Friday, December 26, 2014

Profiling the Islamic “Lone Wolf”

In his December 25th “Christmas” column, “Every Christmas Now Comes with Muslim Terrorism,” Daniel Greenfield observed about the average, unassuming Muslims in our midst:

They may lapse at times. They may get through a university education, attend nightclubs, listen to the same music all the other kids their age do-- but there's still a ticking time bomb inside their heads. And that bomb is the same one that appears as the lit fuse on the turban of the cartoon Mohammad.

An average and unassuming Muslim next door or down the street can douse the fuse himself by repudiating Islam. He can convert to Christianity, to Judaism, to Buddhism, to Scientology, or even become an atheist. Apostasy is absolutely imperative, but comes with some risk because Islam, the “religion of peace,” decrees the death of an apostate.

Honor killings of girls and women who are “seduced” by Western cultural and social norms are a result of a partial or full repudiation of Islam by their victims. The killings are committed by average and unassuming Muslim parents and relatives. The perpetrators preserve their ethereal “honor”; the victims lose their lives.

Still, repudiation entails some very serious thinking and reflection. But repudiation in some form is necessary to douse that fuse or to defuse the ticking mechanism inside his turbaned mind before it eventually explodes the bomb. Only the prospective apostate knows which color wire needs to be snipped.

For otherwise he may take the car jihad route, or plant bombs among throngs of Marathon spectators or Christmas shoppers, or toss fire bombs at passing cars. Or shoot two policemen in cold blood as they have lunch in a patrol car in Brooklyn. Or murder two hostages inside an Australian chocolate shop. Lately, and too often, it’s the ordinary-looking Muslims who have been waging “lone wolf” jihad against Westerners. They haven’t telegraphed their intentions by wearing suicide vests or toting AK-47’s and wearing ski-masks in public as they approach their targets. They infiltrate crowds or stroll past a café and do what they came to do. Destroy.

But it’s the ticking time bomb metaphor of Greenfield’s that piqued my resolve to offer additional comments about how and why “lone wolf” terrorists are not “alone.”

Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, in her December 18th FSM column, “Man Haron Monis’ Politically Incorrect Developmental Problem,” argues that many terrorists, such as the Sydney, Australia chocolate shop hostage-taker and killer, or the Chechen jihadists, are somewhat autistic, are terrified of being alone, are bereft of or derogate the basic norms of social behavior, and as a consequence are unable to “bond” or empathize with anyone, especially not with their victims.  Their victims are simply objects to be controlled and destroyed. After all, one can’t “bond” with a rock, except perhaps when one is using it to bash someone’s brains out.

[Jihadis]… are obsessed with the infidel and their feminization of the Other as well as bonding to hard objects such as weapons.

Just think of the Taliban attack on the Pakistani military school. They might brag that their [own] children are jewels but no one else's are - for them the Pakistani victims were merely objects in their poorly developed minds. Jihadis harbor a terror of the other. They do not know how to relate to anyone who is not exactly like them. They are the ultimate narcissists. They did not learn the corollary to "Some of these things are just like the other" which is "Some of these things and people are different and that is okay." No, we must become Muslim just like them as they are terrified to be alone.

I purchase some of Kobrin’s argument, but not all of it. Perhaps there is some truth in Kobrin’s thesis that a terrorist wishes to instill in his victims the terror he feels himself at the sight of those who appear to have lived successfully. He wishes to reduce his victims to the metaphysical state of A.E. Houseman’s alienated  manqué:

"I, a stranger and afraid, in a world I never made."

Islam gives that manqué an excuse and a chance to unmake the world he never made.

In the final analysis, however, whether or not an Islamic terrorist, or even a non-terrorist, is autistic, developmentally arrested, or has developed sociopathic, pathological, or psychotic symptoms or habits, diagnosed or not, he chooses to take his actions based on his fundamental epistemology and metaphysics. If they are dark and obsessed enough, that will be enough to drive him to become what is commonly called a “lone wolf” terrorist.

What the “lone wolf” terrorist craves is something to fill the void of his internal being, a cause, a religion, or a movement that will dictate his actions and his purpose for existing. HIs “internal being” acts like a stellar black hole. It sucks everything within range of its gravity into its crushing mass and obliterates everything’s identity. Unable to form his own first-hand values, he borrows values from others. HIs nihilistic, malevolent universe “soul”—that hunk of venomous glop – is naturally attracted to anything that exhorts him to help “change the world” – or to take revenge on it because it does not automatically supply him with a reason for living.

Islam does that: It supplies anyone born into it, or anyone who choses to convert to it, with an automatic reason for living. Islam doesn’t require deep thinking or reflection. Islam punishes it.

As I remarked in “’Lone Wolf’ Terrorists are Not “Alone,” the Islamic “lone wolf” terrorist seeks the company of his ilk. He wants to “belong” to something, or to some tribe that seems to be having a consequence in the world he never made. Of all the religions that ask one to give oneself to a higher being and its purposes, Islam is the most demanding and thorough. It demands that one regard oneself as superfluous, as inconsequential, as selfless. What better creed could an essentially selfless person be attracted to like a filing to a magnet but Islam? He “gives” himself to Allah.

As I remarked in my previous column, he need not even come into contact with his ilk. All he need do is absorb all the nihilist, Islamic calls to jihad on such Internet sites as “Inspire” that urge Muslims to take up arms, even if it’s only with a carving knife or a machete, against Western infidels.  As Pamela Geller on Atlas Shrugs reports:

The latest issue of the slick jihad magazine, “Inspire”, is devoted to lone jihadi attacks (or as the media calls them lone wolves). The Islamic State’s recently released video called for more bloody lone wolf jihadi attacks.

Clearly Muslims across the US, Canada and Europe are “inspired” by the Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Qur’an to wage jihad. They are taking their marching orders quite seriously as we have witnessed this past week alone – the cold-blooded murder of two NYPD cops by a jihadi, three distinct “allahu akbar” attacks in France in as many days, and thwarted attacks in Denmark, Canada and the UK.

What’s fascinating is the Asperger-like insistence by Obama, the EU, and the media that these attacks are not Islamic or religiously motivated. It would be laughable if there weren’t so many dead and bloodied bodies.

The treacly, fear-driven divorcing by many American and European politicians of Islam from the piles of bodies and smoking ruins and carnage produced by Islamic terrorists and ISIS and the Taliban is worth another column. As for President Barack Obama, his affinity for Islam is too well known to comment on here (I’ve discussed his malodorous policies and actions in past columns); his intention to “accelerate” the “transfer” or “release” of Gitmo detainees is, I’m certain, motivated by his own “lone wolf” malignity. There is a proven record that those already released are certain to return to the “battlefield” to kill more Americans and plan more jihad. He must know this. This knowledge damns him.

To help gauge the “internal workings” of a “lone wolf” terrorist – one who acts on his own at the behest of his inner demons and answers the call to rampant or random jihad – read the life stories of Ted Bundy, the serial killer, Richard Speck, and Charles Manson. Speck and Manson were not serial killers. In fact, Manson did not kill anyone, he ordered his Family to commit murders. To his Family, he acted as a kind of Mohammad whose example must be followed without question and who must be obeyed. Speck had no “family” of cultists; he was a shiftless “ne’er-do-well” who raped and murdered on opportunity. Bundy, whose rape-murder-dismemberment spree produced at least thirty victims, was evil incarnate.

But the common denominator between the three men is that they lived empty, aimless, itinerate lives, in whom grew a festering  pustule  of resentment and hatred for everyone and everything. Their nihilist criminal careers presaged those of “lone wolf’ Islamic terrorists.

Monday, December 22, 2014

“Lone Wolf” Terrorists are Not “Alone”

A “lone wolf” is still as much a predator as it would be in a pack. Its predatory, programmed instincts, behavior and actions are shared with those of a pack. It may be a “lone wolf” because of conflicts between it and the wolf pack. But it is still a wolf.

Wikipedia notes about the behavior of the “lone wolf”:

As an animal, a lone wolf is a wolf that lives independently rather than with others as a member of a pack.

In the animal kingdom, lone wolves are typically older wolves driven from the pack, perhaps by the breeding male, or are young adults in search of new territory. Many young wolves between the ages of 1 and 4 years leave their family to search for a pack of their own (this has the effect of preventing inbreeding), as in typical wolf packs there is only one breeding pair.

Some wolves will simply remain lone wolves; as such, these lone wolves may be stronger, more aggressive and far more dangerous than the average wolf that is a member of a pack. However, lone wolves have difficulty hunting, as wolves’ favorite prey, large ungulates, are nearly impossible for a single wolf to bring down alone. Instead, lone wolves will generally hunt smaller animals and scavenge carrion.

“Lone wolves” or packs of wolves kill to survive. They eat their prey.

“Lone wolf” jihadists and terrorists, by the same token, are still Islamic supremacists. They need not be “soldiers” of any particular group, such as Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Al-Qaeda. They need not run with a pack. They need not have had any close or social contact with any of those groups, other than perhaps attending a mosque that preaches violent jihad against the West.

Many “lone wolf” terrorists are converts driven to “prove” their new religious convictions. Their “independence” of action may not even be approved by any of those groups, although their fascination with Islam may be fueled by what a “lone wolf” sees those groups approve of as seen on the Internet and in the MSM in the way of beheadings, dismemberment of victims’ bodies, rapes, and “random” killings. Not to mention the chest-beating claims by terrorists that Islam will rule the world. All this answers an element in a “lone wolf’s” makeup, a malevolent loneliness. He responds. He is not alone.

“Lone wolf” terrorists do not kill to survive. They kill for the sake of killing.  Islamic terrorists, alone or in packs or gangs, are in essence nihilists. They boast:

"We love death more than you love life." – Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 and wounded 30 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, TX

"We love death more than you love life." – Adis Medunjanin, part of a 911 call made in New York City after crashing his car while fleeing from federal agents who had confiscated his passport

Anyone doubting the Islamic fixation on death and its compulsion to destroy life, should see Palestinian Media Watch’s sampling of “death wishes” here. The death wishes one sees there are endemic throughout Islam. They are not unique to the “Palestinians.”  They are permanently etched in Koranic Sharia law and in the Muslim mentality.

Here is a short list of murders committed by “lone wolf” Islamic terrorists:

British Muslim “grooming” gangs, which are little more than Islamic wolf packs following the dictates of the Koran and Hadith on the status of “captured” infidel or non-Muslim girls and women, and which do not operate under the aegis or orders of any recognized terrorist gang. These gangs can be said to be sub-tribes of Muslims. Their purpose is to kill any sense of personal identity in their victims, to dehumanize them.

 The murder of Lee Rigby.

The murder of Colleen Hufford.

The recent murders of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn.

The “car jihad” murders in Israel, France, and The Netherlands. In the U.S., an Iranian Muslim committed “car jihad” in 2006 at the University of North Carolina.

A “lone wolf” jihadist needn’t even have any grievances concerning Islam. It can be racially motivated, as in the NYPD murders, which were about cops killing black suspects in self-defense.

The Boston Marathon bombing, carried out by two “lone wolf” Muslims.

The Sydney, Australia Lindt Chocolate hostage-taking and murderby a “lone wolf.”

The foiled Times Square “lone wolf” bomber from 2010.

This list could go on for pages. Here is a sampling of the West’s kneejerk denials that “lone wolves” are not associated with the “religion of peace.” These and countless other “authorities” claim to be perplexed by the common denominator between violent crime committed by Muslims… and Islam:

Robert Boyce, NYPD’s Chief of Detectives, on the murder of two patrolmen by a Muslim:

Late this afternoon, the NYPD’s Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce, knocked down published reports that Brinsley may have had ties to a militant prison gang, but said he’d made anti-government statements on social media.

“There is one where he burns a flag and made some statements. There’s others with talks of anger for the police. He specifically mentions Michael Brown and Eric Garner…. Right now we have no gang affiliation at all attributed to this man. He has no tattoos to suggest anything of it and he has no religious statements that we found on Instagram at all. None whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, in Australia, Manny Conditsis, the former attorney of Man Haron Monis, the chocolate shop hostage-taker and murderer, offered a weazely explanation for Monis’s criminality: 

Monis' former lawyer Manny Conditsis describes him as a 'damaged goods individual' with an ideology that clouds his common sense.

'This is a one-off random individual,' Mr Conditsis said. 'It's not a concerted terrorism event or act. It's a damaged goods individual who's done something outrageous. 'His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness.' 

Ayn Rand, the novelist/philosopher, had some keen observations about “lone wolves.” In the “Ayn Rand Letter” of June, 1973:

In my last two Letters ["The Missing Link"] I discussed the anti-conceptual mentality and its social (tribal) manifestations.  All tribalists are anti-conceptual in various degrees, but not all anti-conceptual mentalities are tribalists.  Some are lone wolves (stressing that species' most predatory characteristics).

The majority of such wolves are frustrated tribalists, i.e., persons rejected by the tribe (or by the people of their immediate environment): they are too unreliable to abide by conventional rules, and too crudely manipulative to compete for tribal power.  Since a perceptual mentality cannot provide a man with a way of survival, such a person, left to his own devices, becomes a kind of intellectual hobo, roaming about as an eclectic second-hander or brain-picker, snatching bits of ideas at random, switching them at whim, with only one constant in his behavior: the drifting from group to group, the need to cling to people, any sort of people, and to manipulate them. [Bold type mine.]

Bear in mind that Rand was writing in 1973, long before Islam raised its Medusa’s head to wage its non-stop war on the West and on the world. (The first Islamic-related plane hijacking took place in February 1972.) The “lone wolf,” she explains, is basically selfless, that is, he has no anchored or permanent sense of self-identity. HIs “self” flits from religion to group to cause in search of something that will give him a sense of self. A genuine self, she writes, has a set of non-lethal personal or second-hand values to which he is fully or only nominally loyal.  

The jihadist’s search will end, however, when he alights on a “cause” or a group or a religion that promises some measure of “drama.” The search will flail about governed by the individual’s core metaphysical premise: death, or killing that which it cannot be. It searches for targets imbued with the perceived, enviable aura of successful living. The terrorist will feel “real” only when he is wielding life-or-death power over the living. Being a ready-made Muslim/jihadist, or converting to Islam promises to reward him his own aura of importance, especially if he decides to engage in murder and mayhem. I frankly doubt that any run-of-the-mill “peaceful” Muslim genuinely believes that being a suicidal “martyr” will convey him immediately to Paradise and 72 virgins. But, in Islam, to doubt that is a serious, fatwa-earning crime.

Identifying the amoral character of a “lone wolf,” Rand noted:

Without personal values, a man can have no sense of right or wrong.  The tribal lone wolf is an amoralist all the way down….

The amoralist's implicit patter of self-appraisal (which he seldom identifies or admits) is: "I am good because it's me."

 Beyond the age of about three to five (i.e., beyond the perceptual level of mental development), this is not an expression of pride or self-esteem, but of the opposite: of a vacuum – of a stagnant, arrested mentality confessing its impotence to achieve any personal value or virtue.

To an observer, an amoralist or “lone wolf” may appear to have values and be moved by them. But the appearance is merely an elaborately constructed façade raised over a lifetime to hide the truth from any and all observers – and from the amoralist himself.

Citing a number of rationalizations of how an amoralist can convince himself and others of his “goodness,” Rand concluded:

But even such shoddy substitutes for morality are only a pretense: the amoralist does not believe that "I am good because it's me."  That implicit policy is his protection against his deepest, never-to-be-identified conviction: "I am no good through and through." (Italics Rand’s)

To sum up, the “lone wolf” Islamic terrorist knows that he is at root irredeemably evil, that his soul is nothing more than a hunk of poisonous glop, which he dare not contemplate for any length of time.

All those suicide bombers, all those suicide attack squads willing to butcher dozens of adult and children’s lives as callously as reaping wheat or mowing a lawn, such as during the Peshawar school massacre, all the killing and destruction committed by them and fellow killers, especially at the price of their own lives, reveling  their victims’ screams of terror and pain, savoring the bloody carnage – is but their own nihilist attempt to escape alone or in the company of fellow killers the self-knowledge that they are evil, of no value to themselves or to anyone else.

Is it any wonder that Islam is called the cult of death?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Not Travels With My Aunt

Or, My Global Banning

Last night, in my dreams, I took an imaginary junket around the world with every expectation that I would return alive and in one piece. Or at least not wake up screaming and in a cold sweat. I have recorded this adventure for the amusement of readers.

Actually, I didn’t travel with my late (but not late enough) biological aunt, although she did appear very briefly at the beginning of the dream, her creepy face leering at me from across the great divide of reality and fantasy. I’ve always tried to forget her face. She strongly resembled Madame Blavatsky in “spirit,” as well. When I met her for the first time, her first question to me was if I believed in séances. After making a face of incredulity – and I’ve been told I have a very expressive and forbidding face – I said no. This, time, however, I must have made a “Yech!” sound in my sleep, so her face went poof in a puff of phlogiston, and she never returned.

Or was it phostrogen? I never could get those two straight.

My first stop was Washington, D.C., which I last visited by train in 1975, and took away as my sole souvenirs a set of stainless steel salt and pepper shakers. They were the only worthwhile things I could find in any of the shops. I still have them. 

This time, however, I was stopped just inside the Beltway by a Capitol Police SWAT team in a Metro parking lot. It turned out that the NSA had long ago planted a GPS tracker in my trunk, and so the heavily clad and armed local Federales had received an electronic heads-up of my impending arrival. After being shaken, stirred, groped, and bar-coded, they informed me that I was banned from the city, that I could no longer enter the Capitol because of my many dozens of columns that roasted President Obama on an iron turning spit, which had earned me a “Red Flag Level 4” category of a “person of interest.”

I was warned that if I ever attempted to enter the city again, I would be arrested and sentenced without a hearing to labor for five years with an ankle bracelet as a bouncer for the Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, Nevada, to intercept wandering souls (or escapees) from the NSA data collection facility in Bluffdale, Utah. 

Next, rather abruptly I appeared in London. I don’t know how I got there, because I no longer fly. I vaguely recalled working my way to Britain as a relief chef on a tramp steamer. Here, I was immediately accosted by the police. I just materialized in Heathrow Airport, and was scanned with an electronic wand by a Customs person in a burqa firmly secured by a yellow straw boater with a purple band.

The wand made a horrible screeching sound, like old time air raid sirens during the London blitz. The burqa entity mumbled in a deep male voice something from behind its black sheath: “كل واضح!“  My Arabic is rusty, but I don’t think it meant, “All clear!”  It sounded more like, “أنت كافر القذرة! الجوارب الخاصة بك لا تبق!“  “You filthy kaffir! Your socks don’t match!” But don’t hold me to that.

The wand must have been computer-linked to Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (the equivalent of the NSA), because some seconds later I was surrounded by heavily clad and armed Transportation and Security Administration personnel and representatives from MI5, MI6, and what seemed to be a shimmering hologram of Theresa May, the Home Secretary (not the glamour model). I guessed she was too busy to show up herself. Her white hair looked as though she’d just stepped out of the shower – she was wrapped in a towel – and hadn’t time to blow-dry it, but  I can recognize moussed hair from a 100 yards. 

Leashed ferrets from the Metropolitan Police’s crack Drug and Explosives Detection Units sniffed around my ankles and other body parts for dangerous or illegal contraband, dogs having been cashiered from all British law enforcement duties on the complaints of Muslims who regard dogs as “filthy.” (They should talk!)     

One of the ferrets squeaked an alarm: He found a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes in a shirt pocket. Another squeaked; he found my Ronsonol lighter-fluid loaded Zippo in a pants pocket. The TSA fellows removed these items from my person, together with a prized Waterman pen.

And, wouldn’t you know it? Apparently my name is in the Brits’ “persons of especial interest” database, as well, because the faux Mrs. May produced an official-looking document from beneath her towel, snapped it open, and proceeded to read me the riot act.

“Because you have been demonstrably connected with other persons of an Islamophobic color and character, such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders, Steve Emerson, Michael Savage, and numerous other persons of that discredited ilk, and, because you have penned an Islamophobic novel, The Black Stone, and published tens if not hundreds of scurrilous and defamatory political columns that have been deemed Islamophobic, bigoted, inflammatory, and racist, including a separately published screed, Islam’s Reign of Terror, you therefore and henceforth also have been permanently prohibited from lawful entry into Great Britain, lest your presence and likely public statements be found hateful and offensive to Asians and provoke domestic disturbances.”

Mrs. May refolded her document, squinted at me fiercely, and asked: “What have you to say to these facts, sir?”

I shrugged and answered, ”I think you need grooming.”

The Customs entity in the burqa made an odd muffled sound beneath the black cloth – it might have been raspberries – and threw a rock at me. The ferrets squeaked ferociously.

Mrs. May scowled and snorted as only a Home Secretary could, and flicked the document in the air. “Be gone, ye of little faith!”

Before I could retort, “Actually, none,” I was whisked away to Marseilles, France, and found myself standing near a dock and a yacht. Up a steep hill and some stone steps, a sign in bright blue letters splattered with sea gull droppings read, Quai de Cocaïne. Beneath that one was a smaller one. Interdiction de fumer!  How did I know this was the Port of Marseilles ?

Because in another blink, I was face to face with Gene Hackman as Detective Popeye Doyle from The French Connection II.  He was there in pursuit of the master criminal/dope dealer who got away in The French Connection I. “Hey, mister!” he asked, running towards me, waving an arm wildly at me, “You speak Frog?” He was in a disheveled state, with his goofy hat on backwards, his trousers beneath the knees in tatters, and his tennis shoes were untied and squished with every step.  

 Grenouille? Est-ce que la langue latine ou à une Germanique?» I asked instead. I added,  «Je ne connaissais pas les grenouilles avaient une langue. Quel dialecte?"

Hackman groaned, made a face, and belted me once. Then he suddenly drew a small revolver from his jacket, looked over my shoulder, rested the gun on it, and fired. In my dreams, I have rear-view vision, and so I saw that he’d put a hole in the head of a blue burqa-clad entity whose sparkling sheath was firmly secured on its head by a ring of plastic bags filled with some white stuff. It had clutched a dagger and had been ready to stab me in the back. I didn’t think the plastic bags contained flour or confectionary sugar or sea salt.

The blue burqa-clad entity dropped out of sight as through a trap door, moaning in ecstasy, and up popped a pinch-faced, sour-looking uniformed French Customs inspector in an imposing and overly decorated kepi. He shouted at Hackman, wagging a finger, “Vous ne pouvez pas tirer musulmans en France! Il est contre la loi!” (“Shooting Muslims is not allowed!”)

Hackman shot back in near perfect French, “Mettez une chaussette en elle, Froggy! Vous prenez jamais vos pieds à Poughkeepsie?” (“Put a sock in it, Froggy! You ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?”)

The Customs man snorted at this, got into a protracted shouting match with Hackman, each assaulting the other with rude gesticulations and obscene deprecations, but abandoned Hackman when the actor  paused to light up a Gitane.  

The Customs man turned and jerked me around by my shoulder and said in guttural English, visible clouds of garlic enveloping my face and causing tears to roll down my cheeks, “Monsieur! Your French is execrable! Porcine américaine!  You are banned from France, pour toujours et à jamais! You have written several  books that offend our loyal immigrant citizens!” He paused to jab a finger on my chest. “Our Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure has been auditing your books, Monsieur! They are not halal! Nous avons déclaré les insultant et donc ils sont interdits! They are slanderous! Calomnieuse!  Banned, you understand?? Comprende??»   

 Before I could reply, and in impeccable Frog yet, “Vous pouvez embrasser mes grains!“ (“You may kiss my grits!”), he very grandly raised a hand, snapped his fingers once….

…and presto! I was transported to Moscow!   

I stood shivering in the middle of a snow-covered Red Square. It’s winter, you know. Russian winters have bite. There in front of me was Vladimir Putin, bare-chested, sitting astride a Clydesdale, doing jumping jacks without jumping,  holding a Siberian tiger and a Russian bear in each hand by the scruffs of their necks. He espied me and dropped the suffering animals, which scampered away emitting pathetic whines and howls of relief. He gazed down at me with those frigid blue eyes. “Advance, my American poodle.”

The hackles on my neck stood at attention. I spat back, “Think again, McDougal! I’m not your poodle!” I didn’t intend the alliteration. It just came out that way.

Putin rested his hands on the horn of his silver saddle and leaned forward. He said with a mocking chuckle, “Think again, Mr. Obama.”

Mentally, I frowned and exclaimed, “What…??” Magically, a hand mirror appeared in my nearly frost-bitten fingers, which were now…brown!. I looked into it, and gasped. Good God! I looked like Obama, except for the glasses! Even my ears had grown! What tricks one’s mind can play on…one’s mind!

That  moment, I began entertaining the possibility that perhaps Immanuel Kant was right, that our senses distort what we see and hear and touch, which are already distortions of the true reality.

But I shook my head, and exclaimed, “Nah!”

I looked up. Putin had dismounted and stood in front of me. He was a full head shorter, the top of his neatly barbered head an inch and a half short of my chin. He looked up and drilled me with those cold eyes. “You are the secret author of a silly but libelous spy novel, A Crimson Overture, which casts poisonous and malicious aspersions on the Party of my past. Your nom de plume never fooled us! We know you are the author. My foreign intelligence apparatus has been observing you for years. We know that all your golfing and fundraising appearances were performed by a double, while you yourself wrote slanderous fiction In the Oval Office!

Putin sighed and shook his head. “What a disappointment, Mr. Obama! That you, with your irreproachable ideological pedigree, so skillfully hidden from public view, should betray…our cause!” The dictator straightened his shoulders. “I have decreed that no novel of yours may be bought in Russia. Possession of one will result in a stay in Lubyanka Prison.”

 Again, the hackles of my neck rose. “Look, you recidivist Communist,” I replied, “I’m not Obama!”

Putin clucked his tongue. “It is no use denying it, my feckless poodle! Your Bunbury days are over!” He paused and smiled wickedly. The frost in his smile I think dropped the temperature by ten degrees. “Have you ever heard of…SMERSH?”

Of course I’d heard of SMERSH. It was a Soviet organization (and probably now a Russian “Federal” apparatus) that assassinated defectors and other wayward Russians, such as journalists. But I decided to get under Putin’s skin. “SMERSH? Oh, yeah, that’s a kind of Russian burrito, isn’t it, with ground beef and onions and peppers and anchovies in a pita pocket?”  Putin looked confused. I added, “I’d heard that the Arabs call it ‘that awful falafel.’” Then I peered closely into Putin’s eyes. I asked, “Are those contacts? By the way,” I remarked, touching a patch of his skin just right of his right eye, “your makeup person missed a spot.”

Putin gritted his teeth, his eyes widened in the very apotheosis of madness, and a growl rumbled from within the bare chest that the public knew so well from his exhibitionist exploits. I had a fleeting thought: If only Viral Vladimir could be persuaded to wrestle a really agitated rhinoceros, Russia might be saved.

He raised both of his hands to clutch my neck. They were ice-cold. He began to force me down to my knees. He kept shouting into my face, mostly in Russian, not a word of which I understood, except for nyet! He kept repeating nyet repeatedly and rapidly so that he sounded like Curly of the Three Stooges.

Gasping for air, and as I prepared to deliver a sucker punch….

I woke up not with a scream, but with a start, and in a  cold sweat. 

I glanced at my hands. No longer brown! In the bathroom, I looked in the mirror. I was back to my old self! I was no longer Barack Obama! What a nightmare that was! 

I went to the kitchen and poured myself a tall glass of fortified eggnog. That ought to help put me back to sleep.

At my desk, waiting for the rum, brandy, and whiskey to work their magic, I listened to the latest chapters read by the narrator of Book Two of Sparrowhawk. By God! I thought. The  fellow’s going to finish the whole thing before Christmas!

What a wonderful gift!