Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

Your correspondent has had no wish to engage in McCarthyist red baiting, but reports that the lead organization in recent antiwar rallies was linked to the Marxist Workers World Party were intriguing.

Some inquiry seemed in order, and we were able to gain an interview with Amy Handleman of International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).

We encountered Handleman at the organization’s rally last month in San Francisco. She was representing the ANSWER chapter of Barstow, down in California’s eastern desert, and brandished a sign declaring, “No justice, no peace!”

“Isn’t that a little out of place at a peace rally?” I asked, gesturing toward the placard.

“Maybe,” she said, brushing strands of graying, blonde hair out of her eyes. “It’s left over from a Rodney King demonstration, and I didn’t have time to make a new one. Anyway, when it comes to fighting imperialism, one sign’s as good as another.”

I asked, “You do go to a lot of demonstrations, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” she said distractedly, juggling her sign and an oversized purse that bulged with political tracts. “Here’s a sample.”

She thrust a fistful of handbills and pamphlets at me.

There were calls to action from such groups as AIDS Is for Everyone; Abortion – Just Because; and the National Lawyer’s Guild. There was a plea from an outfit called Give Your House to a Native American and a broadside from a committee calling for the release – by lottery – of 10 percent of all prisoners “because at least that many are really innocent.” There even was a crumpled flier for the 1970s lettuce boycott.

“This is quite a collection,” I noted.

Shuffling through the stack, I came upon a polemic from the Workers World Party. Handleman tried to snatch it away before I got a good look at it, but was a touch slow.

“You a member of this outfit, too?” I asked.

She assented.

“Now, Ms. Handleman,” said I, “ANSWER is an affiliate of the Workers World Party, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she snapped defensively, “So what?”

“I have no wish to engage in McCarthyist red baiting, but the WWP is a Marxist organization, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Well, we’re for socialism,” she agreed, “scientific socialism as defined by Karl Marx. We do believe that the capitalist system is unplanned and irrational. It’s wrecking the world. Nothing is secure – not our jobs, our homes, our health care, our pensions, our civil rights and liberties – as long as capitalism exists.”

Blushing and glancing furtively at other demonstrators, who were staring at her, she exclaimed, “Just listen to me! How I do go on.”

“I guess that revolutionary fervor can really take hold of you,” I said. “But I think some of the folks in this crowd don’t like what they were hearing.”

“I know,” Handleman replied disconsolately. “I’m supposed to keep quiet about our noble mission, but when I get excited, it just spills out.”

“I suppose that is why you aren’t on the speakers’ platform,” I mused.

“Yeah,” she said, “and I’m pretty sure that’s why they stuck me down in Barstow.”

In last week’s column, “Out of the Mouths of Boobs,” readers were invited to vote for the January Stupid Quote of the Month, and to submit their own nominees. The process produced a virtual dead heat between senators Tom Daschle and Hillary Clinton.

However, as we said our decisions would be autocratic, we give the nod to the junior senator from New York, partly on the basis of a more complete account of her remarks (how could you know?):

“We are reminded once again by the events of the last year that there are those who don’t understand Dr. King’s dream and legacy. Yes, we want to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. But what makes up character? If we don’t take race as part of our character, then we are kidding ourselves.”

We suspect another nomination would have given the senators a run for their money if a quote by Russ Lopez, a spokesman for California Gov. Gray Davis, had received nationwide dissemination. Responding to Sacramento Bishop William K. Weigand’s criticism of the Catholic governor’s support of abortion, Lopez criticized the cleric for “telling the faithful how to practice their faith.”

Asks reader Shawn Flannery, “Isn’t that what a bishop is supposed to do?”

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