McCain Seals Deal – (2008)

Aquarian Weekly 2/6/08 REALITY CHECK

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE McCain Seals Deal/ Dynamic Duo Cage Match

Future McCainiacSomewhere in the late hours of 1/29, as the GOP’s most feared and disdained candidate was wrapping up the Florida Primary, and ostensibly his party’s nomination for president, George Will, Bill Bennett, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the faux conservative Republican voices in and out of the party came to fully understand, once for all, the jig was up. Nearly eight long years of silently allowing the Bush Cabal to dismantle the myth of the Reagan Revolution in a deluge of nation-building, entitlement-funneling, corporate-toting, religion-pandering, fear-mongering, and spend-thrifting, has left the driver’s seat warm for John McCain.

Limbaugh was a little late last week when he said the Republican Party would be left in ruins if either McCain (maverick moderate) or Mike Huckabee (religious nut) emerged as its nominee. Its ruin had long been painstakingly deconstructed, and in a tragedy worthy of Greek drama, expedited beneath a torrent of his own joyfully vociferous compliance.

Limbaugh, along with every other alleged conservative, as clearly defined by the post-war libertarian Barry Goldwater movement — reduced government by being fiscally responsible, staunchly secular, ardently conservational, and unwaveringly isolationist — had long ago sold principle and ideology down the river to defeat the Evil Big Bill Clinton and seize power.

The same “electable” cow-towing that phonies like Limbaugh and his cronies now decry (“Never mind the bullocks, here’s the best chance to win!”) worked against them in 1992, when Democrats sold their ideological soul to defeat the Reagan 12-year monopoly, motivating Republicans in 2000 to ignore principle and nominate a candidate which eventually prompted conservative poster-boy Pat Buchanan to bolt the party and run against him. Buchanan told me that winter that his beloved party “walked away from their own grass roots, their own people, and their own best ideas and platform.”

Turns out George W. Bush is the same predictable Oil Baron silver-spoon special-interest tote his father was, a man most authentic conservatives painted as a festering wimp and a tax fiend. Yet he had the “best chance to win”, and win he did; twice!

Winning is a powerful amnesia-inducing agent for blustery ideologs.

Take William Jefferson Clinton, who was never about Hope or Change or “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”. He was a winner. And winners are forgiven every questionable legal tactic, ubiquitous peccadillo, and nasty back-door political muscling, just as Captain Shoo-In was given a pass time and again, as he happily approved every pork-barreled, ear-marked bill, while razing and rebuilding the Middle East for billions of American tax dollars a day.

Now John McCain is a pariah?


Seven letters making up one little word will have these cattle in tow: CLINTON.

However defined, the two-decade Arizona Senator has engineered one of the great political comebacks of this era, worthy of Truman’s eleventh-hour victory over Dewey in ’48 or Nixon rising from the ashes to not only grab the Republican nomination 20 years later, but two consecutive terms as president of the United States.

Less than 30 days ago McCain was a walking punch line roaming the perimeters of the party trumpeting the escalation of an unpopular war and pushing for illegal immigration amnesty. He was too moderate, even too liberal, having twice voted against the Bush tax cuts, pushed for campaign reform, and teamed with prominent Democrats on a variety of causes including (gulp!) copping to Global Warming. He’s spent years dressing down Donald Rumsfeld as a blithering idiot and failed miserably to kiss up to the Religious Right. Most crippling of all, he had no money.

Now he is not only going to represent the Grand Old Party in the fall, but he will win the presidency hands-down.


Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

As these words hit the streets, Madam Shoo-In’s big Super Tuesday score is on the ropes. Barack Obama’s momentum, fueled by a saccharine Kennedy smooch-fest and more Bill Clinton messiness, could push this thing into the convention. But will it be enough to hold off the parade of hip-pocket Democrats the Clintons have coming to them from years of Oval Office favors?

Even the most casual political observer knows a McCain vs. Clinton national election campaign effectively hands the White House back to the Republicans, as a fractured, rankled and otherwise sleepy electorate, thus far limping to polls and squabbling internally, will be sufficiently geared up by a north-eastern liberal woman senator who happens to go by the name of Clinton.

Another phony Right Wing mouthpiece, Sean Hannity said the other day that he cannot abandon 20 years of defending conservative values just to back the best candidate to win, which is laughable hyperbole, even for him. He, like Limbaugh and rest, already did so in 2000, and he will do it again; as will Novak and Coulter and Will and so on.

Seven letters making up one little word will have these cattle in tow: CLINTON.

Republican voters have backed McCain because they remember the Reagan Myth as just that. Reagan significantly raised taxes every year of his two-terms, including in 1983 to save the evil Social Security, teaming with ultra-liberal Tip O’Neal, a mortal enemy, who had called him “the most ignorant man to ever occupy the White House”. He appointed at best a moderate judge to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, a move vilified by conservatives everywhere. He also played the world map like a chess game, bankrolling secret, not-so-secret, and flat-out illegal wars everywhere.

The vast majority of Republican voters also know that McCain is their only candidate with a puncher’s chance with independents, cross-over moderates, Latinos, and the high-ceiling anti-Hillary voter block. A McCain national candidacy would complete what many prominent Democrats predicted in the fall of 1992, that the Clintons would sink the party for decades.

Of course, this could be avoided.


John Edwards walks in step with Rudy Giuliani, who endorsed McCain the day of this writing, and send his delegates and union support Obama’s way; creating a political vacuum the Democrats could have owned nearly a month ago leaving Iowa, but inexplicably deflated in New Hampshire.

An Obama national candidacy will never engender the kind of motivational abhorrence a Clinton one will. Many Republicans, fed up with the party, have already shown a willingness to vote for the guy, never mind independents.

Edwards has made no secret that his plan after a crushing Iowa defeat he toiled to avoid for nearly four years was to stay in the race long enough to collect key delegates all the way to the convention, where he would play king maker. As it is, Edwards owns a sizable chunk of the party voice, and his timing to bow out seven days removed from 22 primaries speaks two ways: He will hand his constituency over to Obama, all-but burying a woman he has beat upon for weeks, or silently bow out and let the working class Democratic establishment of the past half century move en masse into the Clinton Camp.

Either way, Edwards is angling for a spot on the national ticket or a place in the winner’s cabinet. The question remains: Who can promise him the most prominent position for his anti-poverty/anti-corporate agenda?

Across the aisle, the only also-ran one-trick pony standing, Mike Huckabee has managed to split the Evangelical vote for a staggering Mitt Romney, ultimately costing the former Massachusetts governor Florida. Huckabee is also angling for a seat on the national ticket; sealing for McCain the religious-fanatic vote and sending Limbaugh’s group into spasms of feral madness.

With Huckabee, a likable, funny, and quality stumper, McCain is a formidable figure; moderate, centered, fatherly, with a consistent message of strength and experience.

Of course, the conservative wing could vote their conscience and back the only true one of their brethren left standing; Ron Paul.




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The Heart & Soul Of Democrats (2008)

Aquarian Weekly 1/30/08 REALITY CHECK

THE HEART & SOUL OF PARTY POLITICS Part II Democrats At The Crossroads In 2008

There are still high-ranking Democrats, otherwise smart people with yardstick resumes, who manage to remain straight-faced when decrying the 2000 presidential election as some kind of de facto rip-off, whining about capturing the popular vote and Ralph Nader and the always-popular Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, sounding eerily similar to the drunk I encountered in Key West two Thanksgivings ago who repeatedly claimed the 1960 Yankees champions for out-hitting and out-scoring the Pittsburg Pirates over the length of a seven-game World Series they eventually tanked. It was a queerly enticing re-examining of our pastime for the hazy three-am ambiance of depraved hedonism, but hardly a sound template for substantive historical perspective.

L'Nuff Saidosers, like drunks, find comfort in reminiscing. As a species, humans tend to lean on random explanations for consolation, like when you trip on the sidewalk and then inexplicably look back to locate the culprit. But after a while reappraisals end up a cheap substitute for the hard truth, and this is where the Democratic Party finds itself in the winter of 2008, somewhere between the comforts of a tired excuse for “the near-miss” and the cold realities of a failed generation.

Standing at the crossroads of revisionist hard-sell, old-fashioned populism, and disenfranchised symbolism are three wild-card presidential candidates. Less ideologically split than the Republican scrum, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and Illinois Senator Barak Obama still represent a vexing dilemma to party power brokers and, most importantly, voters, as Democrats attempt to devise a single game plan to cash in on what looks to be this year’s war-addled, recession-stalled, and rancorous American political landscape.

Although displaying a minor separation in distinct number-crunching, impassioned methods, and degrees of wild rhetoric, the three Democratic choices more or less share significant party agendas; social liberalism, mildly anti-war, rabidly anti-Bush, push for equality in tax burdens, empty Health Care reform promises, etc.

What creates the obvious schism between these candidates and ultimately the Democratic Party for the 21st Century is the thorny decision to either look forward or reach backward; The Roosevelt muscle-government redistribution of wealth (Edwards), the post-sixties Baby Boomer faux defiance (Clinton) or a long-shot open-tent movement attempting to blur political lines across the divide (Obama).

Edwards’ once Cassandra-fueled “Two Americas” mantra has gained a creepy resonance now that stock market machinations, a collapsed housing market, and Federal Reserve resuscitations have tumbled us into an economic bloodbath. If money worries had come this past June instead of culminating these past weeks, Edwards might appear less footnote than legitimate contender. But alas, it has not, and in the wake of the Barack/Hillary celebrity tournament, he remains the atavistic symbol of old world test pattern blabber; white, southern, lawyer. Yawn.

Edwards is also the victim of having been on a ticket dumped in 2004, something his primary opponent, Ms. Hillary, does not carry. Although she is the living embodiment of the bloated-government, mid-20th-century, been-there-done-that candidate, Senator Rodham can, and has, taken partial credit for sleeping with the man who was at the helm during the most prosperous peacetime economy in the history of the nation. Of course, the same can be said of Monika Lewinsky, who, according to court records, can also claim foreign policy experience having discussed the late-nineties Serbian conflict with the president between Oval Office fellacio sessions.

That was then; a ghostly dream of post-war nuclear children, hell-bent to dance free and live to consume, and this is now; an emerging generation of info-savvy punks needing to break free of exploited victimhood and self-congratulatory romanticism to reclaim the Democratic Party from the stale molds of antiquity.

Additionally, possessing the last name of Clinton does not hurt those Democrats reminded that it was attached to victory more than once, which is why Madam Shoo-In’s camp has continuously sent a rambling Big Bill onto the campaign trail as the company dog and pony act, using his spastic raping of decorum to drag the once impenetrable façade of Master Barack into a quagmire of schoolyard dozens. Never has an ex-president looked more pathetic as an opponent battering ram, appearing more like one of those vapid celebrity casualties from the Cable TV trash heap than anything approaching credible.

It was Big Bill’s haphazard defense of his wife’s shaky Martin Luther King analogy to curtail the inspired nature of Barack Obama with her wonky “get-things-done” message which sent the party down a road of racist goofiness that will only help to put whatever chum the Republicans cough out into the White House quicker than expected.

Speaking of the GOP, it is more than ironic that in the past week Obama resurrected the name of Ronald Reagan, which is known to cause violent paroxysms in the heart of the old Democratic Party as it explodes teenage-girl glee in what is presently a splintered conservative movement. Obama is both Reaganesque in his innate ability to inspire over instigate, but he also represents the New Left, just as Reagan was the figurehead of the New Right, emerging from his party a steadfast elder statesman, as Obama represents the youth/change and raging minority underscore of a Democratic Party in dire need of a jumpstart.

It is important to remember that Reagan effectively obliterated the Democratic Party while stomping the heart of the counter-culture in a gold-plated Hollywood victory march envied by anyone claiming American politics home. Stealing Southern and Mid-Western Democrats, weakening unions, and putting the Left on notice, the Gipper was a galvanizing Pollyanna engine, taking on the nightmares of Watergate, the subsequent Carter malaise, and a Cold War-Middle East monster under the bed. Reagan provided the damaged American Dream with a grandfatherly face while simultaneously co-opting the initially sincere but ultimately fabricated feel-good Woodstockian hippy glow into his own flag-tripping Kumbaya rally cry.

It turns out of course that Reagan was completely insane, already deranged by creeping brain-disease and surrounded by an angrily-motivated cadre of hardened white-collar thieves looking to fatten the corporate coffers and play petty parlor games with the world map. But Ronnie was already a grizzled veteran of years on the stump, as Big Bill appears now, and by proxy, so does his spouse, screeching like a banshee about “wanting to take the country in my direction”, which looks like the direction we’d headed before for good or ill.

Obama, while being an admitted weak administrator with little to no experience in anything but sporting a bright, fresh-kid countenance, is no weathered-storm. Put-on or not, there is something independent about Obama that could gather the flock at some point, a discovered shiny penny in a pile of soiled loose change. But, then again, so was the man for whom the young senator is unfairly compared to, John Fitzgerald Kennedy; the symbol of a new dawn, but also a terrible reminder of festering political wounds.

But that was then; a ghostly dream of post-war nuclear children, hell-bent to dance free and live to consume, and this is now; an emerging generation of info-savvy punks needing to break free of exploited victimhood and self-congratulatory romanticism to reclaim the Democratic Party from the stale molds of antiquity.

Whether any of this nonsense translates into November victory on a national stage remains unknown, but chances are excuses and whining will soon follow.




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The Heart & Soul Of Republicans (2008)

Aquarian Weekly 1/23/08 REALITY CHECK

THE HEART & SOUL OF PARTY POLITICS Part I Republicans Define Internal Battle For 2008

John McCainDespite dismal approval ratings, second-term numbness, and a celebrity fatigue worthy of the latest Britney Spears meltdown, George W. Bush is still the president of the United States. Love him or hate him, he represents the man holding the prize currently being grappled for daily across the contiguous map. And although most of the Republican candidates have conspicuously kept his name out of the debate, his specter looms large on how each may ultimately gain party favor by rallying every wing, inevitably becoming, well… becoming Captain Shoo-In.

Make no mistake; Bush is president because he was able to represent the pro-corporate, geo-conservative, and religious-right segments of his party, while also managing to hold a place for its dwindling moderates. So far several of the current Republican candidates have only been able to match this template as a group. No individual figure has yet emerged to connect the dots, something that needs to be rectified before the final bell rings in Minneapolis this September.

The alternative is a convention looking oddly similar to the fractured goofiness of the Democratic Party forty years ago, absent doped-up student theatrics and subsequent cop beatings.


At the time of this writing, Mitt Romney is now the third Republican presidential candidate to achieve victory over three different contests. Romney best represents the “New Bush”, an establishment frontrunner; primed and garnished as the Grand Old Party’s most serviceable representative of its fiscally conservative/military-industrial-complex platform. His only competitor for this title is Fred Thompson, a retired Tennessee senator cum actor, who has displayed a less than enthusiastic fervor to compete, and as a result, has not. Just the same, Romney has failed to spark passion across several other key Republican agendas, mostly the fairly moderate or culturally obsessed Christian lobbies.

If things continue to be mucked up across the ideological aisle, then closer to home the party’s three or four or five divisions will need to be mended. Failing that, one will emerge as the singular voice and dominate the fall agenda, providing a clear choice for the remaining fifteen percent of the electorate who will not be expected to vote blindly along party lines.

Romney’s fragile balancing act on the “electable” tightrope is mainly due to an affected hedged-bet with social conservatives and war hawks while clumsily managing to consistently distance himself from them. Romney’s Achilles heel is that Arizona senator and one-time loser in this endeavor eight years ago, John McCain, has also adopted this type of Clintonian/Bushesque two-faced boogie. While Romney has been hatched from a queer religious bent with questionable blood-stances on race, gender, and other hot-button political death-knells, McCain has traveled from the other end of the long and winding independent/moderate road, soliciting hard-line conservatives with only modest success.

Former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, joins McCain in this purgatory. In the arena of vague socio-political positions, be it abortion, gun control, or gay rights, or the unenviable tact of backing the party-harangued Bush Immigration Amnesty plan, McCain and Giuliani are a two-sided coin. Giuliani also joins McCain in trumpeting the current administration’s wacky war plans, using a strength-in-defense-stance to corner the all-important “fear” market exploited with Machiavellian brilliance in 2004 by the recently ostracized Karl Rove.

But McCain and Giuliani also share something more damning; the “near-broke, barely-maintaining” image laughably ignored by Romney. With an obscene heap of cash unrivaled by any candidate standing, Romney officials’ plan all along has been to use unlimited funds and party muscle to all-but obliterate their “moderate” competition, as a phenomenal lack of interest will surely jettison Thompson’s Reaganville flop.

Ah, but not to be denied is the very vocal, extremely motivated, and heretofore unshakable foundation of the party’s main 2004 voting block; Evangelical Christian conservatives, represented notably by former Arkansas governor and current Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee. After an upset bid in Iowa, the Huckabee camp has been driving the God-Vote home, unleashing the candidate into Bible-waxing infinitum.

As long as Huckabee hangs around he will continue to hoard the anti-gay, pro-life, Christmas fascists, and if and when he goes, may be a powerful endorsement to whomever is left; a bad sign for Romney, who has spent an inordinate amount of time and money mudslinging Huckabee left, right, and in between.

Finally, there is the variable Alternate National Candidate Status, executed with superb precision by the Bush Cabal in 2000. The once motivated Anti-Clinton Engine set its collective sights on the droning visage of Al Gore, the poster-boy for eight long years of the Same-Old-Crap. This allowed Bush to eradicate the loose-cannon nonsense of an independent-minded McCain campaign with one goal; recapture the White House for the Republicans. Without this safety net — since Republicans are now the ones pitching eight more years of the Same-Old-Crap — the need for someone who can shine in a general election is not yet revealed itself.

Repeat: Not yet.

A few more Clinton surprise victories or another streaking Obama run could change all that. But if things continue to be mucked up across the ideological aisle, then closer to home the party’s three or four or five divisions will need to be mended. Failing that, one will emerge as the singular voice and dominate the fall agenda, providing a clear choice for the remaining fifteen percent of the electorate who will not be expected to vote blindly along party lines.

And as Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush kick themselves for not throwing their tattered derby into the ring, the always-dangerous Mike Bloomberg waits in the wings to fill the vacuum from his Independent perch.



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2008 New Hampshire Primary: Same Old Song & Dance

Aquarian Weekly 1/16/08 REALITY CHECK

Madam Shoo-In Weeps To Upset/Mac Is Back & Rudy Exhales

Momentum Halted. Freight Train Derailed. Revolution stalled.

Madam Shoo-InIt took all of five days for the usual screwballs in New Hampshire to deliver a splash of cold water on the short-lived “change” mantra. Both Republican, Democratic and Independent primary voters ignored the surge out of the Iowa Caucuses and harkened back to bygone days of bore by handing John McCain his second victory in the “Live Free Or Die” state (Straight Talk campaign disaster of 2000) and inexplicably revived yet another damaged Clinton campaign (Big Bill’s “Comeback Kid” in ’92).

Expected was Mike Huckabee sinking to a distant third place finish while Mitt Romney once again outspent his way into also-ran, strangely making Rudy Giuliani the big GOP winner by keeping his bizarre wait-it-out until Super Tuesday strategy alive and well. And John Edwards was once more left to spin fancy on what has now turned into the world’s longest-running political funeral. But nothing could approach the drama of what the Hillary Machine pulled off in the first primary of this 2008 presidential race; drama made possible by an agonizing plethora of bogus polls and lazy journalism.

Not a single poll had Senator Rodham winning in New Hampshire. None. Winning? Nearly two dozen across New England had double-digit leads for Barack Obama by noon of election day. Pundits of every shape put the dirt on her. There was no truth to the rumor these were the same pollsters who erroneously prognosticated a rousing John Kerry victory in the fall of 2004, buttressed by the same dumb-ass yakkers who gave teeth to the gutless 110th congress, but there were alleged reports of face-to-face meetings with high-ranking Clinton officials and major contributors readying to abandon ship by midnight. Several of them chirping on radio and appearing on cable television calling for heads to roll and primaries to skip.

Zogby errors and press gaffs aside, in-house Clinton Camp data concurred. Additionally, every candidate from both parties came into the primary’s penultimate weekend conceding to Obama’s golden fumes, stumbling all over themselves to blather on about being “agents of change”; a nauseating display reminiscent of the spectacularly phony Bush and Gore campaigns grasping at a slice of the populist goof-off rant on being a “real reformer” eight years ago.

Not only was the young, dynamic, completely in control Illinois senator seemingly invincible after his Iowa stomping — drawing huge crowds and gushing plaudits from bottom-feeding media whores — but his chief adversary, once an icy, calculating Teflon queen, was reduced to the butt of jokes, mocking headlines of doom, and the recipient of Fourth Estate taunting the likes of which had not been seen since Richard Nixon stormed from a California stage in 1962 stammering about not having him around to kick anymore.

But a few key elements entered the Democratic race beginning sometime during an ABC News debate the Saturday before the primary when a smarmy Charlie Gibson asked the only legitimate woman candidate in the history of this nation why no one liked her. She responded tersely that it hurt her feelings. Feelings, it turns out, Ms. Hillary had not displayed enough for the electorate. That is until the day before the polls opened when the wife of the one of the most calculated political minds of the Boomer Generation choked up when speaking to a gathering at a Portsmouth coffee shop, ending with a shattered revelation about her candidacy being more “personal than political”.

The Clinton Comeback Part II further illustrates why the Democratic party is still in disarray and why it still has doubts about sending a powerful candidate into the fray, giving he/she a sense of speed, coronation, or the most critical of all, an untouchable aura. Instead it is back to the same old wounded liberal elephants of the hippie age trying to recapture a failed counterculture gamble on the wings of vacant political ogres.

Not surprisingly these two events, later trumped up in a puerile feminist rant by Gloria Steinem in the N.Y. Times and the oafish appearance of two shock-jocks at a Clinton event shouting sexist nonsense, were cited by slack-jawed commentators and even a flummoxed Terry McAuliffe on three different news outlets as the very reason Hillary Rodham Clinton went from road kill to Madam Shoo-In once more.

The Return Of The Woman Vote for Ms. Hillary because she wept like a damsel is as sickeningly condescending a sexist theory as anything postulated by knuckle-dragging brutes like Bill Bennett or Rush Limbaugh. “Hillary rallied because she went ‘touchy-feely'” may be the truth, but it is a sad truth made even sadder by the likely Clintonian exploitation of it.

Of course this is all tired horse dung bulldozed by lazy politicos looking for an angle on why the state would throw a monkey wrench into the only chance the Democrats have to take the White House in November: A central figure representing a movement away from the status quo. The Democrats need a symbol, an immovable force, like the type the Republicans send to the national ticket more times than not — a Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush or another stylized billboard. This is especially important when the figure in question also happens to be either a black man or a woman.

The Clinton Comeback Part II further illustrates why the Democratic party is still in disarray and why it still has doubts about sending a powerful candidate into the fray, giving he/she a sense of speed, coronation, or the most critical of all, an untouchable aura. Instead it is back to the same old wounded liberal elephants of the hippie age trying to recapture a failed counterculture gamble on the wings of vacant political ogres.

Over two hours before NBC called the Democratic Primary for Ms. Hillary, (nearly 45 minutes before any other network, particularly CNN, still scarred from the now infamous botched “Gore Projections”) John McCain, not far removed from his own oblivion, burped through a hackneyed speech — looking once again like the spoiler he’s been for the GOP before. In newsrooms across the fruited plain, there was a sense that the Republicans were toast. They would flounder around like soused has-beens in a Eugene O’Neill play attempting to draw the short straw.

But none of the entrenched sycophants who ramble inside the insomniatic whirlwind of this wonderfully paradoxical mayhem could ever see the writing on the wall. And in New Hampshire on January 8, 2008 only one constant remained: Independents will decide this year’s president.

This is the lesson of Iowa and New Hampshire thus far; not change or cult of personality or comebacks or history or clamor for a new spirit. The Independent vote put Huckabee and Obama in the driver’s seat for five days and yanked them into the trunk on an Indian summer night in New England. Neither candidate performs strongly at their party’s core. They need Independents. Unfortunately for the both of them, especially Obama, McCain carried the Independent day. The strong money here says that the monstrous Obama poll leads, some of them approaching an outlandish 15 points, may have convinced many Independents to try and tip the scales for an embattled McCain, who was in a reported dead-heat (more bogus polls) with the increasingly abhorrent Romney.

Whatever the reason, Barack Obama failed miserably in New Hampshire. What appeared to be a coronation that would hand him huge endorsements and build his momentum through Nevada and South Carolina, is now back to square-one with a revitalized political mastermind sitting on more money than God and a backbone of Democratic voter base. All Madam Shoo-in needed was one victory to turn this into a knock-down-drag-out. She has the money. She has the hubris. She has the moral bankruptcy to turn this thing into a gory street fight and you can bet your Arkansas/New York dollar it’s coming.

It is also a new day for the Grand Old Party, which can now exhale that they will not have to deal with a holier than thou sympathetic newcomer on a meteoric rise and instead begin to ratchet up the national attack dogs on the braying Dragon Lady.

More good news for Uncle Rudy.

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2008 Iowa Caucuses: What Happened?

Aquarian Weekly 1/9/08 REALITY CHECK

Obama Rises, Hillary Skids/GOP Field Swings Wide On A Holy Huckabee Blip

Huckabee Illustrates ChancesIn this most historic of election years, with no incumbent and a primary season beginning as early as any before, and its candidates for both major parties ranging from an African-American, an Hispanic, a Mormon, an Italian Catholic, a Fundamentalist to a woman, the first salvo was fired across the frozen cornfields of Iowa on the first Thursday of the new year. And although it is a minor shift in the system – these oddly constructed caucuses so early in the process – the results may have vaulted one winner into the kind of momentum that cannot be slowed and another sending his party into an all-out gang fight or at least a fairly entertaining skirmish between an insurgent eccentric and the fat-cat establishment.

A half-year ago the victories of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, even considering the queer vagaries of the Iowa Caucuses, would have seemed daft. Huckabee was an ill-coached religious nut and Obama was a flavor-of-the-month young black man who’d been senator for five minutes. They were both way behind in the polls and their campaigns seemed lost. Both are now something extremely binding in this business of politics; they are winners.

What this means for either of these men, their party’s final choice for a national candidate or ultimately the presidency, or even what the people of New Hampshire might do five days out or South Carolina soon after is anyone’s guess.

For now, they are winners. Moreover, they are underdog winners, a perilous position to be in at kick-off. This is especially true when considering both of their prime opponents’ money, organization power, and insatiable madness not to lose.

Make no mistake; Mike Huckabee is not going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States, any more than Pat Buchanan was going to be in 1992 or John McCain in 2000, or George H. W. Bush way back in 1980. Huckabee’s Iowa stand will be his Alamo, a mere blip on the rest of this exercise. But what Iowa managed to do for the Republican Party was provide suitable tread for the drag-ass McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani campaigns, ostensibly opening wide the door of opportunity for the entire field.

Particularly, it is McCain who remains a dangerous counter-offensive for a party that has never embraced him, in fact, mostly despises him, but may have to decide he is the only Republican candidate who could stave off an unavoidable Democratic take-over on the national stage.

Had Mitt Romney, the party darling and fabricated money pit, won, there would have been an inevitability to the coming weeks which would have made campaigning something of a pathetic dirge. Instead, the insanity of the Huckabee victory is like some kind of free pass for every GOP candidate, including the mercurial Ron Paul run. It literally put the fear of God into the party powerbrokers, who watched their golden shyster piss away nearly eight million dollars for the right to be flogged like a musk ox by a Bible fanatic.

Unlike Huckabee, Barrack Obama is no joke, no mere blip or strange eruption of angered extremists sending a message to the party platform. He is a rock star.

RNC Chairman, Mike Duncan, looking more like someone who wandered into a dangerous neighborhood with a fat wallet than the party’s staunch figurehead, clearly had a hard time coming to grips with it, and probably should not have been coerced to appear boondoggled on national television. Before long, wide-eyed and sweating profusely, he was making weirdly formed cases for Duncan Hunter and the ghost of Strom Thurmond.

“Anything, Jesus, anything but this!” he screamed into the camera.

But it was a joyous yawp compared to the fallout at Clinton Central, where phone calls from New Hampshire did not bring good news. These are the tough inquiries when the wheels begin to come loose. The ones from under-whelmed fundraisers in Manhattan and Southern California who need to know what the fuck happened to promises that “the worst that will transpire in Iowa is a cheap Edwards victory, which we’ll wipe clean in five days.”

Unlike Huckabee, Barack Obama is no joke, no mere blip or strange eruption of angered extremists sending a message to the party platform. He is a rock star. He is a revivalist voice from some remote outpost; a phenomenon of youth, race, and indescribable energy. He looks like he was created for the stump, a modern-day Moses in a power tie; something the Democrats have been begging for since Robert Kennedy was murdered, his younger brother left a woman to drown in his car, and Gary Hart danced away on a yacht.

Obama’s speech election night was pure inspiration. Coming as it did on the heels of Senator Rodham’s robotic concession drone, it was political theater. Worse still for Clinton, Obama obliterated the once impenetrable suit of Hillary armor, the fallacy of the Electable Inevitable, the all-important national poll numbers which had her guffawing at the silly notion of these annoying little primaries. Madam Shoo-In’s defeat is compounded by a count of 41 to 17 percent of independents and the ridiculous amount of women, particularly young women, who voted overwhelmingly for her surging opponent.

Traditional wisdom by early morning after the Iowa Caucuses had the rural, predominantly middle-class, white, working class Midwesterners leveling a stark repudiation on the status quo; a weakened president, a flaccid congress, and a heap of economic and foreign policy woe to come: A barely one-term senator with no experience (little blood on his hands and less skeletons in the closets) and a down-home Baptist preacher, a true GOP outsider/underdog (not a corporate puppet) crushing the two more entrenched national frontrunners.

It is a theory certainly co-opted by a shaken John Edwards, who had more or less spent the past four years banking on Iowa to jettison his last hurrah. He stood before his stunned constituents and shouted, “Tonight there is a vote for change!”

But it was certainly not a vote for Edwards, who, unlike the Republican clan, can only endure one more defeat before surrendering. Then, what does he do with his formidable support? Hand it to the woman he has been thrashing relentlessly for months or to the rocket ride from Illinois?

It is true that the Iowa turnout broke records in all demographics, including youth, women, and independents. Sixty percent of the participants were first-timers. Lines formed early. People were turned away. Well over two-hundred thousand participated, an eighty-nine percent growth from 2004 in a swing-state that split between Al Gore in 2000 and George W. Bush four years later.

It was arguably the most powerfully resonant Iowa Caucus in history, but all of it means little without New Hampshire’s outcome in less than a week. It sits there like a firewall, a Waterloo, or a launching pad of historical proportions.

Obama wins there, then he will surely take South Carolina and begin to put the squeeze on things. Huckabee shows up and he will make life hard for the GOP big boys, and if McCain makes his stand, there will be hard decisions coming.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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Queen Of Vernon 1993 – 2007

Aquarian Weekly 1/2/08 REALITY CHECK


The Lion of Judah shall break every chain. – Rastafarian Prayer

The Queen Of VernonShe was regal. Not in any preordained, systemic, lordly manner, but there was a distinct nobility to her that was able to transform you. Somehow in her presence you possessed the capacity to escape the parameters of the mundane, shed your worldly ignorance, and witness, if only of that infinitesimal moment, what the religious describe as the reward of salvation, a glimpse of heaven, a visceral peace with the injustices of shuffling coldly across this spinning sphere.

She was, in a very real sense, a vessel. In her, all things were possible. Suddenly you were okay with the idea of burning bushes. You accepted the unknown. Magic happened.

It was in her walk, proudly distant but informal, a passionate gait. You could lose your breath to watch it, especially when it was coming toward you. You could brace for it, but it did not matter. You were always stunned by its infectious rhythm, an unsettling balance of silences.

It was also in the whisper of her voice, forever seducing a response. In the daytime, with its meandering din, it would be lost, muffled, ignored. She opened her tiny mouth and it would seem as if nothing was coming. She was miming, passing air futilely. But at night, the dead quiet of its suspended middle, it was a clarion, a broken but furious roar. It reminded you that listening meant more than hearing. It meant receiving the message unfettered by distraction. It meant respecting her presence.

But it was always in the eyes where she would ultimately steal your soul. Your will was hers, and although she knew it, she let you think it was your doing, your entire purpose for being around. One peer into those pools of infinite emerald beacons, bizarre portals into Neverland, would paralyze you. And when you were captured there, dumbstruck by this abduction of your senses, you half expected seraphim to begin battering your skull with deafening arias from La Bohème.

Not sure where any of this came from, I only know it was there. Everyone I knew who visited with her would feel it. None of us could explain it in any sane way, but they would tell me, and I would not argue. I was its willing victim again and again. I sympathized with them all. Whoever they were at whatever age, they would chase her down. Ask where she was hiding. Try and win her attention. But she would never give of it liberally, just the opposite. You had to win it. You had to achieve her.

And that’s the nut, really. The rarity of her. And not in the sense that she would make herself scarce, she was attainable by merely looking. She was there, as beauty and grace is there daily for us to grasp if we would just take the time to see it. She was a reminder that whatever redemption exists, it does so in repose, not wild abandon. Wait for it.


In between the cracks, through the mist and noise and over the grinding hours of our advancing age, it will always be there. You simply have to see it. It waits for you. She would wait for you.

Transfixed, nearly hypnotized, I began to lose my grip. I could hear traffic and birds chirping, but it sounded as if submerged. All things faded. It was, for that moment, just us. Then she blinked, and went about her way, showing me the walk that launched a thousand melodies.

I would watch her wait. She waited on people, on nature, on the morning, the weather, and the passageways to the next best thing. I watched her wait all the time. It calmed me. Humbled me. She would sit for hours, silent, frozen, staring. Sometimes it was into the woods. Other times it was into the abyss. Many times it was both; like when she was young, sitting on the main chair at The Desk and staring into the black screen, hoping for a spark in there. I would embarrassingly tell I was the one who had to make the words dance. I could not on most days and begged her forgiveness.

But still she would wait.

If you were ready, when you were ready, she was ready, and not a moment before. It’s true, she would avoid most contact, and when forced, give of herself grudgingly, but oh, when you won her patience and received her audience, it was as if the pilot light provided you to figure things kicked on, and the gears began working again. And somewhere in the little pinholes that the toughest parts of this life leaves you, a tiny space was filled.

No matter how many times this would happen, it would be like the first time.

My first time was ten years ago in a little hamlet on the banks of the Hudson River. There was an inclined walkway, a cluster of trees, and a slightest hint of sunlight peaking through the clouds. I was descending a crude stone staircase when I saw her. She was waiting, again, at the bottom. She startled me at first, but I did not back away. I bent down to stare. You had to bend down to really get into it with her, dive in. No fear. Open. Naked.

She stared back. There was nothing said.

Transfixed, nearly hypnotized, I began to lose my grip. I could hear traffic and birds chirping, but it sounded as if submerged. All things faded. It was, for that moment, just us. Then she blinked, and went about her way, showing me the walk that launched a thousand melodies.

I was visiting that day with the woman who would be my wife. We were younger then, well, she was younger, I was always old, a festering crank, a bitching creep of a man. She was then as she is today, an immovable phalanx of emotion. Her compassion for the vessels of the unknown remains impenetrable. And amid talk of poetry and art and dreams and nightmares, we broached what I had begun to describe as “the moment”. She had felt it too. She knew where I had been, for she was there only months before when she found the vessel caged. She knew instinctively that she had to free her, which is why, among many intriguing things, I married the woman.

My wife knows a good entranceway into the beyond when she sees it. After all, it is in the waiting.

So they lived together for awhile, my wife and the vessel, but the vessel had to go away, ten or twelve days, and my wife was not sure she would ever see her again. But of course she did. She merely had to wait. She had to collect the time. She needed to show patience.

Soon the vessel came to live with the rest of us sloppy, boisterous, strutting boys, and the two of them taught us the ways of the fairer sex. We traveled together from one outpost to the other; the Putnam Bunker, Fort Vernon, the Clemens Estate, each stop the girls put us straight; taking the high ground, gathering the hours, offering glimpses of the unknown.

On the way, the vessel was anointed the Queen of Vernon, the mountain princess of the gateway west. It was her prime, the days of the hunt. Then she embraced the vagaries of the Compound, where she seduced another, a cherished friend named ironically after a monarch of distinction, Elizabeth, who was to share her final hours. It is here, on the hill, where she rests now.

Her name was Mazzy.

She was our lady feline.

She died on Christmas Eve.

Long Live the Queen.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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Truth On Mitchell Report

Aquarian Weekly 12/17/07 REALITY CHECK

BASEBALL THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS Hypocrisy & Incongruities In The Mitchell Report

After twenty years of reportedly ten percent of its players’ steroid, speed, drug, and hormone abuse, Major League Baseball’s $40 to 60 million non-legally-binding, no-retribution band-aid to keep the United States government from removing its atavistic, monopolistic Anti-Trust Exemption came down today (12/13/07). Named for its author and lead investigative council, former Maine Senator George Mitchell, who was hired by the commissioner’s office (on the payroll of the collective ownership of baseball) and Puppet Manwho currently sits on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox, and did not include the co-operation of the Players Association, including having no subpoena power or, incredibly, access to positive drug tests, is one of the most extraordinarily useless endeavors undertaken by a business policing itself.

Known for its unabashed mismanagement by power-mad greedheads and ridiculously paid pampered athletes, MLB took what the Mitchell Report decried as a widespread drug frenzy on all 30 teams and narrowed it down to the already exhausted BALCO investigation results and the hazy recollections of highly motivated middlemen into a mere, to quote Mitchell himself, “tip of the iceberg”.

If baseball fans thought they were getting the full story on two decades of steroid and human growth hormone use they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell’s hands were tied. Evidence was spotty. The Union stonewalled him. The league had to protect itself. He was left to grab and claw for scraps, and scraps are what we got.

The report accuses, primarily on the strength of testimony provided by a convicted criminal and an FBI-threatened drug dealer, some 90 players of using illegal substances to enhance their performances. Some of the claims are arbitrary and the evidence flat out circumstantial. Most remarkably its results levees no penalty beyond salacious rendering of mostly player names that have been more or less celebrated as world-class juicers for a decade anyway. It also omits players who have not only already failed drug tests but have all but admitted through their actions, after displaying as much through off-the-charts performance, that they are guilty.

If there is such a thing as guilt, since many of these players juiced before it was banned, enforced, or even acknowledged as technically cheating.

So in the end, this expensive exercise in innuendo and he said/he said is at best incomplete and at worse a sloppy exaggeration or outright fabrication. Begun with the best of intentions: Clean up the game, like the Kenneth Starr investigation once attempted to “nail” Bill Clinton on illegal land deals but ended with cum stains, the Mitchell fiasco ends with half-assed insinuations by two guys who worked in only two clubhouses in one city.

By all accounts inside and outside the game, the list’s compilation of infractions is something like one to two percent of a sport that only four years ago reported the failure of nearly 300 of 1,500 players tested for some kind of illegal substance. There were still around 2,000 players not tested. And these tests were previously announced! These guys knew it was coming and still failed!

Oh, and none of the guys who failed were allowed to be included in this “thorough” investigation.

Ninety players fingered for steroid and HGH use in modern baseball is like saying a couple of hundred people died in the Civil War.

If baseball fans thought they were getting the full story on two decades of steroid and human growth hormone use they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell’s hands were tied. Evidence was spotty. The Union stonewalled him. The league had to protect itself. He was left to grab and claw for scraps, and scraps are what we got.

The wounded integrity of MLB takes another hit when it was revealed that its offices were allowed to peruse the report three days prior to its release, leaving more doubts as to whether a sport that turned its back on years of performance enhancement mania, and in any sane observation even encouraged it, has the balls to come clean on its product.

And by the way, the player’s union did not have the same courtesy. Player’s Association head, Donald Fehr, who tried to block what he deemed a disregard for fair disclosure, claimed later that day he had less than an hour before the report was made public to skim it.

Anyone who even cares about baseball has to admit this was not a big deal. If anything, this charade by Selig and the league, conducted unilaterally and beyond the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Association, could actually damage the bottom line: Ending the Steroid Era. Lord knows it is not concentrated over 90 players in a few cities unlucky enough to be subjected to the hearsay of jock-sniffers, but endemic of the national sports scene and a mockery on the history of the game’s records and legacy.

This would be like paying someone a shitload of money to build you a boat with no tools or materials and being surprised when it sinks.

A band-aid.

As covered in this space two years ago (Everything You Wanted To Know About Steroids But Were Afraid To Ask 2/23/05) the problem was well known by everyone associated with baseball, and really, all sports, including players, owners, front office personnel, journalists, and networks covering the sport for a long time. Occasionally, articles in prominent periodicals like Sport Illustrated and other scattered journalistic investigations shed light on a culture of steroid abuse from high school through professional sports. But in 1994 when the issue came up in the collective bargaining farce run by commissioner Bud Selig, (much of which is covered in my second book, Fear No Art), after the owners, under the direction of Selig, staged a lock-out and closed down the sport, canceling the World Series, it was not only ignored but thrown out as a possible deterrent to “figuring financial concerns”.

Those concerns were again addressed in the late nineties as players jacked on steroids and other forms of doping began to obliterate records and enthrall the nation with home run chases. Yet glowing books were written. Sonnets of heroism were penned. Statues of immortals were erected.

Baseball, prior in 1994, went from a distant third in popularity among professional sports and probably fifth or sixth overall. Its resurgence in what is now reported to be a $6 billion industry is not because of integrity, jack, but players doing amazing things. A preponderance of which were enhanced by some kind of substance.

Now the sport, its questionably credible commissioner, and a private council paid for by the owners, who have a $6 billion interest invested in this business, ask us to look to the future and put it all behind us?

Fuck that.

Aside from burying that jackass Roger Clemens, all this report did was give you the smallest glimpse into an impregnable landscape of sordid details and complicated mazes of systematic paranoia that exists in the modern professional athlete. A manic rage to achieve greatness no matter the consequence, no matter the cost is reviewed nicely.

By day’s end there were rumblings of more names coming from further investigations and new evidence on the horizon. And Roger Clemens, the era’s greatest pitcher joining the era’s greatest hitter, Barry Bonds in infamy is now calling the report “slanderous”.

Name calling. Vague recommendations. Wasted time. Money pissed away. Just to get down on paper the smallest percentage of the ultimate goal, a goal that is ambiguous and self-serving, leaving room to continue business as usual.

Yes, well, a congressman was in charge and a multi-billion dollar industry bankrolled it. That’s sounds about right.

Carry on.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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John Waters Interview

EC ROCKER 12/12/07 Cover Story


John WatersJohn Waters has made a good living challenging the parameters of our social landscape. He is arguably the most controversial, provocative, entertaining, and influential filmmakers of the past half-century, running the gamut from underground cult hits shot with unknown talent and bizarre extras, distributed in guerilla style with little to no money to Hollywood niche favorites boasting star power. His most famous work, Hairspray has become a huge Broadway hit musical, followed up by a successful Hollywood movie starring John Travolta in the corpulent, cross-dressing Devine role. There is another, Cray Baby, on the horizon. But no matter the canvas, one element remains constant in a John Waters’ production, its subject matter will be anything but mainstream, and it will apply humor, irony, and subversive imagery to hammer home its theme.

This is also true of Waters’ one-man shows, which he’s been staging for thirty years, and now entering a fifth year of his critically acclaimed “A John Waters’ Christmas”, winding its way into Asbury Park this month.

We recently discussed all things filth, film, and the underground.

jc: Christmas is a perfect foil for you. Do you like to play with some of the traditions, not only religious, but exploitive traditions of Christmas in America?

Oh, sure, to make fun Christmas in a way that I like Christmas but I can make fun of its extremes and the different moods it brings on. You have to know the rules, though, the basics of what you’re satirizing. So, I do like Christmas, without irony, if you want to know the truth, but at the same time there are terrible things that happen in Christmas. I also try and look at it from every person’s viewpoint, like for instance thieves are very happy at Christmas. You have more money in your wallet. There are presents in your car they can steal. It’s a happy time for them too.

I’d like to talk about the evolution of social commentary through art and literature, specifically the use of wit and satire, which is a specialty of your work. Can you discuss what you refer to as “trash art” and your role in using it as commentary on or a rebellion against social mores?

I don’t call it trash. I call it filth now, because I think it needed a new word. Trash seems to be so embraced now. They talk about “trash tv” and that doesn’t mean the same thing to me. I always used “trash” as praise. Filth has a little more edge, is a little more punk.

But certainly “filth”, which started out as the real “trash”, the great “trash”, was not filled with irony and didn’t know that it was funny and was serious about it. And for its real audience it was sexy and scary, but then hipsters and intellectuals came in and discovered it. Some of them loved it for what it was, almost as “outsider” filmmaking, but it was mostly forgotten by my generation, but then rediscovered now by young people that hold some of those movies in great esteem. They are getting the final respect that they deserve.

You’ve talked about the importance for art to provoke or even disgust to engender a response or challenge, and your films have certainly done that. How meaningful do you think it is to create societal shifts through underground art?

“I’ve gotten through my life using humor as a weapon, as protection, and politics. I think every joke is political in a way.”

Well, you have to surprise people in order to get them to listen. People are always saying I’m trying to shock people. I don’t know. I get why they say that from Pink Flamingos, but basically I was trying to surprise you and make you laugh at things you’ve never laughed at and that way you’ll listen. You could never argue with somebody by ranting and raving. No one wants to hear that, they’ll just walk away. But if you can make someone laugh, they’ll stop for a minute and they’ll listen to you. I’ve gotten through my life using humor as a weapon, as protection, and politics. I think every joke is political in a way.

Do you think it’s harder now to shock an audience or say challenge them with irony and humor?

I don’t try to shock! I try to make people laugh. It’s easy to shock. It’s not as easy to surprise people and to make them laugh at something they’re shocked they’re laughing at.

How about compel or provoke, to use more specific terminology.

It’s odd. Even though there is more craziness on the Internet or even on television, there is always an angry backlash for real edgy, thought-provoking stuff. It’s as if we are supposed to accept shit as appeasement for this insatiable need for human nature to test boundaries. Partly, I guess. Television’s the freest it’s been. Pink Flamingos plays on color television. I’m shocked at that! You get co-opted easier. I mean, at the last Republican Convention in New York George Bush Sr. and Barbara came to see Hairspray and he was out front twisting with drag queens. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s very confusing.

There was always honesty in the subject matter in your films. It reminds me of early American literature’s take on taboo subjects, which were also not done ironically but with the utmost seriousness, but may have been co-opted later as a wink and a smirk at the establishment.

The first thing I ever wanted to be was a Beatnik when I was eight years old living in Lutherville, Maryland. I used to wear Levis with bleach on them and laced-up Ben Hur sandals. I really looked ridiculous. I would go to coffee houses with the bongos and meet up with the girls wearing berets and black nylons. I remember that was really a shocking thing. And I remember going to see foreign films where they served espresso coffee and you’d read. Of course! You’d read Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, along with all the Beat books. I loved that! But then they turned into hippies and they turned into punks and the punks turned into grunge, and grunge turned in gangster. All just new ways to rebel.

Do you think any of your earlier films were as far outside the Hollywood mainstream in subject matter, specifically Mondo Trasho, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, than say Hairspray or Cry Baby?

John Waters ChristmasIf I hadn’t changed, I wouldn’t be here today. You’ve got to re-invent yourself. You don’t repeat doing what you did when you first get famous or it will be over. There were no more midnight movies, video came out, so you have to keep changing with the business.

My last movie got an NC-17 rating. I had huge censorship problems: Cecil B. Demented, a movie about terrorism. And Hairspray is probably the edgiest thing I ever did, because it’s playing in every country in the world, where regular families are sitting there not realizing it’s a film encouraging their white fifteen year-old daughter to date black guys.

What about more mainstream Hollywood films that followed, like say, Porkies or on a grander scale Animal House. I’m not sure those film get made without your films displaying that it’s not only okay to dip into the tasteless or bizarre in movies but that there is a pretty wide audience for it.

I don’t have anything against those movies, I’m jealous of their grosses, but they were much broader than my films were. My films were always exploitation films for art houses, not exploitation films for real exploitation. They bombed in real exploitation theaters. And those movies were for a more male-orientated, macho audience, the same audience for Knocked Up! But I’m happy those movies are hip. It makes it easier for me with censor boards. I wish my films were that broad, but they never have been in a way because mine are somehow considered more elitist and more ironic.

In a way Hairspray is the most subversive kind of art to be able to get into larger markets and infuse the same themes you’ve hit upon from your earlier films.

Well, you just keep going and you try to figure a way to make things work. I’d been through a whole thing where I started trying to make underground movies and then it was midnight movies and then it was independent movies and then I had a Hollywood period, and then I made Hollywood independent movies, and I think now I make Hollywood underground movies.

Could a young filmmaker today make the kind of films you made in the sixties or seventies and get them to an audience? I know you also said once that it’s easier to get films made now and even distributed now, but if they bomb on the first weekend, you’re gone.

Every movie made today has a harder time staying around. Even Hollywood movies only last three weeks, and that’s considered a long run. It’s because of DVDs and videos and home theaters. None of that existed then. When I was young, films could play a year in one movie theater, but today that could never happen because in six weeks you can get it on DVD. But, however, way more people see it. Now you can live anywhere in America and you can see any movie in the world. You don’t have to worry about where you live to see great obscure art films. It’s actually much better now.

I see you’re doing your show out in Asbury Park.

It’s hard to imagine how great and scary Times Square was. You look at Dianne Arbus pictures and you look at people who photographed it lovingly and you see it was really exciting to see exploitation movies in that perfect theater.

I’ve never been there, so I’m looking forward to it. I love to come to somewhere that I’ve never been. I heard you have good hairdos there.

I’m not sure about that, but okay. At least I’ve heard the town’s having a bit of a renaissance?

Real Estate porn is everywhere. But good! I think mostly if yuppies or guppies come in and fix up places it’s good for the neighborhood. It makes it better. I have nothing against yuppie restrooms. They have great restrooms.

There is a preponderance of friends and colleagues, many of them artists or writers that are always going on about how they enjoyed New York City more when it was grungy and more dangerous. I always disagree. I grew up in New York and worked there most of my adult life on and off. I love New York. I was never thrilled about fearing it.

No, God, I remember when every night you could get mugged in New York. I can’t get mugged now. I mean, do I miss days of on Ninth Avenue when you could see a hooker in broad daylight taking a shit? No. But I do miss the sex clubs that were pretty amazing. They will never ever come back. AIDS ruined everything. Never in anyone’s lifetime that may read what you’re going to write are going to see that again. That will never come back. It’s hard to imagine how great and scary Times Square was. You look at Dianne Arbus pictures and you look at people who photographed it lovingly and you see it was really exciting to see exploitation movies in that perfect theater.

Do you think your films have captured a period of time that won’t be returning?

The next underground sensation will be on the Internet and it will surprise me! Working on anything new? I have a sinister script before the (writer’s) strike even happened, and it’s a terribly wonderful children’s Christmas adventure called Fruitcake, which I’m hoping to shoot in February.

Have you decided whose going to be in it?

Well, Johnny Knoxville is the dad, but it’s mostly all children in it and you really can’t cast that ’til the last minute because a child can grow a foot in one month.

Good point. I understand you’re touring this Christmas show with a band, right?

Oh yeah, I’m touring with a band who opens for me called Lavender Diamond with Becky Stark as the singer. I also have my Christmas album, A John Waters Christmas, and I have other records – uh, records, you can tell how old I am – musical collections that came out the past couple of years.

How did you choose the songs for these?

Oh, just songs that I figured you haven’t heard and I thought you should. It’s what I would play if you came over my house and we smoked pot or had a martini.

What about the future of filmmaking? You mentioned the Internet. And I’m referring here not to the big time film industry, but the independent stuff, the edgy stuff.

Eventually, they’re all going to be on the net, because everyone is going to have a home theater. People will still go to the movies for a shared experience, but everybody will have a little art cinema in their house eventually.

Do you think every film, or every piece of art; every creative experience should have something in it that’s provoking in some way?

No! No! You have to make a movie for the audience that’s it’s intended for. Certainly my mother doesn’t want to see any edge in movies.

Do you believe that most subculture or art movements tend to make its mark on society, even if slightly?

Well, I always joke that I think I’ve made trash one percent more respectable and maybe that is what I was put here to do.

That’s a contribution.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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Mitt Romney: Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Aquarian Weekly 12/12/07 REALITY CHECK


A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith. – Mitt Romney 12/6/07

Mitt RomneyHalleluiah! The voice of reason and enlightenment bellows from the voice of Mitt Romney, Republican, Mormon, Pro-Choice/Pro-Life, Pro-Gay Rights/Anti-Gay Marriage, Pro-War/ Anti-War candidate. Down in the Iowa polls and out nearly ten million bucks, he greases the hair, polishes the smile, floods the stage with American flags, and begins to flippantly deconstruct his party’s entire political platform for the past decade: Take religion out of politics? Ah, but wait, in literally the same rancid breath he lauds the tenets of Christian faith as not only a prerequisite for his own candidacy, but the very fabric of the nation and its government.

It is the worst kind of pandering, pathetically transparent and manipulative, reeking of disingenuous double-speak. It humps the very ghost of the Checker’s Speech and pays homage to the demons of Tammany Hall, rendering Romney either perfect presidential timber or a madman.

Mitt Romney may be a two-bit carney grifter with the morals of a guttersnipe, but I’m willing to forgive him for that. Most presidential candidates possess the guttersnipe gene. It is inherent. No one can achieve lasting success in this game without it. Survival is impossible for those bound to high-ethics. Principles are for losers. So we must exonerate pusillanimity in our big-time politicians. However, what we can no longer willingly accept is another crazy man in the White House. Eight years of this non sequitur seat-of-the-pants lunacy is quite enough for any civilized nation outside of Central America.

I’m sorry, but it is painfully difficult for anyone not using dung for brains to fathom why a republican candidate running for any office save dogcatcher would question the inclusion of his religious authenticity. Mere desperation? Sure, for a Democrat. But what party crammed this mindless claptrap into the public discourse in the first place?

There’s video playing on my computer screen right now of Romney questioning why people need to know his religious convictions. He is stunned that his Mormonism would be an issue in his campaign.

What the…?

Perhaps he’s kidding? I’m always down for humor in the grind of a difficult stump. Maybe Romney is just cutting it up. That must be it. He’s a jokester. Not crazy, but merely funny. But no one is laughing. No. They are applauding. He looks deadly serious.

The only explanation left is Romney’s leaning on his strength, lying, but despite his astounding proclivity for the craft, he’s not even a good liar. For the duration of his crumbling campaign the best he’s done is say he either didn’t mean something or he now believes something else. Once again, this is all fine and dandy. In fact, lying is a prerequisite for the presidency, so he had better bone up, especially if he plans on lying at this Herculean rate.

But please, no more babbling frat-house coke fiends hooked on Jesus who run to deranged, crippled old warmongers for policy judgment!

Perhaps Romney is just stupid. Yes, dumb. Reagan was as dumb as a pole. And LBJ had cobwebs in his frontal lobes. Hell, you can be an idiot and still lead.

Wait, Romney’s still speaking. He’s reversed course again and says that although his particular sect of Christianity is off limits, (Mormons are considered cultists by the rest of Christianity) it is important that religion stay in our nation’s forefront in everything from celebrating Christmas to swearing in on the Bible, and those opposed to all this “have taken the separation of church and state beyond its original meaning.”

Wait! What? Hasn’t he just called for a separation of church and state so we can leave him alone about his wacky beliefs? And how does Romney know this so-called “original meaning”? Has he engaged in séance with Thomas Jefferson lately? This sounds awfully close to George W. Bush consulting the Virgin Mary on bombing the Middle East.

Perhaps Romney is just stupid. Yes, dumb. Reagan was as dumb as a pole. And LBJ had cobwebs in his frontal lobes. Hell, you can be an idiot and still lead. But he doesn’t appear to have mental deficiencies. Romney speaks clearly enough and seems to believe most of what he says. I always felt Al Gore and John Kerry lost because they were phonies that didn’t quite embrace phoniness. This is why they could never grasp the finer points of campaigning. You could never quite shake the feeling while listening to them that they’d stolen someone else’s identity and were caught in a disquieting plot of alien design.

Romney has that look right now as he blurts out the phrase “moral convictions” every thirty seconds to keep from convulsing. I half expect a reptile to explode from his rib cage at any moment.

Watch Romney speak some time. Really watch him. The eyes dart spastically, the brow furrows, his speech patterns falter and then queer altogether. He often looks like the boy who has just realized he’s lost in a department store; that eerily suspended moment of panic-clarity before the freak-out.

“It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions.”

Creed? No they don’t. Not at all. I have a Jewish friend on the phone right now.

“Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

“What? No!”

I’m dialing up a Muslim as Romney keeps rolling.

“Religion and freedom endure together or perish alone.”

I’m not even sure what that means. Is that some kind of existential gobbledygook designed to hypnotize the elderly? Where is this going? Are we supposed to include Romney’s Christian tenets or ignore them? Is religion in or out of this thing? Are we to consider his incredibly passionate and enduring sense of faith and at the same time not expect him to be influenced by it? I’m confused. I’m not sure what this guy stands for or what he is capable of? I like his tie, though. He looks presidential in a way. He moves his hands in a subtle but forceful manner. I am beginning to love his indescribable aura of invincibility and ambiguity, like the living embodiment of an epic poem. He appears as a god.

My taxes are paid. My future is secure. War is over. Praise Jesus!

I like his chances.

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2007 Iowa Caucuses Loom

Aquarian Weekly 12/5/07 REALITY CHECK

30 DAYS TO PAY DIRT Iowa Caucuses Loom For GOP & Dems

Barack ObamaThere’s been over a year of white noise and revelry and backbiting and futile positioning rhetoric between 16 candidates with nary an incumbent nor true frontrunner sitting pretty. Long and pointless months of innocuous sound bites and crowded debate stages, asinine media manipulation and representative-laced excuse mongering has given way to the true campaign season, separating the haughty posturing and delicate strategies from the nitty gritty.

The wide-open 2008 race for the White House has entered the realm of Go Time, a buzz phrase for all campaign officials who’ve toiled with little sleep or personal monetary gain for mounting weeks and months in order to see tangible results. Go Time for the huddled and hunkered in a presidential race is pudding proof, when rubber finally hits road, and over the next crucial month Republican and Democratic hopefuls will put petal to metal and turn all these insufferable polls and goofy prognostications into the ultimate campaign trail pay-off, VOTES.

Here at The Desk, where we have driven a rusty spike through the hollow heart of two such endeavors in 2000 and 2004 – arguably the most hotly contested, protested and detested presidential election seasons ever – we have lain low, preaching patience and the need for a sober, stand-back level of perspective. That time is past. Thirty days is a blip in this procedure. A bad month has crushed the nuts of big-time politicians; shoo-in muscle geeks, who looked right but went left and fell into Carroll’s Rabbit Hole never to return.

The month before an opening primary or caucus will maim a weak candidate and catapult a strong one. What happens over the next thirty days, especially in the case of certain prominent candidates, may well determine the ultimate fate of the next president of the United States.

On January 3, the earliest starting gun in the history of this nation’s presidential campaign season, a season which has been ramping up the moment the Democrats stormed mathematical control of the legislative branch 13 months prior, an Iowa Caucasus for both parties will set in motion several scenarios which could cut the field, put to rest the wounded, and fire the panic jets beneath heretofore unstoppable marches.

Recall recent history when John Kerry’s 2004 run entered the final month before Go Time a floundering mess, overshadowed in every circle by a manic Howard Dean, only to emerge 45 days later as an “electable” juggernaut, or back in 2000, when a struggling George W. Bush was pushed to the brink by a hard-charging John McCain before baring the kind of fangs that put him in the big chair and eventually launched the War Era.

Let’s begin with where the Republican candidates stand.

After last week’s raucous YOUTUBE debate, which resembled the audience whoops and participant rancor of the most idiotic Jerry Springer freak show, the shift in the Iowa poll numbers is stark. The state’s shaky frontrunner, Mitt Romney’s shallowly disingenuous stammering and the pit-bull snarls of national poll leader, Rudy Giuliani gave way to a somewhat coherent Ron Paul and a stellar performance from Mike Huckabee. According to a Dec. 2 Des Moines Register poll, Romney, who has spent $7 million in his Iowa effort, has dipped from 29 to 24 percent, while Huckabee, spender of a poultry 300 grand in the state, has spiked from 12 to a leading 29 percent. Giuliani, whose people never expected anything from the caucus, wallows with the other also-rans at 13 percent.

Thirty days is a blip in this procedure. A bad month has crushed the nuts of big-time politicians; shoo-in muscle geeks, who looked right but went left and fell into Carroll’s Rabbit Hole never to return.

As stated here ad nauseam and proven out repeatedly, polls mean less than nothing. They are fun as a meager checkpoint and to analyze against trends, but usually end up stiffing, particularly in mercurial voting sites like Iowa and New Hampshire. However, one major issue has transpired on the Republican side: Romney, a flip-flopping master in the plastic-coated bull dung composition of a Bill Clinton or Ronald Regan, has teetered on the brink with Evangelical Christians. His vacillating positions on abortion, gay rights, and other key social issues have allowed Huckabee to vault ahead, but the former Arkansas governor and Baptist pastor has little to no party support to challenge in a national election and has even less money to win it.

Republican insiders believe Huckabee’s momentum will only serve to strengthen the Giuliani strategy of waiting out early losses, which are almost certainly assured in Iowa, NH, and possibly South Carolina, creating a confusing log-jam and leaving him the rest of the big states to grab on Super Tuesday, February 5. Nearly half the delegates stand to be taken on the biggest such primary day in history.

The Wait Game for Uncle Rudy also means allowing time for a Democratic candidate to come into focus. If it’s Hillary Clinton, then he is almost a guaranteed choice to head her at the pass, regardless of the former New York City mayor’s uber-liberal stance on gay rights, abortion, immigration, and even gun control.

Hillary? Not so fast.

With one month to go before the Democrats vote in Iowa, the 12-month honeymoon for Madam Shoo-In has come to a screeching halt. The Barack Obama campaign has woken up. By managing to deftly remain on the high road, they’ve also brazenly taken the bruises leveled on Senator Rodham by John Edwards and turned them into a legitimate comeback.

The same Dec. 2 Des Moines Register poll has Obama up from 22 to 28 percent and Senator Rodham slipping from 29 to 25 percent, only two percentage points behind a steady Edwards at 23.

Again, taking these numbers with huge grains of sodium, perception is everything. Up until about two weeks ago Obama looked nearly dead. Only massive Hollywood cash support and a groundswell of anti-Clinton rumblings from inside the party kept him from the kind of flash-in-the-pan footnote status the wooden Fred Thompson has settled into. Suddenly, with Clinton’s husband mucking up the works making up stories about not supporting the Iraq war before he didn’t support it or some such nonsense and a likely surge coming from the Oprah Winfrey factor when she enters the fray later this week, Obama’s electricity in Iowa could change everything.

Clinton has been not only running a national campaign and more or less ignoring the Democratic field for six months, the Republicans have already anointed her the opponent. She cannot afford to drop Iowa and limp into New Hampshire, which is notorious for following up an Iowa victory (check Kerry over Dean in ’04) or going nutso like a Pat Buchanan or Paul Tsongas win. Then South Carolina’s strong African American voter base may take early victories as a sign Obama could actually win this baby and avalanche what was once a Sure Thing.

But Sure Things come and go quickly in the primary season. A little bump like actually voting has a way of turning bold candidates into road kill and making newspaper jackasses look as stupid as they sound. Most importantly, winners have a way of standing come summer.

Thirty days.

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