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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wire Reports

--for Godfrey Reggio and John Donne

6 a.m.
I was standing on the first tee at the KGA Golf Club in downtown Bangalore, in southern India, when my playing partner pointed at two shiny glass-and-steel buildings off in the distance, just behind the first green.

On a giant video screen, Nature imagery, manipulated in slow motion, double exposure or time lapse, juxtaposed with footage of humans' devastating environmental impact on the planet. A storm system was sitting out over the ocean. Myanmar’s social welfare minister said most of the town of Bogalay had been washed away, killing more than 10,000 people. 

The world was going to hell, there was no stability in sight and the global economy was roaring its approval.

9 a.m.
Before long, I had gained a sense of society's plasticity, fostering an illusion that I could destroy and remake the social order at will.

On a giant video screen, people were dancing in a cesspool around rings of fire engulfing the remains of corporate profiteers. “These are unbelievable periods of volatility, it's pretty stressful," said one corporate bond trader in Frankfurt. “There’s a black cloud of doom that seems to hang over the entire cast,” said an actress who worked on the film.

All around could be felt the disintegration of being that comes with the night. The static became audibly more noticeable than the music.

10 a.m.
Young Ukrainian models in flimsy lingerie sprayed champagne at a boisterous crowd of young Lebanese at a swanky beach resort south of Beirut. The United Nations warned of a looming catastrophe with disease rife among the hungry, exhausted population.


I can tell you without hesitation that the winds of change are sweeping across the continent of Africa,” said a government official who requested anonymity. “It’s good for the state, which has been concerned that there hasn’t been enough rain this season,” said one governor’s aide. 

The storm system, four times the size of Texas, resembled a hurricane, with spiral water-ice clouds and an eye. It lashed ancient Mayan ruins and headed for the modern oil installations of the Yucatan Peninsula.

2 p.m.

It became clear that the government was in trouble. I began to transmit digital images and text via my satellite phone. I told my accountant "Every gear in the system is grinding against the popular will, subverting the democratic mojo that we tell the rest of the world bleeds from our veins.” 

A small crowd cheered outside a stadium dazzlingly created in polygons with every event preceded by sweeping camera angles, and replays shown live on a giant video screen. At a quick glance, I thought I saw myself on a magazine cover. Fossilized into the screen, the terraced images of breast and buttock had ceased to carry any meaning.

I feel like a millionaire,” said one prizewinner showing a huge set of emeralds and diamonds, “but I never realized it would be so heavy.” Antelopes suffering from summer’s savage heat raced with parched throats toward the distant sky. Al-Jazeera television also showed it at that time, saying it was exclusive.

5 p.m.
All the rules created license to go to far greater extremes than had ever been allowed before. Every spigot was open and every indulgence slopped out for our gleeful wallowing. “Be collected. No more amazement,” I whispered, but the storm system continued to inch closer and closer.

Poll numbers started plummeting because of the violence, because of the missteps and trouble and challenges. The storm system was blamed for some six deaths in the Philippines as it crossed the island. Dozens of reporters fled or abandoned their work due to a climate of fear. Colors pulsed, the music pounded and images of majesty and beauty swirled across the screen at a whirlwind pace. An old woman said “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.” 

11 p.m.
The descent beckons as the ascent beckoned. The yachts moored in the Bay of Naples and the lagoon at Bora Bora sail under the flags of the same admiralty that posts squadrons off the shore of Nantucket and the Costa Brava

Looking up I saw myself on a giant video screen. 

In the grotesque, grinning photographs I clearly seemed to believe that what I was doing was routine and approved. The shadows of clouds were moving darkly along the unlit landscape. 

The world was going to hell, there was no stability in sight and the global economy was roaring its approval on a giant video screen. 

I returned to my hotel at midnight only to be told to leave again as waters were rising.



1. Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2005.
1. Generic and Koyaanisqatsi
2. Generic
3. Unknown, Myanmar cyclone official toll: 22,464, UPI,
4. Naomi Klein, “Disaster Capitalism,” Harper’s,

1. Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2006, p 84.
2.“Greedtock ’99: Why we Rioted”
3. qu. by Jeremy Gaunt, Credit casualties mount global stocks tumble, Wed Aug 1, 2007,
5. Witold Gombrowicz, Pornografia, Alastair Hamilton, tr., p. 48.
6. Rob Williams,

1. Yara Bayoumy, Beach frolics eclipse politics in war weary Lebanon,
2. . Sahal Abdulle, “Somali Government, Insurgents Battle,” 4/24/07
3. Kenneth Kaunda, qu. By DeWayne Wickham, “Winds of change are sweeping across Africa,” USA Today, 10/27/2003,
Larry Jagan, Intrigue and illness in Myanmar's junta
4. Marisa Lagos, John Koopman, More Rain and Snow on Way,
5. Henry Fountain, Observatory,
6. Associated Press, Category 5 Hurricane Dean Slams Mexico, 8/21/2007

1. Dr. Ellis,
2. Generic and Farhad Manjoo, “Your Presidential Candidate: Hot or Not?”
4. Mad Bull, “Dis ones for the ladeez”
5. . J.G. Ballard, The atrocity exhibition
6. Adapted from Khin Nyein Aye Than, A Night Sparkling with Jewels and Candlelight.
7. Kalidasa, “Rtusamharam,” The Complete Works of Kalidasa, Chandra Rajan tr. Sahitya Akademi, p. 79
8. Associated Press, “Iraqis seek source of taunts, hanging video,” Baltimore Sun, 1/3/07, 8A

1. Philip Gourevitch, U.S. News and World Report, in an interview with Alex Kingsbury, 6/9/08
2. Thomas Frank. Why Misgovernment Was No Accident in Bush’s Washington,
3. Shakespeare, The Tempest
4. Adapted from
5. Ed Henry, CNN Sunday Morning, May 21, 2006.
8. Peter M. Bracke, “Across the Universe,”
9. Adapted from a Nightline interview w/ anonymous hurricane survivor

1.William Carlos Williams
2. Lewis Lapham, Estate Sale, Harper’s May 2008
3. Generic
4. Andrew Sullivan “The Horrors really are your America, Mr. Bush”,,29449-2209636,00.html
5. Greg Holt, “Sitting Bull Falls,”

120 Days of Enron


I was sodomizing my accountant on a high school football field when Sade showed up,
bloated like a tick, face blacker than a tree trunk in the March haze. A sable braid uncoiled like a python down his back—unslung as my mistress’ thorns abandoned
her whip-tattered blouse now blowing from the field goal post. “Come,” he said.
“The governor’s been forced to fellate a hundred thousand microphones.” I think he smiled
and broke his cheekbones doing so.


Ten thousand blondes from USC now tremor in mystery as the palm trees of L.A. deflect the moon’s sole light. San Diego es en fuego, I heard one of my colleagues say,
which meant the night had withered immigrants, sifted artists through a dungeon of unemployment and Marlboro Lights, sweating with killers they loved! How hot the HVAC people must have got
trying to make up our megawatts! Heat strokes maybe, who gasped their last as doctors cursed, through surgical masks, the hospital, powerless and wild; all at the moment I blew their life savings on paintings by Kinkade and a yacht I named The Christ Child! To bloodsuckers! To public calamities! There’s no statue we can’t mold back into clay with a smooth enough hand.
And fuck it if there is. I don’t really give a fuck

if the stars leave fingerprints that point to me at midnight. Do you see any child occlude the path to where our centaur fucks his foals? Clinton—that letch—thought he could make us stop.
(Careful asshole!
That pelt you’re sitting on is the last ocelot!
I guess not every man’s a tyrant when he fornicates,
but once men of god taste our unicorn, a trillion dollars a pound,
our finest vintage from the gulf is sure to wash their questions down. Anyway, you can sue the fucking government. Let the smoke and locusts blow.


A halogen full moon left a rainbow in the jet fuel as we left, heads high as the stealth fighter blows
through castle gates of the cumulonimbus, our finest dominatrix.
But it was on private planes we toasted as the governor went down into the sewer. I landed home in time to undress my daughter on a bearskin rug. Sade watched us from the sofa, made small talk about revolution—
then snuck up behind me and turned me so my asshole gaped! I shouted:

“You can’t do this to me. What is this, some fucking third world country?”
“No, no,” he said.
“It’s simple choreography.”

Union of the State

I can’t pretend I’m a small man
to those who would apologize
for earthquakes if it happened.
Big wheels keep on turning but
mad scrambles often end the same as well-planned plans.
How many roundups began as stampedes?
Each day something new wrong swamps me
like I or you could know how deep this step or that—
even the CIA just guesses sometimes. Let me reparaphrase that.
If you show me 30 shades of black and ask
which one’s jet, it’s a designer, not a man you want.
Only the Lord has vision that precise
and He’s mysterious.
On reverses of your weather page each day,
amid the threats in editorials
some genius reasons insights
that await a reasoned world. See how they tempt you
with knowing things that hurt to know
but no matter how hard you understand it
it doesn’t make sense? These facts create a thirst
you can never get enough of, turn you inside out,
then leave you with the spins.
So I am going beyond the box, clearing the brush,
leaving no fuel for the fires by mulching it,
because those who don’t know history are immune to it,
think big-like, charging all manner of mire, unafraid to assume
the gators won’t get us this time.
We have to outbrain them like that.
If missing arms slip through your hands
point out the world is one brute safer than before,
and if that fails, then liberation is a noble chore
even if it must be spread with a sortie. Or maybe a
gentler hand to a merer tyranny.
I appreciate that this seems contradictory
but freedom is a hungry animal sometimes than others.
And at the end of this mission I’ll be planting the seeds of a fire
that will engulf those who lack that fire—
fighting for neighbors, doing good for Man,
bevisioning nations out of the blue.
See, that’s how you run a company. I mean democracy
is hard work; keeping people equally unhappy
takes leadership skills, management principles
and leadership—the brain to trust that those who failed
will do a heck of a job some day. See,
I am someone others are against because I am for something
and that is why I stand for what matters. It’s the opposite of bad
to take things as they come.
One false step is better than standing still,
afraid there’s no move true enough
to only wound the hand that hurts you.
It’s a war. Expect a mess.
But you conquer the devil by making fire a virtue.
There’s light at the end of the train
and we’re gonna scale that train.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


One morning one summit and a nominal peace
was reached under date trees and morning heat,
men with perfect teeth and men without,
three hundred bright flags sulking like tears.
You learn to bake slowly on royal clay courts,
praising a war you tried to avoid—
call it the beginning of a childhood dream—
because the future needs more optimists prepared to lie
than resignations signed by those
afraid of being labeled hypocrites.
But jumping one rock for another
in a flood you tried to dam
still will muddy you.
So you find the best positions slip away,
even if your footing is secure.
Since you know how vision blurs before a brawl
you will rein in a slow consideration of the facts,
aware that it’s been tempered with everyone’s worst fears
to prop a truth already chosen by their clocks.
To keep the world from thinking
it’s the kingdom of our corporate knights,
devising plans to slay the golden dragons alone
you must refresh old friendships,
risking applause if you succeed,
or absolution for your efforts if you fail.
Either way you can be framed an opportunist—
speculating on the world’s opinion—
by hawks who don’t know why
a man with nothing more to gain
hinges their invasion on permission from the powerless.
And you must volunteer to save them!
An equally deluded world awaits your counsel
with reservations in all that you propose:
Not that you’ll have more than circumstantial tapes
and fuzzy photographs to show.
And no matter how sincere your speech
the circumvention will make it sound so glib
that when opposition comes, it’s sympathetic to your cause,
but amused to watch you twisting in the wind.
So thanked and scolded and squeezed between philosophies
you’ll go back to the capital to pay
for fashioning the truth from things that seemed true yesterday.
By then your life may seem to be careering—
one long Mercedes ride on an unpaved road,
down which you disappear from history’s bad dreams
as your favors fade to crimes.
just hope one day your words taste better
than what’s become of mine.

Critical Thinking


The aerial photo lay on the table like a deceased dinosaur thrown out of its habitat by some primary force.

I listened to the last bars of the Mahler symphony playing from a radiogram extension in the warm bedroom.

I had locked myself into a golden prison that only postponed the day of reckoning.

The violence resumed despite a four-day Muslim holiday.

A pregnant woman died in a house made of iron sheets after a mortar hit where she was sleeping. Broken limbs, broken jaws, a body raked from end to end, lungs pierced through and through, entrails torn and protruding.

Television pictures of the latest carnage were soon being beamed into living rooms around the world.

There was blood everywhere. There were pieces of flesh floating in the air.

I called my commander. He is an emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else. He said Whatever the company might lack in scale and scope, it has gained in speed and timing. Instead of issuing constant warnings, we must project stoicism and resolve.

But the violence continued despite a four-day Muslim holiday.

I often found dozens of corpses a night dumped in the capital, many of them tortured by Shiite death squads using power tools.

Debris and clothing mannequins would be scattered in thick pools of blood on the floors of warehouse-type buildings while men tossed plastic chairs onto piles.

On television, violent scenes would air continuously, the most brutal often repeated with the most frequency.

Like the old god Proteus, they were endless in the forms they took and filled with the information of realized Nature.

There was blood everywhere. There were pieces of flesh floating in the air.

I called my commander. He had synthesized the behavioral research done by contract academics in a manual spelling out a revolutionary two-phase form of torture that relied on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. I said We're turning craters into bigger craters and rubble into smaller pieces of rubble. He said
If we apply critical thinking, we may have a chance of formalizing the subversive.

But the violence continued despite a four-day Muslim holiday.

Before long, militants were taking positions in almost every building--they had positions in the basement, on the stairs.

Gunmen popped up on rooftops and in alleys, engaging us in crackling gunfights shouting Our warband is invincible. We may chatter like barbarians, but at sunrise our horses will drink blood and the vultures will eat flesh.

Once a car bomb exploded, killing at least 28 people with a blast that touched off raging fires and a blizzard of bloodstained paper from a popular book market.

But now it was a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side complete bodies, on that side halves; and everywhere body parts.

The charred body of a child lay motionless on a stretcher. A river of blood oozed from beneath another's long tangled hair.

There were pieces of flesh floating in the air.

I called my commander. He said The score is 60-0, but we don't know what quarter we're in. I said Both sides accuse each other of violations. He shouted angrily We already had our Vietnam!

Sometimes I wonder how I will feel when I see self-centered and soft Americans instead of the hardened, swaggering Marines who ask for nothing more than a chance to kill some bad guys and make a difference.

But why rack your brain when it's going to be plastered over a tree trunk at any second?



1. Shimon Naveh, “Between the Striated and the Smooth,” Cabinet, Summer 2006.
2. J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition, ReSearch, San Francisco, 1990.
3. Peter Bernstein, The Power of Gold, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2000.
4. Associated Press, “Violence Resumes in Gaza as Rivals Clash,” Baltimore Sun, 1/2/07, 7A

1. Guled Mohamed and Sahal Abdulle, “Mortar blasts rock Mogadishu,”
2. Winston Churchill, My African Journey, Easton Press, Norwalk, 1992.
3. Philip Stevens, Tony Blair, Viking, New York, 2004.
4. Guled Mohamed and Sahal Abdulle. Ibid
5.Witness, “Suicide Bomber Kills 3 MPs at Iraq Parliament,”

1. Generic
2. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, The Easton Press, Norwalk, 1980, p. 36.
3. Dan Steinbock, The Nokia Revolution, Amacom, New York, 2001, p. 127.
4. Brian Michael Jenkins, “Unconquerable Nation,” Rand Corporation, Santa Monica. 2006.

1. Ibid

1. Jason, “Update from Ramadi,” 4/24/07,
2. Bushra Juhi, “Bombs Strike Baghdad Markets, Kill at Least 71,” Associated Press, 2/12/2007
3. Rachel Bronson, Thicker Than Oil, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, p. 234.
4. Edward Wilson, The Diversity of Life, Norton, New York, 1999, p. 80.
5. Ibid
6. Ibid

1. Generic
2. Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2006, p. 50.
3. General Charles Guthrie, qu. by Philip Stevens, Tony Blair, Viking, New York, 2004, p. 164.
4. Shimon Naveh, ibid

1. Ibid

1. Major-General Waheed Arshad, qu. by Zeeshan Haider, “Pakistani Troops Storm Mosque,” 7/10/2007,
2. Alexandra Zavis and Julian Barnes, “U.S. launches Iraq offensive,” Baltimore Sun 6/20/07
3-4. Bugul, quoted by Lidwien Kapteijns, Mahdist Faith and Sudanist Tradition, KPI Ltd., London, 1985, p. 179.
5. Lauren Frayer, “Car Bomb Kills 28 at Baghdad Market,”
6-7. unknown Iraqi woman, qu. by Mark Danner, “Words in a Time of War,”
8. unknown “37 Die as Car Bomb Hits Near Iraq Shrine,”
9. Tina Susman, “Fallout from Girl's Stoning Embodies Iraq’s Discord” May 21, 2007,
10. Ibid.

2. General Charles Horner, qu. by Time-Life Books, Air Strike, Alexandria, VA
3. Skye Wheeler, “Uganda rebels to return to talks mediator,”
4. Harry Kleiner, Sheldon Lettich, & Sylvester Stallone, Rambo III, Tri Star Pictures

1. Chris Lozano, “The Last Quarter,”

1. Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, The Cloud Garden, Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2003.