DOWN GOES DOMA

 

Aquarian Weekly
7/3/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

DOWN GOES DOMA
Along with Prop 8, Supreme Court Ends Latest Era of Legal Discrimination

Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

– Justice Anthony Kennedy

Unconstitutional.a

Of course.

The Defense of Marriage Act, a nifty piece of legislation which disallowed a segment of taxpaying citizens access to the Bill of Rights, is now dead and buried. DOMA, as it is most popularly referred to, was another in a long line of “laws” heaped upon the public by the government to strip us of our civil liberties, as in the now debated Patriot Act. Only this one insidiously singled out a segment of society, denying them access to systems put in place to protect spouses and their property and dignity.
Justice Kennedy expounds; “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.”

Amen.

The fact that DOMA was ever formed, voted on, passed, and signed into law is an abject embarrassment for the length of breath of this republic and it is lucky for this country and the people in it that 84 year-old Edith Windsor stood up and said, “What?” Motivated by over 300 grand of estate tax she wouldn’t have had to pay if not for these goofy laws saying she couldn’t marry a woman named Thea she’d lived with for four decades simply because he was not a man named Theo, Windsor became this era’s Oliver Brown.

Upon announcing incredulity with silly laws, Brown v. The Board of Education put a spike through serration, which is a nice word for saying “state sanctioned discrimination” or “legal bigotry”. People like Windsor and Brown make all of our hollow talk about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and haughty spouting about the U.S. Constitution being our Bible, which is all correct, can now rest easier that a little more of  us are allowed inside the freedom boat, protected against social tyranny.

The great irony of an abomination called the Defense of Marriage Act is that it was designed and presided over by a Speaker of the House and signed into law by a president, both of whom had routinely made sport of cheating on their spouses (Newt Gingrich, twice divorced, and Bill Clinton’s well-documented misogyny). Although it never quite seriously explained why two of the most powerful men in America would not be more of a “threat” to the sanctity of marriage than an everyday citizen who deserved the same chance to shit all over their spouses. The answer was always that people who make an open mockery of this institution are less a stain on marriage than two people of the same sex.

And that’s the rub.

It is selective moralizing.

We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to safeguard against such nonsense.
And that’s apparently what opponents of this obvious and way overdue Supreme Court ruling don’t get. They get all uppity and defensive saying, “Oh, if we defend traditional marriage we are called bigots!” Well, yes, if you are only applying this glorious worship of an institution to one segment of society then it is the very definition of discrimination, and this is only practiced by bigots. Hence, you are a bigot.

Of course, they muddy the whole thing by calling themselves traditionalists, which is old hat for people trying to deny rights they enjoy to other citizens, whether it’s the Irish owning land or Jews allowed access to certain institutions or women voting or African Americans eating at a diner below the Mason Dixon line. “This is the way it’s always been done,” they say. “Why are you going around changing stuff?” The other day talk show host Rush Limbaugh couched his derision on the ruling by actually saying out loud that “things are going along just fine and then the gays say, ‘Hey we want to be able to marry’ and then its madness.”

Yes, can you imagine waking up one day and realizing your height keeps you from getting a driver’s license? And when you say, “Wait a minute!” Some sanctimonious nitwit says, “Take it easy, buddy, things are fine the way they are. This is how we do it and have always done it.” I bet you would take it like a good citizen and realize that tradition is far more important and you’d run out and get yourself a bike.

Sure.

I guess things were going along just fine until some moron invented a radio, huh?

And I know she’s silly and cannot really be taken seriously outside the geeks at CPAC, but the other day when Michelle Bachmann, who would not have been able to publicly voice political opinion, never mind cast a ballot, less than a century ago, stands on the capitol steps as a senator and derides this law on the basis of Biblical law, which openly frames women as nothing more than livestock, is beyond absurdity. Not sure she realizes how much of a metaphor for this ruling she’s truly become. Hell, if Moses or George Washington showed up to her little speech yesterday, if they could ever stop choking, both men would have wondered what bizarre joke was playing out by having a woman legislator speaking to a crowd of people she was not serving soup to.

Look, traditionalists and Bible thumpers won’t get it. This is their thing. And this is why we have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution, to protect us from those who don’t get it, which brings us to the second Supreme Court ruling, California’s goofy Proposition 8, an excellent example of why leaving civil liberties up to the vagaries of state laws is also thorny. Having people vote whether, say, people with blonde hair can have kids is dangerous. And lawmakers? Well, we’ve already seen how that goes on the federal level. Right now in Texas the state legislature and its governor are trying to make it legal to shoot women on the way to get a pap smear. Something like that. I can’t tell.
Most laws in Texas end up allowing the shooting of someone or something. It’s hard to fathom what those preciously colorful idiots are doing down there. It’s like “the weird kid in the basement” state.

And so, regardless of all the other junk and flaws and spectacular hypocrisy that we’re straddled with around here on a daily basis year after fuck-awful year, we have a very proud day in the American experiment; the fantastic Don’t Tread on Me, “Give me liberty or give me death” and “All men are created equal” part that seems to perfectly rear its beautiful head when some generation or segment of our society decides what another can or can’t do.

This is going to be one hell of an Independence Day at The Desk.

Yee-Ha!

 

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EVERYTHING IS DISEASE

Aquarian Weekly
6/26/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

EVERYTHING IS DISEASE

Disease – a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.
– Webster Dictionary

The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments.
– NY Times June 18, 2013

The fancy bureaucratic body that brought you “bully awareness” in the summer of 2002, covered adroitly if not with snot-nosed assery in this space in the 6/26/02 Reality Check under the headline IN DEFENSE OF THE AMERICAN BULLY, now opens the floodgates to a juicy pile of human frailties with its “Obesity is a Disease” offering. And if you failed to notice the little nugget attached to the lead in this week’s NY Times piece about spurring more insurers to “pay for treatments”, then it gets even better for us all.

First things first; it is official that everything is now a disease and therefore must be treated as so.kid

I am vertically challenged.

Disease.

I am also a jerk.

Disease.

I cannot wait for my next annual physical. My doctor already thinks I’m insane. He’s going to love this one.

“How are you feeling, James?”

“Short.”

“Ha! Funny.”

“Discrimination!”

“What?”

“The person who came in before me was a load and I’m short; so what’s the difference?”

“There are no health concerns for being short.”

“Really? You should have seen the beatings I took in schoolyards. Also, I repeatedly wrench my back trying to reach high shelves. Not to mention the agony I’ve suffered searching for a decent-fitting tweed jacket.”

“This is not funny, what is actually wrong with you?”

“I’m also a jerk.”

“This is true, but it is not a disease.”

“Tell that to my wife.”

And believe me, I shall be taking these matters up with my insurance company, and just to stick the social knife in and twist it, I’m going to get a national insurer under the Affordable Care Act and you can pay for my being a jerk, which, in an existential sense, makes me an even greater jerk in need of serious attention.

Faith is now also a disease.

Believing in the existence of something with no immutable evidence is a serious disease. Now some would say this falls under the heading of insanity, but I ask; whose sicker, the corpulent or those who put the balance of their health and well-being on wild supernatural notions?

You know how many faiths there are and how much money these things bring in? There is a whole slew of the diseased out there just waiting to be treated. Soon there will be a pill for this; “Here, take two of these and by morning you’ll come to the conclusion that your entire belief system is childish and sad and you will then either turn into a jerk, which is something we also have a pill for, or live out your life not basing your view of reality on fairy tales.”

Now this is progress and evolution. The AMA has a point and I’m on board.

And is fat like obese, as in “I’m feeling fat today”? Is it “I’m feeling diseased today”? Or “Man, I should not have eaten that street burrito at two am after fifteen beers” diseased? Or the “Entire Midwest region of the continental United States” diseased? Or “80 percent of the Pittsburgh Steelers tailgaters” disease?

The only problem is it threatens the Gay Rehabilitation racket, especially now that everything is a disease – eye color, skin color, hair style, dialect, sexual orientation. Even Alan Chambers, whose unbelievably brilliant money-printing con-job Exodus International (another in the endless line of diseased faiths) had to close the largest gay rehabilitation centers going. Chambers, a self-loathing gay man whose wish was that everyone end up like him and shut off their identity under the guise of shame, guilt and that faith thing again to get “straight”, sees the writing on the wall: This is the AMA’s problem now.

Chambers recently addressed a gathering of the diseased faithful and said for the past 37 years this whole “you can pray the gay away” sham was hurtful and wrong and some other thing he thinks is either getting him into heaven or keeping him out of jail. Couldn’t be sure, since most of it was in tongues, but, suffice to say, there really isn’t any point in trying to change gays as there isn’t in changing caucasians or people who are really good at playing the piano. These people are simply diseased.

Not sure how far we can go with sexual proclivity here, it has many possibilities that go far beyond things like “sex-addict”, which has all the scientific probability in humans as say alcoholism or gambling addiction or drug addiction, all of which, beyond mere genetics like in a preponderance of cases with obesity or sexual orientation, height, race or whatever else we’re passing around with all the sex, are apparently diseases.

And should we get in on the whole “what and who decides what makes someone obese” discussion? Does the line shift, like how much alcohol in the blood stream is legal? Or how much sugar should be in drinks? Or what plant you can smoke and which one you can’t? Or how fast you can go on certain roads?

And is fat like obese, as in “I’m feeling fat today”? Is it “I’m feeling diseased today”? Or “Man, I should not have eaten that street burrito at two am after fifteen beers” diseased? Or the “Entire Midwest region of the continental United States” diseased? Or “80 percent of the Pittsburgh Steelers tailgaters” disease?

And where does stupid fall in all this? Can we get a little love for the stupid? There is so many of us out here. We have talk shows and run for congress and dupe the faithful and develop TV series that exploit the stupid and run customer service for Expedia and work the counters at Guitar Center and build condos in flood zones and get high ranking jobs with the NSA and consider Chris Bosh, who scored zero points in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, part of some imaginary Big Three or root for the NY Jets or play the lottery or continue to teach our children that Columbus discovered America.

But most importantly, should there be a Jerk Council now? Can we get some funding on developing a cure, maybe call it Jerk-Off? Something catchy like that.

Just trying to help.

Which is also a disease.

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EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY

Aquarian Weekly
6/19/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY?

If there is one thing that this space has tried to illustrate for the past 16 years is that hypocrites are not the exclusive property of ideological or political affiliation. In the past weeks, as we have been inundated by a phalanx of stories depicting with grand detail one fuck up after the other from the current administration, which whisked into Washington five years ago on a transparent change in government delusion, here come hordes of congressman like Rand Paul (threatening to take the NSA to the Supreme Court after he dismissed the same body as meaningless following the landmark Affordable Care Act ruling) and senators like Lindsey Graham (supporting the government’s spying on citizens’ phone and e-mail records while arguing that gun background checks are an invasion of privacy). It is a wonder you vote.
snowden
I have never seriously voted. Mostly, I backed candidates with no chance to win as a protest against two representatives from massive corporate-backed political parties offering nothing approaching an original thought or concept. Then my mortal enemy, Al Gore decided he needed to be president, so I all-but worked with the Bush campaign to smear his sorry ass back to Tennessee only to watch the dumb-struck asshole who bested him make a mockery of governance for eight long years. Then I decided to vote for Barack Obama, as a member of my own generation in protest against the annoyingly overrated Boomer dipshits who preceded him, only to be once again stuck with another lost idiot acting as if he just woke up and someone told him he was president.

But my voting record and vast disappointment with politics aside, there never appears to be anyone truly minding the store, so it’s back to figuring out exactly how the shit-house will go down this time.

This week the latest in a long line of computer geeks given access to a spectacularly massive cadre of sensitive national security files, Edward J. Snowden has clearly represented why neither political party will ever have the answers needed to quell the rapacious need for the American people to appear free while feeling safe, or other such fairy tales.

Okay, so you would have to be completely in the tank for the sorry butt end of whatever remains of a national Right Wing movement in this country not to have noticed that for two congresses now Republicans have provided nothing in the way of serious legislative rebuttal to what they deem as “socialist, anti-American and freedom-threatening policies”. In place of doing its job, the GOP-controlled congress decided to throw feces against the wall and screech like monkeys to make the Democratic president look ineffectual.

This worked great. He was re-elected by the greatest margin a member of his party tallied to secure the presidency since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. I was two at the time. I was 50 last November. That is a long run with no Democratic dominance at the executive level. And you know what; it ain’t gonna end soon. Not with the current demographics of the country pointing Left and an entire generation of young people fairly certain the majority of the Republican platform is religiously-based nihilistic bigotry.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth.

On the heels of this we have Mr. Snowden, a 29 year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee (contractor to the National Security Agency) and chronicled supporter of Ron Paul’s anti-government brigade, leaking classified top-secret material to a foreign newspaper. As another quick aside, lord knows the sub-contractor element is not lost on me, the near victim of many hoaxes perpetuated by “businesses” I thought I was hiring to do jobs, only to find they merely fobbed it off to some other dinks, whose only care to the completion of said job was to not get caught screwing up, which in my case, they most assuredly did.

Snowden’s motivations for leaking vital defense intelligence on a lark are best framed by the reporter who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald told the NY Times this week that his infamous source for the British paper, The Guardian scoop “knew that in order for someone to do this story the way it had to be done he had to be in an adversarial posture vis-a-vis the U.S. government.”

Snowden, an “ex-CIA” (once CIA always CIA – ask Lee Harvey Oswald and George H.W. Bush) who claims after making a living working in the business of citizen surveillance suddenly found Jesus and decided this was crazy, wanted to join the “feces tossing task force” and make nasty for what could tactfully be described as a beleaguered president. However, Greenwald’s analysis mirrors the very argument for Daniel Ellsberg’s outing of the gargantuan lies the U.S. government laid on the American public for over a decade of unsanctioned mass murder in Viet Nam.

You see, although it appears as if Snowden is just a radicalized version of say Mitch McConnell, whose failed attempt at turning his senatorial position into the home-base for making Obama a one-term president, there is something far more interesting. Both Snowden and his non de plume Greenwald are Ellsberg worshippers (full disclosure, so is the author). Moreover, Snowden reportedly met directly with the nation’s most cherished whistleblower through documentarian, Laura Poitras this past January.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth. Greenwald’s current post at The Guardian has given the ex-litigator and award-winning blogger legitimate reporter contacts and sources, many of which were used to reveal the “secret wars” both hot and cold the U.S. has been running since 9/11, including the Dick Cheney/Karl Rove/Scooter Libby outing of a CIA agent in 2005.

Greenwald, an ex-patriot forced to live in Rio De Janeiro with his Brazilian partner because of discrimination against same-sex marriage, which consequently disallows similar rights of citizenship to heterosexual couples, has personal as well as ideological issues with the United States government of which he wrote in the preface to his wonderfully cynical 2006 book, How Would a Patriot Act, “the fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American.”

The Snowden/Greenwald partnership in bi-partisan derision for the flimsy foundations of this republic has come at a crucial time, as new and old neo-con voices begin to bellow about dragging the U.S. into another bloody quagmire in Syria – trumped by ex-president, Democrat Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate, Republican John McCain.

Killer drones, Gitmo, an endless war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, systemic discrimination and the rank hypocrisy of our times, all neatly wrapped up in one single act of blessed conceit by pissed-off people with a pen.

That is something I can finally vote for.

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Y T-Shirt

Get your fresh-looking Y T-shirt here. Remember: shipping is always free at jamescampion.com!

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The Self-Perpetuating Gorge Of Power or How The IRS Becomes Hal 9000

Aquarian Weekly
6/5/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

Take heed and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
– Matthew 16:6

irsJesus of Nazareth was as anti-establishment as it gets; a spiritual ascetic, who actually considered himself God within a sect of people weaned on the primacy of an all-powerful deity. And he took that lunacy to the streets, right into the heart of the power structure that was the religious and political fulcrums against individualism. Thus making a peasant from a fishing enclave nestled in the armpit of the Roman Empire, the most influential anti-religious and anti-systemic figure in Western thought.
But that’s not how we know this Jesus. His revolution, one of collective upheaval and a Nieitzschean sledgehammer railing against the hypocrisy of times, is reduced to religious worship and Roman blood ritual. His is less an inspirational siren for soul-saving grace as it is a cautionary tale of what power structures must do when threatened. Jesus told a religion and a republic it was not needed for spiritual attainment or cultural identity, so they strung him up and waited for the next doomed idiot to utter such insurrection.

This is why Jesus of Nazareth is my hero and I spent over a decade researching his methods and parables, or those attributed to him and his short-lived movement, and why it ended up in a monstrosity I titled Trailing Jesus. People normally read the thing and wonder what it is I was getting at, and quite frankly I’m not even sure – except for one key element: Once you have a structure of power surmised, erected, and maintained by humans, it is nearly impossible to eradicate it. Oh, you can revolt and rebuild some other thing in its place, but it will very likely be the same shit.

Or worse; presuming Christianity’s systemic machinations are more damaging than first century Judaism, which is a whole separate discussion.

Now, what we have today, say, with the IRS or the FBI in this country, is what we have endured for decades. And, as stated in this space two weeks ago, there is little we can actually do about it. Sure, whoever happens to control the legislative branch – especially if it is the opposing party of the executive branch – will rattle around like sniffing hounds and braying goats and tell us there is a pox on the house of lords, but it will just be the noise of those who only want to stick their own power monger in there to keep the ball rolling and the checks cashed.

To be more specific and less political, (I’ll need ten or so columns to dissect the tyrannical madness unleashed during the FBI’s first 105 years) I present to you the Internal Revenue Service, one of our republic’s most necessary evils. It is a massive and powerful branch of the treasury department that absorbs the flow of our money to be used for whatever the giant, bloated system sees fit; war, social programs, puppet regimes in third world countries, recovery projects for tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, torturing foreigners, propping up the welfare state, and other sundry items. This is an unchecked machine, not unlike Stanley Kubrick’s HAL 9000 super computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey (a metaphor that never gets old for me) which only cares about one thing, as all “conscious beings”, whether mammal or machine: Self-preservation.

The IRS did what any self-respecting power gorge would; it targeted its enemies and sought to defuse their influence over the electoral process. Made sense to Jesus and it makes sense to me.

For a democratic society, the power to tax is so absolute – a huge underlying factor to the perpetuation of the Roman Empire; the political assassins of Jesus of Nazareth – that the judicial branch of our system recently pronounced the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act as less an unconstitutional stronghold of the free market and more of the aforementioned tax. This was decided ultimately by the swing vote of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, a conservative.
Long before the Roberts’ ruling, the anti-government movement called the TEA Party gained traction – mainly due to the initial passing of the PPACA. At the beginning, this group was as organically fun-loving as those who protested the ten or so wars we had going in the first decade of this century. But then they were absorbed by the Republican Party (the ying to the yang of this systemic virus) and as a result caused a civil war within the GOP that produced many a goofy result. The most damaging of these was the completely asinine debt ceiling debate, which effectively prevented the congress of the United States from paying its bills. What the anti-war movement, and the subsequent 2006 Democratic re-taking of congress, failed to do, the TEA Party Republicans accomplished; temporarily sealing the purse strings of the federal government.

So, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or Jesus to figure where this was going; a direct threat to the IRS, its powerbase and its influence over one of the most sweeping pieces of federal regulation ever enacted by congress. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the PPACA, which takes full effect in 2014, put a massive chunk of the federal budget in the hands and regulatory power of the Internal Revenue Service; meaning more branch locations and jobs and larger budgets with which to hand out apparently unchallenged payrolls.

The IRS did what any self-respecting power gorge would; it targeted its enemies and sought to defuse their influence over the electoral process. Made sense to Jesus and it makes sense to me.

Before we go this week, I offer up a potential red herring that has been rearing its ugly cranium; reports out of the Pentagon (the font of honesty and integrity for lo these many decades of power abuse) that the Chinese have been hacking into our systems to build similar death machines as that of our Air Force, etc. Little by little, I see a story here or there about it, and if FOXNEWS wasn’t ejaculating all over the place with all these purported Obama shenanigans, then they may well have been far more into it, since it reeks of the Military Industrial Complex, our other fat-ass necessary evil. Floating danger tales through the media is as old as the hills and has merit in the power gorge, simply because these cutbacks the Pentagon has suffered as a result of the infamous sequester will not do, like congress changing flight patterns to soften its collective travel plans while the rest of us slog it out.

You see, the use of the word “leaven” in the above quote from Matthew (the one Jewish author of the four canonical gospels, who knew exactly what Jesus, a Jew, was fighting against) is key here, because bread is a staple of survival, and when it leavens it expands or “swells”, not unlike systemic power that becomes its own being separate from its intended construct.

Or as Jesus may have couched it; “Woe unto you” to which HAL 9000 might have responded, “Sorry, Dave.”

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying & The Love The Shield Law

Aquarian Weekly
5/29/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

Quit while you’re ahead. – Carl Bernstein

holderJust received notice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that I am a criminal.
Well, could be a criminal. Aim to be a criminal? Not sure. The statute of limitations must be up on this puppy from 10/10/01 — KASBAH ROCKING:
“Right now a Columbian refugee is having dinner with an overtly effeminate Taliban gunrunner in a quaint bistro on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. They’re discussing the coming ski season and desert fall fashions. Drinks are flowing and names are innocently exchanged. Every witty aside by the young gunrunner is met with hearty laughter, as a hidden tape recorder hums inside the Columbian’s left breast pocket.

By morning the gunrunner will be missing. Word will spread through the sequestered Taliban offices, memos will be sent, and maybe a few more soldiers will defect to the Northern Alliance. But after a few days, there will be no mention of him. When his family comes calling, they will be sent to a briefing, and perhaps, also turn up missing.

A few days later maps and phone records will mysteriously disappear. There will be internal arguments and stepped-up security. Rankled officials will call for strip searches, and someone might be shot for treason. Word will spread that two or three training camp security personnel didn’t show up for work that morning, and relative innocents will be tortured. The air of paranoia will thicken and the stench will spread quickly.

And what of the friendly Columbian gentlemen?

He will be enjoying a weekend in Paris by Halloween, and several other well-versed, highly cash-motivated ex-cons will take his place long before he boards the airplane.”

Oh, yes; those were heady times; mere weeks after 9/11 when reporters were afraid to print such nonsense, but the Reality Check News & Information Desk was on duty. Now, it seems, the FBI, to which we warned only two weeks ago, has gone Gestapo on us here at the Fourth Estate; The Government Will Decide The Difference Between Good Investigative Journalism and Treason.

By the mere exercise of excelling at my job, (to which I have avoided for lo these many years since my journalism professor at Trenton State wanted to know why I chose TV Guide for the semester’s internship) I stand accused by a system I am sworn to watchdog like the Dairy Council sitting on the board of review at the FDA and claiming that milk is good for the bones of a human over five months old when all of the science argues against it. Yeah, like that.
These are strange times to be a journalist, especially one on the fringes like myself and Geraldo Rivera, who once told me over several cocktails, and I assume from his manic stuttering and distracted blinking, a dangerous amount of cocaine that if one were to really think about it, what passes for journalism is at best a crime.

Ah, yes, but a threat to national security?

The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief….However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly–when committed in other quarters.”

The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief….However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly–when committed in other quarters.”

Or as investigative journalist extraordinaire, Carl Bernstein once imparted to me in the press box at Shea Stadium during Game 3 of the 2000 World Series, “Quite while you’re ahead.” I had asked him about the future of investigative journalism, such as it is beyond TMZ, which at the turn of the century had yet to exist but nonetheless had forefathers of wonderful schlock like Inside Edition or The Drudge Report. Oh, how we laughed.

Bernstein knew a few things, more so than his partner in the greatest of all scoops, The Watergate Scandal, which so many today wish would crop up again, so they can say they were there, but they would be wrong, because for journalists there was only one “there” there and it was that steamy night in D.C. when it all went wrong for Dick Nixon. Lately Bob Woodward has been feeling the heat from the current White House. Maybe he’s no longer welcome at Pennsylvania Avenue, even with a Democrat in there.

But Woodward, like Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan is a registered Republican, although he did not work for Ronald Reagan like Noonan did or write seventeen books feeding into the myths of Reagan. None of this could be helped, because Noonan is an idiot, and I am not writing this to be mean or biting, she has an obvious mental disability, and if they allow her to speak anymore on Meet The Press THAT would be criminal.

Speaking of long-running “news” shows, I once received a fax here at The Desk from David Westin, then president of ABC NEWS, when the great Ted Koppel was sent packing to make room for some Hollywood bullshit, to which I sent this response and then later to press (THE RAPING OF ABC NEWS — 3/13/02): “Trouble is news doesn’t bring the big numbers anymore, otherwise how could anyone explain these infinite obsessions with Monica Lewinsky, O.J. Simpson and Jennifer Anniston? Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreeds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?”

So nobody understands more than I that aside from pedophiles and terrorists, journalists are the most reviled of groups. I expect backlash to hearing incessantly and with little humor that you are not what mommy told you, but criminal? Not sure that beats the hell out of being hunted, as in the immediate wake of 9/11 when I sent to press this observation on the anthrax/journalist scare (CASUALTIES OF WAR — 11/7/01): “Most of these people are frightened now. You have to wear rubber gloves just to deliver pizza at the New York Times and everyone at the GE building are issued gasmasks and need four kinds of ID to get on the main floor of the NBC Nightly News.”

There were tougher times to be a journalist, like during the opening months of prohibition when giants in the business like H.L. Mencken would storm through Baltimore newsrooms flailing his arms about like a spastic ape spitting pistachio shells at secretaries. No booze is worse than being labeled a criminal by the FBI, believe me. Take me down, but leave the gin.

So now I hear they’re discussing passing another goddamn law called the Shield Law, which will officially grant the First Amendment to those whose livelihoods depend on it.

Shit, it’s more than freedom for some of us. It’s, you know, definition. Like congressmen wearing flag pins.

Not all obsessions need a symbol, bub.

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James Campion – Sportswriter and Broadcaster

 

SPORTS BIO

jc at Yankee StadiumFor four years jc penned a sports column called Sports Shorts for a weekly newspaper called the North County News out of Yorktown, NY, where he gained notoriety and acclaim for his emotional, funny, and often compelling look at the world of fun and games. Although some of the work was considered for his latest book, Fear No Art, jc thought it too much a departure from the flow and subject matter dominant in the original manuscript, and thus left this fertile period out almost entirely. Now exclusively for jamescampion.com, the author has selected some of his favorite pieces from that era and beyond. They appear in public here for the first time since their original release.

A broadcaster and writer during his formative years in high school and college, jc embraced his first love, sports. Fascinated by the raw and unpredictable nature of the athlete in his/her physically and mentally challenging environment, he sought to portray their triumphs and tragedies in a far different slant from the normal fare, without forgetting the voices and craft of the genre’s true giants. As one of the only national columnists for the small, but influential, Westchester newspaper (it won many NY state awards for journalism during his stay and beyond) jc became both celebrity and demon by his rabid readers, balancing his radio and television work as a local talk show host.

jc and cb on Sports Club - 1992His many live sports-talk television programs from Cablevision’s “The Sports Club Live” (1989-1996) to Continental Cablevision’s “Sports Talk Live” (1995-1997) and the award-winning baseball interview show, “X-Tra Inning” (1990-1994) and co-hosting WLNA radio’s “Sports Nite” (1993-1995) provided jc with a wide-ranging and oft times loyal fan base. He was able to meet many prominent sports figures and attend some of the most exciting and important events of the time while extending his reporting talents.

Although there was little sign among his peers at the time that jc would abandon his prominent post at the North County News and head on the road with a New Jersey club band in the summer of ’95 to write his first book, Deep Tank Jersey, many admirers of his later work point to these years covering sports as not only a stepping stone to a promising career, but another vehicle for his unique literary voice. Evidence of this is that during the early 90s’ jc was working extensively on research for what was to be his first book about the legendary Yankees/Red Sox of 1978. A book, mentioned in several interviews, that he plans to finish one day. His last extensive sportswriting work was a one-year stint penning the Sporting Strife column for the New Jersey entertainment weekly, East Coast Rocker in 1996.

jc and Rob Astorino - 1991Today jc remains the voice of local sports in Westchester, recently completing a four-year run with his nightly radio show, “Inside Sports” on WFAS radio out of White Plains, where he and his co-host, Rob Astorino have covered the World Series, the NBA Finals and more. As the television voice of high school football and basketball for MJM. productions, headed by long-time producer/director Mike Miner, and the Cablevision Network, jc continues to give local athletes a chance to shine. His annual Major League Baseball and NFL previews for Genesis magazine are read nationally, and he continues to contribute stories for the North County News.

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In Search of Reggie

North County News 8/5/93

IN SEARCH OF REGGIE…

For the better part of ten years, I was surrounded by pictures of him on my bedroom walls. Every night before I fell asleep he’d be staring down at me, and every morning I’d awake to a still photograph of his famous powerful, two-handed swing.

I listened to his exploits on my radio and studied him on the tube. His career marked my childhood: the Swingin’ A’s in grammar school, the Mighty Yanks in high school.

It was during one of those years that I swore I’d be there when they put him in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. And last week, Reginald Martinez Jackson and I had a date with destiny.

I arrived in the quaint village of Cooperstown, not as the wide-eyed fanatic of my youth, but just another member of the bulging media; trying like hell to look uninterested in my suit and tie, like it was just another job, and Reggie Jackson was just another story to cover.

Of course, when Reggie was involved there was always a story. For 21 years he was the quintessential sports superstar, a human spotlight magnet. He talked with unhinging bravado and backed it up; from his rookie season in 1969 when he shocked the baseball world by blasting 41 home runs by the all-star break, his Ruthian blast in the ’71 mid-season classic, to every consecutive swing of the bat during his three-homer outburst in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

The humble smile he’s been donning for most of the day, his day, leapt off his face, and the dauntless grin of coiled arrogance that managed to hit belt 563 career home runs nodded toward me. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, son; I was just trying to turn on a fastball.”

Everywhere you ventured to look throughout the usually quiet hamlet of upstate New York, there was a likeness or mention of him. Just a simple “Reggie” would do. No second name was needed. Unless, of course, it was “Mr. October.”; a name he earned in five World Series appearances in which he would hit a lifetime .357 with 10 home runs and grab two MVP awards.

Collectors’ cards, photos, silver coins and tee shirts of every size and color lined Main Street on the way to the building where they would hang his plaque forever. But the image of him had somehow changed from the hero of yesterday. That was a Reggie Jackson who glared unceasingly into the eyes of convention without blinking. He broke the rules, set the pace, and put a considerable mark on a game bloated with atavistic traditions and unspoken etiquette for the black athlete balancing a sizable chip on his shoulder. Who exactly was this man I thought I’d known from the seemingly endless array of games I watched and books I’d read?

I first met him in the baseball summer 1990 as a member of the television medium. He was casually moving about the batting cage at Yankee Stadium working for the California Angels radio team. He was standing only a few feet from where he slammed those three incredible home runs on three consecutive pitches that October night 13 years before, when I sat a million miles away in Freehold, New Jersey beaming.

I shook his hand, making an offhand remark about some motivational letter I’d sent him earlier that historic season when he was struggling and being booed unmercifully by fans home and away, and jokingly wondered if he remembered receiving it. He looked at me strangely, the way I’d pretty much expected, and I thanked him for the memories. “Thanks buddy,” he smiled and strolled away confidently.

Although that classic Reggie ego had shown through, he appeared small in his pink polo shirt and jeans, not at all the giant in pinstripes from bygone days swaggering across my television screen like a conquering knight from the court of King Arthur.

Now on a lazy Sunday morning on the first day of April, 1993, I found myself standing just a few feet from the podium he was delivering his Hall Of Fame induction speech. His eyes were swollen from tears of joy. He appeared worn, his hair line in a gray, middle-aged recede, decked out in a navy blue suit and bright blue tie; a vision of the quiet executive he’d become the last few years.

He spoke gently about his loved ones, his influences in the game he loved, and his ultimate respect for the honor bestowed upon him. The young lion that once quipped “I’m the straw that stirs the drink,” was now the straw that was happy to just be in the glass. He was humble, gracious, and at times apologetic for the in-your-face attitude that made him the kind of player that would expect a trip to immortality. In other words, he was anything but Reggie Jackson.

There was little in that speech that hinted at that Reggie Jackson. But I figured that in the post-ceremony press conference, away from his adoring public, probing cameras, and the rows of baseball great behind him, the real Reggie would emerge from the shadow of this mellowed facsimile. I was wrong.

There he sat, less than 20 minutes later, grinning politely, offering the odd joke and talking about his respect for the beauty of the game. I couldn’t take much more, so I up went my diminutive left arm, waving for his acknowledgment.

Before he was done pointing at me to begin, I rambled out a double-edged question about his years of frustration battling against the tide of adversities that often finds a young man of pride, talent, and conviction. I asked if he contemplated chucking the whole thing to waltz into an easier life devoid of blaring headlines and echoing boos. I eluded to the moment of his speech when he chronicled his agonizingly controversial first year with the Yankees, after he’d won three consecutive championships in Oakland and took less money to play for the Bronx Bombers only to be treated like a journeyman by manager Billy Martin, a man he’d admitted to despising in his autobiography.

“Quit?” he snarled, his stare burning a hole through my skull. “I had 300 more home runs to hit, and too many moments to create.”

Before he was done, that infamous intimidating Reggie heat was beginning to rise from out of his tightly buttoned collar. Yet, I mustered the audacity to conclude that perhaps by releasing the anger of the entire year acted as motivation for the events of Oct. 18, 1977 when those three World Series swings planted him in the record books and in the lap of legend.

“Are these real questions?” he asked, looking around the room packed with media from all over the world. “Because it sounds like your just throwing these off the top of your head,” he laughed. “Maybe you should ask one of these guys to help you out.”

The room of mostly grizzled sports writers and broadcasters chuckled at my dilemma. It was likely that each of them had been on the wicked end of Reggie’s venom before. However, I smiled back at him and demanded an answer. “What were you thinking when you stepped to the plate to make history?”

It was at that moment when the larger-than-life figure of boyhood memories melded together with the man before me. The humble smile he’s been donning for most of the day, his day, leapt off his face, and the dauntless grin of coiled arrogance that managed to hit belt 563 career home runs nodded toward me. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, son; I was just trying to turn on a fastball.”

I still haven’t stopped smiling.

Congratulations Reggie.

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THE CLASSICS

The top ten all-time Reality Check columns as determined by volume of mail or immediate feedback by the hearty members of the indomitable Check Group.

THE 9/11 SERIES

This five-part commentary is now lauded among readers as some of jc’s finest columns in the wake of the events of 9/11. Two of these brutally honest pieces were included in the charity compendeum, “Glory: A Nation’s Spirit Defeats the Attack on America.” (2001)

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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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