PRELUDE TO IRRELEVANCE

Aquarian Weekly
2/5/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

PRELUDE TO IRRELEVANCE
State of the Union Turns into Beginning of the End For President & Congress

The horror. The horror.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

That was a weird State of the Union address.

I’ve been watching these things since I was a kid, a curious little brat wondering what’s with all this presidency and congress, followed by wasted time covering and/or commenting on them since the late 80s’, and I have to be honest, that was some bizarre shit.

Here we have a president basically if not identically rolling out last year’s agenda (and the one before that and probably, don’t quite recall, but likely the one before that) with the same distant aplomb as is his wont, delivered to a vacuous body of haircuts, power ties, jewelry, expensive shoes and scrap-paper smiles that will most assuredly do with it what it has done for five years…nothing.

Oh, there were the obligatory claps and smiles, harrumphs and frowns, demands and asides, and, as usual, all of it seeming like pantomime; this strange scene from a Fellini film where no one is whom they claim to be because we’re not sure, nor or they, that they may be mere apparitions or perhaps something the auteur has put there to fuck with our heads. But this time the whole affair appeared more funereal, an ocular dirge worthy of requiem, accompanied by images of reptiles slithering through rotted human skulls.

Weird.

The orator, Barack Obama, is two steps from lame-duck with a massive law strung around his neck, and the parts of it that’s working for a minuscule portion of the electorate has does nothing to mitigate its disaster. There is not a thing the president can say now or tomorrow, next week or next year that is going to amount to a wit, because even if he were as tyrannical as his ham-fisted detractors childishly wail, he is faced with the most inert congress in the history of this republic. Despite dominating the political landscape by gaining two of the most impressive electoral victories for a Democratic candidate in two generations, Joe Cool appears as if he is a custodian, or worse, a bystander to history.

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Obama sounds done because he is done. Change time, if there ever was one, is now over. That is unless the Democrats can slyly do what the Republicans pulled off for the remaining seven years of G.W. Bush’s train-wreck, painting him as a “defender of our sovereignty” after he idly stood watch over the horrors of 9/11. Shit, if anyone can sweep that nightmare under the rug, then it should be no problem making people forget the monstrosity of the AFA.

But this charade has a shelf life and it has come due. And the funny thing is Obama has known this since his second inauguration, when he began sounding the siren for “going it alone”. Of course this was no clairvoyant act of political genius. You’d have to be completely brain dead to expect this congress to allow anymore big stuff after the tactics of Nancy Pelosi’s 111th addition and the advent of this pestering joke of a TEA Party that works for a government it derides at every turn and then sits on its hands to prove ideological points in what amounts to kindergarten hissy fits.

What Obama does have going for him is that he is still president for the next three years and what he counted on during this Mad Hatter-esque showcase is congress being the most reviled body this nation has ever known; its approval ratings dipping weekly into single digits, most of it pockmarked with clownish machinations staged for TV or committees filmed on TV or cable news sideshows on TV. Its members have now found it so tiresome to bludgeon this domestically ineffectual president they have taken to beating relentlessly on each other.

No less than four different Republicans gave rebuttals to this death rattle; the obligatory doe-eyed woman rolled out to quell more craziness from queer dinosaurs like Mike Huckabee, another woman, this time an obligatory Hispanic, the TEA Party guy cranking up his obligatory rant on “tyranny”, and Rand Paul, who, well…is the obligatory Paul who blazes his own path.

One gets the feeling that with the senate up for grabs this November, the Republicans for the third such election cycle will fuck it up with the same tired quasi-religious, misogynistic bigotry that screws the party every time. Already you have jackasses threatening to throw cub reporters off the balcony of the capital rotunda. You can’t make this crap up.

And so the president will extend his damaged usefulness beyond this body of the inept with the executive order, a fancy bit of marksmanship used by every president except William Henry Harrison, and mainly because he croaked shortly after being sworn in. Despite being accused of abusing this nugget by sub-mentals, Obama, as this space has argued and continues to argue, is so dispassionate about executive comings and goings that he has signed less executive orders in his first five years in office than any president since Grover Cleveland, and remember Cleveland had to span his out over half a decade since he served non-consecutive terms.

At 167 such orders, his is a whopping thirty behind G.W. Bush at 197 in his first five years and Clinton at 238, which means, and I think this doom-struck address pretty much presumed, he has some ground to make up.

Joe Cool appears as if he is a custodian, or worse, a bystander to history.

But beyond the normal hoary political miasma, this annual lament was made complete by two of the most heinous uses of unfortunates to plug talking points this reporter has seen in some time, which effectively plunged the wretched thing to such depths it is hard to not offend by merely broaching them. I am speaking of the president’s parading of a mutilated veteran of 10 duties to the desert abattoir called Afghanistan for a painfully long standing ovation that should have stood as a warning against the brutal vagaries of our 21st century lust for perpetual war instead of a living metaphor for working our way through hard times and the down-syndrome child so callously offered up as some kind of right-wing talisman during the official Republican rebuttal.

The horror. The horror.

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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL – STILL BROKEN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Aquarian Weekly
1/22/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL – STILL BROKEN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Major League Baseball continues its over a century of government-sanctioned fraud, racketeering, suspension of civil rights, and illegal business practices this week by suspending the right to work of one of its players for one year on nothing more than the purchased testimony of a convicted criminal, circumstantial copied evidence of emails and purported receipts handed over by said criminal for the purchase of illegal (by league standards, not the nation’s) performance enhancing substances. If this tried-and-true lynch-worthy witch hunt mastery of correlation equals causation ever happened anywhere else in this country we would be sickened, frightened, and outraged. But in the somehow eerie bubble of sport, it is seen as a triumphant moral imperative.

And this is why Major League Baseball must be shut down and re-examined as a legitimate business under the laws of the United States as such and not as it was deemed in a queer 1922 Supreme Court ruling as merely a Game. Therefore, in one of the most egregious loopholes in the sordid history of American law, MLB has enjoyed exemption from the anti-trust laws that govern the anti-capitalist practices of monopoly. Among other organized-crime like shenanigans, MLB merrily used this nonsense to keep the game all-white until Jackie Robinson’s heroic barrier-breaking season of 1947, which, for some reason baseball is given a social medal for doing so – you know, for allowing American citizens, who had the talent and comportment to earn a living alongside other American citizens.landis

Yippie!

MLB also used this boondoggle to treat its employees and its product (let’s face it, no one ever goes to a ballpark to watch owners, nor do they rush to box seats and wave down vendors for hot dogs unless players are there playing the damn game) as if indentured servitude until 1972, when a brave soul named Curt Flood said no to a trade. Before Flood, and later the court cases that won players the right to choose the city and team they wished to play for based on salary and personal comfort, players either ate shit or went back to plowing fields or pumping gas.

Oh, and when salaries and player movement became too much for owners, they colluded to deny players a fair marketplace in the 1980s’ and were summarily found guilty of this horrendous practice, but were left to police themselves, having that comfy exemption from U.S. law umbrella. It was the same umbrella that kept the U.S. Congress at bay during the last 25 years (the steroid era), over-seen with dollar-sign gaiety by MLB’s commissioner, Allan Huber “Bud” Selig, who duly ignored all logical sense of law and business decorum in 1994 by orchestrating the lock-out of players and the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in a century to force a league salary cap on the Players Association.

 This is all expected of baseball, which has treated players since day-one as plow mules.

Teams abandoning cities, the civic raping of local jurisdiction to prize cash for massive, unneeded ballparks, outlandish license fees for logos, asinine lapdog television scheduling of games at all-hours of the night and for a ridiculous length of time, and willy-nilly “for the good of the game” rulings against players, affecting careers and legacies is business as usual for The Game, which is an over $9 billion venture.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without drugs; as the famous home run chase of 1998 attested, bringing back a fractured fan base and eroding inertest of the game behind the might of the NFL and Michael Jordan’s NBA and capturing the imagination of media and fans everywhere. Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were both jacked to the tits on steroids whilst obliterating fifty-year records as the money rolled in. And no one seemed to care, least of all Selig, who not-so quietly celebrated with his bosses, the owners, that their shenanigans of 1994, while it did not crush the union and put a hard cap to save themselves from their salacious selves, it did weaken its resolve and finally led to the later “come-to-Jesus” moment to expunge the evils of PED’s from the Game.

It was a systematic stripping away of player’s rights, to which they sadly agreed, with the random testing for anything under the sun, later becoming an abject mockery of the rights of one Alex Rodriguez, who was thrown out of baseball based not on the agreed and already insane baseball drug policy of a failed test, or even hard, direct evidence of use, but a connect-the-dots, leaking hearsay to the press, fixed arbitration personal assault.

But, as stated, this is all expected of baseball, which has treated players since day-one as plow mules. What is most alarming is the paucity of defense or investigative queries from the sporting press. All but three voices out of hundreds, by my count, has even bothered to deconstruct the systemic problems with MLB’s draconian procedures; a New York City radio host, Mike Francesca, a national baseball journalist for MLB Network and Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal, and Deadspin’s brilliant Tim Marchman, who penned a remarkably scathing screed, “Major League Baseball’s War On Drugs Is An Immoral Shitshow” (must read) eviscerating the demented Selig, who hopes to now become the Clean Commissioner before retiring.

Okay, so sportswriters are the lowest form of journalism and this is the toy department of news, and Howard Cosell’s predicted “jockocracy of sport’s coverage” has come home to roost, but nearly everyone, and I mean everyone, has just dog-piled on Rodriguez as if it is some kind of overdue flogging. It reeks of the press’s weirdly quiet role in McCarthyism and those first months of the Iraq War, with all the flag-pin wearing, giddy imbedded reporter goofiness.

Maybe the worst, beside the NY Daily News, which for months acted as MLB’s print bitch, splashing the most heinous lies as fact and depicting Rodriquez as the bane of humanity, would be whatever is left of 60 Minutes. This once proud news program, which already paraded a complete fraud as a key witness to the “Crimes of Benghazi”, gave airtime to MLB’s drug dealer witness – a drug dealer who was paid by MLB for information citing Rodriguez, which was the very “crime” the late George Steinbrenner was suspended by The Game.

Hell, even George Zimmerman, a man who shot a kid to death for getting his ass kicked in broad daylight found a defense in the press.

Not sure what will come of the lawsuits Rodriguez was forced to file in an actual court, where this monkey circus would have been thrown to the curb, but if it’s the right judge, and the rock that is MLB is allowed to be lifted, oh the slugs we will find.

Here’s hoping…

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LAST CHANCE POWER DRIVE

Aquarian Weekly
1/15/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

LAST CHANCE POWER DRIVE
Chris Christie: Welcome to Thunderdome

Well, it was a good eight weeks for the governor of New Jersey. Two months ago he was the Republican lion, staring into national TV cameras and commanding the rest of the world, especially Washington DC, to take a good, hard look at “How things are done here in New Jersey”, so we could all learn something. Yes, he was riding high. A remarkable 65-percent pounding of a Democrat in the proverbial Blue State, looking like a prime candidate for president of the United States and a true challenge to the type of demographics that will likely fell the GOP on the national level for generations.

Next thing you know he’s in a the docket of the state capital giving nearly a two-hour mea culpa speech replete with words like “sad” and “embarrassed” and “sorry”, trying to explain how he’s not a bully, something he has staked his reputation on. Around here, this type of strong-arming comportment is known as “tough”. However, for a man who routinely calls people he finds objectionable “idiots”, the details are always in the semantics and how people outside of this historically corrupt state would see our “business as usual” as something less appealing.christie_65

Of course, none of this is any good for Chris Christie if he has designs on being president of the United States, or even to continue governing N.J if this thing finds its way into Drumthwacket, the bizarrely appropriate name of the governor’s mansion in Trenton. I only know this because while schooling down there in the early 80s’, our collegiate custom was to heave ice balls over the fence at Thomas Kean’s basset hound.

At least we thought it was a dog.

Be that as it may, even if Christie knew nothing of the “bullying” or “revenge” tactics his closest aides perpetuated on Fort Lee due allegedly to its mayor, a Democrat, not endorsing his Caesar-like campaign that was well in the bag by the September date this four-day traffic jam choked the gateway to the one of the most highly traversed bridges on this continent, it reeks of chaos.

Chaos may be gangbusters for stoned college kids pelting a defenseless canine on federal property, but it’s bad for politicos with agendas. The perception for Christie to be unflappable, undaunted, even irascible had to be strengths going in, as most of the Right in this country and a large defection of Independents have decided that whatever is currently going on in the White House is flimsy, uninterested and indecisive. Backtracking on this kind of nonsense does nothing for this “image” of the recalcitrant do-gooder. It is bad branding, and if this had happened this early to a leftist, African-American nobody Senator from Illinois in the first few months that people started to take notice of him, Hillary Clinton would have already been president.

Speaking of Joe Cool, maybe Christie’s cries of having heard about this scandal on the internet the day he headed for his lengthy “hand-in-the-cookie jar” yammering qualifies him for the presidency. Barack Obama’s modus operandi lately has been Ronald Reagan’s fancy “no recollection of events” defense of a myriad of weird to criminal actions by members of his government, from whatever happened in Benghazi to the IRS screwing with conservative groups to the drunken power of the NSA well into the roll out of this Affordable Care Act boondoggle.

Maybe Christie has hit upon something here. The fact that he may have known about this act of political vengeance, so prevalent in the history of governorships across this fruited plain, is for the investigations and courts to decide, but at least we know this; if he were this unaware that his top aides were perpetrating a heinous level of malfeasance than he’s the idiot. And then the next logical question would have to be, what’s worse; insidiousness or ignorance? Reagan and Obama embraced ignorance and it paid off handsomely for Reagan and so far Obama’s “What the…?” response to his brand of chaos has kept the big dogs at bay. Let’s face it, I’ve heard the arguments proposed by the independent investigative councils looking into most of these screw-ups, and they may be sillier than the president being out-to-lunch since the spring of 2011.

Chaos may be gangbusters for stoned college kids pelting a defenseless canine on federal property, but it’s bad for politicos with agendas.

Let’s face it, overreaching the opposition to how a chief executive reacts to a potential scandal tends to engender blow-back sympathy for those who don’t see the president or this governor as a tyrant but merely an insufficient leader, like the last guy, whose presidency came in with tragedy and left with the implosion of the Western world’s economy.

But anyway you’d like to slice it; political or perception, this ain’t good for the new kid in town; especially this early in the game, when the national mood is ornery to outright fierce. Until he officially announced his intentions to run for the nation’s highest office, nothing close to this mess could befall Christie. But here we are, a mere eight weeks into the nation peeking into the Garden State, and things have gone sideways.

If nothing else, it goes to show you how far it is between this bitter winter of 2014 and whatever emerges in the summer of 2015 as a viable challenge to the status quo, which may now not include one Christ Christie.

Hey, he’s the idiot who ordered us to take a good, hard look.

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NELSON MANDELA – 1918-2013

Aquarian Weekly
12/11/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

NELSON MANDELA – 1918-2013

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances others.
– Nelson Mandela

You will read and hear a great deal about Nelson Mandela over the coming weeks, but for me he will always be a revolutionary. But, as my friend, Dan Bern once wrote, “a true revolutionary”. Faced with the horrors of institutional oppression, Mandela affiliated himself with the “by any means necessary” axiom, cloaked in desperation to be free, to free his people and all of the people of South Africa. It was not always pretty, but revolution never is, and while we today and, let’s face it, through most of our lives on this planet tend to judge the way in which people scratch and claw for liberty and justice, it is through their efforts, and the efforts of people like Nelson Mandela and his revolutionary descendants that we can take inspiration in the thorny notion that “what is” does not have to be “always”.

Among many of the egregious crimes of civilization, Apartheid in South Africa seemed to encompass all of them at once; mandela277colonialism, institutional racism, cultural intolerance, international political and economic apathy, fear born of ignorance, abject violence and the general disdain for humanity. It went on for nearly half of the American Century during which South Africa became one of the biggest and most reliable of the U.S.’s Cold War trade partners. In other words, instead of denouncing tyranny or supporting a free South African state, the U.S. government supported the minority white-dominated government to fend off the Soviet Union’s infiltration of African resources.

Thus, many of Mandela’s supporters were communists, most notably Fidel Castro and his Cuban revolutionaries, which sympathized in every way with the African National Congress and its failed attempt to peaceably and legally challenge state sanctioned racism, wherein no one of color had any rights. Even by the mid-fifties, already politically charged and extremely active in the resistance, Mandela realized that his efforts to protest were doomed and that the ANC was, not unlike the Irish Republican Army or the Palestinian Liberation Organization, a title not of the system but against an unjust system.

Mandela, as we would come to see as events of his incredible life unfolded, was about one thing; freedom. His politics and his methods shifted with the times, but he never wavered from that single mission. And unlike so many before and after him, he put it all on the line; from Gandhi’s civil disobedience to guerrilla warfare. Mandela knew the score. It was okay to be an African nationalist and democratic socialist, but it makes no damn difference if what you are, a man, is denied the right to exist.

When Mandela was arrested for the final time in the spring of 1964, he had become one of the faces of the resistance, having co-founded the Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation, which had begun terrorist attacks and general acts of sabotage against government installations for nearly three years. His charge, rightly so, was for treason; the same fate that the signers of our Declaration of Independence would have suffered had things not gone their way in the late 18th century. However, while Jefferson and Adams and Washington would have surely been hanged for their revolution, Mandela was jailed in barbaric conditions for 28 long years.

I first heard the name Nelson Mandela through the efforts of Amnesty International, which I had joined in 1986 during my truly radical political meanderings as a singer in a rock band. There had been a recent groundswell of anti-Apartheid activists beginning to hound the U.S. Congress to override a veto by President Ronald Reagan of crippling sanctions against the oppressive Pretoria Government. I was duly shocked, and it would be maybe only the second or third time ever in my dealings with actual political movements, that congress did, in fact, impose the sanctions by a vote of 78-21, which slowly began to reverse America’s support of Apartheid, although U.S. businesses and banks seemed not to care.

Turns out that Mandela’s time in prison as a political dissenter did more for his cause that the over 200 acts of sabotage and sedition ever did. The shadowy titles of guerrilla communist insurrectionist were replaced with freedom fighter, long before that term was abused by aborted American creations like the Mujahideen, which later became al Queda and unleashed the hellish decisions of Cold War paranoia and international manipulation on 9/11/01. Mandela withstood his jailing, because he never once denied being a revolutionary and that his cause had been and was just.

Faced with the horrors of institutional oppression, Mandela affiliated himself with the “by any means necessary” axiom

His victory, ultimately, became not with his release in February of 1990 after spending what would be a quarter of his life in prison or the eventual dismantling of Apartheid three years later, or even his calls for unity among all South African peoples, but his becoming the first democratically elected president in 1994, and building from scratch a new order, the one he could not let go through “any means necessary”. And like George Washington, the titular father of this nation, Mandela died this week as the father of South Africa. After his work and symbolism of unity and stabilization, he refused to remain its literal figurehead and stepped aside to enjoy the fruits of a lifetime of revolutionary labor.

His was the life of a revolutionary, and Nelson Mandela remains for those of us who once believed in such haughty ideals as change and upheaval, its modern symbol for the grand price that is paid for a glorious legacy of revolution in the cause of the human spirit to breathe free.

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