THE KIM JONG-UN SHOW

Aquarian Weekly
6/20/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE KIM JONG-UN SHOW
When Two Ego-Mad Lunatics Masturbate on Official Documents & a U.S. President Praises a Murderous Thug

One thing I’ll say for Donald J. Trump as president, he really does outdo his idiocy on historical levels.

For the first time in over a half century a North Korean leader meets with a U.S president and it is one of the most flaccid, useless, innocuous occurrences in the grandest tradition of phot-op, international politics. Nothing was officially decided, as two tyrannical goofballs whose relationship with anything resembling truth is a kind of rhetorical hide-and-seek anyway, told each other a bunch of stuff and then signed a paper saying they told each other a bunch of stuff.

Nothing is binding. Nothing is permanent or specific. No one has to do anything said or signed. There are no consequences or concessions ratified by either of these men’s governments. Either of them, who have made reneging on deals a religious art form, can walk away from this right now as I write this. Of course those who worship these dinks celebrate and those who despise them complain, while people paying attention to detail wonder what the fuck just transpired.

Enter Reality Check.

First off, I support any weirdly constructed attempt to stop human annihilation. This is why I supported the new way in which the Barack Obama administration dealt with Iran in their nuclear deal, which had way more teeth than this farce and was mocked openly and then trashed by the same guy who signed on with one of the worst murdering, human rights monsters on the planet. Shit, even those who mock Neville Chamberlain’s Munich capitulation to Adolf Hitler in 1938 understand he did it to “keep the peace”, which was all the rave in discussing what went down when Kim Jong-un met with Trump in Singapore this past week. “Stopping the war games” as our game show president couched it, mirroring in many ways major “agreements” with this family dynasty over the past three administrations that started out with lots of promises and “good will” and ended up with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a crazy man threatening the U.S.

I should say at this juncture it is merely an opening salvo, but nonetheless a one-sided one. Jong-un was the winner here – not North Korea or South Korea or America or the Asia as a whole. He is still very much the same Jong-un, a maniac who slaughters and jails his people and murders Americans and members of his own family and children etc, and is still sitting on tons of weaponry, of which he expressed only the desire to end all of that with, again, no specifics or dates/deadlines or agreeing to inspectors or really any concessions beyond, “Sure, let’s give this a try”, which rings as hollow as whatever Hitler told Chamberlain to continue to carve up Europe.

What has changed is Jung-un’s perception in the West and in China, which is what he wanted. Sitting next to the leader of the free world and historically shaking his hand is a bigger deal for an ostracized tyrant, who is deep in sanctions and surrounded by enemies within and without, than it is for an American president, who has nothing to gain by sitting with this loon beyond a hollow political “win” and the low-bar prospect that he is so insane that the two of these men mere months ago were dick-fighting with millions of lives at stake.

So what we’re celebrating, if that is what is happening, is that there wasn’t the egotistical massacre of innocents by two rich kids who woke up on third and think they hit a triple or as the New Republic nailed it: “Nepotism Solidarity” telling each other whatever they wanted to hear to claim victory.

It is also important, though, to point out that while being constantly compared to Hitler, Bush II and Obama and now Trump are not, but you know who is a good one for this name-calling? Kim Jong-un. And if in 1938 American flags were touching up against Swastika flags like what happened in Singapore last week, probably 80 to 85 percent of Americans would not have minded, as many in this country hardly blinked. In fact, that was about the percentage of Americans interested in getting involved in “Hitler’s war” in the summer of 1941 until that December when the Japanese re-introduced us to world politics. But all of that is in our review mirror and to see that pomp paraded before the world cameras made me a tad queasy, but what was truly sickening was the outpouring of ass-kissing our president bestowed on this North Korean Hitler that is hard for even me to comprehend.

Nothing was officially decided, as two tyrannical goofballs … told each other a bunch of stuff and then signed a paper saying they told each other a bunch of stuff.

Despite working for peace or during war time – cold or otherwise – never did FDR publicly condone personally or ideologically Stalin nor did Reagan of Gorbachev, and neither did Obama when dealing with Iranian leaders. This was queer, eerie and painful stuff when considering Trump never had to go this far. Why would he say these things? And repeat them over and over on American television. It is pure madness.

For a fun exercise let’s put up Jung-un’s crimes next to Trump’s praise of him.

Come on, it’s hilariously horrifying:

Millions of North Koreans have died from forced starvations to keep people in line with the draconian 300-page Commission of Inquiry that “operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience” to Mr. Kim.

Trump to Seann Hannity on June 12: “He’s got a very good personality, he’s funny, and he’s very, very smart. He’s a great negotiator, and he’s a very strategic kind of a guy. We got along very well from the very beginning. I think we understand each other.”

Since Mr. Kim assumed power in 2011, taking over from his father, Kim Jong-il, he has consolidated his power through executions. In the first six years as leader, he has ordered the executions of at least 340 people, according to the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank arm of the National Intelligence Service. In 2016, Kim Yong-jin, the deputy premier for education, was killed in front of a firing squad after showing “disrespectful posture” in a meeting. Hyon Yong-chol, a general over the armed forces, fell asleep in a meeting. He was executed with an antiaircraft gun.

Trump to Brett Baier on June 13: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have – if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 could do that.”

Up to 120,000 inmates were in the country’s four major political prisons in 2014 and were subjected to gruesome conditions, according to the United Nations report. Prisoners are starved, forced to work, tortured and raped. Reproductive rights are denied through forced abortions and infanticide. Some are executed — sometimes in public. Hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died in the camps over the past 50 years, the United Nations report found.

Trump to ABC News on June 12: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

Rape and other forms of torture, beatings and brutal interrogations are common for people whose alleged crimes might have been nothing more than falling asleep at a political event or playing foreign music. Mothers were in some cases reportedly forced to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants.

Trump to Fox and Friends, June 15: “Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Um…what?

And on and on it goes…still. It is quite exhausting how this man goes out of his way to put Kim Jung-un on a pedestal.

Why?

For apparently nothing, or close to nothing or…to find the low-bar…keep an Asia peninsula from annihilation.

This is now the foreign policy of the United States of America.

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THE LOST CHILDREN OF AMERICA

Aquarian Weekly
6/13/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE LOST CHILDREN OF AMERICA
U.S. Border Stations Overrun by Our New National Sin

It is June of 2018 in the United States of America. Right now 550 children have been stripped from their parents and are being detained in over-crowded border stations funded by your tax dollars. Three hundred of these children are in custody for over the 72-hour period allowed by law. They are being held against their will away from their family. Held in a de facto concentration camp. This is happening now. June, 2018. Here in the United States. Children. Detention Camps.

These are children of refugees seeking asylum. They have not been convicted of any crime – they have just been charged, and most have the valid defense that they are legitimately fleeing persecution. Seeking asylum at our borders is a legal right protected under U.S. law.

But law is a tricky thing for this present administration.

Who is good with this?

The United States federal government has demanded by writ of a “no tolerance” policy – another haphazardly thrown together tyrannical baby-tantrum by our game show president, echoed by his damaged and bleating troll of an attorney general and enacted by the puppets of this jack-booted regime. In a horrifying scene reminiscent of the mass exodus of Native Americans from their land during the 1830 Indian Removal Act signed by the monster on our twenty-dollar bill (Donald Trump’s hero), President Andrew Jackson, the Customs and Border Protection agents have been running out of space to shelter the hundreds of migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the United States border.

I am also reminded of another of Trump’s heroes, Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Operation Wetback, a truly ignominious slice of Americana enacted on Mexican Americans in 1954, which stunningly the current president of the United States heralded during several Republican debates. Or how about Franklin Roosevelt’s Japanese relocation camps?

Shall we go on?

Refugee children being ripped from parents and detained with our money. You are paying for this. Let it sink in.

Regardless of how you fall on this politically or ideologically or even (gulp!) morally, this is not how this whole concept of America is supposed to go, even when duly considering its ugly, petty, racist, violent past. This is 2018 and it is disgusting, embarrassing and pathetic.

This, I guess, is what all the hoopla surrounding the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison camp was about for the past seventeen years. My take has always been that once you practice in terrorism you then hand in your society ticket. But what exactly did these children do but be born?

Fun Fact: The idiots who support this are the same ones who cannot stop telling women what to do with their bodies to save “unborn children”, while these already fully-formed children apparently don’t count.

Even the original plan for housing the children; keeping them in custody at U.S. border stations, and eventually military bases or detention facilities away from their parents, is so patently abhorrent it is hard to believe we can muster the anger to be pissed about some weird, self-absorbed hissy fit this child president conjured this week to keep professional black athletes from the White House for having the audacity to protest the systemic murder of innocents. This nonsense was all the rage this week, and more stuff about how whatever is left of Rudy Giuliani’s sanity, drowning out children being detained away from their parents at the border on our dime.

This has become Mr. Trump’s Iraq. Now we have, instead of U.S. Marines acting as traffic cops and relocation directors, Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement officers acting as babysitters. They are neither trained nor equipped for caring for in many cases mere toddlers. That’s correct, I’m writing this right now; toddlers are alone, being cared for by strangers with no experience in this.

All of this might not be the sexiest news, but it will soon be history. This generation will have to remember this and it will be another sad chapter in our long putrid story of lunatics besmirching the very flag and institutions this joke president and his cabal spend all their hot air defending.

It is during these times when Twain’s “we get the leaders we deserve” axiom comes home for me. This is our country now. This is where we have sunk. Refugee children being ripped from parents and detained with our money. You are paying for this. Let it sink in. You work, they take part of your earnings, and then enact this egregious shit. You and me, we own this. It is ours.

Does this feel right to you?

The actions of this banana republic, this soulless, mean-spirited machine is our current legacy. I ask, and the answer may be yes, and for that, I cannot argue; but is any of this acceptable to you?

Children.

Detainment camps.

June of 2018 in the United States of America.

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THE UNITED TRUMP OF TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
6/6/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE UNITED TRUMP OF TRUMP
All of a Sudden We’re Citizens of Trump Enterprises

Not sure if you’ve noticed but the current president of the United States has been using his post as a personal vendetta machine. He has also begun very haphazardly to drag the country into a mid-80s Trump business model known to insiders as the “Atlantic City Kamikaze”. This is when all of his fabricated bravado and complete disregard for anything resembling rationality crumbles beneath the weight of his transcendent bullshit. To those who were suckered into voting for this idiot the signs may look like a cornered animal or a man showing signs of descending into madness. Those who ignore this will see him as a champion of something or other or whatever they tell themselves to make excuses for what is turning into a car wreck of a presidency. Either way it is happening and to bear witness is a fine thing. Historians will marvel that we made it through it all. But we will. Because we are Americans. We have survived worse. Not as stupid, mind you, but worse.

Although that last sentence is getting harder to write as the days mount in the political abortion Trump is performing on this nation.

I was moved last week to point out this kamikaze routine taking the government into some half-bent form of a banana republic. The greatest example, among many, is Trump’s continued threatening of the justice department and the rule of law. Last week members of congress, most pointedly his puppet, Devin Nunez of California, who purportedly recused himself from the farcical “intelligence committee investigation” for running under the cover of night to the White House in March of last year to brief the president on evidence, met with Trump and justice department heads to mull over (get this) even more evidence.

Let me write this out clearly: Trump feels the need to use his executive power to control a national security investigation, of which he is an ongoing suspect.

What kind of goofy dictatorship does Trump think he’s running?

He presumes, as was expected, that the United States has been transformed by his magnetic personality into Trump Enterprises, and that all must flow through him. And in a way it is kind of what he told everyone he would do if we were dumb and desperate enough to put him in charge and yet people who claim to love the concept of America (whatever the hell that is, they seem to know, they’re always shouting it in cute chants and making songs about it) and still voted for him have to endure the fact that his very presence is a mockery of the whole goddamn thing.

Recently Trump bemoaned the rigors of the U.S. Constitution as a weird albatross, not unlike Manhattan zoning laws or women’s rights, a bland document that’s just getting in the way of his greatness. He believes, as he believes in the infallibility of his mentor Vladimir Putin, that the Russian form of government is superior to all these annoying parameters he’s forced to endure. Putin gets to do what he wants, why can’t he?

This is why half the White House staff contradicts his tweets daily and there are meetings with foreign leaders planned, then cancelled, then planned, then changed. This is why half the state department is missing. This is why he continues to feel no heat over bitching that his attorney general should have “protected him” and the director of the FBI should have taken a “loyalty oath”.

We are Americans. We have survived worse. Not as stupid, mind you, but worse.

In a way, Trump is turning into King George III. He has not lost his nut, he is merely expressing his need to rule completely and fuck-all about anything else. And I love when he holds his Nuremberg-esque rallies and stands there with his jaw out with a grimace and asks the great unwashed if he is right about all this and they cheer like bleating goats.

Those who defend Trump’s bull-in-China-shop machinations believe his actions against the highest law offices in the land and his own justice department are somehow justified because he keeps calling the massive investigation he himself launched due to his “What me worry?” kamikaze stylings a “witch hunt”, even though he fired the man investigating him and then went on NBC to tell everyone it was because of the Russia investigation – something he now predictably and laughably denies. This, not some left-wing cabal, is what led to a special counsel. Just like the FBI telling Trump and his campaign staff in August, 2016 that the Russians were interacting with ancillary figures around his campaign, which led to a planted informant that Trump now calls “Spygate”, because some half-witted rodeo clown on FOX News made it up to sell Emergency Alert Bracelets to its elderly viewers.

But how do they explain his plans on pardoning “obstruction of justice” clarions like Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart, because his sacked FBI Director James Comey, who just wrote a book making Trump look like a foul-mouthed fascist paranoiac, put them in jail?

How do they explain his imbecilic war on Amazon, and more specifically its founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos?

Bezos is everything Trump is not. A truly successful business mogul. He has foresight and can communicate ideas above a fifth-grade level. His anger is in check. He does not brag about abusing women or agreeing with Howard Stern that his daughter is “a piece of ass”. He has never been sued and paid out millions for fraud and has not endured several bankruptcies. His baby, Amazon, is arguably the greatest single economic shape-shifter since the cotton gin. It is not the ashes of the USFL, another Trump kamikaze move, or whatever the fuck Trump University was. So Trump hates him. He also hates that he owns the Washington Post, which has does its finest work in four decades using eager White House sources and incredible investigative journalism to uncover the criminal charade Trumps’ cronies are perpetuating on this republic.

Trump bellows hard and loud about Amazon ripping Americans off through the U.S. Post Office, when in reality it is enterprises like Amazon that keep the USPS off life support.

Take Trump’s “Mexico pays for the wall” nonsense that was as silly as those who believed it and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto laughing in his face and extrapolate that out to this completely moronic and dangerous trade war no one with any idea how economics works thinks is remotely a good idea.

Trump doesn’t “like” the WTO, so he ignores it. Trump doesn’t like the Iran Nuclear Deal because it was Barack Obama’s idea, so even though he shows a spectacular inability to understand a scintilla of it, he bags it.

There are too many of these Trump vendettas to cover in a mere one-thousand or so words. Every day there is some bizarre shit our president thinks is owed to him on our account. He is his own granny state of wining, foot-stomping immaturity. And damn if we didn’t give this game show host the keys to the kingdom.

America is just another piece of gaudy property Trump is turning into a sinking Atlantic City casino boondoggle.

God bless that.

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THE FIGHT TO LEGALIZE WEED IN NJ CONTINUES

Aquarian Weekly
5/30/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE FIGHT TO LEGALIZE WEED IN NJ CONTINUES

There’s no reason to believe we can’t get there. This is not a rolling-off-the-log one, though. This is not one you get overnight. This takes time. We’re in that process right now.
– NJ Governor Phil Murphy, NJ 2019 Budget Address, May 8, 2018

Unlike the clown boy we have in the White House who is doing his illegal best to turn this damaged nation into a full-blown banana republic, we here in NJ hold our officials to a higher standard. Actually, we don’t. This place is a cesspool and has been for decades. The last guy here, you know, Chris Christie, was so spectacularly corrupt his record-low polling became legend. It led to the successful run by uber-progressive, Phil Murphy. As stated by Mr. Murphy throughout his campaign, the linchpin/cornerstone/foundation of his economic agenda and outlook for the Garden State leaned heavily on the rightful legalization of marijuana for sale, growth, and industry. The American way. Private sector growth and ingenuity free from government intercedence (especially this draconian federal government – that’s right Jeff Sessions, we mean you).

In other words: Don’t Tread on Us!

And while it is true that Murphy surfed into office on an anti-Trump wave last November, a wave growing by the month, the results of which will be evident this fall or not – we’ll see – there was no doubt his forward-thinking and fresh take on this issue was key to the resurgence of this state. It certainly was key to this space’s rousing endorsement of Mr. Murphy. This came, of course, with a caveat: Murphy had to get on this. Has it happened yet? Nope.

As I write this, Murphy’s party has total dominance in the state legislature, a body that had already drafted a bill to legalize marijuana when Christie was still limping around Trenton trying to avoid tomatoes being thrown at him by wandering urchins, which was duly supported by our new governor, who, once again, stomped to victory.

But it has been over the requisite 100 days – a mark that is common for government executives – of this administration and we have seen nothing but muckraking, filibustering, the usual religious, voodoo science and morality cries against legalization. This is the kind of cheap political nonsense that kept slavery alive for well over a century, massacred, then “relocated” native Americans, kept women from voting for 140 years, battled against civil rights, marriage equality, and on and on. It should be beyond our scope in the 21st century. This is not Alabama or anywhere near the god-forsaken South. This is New Jersey. Enough of this shit. Let’s get down to brass tacks and stop acting like it’s 1888, despite the old-fart, stuck in the 19th century national administration run by a guy who should be on a porch screaming at kids to get off his lawn.

Prohibition never works. Never will.

Based on several April polls conducted by NJ.com, half the citizens of our weird state are in favor of legalizing weed. And these are people over 45. People under that and especially people under 40 – in other words the future of this country, not fossils like this bleating troll of an attorney general, Jefferson Sessions, who is so goddamn out of it he still thinks Reefer Madness is a documentary and considers “high-tea” a code for shooting up, support this measure. Also, six out of ten NJ residents believe (and they are very correct) that bringing a new industry into the state will not only help with infrastructure (have you seen some of these byways around here?) and assist in funding schools and valued civil servants like firemen and police, etc.

And this is a majority. Murphy won with 55 percent of the vote. The current president of the U.S. didn’t get 50 percent of the electorate and he was duly slaughtered in the raw democratic vote by a woman who was generally despised. We have a true executive here. Not some also-ran pulled in by frightened steel worker union types. This is what democracy has wrought. Murphy has a mandate. Let’s get to it.

A few months back, I published a list of your representatives and their phone numbers for those like-minded free-thinkers and true free-market champions to pepper them with reason. That time has passed. It is time to begin to berate and cajole. We pay their salaries and it is time they begin to understand this, and to also understand one key element of what has changed around here in the past month.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court correctly lifted an imbecilic ban on sport book in this country – another in a long line of ridiculous Judeo-Christian edicts on “sin” versus “law”, as if nine-tenths of nearly everything humans do for money or sport is not a sin. Sin is how you make a buck and keep the trains rolling, move merchandise and get along. Again, if we were to base everything on morality we would have no business in this country, or really a country. Come on. Gambling, like recreational drugs – booze, coffee, etc –and even killing machines like guns – is big business. Where is the morality there? It is not there. So shove it.

What was the highest court in the land’s argument for legalizing the betting on sporting events nationwide? It’s kind of crazy to allow one state the right to supply something to its citizenry and another a different set of criteria, or as Justice Samuel Alito reasoned:
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

The key word there is “regulate”. Now apparently those who oppose the legalization are also the same ones who are anti-regulation. The EPA currently is a gutted joke run by a corrupt psychopath who believes the entire operation has less to do with the government preventing dangerous attacks on our environment and the general health than it is to get him swanky hotel rooms and free jet rides. So don’t give me any of your regulatory nonsense. Congress shall make no laws infringing upon our freedom. State rights! All that shit. Whatever hook you want to hang your tired ideology on it is time to couple the plant with the wager. There is no difference. Get off your high (pun intended) horse and dig on the reality of this.

I am not sure I can write anything more on the details of this. It is all out there. Some of our legislators have reportedly checked out the industry of what has turned Colorado’s economy around and they are starting to waver, because money makes the world go ‘round and because marijuana is less harmful to the human body and mind than alcohol, so it is time to stop pretending we’re God, or whatever, and begin to see clearly the path that is open to us. Let the Volstead Act, a crazy attempt at morally adjudicating our behavior, be your guide. Prohibition never works. Never will. Like supply-side economics and leech bloodletting.

This is the last time I shall persuade Mr. Murphy to come through with his campaign promise. This ain’t no mythical wall some real estate game show host made up because daddy didn’t love him. This is sound policy and I expect the governor to find a way to make it happen. The next words that come from here will be filled with vitriol and rage and the excuses will not be tolerated, nor should they by you.

Get to work.

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TOM WOLFE – 1930 – 2018

Aquarian Weekly
5/23/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TOM WOLFE – 1930 – 2018

Tom Wolfe was a novelist in journalist’s clothes – included with his signature white suits and cane and top hat and matching shoes and all the rest. This is what people in the know will tell you. But I wholly disagree with this. I believe it was the opposite. He was a journalist first. Even in his best fiction, which for me pales in comparison to his best journalism, you will find more than traces of a man living comfortably in the Who What When Where and Why. He wrote nine non-fiction books from 1965 to 1981, all of them uniquely coddled with a style that rang bells and hit marks, sort of a bizarre combination of rousing endorsement and stinging rebuke on the form without compromise. It was art, man. And that is coming from someone who has spent decades of comparing this “spooky art” – as Norman Mailer put it – to craft. But Wolfe was indeed an artist, because he meant to be. And that’s where it comes down to it for those of us who were fueled on that stuff and chose this course for our own level of scribe-dom.

These observations could also apply to Mark Twain and Ernest Hemmingway, two of the most important voices in the emergence of uniquely American letters, both of whom were journalists (Hemmingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises is a pure work of journalism and he never denied it). And like them here is also what needs to be written about Tom Wolfe: The environments in which his work was created would not be the same or have the same resonance without Wolfe’s talent to frame them, which was significant and relentless, and if there is a finer more poignant or even goddamn honest thing you can say about a writer of true stories than I have yet to hear or read it.

In fact, I would say his New Journalism, a term he coined, wrote diligently towards and acted as its curator for decades, was a thing to behold. It became for me and a whole generation of gestating authors more important than fiction because it is as George McGovern’s Campaign Strategist Frank Mankiewicz opined on Hunter S. Thompson’s “coverage” of events in 1972, “the most accurate and least factual account” of things possible. Thompson later mused in his brilliant Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 that objective journalism has failed us. It is what eventually landed a monster like Richard Nixon in the White House, a lesson we had to apparently learn again nearly half a century later.

Wolfe understood this better than all of his contemporaries; Norman Mailer, Gay Telese, Terry Southern, Joan Didion, and George Plimpton, all of them in one way or another guideposts that gave voice to this space in the manner in which all of it goes down. This is because Tom Wolfe stood on the high ground, took a moment to look down after a long breath and put the damn thing into perspective. What was happening to the craft? He needed to know. Mailer didn’t. Thompson didn’t. Joan kind of wanted to know but she knew that by asking was to take on too much lifting.

But that was long after Wolfe took his first gig at the Herald Tribune a few months before I entered the human race proper in 1962. The Herald hired bright, uber-pretentious seekers then; setting the paper apart from the rest of the steaming crap that boiled up from the subway grates in NYC in the post-war grit of Charles Foster Kane’s “Declaration of Principles”. These were rooms filled with terrible marauders and dime-store lede-driven tacticians that needed the kid to bring the new form. What would that be? Did Truman Capote know when he took that train to Kansas and wrote about wayward drifters who slaughtered a family for a few bucks that was never there? Many said In Cold Blood was the first “novel as fiction”, others, and Mailer would be one of those, would point to his Armies of the Night, which is a princely piece of vitriol that would reverberate from the 1955 founding of the Village Voice in the corner of the White Horse Tavern after too much drinking and way too much revolutionary thought.

It was his multi-layered command of the language that made him twist it like Picasso’s brush.

Be that as it may, I came to Wolfe around the time of Mailer’s breakout through George Plimpton. In the autumn of 1968, my dad took me to see the film Paper Lion in a theater in the bustling Parkchester section of the North Bronx. Not long after, maybe before middle-school, I would read the book. But it was Alan Alda’s depiction of the skinny intellectual trying to make sense of pro football by being a pro football player that had given me my own perspective on what it meant to be a storyteller. It was Plimpton’s work with the Paris Review that then led me to a Wolfe interview in which he revealed methods of combing taped interviews and observations to paint larger pictures of the craft that would have me devouring The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby before long. I would eventually find my way to his kinetic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test after getting abducted by Ken Kesey’s fever-dream opus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a high school literary class and I knew that if I could or would make the words work; to heel and parry and spin and dance, it would have to be this way.

You see, I got Wolfe right away. This his Wolfe’s gift. He did not mess around. It was his multi-layered command of the language that made him twist it like Picasso’s brush. He could coin “Radical Chic” as easily as the “Me Decade” and it all made sense. It was the way in which he provided clarity to his subjects and gave them meaning. This is what is at the heart, if not a veiled comparison, of my first published book, Deep Tank Jersey – One Man’s Journey into the Heart of a New Jersey Club Band. And although the book reeks of Jack Kerouac and much of the journalism I had studied to get to where that book ends up, it is Wolfe who informs it. It would not have gotten off the ground if not for Wolfe and his New Journalism or the idea of it. It is the ideas that come through and that make us want to read it and to eventually write it because it has to be written, like art.

Like Tom Wolfe.

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IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME…IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME!

Aquarian Weekly
5/2/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME…IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME!
(Sung to The Tune of the “Howdy Doody” Theme)

As I have written dozens of times in this space over the span of these 20 years, Rudolf William Louis Giuliani is by far the best politician of my lifetime, certainly in the time I have covered politics. He said if he were elected mayor he would clean up the cesspool of violence, crime and degradation that was New York City, bring back businesses and all that. He was elected in 1993 and he did. I was there the night he defeated David Dinkins; crammed into the New York Hilton on Sixth Avenue across from the Ziegfeld Theater around two in the morning, the returns rolling in slowly, and then it was over. Giuliani, looking haggard but defiant with his 50.7 percent of the vote, said the usual shit about law and order, as those of us in press row laughed. Oh, how we laughed. Clean up New York City?

Back then Donald Trump was a whore real estate junkie, and also a Democrat. His only stumble into politics was his full page Daily News ad calling for the hanging of the Central Park Five, all of whom were eventually found not guilty for raping a woman in 1989. It seemed like a pathetically transparent grandstand by another vacuous celebrity who knew nothing about the facts but needed to “weigh in”, a kneejerk reaction that he thought would play well as the tough guy to whatever suckers he was trying to roll somewhere on the island of Manhattan. In other words, Classic Donald Trump.

Back then Giuliani was the voice of the law in the most powerful legal team in the nexus of American street justice in the Southern District of New York, busting Wall St. fraud and mobsters. He was fond of referring to The Donald, as we called him back then, as a “two-bit hustler” around the main office building downtown. He said it more than once to one of his rising stars, James Comey, because Uncle Rudy (as I started dubbing him eventually) had no use for Donald Trump and lord knows any officer of the law busting money men for fraud was no ally of Trump’s.

But in 2016, there was no one more vociferous cheerleader for Donald Trump’s campaign for president than Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11, America’s Mayor and a FOX News regular. No one could figure it out. Everyone in the know had a ton of stories of Giuliani openly mocking Trump as far back as when Uncle Rudy pulled out of a race against Hillary Clinton for NY Senate in 2000, when Trump dumped millions into a winning Clinton campaign. Four years later, the Clintons would be there to celebrate Trumps’ third marriage.

Even when Trump was reeling from the Access Hollywood tape a month before Election Day, Giuliani ran to any microphone he could find – one of the great quips of the 1990s around the press corps for years was “The most dangerous place in New York is between Rudy Giuliani and a hot mic” – to defend the candidate. He then began showing up to Trump’s rabid rallies, firing up the crowd with demented, almost fascistic nonsense that many considered the final nails in the credibility of a man who once spent $3.6 million to gather one delegate for an ill-fated run for president in 2008.

It was, in the end, vengeance for Uncle Rudy, who despised Hillary Clinton more than he could stomach standing next to Trump, who he knew was a corrupt liberal phony, who would likely destroy the Republican Party before he would get a niff at the White House. Clinton, as Uncle Rudy recalls it, mocked his pulling out of the 2000 rumble for senate because of health reasons as some kind of wimpy slink away. He did not forget it and he went hard after her, accusing her of every known crime since the dawn of civilization.

And then Giuliani did something quite interesting. He went on FOX News and started telling everyone that he had it cold from deep sources inside the FBI that the Hillary email stuff was not over. “Big news,” he grinned like the Cheshire Cat a day or so before his old buddy, James Comey re-opened the investigation publicly and to this day is cited (wrongly, mind you) in the half-assed liberal excuse-mill as the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton. However, it was another appearance on the goofy “news’ channel that eventually alerted the FBI that something funky was going on within the Trump campaign and Wikileaks and the Russian government when Giuliani again promised more bad news for his enemy. He knew, he said, that the Russians had Clinton emails and soon they will be released.

What he has to do now may be tougher; keep himself and the president of the United States out of deep shit.

Trump, for his part, went on television that night and begged the Russian government to steal more Clinton emails. This, and not the alleged dossier and all the other Trump excuse-mill crap, was what put the tail on Trump that consequently led to Comey’s firing, the recusal of the Attorney General on the Russia case and the appointment of the special counsel.

James Comey, you may have heard, has laid this entire timeline out in his new book that doesn’t need any further publicity – if I see Comey’s mug on my TV again I may throw up. Suffice to say, within days of the Comey run on all-things media, Giuliani decided to “get involved”. He is now part of the crumbling, bumbling, completely ineffectual Trump Legal Team that has been unable to control its client. And there really isn’t any reason to ask why.

Before the Comey book release, Trump’s private lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has been his “fixer” for decades, was raided and picked up by the FBI with, allegedly reams of material that no one with half a brain doesn’t think is loaded with criminal activity, suddenly tossing a critical part of this investigation into the Southern District of New York, Uncle Rudy’s old stomping grounds.

Giuliani, a man who lived on the edge of the organized crime and Wall St. cartels knows when someone is about to cough it up. And it will not go down with his name attached to it. Because that is exactly what is transpiring, and all that talk about how supportive America’s Mayor was in 2016 is about to go out the window. Hillary Clinton is in the rearview mirror and the only thing keeping Giuliani out of this investigation is his contacts and his moxie, which he will use with every last breath.

And then, with Shakespearean type tragedy, Donald Trump put in a call to his favorite FOX morning show and went on a non sequitur rant to beat all of them for 30 uninterrupted minutes of what can only be described as abject lunacy, no less than eight times implicating himself in several open cases and contradicting Cohen’s lawyers’ plea to keep the cache of documents and emails that may implicate the president in dozens of crimes out of the government’s hands.

Rudy Giuliani is a quarter century older than he was that early morning in 1993 when he set forth to become what I still believe is one of the most impressive jobs in the history of governance. But what he has to do now may be tougher; keep himself and the president of the United States out of deep shit.

Good luck.

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EXIT STAGE RYAN

Aquarian Weekly
4/18/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EXIT STAGE RYAN

I was waiting in the modest airport in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with my family finishing up a wonderful new book on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and peeling pieces of my burnt skin from my wrist when I saw Paul Ryan appear on CNN and say, after weeks of vehemently denying credible news reports, that he is no longer seeking re-election for the United States Congress. He’s handing in his speakership. For all intents and purposes, with the heat rising to dangerous levels in and around his party and its president, he is getting the fuck out of Dodge.

With the entire federal government in his party’s hands, the third most powerful figure in the United States government is quitting. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has seen the writing on the wall and it is not good. Internal Republican polling strongly indicates there is a political Blue Tsunami coming in six months and he wants no part of it.

Like athletes who take the millions to play in a new city and then have the balls to tell you it’s because of their family, Ryan is wheeling out the usual tropes. Anti-Trump Republicans and conservative columnists and the predictable wave of liberal analysis have wrongly interpreted this slipping out the back door as a clear sign of Ryan’s exhaustion of working for and a general disgust in the behavior of our game show president. That, of course, is utter nonsense. There are more pictures of Paul Ryan smiling while standing or sitting or signing bills with Donald Trump aka David Dennison (Warning: That ain’t ever getting old around here) than there is of Melania Trump, who looks in every White House photo op like she’s been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

You see, when it suited his agenda (and I am seriously not sure what the hell that is anymore), Ryan ate Donald Trump’s shit, carried his water and spent more press conferences playfully dodging questions about his angry, off-the-hinge tweets. Even when he was uncomfortable with the president of the United States providing cover for marauding Nazi marchers, one of which murdered a protester with his car, there was something of an embrace of Trump.

Ryan told CNN their “differences” were merely “style” and geographic origins, that only lunatics are from New York City and not sweet, homey, down-to-earth Wisconsin, where paying porn stars to sleep with you and then shut-up and personal lawyers being raided by the FBI is unfamiliar cosmopolitan shenanigans. He was apparently the one person who missed the Netflix Making of a Murderer series, which makes his home state appear as some backwater third-world desert of kill-crazed hicks, corrupt police and a government asleep at the wheel.

What Ryan is most of all is a quitter and he is running from this rat-infested sinking vessel as fast as you can imagine

Despite his purported Ayn Randian roots, his long-rumored ideological fiscally conservative bent and the rest of what he tells girls and Wall Street hucksters at DC cocktail parties, Ryan sold his soul to Trumpism, with its empty promises, bloated deficits, and anti-trade, barely coherent nationalistic claptrap. Ryan is just another hack like Gerald Ford, who wanted everyone on his golf outings to think he wasn’t ruined by the pardoning of Nixon and some far-fetched palaver about “healing the nation” when he took one for the party and then went out and lost the presidency to a peanut farmer.

What Ryan is most of all is a quitter and he is running from this rat-infested sinking vessel as fast as you can imagine, despite there being zero chance, even in a year where most Republicans would be lucky to not be tarred and feathered in town squares, to be re-elected. According to the numbers’ geeks over at Five Thirty-Eight, Wisconsin’s 1st district, or what Ryan has been representing now since 2011, is 11.3 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole. Even in the current and climbing seven-to-ten-point Democratic advantage nationally, Ryan, with nearly $10 million in his coffers, would retain his seat, with the ignominious chore of handing the gavel back over to Nancy Pelosi, if she survives a fervent progressive insurrection, of course. But Ryan has endured worse. He ran on the doomed Mitt Romney ticket and once even tried to fake like he didn’t want to endorse Trump over moral reasons, which he soon found out was not his thing. Fuck morals. We got tax cuts to get to.

And all of that is fine. I expect politicians to smear their rhetoric with hard-ons for morality and then trolling for teenage interns or turn the EPA into a private resort for friends and family, but Ryan wants you to think otherwise. He plays the whole this-and-that game as well as any of them. And this way leads to the exit, before he is fully blamed for kowtowing to and enabling what appears to be on a daily basis some kind of ridiculous parody of a frat house administration being run by a sloppy con artist and a bunch of people profiting off the idea of governance.

Thirty-eight House Republicans, including Ryan, have decided to not run for re-election this year, and twenty-five of them are through with the whole concept of politics as a viable vocation for people who thought Jesus had something to do with the founding of this nation built on free labor and land grabs. That is the greatest mass exodus in civic duty since World War II, according to the Brookings Institution. That is 75 years of politicians sucking it up against all odds being bested by a year in which just saying you belong to this party is as if you are pleased to be taking a dump on all that is decent and upstanding in the national fabric.

Paul Ryan thinks by quitting he gets to escape all that. And sure, I guess, he does. Pretty soon his corporate benefactors, whom he handed the candy store with that monstrous “tax reform” boondoggle last year, will pay him Clinton money to laugh about how silly this Trump idiot is, followed by a Comey-styled, “Can you believe Trump said this about that?” book.

Next!

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I’M OFFICIALLY BORED OF CRAZY TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly

4/11/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

I’M OFFICIALLY BORED OF CRAZY TRUMP

Donald Trump, aka El Douche, aka David Dennison aka Twitter Boy, our game show president, needs new material.

I was frankly psyched for this run since it purported to be rife with intrigue, goofiness, abject megalomania and off-the-charts WTF. For columnists with a penchant to choose anarchy over actual governance and for someone whose love for this country expands only about six feet outside my door, a Trump presidency was supposed to be entertaining. And although for a while it was, it appears now to have a shelf life.

I believe this whole Trump thing has jumped the shark.

Crazy tweets about celebrities and half-baked conspiracy theories and campaign rallies and hookers and Russians and knee-jerk racist rants and random firings of lunatics from every angle in jobs they have no business having and fucking up all over the joint was amusing for a while, but save for this idiot yanking his pants down at the U.N. or flailing his cock at a festival audience ala his mentor, the ghost of Jim Morrison, this has become tiresome.

This whole thing has devolved into Trump’s old NYC 1980s routine of calling up Page Six of the NY Post and telling the staff who he’s sleeping with to close a deal on a swamp in Jersey. It is One Trick Pony land. He’s got one bit, it is stale, and it needs to change.

Hell, I honestly don’t know what to write anymore about this buffoon. Over sixty major contributors to the administration have either left in ignominious shame, quit under extreme pressure or were sacked on Twitter. Some of them have either publicly or privately mocked him as a child wracked with ADD with the inability to concentrate on anything other than what people say about him. A dozen or more of the campaign to elect El Douche are either under investigation or indicted, arrested or turning state’s evidence for something to do with colluding with Russia. There are what, now, 20 to 30 women either accusing this pig of sexual harassment or assault and still others, one most infamously, revealing massive pay-offs to keep affairs quiet. There is a trade war with China to save 300 steel jobs for another 16 months, which is turning the stock market into a cartoonish rollercoaster, hundreds of thousands of children are being turned from citizens into criminals as he and congress dither over DACA, and most recently in a fit of stroke or a doped-up rage he appointed John Bolton, an onerously psychopathic TV personality with a hard-on for invading 16 different countries, his third (Third!) national security advisor.

Fun fact: Bolton found out about the gig while on Fox News ranting about invading North Korea.

Hell, Trump’s lawyer had to get a lawyer.

But this ain’t cutting it for me.

In order to get me going here, he has to be waaaaay crazier.

Let’s face it kids, the funny has gone out of this thing. It is a TV show that needs to be cancelled, but it won’t.

And even if it did (Trump’s most brilliant move) we would be stuck with a man who thinks Jesus tells him what kind of shirt to wear every day and strives daily to spread the word that homosexuals are agents of Satan, while he can’t apparently be at a lunch alone with a woman for fear he might glance at her cleavage and Moses will yank him into a closet and make him look at pictures of Marylyn Manson jacking off to mutilation videos.

Mike Pence is Trump’s great equalizer, and something the Democrats should think about if they take back the House this fall, because there is enough evidence of the president committing six counts of obstruction of justice (most of it coming from either Trump’s TV appearances, speeches or twitter), to impeach him. But while Trump is like a sloppy dog that shits on your couch twice a day, Pence is a starving Rottweiler headed for your throat.

Be that as it may, Trump needs new material. Yesterday, at the time of this writing, he held another in a long, tedious stream of press conferences where he claimed for the billionth time that the 2016 presidential election, an election he won by a perfect storm, was rigged and fraudulent and that millions, not forty or a couple of hundred, millions of people voted illegally. This is so December, 2016. In fact, Trump himself – he probably forgot, what is he 75?, disbanded a special team to investigate voter fraud after it had the audacity to tell him the truth; he’s nuts, there is no voter fraud, and that he actually won the election and that maybe this whole paranoia is a sign of deeper issues, because, um, he is already the leader of the free world, so what the fuck is wrong with him?

In the same off-the-cuff riffing, as if some kind of blandly presented homage to the corpse of Robin Williams (he literally showed the speech prepared for him and flipped it away like it was a 1971 Johnny Carson appearance – I have seen about two dozen people do that in cheap comedy clubs, come on) he wheeled out the same exhausted, “Mexicans are the worst” shit, blathering something about “more rapes than ever”. I am not sure what this creep’s fascination is with rape except that he has been accused of just about everything egregious you can do to a woman, including marrying them, (rim shot!), so maybe this is his next move.

Soon after this standard, almost word-for-word greatest-hits of the kind of submental Citizen Trump performance he has cranked out a thousand times since late 2015, he gets on Air Force One and claims that the $130,000 paid to a porn star to shut-up had nothing to do with him, despite it being faxed and signed on Trump Administration paperwork, negotiated by his personal lawyer, and paid to a woman who went on 60 Minutes and said she got it for enduring what sounded like reluctantly mechanical sex with a fat old man.

Ugh, man that was a waste of our time. This Stormy Daniels may be more desperate for attention and even stupider than Trump; a spectacular feat in itself.

All I am saying is if this show is going to run for another two and a half years, it has to step it up. He is all talk, no action, except for perpetuating the rote Republican stuff that has failed miserably for years. He needs to take this mania to another level. We need better crazy, because this crazy is repeating itself.

I think it’s time he brings in pros to advise him; Charlie Sheen or Bill O’Reilly or Iggy Pop, real loons, who know how to change it up to keep the ratings going. I mean, this might fly for Johnny Lunch Pail and Mom & Pop Idaho, but this is the big stage. I don’t expect him to rise to the level of Andrew Jackson, but at least spice it up, get beyond the tweets and the Mexicans nonsense.

Trump has become an over-used catch phrase, a bubble gum pop song you can’t get out of your head.

If he is going to suck this badly at being president, he has to be more hilarious and outrageous.

This crap might get the liberals over at MSNBC lathered, but radicals need this moron to kick into a higher register and fast.

Let’s go Dennison, make with the pants-dropping.

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THE GRADUATE at 50

Aquarian Weekly
4/4/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE GRADUATE at 50
Celebrating My Favorite Film with Author Beverly Gray

It is about pace and movement, a persistent forward motion; the camera, the music, the relentless time that ticks beneath its characters’ frenetic iniquities. And then, quite consequently, it is about stasis; a spiritual, cultural, generational and intellectual immobility that comes from being unaware and unmotivated and under-the-gun. These are the two elements of my favorite film, The Graduate, which is now a half century old. It is, I believe, as flawless a work of art as I have absorbed for now 35 of those years. Long before I could grasp the more detailed elements of all that immobility in motion, it shook me to the core. It never fails at this, even today.

I see The Graduate reflected in the eyes and sounds and actions of those kids from Parkland High School and their generation that follow them into the streets and ask questions of why the world they enter is the way it is and what they can do to change it.

On the very surface, The Graduate is a dark comedy about a lost college graduate track star, Benjamin Braddock, whose future (to him) looks bleak and meaningless. To everyone else, including his doting and ultra-materialistic parents and their mostly distracted upper-middle class friends, he is a track star with a cool car and a bright future laid out before him; grad school, privilege and bachelor eligibility. Only one person seems to see Benjamin’s doom-struck vulnerability; the seductive villainess, Mrs. Robinson, a long-time family best friend. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she leads the confused and gullible collegiate into a summer affair that ends abruptly when the two families coerce Benjamin to take out her daughter, Elaine Robinson, so beautiful, so innocent, who Benjamin falls almost instantaneously in love with because she is as skeptical of the same death-sentence world for which they are both working diligently to join against their will.

This dynamic, which will turn recalcitrant boredom into romantic obsession and eventually a generational outcry would become cinema history.

But at its core, and what makes The Graduate a lasting work of American art, is the brilliantly creative way it captures the sometime involuntary transitions our lives can take from ambition into disillusionment into rebellion into reluctant acceptance and eventually settling into a kind of fantasy about intransigent retreat…but does it?

Like all great works of art, The Graduate asks its audience to decide on its message, its morality, its conclusions. It provokes independent thought – imagine that – and it is that creative leap that has captivated audiences, and me, for generations.

Late last year a book titled Seduced by Mrs. Robinson – How The Graduate Became the Touchtone of a Generation crossed my path and of course I needed to immediately read it and speak to its author, Beverly Gray, who holds a PhD in American Literature at UCLA. Although daunted by her accomplishments and smitten with her book, I found Ms. Gray to be a delightful conversationalist if not as manically intrigued by the intricacies of The Graduate as myself. “For a movie that touched me in a certain way and touched everyone around me I think it’s hard to beat this one,” Gray says. “Every time I see The Graduate I am surprised all over again that at the beginning there is this modest little emblem that says Embassy Pictures, not Paramount, not Universal, not 20th Century Fox. This small company put a little over three million dollars into this movie and it made a fortune. It would signal to people that they could do things in a different way.”

Reflecting its themes, the film’s production may have shown the way of independence, but its perfection is miraculous when considering the relative neophyte stage of those who created it: Produced by a B-Movie hustler, Lawrence Turman, and directed by second-timer, Mike Nichols, whom I eulogized in this paper upon his passing in 2014, and written by a TV comedy writer, Buck Henry, who would take its inspiration from a first novel by Charles Webb, while introducing relative unknown young actors, Dustin Hoffman (Benjamin Braddock) and Kathrine Ross (Elaine Robinson), and a stage actor, Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson). These are artists discovering the craft. To conquer it so completely is a stunning achievement.

The Graduate was a great deal more ambitious for Nichols,” says Gray. “He was trying all sorts of things, including bringing some ideas from European filmmaking. He benefited from the independence of a movie not initially sanctioned by Hollywood.”

When considering its juxtaposition of movement and immobility, it is a work of seditious art reflective of America’s 1960s edicts; social, sexual, economic upheavals, yet it is relevant in these times dominated by a youth culture spanning the globe with technology and invention, simultaneously crippled and liberated by both. The greatest gift may be that The Graduate is a visual (wonderfully shot and edited), literary (beautifully scripted and executed) and aural (sublimely prescient songs by Simon and Garfunkel) tale told for then and now; human nature stripped bare and placed before us in startling genuineness.

Ultimately, The Graduate is a cyclical marvel; it begins with a confused and isolated man in a conveyance seat; an airplane, and ends with that same man, confused and isolated, this time with as equally confused and isolated woman, sitting in a conveyance seat; a bus. He is moving, but sitting. His journey, the movie, and thus your experience begins and ends in the same place; like life and death and love happiness and all the things that matter in life – beginnings and endings, all the same.

No matter where that bus was going for me, it was at least moving forward.

“The only time Benjamin seems to be in control of his destiny is when he is behind the wheel of a very snazzy sports car and he’s finally taking action,” observes Gray. “He is finally in motion, but as you say, he ends up in the back of that bus going somewhere or nowhere or who knows?”

And that, as stated, is the lasting charm of The Graduate…who knows?

Ms. Gray ponders it today: “I have seen it so many times that I don’t remember that very first time I watched it; if I felt excited or this sense of doubt and anxiety and worry about the end. What I love is that apparently Mike Nichols being particularly at that stage of his life a pretty cynical guy, always felt a cynicism about this romance and what was going to become of it. He was quite convinced that in a few miles on that bus Elaine was going to turn to Ben and say, ‘I have nothing to wear,’ and so on. Larry Turman insists that he turned to Mike and said, ‘You’re a really bright guy Mike, but you don’t realize that the youth of America are going to embrace this ending as the greatest, most optimistic thing that could possibly have happened. I suspect I felt little glimmers of doubt while I was probably clapping my hands with glee along with everybody else in the theater as we saw this exuberant light from the adult world.”

It is a story of searching for meaning where, ultimately, there is none. The promise of youth as a con. The glimpse of what ignoring the frightening vagaries of a future looks like when in the hands of a knee-jerk reactionary, who, in very Zen-like fashion, lives entirely within the moment coddled by a relentless id decrying any hint at convention. This is cat-nip for the young and a specter of destruction for the rest who need youth to perpetuate the nonsensical treadmill of society.

And in a very real way The Graduate is a warning to those who attempt to change the world against the tide of societal norms. The natural revolt of youth, as it was on March for Our Lives Day last week, is brimming with a sense that where they live, where they are asked to grow and thrive and realize their dreams is not how they wish it be. And that is okay. It is more than okay. It is a celebration of youth. But at the same time there is the reality that change is impermanent and that what they hold dear will too be challenged in time. The bus keeps going, but we are sometimes left sitting in it thinking we are breaking free, but we’re still, well…sitting.

For her part, having spent the time and energy writing about a film that has moved her for decades, something I am well-aware of in my authorial pursuits, Beverly Gray is most complimented when people read her book and want to revisit the The Graduate again and perhaps enhance their feelings about it.

“I would like younger people to see what the fuss was about in the 60s and maybe understand their parents or grandparents better because this was a movie that so many people of my generation felt was life changing in one way or another, not always in the same ways. Some people looking at Ben, some people looking at Elaine, some people even looking at Mrs. Robinson as a cautionary tale and making some of their own life choices based on a fear of ending up like her. I think a younger person, I would hope, would see something in a time that they don’t live in and also hopefully find something that’s meaningful to them.”

The Graduate is a work of art that today inspires me as much as it did when I was balefully looking out at a world not of my making that I had to face – change or no change. No matter where that bus was going for me, it was at least moving forward.

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THE HALF-ASSED STEEL TARIFF

Aquarian Weekly
3/14/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE HALF-ASSED STEEL TARIFF

Man, I was all prepared to crank out another two-way column that would upset everyone who loves and hates the president simultaneously, but after that noodle proclamation or whatever that was David Dennison aka Donald Trump signed into whatever it is he signed it into I’ve got nothing.

What I was going to write is that it should come as no surprise to anyone that Dennison aka Trump has been saying since, I don’t know, the late 1990s that he despises trade deficits and believes the U.S. is getting ripped off. He is partially right about this, which was ostensibly the foundation of Senator Bernie Sanders run, and that is why Dennison aka Trump was elected president by a thin margin of 77,000 voters in the Rust Belt in November of 2016. Beyond quasi-racism, name-calling, and fending off sexual assault and harassment claims, this was the core of his campaign. Dennison (Trump) would have been right to pay back those who put him in the White House, even if it plunged the rest of us into a possible trade war and jacked up the price of cars (steel) and beer (aluminum), among other goods. This idea, though, that just because the president is under siege from porn stars and a special counsel that he’s trying to change the narrative (while theoretically could be true) should not be deemed as the normal Trumpian aka Dennisonesque “shoot-from-the-hip” stuff. This is why is he president.

However, this week El Douche only went half-way – and some with a grasp of the facts and statistics could argue no-way – to end with any strong measure the true trade deficit for the steel and aluminum industries. By exempting Canada and Mexico from his half-assed edict, the president is barely throwing a cup of water on what he and the unions believe is a raging fire. It is symbolic, like most things Dennison (Trump) says or does. He is our most “How Does This Look?” president. He waves his hands a lot to make you think he’s pulling a rabbit out of a hat, when it isn’t really a hat and there was never actually going to be a rabbit.

To be fair, this is politics as usual, but this was supposed to not be that this time, right?

If Dennison (Trump) was to do what he boldly claimed a week earlier before the markets tumbled and nearly every member of his pro-trade/antiunion party starting to cry foul, then there could have been real teeth to this, and with it, part of the doom that I would have loved to predict here. But like Mexico paying for the border wall, branding China as currency manipulators, wiping out the ACA in his first week, revealing his tax returns, suing the 19 women accusing him of all measures of sexual improprieties, signing any DACA bill sent to his desk, outlawing bump stocks, signing the “largest tax cut in history”, growing the economy by four-percent, appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton, eliminate Common Core, (fuck it, I’m exhausted, you get it) he failed to either do anything or went to the edge and pulled back.

Let’s see how Americans like paying more for stuff to save a few thousand jobs in three states.

Don’t get me wrong, what our game show president doesn’t know about trade you could barely squeeze into Yankee Stadium. He infamously blurted out recently when pressed on this idea; “Trade wars are easy to win”, despite U.S. going oh-fer in every instance, most disastrously the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff that expedited the Great Depression or the fabulous 18 months when George W. Bush tried to save the steel industry in 2002 by raising tariffs on selected steel products that tanked more jobs than were saved and plunged the very states it was to “save” into economic crisis.

I was actually looking forward to a real biting trade tariff to prove AGAIN this nonsense about U.S. jobs being mostly eliminated from trade and how if it were implemented they would suddenly return. Then in another generation some other blowhard will promise to fix it and make jobs come back and some new suckers will buy it. But alas, none of that will happen, because in order of annual percentage, here are the top ten countries importing steel into this country, all of which have been sighted by the United Steel Workers Union as “cheating” by dumping unfairly underpriced product into this country – which by the way is the case with nearly every product that enters this country or is made by manufacturers abroad to keep prices down in places nearly 80-percent of the country shops at like Walmart and Target – but that is another cogent argument in the face of hysteria for another day:

1. Canada 16.7 percent
2. Brazil 13.2 percent
3. South Korea 9.7 percent
4. Mexico 9.4 percent
5. Russia 8.1 percent
6. Turkey 5.6 percent
7. Japan 4.9 percent
8. Germany 3.7 percent
9. Taiwan 3.2 percent
10. China 2.9 percent

And this is according to Reuters. In other estimations China is farther down the list, but definitely farther down than Canada and Mexico, who have been exempt from these tariffs. And this is a good thing if you care about unwinnable trade wars and paying more for goods, but it is really just a Band-Aid on a gaping wound if you voted for David Dennison aka Donald Trump and you expected results.

Listen, I get the steel and aluminum lobby has this coming every ten years or so. Someone has to pay lip service to these voters. However, why is the president choosing winners and losers here? Why is this socialist edict of saving a few thousand jobs more important than costing thousands or more of other jobs that may and would disappear as a result of a true tariff with real teeth. And what of these other countries that are not Canada and Mexico? Do they, especially allies like Brazil, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea (who at the time of this writing is working its ass off trying to avoid a nuclear war between ego-mad sociopaths) view this as a hostile gesture borne of capitalist cronyism and retaliate in kind?

A Symbolic gesture to the voter base is as old as the concept of politics, and thank goodness someone got to this nut job before he made a sweeping 25 percent/10 percent tariff on key trade partners like Canada and Mexico, which by treaty, must not be fucked with. If Dennison aka Trump really wanted to enact his belief and if we are truly to see this fail miserably, then why half-ass it. Why not just go after the WTO as he has NAFTA?

Show some guts and do what you say, for once.

Let’s see how Americans like paying more for stuff to save a few thousand jobs in three states.

That would be worth writing about.

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