THE DAY MY FATHER DIED

Aquarian Weekly
11/6/19

Reality Check

James Campion


THE DAY MY FATHER DIED

I will always remember. It was sunny. A Saturday. Crisp autumn temperatures. Three days after his eighty-first birthday. My brother called from North Carolina. The things we discussed when I was down there in and out of the ICU for a week had come to pass. It was time. We had to prepare to say goodbye. So, I excused myself from my immediate and extended family, who came to stay for the weekend, put on headphones to listen to songs from my childhood and took a walk. Had a cry. When that was done my brother called back. He kept me on the line as they took my dad off the heavy sedatives he’d been on for nearly two weeks. I took that opportunity to tell him that I would carry his name with as much dignity as can be expected from…well, you know…me, that my daughter and wife loved him as much as I did, and that I appreciated everything he did to make me the man I would become under his tutelage. They then removed all the stuff that was keeping him alive. Within the hour, as I listened to my brother describe the scene with my mom by his side, my father’s breath became shallow, his heart slowed down, and then he died. We both said we’d look to the sky and say one last so long.

My father is dead.

It is hard to explain how many times I had rolled that sentence around in my head. I had feared it for as long as I can remember. Not really sure why. Got worse when I got older and he got older and then endured a double-bleeding ulcer in the early nineties, survived prostate cancer later that decade, then had a series of small health scares that culminated during the last five years with the failing of his kidneys, followed by time on dialysis, a quadruple bypass surgery, a broken hip, femur and wrist last winter, and hip replacement surgery a month or so ago. He was languishing in a rehab center for the second time in less than a year when he contracted an infection that he fought for way longer than any doctor or nurse could fathom. He was helped by modern medicine, but man was my dad tough.

Yet, for me, there was a rare fragility to my dad. He was quiet, self-assured but never, and I mean, never a braggart. If anything, it was hard to understand his immense abilities until way after he’d accomplished the feat. He was never macho or confrontational. If anything, there was a cold, almost detached demeanor about him – all that Anglo-Saxon, Irish DNA. It always vexed me that he never talked about his childhood, his friends, crazy or brave shit he may have done in the Air Force. When he was stationed in Japan he coached a bunch of kids to a Little League baseball title; Japanese or American kids? Don’t know. And I only know this happened at all because there was a trophy sitting on a shelf. I had zero idea who the man’s parents were, when and how they died, what they did or what they meant to him. Tried to press, nothing. Tried my mom, who sent me back to my dad, and then more nothing. I thought when I had a kid of my own this would force him to say one of them was a serial killer or contracted some rare disease, so I would know what kind of lunacy may be coursing through my daughter’s veins. Nope.

So, I think, there was this sense that the mystery of my father would somehow unravel at some point, as long as we could keep him going. His life was like a precious historical artifact that I was, I guess, the result of.

I think maybe, without getting too dime-store psychological here, for most of my childhood my dad was kind of in absentia. Not the usual, “Cat’s in the Cradle” stuff, although there is always that in the old-fashioned nuclear family, of which my parents definitely were. Dad worked, and mom took care of us. Nah, if anything having a father who’d gone to college at night at Pace University in NYC while working at a Bronx department store called Newberry’s and later the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in uptown Manhattan where I would be born, so he could get a better gig to help the family was cool. If it meant having an absent father who was exhausted on the weekends, that was okay. He took care of us. I truly understood this dynamic as a kid. Subconsciously, though, I did miss him and felt time with him was fleeting, and so I longed later in life for time I would not get back.

Good-bye, Pop. I’ll miss you…again.

The time I did have with my father as a kid and even as late as a few weeks ago was monumental. He said very few things, but they all stuck out. He imparted wisdom incrementally, but I still have not forgotten any of it. For a public service I shall share some of it with you.

I was maybe four years-old. We were climbing some giant city park rock and I insisted on doing it the hard way and pressed my father to do the same. He told me to use my brain and not my emotions to complete a task, find the most efficient way, that is the challenge, not killing yourself for some hollow man victory.

A little later, still pretty young, my pal, Stephen Ryan ditched me for some other kid. My dad hung out with me all day, referring to Ryan as a “flat-leaver”, a term I assume was all the rage when he was a kid, because I had never heard it uttered since. During the rest of the day he told me that I shouldn’t make someone else’s decision ruin my good time.

All I wanted when I was a kid was to play pro football. I was and am extremely small. I played pop warner and some pee wee football and even tried out for my Freshman High School team. After being beaten rather severely in one practice wherein a helmet a size too big for my head spun around so I was looking out its ear hole, my dad sat me down and said something to me that I have paraphrased in many cocktail parties and press events over my professional life: “Son, you need size, speed and strength to play football and you have none of those. You have to know your limitations in life and where your true talents lie. These things will reveal themselves to you and the opposite of this is true as well.”

In my second year of college, I was hired for the night shift of a radio station in Washington Crossing, NJ in this little raised hut of a building that overlooked where colonist troops crossed the Delaware with good ole George in the winter of 1776. The staff had gotten word that management was on the verge of selling the station and turning it into some other format and that everyone would be summarily sacked within the week. So, I invited friends up one evening to put on a Howard Stern type fun-loving campy show instead of running a feed for the NJ Nets basketball game, hoping to get a demo tape to pitch to other employers. Halfway through this “performance” the station manager showed up in his pajamas and fired me on the air. When I got home I regaled this story to my dad, who didn’t get mad or look disappointed. He just took a moment and said, “You know, they hired you to do a job and you did something else. Try and remember no matter what job you take, whether it’s digging a ditch or painting the Sistine Chapel, do it to the best of your ability.”

I wonder what he might have told me as he stopped being a part of this surreal thing we call life at 1:24 in the post meridian on the 26th day of October 2019. It dawned on me in his final minutes, as my brother described him as looking peaceful, no longer in distress and succumbing to the beyond, that James Vincent Campion’s heart had been beating ceaselessly since 1938. I mean, I understand this intellectually, but it is hard to even fathom such an achievement. It is even harder to realize how his body, our body, has worked and does work throughout our lifetimes, when you watch all the machines, medicines, tubes and monitors it takes to do what we take for granted every minute of every day.

I could use one of dad’s wisdoms to explain that better. But I’ll finish this by writing: Life is weird. Death is way weirder. James is gone, but the dad part I still carry. You can’t take that. But for the purposes of wrapping this up…

Good-bye, Pop. I’ll miss you…again.

Read More

GOP, THE RULE OF LAW & THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY

Aquarian Weekly
10/30/19

Reality Check

James Campion


GOP, THE RULE OF LAW & THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY
Trump’s Guilt is Absolute, So Who Will (or Won’t) Do Something About It?

Defenders of the president’s high crimes and misdemeanors are running out of stuff. And, man, they’ve tried all the stuff; denied it ever happened (quid pro quo on military aid to another nation unless it dug up dirt on a political opponent), mixed semantics (making it about the literal phrase “quid pro quo” and not the action depicted in a transcript and through witness accounts), turned attentions to everything but the actual crime (the Democrats, the media, the system), flipped the blame on the participants catching and reporting the crime (original whistleblower or the parade of the non-partisan deposed) and finally making it about something to do with “closed doors justice”, which ironically is a rule Republicans implemented four years ago to try and besmirch former Sectary of State Hillary Clinton before the 2016 campaign with the endless nine-million dollar Benghazi hearings that ended up revealing nothing.

It sounds more and more, and I suspect it is understood in private, that they know Trump is guilty. Every day it’s a different defense and none of it is sticking. If anything, it is making things worse.

Simultaneously, for the first time there appears to be cracks in the Republican shield on Capitol Hill. There’s been severe blowback on the president’s irresponsibly turning Syria over to all of our enemies and dooming our only allies and probably putting Israel in its greatest bind since the Six-Day War in 1967, and his brazenly announcing that he would be hosting the 2020 G7 Summit at his personal golf resort that has been hemorrhaging money for years. Trump has acknowledged this by a recent tweet calling some of his fellow Republicans “human scum.” Nevertheless, it appears, despite almost certain impeachment in a House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats, none of this may be enough to remove him from office in a GOP-controlled Senate hearing.

The decision by the Senate, if it chooses to leave Trump in office, is clearly political now. Traditional conservatism has officially descended into Trumpism. Trumpism is the end of geo-political hawks, the demise of free traders, the eradication of religious right moralists, and the silencing of fiscally conscious anti-deficit marauders or anti-socialist bail-out complainers. Trump has eviscerated heretofore core tenets of conservative principles. The Senate may have no choice but to save this president because Republicanism is in shambles. The alternative as they see it is to hand the country over to the Democrats. The party is now run by its base. It is all that is standing between self-immolation or total political oblivion. They got their judges. They got their tax cuts. Yet the party is faced with an election year with a president with a forty-percent approval rating and days from impeachment in the House of Representatives. But without Trump’s supporters, the Grand Old Party is finished as a national power.

Should Trump be impeached and removed from office by the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence would barely hold the South and part of the mid-west in 2020. I understand this reality. And I expect Senate Republicans to vote to for immediate survival and turn the future of the presidency, which has expanded to an almost monarch status in the past one-hundred and fifty years, into what appears to be an “anything goes” proposition.

How do our children’s children view the circumstances of this abuse of executive power going unchecked by an equal branch of government?

That is the consequence of this decision. And it is on them now, not the Democrats, who appear in this case to be on the right side of history. They are playing politics too. That is true. But it was not the Democrats, nor the media, nor the system that concocted and then enacted this fool plan to strongarm the new president of a desperate nation into publicly lying to assist in re-electing a sitting president. Trump did that. He is responsible for this constitutional crisis. He unleashed this rabid opposition force. He lost the congress last year and then handed them a giant hammer with which they could use to take chunks of his presidency and pass the tattered remains over to the higher chamber for trial.

And so, the question remains: What if a president commits a crime, or in this case when combined with the Mueller Report’s ten incidences of obstruction of justice, several crimes, and is given political coverage by those in his party shirking their sworn duties? If said president is given a pass, then what does history record? Forget the politics of the moment. Forget this experiment of having a game show host run the country. How do our children’s children view the circumstances of this abuse of executive power going unchecked by an equal branch of government?

I guess what I’m saying here is this is no longer on Donald Trump. He is guilty. There is more than enough evidence that he acted at the very least inappropriately with his executive powers as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. That is a given. If he gets away with it, good for him. Presidents have pushed boundaries for decades. This is an extraordinary circumstance for sure, but it needs the checks and balances we are so proud of touting on holidays and in song and story in order to pass constitutional muster. Good for him, bad for our precious rule of law.

What indeed happens to a nation where there are those who see the crime, casually ignore it, play politics with it, and then systemically allow it? In essence, rubber stamp it. Tell the world and history that it is okay to be a criminal and be president. We then come to a line crossed with no return. This will be the precedence. And soon, probably sooner than later, the other party will be in power and maybe, it is hard to imagine, but maybe there is an even crazier megalomaniac that is handed the most powerful post in the free world. What then would stop them from playing campaign strategies with America’s security and military commitments? What would keep them from using unelected personal attorneys from running a shadow foreign policy for personal gains?

The answer is nothing. Nothing will stop future presidents if this one is allowed to get away with this unscathed. They will use foreign nations to assist in effecting our elections and point to this one as they’re excuse. Unless the Republican-controlled Senate does its sworn duty and evict this president from office for these actions we have officially completed the creation of a totalitarian position in the presidency.

What the Republican-ruled Senate does with this president in this crucial moment in American history is on them.

Read More

PRESIDENT TERRORIST

Aquarian Weekly

10/23/19

Reality Check


James Campion

PRESIDENT TERRORIST

Trump’s Attack on American Interests in the Middle East Sets Up Next 9/11

You are creating a Frankenstein.
– Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to President George H. W. Bush, 1989

The president of the United States has now gone completely mad. Donald Trump was pretty much on the brink of insanity for some time, but this flimsy house of cards he’s shoddily erected over the initial years of his colossally inept presidency is tumbling daily as more and more people from the gutted State Department bury him in impeachment hearings. His unhinged press conferences, erratic tweets and these Nuremberg-esque rallies have become a surreal insight into the deranged paranoia that the leader of the free world has entered in. He is fucked. And he knows it. The only thing that stands between Trump and official ignominy is Rudy Giuliani, who will soon join his last “fixer lawyer” in prison.

This leads us to what transpired in Syria last week, which has caused even many Republicans to see the light.

In one seventytwo hour run of the most bizarrely dangerous foreign policy that has come from the executive branch in my lifetime, Trump green-lit the massacre of America’s only true ally against ISIS and Iran in the Middle East, the Kurdish forces, which were heretofore assisted with U.S. aid, weapons, and military presence. This knee-jerk lunacy, done without alerting the Pentagon or our intelligence agencies, handed Syria over to the Russians and Iran and invited the Turks to run rough-shod over miles of real estate that American lives were sacrificed to hold for half a decade. Then when he was publicly and privately eviscerated by GOP hawks in his administration, the Pentagon, and Congress, most of which are normally seen carrying buckets of his water, he spastically tried to reverse course by tweeting craziness about destroying the Turkish economy and then drafting what could only be described as a letter written by a middle school bully trying to cover his ass. When none of these absurd tactics worked, the president blithely told the world that the U.S. doesn’t give a crap what happens in the Middle East anymore and to let the rest of them “play in the sand”, summarily dispatching his secretary of state and vice president to secure a deal to turn Kurdish land over to its sworn enemy and send them scrambling into oblivion. When it was done he called it “a great day for civilization.”

This has been the Trump Doctrine: Cause an international crisis, like taking North Korea to the brink of war on Twitter, then capitulating with a deal that give a tyrant the store and claim victory. It’s like the game Risk for the mentally challenged. 

When piled on top of Trump’s abjectly stupid decision to pull out of the Iran anti-nukes treaty with nary a backup plan, the downright pathetic defense of the Saudi government’s murder of an American journalist, and the unnecessary violence-trigger of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, abandoning Syria to ISIS, Russia and Iran will soon be remembered in the annals of history as the second greatest terrorist sponsorship against America.

However, this wouldn’t be the first time a Republican administration fostered anti-American sentiments through bungled foreign policy. That one ended up causing the deaths of hundreds of our citizens on 9/11.

It is worth noting.

During of the decade between 1979 and 1989, the CIA ran among many half-assed maneuvers in the Middle East something called Operation Cyclone, a covert venture to arm and finance the Mujahideen, an Afghani fighting force that attempted to thwart its country’s invasion by the USSR. By the early 1980s this turned overt, becoming a proud function of what would become known as the Reagan Doctrine – illegal proxy wars fighting off communist uprisings globally. It was just a new-fangled sad repeat of the “domino effect” catastrophes in Korea in the 50s and Viet Nam in the 60s and early 70s that Reagan thought went well and would eventually lead to his Iran-Contra crime that should have cost him his presidency. Reagan, we now know was suffering early stages of dementia, convinced these duped warriors that part of America’s interest in Afghanistan went beyond the ousting of communists from its region. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz sold a dream of a democratized Afghanistan to stabilize the region, promised aid to their refugees that fled to neighboring Pakistan, and the continuation of defense funds to assist in what was then considered burgeoning radical Arab factions.

Of course, this was complete bullshit, as America, then under President George H.W. Bush, would dismissively abandon all interest in Afghanistan and its people around the region, which was beginning to boil over. These funds were handed instead to Pakistan to ironically fight the very same Mujahideen and Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein to combat Iran. The fallout from this bait and switch led to the complete destabilization of Afghanistan and caused the fractured segments of the Mujahideen to form the Taliban and al Queda. You may have heard of them.

Does any of this sound familiar to what the president just did to the Kurds in Syria?

The president is a terrorist. Not even I saw that coming.

Not to Trump. And why would it? You could barely jam into the Grand Canyon what Trump doesn’t know about anything. Shit, when all of the above was transpiring Donald Trump was blowing daddy’s money paying whores to drip candle wax on his balls and selling off parts of NYC to Arabs to use that money to buy weapons to kill Americans. He was also unaware that the country he was running for the past two years had promised the Kurdish fighters cover as they jailed thousands of captured ISIS fighters. As a result, our only defense against ISIS and Iran in the region has been sold out by Donald Trump as their women and children are being slaughtered on the Internet by the Turkish Army.

This is much worse than the Reagan/Bush fuck-ups of yesteryear, in that it is random, erratic and done with no support from our intelligence community or the Pentagon. Moreover, American troops are already there and in harm’s way. This presidency, as Trump promised, is a one-man operation, one that has resulted in a shadow foreign policy he’s been running through the state department, the department of justice and his private attorney. It was only a matter of time before it unraveled before congress and the American people. Trump’s best defense is to yell at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, scream again about fake news and dispatch his chief of staff to admit to the current impeachment charges of using foreign influence for political gain. “There is going to be political influence in foreign policy,” shouted Mick Mulvaney in front of cameras. “We do that all the time with foreign policy. Get over it.” Then he pulled a Trump and blamed a misquote, even though he was on camera saying it.

It’s over for Trump. He will be a sad footnote in a long series of American bungles. But what about us? What kind of fallout will the next generation suffer by the sins of this one? We can only hope it is only a 9/11 and not worse. His buddy in North Korea has other ideas too.

The president is a terrorist.

Not even I saw that coming. 

Read More

DOES DONALD TRUMP WANT TO BE IMPEACHED?

Aquarian Weekly
10/9/19

Reality Check

James Campion


DOES DONALD TRUMP WANT TO BE IMPEACHED?

Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.1 This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation. Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about “foreign Interference, Intrigue, and Influence.” 
– Memo from the chair of the Federal Election Commission Ellen L. Weintraub, June 13

After the five or six people still left defending our beleaguered game show president bent themselves in logical pretzels for close to a week claiming Donald Trump absolutely did not ask a foreign country to intervene on a potential political opponent, Joe Biden, despite a whistleblower complaint and a declassified review of the July 25 phone call between the U.S. president and the president of Ukraine that appeared to show that Donald Trump was trading allocated funds to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression for dirt on Biden and his son, Hunter, here is what Trump told live television cameras on the White House lawn on October 3: “Well, I would think if they (Ukraine) were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that’s newly formed and all these companies, and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say with President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend they start an investigation into the Bidens, because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”

This begs the question: Does Donald Trump want to be impeached?

I think this is another one that goes into the flimsy but understandable yes/no column when dealing with this lunatic. Let me explain.

Let’s do “No” first.

As covered for years in this space, Donald Trump enters almost everything he tries his hand at as a complete neophyte. This is why it’s almost always a mess eventually. Sometimes he stumbles into a success, but eventually he destroys it with knee-jerk hubris – see Trump steaks, Trump University, the USFL, the Atlantic City debacle and his TV show for examples of this. Most of his talents, if there are any, is in selling a brand and that brand is a billboard depiction of what he would like to be but is not. You can only fake shit for so long, and ultimately the jig is up. This “method” has transferred to the highest office in the land and therefore he has little to no idea what he is doing when he says something like the above. This is like your toddler blurting out “fuck” at your dinner party. The kid doesn’t know he is cursing. He just does it. If you are not sure you are implicating yourself in a crime, then you do it. Trump and Rudolf Giuliani, former NYC mayor and Trump’s personal lawyer, believe – Giuliani has told several news outlets that he is “a hero” – that rooting out corruption abroad is a calling. This, of course, is an administration that has supported murdering American journalists in Saudi Arabia, turning away from unchecked missile testing and human rights atrocities in North Korea and defending whatever the fuck Vladimir Putin does on daily basis.

Text messages released after former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker (he quit in disgrace) was deposed by congress for nine hours this week, reveal that many who were tasked with carrying out this nonsense believed Trump was on shaky ground but either didn’t care or was plain stupid.

Throughout the summer Volker told Giuliani that his sources on these purported incriminating documents he keeps waving around on cable news were false and misleading, but like most zealots around Trump, Giuliani, a private citizen who has little to no idea what the hell he’s doing either, believed as long as they fit the narrative of Biden’s guilt, he’d plow ahead. This kind of warning cost the ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch her gig in the spring when Trump removed her because Giuliani couldn’t get her to help him commit these crimes. All of this out in the open and without care for who would know it.

This is like your toddler blurting out “fuck” at your dinner party.

On the day of the infamous “shake-down” phone call, state department officials were trying like hell to first identity, then facilitate and finally cover up this half-baked scheme to have Ukraine investigate an American politician running for president and most importantly to go on the record for it, clearing the way for the story to damage Biden before the primaries. Volker texted top advisor to the Ukrainian president Andriy Yermak, “I think potus really wants the deliverable.” Later, on September 1, when this was still being bungled along by members of the state department, William Taylor, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, texted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland responded with, “Call me.” This call, which was clearly ordered by Sondland to keep off the record had confirmed Taylor’s fears that they were breaking the law, because on September 9, Taylor texted Sondland: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Sondland, who had endeavored mightily to keep this craziness from having an electronic paper trail, responded with, “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

All the while Trump thought this was okay, in fact, noble pursuits, and for the most part, as the admission of his crimes on the record (again) prove, he still does.

Now, the “yes” part.

I think there is a large part of Trump’s thinking, such as it is, that this kind of muckraking battle to the end will benefit him politically and harm Joe Biden. This has been his mission all along. He also knows that Russia helped him win last time and this shameless begging of foreign aid in assisting this time clearly shows he would rather be leaned on by a Democratically controlled congress than not attempt it. Biden’s numbers, which the president initially ignored and then predictably mocked in the only states that count: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri are startling. Unlike Hilary Clinton, they are double-digit leads. It is better to be impeached than to face ignominious defeat. If this were Elizabeth Warren or some other Democratic rival, I can look past its political immolation context, but it’s Biden, his greatest threat, by far.

And finally, Trump is aware that a Republican-controlled senate would never oust him. The party is hanging by a thread as it is. Without the Trump base there is no party. They are doomed. The demographics and historical winds have already swung left and will continue to do so for the rest of this century if not for the thirty-two percent that keep this rot from completely fading into dust. They have to stick with Trump and he knows it, and this will allow him to claim another hollow victory once the senate boots the impeachment to the curb. Just in time for the 2020 campaign to heat up.

I usually go with the former. I don’t think Trump is soliciting impeachment. I just think Trump is an idiot. Everything he has done as president bared this out. The cover ups are coming from the state department and White House officials who cannot control this fool. But make no mistake, Trump’s statement this week that he absolutely would like foreign counties to get involved in the 2020 election seals his welcoming impeachment whether he wants it or not. 

Read More

GAME SHOW HOST + PRESIDENCY = IMPEACHMENT

Aquarian Weekly
10/2/19

Reality Check

James Campion


GAME SHOW HOST + PRESIDENCY = IMPEACHMENT   

In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.
– Opening statement in National Security Whistleblower Complaint, delivered 8/19/19 to Director of National Intelligence and reviewed by the U/S Congress, 9/26/19

Well, of course. How else could this possibly end? It was only a matter of time that this abomination of a presidency would finally sink us into a constitutional crisis and wind up in the embarrassment of impeachment. Because most likely Donald Trump isn’t going anywhere, unless we send him packing in November of 2020. The Senate Republicans are not going to convict a president with an intra-party popularity around 90 percent even if he “shoots someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.” It is political suicide and that is the game they are playing here – not any hokey bullshit patriotic sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. That is a line you learn in middle school that pertains to none of what actually happens or has happened in Washington DC since they elevated a mosquito infested Southern swamp into the nation’s capital in 1790. Nah, Trump will stay with his shame and his historical marker as a hack criminal whose best work was saved for B-level television and the inside straight he pulled on November 6, 2016 that we now know occurred with ample assistance from the Russian government. You could see this coming from the start of this mess, as I wrote to friends within minutes of his Election Day victory, it was merely a “Countdown to Impeachment”. He would do something stupid and wrong, I reasoned, and he has done many things stupid and wrong since, but this latest Ukrainian shit will finally get that scarlet letter “I” painted on his bloated visage forevermore.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

History is a bitch and it has come calling for Donald J. Trump. His unimpeded lunacy has a shelf life and it has reached its apex. Our national crisis of one; this bleating troll of a man whose check has bounced and the bank, well, the bank needs the money, bub. And El Douche knows all about that. His phalanx of failures resulting in a spectacular number of bankruptcies and sad-sack ventures has led to these secret tax returns he still uses an army of lawyers to prevent us from seeing. Oh, the tales they would tell: More embarrassments that will likely come crashing in once he set in motion the congress’s legal might to impeach. Oof, it has become a civic lesson for Donnie, who chose to run the United States like a casino and went belly up. Because belly up is the default position for him. Self destruction is his raison d’être. His art is masochism.

Ahhh, but The Donald thinks the dogshit in his fist is a sweet-smelling rose. This, and myopic racism is what his father gave him with a preternatural gift of denial and an unrivaled level of self-unawareness. And that’s probably best. It’s always a boon for the victim to not see it coming. My cats know that deal, but the president, well, he needs some education on how this whole system works when it has been cracked in pieces as he’s been stumbling through his Mr. Magoo governing style, careening into crime after crime and then telling us all about it on Twitter and national television. Remember when he admitted to NBC News that he fired the head of the FBI because of “the Russian thing”, which brought the weight of a two-year investigation that he tried to thwart at every turn? This, of course, and a mid-term thrashing handed congress over to his political enemies on a silver platter. That should have been enough to impeach, as the ten blatant instances of obstruction of justice that continues with this latest Ukrainian clusterfuck.

I mean, how stupid do you have to be to pull this shit and then evoke the Justice Department, the puppet attorney general, the vice president, and drag your mentally ill private attorney, who then fingered the entire state department, into this nonsense? There are so many fuck-ups in Trump’s attempt to mob-threaten a foreign country to investigate a totally ginned up bullshit story about the son of his likely political opponent, whom he is losing to in every poll since Joe Biden shuffled meekly into this race. Not the least of which is to put the whole affair into “a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature” according to the fancy whistleblower complaint released on 9/26 to congress, and “not the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.” Only because…wait for it…this is the crap Hillary Clinton rightfully got for having a separate email server. Every time you hear Trumpites mention “Hilary’s emails” this is why. And well… duh.

Hey, you wanted a game show host to give this a try.

The most damning excerpt in the whistleblower complaint is the White House directing the “lock down of all records of the phone call”, which, (clearing my throat for effect) is an all-star super-duper topper most of the poppermost Cover Up. And it will end in the disbarment and perhaps jailing of Steven Engel, director of the Office of Legal Counsel, who blocked the whistleblower complaint from being handed over to congress, which is dictated by law, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, head of the criminal division, who brazenly passed on investigating the president’s crime, Attorney General Bill Barr, who not only denies having heard about any such call to pursue a conspiracy theory probably pitched by FOX News talk show host Sean Hannity that it was Ukraine not Russia that helped Trump win in 2016 despite the intelligence community and the Mueller Report conclusions, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who according to Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, put him in the “untenable position of denying the material to congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community,” which is literally his job description, and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolf Giuliani, whose erratic criminal behavior for months enthusiastically headed up this fiasco.

So, in very Nixonian fashion, this whole “getting dirt on the opponent” that took on national security alerts in 2016 with the Russian government basically entrenched in what would be the future president’s campaign, was taken to yet another country with the same crime and then, well covered up. Trump, descending into a state of complete doddering madness, had the bright idea to declassify a private conversation with the Ukrainian president that… wait for this one… totally incriminated him. This is what the president of the United States released to the public and an impeachment inquiry the day before the damning whistleblower complaint dropped: Trump to newly sworn-in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…it sounds horrible to me.”

I think I’ve written this here before, but for the purposes of people who are still stunningly defending this recidivist criminal behavior: Game. Set. Match.

The president of the United States withheld funds appropriated for the defense of an American ally to gain dirt on a political opponent, got a half dozen White House lawyers to lie and cover it up and then proudly shared the evidence to bury him. Or a typical Tuesday afternoon in the Trump Administration.

Hey, you wanted a game show host to give this a try.

Really, I mean, given everything that has transpired up to this, is impeachment that much of a stretch? 

Read More

DANIEL JOHNSTON – 1961 – 2019

Aquarian Weekly
9/18/19

Reality Check

James Campion


DANIEL JOHNSTON – 1961 – 2019

Listen up and I’ll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren’t so bold

That is the first verse of a song called “The Story of an Artist”, which would be the eighth track on the second self-made, independently released cassette by the then 21 year-old cartoonist/painter/singer-songwriter/producer/amateur film-maker/underground entrepreneur, Daniel Dale Johnston. It’s a paean to the struggling artist nearly crumbling under the strains of time while his friends, family and potential audience ignores or berates him. His voice, accompanied by an upright piano in desperate need of tuning, is a tender, upper register tweak held together with invisible strings and duct tape. Its phrasing and timbre make the sound of the broken but unbowed, irresistibly childlike and yet old before its time. He stabs at the words, as if harrowingly building a jagged conduit to his soul. The second verse goes like this…

And everyone in friends and family
Sayin’ “Hey go get a job
Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?”

Daniel Johnston was odd. This had less to do with what would later be a duel diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. No, Daniel was odd because he was indeed an artist, with a story to show and tell. This made his movements, both physical and metaphysical, seem like a man in slow motion. While all else whisked around him in a scurry to become things and own things and conquer stuff, there was never a moment in his life where he was not an artist, even when he was passing out his tapes as arguably the most famous McDonald’s employee in the nation. This was in 1984, after a period of working in a traveling carnival, when he settled in Austin and began making these lo-fi, DYI, down and dirty and hilariously pin-point perfect cassettes of weird, wonderful music complete with original artwork on its inserts, including tiny drawings in and around the song titles. And, according to those who knew him at the time, he almost never used a copy machine. He would simply draw new covers for every single tape. Because, well, he was no “busser” or vagrant or random slob living on his sister’s couch. He was an artist.

“And we don’t really like what you do
We don’t think anyone ever will
We think you have a problem
And this problem’s made you ill”

He wrote tons of songs and recorded those songs on piano, guitar and chord organ with a $59 Sanyo monaural boombox he’d had since he was a teenager. He also made incredible surrealist drawings with vivid characters filled with pathos and dread and biting humor and furious audacity. The bravery in this work, like the ultra-creative films he made as a kid, is clear to anyone who ever attempted to put themselves “out there” creatively, who put things down to have them come back hard, to bare the ugly, the beseeching, insecure, frightened, unrequited edge of the edge. This is where the artist and the man/boy existed in Daniel Johnston. Beyond all the dangerous thoughts and burps and demons inside his head, this was his center. 

But the artist walks alone
And someone says behind his back
“He’s got some gall to call himself that
He doesn’t even know where he’s at.”

I first heard one of these Daniel Johnston tapes in 1988. A good friend of mine, Eddie, who had recently changed his name to Sean, a fellow songwriter and lunatic, had gotten it from another of our kind. These things were making their way up through Austin into the waiting hands of the NYC suburb starving artist cabal and shaking us up. Yip Jump Music and Hi, How Are You were the ones that initially stunned us. The latter had the iconic alien-looking Frog with the eyeball tentacles that served Daniel’s vision of good against evil. “Jeremiah the Innocent” was a godhead Buddha-like figure of moral certitude staring its way into your psyche. He would paint a mural of it on the exterior wall of what was originally the Sound Exchange record store in downtown Austin. It has remained a symbol of the strange, counter-culture revivalist nature of the town for decades. Daniel’s Jeremiah, his spirit of song, story and visions, is its patron saint.

The artist walks among the flowers
Appreciating the sun
He’s out there all his waking hours
Oh and who’s to say he’s wrong

He was no “busser” or vagrant or random slob living on his sister’s couch. He was an artist.

Hi, How Are You is a fucking masterpiece. It will always be near and dear to my heart – Daniel autographed a limited-edition album cover for me that hangs proudly in my writing nook. Although Yip Jump Music came first, early in ’83, and it has two of his best songs,“Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances”, both featured Johnston’s first use of his signature sound clips (children’s toys), crudely eerie but socially intriguing overdubbing (between two boom boxes), and a madcap white-boy unhinged sort of rapping that added to the sonic collage. But the whole Daniel Johnston presentation was fully formed two years earlier with his initial tape compilations, Songs of Pain, (1981), which includes probably my favorite of his early work, “Like a Monkey in a Zoo”, hurriedly followed by Don’t Be Scared, where “The Story of an Artist” resides, and The What of Whom (1982) More Songs of Pain (1983), even though you will find gems in everything Daniel recorded, like the achingly melancholic “True Love Will Find You in the End” from Retired Boxer(1984) and a song I have played countless times on guitar in abject glee, the infectious, “I Know What I Want” from Respect (1985).

These were the years where it appeared to those of us entranced by it, that Daniel was rushing to get these musical vignettes out of his skull and onto the whirling tape in front of him as fast as possible, before…

And they sit in front of their tv
Sayin’ “Hey isn’t this a lot of fun?”
And they laugh at the artist
Saying “He don’t know how to have fun.”

All the while, Daniel was descending into madness. He had several nervous breakdowns, long periods of incoherence and days of wandering lost through town, various erratic episodes due to prescription drug reactions, one harrowing one in which he took the keys from a plane his father, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, was manning and tossed them out the window. William Johnston’s training saved them as he managed to land it safely. He went to New York to record an album. Disappeared for days. These and similar incidents landed Daniel for extended stints in mental institutions, which is where he was in 1992 when Kurt Cobain wore a Hi How Are You shirt to the MTV Music Awards. Almost immediately Daniel began receiving calls from entertainment agents from all over the country. The MTV connection is odd since in the previous decade Johnston, curious about the cameras and hubbub, wandered into a production of the network’s The Cutting Edge featuring performers from Austin’s “New Sincerity” music scene in order to better hawk his tapes. The producers were so enamored with this off-kilter bohemian fast-food jockey, they gave him a spot on the bill of a show they were taping.

The odd detente of Hollywood agents and a committed mental patient was predictably terrible. Daniel had deep bouts of paranoia, much of it covered with incredible sensitivity in the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He wrongly jettisoned his biggest fan and benefactor, then manager Jeff Tartakov, who by then had mass produced the Johnston catalog and kept Daniel financially afloat and in the public eye. By then Daniel was trading his art for comic books and ignoring his music almost entirely. But he finally signed with Atlantic Records in 1994 and his debut album, Fun was produced by Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers, a huge fan. It predictably bombed. Critics were more or less confused and fans of his DYI days hated it. I love it. It has “Life in Vain”, one of my faves.

The best things in life are truly free
Singing birds and laughing bees
“You’ve got me wrong”, says he
“The sun don’t shine in your TV”

Mental illness and later obesity plagued Daniel for the rest of his life. He would have periods of stable behavior and tour, or at least make some shows here and abroad, but then would begin to detach and spiral. I had at least two potential times I could have seen him, but he cancelled, and we understood. My friend, songwriter, Dan Bern played with him in Europe and made him a character in his first novel, which I helped him edit and publish, titled, Quitting Science, while another new friend, the honey-voiced Maria Taylor of Azure Ray played piano with him a few years ago. But he mostly lived with his parents out in a garage/studio they set up for him. And, of course, he kept recording and releasing music and painting and drawing. When they passed away he began to deteriorate more and more. Again, there were moments of lucidity, an understanding of his worth and canon, occasional art shows (London’s Aquarium Gallery, New York’s Clementine Gallery, Sacramento’s Verge Gallery) and tribute recordings by such musical luminaries as Beck, Tom Waits, and bands like Teenage Fanclub, Death Cab for Cutie and the Flaming Lips.

Daniel Johnston was that artist that if you knew someone who knew and loved his stuff you were connected immediately. Daniel fans, people who were turned by his songs – those melodic gems hidden inside roughly ham-fisted playing and tape hiss and room echo, sung with such unerring emotion – were also inspired by their making and their dissemination. We shared those tapes. We played his songs and marveled at those characters that poured out of his pen or paint brush because there was something in Daniel Johnston that speaks to and for the goofy outcast making something for the sake of making it and to better reflect you into the world. And against all odds, mental illness and poverty, he forged ahead.

Until now.

Listen up and I’ll tell a story
About an artist growin’ old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others like to watch the world

And that is sad for those of us who see Dan still, sitting hunched over that piano and hitting record and belting out all of it.

He died this week.

He was 58.

And he was an artist.

Read More

HOW LONG FOOTBALL?

Aquarian Weekly
9/11/19

Reality Check

James Campion


HOW LONG FOOTBALL?
The Decline in American Youth Football is Real and Increasing 


The short answer to the above question is probably forever. But the long answer is not in any form you can recognize, and that part has already begun.

It is because of this march towards whatever the game is now and what it eventually will become that prompted me to stop watching football with any interest four seasons ago. And this is no small feat. Pro Football, really any football, was my favorite sport. I played when I was a kid. Absolutely fell in love with the gorgeous artistic propaganda of NFL Films, so much so that the iconic music they used on those stuck in my brain as deeply as any pop song from my childhood. I even applied to work for NFL Films right out of college. I did not get the gig. Bummer.

Giving up football fandom was tough at first, but it made no sense to watch something called pro football that was fast becoming… I don’t know how to describe watching a sport in which you have no idea what it happening: What’s a catch? What’s a touchdown? What’s a tackle? What is cheating? Man, I loved football, especially pro football, and it went somewhere else and I did not follow.

The main reason the sport has changed into something I no longer find the least bit interesting – beyond the rise in fantasy sports craze, video games that effected how the game is played and covered, and technology (replay stuff is intolerable nonsense) – is valid. Playing football causes brain damage. It is simple as that. This is something we should have known forty years ago as we watched behemoths (many of them jacked on amphetamines and later a phalanx of human growth hormones and anabolic steroids) smash their skulls into each other. Sure, they wore helmets and we thought that was fine. It turned out not to be fine. Many of the players went insane or died of brain-related diseases. Some got violent with spouses, their children and the general public. Some committed suicide. Then came the inevitable lawsuits and the National Football Leagues’ shameless but understandable denials. Gotta keep those bucks flowing.

This “deny the science” for self-interest thing is very big with business types. You know the deal: Coal poured into poison and then into your water is fine. American Jobs! The NFL is a microcosm of this. But eventually the cat scan was out of the bag and now the rules include not being able to lay a hand on anyone, much less tackle them, and because the great unwashed love scoring and not anything resembling the original concept of the game – defense and ball control – they just let it fly. The game is a joke.

Oh, we should point out that the question in the headline above is proffered merely because late this summer statistics were released that illustrated a serious decline in competitive group sports among high schoolers across the country. The main culprit is football. Parents, especially moms, want no part of their children’s brains scrambled as teenagers. Science has also discovered that while the head (with the brain in it – kind of an important organ) should not be used as a battering ram, it is really bad mojo for developing brains. And since .00001 percent of those kids ever go to college for free or make a living smashing their brains into mush and then committing suicide, why risk it?

If youth football factories are fading then so is the treadmill of talent that will fill rosters that fill schedules and thus fill stadiums to make money for colleges and the NFL.

From Forbes magazine last month: “According to the National Federation of High School Association’s (NFHS) latest participation survey, released in late August, eleven-player tackle football, numerically speaking, is solely responsible for the first decline in boys’ high school sports participation since 1988-89, and mostly responsible for the first decline in overall high school participation since that same school year.”

Let that read a three-percent decline, which is not astronomical, but it’s a decline in a sport that has been on a steady, unhealthy incline for a century. In fact, according to the same report, 26 percent of boys participated in HS football prior to the early ought’s, but since it is down to one in five. And those numbers have steadily declined over the past 15 years, even when considering Texas that has some fifty thousand people show up to HS football games. The numbers are more or less stagnant there, but no increase. Almost everywhere else in America football is waning.

What am I getting at? Well, if youth football factories are fading then so is the treadmill of talent that will fill rosters that fill schedules and thus fill stadiums to make money for colleges and the NFL. Of course, this could take generations, but then again, with every retiree dying young from brain disease or with every violent act or anti-social behavior exhibited by current HS, college and pro players of the game, and man it is an alarming number, the public relations gets darker and more and more people will became aware and want to protect their children from any of it.

A few years ago a friend of a friend and now someone I know, author, Steve Almond wrote an eye-opening book on all of this from a similar perspective, obsessive fan to serious skeptic, Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto  in which he asks why do inner city kids or low-income country youth have to choose football as a route to a better life? Why couldn’t the 2009 film The Blind Side, which tells the true story of a poor Memphis black kid who uses football to rise above his daunting circumstances, be about a kid excelling in math or science or becoming (gulp!) a writer?

As a result of all of this, football may go the way of the aforementioned steroids. Congressional investigation, more lawsuits, you name it. But as long as there is gambling and beer to be sold and huge network contracts and every sports media outlet sucks up to the mighty NFL, then let’s face it, football ain’t going anywhere soon.

But it may be going at some point. And to write that is quite remarkable. But, hell, if I can bag it, so can America. I doubt there was a more obsessive fan than me. Four years of no football and counting. Try it.    

Read More

HATRED ON PARADE

Aquarian Weekly
8/21/19

Reality Check

James Campion


HATRED ON PARADE
The Rise of White Nationalism & the Ongoing Threat of Domestic Terrorism 


Remember when we were all afraid of ISIS killing us in the streets a few years back? Oh, those were the salad days. We were so much happier then. Foreign religious maniacs, we kind of get. White guys with a grudge and armed to the teeth, we mostly ignore, sometimes laugh at, and strangely vote for. But in the wake of the massacre in El Paso (20 dead, 27 wounded) engineered by a white nationalist, who was, like ISIS, part of an international network of terrorists (his fancy manifesto pointed to inspiration from the New Zealand right-wing Mosque shootings) it is clear we have ourselves a growing epidemic. Citing figures from the Anti-Defamation League, during the years of 2009 through 2018, international terrorism was responsible for twenty-three percent of ideological murders, while far-right extremist killings topped out at seventy-three percent. Moreover, the same report noted that these growing extremist murders have spiked thirty-five percent from 2017 to 2018, “making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995.”

Members of the Ku Klux Klan yell as they fly Confederate flags during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina July 18, 2015. A Ku Klux Klan chapter and an African-American group planned overlapping demonstrations on Saturday outside the South Carolina State House, where state officials removed the Confederate battle flag last week. REUTERS/Chris Keane? TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX1KUSD

Take that ISIS.

White nationalist terrorism has become a 9/11 level problem, but oddly it is treated like some weird anomaly, or to listen to rhetoric excuses of “overrated” or a “hoax”. Systemically, it is flat-out ignored. In fact, the Trump Administration immediately stripped funding and diverted attention away from domestic terrorism, much of it put in place after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, then the most lethal mass-murder in our history (168 dead, including 19 children, and five-hundred injured). In March, when asked at the White House whether white nationalists were a growing threat around the world, the president replied: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.”

It has been clear from day-one that Donald Trump is working on some level of racial paranoia and renders special dispensation from his usual attack-dog mode when commenting or not commenting on white nationalism, which is a nice way of saying he is a racist – the latest example on the heels of the El Paso shooting is the admission from the administration’s Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli that the new proposed stricter limitations on legal immigration is now needed since in the past there were “just people coming from Europe”. As if on cue, as I write this Trump is forcing the hand of Israel to ban two Muslim congresswomen from entering that country. But the president’s overt bigotry does not excuse the rest of our government. Homeland Security, the FBI or the CIA has payed ancillary attention to this crisis while lunatics fabricate invasions from Mexico, a dangerous lie which the El Paso shooter cited as igniting this latest tragedy.

Angry white people afraid of progress and foreign interlopers is what made Donald Trump president.

So, in essence, unlike the national derangement we endured post-9/11 which sent our government into fascist spasms – sanctioning torture, cobbling together the goofy Patriot Act, and invading a nation with no connection to the attacks – we now have a government that ignores, and in some cases, openly supports white nationalist terrorism. The United States of America has apparently and willfully entered the infamous “axis of evil”.

To wit: Mere hours and days after 9/11, things went understandably haywire around here. It was a justified reaction, if not weirdly dangerous and mostly illogical. But where is a similar reaction now? An alarming number of dead Americans (fifty extremist-related killings in the U.S. in 2018, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970) and tons of evidence these killings are motivated, inspired and carried out with a similar myopic agenda; destroy American values and choose the victory of one sect of humanity over another. ISIS. White Nationalism. Same shit. Waaaaayyyy different reaction.

It is now exactly two years since that abomination in Charlottesville with neo-Nazis and the KKK proudly marching around town with torches threatening Jews, African Americans and homosexuals that resulted in a street riot and the murder of a woman, followed by flaccid hemming and hawing from Donald Trump, which earned him high praise from the Klu Klux Klan. The murder has still not been designated as a hate crime nor has the investigation into the groups that organized the rally/riot bared anything more on these insurrectionists.

This past spring, a few months after the October synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh a judiciary committee convening on the rise of alt-right hate crimes held a hearing in which FBI Director Christopher A. Wray revealed that the bureau has arrested 250 white nationalist terrorists engaged in anti-American activities over the past two years. However, Dave Gomez, a former FBI supervisor, who oversaw terrorism cases, told the Washington Post that he believes FBI officials are wary of pursuing white nationalists aggressively because of the fierce political debates surrounding the issue. “I believe Christopher A. Wray is an honorable man, but I think in many ways the FBI is hamstrung in trying to investigate the white supremacist movement like the old FBI would,” Gomez told The Post. “There’s some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base. It’s a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor.”

So, on a political level, this makes sense. Angry white people afraid of progress and foreign interlopers is what made Donald Trump president. Even his “the press is the enemy of the people” crap inspired a Florida man who created a two-week crisis by mailing sixteen packages of inoperative pipe bombs packed with fireworks powder and shards of glass to thirteen famous Democrats and CNN who was ironically under sentence the week of the El Paso shooting. Before going to jail he told the court he believed “enemies of President Donald Trump were trying to hurt him and other Trump supporters.” In fact, Trump smartly leans on this fear and anger every time he needs a boost, and tripled-down on this craziness in the fall of last year to try and stem the tide of what would turn out to be a mid-term election pummeling by advancing a total lie about an invading caravan coming up through the southern border – using the term “invasion” over and over again, another inspiration for the El Paso shooter, even going as far as sending in troops to combat this illusion.

But it is simply the fact that the government is turning its back on this growing threat that is troubling, yet it does not surprise me. This country’s history is littered with this miserable shit. And the current climate does indicate that things are only going to get worse. What does surprise me that it is 2019 and we are still dealing with these horrors. But they are real, and they are becoming commonplace, and they must stop.

But who is going to stop it?

Read More

AUGUST 15 – 18, 1969

Aquarian Weekly
8/14/19

Reality Check

James Campion

AUGUST 15 – 18, 1969
The Woodstock Miracle & The Aging of Aquarius

The third and final of a three-part series on major events in our recent history which will be commemorating their fiftieth anniversary this summer. As they approached, it turns out, for me, the memories of these significant dates brought vivid childhood reflections that have remained with me and would be integral to my view of self, America, and society at large.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden  
– Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock” 

In the wake of the anarchic violence sparked, among other things, by the haphazard logistics and spectacular avarice that marred the twentieth anniversary Woodstock ’99 festival, this is what I wrote in this space (R.I.P WOODSTOCK, Issue 7/28/99): “By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting luck for compassion. Those stumbling into a wonderful mistake and sliding through relatively unscathed thirty years ago achieved a level of fortune rarely reached in the annals of civilization.” Man, was that ever cynical. Even for me. But mostly true. However, two decades later, I tend to believe (it may be advanced age talking) that for three days half a million mostly naked and rain-drenched kids jamming into a field in a sleepy farm hamlet listening to the greatest assemblage of rock/pop acts ever while peacefully sampling an impressive bevy of drugs is something that should be done again and again and again.

Thing is, it can’t. And it won’t. But in mid-August 1969, less than a month after the first manned moon landing and mere days after the news of horrific ritualistic murders in Hollywood, it sure as hell did. During the weekend hours that passed in that field in Bethel, New York, the world got to see the best of the human spirit – not by conquest or violence, our favorite pastimes, but sharing, caring, singing and imbibing. Lots and lots of imbibing.

Sure, there are music festivals. Successful ones that have continued for years. And for the most part they are well run, safe, and mostly fun, but the event billed fifty years ago this week as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” was only two of those. It was ill-conceived, somewhat rushed and hardly pragmatic in its execution. The persons to food, water and shelter quotient was way off. There were loads of very weird and sixties-level strong drugs. Technical problems and difficulties getting the acts in and out abounded as a large stretch of the NY Thruway was shut down. It rained and rained and rained some more. The entire area in and around the event was nearly declared a disaster area by the state. The U.S. Army and National Guard had to be summoned to assist while the Collective Hog Farm – the longest running and most effective socialist construct next to Medicare – worked overtime. Yet, it was a magnificent, historical success by any measure. In its way, it remains one of the most shockingly implausible examples of togetherness and collective kindness ever displayed by any group of people anywhere.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for Woodstock. I was actually up there that week. My parents trucked us up to the Catskills from the Bronx every summer and on this particular trip everyone at the motel got violently ill. Later we learned the wells were overused and much of the local plumbing had backed up and…well, you can imagine. But it was years later in college when I first saw the award-winning film and read Bob Spitz’s brilliant Barefoot in Babylon that it burrowed itself into my psyche. Fast-forward to the very night I first kissed the woman I would marry after we strolled in an evening buzz through the empty fields of what I can only describe that night as quiet aura. You can see there is something about the whole thing that intrigues me. Still does. 

Woodstock is our shining example of good. This, we can say, is what people can do.

Woodstock started off as a half-cocked plan to exploit the art/music community in the small Ulster Country town of less than five thousand in the late sixties when Bob Dylan made it famous by escaping the tumult of messianic fumes for bucolic splendor. Some rich kids and financial backers wanted to build a studio up there to offer the rich and famous rock elite a bit of “back to the garden” aesthetics. But that fell through, so why not a concert? And when the county recoiled in horror at the mere hint of a bohemian invasion, they found a private patch of land in Sullivan County in which they convinced anyone who would listen, including the farm’s owner, fifty year-old Max Yasgur, that only around a hundred thousand or so kids might come up to enjoy a little music for a weekend. Then after hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane among dozens of other generational talents were booked to play, a half million strong from all over the planet descended on the place. Under-manned and barely constructed, this idea-run-amok inevitably turned into a free gig.

The backers, most famously Michael Lang (age 24 at the time) and Artie Kornfeld (26), two middle-class Jewish guys from Brooklyn, took a financial pummeling. Later this was recouped handsomely from residuals made on the 1970 film and two subsequent soundtrack albums. But on those blistering hot and damp mid-August days it was all goofy grins and pot smoke. In fact, everyone was intoxicated in some way, making the lack of violence or looting or whatever even more incredible. Many of the acts were also under the influence of something. Carlos Santana, whose band had its coming out party on that Saturday (probably the film’s most dynamic moment) claims to have hallucinated his guitar as a slithering snake in his hands after consuming a concoction of acid and mescaline. Much of the LSD that weekend was homemade and named merely for its color (blue, greed, and the infamous brown) and moved stealthy throughout the crowd and backstage. Lead singer, Roger Daltrey, trying as he might to avoid this, merely had a cup of (turns out spiked) tea and tripped through much of The Who’s dawn set – a set that saw his guitarist Pete Townshend knock a ranting Abby Hoffman unconscious with his Gibson (okay, there was some violence). Janis Joplin later said she remembered none of it and refused to have her uneven set included in either the film or the soundtrack.

Beyond the stupefied superstars, there were wonderful stories of a fresh-faced 20 year-old newcomer Bert Sommer arousing a standing ovation from the throng, the mousy-voiced bubblegum folkie Melanie taking the trip with her mom and being hoisted upon the stage when no one would follow a rain squall, the charming twenty-minute set from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian, who announced in his fluttery stoned voice that a baby had been born in the throng, the spastic bluesy brilliance of Joe Cocker howling like a wounded beast through the Beatles foggy “With A Little Help From My Friends” and one of the finest funk sets of the 1960s outside of the mighty James Brown band from Sly and the Family Stone that cemented their pop cred for all time. (another highlight of the movie).

But it was the kids. This sea of youth. This entangled, muddy, cruddy, inescapable intransigent multitude of peaceniks that would seal the Woodstock legend. Hey, I am no Baby Boomer disciple. I’ve cast most of that generation as a self-centered megalomaniacal phony-fest. But give it up to them, because with White Nationalism on the rise, and hate-speak in our political and social rhetoric and the general disgusting behavior that is the norm on social media and the Internet, Woodstock is our shining example of good. This, we can say, is what people can do, if…        

Read More

AUGUST 9, 1969

Aquarian Weekly
8/7/19

Reality Check

James Campion


AUGUST 9, 1969
Tinsel Town Terror & The Demonizing of the Drug Culture

The second of a non-concurrent three-part series on major events in our recent history which will be commemorating their fiftieth anniversary this summer. As they approached, it turns out, for me, the memories of these significant dates brought vivid childhood reflections that have remained with me and would be integral to my view of self, America, and society at large.


All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure are ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.
– Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

In the wee hours on the morning of August 9, 1969 four ragamuffin refugees from the California commune/cult acid culture hijacked by a lunatic thirty-four year-old con man, pimp murderer, Charles Milles Manson slipped over the high steel black fencing of 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Once on the grounds they shot to death an eighteen-year-old student, who was merely visiting a friend that worked the grounds of the estate, and then proceeded inside the mansion to massacre in the most brutal way five people, none of whom they had ever so much as met. The screams of the victims, some of them high profile names of American business royalty and one, the young, beautiful nearly nine-months pregnant actress, Sharon Tate, then the wife of celebrated Polish film-maker, Roman Polanski, could be heard echoing through the Hollywood Hills. The crippling fear it engendered in the community, and eventually the nation would be deeply embedded in our collective psyche forever. But perhaps the most jarring cultural/generational impact of these few hours of this extremely bloody and random violence was further imprinted by the cryptic messages smeared along the walls of palatial estate. Piggies.AriseHelter Skelter.

Unlike the moon landing, which I discussed two weeks ago, what would be known as the Manson Murders was not an immediate social-shattering event until the facts began to unfold. This bizarre unraveling would tumble well into the next decade, as the 35 year-old California District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi would investigate, try and convict Manson and his zombie cohorts, Charles “Tex” Watson (age 23), Susan Atkins (21), Patricia Krenwinkel (21), and Leslie Van Houten (19) for these premeditated murders (12/13/71) then publish a book (Helter Skelter – The True Story of the Manson Murders with Curt Gentry, 1974) that would cement its iconography for all time. A TV film was made in 1976, which I saw at 13 and it frightened me like nothing I had experienced. And I was an avid horror buff. Later when I read Bugliosi’s detailed accounts it further intrigued and truly weirded me out. So much so most of my friends, my beloved cousin (sis) Michelle, and any poor bastard who might saunter up to me at a party had to hear about this thing. Shit, the first conversation I would have with the woman who would be my wife surrounded this ghastly tale.

What these cultist, even ritualistic murders would do to Hollywood. and as stated the nation – by the way, these kids went to another middle-aged couple’s house in the area later on August 9 and once again massacred its inhabitants, again festooning bloody messages everywhere –was further exacerbated by its gruesomely puzzling subtext.

It is difficult to separate the “hippy era” of chemical experimentation, free love and egalitarian constructs and brush past Charles Manson and his “Family”, a distilled group of impossibly young runaways and vagabonds mixed with virulent bikers, rapists, drug dealers and professional criminals. Their earthy appearance enhanced by trippy language, long hair, beads, tie-dye and quasi-spiritual granola mumbo jumbo infiltrated the otherwise peace and love edict of first the Haight Ashbury movement up in San Francisco and predictably the brainlessly commercial miasma of what L.A. presented for a tsunami of youth that flooded its streets for most of the decade. Essentially, Manson preyed on a youth crusade to exploit, rip-off and eventually exact vengeance for nearly a lifetime spent in juvenile houses and prison.

But none of this occurred in a vacuum. If anything, The Family, just one of many cult/commune subcultures, illustrated a major fault line developing within the mass hallucination of what was always an unfocused generational shift existing somewhere between fuck-it and serious revolutionary politics.

From the purported and ultra-hyped Summer of Love in 1967 through the assassinations, street riots and horrors of Viet Nam that wreaked havoc in 1968, the relentless heat and intensity of the summer of ’69, made far eerier by the visions of men walking on the moon weeks before, would be the dramatic backdrop for the killings. The stories later of how Manson maniacally brainwashed these otherwise naïve children of our white, privileged middle-class American Dream with sex and drugs bent on the queer interpretations of strangely opaque songs by the deified Beatles and the Bible’s apocalyptic Book of Revelation as a template to terrorist mayhem trembled the zeitgeist. All of this would usher in the pessimistic realities of the nineteen-seventies, nineteen-eighties’ plastic evangelical, unchecked greed and finally the shrugging apathies of the century’s final decade.

In other words, Charles Manson killed “The Sixties”. Within months the aforementioned Beatles, who more less invented and then provided a soundtrack for its times would fracture, a concert in the hills of northern California would result in violence and murder, protesting college kids would be gunned down at Kent State, and Richard Nixon would polarize the country and then obliterate any trust in our institutions.

It is difficult to separate the “hippy era” of chemical experimentation, free love and egalitarian constructs and brush past Charles Manson and his “Family”

The reason why so many late seventies punks and anti-establishment figures of the following decades would wear Manson’s image on their shirts or evoke these thumb-in-the-eye actions against the status quo as a symbol of fear is that the influence of his crimes rose above mere news. The Manson Murders were in the most heinous way American Art; ask Marilyn Manson (um, you get it, right?) or Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers – 1994) or the bare aesthetics of our current smoldering violent nature splayed out over the Internet, on TV and in our neighborhoods. Cult of personality and a whiff of revulsion is how you get the over-saturated media mass-shooting celebrity demons, reality show cretins, and eventually, Donald Trump.

In the end, it is the Boomer visage of Manson that has eclipsed all of the violence, mass murder, serial killer underbelly of American culture. He was a satanic figure to the establishment and for a time (Rolling Stone put him on the cover with the tagline, “Our Continuing Coverage of the Apocalypse”) a symbol of crass import to the counter-culture before that slid eventually into the grim realities of Hunter S. Thompson’s eulogy of “the wave” in his brilliant Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the Rolling Stones brutally poignant Let It Bleed album, and the gritty, ferocious films of the auteur era (Scorsese, Peckinpah).

Turns out Charles Manson just wanted to be a rock star. He recorded mostly shitty demos for record guru Terry Melcher, who previously owned the mansion on Cielo Drive, and hung out with the Beach Boys and ingratiated himself in the Hollywood bohemian culture he sought to destroy. In reality Manson was no hippy. He was a product of the nineteen-fifties’ have-and-have-nots insurrection that would play out in the Civil Rights movement, Beat Poetry and Be-Ins, the Berkeley Free Speech, etc. and would forge a new path; a path for a few hours on August 9, 1969 that turned down a dark and dangerous cul-de-sac and forced us to rediscover our perpetual fascination with our damaged anti-heroes; Frank and Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Al Capone, Pretty “Boy” Floyd, Charles Manson.

But fear not. In less than a week, three days in a hamlet in upstate New York would offer a glimpse of light and reflect the honesty in all that the human experiment can offer to defend itself against all…that…darkness.  

Read More
Page 1 of 8312345»102030...Last »