Dan Bern at Bottom Line

 

East Coast Rocker 10/29/03

AN EVENING WITH DAN BERN THE BOTTOM LINE 10/18/03

New York City

Dan BernIn the late night hours on an empty stage on the campus of William Paterson College where he had just finished a haphazardly grueling but unerringly honest performance, Dan Bern described his current one month, twenty-two city solo tour in baseball terms. The admitted frenzied fan of the game likened the uneven gig to that of a pitcher with a formidable arsenal of pitches, but no real consistent snap on the curve or zip on the fastball. “There were nights when I used to feel like Sandy Koufax,” Bern said, slumped on his amp about to load out and head for NYC with the waning confidence of a man at the crossroads of a burgeoning career. “And some nights I feel like Pedro just trying to get out of the 8th.”

After his searing, balls-to-the-wall performance on the legendary stage at the Bottom Line on West 4th street the following night, his odd journey from the embattled Red Sox hurler to the best lefty the game has ever seen had come full circle.

Bern serenaded and spat, chugged and crooned, sliced and diced his way through a nearly two hour set of his best material, charming and probing, questioning and joking with the sold out crowd like a man on the hill with a nasty slider and a wicked splitter.

“On a solo tour there is nothing to lean on, no band to meld into when things are not going your way,” Bern noted, describing his constant fight to “stay in the song” as the key to the honesty of any worthwhile performance.

Dressed in baggy shorts and a ragged sweat shirt, hair cropped close to his scalp, Bern buried himself deep inside such sterling numbers as the haunting, “I Need You” and the rousing, “Alaska Highway”, seducing the crowd with his fan-favorite “Estelle” and culling huge laughs with his ode to paradoxical romance, “Johnny Cash and Anais Nin”.

But the highlights of the evening came when the prolific song-smith unveiled two new satirical numbers, “The President’s Song”, a winding lyrical masterpiece worthy of H.L Mencken on blotter acid and the infectious, “Bush Must Be Defeated”, both of which were blatant jabs at the current administration with political solutions both varied and bizarre, if not wildly entertaining.

Standing in the naked spotlight with guitar slung over his shoulder in defiance of age or apathy or even bad pitches is where Dan Bern was meant to roam. His songs, like his performances, and his late night rants about songs and performances are what make music and art worth fighting for in the first place.

And for a couple of hours in the most famous theater for rock music in Greenwich Village, Dan Bern pitched himself a perfect game.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Who is Running This War on Iraq? James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 10/29/03 REALITY CHECK

ANARCHY IN BUSHLAND

Who the hell is running this Iraq thing?

Really. No joke.

You tell me. Is it the Secretary of State? The Secretary of Defense? The Pentagon? The White House? The CIA? The Department of Defense? The UN Security Council? What? Who?

Between the leaks and backbiting and mixed messages and strange answers and weird innuendo, things have gone awry the last few weeks. Bodies pile up, money sinks into the hole and we have plenty of wild memos and a redirection of power and hip-hip-hooray speeches, but the more this thing unravels it seems like no one, least of all the Commander and Chief is running this half-cocked operation.

Rumsfeld is a lunatic. This much is true. Ever since the wam-bam part of this frolic subsided, he has been pretty much impotent and he doesn’t like that. But too damn bad. Fire this idiot. Break some balls, get on board with this thing or get out.

Someone needs to get Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld into the same room and get them to kiss and make up or kick them the fuck off the team. And where the hell is Colin Powel? Wake up Dick Chaney and his oil buddies and put them on alert. But let’s get our stories straight and our belts tightened, because ostensibly you’ve got the balance of global intrigue being run like a Three Stooges skit right now.

I think as the bankrollers of this mess, someone somewhere in the federal government needs to provide us with some indication of what a “slog” means, and what exactly constitutes “sacrifice” and “this takes time”.

What is it? Ten months? Two years? Six generations? What?

Are there weapons of mass destruction? Is bin Laden or Hussein alive? Why the fuck was David Blaine in a box? Are the Red Sox and Cubs cursed, or what?

Ballpark the sucker. Get on the tube and rally the troops, pick a mouthpiece and go with it. Something. Anything.

There has been too much politics involved already. No one cares whose fault it is and who is right or wrong. No one wants to hear whining about how the media is wounding the effort or we must all “support the troops!” every five seconds. There are American kids being picked off like a boardwalk amusement daily and Iraqi civilians burning alive under a Dan Rather sound bite. Is it too much to ask for some order here?

Listen, although no one with one iota of understanding of what the British went through at the start of the 20th century trying to manipulate the political and social landscape of the Middle East thought this thing wouldn’t be time-consuming, expensive and bloody, what has transpired these past weeks is ridiculous. With Rumsfeld sending out mixed signals, administration officials selling CIA operatives down the river through jack-booted journalists, and more of the same tired flag-waving rah-rah rhetoric coming out of Captain Shoe-In, you have to wonder who’s in charge.

This was the worry with G.W. all along. He was dim, yes, but he’d surround himself with the right people, and the right people would rule the day, get us through. But that was before 9/11 and our “war on terror” and Osama and Afghanistan and Hussein and Iraq, and on and on. Right now there are too many cooks in this pot, and none of them seem to have a master plan.

Rumsfeld is a lunatic. This much is true. Ever since the wam-bam part of this frolic subsided, he has been pretty much impotent and he doesn’t like that. But too damn bad. Fire this idiot. Break some balls, get on board with this thing or get out. One or the other.

Hey, that was always the big hitch for those of us who believed the best way to deal with bullies is to bully them, take the fight over there and keep the cheap hits from the homeland, but without the covert nasties from the CIA and no help from anyone outside of Britain, it is time to reassess or get tough. But this vacillating, wishy-washy cowboy crap has got to go.

Screw you we don’t need you, or let’s free people together?

Pick a slogan, a premise, a thesis and stick with it.

Go back into development, tweak this bastard and get back to us asap.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Schwarzenegger & The Left Wing GOP

Aquarian Weekly 10/22/03 REALITY CHECK

SCHWARZENEGGER & THE LEFT WING GOP

“I don’t care who does the electing as long as I get to do the nominating.” – Boss Tweed

Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California for two critical reasons, both of which will effect the next twelve months of the national politic.

Number one; the state’s mandate to oust incumbent, Gray Davis represents a foul mood in this country that things are about as fucked up as they are going to get without some heads rolling, fault or no fault, history or no history. We like our sacrificial lambs toasty when things are bleak.

Number two; the Republican Party is playing, and winning the independent sweepstakes at the expense of its radical continent.

The religious right, social conservative wing of the Grand Ole Party may not be dead, but its been seriously wounded, and will scramble for a foothold in the 2004 national campaign as the boys in charge fight and claw to keep it that way.

The religious right, social conservative wing of the Grand Ole Party may not be dead, but its been seriously wounded, and will scramble for a foothold in the 2004 national campaign as the boys in charge fight and claw to keep it that way.

By midnight last week, the three most potent voices in the Republican Party, (the party that now currently runs things in all major states, congress and the White House) are Arnie the Groper, Uncle Rudy Giuliani and Johnny “campaign finance” McCain. Two of these fellows do not exactly genuflect at the altar of moral fortitude and none of them displays a modicum of social conservativism. Yet all three are now major players in the ruling party for the next calendar year, with or without the support of the right wing of the GOP.

This sets up a few key choices for stalwart Republicans. Use the popularity of these men to rankle the Tom Delays et al and move the party as far left as it has been since Ronald Reagan fashioned the plastic hat, or watch the party go the way of the limping Democrats flailing away at a place in the hearts of the all-important independent vote.

Faces make American politics. No one knows what the hell is going on. You don’t know. Admit it. I used to know, then I stopped caring, then I thought I knew, and now I know something else entirely. Republicrats? Demigods? Give us a face with some moxy and a few hearty hue and cries and we’ve got ourselves a candidate.

The Democrats have lost that face. They need to get one soon, or they will lose again, badly, and maybe for the last time in any significant chronology. This gaggle of second-rate goons trotted out for the monthly debate of the damned does not a solidarity make. It used to be different for the Dems. They laughed at Bill Clinton, and then they hailed him king. Then they kicked him out of camp. Then earth-tone boy lost a squeaker, and now they pray to whatever gods they subscribe a general with no political savvy can make Captain Shoe-in buckle.

Well, it had better be General Wesley Clark. It sure ain’t going to be Howard Dean. He will die a Barry Goldwater/George McGovern death on the national stage. The rest have not distinguished themselves worthy for a run for dog catcher.

Here’s the news; G.W. appeals to the masses. His government is as bloated as any this republic has fostered. Yet he’s tough, or at least talks tough and stands next to military types that look tough and wears their clothes to appear so.

And despite sinking approval ratings, he’ll be a tough beat. All the talk in this space and everywhere else about the putrid economy and the extravagant deficit and blood in the streets in Baghdad and $80 billion invoices to fix the mess will never stand up to the crippling fear of this nation since 9/11/01. And the Bush people will play that one until the end, because there is no clear choice between the president and anyone else the Dems bring up.

Oh, Bush is ripe to be had, but there is no one who has emerged as of yet who can knock him off, and if Schwarzenegger makes any headway in California without taxing those people into the ocean, then G.W. will hop aboard the moderate bandwagon and hope it gets him four more years.

That’s the beauty of being the incumbent, despite running the country into a financial and internationally violent corner. You can lean anyway the wind blows.

And if Schwarzenegger fails?

Stay tuned.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Second Dan Bern Interview

10/17/03

Dan Bern InterviewUnedited Transcript Conducted on stage after the show at the Shea Auditorium For The Arts on the William Paterson College Campus – 10/17/03

Dan Bernjames campion: You mentioned to me yesterday that you were going through some doubts about your career and your feelings about continuing to tour and your songwriting. Do you want to start with that?

dan bern: Yeah, well you saw me out there tonight, I don’t know. I mean, on some nights I can come out and play “Hannibal” or “Black Tornado” and just storm…storm the stage, and I can still do it. Then, like tonight there is this pause, and all of a sudden it becomes “here we are” and it’s real and suddenly I’m not storming anymore and it gets scary. A lot of times its just really great and spontaneous, but right now on this solo thing it’s just plain scary. More than any time in a long time. And maybe I’ve felt that way for awhile, but on the last tour, when you and I spoke, I was with the band and I could lean on…

jc: …and now there’s no net.

db: Yeah, but I don’t need a net. I don’t want a net.

jc: I don’t know, tonight’s performance felt exciting to me. Watching you up there tonight felt like Russian roulette.

db: That’s a good analogy right there.

jc: Sitting in the audience, I felt as though anything could go tonight. You were totally in the moment. There didn’t seem to be any pretensions or fabrication to your performance. It was sloppy and introspective and more real than anything I’ve seen in some time.

db: I don’t know why I’m fighting it so much. In the past, if anyone would say to me it’s too loose, it’s disjointed, I’d tell them it’s real, it’s what it is, it’s where I’m at. But I’m not as confident now.

jc: Really? It would seem a show wherein you take the time to talk to the audience and joke about your guitar being out of tune and talk baseball and chat about songs would be scarier than just going up there and banging out the tunes, bowing, and heading home. I think tonight you broke the fourth wall. You didn’t appear to need to put on the airs of the performer. It didn’t look at all like a guy grabbing for straws. You seemed very comfortable to me.

db: I don’t know, man. I don’t know.

jc: You reminded me tonight of something that might have gone down in the Village before the whole glossy folk movement took place in the mid-to-late 60s, like that Christopher Guest movie.

db: (laughs) “A Mighty Wind”.

“I want to talk about how to begin again. And I know a song like that, something meaningful to me outside all of this, is why I do this, why I’m out on the road doing this solo thing in the first place.”

jc: (laughs) That was so hilarious; the utter pretension of the Baby Boomer pop culture manipulation exposed.

db: The Eugene Levy character in that, tell me that’s not Joseph Lieberman. (does Levy impression of monotone mumbling) Is that not Lieberman?

jc: (laughs) I thought the movie perfectly took on the self-absorbed nature of that phony Madison Avenue sheen of folk music in the late 60s. I’m currently reading a book about the American Bohemian movement of New York in the teens, and these people were the real deal, man. The Beats and Dylan and that whole movement that seemed so real to me, when I was learning about it, was simply an offshoot of that. You might say they were even a ripping off the realism of pure radicals like Max Eastman and Emma Goldman. I thought you brought some of that realism back to the performance tonight. So if it was born of insecurity, fine. But you must feel a responsibility to bring your work back to that sense of realism, of something less fashionable, to have something to say with your songs.

db: But I feel like I’m running into walls. I feel like I’ve reached a plateau and I don’t know how to push it further. And I think I’m feeling really discouraged. Kind of like, “What’s the point?” I mean as much as I’m using this tour to sing “The President’s Song” and present my vision for all that, I want to talk about how to begin again. And I know a song like that, something meaningful to me, outside all of this, is why I do this, why I’m out on the road doing this solo thing in the first place. I’m inspired by the sensibilities of expressing, and that always seemed connected to going out and playing the guitar and singing the songs. But…(sighs)

jc: I’m reminded of one of your songs that speaks to that, your first impressions of playing the guitar, performing alone with just you and the instrument, something about you once feeling like a Mexican gunslinger and now it’s all homogenized?

db: (recites) “I used to feel like a Mexican Bandit when I picked up my guitar, and now it’s nuclear winter and I gotta pay for a new car.” That’s “Fly Away”. Yeah, when it feels like down and dirty, dangerous and useful and, you know, subversive in the best way, spreading ideas in the best way. (Man interrupts and hands Dan a cup of beer.) Is this tea?

jc: My God, you’re drinking beer on a dry campus. You’re a rebel. That’s what I’m talking about, damn it. Real subversion, true revolutionary shit. Hey, you should do that damn song again, “True Revolutionaries”. That is a great fucking folk song. Rip that one out and play it with new lyrics.

Dan Berndb: I did want to rewrite it. I knew I had to, but I never got around to it. That’s why I’m not playing it, because it’s got the old lyrics, it’s useless.

jc: I don’t know, I think Timothy McVeigh and Pee Wee Herman are still relevant.

db: (smiles) Right.

jc: I know we’ve talked about your brief stint at the L.A. Times before, but did that give you the bug to write in another medium, as opposed to verse?

db: Well, I’ve always had the bug. Really, in the last year I’ve been working on this novel more than any songs. And when this tour came up I realized, shit I don’t have anything new to go on tour with!

jc: We’ve also broached the novel before. Do you want to talk about it now?

db: Sure, yeah.

jc: So what is the theme?

db: Well, I’m a scientist in the book. I go out on the road and I do lectures with illustrations and I have this scientific team that travels together; one guy’s an atom smasher, another is a chemical washer and one guy makes noxious smells. It’s much like my life on the road, but with complete carte blanche, no necessity to it, a complete freedom. I think it’s kept me alive.

jc: The book?

db: Yeah.

jc: So it’s like your Holy Grail?

db: Yes, I would say so.

jc: So, as the narrator, and I assume it’s in the first person, as the science lecturer, are you independently wealthy?

“Of course, I’m as big a believer in song as anyone. I’ve gone to great lengths to live my life by it. I believe in song in its primal shape. It’s as primal and as necessary to human beings as dancing, almost as breathing.”

db: That’s how I make my money. It’s just like this touring, but its science. It’s done within the scientific community.

jc: Is that a metaphor for something?

db: It’s not really a metaphor; it’s in place of the music, really. Instead of a concert, I’m out giving lectures.

jc: So, let me be psychoanalytical. Are you saying, in essence, going out and playing music is a science?

db: I’m not saying that. (laughs) It’s just a story.

jc: (laughs) I’m trying to get in deeper. There’s always something behind the story, the subtext, symbolism. Why do you feel the need to write about science? Are you fascinated by science? Do you feel people are easily duped by science? That it’s sort of a show? Do you have a respect for the subject?

db: Yeah.

jc: Do you see yourself in another life being a scientist, so you are using the prose to playact, to unfurl a part of you that lies dormant, what?

db: Maybe. (smiles)

jc: (laughs) Well, how deep have you delved into this book? Does it have plot, arcs, or characters that come in and out? Does it have intrigue?

db: Yeah, it has characters that come in and out and has characters that stay around, but beyond that…

jc: You don’t want to tell me.

db: (smiles) You’ll read it. You read it and tell me.

jc: I thought you were going to bring me some stuff tonight.

db: I can’t. I can’t. Not yet. If there is one thing I’ve learned from various projects, it is you cannot rush these things, as much as you want to. Let it breathe. It will give you the timetable. I’ve made records that I’ve done that with and I’ve made records hurried, and I always feel better about the former.

jc: You know the old stories about Dylan just running into the studio with no charts or rehearsals for the musicians and plugging in and shouting “One, two, three..” and crashing into recordings. Critics argue that had he rehearsed the damn things, all those albums, especially the early ones, could have been even greater. But that’s the way he did it, so how can you argue with the results there?

Dan Berndb: True.

jc: “New American Language” is my favorite record of yours. How long did that take to make?

db: It took the longest time. Over a year.

jc: Why?

db: It needed it; because I started with not knowing what to do with it and worked my way through it. Wrote songs as I went, redid things, left it, came back, left it, came back. It’s my favorite too, because of that. I was in control of the process enough to make the process be the thinker, let it tell me when it was finished.

jc: When you get through this novel of yours, when you finally get on top of it, do you think this will infuse more into your writing music? I mean, don’t you feel that you’ve somehow cheated your muse by chasing after the prose at the expense of the songwriting, because I always think that there is only so much time you can be inspired to write in a certain genre, that the window of opportunity closes eventually on your chosen artistic endeavors.

db: Well, if anything it’s the other way around. Sometimes when I’m on tour I get new ideas for the book. You know, lately on tour the last year and a half, that’s what the muse has been for. I mean, when I need to write a song, I write it. Like ‘The President’s Song.” I must write this song. I know what the song is and it must come out. And I can do it. It was the same thing for the other ones. If I’m not writing a song a day, I’m okay with it.

jc: How many songs have you written? Ballpark.

db: Fifteen Hundred.

jc: What’s your favorite song?

db: That I’ve written?

jc: Yeah, it’s like me and the wife have the “Favorite Movie of All-Time Question”. You can’t think about it. I know all songwriters refer to their songs as children and you can’t have a favorite. But if I asked you what your favorite movie of all time was right now, you can’t think about it, just answer.

db: “Strangers In Paradise”.

jc: There you go.

“I believe in what I’m saying and doing in the “President’s Song.” It’s a real expression of emotions, and I’m not going through the paces with that. And if nothing ever changes in this world, I know I did my little part. I tried. So, in the end, if I’m going to write songs or write whatever, then that becomes the central focus, and all the love songs can go hang.”

db: My favorite song? I’m always going to weigh toward the most recent. My favorite song is “The President’s Song”. Whatever I’m doing, and whenever I’m playing and riffing, that’s my favorite.

jc: So, when you performed that song tonight, you’re still formulating it with each show?

db: No, it’s written, but there’s a lot of finding…there’s leeway in it. There’s no one-way of doing it yet. It hasn’t locked in. I haven’t even done it twenty times yet. That’s why I like it. It’s not locked in yet.

jc: You really nailed a song tonight called “Drifting Along”. Is that one new?

db: Yeah.

jc: It’s a gorgeous song, really. And it reminded me of your mood yesterday on the phone with you saying that you weren’t sure where you were at, what it’s all for. And that’s a very unique talent to be able to put those emotions that took a longer conversation yesterday to impart into a three-minute song with a nice melody and express it on stage to hundreds of people. It’s unique to all songwriters, but in your style of writing, it speaks to me. I’ll play your stuff to many different people and get all kinds of reactions, but for me, you’re still getting through your emotions in a song like that.

db: Thanks, man, but it’s that intangible thing about music. There’s so much about the “style” people like. (groans) I mean, you’ve already lost ’em with style. Then you get into the whole dated thing with pop music or folk music; like Mozart is forever, but anything related to pop music is like looking at a yearbook picture and you’ve got flairs on and a pookah-shell necklace.

jc: Is that why when you tried to play “Estelle” from your first record tonight, you stopped at the beginning?

db: Nah, I just forgot it. (laughs) If I don’t keep it up, I lose it. I’ll get it back, but it wasn’t happening tonight.

jc: But don’t you think there is some validity to the point that a good song is a good song, the melody, the lyric is timeless, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter what style or genre. A good song is a good song. I can’t get that damn song of yours from the “World Cup” record, “Alright Kind of A Girl” out of my head. I sing it everyday when my mind wanders. I find myself singing it, but not like a cola jingle, the melody makes me feel great, brightens my mood. It’s a simple song, but it’s a beautiful melody. Don’t you think there’s some lasting point to that?

db: Of course, I’m as big a believer in song as anyone. I’ve gone to great lengths to live my life by it. I believe in song in its primal shape. It’s as primal and as necessary to human beings as dancing, almost as breathing. It is breathing, and it’s in and of itself almost devoid of what the song is about. Song is based on necessity; but I don’t know, I almost feel as if it’s a crutch for me now. I’ve been leaning on song for so long now, putting every emotion, every writing thing into song, I wonder, can I…can I…can I do it without song? Can I get the benefit of expressing emotions without immediately losing it in the style of the music?

jc: So you take the song out of the equation…

db: …and remove the challenge of not having chords, a refrain or a chorus.

jc: But that’s what great about the folk style, so to speak. You don’t have a rigid pop music structure there. You can have a talking blues, of which you have many, and get your point across without having to have much else. So I guess you have to look at What is next? What am I going to do as the artist here, as the writer here; Am I going to go balls-to-the-wall and express all emotions with any genre because it’s now or never and what the hell am I saving it for?

db: You know I had all of six weeks off to sit around and think about things, deliver a batch of new songs, so I can barely comment about what I want to do. I fucking wish I knew. I wish I had that strong sense of purpose. And I think its not so much necessary, but downright dangerous touring without that. I just feel like I’m stumbling around. And that’s not the case with the new songs. They’re easy to do, because, in there, I know what I’m doing with them. I believe in what I’m saying and doing in the “President’s Song.” It’s a real expression of emotions, and I’m not going through the paces with that. And if nothing ever changes in this world, I know I did my little part. I tried. So, in the end, if I’m going to write songs or write whatever, then that becomes the central focus, and all the love songs can go hang. But those seem important too. I don’t know. It all seemed to get old so fast, and it always seemed for me to be important to connect somehow and not go through the motions.

jc: So what you’re saying is that you can branch out to many emotional outlets, but in the end, you are a songwriter. That is what they’ll put on your gravestone, in your obituary, right? So do you want to be known primarily for that, because you paint, you draw, you have cartoons on your web site, you’re working on this book, but we’re talking right now, people might be reading this right now, because you’re a songwriter.

db: I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. I think we could be talking because we’re writers. I mean, right now I feel I’ll ultimately be more known for the books. Think about it. Even your favorite record – your favorite record – six months later you’re not listening to it anymore. Ten years later you don’t even have it. Fifteen years later you can’t even find the damn thing anywhere. But a book like Catcher in the Rye is fucking timeless. Of course there’s books that don’t last, but if you want to do something and really want it to last, write a fucking book. I guess that’s my hope to write something lasting. Sure my ego needs to write a great song and be part of that folk chain and pass it down to the next generation, but it’s getting harder and harder to envision that. But maybe it’s a phase. Even if it’s a phase, it may be a three-year phase, but I’m at this crossroads right now and I’m thinking about how best to express myself not only for myself, because it might mean something to those people who spend the time and the money and come out to see me play and listen to the songs. For them, I have to stay in the song. I have to be in the song. I have to be somewhere that matters to me, otherwise I’ll cheat the whole system, the audience and myself, and no one is the wiser.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Articles | Books | Bio | Press | Sound Off | Recommended | Contact jc jamescampion.com is a proud member of the BLAZO!! network BLAZE inter.NET Designed & Hosted by BLAZE inter.NET

Read More

Rush Limbaugh, ESPN & The Craven Con

Aquarian Weekly 10/9/03 REALITY CHECK

RUSH LIMBAUGH, ESPN & THE CRAVEN CON

As usual, the frenzied response to a hot-button story misses the key point. This time its the fabricated outrage surrounding politico dog-and-pony act, Rush Limbaugh’s alleged controversial statements made on ESPN’s pro football pre-game scream-o-rama last Sunday, which, by way of mention, took four days to surface. To arrive at less reactionary conclusions, we must pose three core questions: What Limbaugh was doing on a pre-game show beyond acting as gaffer or towel boy, his reasons for the gutless quitting of the gig afterwards, and who stood the most to suffer its backlash had he been man enough to face the music?

For the record, this incident should not be viewed as a race issue, or a form of political correctness abuse or certainly any first amendment pogrom. And it is not, nor has it ever been about whether or not anything the man uttered displayed the slightest glimmer of validity. It was merely a con to get you to pay attention to something and someone not worthy of your attention.

Let’s review.

ESPN needs sponsors and athletes to exploit for profit. Limbaugh needs to be a puppet of political ideology. Both lose if they vehemently defend his alleged philosophical bravery, so both predictably tanked it, collecting their checks and singing their tired songs of spin.

For those not mired in all things jock or schlock, ESPN and Limbaugh were a match made in a marketing heaven imagined by goofball pandering ratings-hungry execs, who view the landscape of envelope-pushing pop culture as a lazy blueprint to force-feed the great unwashed.

Limbaugh is a melon-headed lap dog for the Republican Party who fronts a shill-laden attack fest middays for WABC Radio in New York. A national minority of dunderheads who wish the atavistic, two-dimensional social order of the 1950s’ still existed laud his daily harangue. Aside from puppeteer at theme parks, rodeo clown and the guys who hand out pamphlets for strip clubs in Times Square, radio talk show host is the lowest ebb of the entertainment medium. I too have weakly trolled its murky waters, and save for its king, the always highbrow, Howard Stern, Rush is its cream.

ESPN is a 24-hour cable station/youth culture advertising magnet turned media empire with radio affiliates, magazines, movie production companies, and restaurants which mainly cater to fourteen year-old boys, or those who continue to embrace similar prepubescent activities as religion. It is the home office of furious sound bites and dick jokes used to sell beer between video of hockey fights.

WABC is owned by the Disney Corporation, which also happens to own ESPN.

Limbaugh was brought in to add to the already over-the-top guffaw locker room ambiance of a two-hour mess called Sunday Countdown, a show that once provided some semblance of useful sports information but now fits the rest of the station’s sub-moronic line-up of bargain-basement comedic geniuses dressed up in the guise of the “American Sports Fan”.

Okay, so last Sunday, Limbaugh loudly substantiated his laughably woeful lack of pro football acumen by jabbering a litany of unsubstantiated comments about one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, the Philadelphia Eagles, Donavan McNabb. Limbaugh opined that McNabb, the best player on his team and a perennial star since entering the NFL, was nothing more than a propagandized figment of the Philadelphia media and its desire to see black quarterbacks succeed.

Limbaugh is wrong on all accounts. McNabb is good, very good. The Philadelphia sporting press, well known for vitriolic meandering, has done anything but champion its pro athletes. Consequently, for those actually covering the game, instead of self-promoting, McNabb has taken more shit than he deserves for bad coaching and a vacillating front office.

So Limbaugh clearly demonstrated he knew nothing about the subject he is paid to comment on, lazily substituting real reporting and fair commentary for self-aggrandizing rhetoric, a talent he routinely displays in the realm of socio-political issues daily on his radio show. Only here, he was out of his element, and away from braying sycophants who have raised him to the level of shaman. Knowing Limbaugh’s tired shtick about attacking the mainstream “liberal” media and his disdain for “reverse racism”, he probably meant to say that the league has gone about over-promoting black coaches and quarterbacks to deflect liberal media criticism. Thus his blather, while curiously racial in theme, was hardly racist.

Predictably, the backlash has been harsh and vocal from black leaders and players, and of course, McNabb and the “liberal media”. This prompted this asinine defense of Limbaugh’s right to free speech.

Wrong again.

Firstly, freedom of speech applies to the liberty to espouse whatever theorem enters one’s head without government or legal retribution. Limbaugh was not arrested, and no one stopped him from saying what he said, or even edited his comments from the show. He wasn’t even fired, which was warranted, as in the case of former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, who went off the rails a few years ago with blatantly racist gibberish. A business does not have to compromise its earning power by harboring an unpopular employee. The Braves could not have a KKK poster boy on the payroll, and ESPN, or specifically Sunday Countdown could not survive a boycott of black NFL players of its telecasts.

Here’s your truth.

Limbaugh’s commentary signals mission accomplished for Disney. Buzz is created with free press and booming ratings. However, Limbaugh, often heard ranting about the Dixie Chicks and Hollywood types throwing their anti-American opinions around when not warranted, hides behind the “it was merely one man’s opinion” and then bails. Let’s face it; Limbaugh is racist like the Dixie Chicks are anti-American, but not unlike every celebrity caught in a bind that might dim the limelight, Limbaugh quit.

The fact is six minutes into the Limbaugh experiment everyone knew it was a mistake, including Limbaugh. It reeked of the kind of desperation that lead Disney into putting comedian, Dennis Miller out of his element to trump up sagging Monday Night Football ratings and start the parade of super models giving agonizingly banal sideline reports. So, with pressure from the top to justify the Limbaugh hiring, the people on the talent side of ESPN riled Limbaugh, a consummate showman who knows well how to put on the peacock feathers when he needs it, to stir the pot. He did. Backlash ensued. ESPN panics. He quits.

Despite window dressing to the contrary, ESPN is not a frat house of rebels and despots. It is a multi-million dollar corporation in the business to sell beer with tits and violence. Limbaugh took its money to whore his free speech card and stammered a badly articulated theory framed clumsily with political propaganda. He used skin color as an unfortunate analogy. Neither he nor ESPN, so hot for attention, could handle standing up to the inevitable public retort. It’s okay for Limbaugh and ESPN to hurl this crap at you, but once you bristle at it, its time to run and hide.

ESPN needs sponsors and athletes to exploit for profit. Limbaugh needs to be a puppet of political ideology. Both lose if they vehemently defend his alleged philosophical bravery, so both predictably tanked it, collecting their checks and singing their tired songs of spin.

The sick underbelly of this story is simply that too many people in the public arena, paid to act and talk tough, run scared too often. Christian crackpot, Jerry Falwell, smarmy coward, Bill Mahr, stuffy windbag, Trent Lott, Bostionian sad sack, Bob Ryan and a host of others too many to mention, have all apologized or backtracked or resigned under the normal resistance that comes from offering “brave” ideas into an idiom that prefers beer and tits.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Covering Republicans 2003

Aquarian Weekly 9/17/03 REALITY CHECK

GEORGETOWN IN CALI Part II

Continuing my 9/3 conversation with GOP snitch, Georgetown, holed up in his suite at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

jc: All right, Iraq. It looks like we’re on plan 786 here. Every possible roadblock is up. We’re not unmitigated conquering heroes. There has been an alarming influx of surrounding terrorist organizations. It’s becoming a shooting gallery and a money pit. We don’t have Saddam. We don’t have bin Laden. And now Afghanistan has started to percolate into a cauldron again.

Georgetown: Boo hoo. We are such a weak generation. It takes years to secure countries, and by that I mean both Iraq and the United States. Every sane person agrees that eradicating the Hussein government, whatever the fuck that was, was imperative. So now we want everything afterwards to go away? Where are the protesters who railed against Bush 41 for leaving the revolutionaries to die after Desert Storm? Either you want to aid these people, or not.

jc: The boo hoo not withstanding, what I need to know is how much you know of how together this administration is on going back to the UN for a hand-out, a commitment to restructuring Iraq, and the relative pot stirred by this whole occupation.

“I do think Bush is more vulnerable now than two years ago, but I also don’t believe a drone like John Kerry or a radical like Howard Dean or a blabbering dork like Dick Gephardt can best him in a national campaign within the next 14 or so months. Period. “

GT: Occupation is a bullshit buzzword and you know it. This is a peacekeeping, post-victory stance this country has taken. If people opposed to the war want to take pot shots, I expect it, but it’s whiners like you that make it difficult to debate. You can’t have everything. I know you were in favor of ousting Hussein, so now you cannot pack your bags and leave. This is a mission, not a movie. The credits don’t roll now that the regime has been toppled. You roll up your sleeves and deal with the problem. And that just doesn’t mean the Democrats throwing money at it, or fighting it all the way anymore.

jc: I think I’m pretty secure on record as saying for over five years of published commentary that this should have been taken care of by the CIA a long time ago. What is the point of having a CIA anymore? Once we involved ground troops and sniffed around the UN for permission, and waded around in international money concerns like we did by snuffing out billions of dollars owed to the French, German and Russian governments from Iraq, we put our military and our putrid economic situation in further peril. And for what, really?

GT: So you prefer the old-fashioned assassination, coup de tat to a show of military might?

jc: I want to know what this administration is doing right now. Because I cannot figure it out. I fear they’re winging this thing, and that is why you hear overt backbiting by Rumsfeld and Powell like you’ve never heard out of these otherwise tight-lipped sops. Do you have any information for my readers on what the inside scoop is presently on Iraq?

GT: I do not. I never have, but it’s obvious. There has been a commitment here monetarily, spiritually, systematically. The president has a planned address for next week to run down the numbers. (The president spoke late on Sunday 9/7 and proposed an $80 billion-plus bill for the rebuilding and securing of Iraq, and a possible 12 month mission)

jc: How long do you think this will take?

GT: As long as it does. I don’t know. I don’t know how anyone knows. I can tell you from a political standpoint it cannot aid in the re-election of the president, especially if there is still daily bloodshed. And I don’t know how it can be avoided. But I know this president, unlike the last one, will not be motivated politically. In a week the anniversary of 9/11 will arrive and maybe everyone will remember this country’s commitment to protect itself.

jc: You’d have to agree we may be in more danger now, because of the pomp and destruction of that war, the rumblings in Iran and now North Korea and elsewhere. There is a ground swell of anti-American rhetoric that gets through to the independent voice out there.

GT: After 9/11 there can be no independent voice. Sides and lines were drawn long ago, pal. And anyway, even you would have to admit the anti-American rhetoric had gotten to a saturation point before the attacks anyway. I see this as taking a few with us.

jc: But that’s a perpetual war.

GT: Yes it is.

jc: How long are we going to pussyfoot around with North Korea?

GT: More bullshit. China will decide that. I think there is pretty good documentation now that the Chinese will step in and handle this. There is too much money at stake. I may not agree with all of the Bush foreign policy, but on the handling of North Korea, I do. There is no other choice.

jc: Let’s get on to politics. How do you see this gaggle of Democratic candidates, seriously?

GT: I can’t be serious. These people cannot win. I truly mean that. There is no worrying at the White House right now, at least not politically. The president’s approval ratings have dropped, but his administration is at an all-time low and it isn’t even down in the 30% range. I do think Bush is more vulnerable now than two years ago, but I also don’t believe a drone like John Kerry or a radical like Howard Dean or a blabbering dork like Dick Gephardt can best him in a national campaign within the next 14 or so months. Period.

jc: But its getting less risky to bash this war now, and it doesn’t look like a palpable economic recovery is possible by Christmas, which usually translates into spring again, and then the campaign begins, more or less. So, there is an opening.

GT: Bush is president. He does not have to deal with anything really until late august. I don’t see a clear-cut contender from the current crowd who can beat Bush. The alternative remains a crapshoot, and this is no time for a crapshoot.

jc: Yes, that plan worked gang busters for the first Bush.

GT: None of these guys have the out-of-nowhere political strength of a Bill Clinton. Show me that and we’ll talk.

jc: Hillary in 2008?

GT: Let’s worry about 2004, but if you are inquiring if I’ve heard otherwise, I have not. This was the plan once Gore went down. I don’t think anyone in her camp thinks these dolts are going to beat Bush either. She will not face in incumbent in ’08.

jc: How do Beltway conservatives, of which you are one, see Bush now after this record government spending.

GT: I think, no, I know you will see a far more conservative Bush after he gains a second term. I’ll tell you I thought the fight over the tax cuts were eventually lost. That pissed me off, but I can’t speak for everyone.

jc: Can I get your take on the big Madonna/Britney kiss on the MTV awards?

GT: Didn’t Michael Jackson kiss Pee Wee Herman on that show a few years back?

jc: That’s how I choose to recall it.

GT: I think when a franchise has been built on the back of phony shock promotion; it sets itself up for this fabricated news bating. I find the whole thing painfully wanting in terms of both its provocative content and attention craving. MTV has been finished as a pop culture entity for decades, and so is Madonna. I think the two represent the essence of managing an undignified public death quite well. And I don’t know what the fuck a Britney is? Unless she kissed a canine pedigree on an award show, then I apologize, that’s entertainment!

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Covering The Cali Recall Pt. 1

Aquarian Weekly 9/10/03 REALITY CHECK

GEORGETOWN IN CALI

The meter is running up quite a tab in Iraq, and to think we can’t get anyone to help us pay for it. Half the states in the union are broke, fuel prices are bloating unmercifully, North Korea has turned into a 21st century nuclear madhouse, and it looks like it’s almost inevitable now that J-Lo and Affleck are going to perpetuate their banal genes into the species. As for Georgetown, this column’s most requested, and recently, pitifully absent contributor; he’s in California covering what by all accounts should be only the second successful voter-instigated revulsion of a governor in the 127-year fun-loving history of this republic.

This two-part conversation took place over the phone late on 9/3, 34 days before the California Recall, as the anonymous Republican insider dutifully manned his post at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. His pricey room service order not withstanding, the bankrolling of “the trip” was very much a GOP mission. His mood, although conciliatory at first, had begun to foul when we began the following dialogue:

jc: What the fuck are doing in California? You hate California.

“Nearly a third of the current California voter base is on the verge of anarchy. But who can blame them?”

Georgetown: Christ, I’m working for the party. This is where the action is for the next month. You do know they pelted Schwarzenegger with eggs at a rally last night in Long Beach.

jc: So I’ll take your presence there as proof the national wing of the party is now entrenched in California, despite rumors out of the White House that a changeover might actually harm the numbers for Bush in 2004?

GT: Don’t listen to that bullshit. There are very good sources that project an inevitable up-swing in the economy here that will reflect in the national numbers by Christmas, and that cannot happen with a Democrat in the governor’s chair.

jc: So you guys are playing this like the stock market. Less politically, I mean.

GT: As always, on the state level, politics is economically driven. We knew once the Recall started to become a reality that it was a fair in to open ideological debates. This state is so bad off right now it could severely cripple the national economy. Blurring the lines politically was the only choice.

jc: You are aware that almost a third of the states in this republic are going belly up. They’ve proposed significant tax hikes in Alabama for the first time ever. Nightline had a militia group from Tuscaloosa on last night threatening to burn down the capitol building this weekend.

GT: Yes, I heard Jesus Christ has been called in as a Socialist icon for the horsewhipping.

jc: Anyone with half a brain has come to the sobering understanding that the Pentagon is currently running domestic policy.

GT: Pretty good comeback for a flaccid concept a mere 16 months ago.

jc: Back to Schwarzenegger. Listen, I’m all for anyone running for anything anytime, and if he doesn’t want to be exposed by a debate, it’s his right. I actually like Arny. But is this ass wipe going to say anything concrete beyond repeating “California is the golden state” with forcibly veiled references to The Terminator every five minutes?

GT: I think Schwarzenegger has been very clear that he is merely a figurehead for an economic strategy conglomerate to audit and strip down the current criminal activity running unchecked through this atrociously run state government. Anything beyond that is gravy as for this campaign. People teetering on leads with an exclusive celebrity monopoly on the local and national media do not waste time debating pollution, medicinal marijuana and illegal aliens with dime-store plebeians.

jc: So the party’s stance is that Schwarzenegger is nothing more than a fancy car being driven by far more qualified passengers.

GT: Schwarzenegger is the hood ornament.

jc: You know there is still a chance this Recall might not happen. The LA Times released a poll last Friday (8/29) that the number for ousting Davis is now at 50%, down from 58% in mid-August.

GT: When I came out here early last week, the party’s goal was to rally the conservatives around Schwarzenegger. By as late as two weeks ago, that was still a problem. Then I get out here and their telling me the Davis comeback is starting to become a concern. Now my feeling, and it’s in the minority right now, is that Davis cannot come back from this because the people who refute booting him won’t make it to the polls.

jc: You only expect a significant turn-out for voters supporting the Recall?

GT: What the fucking LA Times poll does not factor is our extensive research that most Californians opposed to the Recall will choose to abstain from the process as protest to their original votes being appropriated by what they feel is an unfair coup. Their opposition is merely vocal, not political. They will bow out from a process they feel was initially pointless. They’ve already voted, and now they have to vote again? This is the reasoning here among an alarming number of Recall detractors.

jc: That’s insane.

GT: Welcome to California. When was the last time you were out here? When we spoke in San Francisco in ’99? Nearly a third of the current California voter base is on the verge of anarchy. But who can blame them? I’m only here as part of a political strategist conference. People who pose a threat to a Republican victory are my only concern. If they affect Schwarzenegger’s electability, I pay attention. Otherwise, I can’t be bothered. The way I see it, possible anarchy only helps us.

jc: Have you met with Schwarzenegger?

GT: Only in a group, last week. He’s a bright man, with a good heart, and it’s a fucking shame the press out here has seen fit to take his two-week campaign to paint him as a womanizing, pothead, son of a Nazi.

jc: That’s nothing. All of us on the east coast were convinced Gray Davis was feeding live infants to Incubus in his basement.

GT: I heard that.

jc: Before we move on to national affairs, how do you see this playing out?

GT: Davis is finished. The media is lost on this. Our only hurtle is Cruz Bustamante, who is alienating the voter base I just mentioned. Here is a guy who is at once trying to hoist the “don’t recall” flag up the pole, while aggressively running a campaign for governor. It’s the most blatant two-faced hypocrisy known to the political system, and this from a man who is the fucking lieutenant governor under the man who is weeks from being exiled. The only way we don’t take this deal is because it takes place in California. And anyone who claims they know what these people might do are either drugged up or plain stupid.

jc: Didn’t you just predict…

GT: Fuck you.

Next subject. NEXT WEEK PART II – Iraq, North Korea, Democratic Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton, Britney kisses Madonna & more.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Gay Bishops & Other Modern Illusions

Aquarian Weekly 8/13/03 REALITY CHECK

GAY BISHOPS & OTHER MODERN ILLUSIONS

A gay Episcopal Bishop.

What’s next? A Jewish Pope? A black Grand Poobah of the KKK? How about Larry Flynt heading up the National Organization of Women or Rush Limbaugh gaining a chair in the ACLU? Maybe I’d like to be a Wiccan priest? That would be a good one.

It’s freeform dogma.

Get on board.

That’s the rub of the Bible. It’s not the US Constitution. It doesn’t have amendments. Moses has been gone a good long time, and the last guy to question its veracity in the realm of human spirituality was hung up on a crossbeam. And that was two thousand long years ago.

I love humans. I am proud to be one. We set up these insane rules around metaphysical concepts like God and attach tangible regulations surrounding culture and clothes and sexuality and food and all sorts of ridiculous things to it, then we like to excuse these rules willy nilly to allow us to still participate in the metaphysical concepts based on new sets of intangible rules and laws.

I don’t care if Reverend Gene Robinson of the New Hampshire Episcopalians is a homosexual. But that doesn’t matter here. Others who have commented on this hot-button topic do. And that doesn’t matter either. What matters is Episcopalian law. Like other monotheistic institutions that utilize the Holy Bible as a guideline, it deems homosexuality a sin banned by God in the language of Moses in Leviticus circa 1445 bce.

Episcopalians, as all Christians, use the Letters of St. Paul to both the Corinthians and the Romans as a guideline of metaphysical law to damn homosexuality.

Some may agree or disagree with any part of these documents, but you cannot deny their language or intent. And you certainly cannot expect to ignore them while heading up a religion that calls these things immutable laws of the universe.

How can Mr. Robinson claim dominion over the other laws within his institution now that he has sidestepped one? What, some interpretations of Biblical law are debatable, but others are not?

It’s like Thou Shall Not Kill.

There’s no comma after this.

It’s not Thou Shall Not Kill, unless Congress declares war or unless you’re hungry or pissed or happen to not like the culture of the indigenous inhabitants of a continent you feel destined to rule.

What a bunch of fucking phonies we are.

This is why I have no use for institutions based on stringently nonsensical regulations, but some people do, and if they do, they should stick to these laws and boundaries or get the hell out.

It’s like these supposed vegetarians who eat fish or these Catholics who want to get divorced and still get married in the church, or people of the Jewish or Islamic faith mixing their precious cultures or people making fifty-buck bets and calling that gambling.

I’m reminded of that guy who recently claimed contentious objector status after joining the army. What did he think the army was, summer camp with tanks?

If you choose to head up some religious institution that uses the Bible as the immutable Word of God, then you cannot also be gay.

Has anyone read the Bible lately?

I mean really read it. Study its intentions and messages and metaphors? Because I have, several times during the research for my last book; and I’m here to report that if people actually read the damn thing, they would not be too quick to start restructuring it to meet their generation’s needs or evolved point of view.

That’s the rub of the Bible. It’s not the US Constitution. It doesn’t have amendments. Moses has been gone a good long time, and the last guy to question its veracity in the realm of human spirituality was hung up on a crossbeam. And that was two thousand long years ago.

And if you are one of those who think the Bible the absolute direction of the cosmos and the central theme of an omnipotent creator of the universe, and consider its verse the conscience of your judger and redeemer, its time to come to grips with its serious nature. Serious, unwavering balls-to-the-wall nature.

I think if people actually read the Bible, there could be trouble. But people don’t read. They watch television and snowboard and make money and try and get laid. And when it comes time to do whatever they feel like doing or hating or co-opting, they interpret things like the Bible in their own interesting way.

People like to take their righteousness in doses, or like some wise person said: Anything in moderation cannot hurt you.

Here’s where I quote a great man of fiduciary wisdom for our age, James V. Campion, my pop, who, when addressing the sticky subject of income tax says; “People must have it taken out little by little in each paycheck throughout the year, because if people actually knew what percentage they paid in annual income tax, they’d be jumping out of windows.”

Listen, I have no problem with anyone doing whatever they want. I love it. But for the religious set, isn’t there a set of rigorous rules, however insane, that must be abided to be part of the clan, much less lead it?

If not, all Wiccan incantations can now be ordered through me here at The Desk.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Gray Davis & California Recall

Aquarian Weekly 8/6/03 REALITY CHECK

CALIFORNIA SCHEMIN’

The wife and I plan on moving out to northern California when I’m closer to a natural demise; let that read, if I survive this daily boogie with death I’ve fashioned into a career. But if or when we get out there, we do not plan to vote. Voting does not count in California. It’s what the insiders like to call a “do-over” state. And soon, if a Recall on its Democratic governor, the wildly abhorred, Gray Davis goes through without a hitch, there may be little reason to vote on a local basis anywhere on this continent.

Right now California is broke. Its $38 billion gap between revenues and expenses has crippled the state’s economy to an all-time low, a slow deflation that many economists believe started in 1978 with the infamous Proposition 13 that put a hard cap on the government’s taxing power. The rub is this nifty initiative did not stop subsequent civic officials, including the doomed Davis, to spend freely on schools, prisons and other expensive projects.

People hear Recall and think something is wrong with Gray Davis’ fuel system, like he’s some kind of faulty vehicle sent back to the plant for exploding on national television test runs.

California has become a metaphor for the credit madness that currently engulfs this nation; it has stretched itself far beyond its means. It is also a glaring example of schizophrenic politics; a paradoxical helter skelter of citizen rule that wants everything without paying for it. Less government with more perks. Bold government programs with healthy tax cuts. Few state regulations with a needy increase in bureaucracy.

Thus, California is a deadbeat debt fiend with a tattered figurehead about to be shown the door.

People hear Recall and think something is wrong with Gray Davis’ fuel system, like he’s some kind of faulty vehicle sent back to the plant for exploding on national television test runs. True, the man is a condescending twit who used a $70 million smear campaign to retain power, and a frighteningly easy scapegoat, but hardly the sole proprietor of the disaster he now sits upon.

But Californians are historically fickle with politics. In a bizarre 17-year period from 1967 to 1983, the state posted a gubernatorial experiment in polar opposites the likes of which have been rarely seen in the history of this republic. Ronald Reagan, a reborn icon of hard-core conservatism smoothly gave way to the socialist hippy dreamscape that was Jerry Brown, a collective Freudian episode worthy of a straightjacket. So the Davis Recall, although a clear manifestation of bad legislation and identity crisis, is hardly unexpected in the Golden State.

Order Books by jc Now! Trailing Jesus Autographed CopyAmazon Barnes & Noble Fear No Art Autographed CopyAmazonBarnes & Noble Deep Tank Jersey Autographed CopyAmazonBarnes & Noble

Nearly a century ago the concept of Recall was the reactionary brainchild of California governor, Hiram Johnson, a Teddy Roosevelt reformer nut who used the burgeoning “progressive movement” to weed out the manipulation of special interest concerns. Under the guise of preventing private conglomerates like banks or railroads from sending puppeteer candidates to log jam mandates, Johnson’s edict meant to use the power of populist democracy to right election wrongs.

But the language in Johnson’s law is vague. Grounds for Recall could range from questionable hairdos to odd eating habits, a dangerous legal landscape for the directionally challenged Californian.

Currently 18 states have some law allowing Recall, New Jersey is one, but only six have specific grounds, with two of those states -Minnesota and Georgia -allowing a judicial review of those grounds. California, the broke schizo state, is not one of those.

But enacting an actual Recall on a governor is rare. North Dakota is the only state on record to have successfully booted its leader from office. In 1921, Non-Partisan Party member, Lynn Frazier, a well-known socialist with little ideas about handling farm budgets, was also sent packing under the cloud of being a fiscal boob.

The current California petition in question, now boasting well over 1.5 million signatures (easily eclipsing the approximately 900,000 needed), has delegated a Recall of Davis for 10/7. But many state Democrats have been waging a predictable, if not futile battle on its authenticity, mainly because Republican congressman, Darrell Issa has used roughly $1.7 million to bankroll the petition efforts.

The California Left has argued that Issa’s strong connection to pro-life filibusters has procured funds to oust an elected official because of social, not economic woes. But although Davis is a staunchly pro-choice advocate, the argument holds little water. Issa, who has shockingly thrown his hat in the ring for governorship, is a wealthy Californian entrepreneur known for using such pocket-change to fuel grass-roots movement on ego alone. And, as stated above, distinctions between social or economic reasons for canning a governor is laughable in the face of such an ambiguous law.

Needless to point out, the whole Recall thing, although gangbusters in the wild, wild west, could set dangerous inroads nationwide, opening a fun-filled can of worms that would define any election as merely temporary, even within the boundaries of a term; hence, a “do over”.

These kind of vacillating principles do not necessarily raise my personal ire, except to provide more evidence that most of us don’t know what the hell we want from our appointed officials beyond blaming them for a falling sky.

And damn it, if that isn’t democracy in motion.

The wife and I like democracy. So, hopefully by the time our little caravan shuffles off to Big Sur to sit on a cliff and contemplate saner human aspirations, what is left of California’s political scene will include a mass council of weekly votes based on the performance and likeability of state officials. I hear the elderly love to hit the polls, if for nothing else but the laughs.

The wife and I like to laugh.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Kobe Bryant is Not Going to Jail

Aquarian Weekly 7/30/03 REALITY CHECK

TWO-DIMENSIONAL KOBE

Kobe BryantKobe Bryant is not going to jail.

Innocent or guilty, matters not. The rich and famous don’t go to jail. Let that read the rich and famous who are worth a great deal of scratch to the not-so famous rich and their public concerns. Kobe Bryant falls into that category big time, thus he is not going to jail.

The merely rich, but not famous, who lord over doomed corporate malfeasance like Enron go to jail. Some of the rich and famous go to jail for short periods of time like Robert Downey Jr. and Mike Tyson, but that is usually when there isn’t too much more money that can be made to warrant keeping them free. Politicians don’t go to jail either. And even if they happen to stumble in there by mistake, they go to a country club with bars on the windows.

Then there is O.J. Simpson.

No use getting angry with Bryant over this. He is a two-dimensional test tube human. He does not deal with life as we do. He is a walking billboard, a public relations machine. He plays basketball and sells fast food and sneakers. He wears expensive suits and hangs with big celebrities. Everything that exists around Bryant is barely real, like a parallel universe, only with more fun.

Evidence of Bryant’s inability to understand our reality versus his own became apparent when he was first accused of raping a woman weeks ago. That is when he laughed at the ridiculous nature of doing such a thing. Not him. He was adamant about that. The whole thing didn’t compute for him.

Everything that exists around Bryant is barely real, like a parallel universe, only with more fun.

Then emerged the famous three letters that once had a president going from vehement denials to mia culpas in a Washington minute; DNA. With DNA involved, Bryant went from guffawing at the Espy Awards in an Italian suit to a conciliatory press conference in a Gap sweater and loafers in 24 hours. This kind of backtrack would give most humans whiplash. But not the two-dimensional test tube types. They’re pliable.

Alas, physical evidence is tough on the rich and famous, but it doesn’t mean jail.

However, it is always nice hearing the two-dimensional test tube person offering pangs of love in public displays of humility. This is their substitute for excusing all possibility of higher crimes by referring to reality fuck-ups as “mistakes”. This is what these people do. They talk about mistakes as if victims of circumstance, that by merely existing outside their two-dimensional pods they are vulnerable.

Take Michael Jackson for example. His is the mother of all two-dimensional test tube lives. Kobe Bryant has only been two-dimensional since the age of 18. Jackson has been at it since 7. He is so far gone on the parallel universe that a mountain of physical evidence and heinous crimes, financial misappropriations or irrational maneuvers with infants could not get him near a jail cell. We don’t even see Michael as human anymore.

But back to Bryant.

It’s important to point out that there is a good chance that the man, while guilty of the two-dimensional test tube “mistake”, is innocent of a crime. Impressionable youth around two-dimensional test tube lives can be heady. Things happen. Things us reality people wouldn’t understand. Mistakes.

But all that is window dressing, because Kobe Bryant is not going to jail. High-priced lawyers, media smear campaigns, well-orchestrated news events and quiet pay-offs, but jail?

That’s three-dimensional thinking.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More