that's how you ended up in Sweden, on the front row, screaming his name as the band played on and on. You hoped you were his type: blonde and busty. But, looking around at the crowd, you realized everyone in Sweden was blonde and busty. Even the males.

You were still smiling but plagued with doubt when they launched into "Wild Honey" and, maybe you were imaging it, but it seemed like he was staring right at you throughout the song. Wild honey? You'd show him some wild honey.

You were never popular in school, hell you weren't even busty back then. A senior year trip to Mardi Gras hadn't resulted in any beads for you, even though you'd pretty much walked up and down Bourbon Street topless. But the implants had given you a new lease on life.

Sometimes you hated yourself for them and longed for the words of your mother to be true, that you were beautiful on the inside. But all you had to do was put on a tight t-shirt without a bra and suddenly you were the most popular in the room.

You were braless now and, with Bono possibly watching, you decided to jump up and down, get them bouncing and really give him a show.

You felt like you were betraying all he stood for but you'd use any weapon at your disposal.

Mid-way through the concert, you're touched on the shoulder and led backstage.

The holiest of holy words have been spoken: Bono wants to meet you.

You look over your shoulder at the other saps, left behind.

Waiting backstage on a couch, you check your make up and check your head for topics to discuss. There's Africa, of course. Bono's really big on that. And there's all the unrest in the world. Your mind's reproducing a world map and you're going region to region and also attempting to remember the correct pronunciations for various Latin America countries. You want to come off worldly. Breasty got you in the door, but brainy's what will really interest Bono.


He's staggering through the door now. He's wearing the black, leather vest, the one from The Joshua Tree years. The one from the cover of Time you swiped from your school library six years after the fact in middle school. You love that vest!

He takes it off and it falls on the couch besides you. Twenty years of wear greets your nose and you wonder exactly how difficult it is to clean leather?

But not for long, he's wearing a corset, a device to hold his gut in. Sure, he'd put on a few pounds over the years, that was just part of aging. But you had no idea it was that much. You examine his bloated face a little more carefully now.

Easy to do since it's pressed in your own face now that he's on top of you.

"I want to end world hunger," he declares as his hands head inside your panties.

It's hours later and you're winded. Your body feels wiped out.

Not from Bono's perfunctory, rudimentary love making skills but from his girth having been on top of you.

Now you're thinking you're glad he's married to Ali and hoping that, given a few months time, you'll be able to rewrite this entire tawdry incident into a glorious event to share with friends.

But he's there, dressed, the belly hidden, and pressing you to finish out the leg of this tour.

He's whispering in your ear that you are his muse, that he could write another "All I Want Is You" if you'd just stay another week -- well, who are you to deny the world that? He's still talking, you'll realize what a problem that is later on. You'll grasp that even after the sell is made, Bono continues pitching. You'll realize he says the same thing over and over and question his mental capacities. But right now, you're just focused on the last great song U2 did, "All I Want Is You," and imaging how great it will be to have another just like that. He's telling you that you are the eternal feminine and you start to worry he's a Nietzsche freak when you grasp that he's quoting "Mysterious Ways" to you. Weeks later, you'll wonder about the vanity involved in quoting one's self.

You're on the Lear now and he's wearing cologne which helps reduce the odor. He's also semi-sober and, for a change, not hiding behind those ridiculous orange sun glasses. With all that and the fact that his body's not smothering the oxygen out of your lungs, you're feeling more upbeat.

But not for long.

He's talking with you about debt relief. Well, not with you and not really at you. It's really not talking, it's more of a long winded lecture that only requires you nod every few seconds. Anything more and Bono tends to look vexed. When he wrinkles that brow, all the lines from years of hard living emerge on his face. It's like seeing a mirror with a million cracks.

So you learn to keep silent and wait for him to come up for air but, as his hog hollering onstage demonstrates, he has extraordinary breath control.

He's just launched into the fifteenth sub-set of his main point and is returning to his constant theme that "We are our brother's keepers" when someone walks back.

"Hey, you, dumb f*ck. Where's my cheese burger and beer!"

The flunky turns around red faced and Bono snaps his fingers and huffs "Now!" before returning to his theme of "We are our brother's keeper."

He picks right up where he left off. You marvel over that and wonder if he comes scripted? You know, from last night, he cums scripted. And you know what a let down that was.

The cheese burger and beer are placed before him on a tray and he tears into it with gusto while continuing the lecture.

You aren't sure whether to focus on the wads of food sloshing around his open mouth or the bit of beef stuck between his front teeth? You know not to focus on his words because to do so would result in wondering if he ever shuts up?

You're trying really hard, having agreed to travel with him, to see the positive as much as possible.

You try ignoring the actual words and finding the cadence, hoping that can inspire you but you quickly grasp that the lyricist lacks any lyrical abilities. It's all non-stop patter, delivered at the same rate and moving far too quickly for you to count syllables. So you find yourself having to actually listen as he drones on:

Through media, we have some strange faces in our backyard whom we weren't calling family until very recently, and we still don't really want to. But if you're going to enjoy having your sneakers and your jeans made by developing communities, you are already involved with those people. You cannot therefore just ignore some of the problems they're negotiating. They're living on your street. There was this old definition of generosity, which is at the very least the rich man looks after the poor man on his street. Guess what? Now, that street goes around the globe.

You've already wondered why, when insisting on his own meal, he hadn't thought to even ask if you were hungry. Now you're focusing on those words and wondering what exactly he means by "strange faces"? People of color? There is a strong thread of White Man's Burden running through his remarks, you quickly realize.

You're remembering when the corset came loose and the belly actually flapped. You're seeing him fat and getting fatter as he is waited on and catered to. You're realizing that the squat, short, stout man tossing around racist, neo-liberalism talking points isn't the compassionate man you'd pictured. The one you dreamed of saving and healing the world with, side-by-side.

He's taking a phone call now, still talking, but at least you don't have to pretend to be interested. He's shouting about his investments and something about Billy Squier's chimney. You don't know and you don't care. As he asks of his stock portfolio, his hand snakes over to your knee. Looking over, you see him grinning at you, appraising you as though you are just another one of his possessions.

Overweight and long winded, you tell yourself, why couldn't you have been attracted to Kevin James? You wouldn't have had to leave the US and he might have at least made you laugh.

Bono's grabbed your hand and is holding on top of his crotch. You feel some life in the stubby, little thing as he talks about seizing the publishing of a faded rock star and how he can then "maximize" potential by leasing the songs to advertising.

You break away, mouthing an excuse me, while he continues talking on the phone. You're mainly trying to get away long enough to breathe. You head toward the back of the plane where you encounter Adam smoking a spiff.

He immediately looks alarmed and you swear you won't say a word as you take it from him. He's talking about concerts and you're sharing the joint. It's closer to a rock and roll fantasy than anything you've gone through thus far. In fact, you realize, Bono is a lot like Donald Trump with less charisma.

Adam's laughing and you realize you said that out loud.

You quickly swear you love Bono's gifts and mention that he's working on a new song, something like "All I Need Is You."

Adam's laughing his ass off and you're about to take offense when he explains that Bono wrote that because of the Beatles "All You Need Is Love." Whether it's true or just a bandmate getting a jab in at another, you grasp it plays true. While Lennon would look to the world, Bono's obviously self-obsessed.

Adam explains that there will be no new song, no new songs at all, that Bono can't write anymore. That they've basically been on the oldies circuit for the entire century and praying that no one would catch on.

"The band's running on fumes," he explains.

Maybe it's the pot, maybe it's all the information, maybe it's the altitude, but you find yourself unable to compose a response so you just nod and head back to the front of the plane where you find Bono's continuing his lecture but this time to three conservative suited accountants.

You're studying him more than listening and wondering if he grasps that, finally having done away with his pageboy hairstyle, he now looks a lot like Phil Collins?

He's screaming something about wanting more (Product) Red in the Gap and cursing out the accountants who all cower to no use.

When the plane lands, you're telling yourself, you're out of here. You curse yourself for ever having sought him out and you mourn the passage of The Days of Pamela Des Barres, when rock gods walked the land.

The Asbury Park Murder


Matti looked down. She hadn't her seen her friend in months. Val had gone off to college. Four years of putting off starting life.

Val never knew what she wanted. She was the type who stalled when placing a food order. Always tried to go last. Always hoped someone would suggest something. In the end, she'd end up copying what someone else had ordered.

Val never made many decisions but she was a great tag along.

Now she was deader than the overnights for Studio 60.

Lifeless in the morgue.

Some little weasel with a badge was droning.

Val had been found out at Asbury Park.

Strange in itself because Val's hair frizzed.

Girl put in hours straightening that mess.

A trip to the beach really didn't seem like the Val she knew.

Could two semesters have changed someone so fast?

Something about her being discovered the next morning and that she was strangled. That's what the cop talk was.

Unlike Val, Mattie had wanted to start life immediately.

Ink was barely dry on her high school diploma before she was off to get her investigator's license.

She had it now.

She mainly took photos of cheating husbands and the occasional cheating wife. A few missing person cases. When the bills had to be paid, she'd do a little corporate work. Run a check on a prospective employee. The suits always gave her the heebie-jeebies and she tried to avoid that even if it did pay well.

Cop badge was pumping her now. Needed information. Needed clarification. Needed more than she was going to offer.

She'd gotten the call last night from Val's mother. Val had been found, dead, two days ago. Way she saw it, three days was more than enough time for Monmouth County's not-so-finest to have picked up some clues.

Instead cop badge was badgering her for information. Too many doughnuts must have made him not just fat but lazy.

She wasn't giving up anything.

This was personal. Val had been her friend.

How'd a girl from San Jose end up New Jersey?

She wondered that as she wandered across Rutgers University. Dionne had asked for directions to San Jose, after all, not the other way around.

By the arch, in front of the steps and walkway, leading to Old Queens she queried some of Val's classmates.

She learned of a boyfriend, Bobby, who was said to be crestfallen. They filled her in on Melissa, someone that had a few run ins with Val. One of them, Kristi, had been Val's roommate, had been informed by Val's mother that Matti was coming, and offered to take her to the dorm room she and Val had shared.

Greeting card signed "XXX OOO, Bobby." God, she hated people who used symbols. A few photos taped around the mirror. She motioned to Kristi who walked over and identified the people standing around Val. Melissa was in three of the five photos.

"Thought they hated each other?" Matti pointed out.

"Not at first," Kristi said slowly. "At first, they were pretty tight. They had a falling out, over a guy I think, and then it was just . . . awkward."

"Bobby the guy?"

"No, this was before Bobby."

Matti grunted and opened the drawers. Typical bra and panties round up in the top drawer. "Kiss It" was on the back of one pair of panties. And an item she wouldn't be reporting to Val's mother. Apparently college life included some lonely nights. Moving to the next drawer, she found a set of carefully folded sweaters and sweat shirts. Third drawer was of even less interest.

Going through the closet, she searched the pockets and found a score in a long coat, a folded letter on college rule paper. From Melissa. To Val. "You stole it! Do not approach me, do not speak to me, do not cross my path! Melissa."

Kristi didn't know what the note was about but said it sounded like Melissa. She said she wished she could do more, be of more help. But she really didn't talk to Val last weekend. Val was going to a frat party on Saturday and Kristi's father was celebrating his fiftieth birthday.

"So, after I left Saturday morning, I didn't even see her. I got back Sunday evening and she wasn't here."

"Start boxing her stuff up," Matti said, "and trash the vibrator. Her mother doesn't need to know."

Kristi had told her the police had not done much but question her. They hadn't even really looked around the room. No surprise. They were treating it like a mugging gone wrong or a random attempted rape.

Thing was Val wasn't a loner. Val had never been. She didn't go anywhere unless someone else was going. She didn't do anything unless there was a lead to follow. No way she ended up at Asbury Park on her own. Either someone took her there or she was meeting someone there. Left to her own devices, Val would be seated in front of a TV any night.

A student pointed across the food court and Matti thanked him and then headed for the table.

"You Melissa?"

"And how would that be your business?" asked Melissa.

"Matti. Friend of Val's. Her mother hired me to find out what happened."

"Obviously the little tramp got what was coming to her."

She was a cold one, this Melissa. She didn't look up from the fries was she nibbling on. Not once. Matti could tell she was even more drab than in the photographs and wondered exactly how she and Val ended up friends, however briefly?

Matti sat down at the table and fired off, "You were friends once."

"Yes. Once. I was also once interested in astronomy but that too passed. I used to eat nothing but Ike & Mike but I matured out of that phase as well. All things have a conclusion."

She pushed the fries away and looked at Matti. Poker face. Or maybe one that screamed, "Who the hell do you think you are?" Matti hadn't liked her to begin with and found that initial impression only strengthening.

"You wrote Val a note. You called her a thief."

Melissa nodded and yawned.

Matti stared at her waiting for the uncomfortable shift. Melissa was trying hard to play cool customer but she couldn't pull it off. Cool customers didn't scarf down fries in the food court while wearing Einstein t-shirts.

"What?" Melissa finally asked breaking the silence. "Am I suspected of something?"

"Should you be?"

"Val was a bitch. She came on like a friend, but she was a bitch. When that was revealed, that was the end of our friendship."

Matti continued staring forcing Melissa to continue.

"It was English. I had, as always, done the work. I was prepared. We'd moved into the dorm at the same time. That's how we met. We were in the elevator together. Going up. She seemed nervous. I invited her to come over to my room later. I felt sorry for her, she was obviously an easily agitated person. Pity. Probably more pity than sorrow. I pitied her. She was like the kid who drops out of the marathon four feet after the starting line. Studying her, you could just tell she wouldn't make it. I expected she'd drop out after the spring semester. So that's how we encountered one another, I took pity on her. I studied with her as well. We had an English and a history class together. We shared notes. I should have had my suspicions raised when she ended up in bed with a man I was interested in. She immediately broke it off and begged me to forgive her."

That sounded like Val.

"Like an idiot, I did. Because I'm a better person. We tried to act as if it never happened. I tried to pretend she hadn't stabbed me in the back. Then one morning, before class begun, I shared my thoughts on Kate Chopin. We were reading the short story 'Desiree's baby.' I don't expect that you've heard of it."

Actually, Matti had but she said nothing.

"It's a story by Chopin. A short story. I had explained how, obviously, Armand is half-Black. How, obviously, that was why his father moved to Paris and why he only returned after Armand's mother died. There is no mention of the mother's race. When Desiree gives birth to Armand's child and it obviously has Black blood, that's the tip off. It was my insight. I shared it with her and her repayment was to make that argument in class when called upon. She was a thief, plain and simple."

"And after that?"

"I never spoke with her again. I composed my letter, passed it to her after class, and I never spoke to her again."

Matti believed her. Melissa was obviously the sort of person who could break off contact with anyone over any sleight, real or imagined.

"I'll tell you something else," Melissa said, leaning across the table, "I'm glad she's dead. She had it coming. Are we done?"

"Yes," Matti said rising. "But one thing. Senior year of high school, Val did her paper on Kate Chopin's short stories. Got into an intense argument with the teacher over whether or not Armand was half-Black. Val was. Her father was Black. She didn't steal your 'insight' that's been published in hundreds of studies. She lived it."

Melissa tried hard not to look taken aback but she wasn't a cool enough customer to pull that off.

Matti found Bobby out behind his frat house. He was hammering signs. She introduced herself.

"McCain," Bobby said smiling. "He's the man."

When she explained why she was there, Bobby took on a serious expression.

"Val really was special."

He talked about how Val had been interested in Chet first, that was Bobby's frat bud. She'd been hanging around with some others, hoping to catch Chet's eye.

"But she caught mine instead."

Really special, Bobby repeated. Kind of shy, kind of quiet. Not real assertive. But "a quality." Matti was finding it hard to believe, even all these miles away, Val could have taken up with a McCain supporter. Val's politics had been decidedly to the left.

"Oh, yeah," Bobby laughed. "We disagreed on that. But we kind of fell in with one another. Can't pick whom your heart wants, I guess."

"Did you and Val ever go to Asbury Park?"

"All the time," he said moving some signs. "That was kind of our place. I feel bad, now, for introducing her to it. If I'd never taken her there in the first place, she wouldn't have ever gone. Then, last weekend, she goes and ends up murdered. I blame myself."

"Had you two broken up?"

Bobby shook his head.

Before she could follow up a man fitting the description of neanderthal stepped out the back door and said, "Bobby, phone call for you."

With an "excuse me," Bobby headed into the house. Neanderthal cruised Matti's boobs with his eyes then grinned at her. Stepping around him, she went into the frat house.

Typical frat house. Beer stained sofa, a few bongs lying around. Whole place reeked of over privilege and under worked. Guy walked through in a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt.

Val's group. Matti stopped him.

Val? Yeah, he knew her. It was really sad, he said, what happened. He knew her pretty well.

"You last saw her when?"

"Saturday night. Night before, I guess, night before she died. She was here. We all got drunk and wasted. Typical Saturday night."

"Anything out of the ordinary?"

He shifted around nervously for a moment then answered in the negative.

"Typical Saturday night," he repeated.

His eyes were blood shot and his breath didn't reek of alcohol so Matti surmised he was stoned. Catching a hint, he pulled out some eye drops and applied them.

Bobby walked out a door, a bedroom door. The wall next to had a hole where a fist had obviously gone through it. Someone would have to plaster over that. Surprising no one had already.

Walking over, he scowled at Chet who shifted uncomfortably. Nodding to Matti, Chet walked off.

"Loser," Bobby hissed.

"Why don't you like him?" Matti asked.

Bobby shrugged, then put his thumb and finger up to his mouth as though holding a smoke.

"Stoner," Bobby laughed.

"Considering the fact that there's a honey bear bong as well as one made out of toilet paper on the coffee table, I wouldn't think that would be much of an issue," Matti observed.

"Oh, well, you know. Some guys can handle it. Some guys can't. He can't."

"Surprising," Matti stated. "I would have thought you and Chet would be best friends."

"We were," Bobby admitted. "Until recently."

So that was Chet. Matti said her goodbyes and walked out of the front door of the frat house. She was headed back to Val's dorm when the cop badge stopped her.

"What's with all the questions? We got a call from the Dean of Admissions that you're asking professors and teachers all these questions?"

"Someone has to."

"Look, miss, we're questioning all the hobos and vagrants on the boardwalk. We'll find out which one of them killed your friend. This ain't TV and you need to leave the cop work to the professionals."

Matti almost managed not to laugh in his face.

"You know Bobby?"

"Yeah, the victim's boyfriend," the badge said.

"My friend, my dead friend's boyfriend," Matti corrected. "You need to take him in for questioning and book him."

"Him? Bobby's a good kid. He's a Young Republican."

"Mister Straight and Narrow killed Val."

"How do you figure?"

Matti sketched it out for him. How Val and Melissa had both been interested in the same guy, Chet. How they'd hung around the frat house trying to catch his attention. How Val had. How Val and Chet had slept together. That's why Chet was so stoned now. His way of "coping." While Bobby built signs and worked on a campaign, mouthing all the correct words of sorrow and mourning but acting as though nothing had happened.

"Well maybe out in La-La Land, that's how you convict, but in the real world, everyone's not a suspect," the badge laughed.

"La-La Land would be Los Angeles," Matti corrected. "Val would never go anywhere by herself. She doesn't even have a car. Did she hitch to Asbury Park? Take the bus? No, she was driven there and she was driven there because it was an out of the way spot. It was also the special place for her and Bobby which adds to the suspicion. Who else but Bobby would have taken her there?"

"And why would Bobby have killed her, Sherlock Holmes?"

"He's crazy. He's for Senator Crazy. Besides, Saturday night, at the party, he must have found out that his special one, his picture-ready, possible some day wife, had slept with Chet. He's too busy living in a pretend world to handle reality and he couldn't handle the reality. It ruined his fairy tale fantasy. That's probably when he punched a hole in the wall outside his bedroom. It's probably when he turned on Chet and it probably scared Val so much she split. Then he shows up Sunday, talking he's sorry. Saying they can put it behind them. Asking her to run over to Asbury Park with him. Where they'll put it all behind them. Where they'll start over fresh."

"Well you just have it all figured out."

"Yeah, I do because you made two mistakes I didn't. One, you believed that Val would ever go anywhere by herself. Two, you bought the lie that there's any such thing as a young Republican."

The announcement said to buckle your seats. Which Matti did. Like Val's body, she was headed home. She looked again at the front page of the paper. A photo of Bobby and Bobby Senior on the front page. They denied his guilt. They were going to fight this. The story told of how Chet let it slip at a frat party that he'd slept with Val, how Bobby had screamed and yelled, punched a wall, but, both Bobbys insisted, so what? A student had come forward to say he'd seen Val get into Bobby's car Sunday afternoon. Hadn't thought much of it because they were a known couple. Just assumed, before the other stuff came out, that Bobby and Val had been off to do something and, much later, Val must have ended up at Asbury Park. Turned out Bobby had also had other incidents with women in his past. They'd been covered up. Money tended to make that possible. Hopefully, this last incident was too public.

The plane took off.

Creation Theory

"Man Tan or Quick Tan?" asked Dr. Frum.

"Man Tan! Quick Tan," Dr. Ford explained, "will make him look too jaundiced, too yellow. That's what did me in in 2006! They called me 'lemon'."

"Are we really sure Black is the way to go?" asked Dr. Wittmann.

A lengthy discussion took place in the "Progressive" Policy Institute which was only resolved when Dr. Ford pointed out that despite the fact he was pro-war, anti-abortion, anti-same-sex benefits and "an all around Republican," he received "sympathy and mass coverage" when an opponent lampooned his attending a post-Super Bowl, Playboy party party in an ad.

"It wasn't even racist towards me," he said excitedly. "It was racist towards Playboy Bunnies in that it worked with the assumption that all women attending a Playboy party would be White. But look at how they played out. Even independent media was supporting me and cluck-clucking and they never said a word that I, an alleged Black man, posed in front of a Confederate flag in the same race! Black, pseudo Black, is the answer! It takes the sting out of all criticism!"

"Genius," agreed Dr. From while Dr. Wittmann cautioned that they shouldn't go "too Black."

Standing over the Caucasian male, they began applying Man Tan liberally.

"What else?" Dr. From asked mid-slathering.

"Well, let's deal with crack odor because that really sunk Slimey."

A moment of silence was held to honor Slimey Rosenberg followed by high fives and talk of how close he got.

"We really worked the pseudo-independent bloggers there," chortled Dr. Frum.

"'We'?" asked Dr. Wittmann before pointing out that it was he who had been quoted non-stop at supposedly left blogs -- generally run by those who had supported Reagan in the 80s but what readers didn't know, no one was telling.

"What else?" asked Dr. Ford.


"Toothy!" insisted Dr. From. "I loved Mary Tyler Moore and spent every Saturday night in the seventies glued to CBS just to see that smile."

After some ribald teasing that he was actually watching for Gavin MacLeod (which would explain the Love Boat mural on his bedroom ceiling), all agreed with Dr. From.

Dr. Ford explained, "He can't be too Black and we need the toothy to take away from the skin color."

"But," wondered Dr. Wittmann, "wouldn't a man smiling non-stop come off as an airhead?"

"Only a White man," Dr. Ford explained. "A Black man would be seen as non-threatening if he smiled constantly. Haven't you studied the ground breaking work of Dr. Patti Williams on Black men and dogs? Dr. Patti has revealed and demonstrated, backed up by the social scientists of People magazine, that a Black face is too dark. Just like a black dog. Teeth lighten the picture."

To ensure the point got across, they gave the man laying on the table oversize choppers.

"I doubt his lips will even come together now," laughed Dr. From.

Dr. Ford agreed as he flipped through GQ and Vogue for Men to order various trendy outfits for their patient.

"Won't that make him look a little light in the loafers?" asked Dr. Wittman.

Dr. Ford threw down the magazine and charged at Dr. Wittman, real anger in his eyes, screaming, "Say it to George Clooney! Say it to Clooney!"

After Dr. From separated the two men, it was agreed that fashion plate would further distance the 'Black' candidate from Black fears and that light in the loafers could actually be worked into a campaign motto: "He will tread lightly in the White House, question no power structure and oppose no war."

But positions, insisted Dr. Wittman, hadn't they forgotten positions. What was this Frankenstein candidate going to stand for.

"He will come out strongly for Darfur because we can reduce that to pure emotion," said Dr. From flipping through polling results. "As for the rest, he'll never say anything specific but give inspirational speeches. It'll be like slapping a penis on Oprah and running her for president!"

They were in agreement, finally, and turned off the lights and headed home.

Days later when the high fashion arrived, they returned to the lab to begin dressing the candidate.

"Uh-oh," moaned Dr. Ford.

Everyone stared where he was pointing, at the crotch of the candidate.

"Did we give him a libido? If we gave him a libido, there's a chance that someone might see this and, if they do, they'll know he's not Black," fretted Dr. Ford.

Silence followed as they continued to stare at the meager package. Using a pointer, Dr. From even prodded it a few times, hoping it would come to life and grow but there was no action.

"At least we won't have to worry about any Slick Willie problems!" laughed Dr. Wittman before realizing he was no longer at the Hoover Institute and that shtick didn't play.

Pacing for hours, fueled on Fruit Roll Ups and Sanka, the three men pondered what to do? How to address this problem? They had planned an athletic image for their candidate and, certainly, he would have to change in a few locker rooms. Dr. From, flashing back on high school, knew damn well that boys did look and boys did talk. Certainly finishing senior year being called "Little Al" by everyone, including teachers, bore that out.

The Sanka was all gone and they were about to send someone out for strawberry flavored, power milk; however, Dr. Ford banged a fist down on the gurney.

"I've got it! We'll say he's only half-Black."

The other two murmured in agreement excitedly.

"Half-Black," Dr. Wittman said, "so you can trust him."

Moving his hand slowly through the air, as though across a banner, Dr. From said, "The Ultimate Centrist!"

Hours later, while Dr. Ford tutored the candidate on political theory via the works of Erma Bombeck, Drs. Wittman and From stepped out into the hallway.

"I don't care if it does sound like 'Yo Mama,' I want him to be named Obama," Dr. Wittman confided.

Dr. From readily agreed. His only concern was how to break the news to Bill that they'd created their own Frankenstein candidate and would no longer need Hillary?

Samantha Power Between Her Knees

What was the doctor saying? Cut what? Everything seemed so foggy right now.

She tried to center herself in the present but couldn't. So she went back to the beginning.

She was an NYU student. She may have been only semi-political active, but she liked to think of herself as politically aware. That was how she ended up at the rally three days before and the planning session now. A hushed awe came over the planning session -- so much so that no one was even mouthing "Not on my watch."

It was there. The force behind the movement. With what appeared to be a really bad bleach job making the hair color look more orange than anything else. And as it floated into the room there was a smell like burning incense or cabbage.

It was the next morning, waking twenty minutes late and wondering if the snooze button had been abused or the alarm not set, when she sat up in bed, that she first smelled it.

Looking around the room as she sat up in bed, sniffing the air, she couldn't place where the smell was coming from and with ten minutes before her first class was due to start, she really didn't have the time to. She opened a window, hurried to the shower and told herself she'd locate the smell when she got back.

"Hobbs," a guy on the back row was saying, "you can't wear those grungy sneakers and no socks like that."

"Yeah, dude," agreed another, "we're all choking on your funk."

Hobbs replied with an unprintable while everyone laughed. Almost everyone.

She didn't think the smell was Hobbs' feet or his sneakers.

It was the smell she had sniffed earlier.

She kept her head down and ground her teeth waiting for class to finally end and then, when it had, she headed for the first bathroom. Entering the stall, she dropped her slacks and the smell wafted off. It was her.

This was so embarrassing.

Was it a yeast infection? Her period wasn't due for two more weeks. She had certainly soaped up the area down there right before class.

The bathroom door opened and she could hear a group of women come in.

"Oh my God! What is that odor?"

She heard the women laughing.

When they had finally left, she'd hurried out ending up at a drug store where she bought assorted products including the one that killed cockroaches so, surely, should be able to kill this smell.

She applied everything, sprays and liquids. She even removed the hair down there. After three hours and about sixteen products, the smell was gone.

She breathed a sigh of relief, wrote off the missed classes as no real loss, and headed off to the quad to get something to eat.

As she ate, her friend Bernie came over. Bernie was working on a new Out of Iraq action and the more animated he became talking about it, the less she found herself caring. She tuned him out for several minutes before she realized he'd asked a question.

"Sure," she offered.

Not sure what she was agreeing to but she could tell by the look on his face that a question had been asked.

Whatever she'd agreed to, it made him happy and he nodded before going on his way.

She had a paper due shortly on the historical struggles of labor in the US so she headed for the library where she attempted to take notes but found her mind wandering and realized she'd taken several pages of notes on autopilot.

She couldn't believe how little she cared, all the sudden, about any of it. But she told herself it was due to the embarrassment of the morning. She just knew she was yawning and tired.

After trudging back to her room, she stripped and crawled into bed. The clock displayed 5:15 but it felt more like midnight. Making sure the alarm was set, she fell asleep with the sun still shining.

Two things hit her as she awoke the next morning -- she was hungry and the smell was back.

There was no denying that the smell was back. No denying that it seemed stronger than yesterday and no denying that it wasn't the most pressing issue right now.

She rarely ate breakfast but her stomach was growling. She thought of grabbing some body spray or perfume but her stomach was in control as she pulled on her sweats and went in search of food. That was the other thing, two slices of toast, for her, was a big breakfast. But right now she wanted bacon, she wanted sausage, she wanted hot links.

She first realized she was out in public, seated, and that people were making jokes about the smell as she polished off the twelfth sausage and started in on another plate of bacon. She really didn't care about the cat calls, she was more concerned as to whether or not she her ATM card with her having used all her cash on breakfast. And still being hungry.

The kindly looking woman at the clinic a few hours later was obviously attempting to hold her breath. Now standing across the room, the woman was saying she had no idea what was causing the odor and recommending she see a specialist.

She laughed loudly. Tossed her head back and roared. A specialist? Who had the time? She was due at a planning session.

"This may not seem serious, but that odor is probably an indication of something very serious," the woman told her.

Waving a hand, she replied, "Not on my watch."

At the planning session with other students, she noticed that no one seemed to comment on the odor or even care. These were serious people. These were people like her. Except for that one jerk who kept insisting that "talks needed to take place."

"Screw talks," she snarled, "I say we carpet bomb the area."

The remark surprised her but she noticed everyone was nodding.

Outside, she bumped into Bernie. He and seven other students were holding signs and marching in a circle. Breaking off from the march, he strode up to her.

"You said you'd be here."


"The march," he reminded her.

"For what?"

"Out of Iraq."

It was as though he was speaking another language that had been reduced to blips and beeps. She couldn't comprehend him.

He pointed an accusing finger at the "Save Darfur" literature she was holding.

"You've got the Samantha Power!"

That she understood. Wrinkling her nose at him and furrowing her brow, she hissed. He jerked back in surprise but not enough for her liking. She shoved him and walked on by as he fell to the ground.

The next morning, she awoke to discover the stink was even more powerful. The stink. The funk. The odor. That wouldn't go away.


"Oh my God!" she gasped in a moment of clarity. "I've got the Samantha Power between my knees!"

Seizing the phone in a panic, she dialed her mother and found herself sobbing on the phone as she explained the odor issue. Her mother didn't quite get it. Surely, it wasn't that bad? But her mother would drive in and be there shortly.

"Just stay calm."

She tried. But that odor.

She opened the window.

She even sat a fan in the window, pointed outside the room. She sprayed perfume, she lit scented candles, she used everything she could get her hands on, probably doubling the hole in the ozone layer in the process, and all to no noticeable change.

When her mother did arrive, one sniff and she too was bothered.

What followed were several days of appointments with various specialists. Question after question, exam after exam.

"Have you eaten any new ethnic food?"

"Have you practiced unprotected sex?"

"Do you have a history of glandular problems?"

"Have you been working with or exposed to raw sewage?"

The questions, like the exams, seemed to get no where.

But the smell was traveling.

The odor was on the move.

The pores on her legs, down to her knees, now gave off the odor. And this was quickly followed with it traveling further down. Eventually, even her feet gave off the odor.

Bernie showed up at her hospital room one day, weeks later, with flowers. He was apologizing and telling her he hadn't realized she was very sick.

He was also trying not to breathe and, occasionally, holding his nose.

Searching for something nice to say, some compliment to offer, he pointed out that she'd changed her hair.

Had she?

She didn't remember. But looking in the mirror, she saw her long black hair was now orange with a ridiculous part on one side and what appeared to be some heavy teasing going on at the top.

Bernie was, for lack of anything else to say, talking about Iraq.

"We got rid of Saddam Hussein, didn't we?" she snarled.

He sputtered but she wasn't done with.

"If those people can't appreciate all we've done for them, screw 'em. Let's take their oil and let 'em all kill each other. They're obviously all beasts and savages! You waste your time and everyone else's trying to end this war! The answer is not 'no' to war, it's 'yes' -- more war!"

She was spitting her words out at a fast pace and a loud volume. Bernie just stared at her with his mouth open in shock as she spoke of how there was no point in building nukes "if you don't have the balls to use 'em."

Finally, a nurse came in, ushered Bernie out of the room and insisted she calm down.

"Not on my watch!" she shot back.

The next few days were a blur. And they had led up to this morning.

The doctor was explaining that elective surgery wasn't the way to go, that cutting off her legs, as she'd insisted, was excessive for what was, after all, just an odor.

"Kill 'em," she insisted. "Cut 'em off. And if you won't do it, I will find someone who will! Barring that, I'll cut 'em off myself!"

Grabbing the doctor's hand, she'd bit his arm to make sure he got the point and how serious she was. To save her, it was necessary to destroy her. Couldn't he grasp that? What kind of a doctor was he?

He'd given her a sedative. Good. He was serious. She was sure she could be wide awake through the procedure. In fact, she pictured herself eating as they removed her legs. But if he was prepping her for surgery, she didn't care. Just get it over with, was her attitude.

Too many people did nothing or just talked. She was all about action. Cut the legs off. Cut the legs off to get rid of the smell. If that didn't stop it, the arms were next. Need be, they'd go further. That would cure it. She knew that.

When she awoke, she was in an ambulance. Some woman was chattering away in an annoying manner but she just wanted to see if they'd removed her legs. They hadn't. They'd screwed her over. Friggin' doctors. Friggin' cowards.

"Why are you calling me that? Who are you?" she yelled at the woman who would not stop patting her arm.

"Honey, it's me. Your mother."

They'd put some crazy in the ambulance with her. Who was this woman? She noticed that she, herself, was restrained and decided that short of chewing the woman's face off, if she could lure her close enough, she had no way to defend herself. Better not to rock the boat, just yet.

"Where are we going?"


Bellevue. It sounded like her homeland -- where green hills met the coast. She was going home. Samantha Power was going home.

"Who?" the woman asked her.

"Samantha Power. That is my name."

The woman wouldn't look at her. Probably hadn't realized whom she was dealing with. A celebrity. One of the great thinkers of our time. Where there were problems, she was there screaming for war. And, she told herself, that would always be the case.

Cut The Fat! Newt Takes It Off!

What would summer be without a weight loss book? Wading in to the annual bikini and toga debate this year is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. An excerpt from his upcoming book, Cut The Fat! Newt Takes It Off! as told to William R. Forstchen.

America is a fat nation and that has to stop. Cut the fat! Cut the fat!

Under the leadership of the late Ronald Reagan, America was a nation where things flourished, trains ran on time, the world was at peace, neighbors openly hugged one another on the streets and we all had the appropriate body mass. Then came McClinton and it's been fat, fat, fat ever since.

Waistlines or Waste Lines

You want to look good on the beach? Well how can you when, as soon as you get there, you're confronted with all these Welfare Beachers? Sucking on the government teet. Suck, suck, suck, suck, suck. It's time to cut them off. We need legislation that will impose a maximum of two weeks for unemployment insurance. If you leave a job, you're expected to give two weeks notice. Two weeks is certainly long enough to find a job. If you can't, then there must be something wrong with you! You should either kill yourself or move overseas where most of the jobs currently are!

Firm Buttocks or Bullocks!

As my third or fourth wife likes to remind me, no one likes a flabby ass. And why should they?

And why should we take it upon ourselves to provide free breakfasts to school children? Aren't they fat enough as it is? Most of them only go to school for seven and a half hours a day as it is. Are you telling me there's not time to work? Want to eat? Get a job! Are you telling me that the children in China, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam have more fortitude than American children? If it's so, it's only because we baby children in this country.

We used to take pride, in this country, in our sweat shops. Saw them as a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. As Jeffrey Sachs has said, "My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops, but that there are too few." I share that concern and think we've gotten awfully namby-pamby in this country over a few fires right after the turn of the last century. Fires are exciting and fun. Kids love them. Lot of them want to ride a fire truck. Quit trying to shelter them and hide them away. Put 'em to work and let them show a little productivity that made this country great.

"There's nothing like the satisfaction you feel after an honest day's work," friends often tell me and I take their word for it. You should too. It is child abuse to deny that same satisfaction to children.

Thighs or Piernas

One of the most slimming things about anyone's appearance is the ability to stand up. You need strong legs for that. Whether you are pointing out that Spanish is "the language of living in a ghetto" or calling out for the end of bilingual programs in public schools, as I did, in 1995, you have to take tough stands. Not only does that make you more attractive, it also gives you stronger legs which enable you to run quickly should anyone notice that you who insult Spanish also hectored David Branccacio that Marketplace should broadcast in Spanish back in 2001?

Saggy Man Boobs

One of the things we hear often is "Be All That You Can Be" and sometimes we may overreach. Like when Bill Clinton thought he could put me and Bob Dole at the back of Air Force One. Like Rosa Parks before me, I didn't hesitate to protest. I shut down the entire federal government. Where's my White Man's History month, huh? But a lot of times we have to grasp that while aspirations are good, acceptance is sometimes needed.

Take my saggy man boobs. Please! I joke about them but I wouldn't live without them. Not now, since I've accepted them. I always used to drool over women's breasts and, the way I see it, my own saggy man boobs are just the Lord's way of rewarding me. I may not ever need divorce again. Anytime I feel a little frisky, I just close my eyes, reach inside my own shirt and fondle away.

Newt below, at a photo session, posing for the cover of Cut The Fat! Newt Takes It Off!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }