She wants to overthrow the government. She wants people to take to the streets in acts of civil disobedience and organise boycotts of big corporations. She thinks the war on drugs is a waste of time and money. Her heroes are the demonstrators who brought the World Trade Organisation to a standstill in Seattle. Her enemies are the Republican party establishment. She reckons poor people and black people in America should rise up and demand their rights. She's angry as hell.
This is not some fugitive member of an urban guerrilla group issuing her manifesto. This is Arianna Stassinopolous Huffington, once the queen-pin of the Republican establishment, once a conservative Washington political wife, once a cheerleader for House leader Newt Gingrich and his rightwing Republican Revolution and, in a previous life, the first foreign president of the Cambridge Union, berater of feminism and advocate of New Age spirituality.
Her political transformation from the conservative right to the opposite side of the spectrum has infuriated some of her former allies, won her a new loyal battalion of friends on the left and given her one of the highest profiles of any woman in American politics. Currently, she is crisscrossing the country brandishing copies of her Overthrow the Government manifesto. So what has happened?
The scene is the Bergamot Station, a community and arts centre in Santa Monica, the liberal heartland of Los Angeles. Around 150 people have gathered to catch half an hour of Arianna - the first name is all that is necessary - talking about her new book and answering questions. It will only be half an hour because then she's off to the television studios for another interview, then Washington, then, well, everywhere. Everyone wants Arianna on their show or at their party these days. As the presidential race slips down a couple of gears after the departure of John McCain, there is a gaping political vacuum to be filled - and who better to fill it than Mrs Huffington?
The tall, slim, elegant figure with the trademark red hair takes to the platform with the ease born of many years as a television pundit. Her theme tonight is the collapse of respect for the body politic and the need for everyone to get out there, break with conventional politics and, if necessary, break some laws while they do so.
The presidential race has become a "demolition derby", she says; voters have a choice between "the pro-life corporation party and the pro-choice corporation party". No wonder half of the electorate didn't bother last time. The United States has become "two nations", with a shocking 36m people living in poverty. "The whole other America is not part of the political debate." Yes, it's good, she says, that McCain had raised the issue of campaign reform - trying to limit the way that big business funds political campaigns in return for later favours - but really, he had too easy a ride from the media, who had been "making goo-goo eyes at him".
The book she is promoting, Overthrow the Government, is a 300-page spin through the current political scene. It does not have the vision of a Noam Chomsky or the literary exuberance of a Christopher Hitchens, but is packed with handy facts and statistics, and plenty of soundbites: "America is a fast-ticking time bomb . . . American politics is becoming a sewer . . . How long will it be before the field is filled with only psychopaths - candidates immune to the cost, to their families and themselves, of round-the-clock sleaze and slander? It's the survival of the unfittest."
She sideswipes the media - "whether it's due to lethargy or lechery, reporters are more and more frequently choosing the salacious over the significant, the expedient over the essential" - and attacks the government's "inhumane" anti-drugs policy: "Black men are arrested for drugs five times as often as white men, even although only 13% of all monthly drug-users are African American." She notes that only 29% of the eligible black electorate used their vote at the last election.
Much of what she says might form part of a standard liberal agenda to fight poverty and discrimination, but it is not so very long ago that she was at the very heart of the system which she now attacks so virulently.
The daughter of a Greek journalist, she first came to the public attention as president of the Cambridge Union. She wrote The Female Woman, attacking feminism for ignoring women's "special needs" of children and family, and was promoted by the right as their response to Germaine Greer. In the 70s, she went out with Times columnist Bernard Levin, at a time when he enjoyed the same sort of celebrity in the UK that she does now in the US.
She moved to New York, met and in 1986 married Texas oil billionaire Michael Huffington; her bridesmaids included a Getty, a Roosevelt and a star television interviewer, Barbara Walters. She helped Huffington win office as a carpetbagging Republican congressman in Santa Barbara, California, by spending a then record $5.4m on campaigning. This was followed by an even more expensive ($30m) but ill-fated bid for a Senate seat in 1994 by Huffington against the liberal incumbent, Diane Feinstein. In the meantime, Arianna became one of Washington's best-known hostesses and there was even talk of Michael Huffington seeing if he could buy his way into the White House. But there was no comeback after the disastrous Senate race and, in 1998, the couple parted, with Michael, following years of "no comments" on his sexuality, coming out as gay. He has now joined the Democrats.
Apart from all the politics and the parties, Arianna wrote six books, including biographies of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis, both accused of plagiarism. She became a syndicated columnist, a talk show regular, and a television satirist. She had also been been associated with John Roger, the controversial leader of the Movement for Spiritual Awareness. Her friends admired her energy, generosity and determination. Her enemies saw her as calculating, manipulative and ferociously ambitious, the real puff behind Michael Huffington and "the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus".
Then came her dramatic disillusionment. She left Washington with her two young daughters for Brentwood in Los Angeles, started holding the most glittering of the area's political salons, throwing book launch parties for the likes of Jesse Jackson and Jesse Ventura, the wrestler-turned-governor of Minnesota, and effectively sparking off the idea of actor-director Warren Beatty running for president to promote the progressive agenda. Now comes the new book and a call to people to engage in acts of civil disobedience and take to the streets.
Arianna says that anyone who has been reading her columns over the past five years will know that what has happened to her thinking is "no overnight flip-flop", that she considered herself "fooled, seduced, blinded" by Gingrich and that she now has no political heroes at all. Her move came partly, she says, when she realised that the super-rich were happy to put their hands in their pockets for a fashionable museum or for the opera, but less interested in wanting to help the homeless and impoverished. So is she serious?
Marc Cooper, who writes for the country's main radical weekly, the Nation, and broadcasts daily on LA's most radical radio station, KPFK, reckons she is very much for real. "Arianna is no dummy and no dilettante. Her politics have always been iconoclastic. Yes, she was a conservative Republican but there was always a quirkiness to it." She had always shown a concern about the poor, he said: "It might have been noblesse oblige but it was certainly not, 'Let them eat cake.' If you read her columns over the last few years, you will see a consistent political journey from knee-jerk Republican towards a kind of progressive populist position. Her commitment is real. She doesn't close the door at night and have a good laugh and say, 'That will have sold some books.' She is a great listener, her mind is open, she is not afraid to revise her opinion and she's taking risks."
David Corn is the Washington editor of the Nation. He met Arianna half a dozen years ago when she was still committed to the so-called Republican Revolution which claimed it would see the poor being empowered by their policies. "I wasn't favourably impressed. I thought she was trying to ride that wave." Then, says Corn, she started challenging the Republican establishment over its failure to deliver. "She showed a certain amount of backbone, but backbone is easier to have if you're married to a millionaire."
Corn, who had been relentless in his attacks on Gingrich, started getting calls from her congratulating him on his broadsides at the time that her marriage was starting to unravel and she was moving to Los Angeles. "She got a physical distance from the Republican crowd and kept following this path of thinking what was wrong with the system." Corn reckons she has the typical "fervour of the convert, particularly an intelligent convert ... she became quite passionate in her advocacy and did not shy away from the obvious conclusions." Both Corn and Cooper say she is putting her money where her mouth is, channelling funds to organisations she supports.
Ellen Miller of Public Campaign, which was set up in 1997 to campaign for full public funding of politicians so that they would be removed from the corruption of the corporate backing, is also an Arianna admirer: "She's an extremely capable and intelligent woman and she's extremely important to us." As a former big-name Republican, she gives the campaign an extra credibility and is one of the 100 members of its advisory board.
Bob Scheer, who writes from the left in the LA Times and who shared a platform with her at the Santa Monica event, also admires Arianna's change of heart - although, as a Democrat, he does not buy the notion of everyone starting new parties and taking to the streets. She could, suggests political writer Joe Conason in his review of her book, become "California's answer to Jesse Ventura, especially if everyone remembers to forget about the past".
Not everyone is impressed. The Nation columnist Katha Pollitt has accused Arianna of "repackaging" herself. To which Corn has replied: "Some lefties, alas, would rather have targets than allies, maintain enemies rather than welcome converts." Other critics find her solutions facile. They cite her west coast New Agery - "think of family volunteering as aerobics for the soul" - and her suggestions to people to "start a new party" as if that were a simple solution to the crisis in American politics. Her old Republican allies regard her as an "opportunistic turncoat", says Corn. And some critics, like Conason, wonder how her new-found detestation of salaciousness in politics squares with the woman who chatted with such relish every night on television during the Monica Lewinksky affair.
So where does she go from here? Would she really fancy being governor of California? How big a part does she want to play? She is not yet 50 - her announcement of an impending birthday in July at the Santa Monica meeting drew appreciative gasps - and she has the media at her feet. Over the next six months or so, leading up to the presidential elections, she will be be able to enter the arena whenever she wants and many candidates would welcome her endorsement as well as her hors d'oeuvres.
Her website, overthrowthegov.com, shows a cartoon of a tall, elegant red-haired woman at a party being told by a man: "Personally, I think things are fine just as they are." At which point the woman throws the chap over her shoulder, sending his Martini glass flying. Whether the new Arianna Huffington can sling the corrupt American political body over her shoulder on behalf of all of those people who are mad as hell, we shall have to wait and see.