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!

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

THE FIGHT FOR LEGAL MARIJUANA

Aquarian Weekly
3/7/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE FIGHT FOR LEGAL MARIJUANA
Voting is Not Enough – Time to Get Involved

In a not-too-shocking twist, a formally bold New Jersey Senate, pummeled by misinformation, illogical panic and religious idiocy, is beginning to show signs of cracking on one of the key issues of the 2017 gubernatorial election, the legalization of marijuana. Our new governor, Phil Murphy was elected this past November with 56% of the vote on the force of this promise. This space fully endorsed his candidacy – only done maybe twice in two decades here – for this issue based on last summer’s details of the N.J. Senate’s proposed bill to do so, which Murphy then used as one of his campaign platforms. The economic and legal ramifications of this vote is, in my humble opinion and backed with strong data from states who have gone this route, important for the money desperately needed for education, infrastructure and to finally deal with a state that is taxed higher than almost every other in the union. Plus, it is stupid to make a vice that is scientifically less damaging than alcohol illegal, allowing only drug dealers to profit from its overwhelming use.

It is simple common sense, reality, statistics and economic solvency we are discussing here. And it must be done by this governor within the first 100 days, as promised, or the shit will come down.

The support for legalizing marijuana in New Jersey currently is around 42%, so it is not as important an issue for as many as it is here, but for those who understand how important this will be for the region (New York has suddenly begun discussions long overdue in legalizing it and seeing the same positive economic indicators if they do), it is paramount.

I implore Senate President Stephen Sweney, a fellow architect and strong proponent of this bill, to stand strong and get your constituents in line. Many Democrats, of course, have been besieged with the usual nonsense that has no basis in reality to thwart this effort; preachers, knee-jerk lazy cops, who cannot help but whine about adding freedoms, and those who are afraid to make this kind of political leap. Republicans too are split, but if they are truly for state’s rights, free-market control beyond government regulation and economic sanity, then the choice is easy.

The real indicator that this is on the cusp of happening is the panic among the opponents of the bill, who suddenly, after years of fear-mongering and draconian crap from the former governor, are pitching the always half-assed decriminalization concept along with expanding medicinal marijuana.

It is simple common sense, reality, statistics and economic solvency we are discussing here.

Fuck that. They had their chance, and with no prior support for an economically sound and legally binding push for legalization, they wish to water it down to appease pot heads and liberals. This is NOT about that. This is about pulling the dumb and scared into the 21st century. It is about stopping the cuts on our already razor-thin educations budget, our crumbling infrastructure and what is likely to be escalating taxes thanks to the ridiculously irresponsible and possibly unconstitutional federal government tax reform that puts limits on our write-offs here. Not to mention the way the economic structure of the Western Hemisphere will crumble if this idiotic trade war the president of the United States wants to embroil us in which will raise the price of automobiles, canned goods, etc.

If you support this bill and the idea of legalizing weed you must contact your state legislator, and for that I provide a handy little list. Find yours and call them and tell them to be brave and stand up for the electorate and do the right thing for the state.

Dawn Marie Addiego (R) – Medford, NJ 08055 (609) 654-1498

Christopher Bateman (R) – Somerville, NJ 08876 (908) 526-3600

James Beach (D) – Cherry Hill, NJ 08002 (856) 429-1572

Chris A. Brown (R) – Linwood, NJ 08221 (609) 677-8266

Anthony R. Bucco (R) – Denville, NJ 07834 (973) 627-9700

Gerald Cardinale (R) – Cresskill, NJ 07626 (201) 567-2324

Richard J. Codey (D) – Livingston, NJ 07039 (973) 535-5017

Christopher J. Connors (R) – Forked River, NJ 08731 (609) 693-6700

Kristin M. Corrado (R) – Wayne, NJ 07470 (973) 237-1360

Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D) – Camden, NJ 08102 (856) 541-1251

Joseph P. Cryan (D) – Union, NJ 07083 (908) 624-0880

Sandra B. Cunningham (D) – Jersey City, NJ 07305 (201) 451-5100

Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D) – South Plainfield, NJ 07080 (908) 757-1677

Michael J. Doherty (R) – Washington, NJ 07882 (908) 835-0552

Nia H. Gill, Esq. (D) – Montclair, NJ 07042 (973) 509-0388

Vin Gopal (D) – Ocean Twp., NJ 07712 (732) 695-3371

Robert M. Gordon (D) – Fair Lawn, NJ 07410 (201) 703-9779

Linda R. Greenstein (D) – Cranbury, NJ 08512 (609) 395-9911

James W. Holzapfel (R) – Brick, NJ 08724 (732) 840-9028

Thomas H. Kean, Jr. (R) – Westfield, NJ 07090 (908) 232-3673

Fred H. Madden, Jr. (D) – Turnersville, NJ 08012 (856) 232-6700

Declan J. O’Scanlon, Jr. (R) – Red Bank, NJ 07701 (732) 933-1591

Steven V. Oroho (R) – Sparta, NJ 07871 (973) 300-0200

Joseph Pennacchio (R) – Montville, NJ 07045 (973) 227-4012

Nellie Pou (D) – Paterson, NJ 07505 (973) 247-1555

Ronald L. Rice (D) – Newark, NJ 07106 (973) 371-5665

M. Teresa Ruiz (D) – Newark, NJ 07104 (973) 484-1000

Nicholas J. Sacco (D) – North Bergen, NJ 07047 (201) 295-0200

Paul A. Sarlo – Wood-Ridge, NJ 07075 (201) 804-8118

Nicholas P. Scutari (D) – Linden, NJ 07036 (908) 587-0404

Robert W. Singer (R) – Lakewood, NJ 08701 (732) 987-5669

Troy Singleton (D) – Moorestown, NJ 08057 (856) 234-2790

Bob Smith (D) – Piscataway, NJ 08854 (732) 752-0770

Brian P. Stack (D) – Jersey City, NJ 07307 (201) 721-5263

Stephen M. Sweeney (D) – West Deptford, NJ 08086 (856) 251-9801

Samuel D. Thompson (R) – Old Bridge, NJ 08857 (732) 607-7580

Shirley K. Turner (D) – Ewing Twp., NJ 08628 (609) 323-7239

Jeff Van Drew (D) – Cape May Court House, NJ 08210 (609) 465-0700

Joseph F. Vitale (D) – Woodbridge, NJ 07095 (732) 855-7441

Loretta Weinberg (D) – Teaneck, NJ 07666 (201) 928-0100

Read More

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S CRIMINALS

Aquarian Weekly
2/28/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S CRIMINALS

This is getting silly.

In just over one year, a record by any historical standards, a preponderance of people surrounding either the Donald Trump campaign or his administration have been indicted, sacked, left in disgrace or under investigation for some alleged crime. Many of these, as well-reported and corroborated by the United States intelligence community and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have ties to the Russian government, which has now been wholly implicated several times over with a mountain of evidence in covertly corrupting this nation’s democratic integrity. By any standards, this is an impressive level of incompetence and maleficence. It’s almost as if we elected a shady real estate mogul/game show host or something.

I just want to go on record as saying, before we begin here, that the 170 historians who voted Trump the worst president ever this week are all nuts. He is not even the worst president of my lifetime – this one goes to Dick Nixon, followed closely by Lyndon Johnson, who by the way made their top 10 (“What the fuck?” say the ghosts of nearly 60,000 kids who died because of Johnson’s Viet Nam lies). But there is no doubt this is the worst 13 months of any president ever. I maintain that even William Henry Harrison’s thirty days spent dying of pneumonia was better.

Ignoring Trump’s daily and quite insane Twitter rants, his preternatural lying jag, his overtly knee-jerk racism, the phalanx of women accusing him of sexual harassment and assault, (what he bragged about on an Access Hollywood tape), or his continued dismissing of this “Russian Issue” by never ordering a single investigation or stronger defense mechanisms to combat it or flat-out refusing to rubber stamp stronger sanctions on this cyber terrorism, and, if I may, the obstruction of the case by firing the director of the FBI, we’ll merely concentrate on this growing rogue’s gallery of criminals surrounding him.

Well-known Nazi sympathizer, Henry Ford used to say, “You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps.”

Let’s put that theory to the test.

Before he was even inaugurated, the president’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was breaking all kinds of laws negotiating with Russians on reducing sanctions while playing around with Turkey. He might have gotten away with it, except he pulled his son into the shenanigans, which forced him to lie to everyone in the White House and then, which got him indicted, lied to the FBI. Trump repeatedly, and still has not altered his stance, praised Flynn – a man who stood on a stage in Cleveland during the RNC Convention and demanded the arrest of the Democratic candidate for president – while sending him cryptic emails to “Be strong.”

During this time, in fact, before all of this, a blathering weirdo investment banker, Carter Page, who was ostensibly working for the Russian government as a business liaison to the U.S. to “loosen up relations” was covertly working as an international advisor to the Trump campaign at the same time he was being closely followed by the FBI for “questionable tactics”. His ties to some of the people around the Trump campaign with strange Russian connections include Trump Campaign Manager (June – September 2016, during the crucial end of primary, convention, and pre-campaign season) Paul Manafort, indicted on 32 counts of money laundering and defrauding the government and his deputy, Rick Gates, indicted on a dozen more counts, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had to recuse himself from any investigation of Russian meddling after being loose with the truth twice in front of congress about his discussions behind the scenes with Russia.

It’s almost as if we elected a shady real estate mogul/game show host or something.

Then of course there is George Papadopoulos, the guy no one around Trump seemed to recall, despite photos of them with him, including the president, and who has also pled guilty to lying to the FBI and is now co-operating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who only was hired when Trump stupidly sent FBI Director James Comey packing.

At this juncture I am going to cut Trump slack for his kids and his son-in-law, what can you do there? Especially for Trump, who never saw these people when they were growing up. Trump Jr., though, has been lying to everyone about everything, specifically the infamous Jun 9, 2016 meeting with a ton of nefarious types to get illegally procured (let that read Russian spies hacking into the DNC computers) dirt on the Democratic presidential candidate. Jared Kushner, who has dubious intelligence clearance but yet is allowed to see daily briefings simply because he happens to be sleeping with the boss’s daughter, has also reluctantly disclosed secret meetings with Russian bankers, (let that read gangsters, for it’s important to point out that all Russian banks are mobbed up, which is why we can’t see Donald Trump’s tax returns).

Then there’s campaign advisors like J.D. Gordan and Roger Stone, both of whom had direct connections with Wiki Leaks during the campaign, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has come out this week and showed a measure of pride in secretly paying off a porn star hush money to protect Trump, this Devin Nunes clown who is both co-chair of a Senate investigation on Russia while running defense for the White House by releasing anti-FBI propaganda in the guise of whistle-blowing, the acting CIA Director John Brennan, who was busted for lying to congress about the Central Intelligence Agency spying on congressional computers, Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who is currently being investigated for giving his son access to cushy kickbacks, a reality TV show contestant, Omarosa Manigault, who was somehow allowed to roam the White House for a year before being fired and then ran back to reality TV to trash her boss, and the Mooch, who after a week as White House communications director was thrown out for being a foul-mouthed lunatic.

I’ve run out of time, so I won’t even go into white supremacist nationalist, Steve Bannon, who steered the Trump campaign to victory in November 2016 and was Chief White House Strategist for the administration’s first seven months before he was fired and then painted his former boss as a lying, stupid treasonous crazy man in a recent NY Times best-seller. Nor can I begin to dissect the oozing scum that is Trump’s current Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, an unabashed racist, whose entire existence is to cleanse the country of every kind of immigrant, illegal or otherwise.

I apologize for missing so many others. I only have so much time and space, but you get the point.

What does that tell you about the man?

Read More

GENERATION DEAD

Aquarian Weekly
2/21/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GENERATION DEAD

There have been 18 school shootings in this country in 2018. We’re six weeks in at the time of this writing. That is two school shootings a week. That means it is highly probable that by the time this hits the newsstands there will be a school shooting. Extrapolate that out over a year and it’s roughly 104 school shootings. That is people walking into our schools with guns, most of them automatic weapons, manufactured to kill as many living things as possible in the shortest amount of time over the swath of the widest geographic landscape. This is America in 2018.

At this rate, it is fairly likely that someone you know, in a place pretty close to you, is going to have to endure this tragedy. The odds are heading rapidly in that direction. This is America in 2018.

I merely write this not to begin an anti-gun rant or even to call for stricter gun laws or to whine like the bitches over at the NRA or Fox News. If you have read this space even for a week, never mind two decades, you know that is not where we reside. Freedom is a messy, horrible thing. It can and will get nuts, simply because people are nuts. Or at least people who are free to do things with that freedom that is antithetical to our purported Christian, exceptional view of America, which is, of course, total bullshit.

America elected Donald Trump. He is a violent, combative bully, who drew huge crowds egging on his supporters to beat the people who protested against him. He supports police violence and violence against illegal immigrants and brags about assaulting women. He loves calling people mean-spirited names and seems to have a preternatural need to act like a tough guy. This is the part of Trump I get. I grew up in the Bronx in the 1960s. We took beatings and gave them. We learned then that this is a nation of punks. We celebrate punks in film, video games, music, religion, politics, you name it. Of course, our president is a punk. This is the land of punks and bullies and people with guns shooting kids.

And sometimes the punks like to say, “Its ain’t guns, it’s people!” And they may be right, but then nearly a year ago today in a closed-to-the-media move, the punks go and pass a law to allow crazy people to get guns and the punk in the White House signed it.

So, let me reiterate, as a free-thinker, I am not about tossing laws at everything nor am I inclined to believe this country great or its people generally decent. I may be a little iffy on allowing the crazies to buy guns illegally, but, hey, someone has to pay for all those campaign costs, and the NRA ponies it up, so they get to force their agenda – see the punk/bully theory here. I also choose to believe we have less violent people than we like to think when 17 high school kids are suddenly gunned down in cold blood in class. If we were truly off the rails this would happen twice daily, instead of twice a week. The question one has to ask oneself at this juncture is how much can you accept this violence?

And here’s some free-thinking for you: Pretty soon all these kids who are being shot at are going to grow up, if we don’t kill them all, and they are not going to entertain a free-thinking, open-minded stance on the whole guns and crazies issue. They might – what did our nifty Speaker of the House call it the other day? – have a “knee-jerk reaction” to it all. We are slowly building a generation of the dead, and those who might survive it are not going to be in the mood for nuanced discussions on guns.

Just saying.

Take cigarettes for an example.

When I was in high school I would conservatively estimate that half the kids in my graduating class smoked cigarettes. This was June of 1980. I was 17. This was the generation where there were cigarette ads in magazines, especially magazines aimed at teenagers, and on TV and in billboards and posters everywhere. During that time, you could smoke on airplanes and in elevators and hospitals and restaurants. Now you can’t smoke in any of those places and there are no cigarette ads, even on the Internet, where I can buy the materials to build a bomb right now to blow up the next Boston marathon, legally. Time and a shitload of scientific study and its resulting evidence ostensibly killed the dominating presence of the cigarette. Of course, this was ushered merrily along by the entire controlling board of William Morris perjuring themselves in front of the U.S. Congress in the 1990s claiming that not only was nicotine not addictive, but that they had no knowledge of the chemicals they were dumping into it to make it even more so.

A generation of smoking, more or less, gone. I mean, kids smoke, but half of the senior class? Come on.

Pretty soon all these kids who are being shot at are going to grow up… and they are not going to entertain a free-thinking, open-minded stance on the whole guns and crazies issue.

Speaking of smoke, it is becoming painfully obvious to the same kids that this nonsense they have been fed about marijuana is bullshit, as did my generation, which is why my generation, not the lazy, lying, self-absorbed, hypocritical Boomers, are now taking over states to legalize it. Because we know it is not as addictive or as harmful as alcohol or even caffeine. This is due to more scientific study and its resulting evidence. So, pretty soon, despite 80 year-old fossils temporarily running the justice department as a way to bring us back to the stone age, it will be legal everywhere. Even sooner than that it will be legal where I write this, New Jersey, or there is one Irishman in the governor’s office who is in for a world of shit around here.

But I digress.

We now have a lot of kids – and they are growing with every shooting, and if things continue the way they’ve been going, and I see no end in sight, do you? – then they are going to be pissed. And usually those who are pissed finally get involved. And you wonder how long it will be? Ten years? When the idea of the freedom to shoot people will be as restricted as the freedom to smoke. You can smoke, you just can’t find out anything about it anywhere or really do it anywhere. This makes my free-thinking wince a little, but hey, this is how we roll. Who would have even imagined in 1980 or even 2010 that marriage equality would find its high-water mark and become the law of the land. A land run by punks and bullies and people with guns killing kids?

I have no thoughts on this matter that does not include cynicism, disgust and loathing. But this ain’t about me. I’m going to be dead soon, and hopefully not at the hand of a crazy man with an automatic weapon, but you never know. But probably not before Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump. They are old and will die soon and they don’t give a shit whether you die or not, kids. I only had to endure bomb threats and kids trying to punch me in the face repeatedly in the schoolyard. There are kids right now on TV crying because their friend was cut down in a hail of bullets.

They’re growing up.

And they will vote.

Generation dead will then have the floor.

Read More

RUSSIA IS WINNING

Aquarian Weekly
2/7/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

RUSSIA IS WINNING

No matter where you fall on the President Trump/Russian Collusion or Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Theories, it isn’t hard to argue that Russia, clearly an enemy of these United States, is a big winner in this.

Currently, because of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, and the White House (for reasons that you can decide fits – I subscribe to Donald Trump is an egomaniac who would rather see the entire structure of the American electoral system be destroyed to make the point that his election was the best ever, since…well…let’s leave it at best ever) continues to battle against it. The argument is fluid; it never happened at all or is overrated or is Fake News or Hillary did it or whatever dime-store, half-assed bullshit passes for a defense in the last fifteen minutes.

Want more?

There are three separate investigations going on in the House of Representatives, the Senate and a Special Counsel appointed by the Justice Department. The aforementioned Justice Department is simultaneously at war with congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the White House. The previously noted FBI is at war with the White House and the House and the White House has gone far out of its way to attack the integrity of the FBI since January of last year, including the firing of its director (“Over the Russian thing” – Trump to NBC Nightly News), then the Twitter tirades that led to another chief FBI official to quit, and now is seriously deconstructing The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) authorities, which was bloated by the fancy Patriot Act (remember that, fans?) to greatly assist, no, provides unchecked power to the executive branch to curtail spying, the type of spying that led to the Russian meddling in the first place.

Need more?

Right now, the co-chair of the House Intelligence Committee David Nunez, who tried to sell some ruse to the press last year after sneaking into the White House to get approval or talking points or a sack full of money, is poised, against legal and security advisors, to release a top-secret FBI memo for blatant political purposes.

The very structure of the federal government hangs in the balance.

This may worry you if you give a shit about America, but it is by far the greatest victory of a foreign power against the United States since the Chinese kicked General Douglas MacArthur’s overwhelmed troops across the 38th Parallel in the late autumn of 1950.

It is an ass-kicking of epic proportions that must have people in the Kremlin, never mind Trump’s boss Vladimir Putin, dancing in the aisles.

I have not seen this kind of pummeling since Mike Tyson’s mid-1980s bouts. It is so lopsided and sad there has to be a referee somewhere that can stop it.

The kicker, and this is my favorite; the Senate this week voted 98-2 (talk about ass-kicking) to impose new and stricter sanctions on Russia, which is openly mocking our very institutions right under our noses.

And…wait for it…

President Donald Trump refused to sign it.

Game. Set. Match.

Why doesn’t Trump just hand the whole thing over to Putin right now? In fact, when he’s done with his insufferably ponderous State of the Union Address, which I think may be entering its 60th hour, he can call up Putin and end the charade of his actually running things. Heck, it might be fun for a while. Get monosyllabic bigotry in a more exotic language for a change, instead of Queens-dumb. Listening to Trump massacre the English language was entertaining for a bit, but it’s time for new blood.

At least Putin is in shape.

Mind you, this is a president that has picked a fight with every human you can name. Go ahead, name them: He is fighting them.

Putin?

Nope.

And what this tells you is that in some way, and I have no idea why, although the infamous Dossier does give us some clue, the Russians have our president by the balls.

Why doesn’t Trump just hand the whole thing over to Putin right now?

The final indignation to all this, again, if you give a shit about America, is not only are the Trump lawyers – wholly expected and understandable – whipping up the Johnny Cochran “O.J. Defense” of going after the cops and make it about them, but so is the entirety of one of our only two major parties; and the one that is in power. Nearly every breathing Republican in the legislative branch has not only gone out of their way to make this about the FBI and kowtow to the brainless at FOX News, but are ignoring the real crime to expand the jury’s (the American public’s) opinion that if the law is corrupt, which we all know it is, then the accused did nothing wrong.

The two are mutually exclusive crimes. Lawyers know this. It is called muddying the waters. It is a distraction tactic, and quite effective if done right. Cochran was a master at it.

O.J. murdered two people and got off. Even people rooting for O.J. to get off understood this. They just didn’t like cops.

Donald Trump did something wrong here; collude with Russians to meddle with an election he would win or obstruct the investigation into it because it makes him look bad. Either way, he and Republicans suddenly don’t like federal cops.

And once that goes bye-bye, then the Russians win.

The Russians are winning.

Read More

THE IMMIGRATION SMOKESCREEN

Aquarian Weekly
1/31/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE IMMIGRATION SMOKESCREEN

We’ve already been over this, so I will not belabor anyone with statistics, but there really isn’t a giant immigration problem in this country. It is a smokescreen; always has been and always will be. This kind of ridiculous shit has been going on since the mid-19th century, hell, even before that, and this isn’t to say that the current immigration laws and policies of previous administrations and congresses should not be rationally discussed and debated and even overhauled. They should, but it is certainly not an issue that results in the shut-down of the federal government or ratcheting up this insane level of rhetoric to the degrees in which the current house, senate and our president is trying to sell.

Not to say that the looming idea of illegal immigrants, or more to the point, foreigners, did not ignite the Donald Trump candidacy. It did. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an ignorant, ill-informed, easily-duped, frightened jingoist in this country. We were built and founded by them. They vote. And they exist in crazy numbers for 2018, even 1918, but that is not where we’re at today.

Trump was elected because of trade. Period. He won by a total of around 77,000 votes throughout the Rust Belt to tilt the electoral college in his favor. This was discussed here as a measure of dissection after the election by myself and my former colleague here at the Aquarian Weekly, Bill Roberts, whom I bequeathed half of my space to for his prescience in seeing the Trump Train as a real possibility for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, which I, and most anyone who pays attention to such things, thought was pure madness in the fall of 2016. The outcry against American jobs going abroad in the industrial portion of this country is what turned the election, the off-shoot of the jingoistic fervor mentioned at the top.

Further evidence of this is the post-election polls that showed that had Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent and admitted socialist, won the Democratic primaries fair and square, which apparently was not available to him, he would have had a better shot at beating a painfully flawed idiot, whose only appeal was that he was not Hillary Clinton, who openly favored trade (including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership) and whose last name is associated with NAFTA, considered by those who abhor such things and consider it an attack on the American worker. Later Clinton tried to sell some nonsense about not being for trade, but no one bought it, like no one bought nearly everything else she said.

The infamous “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it” stupidity, which only the spectacularly dumb believed, was a symbol for the Rust Belt, since none of their disappearing factory jobs were ever taken by Mexicans or even the Chinese that Trump was obsessed with but seems not to possess the balls to even address after a year in office. Those jobs weren’t predominantly the victim of trade either. Those were mostly replaced by progress and technology, which, if you think about it, created them in the first place – another subject covered extensively in this space for two decades and backed by mounds of statistical evidence.

The latest hubbub on immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Trump’s $70 million wall that you and I are paying for, and the last time I checked I am not a citizen of Mexico, the politically-motivated shutdown of the government on January 20, and the half-assed “continuing resolution” slapped together to save face for this mess is all frankly bullshit. The greatest bull-shitters in this, beside Trump, who never disappoints in this arena, as he first talked about “bill of love” and supporting DACA, and then flipped when the sociopath whisperer, Stephen Miller told him to, are the Democrats.

Minority leader New York Senator Chuck Schumer way overplayed his hand when he tried to piggyback his cause in the wake of yet another in a long series of racist lunacy blurted out by our game show president during a bi-partisan meeting earlier this month. The public outcry against calling African nations “shitholes” and preferring white nations’ immigrants was horrifying for a president to utter, but it is not political capital. Polls clearly showed Americans are now fully convinced Trump is a racist and that DACA kids should be supported, but an overwhelming number did not want this to be an issue large enough to close down operations.

Now, to the smokescreen portion of this frolic.

The one thing you do not hear… is that a record number of jobs were outsourced to other countries in 2017.

Since taking office, the purported populist president has been touting the soaring stock market, which is certainly undeniable but has been rising exponentially since 2009, and the lowering of the unemployment rate, although it is dipping at the same rate, as is job-growth, that it has for the past six years. The one thing you do not hear, and why Republicans are glad for suckers like Chuck Schumer, is that a record number of jobs were outsourced to other countries in 2017.

Yup.

Considering what was discussed days after the election of the anti-trade, bring-jobs-back populist Trump, more than 93,000 jobs have been certified by the Department of Labor as lost to outsourcing or trade competition, slightly higher than the average of about 87,000 in the preceding five years under the former president. You remember that guy, who was so weak and stupid he couldn’t stop it, but this guy was going to fix all that.

Far more egregious is in the same study from this past December, federal contractors, a segment of employment a president can directly halt with no major legislation or grandstanding, made up ten-percent of that number. That is up from the previous average of four-percent. General Motors, Boeing and United Technologies (which owns Carrier that Trump crowed was keeping jobs after the election, but moved hundreds more overseas by Christmas) have basically told Donald Trump to go fuck himself, and moved their workers out of the country at a record pace.

Worse still, the huge tax overhaul that gave cover to corporations last month actually makes it easier for companies to outsource jobs. According to Quartz, an international media concern that mostly covers foreign trade; “One consequence of the law will be making it easier for companies to shift jobs overseas. The bill would stop taxation on U.S. companies’ routine foreign earnings, but experts say it is has not put in sufficient guardrails to prevent jobs from moving overseas.”

Oops.

So, when Democrats try and use DACA to make a stand on their weak opposition to “standing up to Trump” and Republicans try and act like they have any interest in anything to do with why their president was elected, and Trump continues to mock the concept of reality in telling you the sky is green when you know better; that, my friends, is a smokescreen.

Read More

IN PRAISE OF ENCOUNTERS

Aquarian Weekly
1/17/18

REALITY CHECK

IN PRAISE OF ENCOUNTERS
Poetry/Paintings & A Slice of Dan Bern’s Life

By James Campion

I found it delectably ironic that Dan Bern, singer-songwriter, poet, painter, columnist would send me – within days of each other – a signed copy of his new book, Encounters and then an original tile painting of Joe Willie Namath. The book, for which I could not put down once I cracked it for a mere look-see, is a series of poems about Dan’s “encounters” with the famous, talented, and inspirational, each adorned with an original Bern painting of its subject. The paintings, not unlike the one of Namath he sent me, reminded me of the few times I’d gotten within shouting distance of my childhood hero, the legendary #12 of the New York Jets, but was rendered mute and paralyzed. It is not that, like Bern, I hadn’t had dozens of encounters, both professionally and personally, with famous athletes, as well as musicians, actors, film directors, authors, politicians, etc., but Namath is different. I told Dan that my earliest childhood memories are of staring at his poster through the bars of my crib. This stuff is deep-seated with a weird mythical hold over me.


This got me thinking of the insightful tone of Bern’s Encounters and how this is not a book of name-dropping and strange brushes with fame, but poignant and moving interactions – some closer and more intimate than others – that shifted the foundation of the author, so much so that in some if not all cases he would go on to put them in songs. And it is within these organic moments of admiration to worship to surprise to love to fear and ultimately inspiration that Encounters becomes the antidote to the insignificant forces of Instagram and Twitter and selfie happenstances with celebrity that now stand as something of a connection.

It should be said too that Encounters represents everything that Bern has displayed through his talents over the years; it is not only poetic and visual, but musical in the way in which he writes that shoulders the conversational with a rare glimpse into the human spirit. Yet it is in the paintings that the reader can see how Dan Bern absorbs his subjects, as he had in the drawings in his first novel, Quitting Science from 2004, a book I was fortunate enough to help bring to press. Taking fictionalized versions of the familiar and the famous and turning them into extensions of his unique form is where Bern lives and breathes.

“What it is really,” said the author when we discussed the book late into the night a few weeks back. “…is a memoir. But I’ve always hated memoir, because I feel your job as an artist is to invent, take things from your life and make characters. Yet with this forum I felt there was a way I could tell my personal stories without being cloying through the prism of these people that everybody kind of has a relationship with already.”

And so, with Bern, over the years, in different places, we meet Willie Mays, Jimmy Carter, Bob Dylan and John McEnroe; and none of them in ways that are predictable nor inconsequential. The encounters are, as stated, extensions of his own personality and how he remembers them, at times warmly, and others quizzically, but always reverentially. His poems and the paintings are his vehicle in discovering himself through others.

Bern achieves this wonderfully and without contrivance due to his self-deprecating humor on how he views these fleeting moments of significance or lack-thereof with the subjects, and what they ultimately mean to him. In some cases, as with his call into the Larry King radio show when he was just starting out as a professional musician that lasted only about a minute, and literally happened “over the air”, there is a remarkably sense of meaning. A passing comment about a dog with Leonard Cohen or a New Year’s Eve party at Bruce Springsteen’s house, an impromptu songwriting détente with Hunter S. Thompson in the back of a car or a scathing notice by Bob Dylan opens a window into the looming figures beyond the caricature.

“Just like any of these people in the book, I am grateful for what interactions I can and do have.”

“I find this type of writing more open than prose,” Bern answered when I pressed him on the book’s style, which he introduced last summer in his Reconsidering Nixon, which is a charming amalgam of lyrical prose/poetry. “I think after my mom died I became more reflective about my experiences and needed to get them down and this is the most effective way for me to relate these stories.”

I was particularly intrigued by Bern’s poem about our mutual friend, singer-songwriter and entrepreneur, Ani DiFranco. It was my connection to Ani, after years of interviews and off-the-record discussions, that I came to know Dan’s music, and of her work with him producing his second album, Fifty Eggs in 1998. The brutal honesty of their collaboration and its results is one of my favorite pieces in the book, because of the intimate, humorous, and in many ways surprising revelations.

“I have always been inspired by Ani, but there is also something that always seems to be in the way sometimes too,” says Bern, when we fondly reminisced about our times with her and how neither of us see or hear much of her as intimately anymore. “But just like any of these people in the book, I am grateful for what interactions I can and do have.”

Bern reminds me that there are very few women in Encounters for a reason: “There is a very different dynamic to those relationships, and I didn’t want to ever get into a kiss-and-tell corner with these poems.”

But out of all the ones that made it into Encounters, 17 out of the original 35 pieces, perhaps nothing compares to his détente with Wilt Chamberlain, legendary basketball star and ladies’ man with whom Bern had a chance encounter turn into becoming his tennis instructor for several weeks. “Forget the celebrity aspect to working with Chamberlain,” laughs Bern, who had been working part-time giving tennis lessons at a court Chamberlain frequented. “To witness such an athletic specimen, and, as a coach, to be able to work with someone like that, to watch him take to the lessons… the results were amazing. And to think that I had the chance to tutor a world class athlete that had nothing to do with how he earned his fame.”

Turning our celebrity culture on its head, as his songs have done for over two decades, Encounters is Dan Bern’s literary and artistic triumph and a true gift to the craft of storytelling.

Read More
Page 1 of 7712345»102030...Last »