Olbermann: Admin Breaking Laws + Waterboarding Is Torture + Cheney + Giuliani (videos)

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John Dean: Bush Admin Clearly Knows It’s Breaking Laws

They Have Always Known Waterboarding Is Torture

Olbermann: How Did This Guy Become Vice President Anyway?

Keith Olbermann Apologizes To Rudy Giuliani


Schumer, Feinstein back Mukasey by Andrew Zajac

Action Alert: Do Not Confirm Mukasey!

Waterboarding is Torture… Period + US accused of torture by Ian Munro

Schumer, Feinstein back Mukasey by Andrew Zajac

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by Andrew Zajac

Looks like Michael Mukasey will be the next Attorney General after all, many Democrats’ misgivings about his unwillingness to declare waterboarding illegal notwithstanding.

A pair of key Senate Democrats, Diane Feinstein, of California, and Charles Schumer, of New York, announced this afternoon that they’ll vote for Mukasey, giving him the votes he needs to win approval of the Judiciary Committee.

This can be looked at as a call made on the merits, but politically, the nods from Schumer and Feinstein also can be interpreted as meaning that Democrats still haven’t figured out how to address issues like torture without appearing to be soft on national security.

The approval of key Democrats came a day after President Bush compared Democratic leaders stalling aspects of his security agenda, including the Mukasey confirmation, to appeasers who enabled Lenin and Hitler.

Reading between the many lines of his statement, one can sense Schumer’s discomfiture.

The media-savvy senior senator from New York typically issues frequent, but very brief, sound bite-like statements on the issues of the day.

In this case, he’s broken an uncharacteristically long silence with what for him is a torrent of prose:


h/t: Raw Story

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Mukasey Is (Much) Worse Than Gonzales by John Nichols h/t: DreamFable

They Met The Resistance By Mike Ferner

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By Mike Ferner

11/02/07 “ICH

Meeting Resistance, portrays a side of the Iraqi insurgency President Bush doesn’t want the world to see.

On one of those beautiful, fall Sunday mornings that can make you feel all is right with the world, filmmakers Molly Bingham and Steve Connors discussed their new documentary about Iraqis fighting the U.S. occupation, “Meeting Resistance,” 84 minutes of unflinching wallop destined to unhinge the way millions of Americans see their country’s role in the world.

In May 2003, the same month that George W. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier off California declaring “Mission Accomplished,” and a month after Iraqis began organizing a grassroots armed resistance, Bingham, was on assignment in Baghdad’s Adhamiya district, hot on the trail of the last sighting of Saddam Hussein.

While there, the 39 year-old photojournalist got a tour of the largest Sunni mosque in Baghdad, named after the seventh century imam, Abu Hanifa. Bingham recalled that, as she drove away from the mosque, her translator mentioned that one of the men they’d just met said he was with the resistance. She filed this away in the back of her mind.

Before returning to the U.S. the next month, Bingham watched news reports, trying unsuccessfully to find out who was beginning to violently oppose the U.S. occupation and why. She talked with a photographer-colleague, Steve Connors, a former British Army MP, who had observed the same lack of coverage.

Between them they had 33 years experience covering conflict zones and decided to collaborate on reporting what till now has been the most visibly under-reported story of the Iraq war. By August they were back in Iraq for another 10 months, Connors to film and Bingham to write.

“This film is seen as somehow really radical,” the 48 year-old Connors said. “I’ve covered 10 conflicts and this is the first time I’ve heard it’s radical to cover the other side. As a German friend of mine asked, ‘Americans consider this news?’”

Bingham added, “It’s just a really important story. If your work is covering conflict, it’s just what you do. You cover both sides, or in some cases three or four sides.”

“Imagine if all the reporting from Chechnya was done through Russia’s point of view,” Connors interjected, “Or if all the news about Palestine came through Israel? In broader terms it’s a ridiculous notion.”

“We still apply a healthy dose of journalistic skepticism,” Bingham said. “We didn’t take at face value everything we were told. That’s why when people say to us, ‘This is biased, it only presents one side,’ we say yes, it does only present one side but it’s as honest as we can get. Most of the time we’re bombarded by one-sided coverage from the U.S. point of view.” Finished Connors, “Even including who from the other side gets quoted.”

One example of how much difference perspective makes, Connors said, can be as simple as the usage of the term “Sunni triangle.”

“I never heard that term from an Iraqi. There are many Sunnis living there, but that area is majority Shia, so Iraqis would never call it that. It’s another example of how all our news comes from the lens of the military.”

“Yes. America,” Connors quickly answered when asked if the pair had a particular audience in mind when they made “Meeting Resistance.” Added Bingham, “This is basic journalism. We want to make it available to whoever can get their hands on it.”

One audience the film was made available to was a roomful of active duty soldiers, officers and enlisted, in Baghdad earlier this month. ABC News was there and asked two young soldiers who patrol Baghdad nearly every day with the Third Infantry Division, what they thought after seeing the documentary.

Sgt. Mike Kelley told ABC, “When you try to be compassionate and see things from their point of view, this is sort of reinforcing that, saying yeah, this really is how they feel. They’re normal people and they’re pissed off because we’re here and we’re not welcome.”

Added Specialist Travis Barnes, “We just don’t know all the rich details that make these people up and tell us who they are and why they behave the way they behave, and their history. It’s stuff we need to know.”

One thing that surprised the filmmakers as they were in the midst of their project was how quickly a decentralized resistance developed against the occupation.

Bingham recalled that, “We didn’t know what to expect at all, but what we found was that the vast majority of people we spoke with didn’t wait to see how the administration of Baghdad was going to go. They just saw they were being occupied and that occupation required a response. Most of the people we interviewed were organizing within a week (of the fall of the Saddam Hussein government in early April, 2003), finding people to work with.”

“None of these people required leadership,” Connors submitted. “No one told them what to do; they did it as an act of personal conscience. And if you follow that line of thought you can see that a leader in that situation is simply someone who has a few more skills than you do. If, after a while, he veers off from opposing the occupation he might get killed, or in some fashion you settle with him and get another leader. In a strange way, it’s almost democratic.”

One factor that may explain the relative quickness of the Sunni resistance, Bingham surmised, was that “Sunnis have more of what we would call a ‘Protestant’ view of their religion. They knew they were right because of their individual interpretation of the Koran; whereas the Shia have a more Catholic relationship with God, with a worldly spiritual leader who interprets the Koran for them.”

Both journalists acknowledged that the process of making their seminal film left its mark on them.

“It’s given me a sense of empowerment,” Connors offered. “There are of course many difficulties – raising money and all that, but we’ve done it all without the resources of a major corporation. To be at as many screenings as we can to answer questions, night after night, is one way of demonstrating ‘We are not a corporation…here’s what we found, take it or leave it.’ Theoretically, you always know you can do that, but to actually do it and go up against all established thought, that’s strengthening.”

Bingham observed that she learned how much of a challenge a project like this is and how important it is to have someone to work with who feels just as strongly.

“We’ve been called intrepid, insistent and dogged,” the Louisville, Kentucky native explained. “When you cover conflict, especially when your country is involved, giving up is unacceptable. But if I was doing this by myself I think I would have given up.”

She added that “To see how our policies are carried out overseas; to be on the sharp end of that, you get a very different view of how we’re perceived…and how I perceived my own country. You know, the myth of the democratic and free America is somewhat real on some level, but when you are faced with the hypocrisy of our actions in light of those values, it’s a really tough thing to reconcile. I found I was trying to hold the both of those realities together or consider perhaps one may not be true. It truly challenges your core beliefs.”

An example of that was when a heckler in New York tried to put her into a corner by demanding to know if she was “an American or a journalist?” “I you’re gonna make me choose,” Bingham answered him, “I’d say ‘a journalist.’”

Asked if she would have answered that way a few years ago, she thought a moment and replied, “Yes, but not as quickly.”

Her collaborator interjected, “Six years ago that question would never have been asked. Now certainly, we’ve heard allegations of treason.”

Considering another project is premature, Connors explained. “We feel committed to getting this film to where the discussions we have after each screening are happening all over the country. Then we can feel like we can take a rest and look at another project.”

Bingham concluded by looking beyond the particular message of “Meeting Resistance.” “This film is clearly about Iraq; it is clearly shaped by the culture, religion and history of Iraq. But it is also a film about the human condition under occupation as seen through this history…we shouldn’t be surprised.”

Mike Ferner is a freelance writer from Ohio. mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Meeting Resistance (video; Iraq)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been working for us for years (video)

Dandelion Salad


Things you can do:
Make sure you register if you need to for the primaries in your state.

**** 4 years ago, Dennis Kucinich sponsored H.R. 3171, also known as the Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act of 2003. ****
Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been working for us for years

Added: October 25, 2007


Kucinich Will Introduce Privileged Resolution To Force Up Or Down Vote On Cheney Impeachment

CODEPINK Activist Barred from Capitol After Calling Rice “War Criminal” (link)

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Democracy Now!
Friday, November 2nd, 2007

CODEPINK Activist Barred from Capitol After Calling Rice “War Criminal”

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CODEPINK activist Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz was barred from Capitol Hill after she covered her hands in fake blood and approached Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week at the start of a congressional hearing. Ali-Fairooz said that the blood “of millions of Iraqis” was on the hands of the Bush administration. [includes rush transcript]

We end today’s broadcast here in Washington D.C. with Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz. She is the antiwar activist who covered her hands in fake blood and approached Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week at the start of a congressional hearing. A photograph of Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz and Rice appeared in newspapers across the country. After she approached Rice, Ali-Fairooz screamed that the blood “of millions of Iraqis” was on the hands of the Bush administration. Moments later Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz was arrested. She was charged with disorderly conduct, defacing of government property and assault on a federal officer. She has been banned from the grounds of Capitol Hill and reportedly could face up prison time.

  • Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz. She is former children’s librarian and schoolteacher from Texas. She quit her job in March to dedicate her life to antiwar activism and to organizing with the group CODEPINK.
  • Medea Benjamin. Founder of CODEPINK.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Kucinich Will Introduce Privileged Resolution To Force Up Or Down Vote On Cheney Impeachment

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Submitted by davidswanson on Fri, 2007-11-02
After Downing Street

From the Office of Congressman Dennis Kucinich

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 2, 2007) — Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced today that he will be offering a privileged resolution on the House floor next week that will bring articles of impeachment against the Vice President, Richard B. Cheney.

“The momentum is building for impeachment,” Kucinich said. “Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President’s abuse of power.

“Despite this groundswell of opposition to the unconstitutional conduct of office, Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting the power of the executive branch is supreme.

“Congress must hold the Vice President accountable. The American people need to let Members of Congress know how they feel about this. The Vice President continues to use his office to advocate for a continued occupation of Iraq and prod our nation into a belligerent stance against Iran. If the Vice President is successful, his actions will ensure decades of disastrous consequences.”

The privileged resolution has priority status for consideration on the House floor. Once introduced, the resolution has to be brought to the floor within two legislative days, although the House could act on it immediately. Kucinich is expected to bring it to the House floor on Tuesday, November 6.

H. Res. 333, Articles of Impeachment against the Vice President, has 21 cosponsors. They are: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert Brady (D-PA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Henry Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. James Moran (D-VA), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD).
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


It’s Kucinich Time! By Scott Raab

Now Is The Time to Impeach Cheney

Dennis Kucinich Calls For Impeachment During The Debate + UFOs (videos) + Russert Uses the “Giggle Factor” to Dismiss Dennis by Manila Ryce

Kucinich: Impeachment! (video)

Behind the Facade of Incompetence By Charles Sullivan

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Sullivan
11/02/07 “ICH

It is clear that the US media moguls would have us believe that the catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq was a sincere effort to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East, gone awry. But we must remember that everything associated with capitalism is about marketing: making the people believe that things and events are the opposite of what they really are, and creating artificial wants that neither benefit the individual nor society, while simultaneously embellishing corporate profits.

This understanding would have been equally evident in the mainstream media’s buildup to the war had we a less propagandized, better read, and more informed citizenry. Even the politically naïve should have known that Saddam Hussein’s threat to the US, so vividly hyped in the media, was pure marketing propaganda.

But the majority of the people bought it, and now we have no choice but to live with our purchase. Short of a major social upheaval, we are going to be in Iraq for a very long time, and the death toll will continue to rise, especially for the Iraqis—the unwilling recipients of our corporate benevolence delivered through carpet bombs, terror, and torture. For these are the undeniable legacy of our foreign policies, and the illegal, amoral, acquisition of property by blunt force trauma.

If we are to survive as a republic, we must appreciate that capitalism and its cousin, global corporatism—not Saddam Hussein, not Communism or Socialism, nor Islamic terrorists, are the greatest threats to democracy. Zionism and Christian fundamentalism, which attempt to provide the flimsy moral basis for our Middle East policy, also pose significant obstacles to world peace by denying justice to others and promoting ethnic cleansing.

It is beguiling that we have yet to learn this fundamental lesson, that we know so little about our own history, and the role that mass ignorance plays in determining the future.

The narcotic of state sponsored propaganda has a powerful and hypnotic effect on our collective senses, and it is rending asunder the fabric of what is supposed to be a free and civil society. We believe what we are told and accept what we are given, without demanding truth, justice or accountability.

It is imperative for the purveyors of war to maintain a cloak of secrecy and a façade of public support where, if the truth were known, none would exist. It is necessary to keep the truth concealed in order to throw the public off the scent of the corruption that is the guiding principle of corporate governance and plutocracy, fomented by morally bankrupt men and women; a system that causes irreparable harm and suffering to its innocent victims and then profits from the misery and suffering it inflicts.

These days it is popular to describe the events occurring in Iraq as the result of incompetence, mismanagement, miscalculation, and benevolent bungling; to characterize them as a well intentioned mistake on the road to freedom and democracy, rather than the moral abomination they are. What we have in Iraq is not the result of any of these phenomena. It is the intended consequence of cold calculation to bomb Iraq into submission, to thoroughly disorient its people, and to apply economic shock therapy before they can recognize what is being done to them.

The intent is to invade sovereign nations either militarily, economically, or both; and to force unbridled capitalism on them. This means, of course, that we must first overthrow the existing governments—many of them democracies, and replace them with ruthless dictatorships willing to betray their own people, and amenable to opening up their countries to corporate exploitation and privatization.

So called free market capitalism requires corrupt leadership on the receiving end that is willing to accept bribes while becoming a puppet to the US. This is how some of the must brutal regimes in the world came into power. Corporate America is always beating the drums of war in search of profits and ever increasing shares of the world’s markets. Enough is never enough—they want it all.

Aside from overthrowing popularly elected governments, the unspoken objective of mature capitalism, guided by the doctrine of economic shock therapy, is to turn once sovereign nations into totally deregulated corporate states, answerable to no one.

This objective will be accomplished by privatizing the nationalized infrastructure, inviting in foreign investors, removing tariffs that protect local business and cooperatives from predatory multinational corporations, and downsizing the workforce; by eliminating social spending, and removing all forms of corporate controls. In short, by conducting a fire sale of each nation’s stolen assets and auctioning them off at bargain basement prices to wealthy multinational investors.

The intent is to create an unfettered corporate state in which the market, driven solely by profit, is the final arbiter of all things; an Orwellian world in which human rights, labor laws, environmental protections, and social justice do not even exist, much less enter into market equations.

Aided by the World Bank and the IMF, we are rapidly arriving at a state of global corporate fascism—the free market reform of manic capitalism, greed on steroids; a horrible economic monster unleashed upon unsuspecting people the world over, masquerading as democracy and free trade. And it is occurring in blatant contradiction to everything that is free, decent, and fair; a monstrosity utterly devoid of humanity and empathy for those struggling to survive.

But behind the marketing façade of a beneficent capitalism that is more oxymoronic than real, the skeleton of Reaganism, free marketry, and trickle down economics is exposed for all to see. We are witnessing naked greed unleashed upon the world like a swarm of locusts the size of North America. The fabulously wealthy are realizing obscene profits, while the majority of the world’s people are forced into economic servitude, many of them living in abject poverty, scratching out a bleak existence on sweatshop wages under horrendous conditions.

Economic slavery and burdensome debt, not freedom and democracy, is what we are imposing upon Iraq, aided by the most powerful military in history and, all too often, with the blessings of an oblivious and propagandized citizenry. Aside from the fierce resistance to the occupation, the US is achieving all of its major objectives in Iraq.

Like flies circling piles of stinking excrement, the lords of unfettered capitalism are buzzing around the bloated corpse of what is left of the world. And they have no intentions of stopping at Iraq. Iran and Syria are waiting in the wings: war that will not end in our lifetime.

If the world were as enamored with capitalism as its adherents proclaim, there would be no need to masquerade it as anything other than what it is—economic self interest for the privileged, driven by insatiable greed, funded by the public treasure. There would be no need to impose it on the world through high tech militarism and occupation, preceded by elaborate propagandistic media blitzes and tricks. All people would seek it out, as they seek water to slake their thirst and nourishment for their bodies.

So we must ask ourselves: When has it ever been in the pubic interest to over feed the rich and starve the poor? When has it ever been in the public interest to destroy the earth for the sake of profits? When has it ever been in the public interest to promote war and injustice over peace and shared prosperity?

Just people everywhere must resist evil or run the risk of being complicit in it. Neutrality, indifference and apathy, are untenable responses to what is being done in our name. Somehow, we must awaken from this media induced cultural stupor. We must do so under the prying eyes of government and private security contractors who are protecting corporate investors from democracy, and from people like us. Each of us is being diminished just as the Declaration of Independence states: “harass our people and eat out their substance.”

Every citizen is faced with a simple choice: organize or perish. The storm clouds of World War Three are looming on the horizon. These are extraordinary times that demand something from every one of us.

Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at csullivan@phreego.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It’s Kucinich Time! By Scott Raab

It’s Kucinich Time!

By Scott Raab
After Downing Street

Fanfare for the common man. And for his lovely wife, Elizabeth.

The pure products of America go crazy,” wrote William Carlos Williams — antipoet of “the thing itself” — but Dr. Williams was from north Jersey, and as far as I know never strayed to Cleveland, whose own pure products long have been flame tempered, union made, and born batshit insane. So when I tell you that Dennis Kucinich is first of all a sane, sane man, and secondly, fit to be president — and thirdly: It’s Kucinich time, now, because what this blue-balled, war-thwacked nation needs is not another scleroid corporate whore but a sixty-one-year-old vegan peacemonger, poor beyond corruption and honest as spit, hauling balls big enough to both choke Dick Cheney and keep a smile like a woozy kitten’s on the love-lit face of a twenty-nine-year-old heartthrob wife; and if not now, when? and if not Dennis, who? — when I tell you this hand over heart and cheek untongued, then it behooves me also to say that I am a son of the same crooked flaming river, Cleveland-born and -bred and unashamed.

But this is another pungent river in another town — the slate-gray Piscataqua in Portsmouth, New Hampshire — on a cool May Saturday morning gravid with rain, where five hundred or so union members, families in tow, have gathered in a small park to protest a proposed $2.7 billion deal that would let Verizon spin off its rural New England landline customers to a much smaller outfit in North Carolina, saving Verizon a sweet half billion tax dollars, plus the bother of an expiring union contract, plus the cost of pensions, not to mention the messy, unprofitable matter of bringing broadband to the rubes. It’ll also hand Verizon six of the nine directors’ seats on the little company’s board — the pickpocket’s bump that bares the scam. It is, in short, the sort of humdrum money grab that makes shareholders drool and Kucinich spew lava.

He looks small as he strolls through the crowd and takes the makeshift plywood stage, standing short and thin under a blue awning, wearing a ratty tan raincoat, a twelve-year-old boy’s haircut, and a crooked grin as he lowers the microphone and barks, “Good morning!”

A few in the crowd answer, but it’s a safe bet that even they know nothing but his name, if that, and have never heard his voice. It is not the voice of a presidential hopeful — it doesn’t emit Hillary’s frozen cheer, drip Edwards’s honey, or ooze Obamanic earnestness. It’s a four-seam fastball, high and tight, buzzing straight at the ear.

“It’s great to be here with brothers and sisters of labor,” he says — Kucinich himself is a stagehands’ union member — before turning to the woman standing to his left. She is lush and lean and six feet tall, dressed in a short black jacket, a pale-gold-and-red blouse, and black pants. Her hair falls in twin auburn cascades — one over her shoulder and down her back, the other curving just beneath her bosom.

“Joining me on the stage is my wife, Elizabeth,” says Kucinich. He doesn’t mention that they met in his congressional office when she came to visit as part of a delegation from the American Monetary Institute two and a half years ago, or that they got engaged a few weeks later down at Shirley MacLaine’s spread in New Mexico, or that she boasts a graduate degree in International Conflict Analysis and a silver tongue stud, or that she is the third Mrs. Dennis Kucinich.

“It was actually more than thirty years ago,” he says, “that I first gained the experience that brings me to this stage today,” and then Kucinich tells them the nutshelled version of the Battle of Muny Light, the climax of a yearlong war that began when Dennis was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of thirty-one. It was a dying Rust Belt city by then, a national punch line, hapless and backward in a way that Pittsburgh and Detroit never were. That river — the Cuyahoga — had caught fire in 1969, Lake Erie stank of death, the previous mayor had set his own hair ablaze with a welding torch at a ribbon cutting, and his wife had declined a White House dinner invite so as not to miss her bowling night. What had been a boomtown for a century had shrunk to the Mistake on the Lake.

Then came Kucinich. Although he had been in city government for nearly eight years before becoming mayor, it felt like Che Guevara had ridden down from the hills to reform the land and free the peasantry. Because he was so young, his election made news all over the world — good news. Because he filled City Hall with compadres — some key staffers were in their twenties with no experience in government — it felt like revolution. And because it was Cleveland, the whole shebang was doomed.

If it hadn’t been Muny Light — Municipal Light and Power, the city-owned electric plant — it would have been something else. The men who had run corporate Cleveland for decades weren’t about to hand their power over to a bare-knuckled urban populist who believed that funding city schools and services was more vital than tax abatements for developers, who held court at Tony’s Diner on West 117th Street, not the Union Club downtown, and who called them blackmailers and con men in public. Within a year of his election, using his public firing of a police chief as an excuse, they funded a recall election that Kucinich barely survived.

But it was Muny Light that did Kucinich in. It was Muny Light that the private utility company in northeast Ohio wanted to swipe from the city, because Muny kept the rates down, killing profit. Before Kucinich took office, the deal had been sealed. All of the pillars who had long ago fled to the suburbs but still owned and bled the town as it withered and grew poor had agreed to strip Cleveland of one of its last real assets.

Then this same dinky SOB now up on the stage in his shabby raincoat, running for the White House, told ’em all — the lawyers and the bankers and the private utility company — to go pound salt.

“Lemme tell ya a little bit about myself,” he shouts at the union crowd. “And once you know about me, you’ll know why when I tell you what I intend to do about this sale, it’s the real thing. I’m the oldest of seven kids, and my parents never owned a home. We lived in twenty-one different places by the time I was seventeen, including a coupla cars. I have this vivid memory of my parents sitting at the kitchen table in one apartment on St. Clair Avenue, one of those old white metal-topped tables that when it’s chipped, there’s black underneath. I remember them sitting at this table counting the pennies to pay the utility bill.

“When I was in a room with the lead banker in Cleveland on December 15, 1978, and he was telling me that I had to sell the city-owned electric system, suddenly I was transported back in time and space to this little boy listening to and watching his parents count the pennies to pay the utility bill” — and here Kucinich’s voice softens — “I was sitting there with this banker, and I could hear the pennies dropping again — click…click…click…”

Then he reaches back and hurls the four-seamer, up and in.

“And because I remembered where I came from, I said no to the sale. I can’t be bullied, I can’t be bossed, I can’t be intimidated, and I can’t be tricked. I’m there on behalf of your families — I’m there on behalf of your jobs. I’m there — the same person who as a child listened to his parents count the pennies at the table — ”

Shouting now, Kucinich pumps his right fist up and down as the crowd cheers.

“Mom and Dad! I’m there for all the mothers and fathers who are worried about what they’re paying, who are worried about their jobs, who want to make sure that they can claim that this country still belongs to working people, still belongs to the people, and there’s someone who will stand for that principle.”

The folks who know that Dennis Kucinich cannot be elected president of the United States understand that while principle is nice, an excellent and desirable concept, practical politics is the art of the possible. Democracy requires compromise, and principle at times must yield to necessity.

Being a Clevelander, Kucinich yields to nothing. Ever. When he said no to the sale of Muny Light, the city’s banks, led by Cleveland Trust, made good on their ultimatum and refused to extend the city credit on $14 million worth of short-term notes. And by so doing, they deliberately flushed the city down the fiscal toilet and into default, which made more news around the world — awful news — and brought Dennis Kucinich’s political career to an apparent end.

But not immediately. On December 18, 1978, Mayor Kucinich, surrounded by the media, strode from City Hall to the main branch of Cleveland Trust downtown and withdrew his paltry life savings in protest. And because it was Cleveland, on the very same day, blocks away, his youngest brother, Perry Kucinich, robbed a different bank. Perry wasn’t really a criminal; he was literally insane. But it sure looked bad for Dennis.

Because it was Cleveland, though, it could’ve been worse. The local mob, for reasons that have never been clear — some say it was because Kucinich disconnected the city’s garbage-hauling contract from the Mafia — hired an out-of-state hitman to whack the mayor at a Columbus Day parade. When Kucinich got sick two days before the parade, the hit was relocated to Tony’s Diner at a later date — and after the default, when it was clear that Kucinich shortly would be out of office, it was called off altogether. Kucinich, meanwhile, on the advice of the police, had long since begun wearing a bulletproof vest, and kept a gun at home.

By saving Muny Light — it’s called Cleveland Public Power now — Kucinich wound up saving Clevelanders hundreds of millions of dollars. In return for his foresight and political courage, he got thrashed a year later, when he ran for a second term, by George Voinovich, the current U.S. senator, who summed up his ’79 campaign platform by telling The New York Times, “I like fat cats — I want as many in Cleveland as I can get.” Shattered by the loss, Kucinich limped back into the hills, unemployed and unemployable, a virtual pariah.

The union crowd knows none of this, of course. They’re cheering because, first of all, Kucinich showed up. All the Democrats zipping through New Hampshire trying to build a base for the primary were invited; only Kucinich came. They’re cheering too because Kucinich promises to hold hearings on the Verizon sale — a six-term congressman now, he chairs the Domestic Policy Subcommittee — and also to ask the FCC and SEC to look into it. And they’re cheering because, what the hell, the guy at the microphone with the hot wife and the drab raincoat is yelling and pumping his arm like Huey Long in an old newsreel.

But when the speech is finished and Kucinich and Elizabeth wind their way through the crowd and up the street — his arm around her waist, hers around his shoulders — to a Portsmouth restaurant where his campaign manager has scheduled a news conference, the place is nearly empty. There’s a photographer with an online business based entirely on photos of presidential candidates touring New Hampshire — he got Obama earlier this morning in Manchester — and two pimply young students from nearby Franklin Pierce University who’ve brought a digital videocam to interview Kucinich for their Website. That’s it.

Kucinich sits on a stool near the front window of the restaurant as the college kids line up their shot. Elizabeth smooths his hair — he has a hint of gray just by his sizable ears, and the stubborn cowlick of a 1920s street-corner newsboy — and then she levels the angle of the kids’ camera so that Dennis doesn’t look too wee.

In real life, he’s five seven, not really all that short, but his diet — no animal products of any kind: no meat, no fish, no eggs, no cheese, no milk — has thinned him to 130 pounds, and the fact that he looks decades younger than his age, combined with his buzz-saw voice and Sears wardrobe, not to mention his general level of intensity, makes him seem onscreen like a high school debater, or an embittered elf. The camera does not love him; luckily, Elizabeth does.

“So what are we doing here?” Dennis asks after the college boys depart; he’s itching to hit the road. He has another meet-and-greet at a bar up the street, and then it’s on to Portland, Maine, an hour away, for a sit-down with a grassroots impeachment group — last April, Kucinich formally filed articles of impeachment in the House against Dick Cheney — then a speech to the Maine Lawyers for Democracy, followed by a keynote address at the Maine People’s Alliance annual Rising Tide Dinner. Tomorrow morning, he’ll catch a 5:00 a.m. flight to Cleveland, where he’ll deliver a commencement address at Case Western Reserve University on Sunday afternoon.

Kucinich is running for the presidency as if he believes that he can win because he truly does. When I ask him, in the empty restaurant, if he prepped his Verizon speech, he goes gimlet-eyed and snaps, “Yeah, I prepared it — forty years in the making.” And when I ask why he didn’t close the sale and ask them for their votes, he smiles sourly.

“Because they know I’m there for them. Because I think it’s appropriate for people to know, first of all, what I’m capable of doing, to show them what I’m capable of doing. Once I’ve shown them what I’ve done, shown them what I know, shown them what I’m capable of doing, and go and do it, then their decision becomes easy. I close the sale by delivering on what I said — and nobody else can or will do that.”

I did not know Dennis Kucinich in Cleveland. I did not know anyone like Dennis Kucinich. Cleveland is divided by the Cuyahoga River into East and West sides, and even in the salad days of yore, their folk did not mix. It goes thus: white ethnics, West; Jews, Italians, and blacks, East; auto plants, West; museums, East; Drew Carey, West; Paul Newman, East. West Siders had the airport and the zoo; East Siders had the money and the money. This was true when I was born, true when I left for good in 1984, and true now.

I am from the East Side. We were Jews with no real money, but we were not poor. Kucinich is from the West Side, half Croat, half Irish. He was dirt poor and knew it. He shined shoes in barrooms to get a few coins to carry home. Nuns took pity on his clothes and scrounged up better ones for him. He lives in a real house today, but it is the same small West Side house that he bought in 1971 for $22,500. It is a miracle — and no small paean to the American dream — that Dennis Kucinich now not only sits in the House of Representatives, with a big fancy office in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C., but also believes that he will be elected president in 2008.

“I’m ready,” he says. “I’m ready to be president today. I can feel it. The attempt to settle the election so early is something that I think is probably tension reduction on the part of people in the media, but I’m not subject to their rules. There’s time to do this.”

We are in his Rayburn Building office. In the reception area, there’s an old black-and-white photo of the congressman in a sweater-vest and bow tie, pointing to a poster listing the three pillars of West Side civilization: polka, bowling, and kielbasa. But in his office proper, the burgundy velvet drapes are tied back with thick white cord, sunlight pours in, and the ceiling is sky-high. Here, in his slim blue suit, blue shirt, and red tie, Kucinich indeed looks ready for the Oval Office.

Still, to the extent that Kucinich is subject to the mainstream media’s rules about who matters, he hardly exists. His hour-long speech on the House floor detailing how the hydrocarbon bill being rammed down the Iraqis’ throats by the Bush administration is really a ruse to grab the vast bulk of Iraq’s oil made no news. He routinely is cropped out of debate group photos. He is almost always put at the far end of the stage and invariably ignored for long stretches. When finally called upon, he tends to yelp. He neither looks nor sounds like a man who could be cast to play the president of the United States.

And, perhaps because he is from Cleveland, he yields nothing to his opponents for the sake of unity, nicety, or sales appeal. Onstage, his scorn is plain. His opposition to the Iraq war dates to late 2002; his position is simple: no timetables or benchmarks — just stop the flow of money. He says that fellow Democrats either wish to end the war, in which case they can just stop passing appropriations bills to fund it, or they’re just playing charades by funding the war even as they moan about not having enough votes to override a veto — thereby preserving the war as an issue for 2008.

His health-care plan is even simpler: universal, essentially free care under a single-payer, government-run system — more or less how every other industrialized nation on the planet provides for people’s well-being. To Kucinich, a candidate’s plan either unseats the health-insurance companies or plows even more tax dollars into a for-profit industry that pays politicians millions of dollars to do its bidding.

The folks who know that Dennis Kucinich cannot be elected president understand that his positions on these two issues alone, while principled and in accord with what tens of millions of Americans say they want, are nonetheless reducible to the sort of sound bites — “Socialized medicine!” “Abandoning the troops!” — that would hamstring any candidate, much less one with Kucinich’s yap and look. Thus Obama, Edwards, and Clinton stand center stage at each debate and get the lion’s share of the time.

But Kucinich has a plan to raise his profile: He’s writing a book, too.

“It’s gonna be a series of stories about how throughout my life I’ve come into circumstances where everyone would say, ‘It’s too late — there’s nothin’ you can do about it,’ and I decided to get involved, and changed the outcome. There’s almost like a — not almost, there is a spiritual mechanics to this. And that’s what the book’s gonna be about.”

Spiritual mechanics?

He nods. “Doctrine of transubstantiation,” he says. “That’s spirit into matter, okay? And then matter extends to spirit.” He slaps his hands together. “This is basic physics.”

Not on the East Side. A lot of us over there weren’t big on that whole transubstantiation thing.

“But I’m talking about it as — the church has its doctrine, and the doctrine has many different possibilities within. It’s theology, but it’s also about things seen and unseen. It’s not just a matter of faith — there are things that the physicist David Bohm writes about in Wholeness and the Implicate Order. There’s a reality” — another hand-slap — “that stands within existent reality, what’s apparent. But there’s something just behind it that holds that reality together, kind of in those interstitial spaces. There’s another reality there. The way I look at it, translating it into social action, is that that other reality is waiting to be called forward, and made, and set into motion.”

Kucinich is just warming up. Next come Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, the Apostle’s Creed — in Latin — and the “nexus where spirit infuses matter and transforms it. That’s where I live,” he says, bringing together the tips of his fingers — “there at that connect-pole.”

The air in the office is already humming with the music of the spheres when Elizabeth walks in. Kucinich nearly levitates out of his chair as he moves to kiss her hello. “You look great,” he crows.

He’s right. Great oogly-moogly, is he right. Her hair’s pulled back tight from her scalp, she’s wearing a thrift-store summer dress that she just bought — a flimsy, low-cut, flowery thing whose thin straps leave her shoulders and back bared — and she has tied some kind of scarf around her slender neck. Her clavicles alone are heart stopping. And Dennis can’t stop grinning, a schoolboy lost in love.

“I was just telling him about what I learned about how to change things,” he says. “The spiritual mechanics of it.”

A staffer opens the door to let Kucinich know that ABC Radio is on the phone for an interview.

“Elizabeth,” he says, “what time should we be getting ready to leave?”

“Well, the train’s at five past two. We’ve got to go back to the apartment and close the bags up, and I’d like to eat something, too.”

She has the good British accent, light with laughter — not the plummy, stuffy one. While Kucinich takes the call from ABC, she tells me that she sat for her last college final — in a course called Conflict Resolution in World Politics — on 9/11/01.

“I came to America for a number of reasons. One, to work on monetary reform, which is something I really feel passionately about, but really with this in my heart: that I wanted somehow to help with the healing process — for America to be integrated with the rest of the world. The second week I was in America, I met Dennis. I didn’t know his politics. I walked into his office with my boss to talk about monetary reform.”

Love at first sight?

“It was soul recognition.”

Behind her, meanwhile, on the phone, Kucinich tells ABC, “Obama, for example — he says he opposed the war from the start, yet 100 percent of the time, he votes to fund it. I don’t think the American people, by the time we get to the primaries and the caucuses, are gonna be able to square that. I think they’re gonna say, ‘Wait a minute — quit sayin’ one thing and doin’ another.’ The truth is the truth — it’s not necessary to try to recut it for the convenience of the moment.”

Truth is, I’m proud of the guy. Electable or no, homeboy’s talking presidential smack and getting laid. They probably even do it tantric style — lifting Kucinich to interstitial pleasure planes no Clevelander, East or West, has visited before.

Prowling New Hampshire — next stop, Manchester, where CNN is staging a debate at St. Anselm College — the Kucinich Kampaign Karavan, heavy with Japanese pears and watermelon chunks but light on its feet, rolls one car long, with two aides up front and Dennis and Elizabeth in the back uploading press releases from a laptop to his Website. Lunch usually means between-speech takeout from a local Asian joint, Thai much preferred.

I have seen Kucinich disappear a foil takeout basin of pad thai in five minutes flat with a white plastic fork — because he is from Cleveland, the chopsticks never leave their paper sleeve — as he simultaneously works the phone on behalf of a constituent in Cleveland needing help to get a passport expedited. And I have heard him issue instructions in painstaking detail to a fresh young intern on her way to an organic market to locate exactly the right coconut sorbet for his dessert. He may be a vegan, but he eats like a Clydesdale.

“This might be the best pad thai yet,” he says between forkfuls. “That place in Iowa is pretty good, but this may be the best.”

Where in Iowa — Des Moines?

“No, I think in Cedar Rapids.”

How long have you been a vegan?


Some kind of epiphany?

“I met someone who was a vegan, so I tried it, and it worked for me. I just decided I’d do it — and just like that, it changed everything.”

Does it give you more energy?

“Energy, clarity, health — everything.”

Elizabeth sings out to the intern about to hunt down sorbet, “Be careful that it doesn’t have any milk in it.”

“If they don’t have the sorbet,” Dennis says, “you can get some vanilla Rice Dream.”

“You like the orange one,” Elizabeth reminds him.

“Oh, yeah,” he says. “And see if they have any vegan cookies. That would be great.”

Says the aide, “And get a receipt.”

“This is an exciting way to spend my first day, quite honestly,” the intern says. “I worked for a campaign four years ago and never got this sort of access.”

“And if you come back with the coconut sorbet,” Kucinich tells her, “you could end up being an ambassador.”

“I think I’d have to graduate from college,” says the intern.

“You don’t in the Bush administration.”

“Don’t forget the receipt,” says the aide.

Each of the candidates has a greenroom in the basement of St. Anselm’s hockey arena, where the debate will start in a half hour or so, but not all greenrooms are created equal. As far as I can tell — not nearly far enough, thanks to the perimeters set up by the CNN underlings, campus police, and Obama’s Secret Service detachment — Christopher Dodd’s is a nice-sized meeting room, clean and well lit, and John Edwards’s boasts a spread whose vestibule alone is nearly as large as Dodd’s room.

The Kucinich greenroom is an oversized janitor’s closet, literally a utility room, no cinder-block wall of which is free from some sort of fire standpipe, exhaust vent, or fuse box. Metal conduit runs across the gray unpainted ceiling, just above two trays of fruit and cheese and raw vegetables going limp under their plastic domes. I fear that poor Mike Gravel must be at the dim far end of the hall, asquat in a men’s-room stall marked by a placard with his name on it.

Dennis Kucinich doesn’t care about his greenroom: He lives for moments like this, when the West Side Croat with the bad haircut, the runt whose family had to pack up and split when the rent came due, gets to duke it out on national television with the anointed and the electable. His eyes are bright, his best black suit is pressed, and his white shirt is as crisp as a new twenty. Even the dimple in his tie looks ready to rumble.

“Okay,” he barks. “Where’s my ball?”

“Elizabeth had it,” says an aide.

“Your what?” she asks, sitting folded into a battered dorm-room chair beneath a fire-red alarm box, wearing a black-and-white print dress, a black jacket with a pin on the lapel that reads PEACE in large sequined letters, and a pair of open-toed pumps.

“My ball.”

“No, I didn’t,” says Elizabeth. “You gave it to Andy. Andy, have you got the ball?”

“Andy,” Kucinich says, “where’s that ball?”

“The what?” Andy Juniewicz is a crusty West Sider, variously Dennis’s friend, press secretary, and consigliere going back to the days when they were copyboys at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, forty-plus years ago. He stays mainly behind the scenes, consulting from home, but he’ll make the occasional road trip.

“The ball. Where is it?”

“Might still be in your room,” Juniewicz tells him.

“No,” says Elizabeth. “You took it.”

“No,” says Dennis. “I gave it to ya on the way out the door. I said, ‘Take it.’ ”

Juniewicz shrugs. “We could wad up some paper,” he says. “We can play rock-paper-scissors if ya want.”

So Kucinich wads up a couple of sheets ripped from a white legal pad, and everyone in the small room stands in a ragged circle.

“Okay,” he says. “So the basic focus is the war.”

Suddenly he tosses the paper ball at Elizabeth, who snags it and hurls it at Juniewicz, who holds it for a few seconds before tossing it to another aide, who flings it at Kucinich, who’s rehearsing a line he’ll try to use during the debate when the subject of Iraq comes up.

“Let’s make this a productive evening — let’s all agree that we’re gonna bring the troops home.”

Around and around goes the paper ball as Kucinich girds himself.

“Bring the troops home, peace, stop trying to steal the Iraqis’ oil, fair trade, workers’ rights, human rights, environmental principles — end global warming and global warring. Tie those together.”

“And health care,” says Elizabeth. “Peace at home.”

“Right, right.”

“And when you say Department of Peace, include nonviolence, too.”

Kucinich nods. “Absolutely. All the way down the line. Make it a productive evening, all of you commit right now. Health care, make it a productive evening, all of you commit” — and he bangs his hand into his palm as he finishes — “right now.”

He’s ready — almost. “What I would like to do is just have a few moments with Elizabeth,” he says. “I want to start to get into my zone, if I may. But wait outside so we can do our do widzenias.”

This is Polish for “good-bye, farewell, until we meet again.” But because they are from Cleveland, they must join hands and chant it, prefaced with kishka, kishka, which, on the West Side, denotes a blood sausage.

It goes, “Kishka, kishka, do widzenia.” Repeat as necessary. Loudly. If, that is, you are from Cleveland.

And echoing down the long basement corridor swathed in mausoleum gloom, it rings almost like victory. Almost.

Blitzer. Blitzer is not from Cleveland. Blitzer hails from Buffalo. I don’t like pissing on a landsman, or on Buffalo, but Wolf Blitzer is a windbag, a smug, self-important sack of shit whose Situation Room shtick is the dreariest three hours in broadcasting history. And I say this with all due respect, both to Wolf and to professional golf.

I say this also because Wolf Blitzer is hosting the debate, and because during the first hour, only Hillary Clinton gets more time to bloviate than Blitzer. After Blitzer comes Obama, then, due mainly to his astounding incoherence, Bill Richardson, followed by Edwards and the rest of the pack; Kucinich is dead last — behind even Mike Gravel — with two and one-half minutes. Blitzer himself speaks for eight and a half, total. He asks for Obama,

Clinton, and Edwards to comment a combined twenty-six times; the other five candidates get, en masse, twenty-three shots, including six chances for Richardson to shake his jowls while making wordlike sounds.

At halftime, while the stagehands set up chairs for a good old-fashioned pretend town-hall session — with real questions! from real New Hampshirites! — Juniewicz stomps off to find someone with CNN he can bitch at. While he’s gone, another Kucinich strategist in the greenroom, a tall, goateed gent named Michael Carmichael, paints me the big picture.

“He’s going to win the nomination. He’s going to sweep the boards, and he is going to have momentum going into Super Tuesday. That is our strategy. We’re not trying to lead this campaign now on the basis of any political metric that preexists.”

Which is probably a very good thing, since by all existing political metrics, Kucinich’s presidential candidacy lives at the nexus of 2 percent and No Preference. And if Mr. Carmichael does not have Karl Rove’s firm grasp of realpolitik, he has done extensive research into alchemy, shamanism, and the use of psychoactive substances.

Juniewicz is still steaming when he returns. “I just told one of their producers, ‘This is bullshit,’ ” he says on his return. “She said, ‘Well, Wolf is trying to hurry them up.’ I told her, ‘Edwards says something, he then asks Clinton to respond, then he asks Obama to respond, then he asks Edwards to respond to what Obama said, then Hillary has to respond to what Edwards said — this is bullshit.’ ”

The second half proves even worse for Kucinich. First, Wolf tosses Dennis a schoolteacher whose husband is in Iraq — “We gotta finish the mission,” she says, “and we’re all Army-strong” — and then sucker-punches him with an Osama hypothetical: You can blow bin Laden to Allah with a Hellfire missile, but innocent civilians will be killed along with him. Do you give the order to fire, Mr. President?

Because he is from Cleveland, Kucinich won’t duck and, worse, can’t say no without throwing his own punch. “I don’t think that a president of the United States who believes in peace and wants to create peace in the world is going to be using assassination as a tool,” he begins, then adds that bin Laden “oughta be held to account in an international court of law, and so should any other person” — he means Dick Cheney — “who’s been involved in a violation of international law which has resulted in the deaths of many people.” It’s a perfectly awful answer, right or wrong.

Obama says, “I don’t believe in assassinations,” but “under existing law, including international law, when you’ve got a military target like bin Laden, you take him out.”

Then Wolf asks for a show of hands. Joe Biden protests, “It would depend on how many innocent civilians,” and Hillary squeaks, “This is one of these hypotheticals, Wolf,” but everyone raises his or her trembling hand. Except Kucinich — and maybe Mike Gravel, who might just be scratching his ear.

How’d it feel to you out there?

“Huh?” says Kucinich, back in the greenroom, looking glum.

How’d it feel?

“Cold as ice the first part. I couldn’t get in.”

Is it kosher to say, “Look, Wolf, this format is a sham”?

“It’s not out of bounds,” he says, shaking his head. “But I didn’t do it. I had three chances — three cracks at the war.”

Elizabeth takes his arm. “Shouldn’t we get to the Spin Room quite quickly?” she asks.

“Okay,” Dennis tells her. “Are we ready to go?”

The Spin Room is actually a gym, and more of the same. The anointed candidates don’t bother to show up, so the mainstream media crowds around their strategists, asking about poll numbers. Kucinich stands on the riser under his sign in his suit and tie, talking issues with stray professors and bloggers who’ve managed to score media credentials.

“I don’t know why it is,” Elizabeth says when I ask her why she thinks her man is marginalized, “but it’s just a complete and utter disservice to the American people.”

I mention that lately she’s getting more press coverage than Kucinich — which is true. In the last few days, The Tampa Tribune (“Kucinich’s Words, Wife Are Turning Heads”), ABC News (“Kucinich’s Secret Weapon”), and the Sunday Times of London (“Essex Girl Fills White House Race With Lurve”) have all introduced Elizabeth and her pierced tongue to their public.

“The way I see it is I’m really pleased that they realize that I’m alive,” she says, “and I’m glad that from that, I’ve actually had a lot of media requests that have been more serious, more substantial.”

Not tongue studs?

“Not tongue studs.”

It’s still in there?

“Of course, yeah. It’s been there for nine years.”

Can I get a quick look?



“No. You’re not getting one.”

I try a different tack. Hey, this campaign stuff must tire out a young gal, no?

“The thing is that neither Dennis nor I run from ego — we really run because we have the concerns of the American people at heart. And there needs to be somebody there who is pushing on these issues — pushing about the troops, Iraq, peace, diplomacy. And with respect to the health-care plan, Dennis has had a health-care plan since year 2000, and it’s the same plan. It is endorsed by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, 14,000 physicians, 150 union locals — everybody endorses it, but would they bring him into the debate on it? No.”

Well, since you won’t show me your tongue stud, here’s my big question: Can you describe a scenario whereby Dennis gains enough traction to become more than a fringe candidate whose only role is to push the other candidates to the left?

And Elizabeth Kucinich smiles like an angel. There is nothing silly in her smile. There is no hidden anger. No stand-by-your-man bravado. It is the smile of a creature whose origins are somewhere beyond — and I don’t mean the outskirts of London, where she grew up — and who knows something no one else knows.

“Dennis will be the next president of the United States,” she says. “Period. And I can’t wait for that day. You just watch this space — really. He’ll be there.”

If Mrs. K’s analysis sounds unreal — starry-eyed and wishful unto raving — I still prefer it to the cynicism of clubby assclowns like Blitzer. But I try, while at Saint Anselm, to glean the wisdom of CNN’s correspondent Candy Crowley, whose considerable girth is matched only by her plus-sized brain. I find her a few hours before the debate, standing by the arena in a misting rain, waiting for a golf cart to come lug her up the path to the Media Center.

I ask Candy if she can foresee a scenario whereby Kucinich gains enough traction….

“Dennis serves a very useful purpose for a certain brand of Democrat,” she says. “He pushes the other candidates — ”

Uh-oh. Candy has spotted a CNN intern and rumbles over to accost her.

“I don’t want to be a bitch,” she snarls, “but I’ve been waiting here an hour and a half for a cart.”

I don’t have the heart to tell her Blitzer zipped by earlier in a rickshaw pulled by a squadron of Saint Anselm cheerleaders.

Later, I phone MSNBC’s Philly Phoghorn, Chris Matthews, for some Dennis-traction-scenario insight. Matthews knows things. He wrote speeches for Jimmy Carter. He clipped Tip O’Neill’s cigar tips. He once ran for a House seat and lost. Four years ago, he dismissed Kucinich as a twit. Now, he’s not so sure.

“He may have found his time,” says Matthews. “He has to decide if he wants to ride the trail all the way to the end. There will be a tremendous prize — a trophy for the person who’s willing to stay in the race and debate Hillary from February to the end of the route. There is an incentive to still be in the race, just to have a lottery ticket in case something happens. Whoever’s got the ticket — if Hillary has a problem, and we can all imagine that — ” I chuckle, imagining Bill wandering that lonely trail.

“You’re laughing,” Matthews says, “and I know it, too — it’s the obvious imaginable problem, which we’ve had before. But anything can happen — and whoever’s out there on the stump and still active as a candidate might be able to be the Cinderella candidate.”

Dennis Kucinich’s home has no number anywhere to indicate its address — a leftover precaution from his days as mayor, when he had the $25,000 bull’s-eye on his back — but you can’t miss it: It’s the only house on its lower-middle-class West Side street painted a strange shade of blue — cornflower? Periwinkle?

“This is the color you get when you mix red, white, and blue,” Kucinich explains. “We were painting it on 9/11. We’re painting it again.”

Elizabeth calls down from upstairs, “We’re going to paint it white.”

“I was elected to city council from this house,” Kucinich says. “Clerk of courts. Mayor. State senator, congressman. My brother and his family lived in this house. My mom lived in this house. This is kind of a family homestead here.”

It is a small house — eighteen hundred square feet, tops. If you could find a buyer for it — this street and the streets nearby have plenty of FOR SALE signs planted on the lawns — you’d ask maybe seventy grand, and be happy to settle for sixty-five.

“It’s a nice neighborhood,” Kucinich says. “The neighbor to the right’s a mechanic. Across the street’s a mechanic. The fella just sold his home — his mom went into a nursing home. The people are nice. It’s a nice feel.”

It’s a summer Sunday morning, quiet and slow. The curtains are pulled back on the living-room bay window. The couch and chair are covered with old bedspreads. Someone’s crooning “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” from a small boom box playing softly on a low table near the window. Kucinich is right: It’s nice.


He isn’t sure.

“This is a compilation tape that Willie Nelson left,” Elizabeth calls down.

Once upon a brief time, the Boy Mayor was as famous as any country singer. Tom Snyder did a whole Tomorrow show sitting in Tony’s Diner with Kucinich, back when the Tomorrow show followed Johnny Carson on NBC, and Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers, the PBS Logorrhea Duet, still had straw between their teeth. Playboy ran its Kucinich Interview in its 1979 “Playmate of the Year” issue. He was the Man.

When Cleveland spit him out — Kucinich lost his reelection bid by more than twenty thousand votes — Hollywood took him in, in the person of Shirley MacLaine. They met at Elaine’s, in New York City, a couple of weeks after the election. Kucinich walks into the place with Jerry Brown; Shirley’s at the table behind theirs, with Bella Abzug — and boom!

“There was a recognition that went beyond the connection of the news or celebrity,” Dennis says now. “We closed down the place — and when we left, we agreed we’d talk the next day. And it started a conversation that continues to this day. Shirley introduced me to a whole different range of people, some of the biggest names, not just in show business, but in the arts, in literature, all kinds of things. She just literally opened the world to me.” Hence Willie, I guess.

It would be easier to make fun of this — hell, it would be fucking irresistible — if not for a few fairly simple truths that go deeper than where Dennis Kucinich stands on health care, Iraq, and the verities of soul recognition.

Truth number one is what happened to Kucinich after he lost the mayor’s office. Nobody in Cleveland would hire him. Nobody. Ten years in city government, a master’s from Case Western Reserve, and he couldn’t find a job. At first there were offers, says Kucinich, but those offers all were rescinded — “the business establishment effectively blackballed me,” he explains — and to make his mortgage, he had to cash in on his pension. When that was gone, he borrowed money from MacLaine to save his home.

To save his home — that’s truth number two. Let me tell you something truly ugly about Cleveland, a city I will love with all my heart until I die: It eats its own. It has, over the last forty years, so deeply internalized the worst aspects of its image — as a joke, as a shithole, as a place that anyone with any means and half a hope will leave behind — that the locals scorn anyone who hasn’t fled as a loser. And for Kucinich, this contempt was multiplied by the furious humiliation of default. To this day, the only Cleveland mayor in its history whose portrait doesn’t hang in city hall is Dennis.

Still, Dennis Kucinich clung to this homestead. And in 1993, the city announced a $146 million expansion of Muny Light, and the Plain Dealer reported that he’d been right all along. Right about scotching the 1978 sale. Right about the banks and the private utility company. Right about the city’s long-term fiscal health. Kucinich was on the beach at Shirley’s place in Malibu when the PD reporter called, but he had this home to come home to, and so he did. He came home, to Cleveland.

But the deepest truth of all is also the most simple and most plain: The mark of the boy’s poverty etched into the man’s face. It isn’t any sort of metaphor. It isn’t shame and it isn’t anger and it isn’t hunger and it isn’t need. It’s all of those — and more: the fire to make things right for those who truly suffer — and it isn’t going away.

No pity — it’s a matter of respect and gratitude. Whatever helped to make that boy grow up into this man, making fun of it means only that you never knew a kid as poor as this guy was — and that you’re too bereft of soul yourself to count your own blessings.

Elizabeth comes downstairs, and while Dennis talks, she unwraps a gift from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists — Dennis gave the keynote speech at their recent convention — a big framed poster, signed by all of them, of a cartoon by the Plain Dealer’s Jeff Darcy, showing the Kuciniches as John and Yoko, enjoying a Lincoln bed-in as a knot of cartoonists stands outside their window singing “All We Are Saying Is Give Dennis a Chance.”

Kucinich roars. “This is really great! Isn’t that great? I don’t know where we’re gonna put it. That’s a treasure. That’s hilarious.”

Elizabeth is deadpan as she stares at the wide-mouthed, lank-haired caricature of the woman holding a tambourine.

“I think they captured me well,” she sniffs. And then — be still my heart — she giggles and flicks forth the pink slip of her tongue, and there it is — the rounded silver stud. Just a giggle, just a flash, a sliver of a second, and yet it is enough.

“We’re gonna ask ya to take a ride with us,” Kucinich says.

“How much time have you got?” asks Elizabeth. “We want to go and see his sister. It’s very rare that we get a weekend at home.”

Elizabeth drives — a new Ford Focus, cherry-red. Our first stop is a few blocks away, where we pick up Dennis’s brother Perry. The bank robber.

“Perry’s a paranoid schizophrenic,” Dennis says as we park at the curb outside Perry’s apartment building. It’s not an explanation, not a warning — it’s a flat statement of fact. Which is exactly what it is: Perry couldn’t be a nicer guy or any more nuts. He squeezes into the backseat of the Focus, next to me, and starts to show me his art, colored-pencil drawings, mainly geometric shapes.

“I like the air-conditioning,” Perry says, too loud. He’s breathing like a dray horse. “It’s comfortable. It’s nice and cool.”

Kucinich turns to him from the front seat. “What do they tell you about getting your teeth fixed? What’s the latest?”

“What?” Perry shouts.

“What’s the latest on your teeth?” Kucinich shouts back.

Perry opens wide. Not good.

We’re on I-71 southbound, heading to Medina, where Kucinich’s sister Beth lives. I note that Linndale, whose border overlaps a hundred-yard stretch of the highway, still puts a speed-trap cop right at the underpass. When we pass the Brook Park engine plant, Kucinich turns again.

“Ford is talking about closing two plants here,” he says. “The casting plant, and they’re talking about closing an engine plant as well. When you think about how they’re still sellin’ cars — and people are buying cars — why aren’t we makin’ ’em here? This is where the Democratic Party is not right on trade — they sold the American people out.”

What about a third party?

“I don’t know,” he says. “I’m still makin’ my effort inside this party, but I can tell you that there’s such deep disappointment — because of the war, because of health care, because of trade….”

What is it Nader calls the Dems? Corporatists?

“Ralph Nader?” Perry shouts. “I think he’s a liberal, isn’t he? Dennis was famous for goin’ to Tony’s Diner, and then Ralph Nader caught on that he was goin’ there. And then after Ralph Nader went there, they closed it.”


“Their hamburgers were good.”

“Perry,” says Dennis. “I have to defend Ralph Nader.”

“I can’t hear. What?”

“I have to defend Ralph Nader — he had nothing to do with Tony’s Diner closing.”

“Wait — I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Kucinich turns fully around in his seat with a wolf’s grin on his face. In the rearview mirror I can see that Elizabeth is holding in her laughter.

“Ralph Nader did not close Tony’s Diner.”

“No,” says Perry in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice. “He went there once. I remember.”

“He didn’t close it, though. There’s no connection.”

“Are you sure?”


“Oh. Oh, well. Must’ve been a misconception.”

“Yes,” Dennis says.

We pick up Beth at the foster home where she lives — she’s not as gone as Perry, but she ain’t right — and eat lunch at a Hunan place in Medina’s town square. Braised tofu, avocado rolls, Singapore noodles — everything’s delicious. Elizabeth allows herself a rare glass of plum wine, Kucinich has his usual hot tea, and Beth and Perry drink sodas.

As we sit digesting, I ask Kucinich the same question I asked Elizabeth at St. Anselm: Can you describe a scenario where you gain enough traction to become more than a fringe candidate?

“Sure,” Kucinich says, and he grabs a paper place mat and the pen from his shirt pocket. He turns the place mat over and writes “HC” and “40” next to the initials. Below that, “BO” and “30,” and below that, “JE” and “15.” He squares off “HC” and “BO” and their shares of the polling pie — they’re out of reach for now — and circles “JE” and his “15.” Then he draws a thick arrow piercing that circle.

“If I can get there,” he says, going over and over the arrow’s point until it touches the “1” in John Edwards’s 15 percent.

“If I can get there,” he says again.

That would take a miracle, Dennis.

He shakes his head.

“More and more, people are paying attention — they’re saying that I’m coming across very clear and direct and steady. I don’t need for somebody to re-create me. I don’t need to be prettified. I don’t need image-makers working with me. That’s not where I come from.”

“Dennis,” Perry says. “You have to come up with campaign slogans.”

“We’re workin’ on some of ’em,” says Dennis.

I offer mine: “Get A Receipt.”

Kucinich laughs. “Very funny,” he says.

“Today’s Ma’s birthday, Dennis,” says Perry.

“I know it is.”

“She woulda been seventy-eight.”

“Actually, Perry, eighty-three. She was born in ’24. Perry? She’da been eighty-three today.”

“Well,” says Elizabeth. “That’s special.”

It could be any family anywhere, but it’s not. It’s Dennis Kucinich’s family — and it’s America, where even a poor pure product of the West Side of Cleveland can grow up to be president someday, if only he believes it hard enough.

Find this article at: http://www.esquire.com/features/kucinich1107

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Dennis Kucinich – Muni Light (vid; history behind “the people’s mayor”)

Plot to assassinate Dennis Kucinich (vid)

Kucinich’s Challenge By John Nichols

Dennis Kucinich Holds Media Press Conference after Debate (video)

Presidential Primary Pulse Poll (Kucinich in the lead!)


Dennis Kucinich Can Win by Lo (lots of polls, surveys, etc.)

On The Issues: Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul by Lo

Joel Kovel: Overcoming Zionism by Manila Ryce (video)

Dandelion Salad

By Manila Ryce
Published Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Due to Neocon/Zionist pressure earlier this summer over Joel Kovel’s book, “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine”, the University of Michigan Press stopped distributing books from the London-based independent publishing house Pluto Press. Last week, the University of Michigan Press overturned this decision by voting unanimously to continue distributing Pluto Press. Kovel’s stance on Israel is a unique one. He advocates a single-state solution, which is really the only way to have a democratic and secular Israel. He elaborates on what the popular two-state solution would really entail.

Overcoming Zionism


Joel Kovel’s “Overcoming Zionism” After Initially Dropping Book Due to Rightwing Criticism

Last week the University of Michigan Press voted unanimously to continue distributing books from the London-based independent publishing house Pluto Press. The controversy began earlier this summer when the university press initially decided to stop distributing Joel Kovel’s “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.”

Added: October 29, 2007

US Bombed Syria: Report

Dandelion Salad

11/02/07 “JPost

USAF Struck Syrian “Nuclear” Site

The September 6 raid over Syria was carried out by the US Air Force, the Al-Jazeera Web site reported Friday. The Web site quoted Israeli and Arab sources as saying that two strategic US jets armed with tactical nuclear weapons carried out an attack on a nuclear site under construction.

The sources were quoted as saying that Israeli F-15 and F-16 jets provided cover for the US planes.

The sources added that each US plane carried one tactical nuclear weapon and that the site was hit by one bomb and was totally destroyed.

At the beginning of October, Israel’s military censor began to allow the local media to report on the raid without attributing their report to foreign sources. Nevertheless, details of the strike have remained clouded in mystery.

On October 28, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet that he had apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan if Israel violated Turkish airspace during a strike on an alleged nuclear facility in Syria last month.

In a carefully worded statement that was given to reporters after the cabinet meeting, Olmert said: “In my conversation with the Turkish prime minister, I told him that if Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace, then there was no intention thereby, either in advance or in any case, to – in any way – violate or undermine Turkish sovereignty, which we respect.”

The New York Times reported on October 13 that Israeli planes struck at what US and Israeli intelligence believed was a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria on September 6, citing American and foreign officials who had seen the relevant intelligence reports.

According to the report, Israel carried out the report to send a message that it would not tolerate even a nuclear program in its initial stages of construction in any neighboring state.

On October 17, Syria denied that one of its representatives to the United Nations told a panel that an Israeli air strike hit a Syrian nuclear facility and added that “such facilities do not exist in Syria.”

A UN document released by the press office had provided an account of a meeting of the First Committee, Disarmament and International Security, in New York, and paraphrased an unnamed Syrian representative as saying that a nuclear facility was hit by the raid.

However, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA said media reports, apparently based on a UN press release, misquoted the Syrian diplomat.

See also:

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


US intelligence does not show Syrian nuclear weapons program, officials say by Larisa Alexandrovna

U.S. Assisted Israel In Syrian Attack

Why did Israel attack Syria? by Jonathan Cook

Biofuel: Another Flawed Policy (video)

Dandelion Salad


For more episodes and other Link TV programs:

President Bush promised to expand American biofuel production, but the result has been worse than nothing. Corn is a poor source for energy, but growing it and other staples as fuel has caused food prices worldwide to explode – even as the scarcity of flex-fuel vehicles means no significant increase in U.S. biofuel use.

Now the U.N. is worried about rising food costs, while environmentalists see entire regions torn up to grow fuel crops. The great ethanol boom of 2007 goes bust, this week on Global Pulse.

SOURCES: Once Noticias, Latinoamerica News, Mexico; BBC, U.K.; Fox News, NBC News, ABC News, U.S.

Added: November 02, 2007

Our Masters, Ourselves By Dale Allen Pfeiffer (Fascism)

Dandelion Salad

By Dale Allen Pfeiffer
Speaking Truth to Power
Wednesday, 31 October 2007

We are all armed with monkey wrenches, it is time to use them. It is time to take back our power and to realize that we, ourselves, are our own masters. And let us never delegate that power or that responsibility again.

Corrupt beyond Redemption

Those of us living in the US live in a fascist system, right now, today. We live in a system where powerful corporations call the shots, both nationally and globally. They do this beneath a façade of democracy, a façade that has grown exceedingly thin. And every day they come closer and closer to allowing this façade to drop.

It should be quite plain by now that our government does not heed the public mandate. They have not stopped the war in Iraq, they have not moved to impeach Bush and Cheney, they refuse to discuss a working solution to global warming, and they will do nothing about outsourcing, capital flight and impoverishment of the US working class.

Yet activists in the peace, environmental and labor movements continue to lobby the government for change. We are content to wait until the next presidential election and replace the incumbents of one crooked party with the candidates of another crooked party. Yet no election is going to make the slightest bit of difference in solving the problems with which we are faced.

Our politicians are bought off. Most of them are members of the privileged class to start with, and once they leave office they will go to work for the very firms they should now be attempting to regulate. The move to privatize has reached critical mass; we have sold off our infrastructure and our vital government services to corporations – worse than sold, we have handed these things over while promising to subsidize their ownership with taxpayer’s dollars. The privatization mania has gone to the point that we have now largely privatized our military and police services to private firms whose first loyalty is clearly not to the US public.

The building of a fascist system within the façade of democracy has been in progress for a long time. It can be traced back to the days of the Great Depression and even further. The move towards fascism accelerated in the 1970s and particularly in the 1980s. Privatization, outsourcing, labor and environmental deregulation, mergers and in particular media monopolies have all been tools in producing this transformation. Global trade agreements consolidated fascist power throughout the world, while formalizing the supremacy of international corporations over federal governments.

By the turn of the century, the advance of fascism had reached the point that corporations and political lackeys in the Bush administration could act with impunity, openly trashing the US Constitution and the Geneva Conventions while making jokes about it. What previous administrations used to do in secret, the Bush administration does in the open, and then grants itself immunity from future prosecution.

And now Bush has granted himself the power to abrogate the constitution and suspend elections through the declaration of martial law. He can do this for any perceived threat, whether it involves terrorism, economic crisis, environmental catastrophe, or social upheaval. Soon even the trappings of democracy will become unnecessary, and the US public will find themselves living in a repressive police state without any of the freedoms and protections from abuse that we have for so long taken for granted.

None of our elected officials wish to repair these breeches in our governmental system. Instead, they are all lining up to profit from them. Instead of taking up the public mandate, they are vying with each other to feed at the corporate troughs and assume the mantle of fascist dictator.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Covenant – A Sermon by Jeffrey P. Carlson

Dandelion Salad

Ninure da Hippie


A Sermon by Jeffrey P. Carlson
St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago
October 21, 2007

Bible Texts:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah . It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Today seems like a good day to talk with you a bit about a word that is central in our faith, but that tends to get neglected in favor of flashier theological words like faith, hope and love. The word is covenant. Covenants are especially prominent in today’s worship service. We have just entered into the covenant of baptism with two babies, Benjamin and Colleen, and covenant also figures in to the Bible reading from Jeremiah.

The lectionary – those scriptures that are used each Sunday – has been going through the book of Jeremiah this fall. Avena noted last week how Jeremiah is addressed to Jews living in exile. The Babylonians have sacked Jerusalem, destroying all that is dear and precious, all that the Jews could call home, and they’ve carted the Jews away into forced exile in Babylon (which today we call Iraq ). The exiles have no power or influence in Babylon. They are irrelevant to the Babylonians, except as workers for the empire.

Jeremiah the prophet helps the Jews interpret what has happened to them. Rather than simply blame the Babylonians as evil-doers, which they had every right to do as an oppressed people, this time of exile becomes a time of introspection. It’s a time of self-assessment for the deported Jews and a re-claiming of who they are. Scholars believe that it’s really in this time of exile that the Jews become Jews in order to survive as God’s people. They don’t want their babies to grow up to be Babylonians. So they remember and re-define themselves – who are we, what do we stand for, how do Jews live?

Israel’s relationship with God had been a relationship based on covenant. God willingly and graciously got bound up together in the lives of these people and the terms of the covenant were this: “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” But while in exile, they woke up to the truth about their lives. They had not been faithful partners in their covenant with God. They had relied on other sources of security than the one God who had promised to care for them. They had neglected their obligations to the poor and the weak in their community, to the widows and orphans. They had neglected their covenant, and they knew that it was time to remember and re-claim who they really were.

The Jewish and Christian understanding about how God relates to the world is covenant. God isn’t a distant being who looks down from heaven with a benign gaze, hoping to say at the end of the day, “A good time was had by all.” Nor does God lay down the law and force us into submission. Instead, God chooses to get mixed up with and engaged in human life. God enters into a relationship with us based on mutual faithfulness, mutual responsibility, give-and-take, in other words, a covenant.

And God has made us in such a way that the only way we can really grow up and mature as human beings is through engagement with others: relationship with God and relationship with other people. That’s how we learn what it means to be human. That’s the way that we progress beyond self-interest and self-centeredness. That’s why God called Israel to be Israel and why God calls us to be the church. Covenant is a way of living life that is invested in the welfare and well-being of a community, and not just self.