HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Friday, October 31, 2008

YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE FRIENDS

Earler this week I took time to drive up to Superior, Wisconsin, to spend a little time with my friend Tom Johnson, who with the help of mutual friend Scott Sutherland, is repainting his folks homestead. The three of us, after a breakfast at Perkins overlooking the bay, drove out to the cemetery to visit the remains of our good friend, Gerald Fitzgerald, a man who touched all three of our lives very deeply during his brief stay of 49 years on this earth. I hadn't been up to Superior in sometime and to stand over Gerald's foot stone with his two best friends was very moving and emotional. I can say without a doubt that Gerald was also my very best friend of a life time and as I stood there on the wind swept hill, my head was filled with a rush of all the incredible memories that Gerald and I shared.

We had fished and camped together many many times, cross country skiied, hung out at The Anchor and drank ourselves silly on Leinenkugel beer, cooked together, played catch together, and spent countless hours on the long distance telephone, laughing until we wet our pants!

"Scooter" was, like Mr. Tom Johnson, an excellent writer, and when I produced my first album, I was honored when he wrote the liner notes for the record.
I enjoyed just being around both Scott and Tom as they are both very intelligent , insightful men. Scott, like me, spent years in the "trenches" teaching public school, and finally could take it no more -- hmmmmmm -- sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I'm proud to say that we put away the entire 16 inch pie and there was much discussion about how I hould open a pizza parlour of my own and that I could make millions. I thought about it for about as long as it took to type this sentence.
It was with a very grateful heart that I started for home on Highway 53 South after rolling out a sausage, jalepeno-stuffed green olive, home made Italian sausage pizza, on a bed of wonderfully pungent provolone cheese, which I made especially for Tom and Scott, "the working boys" who had toiled all day, patching trim and painting ceilings.

Also, as I drove home, I thought about how very lucky I am to hve two more really good friends waiting for me at this end of the road.

First, there is the irascible Mr. Douglas Scott Cox, here pictured stuffed into my take on a New York Giants helmet. Talk about a big head! The helmet is an XL and he still had a hell of a time removing it from his dome!

I love Dougie like a brother as we have done too many shows on the Kjer stage to remember and I have talked about him on this blog many times before.

Sadly, as he has a house in San Francisco as well as Eau Claire, Wisconsin, he will have "flew the coop" as we say here in 'Sconsin, back to the cold and damp of a somewhat warmer clime for the duration of winter. I am heartened only in knowing that when the wether warms, he will return!

And finally, as I drove, my thoughts turned to my life mate and companion, Kim, without whom I wouldn't even be on the face of the earth, I am certain.

She loves me so much that last night she agreed to go all the way to the Durand Rod and Gun Club for the last of the Jack Harmon Chicken Dinners for the season -- allowing me to keep a perfect attendance record.

The cool part is that we got there at 6:45 and they were seating #302. We had 462 and 463. then suddenly, the man in charge slipped up next to us and asked if we would like to be seated early as he had two seats he needed to fill! If we had had to wait our turn we probably wouldn't have gotten home in time to see The Daily Show!

I love Kim Wilson!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

TOP TEN REASONS CONSERVATIVES SHOULD VOTE FOR OBAMA

10. A body blow to racial identity politics. An end to the era of Jesse Jackson in black America.
9. Less debt. Yes, Obama will raise taxes on those earning over a quarter of a million. And he will spend on healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan and the environment. But so will McCain. He plans more spending on health, the environment and won't touch defense of entitlements. And his refusal to touch taxes means an extra $4 trillion in debt over the massive increase presided over by Bush. And the CBO estimates that McCain's plans will add more to the debt over four years than Obama's. Fiscal conservatives have a clear choice.
8. A return to realism and prudence in foreign policy. Obama has consistently cited the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush as his inspiration. McCain's knee-jerk reaction to the Georgian conflict, his commitment to stay in Iraq indefinitely, and his brinksmanship over Iran's nuclear ambitions make him a far riskier choice for conservatives. The choice between Obama and McCain is like the choice between George H.W. Bush's first term and George W.'s.
7. An ability to understand the difference between listening to generals and delegating foreign policy to them.
6. Temperament. Obama has the coolest, calmest demeanor of any president since Eisenhower. Conservatism values that kind of constancy, especially compared with the hot-headed, irrational impulsiveness of McCain.
5. Faith. Obama's fusion of Christianity and reason, his non-fundamentalist faith, is a critical bridge between the new atheism and the new Christianism.
4. A truce in the culture war. Obama takes us past the debilitating boomer warfare that has raged since the 1960s. Nothing has distorted our politics so gravely; nothing has made a rational politics more elusive.
3. Two words: President Palin.
2. Conservative reform. Until conservatism can get a distance from the big-spending, privacy-busting, debt-ridden, crony-laden, fundamentalist, intolerant, incompetent and arrogant faux conservatism of the Bush-Cheney years, it will never regain a coherent message to actually govern this country again. The survival of conservatism requires a temporary eclipse of today's Republicanism. Losing would be the best thing to happen to conservatism since 1964. Back then, conservatives lost in a landslide for the right reasons. Now, Republicans are losing in a landslide for the wrong reasons.
1. The War Against Islamist terror. The strategy deployed by Bush and Cheney has failed. It has failed to destroy al Qaeda, except in a country, Iraq, where their presence was minimal before the US invasion. It has failed to bring any of the terrorists to justice, instead creating the excresence of Gitmo, torture, secret sites, and the collapse of America's reputation abroad. It has empowered Iran, allowed al Qaeda to regroup in Pakistan, made the next vast generation of Muslims loathe America, and imperiled our alliances. We need smarter leadership of the war: balancing force with diplomacy, hard power with better p.r., deploying strategy rather than mere tactics, and self-confidence rather than a bunker mentality.
Those conservatives who remain convinced, as I do, that Islamist terror remains the greatest threat to the West cannot risk a perpetuation of the failed Manichean worldview of the past eight years, and cannot risk the possibility of McCain making rash decisions in the middle of a potentially catastrophic global conflict. If you are serious about the war on terror and believe it is a war we have to win, the only serious candidate is Barack Obama.

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"Palin Problem" by Kathleen Parker

If at one time women were considered heretical for swimming upstream against feminist orthodoxy, they now face condemnation for swimming downstream — away from Sarah Palin.

To express reservations about her qualifications to be vice president — and possibly president — is to risk being labeled anti-woman.


Or, as I am guilty of charging her early critics, supporting only a certain kind of woman.

Some of the passionately feminist critics of Palin who attacked her personally deserved some of the backlash they received. But circumstances have changed since Palin was introduced as just a hockey mom with lipstick — what a difference a financial crisis makes — and a more complicated picture has emerged.

As we’ve seen and heard more from John McCain’s running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion.

Yes, she recently met and turned several heads of state as the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York. She was gracious, charming and disarming. Men swooned. Pakistan’s president wanted to hug her. (Perhaps Osama bin Laden is dying to meet her?)

And, yes, she has common sense, something we value. And she’s had executive experience as a mayor and a governor, though of relatively small constituencies (about 6,000 and 680,000, respectively).

Finally, Palin’s narrative is fun, inspiring and all-American in that frontier way we seem to admire. When Palin first emerged as John McCain’s running mate, I confess I was delighted. She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood — a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.

Palin didn’t make a mess cracking the glass ceiling. She simply glided through it.

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example of many from her interview with Hannity: “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”

When Couric pointed to polls showing that the financial crisis had boosted Obama’s numbers, Palin blustered wordily: “I’m not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who’s more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who’s actually done it?”

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.

What to do?

McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.

Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.

Sunday, October 26, 2008



It has been a good weekend workwise! Friday night the band sallied forth to Sammy's Pizza, London Road, Eau Claire, with a much better crowd than we were able to draw last September 19. We did a lot more of the comedy which I think helped hold the crowd longer as well.

Saturday night, I traveled over to Norma's Place, east of Cornell, Wisconsin, on the way to Gilman. We celebrated owner Sue's 40th birthday as well as a Halloween costume party. Pictured in the pirate costume is co-owner Jeff, Sue's husband.

Again, I drew a pretty heft crowd, especially for first time in. I was glad that Kim came along as we shared dinner and she helped keep me awake on the drive home.

Today, sunday, I volunteered to do some work at the Eau Claire Democratic Party HQ in downtown Eau Claire, where I spent several hours stuffing envelopes and hand writing some cards urging voters to get out and vote for Obama.

Pictured are a couple of friends of mine that I bumped into while working today,. Peg Enders, who has been avery good friend and fan of mine since my "Howard Johnson" years and Jo Burke, an outstanding teacher and president of the teachers union wee both on hand today, working and sharing stories.

The highlight of the afternoon was the visit of a farm couple from down Osseo way, wearing their John Deere caps. (I should have gotten a picture of them). they came in to paick up some large Obama signs to put up on their farm property to (as they put it) "balance out all the McCain signs near them").

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I came up against some grim reality this past week when I went to order my winter's stove wood from my usual source and found that he was already sold out -- at $70 a face cord!!!

I did some looking around, made a few calls, and luckily found a source that would sell me six face cords at $50 a face cord. I will have to wait a week or two for delivery, but I have enough scrap around here to keep the home fires burning until then.

My thanks to Judy Willink for helping me find my way through that problem!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

OUT ON THE ROAD THIS WEEKEND

Just a reminder to "my faithful" (both of you) that I will be working in public both friday and saturday nights.

Friday night I am with my band -- consisting of Denny Marion on pedal steel, lead guitar, dobro, five string banjo, and vocals, Tim "Too Tall" Keilholtz on bass, and Dave "Barney" Barneson on drums, at Sammy's Pizza, London Road, Eau Claire, from 8:30PM - 11:30PM. Then Saturday I am on the road between Cornell and Gilman, Wisconsin, at Norma's Supper Club, to do a one show of comedy by myself.

It will be my first time in and hopefully not my last. I understand it is under new management and that the food is very good! Hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

AGED ACTORS DEVOUR AGED STEAKS



The last two trips that friends and I made to Durand for the Harmon chicken dinners, every time we passed through Downsville I would point out that TJ's Inn, Downsville, run by John and Kris Widmar, has the aboslute BEST sirloin steaks in my eating experience.

In fact, I am certain I have extolled the virtues of John's method of aging steaks in this column before.

So this week, yesterday eve to be exact, four old actors of Eau Claire State's summer theatre glory years, Wil Denson, Bob Carr, Doug Cox, and myself, set out for TJ's to see if what I said was really true.

The menu offers sirloin for one (16 ounces!) at $16.95 and sirloin for two (THIRTY TWO OUNCES!!!) for $33.00. Wil and I deceided we would split the sirloin for one. Bob and Doug opted to order the sirloin for two (pictured), and ended up taking some of it home.

No one was disappointed! All four of us thoroughly enjoyed our dinners and the company of our waitress Kim and her dry sense of humor.

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Too bad the campaigns are ending so soon. Sarah Palin just keeps putting her "real American" foot in her mouth every day -- the latest being that she doesn't even really understand what the job of the vice president is!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ashamed to be Considered Part of Palin's Real America -- enough With the Divisive Politics!!


With the good weather of autumn rapidly closing down, last week Kim and I took a lengthy (for me, anyway) bicycle jaunt along the Chippewa River Bike Trail. In addition to the beauty of the autumn colors, we had the sun sparkling of the flowing waters of the Chippewa River.

The only side effect? Incredibly painful "charlie horse" the following morning at 3 AM! the kind that makes you sit up screaming every curse word you have ever used and then some.

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I enjoyed last weekend immensely, starting with the Jack Harmon Chicken Dinner -- I have perfect attendance!-- on thursday night with Doug Cox and Bob Carr again -- this time joined by singer-songwriter Jerry Way who has b een a friend of mine for 100 years.

Friday night I got to entertain The Wisconsin Nursing Association at the Plaza Hotel in the Two Rivers room -- the same room where I did my CD release party some years ago. The show went really well -- although I went over by 15 minutes --.

Saturday afternoon Kim and I went to the Blugold/River Falls Football game -- again the sun cooperated, but Lady Luck went elsewhere and the Blugolds dropped the ball and the game.

Sunday, because I don't get CBS, I went over to Doug Cox's pad and we watched the Packers trounce the Colts. I am hoping that this is the beginning of the Packers going on a tear the rest of the season. As long as "A-Rodg" stays healthy, we might win a few more.

We will have our hands full with the Tennessee Titans as they always play us tough.

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I can't believe how nasty this damn political race is getting. McCain has the nerve, during the last debate to refer to ACORN as perhaps the biggest example of voter fraud ever, but the press seems to be ignoring this story:


According to campaign finance records, a joint committee of the McCain-Palin campaign, the RNC and the the California Republican Party, made a $175,000 payment to the group Lincoln Strategy in June for purposes of "registering voters." The managing partner of that firm is Nathan Sproul, a renowned GOP operative who has been investigated on multiple occasions for suppressing Democratic voter turnout, throwing away registration forms and even spearheading efforts to get Ralph Nader on ballots to hinder the Democratic ticket.

In a letter to the Justice Department last October, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said that that Sproul's alleged activities "clearly suppress votes and violate the law."

That Sproul would come under the employment umbrella of the McCain campaign -- the Republican National Committee has also separately paid Lincoln Strategy at least $37,000 for voter registration efforts this cycle -- is not terribly surprising. Sproul, who has donated nearly $30,000 to McCain's campaign, has been in the good graces of GOP officials for the past decade despite charges of ethical and potentially legal wrongdoing.

But his involvement with the Republican Party's voter registration efforts has the potential to create a political and public relations headache at a time when McCain can ill-afford one. For weeks the Arizona Republican and his allies have been seeking to tie Barack Obama to the community organization ACORN, which they have accused of potentially committing massive voter registration fraud. Sproul's contract with the GOP ticket -- in addition to news of Republican officials attempting to suppress Democratic turnout in California -- raises, for some, questions about McCain's own efforts.

"It should certainly take away from McCain's argument," said Bob Grossfeld, a progressive political consultant based in Arizona who has followed Sproul's career. "Without knowing anything of what is going on with ACORN, there is a clear history with Mr. Sproul either going over the line or sure as hell kicking dirt on it, and doing it for profit and usually fairly substantive profit."

As Republican Congressman Chris Cannon summarized during a joint hearing for the subcommittee on commercial and administrative law back in May 2008: "The difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn't throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out."

Indeed, Sproul's history is filled with allegations of political misdeeds. During the 2004 election, Sproul & Associates (the former name of Lincoln Strategy) was accused of attempting to destroy forms collected by Democratic voters in Nevada. That same year in Oregon, Sproul & Associates allegedly instructed canvassers to only accept Republican registration forms in addition to destroying those turned in by Democrats.

Story continues below

In Minnesota, meanwhile, Sproul's firm was accused of actually firing workers who brought back Democratic registration forms, while other canvassers were allegedly paid "$13 an hour, with the $3 bonus for every Bush, undecided or Ralph Nader voter registration." Similar problems related to Sproul & Associates popped up in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

All of this was executed, it seems, through an elaborate web of deception. As Salon.com wrote back in 2004:

Canvassers were told to act as if they were nonpartisan, to hide that they were working for the RNC, especially if approached by the media... In letters the firm sent to the libraries, Sproul misrepresented itself as America Votes -- a left-leaning national voter registration group not affiliated with Sproul -- but said that it was interested in registering "all those who wish to register to vote." Shortly after Sproul canvassers began working the libraries, though, patrons began complaining that the canvassers were being especially inquisitive about their political leanings, and some were pushing people to register as Republicans.
Sproul has denied those charges, claiming often that his registration efforts were bipartisan and that any suggestion otherwise was nothing more than the testimony of disgruntled former employees. He did not return a request for comment for this article.

But there has been a wide array of public complaint over the scope and nefariousness of his activities. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Ted Kennedy sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004 asking that the Justice Department "launch an immediate investigation into the activities of Mr. Sproul and his firm." Three years later, members of Congress still weren't satisfied. Rep. Conyers complained in an Oct. 2007 letter that the Justice Department was not closely scrutinizing Sproul's efforts. "The alleged misconduct described by many witnesses," he wrote, "clearly suppress[es] votes and violate[s] the law."

Indeed, those who have followed Sproul's rise in Republican circles argue that the pattern of behavior is too hard to dismiss as anything other than ethically-blurry, brass knuckle tactics.

"The biggest single thing is that he is a true believer," said Grossfeld. "He might take this as a compliment, but he is as committed to the worldview and the neocon approach to life as any operative I have ever run across. He is absolutely devoted to whatever that ideology is and as a byproduct of that he will look for every opportunity he can, I believe to further his or his client's agenda."

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I also feel obligated to print at least some of Keith Oblermann's recent foray into Divisive Politics as Un-American:

Gov. Palin:

"We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington D.C.," you told a fund-raiser in North Carolina last Thursday, to kick off this orgy of condescending elitism.

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

Governor, your prejudice is overwhelming. It is not just "pockets" of this country that are "pro-America" Governor. America is "pro-America. "And the "Real America" of yours, Governor, is where people at your rallies shout threats of violence, against other Americans, and you say nothing about them or to them.

What you are seeing is not patriotism, Governor. What has surrounded you since your nomination, has been the echoing shout of mob rule. Indeed, that shout has echoed to Minnesota, where the next day an unstable Congresswoman named Michele Bachmann added to the ugly cry.

"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think people would love to see an expose' like that."

For nearly two years, Ms. Bachmann, who made her first political bones by keeping the movie "Aladdin" from being shown at a Minnesota Charter School because she thought it promoted paganism and witchcraft, has had a seat in the government of this nation, a seat from which she has spewed the most implausible, hateful, narrow-minded garbage imaginable.

Well, Congresswoman, you have gotten that "expose'" you wanted, have you not? Though not perhaps in the way you imagined.

Since giving voice to your remarkable delusion that there are members of Congress who are "anti-America," and the extraordinary tap-dance of sleaze and innuendo about Sen. Obama which followed, the challenger for your house Seat, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has been inundated by donations - $7,000 in the three days after you spoke.

Because the America you perceive, Congresswoman with its goblins and ghosts and vast unseen hordes of traitors and fellow travelers and Senators who won't ban "Aladdin" exists only in your head, and in the heads of the others who must rationalize the failures in their own lives and of their own policies as somebody else's fault as a conspiracy to deny them an America of exclusionism and religious orthodoxy and prejudice, about which they must accuse, and murmur, and shout threats, and cleave the nation into pro-America and anti-America."

And back it comes to the McCain campaign.

And Sen. McCain's talking head, Ms. Pfotenhauer, who on this very network Saturday, and seemingly without the slightest idea that dismissive prejudice dripped from every word, analyzed the race in Virginia.

"I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia," she said. "But the rest of the state, 'real Virginia,' if you will, I think will be very responsive to Sen. McCain's message."

Again, a toxic message. The parts of the country that agree with Nancy Pfotenhauer are real; the others, not. Ms. Pfotenhauer, why not go the distance on this one? It was Sen. McCain's own brother who called that part of Virginia nearest Washington "communist country."

Cut to the chase, Madam. No matter the intended comic hyperbole of Joe McCain. This is the point-isn't it? Leave out the real meaning of "Communism," Madam, Joe McCain reduced it to a buzz-word; it has no more true definition right now than does "Socialism," or the phrase "a man who sees America like you and I see America."

It's about us and them. The pro and the anti. Never mind, Madam, that the bi-secting of this country you would happily inspire, means taking a tiny crack in a dam and not repairing it but burrowing into it.

It is not enough that Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama might differ. One must be real and the other false. One must be pro-America and the other anti. Go back and, as your boss Rick Davis said today, "re-think," Mr. McCain's insistence not to drag the sorry bones of Jeremiah Wright into this campaign. And whatever you do, Ms. Pfotenhauer, allow no one enough time to think about the widening crack in the dam.

And now all of this comes together to attack Colin Powell. "Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," writes Rush Limbaugh, the grand wizard of this school of reactionary non-thought.

"OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with." It is not conceivable that Powell might reject McCain for the politics of hate and character assassination, or just for policy.

In the closed, sweaty world of the blind allegiances of Limbaugh, one of "us" who endorses one of "them," must be doing so for some other blind allegiance, like the color of skin.

The answer to this primordial muck, must be addressed to one man only. Sen. McCain, where are you? I disagree with you on virtually every major point of policy and practice. And yet I do not think you "anti-America." I would not hesitate to join you in time of crisis in defense of this country. Fortunately you did not echo this chorus of base hatred. But neither have you repudiated it.

What is "pro-America", Senator? Is it pro-America to call a man a racist because he endorses a different candidate? Senator, you have based your campaign on many premises, but the foremost (and the most nearly admirable) of all of them, have been the pitches about "reaching across the aisle," and putting, as your ubiquitous banners reed, "country first."

So when Colin Powell endorses your opponent, you say nothing as your supporters and proxies paint him in this "Anti-America" frame and place him in Gov. Palin's un-real America. Sen. McCain, did not Gen. Powell just "reach across the aisle?" Did he not, in his own mind at least, "put country first?" Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to, if not applaud, then at least quiet those in your half of our fractured political equation?

Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to say "enough" to Republican smears without end? Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to insist that, win or lose, you will not be party to a campaign that devolves into hatred and prejudice and divisiveness? And Sen. McCain, if it is not your responsibility, whose is it?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debates Over -- All That's Left is the Shouting?

So the final debate is over (thank God) -- now if we can just make it through 19 more days of bullshit, it will be all over. Both the candidates clobbered their opponents, depending upon if you wanted to listen to the McCain camp or the Obama camp.

Much has been made of Mc Cain's "deer in the headlights" look while listening to Senator Obama's health care plan. Personally I think it was Johnny's way of going for the academy award for "best look of disbelief" -- and it came off as totally contrived.

McCain also has a smarmy way of attempting to use humor and failing miserably.

So we are coming down to the wire. After the 2004 fiasco, i have this deep, sinking feeling that no matter how many of us vote for senator Obama, it won't really make any difference, as the Republicans will once again STEAL the election. Pleasse, God, let me be wrong! I woke up this morning in a cold sweat because I dreamed that President McCain died.

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I don't know about you, but I got sick of "Joe the Plumber" in a hurry during the debate and today. Joe the Plumber is small business?? Maybe I am just bitter because I made the mistake of calling my local plumber to repair the office toilet -- he was here all of ten minutes, installed a new "flapper", and charged me $89.60!!! YOU HEARD ME -- EIGHTY NINE DOLLARS AND SIXTY CENTS.

FUCK JOE THE PLUMBER.

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Kitten report

It turns out we have adopted "destructo" cats! Both Hammy and stella attack house plants - real or fake - with a vengeance -- leaving bits and pieces scattered everywhere. and these are the first cats we have ever had that will go after "people food" as if they haven't eaten in days!

Stella has a couple of really unusual habits. she loves to jump into the recyclable newspaper bin and shred them, bit by bit. Same is true with large card board boxes! Please tell me she is just going through a teething stage!

Here is her weirdest thing: When I am on the john, pants and underwear down around my ankles, she climbs in between my ankles and makes herself a hammock!

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an old lady is leaving the polls on election day as as she leaves she yells "mccain! mccain!" over and over. the election official comes over and tells her she shouldn't be trying to influence voters on who to vote for. "no you idiot, i can't find my cane!"

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Hang on to any of the new Minnesota quarters you may have or acquire. They
may be worth MUCH MORE than 25 cents! The US Mint announced today that it
is recalling all of the Minnesota quarters that are part of its program
featuring quarters from each state. This action is being taken after
numerous reports that the new quarters will not work in parking meters,
toll booths, vending machines, pay phones or any other coin operated
devices. The problem lies in the unique design of the Minnesota quarter,
which was designed by a couple of Norwegian specialists, Sven and Ole.
Apparently the duct tape holding the two dimes and the nickel together
keeps jamming up the machines.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Body Language Experts on Palin



Body Politics: Sarah Palin's Body Language And Why It Should Worry You -- By Kathryn and Gay Hendricks

Since our last post, we've been asked many times to comment on Sarah Palin's mannerisms. Her Body-Talk is not as blatant as her running mate, probably because she has a background as a performer in beauty pageants and television. She has learned to conceal the smirks and clenches that play so openly across the countenance of John McCain.

In our work we call body language the Five Flags, because there are five major ways human beings react when they're not speaking the authentic truth. Twitches and jaw-clenches are examples of Flag #1, Body-Flags. To understand Sarah Palin, though, you need to understand Flags #2 and #3, Voice-Flags and Attitude-Flags. The English word 'personality' comes from two Latin words, per and sona, "through sound." The Romans knew that the personality comes through in the tone of voice and other vocal aspects.

From thirty-five years of clinical experience, we can tell you a lot about Sarah Palin's real personality and why it makes many people even more nervous that John McCain's.

Attitude-Flag #1: The Aggressive Confidence Of The Con-Person

Sarah Palin has mastered one fundamental requirement of a Republican president: she can smile and look you directly in the eye while telling an outrageous lie. At least when John McCain lies, his body screams his discomfort by putting on an eye-catching display of twitches, phony smiles and robot moves. McCain's body language is so strange that it's easily observable; he appears to be operated by a puppeteer who is a couple of triple-espressos over the line. That's a good thing, though. We'd much rather have a presidential candidate who reads like a comic book when he's lying than one who conceals those whoppers under a grin and a wink. Sarah Palin belts out her deceptions and distractions with a radiant confidence we usually only see in sociopaths and infomercial pitch-persons. The last public figure we saw who could grin and lie with that kind of sunny confidence was O. J. Simpson.

Voice-Flag #1: The Exaggerated Folksiness Of The Huckster

Our partisan colors may peek through subtly from time to time, but we do our best to be non-partisan lie-catchers. We cringed when Bill Clinton did his famous "I did not have sex..." line. We immediately looked at each other and said "uh-oh," because his body language let us know loud and clear that he did indeed have sex with "that woman." About ten minutes after Clinton's declaration, our phone started ringing from producers of talk shows wanting us to comment on Clinton's body language. They knew they'd seen something, but they couldn't figure out exactly what.

More recently, we cringed when we heard Sarah Palin start using more of those pseudo-folksy expressions such as "You betcha" and "doggone-it." She was droppin' so many g's on-stage at last week's debate that the janitorial staff may have had to work over-time pickin' 'em up, by gum. The last eight years have taught us all a sobering lesson: you don't have to be smart to be the President of the United States. However, we hope that America is smart enough to see Palin's exaggerated folksiness for what it is, a cheap trick to cozy up to us so they can sell us four more years of Bush Lite. We hope America will hear those "You betchas" and send Mc Cain/Palin a message right back: Just because you pretend to be dumb and folksy, you don't automatically get to live in the White House.

Voice-Flag #2: The Metallic Shriek Of The Fear-Monger

To emphasize certain points, Sarah Palin takes her voice up the tone scale to a metallic shriek. This tone will be familiar to many of us: it's the voice your mother employed as a last resort to get you out of bed when you were a teenager. It's designed to scare you, to rake fingernails across your inner chalkboard. She often uses this voice when she first takes the stage at a rally. It works quite well there, because it cuts like a knife and jolts any of the faithful who might be dozing to sit up in their seats. We hope Americans are not so sleepy as to vote in favor of hearing this tone of voice for four years.

Here's the bottom line: The McCain/Palin campaign strategy is based entirely on stirring up fear. It's a classic way to distract people from thinking about real issues and to cover up the lack of any real solutions. Their thinking goes like this:

•If we can get people scared that Obama might secretly be a Muslim or a terrorist, maybe we can get them not to think about the real issues.

•If we can get people scared that Rev. Wright might turn the inaugural benediction into an anti-American rant, maybe we can get them to believe America's economic problems are just something cooked up by the elite media as a way to play "Gotcha" on poor Sarah and John.

•If we can scare people into thinking Barack HUSSEIN Obama is going to put Louis Farrakhan in charge of the annual White House Easter egg hunt, maybe people won't notice that we have absolutely no solutions to the real problems they face.

Barack Obama has so far opted to run a positive campaign based on hope and thoughtful solutions. It's our fervent desire that he continue to do so, because it's about time we turned our national attention to positive possibilities. Over the past eight years we've had enough fear-mongering to last a lifetime.

(Stay tuned! In our next post we'll look at two more important bits of body language that we all need to be paying attention to during the campaign. We've noticed these flags at play in both Joe Biden and John McCain, and they spell trouble for all of us.)

Related:

Ask a European Who They Would Like to See in the White House!

Recently I have been listening to a friend try to tell me "mistruths" about Senator Obama. My friend is convinced that Obama is NOT an American citizen. so I did some more digging and here's what I found:

Now making the Internet rounds is a posting questioning whether McCain's presumptive Democratic opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen and therefore constitutionally qualified to be president. I suppose it was only a matter of time.

Anyway, this particular post, whose authorship is unclear, suggests that Obama is "not legally a U.S. natural-born citizen under to the law on the books at the time of his birth...". According to the poster, if only one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, the citizen-parent "must have resided in the United States for at least ten years, at least five of which had to be after the age of 16." Obama's father, of course, was not an American citizen, having been born in Kenya. That leaves his mother, who was a natural-born citizen, but who was only 18 when Obama was born, on August 4, 1961. In the poster's opinion, Obama fails the constitutional test because his citizen-mother had not resided in the U.S. for five years after the age of 16--not old enough, at the time of Obama's birth, "to qualify her son for automatic U.S. citizenship."

Now pay strict attention, because I'm only going to explain this once: Is Barack Obama a natural-born citizen of the United States and therefore eligible to become president? The answer is yes, according to Ron Gotcher, a noted California immigration lawyer.

"The poster's confusion," Gotcher writes, "is over the concepts of jus sanguinis and jus soli." Under jus sanguinis, a person's citizenship is transmitted "by the blood" - by inheritance from his or her parents or grandparents. In the United States, we recognize citizenship through parentage in a number of cases.

But it is not necessary to look to the statutes that deal with citizenship through jus sanguinis, since Senator Obama's citizenship derives from jus soli - citizenship through place of birth.

According to Gotcher, "The Fourteenth Amendment commands that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States , and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

"This was clarified by the Civil Rights Act of April 9, 1866, which provided that 'All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power are declared to be citizens of the United States.'"

"Senator Obama was born in the State of Hawaii two years after it became a state on Aug.21, 1959 As such, he acquired United States citizenship automatically at birth. While it is not necessary to go into all of the other legal errors contained in the posting (and there are many), the simple fact is that, with rare exceptions (children of diplomats), everyone born in the United States is a citizen of the United States at birth."

But what about the age of Obama's mother? Remember jus soli--citizenship through place of birth? (c'mon--there IS going to be a quiz). In that case--which happens to be Obama's case--the age of the parents has nothing to do with anything. Under jus soli even the children of illegal aliens are U.S. citizens at birth--just ask the pregnant women from Mexico near the end of their third trimester who try to sneak across the border in hopes their child will be born in a San Diego hospital and leave with a U.S. birth certificate clutched in his or her tiny hand.

Except for the children of diplomats, every child born in the U.S. is a natural-born U.S. citizen, period. The parents could be citizens themselves, could be from France, could be Coneheads. Nothing else matters. Only if the child is born OUTSIDE the United States to one citizen-parent does the issue of the parents' age, citizenship, or whatever, come into play.

"All that matters is that the child is born here, " Gotcher says. "This is the reason that you are hearing so much fuss in Congress about changing the law that grants 'birthright citizenship.'" But even such a law, however unlikely to pass, would not be retroactive. If Barack Obama wins the presidential election he can begin choosing the furniture for the Oval Office without watching for immigration agents over his shoulder.

Secondly, came insinuations that Obama was up to something evil by spending time in Indonesia and Pakistan. Further research: This from an article by Adil Najam:

Most Pakistanis seem to like Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic Party candidate for President. However, for most, Senator Obama’s “Pakistan Connections” were limited to (a) his rather strong words about Pakistan, including about sending troops into Pakistan, and (b) his choice of Senator Joeseph Biden, who has a long and deep interest in foreign affairs, including Pakistan. Most Pakistanis are not very fond of the first of these connections. The second connection they like, especially because Senator Biden has been the key architect of a new, very generous and quite sensible support package for Pakistan.

It turns out, however, that Barack Obama may have slightly deeper and more personal connections to Pakistan. But, frankly, only very slightly deeper and only very slightly personal.

First, there is the story circulating around that Barak Obama’s mother lived in Pakistan for five years. It is quite clear that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, did indeed work and live in Pakistan as a consultant to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), working on a project in Gujranwalla (here, here, here). However, I must confess that I have serious doubts if she actually “lived” in Pakistan (i.e., Pakistan was her primary residence) for five years.

The “5-year” conjecture is based on a headline in the Daily Waqt that proclaims that “Obama’s Mother Stayed in Pakistan for 5 Years.” My own sense is that this may be a case of a bad translation and/or an erroneous headline.

Here is why I think this is so: first, the type of work she is reported to have been doing for the ADB would usually require occasional and repeated visits but not permanent placement; second, if it did, it is unlikely that she would have stayed in a 5-star hotel the entire time as the report alleges. Here is the Daily Waqt report in question:

The mother of American Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, Mrs. Ann Dunham lived in Pakistan for five years. During this time, Barack Obama also visited his mother and stayed for a few month. Mrs. Ann Dunham was hired as a consultant by the Asian Development Bank for Pakistan Agricultural Development Bank’s Gujranwalla Agricultural Development Program. This program began in 1987 and ended in 1992.

Mrs. Ann Dunham monitored the funds received for this program from the Asian Development Bank and trained the Mobile Credit Officers of the Agricultural Bank. This program was controlled from the Gujranwalla Regional Office. She stayed for five years in the Hilton International Hotel (now Avari Hotel), Lahore. She travelled daily from Lahore to Gujranwalla. When Barack Obama visited Pakistan, he stayed in the same hotel. After returning from Pakistan, she died from cancer within three years.

Second, Barack Obama has himself visited Pakistan. Indeed, Barack Obama may have visited Pakistan for longer than any U.S. President or presidential candidate ever has. As so many college students do, he seemed eager to see the world. He was in Karachi in 1981 as a young student, returning from a visit to his mother in Indonesia. According to a New York Times report:

…Mr. Obama also spoke about having traveled to Pakistan in the early 1980s. Because of that trip, which he did not mention in either of his autobiographical books, “I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” he said… According to his campaign staff, Mr. Obama visited Pakistan in 1981, on the way back from Indonesia, where his mother and half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, were living. He spent “about three weeks” there, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Bill Burton, said, staying in Karachi with the family of a college friend, Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, but also traveling to Hyderabad, in India.





Finally, as mentioned in the excerpt above, Senator Obama had a number of Pakistani friends during his college days, and it was that friendship that brought him to Pakistan. Some details, again, from the same New York Times report:

…In Dreams from My Father, he talks of having a Pakistani roommate when he moved to New York, a man he calls Sadik who “had overstayed his tourist visa and now made a living in New York’s high-turnover, illegal immigrant work force, waiting on tables”… During his years at Occidental College, Mr. Obama also befriended Wahid Hamid, a fellow student who was an immigrant from Pakistan and traveled with Mr. Obama there, the Obama campaign said. Mr. Hamid is now a vice president at Pepsico in New York, and according to public records, has donated the maximum $2,300 to the Obama campaign and is listed as a fund-raiser for it. Mr. Chandoo is now a self-employed financial consultant, living in Armonk, N.Y. He has also donated the maximum, $2,300, to Mr. Obama’s primary campaign and an additional $309 for the general election, campaign finance records show.

An Associated Press story on Obama’s college friends has more interesting snippets. Especially his relationship with Sohale Siddiqi, from Karachi, is fascinating - all the more to the Pakistani reader:

The way Sohale Siddiqi remembers it, he and his old roommate were walking his pug Charlie on Broadway when a large, scary bum approached them, stomping on the ground near the dog’s head. This was in the 1980s, a time when New York was a fearful place beset by drugs and crime, when the street smart knew that the best way to handle the city’s derelicts was to avoid them entirely. But Siddiqi was angry and he confronted the man, who approached him menacingly. Until his skinny, elite univerity-educated friend - Barack Obama - intervened. He “stepped right in between. … He planted his face firmly in the face of the guy. ‘Hey, hey, hey.’ And the guy backpedaled and we kept walking,” Siddiqi recalls.

…Obama spent the six years between 1979 and 1985 at Occidental College in Los Angeles and then in New York at Columbia University and in the workplace. His memoir, Dreams from My Father, talks about this time, but not in great detail; Siddiqi, for example, is identified only as “Sadik” _ “a short, well-built Pakistani” who smoked marijuana, snorted cocaine and liked to party. Obama’s campaign wouldn’t identify “Sadik,” but The Associated Press located him in Seattle, where he raises money for a community theater. Together, the recollections of Siddiqi and other friends and acquaintances from Obama’s college years paint a portrait of the candidate as a young man. They remember a good student with a sharp mind and unshakable integrity, a young man who already had a passion for the underprivileged. Some described the young Obama’s personality as confident to the point of arrogance, a criticism that would emerge decades later, during the campaign.

Not everyone who knew Obama in those years is eager to talk. Some explained that they feared inadvertently hurting Obama’s campaign. Among his friends were Siddiqi and two other Pakistanis, all of them from Karachi; several of those interviewed said the Pakistanis were reluctant to talk for fear of stoking rumors that Obama is a Muslim. “Obama in the eyes of some right wingers is basically Muslim until proved innocent,” says Margot Mifflin, a friend from Occidental who is now a journalism professor at New York’s Lehman College. “It’s partly the Muslim factor by association and partly the fear of something being twisted.”

…Of course, he was only 18 when he arrived at the small liberal arts college nicknamed “Oxy.” His freshman roommates were Imad Husain, a Pakistani, who’s now a Boston banker, and Paul Carpenter, now a Los Angeles lawyer… Obama had an international circle of friends _ “a real eclectic sort of group,” says Vinai Thummalapally, who himself came from Hyderabad, India. As a freshman, he quickly became friends with Mohammed Hasan Chandoo and Wahid Hamid, two wealthy Pakistanis.

In 1981, Obama transferred from Occidental to Columbia. In between, he traveled to Pakistan - a trip that enhanced his foreign policy qualifications, he maintained in a private speech at a San Francisco fundraiser last month. Obama spent “about three weeks” in Pakistan, traveling with Hamid and staying in Karachi with Chandoo’s family, said Bill Burton, Obama’s press secretary. “He was clearly shocked by the economic disparity he saw in Pakistan. He couldn’t get over the sight of rural peasants bowing to the wealthy landowners they worked for as they passed,” says Margot Mifflin, who makes a brief appearance in Obama’s memoir.

When Obama arrived in New York, he already knew Siddiqi - a friend of Chandoo’s and Hamid’s from Karachi who had visited Los Angeles. Looking back, Siddiqi acknowledges that he and Obama were an odd couple. Siddiqi would mock Obama’s idealism - he just wanted to make a lot of money and buy things, while Obama wanted to help the poor. “At that age, I thought he was a saint and a square, and he took himself too seriously,” Siddiqi said. “I would ask him why he was so serious. He was genuinely concerned with the plight of the poor. He’d give me lectures, which I found very boring. He must have found me very irritating.”

Siddiqi offered the most expansive account of Obama as a young man. “We were both very lost. We were both alienated, although he might not put it that way. He arrived disheveled and without a place to stay,” said Siddiqi, who at the time worked as a waiter and as a salesman at a boutique… In about 1982, Siddiqi and Obama got an apartment at a sixth-floor walkup on East 94th Street. Siddiqi managed to get the apartment thanks to subterfuge. “We didn’t have a chance in hell of getting this apartment unless we fabricated the lease application,” Siddiqi said. Siddiqi fudged his credentials, saying he had a high-paying job at a catering company, but Obama “wanted no part of it. He put down the truth.”

The apartment was “a slum of a place” in a drug-ridden neighborhood filled with gunshots, he said. “It wasn’t a comfortable existence. We were slumming it.” What little furniture they had was found on the street, and guests would have to hold their dinner plates in their laps. While Obama has acknowledged using marijuana and cocaine during high school in Hawaii, he writes in the memoir that he stopped using soon after his arrival in New York. His roommate had no such scruples. But Siddiqi says that during their time together here, Obama always refused his offers of drugs.

…Siddiqi said his female friends thought Obama was “a hunk.” “We were always competing,” he said. “You know how it is. You go to a bar and you try hitting on the girls. He had a lot more success. I wouldn’t out-compete him in picking up girls, that’s for sure.” Obama was a tolerant roommate. Siddiqi’s mother, who had never been around a black man, came to visit and she was rude; Obama was nothing but polite. Siddiqi himself could be intemperate - he called Obama an Uncle Tom, but “he was really patient. I’m surprised he suffered me.” Finally, their relationship started to fray. “I was partying all the time. I was disrupting his studies,” Siddiqi said. Obama moved out.

… Neither Hamid nor Chandoo would be interviewed for this story; Hamid is now a top executive at Pepsico in New York, and Chandoo is a self-employed financial consultant in the New York area. Both have each contributed the maximum $2,300 to Obama’s campaign, and records indicate each has joined an Asian-American council that supports his run for president. Both also are listed on Obama’s campaign Web site as being among his top fundraisers, each bringing in between $100,000 and $200,000 in contributions from their networks of friends. Both also attended Obama’s wedding in 1992, according to published reports and other friends.

Thummalapally has stayed in contact with Obama, too, visiting him in New York, attending his wedding in 1992 and joining him in Springfield, Illinois., for the Feb. 10, 2007, announcement of Obama’s run for the White House. President of a CD and DVD manufacturing company in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Thummalapally also is listed as a top fundraiser on the campaign Web site.

Siddiqi has not kept in touch. His has been a difficult road; years after his time with Obama, Siddiqi says, he became addicted to cocaine and lost his business. But when he needed help during his recovery, Obama - the roommate he drove away with his partying, the man he always suspected of looking down at him - gave him a job reference. So yes, he’s an Obama man, too. Witness the message on his answering machine: “My name is Hal Siddiqi, and I approve of this message. Vote for peace, vote for hope, vote for change, and vote for Obama.”

But the most interesting account, even more interesting than the yarn about Hal Siddiqi comes from Barack Obama himself, in his book Dreams from My Father. Here are some excerpts from Chapter 6:

I SPENT MY FIRST NIGHT in Manhattan curled up in an alleyway. It wasn’t intentional; while still in L.A., I had heard that a friend of a friend would be vacating her apartment in Spanish Harlem, near Columbia, and that given New York’s real estate market I’d better grab it while I could. An agreement was reached; I wired ahead with the date of my August arrival; and after dragging my luggage through the airport, the subways, Times Square, and across 109th from Broadway to Amsterdam, I finally stood at the door, a few minutes past ten P.M.

I pressed the buzzer repeatedly, but no one answered. The street was empty, the buildings on either side boarded up, a bulk of rectangular shadows. Eventually, a young Puerto Rican woman emerged from the building, throwing a nervous look my way before heading down the street. I rushed to catch the door before it slammed shut, and, pulling my luggage behind me, proceeded upstairs to knock, and then bang, on the apartment door. Again, no answer, just a sound down the hall of a deadbolt thrown into place.

New York. Just like I pictured it. I checked my wallet-not enough money for a motel. I knew one person in New York, a guy named Sadik whom I’d met in L.A., but he’d told me that he worked all night at a bar somewhere. With nothing to do but wait, I carried my luggage back downstairs and sat on the stoop. After a while, I reached into my back pocket, pulling out the letter I’d been carrying since leaving L.A. …

It was well past midnight by the time I crawled through a fence that led to an alleyway. I found a dry spot, propped my luggage beneath me, and fell asleep, the sound of drums softly shaping my dreams. In the morning, I woke up to find a white hen pecking at the garbage near my feet. Across the street, a homeless man was washing himself at an open hydrant and didn’t object when I joined him. There was still no one home at the apartment, but Sadik answered his phone when I called him and told me to catch a cab to his place on the Upper East Side.

He greeted me on the street, a short, well-built Pakistani who had come to New York from London two years earlier and found his caustic wit and unabashed desire to make money perfectly pitched to the city’s mood. He had overstayed his tourist visa and now made a living in New York’s high-turnover, illegal immigrant workforce, waiting on tables. As we entered the apartment I saw a woman in her underwear sitting at the kitchen table, a mirror and a razor blade pushed off to one side.

“Sophie,” Sadik started to say, “this is Barry –”

“Barack,” I corrected, dropping my bags on the floor. The woman waved vaguely, then told Sadik that she’d be gone by the time he got back. I followed Sadik back downstairs and into a Greek coffee shop across the street. I apologized again about having called so early.

“Don’t worry about it,” Sadik said. “She seemed much prettier last night.” He studied the menu, then set it aside. “So tell me, Bar-sorry. Barack. Tell me, Barack. What brings you to our fair city?”

I tried to explain. I had spent the summer brooding over a misspent youth, I said-the state of the world and the state of my soul. “I want to make amends,” I said. “Make myself of some use.”

Sadik broke open the yolk of an egg with his fork. “Well, amigo…you can talk all you want about saving the world, but this city tends to eat away at such noble sentiments. Look out there.” He gestured to the crowd along First Avenue. “Everybody looking out for number one. Survival of the fittest. Tooth and claw. Elbow the other guy out of the way. That, my friend, is New York. But…” He shrugged and mopped up some egg with his toast. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the exception. In which case I will doff my hat to you.”

Sadik tipped his coffee cup toward me in mock salute, his eyes searching for any immediate signs of change. And in the coming months he would continue to observe me as I traveled, like a large lab rat, through the byways of Manhattan. He would suppress a grin when the seat I had offered to a middle-aged woman on the subway was snatched up by a burly young man. At Bloomingdale’s, he would lead me past human mannequins who spritzed perfume into the air and watch my reaction as I checked over the eye-popping price tags on winter coats. He would offer me lodging again when I gave up the apartment on 109th for lack of heat, and accompany me to Housing Court when it turned out that the sublessors of my second apartment had failed to pay the rent and run off with my deposit.

“Tooth and claw, Barack. Stop worrying about the rest of these bums out here and figure out how you’re going to make some money out of this fancy degree you’ll be getting.”

When Sadik lost his own lease, we moved in together. And after a few months of closer scrutiny, he began to realize that the city had indeed had an effect on me, although not the one he’d expected. I stopped getting high. I ran three miles a day and fasted on Sundays. For the first time in years, I applied myself to my studies and started keeping a journal of daily reflections and very bad poetry. Whenever Sadik tried to talk me into hitting a bar, I’d beg off with some tepid excuse, too much work or not enough cash. One day, before leaving the apartment in search of better company, he turned to me and offered his most scathing indictment.

“You’re becoming a bore.”

I knew he was right, although I wasn’t sure myself what exactly had happened. In a way, I was confirming Sadik’s estimation of the city’s allure, I suppose; its consequent power to corrupt. With the Wall Street boom, Manhattan was humming, new developments cropping up everywhere; men and women barely out of their twenties already enjoying ridiculous wealth, the fashion merchants fast on their heels. The beauty, the filth, the noise, and the excess, all of it dazzled my senses; there seemed no constraints on originality of lifestyles or the manufacture of desire-a more expensive restaurant, a finer suit of clothes, a more exclusive nightspot, a more beautiful woman, a more potent high. Uncertain of my ability to steer a course of moderation, fearful of falling into old habits, I took on the temperament if not the convictions of a street corner preacher, prepared to see temptation everywhere, ready to overrun a fragile will.

In case you have not already guessed, the mysterious “Sadik” is our freind “Sohale [Hal] Siddiqi” from above.

So, what does all of this mean? Probably nothing. At best, next to nothing.

Some Pakistanis might want to get all excited about these connections. But, frankly, they will be as misguided in doing so as would be Obama-bashers who would like to concoct deep conspiracies and imagine dark implications of these amusing, but eventually inconsequential and incidental, connections of a young student.

Here is the deal. If you go on the internet, you can find any number of theories that will back what you WANT to believe -- but what it all boils down to is (I feel) if you say that Barack Obama is a Muslim it is just another way of saying you could never vote for a black man The same is true for questioning his citizenship.

As for me, anything that is touted on Fox News as "Fair and Balanced" is anything but! I am proud to say that I have already cast my vote early for the man I believe is by far the best qualified to lead America with grace and a level head. And in a recent poll taken by readers Digest, I find it very interesting that the rest of the world, if they could vote, would vote as I have!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

LOG IN AND VOTE!

PBS has an online poll posted asking if Sarah Palin is qualified.
Apparently the right wing knew about this in advance and are flooding
the voting with YES votes.

The poll will be reported on PBS and picked up by mainstream media. It
can influence undecided voters in swing states.

Please do two things -- takes 20 seconds.

1) Click on link and vote yourself.

Here's the link:

http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

2) Then send this to every single Obama-Biden voter you know, and urge
them to vote and pass it on.

The last thing we need is PBS saying their viewers think Sarah Palin is
qualified.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lesley Jane Seymour - WHY ARE FEMALE EXECUTIVES GIVING PALIN'S THIN CREDENTIALS A PASS?

I had an unusual seat for the Palin-Biden debate last week. Like Arianna Huffington, I was surrounded by female titans of industry, all of whom were gathered for a conference of Most Powerful Women organized by Fortune magazine. So my fellow watchers were leaders from Wall Street, insurance, design, Silicon Valley, aerospace--a truly impressive crowd. Only, Arianna and I had different listening experiences. Whereas she reported that the women around her were clapping and guffawing in a liberal-leaning kind of way, I must have chosen the conservative side of the room. My chunk of the audience was dead silent when Palin contorted sentences and cheered when she winked at the camera. Such was these women's sympathy for Palin that, when the governor strode onto the stage at the beginning of the debate, a woman sitting next to me, who had identified herself as a staunch Republican, leaned over to a friend and said, "I really feel for her."

Why was this woman "feeling for" Palin, I wondered? Was she identifying with Palin's underdog status, a place women in business know well? Or was she projecting back to a time when she herself might have had to best a man--a very experienced man at that--in public. These are scenarios any working woman is all too familiar with.

Or maybe she was feeling for the fact that Palin, after hitting her high note during the Republican Convention, was now having to rehabilitate her image after bumbling her way through a week's worth of interviews with Katie (Mad Dog!) Couric. Everyone's had a bad week at work like that.

Whatever her specific reason, this woman was saying: Been there, done that, and we're rootin' for ya Sarah! And I get what she means. Sexism still exists. It's alive and well even in women-centric industries like fashion, beauty, and publishing. In one way or another, we're all in the bunker with Sarah Palin. But here's my question: Is that enough to justify giving her thin resume a pass? For a job that puts her in line to become the leader of the free world? Plenty of us have experienced that moment when the job of your dreams seems to drop into your lap--but just too early in your career, when you know you're not really ready, not really qualified. When you just have to say, thanks but no thanks.

As a women's magazine journalist, and now Editor of More Magazine I've spent my entire career championing, celebrating, highlighting, supporting, and raising money for any and all women trying to shatter the glass ceiling. What surprises me, however, is how the passion for shards has gotten even smart women thinking with their hearts instead of their heads. First older women castigated younger women for being infidels if they didn't support Hillary Clinton. Now another group of women wants us to ignore Palin's flyweight credentials for a heavyweight job. My question is: Would any of these corporate success stories hire a similarly thin-resumed job candidate (male or female) to be their number two? To run their multi-billion dollar banking division? To launch their satellite into space? We've all interviewed the candidates who've been pushed too rapidly up the ladder, who can talk the talk but can't really walk the walk. They aren't yet equipped for success in the job that we have to fill. And if we're smart, we say to those underqualified up-and-comers, thanks, but no thanks. For now.

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Today is Cleaning Woman Day -- Kim and I To Escape on Bikes On Eau Claire Trail to Enjoy Some Sun!


Every other wednesday, we have a wonderful lady that comes in and gives the house a going over. (Wish I could say the same for the office, but I have grown used to living amidst the clutter.)

So today, with the translucence of an early October sun beaming through the magnificent yellow leaves of my office maple and the fact that my body has been given a brief reprieve from the pain of fibromyalgia, Kim and I are loading up the bicycles in the "Big Tomato" and heading for the Eau Claire bike trails to get some fresh air, exercise, and then reward ourselves with a vegetarian sub from Erbert and Gerbert's (or as we like to call it: "Erbbies and Gerbbies") with the pleasant company of madman Doug Cox.

We have to spend as much time with doug as possible because as soon as the temperatures hit freezing and there is any hint of Wisconsin winter, doug will be winging his way back to San Francisco and his winter quarters.

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After last night's debate, I took the time to express my editorial views for the local press:

From Larry Heagle
4896 Hobbs Rd
Fall Creek, WI 54742
(715)831-4060
To Leader-Telegram, La Crosse Tribune, Wisconsin State Journal, Chippewa Herald, Wausau Daily Herald
8 Years More Than Enough

Yesterday I saw an automobile with a "Bush '04" sticker on one side of the bumper, and a "McCain" sticker on the other side.

It stuns me that anyone can look over the last eight years and make a conscious decision to continue to follow the same tired politics that brought us the failure of New Orleans, The Keating Five, the dreadful war in Iraq that we were led into with lies and on and on!

Mr. McCain continually attacks Barack Obama about not admitting that the "surge is working" in Iraq. Well, excuse me, but when Bin Laden crashed two jets into the World Trade Center it was done to bring America down through economics and Bush and cronies have played right into his hands.

There is no way one can say the surge is working when the war has cost us thousands of lives and millions of dollars, precipitating our present economic mess.

We need to change our leadership by actually electing someone who is capable of leading.

John McCain, a member of the Keating Five, is no example of leadership! Now, more than ever, we need the calm, steady hand of Barack Obama.

Larry Heagle
Fall Creek, WI

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

HOMECOMING 2008 - FILLED WITH WARM MEMORIES

This year's University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Homecoming was one to remember forever! I got to spend time with some of my oldest and dearest friends - among them (pictured) Wil Denson (who I was able to tailgate with before the game), and before that, on thursday night, I was in the fine company of two of my fellow thespians from college, Bob Carr, and Doug Cox, who I initiated into the joys of Jack Harmon's wonderful chicken dinners at the Durand Rod and Gun Club.




Proud to say that thus far, my attendance record at the Harmon dinners is one hundred per cent! I have not missed a single one! and my scale tells me that this is no lie!

The other real joy of the weekend was watching the UWEC Marching Band work out at half time of the Blugold/Oshkosh game. They are the most professional marching band I have ever had the privilege to see in person -- and I am including the now suspended U of W Madison Marching Band in that statement!

Getting back to Wil Denson -- Wil is probably one of my oldest friendships in the world. While in the throes of my first marriage going bad, Wil gave me shelter and I lived with him in his apartment over near St. Patrick's Catholic church. He was also my director in several productions, among them "Remembering The Valley" which Wil wrote for presentation at the "Patio Playhouse" -- UWEC Summer Theatre - a well- conceived look at the history of Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley. He also directed me at The Green Ram Theatre in Wisconsin Dells one summer.

I am proud to call him friend!

As for Bob Carr and Doug Cox? Well, two finer actors you will not find anywhere. I had the honor and joy of working the Kjer stage as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened On the way to the Forum" -- Doug played Hysterium and Bob portrayed Lycus, the character that we would commonly call a "pimp" or "procurer" these days.

We trekked to the Durand Rod and Gun for chicken last thursday as neither Bob nor Doug had ever gone to one of them before, but they had heard that they are "really a hoot".

And believe me, folks, in the presence of these two - after two brandy manhattans (with extra cherry juice, thank you very much) the entire evening was a HOOT!

The topper? Bob Carr ran into a cousin from Wabasha, Minnesota that he hadn't seen in years -- and because of all the background noise of all the folks playing cards and yelling at one another at the top of their lungs, I heard their name as "Screwhammer" -- which for the rest of the evening at the very mention of it -- sent us into spasms of uncontrollable laughter.

Bring me another brandy manhattan! And this time -- don't forget the damn cherry juice!!

Memories are made of this, folks!

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A VIDEO TO WATCH BEFORE TONIGHT'S DEBATE!

Recently, at a McCain rally someone asked McCain when he was going to "take the gloves off" with Obama -- McCain grinned and replied: "How about tuesday night?"

Much has been said in both print and on television journalism that if McCain stays in the discussion of the present state of our economy he will lose the election. His handlers want him "to move on". By that, they mean, (obviously from recent political ads) that it is time for dirty politics.

already McCain ads include out and out lies and recently Palin (wink, wink) would have you believe that Obama has direct ties with terrorists.

Before tonight's debate, it is imperative that you go to: www.keatingeconomics and view the 13 minute 26 second U Tube video at that location. It is a video that CNN's "Truth Squad" declares absolutely TRUE.

One can only hope that Senator Obama will also "take off the gloves" tonight and make it clear to the American people that Mr. McCain was one of the "Keating Five". Sadly, as with so many instances in McCain's life, he was let off the hook with a wrist slap reprimand.

I, for one, am looking forward to tonight's debate.

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HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA NOW! SPREAD THE WORD - CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN!

Click to call your member of Congress and demand quality, affordable health care!

PLEASE CLICK ON THE ABOVE AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE YOUR LEGISLATOR -- ABSOLUTELY FREE -- A CALL TO LET THEM KNOW THAT IT IS TIME THEY STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND GIVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THE QUALITY AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE WE DEMAND AND DESERVE.

IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO DO. IT TOOK ME ALL OF FIVE MINUTES AND I CONTACTED THE OFFICES OF SENATOR FEINGOLD, HERB KOHL AND RON KIND.

I HOPE THAT YOU WILL DO THE SAME!

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Monday, October 6, 2008

The Make-Believe Maverick - by Tom Dickinson, Rolling Stone Magazine

The latest from the McCain camp is that they are looking to take America's eyes off the current financial debacle (of which McCain has played an integral part) and begin "slinging" some serious mud" at Orack Obama's personal character. This, then, is required reading to keep things (as Fox would say) "Fair and Balanced".



Make-Believe Maverick
Thursday 16 October 2008

by: Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone



At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation's capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It's the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door.

There's a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam - call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a "confession" to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn't survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service's highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as "one of the toughest guys I've ever met."

On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

"I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

"Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

"It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says.

"Why? Where are you going to, John?"

"Oh, I'm going to Rio."

"What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

"I got a better chance of getting laid."

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."

McCain First

This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.

In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

This, of course, is not the story McCain tells about himself. Few politicians have so actively, or successfully, crafted their own myth of greatness. In Mc- Cain's version of his life, he is a prodigal son who, steeled by his brutal internment in Vietnam, learned to put "country first." Remade by the Keating Five scandal that nearly wrecked his career, the story goes, McCain re-emerged as a "reformer" and a "maverick," righteously eschewing anything that "might even tangentially be construed as a less than proper use of my office."

It's a myth McCain has cultivated throughout his decades in Washington. But during the course of this year's campaign, the mask has slipped. "Let's face it," says Larry Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. "John McCain made his reputation on the fact that he doesn't bend his principles for politics. That's just not true."

We have now watched McCain run twice for president. The first time he positioned himself as a principled centrist and decried the politics of Karl Rove and the influence of the religious right, imploring voters to judge candidates "by the example we set, by the way we conduct our campaigns, by the way we personally practice politics." After he lost in 2000, he jagged hard to the left - breaking with the president over taxes, drilling, judicial appointments, even flirting with joining the Democratic Party.

In his current campaign, however, McCain has become the kind of politician he ran against in 2000. He has embraced those he once denounced as "agents of intolerance," promised more drilling and deeper tax cuts, even compromised his vaunted opposition to torture. Intent on winning the presidency at all costs, he has reassembled the very team that so viciously smeared him and his family eight years ago, selecting as his running mate a born-again moose hunter whose only qualification for office is her ability to electrify Rove's base. And he has engaged in a "practice of politics" so deceptive that even Rove himself has denounced it, saying that the outright lies in McCain's campaign ads go "too far" and fail the "truth test."

The missing piece of this puzzle, says a former McCain confidant who has fallen out with the senator over his neoconservatism, is a third, never realized, campaign that McCain intended to run against Bush in 2004. "McCain wanted a rematch, based on ethics, campaign finance and Enron - the corrupt relationship between Bush's team and the corporate sector," says the former friend, a prominent conservative thinker with whom McCain shared his plans over the course of several dinners in 2001. "But when 9/11 happened, McCain saw his chance to challenge Bush again was robbed. He saw 9/11 gave Bush and his failed presidency a second life. He saw Bush and Cheney's ability to draw stark contrasts between black and white, villains and good guys. And that's why McCain changed." (The McCain campaign did not respond to numerous requests for comment from Rolling Stone.)

Indeed, many leading Republicans who once admired McCain see his recent contortions to appease the GOP base as the undoing of a maverick. "John McCain's ambition overrode his basic character," says Rita Hauser, who served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 2001 to 2004. But the truth of the matter is that ambition is John McCain's basic character. Seen in the sweep of his seven-decade personal history, his pandering to the right is consistent with the only constant in his life: doing what's best for himself. To put the matter squarely: John McCain is his own special interest.

"John has made a pact with the devil," says Lincoln Chafee, the former GOP senator, who has been appalled at his one-time colleague's readiness to sacrifice principle for power. Chafee and McCain were the only Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts. They locked arms in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And they worked together in the "Gang of 14," which blocked some of Bush's worst judges from the federal bench.

"On all three - sadly, sadly, sadly - McCain has flip-flopped," Chafee says. And forget all the "Country First" sloganeering, he adds. "McCain is putting himself first. He's putting himself first in blinking neon lights."

The Navy Brat

John Sidney McCain III has spent most of his life trying to escape the shadow of greater men. His grandfather Adm. John Sidney "Slew" McCain earned his four stars commanding a U.S. carrier force in World War II. His deeply ambitious father, Adm. "Junior" McCain, reached the same rank, commanding America's forces in the Pacific during Vietnam.

The youngest McCain was not cut from the same cloth. Even as a toddler, McCain recalls in Faith of My Fathers, his volcanic temper was on display. "At the smallest provocation," he would hold his breath until he passed out: "I would go off in a mad frenzy, and then, suddenly, crash to the floor unconscious." His parents cured him of this habit in a way only a CIA interrogator could appreciate: by dropping their blue-faced boy in a bathtub of ice-cold water.

Trailing his hard-charging, hard-drinking father from post to post, McCain didn't play well with others. Indeed, he concedes, his runty physique inspired a Napoleon complex: "My small stature motivated me to ... fight the first kid who provoked me."

McCain spent his formative years among the Washington elite. His father - himself deep in the throes of a daddy complex - had secured a political post as the Navy's chief liaison to the Senate, a job his son would later hold, and the McCain home on Southeast 1st Street was a high-powered pit stop in the Washington cocktail circuit. Growing up, McCain attended Episcopal High School, an all-white, all-boys boarding school across the Potomac in Virginia, where tuition today tops $40,000 a year. There, McCain behaved with all the petulance his privilege allowed, earning the nicknames "Punk" and "McNasty." Even his friends seemed to dislike him, with one recalling him as "a mean little fucker."

McCain was not only a lousy student, he had his father's taste for drink and a darkly misogynistic streak. The summer after his sophomore year, cruising with a friend near Arlington, McCain tried to pick up a pair of young women. When they laughed at him, he cursed them so vilely that he was hauled into court on a profanity charge.

McCain's admittance to Annapolis was preordained by his bloodline. But martial discipline did not seem to have much of an impact on his character. By his own account, McCain was a lazy, incurious student; he squeaked by only by prevailing upon his buddies to help him cram for exams. He continued to get sauced and treat girls badly. Before meeting a girlfriend's parents for the first time, McCain got so shitfaced that he literally crashed through the screen door when he showed up in his white midshipman's uniform.

His grandfather's name and his father's forbearance brought McCain a charmed existence at Annapolis. On his first trip at sea - to Rio de Janeiro aboard the USS Hunt - the captain was a former student of his father. While McCain's classmates learned the ins and outs of the boiler room, McCain got to pilot the ship to South America and back. In Rio, he hobnobbed with admirals and the president of Brazil.

Back on campus, McCain's short fuse was legend. "We'd hear this thunderous screaming and yelling between him and his roommate - doors slamming - and one of them would go running down the hall," recalls Phil Butler, who lived across the hall from McCain at the academy. "It was a regular occurrence."

When McCain was not shown the pampering to which he was accustomed, he grew petulant - even abusive. He repeatedly blew up in the face of his commanding officer. It was the kind of insubordination that would have gotten any other midshipman kicked out of Annapolis. But his classmates soon realized that McCain was untouchable. Midway though his final year, McCain faced expulsion, about to "bilge out" because of excessive demerits. After his mother intervened, however, the academy's commandant stepped in. Calling McCain "spoiled" to his face, he nonetheless issued a reprieve, scaling back the demerits. McCain dodged expulsion a second time by convincing another midshipman to take the fall after McCain was caught with contraband.

"He was a huge screw-off," recalls Butler. "He was always on probation. The only reason he graduated was because of his father and his grandfather - they couldn't exactly get rid of him."

McCain's self-described "four-year course of insubordination" ended with him graduating fifth from the bottom - 894th out of a class of 899. It was a record of mediocrity he would continue as a pilot.

Bottom Gun

In the cockpit, McCain was not a top gun, or even a middling gun. He took little interest in his flight manuals; he had other priorities.

"I enjoyed the off-duty life of a Navy flier more than I enjoyed the actual flying," McCain writes. "I drove a Corvette, dated a lot, spent all my free hours at bars and beach parties." McCain chased a lot of tail. He hit the dog track. Developed a taste for poker and dice. He picked up models when he could, screwed a stripper when he couldn't.

In the air, the hard-partying McCain had a knack for stalling out his planes in midflight. He was still in training, in Texas, when he crashed his first plane into Corpus Christi Bay during a routine practice landing. The plane stalled, and McCain was knocked cold on impact. When he came to, the plane was underwater, and he had to swim to the surface to be rescued. Some might take such a near-death experience as a wake-up call: McCain took some painkillers and a nap, and then went out carousing that night.

Off duty on his Mediterranean tours, McCain frequented the casinos of Monte Carlo, cultivating his taste for what he calls the "addictive" game of craps. McCain's thrill-seeking carried over into his day job. Flying over the south of Spain one day, he decided to deviate from his flight plan. Rocketing along mere feet above the ground, his plane sliced through a power line. His self-described "daredevil clowning" plunged much of the area into a blackout.

That should have been the end of McCain's flying career. "In the Navy, if you crashed one airplane, nine times out of 10 you would lose your wings," says Butler, who, like his former classmate, was shot down and taken prisoner in North Vietnam. Spark "a small international incident" like McCain had? Any other pilot would have "found themselves as the deck officer on a destroyer someplace in a hurry," says Butler.

"But, God, he had family pull. He was directly related to the CEO - you know?"

McCain was undeterred by the crashes. Nearly a decade out of the academy, his career adrift, he decided he wanted to fly combat in Vietnam. His motivation wasn't to contain communism or put his country first. It was the only way he could think of to earn the respect of the man he calls his "distant, inscrutable patriarch." He needed to secure a command post in the Navy - and to do that, his career needed the jump-start that only a creditable war record could provide.

As he would so many times in his career, McCain pulled strings to get ahead. After a game of tennis, McCain prevailed upon the undersecretary of the Navy that he was ready for Vietnam, despite his abysmal flight record. Sure enough, McCain was soon transferred to McCain Field - an air base in Meridian, Mississippi, named after his grandfather - to train for a post on the carrier USS Forrestal.

With a close friend at the base, an alcoholic Marine captain, McCain formed the "Key Fess Yacht Club," which quickly became infamous for hosting toga parties in the officers' quarters and bringing bands down from Memphis to attract loose women to the base. Showing his usual knack for promotion, McCain rose from "vice commodore" to "commodore" of the club.

In 1964, while still at the base, McCain began a serious romance with Carol Shepp, a vivacious former model who had just divorced one of his classmates from Annapolis. Commandeering a Navy plane, McCain spent most weekends flying from Meridian to Philadelphia for their dates. They married the following summer.

That December, McCain crashed again. Flying back from Philadelphia, where he had joined in the reverie of the Army-Navy football game, McCain stalled while coming in for a refueling stop in Norfolk, Virginia. This time he managed to bail out at 1,000 feet. As his parachute deployed, his plane thundered into the trees below.

By now, however, McCain's flying privileges were virtually irrevocable - and he knew it. On one of his runs at McCain Field, when ground control put him in a holding pattern, the lieutenant commander once again pulled his family's rank. "Let me land," McCain demanded over his radio, "or I'll take my field and go home!"

Trial by Fire

Sometimes 3 a.m. moments occur at 10:52 in the morning.

It was July 29th, 1967, a hot, gusty morning in the Gulf of Tonkin atop the four-acre flight deck of the supercarrier USS Forrestal. Perched in the cockpit of his A-4 Skyhawk, Lt. Cmdr. John McCain ticked nervously through his preflight checklist.

Now 30 years old, McCain was trying to live up to his father's expectations, to finally be known as something other than the fuck-up grandson of one of the Navy's greatest admirals. That morning, preparing for his sixth bombing run over North Vietnam, the graying pilot's dreams of combat glory were beginning to seem within his reach.

Then, in an instant, the world around McCain erupted in flames. A six-foot-long Zuni rocket, inexplicably launched by an F-4 Phantom across the flight deck, ripped through the fuel tank of McCain's aircraft. Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain's stubby A-4, the Navy's "Tinkertoy Bomber," into the fire.

McCain, who knew more than most pilots about bailing out of a crippled aircraft, leapt forward out of the cockpit, swung himself down from the refueling probe protruding from the nose cone, rolled through the flames and ran to safety across the flight deck. Just then, one of his bombs "cooked off," blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers. McCain was stung by tiny bits of shrapnel in his legs and chest, but the wounds weren't serious; his father would later report to friends that Johnny "came through without a scratch."

The damage to the Forrestal was far more grievous: The explosion set off a chain reaction of bombs, creating a devastating inferno that would kill 134 of the carrier's 5,000-man crew, injure 161 and threaten to sink the ship.

These are the moments that test men's mettle. Where leaders are born. Leaders like ... Lt. Cmdr. Herb Hope, pilot of the A-4 three planes down from McCain's. Cornered by flames at the stern of the carrier, Hope hurled himself off the flight deck into a safety net and clambered into the hangar deck below, where the fire was spreading. According to an official Navy history of the fire, Hope then "gallantly took command of a firefighting team" that would help contain the conflagration and ultimately save the ship.

McCain displayed little of Hope's valor. Although he would soon regale The New York Times with tales of the heroism of the brave enlisted men who "stayed to help the pilots fight the fire," McCain took no part in dousing the flames himself. After going belowdecks and briefly helping sailors who were frantically trying to unload bombs from an elevator to the flight deck, McCain retreated to the safety of the "ready room," where off-duty pilots spent their noncombat hours talking trash and playing poker. There, McCain watched the conflagration unfold on the room's closed-circuit television - bearing distant witness to the valiant self-sacrifice of others who died trying to save the ship, pushing jets into the sea to keep their bombs from exploding on deck.

As the ship burned, McCain took a moment to mourn his misfortune; his combat career appeared to be going up in smoke. "This distressed me considerably," he recalls in Faith of My Fathers. "I feared my ambitions were among the casualties in the calamity that had claimed the Forrestal."

The fire blazed late into the night. The following morning, while oxygen-masked rescue workers toiled to recover bodies from the lower decks, McCain was making fast friends with R.W. "Johnny" Apple of The New York Times, who had arrived by helicopter to cover the deadliest Naval calamity since the Second World War. The son of admiralty surviving a near-death experience certainly made for good copy, and McCain colorfully recounted how he had saved his skin. But when Apple and other reporters left the ship, the story took an even stranger turn: McCain left with them. As the heroic crew of the Forrestal mourned its fallen brothers and the broken ship limped toward the Philippines for repairs, McCain zipped off to Saigon for what he recalls as "some welcome R&R."

Violating the Code

Ensconced in Apple's villa in Saigon, McCain and the Times reporter forged a relationship that would prove critical to the ambitious pilot's career in the years ahead. Apple effectively became the charter member of McCain's media "base," an elite corps of admiring reporters who helped create his reputation for "straight talk."

Sipping scotch and reflecting on the fire aboard the Forrestal, McCain sounded like the peaceniks he would pillory after his return from Hanoi. "Now that I've seen what the bombs and napalm did to the people on our ship," he told Apple, "I'm not so sure that I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam." Here, it seemed, was a frank-talking warrior, one willing to speak out against the military establishment in the name of truth.

But McCain's misgivings about the righteousness of the fight quickly took a back seat to his ambitions. Within days, eager to get his combat career back on track, he put in for a transfer to the carrier USS Oriskany. Two months after the Forrestal fire - following a holiday on the French Riviera - McCain reported for duty in the Gulf of Tonkin.

McCain performed adequately on the Oriskany. On October 25th, 1967, he bombed a pair of Soviet MiGs parked on an airfield outside Hanoi. His record was now even. Enemy planes destroyed by McCain: two. American planes destroyed by McCain: two.

The next day, McCain embarked on his fateful 23rd mission, a bombing raid on a power plant in downtown Hanoi. McCain had cajoled his way onto the strike force - there were medals up for grabs. The plant had recently been rebuilt after a previous bombing run that had earned two of the lead pilots Navy Crosses, one of the force's top honors.

It was a dangerous mission - taking the planes into the teeth of North Vietnam's fiercest anti-aircraft defenses. As the planes entered Hanoi airspace, they were instantly enveloped in dark clouds of flak and surface-to-air missiles. Still cocky from the previous day's kills, McCain took the biggest gamble of his life. As he dived in on the target in his A-4, his surface-to-air missile warning system sounded: A SAM had a lock on him. "I knew I should roll out and fly evasive maneuvers," McCain writes. "The A-4 is a small, fast" aircraft that "can outmaneuver a tracking SAM."

But McCain didn't "jink." Instead, he stayed on target and let fly his bombs - just as the SAM blew his wing off.

To watch the Republican National Convention and listen to Fred Thompson's account of John McCain's internment in Vietnam, you would think that McCain never gave his captors anything beyond his name, rank, service number and, under duress, the names of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. His time in Hanoi, we're to understand, steeled the man - transforming him from a fighter jock who put himself first into a patriot who would henceforth selflessly serve the public good.

There is no question that McCain suffered hideously in North Vietnam. His ejection over a lake in downtown Hanoi broke his knee and both his arms. During his capture, he was bayoneted in the ankle and the groin, and had his shoulder smashed by a rifle butt. His tormentors dragged McCain's broken body to a cell and seemed content to let him expire from his injuries. For the next two years, there were few days that he was not in agony.

But the subsequent tale of McCain's mistreatment - and the transformation it is alleged to have produced - are both deeply flawed. The Code of Conduct that governed POWs was incredibly rigid; few soldiers lived up to its dictate that they "give no information ... which might be harmful to my comrades." Under the code, POWs are bound to give only their name, rank, date of birth and service number - and to make no "statements disloyal to my country."

Soon after McCain hit the ground in Hanoi, the code went out the window. "I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital," he later admitted pleading with his captors. McCain now insists the offer was a bluff, designed to fool the enemy into giving him medical treatment. In fact, his wounds were attended to only after the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a Navy admiral. What has never been disclosed is the manner in which they found out: McCain told them. According to Dramesi, one of the few POWs who remained silent under years of torture, McCain tried to justify his behavior while they were still prisoners. "I had to tell them," he insisted to Dramesi, "or I would have died in bed."

Dramesi says he has no desire to dishonor McCain's service, but he believes that celebrating the downed pilot's behavior as heroic - "he wasn't exceptional one way or the other" - has a corrosive effect on military discipline. "This business of my country before my life?" Dramesi says. "Well, he had that opportunity and failed miserably. If it really were country first, John McCain would probably be walking around without one or two arms or legs - or he'd be dead."

Once the Vietnamese realized they had captured the man they called the "crown prince," they had every motivation to keep McCain alive. His value as a propaganda tool and bargaining chip was far greater than any military intelligence he could provide, and McCain knew it. "It was hard not to see how pleased the Vietnamese were to have captured an admiral's son," he writes, "and I knew that my father's identity was directly related to my survival." But during the course of his medical treatment, McCain followed through on his offer of military information. Only two weeks after his capture, the North Vietnamese press issued a report - picked up by The New York Times - in which McCain was quoted as saying that the war was "moving to the advantage of North Vietnam and the United States appears to be isolated." He also provided the name of his ship, the number of raids he had flown, his squadron number and the target of his final raid.

The Confession

In the company of his fellow POWs, and later in isolation, McCain slowly and miserably recovered from his wounds. In June 1968, after three months in solitary, he was offered what he calls early release. In the official McCain narrative, this was the ultimate test of mettle. He could have come home, but keeping faith with his fellow POWs, he chose to remain imprisoned in Hanoi.

What McCain glosses over is that accepting early release would have required him to make disloyal statements that would have violated the military's Code of Conduct. If he had done so, he could have risked court-martial and an ignominious end to his military career. "Many of us were given this offer," according to Butler, McCain's classmate who was also taken prisoner. "It meant speaking out against your country and lying about your treatment to the press. You had to 'admit' that the U.S. was criminal and that our treatment was 'lenient and humane.' So I, like numerous others, refused the offer."

"He makes it sound like it was a great thing to have accomplished," says Dramesi. "A great act of discipline or strength. That simply was not the case." In fairness, it is difficult to judge McCain's experience as a POW; throughout most of his incarceration he was the only witness to his mistreatment. Parts of his memoir recounting his days in Hanoi read like a bad Ian Fleming novel, with his Vietnamese captors cast as nefarious Bond villains. On the Fourth of July 1968, when he rejected the offer of early release, an officer nicknamed "Cat" got so mad, according to McCain, that he snapped a pen he was holding, splattering ink across the room.

"They taught you too well, Mac Kane," Cat snarled, kicking over a chair. "They taught you too well."

The brutal interrogations that followed produced results. In August 1968, over the course of four days, McCain was tortured into signing a confession that he was a "black criminal" and an "air pirate." "

"John allows the media to make him out to be the hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals," says Butler. "John was just one of about 600 guys. He was nothing unusual. He was just another POW."

McCain has also allowed the media to believe that his torture lasted for the entire time he was in Hanoi. At the Republican convention, Fred Thompson said of McCain's torture, "For five and a half years this went on." In fact, McCain's torture ended after two years, when the death of Ho Chi Minh in September 1969 caused the Vietnamese to change the way they treated POWs. "They decided it would be better to treat us better and keep us alive so they could trade us in for real estate," Butler recalls.

By that point, McCain had become the most valuable prisoner of all: His father was now directing the war effort as commander in chief of all U.S. forces in the Pacific. McCain spent the next three and a half years in Hanoi biding his time, trying to put on weight and regain his strength, as the bombing ordered by his father escalated. By the time he and other POWs were freed in March 1973 as a result of the Paris Peace Accords, McCain was able to leave the prison camp in Hanoi on his own feet.

Even those in the military who celebrate McCain's patriotism and sacrifice question why his POW experience has been elevated as his top qualification to be commander in chief. "It took guts to go through that and to come out reasonably intact and able to pick up the pieces of your life and move on," says Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, who has known McCain since the 1980s. "It is unquestionably a demonstration of the character of the man. But I don't think that it is a special qualification for being president of the United States. In some respects, I'm not sure that's the kind of character I want sitting in the Oval Office. I'm not sure that much time in a prisoner-of-war status doesn't do something to you. Doesn't do something to you psychologically, doesn't do something to you that might make you a little more volatile, a little less apt to listen to reason, a little more inclined to be volcanic in your temperament."

"A Bellicose Hawk"

The reckless, womanizing hotshot who leaned on family connections for advancement before his capture in Vietnam emerged a reckless, womanizing celebrity who continued to pull strings. The real difference between the McCain of 1967 and the McCain of 1973 was that the latter's ambition was now on overdrive. He wanted to study at the National War College - but military brass turned him down as underqualified. So McCain appealed the decision to the top: John Warner, the Secretary of the Navy and a friend of his father. Warner, who now serves in the Senate alongside McCain, overruled the brass and gave the POW a slot. McCain also got his wings back, even though his injuries prevented him from raising his hands above shoulder height to comb his own hair.

McCain was eager to make up for lost time - and the times were favorable to a high-profile veteran willing to speak out in favor of the war. With the Senate moving to cut off funds for the Nixon administration's illegal bombing of Cambodia, the president needed all the help he could get. Two months after his release, McCain related his harrowing story of survival in a 13-page narrative in U.S. News & World Report, at the end of which he launched into an energetic defense of Nixon's discredited foreign policy. "I admire President Nixon's courage," he wrote. "It is difficult for me to understand ... why people are still criticizing his foreign policy - for example, the bombing in Cambodia."

In the years to come, McCain would continue to fight the war his father had lost. In his meetings with Nixon, Junior was known for chomping on an unlit cigar, complaining about the "goddamn gooks" and pushing to bomb enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia. His son was equally gung-ho. "John has always been a very bellicose hawk," says John H. Johns, a retired brigadier general who studied with McCain at the War College. "When he came back from Vietnam, he accused the liberal media of undermining national will, that we could have won in Vietnam if we had the national will."

It was the kind of tough talk that made McCain a fast-rising star in far-right circles. Through Ross Perot, a friend of Ronald Reagan who had championed the cause of the POWs, McCain was invited to meet with the then-governor of California and his wife. Impressed, Reagan invited McCain to be the keynote speaker at his annual "prayer breakfast" in Sacramento.

Then, at the end of 1974, McCain finally achieved the goal he had been working toward for years. He was installed as the commanding officer of the largest air squadron in the Navy - the Replacement Air Group based in Jacksonville, Florida - training carrier pilots. It was a post for which McCain flatly admits, "I was not qualified." By now, however, he was unembarrassed by his own nepotism. At the ceremony commemorating his long-sought ascension to command, his father looking on with pride, McCain wept openly.

Booze and Pork

If heroism is defined by physical suffering, Carol McCain is every bit her ex-husband's equal. Driving alone on Christmas Eve 1969, she skidded out on a patch of ice and crashed into a telephone pole. She would spend six months in the hospital and undergo 23 surgeries. The former model McCain bragged of to his buddies in the POW camp as his "long tall Sally" was now five inches shorter and walked with crutches.

By any standard, McCain treated her contemptibly. Whatever his dreams of getting laid in Rio, he got plenty of ass during his command post in Jacksonville. According to biographer Robert Timberg, McCain seduced his conquests on off-duty cross-country flights - even though adultery is a court-martial offense. He was also rumored to be romantically involved with a number of his subordinates.

In 1977, McCain was promoted to captain and became the Navy's liaison to the Senate - the same politically connected post once occupied by his father. He took advantage of the position to buddy up to young senators like Gary Hart, William Cohen and Joe Biden. He was also taken under the wing of another friend of his father: Sen. John Tower, the powerful Texas Republican who would become his political mentor. Despite the promotion, McCain continued his adolescent carousing: On a diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia with Tower, he tried to get some tourists he disliked in trouble with the authorities by littering the room-service trays outside their door with empty bottles of alcohol.

As the Navy's top lobbyist, McCain was supposed to carry out the bidding of the secretary of the Navy. But in 1978 he went off the reservation. Vietnam was over, and the Carter administration, cutting costs, had decided against spending $2 billion to replace the aging carrier Midway. The secretary agreed with the administration's decision. Readiness would not be affected. The only reason to replace the carrier - at a cost of nearly $7 billion in today's dollars - was pork-barrel politics.

Although he now crusades against wasteful military spending, McCain had no qualms about secretly lobbying for a pork project that would pay for a dozen Bridges to Nowhere. "He did a lot of stuff behind the back of the secretary of the Navy," one lobbyist told Timberg. Working his Senate connections, McCain managed to include a replacement for the Midway in the defense authorization bill in 1978. Carter, standing firm, vetoed the entire spending bill to kill the carrier. When an attempt to override the veto fell through, however, McCain and his lobbyist friends didn't give up the fight. The following year, Congress once again approved funding for the carrier. This time, Carter - his pork-busting efforts undone by a turncoat Navy liaison - signed the bill.

In the spring of 1979, while conducting official business for the Navy, the still-married McCain encountered Cindy Lou Hensley, a willowy former cheerleader for USC. Mutually smitten, the two lied to each other about their ages. The 24-year-old Hensley became 27; the 42-year-old McCain became 38. For nearly a year the two carried on a cross-country romance while McCain was still living with Carol: Court documents filed with their divorce proceeding indicate that they "cohabitated as husband and wife" for the first nine months of the affair.

Although McCain stresses in his memoir that he married Cindy three months after divorcing Carol, he was still legally married to his first wife when he and Cindy were issued a marriage license from the state of Arizona. The divorce was finalized on April 2nd, 1980. McCain's second marriage - rung in at the Arizona Biltmore with Gary Hart as a groomsman - was consummated only six weeks later, on May 17th. The union gave McCain access to great wealth: Cindy, whose father was the exclusive distributor for Budweiser in the Phoenix area, is now worth an estimated $100 million.

McCain's friends were blindsided by the divorce. The Reagans - with whom the couple had frequently dined and even accompanied on New Year's holidays - never forgave him. By the time McCain became a self-proclaimed "foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution" two years later, he and the Gipper had little more than ideology to bind them. Nancy took Carol under her wing, giving her a job in the White House and treating McCain with a frosty formality that was evident even on the day last March when she endorsed his candidacy. "Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided and then we endorsed," she said. "Well, obviously, this is the nominee of the party."

The Carpetbagger

As his marriage unraveled, McCain's naval career was also stalling out. He had been passed over for a promotion. There was no sea command on the horizon, ensuring that he would never be able to join his four-star forefathers. For good measure, he crashed his third and final plane, this one a single-engine ultralight. McCain has never spoken of his last crash publicly, but his friend Gen. Jim Jones recalled in a 1999 interview that it left McCain with bandages on his face and one arm in a sling.

So McCain turned to politics. Receiving advance word that a GOP congressional seat was opening up outside Phoenix, he put the inside edge to good use. Within minutes of the incumbent's official retirement announcement, Cindy McCain bought her husband the house that would serve as his foothold in the district. In sharp contrast to the way he now markets himself, McCain's campaign ads billed him as an insider - a man "who knows how Washington works." Though the Reagans no longer respected him, McCain featured pictures of himself smiling with them.

"Thanks to my prisoner-of-war experience," McCain writes, "I had, as they say in politics, a good story to sell." And sell it he did. "Listen, pal," he told an opponent who challenged him during a candidate forum. "I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived the longest in my life was Hanoi."

To finance his campaign, McCain dipped into the Hensley family fortune. He secured an endorsement from his mentor, Sen. Tower, who tapped his vast donor network in Texas to give McCain a much-needed boost. And he began an unethical relationship with a high-flying and corrupt financier that would come to characterize his cozy dealings with major donors and lobbyists over the years.

Charlie Keating, the banker and anti-pornography crusader, would ultimately be convicted on 73 counts of fraud and racketeering for his role in the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s. That crisis, much like today's subprime-mortgage meltdown, resulted from misbegotten banking deregulation, and ultimately left taxpayers to pick up a tab of more than $124 billion. Keating, who raised more than $100,000 for McCain's race, lavished the first-term congressman with the kind of political favors that would make Jack Abramoff blush. McCain and his family took at least nine free trips at Keating's expense, and vacationed nearly every year at the mogul's estate in the Bahamas. There they would spend the days yachting and snorkeling and attending extravagant parties in a world McCain referred to as "Charlie Keating's Shangri-La." Keating also invited Cindy McCain and her father to invest in a real estate venture for which he promised a 26 percent return on investment. They plunked down more than $350,000.

McCain still attributes the attention to nothing more than Keating's "great respect for military people" and the duo's "political and personal affinity." But Keating, for his part, made no bones about the purpose of his giving. When asked by reporters if the investments he made in politicians bought their loyalty and influence on his behalf, Keating replied, "I want to say in the most forceful way I can, I certainly hope so."

The Keating Five

In congress, Rep. John McCain quickly positioned himself as a GOP hard-liner. He voted against honoring Martin Luther King Jr. with a national holiday in 1983 - a stance he held through 1989. He backed Reagan on tax cuts for the wealthy, abortion and support for the Nicaraguan contras. He sought to slash federal spending on social programs, and he voted twice against campaign-finance reform. He cites as his "biggest" legislative victory of that era a 1989 bill that abolished catastrophic health insurance for seniors, a move he still cheers as the first-ever repeal of a federal entitlement program.

McCain voted to confirm Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. In 1993, he was the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for a group that sponsored an anti-gay-rights ballot initiative in Oregon. His anti-government fervor was renewed in the Gingrich revolution of 1994, when he called for abolishing the departments of Education and Energy. The following year, he championed a sweeping measure that would have imposed a blanket moratorium on any increase of government oversight.

In this context, McCain's recent record - opposing the new GI Bill, voting to repeal the federal minimum wage, seeking to deprive 3.8 million kids of government health care - looks entirely consistent. "When jackasses like Rush Limbaugh say he's not conservative, that's just total nonsense," says former Sen. Gary Hart, who still counts McCain as a friend.

Although a hawkish Cold Warrior, McCain did show an independent streak when it came to the use of American military power. Because of his experience in Vietnam, he said, he didn't favor the deployment of U.S. forces unless there was a clear and attainable military objective. In 1983, McCain broke with Reagan to vote against the deployment of Marine peacekeepers to Lebanon. The unorthodox stance caught the attention of the media - including this very magazine, which praised McCain's "enormous courage." It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. McCain recognized early on how the game was played: The Washington press corps "tend to notice acts of political independence from unexpected quarters," he later noted. "Now I was debating Lebanon on programs like MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. I was gratified by the attention and eager for more."

When McCain became a senator in 1986, filling the seat of retiring Republican icon Barry Goldwater, he was finally in a position that a true maverick could use to battle the entrenched interests in Washington. Instead, McCain did the bidding of his major donor, Charlie Keating, whose financial empire was on the brink of collapse. Federal regulators were closing in on Keating, who had taken federally insured deposits from his Lincoln Savings and Loan and leveraged them to make wildly risky real estate ventures. If regulators restricted his investments, Keating knew, it would all be over.

In the year before his Senate run, McCain had championed legislation that would have delayed new regulations of savings and loans. Grateful, Keating contributed $54,000 to McCain's Senate campaign. Now, when Keating tried to stack the federal regulatory bank board with cronies, McCain made a phone call seeking to push them through. In 1987, in an unprecedented display of political intimidation, McCain also attended two meetings convened by Keating to pressure federal regulators to back off. The senators who participated in the effort would come to be known as the Keating Five.

"Senate historians were unable to find any instance in U.S. history that was comparable, in terms of five U.S. senators meeting with a regulator on behalf of one institution," says Bill Black, then deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, who attended the second meeting. "And it hasn't happened since."

Following the meetings with McCain and the other senators, the regulators backed off, stalling their investigation of Lincoln. By the time the S&L collapsed two years later, taxpayers were on the hook for $3.4 billion, which stood as a record for the most expensive bank failure - until the current mortgage crisis. In addition, 20,000 investors who had bought junk bonds from Keating, thinking they were federally insured, had their savings wiped out.

"McCain saw the political pressure on the regulators," recalls Black. "He could have saved these widows from losing their life savings. But he did absolutely nothing."

McCain was ultimately given a slap on the wrist by the Senate Ethics Committee, which concluded only that he had exercised "poor judgment." The committee never investigated Cindy's investment with Keating.

The McCains soon found themselves entangled in more legal trouble. In 1989, in behavior the couple has blamed in part on the stress of the Keating scandal, Cindy became addicted to Vicodin and Percocet. She directed a doctor employed by her charity - which provided medical care to patients in developing countries - to supply the narcotics, which she then used to get high on trips to places like Bangladesh and El Salvador.

Tom Gosinski, a young Republican, kept a detailed journal while working as director of government affairs for the charity. "I am working for a very sad, lonely woman whose marriage of convenience to a U.S. senator has driven her to ... cover feelings of despair with drugs," he wrote in 1992. When Cindy McCain suddenly fired Gosinski, he turned his journal over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, sparking a yearlong investigation. To avoid jail time, Cindy agreed to a hush-hush plea bargain and court-imposed rehab.

Ironically, her drug addiction became public only because she and her husband tried to cover it up. In an effort to silence Gosinski, who was seeking $250,000 for wrongful termination, the attorney for the McCains demanded that Phoenix prosecutors investigate the former employee for extortion. The charge was baseless, and prosecutors dropped the investigation in 1994 - but not before publishing a report that included details of Cindy's drug use.

Notified that the report was being released, Sen. McCain leapt into action. He dispatched his top political consultant to round up a group of friendly reporters, for whom Cindy staged a seemingly selfless, Oprah-style confession of her past addiction. Her drug use became part of the couple's narrative of straight talk and bravery in the face of adversity. "If what I say can help just one person to face the problem," Cindy declared, "it's worthwhile."

Favors for Donors

In the aftermath of the Keating Five, McCain realized that his career was in a "hell of a mess." He had made George H.W. Bush's shortlist for vice president in 1988, but the Keating scandal made him a political untouchable. McCain needed a high horse - so his long-standing opposition to campaign-finance reform went out the window. Working with Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, McCain authored a measure to ban unlimited "soft money" donations from politics.

The Keating affair also taught McCain a vital lesson about handling the media. When the scandal first broke, he went ballistic on reporters who questioned his wife's financial ties to Keating - calling them "liars" and "idiots." Predictably, the press coverage was merciless. So McCain dialed back the anger and turned up the charm. "I talked to the press constantly, ad infinitum, until their appetite for information from me was completely satisfied," he later wrote. "It is a public relations strategy that I have followed to this day." Mr. Straight Talk was born.

Unfortunately, any lessons McCain learned from the Keating scandal didn't affect his unbridled enthusiasm for deregulating the finance industry. "He continues to follow policies that create the same kind of environment we see today, with recurrent financial crises and epidemics of fraud led by CEOs," says Black, the former S&L regulator. Indeed, if the current financial crisis has a villain, it is Phil Gramm, who remains close to McCain. As chair of the Senate Banking Committee in the late 1990s, Gramm ushered in - with McCain's fervent support - a massive wave of deregulation for insurance companies and brokerage houses and banks, the aftershocks of which are just now being felt in Wall Street's catastrophic collapse. McCain, who has admitted that "the issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," relies on Gramm to guide him.

McCain also did his part to loosen regulations on big corporations. In 1997, McCain became chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the insurance and telecommunications industries, as well as the CEO pay packages of those McCain now denounces as "fat cats." The special interests with business before the committee were big and well-heeled. All told, executives and fundraisers associated with these firms donated $2.6 million to McCain when he served as the chairman or ranking member.

The money bought influence. In 1998, employees of BellSouth contributed more than $16,000 to McCain. The senator returned the favor, asking the Federal Communications Commission to give "serious consideration" to the company's request to become a long-distance carrier. Days after legislation benefiting the satellite-TV carrier EchoStar cleared McCain's committee, the company's founder celebrated by hosting a major fundraiser for McCain's presidential bid.

Whatever McCain's romantic entanglements with the lobbyist Vicki Iseman, he was clearly in bed with her clients, who donated nearly $85,000 to his campaigns. One of her clients, Bud Paxson, set up a meeting with McCain in 1999, frustrated by the FCC's delay of his proposed takeover of a television station in Pittsburgh. Paxson had treated McCain well, offering the then-presidential candidate use of his corporate jet to fly to campaign events and ponying up $20,000 in campaign donations.

"You're the head of the commerce committee," Paxson told McCain, according to The Washington Post. "The FCC is not doing its job. I would love for you to write a letter."

Iseman helped draft the text, and McCain sent the letter. Several weeks later - the day after McCain used Paxson's jet to fly to Florida for a fundraiser - McCain wrote another letter. FCC chair William Kennard sent a sharp rebuke to McCain, calling the senator's meddling "highly unusual." Nonetheless, within a week of McCain's second letter, the FCC ruled three-to-two in favor of Paxson's deal.

Following his failed presidential bid in 2000, McCain needed a vehicle to keep his brand alive. He founded the Reform Institute, which he set up as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit - a tax status that barred it from explicit political activity. McCain proceeded to staff the institute with his campaign manager, Rick Davis, as well as the fundraising chief, legal counsel and communications chief from his 2000 campaign.

There is no small irony that the Reform Institute - founded to bolster McCain's crusade to rid politics of unregulated soft money - itself took in huge sums of unregulated soft money from companies with interests before McCain's committee. EchoStar got in on the ground floor with a donation of $100,000. A charity funded by the CEO of Univision gave another $100,000. Cablevision gave $200,000 to the Reform Institute in 2003 and 2004 - just as its officials were testifying before the commerce committee. McCain urged approval of the cable company's proposed pricing plan. As Bradley Smith, the former chair of the Federal Election Commission, wrote at the time: "Appearance of corruption, anyone?"

"He Is Hotheaded"

Over the years, John McCain has demonstrated a streak of anger so nasty that even his former flacks make no effort to spin it away. "If I tried to convince you he does not have a temper, you should hang up on me and ridicule me in print," says Dan Schnur, who served as McCain's press man during the 2000 campaign. Even McCain admits to an "immature and unprofessional reaction to slights" that is "little changed from the reactions to such provocations I had as a schoolboy."

McCain is sensitive about his physical appearance, especially his height. The candidate is only five-feet-nine, making him the shortest party nominee since Michael Dukakis. On the night he was elected senator in 1986, McCain exploded after discovering that the stage setup for his victory speech was too low; television viewers saw his head bobbing at the bottom of the screen, his chin frequently cropped from view. Enraged, McCain tracked down the young Republican who had set up the podium, prodding the volunteer in the chest while screaming that he was an "incompetent little shit." Jon Hinz, the director of the Arizona GOP, separated the senator from the young man, promising to get him a milk crate to stand on for his next public appearance.

During his 1992 campaign, at the end of a long day, McCain's wife, Cindy, mussed his receding hair and needled him playfully that he was "getting a little thin up there." McCain reportedly blew his top, cutting his wife down with the kind of language that had gotten him hauled into court as a high schooler: "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." Even though the incident was witnessed by three reporters, the McCain campaign denies it took place.

In the Senate - where, according to former GOP Sen. Bob Smith, McCain has "very few friends" - his volcanic temper has repeatedly led to explosive altercations with colleagues and constituents alike. In 1992, McCain got into a heated exchange with Sen. Chuck Grassley over the fate of missing American servicemen in Vietnam. "Are you calling me stupid?" Grassley demanded. "No, I'm calling you a fucking jerk!" yelled McCain. Sen. Bob Kerrey later told reporters that he feared McCain was "going to head-butt Grassley and drive the cartilage in his nose into his brain." The two were separated before they came to blows. Several years later, during another debate over servicemen missing in action, an elderly mother of an MIA soldier rolled up to McCain in her wheelchair to speak to him about her son's case. According to witnesses, McCain grew enraged, raising his hand as if to strike her before pushing her wheelchair away.

McCain has called Paul Weyrich, who helped steer the Republican Party to the right, a "pompous self-serving son of a bitch" who "possesses the attributes of a Dickensian villain." In 1999, he told Sen. Pete Domenici, the Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, that "only an asshole would put together a budget like this."

Last year, after barging into a bipartisan meeting on immigration legislation and attempting to seize the reins, McCain was called out by fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "Wait a second here," Cornyn said. "I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line." McCain exploded: "Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone in the room." The incident foreshadowed McCain's 11th-hour theatrics in September, when he abruptly "suspended" his campaign and inserted himself into the Wall Street bailout debate at the last minute, just as congressional leaders were attempting to finalize a bipartisan agreement.

At least three of McCain's GOP colleagues have gone on record to say that they consider him temperamentally unsuited to be commander in chief. Smith, the former senator from New Hampshire, has said that McCain's "temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him." Sen. Domenici of New Mexico has said he doesn't "want this guy anywhere near a trigger." And Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi weighed in that "the thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded."

McCain's frequently inappropriate humor has also led many to question his self-control. In 1998, the senator told a joke about President Clinton's teenage daughter at a GOP fundraiser. "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" McCain asked. "Because her father is Janet Reno!"

More recently, McCain's jokes have heightened tensions with Iran. The senator once cautioned that "the world's only superpower ... should never make idle threats" - but that didn't stop him from rewriting the lyrics to a famous Beach Boys tune. In April 2007, when a voter at a town-hall session asked him about his policy toward Tehran, McCain responded by singing, "bomb bomb bomb" Iran. The loose talk was meant to incite the GOP base, but it also aggravated relations with Iran, whose foreign minister condemned McCain's "jokes about genocide" as a testament to his "disturbed state of mind" and "warmongering approach to foreign policy."

"Next up, Baghdad! "

The myth of John McCain hinges on two transformations - from pampered flyboy to selfless patriot, and from Keating crony to incorruptible reformer - that simply never happened. But there is one serious conversion that has taken root in McCain: his transformation from a cautious realist on foreign policy into a reckless cheerleader of neoconservatism.

"He's going to be Bush on steroids," says Johns, the retired brigadier general who has known McCain since their days at the National War College. "His hawkish views now are very dangerous. He puts military at the top of foreign policy rather than diplomacy, just like George Bush does. He and other neoconservatives are dedicated to converting the world to democracy and free markets, and they want to do it through the barrel of a gun."

McCain used to believe passionately in the limits of American military power. In 1993, he railed against Clinton's involvement in Somalia, sponsoring an amendment to cut off funds for the troops. The following year he blasted the idealistic aims of sending U.S. troops to Haiti, taking to the Senate floor to propose an immediate withdrawal. He even started out a fierce opponent of NATO air strikes on Serbia during the war in the Balkans.

But such concerns went out the window when McCain began gearing up to run for president. In 1998, he formed a political alliance with William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard, who became one of his closest advisers. Randy Scheunemann - a hard-right lobbyist who was promoting Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi - came aboard as McCain's top foreign-policy adviser. Before long, the senator who once cautioned against "trading American blood for Iraqi blood" had been reborn as a fire-breathing neoconservative who believes in using American military might to spread American ideals - a belief he describes as a "sacred duty to suffer hardship and risk danger to protect the values of our civilization and impart them to humanity." By 1999, McCain was championing what he called "rogue state rollback." First on the hit list: Iraq.

Privately, McCain brags that he was the "original neocon." And after 9/11, he took the lead in agitating for war with Iraq, outpacing even Dick Cheney in the dissemination of bogus intelligence about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. "There's other organizations besides Mr. bin Laden who are bent on the destruction of the United States," he warned in an appearance on Hardball on September 12th. "It isn't just Afghanistan. We're talking about Syria, Iraq, Iran, perhaps North Korea, Libya and others." A few days later, he told Jay Leno's audience that "some other countries" - possibly Iraq, Iran and Syria - had aided bin Laden.

A month after 9/11, with the U.S. bombing Kabul and reeling from the anthrax scare, McCain assured David Letterman that "we'll do fine" in Afghanistan. He then added, unbidden, "The second phase is Iraq. Some of this anthrax may - and I emphasize may - have come from Iraq."

Later that month on Larry King, McCain raised the specter of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction before he peddled what became Dick Cheney's favorite lie: "The Czech government has revealed meetings, contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mohamed Atta. The evidence is very clear... . So we will have to act." On Nightline, he again flogged the Czech story and cited Iraqi defectors to claim that "there is no doubt as to [Saddam's] avid pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. That, coupled with his relations with terrorist organizations, I think, is a case that the administration will be making as we move step by step down this road."

That December, just as U.S. forces were bearing down on Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora, McCain joined with five senators in an open letter to the White House. "In the interest of our own national security, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power," they insisted, claiming that there was "no doubt" that Hussein intended to use weapons of mass destruction "against the United States and its allies."

In January 2002, McCain made a fact-finding mission to the Middle East. While he was there, he dropped by a supercarrier stationed in the Arabian Sea that was dear to his heart: the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the giant floating pork project that he had driven through over President Carter's veto. On board the carrier, McCain called Iraq a "clear and present danger to the security of the United States of America." Standing on the flight bridge, he watched as fighter planes roared off, en route to Afghanistan - where Osama bin Laden had already slipped away. "Next up, Baghdad!" McCain whooped.

Over the next 15 months leading up to the invasion, McCain continued to lead the rush to war. In November 2002, Scheunemann set up a group called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq at the same address as Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. The groups worked in such close concert that at one point they got their Websites crossed. The CLI was established with explicit White House backing to sell the public on the war. The honorary co-chair of the committee: John Sidney McCain III.

In September 2002, McCain assured Americans that the war would be "fairly easy" with an "overwhelming victory in a very short period of time." On the eve of the invasion, Hardball host Chris Matthews asked McCain, "Are you one of those who holds up an optimistic view of the postwar scene? Do you believe that the people of Iraq, or at least a large number of them, will treat us as liberators?"

McCain was emphatic: "Absolutely. Absolutely."

Today, however, McCain insists that he predicted a protracted struggle from the outset. "The American people were led to believe this could be some kind of day at the beach," he said in August 2006, "which many of us fully understood from the beginning would be a very, very difficult undertaking." McCain also claims he urged Bush to dump Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go," he said in a January primary debate. Except that he didn't. Not once. As late as May 2004, in fact, McCain praised Rumsfeld for doing "a fine job."

Indeed, McCain's neocon makeover is so extreme that Republican generals like Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft have refused to endorse their party's nominee. "The fact of the matter is his judgment about what to do in Iraq was wrong," says Richard Clarke, who served as Bush's counterterrorism czar until 2003. "He hung out with people like Ahmad Chalabi. He said Iraq was going to be easy, and he said we were going to war because of terrorism. We should have been fighting in Afghanistan with more troops to go after Al Qaeda. Instead we're at risk because of the mistaken judgment of people like John McCain."

Mr. Flip-Flop

In the end, the essential facts of John McCain's life and career - the pivotal experiences in which he demonstrated his true character - are important because of what they tell us about how he would govern as president. Far from the portrayal he presents of himself as an unflinching maverick with a consistent and reliable record, McCain has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to taking whatever position will advance his own career. He "is the classic opportunist," according to Ross Perot, who worked closely with McCain on POW issues. "He's always reaching for attention and glory."

McCain has worked hard to deny such charges. "They're drinking the Kool-Aid that somehow I have changed positions on the issues," he said of his critics at the end of August. The following month, when challenged on The View, McCain again defied those who accuse him of flip-flopping. "What specific area have I quote 'changed'?" he demanded. "Nobody can name it."

In fact, his own statements show that he has been on both sides of a host of vital issues: the Bush tax cuts, the estate tax, waterboarding, hunting down terrorists in Pakistan, kicking Russia out of the G-8, a surge of troops into Afghanistan, the GI Bill, storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, teaching intelligent design, fully funding No Child Left Behind, offshore drilling, his own immigration policy and withdrawal timelines for Iraq.

In March, McCain insisted to The Wall Street Journal that he is "always for less regulation." In September, with the government forced to bail out the nation's largest insurance companies and brokerage houses, McCain declared that he would regulate the financial industry and end the "casino culture on Wall Street." He did a similar about-face on Bush's tax cuts, opposing them when he planned to run against Bush in 2001, then declaring that he wants to make them larger - and permanent - when he needed to win the support of anti-tax conservatives this year. "It's a big flip-flop," conceded tax abolitionist Grover Norquist. "But I'm happy he's flopped."

In June of this year, McCain reversed his decades-long opposition to coastal drilling - shortly before cashing $28,500 from 13 donors linked to Hess Oil. And the senator, who only a decade ago tried to ban registered lobbyists from working on political campaigns, now deploys 170 lobbyists in key positions as fundraisers and advisers.

Then there's torture - the issue most related to McCain's own experience as a POW. In 2005, in a highly public fight, McCain battled the president to stop the torture of enemy combatants, winning a victory to require military personnel to abide by the Army Field Manual when interrogating prisoners. But barely a year later, as he prepared to launch his presidential campaign, McCain cut a deal with the White House that allows the Bush administration to imprison detainees indefinitely and to flout the Geneva Conventions' prohibitions against torture.

What his former allies in the anti-torture fight found most troubling was that McCain would not admit to his betrayal. Shortly after cutting the deal, McCain spoke to a group of retired military brass who had been working to ban torture. According to Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former deputy, McCain feigned outrage at Bush and Cheney, as though he too had had the rug pulled out from under him. "We all knew the opposite was the truth," recalls Wilkerson. "That's when I began to lose a little bit of my respect for the man and his bona fides as a straight shooter."

But perhaps the most revealing of McCain's flip-flops was his promise, made at the beginning of the year, that he would "raise the level of political dialogue in America." McCain pledged he would "treat my opponents with respect and demand that they treat me with respect." Instead, with Rove protégé Steve Schmidt at the helm, McCain has turned the campaign into a torrent of debasing negativity, misrepresenting Barack Obama's positions on everything from sex education for kindergarteners to middle-class taxes. In September, in one of his most blatant embraces of Rove-like tactics, McCain hired Tucker Eskew - one of Rove's campaign operatives who smeared the senator and his family during the 2000 campaign in South Carolina.

Throughout the campaign this year, McCain has tried to make the contest about honor and character. His own writing gives us the standard by which he should be judged. "Always telling the truth in a political campaign," he writes in Worth the Fighting For, "is a great test of character." He adds: "Patriotism that only serves and never risks one's self-interest isn't patriotism at all. It's selfishness. That's a lesson worth relearning from time to time." It's a lesson, it would appear, that the candidate himself could stand to relearn.

"I'm sure John McCain loves his country," says Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar under Bush. "But loving your country and lying to the American people are apparently not inconsistent in his view."