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(and a world-wide live show to boot!)
By Brad Friedman on 5/16/2004 7:29pm PT  

The BRAD BLOG Andy Kaufman Compendium:

The groundwork is laid: "Andy Kaufman Returns" (5/8/04)
A once in a lifetime chance gets blown: "A Few Updates" (5/14/04)
The conspiracy widens. Big time.: "More on Uncle Andy's Funhouse..." (5/14/04)
Curiouser and curiouser. Just minutes into the 20th Anniversary of his "death": "More Andy..." (5/16/04)
A BRAD BLOG EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Milk and cookies. Wrestling and hookers. "Andy Kaufman is Still Dead!" An eye-witness report. (5/17/04)
PHOTO UPDATE: Evidence that at least Brad is alive and was with Tony Clifton that night: "Brad at Tony Clifton / Andy Kaufman Event" (5/19/04)
UPDATE (5/27/04): Been following way too closely? Then you probably know about "Enrique" and "Claire Chanel" and "Stephen Maddox". If you do and want to know more, or have no idea what I'm talking about...Read Brad's AndyKaufmanLives.com / Enrique / Claire / Stephen Maddox / "Andy - Dead or Alive?" / Hoax / Mystery FAQ Page...Proceed at your own risk!
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By Brad Friedman on 5/16/2004 1:41pm PT  

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Growing Curiouser and Curiouser
By Brad Friedman on 5/16/2004 12:04pm PT  

re: The Andy Kaufman situation...

If you haven't been following along, then reading this entry first will get you all caught up...

Okay, after I blogged that article yesterday, Joel, a user on the message board I referred to in the story, noticed that I had given the name "Stephen Maddox" of Greenwood, IN, as the owner of the AndyKaufmanLives.com URL. I had found that information by doing a standard Internet WHOIS search to get the owner of the domain.

Joel just posted the following in regards to that name...:

Nice Blog. You say Stephen Maddox owns andykaufmanlives.com. I know that name but couldn't remember where from. It drove me crazy all morning trying to remember where. I finally gave in and googled it. He is the character in a movie called the Running man. He is an insurance fraud guy chasing someone who faked their death!

Okay...this is gettin' kinda creepy now...

He is correct. It was a 1963 movie...

Something is whacky here...either that, or the entire world, including History and the entire Internet itself, is conspiring to play one tremendous joke on me. (Andy, of course, likely would have loved it I suppose.) [ed note: "would have loved it"? or "is loving it"?]

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By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2004 8:10pm PT  

Ever since the pictures broke from Abu Ghraib, the consistent unanswered question has been "who was in charge"? Who where these "kids" getting their orders from? Who told them to do what they did? Who gave those orders from "military intelligence". And ever since, the silence has been deafening on those questions.

As Josh Marshall likes to say, the wheels are now officially off this cart.

Seymour Hersh, who last week broke the news on the Taguba Report, cracks it wide open again in this week's New Yorker.

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focused on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld's decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America's prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation...encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Game over.

I'll not bore you with the details as I suspect you will be getting them ad nauseum all week from here on out. But here's the deal. Even if, as some of the Administration "dead enders" will undoubtedly try to argue this week, that important information was needed and was indeed gained from this operation, it's still too late. All week, the Bushies have been referring to those pictures as "horrendous" and they have been claiming that "those responsible will be prosecuted". Well, they're gonna have a hell of a time crawling out of the corner they're in now.

By the way, the "few bad apples" cover they've been using was devised in January when the Pentagon first found out about the monster they'd unleashed. Hersh reports on a "senior intelligence officials" account:

The Pentagon's attitude last January, he said, was “Somebody got caught with some photos. What's the big deal? Take care of it.” Rumsfeld's explanation to the White House, the official added, was reassuring: “‘We've got a glitch in the program. We'll prosecute it.' The cover story was that some kids got out of control.”

Sound familiar?

You'll get much more of all of this soon. But suffice to say, my guess is that this is the straw that breaks Rummy's back. If he survives another week color me amazed. Or color George W. Bush really a fool.

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(Hey, it's the weekend...slow news day!)
By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2004 2:47pm PT  
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE
CONVENTION SCHEDULE

New York, NY

6:00 PM - Opening Prayer led by the Reverend Jerry Fallwell
6:30 PM - Pledge of Allegiance
6:35 PM - Burning of Bill of Rights (excluding 2nd amendment)
6:45 PM - Salute to the Coalition of the Willing
6:46 PM - Seminar #1: Iraq Strategies-Voodoo/DooDoo WMD
7:30 PM - First Presidential Beer Bong
7:35 PM - Serve Freedom Fries
7:40 PM - EPA Address #1: Mercury--It's what's for dinner!
8:00 PM - Vote on which country to invade next
8:10 PM - Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh
8:15 PM - John Ashcroft Lecture: The Homos are after your Children!!
8:30 PM - Round table discussion on reproductive rights (MEN only)
8:50 PM - Seminar #2: Corporations: The Government of the Future
9:05 PM - Second Presidential Beer Bong
9:10 PM - EPA Address #2: Trees: The Real Cause of Forest Fires
9:30 PM - Break for secret meetings
10:00 PM - Second prayer led by Cal Thomas
10:15 PM - Lecture by Carl Rove: Doublespeak made easy
10:30 PM - Rumsfeld demonstration of how to squint and talk macho
10:35 PM - Bush demonstration of trademark "deer in headlights" stare
10:40 PM - John Ashcroft demonstrates new mandatory Kevlar chastity belt
10:45 PM - Clarence Thomas reads list of black Republicans
10:46 PM - Third Presidential Beer Bong
10:50 PM - Seminar #3: Education: A Drain on our Nation's Economy
11:10 PM - Hilary Clinton Piñata
11:20 PM - Second Lecture by John Ashcroft: Evolutionists: The Dangerous New Cult
11:30 PM - Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh again.
11:31 PM - Blame Clinton
11:55 PM - Laura serves milk and cookies
11:57 PM - Closing Prayer led by Jesus Himself
12:00 PM - Nomination of George W. Bush as Holy Supreme Planetary Overlord

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By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2004 1:04pm PT  

That Bush has only two issues left on which he is leading Kerry, must be sending Rove to the edge of a cliff right about now.

That Kerry has closed the gaps --- virtually to margin of error numbers --on what had previously been runaway "trademark" Bush issues like "Terrorism" and "Moral Values" (for example, in March, Bush lead Kerry on "Terrorism" %60 to %33) is likely pushing Rove right over the cliff right about now.

Worse still for the Bushies there is a fair number of "Undecideds" in the poll graphed above. With "Undecideds" historically breaking to the challenger (and doing so in enormous numbers right now), Rove better be wearing a pretty big parachute!

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By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2004 1:34am PT  

The Freeway Blogger strikes again!...

'WAR IS OVER' UPDATE: Maureen Dowd puts it all smartly into perspective. Thanks to BRAD BLOG commentor Jaime for the catch!

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So sayeth the Supremes...
By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2004 1:13am PT  

I don't have much to add here, but with everything else going on, somehow this AP story seems to have gotten overlooked today. And yet it's quite notable, so here it is...

BOSTON --- The U.S. Supreme Court refused Friday to block the nation's first state-sanctioned gay marriages from taking place here starting next week.

The justices declined without comment to intervene and block clerks from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in Massachusetts. The state's highest court had ruled in November that the state constitution allows gay couples to marry and declared that the process would begin Monday.

At least something is still going right in this country and even the Supremes didn't screw this one up! Yet.

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Apparently - an investigative report!
(NOTE: Looking for the usual Red Meat Politics? Scroll past this long entry!)
By Brad Friedman on 5/14/2004 11:35pm PT  

Hopefully the usual Bush Bashers and Kerry Haters will pardon a brief pause for my continuing flight of fancy over this Andy Kaufman thing. It should all be over one way or another by Sunday (theoretically). So feel free to scroll past this long item if you're looking for the red meat!

I've been kicking myself all day for waiting so long to decide to buy tickets to the "event" around the corner at House of Blues this Sunday to mark the 20th Anniversary of Andy's Death (and possible re-appearance?), as there is now no more $50 SRO tickets. So it looks like I'm SOL instead.

So in lieu of it all, and noticing an alarming number of "Andy Kaufman" searches that have hit this blog in the last day or two, I went about a bit of armchair detetive work on the whole thing, and found a tidbit or two along the way.

If you're lost at this point, please see my "Andy Kaufman Returns?!" piece from last week for background, and then feel free to return.

Anyway, here's a few items of note as Sunday nears...a website called AndyKaufmanLives.com was begun last September 2003 by a guy known only as "Enrique". It's one no-frills continuous page where "Enrique" muses on his belief that Andy could have faked his death. He does so by periodically posting skeptical questions that folks may have and then goes about answering them. For example...

9/12/03
What about life insurance? Isn't that a crime? Isn't that how most people get caught?

Yes, that is how most people get caught. Many people fake their death so that life insurance can be collected. Any hint of possible fraud and insurance companies conduct an investigation.

I have read that no life insurance policies were collected.

Good enough...then suddenly the 9/16/03 entry is in a different font and color:

9/16/03

**********Message from the owner of the URL**********

Hello, my name is Steve. I am the owner of Jetelectro cartoons which owns this URL.

I have received many requests for info on Enrique and this web site. Many have asked who he is, where does he live, and how can we reach him. The answer to all of your questions is, I have no idea. I will explain briefly how this came about and why I am no help in getting you answers.

Awhile back I received a phone call from someone who identified himself as Eric at first, then by the end of the conversation he said his name was Enrique. He said he got my name from a friend of a friend in the animation business, although he never said who. He asked how much I would charge to buy the URL, set it up with a hosting service, then type periodic updates for roughly 1 year. A few days later I received a money order with no return address. So I bought andykaufmanlives.com. About a week after that I received a CD, no return address, containing the original HTML document to put up on the site. It came with typed instructions that I would be getting faxes every once in awhile, and that I should add them to the document exactly as typed.

So once again, I have no idea how you can reach him. I don't even know if he will be reading this (although I assume he does to make sure I copied his faxes correctly). I don't know why he wishes to stay anonymous, although I assume it is to avoid criticism over his views. I have received a few of those kind of e-mails also.

Okey doke...Odd enough. But then as I was highlighting the above text to copy it here, I discovered that hidden throughout the page, which has only a plain white background, there is text in a white font so that it can't be seen. Frequently just "Andy Kaufman," or sometimes more elaborately: "Andy Kaufman, Latka, Andy Kaufman lives, Taxi, Andy Kaufman Lives, Andy Kaufman, Andy Kaufman Lives, Latka, Andy Kaufman, Taxi, Andy Kaufman Lives"

That's a trick frequently used by websites that hope to get their page listed high on the various search engines when people might be searching for example, for "Andy Kaufman Lives". Search Engine "'bots" see that text - and add it to their index - even while normal humans don't. But if the above message from "Steve" is to be believed, and he was only suppose to transcribe "Enrique's" typed faxes verbatim, there would be no invisible text to be retyped.

So either "Steve" is lying to "Enrique" about simply retyping what he's sent (in order to up the hit rates for the page - which doesn't carry any ads in any case) or the whole thing is a swell sham and "Enrique" actually is "Steve" since supposedly "Enrique" claims that he doesn't know enough about HTML to do it himself, and therefore, would be unlikely to use the old "hidden keyword trick".

For the record, searches on both Google and Yahoo find no such company as "JetElectro Productions". However a "Stephen Maddox" of Greenwood, IN, is the owner of AndyKaufmanLives.com according to a WHOIS search.

But let's move on...In February of 2004 "Enrique" makes his last post for many months. In that post, he points to a message board, (which he had also pointed to and posted on some months earlier). The message board is ostensibly dedicated to the hardcore Andy fans, and of late is all about the 20th Anniversary "re-emergence" stuff.

More on that message board in a moment.

No more posts from "Enrique" on AndyKaufmanLives.com since that February 28, 2004 post, until today - a post from "Steve" again:

May 14, 2004

**********Message from the owner of the URL**********

Hello, I am Steve from JetElectro Productions

We have received many e-mails asking if Enrique will add new entries to this site. For the longest time I did not know. Yesterday I received a new fax from Enrique with 3 new questions and answers. He requested that it not be posted until this weekend. Also, we at Jetelectro think it is interesting that Bob Zmuda will be interviewed on Air America radio this evening. If you find that interesting go to www.airamericaradio.com and click on listen live. He is scheduled to be on "The Majority Report" this evening, Friday May 14. 8pm in New York. 7pm here in the Midwest.

Thank You

And then this final post on the page, today, again from "Enrique":

Do you think Andy Kaufman will reveal himself on May 16th, 2004?

No. As much as I would love that to happen, I do not believe it will. A fake death is absolute, as absolute as a real death.

So he will not be at the tribute in Hollywood?

I did not say that, I said he would not reveal himself. I do not believe he would appear at the tribute as Andy Kaufman, or in a costume, or any other suspicious fashion. I would say that if the man we knew as Andy Kaufman was at the tribute, no one would know.

How would no one know? These are his close friends. Are you suggesting plastic surgery? A sex change? Reincarnation? A House of Blues employee?

I wouldn't know

"Enrique" is starting to sound more and more like Andy's Co-Writer and current inhabitant of Andy's "Tony Clifton" character Bob Zmuda if you ask me.

Now back to the message board I mentioned previously...An hour or two ago, a new post there from "Anonymous" (which is what "Enrique" seems to go by when he posts on this board, apparently...though he hasn't posted for months...until today):

Subject: enrique

Message: has returned with some interesting news. stay tuned to his page in coming days. thank you.

There is, of course, a "Link to Enriques' Site" at the top of this message board.

An alert poster there, also noticed the following from a 10/30/03 post on "Enrique's" site:

Could he be in another country?

Why not? I was on the island of Aruba last week and no one knew or had even heard of him. I talked with cab drivers, store owners, hotel clerks, pool boys, bankers, waiters, and tourists. The name meant nothing to them. So how easy would it be for him to be a retired American living in a beach house?

The reference to "Aruba" is notable, given this exchange from last week's LA Weekly article on this whole affair:

Answering Machine, the next morning, 2004: “Hi, it's Lynne Margulies [Andy's girlfriend]. Hey! It was Aruba! I just woke up this morning and thought of it. Aruba. That's where Andy used to talk about going. Just jokingly, I think. I don't know where Aruba is, and I don't think he did either. But it sounds good. AH-ROO-BAH!

So there you have it...Just about all I've gleaned in the last hour or two while avoiding the mess that is Iraq, the Whitehouse, and everything else.

Oh, except for this last piece of business found by one of the message boarders in the "fine print" at the bottom of the Comic Relief page (Bob Zmuda is one of the founders of Comic Relief) advertising the event:

Please note: This is a non-televised event. No cameras or recording devices will be permitted. Tickets are non-transferable and photo I.D. is required. Audience members will not be allowed to enter or leave the theater during the last 30 minutes of Andy Kaufman --- Dead or Alive?

Hmmm...Odds are the joke is on me for having even paid it all this much attention (And you! For having read this far!) But that was, after all, largely the point of whatever the hell it was that Andy did. We were the show. And so I'm glad to play my part yet again for Andy...20 years later.

We'll see what --- if anything --- happens on Sunday. But, as the song says, "If you believed they put a man on the moon..."

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Some BRAD BLOG Followups and Housekeeping...
By Brad Friedman on 5/14/2004 1:22pm PT  

In re: my earlier pieces (here and then here) on Bill Kristol and the other NeoCons and their policy break from Bush as seen in his recent Weekly Standard piece. Is it just me? Or did Kristol appear truly dejected on last night's Daily Show? While, as he said, he was "trying to put on [his] game face" during the interview with Jon Stewart, his slumping body language suggested that he's truly been up against it, as he referred to "a really tough week, and a really tough last six weeks".

He's has been up against it, I'd imagine. And it showed. He was one of the original NeoCon architects (along with Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle etc.) behind this whole Iraqi Misadventure. One that far pre-dates 9/11. Even the most militant of Hawks should by now be able to see that these guys got their fair shot at it, and --- frankly --- have just blown it all in one single Mesopotamian Misjudgement. Now can we move on to Plan B already?

In re: my previous rant (or rants) at Sean Hannity. Even the NY Post has picked up now on the outrageously politicized, remarkably hypocritcal and astroundingy poor taste airings of the full "uncut" audio of the Nick Berg beheading. What I had forgotten to mention, as an ironic sidebar, is that his flagship station in NY (WABC), his station out here in LA (KABC) and many other stations in between, are owned and operated by a little company known as Disney. You remember them...the ones who opted against distributing Academy Award winner Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 because it was too political and they "don't wish to alienate" the "families of many political stripes" that they cater too. I guess that only applies to films and not radio for Disney? (Films like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction mind you!)

In related unsurprising news, there's still no word on how the FCC feels about a "live" beheading being played over the public airwaves in the middle of the afternoon.

In re: Andy Kaufman's imminent return to life this Sunday. After hemming and hawing about it for a week or so, we finally decided to fork out the $50/per SRO tickets to the big show on Sunday at the House of Blues being put on by Andy's co-writer, Bob Zmuda, and girlfriend Lynn Margulies. Sadly, though, by the time we finally got around to trying to purchase tickets, all the $50 SRO tickets were gone. Next available ticket: $99.95. To rich for my blood, I'm sorry to say.

I do believe though, it's virtually assured now that Andy is indeed alive and well and will be making his glorious re-appearance from the dead this Sunday --- since we won't be able to be there to witness it. :-(

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By Brad Friedman on 5/13/2004 8:23pm PT  

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Another Irony Watch Flashback
By Brad Friedman on 5/13/2004 7:42pm PT  

"The POWs I expect to be treated humanely, just like we're treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."
- George W. Bush, as the US was invading Iraq, March 23, 2003

"That's a violation of the Geneva Convention, those pictures you show, if, in fact, those are our soldiers."
- Donald Rumsfeld, on Face the Nation, March 23, 2003

Source: Reuters, "Bush warns Iraq over Prisoners"

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By Brad Friedman on 5/13/2004 7:18pm PT  

The gospel according to Reuters...

Mel Gibson's box office smash "The Passion of the Christ" broke the ignominious record as the most-pirated movie on Internet file-sharing networks in April, an online piracy tracking firm says.
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By Brad Friedman on 5/13/2004 3:09pm PT  

After endlessly criticizing Democrats for "politicizing this war" and more specifically the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Sean Hannity --- as I railed on Tuesday --- has been pointing folks to his website where he's proudly featured links to the Nick Berg beheading.

As if that's not both hypocritical and horrendous enough, he's been playing the audio from the beheading on his radio show - over the public airwaves! (FCC are you listening?) - for the last two days.

Does this guy have any self-respect left? Or entirely too much of it?

"Let Freedom Ring" indeed...

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Or, more 'With Friends Like These...'
By Brad Friedman on 5/13/2004 2:12pm PT  

Following up my "With Friends Like These..." article from Tuesday (which is, incidentally, now being run at DemocraticUnderground.com - the third such article of mine they've run in as many weeks, I'm proud to say) wherein I described how even the NeoCons at The Weekly Standard are falling away from Bush, a lot more evidence is emerging that Conservative support for Bush is rapidly evaporating.

The Washington Post on Monday ran a piece about exactly that, citing - among others - two Hard Right Commentators who have been very critical lately of Bush:

Conservatives have become unusually restive. Last Tuesday, columnist George F. Will sharply criticized the administration's Iraq policy, writing: "This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts." Two days earlier, Robert Kagan, a neoconservative supporter of the Iraq war, wrote: "All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now."

But it's not just the War where Bush is losing what should be his core support:

Richard W. Rahn, a prominent Republican economist, excoriated the administration's telecommunications, antitrust and international economic policies in a Washington Times column April 30 along similar lines. "From the beginning of the Bush administration, sympathetic, experienced economists have warned its officials about the need to avoid some obvious mistakes," he wrote. "Unfortunately, these warnings have gone unheeded."

...Rahn said he has grown concerned over what he sees as "a lack of vision and policy consistency" in the Bush administration. "I mean, we knew where [President Ronald] Reagan was heading; at times there were deviations from the path, but we knew what it was all about," he said. In contrast, he said, now "there doesn't seem to be a clear policy vision."

While all the polls continue to trend away from Bush support, showing his Job Approval Ratings at an all-time low, falling now well below the crucial %50 mark, I'll take a counter-position from Conventional Wisdom to say that dumping Rumsfeld (and a few other folks) would put Bush in better stead with the public than he will otherwise be, running up the down escalator for the next 6 months.

Conventional Wisdom also had it that Presidential Apologies would be bad for Public Opinion and Good for the Opposition, but that was proven wrong with Clinton, and seems to have been proven wrong with Bush as well, as his Almost-Apologies last week didn't seem to directly add to his woes, and may in fact have briefly shored him up.

Add to it all, Mark Mellman's piece at The Hill, bolstering John Zogby's article by pointing out that, contrary to the lazy through-line being echoed throughout the supposedly "Liberal Media", Kerry's current position is "better than any challenger in modern times has ever been doing at this point in this race" and you know that Team Bush must be pulling out whatever's left of Karl Rove's hair just about now.

Either that, or they're still in the same Bubble of Denial that kept Bush's Daddy from reading the writing on the wall before it was far to late to change the fates.

So Democrats (and people who care about America) should take heart...Even with Kerry leading the ticket, all signs seem to be heading your way.

(Thanks to KJO for the pointer to the WaPo article!)

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