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It should not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched American politics over the past several years that George W. Bush has begun his formal reelection campaigning by exploiting the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, for political advantage. This is, after all, the president whose aides schemed on the day of the attacks to use them to get Congress to grant Bush "Fast Track" authority to negotiate a sweeping Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. And it is the president whose political czar, Karl Rove, conspired with Republican Senate candidates in 2002 to employ 9/11 images as tools to attack the patriotism of Democrats, such as Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a decorated and disabled Vietnam veteran.

Everyone expected the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign to begin its television advertising campaign by branding Bush as the 9/11 candidate.

The only surprise is that the Bush political team would, after more than two years of preparation, perform the task so gracelessly.

"We must preserve radio as a medium for democracy."

Sen. Russ Feingold, on January 30, 2003, before the Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Media Concentration and Ownership in Radio

When Clear Channel yanked Howard Stern for violating its new 'zero tolerance' obscenity policy, the network cited as its reason a racial epithet made by one of Stern's listeners. But, Clear Channel's explanation is hogwash.

I agree with the many people who think that Stern is offensive to minorities and women. He's degraded the quality of radio by trafficking in crude sexual references and unseemly racial remarks for as long as he's been in broadcasting. But the issue here isn't indecency; to paraphrase James Carville, it's the First Amendment, stupid.

When Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act, critics predicted that a new round of consolidation would sweep America's radio industry. Clear Channel, on cue, grew from 40 stations in the 1990s to 1,225 stations in 2004. Currently, Clear Channel and Viacom control approximately 42 percent of America's radio audience. Clear Channel has stifled diversity, opposed low-power FM, killed off localism in news, music and other forms of entertainment, and occupied the front lines of the conservative culture wars.

Clear Channel's decision to fire Stern signals the latest target in its sights--the Bill of Rights. Its decision is based not on any pious, self-serving qualms about indecency on its stations but on its desire to curry favor with Bush and his Republican Congressional allies.

The implications are alarming. If Clear Channel can yank the commercially-successful Howard Stern, then it has the power to silence any DJ or radio kingpin who refuses to play the network's chosen music, adhere to its appointed standards, or mouth Clear Channel's political line.

Its decision to pull the plug on Stern coincides not with a sudden increase in Stern's offensive behavior but with a rise in Stern's anti-Bush rhetoric. According to Jeff Jarvis of the blog Buzzmachine, Stern "has become an anybody-but-Bush voter," based, in part, on his concerns about the threat of censorship from the FCC. Stern also recently endorsed Al Franken's book on the air.

Is it a coincidence that Stern came out against Bush shortly before his suspension? Or that Clear Channel president John Hogan was due to appear before a House subcommittee investigating indecency over the airwaves, on the heels of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction"?

What is not under dispute, according to the Center for Public Integrity, is that Clear Channel vice-chairman Thomas Hicks and Hick's law firm have given Bush more than $225,000--and Clear Channel's PAC, executives, and their relatives have given three-quarters of their political donations to the Republican Party.

So, they couldn't have been too happy to hear Stern's recent on-air rant about the president: "Get him out of office. I'm tellin' you, man, he's in dangerous territory [with] a religious agenda and you gotta vote him out--anyone but Bush," Stern railed.

Clear Channel's founder, Lowry Mays, also has close ties to Bush. He was put on the governing board of the University of Texas Instrument Management Company by Bush when he was still governor of Texas. (Hicks won an appointment, too.)

"When these insider dealings were exposed by the Houston Chronicle in 1999," Micah Sifry wrote in his blog about Stern and Clear Channel, "Hicks resigned from the company's board. By then, he had made Bush a rich man when he bought the Texas Rangers from him and his partners in 1998 for $250 million, three times their investment in the team."

Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is sponsoring a bill, the Competition in Radio and Concert Industries Act, that will prevent Clear Channel from leveraging cross-ownership in an anti-competitive manner, and once again make the radio dial safe for speech. Now more than ever, this bill needs to pass, because Clear Channel, with a big assist from the GOP, is trampling on the First Amendment. (Click here for info on how you can contact your elected reps in support of S 221.)

Solo theatrical performances are like ads. Everyone claims to hate them but nevertheless finds the good ones irresistible. A good ad acts like a tonic, making a new idea easy to swallow.

In 1964 an important if somewhat obscure Polish writer and public intellectual named Aleksander Wat arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, and began the work that would eventually bec

The title does neither the book nor its author any favors.

This article was adapted from Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso). Check www.lauraflanders.com for book-tour information.

As George W. Bush popped into the International Speedway during the granddaddy NASCAR Daytona 500 on February 15 he was careful to not screw up the way Bill Clinton did back in 1992.

Thomas Friedman hasn't been this worked up about free trade since the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

While gaudily festooned Hollywood liberals presented each other with the false golden idol of a little naked man, enlightened others quietly celebrated the traditions of thousands of years of Wes

I'm an optimist by disposition, but some weeks it's hard to find evidence of progress in human affairs.

We're happy to welcome to the masthead two contributing writers whose beats will include media, politics and in particular ideas and intellectual debates.

He backs an amendment defining the vow
Of marriage as being a guy and his frau,
Lest civilization sink into a slough--
Which he says could happen. It isn't clear how.

Barely a month ago Prime Minister Tony Blair looked unstoppable. He'd survived, narrowly, a revolt within his own party over plans to allow universities to charge higher tuition fees.

It is not exactly that he lies, but Alan Greenspan certainly ranks among the most duplicitous figures to serve in modern American government.

For those who know Haitian history, this has been a time of eerie, unhappy déjà vu.

The John Kerry who won nine of ten Super Tuesday states, and with those victories Democratic nominee-in-waiting status, was not the John Kerry who officially launched his presidential campaign si

On pages 11 and 14 of this issue Tom Hayden and Carol Burke recall the culture wars of the Vietnam era, which live on in the odd, enduring hatred of Jane Fonda by conservative vets.

Since Miles Davis died on September 28, 1991, the merchandising machine has been in overdrive, pushing repackaged classics (Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain), niche compilations and

Thanks to the front-loaded primary process handcrafted by their party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, the millions of California's Democratic voters were reduced to ratifying an election that seems to