Second Term Jinx – Obama Style

Aquarian Weekly
5/22/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

obamaThis has been a stellar week for the federal government, and by proxy a bad week for our re-elected president, who has only had to traverse barely five months of a second term when the jinx began to kick in.

Those of us fairly sure that the glass was not only half full but spiked with arsenic have plenty of evidence that the long arm of Washington D.C. has a hand gripping a hammer. All of our greatest enemies; Congress, the Justice Department, The State Department and the dreaded and loathsome Internal Revenue Service have proven to slake our paranoia and crystallize what has been for the past 50 years, since the 36th president’s head exploded in Dallas, Texas, a sense that there is a systemic monster trolling the streets of this nation’s capital and it means business.

Taking the week that was in proper perspective, “we the people” have allowed, and in many ways championed this abuse of power. Both parties have expanded the roles of these institutions and given them far more leeway within the structure of our republic than any democracy, even a phony one such as this, can bear. So here’s the kicker, no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months in the wake of these shenanigans, there is not a whole lot we can do about it.

Let’s work our way backwards in chronology, starting with the biggest abomination.

The FBI, well within its rights under the unconscionable umbrella of the insidiously mad parameters of the Patriot Act and beneath the always-convenient auspices of National Security, infiltrated the sanctity of the Freedom of the Press by spying on and collecting private information gathered by Associated Press reporting. For an entire year, the FBI, whose constitutional abuses have gone unchecked for nearly a century and was given complete and legal autonomy over the private lives of the American citizenry after 9/11, collected the phone records, both cellular and office, of over 20 AP reporters and editors. Predictably, Attorney General Eric Holder, who should already be in prison for the Fast & Furious blunder, took a page from the last administration and began crying a breach of national security after the prominent and trusted journalistic outlet broke a story about a foiled terrorist attack in Yemen.
While there is definitely a rat in the highest corridors of power, this kind of overreach brings to mind decades of underhanded nonsense perpetrated under the guise of “protecting our citizens”, but also reeks of the pathetic type of vengeance the last administration unleashed on the spouse of a CIA agent for his speaking out against the failures of the Iraq War in print, which eventually put the vice president Dick Cheney, Bush Administration political mole Karl Rove and eventual jailbird Scooter Libby in hot water. (second term)

Do we even have to bring up The Pentagon Papers and the spawn of Nixon’s plumbers that put this constitution of ours on the brink of extinction? (second term) But it matters not, since no one seems to mind that we’ve handed federal law enforcers every avenue to manipulate the citizenry and now its Fourth Estate with impunity. The real outrage here should not be that it happened, because it almost always happens; it’s that we’ve allowed it to happen legally, and therefore have little recourse but to swallow this steaming lump of shit and salute the flag.

Next up is the IRS’s politically motivated targeting of TEA Party groups to disallow or delay tax-exempt status during an election season. Once again, the systemic problems with this are deeper than the brash accusations that this is merely an anti-Right Wing government conspiracy since the IRS pulled similar if not worse bullshit with the ACLU prior to the 2004 presidential election.

Firstly, why any political group is allowed tax exempt status is beyond me, as is any religious group for that matter. It is arbitrary and unconstitutional and should not even be an option; which supports this space’s backing of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling that allows any group to financially influence the political system. It is indeed free speech and the blowback against it by political affiliation or candidate is only displayed when it negatively affects them. If politics is about money — and it’s always about money — than everyone should be taxed for it.

All of our greatest enemies; Congress, the Justice Department, The State Department and the dreaded and loathsome Internal Revenue Service have proven to slake our paranoia and crystallize what has been for the past 50 years, since the 36th president’s head exploded in Dallas, Texas, a sense that there is a systemic monster trolling the streets of this nation’s capital and it means business.

Secondly, the IRS — like the FBI with the Patriot Act — which has now been handed by the same Supreme Court the full and complete power to run a national health care system that no one understands and less people actually want — has always had a dicey relationship with the law, not the least of which is its mere existence, which, by the way, is unconstitutional. Thus, the executive branch of this government for my entire lifetime, which now spans the aforementioned half-century, has used the IRS as some kind of political bullwhip against its opponents and enemies. And although there is no evidence this crap has been splashed on the White House, there is little excuse for this beyond political expedience and lends fighting momentum to what is primarily a useless and dying movement.

Finally, as a side note, someone has to tell me the difference between Arizona’s draconian and wholly unconstitutional racial profiling and the IRS discriminating against a particular group. The level of hypocrisy uncovered in the U.S. government’s most reviled and in many ways powerful wing singling out one group to persecute on the heels of that same government suing the state of Arizona for the same thing is off the charts.

We finish up with the fifth or sixth or tenth Benghazi hearing, which is a political carnival hardly worth mentioning, but has begun to ring the Monica Lewinsky bell in the most dense of political sensibilities and therefore will haunt this president as long as these Republican cretins continue to cash in on corpses as some kind of ticket to slandering a Clinton. And if the recent past is any indication, it will not abate anytime soon.

Many of the congressmen who enjoyed wasting our money prosecuting the president of the United States for a blowjob will have no problem trying to make this some kind of Watergate and Iran/Contra thing. And since there really isn’t anything to be uncovered but the usual incompetence of the Pentagon and State Department then this thing has Birther momentum written all over it.

The two biggest problems with this whole charade is timing and, once again, hypocrisy, both of which lessen the credibility of what appears now to most observers as a self-serving political pogrom.

Firstly, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks’ sudden damning testimony against the State Department’s handling of the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi incident, and specifically former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is coming far too late, which stinks of gutless hide-saving and less of heroic whistle-blowing. This is not unlike former G.W. Bush press secretary Scott McClellan’s revelations five years after he defended the Bush Administration’s lies about a multi-billion dollar boondoggle of a war that took the lives of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans (hammered in this space in the pithy FUCK SCOTT MCCLELLAN — Issue: 6/4/08) or National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke’s late-to-the-party accusations that the highest ranking officials in the Bush Administration ignored many memos and warnings of an impending attack by al Qaeda mere days before 9/11 (also took a plucky pounding in THE DENIZENS OF POILTICS — Issue: 4/14/04).

If this was such a bombshell and Hicks was such a hero, where was he the first or second or third time around this Benghazi carousel? All of a sudden he’s got balls and dirt?

Secondly, many of these lawmakers’ faux outrage is either disingenuous or fabricated since during the previous administration 13 attacks on non-Iraqi American embassies resulting in 53 deaths hardly merited a peep. Does this pass even the most partisan smell test?
Nope.

But the fact that this is being written a few months into a second term means we are well on our way to another shitty run for a re-elected president and his government and a sad repeat of the last 50 years of disastrous leadership.

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Be Careful

Aquarian Weekly
5/1/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

BE CAREFUL

Men are qualified for civil liberties in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites: in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity.— Edmund Burke

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.— Rahm Emanuel

edmund_burkeEdmund Burke is an interesting cat. I like to read him when alarmists shout incessantly about how things are worse than ever. Things are not worse than ever. It is far better. Not everything, of course. Most things are far, far better. Burke understood this concept more than most. Burke was not an absolutist. He was a realist. However, despite things being generally better, we tend to repeat our mistakes, especially ones made in recent history. Like this week, when for reasons understandable to human emotions; fear, grief and hate, but not so much in the pursuit of our intellectual and legal collective known as the United States of America, we are dangerously close to trading on our civil liberties…again.

Suddenly, as two bombs go off in Boston, we are faced, in a far less and entirely different set of circumstances as 9/11 — let’s not detach ourselves completely from reality, here — but with an equally charged political and social dilemma. When confronted with our own (false) sense of safety, how much does protecting the freedoms that separate us from most of the planet matter?

Burke is also an interesting cat because he is simultaneously the “philosophical founder of modern conservatism” and “the font of liberalism”; both forces always at work whenever this nation feels a tinge of vulnerability. We are constantly under siege from these two damaged and discredited notions on how our liberties should be compromised. Oh, they love to throw their aphorisms around, mostly framing the other side as some kind of enemy to “the greater cause”.

Then, ever so slowly, almost without notice, you become indebted to their ideologies and forced to ask their permission to see if you’ve been a good little American.

By all this I mean to say that the discussion (some of it serious, most of it drivel) following a tragedy, for instance, Newtown or Boston, most assuredly veers into the diminishing of our rights; whether it’s to curtail the purchase of a certain level of gun or its ammunition or blithely calling to wave every possible right granted to an American citizen by the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, like Miranda rights or search and seizure, etc. And what makes it all so interesting is that those who defend the rights granted by the Second Amendment in the former case are now the same clamoring about trashing Amendments 4 and 5 and a few more for good measure.

Don’t be fooled. Both liberals and conservatives are always keen on limiting your freedoms, while clouding up your vision of this by arguing that the other has a monopoly on those limits. We’ve discussed these anomalies, or more to the point, hypocrites many, many times in this space, far too many times to fathom. But be very aware and extremely careful when it comes to this bullshit about national security. This is when freedoms always end up on the chopping block.

Don’t be fooled. Both liberals and conservatives are always keen on limiting your freedoms, while clouding up your vision of this by arguing that the other has a monopoly on those limits. We’ve discussed these anomalies, or more to the point, hypocrites many, many times in this space, far too many times to fathom. But be very aware and extremely careful when it comes to this bullshit about national security. This is when freedoms always end up on the chopping block.

The disastrous response to 9/11, all of it still on display today, from airport security, the uselessness of Homeland Security, the ramp up in military action and the tragically tyrannical Patriot Act, was some of the most egregious attacks on our basic civil rights ever enacted. Don’t get me wrong, there were terrible examples of this each time war reared its ugly head in this country, but these were particularly thorny in a time when the expansion of knowledge (the internet and soon to be social media and these now ubiquitous phone/camera/video recorders) was giving us a more penetrating glimpse into our government’s direct role in the robbing of our rights.

The reason many over-shot the presumption that George W. Bush was “the worst president ever”, the way they now deem the current president (mostly through revenge, because Obama has some way to go to be as destructive as Bush) is because we have more information. Now, being riddled with information is not always the best thing, (most of it is paranoid innuendo) but it is preferable to being completely in the dark as Americans were during the War of 1812 or the Civil War or the Spanish/American War or pretty much every war through Viet Nam. It could be said that information was what eventually doomed the criminally insane doings in Viet Nam, or as military supporters will couch it: “We were too wishy-washy about our determined mission there”, which actually means that the government couldn’t quietly get away with the same level of chicanery it did for entirety of the 20th century up to that point.

So that brings us to now, where we have a 19 year-old American citizen incarcerated in the state of Massachusetts, the very breeding ground of the American experiment, for the crimes of murdering and seriously injuring other American citizens. Some want him tried as a military combatant, which would obliterate any case against him, for the simple and binding reason that he is not a military combatant, anymore than Timothy McVeigh, who as an American citizen (not given the title of president), perpetrated the greatest harm to this country’s citizenry ever.
This also bring us to the notion that because the FBI had once interviewed one of the Boston suspects some years ago and let him go, the government is now considering “lowering the bar” on what it means to be “a serious threat to national security”.

Whoa, jack. Hang on there.

Who decides this? What “bar” and who is deciding to “lower” it to what now?
This badly formed but wholly important previous sentence is what should have been asked in 2001, and, quite frankly, before each time the government tried to put its citizens on notice that “well, as long as you are safe (which we’ve already determined is a false premise to begin with) then you can endure a little less of your rights.”

Look, I do not believe gun control could work, or as history shows in the recent past, has worked in this country; however , I have a better shot at making the argument that it is a far more pressing issue than terrorism. Since 1970, when terrorism began to take hold as an effective method for those not fortunate enough to have nukes and ambassadors and a CIA or KGB at their disposal to make a mark on the international violence tote board, about 3,400 people have been killed in this country in “terror-related” deaths. From 1980 to the present, nearly one million people have been killed from a gun.
Either way, no tragedy or crisis, as former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once mused leading up to the massively unconstitutional Affordable Care Act, ever passes around here without someone concocting some new way to eliminate a portion of your rights.

Be aware.

Be careful.

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The Lessons of Boston (4/15/13)

Aquarian Weekly 4/24/13 REALITY CHECK

THE LESSONS OF BOSTON

So what will be the monthly flavor of scapegoat now that crudely homemade bombs are the latest to invade our cushy national illusion?

The very week the Senate, as expected, voted down any measure of background checks in the pursuit of our weaponry, we have new villains with new devices in which to wreak havoc.

More shrieks of horror and glimpses of carnage on jumbled amateur video played incessantly across television-land, later joined by the obligatory analysis from “experts” in law enforcement, national security, terrorist activities, psychologists, clergymen, and a parade of stunned witnesses. Tearful tributes from statesmen, politicians, celebrities, and another fanfare-induced appearance by the president, interrupted by half-assed reporting about arrests and suspects – on FOXNEWS it’s the “brown-skinned Saudi running from the scene” and on MSNBC it was TEA Party Right Wing maniacs protesting tax day.

Boston 4/15/13CNN’s John King, who was amazingly not fired on the spot, egregiously reported for nearly an hour that there was an arrest, prompting hundreds of people and media to converge on the city’s courthouse. King, who made a mockery of the only presidential primary debate he was allowed to mediate, is the latest poster boy for knee-jerk uncorroborated showbiz that passes for journalism on every cable news outlet.

Not to be outdone, the NY Post, arguably the worst piece of shit printed on a daily basis since Randolph Hearst dropped dead, not only reported far more causalities than occurred, but later slapped two innocent young men on its front page as guilty.

Shock, panic, disdain, confusion, grief, racism, and erroneous innuendo passed off as news; these are the offspring of what has become an all-too familiar scene of destruction at the hands of some lunatic. But what is it that we’ve learned?

Not the obvious; for instance, it’s fortunate that everyone everywhere now has a camera and the Lord & Taylor’s department store chain has a better surveillance system than the Pentagon. Or two young American brothers (legal immigrants from the Caucuses region of Russia) with baggie jeans, baseball caps and duffle bags filled with basement bombs they probably built with the help of YOUTUBE, were able to pull this off.

Nah, I mean what have we really learned?

To hear Senator John King tell it, (not a good week for people named John King) if nothing else we must continue to dump even more money we don’t have into the sinkhole that is Homeland Security. It doesn’t hurt that America’s favorite xenophobe was formerly the chairman of that aforementioned boondoggle.

One thing we’ve not learned, and no interrogation nor its ensuing trial will shed any light on it; why some kids were motivated to play revolutionaries. This unsophisticated clusterfuck, which ended up more like the dark-comedy plot of a Coen Brothers movie than terrorism, is what happens when the end game for the disappointments, insecurities and general confusion in life is violence. These coddled, selfish, lazy-ass whiners had no better reason to leave explosives in a city street than walk into a school and begin shooting or blowing up a government building in Oklahoma City.

If people were not generally “good” then all the law enforcement and gun checks and Homeland Security would have no shot at keeping you or your family free from the crazies.

It’s only been a couple of hours since they’ve apprehended the surviving 19 year-old little sheetheel who perpetrated this atrocity, and we’re already trying to diagnose insanity. How did he become radicalized? Where did he get this insatiable need to destroy and kill? Hell, I was radicalized at the library. Go into any library, and thank the great notion of free speech and expression there is radical thought -but please don’t equate correlation with causation; that way lies damnation or at the very least the national nightmare we endured the months and years after 9/11 when we lowered out intellectual standards to satisfy our bestial, chest-thumping jingoistic ritualism. It wasn’t the first time, and, sadly, to listen to the maniacal voices that have emerged in the wake of this horror, it shan’t be the last.

Remember, the freedoms we enjoy that celebrate this nonsense of American exceptionalism can create a Steve Jobs, a Jay-Z, a Lebron James, builds skyscrapers, discover cures for diseases, experiment with the cosmos, but it also breeds narcissistic mutants, who believe their little corner of the psyche is more important than anyone else sucking air.

Fortunately, what we did learn is that what happened at the Boston Marathon was actually, considering the odds, a pretty rare event. Why doesn’t this happen more often? Because people are basically good, or if you don’t get into existential reasoning, then people are generally accepting of the societal collective; that everyone has a right to exist, even if it doesn’t jibe with your myopic, bullshit view of the world. If not for the rest of us, this would happen two, three times daily. And if not for us, there could be no more marathons or any public event outside of an arena or theater where they can’t wand, frisk and pat you down every which way.

If people were not generally “good” then all the law enforcement and gun checks and Homeland Security would have no shot at keeping you or your family free from the crazies.

In fact, the greater good was on display the day the crazies slithered through the cracks again. The greater good rushed to help the injured, tying make-shift tourniquets, carrying the fallen, tending to the hysterical. Homes were opened to the wounded and triages set up in parking garages. Boston channeled its inner NYC, circa 9/11/01, and displayed a greater confirmation about our humanity than could ever be torn to shreds by bombs.

I’m not sure how many of these things I’ve written about now, but there really is no lesson to any of it, except, of course, that we are all in this together. Either we act more civilly than not or this whole shit house goes up in flames. Simple as that.

We’re running out of analysis.

We’re running out of laws.

We’re running out of fact-finders.

We’re running out of excuses.

We had better not run out of the “good”.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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John Densmore Fights To Save The Doors Legacy

Aquarian Weekly 4/17/13 Feature

THE DOORS: IDENTITY CRISIS IN THE LAND OF $$$
Drummer, John Densmore Revives the Ghost of Jim Morrison in a Fight to Define Art, Integrity & Legacy

There is being an idealist, and then there is John Densmore. There is defining integrity, and then there is John Densmore. There is putting money, reputation and professional legacy where the mouth and the heart reside, and then there is John Densmore.

John DensmoreThe legendary drummer’s new book, The Doors Unhinged – Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial is a compelling look at defining the cost of art, integrity and legacy. Where is the line drawn between creativity and commerce? When does a band turn from a vehicle for artistic expression to a commodity, or is it always both? If so, which is more pertinent? And most importantly, what’s in a name? Is it identity? Is it purity? Or does it have many definitions? And exactly who defines it?

The Doors Unhinged is a story about longtime friends, brothers-in-arms, fighting tooth-and-nail to define their creation; The Doors – its image and rightful place as an American icon, as either a product to be re-packaged for profit or a collective with the living DNA of four unique members that ceased to be, in reality, after 1971.

Densmore’s The Doors Unhinged is less about his struggles for personal principle as it is about definitions; not only definitions put on trial between long-time colleagues, but in a court of law, where the story transforms from a passion play among members of a powerful and lucrative creative entity to a battle for survival, both professional and personal.

For 45 years, The Doors have stood as an exemplar of the late 1960s’ pioneer rock era; breaking molds, bending styles, and staking claim to an exploding culture of youth, fashion and political and social dissent. During the band’s heyday, Densmore was its quietest member. He chose, and quite enjoyed, staying in the background to drive the sound behind the flowing keyboards of Ray Manzarek and guitarist, Robby Krieger’s accenting resonance. But it was putting an exclamation to the manic poetry of the enigmatic detonation that was the late Jim Morrison that really jazzed Densmore.

To Densmore, Morrison represented the ideals of rebellion. His search for escapism and pure freedom fueled songs that topped the charts; “Light My Fire”, “Break On Through (To The Other Side)”, “Hello, I Love You”, “Touch Me”, and others that darkened the edges of the counter-culture, “When The Music’s Over”, “People Are Strange”, and “The End”. Consequently, it was Morrison’s wish that none of the fame and fortune would sever the bond of the four young men, as they explored new musical and lyrical territories without constraint. This wish was confirmed in the band’s rare commitment, never considered before in the entertainment industry, that all four members would have an equal voice to defy the rest of the outfit, as Morrison put it back in 1967, ‘if things got weird”.

In 2003, things got weird.

Densmore, who never stopped believing Morrison’s edict, was forced to stand for the principles of a man long dead and a band long gone when Manzarek and Krieger decided to promote and tour a 21st Century Doors. Despite assurances that the “tribute” would not be labeled as The Doors reunited, Densmore was forced into legal recourse to halt what he felt was misleading to the band’s fan base and an insult to both he and Morrison’s place in the original band. Desperate to keep the gravy train moving, Manzarek and Krieger counter-sued Densmore for $40 million, claiming his continued filibuster of advertising opportunities to use Doors songs to sell just about anything was ruining them financially and sequestering “the brand”.

And so The Doors Unhinged, in essence, bears witness to the purported 60s philosophies and the lingering notion that they still exist or at least it wasn’t all merely a fraudulent attempt to cash in.

The author, one of the most inventive percussionists of the rock era, took time out in early April to reflect on this painful and illuminating diary of the events that ensued.

You write so poignantly about this ugly battle between brothers-in-arms. I wonder if it was even more difficult to share your inner most fears and beliefs with the world.

It wasn’t as difficult to write it down as going through it. (laughs) The old phrase, time heals? Well, time does heal. Technically, it was hard, but I took years to do it. I worked real hard at trying to not to make it a legalese, blah-blah, boring, technical lawyer thing. So, I interspersed my emotions. I let the writing drift off when I was in the courtroom – I mean, I didn’t do that when I was actually in the court room – but I wanted the reader to get inside my mind, so I could better tell the stories of sitting in with Carlos Santana or seeing Elvin Jones. I’m real pleased it’s available for those that are interested.

It was pretty difficult as a fan of The Doors to read about how the lawyers for your friends and colleagues stooped to accusing you of being a communist or worse still, a terrorist. I’ve been covering politics for decades, and even I was appalled.

“You know, now that this book is coming out a cloud is lifted from me. It feels healing, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow for Ray and Robbie.”

I know. It’s funny, because in the beginning the fans, the really hardcore ones, thought I was destroying their favorite band. But now that they can finally read the whole journey, they will hopefully get the idea that I was trying to preserve the integrity of the original group. Now that this book is coming out a cloud is lifted from me. It’s healing, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow for Ray and Robbie. In the last chapter I say, “Hey, how can I not love you guys, we created this incredible thing together.” Musically, they’re my brothers forever. They just didn’t see that The Doors got knocked off its hinges by their idea that they could play without Jim. And that’s been proven wrong.

Your signature point in the book is Morrison’s well-documented outburst against the selling-out of “Light My Fire” to Buick back in 1968. And an intriguing element of the unfolding story is in defining how a 27 year-old man, who stands for so much of the 60s’ imagery, would come across today had he lived. Yet, Morrison’s ideals are frozen in time. There was no maturing or being corrupted or compromising for Morrison. Yet, despite Krieger and Manzarek arguing in court that over time, as he aged, Jim would have evolved in his thinking about selling out The Doors’ integrity for profit, you stood by the ghost of your friend, as if he were here today to speak for himself.

I’m very proud the first line of the book is “Fuck you!” Jim saying “Fuck you!” (laughs) If he were alive today would he okay using Doors songs to sell Cadillac? I’m not unaware of the fact that times have changed and the music business, like all the creative businesses, is really difficult, and as I write in the book; if a new band wants to use their stuff to hawk some product to pay the rent, I get that. It’s just that in our situation we’ve already done well and if a new band begins to do well maybe then they should revisit whether they should do commercials anymore, because, as Tom Waits wrote, “You’ve changed your lyrics to a jingle.”

Two of my great heroes, lyrically and musically, Tom Waits and Pete Townshend are quoted in your book arguing both sides of the point. Waits is vehemently against having his music used purely for commerce while Townshend states emphatically that he can do what he wants with his songs and shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And I can see both sides of it.

Yeah, yeah, it’s true. Townshend’s quote is funny; “I don’t give a fuck if you fell in love with Shirley to my song, I’ll do what I want with it.” (laughs)

But Townshend gets to speak for himself, while Morrison could not. I liken it to arguing that if Martin Luther King had been alive today he might say, “I’d like to reconsider this whole civil rights thing.” You have to go by what a person did and said during their time. That’s all you’ve got.

That’s it exactly, James. All you’ve got is what they did when they were alive. What else could you base your thoughts on?

You see, where Manzarek and Krieger lost me was when they, or their lawyers, used the 1969 Miami incident where Morrison was arrested for lewd behavior and public disturbance or whatever, to besmirch him. In all the books I’ve read on The Doors and interviews I’d heard or seen, all of you guys clearly denounced the charges against Morrison, especially for allegedly exposing himself on stage, which ostensibly finished The Doors as a touring act. Until this case, all the surviving Doors are on record as stating none of these things happened.

That’s what’s hysterical, really, because at the trial in Miami Robbie was asked, “Did Mr. Morrison simulate performing oral sex on you?” To which he said “No! Are you kidding? He gets down on his knees to look at my fingers! He’s enamored with musicians since he can’t play an instrument.” So here are his lawyers implying that it was true, as if Ray and Robbie were never there!

This is where I was on board with your rather lofty goal of “honoring your ancestor”. In essence, you stood by a lost member of the band, who could no longer defend his fourth voice in the collective, his equal vote to stop the band from selling out. It really is an honorable gesture to uphold the legacy and wishes of Morrison and saying, “Jim still gets a vote here.” That is The Doors.

I agree. And since the trial, Jim’s dad has passed, and his mom too, so now they’re ancestors as well. We’re standing on all their shoulders. It was so touching to me; you know, I had never met Jim’s dad. I had met his mom, but I hadn’t met his dad until this trial. And here I initiate this horrible struggle and this great gift of hanging with his dad comes along; how he turned the past around and supported his son’s legacy even while we had written songs against the Viet Nam War as he was over there fighting it! So, what a great healing of the 60s’ in a way.

The Door UnhingedWhat hit home for me as I was reading your account is vividly recalling when I was younger and wanting to be a writer and dabbling in poetry and all that stuff you do when you’re trying to find your identity or your voice, how much An American Prayer was so influential and inspiring to me. I have many literary heroes and influences, and consider Jim Morrison as one. And I’ve had my arguments over the years with those who dismiss Morrison as a poser or a hack because of his affiliation as a pop star. There’s a legitimacy factor that I’ve always embraced with Morrison and The Doors, so to read how you stood by that hit home for me. I found myself rooting you on as I read it.

Well, thanks. Yeah, we really enjoyed doing American Prayer. You know, Jim was really over the top in some of his lyrics and behavior, so people wrote him off. In fact, you gave me an idea, I usually read a little excerpt from American Prayer while playing a hand drum. I think I’ll do that at the Vintage Vinyl signing. I’ll dedicate it to you.

Cool. I’ve got to be there then. Getting back to your trial and this battle to maintain the integrity of The Doors – now that this is all settled, and we’ll let people decide by reading your book how it all comes out and what they believe was the right angle; what are your thoughts on the line drawn between art and commodity? Does it move from when you’re struggling to put food on the plate to when you’re a rock star? Is it tangible?

You know, I quote Lewis Hyde, who wrote a book called The Gift, which really nails it for me. He says there is a gift exchanged between the artist and the receiver and it doesn’t matter if you’re paying for an opera ticket or a concert ticket or whatever, it’s still this gift. But if you change the work of art entirely into a commodity, you’re going to lose the gift. I like that very much. It’s kind of what I’m saying, whether it’s a painting or music or whatever the hell it is, it’s an expression of the artist in trying to share what it’s like being human. There’s a sacred something exchanged there. And, you know, if you make it be about a new deodorant I think you’ve lost the gift.

But I can also see the other point about creativity being your trade. I’m not sure how you feel about what Pink Floyd went through with Roger Waters or what KISS goes through when they tour with two new guys in the make-up of the original guys and selling it as KISS, and I’ve had Alice Cooper tell me in interviews that he created this character and if someone wanted to carry on as Alice Cooper after he was gone that would be all right with him. This is really about definitions; how The Doors are ultimately defined, and in this book you define it as a singular entity, almost sacred. There are some things that are not for sale.

Well, I’m so grateful for something Tom Waits said, and I put it on the back of the book; “John Densmore is not for sale and that’s his gift to us.” But, you know, Alice Cooper, that’s his name, where this is The Doors, and that’s not Jim’s name. It reminds me of this moment when we were on stage and were introduced as “Jim Morrison and The Doors” and Jim dragged the promoter back out and made him re-introduce us as The Doors. So, behind closed doors – sorry about that – we were four equal parts. Even L.A. Woman was a good, strong album, and Jim was clearly an alcoholic by then. When we were alone, the four of us, the muse still blessed us. And so I feel okay. I feel the beginning of a healing with Ray and Robbie, because something bigger than us helped us make our music.

Ultimately, did you see those guys touring as the 21st Century Doors, and more or less promoting it as The Doors, as identity theft?

Yes. That’s pretty good. I know I did say, “The Doors died in a bathtub in Paris in ’71”, but you know, Jim’s such an icon that he lives on in everyone’s mind. Of course, I was just trying to make it clear that The Doors were Jim, Ray, Robbie and John – John, Paul, George, Ringo – it’s not Ray, Robbie, Ian (Astbury – The Cult, new singer), Stuart (Copeland – former Police drummer), Fred and Tom. The Stones without Mick? The Police without Sting? No, come on. The Doors were knocked off their hinges for a few years due to this idea, but they’re back on their hinges now. Thank God.

I always say I’d trade all the shows I saw in my lifetime for one evening watching you guys ply your trade, because as I understand it, a Doors show was literally an organic experience, no matter how bad it got or how brilliant it got, no one could predict what the hell would happen. So, I ask you; someone who played that music and performed those shows; how did you feel when you came on stage with The Doors? As the lights went down and the crowd was cheering and you guys were about to crash into the first song; did you have that same feeling of, here we go, let’s see what goes down now?

“Unpredictability was a main ingredient. You know, Jim could be completely wild or quiet and it created a ritual or something like a séance. What’s gonna happen tonight? “

(laughs) It’s funny. Unpredictability was a main ingredient. You know, Jim could be completely wild or quiet and it created a ritual or something like a séance. What’s gonna happen tonight? It was sort of crazy, but also magical. A lot of the time it was magic, until his self destruction increased and then I was lobbying for us to stop playing live. And it took me a year to convince Ray and Robbie of this, because I missed the magic. It was so good in the beginning. It was, you know, goose bumps…pin-drop time. Usually we’d play “Light My Fire” and everybody would be on their feet dancing and then we’d play “The End” as an encore and people would file out…quietly. (chuckles) Like they were gonna take it home and chew on it.

Maybe my favorite piece of video of you guys, and it might have been in Europe, is The Doors playing live on a television show and doing “The End”, which in and of itself is gutsy – here you are probably expected to do the hit, to play “Light My Fire” on a pop television show, and you’re playing this eleven-minute opus with bizarre poetic references and Oedipal overtones and this is not a theater or a rock club. The studio lights are up and you can see the audience and these people are between awe and shock. That’s pretty profound, man. And I think unique to The Doors.

(laughs) It reminds me of a gig in Mexico City. We were promised to play in the bull ring for the people who had just a few pesos in exchange for playing a ritzy supper club. And we went down there and there was some riot in the bull ring a few weeks before and they ended up cancelling us playing there. We were so depressed. So here we were playing for these people eating supper in a real ritzy club and we were playing “The End” and they were trying to cut their steaks… (laughs) …with mouthfuls of food. (laughs)

That kind of story reminds me of how you really just loved the whole thing; not just being in The Doors, but, like I said before, the whole sacred thing about those four guys. In fact, you were the last person in the inner sanctum to speak with Morrison before he died. Could you take a minute and recount that conversation. Did you get an eerie feeling that maybe it might be the last time you spoke to Morrison?

Oh, boy. (sighs) Well, I could tell he was still drinking, so that was disturbing, but no…I didn’t think it would be the last time I’d talk to him. But I appreciated his enthusiasm for hearing how well L.A. Woman was doing, because we produced it ourselves with Bruce Botnick, our longtime engineer in our rehearsal room, and we had more control. So, it was fun to do. And Jim said, “Oh, man, I’ll come back. We’ll make another one!”

Which is a cool story, because in most books I’ve read on The Doors or on Morrison, it always depicts him as wanting to shed The Doors and become a legitimate poet and leave all that rock god stuff behind. But when you tell it, it sounds like he still held his place in The Doors in high regard.

Yes.

Greil Marcus’ new book on The Doors, The Doors – Five Mean Years, argues for the relevance of The Doors today. I loved the story about when he was visiting his dad, who was in a hospital at the time a few years back, driving across the Bay Bridge from Oakland or Berkley to San Francisco and listening to several rock/pop radio stations for weeks on end – every day – and in that hour or so drive there and back almost inevitably with all the new stuff like Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake or whatever, there would be a Doors song and how more than any band from the past, The Doors still seemed to have a resonance among this generation, how the band transcended its time so well. It’s not like you guys are stuck in that time. The Doors are still relevant. And this speaks to your battle to protect that, not just for nostalgic purposes, but for now, for today and for all time.

Well, I don’t know why it’s lasted so long. It must be the drumming. (laughs)

That segues into a final question I have for you: What do you hope people who didn’t experience all this turmoil between you and Robbie and Ray and the court case and everything you describe take away from your book?

Well, at the risk of being on a soapbox and sounding like Mister PC, there’s an underlying theme in this book…money. And as I quote Michael Mead, a mythologist friend of mine; “Currency comes from the word ‘current’, and it’s supposed to flow like a river. So if the corporate leaders horde everything – the billionaires damn it all up – money becomes like fertilizer; when horded it stinks and when spread around things grow, I’m kind of arrogantly implying that my personal struggles with my band might be metaphoric for bigger issues. That make sense?

It does.

I guess I’m talking about integrity or whatever the hell.

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Springtime For North Korea

Aquarian Weekly 4/17/13 REALITY CHECK

SPRINGTIME FOR NORTH KOREA

Getting hyped about North Korea saber rattling in spring is tantamount to being floored about the flowers budding in the backyard. It is a rite of the season. Many of the nation’s goofy ritualistic observances happen around now. It is a military history. It is a military economy. No one bothered to declare an official peace between the North and the South when we high-tailed it out of there sixty years ago, so it’s a thing. Now, suddenly, it’s a big thing, mainly because there’s a new nut in charge. Big deal. New nut, young nut, means he has to One: Keep the military from sniffing weakness, coup de tat-ing him into small pieces, and dumping what’s left into the East China Sea or Two: Make the citizenry forget its starving to death. But, really, it’s same-old/same-old.

Kim Jung UnIt’s important for tyrannical regimes to wake up the echoes when the seasons turn. The dead tend to stank when the temperatures nip above freezing. Oh, the streets are filled with dead. This is North Korea’s chief manufacturing quotient, specifically since its Central Military Commission finds refurbished Soviet tanks and 1979-era missiles to be just fine. The 80s’ never die in North Korea, it gets recycled like Daryl Hall. This kind of thing is important to imperial lunatic Kim Jung Un, whose humorously non-threatening chubby cuteness never ceases. He’s the soft imp in the schoolyard that has to have the biggest mouth, because if someone begins to tease him, he’s done.

Un was a big fan of Hall & Oates when he was tending to his studies as a boy in Switzerland near a town called Bern, where summer comes but six weeks a year and the temperature barely touches the mid-70s’; an excellent place to preserve street corpses.

Un never missed many meals (obviously) and joyfully learned much of what matters from Western custom; cheeseburgers, basketball, masturbation and acting tough. Much of this was learned outside the classroom, through the bootleg Hollywood films his father sent him in those care packages with the annotated Mein Kampf and a stained Calvin & Hobbs tee shirt.

Kim Jung Il, the previous lunatic, was very fond of Hollywood and its most precious commodity; bullshit. His was a life bloated with bullshit – speaking it, acting it, performing it. Un learned well. His posed photographs gripping binoculars are right out of Patton, as is his strategic pointing maneuvers. He learned the presidential wave from Saddam Hussein, whom the North Koreans affectionately called gaegogi, which means dog meat.

Dog meat is the chief delicacy in Korea, but for North Koreans it is but a dream. Most eat dirt or bug feces, when they’re not eating each other. Cannibalism is up in North Korea. There is talk now among government officials to strike its criminal stigma and begin to offer instructional films on how to prepare human entrails over a barrel fire. Yes, they still use actual film there, digital devices are banned and cannot be eaten, so are ignored by 99.6 percent of the populace. This may all be horrid and morally reprehensible to an over-fed American, but to the North Korean it is simply known as the weekend.

A place for men to be men and phonies to pretend there’s something left to fight for.

But nicknames and cannibalism aside, Un learned another key lesson from Hussein; it’s best to keep telling everyone that you have an impressive cadre of weapons, whether you do or not. Keeps the insiders happy (frightened) and makes the outsiders – for Hussein, Iran, for Un, South Korea, Japan, China, etc. – take notice (get pissed). No one with half a brain after a few months thought Saddam Hussein had more than a matchbox set under his fancy tents and nobody outside of Pyongyang believes the country has much more than antiquated pop guns. This is a show; lights, camera, in-action!

Not even China believes a word Un says, just as they placated his dad’s raving. It’s all part of the plan to keep North Korea appearing relevant, so it can provide a buffer. No one on the mainland needs Western nonsense knocking on the door. Plus, it’s an easy way to sell weapons to terrorists without upsetting the U.S., which it needs to bankroll and buy all of its crap.

And that brings us to another pressing anniversary; it’s been one year since North Korea could barely get a missile off the ground and became the laughing stock of Asia. This cannot stand. Kim Jung Un is using all that Hollywood dog meat to get his dander up and keep all the propagandized worship flowing – and keep the neighbors out of the living room.

As for South Korea, literally 300 feet of living room separates the two warring nations in the DMZ, an ad hoc demilitarized zone where enlisted geeks stare at each other for hours a day. Created when Douglas MacArthur went sideways and Truman got bored, this Cold War relic is a testament to the continuously spectacular stupidity displayed by the human animal. The room has a line running down the middle like something out of “I Love Lucy”. Holy shit, did I just reference “I Love Lucy”? There must have been some sitcom in the last sixty years that had two warring parties divide the goddamn room up.

Shit, I am old.

But not as old as this North Korea/South Korea crap. It is very old; a lot older than a good many people reading this. And somehow, with all the spectacular uninterrupted stupidity and the dog meat and the generations of fancy lunatics, it’s all still there. A place for men to be men and phonies to pretend there’s something left to fight for.

Springtime for North Korea.

Has a nice ring to it.

Should be a musical. Call Mel Brooks.

 

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 4/10/13 REALITY CHECK

READERS RESPONSES

Mr. Campion,

The drone policy of our government and the absolute powers exhibited by this president, as were the last ones by the previous administration, are the obvious consequences of the way we as citizens allowed the zealous deconstruction of our rights immediately after 9/11. (LIFE (AND DEATH) DURING PERPETUAL WARTIME – Issue: 2/13/12) Back then there was at least an excuse: the shock and fear that we were not as powerful and untouchable as we once had thought. Panic set in at the highest corridors of our government and we demanded to we protected and see justice served. We did not seem to care about what would come of it. We went for immediate gratification; we let our principles as a free people go away – torture, spying, invading countries that had nothing to do with out plight. We were damned scared and acted like it – from people to government.

What is happening now is far more frightening. We have learned nothing from the Bush/Cheney years. We have a president who ran against these atrocities, promised to shut down our illegal prisons and to be transparent in our overseas operations. He lied. And by now using drones against American citizens and having an enemies list to rub out while continuing to try and negotiate fairly with rogue nations like Iran in a hotbed of revolt and anti-American fervor throughout a volatile Middle East, things have gone full circle.

We know now, as you say, there is no going back. We are a war nation more than ever before. And while World War II was massive and Viet Nam disastrous, we now may never know a time without our most generous resource and biggest export is violence and death.

Andrew Simon

 

I don’t know who the bad guys are any more. I have to trust that someone does. Who is accountable? Have we evolved to the degree where our inherent need to conduct warfare has honed itself to strategic levels where now only a few will die (compared to past slaughters, ethnic cleansing, holodomors etc.)? We shout for transparency regarding who our government is offing (or planning to off) while at the same time we willingly place all of our faith in those who we feel will protect us while hoping, with all of our might, that they have the wisdom to act in a manner that justifies the authority we have handed them. We curl up in our metaphorical Snuggies and watch the Grammys pausing at a commercial break to briefly take stock of the world that surrounds us before sticking or heads back into the sand. We sleep soundly at night believing that the Good Guys are taking care of business when we know that there are no longer “good guys” or “bad guys”. That there never really was. Just degrees of bad and levels of tolerance. Nazis, Khmer rouge, Stalinistas or Grey Wolves. CIA, IRA, KGB, KFC. Our government has always held the right to indiscriminately kill us (Just ask the American Indian). The saving grace is that, at least now, they have the technology to do it with precision.

Peter Saveskie

 

Where is the Left now that their beloved president is in the same black hole as Dick Cheney, the minister of unlawful hate and destruction? Where is the outrage? The anti-war protests? Killing citizens? How about Rand Paul waiting twelve hours during an inexhaustible filibuster in the senate for an answer from our chief law officer on whether it is legal for the government to murder its citizens on suspicion of terrorism. This is FDR Japanese interment camps and Nixon’s enemies list. It is Bush’s domestic surveillance, and it is wrong.

VV782

 

It’s hilarious. The last president killed innocents abroad – women, children, bombing schools and churches for absolutely nothing, but since they weren’t Americans, it was apparently fine. Now this guy kills one American (a terrorist) and there is wild screaming – especially from the Right that has no leg to stand on after their dismantling of the constitution and destruction of the economy.

I say, drone away.

It is better than sending my son to another duty in a country we had no business being in in the first place. THANK YOU, GEORGE BUSH.

Laura B.

 

Come on, James be real. (JOE COOL BUDGET/GUNS/IMMIGRATION/EDUCATION TOUR 2013 – Issue: 2/27/13) The Democrat Senate and the Democrat President do not pass budgets because they do not have to. The Big 3 networks, CNN, MSNBC, the NEW York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times and every other major daily rag have never and will never call their guys out and so doing the heavy lifting is left to the next guy. Hence the problem with sequestration. The whole she-bangabang was Barack Hussein’s idea and now that it is blowing up in his face he gets the Palace Scribes to go out and blame the GOP. The GOP on the other hand is not doing themselves any favors by allowing themselves to get butt violated by this President and not fighting back. The fact you haven’t figured out why Barry Soetero is out on tour is rather funny. Don’t you understand it is easier to campaign than govern? He has a media who will support his every whim and never call him on it and he has a free 747 full of Jet A for whenever he needs it. He stays on the campaign trail and will never have to be held to account for his many failures.

It is funny, when there is a Republican President, it is all his fault but when there is a Democrat President both sides are at fault. Oh to be a Democrat at a time when 47% are living off your benevolence….

Peace, Bill Roberts

 

I am positive there will be no gun control laws passed by this or any congress ever. The president can go on all the populist tours he’d like. We love our guns. And by the way we love our shitty fast food and our porn and our reality shows and our beer and pot and NASCAR and there is not a damned thing the northern NY establishment elite can do about it. They cannot touch that. And we don’t care what manner of murdering anti-societal inbreeds you call us either. This is not going to change. Live with it.

GABBA-GABBA

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John Densmore Interview (2013)

TRANSCRIPT 4/9/13

JOHN DENSMORE INTERVIEW
Unedited Transcript

James?

Yes.

John Densmore.

John , how are you, sir?

John DensmoreI’m good, thanks. How are you?

I’m well. Big fan here, so this is a big deal for me. So thank you very much for the time.

Oh, you bet.

Not only a big fan of your work as a musician over the years, but I really enjoyed your two books, this latest one we’ll talk about and your first one, Riders on the Storm.

Well, I appreciate that, James.

I cranked through this book in about two days nearly a month ago, so before we spoke I wanted to revisit some key parts, and was even more impressed by how poignantly you write about how difficult it was to be in this ugly battle against your brothers-in-arms. And it got me wondering how hard was it to get it down in print, to physically express it, and know that your inner most fears and anxieties and beliefs would be on record in this account?

(laughs) Wow. It wasn’t as difficult to write it down as going through it. (laughs) The old phrase, time heals; time does heal. And I worked real hard at trying to not to make it a legalese, blah-blah, boring, technical lawyer thing. So, I interspersed my emotions. I drift off when I was in the court room, I mean, when writing this, I didn’t necessarily do that when I was actually in the court room, but I wanted the reader to get inside my mind, so I could better tell some stories about whatever – sitting in with Carlos Santana or seeing Elvin Jones. So, technically, it was hard, but I took years to do it. Writing takes forever. Well, you know how it is. I’m real pleased it’s available for those that are interested.

It was pretty difficult as a fan of The Doors to read about how the lawyers for your friends and colleagues stooped to accusing you of being a communist or worse still, unbelievably, a terrorist. I’m 50, and have been covering politics for decades, but even I was appalled.

I know. It’s funny, because in the beginning the fans, the really hardcore ones, thought I was destroying their favorite band. But now that they can finally read the whole journey they will hopefully get the idea that I was trying to preserve the integrity of the original group. You know, (sighs) now that this book is coming out a cloud is lifted from me. It feels healing, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow for Ray and Robbie. In the last chapter I say, “Hey, how can I not love you guys, we created this incredible thing together.” And, you know, musically, they’re my brothers forever. They just didn’t see… The Doors…they got knocked off their hinges by their idea that they could play without Jim. And that’s been (chuckles) proven wrong.

Sure, in many ways. I was immediately taken by your signature point in the book being Morrison’s well-documented derision against the selling-out of “Light My Fire” to Buick in 1968 as the basis for your protecting the brand. And an intriguing element of your story is this defining of what a 27 year-old man, who stands for so much of the 60s’ imagery, would come across today had he lived. Yet, Morrison is frozen in time with his ideals. There was no maturing or being corrupted or compromising for Morrison. Despite Krieger and Manzarick arguing in court that Jim would have evolved in his thinking about selling out The Doors integrity for profit, you stood by the ghost of your friend as if he were here today to speak out for himself.

“You know, now that this book is coming out a cloud is lifted from me. It feels healing, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow for Ray and Robbie.”

I’m very proud the first line of the book is “Fuck you!” (laughs) Jim saying “Fuck you!” (laughs) You know, if he were alive today would he okay using Doors songs to sell Cadillac? I’m not unaware of the fact that times have changed and the music business, like all the creative businesses, is really difficult, and as I write in the book; if a new band wants to use their stuff to hawk some product to pay the rent, I get that. It’s just that in our situation we’ve already done well and if a new band begins to do well maybe then they should revisit whether they should do commercials anymore, because, as Tom Waits wrote, “You’ve changed your lyrics to a jingle.”

I love the fact that two of my great heroes, lyrically and musically, Tom Waits and Pete Townshend are quoted in your book arguing both sides of the point. Waits is vehemently against having his music used purely for commerce while Townshend states emphatically that he can do what he wants with his songs and shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And I can see both sides of it.

Yeah, yeah, it’s true. Townshend’s quote is funny; “I don’t give a fuck if you fell in love with Shirley to my song, I’ll do what I want with it.” (laughs)

(laughs) But Townshend gets to speak for himself, while Morrison could not. I liken it to arguing that if Martin Luther King had been alive today he might say, “I’d like to reconsider this whole civil rights thing.” You have to go by what a person did and said during their time. That’s all you’ve got.

That’s it exactly, James. All you’ve got is what they did when they were alive. What else could you base your thoughts on?

You see, where Manzerick and Krieger lost me was when they, or their lawyers, used the 1969 Miami incident where Morrison was arrested for lewd behavior and public disturbance or whatever, to besmirch him. In all the books I’ve read on The Doors and interviews I’d heard or seen, all of you guys clearly denounced the charges against Morrison, especially for allegedly exposing himself on stage, which ostensibly finished The Doors as a touring act. Until this case, all the surviving Doors are on record as stating none of these things happened.

That’s what’s hysterical, really, because at the trial in Miami Robbie was asked, “Did Mr. Morrison perform, or simulate performing, oral sex on you?” To which he said “No! Are you kidding? (laughs) He gets down on his knees to look at my fingers! He’s enamored with musicians since he can’t play an instrument.” So here are his lawyers implying that it was true, as if Ray and Robbie were never there!

This is where I was on board with your rather lofty goal of “honoring your ancestor”. In essence, you stood by a lost member of the band, who could no longer defend his fourth voice in the collective, his equal vote to stop the band from selling out. It’s really is an honorable gesture to uphold the legacy and wishes of Morrison and saying, “Jim still gets a vote here.” That is The Doors.

Wow, James you’re smart. I hope you write this stuff down.

Well, thank you. (laughs)

I agree. And since the trial, Jim’s dad has passed, and his mom too, so now they are ancestors as well. We’re standing on all their shoulders. It was so touching to me, you know, I had never met Jim’s dad. I had met his mom, but I hadn’t met his dad until this trial. And here I initiate this horrible struggle and this great gift of hanging with his dad comes along. How he turned the past around and supported his son’s legacy even while we had written songs against the Viet Nam War as he was over there fighting it! So, what a great healing of the 60s’ in a way.

The Doors - 1967It’s true. And it comes across in the book. It really does. What hit home for me is as I was reading your account I vividly recalled when I was younger and wanting to be a writer and dabbling in poetry and all that stuff you do when you’re trying to find your identity or your voice, how much An American Prayer was so influential and inspiring to me. And although I have many literary heroes and influences, I consider Jim Morrison as one very special one. And I’ve had my arguments over the years with fellow scribes and even fellow students who dismissed Morrison as a poser or even a hack because of his affiliation as a pop star. There’s a legitimacy factor that I’ve always embraced with Morrison and The Doors, so to read how you stood by that hit home for me. I found myself rooting you on as I read it.

Well, thanks. Yeah, we really enjoyed doing American Prayer. You know, Jim was really over the top in some of his lyrics and behavior, so people wrote him off. In fact, you gave me an idea, I read a little excerpt from American Prayer while playing a hand drum. I think I’ll do that at the Vintage Vinyl signing. I’ll dedicate it to you.

(laughs) Thank you, man. Where is that? L.A.

No, wait, You’re writing this for The Aquarian, right? Isn’t that out of New Jersey?

Yup, right here in Jersey. Pop culture weekly; longest running independently-owned rock weekly in the country – our archives were recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Excellent! Well, I’m doing this reading/signing thing at Vintage Vinyl in New Jersey.

Cool. I’ve got to be there then. I’m sure the paper is plugging it. Not sure if this piece will be in by then. Getting back to your trial and this battle to maintain the integrity of The Doors – now that this is all settled, and we’ll let people decide by reading your book how it all comes out and what they believe was the right angle; what are your thoughts on the line drawn between art and commodity? Does it move from when you’re struggling to put food on the plate to when you’re a rock star? Is it tangible?

You know, I quote this writer, Lewis Hyde who wrote a book called The Gift, which really nails it for me. He says there is a gift exchanged between the artist and the receiver and it doesn’t matter if you’re paying for an opera ticket or a concert ticket or whatever, it’s still this gift. But if you change the work of art entirely into a commodity, you’re going to lose the gift. So, I like that very much. It’s kind of what I’m saying, whether its a painting or music or whatever the hell it is, it’s an expression of the artist in trying to share what it’s like being human. There’s a sacred something exchanged there. And, you know, if you make it be about a new deodorant you…gee…I think you’ve lost the gift.

But I can see the other point about this creativity being your task and trade. I’m not sure how you feel about what Pink Floyd went through with Roger Waters or what KISS goes through when they tour with two new guys in the make-up of the original guys and selling it as KISS, and I’ve had Alice Cooper tell me in interviews that he created this character and if someone, say, wanted to carry on as Alice Cooper after he was gone that would be all right with him. This is really about definitions; how The Doors are ultimately defined, and in this book you define it as a singular entity, almost sacred. There are some things that are not for sale.

Well, I’m so grateful for something Tom Waits said, and I put it on the back of the book; “John Densmore is not for sale and that’s his gift to us.” But, you know, Alice Cooper, that’s his name, where this is The Doors, and that’s not Jim’s name. It reminds me of this moment when we were on stage and were introduced as “Jim Morrison and The Doors” and Jim dragged the promoter back out and made him re-introduce us as The Doors. So, (sighs) behind closed doors – sorry about that – we were four equal parts. Even L.A. Woman was a good, strong album, and Jim was clearly an alcoholic by then. It was still…when we were alone, the four of us…the muse still blessed us. And so I feel okay. I feel the beginning of a healing with Ray and Robbie, because something bigger than us helped us make our music.

Ultimately, did you see those guys touring as the 21st Century Doors, and more or less promoting it as The Doors, as identity theft?

Yes. That’s pretty good. I know I did say The Doors died in a bathtub in Paris in ’71, but you know, he’s such an icon he lives on in everyone’s mind. Of course, I was just trying to make it clear that The Doors were Jim, Ray, Robbie and John – John, Paul, George, Ringo – it’s not Ray, Robbie, Ian (Astbury – The Cult, new singer), Stuart (Copeland – former Police drummer), Fred and Tom. The Doors were knocked off their hinges for a few years due to this idea (sighs)… The Stones without Mick? The Police without Sting? No, come on. But The Doors are back on their hinges. Thank God.

“Unpredictability was a main ingredient. You know, Jim could be completely wild or quiet and it created a ritual or something like a séance. What’s gonna happen tonight? “

I always say I’d trade all the shows I saw in my lifetime for one evening watching you guys ply your trade, because as I understand it, a Doors show was literally an organic experience, no matter how bad it got or how brilliant it got, no one could predict what the hell would happen.

(chuckles)

So, I ask you, someone who played that music and performed those shows; how did you feel when you came on stage with The Doors? As the lights went down and the crowd was cheering and you guys were about to crash into the first song; did you have that same feeling of, here we go, let’s see what goes down now?

(laughs) It’s funny. Unpredictability was a main ingredient. You know, Jim could be completely wild or quiet and it created a ritual or something like a séance. What’s gonna happen tonight? It was sort of crazy, but also magical. A lot of the time it was magic, until his self destruction increased and then I was lobbying for us to stop playing live. And it took me a year to convince Ray and Robbie of this, because I missed the magic. It was so good in the beginning. It was, you know, goose bumps…pin-drop time. Usually we’d play “Light My Fire” and everybody would be on their feet dancing and then we’d play “The End” as an encore and people would file out…quietly. (chuckles) Like they were gonna take it home and chew on it. It was so…deep…or something.

One of my favorite piece of video of you guys, and it might have been in Europe, is The Doors playing live on a television show and doing “The End”, which in and of itself is gutsy – here you are probably expected to do the hit, to play “Light My Fire” on a pop television show and you’re playing this eleven-minute opus with bizarre poetic references and Oedipal overtones and this is not a theater or a rock club. The studio lights are up and you can see the audience and these people are between awe and shock. That’s pretty profound, man. And I think unique to The Doors.

(laughs) That’s funny. It reminds me of a gig in Mexico City. We were promised to play in the bull ring for the people who had just a few pesos in exchange for playing a ritzy supper club. And we went down there and there was some riot in the bull ring a few weeks before and they ended up cancelling us playing there. We were so depressed. So here we were playing for these people eating supper in a real ritzy club and we were playing “The End” and they were trying to cut their steaks…(laughs)

(laughs)

…with mouthfuls of food having stopped being chewed. (laughs)

That kind of story reminds me of how you really just loved the whole thing; not just being in The Doors, but, like I said before, the whole sacred thing about it. And, this is something I didn’t know that is revealed in your book – first of all, I didn’t know that before he went to Paris, Jim had gotten lawyers to draw up an agreement stating officially that one dissenting voice from any member would halt any proceedings- and that final phone call that you received from Jim when he was in Paris shortly before he died. I know the account is in your first book, but I was reminded of it, and how that resonated because you were the last person in the inner sanctum to speak with him before he died. Could you take a minute and recount how that conversation affected you? Did you get this eerie feeling that maybe that it might be the last time you spoke to Morrison?

(sighs) Oh, boy. Well, I could tell he was still drinking, so that was disturbing, but no…I didn’t think it would be the last time I’d talk to him. But I appreciated his enthusiasm for hearing of how well L.A. Woman was doing, because we produced it ourselves with Bruce Botnick, our longtime engineer, and we had more control. So, it was fun to do. It was in our rehearsal room. And he said, “Oh, man, I’ll come back. We’ll make another one!”

The Door UnhingedWhich is a cool story, because in most books I’ve read on The Doors or on Morrison, it always depicts him as wanting to shed The Doors and become a legitimate poet and leave all that pop stardom and rock god stuff behind. But when you tell it, it sounds like he still held his place in The Doors and what you guys accomplished together in high regard.

Yeah. Yeah.

Have you read Greil Marcus’ new book on The Doors? (The Doors – Five Mean Years)

I did.

I loved the story about when he was visiting his dad, who was in a hospital at the time a few years back, driving across the Bay Bridge from Oakland or Berkley to San Francisco and listening to several rock/pop radio stations for weeks on end – every day – and in that hour or so drive there and back almost inevitably with all the new stuff like Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake or whatever, there would be a Doors song and how more than any band from the past, The Doors still seemed to have a resonance among this generation, how the band transcended its time so well. It’s not like you guys are stuck in that time, Herman’s Hermits or The Raspberries, The Doors are still a relevant brand, still something that means something currently. And this speaks to your battle to protect that, not just for nostalgic purposes, but for now, for today and for all time.

Well, I don’t know why it’s lasted so long. It must be the drumming. (laughs) Yes! Of course. I’ll tell you, speaking of that book; Greil describes in just a couple of passages what I was doing on the drums and it just astounded me! I can’t literally tell you what he was saying, but I’m reading it and I’m going, “Oh, my God, that’s what I was doing!” And I hadn’t realized it until I read Greil’s translation. It was some section on how I would kind of drive the soloist, either Ray or Robbie, and for some reason, I would kind of lead them in and out of the solos. It just evolved. It was not talked about at all. And so, when I would sense that they were done, I would do a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat and then everybody knew we were taking it down or whatever, we were taking it to the verse. Until Greil described it, it was really like, “Oh, wow! He got in my head and I didn’t even know I was thinking that!” But it’s true.

That’s the beauty of writing, if you do it right. Marcus is one of the greats. It’s an art form to describe something like music or people playing music, a visceral experience, something so hard describe in words, and hit it straight on. What you’re saying is the greatest compliment for those of us who do this thing, this trying to express the un-expressible, to share in words the feelings derived from the experience and harder still, to, as you say, get into the head of the artist. It’s a great service for another generation, who may have missed the experience. And I guess, that segues into a final question I have for you: What do you hope future generations or people who didn’t experience all this turmoil between you and Robbie and Ray and the court case and everything you describe in the book take away from your book?

Well, at the risk of being on a soapbox and sounding like Mister PC, there’s an underlying theme in this book…money. And as I quote Michael Mead, a mythologist friend of mine; “Currency comes from the word “current”, and it’s supposed to flow like a river.” So if the corporate leaders horde everything – the billionaires damn it all up -money is like fertilizer, when horded it stinks and when spread around things grow, I’m kind of arrogantly implying that my personal struggles with my band might be metaphoric for bigger issues. We live in hierarchal world, there will always be doctors and nurses, but if the doctors are little kinder and a little more generous then it will be a nicer place.

Mmmm.

That make sense?

It absolutely does. Somebody has to think it and express it, because in most cases it’s not always true. It doesn’t always play out in the literal world, but it’s still nice that there are some people who believe that and some who actually enact it.

I guess I’m talking about integrity or whatever the hell.

It’s funny, because I’m thinking of titling the piece something in the ballpark of Identity Theft in the Land of $$$ and using the dollar sign in it.

Oh, that’s a good title. (laughs) Great! Well, thank you again for the time. This really was a huge deal for me to get to speak with you. Good luck with the book. Thanks. A real pleasure, James. Thank, you John. Bye-bye Bye.

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Supreme Court: Marriage Equality

Aquarian Weekly 4/3/13 REALITY CHECK

SUPREME DECISIONNation’s Highest Court Faces Down Discrimination in Our Time

Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality. – House Report on the passing of Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

This week the Supreme Court hears arguments to overturn the odious Defense of Marriage Act and the anti-constitutional nonsense known as Proposition 8, the California equivalent of the attack on civil rights spread across this nation of so-called liberty. Fourteen times prior this august body has called marriage “a fundamental right”. And so, it is another day in court, the highest court, for the inalienable rights and pursuit of happiness so lauded, so celebrated, so promised by the aspirations of this flawed but unique nation. It is when the antiquated “gay marriage” issue begins to go away, as would any distinction in a right; whether interracial, Jewish, Italian, Muslim, Mormon, whatever, that the argument against the right does not stand.

Supreme Court - Marriage EqualityHere is what the court must hear this week.

This is what the court must know this week.

Once and for all.

The public does not decide rights. The government does not grant rights. The public decides the social order of things and the government upholds our rights. Rights, as in what the court describes as the “fundamental right to marry”, are granted by the very fact that we suck air. That we have a right to live in a free nation fought for, argued over, and put to the test for over 240 years.

It is a basic right; the basic right to exist and to therefore be given the same opportunity to share property and wills and investments and to adopt and raise children. A right. Not something to vote on or debate or discuss in linear, theological, biological, racial, cultural terms. It is a right. My right. Your right. Their right.

Without rights, keep your guns. Throw out your guns. Balance budgets. Don’t balance budgets. Control the rest of the planet. Don’t control the rest of the planet. It does not matter. What really matters, what has only mattered since the conception of America, are rights.

There is a lot of talk about growing public support for “same-sex marriage”, but that changes nothing. A right to marry was just as valid when it was supported by only 19 percent of the public, then 28 percent, then 33 percent, then 42 percent, then 52 percent, and now 63 percent. When interracial marriage was rightfully deemed a constitutional liberty, 65 percent of Americans still opposed it. You want to know how many Americans, many of them women, opposed the right to vote for women? A majority.

In fact, much of the social arguments against gay marriage harkens back to the vote for women; “What’s next? Children voting? Dogs voting? Lamps?” Just like the arguments against interracial marriage; “What’s next? People marrying chimps? Their house?” It’s all been said before and the “fundamental right” has defeated it all.

Here it is; marriage is a public institution that excludes a portion of our society. This will not stand.

The other bogus argument is the threat to “traditional” marriage, as if traditions has ever meant a hill of beans in this nation of fluidity of modernity of progress and constant revolutions; social, moral, economic, cultural, religious, political. We’re into upheaval, not tradition. Tradition is for parades, identifying law above superstition is how things go here, or should and will go here – eventually. There is no threat to marriage that involves society. Marriage is between a man and a woman and also two consenting adults, both sets of whom should not allow society or family or politics or race or religion to keep them for their right, their pursuit of happiness.

Another bogus argument against marriage equality is “marriage for procreation”. In that case why do couples either with no desire for children or are biologically incapable of bearing children marry? Should they then, in this scenario, be denied marriage? I wonder how much outrage you would have if you were impotent and the state denied you your right to marry.

Having beaten the God/Bible thing to death here, we’ll just say, on the occasion of the Supreme Court hearing legal and binding arguments for and against the liberty of our fellow citizens that no one, not the Catholics or the Jews or the Muslims or the Evangelicals know what God wants. Nope. None. Not a wit. Assuming there is a God, when there is sworn testimony from the deity, we’ll deal with that.

In fact, we’ll make this deal: When religions decide on what God supports – what culture or region or NFL football team – then we’ll put that in writing. But for now, there is much to be figured out in the grand scheme of interpreting God, so until at which time there is a consensus of the Supreme Being, the Supreme Court should not and will not force any church into marrying anyone. This is not about churches. Church and state are separate and shall remain so. Let the churches protest by excluding certain citizens from their clubs. It’s fine. They do not belong in this argument; one way or the other. They do not decide the law of the land on traffic issues, nor shall they on liberties.

Here it is; marriage is a public institution that excludes a portion of our society. This will not stand. And the fact that is has stood for as long as it has is criminal and an embarrassment to this country and all that it stands for. I have been writing this since the late-90s’ and I will continue to write it, as sick of it as you are to read it and how exhausted I am penning it. From unpopular to popular, it has not changed here and it should not change in the most important chamber of law this republic has.

It is life.

It is liberty.

It is the pursuit of happiness.

Everything else, EVERYTHING else, is noise.

 

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1983 N.C. State Wolfpack

Aquarian Weekly 3/27/13 REALITY CHECK

N.C. STATE & THE BIRTH OF MARCH MADNESS 30-Year Anniversary of the Improbable Ride of Jimmy V and the Wolfpack

With the commencement of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, arguably the most watched American sporting event outside of the Super Bowl, it is time to mark the 30-year anniversary of one of the most impossible runs in sports history. The 1983 North Carolina Wolfpack created March Madness, coming from nowhere to win nine consecutive elimination games over a month period against a field of mostly heavily favored opponents with rosters bulging with future NBA superstars. In seven of those victories, State came from behind in the final minutes on the way to defining in almost every way possible the very essence of the term underdog.

1983 N.C. State WolfpackSeems like five minutes ago, but it was another era. Before the three-point line, before the shot-clock, and long before the best players in the game skipped to the pros after one season (and for a time, ala Lebron James, skipped college all-together), here was this team that won game after game, overcoming ridiculous odds in one bizarre event after another.

It was also before every office had a pool and everyone you knew was filling out brackets and every sponsor clamored for a chance to be associated with the timeless joy of amateur athletes from across the nation sprinting to beat the buzzer. Hell, some of the early round games in 1983 were on tape delay.

Sure, a few years before it was Bird vs. Magic, but that attained its legendary status when both men and their teams revived the NBA during its most enduring mano-a-mano rivalry. And, of course, it wasn’t as if there had never been upsets in college basketball, but the ’83 Wolfpack was one for the ages. There has quite simply never been nor has there ever been since a college team so completely overmatched, so irrevocably poised, so damned exciting as N.C. State winning game after game in such a concentrated period of time.

Instead of one enduring upset in a 40 or 60 minute contest; Villanova’s incredible upending of the mighty Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA Finals or say the N.Y. Giants improbable defeat of the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, consider one solid month of upsets – nine in a row.

To put into perspective, only three other upsets in American sport trump what the Wolfpack achieved in 1983; the 1980 USA Hockey team, The 1968 N.Y. Jets and Buster Douglas taking down Mike Tyson. You know, the type of Hollywood-esque fluff that transforms a century’s worth of sports clichés (destiny, momentum and clutch) into pure magic.

The grand wizard of this run, State’s coach, an Italian motor-mouth from New York City named Jim Valvano, showed up on Tobacco Road three years earlier and began having his kids practice cutting the gym nets down in mock victory ceremonies every week. The players thought him mad. It was silly. Who does this? However, slowly but surely, Valvano was teaching his team more than basketball. He was teaching them to dream; to visualize hope and expect the impossible. He was corny. He was goofy. He was the perfect lunatic for a collection of kids who bought into the Disney tripe that takes a pedestrian 17-10 record (the second most losses to win an NCAA title) and sweeps it through an ACC Tournament loaded with talent, wins and trophies.

Slowly but surely, Valvano was teaching his team more than basketball. He was teaching them to dream; to visualize hope and expect the impossible.

Due to its poor record, a symptom of injuries and inner turmoil, all N.C. State had to do was win the damn thing just to qualify for the Big Dance. Along the way, this meant besting defending champion North Carolina with three starters destined for the pros, including arguably the greatest player in the game’s history, Michael Jordan, and a Virginia team with the best player in the conference, the 7’4″ monster, Ralph Samson. Both teams, along with Wake Forest, whom State beat to earn a shot at these titans, had dismantled them during the regular season. And in each game the opponent had a lead late or in overtime, and yet could not halt the hoping and dreaming.

During the North Carolina game, Valvano was faced with a six-point deficit (no three-point line or shot-clock) against Dean Smith’s heralded and roundly mocked four-corner offense, in which the team passed the ball around half court for up to five minutes to kill the clock and end the game. So he decided to begin fouling. And as State fouled, North Carolina kept missing subsequent foul shots. State won. This tactic would readily assist the dreamers during their spectacular NCAA Tournament run to come.

Leading up the championship game against the heavily favored Houston Cougars, the nation’s baddest squad, nicknamed Phi Slama Jama due to the parade of high-flying dunks the 31-2 team rained down on its shell-shocked opponents, Valvano continued the “foul” strategy. To put pressure on opponents, State even fouled a player during a tied game late in one of the semi-final rounds.

The other strategy Valvano instituted was using his media-savvy, wise-guy persona to genuflect to Houston’s greatness in press conferences and television appearances, telling anyone who would listen that he would slow the game down so much it would bore the nation, but in a rousing pre-game locker room speech witnesses claim was worthy of Knute Rockne, Valvano told his team to take it right at the likes of future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. State did, building a seven-point halftime lead, which evaporated in the opening five minutes of the second half as Houston powered to its own eight-point bulge.

Then Valvano started putting Houston on the foul line and Houston began missing. N.C. State, having won the craziest, most gut-wrenching contests just to get this point, would drag the Mighty Phi Slama Jama into its web of dreams.

Miraculously, the team’s poise and Valvano’s scheming took the entire run, the entire season, down to the final seconds tied at 52-52. Once again State held back and let Houston pass the ball around the perimeter until it came to Alvin Franklin, a freshman guard with the least experience of the invincible Cougars. Then Valvano, running like a banshee up the sideline, screamed for someone to foul him.

Years later, when my family had moved to North Carolina in the mid-eighties and my brother went to N.C. State (like Valvano, by way of Iona) and my dad became a season ticket holder, whenever I would visit we could not help but remember watching this moment unfold back in New Jersey. How we coached right along with the crazy Italian, who asked a fair basketball team to be great again and again, and for good measure, one more time.

And, of course, the freshman missed the front end of a one-on-one, and now it was State’s turn to hold for the final shot; for all the marbles, this one-game-and-done waltz for over a month coming down to 44 seconds; tie game, destiny, dreaming, hope and visualization all right there.

And everyone who knows basketball history, that knows about this March Madness business, and how it got started, with a riveted nation and the kids against the men and the impossible becoming reality, knows what happened: Shooting guard, Dereck Whittenburg heaved a prayer with five seconds left from nearly half quart and center Lorenzo Charles sidestepped the mighty Olajuwon, whose nickname was poetically, The Dream, caught the thing in mid air and dunked it home at the buzzer.

Pandemonium.

Championship.

Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug.

March Madness forever more.

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Holy Land Obama

Aquarian Weekly 3/20/13 REALITY CHECK

HOLY LAND OBAMA

By the time these words hit the stands, the president of the United States will be in Israel. This has not been as anticipated a trip as in the past for a few reasons; Barack Obama has been spending quality time on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the U.S. continues its anti-Iranian nuclear rhetoric and running point on crippling international sanctions, the American public has bottomed out its interest in Middle Eastern affairs for the first time since 9/11, and all eyes have been on the slow crawl to attain some measure of a federal budget here at home. But, make no mistake; this visit will have its repercussions.

Obama & NetanyahuFirstly, long before the 2012 election season, this administration has turned its trade/energy/negotiation attention away from the primacy of the Middle East and focused it on Asia, where for years economic forecasters have pointed to it as the New Europe. In fact, even mother oil has become more important to the energy concerns of China (having eclipsed the U.S. for the world’s largest oil importer) and India than it currently does to the U.S. This has added to the already strained relations between the Obama Administration and Israel.

Most of Netanyahu’s posturing, including his over-analyzed, behind-closed-doors harangue against the president during a 2011 U.S. visit, has centered on Israel’s concern for Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but politically it is imperative for the brash prime minister to keep U.S. fears of an insane Middle East percolating. Pressuring Iran has internal consequences for Netanyahu as well, if merely to appear tough to Palestinians; an act of personal relevancy that has served him well over several terms.

Netanyahu, no fan of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who openly supported a Palestinian state, now has to deal with newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who represents the U.S.’s new and improved “anything but war” stance. Something the American people now overwhelmingly support and by default reflects an expedient solution for a nation with less available funds than a will to fight someone else’s battles anytime soon.

Next is the mere fact that there are bigger fish to fry in the Middle East. The key question remains whether or not Syria, Egypt, Lebanon or Iraq will maintain its solvency as working states in the grand scheme of international diplomacy. Deeply contentious Shiite and Sunni religious/cultural civil war is now front and center in all-things Arab Spring, which handcuffs any Western interference. With the outcome in serious doubt and no obvious ally emerging, the last thing Obama wants to do on this trip is appear gratuitous. Any commentary on this matter, even on a chummy diplomatic sojourn, can be counterproductive.

These are the types of trips that can distract a president from more pressing issues and weaken his domestic position.

Yet, there is no way to escape the most explosive aspect of this disaster; Syria. It is a killing field rife with intrigue between Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian government. All three factions are attempting to crush the “rebels”, whom the United States have supported rhetorically, but with no plans to add weapons — mainly due to Israel’s horror that those weapons could be used against its interests. Syria will be the giant elephant in the room when Netanyahu and Obama chat, but there is little chance the details of those chats will not have already been determined before Air Force One hits the Holy Land.

But what will ultimately stare the president directly in the face is the 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Obama has held fast in his opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements there, a neat balancing act for the leader of a nation that kicked indigenous peoples off their land. In a similar show of our convenient Manifest Destiny two-step, Netanyahu has no designs on reversing Israel’s course to colonize the region and ignore the 2.5 Palestinians that also call it home. This will make Obama’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an interesting study in appearing not to play favorites. Explaining personal ideology that speaks directly against U.S. policy has been a favorite task of the presidency dating back to George Washington’s famous farewell address.

It is this tightrope walk, in the shadow of the Iranian mess, that makes Obama’s Israel trip so intriguing. What critics have dubbed the White House’s “maintenance trip” due to the failure of having even a tertiary peace initiative, there appears to be no directive here beyond face-saving.

Yet, it is no time for a misstep, which can harm the president politically at home, as he maintains an edge in popular support over Republicans in the battle to balance the budget, reform taxes, propose immigration reform and introduce a measure of gun control into the legislative discussion. But polls are beginning to show an erosion in the post-election high and soon the ramp-up to the 2014 mid-terms will force members of both parties into local political fights that will all-but halt any second-term agendas.

These are the types of trips that can distract a president from more pressing issues and weaken his domestic position. Republicans, who have failed to paint this president as a weak foreign policy commander-in-chief, would love nothing more than this thing to go sideways, ala Mitt Romney’s pre-campaign Britain trip that made him look like a piker and effectively sabotaged the first weeks of his presidential run.

Let’s face it; this is bad timing for Obama. He does not need this kind of pressure, but he spent a boatload of money and time fighting to retain this gig, and there will never be a good time to pull off a balancing act of this magnitude.

 

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