CHARLES EDWARD ANDERSON “CHUCK” BERRY – 1926 – 2017

Aquarian Weekly
3/29/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CHARLES EDWARD ANDERSON “CHUCK” BERRY – 1926 – 2017

E=Mc2 – Albert Einstein

Rock and Roll – Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry invented rock and roll.

Whatever it was before him, some analogous, coagulated pre-form that would come to be known as rock and roll, is ultimately irrelevant in the hands of Chuck Berry, because as a cultural, iconic, lyrical, American force, what happens in, say, the first thirty seconds of “Johnny B. Goode”, is the very foundation for all that came after it. Six decades of a genre, a movement, a youth zeitgeist fused together in volume, rhythm, sex, greed, freedom, slashed together in 1955 and wood-shedded along the Chitlin’ Circuit through Jim Crow and out the American Bandstand tiny mono speakers and flickering black and white televisions in 1958 has had some legs. Duck-walk, two-string bending, riff-laden rapper delight is a celebration of all things. It is, he is, the symbol of that most cherished American institution; excess.

Yes, Virginia, there is no Aquarian Weekly or Rolling Stone or certainly no Rolling Stones or The Beatles or The Beach Boys or The Velvet Underground or Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix or AC/DC or MTV or The Sex Pistols or Madonna or Jam Master Flash or Beyoncé or whatever the hell is smoldering in some garage somewhere around your corner without Chuck Berry. The thread leads back to the further reaches of lurid New Orleans brothels and the primordial sweat of Mobile swill and the smoky whiskey-stench of a Chicago South Side juke joint, but it really begins in a shape that forms this thing, this huge, unstoppable thing; filled with rebellion and seduction and speed and drugs and death and rebirth and subversive poetic fashion rebuke in the slender, dark, smooth tones of a Chuck Berry song.

Elvis Presley wanted to be black, and those who were not black got that. Mostly. And those who didn’t were fooling themselves. This is all you need to know about the import of the purported King of Rock and Roll. You see, Chuck Berry had no interest in being white, but he was interested in their ears and eyeballs and their greenbacks and he knew how to get in there, like a generational virus. And he did not need Ed Sullivan or the Colonel or some ostentatious Memphis mansion between Bluebird and Craft to prove it. This is what the twelve-bar, I-IV-V, four-on-the-floor fat-back boogie woogie shuffle gets you. It’s a fever, man, and it spreads.

There can be a strong case that none of it has not improved a whit from the moment it emerged came from those amplifiers when Chuck Berry got the screaming Gibson hollow-body ES-335 turned up, a piece of eminent machinery built by some enterprising guitar engineer that could not have imagined what the hell he had wrought.

If he is known for nothing else, Charles Edward Anderson Berry was an alchemist. He transformed Mississippi mud-water and mid-west exhaust-pipe fumes into gold. Grits and burgers, bobby socks and pig-tails, souped-up engines and Army jocks and testosterone fist-fight, slick-talking pool hall jail-cats and apple pie, baseball, corner-store egg-cream slicksters dr-rrrrroppin’ the coin right into the slot. Hail, hail, little sweet sixteen, the middle class pimple-faces are taking over and it’s time to give them a lesson in the street-walk jive. Make no mistake, Chuck Berry was first and foremost a capitalist; his rise to fame and his individualist nature along with an uncompromising attitude permeated his life and his art reeked of it.

Chuck Berry became in many ways both the figure and bane of the American edict; his subversion of the button-down, conservative 1950s and its bursting sexual rage of rock and roll eased neatly into one of the most profitable, conglomerate showbiz industries known to the Western world. You could not undo Chuck Berry. He made damn sure you could never go back. It was his little invention that made the American way the choice over every other way, as it also assisted greatly in dismantling its hypocrisies.

Berry was deeply and richly mid-America, like the car and the microwave and the step one-two-three soldier boy after the second war to end all wars. Born in St. Louis, Missouri as a blues trope – the fourth child out of six; you make up the rhyme if you wish. He grew up in the snooze of the kind of mass wealth that is accumulated when you stomp the conquerors of Europe and carve the world up for amusement. His daddy was a builder and a Baptist deacon, who could preach about concrete and Jesus and his mamma, a school principal, was smart and beautiful, and took shit from no man.

It was when he may have heard those scratchy J& M 78’s of Caledonia Inn’s Professor Longhair and Fats Domino that he picked up the instrument that would make him the first guitar hero. Right around the same time he was sent to the rather auspicious Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men after a botched car robbery that may or may not have included a gun. He would not botch the guitar. It was far more lethal and lucrative. He would wield it as his weapon of choice for another 70 years, turning an entire movement into his plaything in the process.

The two best things Chuck Berry would ever do would be to join a rhythm and blues outfit called the Jonnie Johnson Trio and then stumble into Muddy Waters, whose acquaintance would lead to his signing with the legendary Chess Records.

Johnson, arguably the finest and certainly the most influential boogie-woogie pianist of the era, provided a stage for Berry to expand on his T-Bone Walker moves; slide, spin, split, and ramble, whilst riffing wildly beneath a torrent of foot stompers. Johnson would also be the template for the songwriter he would become; many of the best of Berry’s work is heard first from the piano, what those who would play with him quizzically understood as those “strange keys”; all flats and sharps that would keep pace with what was first the realm of the 88 keys to salvation. Ain’t no coincidence what is sometimes considered as the first ever rock and roll song, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats set the tempo of the instrument in 1951. Soon to follow would be freaks and madmen such as the likes of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

It was Berry’s unique combination of piano phrasing and the horn riff that he clipped from Louis Jordan’s 1946 romp, “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman (They’ll Do it Every Time)” that provided him a signature guitar intro for nearly all of his rockers, and most famously, the aforementioned “Johnny B. Goode”, which is without question the most recognizable rock and roll song from its inaugural period and covered in more styles of music than almost anything written from the era. Johnson’s contributions to Berry’s work is paramount and helps to better understand his signature beat-turning guitar solos that shift and toss the rhythms inside-out, a device so imitated but never duplicated it is almost criminal.

For his part, Muddy Waters, who had already invented the rock band with his electric Chicago outfit of bass, drums and guitar, would be all that the young guitarist needed to gain the favor of Leonard Chess. In a little room on South Michigan Avenue, Chuck Berry would record a song called “Maybelline”, a thrasher version of some bumpkin ditty he turned into hot-rod metaphor heaven. With all its V8 Ford/Cadillac Coupe DeVille scatting and chug-chug guitar raunch, it is pure Americana and yet it isn’t. It is what would later be attributed to epiphany songs like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “She Loves You” and “When Doves Cry” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that are at once familiar, but on a more primal level come on disturbing in the best sense. “Maybelline” shattered the glass before anyone knew it was there to be shattered.

You could not undo Chuck Berry. He made damn sure you could never go back.

The car/girl thing was Chuck’s raison d’être, and subsequently the very core of the rock and roll ethos. The engine of the nation and the engine of your loins and the engine of the music and the manic state of fury that comes from good times; this is where Chuck Berry splits from the black blues experience. Even in his most famous blues number, “Wee Wee Hours” there is a tenderness not found in the braggadocio or steamy sexual threats that could never have found a place on mainstream radio in 1955. There are no snake-moans or painful yawps associated with anything in his reliably formulaic canon. Joy and youth and a love of fun reached beyond the racism that plagued the nation.

Chuck did something unique; he did not fight or comment on or bludgeon the great racial divide, he ignored it. “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, and “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” obliterate lines and would define the latter half of this decade and the first wave of rock and roll by attracting those who would make it the billion-dollar concept, as it would become in the hands of whiter and in many cases non-American faces.

In the glare of The Beatles, his “Rock and Roll Music”, a clever mashing of musical styles made to bend to Chuck Berry’s will, became a mantra. Lennon and McCartney both understand the inner couplet rhyming of “use it/lose it/music/if you…want to dance with me” that they nicked it for dozens of songs. And in the hands of The Rolling Stones “Round and Round” becomes a sinister caterwaul against insipidness. Watch something truly horrifying as Mom & Pop Lunch Pail sit agape while digesting the Stones on national TV rip their way through that song and usher in the next half-century of satanic debauchery. Watch them use the 1960s to invent the ‘70s while giving us Berry’s 1950s.

Perhaps this lineage can best be described in two seminal Chuck Berry compositions, “You Can’t Catch Me” (1956) and “Back in The U.S.A” (1959); both set a dizzying course from The Beatles “Come Together” to The Beach Boys “Surfin’ U.S.A.” to The Beatles again in “Back in the USSR” to Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper”, which ends up in some circular parody of itself and still out-shines the bunch with lyrical gems like “I put my foot on my tank and I began to roll / Moanin’ siren, ’twas the state patrol / So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn / Bye bye New Jersey, I’ve become airborne.”

By the time this was all happening, and the 1960s happened, and all those bands and their offspring were pouring so much syrup on Chuck’s pancakes you could hardly taste the damn things anymore, Mr. Berry was done. Or sort of done. At least done as an American institution. Or a perceived American institution. As much as an African-American man can be. But he became again the first in a long line of rock and roll miscreants, outlaws, and nose-thumbers.

The lore goes like this; at the end of the 1950s, before all the noise from England when the pop charts were thrust into an opaque dissonance of Pat Boone blahs, the second most important singer/songwriter of the first rock and roll wave, Buddy Holly died in an airplane crash, Little Richard became a preacher, Jerry Lee Lewis went off and did the Southern thing and married his 13 year-old cousin, and Elvis went into the army. Chuck Berry, as a prelude to the coming decades of anti-social, anti-authoritarian acts, went to jail.

The official records state he made a mockery of the Mann Act, when he allegedly had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old Apache waitress, whom he then transported across state lines to work as a hatcheck girl at his club. After several appeals on the grounds that (clear thy throat) the judge’s comments and attitude were racist and prejudiced the jury against him, he went to prison for 17 months.

For all intents and purposes that would be the end of the glory years for the man who gave us the music, the guitar hero, the outlaw rocker, and the mantra-poet that everyone from Dylan to Nas has since liberally borrowed.

But, of course, Chuck Berry would hear of none of it. He toured and toured and did more touring, in caravans and festivals and by himself, grabbing only his guitar and a hat and coat and meeting reverentially confused young musicians along the way from Bruce Springsteen to Keith Richards to my dear friend and once band-mate, Barry Geller. And for good measure as last resort to piss off and endear all at once, he oddly had his only #1 record in 1973 with a double-entendre tour-de-force called “My Ding-a-Ling”, which you needn’t be Fellini to deconstruct.

What followed were, to put it mildly, “the mean years” in which “dealing” with Chuck Berry became something of a Herculean chore; whether promoters or musicians, the press, the fans, whomever. For a great example of his prickly-to-outright-bitchy demeanor check out the 1987 tribute concert film, Hail, Hail Rock and Roll which illustrates clearly that this is a man who trusted no one and listened to less. The aforementioned Keith Richards, who looked at Berry as nothing less than a messiah, spends the entire journey from rehearsals through the show fighting with him. This makes perfect sense since Keith’s best feature, beyond commandeering the guitar and staying alive, is social combat. The first time these two met Berry punched him in the face.

I can say, for my part, I have played and sung Chuck Berry songs my entire adult life and enjoyed every note and syllable, and for some time, in the 1980s – during which in a one-year span early in that decade I would see both Chuck and Muddy perform on separate occasions – I would make it a prerequisite that anyone worth his weight had to at least get through one of those tunes to make the grade.

The very DNA of this thing that has enchanted me viscerally and intellectually for my entire life begins and in many ways ends with Chuck Berry.

He may not have invented freedom and rebellion and seduction and mischief and rollicking fun, but he distilled it into a goddamned raucous art form.

Good work, if you can get it.

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HEALTH CARE: HERE WE GO AGAIN

Aquarian Weekly
3/15/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

HEALTH CARE: HERE WE GO AGAIN
An Agitated Psalm to the Curse of Deja Vu

Somewhere in my sordid past I must have made a spate of grievous errors; terrible miscalculations in both vocation and idle interests. It is the only way to explain my obsession with politics, which started frighteningly early, before sex or drugs or even rock and roll. I have no idea what possessed me, perhaps television or the NY Post or Dick Nixon going down in flames. And then along the way, in a long stretch of misbegotten youth, I lost my mind and studied journalism, becoming focused on “covering” such things. Luckily, after several and varied odious pressers, I realized full-time journalism was the way of damnation. So I stumbled here; almost two decades ago now; all leading up to one morbid afternoon of watching the speaker of the house give a power-point presentation about some shit-addled falderal called “The American Health Care Act: Part Forty-Six – This Time Its Personal”, and thought to myself, what the fuck is the point of humanity, if it comes to this?

We have now reached the nectar of pure nihilism as an alternative to absorbing the information that comes daily from Washington DC. Even with a raving lunatic TV character in charge and the Republicans running everything in sight, we are presented with yet ANOTHER health care bill – to be bandied about with I am sure the type of hyperbolic frivolity that led to the last one, which tossed the country into the kind of cauldron that would force an Ayn Randian wonk like Paul Ryan to spend nearly forty agonizing minutes droning on about how it does this and that, and if not for its passing the streets will run red with our blood.

I am sure those who voted for Donald Trump were under the impression that somehow, beyond his entertaining nature and always bizarre ranting at all hours on the teen-scene Twitter machine, things would be radically different around here. But look, mama, they talkin’ health care laws agin!

So the party that slowly began to take over due to the outrage of one health care law is now presenting us with another, and their argument is that this steaming pile of shit is better than the other one because the other one is so horrifying it will sink the whole of the universe. Of course these same idiots told us about death camps and the sinking of the universe in 2010. The universe is still here and there is nary a death camp, although Ryan is now using his clicker to switch power-point slides revealing more details about his fucking giant government take-over of health care to replace the last fucking giant government take-over of health care.

Makes me long for Saturday morning tweets from The Donald accusing the previous president and the government he now runs of wire-tapping his fancy Fifth Avenue tower because Ed Meese’s towel boy needed radio ratings and made the whole thing up. Of course, unlike his Birther ruse, El Douche forgot he isn’t a reality TV dork any more, he’s the goddamn leader of the free world and has direct access to and power over the machine that supposedly “wiretapped” him, but instead spends seven days and counting trying to convince the great unwashed that he needs an investigation. And the great unwashed, fully accepting that his tax returns are still under double-secret probation audits and are forthcoming, are eating it up. All of this, of course, is another in a series of ham-fisted Manhattan Real Estate Style smokescreens to make us forget the White House is being run by the Kremlin.

Back to Paul Ryan, who is starting to look like that scene in Woody Allen’s Love & Death wherein he’s dancing away with the grim reaper, because, hell…why not? There is no fucking way on the Good Lord’s green earth there are enough votes in the senate for his turd and slowly the congressional “freedom caucus” that shut the government down to defund the last health care bill ain’t buying any of it; no matter how many kiss-ass dinners the president hosts for Ted Lyin’ Cruz.

But oh, wait, another one-party ramming of a bill is a-comin’, because despite no hearings on this puppy, there was a secret all-nighter within Republican committees to prepare this for a vote. Sound familiar? Switch Democrat for Republican and it’s 2010 all over again.

the party that slowly began to take over due to the outrage of one health care law is now presenting us with another, and their argument is that this steaming pile of shit is better than the other one

Still to come; the three little letters that will make everyone cringe: CBO. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to let us all know how much this boondoggle will cost, which is why supporters of this monstrosity are trying to dine-and-dash this fucker before Easter recess and the sweat begins to form on the foreheads of the weak. Meanwhile, no one on the right has the balls to just say, “Hey, guess what? Government run national health care cannot work here, because this is not Canada, it is a republic made up of states, and each one has a different mechanisms to administer this gigantic headache and this is why the last one has not worked out as planned, and if people have to die, well then, people are dying in the Middle East every day, shit we just killed over a dozen kids in Yemen two weeks ago.”

This is what Paul Ryan really thinks, but he is stuck in this hypocritical netherworld of repeating past mistakes, because the monosyllabic chief executive in the yellow hair-hat told everyone he had a fancy, beautiful, terrific gangbuster health plan where everyone is covered and its cheap and it washes your dog and gives you head and makes your car payments and tickles your grandma’s fancy and zippity-fucking-doo-da we all great again! And now he’s stuck standing in front of live cameras and pointing at a slide show telling everyone about ANOTHER HEALTH CARE BILL and we’re stuck, or check that, I’m stuck watching it.

Yeah, I made some grievous error somewhere along the line. But it ain’t nothin’ compared to whatever salt shaker this poor bastard Ryan knocked over.

May Allah have mercy on his tainted soul.

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MORE FUN WITH THE RUSSIAN THING

Aquarian Weekly
3/8/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MORE FUN WITH THE RUSSIAN THING
Attorney General Commits Perjury In Expanding Cover-Up

“кто-то виноват”

It has now become a weekly thing for an official of this current administration to commit some kind of malfeasance and seemingly every other week for something to emerge that ties the president of the United States to Russian meddling in the 2016 American democratic process. And daily for someone in the “Alternative Facts” White House to call this avalanche of obfuscation “fake news”.

Mere hours after Donald Trump used his gratuitous address to congress to put on a dog & pony show for the masses, reports started to surface that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions had lied to the same government body in early January about speaking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Making things more interesting is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation – the same one that re-opened the investigation on the Democratic candidate – knew about all these shenanigans in September. And to really throw some syrup on this stack, so did the then sitting Democratic president.

Of course, the argument goes, as a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Sessions would be on the schmoozing list of any suck-up ambassador. However, none of the other 28 such members, including its Chairman, Arizona Senator John McCain or for that matter Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who was the VP of the opposing party, spoke to him. It should be noted that Sessions was a Trump supporter and an unofficial advisor to the campaign, meaning he was an untraceable liaison within the government working for a presidential candidate.

Yet, despite having two documented meetings with Kislyak; one in July (yeah, the same months when WikiLeaks released the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee) and again in September, two months before Election Day, Sessions told congress he met no one in the Russian government. There are many names for this kind of thing, but the most accurate is perjury.

For your amusement, turns out this Kislyak’s resume reaches back to the 1980s during the Cold War and the Soviet Union, which makes this tastier since a “former” KGB Agent runs the country and for whom our president holds a school girl infatuation.

Now, to be fair, I am not in any way shape or form shocked or even dismayed an attorney general of the United States has committed high crimes. This is part of the job description, at least since the dawn of this republic. You could barely squeeze into Madison Square Garden the list of A’s G who make Sessions look like a choir boy. However, it is getting more than a little curious how many Trump supporters received sweet cabinet gigs who have a direct connection with high Russian officials during an election season that was clearly tainted by that nation’s government.

In other words, it is getting more and more difficult to believe that there was no collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government to fuck with the American Election in favor of his candidacy. This is not to say that it is a slam dunk like Weapons of Mass Destruction or anything, but there was far less evidence of an Obama Administration cover-up of the Benghazi disaster, yet the federal government conducted seven separate investigations to the tune of 6.8 million of our tax dollars on them.

It should also be noted that this space called for the 42nd president of United States to be led from Pennsylvania Avenue in shackles when he committed perjury about getting blow jobs. I would say we are in deeper waters here.

The attorney general did at least recuse himself from actually investigating this mess. Still Democrats and some Republicans are lining up to call for Sessions to step down from his post, which is stupid in both theory and practice, because as a private citizen he could hold this thing in the courts for years; one of the perks of Richard Nixon resigning when he did, thus allowing Gerald Ford to pardon him. It is best to let him defend himself from his post until he’s taken to prison.

As I write this another AP report is flashing that three weeks before Election Day, Donald Trump Jr. spoke at a private dinner in Paris organized by an obscure pro-Russia group that promotes Kremlin foreign policy initiatives and has since nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yikes.

it is getting more than a little curious how many Trump supporters received sweet cabinet gigs who have a direct connection with high Russian officials…

All of this apparently wasn’t enough for the Trump Follies (this guy has only been in office for less than two months), as once again former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, sacked for Russian ties during the summer, decided to go on the Today Show and guilt-stammer for 20 consecutive seconds before saying something that sounded like sentences connecting a coherent thought on the matter. And for some reason some enterprising agent booked a very strange man named Carter Page on the Trump Trashing Network, MSNBC.

Page is clearly insane and did a wonderful job displaying this for nearly a half hour of prime time when what was once the Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor and the founder and managing partner of Global Energy Capital, a “consulting” firm specializing in the Russian and Central Asian oil and gas business, told the host he spoke to the very same Sergey Kislyak during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

My guess is these are sloppy side-surrogates stumbling around painting the president as some kind of victim of the press, the Oscars, Macy’s, Rosie O’Donnell, you name it; which gets us back to what appeared to political laymen as an utterly senseless address to congress by a president who is not asking it to declare war or presenting it with a massive roll-out of proposed legislation. But to those who have not lived in the NYC area these past four decades of Trump they are missing the bigger picture.

Rolling El Douche out there to look “presidential” and to gain favor of the Republican majority is a ploy; plain and simple. Rally the troops, so to speak, before the deluge. So was dragging into this nonsense the wife of slain Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens as a sympathy prop. The botched raid on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen suggested by ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and rubber-stamped by Trump, despite reservations of the former president and several commanders, for whom the president saw fit to lay the blame, made it even more imperative to present a classic Manhattan-style public relations smokescreen. It also speaks volumes on how mass deflection serves this particular president.

Remember, it was this past October beneath a torrent of bad press and general outrage over an audio clip of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, the candidate pulled a similar stunt flaunting women that Bill Clinton allegedly abused. Hence, the bigger the blowback the better chance Trump has some mud on him. This is the rule we learned in the 1980s during his very ugly public attacks on his discarded ex-wives.

Whether all this show biz and the preemptive attacks on reporters that have uncovered this chaos as enemies of the people will keep the wolves at bay is anyone’s guess. But all of this sure as hell looks like the desperate actions of someone with something to hide.

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OUT LIKE FLYNN

Aquarian Weekly
2/22/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

OUT LIKE FLYNN
Or How To Go From Inauguration to Constitutional Crisis in 25 Days

This dawning of the Trump Experiment could have gone two ways (since we eliminated “business as usual” from the get); surprisingly efficient or horribly wrong. Less than a month in it is careening towards the latter.

A bumpy start tumbled into erratic (fabricated hissy fit on non-existent massive voter fraud) and embarrassing (insulting foreign leaders, alienating Mexico), then weird (some piece of grift theater called “alternative facts” and whatever you call that press conference this week), onto combative (blaming the media for everything; “Leaks are real, news is fake”), and then, of course, the really illegal (unconstitutional executive order on immigration ban) until finally we found ourselves dealing with the treasonous. When the National Security Advisor resigns amidst an egregious international scandal worthy of some cheap spy novel before the ass groove in the main chair at the Oval Office is comfy, we’ve got problems.

For the record, I whole-heartedly agree with the president’s defense that his administration is not in chaos, we’re more into the territory of outright mayhem now.

So what happened to the ousted General Michael Flynn?

Well, for one, he allegedly did a lot of talking to a foreign diplomat before he had the gig about that country’s sanctions that the then standing president of the United States implemented due to Russian interference in the 2016 American election. And when this little nugget was leaked, he lied to the vice president and anyone within the administration, which now includes fibbing to the FBI, which opens this puppy up to a felony. All of this would be considered merely a sack-able offense if it didn’t already reek with greater intrigue.

Lest we forget that there is more evidence that the Russian government and its despotic figurehead, Vladimir Putin fucked with our election to skew the results towards the current president than anything Hillary Clinton did with her emails. In fact, the president has spent months defending every untoward thing Putin has said and done. So what looked kind of fishy and downright illegal has blown up to this headline: “Trump Worked with Putin & Russian Government to Circumvent U.S. Election as a Bloodless Coup to Power”.

And with apologies to Oliver Stone and Glenn Beck, this ain’t crazed speculation by half-assed conspiracy geeks. This, thanks to these Flynn revelations, is now highly probable. There is a now pretty good chance the current president of the United States made deals with the Russian government to partner with them in every nefarious shenanigan it plans on enacting over the next four years in exchange for a little “help” during the campaign. This coupled with Trump’s defiant refusal to divest himself of his business interests now makes him officially a puppet of the Russian government or at the very least a compromised chief executive and likely an easy victim of blackmail.

Just to make this juicer, the president has ties to a $500 billion Exxon/Russian oil deal that is scuttled by the current sanctions, and it smells even worse when considering Trump’s secretary of state is a former Exxon CEO with, you guessed it, long-standing relations with the Russian government.

To Trump’s credit, this level of high crimes usually takes a president years to cobble together. This is a man who gets things done.

Of course, this pattern of a resigning Trump confident with a direct connection to a despotic foreign government began during the campaign, as his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was eventually booted due to first predictable denial and then under the pressure of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a reluctant acceptance of reality; a rare trait for any official in and around this circus. Shortly after the election intelligence reports reviewed by both the president-elect and his predecessor revealed without question that the Russian government’s leaks of private emails within the Democratic National Committee were directly connected to favoring a Trump presidency.

Favorite coincident of the week: The day Trump went ballistic on the White House press corps for continually pointing out his habitual lying, Putin made a public decree to squash anymore media “fawning” over the American president.

In true El Douche idiom, the president is now diverting attention away from this steaming mess by stressing that the real crime is the illegal leaks that buried his national security advisor, which, of course, is hilarious considering for the final month of his campaign he cited numerous leaked emails to prove Hillary Clinton’s guilt on a number of fronts and famously begged the Russian government to keep on hacking their way to more Clinton revelations.

To Trump’s credit, this level of high crimes usually takes a president years to cobble together. This is a man who gets things done. In less than a month he has turned whatever is left of this government into a freak-show tent worthy of the main room at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City if that hadn’t gone belly-up.

Good news for Trump on two fronts. Flynn is a decorated general. Similarly, Oliver North was an entrenched lieutenant colonel, who kept Ronald Reagan out of prison. What you don’t want here is a disgruntled lawyer on your hands, ala John Dean. They tend to sing. A lawyer gets you a helicopter out of town. A tight-lipped military goon helps you get an airport in DC named after you. Second, and far more important, is the GOP runs the entire legislative branch, which would usually be stumbling all over itself to get in on this. But rest assured, one fantastic gift the Trump Experiment keeps giving us is revealing the spectacular hypocrisy of this dysfunctional congress, which spent four years over nine useless Benghazi “investigations”, but will never touch this.

The formally big-bad, morally impregnable House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz has already stated that he won’t even pursue an investigation into General Flynn, never mind the president, who knew about this atrocity since January 23 and did nothing about it until the Washington Post got involved. In fact, as late as this past weekend some mouth-breathing shit-stain named Stephen Miller, who doubtless grabbed a cool gig at the White House on the strength of photos he was going to post on the Internet last summer of Trump peeing on a German hooker, defended anything the president did as some kind of religious experience. I half expected him to start speaking in tongues instead of whatever monosyllabic falderal he rolled out for the networks.

Either way, this will buy us more time on the Trump train, which for my money is the most entertaining ride of a life-time.

Keep it coming.

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SORRY…NO “DO-OVERS”

Aquarian Weekly
2/8/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SORRY…NO “DO-OVERS”

The President was very clear during the campaign whether it was economic security or national security that he has an agenda that he articulated very clearly to the American people and that it is his job to lay that vision out and that the people who he appoints and nominates…their job is to fulfill that and if they don’t like it then they shouldn’t take the job.
– Press Secretary Sean Spicer, White House Press Briefing; January 23, 1017

The above quote originally addressing the sacking of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the president’s mostly unconstitutional and highly controversial executive order temporarily barring refugees entry into the United States from seven terrorism-specific countries should be the general rule going forward. And every American must come to accept this. This goes for those with perhaps buyer’s remorse or maybe those who woke up in mid-January and realized that because they voted their conscience a crazy man is running the free world or whatever mass hysteria Donald Trump has and will ignite in this country over the next four years.

Spicer is right. The president was quite clear, in fact, loudly and passionately so, perhaps more so than any candidate before him, about what he planned on doing if he were to win the White House, which he did. And now he is going about his business. He told you he was going to be the bull in the china shop, so stop complaining.

There’s no “do-overs”, folks. Or as we used to say, “no give-backs” or “backsies”. Trump is president and it doesn’t matter what transpires from here on in beyond legal avenues, like with the Patriot and Affordable Care acts, parts of which were deemed unconstitutional or at least got their day in court. This is now temporarily the way of the U.S. of A., and it’s time to come to grips with it.

This goes for the new record Trump has achieved by being the first president to dip below 50 percent within a week of taking office since “approval ratings” were first gathered by George Gallup sometime during the Great Depression over 80 years ago. To further illustrate this dubiously spectacular achievement it took Barack Obama 936 days and George W. Bush 1,205 days to reach a majority disapproval rating. And this number ain’t going up anytime soon, it would seem.

But where do they find these people? Four months ago they could have prevented this, but over half the eligible populace failed to vote. So I assume a good portion would have likely been just as pissed at Hillary Clinton. But, then again, Trump has gone hog-wild on executive orders. He’s signed 19 in two weeks, which if extrapolated out over four years would be accumulate to a tick under two thousand by the end of his first term.

Remember when Republicans went nuts about Obama’s executive orders and called him a tyrant? And remember when Democrats defended each and every one of them? Just the opposite is happening now. I actually heard Speaker of the House Paul Ryan say the other day that everyone should take a deep breath and not over-react to Trump’s aforementioned “Muslim Ban”. Wasn’t he the guy who warned of “Death Panels” an hour after the ACA was passed?

Or course he was the same guy who, based on his principles, could not immediately endorse the candidate who would be president during the campaign. Principles? Yeah, he has principles like one and half a million people were at the inauguration and Trump was only speaking in metaphors when he said all the things he is now doing and for some reason people are having hissy fits over. Ryan is a shallow and unprincipled political hack, but he’s at least dealing with the fact that Trump is president and not some alternative-universe dreamed up by Kellyanne Conway’s hallucinogenic fever dreams.

Trump told you he was a maniac; “very clearly”.

We all understand that Trump was already the least popular president in half a century to be elected and the only one since tracking began to have as quick a disapproval rating; not to mention taking the worst beating in the popular vote for a successful campaign. We all knew this for the interminable 20 or so months this thing dragged on, and now there’s all this shock and grief?

Things we also knew: Trump is in Vladimir Putin’s back pocket, diplomacy is alien to him, he’s afraid of Steve Bannon, and he had no interest in divesting himself of any of his current business dealings; if you ask, he is under audit and cannot address it, even though this is a completely made up excuse.

According to Market Watch this morning the Wall St. crowd has now realized Trump was not fucking around about alienating our top two largest trade partners in China and Mexico by threatening penalty trade tariffs and using the force of the federal government to control the means of production by penalizing companies for building plants wherever they damn well please. In other words, socialism. In fact, this is the very definition of socialism, so if somehow Trump’s time-machine could take us back to 1988, when I dabbled in such trite and debunked political concepts, then I might be digging all this.

But as it is, I do far less drugs now and stopped living under the delusion that any government can do a damn thing about the unfair nature of life or cease progress or to make everything peachy keen for the feckless and frightened among us. You grow up, or you live in a spoiled rich-kid’s bubble and become president or sit at home clutching your lunch pail and wish for daddy to give you your factory back.

Regardless, I am not sure that after two weeks anyone could seriously render a verdict on someone they don’t already have figured out. And, again, I ask: What does it matter? Minds have already been made up. Votes have been cast. Shenanigans were afoot, and will be again in two years for the mid-terms. But none of this should be Donald Trump’s worry. He’s a busy man wondering what Meryl Streep thinks of him. Trump told you he was a maniac; “very clearly”. He is now president. He can maniac-it-up all he wants.
No “Do-Overs”.

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“ALTERNATIVE FACTS”

Aquarian Weekly
2/1/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

“ALTERNATIVE FACTS”
What The Trump Era Can Teach Us About Our National Illusions

When world-class political flack, Kellyanne Conway uttered the gorgeously provocative and spectacularly honest phrase “alternative facts” to defend some nonsense blathered by the White House press secretary at the behest of our paranoid new president on NBC’s Meet The Press, it conjured up the kind of joy in my soul that is rarely sparked. Only a true poet can take the magnificence of all-things and parse it down to a hymn to the human spirit. Conway is an artist. And artists are inspired by muses, and there is no greater muse to the delicately trained ears of this reporter than Donald J. Trump.02-01_af

And like Rosa Parks, whose seemingly trite refusal to move from her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus became the symbol of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement 61 years ago, the goofy defense of how many people showed up to Trump’s inauguration has become, thanks to Conway’s abstract reasoning, a teachable moment for our republic.

Now, firstly, one is right to ask; what exactly is an “alternative fact”?

Before, say, the Beatles, there was this thought that popular music had to be massaged through several layers; songwriters, performers, managers, public relations firms, record company geeks, etc. The Beatles changed all that by becoming all of these. Don’t fool yourself, this is what the mastery of the artist formally known as Citizen Trump, but in this space will forevermore carry the nickname El Douche, has done with the word “fact”. It is taking an absolute and transmogrifying it before our eyes; a science meet art meets steaming piles of crap principle that speaks volumes.

To wit: Prior to this historic appearance on an otherwise dull sixty-minute program originally founded on political discourse but slowly deteriorated over the years into a mind-numbing spin-cycle, a “fact” was “a piece of information presented as having objective reality” or “a thing that is indisputably the case.”

Fact: The earth revolves around the sun.

Alternative Fact: The sun revolves around the earth.

Those unfamiliar with genius might call such a thing a “falsehood” or even a “lie” or at the very least the evidence of stupidity. This is wrong. These definitions miss the point of Trump and the United States of America. The concept of an “alternative fact” is not new, but somehow, through the creative machinations of a true mastermind, it has shed light on our national delusion that has and continues to forge ahead unbounded, and, miraculously, never gets called into serious question. Nay, it gets celebrated and passed on with pride.

Now, in politics you are expected a measure in truth-bending, but this is child’s play compared with the symphony of madness Trump wielded for over a year. There was one point in which I was unsure if Trump wasn’t some kind of Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton satire or maybe the entire thing was happening in his/our head like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas or Scientology. (A man running a campaign for political office continuing to say he is not a politician is worthy of Lewis Carroll). However, Conway’s admission that we can now deny that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit by simply saying it does not puts on trial the very nature of our American tradition of “Alternative Facts”.

Here’s one that will get Conway wet; Columbus discovered America.

This is a monumental “alternative fact” that we not only celebrate but continue to teach in schools to our children, who one day may grow up to use phrases like “alternative facts” with a straight face on television, purportedly sober and not joking.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica (soon to be outlawed under the Alternative Fact Executive Order): “During four separate trips that started with the one in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola. He also explored the Central and South American coasts.”

Or…Columbus never set foot on North American soil.

This is fact.

Alternative fact: Columbus discovered America.

Also included as bonus “alternative facts” is Columbus “discovering” anything, as there were indigenous peoples inhabiting these lands and the always amusing “proving that the earth was not flat”, which was first determined by a Greek philosopher named Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. and corroborated many times thereafter.

I can hear Conway moaning now.

I know this makes me hot.

One of the epic “alternative facts” of recent times was the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, which was the grounding principle of getting the richest, most powerful nation in the world embroiled in a multi trillion-dollar desert war, costing thousands of American and Iraqi lives and dozens of other horrors.

Fact: Iraq had no WMDs.

Ah, but that ordeal pales in comparison to my lifetime’s greatest “alternative fact”, which is still not widely known. Chances are you are reading this for the first time, but please (unlike Conway, Trump or whatever is going on in the White House right now) check my research: North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against a U.S. destroyer on “routine patrol” in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2, 1964 and North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a “deliberate attack” on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

What was known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which resulted in the egregious Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, providing President Lyndon Johnson unchecked aggressive powers over all of Southeast Asia, and as a result, unleashed the Viet Nam War, the most damaging useless conflagration this nation has ever endured. For fun and frolic, this later laid the foundation for the kind of powers granted to daddy and son George Bush to enact their highly questionable forays into Iraq.

If Kellyanne Conway is not cumming by now, I can’t imagine why.

Debunking other “Alternative Facts” include:

Pilgrims did not host the first Thanksgiving.

Paul Revere never declared “The British are coming” nor did he even make it to Concord.

There were really only twelve original colonies, not thirteen.

Teddy Roosevelt nor his half-assed Rough Riders ever stormed San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.

in politics you are expected a measure in truth-bending, but this is child’s play compared with the symphony of madness Trump wielded for over a year.

This barely scratches the surface of “alternative facts”. So, I ask, how can a country that lives comfortably with illusion be equipped to defend against the kind of bullshit it is fed from every corner from history books, politicians, the media, agenda-motivated bloggers, and the like? We are programmed to accept the “alternative fact” from our religious institutions, schools, and other myopic groups that aim to gather us in like a mindless flock to march lock-step into a mass hallucination.

This explains the popularity of television, which, in turn, gave us a Donald Trump.

Hey, when you’re forced to put your hand on your heart and pledge allegiance to your country, as if you are a potential insurrectionist, in the first grade, it tends to dull you to mind-games.

And so we thank Kellyanne Conway and El Douche for their continued harping on the pointless defense against fact like a nearly three-million shellacking in the popular vote is the result of dead people and illegal aliens and there were more people seeing the Trump inauguration than anything ever in recorded history or the Mexican government and not the American taxpayer will be paying for a border wall or the president did not brag about assaulting women, he loves them.

Their unyielding dedication to this time-honored craft has allowed us a short but meaningful stroll down bullshit lane, which, of course, will change nothing, as we will continue to swallow our “alternative facts” and hold parades on fantasy holidays, and, I guess, believe anything Trump tells us. But at least we will know we are full of shit, so then we can’t blame everything on the Chinese.

“Alternative Facts”: An American tradition since a slave owner wrote “All men are created equal.”

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GROUND RULES FOR DONALD TRUMP COMMENTARY

Aquarian Weekly
1/25/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GROUND RULES FOR DONALD TRUMP COMMENTARY
A Template for “Covering” a Weird Presidency

You can’t argue with crazy.
– Doc Slater

As one can imagine, I have been getting a bevy of advice on what I should be writing or how I should be dealing with the emergence of this thing called Donald Trump. And I do not use “thing” pejoratively, although it can be taken as such, because no one knows what the hell to expect from the 45th president of the United States. Funny thing is this edict also applies to those who voted for him, and, quite frankly, Donald Trump himself. He is a complete unknown. He has never spent ten seconds in the service known as civil. He has cast nary a vote, dealt in any way with a civic budget, certainly has not commandeered an army or run a state or a county or district. There is no track record beyond his infamously obligatory, “Believe me…” or “Trust me…” Even Trump’s spotty and controversial business ventures are a complete mystery.

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This ambiguity also has a daily spin to it, as Trump tends to not only contradict his own comments day-to-day, but sometimes within the same sentence. If someone can figure out if he is pitching universal health care or not through several interviews over just this past week you win a prize.

But there will be plenty of time to dissect our bizarre journey into darkness. What we are going to deal with first is how this space will conduct itself for the foreseeable future.

Here is what I will not do here: There will be no “What the hell is he doing?” or “You can’t do that!” or certainly any “It’s completely insane and no one has ever…” editorializing here. The assumption will always be that – judging from everything Trump has said and done for the entirety of his public life all the way through his campaign – what you are seeing and about to see is going to be, or appear to be insane, stupid and completely outlandish compared to any and all examples of the past, regardless of your support or opposition to him.

Trump has no idea what the fuck he is doing and this is precisely why Trump was elected: He is not like everything else. Talk to any Trump voter, even those who held their noses because they despised Hillary Clinton, and they will tell you this: “We are tired of politicians and we don’t care if Trump appears nuts or childish or boorish or misogynist or racist, we want someone who is not affiliated with any ideology to blow the whole friggin’ thing to smithereens!”

Now this should be taken with a caveat: What people don’t know about how government works you could barely shoe-horn into the Grand Canyon. So there is an excellent chance these Trump supporters will be surprised at how this whole thing can go sideways. This may not change the bulk of his core support, for they will merely defend anything he does or says to not look like they voted for a moron. This is how these things go; supporters make excuses for their choice and those who are against him will accuse him of everything from bad weather to bad hair days. Not even the presence of a Reality TV guy is going to change that.

So there will be no pointing out “crazy”. Crazy is what people wanted. Let’s see where crazy gets them. Or at least gets the people in the Rust Belt, who ultimately made Donald Trump president.

As stated in our quick post-election “analysis”, which went from “What the…?” to “Okay…sure”, we pointed out that if not for Hillary Clinton coughing up Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, she and not “the crazy” would be running things. And what that tells us is that this will be the aim of this space going forward. Forget “The Wall” (although for fun I might be inclined, if a member of the White House press corps, to ask the president every day when that promised check from Mexico is forthcoming) and the other unconstitutional Wizard of Ozian nonsense Trump garbled to the gullible, this is what he needs to do as president to be successful: Bring back the millions of jobs this country has seen go the way of technology and progress since the 1980s and especially the advent of the Internet and our fancy global economy.

If Trump does that, if he can shoe-horn a 18th century time machine edict into our 21st century series of events, then those who put him in office will deal with “the crazy”.

Trump has no idea what the fuck he is doing and this is precisely why Trump was elected…

Now, assuming Trump doesn’t embroil the nation in an apocalyptic war, which is always possible no matter who’s in charge and that whatever his overlords in Russia deem necessary, the amount of damage he can do to this colossus of a republic is fairly minimal.

Unless you allow it.

For instance; unless you were suckered into volunteering for Bush’s horrid Middle East rebuilding project, what did the Iraq or Afghanistan wars really do to harm you? If anything, the disaster of the banking crisis in 2008 was far worse, and we not only fully recovered from that, we are the strongest economy in the world.

Sure, Trump’s proposed trade-penalty taxes and his failure to get another nation to pay for a border wall could be groundbreaking madness, but really, is your wife going to leave you because of it? Will your car break down? You children suddenly hate you? Beer taste bad? Hair fall out?

Nah.

So there will also be none of this, “Donald Trump is destroying the very fabric or American…fill in the blank “around here. There is no fabric of America. That is a myth sold to you like mouthwash by people who need to justify outrage or a gig. There is also zero chance that anyone who is president “represents” you. I have lived through nine of them and not one represented me. I represent me. Always have and always will. The words I put in this space and how I choose to express myself in my daily life and my work is what “represents” me. This is what represents you. Politics is bullshit. Obama was bullshit and now Trump is indeed bullshit. Changing bullshit does not make it less bullshit or not bullshit, just different bullshit.

And so we will apply Doc Slater’s axiom about “the crazy” and comment on the fall-out.

Business as usual around here.

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JOE COOL…OUT!

Aquarian Weekly
1/18/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

JOE COOL…OUT!
Our Journey From Hope To Change To Trump

Barack Obama is the only major party candidate for president I have ever voted for with gusto. And he shall be the last. That is my gift to him on his way out. The man I dubbed Joe Cool was historic for many reasons, but that is the only one that counts around here. Of course this only applies to 2008, for I went back to my independent ways four years later. Nevertheless it was a monumental vote for me, and one that I shall ultimately remember him by.

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True, I voted for G.W. Bush in 2000, but that’s because I despised Al Gore. I never forgave him for the whole PMRC shenanigans in the 1980s. Still haven’t. And I would do it again, even though I blame Bush for 9/11, which is now all the rage but was considered some kind of treason in 2001. Fuck him and fuck Al Gore.

All of these votes are a matter of record in this space, but it doesn’t do much beyond explaining that since 1980 I have never and will never again vote for a major party candidate beyond the 2008 Barack Obama model. That idea was, is and will always be a completely bullshit either/or decision that is needlessly heaped upon the citizenry, which came to an ugly head this past year when I have now personally spoken to two dozen people who voted for one of the two candidates they were purportedly “forced” to vote for with a measure of growing apathy to outright disdain.

I gladly voted for what would be the 44th president of the United States in 2008 for one main reason, well, two; the first is that damned whiz-bang, hootenanny king-hell mutha of an Iowa Caucus victory speech he delivered on January 3 of that year. It remains the finest political oratory that I have had the pleasure to digest in real-time. I must have played that thing twenty times in a sixteen hour period, like the first time I heard Exile on Main St. or Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” or that part in “Three Babies” when Sinead O’Connor hits the high note. That speech is far better than most any that I have studied and it may be the last time I would actually believe in anything to do with politics again.

For those who dig Obama, I suggest you watch it. It’s on YouTube and it will make you throw up when you consider what transpired from that day forward; how much of the soul of that guy at that time was sucked out by our politics, even upon winning the presidency. That night the bar was set too high for the likes of us or him. But man, that Democratic primary was, along with the Republican one this year, the most fun I had covering this game to power we roll out every four years. I was never concerned by what transpired afterwards, as I’m not now. It reminded me why people who care about such things love politics, think it matters or actually believe it has any true effect on their lives. Listening to that speech transformed me, for the shortest but most enjoyable of weeks, maybe months, but then I went right back to being a cynical jack ass and proud of it.

It is important to point out that what makes the human condition at once so mesmerizingly horrific and beatific is what can be framed in a moment of true sweeping progress and is then easily sullied by the stark light of reality. This is what happens to those who see the utter lack of purity in things and understand fully how fucked the whole concept is and how those who don’t see it and think politics is some kind of elixir to the gaping hole in their faith-centers come to the same rude awakening eventually.

But political speeches come and go; what really matters to me in retrospect is that first run between 2009 and Obama’s re-election in 2012, when there absolutely had to be a shift in viewpoint of the presidency, and not a racial or ideological one, per se, and Lord knows it certainly will never be a political for me. It was ultimately a brief but dramatic generational shift; the second reason I voted for Barack Obama. He is from my generation; the butt-end of the Boomer (but not quite), and too old for X – that “between generation” that was born with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy Assassination and weaned on Viet Nam and Watergate and was far too young to get high at Woodstock. We did not fight the battle of Civil Rights but watched the potential for an Equal Rights Amendment be crushed by the forever-maddening puritan ethics bullshit which I think now that a playboy TV thug is president we can stop pretending we care a lick about.

Be that as it may, I am proud of that 2008 vote, even though the first Obama term was somewhere between stabilizing and shit. I hated the parade of Clinton cast-offs he dragged in. I wanted everyone in the cabinet to be from my generation as well, not pathetic hold-overs from the ego-addled lunacy of the 1960s through the 1980s. We had just endured two Boomers on both sides of the aisle, both of whom ended final terms in ignominy. But remember, this is a man who took office under by far the worst economic collapse of the Western hemisphere that anyone under 100 years-old could recall. The Dow was somewhere in the six-thousands and soon gasoline would spike to nearly five bucks. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were disappearing.

Historians will rightly or wrongly credit Obama’s presidency with halting this hemorrhage, but that will be the last thing his first term slam-dunked, unless you work in the American automotive industry. But there will always be the Affordable Care Act, which was a half-assed boondoggle that never worked because it cannot function in the human condition explained briefly above. It would be known as Obamacare, a term I did not use, like calling people not from India, Indians. But the president embraced it from good to bad to worse. I, for one, never bought it and neither did the country, as within two years the dismantling of the Democratic Party began.

that Democratic primary was, along with the Republican one this year, the most fun I had covering this game to power we roll out every four years.

That will also be the legacy of Obama; beyond the transformative nature of electing an African American in a mostly racist, back-water, religiously fanatic intellectual sinkhole of a nation. His party was abandoned by him. And this is where the generational thing comes in. Obama didn’t give a shit. He also didn’t give a shit about explaining anything he did well, like finally killing the man who committed the greatest crime against America that didn’t include bankers. He probably should have killed some bankers.

But doubtless and without argument, Obama’s second term, one I did not endorse because up to that point second terms were always a disaster – Viet Nam, Watergate, Iran/Contra/Monika Lewinsky/a hundred things Bush screwed up – was the finest of my lifetime. Granted, the bar was low, but the economy that was in a historic shambles continued to recover, albeit slowly, yet with a record number of months of job growth, because Obama was, and historians will record this too, the first truly “progressive” president; the one that did not fall under the anachronistic tag of liberalism. One that worked in the pragmatic, grown-up-in-the-70s mentality that was ingrained in us.

Be that as it may, the most important event that happened during Obama’s second term is the rightful, legal ratification of marriage equality and he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Trust me, the refusal of a black leader to acknowledge an obvious civil rights abomination against a community of tax-paying citizens is one of the things that made me cringe in 2008, and almost had me run back to the independent candidates, but remember, despite being in my enlightened generation, marriage equality always seemed like a pipe dream, like women voting once was. The very idea that this country could actually twice vote for a progressive black man as president is a nod to that generation and the next; you know, the one that did not buy into another Clinton – but that is another column for another day – certainly kick-started a groundswell for civil rights the likes of which we had not seen in two generations. I am glad to have been alive and be an American for that and then embarrassed for all those who continue to oppose it, because it is sad and bigoted, but entirely understandable. This is the change we were supposed to believe in, but you know what? The president was an innocent bystander. We, the law, the United States Constitution made that happen.

You see, beyond the Iran Deal, which I supported heartily and believe if the Republicans take their collective heads out of their 19th century asses will finally begin to transform the horror-show Middle East through secular economic concerns, and not third-century, voodoo religious nonsense. This is what progress and my generation should believe; at least the free thinking among us. And if the election of Obama’s successor is any indication, the religious right is still very much on life support, and that is the best we can cite for progress.

The rest for Barack Obama is window dressing. But failing a spate of impeachment hearings or ramped up phony wars or secret unconstitutional weapons deals with enemies or Nixonian abuses of power, this was one no-drama-Obama presidential run.

Thanks for allowing my generation a crack at this shit-sandwich.

Now it’s back to a bloviating, narcissistic, media-whorish Boomer again.

Good luck.

Joe Cool…out!

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A SEASONAL WISH

Aquarian Weekly
12/28/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

A SEASONAL WISH
What You Write The Day Before Christmas Eve With A Crushing Deadline

Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

-Warren Zevon
“Keep Me In Your Heart”

I remember it vividly.

I was walking up 14th Street across from Union Square Park staring up at the Barnes & Noble where I last saw Hunter Thompson alive – the place we spoke for one of those short spurts I would get with him. Within a few months he would put a bullet through his brain. And I remember the June sun on my face and being thankful that everyone I loved was alive and more or less healthy. And I was momentarily pleased by this. It seemed right.

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I’m remembering this with only a week left in 2016 because it has been a tough one for a lot of us. Many of my friends and loved ones have had a rough go, like my dad dealing with health problems and my sister-in-law battling cancer, and still others who are gone now. This year, in particular, I lost my beloved mother-in-law, Mary Lou Moore. She was a uniquely gifted artist, and more importantly, loved this column and loved to laugh at its weekly impertinence and to be honest my general impertinence. And that always touched me; how such a sweet, creative, loving soul could get a genuine kick out of this mess.

She died in late June, almost two years to the day that I had my 14th Street epiphany. My wife and I were on our annual anniversary weekend sojourn in downtown NYC and Mary was at my mountain home hanging with our then six year-old daughter, Scarlet, who soon would be eight and find herself without her maternal grandmother.

Later in the year two good friends would lose their parents. This will be their first holiday season without them. My dad had a scare this year; quadruple bypass surgery. He’s had a couple of lousy health years. And the whole thing gets me thinking again of my 14th Street epiphany and I wonder if somehow I’m a jinx.

Or if I was trying to tell myself something that I’m now acutely aware seeing time pass over these two years and how everything that transpired did so in such a shockingly rapid manner that it all seems like a dream.

My dear Uncle Johnny – who has the distinction of two mentions in as many weeks in this space – was not well that summer. I had visited him in a hospital for patients with dementia down in Florida the previous February, and since his dad, my maternal grandfather, had suffered from the same malady, and I seemed to have acquired quite a few of their genes, I only assumed I would be going nuts soon or at least willing to admit I’ve been clinically nuts and not just symbolically so for some time. And I also wondered how long he could last living that way. I got my answer. He died that autumn. And then I pondered how long any of us have and I was just glad that for that fleering moment, just a few steps across from Union Square, that everyone was okay and maybe they would be for a little while longer.

But a little while was not long enough. It never is. Is it?

And I guess in some ham-fisted way I wish that we would all have a 14th Street moment more often and realize how finite all this is and all the bitching and moaning about things we cannot control are merely distractions to those things we actually can, like being kinder to each other and maybe making a phone call or offering a hand or a compliment or a reminder to those we care about to let them know how fortunate we are that they’re in our lives and that they have their health and their right mind for another one of these seasons.

“Hold me in your thoughts, Take me to your dreams…”

You see, when I was younger (Man, you know things have crept well past sentimental into maudlin-ville when someone writes, “When I was younger…”, but I pointed it out, so that exempts me and so shall I proceed), I would fraction life out in summers – like how many summers do I have with these friends of mine, or how many summers will I be carefree and single and penniless and not give a shit until it becomes sad or pathetic? How many summers could a relationship survive or a job or a book project or some other activity that appeared at the time to have an infinite shelf-life?

Now, maybe, I think of this season, this “holiday season”; the one I usually “endure”, and wonder how many more of these Christmas mornings will be left for the kid digging on Santa or how many more will I have with my dad or how many more with my friends that I think will somehow age but not get closer to not having another summer or season?

Okay, so last year I wrote a screed defending Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge and now I’m bringing people down with “loved ones are not going to be here forever, so start acting like it” nonsense that no one needs to hear.

Well, I think that’s bullshit. We do need to hear it. I certainly needed to hear it last year when we still had Mary and never in our wildest dreams did we consider not having her, and maybe that is silly hindsight that humans play with in order to ease their minds that you cannot spend every “season” wondering who will be here next year to share it.

Shit, there’s probably no other reason to bring any of this up except to point out that I work too much and cannot enjoy enough of what its brought me because I’m not sure I’m four or five or less “seasons” from losing my mind or that someone else might not be here that I need to tell how much they mean to me.

Time to rectify that.

Right?

Right.

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IN PRAISE OF THE DAILY SHOW (THE BOOK)

Aquarian Weekly
12/21/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

IN PRAISE OF THE DAILY SHOW (THE BOOK)
An Oral History of the Golden Age of 21st Century American Satire

I have never actually missed a TV show. The concept seems silly to me. Sure, I wish certain shows I dig would have kept going in-perpetuity, but usually when I look back, I figure it was probably a good idea it stopped. I think Showtime’s Shameless is going bye-bye after seven seasons. That sucks. It is currently the best show on TV for my money. But, I get it, its time. But when The Daily Show lost Jon Stewart – effectively going off the air (for me) – it was a bummer, but, you know, okay…I get it.

But, man, do I miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

12-21_ds

And I don’t think it actually hit me until I received a copy of film-maker, Chris Smith’s wonderfully compiled The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History in the mail and haven’t been able to put it down. And weirdly, I think when I’m done in a few more pages I’m going to – for all intents and purposes – finally put away this particular icon and try and understand why it was so damn important to me.

For me The Daily Show was, of course, very entertaining. Some might say; right up my alley. Or at least it was playing in the same alley.

In 1999, when Jon Stewart took stewardship of Comedy Central’s then half-hour social-commentary joke-fest, I began getting emails about it from readers of this space, specifically an old radical friend of my Uncle Johnny, who I had never met but I guess started reading my stuff and then tried to get me onto Stewart’s jag. I was never a fan of “fake news” satire – the HBO series Not Necessarily the News or even the early Weekend Updates on SNL. It took me a few years, really, maybe just before 9/11 or so, to begin to catch on to the insurrection that was The Daily Show.

Occasionally I would flick it on and get more than a chuckle, and then, and I’m not sure when or what story they were lampooning or what level of satire they were playing at, it suddenly struck me as damned important work. My guess is I probably became an avid viewer and began setting the DVR sometime before the 2004 presidential campaign and found myself getting at first influenced by the track of the show and then trying like hell not to cover similar ground – as if anyone would notice or care for that matter. But I would. It is a thin alley we were working in. You do not want to bump into anyone for fear you are merely echoing the angst or bile. I have plenty of both already.

And, you see, that’s where Smith’s book really put me on notice this past week. It reminded me how much of the free-thinking public, and okay…college burn-outs and shut-ins and the fringe-class…were satiated by watching The Daily Show make a difference, whether to drive a bill through congress to assist first-responders, or affect the free-expression brigade in Egypt, or merely expose those who needed exposing from the War in Iraq to the banking crisis to the general absolutists that make this country a strange and wonderful mixture of the horrible and fantastic.

The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History … illuminates the aim and effectiveness of true satire and the skewering of our most cherished institutions as an art form

Certainly if you are a fan of the show you must read The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History, because although I wish it had more “inside baseball stuff” – writing room stories or inner turmoil or other things (and it has it, but not as much I crave from these oral histories) – it is a sincere blast to relive its finest moments and understand how it was achieved and more importantly remember how much it was a major part of the democratic process and how much it began to force politicians and social leaders and writers and scientists and authors and even celebrities hawking whatever to “be real” and give them either a forum to express or a place where they could…not…hide.

And I don’t think necessarily, as has been argued, that the power and scope of The Daily Show would have meant a hill-o-beans in this past presidential election cycle, I do think it would have helped to frame it in its most peculiar terms, something we have striven for here since 1997, two years before Stewart sat in the chair and began to shift the narrative of American comedy, much like the usual suspects, Twain and Bruce and The Simpsons…you know the roll call.

Anyway, before this holiday season gets away from us, I wanted to put a few words together for Smith’s exhaustive work. I rarely get the chance to laud books here. I read so many damn books and some are definitely worth writing about and some…not so much. I do my bi-annual Rock Reads thing for the paper and that seems to suffice. I am not a critic and have no interest in faking it, but I think the readers of this column would get a kick out of The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History because it illuminates the aim and effectiveness of true satire and the skewering of our most cherished institutions as an art form I believe is the last vestige of reality (ironically) in a world that is replete with fabricated nonsense passing for righteous outrage and political expediency.

But mostly the book has made me miss the show and miss Stewart and all the great correspondents and writers and that nice exhale at the end of each day when it is eleven and we can laugh at our goofy human experiment and then nod off to sleep.

But at least we have this as a memento.

Bravo, Mr. Smith.

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