The Biggest Threat Facing the Country Today Is Fast Creeping Ignorance

I am old enough to remember the days when what Americans were told to fear most was "Creeping Communism."

There were even hearings. There was a blacklist. There were arrests and even a couple of executions.

In the end all communism turned out to be creeping toward was its own extinction.

We may not be as lucky with the new creep we're facing today: Creeping Ignorance.

As a story from AlterNet put it, "3/4ths of Senate GOP Doesn't Believe in Science: The Tea Party and its allies had made it unacceptable to the GOP base to be anywhere except pandering to the anti-science crowd." (Full Story)

The Right, which hated and feared commies and their (largely imaginary) infiltration into government, not only don't seem to care about creeping ignorance in government, but have come to embrace this new breed of government infiltrators.

The explanation for this embrace is simple as the minds of the infiltrators: science, and for that matter any other factual analysis, tends to flatly contradict many of the Right's most cherished fictions, such as:

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The Wealthy Elites Play the Racists for Pawns at a Town Hall Meeting in Maryland

On Monday night, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin held a town hall meeting at Towson University, just north of Baltimore.

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Will Your Hometown Newspaper Still Be Around in 6 Months?

You might miss Circuit City and Linens & Things, two casualties of the Bush Depression. Perhaps you worked there or bought your first TV set or popcorn popper there. But unless you had a personal investment in either of those places, you won't likely miss them 5 years from now.

But you will miss the Rocky Mountain News, printing its last edition last Friday. The Cincinnati Post is already gone. And if it happens, add the San Francisco Chronicle and the Philadelphia Daily News. That list might soon include the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Detroit News.

You might not live in those cities; maybe you've never even been to their Web sites. But you will miss them.

In 1978, when I was a child, the Chicago Daily News came to a close. It was sad watching a newspaper publish its last edition. But in 1978, we still had a healthy Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Heck, the Sun-Times literally was a merger of the Chicago Sun and the Chicago Times.

Cities had pride based on whether they were a two-newspaper town. The number of two-newspaper cities is dwindling: Denver will only have one paper on Saturday; Philadelphia, Seattle, and Detroit are in serious danger of joining the group.

But San Francisco is different. While it technically has two papers, the Examiner is a joke. And Hearst is threatening to shut down the Chronicle, the only significant daily paper in one of the largest cities in the country. There is the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose News, but neither of them cover San Francisco with any significance.

Have we reached the point in the media world where two newspapers in a major city is a luxury? New York has 3½ dailies (Newsday doesn't cover the whole city); Chicago has two but both are very wounded; Los Angeles and San Francisco essentially only have one of significance. Boston amazingly has two relatively strong ones. Dallas-Ft. Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul will likely keep two papers, only because of the two distinct cities in those markets.

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One in Four Americans Compare Their Workplace to a Dictatorship

According to a Workplace Democracy Association/Zogby Interactive survey, 25 percent of Americans compares their workplace to a dictatorship. In the most comprehensive study of the phenomenon to date, the poll also found that adopting more egalitarian processes might be the solution.

"Companies that want to boost employee engagement levels must adopt democratic and innovative practices in the way the entire company is managed," said Workplace Democracy Association President Asher Adelman. "Executives should be sharing information with all employees about the company's ongoing performance and goals, and employees should be empowered with greater discretion and decision-making abilities."

According to Zogby, "The survey also found that less than half of working Americans -- 46% -- said their workplace promotes creative or inventive ideas, while barely half -- 51% -- said their co-workers often feel motivated or are mostly motivated at work."

The Three Co-Chairs of the DNC Delegate Credentials Board All Served Under Clinton

If I've learned one thing this primary season, it's that passion is back among the Democrats for their presidential candidates. Anybody who reads the BuzzFlash Mailbag can see that in an instant. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

It is the most fundamental sign of health in a democracy to see people so energized and willing to voice their opinions. But if it leads to a split party after the nomination, it would mean four more years of Republican rule and that would not be good for our Constitution and our freedom.

With that in mind, we'll throw some more wood on the fire with this follow-up to our alert yesterday on the likely role of the DNC Credentials Committee in deciding what to do about the unsanctioned Michigan and Florida "primaries." (In our view, they weren't primaries because there was no real campaigning in the states -- and in Michigan only Hillary Clinton's name was on the ballot.)

In January, BuzzFlash proposed one possible solution; some people in the DNC are proposing another. The latter plan would include party caucuses in Michigan and Florida in the early summer. That would be a sensible idea, but the Clinton campaign opposes it. One can assume that they are not happy with Obama's strength in caucus states.

But there may be another reason. If the "results" of the non-primary primaries were upheld by DNC Credentials Committee prior to the convention, and the convention delegates accepted the Credentials Committee recommendation to seat the delegates under the current distribution, Hillary Clinton would likely win the nomination.

Is the American Empire on the Brink of Collapse?

I believe that we're close to a tipping point right now. What happened to the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 could easily be happening to us for essentially the same reasons. Imperial overreach, inability to reform, rigid economic ideology. ... The world's balance of power didn't change one iota on September 11, 2001. The only way we could lose the power and influence we had at that time was through our own actions, and that's what we did.
-- Chalmers Johnson, author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

Has our "leadership" traded democracy for empire? Have their over-bloated egos convinced them that they are the world's newly crowned colonial kings? Author Chalmers Johnson is certainly not given to wearing rose-colored glasses. As he concludes in his newest book, Nemesis: "... my country is launched on a dangerous path that it must abandon or else face the consequences."

Johnson's well-argued, persuasive argument draws on the economic, military, and political lessons of the past, which may be just what's needed to wake up Americans in time to change course. In this interview, he explained his hopes and fears for contemporary America.

* * *

Mark Karlin: You've written a three-part series of books on the United States as an empire. The first was called Blowback. The second is The Sorrows of the Empire. And, now, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. That's kind of a doomsday declension there.

Chalmers Johnson: I guess you could say that. It's inadvertent. I didn't set out to write three volumes. I don't know whether Gibbons set out to write The Decline and the Fall of the Roman Empire. But one led to the other.

The first was written well before 9/11, and it was concerned with what I perceived to be the American public's lack of understanding that most of the foreign policy problems of the 21st century were going to be things left over from the Cold War. Above all, I argue that our numerous clandestine activities, some of which are almost totally disreputable, will come back to haunt us.

The second book followed on the first, in that it was a broad analysis of what I called our military-based empire, an empire of 737 American military bases in over 130 countries around the world. That number is the official Pentagon count. They are genuine military bases. They're very extensive. They are not, as some defenders of the Pentagon like to say, just Marine guards. We haven't got 700 embassies around the world. The Sorrows of Empire was written as we were preparing for our invasion of Iraq, and it was published virtually on the day that we invaded.

Karlin: And now Nemesis is your cataclysmic conclusion. Not long ago, it was considered sort of radical to say that America is a neo-colonial empire. But you embrace that concept in many ways.

Johnson: Right.

Karlin: The perspective in much of the neocon writing, in The Weekly Standard, for instance, is that America is an empire. It's a superpower. It can take whatever it wants. Basically, the rule of thumb becomes, if you challenge the U.S. assertion of military control and dominance, you're an enemy of the United States. You don't have to threaten the United States, but merely oppose the imposition of the military authority.

Johnson: Quite true. The roots of this military empire go back, of course, to World War II, which is when we conquered Germany, Japan, Italy, places of that sort, and did not withdraw after the war was over. We've been in Okinawa, for example, ever since 1945. The people there have been fighting against us ever since 1945, in three major revolts -- they hate it.

But the critical point comes with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Paul Wolfowitz, who was then in the Department of Defense working for Dick Cheney in the first Bush administration, wrote that our policy now is to prevent any nation, or combination of nations, from ever having the kind of power that could challenge us in any way militarily.

This is when we really invite "Nemesis," the goddess of retribution, vengeance, and hubris, into our midst by proclaiming that we "won" the Cold War. It's not at all clear that we've won the Cold War. Probably, we and the U.S.S.R. lost it, but they lost it first and harder because they were always poorer than we were. The assumption was that we were now the global superpower; we were the lone superpower; we were a new Rome. We could do anything we wanted to. We could dominate the world through military force.

This is as clear a statement of imperial intent as I think one could imagine, and it is what leads to such radical ideas as war as a choice, preventive war, wars such as that in Iraq, which was essentially to expand the empire by providing a new stable base for us in the Middle East, having lost Iran in 1979, and having so antagonized the Saudis that they were no longer allowing us to use our bases there the way we like.

So, yes, I think the word imperialism is appropriate here, but not in the sense of colonization of the world. I'm meaning imperialism in the sense of, for example, the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War after World War II. That is, we dominate places militarily, we insist on local satellite-type governments that are subservient to us, that follow our orders and report to us when we ask them to. Yet we have troops based in their territories. They are part of our global longevity.

Karlin: We've heard both Bush and Cheney repeat their mantra that the troops won't come home until our mission is accomplished, until we achieve victory. It's somewhat fascinating, in a very tragic sort of way, to try to figure out what the heck these guys are talking about. We have seen from both of them so many different missions publicly stated. First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then it was regime change. When we changed the regime and found out there were no weapons of mass destruction, we suddenly developed new missions.

Johnson: Right.

Karlin: Now it's not clear what the mission is. Bush just says let's complete the mission. I've speculated on my site Buzzflash that this is sort of a policy of white man's rule, coming from the days of the Confederacy, where, if you were a white male, you were entitled to run a plantation, or whip your slave. You were the head of the household, no matter what.

Johnson: I wouldn't put it in racist terms, but you're quite right. The political philosopher Hannah Arendt argued that at the root of all imperialism, there has to be a racist view.

Karlin: When Bush says we have to accomplish the mission, or Cheney says we have to achieve victory, the question hangs out there as to what our mission is now? And what could possibly be victory in these circumstances? To them, mission or victory mainly means that we are perceived as winning and Iraq remains under our control.

Johnson: I believe that's absolutely true. It's one of the reasons why we didn't have a withdrawal strategy from Iraq -- we didn't intend to leave. Several people who retired from the Pentagon in protest at the start of the war -- I'm thinking of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hoffman particularly -- have testified that the purpose of the invasion was to establish a new, stable pillar of power for the United States in the Middle East. We had lost our main two bases of power in the region -- Iran, which we lost in 1979 because of the revolution against the Shah, whom we ourselves placed in power -- and then Saudi Arabia, because of the serious blunder made after the first Gulf War -- the placing of American Air Force and ground troops in Saudi Arabia after 1991. That was unnecessary. It's stupid. We do not have an obligation to defend the government of Saudi Arabia. It was deeply resented by any number of sincere Saudi patriots, including former asset and colleague, Osama bin Laden. Their reaction was that the regime that is charged with the defense of the two most sacred sites of Islam -- Mecca and Medina -- should not rely upon foreign infidels who know next to nothing about our religion and our background.

The result was that, over the 1990s and going into the 2000s, the Saudis began to restrict the uses we had of Prince Sultan Air Base at Riyadh. They became so restricted that, finally, in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we moved our main headquarters to Qatar and conducted the war from there. This left us, however, with only the numerous small bases we have in the Persian Gulf. But these are in rather fragile countries.

Iraq was the place of choice, to these characters, who knew virtually nothing about the Middle East. Spoke not a word of Arabic or knew even the history of it. Iraq was the one they picked out because it's the second largest source of oil on earth, and it looked like an easy conquest.

We now know that the President himself didn't understand the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam -- that he did not appreciate that Saddam Hussein's regime was a minority Sunni dictatorship over the majority Shia population. That once you brought about regime change there, the inevitable result would be unleashing the Shia population, who had previously been suppressed, to run their country, and that they would align themselves with the largest Shia power of all, a Shia superpower, namely, Iran, right next door, where most of their leaders had spent the period of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship.

That's essentially what's happened. It's hard to imagine how this served our interests, given the deep hostility between Iran and the United States ever since we started interfering in that country back in 1953. It is hard to imagine how this served the interests of Israel, in that it gave Shia support there. Support from Iran now spreads throughout the Middle East to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other organizations. And it leads to a contradiction in terms of what we're doing there. At times, we seem to be trying to restore Sunni rule, so that we can bring about some peace. On the other hand, we have no choice but to support the majority power because of our propaganda about supporting democracy at the point of an assault rifle.

Karlin: In Nemesis you draw comparisons to the Roman empire. As you point out, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we became the most powerful nation, at least in our self-perception. But in terms of our economy, we are at the mercy of all the countries that are keeping our economy afloat through loans. Militarily, we have the most powerful weapons, but this seems to have done nothing for us in Iraq.

Johnson: Nothing at all. In fact, sticking to Iraq just for a moment, one of the most absurd things is the fact that we have a defense budget that's larger than all other defense budgets on earth. This army of 150,000 troops that we've sent to Iraq -- a country with the GDP of Louisiana, I'd say --- they've been stopped by 20,000 insurgents. This is a scandal and a discrediting of the military, the Pentagon, and the strategies we've pursued.

But the broad argument that I'm trying to make in Nemesis is that history tells us there's no more unstable, critical configuration than the combination of domestic democracy and foreign empire. You can be one or the other. You can be a democratic country, as we have claimed in the past to be, based on our Constitution. Or you can be an empire. But you can't be both.

The classic example is the Roman republic, on which our country was, in many respects, modeled. They decided, largely through the influence of militarism, to retain their empire. Having decided to retain it, they then lost their democracy due to military intervention in politics after the assassination of Julius Caesar and the coming to power of military dictators. They were termed Roman emperors, but they were essentially military dictators.

There is an alternative model that I advocate in the book. It's not as clear-cut an example, but it is certainly one that's relevant, and that is Great Britain after World War II. After the spectacular war against Nazism, it was brought home to the British that if they were going to retain the jewel in the crown of their empire, namely India, with its huge, vast population, it could do so. It could keep people under its control through military force. They'd used that often enough in India, as it was.

In light of the Nazi experience, though, it now seemed almost impossible to go in that direction. Britain realized that to retain its empire, it would have to become a tyranny domestically. It chose, in my view, to give up its empire. It didn't do it beautifully, and we see imperialistic atavisms all the time, Tony Blair being the best example. But it chose to give up its empire in order to retain its democracy.

The causative issue is militarism. Imperialism, by definition, requires military force. It requires huge standing armies. It requires a large military-industrial complex. It requires the willingness to use force regularly. Imperialism is a pure form of tyranny. It never rules through consent, any more than we do in Iraq today.

The power of the military establishment is what threatens the separation of powers on which our Constitution is based. The Constitution, the chief bulwark against tyranny and dictatorship, separates the executive and legislative and judicial branches. It does not concentrate power in the executive branch, or concentrate money there, or secrecy.

The two most famous warnings in the history of our country address militarism -- namely George Washington's farewell address, read at the opening of every session of Congress, and Eisenhower's speech. Washington spoke of the greatest enemy of liberty as being standing armies. He said they were the particular enemy of republican liberties. He was not opposed to defending the country; he was talking about standing armies, as distinct from armies raised to defend the country in a time of national emergency. It was standing armies, Washington argued, that overbalance the separation of powers, that serve the presidency and destroy federalism.

The next great warning, which was even more striking, were the words of Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. He spoke of the military-industrial complex and its unwarranted, unchecked, unsupervised power and the enormous damage it was doing. This is what I'm talking about in Nemesis, and why I use this, as you put it, very apocalyptic subtitle.

But I do mean it. I believe that we're close to a tipping point right now. What happened to the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 could easily be happening to us for essentially the same reasons. Imperial overreach, inability to reform, rigid economic ideology. And we have, as you know, also very serious economic dependencies on the rest of the world now. We are a wholly indebted country. We're not paying for the things we're doing. The sort of news we saw in recent days in the Stock Exchange is entirely predictable.

Karlin: Is the Middle East intervention -- Iraq, and the desire to nuke Iran -- is this empire building in the guise of fighting terrorism?

Johnson: Yes.

Karlin: If there weren't terrorists, Bush and Cheney would have had to invent them?

Johnson: Absolutely. There's just no doubt about it. In fact, we have to say that in any historical perspective, that the response of Bush-Cheney to 9/11 was a catastrophe of misjudgment and almost surely based on interests entirely separate from the terrorist attacks. We enhanced Osama bin Laden's power by declaring war on terrorism, escalating his position. The world's balance of power didn't change one iota on September 11th, 2001. The only way we could lose the power and influence we had at that time was through our own actions, and that's what we did.

Instead of calling it a war on terrorism, we should have called it a national emergency. We should have gone after the terrorists as criminals, as organized crime, because of their attacks on innocent civilians. Tracked them down -- we have the capacity to do that -- arrested them, extradited them back to the United States, tried them in our courts, and executed them. Had we done that, we would have retained the support of virtually the entire rest of the world, including the Islamic world, as the victims on 9/11.

But we did the opposite. We simply went crazy, and we also refused to acknowledge that the retaliation that came on 9/11 was blow-back. We were partly responsible for what happened, since the people who attacked us were our former allies in the largest single clandestine operation we ever carried out, including Armenians sending into battle of the Mujahideen against the Russians in Afghanistan. Certainly, Osama bin Laden was not unfamiliar to our Central Intelligence Agency. They had been working with him for quite a long time.

It's in that sense that I think it was a catastrophic error. But the truth is, in retrospect, it doesn't look like an error at all. They saw it as an opportunity -- as a golden opportunity to carry out these sort of mad and speculative schemes that they had been working on throughout the 1990s, dreaming that we were this new Rome that could do anything it wants to.

Karlin: What will collapse first in America, according to your scenario, in the last days of the American republic?

Johnson: I'm not Cassandra. I can't make a prediction. If I would look at the historical examples, I would say we could expect that a bloated, overgrown military soon would become unaffordable. It would move in and take over. I don't really expect that to happen, though I certainly should warn you that General Tommy Franks had said publicly in print that in case of another attack like 9/11, he saw no alternative but for the military to assume command of the country.

That would be the Roman answer -- having built this huge militaristic world, and becoming increasingly economically dependent on the military-industrial complex domestically. We don't actually manufacture that much in this country, anymore, except for weapons and munitions. That's a possibility, that the military does ultimately take over, just as in the Roman republic, with that reliance on standing armies instead of legions raised from common citizens because of threats to the country. Ultimately, ambitious generals, often from the establishment, chose to take over. All they asked for was dictatorship for life, by God, and that's what they got.

It isn't inconceivable that one could have a renaissance in popular opinion. And that is needed. We need to rebuild the Constitutional system to overcome that most peculiar of anomalies. We know about the imperial presidency. We know about Dick Cheney's ambitions. It's one thing after another. So why is the Congress simply abdicating its role as the main point of oversight, the main source of authority?

I live in the 50th District of California, where Duke Cunningham was sentenced to federal prison for eight and a half years for being the biggest single bribe taker in the history of the U.S. Congress. It's significant, of course, that the people bribing him were defense contractors. It was a case of us getting crummy weapons, in order simply to line their own pockets.

There's far too much of that. Not enough has been done about it. We have procedures in this country for dealing with unsatisfactory political leaders, for removing the incompetent from office. It's called impeachment. Last November, the American public brought the opposition party into power in Congress, and immediately the leaders of the opposition party said impeachment is off the table. Well, if impeachment is off the table, then it may well be that Constitutional democracy is off the table, too.

If you had asked me what I think actually will happen -- and again, I cannot foresee the future -- the economic news encourages me in this thought. I believe we will stagger along under the façade of constitutional government until we're overtaken by bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will not mean the literal end of the United States, any more than it did for Germany in 1923, or China in 1948, or Argentina just a few years ago, for 2001 and 2002.

But it would mean a catastrophic shake up of the society, which could conceivably usher in revolution, given the interests that would be damaged in this. It would mean virtually the disappearance of all American influence in international affairs. The rest of the world would be greatly affected, but it would begin to overcome it. We probably would not.

That's what I think is the most likely development, given the profligacy of our government in spending money that it doesn't have, in borrowing it from the Chinese and the Japanese, and the defense budgets that are simply serving the interest of the military-industrial complex.

Karlin: Polling has shown that most Americans want some sort of withdrawal from Iraq based on timetables. They want this war over. The Democratic electoral victory was perceived to be a victory to close down the Iraq war. The majority of Iraqis support attacks on American soldiers. Why is Bush talking about trying to save Iraq from the terrorists, if 62% support attacks on American soldiers?

Johnson: That's exactly the point, I think. He's not making sense. They're putting out hot air, a smoke screen, visions, such things as the longing for democracy, as if American G.I.s are going to bring democracy to anybody. They're disguising their real intent. We see it in their almost total inability ever to say that they do not intend to keep permanent bases, when you've seen the largest military bases, air bases with huge double runways, strategically located around the country. Never once do they say, that's not our intent. And the Air Force occasionally let slip that we expect to be there for at least a couple more decades.

But the American establishment, which certainly includes the Congressional and judicial establishment, has accepted the idea that we are the lone superpower, that we can do anything we want to. Although we've always been a superpower since World War II -- we've easily been the world's largest nation -- we didn't behave in that stupid manner. That's in part why I entitled my book Nemesis. She is the punisher of hubris and arrogance.

The public is on the receiving end, in terms of the declining jobs, the lower quality of life in America, and supplying the troops for the wars of choice that Bush and Condoleezza Rice have invented -- the public is beginning to get the idea. They understand it in a natural way.

That is one reason the military so much prefers the volunteer army, since 1973, as distinct from conscription. Conscription does mean a citizen army. You know why you're there. When I was in the Navy in the Korean War, it was an obligation of citizenship, it was not as it is today. Service today in our armed forces is a career choice, a decision about how to make your living. That alters things a great deal.

It makes it easier for the officers. Everybody who was ever in the armed forces knows that, with a citizen army, the people are very sensitive to whether the officers are lying, or whether they know what they're doing, whether the strategy makes any sense or not. There's a degree of fairness at work. The Vietnam war was certainly a working-class war. The total number of Yale graduates killed in Vietnam was one, and that is a fact.

So, yes, you could conceivably imagine a renaissance of public demand to take back the Congress, reconstitute it, reform it. Kick out the elites that serve vested interests. They're in both parties.

But I don't really expect that to happen. I think it's almost impossible to imagine mobilizing that kind of public, given the conglomerate control of the media in America, basically for purposes of advertising revenue.

At the same time, I am very much aware that the Internet is a new source of information. It's radically active. There are lots of people using it. And the public is alive. I've now published three books, this inadvertent trilogy. I notice a much more positive response to this last book, Nemesis, than to the first two, when you go into public to talk about it at the bookstore or at a university, or at a Democratic club. The people are worried to death about the way the country is going, the way it's governed, and above all, what they see as having happened. The political system has failed. We allowed it -- we lost oversight. If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we have been anything but vigilant.

That's what Eisenhower warned us against. It's now here on our doorstep. We're close to the tipping point. And I don't really expect it to be reversed. But at the same time, that's precisely why you and I are talking to each other. We still do believe that there's a possibility of mobilizing inattentive citizens to reclaim the Congress and clean it up.

Karlin: You mentioned earlier that the CIA at one time cooperated with the mujahideen, and particularly Osama bin Laden.

Johnson: Right.

Karlin: He was, in essence, an intelligence and military asset for the United States in its effort to wound the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Johnson: Right.

Karlin: The effort was successful, in large part, because of a guerilla operation in which foreign fighters, including Osama bin Laden, who is from Saudi Arabia, fought on behalf of a Muslim nation against what was considered an imperial invader from the north -- Russia. And Russia finally withdrew.

Johnson: Right. What happened in Afghanistan contributed ultimately to the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Karlin: Exactly. It was one of the major dominos leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union as an empire. And it was imperial hubris which caused them to think they could subdue Afghanistan.

Johnson: Right.

Karlin: Now my question is this: Is Iraq America's Afghanistan?

Johnson: It is perfectly possible that it will prove to be. Let me, just for once, give the Pentagon credit instead of criticizing it. I've always preferred their phrase "asymmetric warfare" for terrorism. Terrorism is a wrong word. It's a pejorative term. It's used to attack other people. We don't recognize the amount of terrorism we ourselves perpetuate, particularly from the air. But asymmetric warfare means the warfare of the poor, of the people who must rely upon ambushes and traps, and knowing their own country. That's what the Soviet Union ran into.

The fact that we are again repeating that -- you simply have to wonder whatever happened to Tony Blair? Is he an educated Englishman or not? Doesn't he know what happened to England in Afghanistan in the 19th Century, where the Afghans wiped them out? They would leave one single Englishman and send him back to the Khyber Pass to inform the army in India what had happened. We're back there again, and there's no doubt that we're going to be facing something very much like what the Soviet Union faced, in this coming summer.

It's absurd to listen to our people talk about how they had won the Afghan war. Basically what they did was to re-ignite the civil war by aiding the most corrupt figures in the country, namely the Northern Alliance of warlords, and provide them with airpower. It was anything but a victory, and I would hate to invest much in the Karzai regime for longevity.

So, yes, it is perfectly possible that we have come up against our genuine nemesis in the Middle East. We have created an economy totally dependent on oil. There's our insane belief that we can dominate the world through superior task forces, cruise missiles, and things of this sort. And we still claim that this is democracy.

The very idea -- we've seen the pictures of Americans kicking down the door of a private home, rushing in, usually walking all over Arabic rugs in their dirty boots, and pointing assault rifles at cowering women and children, carrying a few men off with their arms tied behind their back and hoods over their heads. Then we claim that this is bringing democracy to Iraq? We shouldn't be surprised that many Iraqis say it's okay to kill Americans.

That's what's going on in Iraq. We know we're going to lose it, just as we did in Vietnam. At least the public is sensing that, once again raising the hopes that democracy is not an insane form of government. The public may not be as well-informed as it ought to be, but it seems to be better informed than the elites in Washington, D.C.

How Long Until Iran Gets the Bomb? No One Has a Clue

Iran: How far from the Bomb? That was one of the key questions asked of newly confirmed Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell at a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on Tuesday. Why had McConnell avoided this front-burner issue in his prepared remarks? Because an honest answer would have been: "Beats the hell out of us. Despite the billions that American taxpayers have sunk into improving U.S. intelligence, we can only guess."

But the question is certainly a fair and urgent one. A mere three weeks into the job, McConnell can perhaps be forgiven for merely reciting the hazy forecast of his predecessor, John Negroponte, and the obscurantist jargon that has been introduced into key national intelligence estimates (NIEs) in recent years). McConnell had these two sentences committed to memory:

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Six Ways That Changing Your Life Can Prevent Global Warming

All of the reasons for our failure to address global warming are known. But they are not known widely and deeply enough to send us rushing down the street on bicycles or even in four-cylinder cars.

Still, we want something to be done. Are we waiting for Al Gore? Is it possible it all depends on our own little selves?

A very simple axiom is at play: The better we understand our own contribution to the paralysis, the freer we become to act effectively.

Six reasons or conditions that facilitate global warming are presented here, and each is related to the others.

Reason number one is the indifference that so many of us have for our own health. When we don't care about our health, we won't care about the health of the planet.

We eat and drink food that has the life manufactured out of it. We become sedentary and avoid exercise. We trash our minds with trivia and commercial rubbish the way we trash the planet with garbage. We don't know how to protect ourselves from negative influences such as cynicism, dissension, and dogmatic belief systems. If we don't regulate our appetites, desires, and addictions, the planet's suffering becomes secondary to our own.

Problem number two is our fear. Irrational fears abound in the psyche and are projected into the world. We have many kinds of fear, including fear of fear itself, along with fear of change, of loss, of helplessness, of abandonment, and of death. Courage is admired because it moves us through our fear.

We need passion and courage to address global warming. To generate this, we often have to move through a fear left over from childhood -- the lingering impression that we're powerless and helpless against the authorities who rule our world. This emotional association also generates a fear that if we go up against them we're in danger of being rejected, unloved, or even annihilated.

The male values of power and domination constitute problem number three. Supreme gratification and egotistical aggrandizement reward man for his conquest of nature. Globalization is, in part, his quest to extend his "triumph" to all peoples and cultures.

The feminine mystique is the antidote. Symbolized by Rachel Carson in her book, Silent Spring, it awakened us in the 1960s to the male-engineered poisoning of the earth through the misuse of chemical pesticides. Women's sensitivity and their alignment with nurturing gave birth to the environmental movement.

The male propensity for power and domination has moved from the infantile level to the adolescent. It needs to be unstuck once more. We need to understand that the possession of true strength and power depends on our having wisdom and compassion, which come to us through the balance of the feminine and the masculine values.

Reason number four finds us plagued with an overabundance of political leaders who won't lead. These men and women tend to be followers. They follow the polls that guide their re-election priorities as well as the economic elite's signals in favor of the status quo.

The skill of many of our politicians is also measured by their ability to circumvent the most vital issues and questions. Their aim is not to represent truth, justice, or constituents, but to perform on the political stage as professional insiders and self-promoters.

Their failure to fulfill their calling, like that of corporate journalists, is related to our passivity. We need to examine the secret invitation we extend, on behalf of our own inner fears, for the solace of mediocrity and the safety of invisibility.

Number five on this list brings us to a serious fault line in our economic system. An underground stress is cracking the bedrock of capitalism. A leakage of fascism at the core of capitalism lies exposed by this failure to take appropriate action against global warming.

Fascism is, in part, an ill-fated approach to national governance that has obliterated all authority within its boundaries capable of stopping its destructive expansionism. In the United States, a fascist position might soon be formalized when the Supreme Court determines a case involving the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA's refusal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is being challenged in the Supreme Court, and at least four conservative justices seem to believe, along with the Bush Administration, that the agency should not be regulating if it cannot show specific damages traceable to controllable emissions from cars and power plants.

If this narrow legal view prevails and the case is lost, one less impartial authority is left to make vital decisions regarding global warming. As a nation, then, we would be in a plight similar to that of a person who, because of a psychopathic or psychotic condition, can't make decisions between right and wrong.

Reason number six finds us waiting in vain for economics to lead us out of the impasse presented by global warming. Economics has failed dismally to protect us from the excesses of capitalism.

Adam Smith's old discipline, as now practiced at the highest levels, is no longer an exploratory system concerned with politics, sociology, and psychology. Computer-driven economics has lost (passively forfeited to its financial masters) the authority to speak to larger issues such as global warming and is left only to pontificate on profitability probabilities.

What now is the prognosis for action on global warming? Stubborn free-market ideologues are allowing conditions to deteriorate. As we bring our predicament into focus, we see an irrational and therefore illegitimate authority -- like that of a raging, addictive, or bipolar parent -- "taking care of us."

Are we going to be children? Or will our moral and psychological ascendancy save the world?

Nine Ways Republicans Are Ruining the Country

Say it loud, say it often, "Republicans are bad on national security." Every Democrat running for national office -- and local offices too, why not? -- should say, "I'm running because Republicans are bad on national security."

Then they should go on to say, here's why I'm saying it:

1. 9/11 happened on their watch. Of course, we can't say, absolutely, that it would not have happened if they had not been asleep at the wheel. But we can say that they did not do all they could have done to prevent it. We can say that Bush literally pushed away the warnings.

2. George Bush and the Republicans failed to get Osama bin Laden. We got both Hitler and Hirohito in less time than we've been chasing bin Laden. Every day that bin Laden's out there, he's proof that you can attack the United States and get away with it. That's a bad message to send, and believe me, people in the terrorist world have heard it loud and clear. That's very bad for national security.

3. George Bush and the Republicans gave Osama bin Laden what he wanted. Bin Laden wanted the US to get into a quagmire. He wanted our troops tied down in an Islamic country so that an insurgency could do to them what the Afghanis did to the Russians and to the British before them.

A modern, hi-tech army is very good at invasions. It's also good for fighting back against other armies. But a modern hi-tech army is not good at occupying a country against the will of the population. Even if the army is as violent and ruthless as the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan were.

4. George Bush and the Republicans squandered America's power and prestige. Before 9/11 most people in the world probably thought that America's intelligence services were able and astute, agencies to be feared. The Bush administration has made them appear bumbling and inept. They did this, first, by ignoring their warnings and then, second, by making them the fall guys for 9/11.

After 9/11 most of the world feared America's wrath and America's might. By failing to get bin Laden and his gang, then by attacking the wrong country, unleashing chaos, and getting our armed forces into a situation that they can't win, the administration showed the world they have less to fear than they imagined.

5. The Bush administration empowered Hezbollah. The 'insurgency' in Iraq was Hezbollah's textbook and their inspiration. If Iraqis could do that to Americans, surely they could do the same to the Israelis. And they have. It's not yet on the record, but it's clear from everyone's conduct, that the administration encouraged the Israelis to 'unleash' their forces against Hezbollah. They probably thought Israel's modern hi-tech armies would quickly smash their enemy.

6. The Bush administration radicalized Hamas. Hamas was elected. Sworn to the destruction of Israel or not, they should have been encouraged to become responsible players with carrots as well as sticks. Instead the administration put them up against the wall, hoping to starve the Palestinian people into voting for a different group. Would that work if someone tried to do it to us?

7. Bush and the Republicans tied down our forces in Iraq while Iran and North Korea invested in nuclear technology. That made North Korea feel secure enough to test ICBMs. If they had been successful, they would have had a delivery system for their nuclear weapons. That would be incredibly bad for national security. Iran, with American forces tied down in Iraq, feels secure enough to defy the UN as well as the US. Very bad for national security.

8. By the way, every major European nation has had successful arrests and real trials of real, dangerous terrorists. People on the level of this group that the British just took down. The most ferocious terrorist arrested in the United States since 9/11 has been the shoe bomber. Ten, twenty, forty, a hundred billion dollars, a trillion dollars, and the best we have to show for it is the shoe bomber?! Republicans are bad on national security.

9. We have trashed the bill of rights. We have trashed the Geneva conventions. We have a president and a vice president willing to go the mat to fight for the right to torture people.

We have spent a fortune on illegal wiretaps.

We have spent a fortune on collecting everyone's telephone data.

And what have we achieved by all of this?

A quagmire in Iraq. Dishonor. Debts. An empowered al Qaeda. A new war in Lebanon. The inability to stand up to Iran and North Korea. Osama bin Laden at large, an inspiration to extremists everywhere.

Republicans are unimaginably bad on national security. Say it loud. Say it often, it's the truth, Republicans are bad on national security.

We Hold This Truthiness to Be Self-Evident

There's an old saying that politicians use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost -- more for support than illumination. Increasingly, it seems all manner of facts and figures are manipulated, massaged or just plain made up to fit an existing set of beliefs, regardless of the actual truth.

Last fall, Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central's Colbert Report, came up with a word to describe this phenomenon: "truthiness."

"I'm not a fan of facts," he pronounced, in his best, Bill O'Reilly-like persona. "You see, facts can change, but my opinions will never change, no matter what the facts are."

"Truthiness" touched a nerve. The American Dialect Society proclaimed it their 2005 Word of the Year, and a Google search turns up 2.5 million references to "truthiness," from play-by-play analyses of the president's State of the Union Address and NSA shenanigans to attacks on James Frey's pseudomemoir "A Million Little Pieces."

Now, even columnists, those ink-stained knaves of the media, have stolen, er, embraced it as a subject. Truthiness, after all, is what we're all about.

Colbert explained further in a recent issue of the satirical newspaper The Onion, itself a bastion of truthiness: "It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the president because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true? "Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true ' There's not only an emotional quality, there's a selfish quality."

In politics, manifestations of truthiness are nonstop, ranging from the childish to the insidious. The Feb. 4 New York Times reported that aides to New York State gubernatorial candidate William Weld had "significantly altered" two newspaper articles running on Weld's website, removing anything that was perceived as negative: cutting paragraphs, headlines like "Campaign May Be Down, But Weld Certainly Isn't" and such phrases as "dogged by an investigation."

Although the Times could find no evidence on other campaigns' websites to support his claim, Weld spokesman Dominick Ianno insisted, "every other candidate is doing the same thing." Now that's truthiness.

A front page article in that same day's Washington Post detailed problems Wikipedia, the popular internet encyclopedia written and edited by volunteers, is having with congressional staff members and other government employees tampering with its website entries.

An intern removed a reference to Massachusetts Congressman Martin Meehan's pledge to limit his service to four terms. He's now in his seventh. Someone changed venerable West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd's age from 88 to 180. Another claimed Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn "was voted the most annoying senator by his peers in Congress." And those are just three of the more benign examples. Wikipedia had to block certain Capitol Hill email addresses to prevent further vandalism, or, if you will, petty truthiness.

But when it comes to truthiness in the third degree, preparations for the trial of former Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby for perjury and making false statements are providing a mother lode of factual phantasmagory.

The judge wanted the trial -- centering on Libby's leak to journalists of Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA agent to discredit her husband Joe Wilson -- to begin in the fall. Libby's lawyer's claim to a scheduling conflict has moved it to next January, two months, conveniently, after the midterm elections.

Although Libby claimed he first heard about Plame's identity from NBC's Tim Russert, the Feb. 4 Washington Post reported Libby "acknowledged to investigators that [Vice President] Cheney told him in mid-June 2003 about Plame's CIA role and said she helped send her husband on a mission to Niger to determine whether Iraq was seeking nuclear material from the African nation."

Libby also claimed he never mentioned Plame during a July 7, 2003, luncheon with then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Fleischer testified otherwise.

The defense being prepared for Libby seems to center around the contentions that many in the press already knew about Plame's identity before he leaked it to reporters and that the contradictions between his testimony and that of others are simply due to work-related stress and forgetfulness. A court filing contends that, "Mr. Libby was immersed throughout the relevant period in urgent and sensitive matters, some literally matters of life and death

"In the constant rush of more pressing matters, any errors he made in his FBI interviews or grand jury testimony, months after the conversations, were the result of confusion, mistake or faulty memory, rather than a willful intent to deceive."

Ah, wake up and smell the truthiness. That could be perceived as a plausible explanation, the Los Angeles Times wrote on Feb. 4, "but it could also suggest to a jury that he is self-important and thinks that top government officials somehow have less responsibility to be honest than ordinary citizens. The argument boils down to 'I'm too busy to tell the truth,' said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is a professor of criminal law at Fordham University Law School in New York, adding that a jury would probably have trouble with that defense."

Libby's defense team is asking for 10 months of notes, emails and documents gathered by the prosecution from Vice President Cheney's office, 10,000 pages worth. Such materials, from May 2003 through March 2004, will, they maintain, prove Libby's workload, heavy responsibilities and importance.

Among those documents are the highly confidential Presidential Daily Briefings, which raises an interesting question as to why Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wanted them in the first place, whether they contain anything about Joe Wilson's trip to Niger or Valerie Plame.

What's more, responding to the Libby request for information, Fitzgerald informed the defense that not all of the White House's 2003 email was properly archived. According to the New York Daily News, Fitzgerald wrote "that many emails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy." A truthiness-heavy flashback to Nixon's secretary Rosemary Woods and the infamous, "accidentally" erased 18 minutes of tape is as inevitable as it is irresistible.

Meanwhile, as it silently ticks away in the background, we forget that Fitzgerald's grand jury continues to meet once or twice a week, quietly weighing evidence that will or will not lead to the indictment of Karl Rove.

In the end, truthiness may set him free.

Gary Hart on Gods and Caesars

Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart has written a powerful commentary on religion and democracy, entitled "God And Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics." Hart speaks with the kind of reflective persuasion born of our Jeffersonian tradition, combining that with his own religious upbringing and pursuit of a divinity degree at Yale (where he also received a law degree).

Note: Read an excerpt from "God and Caesar" at Talk2Action.

Most Americans may not realize that you were raised as a Nazarene and you went to divinity school. What sort of impact did that background have on you, and what sort of denomination is the Nazarene denomination?

Well, when you become a kind of finalist for the presidency, virtually all aspects of one's background come out. But it was vastly different 20 years ago. Religious affiliation was just of minor interest to the press and public. Now that the religious right has occupied the Republican Party -- taken it over -- the whole issue of "faith" and "values" has moved to the forefront. In writing the essay, I simply highlighted my own background to qualify myself to speak on these issues. Given the fact that the religious right had pretty much dominated the conversation for the last five or ten years, I thought it was time for some of us to speak up. I'm gratified that President Carter and others have spoken, as well.

The Church of the Nazarene broke off about 100 years ago from the Methodists on doctrinal issues and issues of practice. The founders of the church felt that the Methodists might be becoming too liberal. The Church of the Nazarene founders emphasized being born again, but also, particularly in the Southern parts of the church, strict practices of no drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no jewelry or makeup on women, no attendance at movies, and things of that sort. In the college that my wife and I attended, and where we met in Oklahoma, those rules were pretty strongly enforced. I gather, since then, that some of those rules have taken a back seat and been less important in the church.

You have a section in "God and Caesar in America" called the "Awful Warmth of the Gospel of Jesus." Drawing on your background -- Bethany Nazarene College, Yale Divinity School, and the Church of the Nazarene -- you seem extremely comfortable talking about Jesus. But you're very uncomfortable with how Jesus has become a political football. You comment that we've gotten to the point that there are arguments over what political party He might belong to if He were around today. Can you embellish that a little bit more?

I made that comment with my tongue in my cheek. I'm not "uncomfortable" with the way Jesus is being tossed around -- I'm angry about it. I'd go well beyond discomfort. I think the religious right is making Jesus into some kind of Old Testament wrathful prophet who is judgmental, divisive, and opposed to any notion of liberalism, whereas the teachings of Jesus tell quite a different story. He was tolerant. He was forgiving. He preached love, not hate. In many ways, the literal reading of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, particularly not filtered through the later apostles in the New Testament, but the literal teachings of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels, are almost totally at odds with the teachings of the present-day religious right.

You cite Micah 6:8: "What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." What do we have to learn from that?

It's an oft-quoted phrase. And it was one of the more tolerant prophetic visions of the prophets. The Old Testament prophets preached wrath, and judgment on the Jewish people when they transgressed, or followed false idols, or adopted other religions; they preached that God would bring wrath down upon them. And quite often it happened. But Micah, in a way, was a forerunner of Jesus in the sense that he was trying to answer the question: What does God really want from us? Micah said that He wanted us to observe justice. By that, I think he meant not just legal justice, but social justice -- to do justice was the way he put it actually.

To love mercy -- again,very much a Jesus and Christian message, and not one of the religious right. And to walk humbly with our God. Again, this is a simple reduction of what the religious life is supposed to be about. It is so diametrically opposed to the preachings and teachings of the religious right today. For them, justice is legal, and they are pro-death penalty, for example. That's their definition of justice. That's not what Micah meant. They don't show mercy. They are divisive. You either support the President or you're going to hell. And they don't talk about humility -- a theme that carries throughout Jesus' teachings also. They are not humble people. They're proud and arrogant people. So I put Micah in there as a kind of a standard for how we are to behave, and to draw the distinction between the simple but profound message that Micah taught, and what we are hearing from the so-called religious figures today.

America is composed of many different faiths. Even within Christianity, there are many different denominations and viewpoints. Sometimes we lose sight of that, because the far right -- the Pat Robertson right and the Jerry Falwell right -- tend to assert themselves as though they're speaking for all of Christianity. They're really speaking for a small segment of Christianity.

No question. It's not that they tend to -- it's that they assume to. It's an assumption that they are the spokespersons for all Christianity, and that's underwritten in everything they say. There's a man who appears on TV from the Southern Baptist Convention -- when you listen to him talk, he positions himself as a spokesperson for all Christianity. This is not true, and I think it's particularly dangerous for people who are not Christians and who do not quite understand the complexity of, first of all, the Reformation and the split between Protestantism and Catholicism, and then the multiplicity of Protestant denominations. There are lots of variations, by the way, in Catholicism, as well. But among the Protestants, each tends to design his own church. And clearly the people on the right had no authority to speak for other Christians.

On the other hand, part of the blame rests with the so-called mainstream Christian churches that haven't done a very good job of communicating a different message to the public at large. If you asked a hundred Americans what the Methodist position on the war was, they'd probably guess it was in support.

In "God and Caesar in America" there is a section called "The Tyranny of the Faithful: The Dangers of Theocracy." Perhaps you can take us back in history a bit. We've certainly covered on BuzzFlash the issue of separation of church and state. Our Constitution was in some way the fruit of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, when people accepted God and the divine, but said religion was something that should exist separate from the state, because the states in Europe were theocracies. In essence, much of early America was a rebellion against theocratic states and monarchies.

No question. The Founders had in mind, if not from direct experience, certainly the vivid recollection of the history of the intertwining of the church and the state in their ancestral homes in Europe. That kind of theocracy resulted in all kinds of disasters involving the picking of kings, and kings inaugurating popes, and the repression of enlightened thought. That's why they felt so strongly about all this. And all I warn about here, and I think others have as well, is that you don't have to slip very far back into that before it begins to happen.

I have a couple of passages where I say, here's what a theocracy is like, and then say, if we're not there already, we're very close. The vaguely defined "White House" -- probably Karl Rove -- calls James Dobson, or makes a conference call to a select group of religious figures to seek approval of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, or policy issues. To submit any judge -- for their approval -- that's virtually a theocracy right there -- very dangerous.

You provide some extremely enlightening analysis of the issue of separation of church and state. You make the point that some of the Founders feared that, if a religion became too identified with the state, the religion itself would ultimately become impure and tainted by the political process. It wasn't just a question of the state becoming a theocracy, but of the religion itself starting to become corrupted by the machinations of politics.

It works both ways. The separation was not just to protect the state from the church, but to protect the church from the state. The people who are trying to insert themselves into positions of authority in government, through the Republican Party, ought to be awfully careful, because the same state that takes them in is a state that can turn around and, if it chooses to, by using the same authority, begin seriously to condition their behavior. People with a bit in their teeth, and the arrogance of power, don't think that way, but they ought to.

You are an attorney who went from Yale Divinity to Yale Law. Our legal system is based on equal protection for people of divergent backgrounds, divergent beliefs, from divergent income statuses -- it protects them, and it's supposed to level the playing field -- all people are equal in a courtroom and before the court of law under our Constitution. If the Supreme Court starts to view cases through a theological lens, what happens then?

Well, all the bad things one can imagine.

For instance, suppose the Supreme Court looks at the abortion issue. Judges Alito and Scalia have at least intimated that it is against their religious viewpoint. If judges begin to assess constitutional issues through a religious filter, what happens to our legal underpinnings?

It's very murky, and very, very tough. We're living in a time where holding office requires you to have, as I say in the essay, "faith" and "values," often undefined. Then you come up with judicial nominees who do have "faith" and "values," but they say, faced with confirmation for the highest court, I will set those aside when I make decisions. It almost stands the whole process on its head. The religious right believes that, by getting George elected, and a majority of Congress, and having a veto power over judges, it is achieving exactly their objective of putting judges on the courts, including the highest court, who will impose their faith and values on the system.

It makes an objective observer very suspicious when the leaders of the world say, I will set my "faith" and "values" aside. They're being nominated because of their "faith" and "values." Republicans get upset when Democrats are suspicious, but there's good reason for suspicion, since the whole point is to get people on the court who will insert their faith and values into the judicial process.

Your concluding section, entitled "God and Caesar," alludes to the well-known advice, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's." This sums up the dilemma in a nutshell. What is God's, and what belongs to the realm of politics?

There's no simple conclusion. There is not a night-and-day distinction. Almost all of us have faith in something, and we certainly have values. I talk about that old phrase that used to be used -- "the moral majority" -- well, I think, with rare exception, almost everybody in America and the world is moral, or has a moral compass. Obviously some don't always follow that compass, but that's what the judicial process is all about.

My essay is not an argument about taking "values" -- I prefer to call them "principles" -- out of public life, or even causing people of faith or religion to not participate in public life. I think they should. This is not the argument. It's a question of when one wing of one religion dominates one party, and then seeks to impose its values on the rest of America, that we've gone too far. And I would simply say that we've got to get back to the kind of moderate consensus which prevailed up until, let's say, the age of Reagan, and the period in which the religious right began to assert itself through the Republican Party, where people were tolerant. I keep coming back to those values of Jesus -- tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, a sense of social justice and equality. Otherwise, a mass democracy of 300 million people simply will not work.

The divisiveness was introduced by the religious right, and a new set of Republicans in the eighties and nineties, and it has polarized this country. I will make that assertion. I don't think it was liberals that polarized this country. Liberal Democrats got along well with moderate Republicans. I was there in the seventies in the Senate. You could compromise. You could reach agreement. It is when a different kind of Republican began to be elected that the divisiveness set in.

As I point out in the essay, the reason you can't mix religion and politics is, religion is about absolutes, right and wrong, good and evil. Politics is about compromise. If you cannot compromise on issues that are not central to a person's faith -- and that's about 99% of the issues our country faces -- then the country doesn't work. The government doesn't work. That's why we've had government grinding to a halt in recent years. People are frustrated by it.

I'd like to quote from page 84 of your essay: "The time will come, and it will come sooner rather than later, when the ponderous pendulum of American public opinion begins its return to its inevitable moderate center. Politicians hiding behind the robes of ministers, policy makers courting a vociferous religious element, adventurers cloaking foreign military ventures in the crusader's rhetoric, political manipulators cynically using public fears to turn out voters all will be swept back into our nation's nooks and crannies from when they emerged. This must happen, because American cannot be governed otherwise." So the $64 million-dollar question is: When will that happen?

It is happening. It is happening, and what was required, obviously, was that their myth be penetrated. The myth is being penetrated by exposing the corruption in Congress in the majority party. The people who were preaching "faith" and "values" the most cynically were on the take. And I think we've just scratched the tip of the iceberg there. The neo-conservatives who use the religious right to justify a kind of crusader war in the Middle East have proved to be misleading at best, and deceptive at worst. Also, the chickens are coming home to roost.

I often refer to Jefferson's great quote. He used to be questioned about all the things that could go wrong in this new experiment. He said, when the chips are down, the success of the republic depends on the common sense and good judgment of the American people. We all know that, throughout American history, common sense and good judgment often have been swept aside by demagogues and radical movements of one kind or another. But ultimately, always, the salvation of the republic is the returning of the common sense and good judgment of the American people. I think that's what we're witnessing now.

A Long Overdue Frog-March

Indictments are expected to come down shortly as special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald completes the investigation originally precipitated by the outing of a C.I.A. officer under deep cover. In 21-plus months of digging and interviewing, Fitzpatrick and his able staff have been able to negotiate the intelligence/policy/politics labyrinth with considerable sophistication. In the process, they seem to have learned considerably more than they had bargained for. The investigation has long since morphed into size "extra-large," which is the only size commensurate with the wrongdoing uncovered -- not least, the fabrication and peddling of intelligence to "justify" a war of aggression.

The coming months are likely to see senior Bush administration officials frog-marched out of the White House to be booked, unless the president moves swiftly to fire Fitzgerald -- a distinct possibility. With so many forces at play, it is easy to lose perspective and context while plowing through the tons of information on this case. What follows is a retrospective and prospective, laced with some new facts and analysis aimed at helping us to focus on the forest once we have given due attention to the trees.

The background

In late May 2003, the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) informed me that a former U.S. ambassador named Joseph Wilson would be sharing keynote duties with me at a large EPIC conference on June 14.

I was delighted -- for two reasons. This was a chance to meet the "American hero" (per George H. W. Bush) who faced down Saddam Hussein, freeing hundreds of American and other hostages taken when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. More important, since Wilson had served as an ambassador in Africa, I thought he might be able to throw light on a question bedeviling me since May 6, when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote an intriguing story about a mission to Niger by "a former U.S. ambassador to Africa."

According to Kristof, that mission was undertaken at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney's office to investigate a report that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. The report was an entirely convenient "smoking gun." Since Iraq lacked any nonmilitary use for such uranium, it had to be for a nuclear weapons program, if the report were true. Or so went the argument. The former ambassador sent to Niger had found no basis for the report, pulling the rug out from under the "intelligence" the administration had used during the previous fall to conjure up the "mushroom cloud" that intimidated Congress into authorizing war.

Kristof's May 6 column had caused quite a stir in Washington. The only one to have totally missed the story was then-National Security Adviser and now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (assuming she is to be taken at her word). Rice claimed that the information did not come to her attention until more than a month later. Right. (And the celebrated aluminum tubes were for nuclear enrichment -- not artillery. Right.)

This ostensibly nuclear-related "evidence" was no mere sideshow; it went to the very core of the disingenuous justification for war. The Iraq-Niger report itself was particularly suspect. The uranium mined in Niger is very tightly controlled by a French-led international consortium, and the chances of circumventing or defeating the well established safeguards and procedures were seen as virtually nil. On March 7, Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced to the U.N. Security Council that the documents upon which the Iraq-Niger reporting was based were "not authentic." Colin Powell swallowed hard but took it as well as could be expected under the circumstances. A few days later he conceded the point entirely -- with neither apology nor embarrassment, as befits the world's sole remaining superpower.

The sixteen words

Powell had long since decided that the Iraq-Niger report did not pass the smell test. But he was apparently afraid to incur Cheney's wrath by telling the president. Powell's own intelligence analysts at the State Department had branded the story "highly dubious," so he had chosen to drop it from the long litany of spurious charges against Iraq that he recited at the U.N. on February 5, 2003, a performance that Powell now admits constitutes a "blot" on his record. Asked to defend President George W. Bush's use of the Iraq-Africa story in his State of the Union address in January 2003, the best Powell could do was to describe the president's (in)famous "16 words" as "not totally outrageous," a comment that did not help all that much.

Those in Congress who felt they had been misled by the story, which the White House PR machine had shaped into a "mushroom cloud," were in high dugeon. For example, in the days before the attack on Iraq, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote the president to complain that Waxman and his colleagues had been deceived out of their constitutional prerogative to declare or otherwise authorize war. None of this put the brakes on the intrepid Cheney, who three days before the war told NBC's Tim Russert, "We believe he [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Cheney, of course, had been assured by the likes of neo-conservative armchair general Kenneth Adelman that the war would be a "cakewalk," that U.S. forces would be greeted as "liberators," and that in the glow of major victory, only the worst kind of spoilsport would complain that the "justification" was based largely on a forgery. By May 2003, however, it had become clear that the cakewalk was a pipedream and that no sign of a "reconstituted" nuclear weapons program was likely to be found. In this context, the information in Kristof's May 6 op-ed was like pouring salt into an open wound.

Do you know the ambassador?

When introduced to former ambassador Wilson at the June 14 conference, I wasted no time asking him -- rather naively, it turned out -- if he knew who the former U.S. ambassador who went to Niger was. He smiled and said, "You're looking at him." I asked when he intended to go public; in a couple of weeks, was the answer.

Wilson then turned dead serious and, with considerable emphasis, told me the White House had already launched a full-court press in an effort to dredge up dirt on him. He added, "When I do speak out, they are going to go after me big time. I don't know the precise nature the retaliation will take, but I can tell you now it will be swift and vindictive. They cannot afford to have people thinking they can escape unscathed if they spill the beans on the dishonesty undergirding this war." (Sad to say, the White House approach has worked. There are perhaps a hundred of my former C.I.A. colleagues who know about the lies; none -- not one -- has been able to summon the courage to go public.)

Wilson's tone was matter of fact; the nerves were of steel. Hardly surprising, thought I. If you can face down Saddam Hussein, you can surely face down the likes of Dick Cheney. Wilson's New York Times op-ed of July 6, 2003, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," pulled no punches. Worse still from the administration's point of view, Wilson then dropped the other shoe during an interview with the Washington Post also on July 6.

Consummate diplomats like Wilson typically do not speak of "lies." So outraged was Wilson, though, that this bogus story had been used to "justify" an unprovoked war, that he made a point to note that the already proven dishonesty begs the question regarding "what else they are lying about."

It was a double whammy. And, as is now well known, the White House moved swiftly -- if clumsily (and apparently illegally) -- to retaliate.

It was clear from the start that Vice President Dick Cheney and Kemosabe (Amer. Indian for "Scooter") Libby, as well as Karl Rove, were taking the lead in this operation to make an object lesson of Wilson and his wife. And it is somewhat reassuring to notice that some newly tenacious mainstream pundits are now waking up to this. Better late than never, I suppose.

Still good advice: fire Cheney

Watching matters unfold at the time, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity on July 14, 2003 issued a Memorandum for the President, with chapter and verse on how "your vice president led this campaign of deceit." We pointed out that this was no case of petty corruption of the kind that forced Vice President Spiro Agnew out by the side door. It was, rather, a matter of war and peace, with thousands already killed and no end in sight. We offered the president the following suggestion:

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An Abuse of Power

Today, in an unprecedented move, President Bush announced that he would use a recess appointment to install his embattled nominee John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations -- over the objection of Senate Democrats and many Republicans. The appointment comes amid unanswered questions regarding Bolton's involvement in an ongoing State Department probe about the use of false intelligence.

Bush's decision to circumvent bipartisan opposition to Bolton is another example of the White House's willingness to abuse their power and silence critics in an effort to reward loyal political allies, even at the expense of America's international stature and national security.

Bolton has aroused significant bipartisan opposition in the Senate because the White House repeatedly stonewalled specific, legitimate requests from senators for access to Bolton's employment records at the White House and the State Department. Bolton attracted greater criticism last week when it was revealed that he had failed to report on his Senate questionnaire that he was questioned by the State Department Inspector General probing the use of false intelligence data in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement and sharply criticized President Bush's recess appointment of Bolton to the United Nations:

"In a truly arrogant move, President Bush abused his power by refusing to provide documents to answer legitimate questions about John Bolton and our national security, and his use of the recess appointment for one of the most important and sensitive posts in international diplomacy is troubling," said Dean.

"Bolton is the next in a line of Bush nominees who have had their integrity called into question because of this President's continuing failure to fulfill his constitutional obligation to be honest and forthright with the Senate and the American people. By moving unilaterally to overrule the Senate and appoint a nominee who is being dogged by significant questions about his integrity on intelligence matters, Bush has reduced our nation's ability to cooperate with our allies on the war on terror."

Narrating Through The Non-Fiction

Non-fiction is full of lies.

Some of them are deliberate. The lies the spin doctors spin. Some are matters of blindness, some lack of imagination, some of shallowness. Some of propriety. Some of fear. The simple fear of saying things that no one else is saying. Sometimes it's from being stuck in the trees and never seeing the forest, let alone the earth from which it grows or the relationship to the sun and the air and sky and the rain and the rivers that run underground.

In all that I've read about George W. Bush, in non-fiction, I've never seen anything that truly illuminated the man.

In all that I've read about the war in Iraq, in non-fiction, trying to figure out why we went to war there, there was nothing that rang so true that I said, that's it, that's the reason.

Until, actually, about a month ago, when Russ Baker ran a story about Mickey Herskowitz, who had some 20 meetings with Bush back in 1999, preparatory to ghosting an autobiography. The story goes back to the Reagan administration. Which had many of the same cast of characters that are running the country now.

They had the perception that having small, successful wars was the key to a successful presidency, to passing their domestic agendas, and to re-election. They had been inspired by Maggie Thatcher's adventures in the Falklands, which took her from being on the verge of losing office, to becoming the longest serving British Prime Minister in modern history.

That was the essence of "American Hero," the book that became "Wag the Dog" (to be re-released with that title next month.) It was considered outrageous, far-fetched and satirical. All of which it was. But it was true. It was truer than any of the non-fiction myths and legends that they ran for us all those months on television. Or even that they told us in the non-fiction books.

Herskowitz says that Bush said: "My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it." And you can imagine young George standing there, during those years and watching it happen. "If I have a chance to invade ... if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency." That rings true.

I was on my way to a tennis game with Scott Menchin, an illustrator, and he said, "This is an administration that wouldn't give up power, even if they lost the election."

That rang true. It was also a great premise for a thriller. So I asked if he minded if I used it, and he said no.

My very next thought was that I would make a librarian the hero.

At that point, about 18 months ago, librarians were the first, and among the only people, standing up to the excesses of the administration. Also, there was something inherently comic – and dramatic – about making a librarian the hero of an action novel. Especially if I didn't turn him into an Indiana Jones character. But left him pretty much like the guy who works in your neighborhood or university library.

I'd written the following some 10 years earlier, on the acknowledgements page of "Wag the Dog," thanking my local librarians:

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Democracy Needs Feminism

Never has the option of "choice" been more threatened. It's clear that Karl Rove has adopted a strategy of keeping the Supreme Court from reconsidering Roe v. Wade directly until after Bush is elected in 2004. We talked with the woman who truly needs no introduction, Gloria Steinem, shortly after the 31st anniversary of Roe V. Wade.

First, we just have to find out your reaction to that infamous picture of Bush surrounded entirely by a group of middle-aged white guys when he gleefully signed the "partial-birth abortion ban," as they call it. There wasn't a woman or minority among them. Didn't that photograph say just about everything in terms of the Republican Party, choice and women?

Gloria Steinem: Quite honestly, I can't believe how they let the photograph happen. I was stunned that an image that was as revealing as that one would actually be released. It absolutely stated what the problem is. This is hardly democracy when the people who are the most affected are not part of the decision making. Of course, I would say late-term abortion, since there really is no such thing, medically speaking, as partial-birth abortion.

Professor George Lakoff of Berkeley and sociologist Arlie Hochschild, also a professor at Berkeley, have focused on the appeal of Bush and the right-wing Republican Party -- which is the Republican Party now, of course -- based on the strict patriarchal model. And that's what you had in that photograph -- a bunch of middle-aged white men making a decision about choice and celebrating a choice-restriction bill without any women around.

What do you think about that whole patriarchal theory? To us it makes a lot of sense because the hate for the Clintons, and particularly Hillary, seems to have so much to do with white male resentment against women who are aggressive and successful in the work force and speak up for themselves.

GS: I agree. I think it's important to say that this isn't based in biology -- it's based in politics. There are many white males who feel very differently. But the idea that one should have a position of power because of one's condition of birth is the problem, and that is what this kind of deep political system, the patriarchal system, is built on. As you know, there is an enormous gender gap.

We saw this most recently flare up when many of the right-wing media shills took aim at Howard Dean's wife because she's chosen to pursue her work as a physician. She's a doctor and she wants to stay close to her patients, rather than be out on the campaign trail. And once again, the right-wing males took after her simply because she wants to pursue her professional career.

GS: I think that that's hypocritical because there are right-wing women who are pursuing their professional career and not staying home. I think they're using it as a target of opportunity. Phyllis Schlafly doesn't stay home.

Why does she get a pass, then?

GS: Because she is arguing that other women should stay home. She's kind of the Justice Clarence Thomas of the situation -- somebody who, in a perverse way, comes from the rebellious group but is willing to sell out the interests of that group.

Even if we assume Bush is sincere about his deep religious beliefs, it doesn't hurt him with the right wing to keep bringing up issues using religious terminology. Many women who support Bush are part of the religious fundamentalist movement. Those women accept the patriarchal model because they basically believe that the Biblical laws should be the laws that rule or guide America. And Anthony Scalia has said in more lofty terms that the Constitution is a gift from God and not a document made by men and women.

GS: Well, first of all, we could spend our whole time talking about the changes in the Bible from the Gnostic Gospels, in which Jesus is recorded as saying quite different things. He didn't say he was the Son of God. He said the kingdom of God is within each of us. Each of us can come to God on our own. The Bible itself has become political over time with its translations.

But I think the deep reasoning here -- and I'm glad you're trying to look at the background -- is to control women's bodies as the most fundamental means of production. Because unless you control that process, you can't make the decisions about how many workers a country needs, how many soldiers, what races should reproduce more than others. The ability to control reproduction is one of the two pillars of nationalism. The other is the ability to control territory. I think this goes very deep and really does not have that much to do with religion. If you look at the religious groups in this country, most of them support reproductive freedom. The cloaking of political imperatives in religious language is the problem.

You do have a group of religious people who believe they have the answer -- their literal interpretation of the Bible and God's word is what should be guiding the United States, Justice Scalia among them. What Bush seems to have done through Karl Rove manufacturing him as the compassionate conservative is to veil that background of his supporters in language that's comfortable to so-called Soccer Moms, and now Security Moms.

GS: Most of organized religion doesn't agree with Bush. Most religious institutions opposed the war -- even Bush's own Methodist national church. The people behind Bush are the literalists who believe that in the way that they see God, America has fallen from that path.

But these are the people that our European ancestors came to this country to escape. I mean, they are trying to cite unproveable arguments -- arguments that take place in heaven and life after death -- as reasons why we should obey them now. These literally are the type of people that the Europeans who founded America came here to escape.

The State of the Union was delivered two days prior to the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Most of what Bush said was campaign rhetoric, consistent with his past posturing, but cloaked for reelection. What's the reality versus the window-dressing of the Bush administration on choice and women's issues?

GS: To my knowledge, there has never been an administration that has been more hostile to women's equality, to reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right, and has acted on that hostility. They certainly have pursued abstinence-only sex education programs and gutted and gotten rid of comprehensive sex education. They've pursued the gag rule that uses U.S. foreign aid to suppress reproductive information, and that has literally endangered and damaged the lives of millions of women in poor countries. And they've suppressed AIDS information and emergency contraception. In addition to their clear drive to criminalize abortion, there has been no opportunity of which I'm aware that they have not taken to restrict women's rights and to oppose reproductive freedom.

Now you're joining with Planned Parenthood to try to get the message out to women. How are you going to get the message out about the real George Bush, not the kind of image that Karl Rove wants to project to win over women voters?

GS: Joining with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund is very important because they have 900 local representatives, so to speak -- 900 local organizations. So it will greatly increase the ability of voters-for-choice to reach beyond the media, around the media, and get to individual voters. This is crucial because the Republican tactic since Nixon has been to get out their vote in the primary by emphasizing the importance of their issues, and to conceal the issues in the general election with phrases like "compassionate conservative" or calling ads that simply name their positions negative ads.

You're right -- the challenge is to get the information out. If you look at the public opinion polls, you see that the majority of Americans are pro-choice. But the rhetoric of Bush during the election did not reflect his real attitude. What he said then, when he was in the last election, was the country isn't ready yet to overturn Roe v. Wade. That's what journalists call a non-denial denial. He's not saying what his intention is, but he's saying something that seems comforting to those who are pro-choice, who think to themselves: oh, well, he won't really dare to overturn this. But of course, that's exactly what he's doing.

Choice is a winning issue. You have to get the candidates to talk about it, and you have to inform the individual voters on people's voting records.

You're a person who spent your life in communications. Karl Rove and Bush have been very successful in using images to offset actual policy, and one of those images is that, come election time, Bush is seen constantly in settings surrounded by minority children, or in black churches, or laying a wreath at Martin Luther King's tomb, or with women around him, and so forth. So that when, say, a woman who is an independent or a moderate Republican sees a image of Bush, she thinks: well, he must be a nice guy -- he's very friendly with minorities, he seems to smile when he sees black children, and he's always smiling when he sees women. And Rove is relying on that image offsetting the reality of his policies.

GS: Well, I suppose that Karl Rove and Bush and company are doing this at all is some tribute to the forcefulness and importance of the gender gap and of the black vote. They wouldn't be doing it at all otherwise. But it is up to us to, as social justice movements, to get to the individual voter around the media. The media too often accepts those images and doesn't explore the myths that they represent. So the challenge in this election is, of course, to use the media whenever it's accurate, but also to get directly to the individual voter with people they trust, separate from the media.

The tool for overturning Roe v. Wade at this point would be a change in the Supreme Court composition. The conventional wisdom is that the White House is going to discourage anybody from resigning from the Supreme Court until after the election, hoping they can win, and then, with a 5-4 majority, overturn it. Plus, we have all these sort of stealth time bombs on the Appellate Court level, and other federal court levels. Even though the Democrats have stopped a handful of Bush appointments, the rest have gotten through. And most of them are anti-choice and anti-minority and as weird as one can get. It's like appointing judges out of the old Confederacy. How do you get that thread out? Because not many Americans beyond those who really follow politics follow the whole battle over the federal judiciary.

GS: We need to publicize the Republican Party platform, which pledges to do exactly this in judicial appointments. Consider the recent tactic of making Charles Pickering a recess appointment to the federal Appeals Court, even though he has already been rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee because of his terrible record on civil rights and reproductive rights. And that makes very clear, as does the Republican Party platform, what their intention is.

We also have to point out that young, poor, rural, military, government-employed women have already lost reproductive rights, so it isn't as if Roe v. Wade is intact for everyone. It isn't. And the final shred of it that remains, the Republican Party platform has pledged to take away. I do think that it's important to remember that Bush lost the last election. It may have been the first election in my memory in which the Supreme Court really was a populist issue.

In what way do you mean that?

GS: People understood -- in almost the same way that the slogan was once "It's the economy, stupid," the slogan was "It's the Supreme Court, stupid." The last election showed us the power of the Supreme Court because they essentially appointed the President. So for the first time in electoral history, or at least in my knowledge of electoral history, the Supreme Court is a big, or bigger, populist issue.

The irony here is that the Republican Party has continually campaigned against an activist Court. But what you find in Justices Scalia and Rehnquist, and Thomas in particular, is a high degree of activism when it's a ideological issue that they're concerned about.

GS: Yes, absolutely. It's like the idea of states' rights: They're for states' rights unless they disagree with the rights in question.

Concerning the message point, you're going to be very active. You have been, for two generations now, one of the key role models for independent women, certainly through Ms. magazine and through your own career. What do you say to the younger woman who may be an independent, may be a moderate Republican, who is not sure coming into this election how to vote? What does this administration represent in terms of the future of the independent career woman who is concerned about reproductive rights?

GS: It represents pure hostility. I think we need to vote out of self-respect. We need to stop voting for politicians who don't vote for us. And we need to vote, period. The voter turnout is a huge issue since this democracy turns out fewer voters than any other democracy in the world. What I refer to as self-respect is self-respect enough to vote, and to vote for one's self, and to understand the impact on our own individual lives of the person we vote for.

If Bush were elected in 2004, what do you think would happen in terms to the issue of choice?

GS: If he is elected in 2004, abortion will be criminalized in this country. We will continue to injure and kill millions of women in other countries by the gag rule and the withdrawal of funds for family planning, for AIDS education. And we will endanger many other advances we take for granted -- Title IX and so on.

If Bush is elected, it will only breed disrespect for the government because it will put a right-wing extremist regime in a position to make decisions in our lives -- decisions with which the majority doesn't agree. And I fear that fewer and fewer people will vote. We'll become more and more disillusioned with the government, and the very idea of democracy -- the fact of democracy -- will be damaged.

It's a truism to say democracy can't exist without feminism, because obviously democracy, if it means anything, means equal rights for all citizens. But feminism is part of it. The whole question of majority rule is threatened when so few people vote with so little knowledge of the issues that we get an unrepresentative, extremist government like we have now.

Leave No NASCAR Dad Behind

"Ironically, the sector of American society now poised to keep George Bush in the White House is the one which stands to lose the most from virtually all of his policies -- blue-collar men. A full 49 percent of them and 38 percent percent of blue-collar women told a January 2003 Roper poll they would vote for Bush in 2004."
--Arlie Hochschild

Perhaps the central paradox for a Democratic presidential candidate is figuring out how to attract some of the 50 percent of blue-collar workers who might vote for Bush. Howard Dean awkwardly addressed the issue when he referred to the need to attract guys with "Confederate flag bumper stickers." Dean used the wrong metaphor, but he was correct in identifying a key election challenge for the Democrats.

In her recent article, Let Them Eat War, Hochschild doesn't mince words: Bush's "policy -- and this his political advisor Karl Rove has carefully calibrated -- is something like the old bait-and-switch. He continues to take the steaks out of the blue-collar refrigerator and to declare instead, 'let them eat war.' He has been, in effect, strip-mining the emotional responses of blue-collar men to the problems his own administration is so intent on causing."

Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of "The Second Shift," "The Time Bind," and a collection of essays, "The Commercialization of Intimate Life."

In "Let Them Eat War," you say that Bush -- and I quote -- "continues to take the steaks out of the blue-collar refrigerator and to declare instead, 'let them eat war.'" Can you explain how this bait-and-switch basically works?

Arlie Hochschild: Let me back up first before I answer that, though, so I can nail down some poll results. They came as a bit of a surprise to me. A full 49 percent of blue-collar men and 38 percent of blue-collar women indicated in a January '03 Roper poll that they would vote for Bush in 2004. We can now compare that to the smaller proportion of pro-Bush professionals and managers. 40 percent of male and 32 percent of female professionals and managers plan to vote for Bush.

So if we compare occupational groups, blue-collar workers are more in favor of Bush than the white-collar sector. If we compare educational groups, we find the same thing. High school graduates and dropouts are more pro-Bush than people with graduate degrees. And if we compare income groups, we find people with family incomes of $30,000 or less are no more opposed to Bush -- about the same -- as those with incomes of $75,000 or more.

The surprise is that the people most hurt by Bush's policies are his strongest supporters. We know that there have been 2.5 million jobs lost in his presidency. He's kind of got a "bleed 'em dry" approach to the non-Pentagon part of government spending. He's not doing anything to help blue-collar workers learn new trades, or get a house, or help their kids go to college. He's loosening the Occupation Health and Safety regulations. The plants the guys work at are less safe. His agricultural policies are putting small farmers out of business. So we have to ask: why would they vote Republican?

Tax cuts are creating budget shortfalls for the schools the guy's kids go to. The library hours are shorter. And, given Bush putting the foxes in the henhouse in environmental posts, the air and water are going to get dirtier. Kids are more likely to get asthma. He's even loosening regulations for nursing homes, so the man's elderly parents are going to have worse care in their later days. All of Bush's military adventures -- the ones he's already done in Iraq, and perhaps Iran and Syria, impact the blue-collar guy more than anyone else. His kids are going to go, or his brother is going to go, or he's going to go and possibly be killed.

And yet this blue-collar guy's more likely to be for these wars. Do you think we should go into Syria? There was an item in a poll on that. A blue-collar guy is more likely to say "yes" than the professional or managerial guy who's less likely to go or see his kids go off to war.

So I'm looking at this data and it's a surprise that 50 percent of blue collar males don't seem to be voting in -- what we might think they would see as -- their self-interest.

Well, what is it? You identify a sort of an emotional trade-off, basically, that the blue-collar support of Bush isn't based on facts; indeed, many of these blue-collar males are aware of the facts. But Bush is offering something else. He's offering them, as you say, confidence in reestablishing their role in the center of the patriarchal world.

AH: Right. And this is a delicate point to try to get across. I think we all have feelings and they all can get appealed to. It doesn't mean a person is stupid if their feelings are getting appealed to. But I do think that this is going on, and that there's a kind of a dilemma here that the blue-collar guy, since the '70s on, has been suffering a giant economic downward slide. His paycheck is worth less. His job has become less secure. His benefits have been carved down. And all of this is bad, bad news for him. His wife's had to go to work, and now, 30 years later, the two of them earn what he alone would have earlier earned.

With this economic hit has come a cultural hit. Now I think it's a worldwide story, a kind of economic undermining of patriarchal customs and expectations. And so, with this economic decline may come marital instability -- a lot of hard things have hit this guy. And so how he feels psychologically becomes a really important question. And I think the story is that he believes -- whether it's true or not -- that a lot of people have come up from behind him. Women have come from behind. Minorities have come from behind and gotten ahead; immigrants, new arrivals, have come from behind and have gotten ahead. Even the spotted owl -- a lot of them are not environmentalists because they think somebody's now putting animal rights over their human rights. As he's sliding down, he imagines all these groups moving up.

And a very understandable thing to do is to look at them and want them to go back where they came from. The feeling is one of frustration, fear, anger. What he's not doing is looking at Bush, the guy at the top, who's rigging the whole economic game, and who's not doing a thing to support him, and who's actually deflecting blame away from the top. So it comes down to this: those feelings that come with a kind of loss of position, income and status among blue-collar males are being exploited instead of addressed.

In this age, when liberals are accused of being politically correct, the right-wing movement is probably even more of a practitioner of political correctness on many accounts. And Bush can't communicate directly to the white male about how he stands for the white male being on top, so there's a lot of coding going on, it seems. And much of this is subliminal, because Bush can't say, well, I keep Laura in her place, but --

AH: You never see her. She's in a lockbox.

And she's always walking behind him and is carefully scripted to say as little as possible. If she says anything, it's once or twice a month, and it's a sentence or two, or maybe a highly controlled interview. In their relationship, she symbolizes the woman who is always deferential to the husband. And Bush himself, although he comes from entitlement, in many ways he shows that the more he fails, the more secure maybe white males feel who are feeling uncomfortable with their position, because he's still the President of the United States. It is a reinforcement of all of the white males -- that no matter how much they screw up, they're still head of the family.

AH: I think that's a really very perceptive remark. Bush is a kind of a Dagwood, you know? However awkward and wrong-headed, he's still the head of the family.

That may be reassuring to blue-collar males. I won't be just thrown out of my family if I cheat, or if I spend my money drinking, because I'll come back and ultimately I'm the head of the family and I'll be forgiven. It's a patriarchal archetype that the male head of the household is always forgiven his failings.

AH: Bush is the upper-class mess-up who ends up on top anyway. It is subliminal: If you mess up, don't worry. The reason that becomes important, I think, is that we live in a culture of individualism. And if you lose a job, it's your fault you lost the job. It's your credit if you do well, and your fault if you do badly. And so for him to be the mess-up that gets ahead anyway is sort of an end-run around this whole burdensome ideology of individualism.

So it's a triumph of white males through all this adversity of civil rights, "quota systems" for minorities and feminism. There's a man who's been a complete screw-up, and now he's President of the United States. I'm a blue-collar male and I don't care if he's wealthy. He's standing up for the white guy being the head of the household and the decision maker.

AH: And that might become all the more important if he begins to feel it's all he's got left. And Bush represents it -- since it sure doesn't look like he's earned his title. Look at Bush's adolescence and young adulthood -- it's really extended until he was 40. He was careening around in Daddy's car, getting tickets for drunken driving, stealing the wreath off the Macy's front door. He was dragging a garbage can from a neighbor's driveway down the street and careening around.

He's still careening around. That's what he's doing in Iraq -- careening around. We are the neighbor's garbage can; he's dragging us with him.

But how that gets to be an asset subliminally for this important swing vote group is that you can mess up and still end up on top. He's not providing any policies to help that happen. That is the sleight of hand. He's actually making the workingman's life a thousand times harder.

That's the key to your commentary, "Let Them Eat War" -- whether or not a male blue-collar worker realizes it, on a conscious level or not, that he is trading off his individual well-being. Bush is hurting this guy's well being on all number of fronts -- job loss, elimination of overtime pay, reduction in future Social Security, future Medicare costs, long-term care and support, et cetera. Bush is basically adopting a policy of taking as much as he can for the business cronies who support him by taking away income from the workingman. Still, 50 percent support him because he's a white guy and he represents the triumph of the white guy in a world that's threatening to him.

AH: If you just take what's happening to the blue-collar guy's kids with Bush's "Children Left Behind" policy, as I would call it, he's basically penalizing schools that have failing kids. If those schools have kids who continue to fail, they get even less funding than they now get. He's actually going to redistribute funds away from the very schools and kids that need it the most, and a lot of those are blue-collar kids. So Bush is taking the future as well as the present away from these blue-collar men. And it's all to sell them a fairy tale.

To sell them a fairy tale of a lost world where the white male was king.

AH: Where your personal bravado will win out despite declining times -- about which Bush does nothing.

He's picking their pockets but saying to them -- with a wink and a nod, in politically correct code words and symbols -- like that all-male signing of the late-term abortion bill, where only white males were present -- the white guys are in charge here. "Notice there's no women," Bush is coding to them. "We're reigning them in, but not officially -- we're going to say we're all for women."

And then a wink, a wink and a nod.

AH: Sure.

And the white blue-collar worker for Bush says that's fine, and 50 percent of the blue-collar workers say I need psychological reassurance more than I need...

AH: More than I need the home loans, more than I need my kids to have a good school, more than I need the library open for more than two hours a day, more than I need a safe neighborhood or a safe playground, more than I need better staff-patient ratios in the nursing home I send my parents to -- more than all that.

Let me quote from your commentary: "George W. Bush is deregulating American global capitalism with one hand while regulating the feelings it produces with the other. Or, to put it another way, he is doing nothing to change the causes of fear and everything to channel the feeling and expression of it. He speaks to a working man's lost pride and his fear of the future by offering an image of fearlessness."

The very feelings that are causing the anxiety among that 50 percent of the blue-collar males, Bush is only worsening, while at the same time, he's luring them to vote for him by offering them the emotional security of being a screw-up white-male who remains on top and gets to wear the trappings of a "real man," even though he avoided serving in Vietnam and went AWOL.

AH: That's a very good summary of it. I think it's a giant hoax.

How does Rush Limbaugh play into this? He's an essential factor, his drug addiction aside.

AH: Oh, he's huge. He's the push-from-behind guy for three hours a day, nationwide, often during commuter time. We are really subjected to a certain emotional tone of resentment -- a recounting of the latest political news in resentment-drenched language. Actually, my husband and I were in Maine this summer, and I did a lot of commuting back and forth and I listened to Rush Limbaugh a lot. And you know what's really interesting is where he puts his anger, and where he doesn't put it. He is the cheerleader for George Bush. In fact, George isn't right wing enough for Rush Limbaugh.

Here is what he will do: He let Halliburton go. Dick Cheney's company has, without any bidding, gotten multi-billion dollar contracts to rebuild Iraq. No bidding? A private contract? This really is kind of immoral cronyism. (In fact, the New York Times today reports that Halliburton is charging twice what other companies charge to truck Kuwaiti fuel into Iraq). Well, not a word from Rush Limbaugh about Halliburton. He's not angry about that. Nothing said about that contract. But when it comes to talk about Hillary Clinton's new book, he lambastes her up and down and around. He said, regarding Wellesley College -- I cannot even stand to go on that campus, not even close to that campus, because it produces women like Hillary Clinton.

So, what do we have? We have a benign pass and wink for Halliburton -- no anger there. And we have this fury at the campus surrounding the college that produced women like Hillary Clinton. We drop the bomb on Hillary Clinton and say nothing about top-level malfeasance.

That is part of the emotional climate that stirs up the understandably hurt feelings of downwardly mobile blue-collar men. And there's a whole hemorrhage in the economic sector which has provided them jobs. That is a structural reality. We really need a Marshall Plan response to it. The blue-collar guy's upset; he has a right to be upset. We are with him on that. I'm upset too.

It's not his fault that industrial jobs are going to China and Indonesia. We need a structural answer to a structural problem. But instead of that, the blue-collar guy feels privately bad. And the worst side of his bad feelings is being appealed to by Bush.

As you pointed out, Rush Limbaugh is essential to this sort of strategy, because Rush Limbaugh is sort of the guy who works up the crowd to a frenzy. He does what Bush can't officially do, which is appeal to all the demagogic instincts one can do, and all the showmanship. He basically scapegoats intelligent women, to make Hillary Clinton the source of all the problems America faces. It's ludicrous.

AH: Yes, Limbaugh is working up the crowd, inspiring anger, fixing blame on women -- especially working women and the very wives that are holding up the families these blue-collar guys are members of. And he's switching it to a kind of market evangelism. Everything about the market is good, so he's getting the blue-collar guy to escape his problems by focusing on the wonders and magic of the market. He's even said he's really hostile to environmentalism -- what do we care about spotted owls and butterflies, he asks. The only bird that matters is the Kentucky Fried Chicken, because we eat chickens and we buy chickens. Only those animals matter. So let's protect them and nothing else.

But he doesn't point out, of course, that the Bush Administration fixes the market so only its supporters get fat contracts. There is no free market, as we imagine it. The Bush Cartel is all crony contracts for campaign contributions. Entrepreneurialism and fair market practices don't get rewarded in the Bush model of pay-to-play fat cats.

AH: Exactly. And Limbaugh doesn't point out that the very people who are outsourcing jobs to Third World countries and leaving high pools of unemployed in our country sing the praises of the free market.

Elimination of overtime required pay. He doesn't point any of this out.

AH: Right. And a reduction in benefits, and job instability -- this whole flexible-ization -- "we'll give you a half-time job and I won't tell you exactly when it's going to be and how long it'll last. And the wages will be half of what they were five years ago, but you're lucky to have a job. We won't count you as unemployed." All of that is happening due to the so-called free market. And Rush Limbaugh is making it the God, the solution. He's getting the forgotten guy to identify with the CEO of Halliburton, and forgetting that this very market has been rigged to the disadvantage of the working person.

Limbaugh is kind of like the guy who's claiming he caught a mugger (who is just some poor sucker who accidentally was passing by and looked disheveled) and the crowd gathers around. While Limbaugh claims that "We've got to lynch the man who's been picking pockets in the neighborhood" -- as he latches on to some hapless soul by the scruff of the neck -- the Bush administration, meanwhile, is picking everyone's pocket in the audience.

Let me ask you one more question. I know you're a sociologist, and this may be too speculative, but in your commentary you use the term "NASCAR Dad," which is a popular term in this campaign season. Let's assume that's what Howard Dean meant when he said the guy with the Confederate flag bumper sticker on the back of his pickup truck shouldn't be overlooked by Democrats.

It's probably almost certain if the Democrats can make significant inroads in this split-down-the-middle white male blue-collar vote, the Democratic candidate would win the next election. How does a Democratic candidate stand up for universal rights -- including for women and minorities -- and for a secular society, and still be able to access at least some percentage of that blue-collar, white male vote that's going to Bush because of insecurities about those very issues?

AH: By appealing to the blue-collar guy's better half, by appealing to his good side. And by exposing this hoax.

I think that the Democrats can appeal to the blue-collar man or the -- I won't call him a NASCAR Dad, but the blue-collar voter, male voter -- by saying, "You've been exposed to a giant hoax, and here's what the hoax is. It is offering you a make-believe candied apple with one hand and picking your pocket with the other hand. And take your own feelings back. They're yours. And put them behind a vote for someone who's going to really solve your problems. Set about seriously setting up a domestic agenda that makes a difference to you."

This series of wars that's an imperial stretch into the Middle East -- how does that help the blue-collar man, except for killing his relatives? The Democrats can say that's Bush's war. That's not a U.S. war. It has nothing to do with U.S. security. In fact, it's a whole "tap the hornet's nest" approach to international relations which makes us all a great deal less safe. So tell the blue-collar guy that this is a giant ruse and a scapegoating.

And someone's picking your pocket and it's the Bush Administration.

AH: It's the Bush Administration. I think Dean is plainspoken. He can just say that.

I don't know. The Democrats have, for the past 20 years, it seems, been unable to call the Republicans' bluff. They tiptoe around this hoax without calling it on the carpet like it is.

AH: There's been a whole hug-the-middle strategy of the Democratic Leadership Council, and that worked for Clinton. But it's not going to work for anybody after Clinton. I think the Democrats have got to go in the opposite direction -- stop hugging the middle. Get out there behind the issues we really believe in. And I guess along with that we have to enliven a vision of what life would be like if we weren't just privately rich, but rather, all publicly rich. If we really had great schools, and great playgrounds, and great public hospitals, and then there wouldn't be such a desperate scramble to be privately well off.

This is the ultimate thing -- not to be afraid to say there's another America that doesn't leave us hanging, each on our own, and then feeling bad about feeling bad, and that says we can structurally wire it so there aren't failures here. That's the problem we've got to fix -- by providing a vision of an alternative.

Inside the Frame

George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at the University of California Berkeley, is a specialist in the technique of "framing," a communication tool that creates a "frame" for a message that defines the terms of the debate. Lakoff believes that the Republicans are experts at framing, while the Democrats hardly appear to understand how the technique works at all. Take almost any major political issue, and the Democrats react to how the Bush Cartel has "framed the issue," rather than forcing the GOP to respond to a Democratic "frame."

Lakoff is also one of the founders of -- and a fellow at -- the Rockridge Institute, a progressive think tank in Oakland, California. One of the goals of the Rockridge Institute is to " reframe the terms of political debate to make a progressive moral vision more persuasive and influential."

People have different political outlooks and they think, "I stand for this," or "I stand for that." I stand for more taxes or less taxes. I stand for affirmative action or non-affirmative action. But few people think to talk about the language of politics and how politicians use language.

You are part of a group of people who use a particular concept to understand what the conservative -- or we should say right wing -- movement has done with language to influence public opinion. It is something called framing. That's not exclusive to the right wing, of course, but they use it. Can you explain what that concept is and why the right wing and the Bush Republican Party use it so well?

lakoffLakoff: The first thing to know about language is that it expresses ideas and thoughts. Every word is defined with respect to what cognitive scientists call a frame. A frame is a conceptual structure of a certain form. Let me give you an example. Suppose I say the word "relief." The word "relief" has a conceptual frame associated with it. Here's the frame: In order to give someone relief, there has to be an affliction and an afflicted party -- somebody who's harmed by this affliction -- and a reliever, somebody who gives relief to the afflicted party or takes away the harm or pain. That reliever is a hero. And if someone tries to stop the person giving relief from doing so, they're a bad guy. They're a villain. They want to keep the affliction ongoing. So when you use only one word, "relief," all of that information is called up. That is a simple conceptual frame.

Then there's metaphorical thought. We all think metaphorically. When you add "tax" to "relief" to give you the term "tax relief," it says that taxation is an affliction. That's a new metaphor. Then, using the metaphor, anyone who gets rid of the taxation -- the affliction -- is a hero, and anybody who tries to stop him is a bad guy.

On the first day that Bush came into office, the language completely changed coming out of the White House. The press releases all changed. One of the new expressions that came in was the term "tax relief." It evokes all of these things -- that taxation is an affliction that we have to get rid of, that it's a heroic thing to do, that people who try to prevent this heroic thing are bad guys.

The press releases went out to all the TV stations, all the radio stations, all the newspapers -- and soon the media started using the term "tax relief." That puts a certain frame out there: a conservative frame, not a progressive frame. Soon a lot of people are using the term "tax relief," and, before you know it, Democrats start using the term "tax relief," and shooting themselves in the foot.

That's a nice example of how language can evoke a way of understanding society, the world, economic policy, and so on, with just two words -- very, very simple. This happens all the time.

Is the use of the phrase "tax relief" and all it evokes an example of framing an issue, so that cutting taxes is seen as "tax relief"?

That's right. That is framing an issue. One of the first things I teach about framing is this: I give my students an exercise. I say, "Don't think of an elephant. Whatever you do, do not think of an elephant." And of course, they can't do it. You have to think of an elephant in order to not think of one. The word "elephant" evokes an image and knowledge about that image -- it's a frame. Negating a frame evokes the frame.

So if you go on Fox News -- "fair and balanced" -- two liberals, two conservatives, and one commentator who is asking the questions, and the question is, "Are you in favor of the President's tax relief program or are you against it?" -- it doesn't matter what you say. If you say, "I'm against tax relief," you're still evoking that framing. You're still in their frame, and all that it automatically brings with it: what kinds of policies are good, who is bad, and so on. That's how Fox News works. It frames the issues from a conservative perspective. Once the issue is framed, if you accept the framing, if you accept the language, it's all over.

Howard Dean is being criticized because it is considered political suicide to roll back tax cuts ("to roll back tax relief," as the right wing and the Bush administration call it). Would it be an example of good Democratic framing to say he doesn't want to roll back tax cuts; he wants to promote community enrichment and community growth? And that to do that, he's going to need more participation and support from members of the American community.

Not good enough. You have to provide another, progressive understanding of taxation. And you also have to make it very, very clear that there's a basic problem here. Cognitive scientists call it the problem of hypocognition. That means that you actually lack some of the complex ideas that you need. Not every important idea is already out there, with a name. Not every important idea has become normal and conventional. Sometimes you have to talk for a while to explain what a particular idea is, and you have to come up with language for it. By the way, this was also true of conservatives. They have been working at it for 30 years to develop their language.

The idea is this: If I were Howard Dean, I would say taxes are what you pay to be an American, to live in this country with democracy, with opportunity, and especially with the enormous infrastructure paid for by previous taxpayers -- infrastructure like schools and roads and the Internet, the stock market, the Securities and Exchange Commission, our court system, our scientific establishment, which is largely supported by federal money. Vast amounts of important, marvelous infrastructure: all of these things were paid for by taxpayers. They paid their dues. They paid their fair share to be Americans and maintain that infrastructure. And if you don't pay your fair share, then you're turning your back on your country.

One of the important things to know about the way that this infrastructure works is that people who are very wealthy use more of it than people who aren't. For example, nine-tenths of the use of the court system is for corporate law. People should pay their fair share in being Americans, and that's why we have a progressive income tax.

The phrase "tax relief" is two words. The right wing and the Bush propaganda machine seem very good at two- or three-word mantras that they then echo chamber through Fox News and the New York Post and CNN. What you've just said is a mouthful. How can that compete against two words?

The conservatives used to have a mouthful too. But they started back in the '50s, and after the '64 election they really got started. For the last 30 to 40 years, they have pumped $2 billion into supporting all of their think tanks and media apparatus. They have built this series of think tanks that started out after the Goldwater debacle, when "conservative" was a dirty word, when the idea of tax relief could not be introduced in two words. The phrase would have been meaningless. And what they did was to develop these ideas with very great patience and fortitude, in campaign after campaign, year after year, and invent the right words as the ideas came into popular view. Their success didn't happen overnight. They took a long-term view. I think we can do things a little faster since we now understand the science of it a little better, but some things are not going to happen overnight.

But I think the idea of paying your dues to America -- the analogy of saying, look, if you join a membership recreation center, you didn't build the basketball court. You didn't build the swimming pool. Your dues are paying to maintain them and maybe help to build something else in the future. But that's what being a member of a long-term institution is. You're a member of American society, this marvelous institution, and you need to pay your fair share. It's only fair.

As you have pointed out before, the Bush administration is incredibly skilled at using these framing phrases and concepts. And the right-wing think tanks laid the groundwork for it. But it seems to me that one characteristic of the framing phrases they use is that they are positive-sounding. It's Medicare reform. It's saving the forests by burning them down. It's clean air by allowing deregulation of the industry. They're not negative. The Democrats tend to use negative phrases a lot.

Exactly. Don't think of an elephant, right? The Democrats, by saying "stop this, attack that, overturn this," are shooting themselves in the foot. They're being reactive, not active. And you don't win by using the other guy's terms and putting a "not" in front of it or a "stop" in front of it. The conservatives understand this. They have a language machine in place -- a very well-supported machine run by a man named Frank Luntz who uses all this think-tank research to come up with a manual of how to talk about each issue. Not just how to talk about it, but how to think about it, how to reason about it, what the arguments are from the Republican point of view. There's an honest reasoning and talking part to what he does, but then there's also a way to twist words, to use propaganda. That's what you're talking about.

For example, you have the "Clear Skies Initiative," which is getting rid of all the anti-air pollution laws. They use words like "healthy, clean and safe" for things like nuclear power plants or coal plants. They issue advisories that say when you're talking to women, use words that women like, like "love" and "from the heart" and "for the children." Those things are propaganda uses. There are propaganda uses on the right, but that's not most of what they do. Most of it is successful framing of the things they really believe.

But the way they frame them isn't necessarily what is actually implemented.

That's right. When it's propaganda, it's a form of lying. And they do have frames that lie. There are a certain number of them -- "compassionate conservatism" is one of them. So yes, there are quite a number of cases where they're using frames and basically telling lies, but that's not everything. There's a lot of what they're doing that honestly expresses the system that they believe in.

Could you give me an example? Is "family values" an example?

I think so. "Family values" is a case where they honestly express certain things they believe in. However, there are also liberal family values -- but the progressives are not expressing these progressive family values, which, in fact, have been shown to be better at raising children. I have a book called Moral Politics," where I go through this in very great detail. It turns out that family values are important in both cases because the moral systems of both liberals and conservatives are based on models of the family. But most liberals don't understand this. Conservatives understand the link between their family values and their politics, but liberals tend not to.

Before we get into that, because I think that's fascinating, let me just run a couple things by you and get your reaction. When Clear Channel, a right-wing-owned radio conglomerate -- the owner is a big contributor to Bush-Cheney -- ran the series of "rallies" called "Support our Troops," was that framing? They were putting people in a position where if you oppose the war, you don't support our troops. Is that an example of framing?


Do you have any suggestions to a person who says, "I do support our troops. That's why I think they shouldn't be in Iraq fighting a ginned-up war." How does that person frame that?

It's difficult. During the Vietnam War, people tried "Support our troops; bring them home," but it didn't work that well. The reason it's hard is that the groundwork hasn't been laid. It's very important: this is, again, the issue of hypocognition, of liberals not having the concepts they need, not getting them out there, not getting the language set up. As a result, when there is something like the Gulf War or 9/11 or the Iraq War, there's silence.

Now, protection is a very, very important part of the progressive vision. You want to protect the environment. You want to protect your children. You want to protect investors. I do want to protect the country as well. But liberals and progressives haven't developed a powerful language of protection. They haven't put the effort into doing that. They haven't put the research into doing that. This takes research. And the right wing knows it. They support that research for their side.

So you can't just come up with a two-word phrase. You're saying you have to develop the infrastructure and do your homework before the framing phrase will have its resonance.

That's correct.

The idea of protection seems very close to what might be a central framing device. Since 9/11, the Bush Administration has been talking about "security" -- I imagine Frank Luntz might be behind that -- and it seems that the Bush Administration is confident of reelection because the "soccer mom" has become the "security mom," and the Bush Administration positions itself as providing "security." Now maybe some of that has been shifting, due to a growing perception that we're "losing the war" in Iraq. But let's go back to two months ago, when Bush was riding high in Iraq. Why can't the Democrats convert the "protection" model into the "security" model?

There are several factors involved, and you have to sort them out. To do this, we have to talk about the conservative worldview. In the conservative world view, which starts with a model of the family I call a "Strict Father" family, there's an assumption that the world is a dangerous place, that there is competition, there will always be winners and losers, that children are born bad and have to be made good.

What is needed to deal with all this is a strict father who supports and protects the family, who raises children to know right from wrong, who raises his children to be able to take care of themselves in the world. He does it in only one way -- by strength and punishment. Only punishment works. Only shows of strength work. That is part of the family model that's involved, and it's also part of the politics involved. When you have fear in the country, fear evokes a strict father model. It's to the conservatives' advantage to keep people afraid, to keep having orange alerts, to keep having announcements that they have secret information that there might be a bombing somewhere in the country. As long as you keep people afraid, you reinforce the strict father model.

The opposite of fear in all of this is hope and joy. It's important for liberals to stress the hope and promise of America, the joy of living in this country, and so on. You want to evoke that. But when fear is being evoked, the right-wing model is being evoked. Now, there are ways in which you can deal with the right-wing model. There are abusive fathers who betray the trust placed in them by the family -- and one of the things that Bush has been doing is betraying the trust that Americans have placed in him. He's lying to them. He's saying one thing and doing another. That harms people. There's a great deal of betrayal of trust there, and the liberals have to come out and get that message across. It's a hard message to get across because people don't want to think that the head of their family or the head of their nation is betraying their trust.

Can you explain a little bit more of the nurturing model of the Democrats, which is consistent with going back to the New Deal: that we are part of a larger community, a national community. Hillary Clinton's use of the phrase, "It takes a village" -- is that a good or a bad framing? Is that the essential concept of the nation as a community where we nurture everyone in our community, all Americans?

It's part of it. The "Nurturant Parent" model goes like this: It assumes that there are two parents involved and in charge of the family. And it has a set of background assumptions: that the world can be a better place, that it's our job to make it a better place, that children are born good and need to be made better, and that the job of a parent is to nurture his or her children, but also to turn those children into nurturers themselves -- nurturers of others.

Now what does it mean to be a nurturer? Well, two fundamental things. First, empathy. The parent has to know what all those cries mean when a baby cries. Does he need his diaper changed? Does she need to be fed? Second, responsibility. A parent has to be responsible to a child. And you can't be responsible to someone else if you're not responsible for yourself. You have to be able to take care of yourself to be able to care for someone else. Being responsible means being strong, being competent, being educated -- taking your role very, very seriously. If you want to turn your child into a nurturer, then you want to make that child responsible to others, strong, capable, educated, competent, and so on. Then there are other values that follow from empathy and responsibility. One of them is protection. If you're responsible for a child, and you care about the child, you want to protect her or him.

Some of the things that liberals want to protect children from are things like pollution and smoking, and cars without seatbelts, and unscrupulous businessmen -- the same things they want the government to protect citizens from. But they also want to protect children from other things like terrorists and invasions and so on. In fact, protection in general -- protection of the environment, for example -- is a major part of the progressive worldview.

Another "Nurturant" value that's extremely important is fulfillment in life. If you empathize with someone, you want him or her to be a happy, fulfilled person. If you're an unhappy, unfulfilled person yourself, you're not going to want other people to be happier and more fulfilled than you are. So it's important -- morally important -- to be a happy, fulfilled person in order to properly empathize with other people. Happiness and fulfillment in life are a moral responsibility for progressives.

In addition to that, community building is extremely important because Hillary is right: It does take a village. Children do react to how their peers live and what their peers' values are, and you can't do it alone. You have to be in a community where people take care of each other. Other values that follow are things like fairness and freedom. If you empathize with someone, you want to be fair to them. If you want them to have a fulfilled life, you want them to be free and have maximal freedom to carry out their dreams. So there are values like fairness, freedom, fulfillment, trust, cooperation, building communities. These are important progressive values that come out of nurturing families.

What does that mean in terms of framing? Clearly the Bush Administration and Karl Rove have all the right language, the right code words and the right framing, because Bush is the strong parental father figure. They've driven that one straight down the road, without any detours, and are still projecting that. What do the Democrats do, or Independents, or Greens, to create an attractive framing for the nurturing model?

Well, let's look at foreign policy. In foreign policy, the Bush administration uses a strict father model, and it says that only force works. Only punishment works. Moreover, it says that the strict father -- in this case, Bush -- is the moral authority. The U.S. knows better than anybody else. And they're certainly not going to ask other people who are presumably less moral than we are what we should do and how we should behave. That's why we go it alone. We have to preserve our sovereignty.

On the other hand, the progressive model looks at foreign policy very, very differently. In a progressive model, you apply the moral world view that you have, and you say that what's important here is both to empathize with other countries and be responsible to yourself, to care about your own interests and their interests, and to cooperate with them. And you build trust. How do you build trust? By making treaties and keeping them, where you cooperate with other people. What does cooperation mean? It means understanding what they need and helping them get it, as well as their helping you get what you need. So you build cooperation. That means building diplomacy and diplomatic relationships, and person-to-person relationships around the world, having people know each other's languages and visit each other's countries.

What is building community about? That's building international organizations, and, moreover, caring about people means giving more power to the international organizations that we already have that are not now usually considered part of foreign policy. For example, we have organizations that are concerned with poverty around the world. But poverty is usually not considered part of foreign policy.

Also, women's rights and women's education. The most important thing for population control in the world -- and population control is a major issue -- is women's education. Where women get educated, population rates become controlled automatically. And women's rights are crucial. Women are treated abominably around the world. This is an extremely important issue if you care about people and you care about other countries. Then you make it part of foreign policy.

Labor issues -- labor rights around the world are terrible. Our trade policies don't bring those issues in. It's very important that we bring in labor rights around the world. Children's rights are very important in this. International ecology, global health -- all of these are issues of caring about the world, about its people, and about other countries.

When other countries see that we have a foreign policy that is only about our national interest, or our national interest is defined only in terms of money and power and nothing else, then they say: "The U.S. doesn't get it. The U.S. is really an enemy of world peace. The U.S. is trying to dominate everybody else for its own interests." That is not a way to build trust. It's not a way to get cooperation. And it's definitely a way to have lots of people thinking that the U.S. is an enemy.

How do you translate those political concepts that grow out of the nurturing model into a framing that is reassuring to a public that is being told by the Bush Administration, "You're under siege"? They've eased up for a while, but between now and the election, I'm concerned there are going to be many more fright fests and alerts, to get people into the fear mode and to run to the strict father model.

Even if people feel that they've been screwed around, lied to -- abused in a public policy sense by the Bush administration -- they know Bush is going to go bomb the hell out of anyone that's really or allegedly trying to hurt us. Therefore, they'll run to him. How does a Democrat break through that and say, "We can provide the security"?

Wrong. Wrong way to talk and wrong way to think. The first way to break through that is to talk about the promise of America, the hope of America -- what is powerful and loving about the country -- to be positive, to break through the fear, because the fear is what evokes it. You have to project an image of love and warmth, and happiness and hope. That's the first thing. You don't feed the fear. Safety is a part of that, and you can point out that the Bush administration has betrayed its trust in not attending to making us safe. The PATRIOT Act doesn't make us safer. They're cutting money for firefighters and police officers. They're not making our harbors safe. They're not making chemical plants safe. Safety and protection are important. Protection is part of a "Nurturant model," and you have to be a strong, protective parent if you're a nurturer, and you have to come across as a strong protector.

You say, "You know, they've betrayed our trust. They're not really protecting us. Have we been protected in Iraq? There were no weapons of mass destruction there in the first place. They weren't protecting us from that, and they lied to us. They betrayed our trust there. And here's why."

Then you say why they really went into Iraq, which is largely on the basis of their self-interest, and why they got into this mess. Have they really made us safer? The answer is no. We're not safer than we were before.

You're critical of the Democratic Party, saying they don't have a clue about framing, haven't laid the groundwork, don't understand it even now. And you say right now the Democratic Party is into marketing. They pick a number of issues, like prescription drugs and Social Security, and ask which ones sell best across the spectrum, and they run on those issues. What do you mean by that? Isn't the Republican Party into marketing? They're into brand identity, selling Bush as a brand. They use all sorts of marketing tools in addition to framing. So what's wrong with the Democrats being into marketing?

They don't use it right. They don't have a central vision. The Republicans do. The Republicans understand what they're about, and everything they do evokes what they're about. So they know how to talk and think as conservatives. They know how to build a conservative brand. The Democrats don't have a brand. They don't have a vision that they can articulate clearly and say what that vision is. What they have is a long list of programs. You say: Okay, what is your vision? And they'll give you 50 programs. That's not a vision, because the programs change from year to year. They are always going to be adjusted and fixed, and compromised, and so on.

What you want to know is what progressives are about morally -- what they stand for. That's the crucial thing. Then you can go to particular Congressional districts and see if there are issues where taking a stand on one of these issues will evoke that vision. But you have to have that progressive vision in the first place. They have a conservative vision, and it's very clear what that is. Their language evokes a conservative vision, and they can talk about that vision. They can talk about the kind of country they want and so on. It's very important that the Democrats learn to talk about the kind of country they want in general, what their moral vision is and how it differs from the conservative moral vision, why they think the conservatives have betrayed American values. Then you can do your marketing on top of that. But you don't just do marketing.

You close in an interview on the UC Berkeley website by bringing up your new governor out there, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And this was before he had assumed office. You're saying that Democrats have no branded moral perspective, no general values, no clear identity, and that people vote their identity. They don't just vote on the issues. And Democrats don't understand that.

Look at Schwarzenegger, who said nothing about the issues in his campaign. Democrats ask: How can anyone vote for this guy? Your answer is that they did it because he put forth an identity. Voters know who he is. Can you explain what you meant by that? Does identity trump issues? Do people vote because he had a sense of personhood? They felt confident he knew who he was, whereas the Democrats seemed all mushy? What exactly did you mean by saying that he has an identity, but the Democrats didn't?

The conservative worldview depends on a strict father view of the world. This has to do with building discipline, with showing strength, with punishing your enemies, with pursuing your self-interest to become self-reliant. Those are the values. What you're doing is functioning in a dangerous and difficult world, and you're learning how to cope with that dangerous and difficult world. That's how that works. Davis, the Democratic governor, had no clue about how to get his values across. And the result was people didn't like him. He couldn't communicate well.

Schwarzenegger had an identity, which was "The Terminator." He was Mr. Discipline, a bodybuilder. No one could question his discipline. He had a movie role that everybody identified with, and he was a hero that people wanted, fitting exactly the conservative strict father mold. The Republicans recognized this years in advance. He has been primed to be the candidate for governor for years. Most people in the country didn't know this, but those who knew about California politics knew that this was a long-standing thing. He didn't come out of nowhere. They brought him along. As soon as he announced that he was going to run, the entire Republican machine was behind him. They knew what was going on, and he had an identity straight out.

There were polls and focus groups where they asked people who were, let's say, Hispanic. These were Bustamante [Cruz Bustamante, the lieutenant governor, who was running against Schwarzenegger] supporters. They asked them: Do you think you will be better off if Schwarzenegger is governor? Or: Schwarzenegger has the following policies, and Bustamante has these policies -- which ones will you be better off with? They said: The Bustamante ones. Who are you voting for? Schwarzenegger. The pollsters didn't understand it because they thought that people voted on the issues and on self-interest. Well, sometimes they do. But mostly they vote on their identity -- on persons that they trust to be like them, or to be like people they admire.

Many Democrats, many Progressives, Independents, Greens -- whatever differences there are among them -- pride themselves on being committed to ideas, and are, as you point out, contemptuous of the notion that people would vote on an image and an identity -- even, in the case of Schwarzenegger, outweighing the value of voting on specific ideas. Is there a basic conundrum for Democrats because they believe ideas should trump identity? And, therefore, since they think you should win on the issues, they're in a sort of cul de sac because they're so contemptuous of putting people out there who can win on identity and character?

The issues are not the ideas. Democrats and liberals in general don't support their intellectuals, for example. They assume that the issues are about self-interest, and that there can be group self-interest. There are interest groups -- ethnic groups and so on. But that's not how people vote. People vote on their morality and their identity. Occasionally they vote on their self-interest when it's important, but mostly they vote for what they believe in and who they are. That's something that Democrats don't understand. And they haven't been attentive enough to ideas and to understanding how the mind works. They focus instead on self-interest and issues, issue by issue. As long as they go issue by issue, they're going to lose.

George, thank you very much.

Thank you.

Will Electronic Voting Machines Steal the 2004 Election?

BUZZFLASH: Electronic voting machines, including touch-screen voting, have been touted as the salvation of a fair voting process. Your tenacious research over the last year has shown that this idea may be the Trojan Horse of voting machine reform, allowing elections to be stolen more easily than in the past. What are the basic reasons that you argue that electronic voting machines pose a threat to democracy?

BEV HARRIS: Four reasons:

1. Secrecy: What has always been a transparent process, subjected to many eyes and belonging to all of us, has very recently become secretive and proprietary. This happened when voting systems, which should be considered part of the "public commons" were turned over to private companies. These companies now assert that the process underlying the vote must be held secret from the voters.

2. Ownership: When a system that belongs to the public becomes secret, it becomes doubly important to make sure we can completely trust those who run it. Voting machine companies are not required to tell us who owns them. Two of the top six firms have been foreign-owned:, owned by the Saudis until an acquisition by Accenture recently, and Sequoia, now owned by DeLaRue (Great Britain). Three of the top six firms have owners and/or directors who represent vested interests:

-- Election Systems & Software, the largest company. Main owner is a company owned by Senator Chuck Hagel's campaign finance director, Michael McCarthy. Hagel has owned shares in both the voting company itself and in the parent company run by his campaign finance director, and Hagel was the CEO and Chairman of the voting machine company while it built the machines that counted his votes.

-- Diebold, the second largest voting machine company. CEO is Wally O'Dell, who recently visited George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch along with an elite group of Bush supporters called the "Rangers" and "Pioneers." Days later, he penned a letter to Ohio Republicans promising to help "deliver the votes" for Bush. O'Dell sponsored a $600,000 fund raiser for Dick Cheney in July. Diebold director W.H. Timken is also a Bush Pioneer.

-- VoteHere, the company striving to get its cryptography software into all the other companies' machines (already has a contract with Sequoia), has as its Chairman a close Cheney supporter and member of the Defense Policy Board, Admiral Bill Owens. Former CIA director Robert Gates, who heads the George Bush School of Business, is also a director.

-- Voting companies also have a somewhat incestuous group of key players -- Todd Urosevich and Bob Urosevich founded ES&S, but Todd now is an executive with ES&S while Bob is president of Diebold Election Systems. Sequoia and ES&S share software and optical scan machines.

3. Disabling the safeguards: Voting systems have always had people trying to rig them, with varying degrees of success. What has changed is scale. Whereas it used to be that one had to run around bribing someone to shave the wheel on each lever machine, or collect up ballot boxes and stuff them in a trunk, nowadays a programmer can, essentially invisibly, create a back door into the vote system for millions of votes at once. Whereas vote-rigging has always required physical access before, modems and wireless communications devices now open up possibilities for remote vote rigging that no one can observe.

-- The audit trail is being taken away: An audit is simply the act of comparing two independent data sets that are supposed to match. Probably the most important understory to the voting issue right now is this: The voting industry is spending literally millions of dollars, and going through amazing feats of contorted logic that can best be described as marketing gymnastics, to convince us that we should discontinue proper auditing. They want us to eliminate the ballot which you verify, and trust the secret system instead. Even with the optical scan machines, which retain a paper ballot, some states have passed laws to prevent us from looking at the paper ballot to use it for a proper audit.

-- Incorrect programming: One thing we've never had until we got electronic vote-counting (which includes touch screens and optical scan machines), is bad software programming. A lever machine can be tampered with, but you don't have any software programming errors with it. Incorrect software programming has now been identified in over 100 elections, often flipping the race to the wrong candidate, even when the election was not close.

No one knows how many elections have actually been misprogrammed, and as we eliminate paper ballots, no one will ever know. We do know that errors as high as 25 percent are not uncommon, and software programming errors have been documented as high as 100 percent, and in one small Iowa county, a single machine miscounted by 3 million votes.

Incorrect software programming can take two possible forms: Accidental or deliberate. Either one takes away our right to have our vote counted as we cast it.

4. Secret certification and testing, which gives a passing grade to flaws -- The whole reason we are supposed to accept secret software and secret ownership is that, we're told, these systems go through extensive and rigorous certification and testing. However, this turns out not to be the case.

First of all, the certification officials refuse to say what tests they do.

No one quite knows what the certifiers' credentials are or why they keep hiring the same guy, and we're not allowed to ask that question.

It turns out that the states generally do not look at the secret programs at all; they simply ask some routine questions and do a "Logic & Accuracy test" that does not detect fraud, and has proven to miss huge software programming errors quite often.

We now know that the certification process is fundamentally flawed. The recent report by Scientific Applications International Inc. (SAIC) on the security of the Diebold voting system identified 328 flaws, 26 of which it deemed "critical." The examination was ONLY done because, quite by accident, we got access to the voting program files and a report was written that exposed problems. But what this illustrates about certification is simply this: It doesn't work!

BUZZFLASH: How could a company steal votes for one party and we would never know about it?

HARRIS: Given inside access, which is available to software engineers and support techs, anything is possible. In California, according to internal memos we have obtained written by Diebold support techs and software engineers, in some elections no one looked at the software code at all, except for a couple of programmers out of Canada. This is because the software that was certified and approved, and supposedly frozen and held in escrow, was replaced with different software for elections. All of the companies seem to do this: They allow their techs, and sometimes even elections officials, to replace or "update" programs, and you can't count on these "updates" being tested by anyone. In Georgia they did this repeatedly.

Let me explain just how disturbing this is: The Diebold software that has been certified includes something called "GEMS" version 1.11.14 and also GEMS version 1.17.17. However, according to company memos, they rewrote "the guts of the program" when they made GEMS version 1.14.xx and then made even more changes, significant changes, with GEMS version 1.15.xx. (The last two numbers vary; none of these were certified.) These changes were made by programmers in Vancouver, Canada and stuck on an unprotected web site, where support techs went and retrieved them and put them on machines used in elections in California.

The story gets odder. The Canadian office, where the programmers come from, employs only a few people. Key software engineers actually come from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hong Kong, and often speak imperfect English and seem blissfully unaware of U.S. election law. Who knows what is in these programs? What is the background of these people? You can do anything you want to an election, if you write the commands that tell the computer what to do.

Getting into specifics requires some geek-speak, which is beyond the scope of an introduction like this. Several chapters in our soon-to-be-released book, "Black Box Voting," discuss this in more depth.

BUZZFLASH: What are the names of the manufacturers of the electronic voting machines, and which one is the biggest?

HARRIS: These are the key players:

-- Election Systems & Software (ES&S) - currently the largest -- Diebold Election Systems - currently the fastest growing -- Sequoia Voting Systems - Still controls a significant share of American voting machines. -- Hart Intercivic - Like the others, their machines are not properly auditable. -- VoteHere - This is a different kind of company. They have heavy ties to the defense industry. Their current focus is to get their encryption system into all the other manufacturers' voting systems; their encryption concept is just another attempt to do an end run around an open transparent system with paper ballots.

-- Avante - This is a very interesting company, because it makes touch screens WITH a paper trail, and a secure ballot box is attached to every machine. Their machines have been used in Sacramento County and recently fared quite well in Connecticut. -- AccuPoll - This is another company we should pay more attention to. It not only has touch screens with a voter verified paper ballot, but its software is also "Open source," meaning anyone can examine it.

BUZZFLASH: You have charged that the owners of some of these companies have close connections with the Republican Party. The head of Diebold, for instance, publicly vowed to do everything possible to see that Bush wins in Ohio in 2004. Are you concerned that the Republican Party affiliation of some of these companies could result in voting results skewed toward the GOP, in short, as a result of manipulating the software?

HARRIS: It's a conflict of interest, just as having military defense contractors involved in our voting system is a conflict. "Conflict of interest" provides a motive to do something impure. Allowing secret code and combining it with conflict of interest is just playing with electoral fire.

BUZZFLASH: You have been the victim of having your website shut down by Diebold. Briefly, why did they shut down your site and how were they able to do that? You refer to their use of "DMCA" to get your ISPN to clear your website. What is DMCA? What is the difference between and

HARRIS: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) laws, in the Internet world, are almost as controversial as the Patriot Act, because they tread on rights, contain draconian penalties, and can be abused in order to shut people up. What DMCA does is criminalize copyright issues. They were pushed in by the recording industry to prevent music piracy, but they have since been used for many other things.

The provision that was used against us was an abuse of the DMCA pull-down-demand process. Using this, a company can claim they own copyright to something, write a letter to your Internet service provider (ISP), demand that the offending page be removed. The ISP must pull the page immediately or risk losing everything. These pull-downs almost always take place without a court order.

Now, in our case, Diebold didn't even claim we had a copyrighted document on our site, they complained that we had a link to an unrelated site which, in turn, had links to documents which they claimed copyright to. And in our case, our ISP overstepped its bounds. We do not know the extent to which it was pressured to do so by Diebold or whether there were other types of political pressure. Our ISP not only pulled the offending link, it pulled the page the link was on, then it pulled our whole site down, then it removed access to the files on our FTP site so that we couldn't even relocate the files to another location. We have been told the site must remain down for 10 days, and we need to file a letter disputing their claim and bleed lawyer's fees to litigate this. Fortunately, David Allen, who knows about these things, had a techie-to-techie conversation with a rep at the ISP, and they decided their attorney had been wrong and granted us access via FTP, though the site is still not up.

Now let me tell you what the Diebold didn't want people to see: memos leaked by an insider. It was not a Diebold page, it was an independent web site owned by someone else.

These memos show a pattern of allegedly breaking the law, starting with using uncertified software; Diebold insiders allegedly admit to doing "end runs" around the voting system, and in one of the most shocking sets of memos, they allegedly admit that a "replacement" set of vote totals was uploaded in Volusia County, Florida which took 16,022 votes away from Al Gore in Nov. 2000. The explanation for how a supposedly secure system can have replacement votes put on it, and the whereabouts of "card #3" which contained the second vote upload, are missing in action. (The votes were given back to Gore, but only because a Florida clerk noticed the tally going down and sent out an alert).

Now on the web sites: is owned by David Allen, my publisher, with Plan Nine Publishing. It contains breaking news stories, a generous archive of articles, and commentary. I own the domain name, but to be fair, a webmaster named Roxanne Jekot, of "Georgia hack challenge" fame, did all the work to create a very effective "self-serve" activism site, where people could go and get directly involved and post their work and set up meetings, both public and private. It is the .org site that was shut down, and I don't know if I'll set it up again; I don't have the programming expertise to run it.

We are at "the tipping point" now. What brought us to this point, besides all the hard work by many people, was a kind of "drip, drip, drip" public education process, mostly using the Internet but also using radio quite a bit, and what has finally tipped things is the program files from the Diebold web site and the internal memos.

BUZZFLASH: Due to your work, states now seem to be reviewing electronic voting machines, but not necessarily doing anything about it? Is that accurate?

HARRIS: We're getting there. My skills are primarily in investigating, writing, and being a mouthpiece to get things into public attention. The set of skills for changing laws, getting injunctions, and confronting officials in an organized, systematic way is quite different. I have been eager to pass the torch, and I think we are at that point, and you will see citizens groups having a big impact in the very near future. The "Black Box Voting" book is designed to facilitate activism, because although we'll start seeing action soon, we have a very long fight ahead of us. It's a solid synopsis of what we know, to equip citizens to argue this issue persuasively.

BUZZFLASH: Okay, you've identified a problem that goes to the heart of how we choose our leaders in a democracy. You claim that the "salvation" of electronic voting is rife with potential for corruption? We are just over a year away from a national presidential election. Can anything be done in time to ensure an accurate vote count?

HARRIS: It has to be. We should not do any more elections until we have trustworthy and fully auditable voting systems. The stakes are high and the timeline is short.

BUZZFLASH: You have described many of the relationships in the Black Box Voting industry as incestuous. Can you explain how a recent State of Maryland "investigation" into a touch-screen voting machine vendor illustrates that?

HARRIS: Yes. Check this out: The SAIC is charged with doing an "independent" investigation of the security of Diebold software. They then give us about 69 heavily redacted pages out of a 200-page report, and in this, they take whole sections of the voting system off the table for examination. Now, the SAIC has ties to the voting industry -- specifically, Admiral Bill Owens is the Vice Chairman of the SAIC and he is the Chairman of VoteHere. SAIC has ties to the ITAA and the ITAA just tried to thrust a $200,000 PR campaign on the voting industry to solve the "PR problem" caused by the Diebold revelations. And there's more. You don't even have time for how much more there is.

BUZZFLASH: You have a book coming out, "Black Box Voting." When is it going to be released? What does it cover?

HARRIS: AWednesday, Oct. 1, we will start releasing this book for free in electronic format. We know that some of the people most likely to be disenfranchised cannot afford a book, and we want the book to be available to everyone. We know that time is of the essence, and we want tools to be available to activists immediately. On Wednesday, we will release two chapters every two days in free electronic format until the book has been thoroughly propagated around the world. Then the paperback version will go to print.

How the Land of the Free Became the Dinosaur in the Tar Pit

"From the brief time that we did spend occupying Iraqi territory after the war, I am certain that had we taken all of Iraq, we would have been like the dinosaur in the tar pit -- we would still be there, and we, not the United Nations, would be bearing the costs of the occupation. This is a burden I am sure the beleaguered American taxpayer would not have been happy to take on."
-- Norman Schwarzkopf, from his 1993 autobiography, "It Doesn't Take a Hero."

"We should not march into Baghdad. To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero. Assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war, it could only plunge that part of the world into ever greater instability."
-- George H.W. Bush, "A World Transformed," 1998

"Facing a marked increase in the frequency and brazenness of attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq in the last two weeks, military officials are for the first time speaking more openly about the potential for a long-term fight to quell the resistance to the American presence. Although the term is rarely used at the Pentagon, from every description by military officials, what U.S. troops face on the ground in Iraq has all the markings of a guerrilla war. . . ."
-- The Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2003

Believing in the projected brevity and stated purpose of W.W.I, diehard imperialist Rudyard Kipling used his influence to secure a commission in the Irish Guards for his only son, Jack, who was both medically unfit and underage. Wounded in combat, Jack was listed missing in action and confirmed dead two years later. By that time, Kipling's grandiose notions about patriotism and valor were replaced by bitter self-recrimination. "If any ask us why we died; Tell them 'Because our fathers lied,' a haunted Kipling wrote.

By now, more and more Americans are coming to understand how deeply we were deceived as our sons die daily in the long, unforgiving shadow of WMD "exaggerations." Though some tried to warn us, the mainstream media sold the war so fiercely and thoroughly that these small voices had relatively little impact -- particularly when anyone attempting to expose uncomfortable truths was accused of "drinking Saddam Hussein's Kool-Aid."

But even so, Norman Schwarzkopf, George H. W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell told us what to expect a decade or so ago. "The Gulf War was a limited-objective war. If it had not been, we would be ruling Baghdad today -- an unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships," Powell wrote in 1992. "Would it have been worth the inevitable follow-up: major occupation forces in Iraq for years to come and a very expensive and complex American proconsulship in Baghdad? Fortunately for America, reasonable people at the time thought not. They still do."

Bush and Scowcroft were among the reasonable. "Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land," they wrote, while Schwarzkopf was similarly sane earlier this year when he told the Washington Post he "would like to have better information" before endorsing the war in Iraq. And despite attempts to paint such concerns as the province of the "loony left," "reasonable people" included military experts; distinguished scientists; the CIA; conservative columnists; the National Council of Churches; traditional allies; The W.W.II generation; businessmen and millions who took to the streets in protest.

Surprisingly, various veterans organizations also became vehemently antiwar. Some found this war so unreasonable, in fact, that they urged soldiers to disobey orders. "Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our job was to defend this country," one group wrote. "Our experiences in the military caused us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our REAL duty is to encourage you as members of the U.S. armed forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of your actions will be for humanity. . . If you choose to participate in the invasion of Iraq you will be part of an occupying army. Do you know what it is like to look into the eyes of a people that hate you to your core?"

They do now.

Just one day after the U.S. military toppled Saddam's statue, the Guardian's Seumas Milne countered pundits' incessant gloating and braying. "On the streets of Baghdad yesterday, it was Kabul, November 2001, all over again," he wrote, warning against the shortsighted, ill-informed hubris and "grimly ironic" confidence of war enthusiasts. "For most Afghans," he reminded, "'liberation' has meant the return of rival warlords, harsh repression, rampant lawlessness, widespread torture and Taliban-style policing of women. Meanwhile, guerrilla attacks are mounting on US troops. . . and the likelihood of credible elections next year appears to be close to zero."

Sound familiar?

Milne also warned that Iraqis' initial euphoria should not be confused with enthusiasm for the illegal occupation of their country, while Robert Fisk reported that though "America's war of 'liberation' is over, Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is just about to begin." "The next chapter is going to be a conflict between the Iraqi people and the invaders," Iraqi refugee Dr. Renwar Rueben told reporters. "Sooner or later, the Americans will face the revolutionary anger and aggressiveness of the Iraqi people."

To date, more than 60 Americans have died in Iraq since George W. AWOL played Top Gun before a "Mission Accomplished" backdrop -- and attacks against US soldiers (now averaging about 13 a day), are becoming more organized, more determined and more brazen. One infantry captain, holding the charred helmet of a fallen fellow soldier said, "This is what the Iraqis think of us." But chances are, this young soldier is unaware of the region's more subtle history. Leftover hostility from the Gulf War and from the United State's role in the Iran-Iraq war (as well as from sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children) still simmers, while, according to Dr. Rueben, "Iraqis also know America supported Saddam Hussein's use of a biological bomb against Kurds in 1988," and that the former President Bush "vetoed against condemnation of Iraq for these actions."

Saddam's role in the American-led coup that brought the Baath party to power and his 40 year relationship with the CIA is also common knowledge. "This history is known to many in the Middle East and Europe, though few Americans are acquainted with it, much less understand it," Robert Morris wrote in the New York Times. "Yet these interventions help explain why United States policy is viewed with some cynicism abroad." By the time the war "ended," this cynicism was best expressed by Russia's president Vladimir Putin. "Where is Saddam? Where are those arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, if indeed they ever existed? Perhaps Saddam is still hiding somewhere in a bunker underground, sitting on cases of weapons of mass destruction and is preparing to blow the whole thing up and bring down the lives of thousands of Iraqi people," he said.

It doesn't help, of course, that Bush's soulless "bring them on!" invitation, inspired Iraq's 'nonexistent' guerillas to reply or that Donald Rumsfeld asserts "criminals" are attacking US troops. Doesn't the Secretary of Defense understand the difference between criminal activity and guerilla warfare? "A little background, especially for our Confused Rummy," Vietnam veteran Stewart Nusbaumer wrote, "criminals kill for money, guerrillas kill for politics . . . Iraqis are killing Americans to take back their country!"

Occupation requires iron resolve, however, and "Washington's overlord in Iraq," L. Paul Bremer is just the man for the job. "We are going to fight them and impose our will on them, and we will capture or... kill them until we have imposed law and order on this country," he declared. Given this, it might be time to contemplate Nusbaumer's second Vietnam-inspired lesson, namely: "knowing when your butt is sinking fast into a hopeless quagmire." Though the "Q" word makes the Pentagon surly and uneasy, the incompetence and arrogance that have led to this point are maddening, especially now that ridiculed concerns are coming to fruition. When Gen. Eric Shinseki told the Senate 200,000 troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz (who's largely responsible for this fine mess ) deemed his estimate "wildly inaccurate." But thanks to anti-US hostility and guerilla-style attacks, Bremer is requesting up to 50,000 additional troops atop the 150,000 or so already in place.

And though neoconservative hawks insulted our allies and made it clear that the U.S. could go it alone (Perle even thanked God "for the death the UN," for God's sake ), there are murmurs that U.S. troops are stretched too thin. Will we have enough to fight King George's perpetual wars? With 32 states linking selective service registration to drivers' license applications since 2000 and with 89% compliance, if "old Europe" doesn't come around, young Americans may have to. And though Bush stated early on that "the country shouldn't expect there to be a draft," after a list of lies, can anyone believe a word he says?

Americans aren't the only ones dying for Bush's sins, of course. Thousands of Iraqis perished in the war and others were blinded, maimed and orphaned. And though many rightfully argue that Iraqis would continue to be tortured had Saddam stayed in power, those who use Saddam's cruelty as justification for the lies that usurped our democracy often sidestep crucial information. Though mass graves are certainly testimony to Saddam's barbarity, rarely do Bush apologists mention that some of these graves contain the remains of Shiites George H. W. Bush urged to rise up against Saddam, nor do they address why America installed a strong-arm dictator in the first place. In October, 2001 Scowcroft explained it to PBS' "Frontline":
LOWELL BERGMAN, FRONTLINE: Wasn't there an uprising?
BRENT SCOWCROFT, Former National Security Adviser: Of course.
LOWELL BERGMAN: Didn't we see their military killing people?
LOWELL BERGMAN: And we didn't intervene.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Of course not.. . . . because-- first of all, one of our objectives was not to have Iraq split up into constituent parts because it's our -- it's a fundamental interest of the United States to keep a balance in that area. . . between Iraq and Iran.. . . suppose we went in and intervened and the Kurds declare independence and the Shi'ites declare independence. Then do we go to war against them to keep a unified Iraq?
"I have come to believe that the greatest civic sin is to lie to the people," Charley Reese wrote. "It ought to be considered the unforgivable sin. It undercuts the very basis of self-government. That concept, pioneered by America's Founding Fathers, says that the people can make the right decisions in the long run provided they are given the facts. If they are lied to, they are denied the opportunity to make the right decisions. They are, rather than choosing their destiny, being manipulated by others for hidden reasons."

The day Saddam's statue fell, and everyone wanted to feel good, television stations were interviewing soldiers' wives. Time and time again, these women gushed about how anxious they were for their husbands to return. Yet in September, 2002, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman predicted the scenario that's now unraveling. "This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman," Bookman wrote. "Once that is understood, other mysteries solve themselves. For example, why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled? Because we won't be leaving."

"They kept telling that as soon as you get to Baghdad you would be going home," one soldier's wife told the Guardian. "The way home is through Baghdad, they said." And though Bush promised troops would not remain in Iraq "for one day longer than is necessary" officials are talking about "maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq" and staying there indefinitely. Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "This idea that we will be in just as long as we need to and not a day more -- we've got to get over that rhetoric. It is rubbish. We're going to be there a long time. We must reorganize our military to be there a long time."

Sadly, military families who thought "Mission Accomplished" meant troops would come home are now paying the ultimate price for their trust. "What are we getting into here?" one sergeant asked. "The war is supposed to be over, but every day we hear of another soldier getting killed. Is it worth it? Saddam isn't in power anymore. The locals want us to leave. Why are we still here?"

Ah, there's the rub. Soldiers marched into Baghdad thinking they were defending the Land of the Free, but instead, as Schwarzkopf warned, they're "like the dinosaur in the tar pit," and "bearing the costs of the occupation." Now that it's clear Saddam's weapons of mass destruction did not pose an immediate danger to the United States, why, one wonders, did George W. Bush risk the scenario his father foresaw? Rhetoric aside, for what hidden reason did he possibly "condemn" soldiers to fight in "an unwinnable urban guerilla war?" Was it for global domination? Or war profiteering? Or for oil? The answer is out there somewhere -- along with Osama, Saddam and the ever elusive Truth.

Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure. Visit Buzzflash to read the original version of this article including links to sources.

Al Franken and the Lying Liars

During a recent panel discussion on media bias at Book Expo America 2003, Al Franken called Bill O'Reilly on his lies -- and O'Reilly didn't take to it kindly. The heated exchange, which was covered by C-SPAN's Book TV, became the subject of media coverage around the nation. BuzzFlash interviewed Franken about his first round KO against O'Reilly -- and about the larger issue of the media's right-wing bias, which Franken covers in his new book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right".

Author of the must-read "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," the audio version of which won a Grammy Award, Franken has also penned "Why Not Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency" and "Oh, The Things I Know!," a satire on self-help books.

A 1973 graduate of Harvard, Franken performed stand-up comedy before joining Saturday Night Live. Between 1975 and 1980, Franken won five Emmy Awards, four for writing and one for producing. Franken returned to SNL for a 10-year run in 1985, during which time he created one of the SNL Hall of Fame characters, self-help guru Stuart Smalley.

On May 31, your appearance at a book exposition with co-panelists Molly Ivins and Bill O'Reilly was broadcast on C-SPAN's Book TV. At the event, you confronted O'Reilly about his lie that that he received the prestigious Peabody Award for his work as host of Inside Edition. Could you recap the story -- which is kind of funny when you think about it, lying about an award that honors outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism.

AL FRANKEN: Well, it isn't just that Bill O'Reilly claims he won a couple of Peabody Awards. Whenever he was asked about Inside Edition and it being sort of a tabloid show, O'Reilly would indignantly say that they had won two Peabody Awards. Who says we're a tabloid show? And O'Reilly would offer as proof the Peabody Awards that Inside Edition had supposedly won. And he did this on a number of occasions. I got through watching him once on C-SPAN and then went researching on Nexis. I just followed it up because I couldn't believe that Inside Edition had won a Peabody. And I did the research. And, of course, they hadn't won any Peabody Award. I thought I would call O'Reilly, and that way he could stop saying the wrong thing, which any journalist would be embarrassed about. Instead of being grateful that I had called him, he just got angry. Well it turns out that Inside Edition had won a "Polk" Award a year after he left. And so he got very, very angry and said, "Go ahead – go after me, Al." And so I just thought that it'd be fun to do.

I gave the story to Lloyd Grove at the Washington Post, who called O'Reilly. O'Reilly sort of said, "Well, all I did was mix up a Polk and a Peabody, and Al has this jihad against me," et cetera. Now that's not necessarily worth writing about, but then I discovered that about a week later Robert Reno at Newsday decided to do a column about the fact that O'Reilly had claimed on several occasions to have won Peabodies and hadn't.

O'Reilly then attacked Rob Reno in the most vitriolic way, saying, basically "I never said I won a Peabody. This is a total fabrication. The man's a liar," et cetera, et cetera. And that sort of seems pathological to me, or Bill O'Reilly just felt that he could get away with it. It's sort of emblematic of him.

So I thought that was the example of his lying that I could use at the Book Expo, because my book isn't about him. It's about the whole right-wing media, and how it affects the mainstream media. I also focus on Bush and his administration -- who do a lot of lying -- and how a right-wing media has allowed them to get away with a lot of stuff that, in a different media environment, they probably wouldn't be able to get away with.

Well, you bring up an interesting point, because it seems that one of the tactics of the right wing when they are confronted with the facts or proof of their lies, they just switch gears.

FRANKEN: O'Reilly kept saying during the C-SPAN event, and he kept repeating, "All I did was mix up up a Polk and a Peabody." But that's not the whole point of the story. When confronted with a lie, these guys just deny it.

You stated in your speech on C-SPAN that outside of the mainstream media,there's a well-funded, well-organized, right-wing media –- and you gestured to O'Reilly –- and that it acts as an echo chamber in the news, pushing the right-wing attacks, scandals and ideology. Could you elaborate on that idea of an echo chamber?

FRANKEN: Well, what certainly happened during the Clinton administration was that the American Spectator and the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal would get these things that weren't true and print them. And, after awhile, they became such a part of the echo chamber that CNN and The New York Times and the L.A. Times felt they had to address those stories.

Because we live in a mass media culture, it seems that there's no such thing as any single story really causing that much of an impact. A news story has to be branded, and people have to keep talking about it. It's natural that the news cycle is going to turn very quickly, so even important stories get washed over.


But if you have that mechanism and infrastructure, like the right-wing media, you're able to keep a story alive and keep it circulating. You almost brand or market that news story, if you will, for the course of a week or longer.

FRANKEN: The first part of my new book is about the media, and then it gets more into the Bush administration. But, of course, they're married -- this right-wing media and the Bush administration. To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. And sometimes they do use too much oil, and sometimes they don't use enough. But the real problem with Al-Qaeda is they want to kill us. And the real problem with the press is all the other biases that they have. Those include: get the story fast; scandal; negativity; sexiness -- you know, ratings will be up if we go to war. It's an establishment bias -- a bias for the "new," which sounds contradictory to the establishment bias, but I think it helped Bush and hurt Gore in 2000. And so they're all these biases in all the media.

But in the right-wing media, they do have a right-wing bias. And they also have an agenda. So their agenda is: We're an adjunct of the Republican Party, and we're going push that agenda every day, and, as you say, brand these stories that help further the right-wing cause.

If you watched Hannity and Colmes during the war, it was hilarious. Hannity would, every day, be saying that Democrats were undermining the President by criticizing the Commander in Chief with criticisms that were so either nonexistent or mild. Whereas, Hannity, if you went back and looked at what he was saying during Kosovo, was attackingClinton in the harshest terms every day. Hannity deliberately meant to undermine Clinton by saying he's not following his advisors, we're running out of ammunition, he doesn't know what he's doing. He was allowing guests to come on and say this is the worst planned military operation in history, and he'd nod, and say, "Um-hmm."

Here's another example: I do a sort of a case study with the Wellstone Memorial and about the complete distortion of that event in the right-wing media. And that did get into the mainstream media, and it did affect how people around the country thought of the Democratic Party. And I think it had an effect obviously in Minnesota, and in Missouri in the Senate races, and gave the Senate to the Republicans.

There was a piece where Connie Lewis gave the eulogy for Sheila Wellstone, and she started off by saying there was this day where she picked up Paul for one of these 14-hour days on the campaign trail, and Sheila had already left for her campaign day. Paul pulls out this note from a pile of stuff from Sheila, and Sheila tells him in the note where dinner is, and how to put it in the microwave -- you know, he's an absent-minded guy in all these things. And then, at the bottom of the note, it says, "We will win." And Paul looks at Connie, and just gives her this look like, isn't she the greatest? Isn't she the greatest? The whole thing was about their love story. They got married at 19. I barely ever saw Paul without Sheila there. They were a truly incredible couple. And that's what the whole part of that piece was, in the middle of the campaign.

Well, Hannity's show cuts it together and just keeps the "We will win" part to show how partisan the event was, and then puts it together with Rick Kahn's speech and with something from Mark Wellstone. And my image of that was Alan Colmes walking past the Fox edit room that day saying "What are you up to, guys?" "Oh, we're just editing a piece on the Wellstone memorial." "OK." You know what I mean? The right wing machine cranked out lies. There was Christopher Caldwell who wrote the editorial for the Weekly Standard. The only thing he saw, I think, might have been the piece I just described from Hannity and Colmes.

You made an appearance on Donahue's show back in January and confronted Bernard Goldberg about his book that claimed liberals run the media. And you made the comment on Donahue's show that so much of the right-wing media is just flat-out lazy in not tracking down sources or context for what is reported.

FRANKEN: Well, in that one, Goldberg had a chapter called "Left Wing Hate Speech." He uses as an example something that John Chancellor said in the commentary on Nightly News with Tom Brokaw on August 21, 1991 -- that was the day that the coup was put down in the Soviet Union, the one at the Parliament where Yeltsin was on the tank and stuff. And Brokaw gives this impassioned opening to the show, something like, "This is the day where the gray men of the Kremlin were finally put down. And history will speak. And that the people of Russia didn't let themselves go back into the darkness, the state oppression, blah-blah-blah."

Total anti-communist, anti-Soviet introduction. And then, later in the show, Brokaw asks Chancellor, "What does Gorbachev do next?" Because, at this point, what brought about the coup were these horrible shortages that the Soviet Union was having, which were the worst shortages since World War II. And Perestroika, at this point, was six years old. Gorbachev had dismantled the state economy, and there was really no system -- there was no communism any more. And so John Chancellor says, basically, Gorbachev is in the position where he can't blame communism -- the problems are the shortages.

And Goldberg quotes this in his book about "liberal bias" and says it refers to the absurd notion that John Chancellor believes that the shortages in the Soviet Union were not caused by communism. Of course John Chancellor isn't around anymore to defend himself.

So I'm on the show with Donahue, and I'm in San Francisco on a satellite, which is always hard to do, and he's in the studio. And I asked him what happened on that day. I read him the quote. And I said, "What happened that day in the Soviet Union?" thinking that he knew. And then I would just say, "Then how could you leave out that context?" And in fact, he didn't know. Goldberg just didn't know. And Goldberg says, "You tell me, Al," very indignant that I would ask him. And I said, "No, you tell me. It's your book. You tell me." And basically he said, "OK, I don't know." Milton Friedman would have agreed with what John Chancellor was saying that day.

But when you confront the right-wing media about their reporting, all they do is they get mad. Instead of saying, "You know what? I really screwed up." Well, what happened was Goldberg just regurgitated something he got from a right-wing media research center, and just put it in the book and thought that, oh, this proves that John Chancellor thought that communism wasn't a problem or something.

It's the amazing laziness of putting something in your book without thinking, "Huh, let's see, 1991 -- what's going on around that time? Didn't communism fall? Didn't the Soviet Union fall around then? We must check out what this is." And here I am just reading Goldberg's book, and I think this is not what it seems. Well, what happened? What happened around then? That was even before I was writing this book about liars and the right-wing.

Celebrities who have spoken out against the Bush administration, like the Dixie Chicks, have been attacked by the right-wing media. Tim Robinson and Susan Sarandon, for example, were scrubbed from the Baseball Hall of Fame events surrounding the celebration of Bull Durham because of their liberal views. Did you face a backlash after you wrote Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot or after your recent appearance with O'Reilly on C-SPAN?

FRANKEN: No, no. I just tend to get really nasty e-mails. And I just send them back a little e-mail saying, "Thank you for your kind e-mail regarding my" – and I skip a space, and I put a forward arrow – "three-inch penis." Then I skip a space. "As you can imagine, I receive so many positive responses to my" – skip a space, arrow – "three-inch penis, that I'm unable to respond to them all." Then they get mad, yeah.

You stated at the C-SPAN event that the Democrats have taken it for too long and we're not going to take it anymore. And some of our readers have written that they want you to lead the DNC. What would you do if you were the head of the DNC? Or, what would you advise Democrats about the current political situation and how to fight back?

FRANKEN: This is something I'm trying to get together with some other people who asked me to put a show together -- a radio show. I think we have got to start matching their infrastructure. We have got to be able, when the right wing and Bush administration lie, to respond and say, "That's just not true." And we have got to start getting heard. We need leaders who can inspire people, and we need a message that resonates. And I think that we actually have both of those things.

How does your background in comedy give you a better understanding of politics, to see a situation differently or maybe unconventionally? How has it helped you in your political work, or at least your writing and speaking about politics?

FRANKEN: Well, I think that there's a value to comedy in and of itself. I'm a comedian first and foremost, which some people think that doesn't give me the right to do what I'm doing. And I don't quite understand that. What's Hannity? What's O'Reilly? What's their background, you know?

We call them Infotainment.

FRANKEN: Yeah. And I think that being able to make people laugh and write a book that's funny makes the information go down a lot easier and it makes it a lot more fun to read, easier to understand, and often stronger. So there's all kinds of advantages to it.

Now, one of the things that the right wing doesn't seem to get -- they have an unbelievable obdurate resistance to understanding irony. So when you write, "Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot," they don't understand. They say, "How dare you call him a big fat idiot?" And at the time, he was very fat, as you know, just a huge fat, fat, fat, fat, obese, morbidly obese, fat man. He's huge. Just his enormous gut and a big fat ass. But he had been engaging in ad hominem attacks, so there was a bit of irony within the title.

I have no doubt the right wing won't get the title of my new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, as it is meant -- it's kidding on the square, as I like to say.

Al, thank you so much for your time.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

Bad Brains

BuzzFlash is currently offering a book about Karl Rove as a premium. Why? The answer is simple: know your enemy. Rove may be evil, but he is an evil genius. Freedom loving Americans ignore him at their peril. Rove never graduated from a college, but he is a masterful three-dimensional chess player, albeit working for the forces of radical extremism. Rove runs circles around the Democratic leadership. He's a bear hunter who knows how to bait and trap with the best of them.

It's too bad he is the most powerful man in Washington, working on behalf of the forces of evil. Karl Rove would do Lucifer proud.

In a May 7th op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, this is what James Moore had to say about Rove:

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