TIME FOR MUELLER TO SPEAK

Aquarian Weekly
5/8/19

Reality Check

James Campion


TIME FOR MUELLER TO SPEAK

Things move so fast during this car-wreck presidency I am forced in mid-stream to abandon one column on Donald Trump’s spastic scramble to keep Congress and thus the American people away from his tax returns (Yikes, what horrors lurk within?) and shift gears to the breaking news on Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s recent eyebrow raising D.C. bombshell of a letter to Attorney General William Barr that was not only completely unexpected by out of character for the normally tight-lipped Mueller and unprecedented in the long history of special counsels and the justice department. Within hours of a report in the Washington Post about this unusually aggressive correspondence, Congress made it public, and man it is a doozy.

Mueller basically calls the Attorney General of the United States a liar, and worse yet, subsequently an accessory to Trump’s obstruction of justice the special counsel framed in his 448-page report, or at the very least making clear that Barr’s March 24 fluff-note disguised as a summary of the Mueller Report led to “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.” At which point Mueller goes on to write, “This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

Oy.

The letter is not long, but it is direct, (no one that makes his living in the law uses the term “threatens” lightly) and turns out to be a kill-hell bitch slap of a rebuke on the nation’s top law officer. In Barr’s grubby paws, according to the report’s author, there is no assurance of “full public confidence.”

Ouch.

And this point became far clearer during a heated exchange at Barr’s Senate hearing this week, as California Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic presidential candidate, got the beleaguered and stammering AG to admit that although he determined publicly more than once that the DOJ found no evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice in the report, he never reviewed any of it before making this decision. Because, you know, he is only the nation’s attorney general and was the first one to have access to the most important official government document created in the last decade. I mean, why study it when you can merely make shit up.

Mueller concludes his stern warning on misinterpreting his two years of work by respecting the right of Barr’s office to review the material in the aforementioned report, but “that process need not delay release of enclosed materials.” In other words, “Hey, buddy, don’t use this whole ‘review process’ as an excuse to stonewall what is rightfully the American’s people’s document bought and paid for by them and researched and formulated for them.” And then with swift and severe precision Mueller slides effortlessly into his final paragraph with “Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation.”

This is the equivalent in writer’s parlance of a right-cross. Think of Mike Tyson in 1986 as a sentence. Barr would be the first-round casualty.

We know now that after digesting this little missive, Barr quite ceremoniously told Mueller to go fuck himself and took his sweet time before disseminating a rose-colored pro-Trump summary (that he later claimed was not a summary) of Mueller’s investigative opus and then before actually releasing the report held a surreal presser in which he tried to soften the obvious accusations that it levies on the president of the United States.

There was less speculation in interpreting the Bible or late-Sixties Beatles songs than the Mueller Report. Its author needs to speak, and soon.

This tiptoe through bullshit is what landed Barr in front of Congress again – a request he playfully dodged before complying, keeping himself from contempt charges that tend to lead to disbarment and other things – and it has wrecked whatever possible credibility the AG could have had after he shamelessly campaigned for the gig by kissing Trump’s ample hindquarters. 

But I digress.

This is about Robert Mueller today. It is his reputation that will be on the line next. What the special counsel does not get to do is throw stones at Barr’s rather flimsy glass house and then continue to play intellectual recluse floating above the fray with a smirk while occasionally being seen wandering in and out of D.C. churches every Sunday and leaking accusatory letters to the press. This was Mueller’s baby. He signed his name to it. And it has predictably been politicized by Congress and Trump apologists and constantly battered by Tweety McTweeter in the White House. There was less speculation in interpreting the Bible or late-Sixties Beatles songs than the Mueller Report. Its author needs to speak, and soon.

Now, there will be some who might claim that everything Mueller needed to do as a patriot and a respected investigator is encapsulated in this extensive report. Enough is enough. Leave the man alone. He did his job and did it well under scrutiny and leaks and hammering from all ends. But I disagree. As a writer, I believe it is incumbent on the author to stand up for the work and if there is any ambiguity in the interpretation of it then it must be put to rest. And this is not some novelist who can say, “I wrote it, you figure it out. It speaks to everyone differently. How you see it is where you come from emotionally and…blah blah blah.” This is law and it contains evidence and facts and it is being tossed around like a worn political football.

Mueller needs to fix this. And there is an easy way to put it all to rest; come out and speak. And not in an interview format on 60 Minutes or Oprah or CNN. He needs to conduct a press conference; a full, binding and unfiltered statement to the American people on where he stands, as his name is on the front cover of this massive undertaking that people are pulling apart. Book time on all the networks. Talk to us. Directly. Without media noise, a redacted tome, or certainly whatever lunacy comes from our game show president. It is that important.

And I don’t even mean sitting before Congress in some endless charade, which I assumed was coming no matter what was in the thing, never mind all the “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law” – the key sentence in all this. But if Congress is considering additional investigations, and we know there are already 14 independent ones ongoing mentioned in the redacted version of the report, then Mueller cannot be coy. The future of this presidency, future ones, and the structure of this republic is on the line here.

The Mueller Report was #1 on Amazon’s best-seller list for days after its release. It is a bonafide smash. People are obviously very interested in what its author has to say about it and for all this guessing and litigating to cease. Everyone has a side and an idea about what level of crap the president is in. There is only one man for whom any of that matters, Robert Swan Mueller III.

And he needs to speak.

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TRUMP GUILTY OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE – NOW WHAT?

Aquarian Weekly
4/24/19

Reality Check

James Campion


TRUMP GUILTY OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE – NOW WHAT?

Thank you.

Not since I began filling this space with words in August of 1997 have I gotten so many accolades from readers and colleagues on my correct analysis, as corroborated by the release of the Mueller Report this week, on President Donald J. Trump being clearly guilty of obstructing justice during the investigations into his campaign and administration allegedly working with Russians to destroy our democratic system. Now, to be fair, this was a slam dunk. I mean, the guy did it in broad daylight, on national television, Twitter, he even bragged to a bunch of Russians in the Oval Office with big-mouth staff hanging around. It was more like writing that pizza is good or war is bad, or nothing is better than sex. And folks, there is no sillier phrase in any language. Nothing is better than sex. Period. So, I appreciate your kind words, plaudits and references to my genius, but Trump being guilty of obstruction was a no brainer. Kind of like Trump himself.

There is so much damaging shit in this report about our game show president, it will take volumes by historians to distill over the decades. But since I promised that the piece referred to in all this praising would indeed be the last word on the report itself, I am not here today to rehash it. Although, come on, how great is it that the president is on record as saying the minute Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.” Then, according to his then attorney general Trump began his road to obstructing justice by tearing into Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation. Trump, as he did with FBI Director James Comey, when he tried to queer a criminal inquiry (this one was on soon-to-be-locked up former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn), begged to be protected from himself. This is the Donald Trump that appeared in my celebrated deconstruction of his obstructing justice – a man, who if he were innocent, sure did not act like it from day-one.

Also, if I may, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitting under oath she is a lying machine is delicious too, but I giddily digress.

And so, Robert Mueller after nearly two years and over 400 pages of what we can see here is heavily redacted info from an attorney general who is openly in the bag for Trump, the president committed at least ten different acts of obstruction of justice. What it comes down to is not that the president is guilty or not guilty, but what there is under the constitution to be done with this. Trump being guilty, as stated here for months and nailed down by federal investigators, is a done deal. What William Barr is arguing, again covered here two weeks ago (damn, I am good), is that unless there was collusion than there cannot be obstructing justice. And since there is no solid evidence of direct collusion – although the report states that there was plenty of merry collaborative efforts to use a hostile foreign entity trying to destroy its opponent to win the presidency by the Trump campaign – there is no point pursing the Mueller team’s evidence to this end.

What Barr is saying is, “Sure, this behavior is icky and bad and even toeing the line of criminal, if not criminal, but if the guy was only reacting out of fear for being railroaded, then what can I do?” And in this reasoning, Barr’s objective is clear: “Fuck the Justice Department and the United States and its citizens. I have to protect Trump.” As Trump has asked of anyone in his employ. The president often uses the specter of Roy Cohn, a despicable openly bigoted criminal lawyer, who according to Trump was a trusted mentor, to insist this. Thus, Barr’s credibility is shot. He should now be viewed as an untrusty hack who has dumped the objective concept of his office to be a lacky. Good for him. Let’s move on.

And where we move is the U.S. Congress. This is where this sordid tale now continues. Trump is guilty of obstructing justice. What Mueller is arguing is that it is not within his powers to prosecute a sitting president, this he punts to the legislative branch as our constitution states. The preponderance of evidence against Trump is enough for a deeper dive into an investigation and possible impeachment hearings, but whether congress, more specifically Democrats – Republicans have consistently crapped the bed on this fiasco – have the stones to pull this off is another thing. There is politics involved. And when that happens we see that more times than not all hope for legality and morality is tossed into the shit pile.

What it comes down to is not that the president is guilty or not guilty, but what there is under the constitution to be done with this.

The second Pennsylvania fell to Trump and it looked all the world like this doofus would be our president on November 6, 2016, I texted a dear friend, “Countdown to Impeachment”. It was part joke, but also knowing Trump since the 1980s here in and around NYC, it was obvious this guy was going to do something to get himself in trouble. And, well, here it is; an impeachable offense. Whether that happens or not, it’s up to congress. It was for Nixon and Clinton, and it came to bear. It was for Reagan, and it did not. This goes where congress goes.

And, trust me, I am not putting my stellar predictive talents on the line when it comes to congress. I have no idea how it will go there. Ever. Chances are nothing will happen. We’re 18 months from the 2020 election and Trump is still languishing in the low 40s approval rating and his “crazy shit” is now without the checks and balances of all those poor bastards in the White House that kept Trump from firing Mueller and implicating himself even further into this mess. They all quit in protest or were sacked for trying to stay out of prison for him. There are more Trump shenanigans to come to bury him, so, really, why risk a backlash or what DC insiders like to refer to as “investigation fatigue” to make a martyr out of this dink? Democrats could drag this out for publicity and wait until the election, or (imagine that!) congress could actually do its constitutional duty job and act as a viable check on the abuse of powers within the executive branch.

Whatever happens, this is what is at stake now that we have official compiled and corroborating evidence of obstruction of justice by the president of the United States.

Trump is guilty.

Okay…

Now what?

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THE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF THE PLANET & THE MERRY HUMAN VIRUS

Aquarian Weekly
4/17/19

Reality Check

James Campion

THE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF THE PLANET & THE MERRY HUMAN VIRUS 

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
– Genesis 1:26-28

You know the deal; if there is a choice to be made – the environment or the human need to destroy shit – the latter wins out. Every time. If we had a slogan it would be; Humanity – Fucking Up Everything Natural For 200,000 Fun-Filled Years. This was true long before anyone thought to write this concept down, and then some enterprisingly insane Israelite decided to frame it as a holy edict by this God thing they made up: Dominion. The Torah (or as the Christians started calling it a few centuries in) the Bible is silly with it. Webster’s defines it as “sovereignty or control” or in more detailed conventions, “a governmental system”. Given this, we are “responsible” for this, but more times than not provided a choice between the planet and us, we choose us. Welcome to humanity, the virus of our terrarium.

Okay, so there is my opening paragraph for Earth Day.

When my fantastic new managing editor, Dan Alleva asked me to add my two cents to this occasion I shuddered. But I like Dan. He is doing a fine job already. He deserves much better than this, because I believe he generally cares about this thing. Enough that we should devote an entire issue of this paper to it. And that is quite noble, if not a tad naïve, at least from this damaged perspective. Yeah, we know, Campion; we’re all doomed, blah blah blah. Well, this seems about right, especially when considering I was asked to play at a No Nukes rally in the mid 80s and showed up with a song I wrote titled “Living in the Underground” that gleefully hoped for the end of times so we can all dance around in a tunnel to Elvis Presley records, or that I was invited to speak at a Tea Party thing in the late aughts in which within the first two minutes I called everyone there a blithering idiot before being roundly booed off the stage, and then there was the time a thoughtful and brilliant writer asked me to pen a screed on freedom of speech for an online community of creatives and I handed in 3,000 words of such rancid bellicosity that she could not run it.

So, considering the source, you were probably not going to get any kumbaya out of me. And to be fair, even in the context of the great human experiment, America, the previous administration was the kindest ever to the earth in its policies, I believe most of it was overkill and hindered our economic growth, and so I am as guilty as anyone in assisting in the planet’s demise. Quite frankly, I will always be guilty of choosing my own comfort over the earth. We all do. Come on. Shit, Al Gore spent years decrying Global Warming while whisking around in a private jet. Why? Because Al Gore is a human, and he can’t help it. We mean well, or we think we do – coming up with fancy philosophies and mottos and (ahem) Earth Days, but we still merrily burn fossil fuels and use plastic all over the joint and eat animals who are filling the ozone with methane.

Right now, as I write this, coal is being burned to make the electricity that lights my way and I used a car to get here to write it. Wait, I have to sip water out of this Styrofoam cup to keep hydrated, so I have the energy to slowly and quite deliberately erode the livable space my kid will have to inhabit.   

But for the purposes of mocking the doofus that sits in the White House today, who doesn’t believe in things like science or really any ounce of reality, I offer what our God-fearing country is now doing to help speed (and I do mean speed) along the destruction of the planet, or as Master George Carlin put it, us: “Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam … The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

First our game show president, after he struck Climate Change as a threat to national security, appointed a man who had sued the Environmental Protection Agency 13 times to run it. Scott Pruitt, a science denying ambulance-chaser from Oklahoma, immediately bragged to the Washington Post that he has “moved to shrink the agency’s reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous environmental rules.” Then, within weeks of making a move akin to choosing Al Capone to head of the FBI, Pruitt loosened all regulations on toxic air pollution. Because, you know, it’s not bad enough we don’t give a shit about the planet, but we need to use kill-friendly toxicity to ramp it up.  

Al Gore spent years decrying Global Warming while whisking around in a private jet. Why? Because Al Gore is a human, and he can’t help it.

Pruitt then began gutting every clean-water act known to modern law before he had to quit in ignominy under 14 different counts of fraud and who knows what else? The man is scum, even by human standards. But wait, he was replaced by an anti-environmental lobbyist for coal, Andrew Wheeler, who is currently poisoning something.     

But these two are merely poster boys for what has transpired thus far over the first two dismal years of this farce.

The United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement that was not necessarily one headed by Barack Obama but fit into his agenda to “save us” from ourselves. Poor bastard. But the Clean Power Plan was Obama’s baby and of course the Trump Administration has rolled back even the most commonsense aspects of it to “save the coal industry”, which is also dying a slow death that has actually accelerated during Trump’s silliness.

And my favorite, since we all claim to love animals, but really, really don’t; in July of 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to change the way the Endangered Species Act is administered, saying more weight would be put on economic considerations when designating an endangered animal’s habitat, this includes the Migratory Bird Treaty Act reinterpretation, which means as long as you can make a buck you are allowed to kill birds, lots of birds, endangered or otherwise. It is, well, a Bird Holocaust, if you will.

I wish I could put that in the lyrics of my new Earth Day song; The bird holocaust is underway / Construct your power lines / Install your wind turbines / And smile, smile, smile until we slowly waste away. Something like that. I’m working on it. Maybe put it to the tune of “Imagine”, so John Lennon can be the first corpse to puke.

There’s more horrible shit going on, and I haven’t even gotten to China, which will surely erode the ozone so drastically that everyone will have some form of skin cancer to go with all the poison food and allergies and out-of-whack hormonal damage our offspring’s offspring will suffer until we indeed mutate into every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Did I mention the oceans?

Who has time for that condemned shit? Not me. Gotta get back to polluting.

Happy fucking Earth Day.

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STEPHEN KELLOGG & HIS OBJECTS OF HOPE

Aquarian Weekly

Feature

4/17/19

James Campion

STEPHEN KELLOGG & HIS OBJECTS OF HOPE
Singer-songwriter Takes His Most Personal Musical Statement on the Road

He sings in its title track; Surrounded by family, 12 O’clock on New Year’s Eve / Throwing paper on the fire / Nothing else that we require / Cause a heart with no regrets / Is as good as it can get.

Stephen Kellogg stands with his arms outstretched on stage beneath the din of thunderous applause. Dressed in a black velvet jacket with his initials tapered in white on his right breast and a grey hat that keeps a tuft of curls from erupting across his forehead, he appears as if he wants to embrace everyone in the room. Beside him, sporting his own ragged fedora in a dark short-sleeved shirt and grey jeans, is his musical partner, co-songwriter, sounding board and main instigator, Eric Donnelly. Sitting with a bemused smirk on his face, Donnelly grips his electric guitar and waits for the man to give him a cue. Eyeing him, Kellogg flips his guitar strap over his shoulder and counts off. These compatriots in song and travel have been on the road now for three weeks touring an album that took them a month to record some nine-hundred miles south of here in Music City – Nashville, Tennessee. Kellogg ended up calling it Objects in the Mirror, because, like the memories he frames in each of its songs, they can sometimes be “closer than they appear”. It is indeed an album filled with snapshots in time, both past and present, and make up what might well be Kellogg’s finest work. It is at least his most autobiographical and eerily relatable.

“I’m gonna play some songs from the new album and then we’ll take requests,” Kellogg sheepishly tells the audience. “First part’s for me…the second one’s for you.”

That sentiment could describe the tour thus far, two-parts struggle, one part joyous. To review; Kellogg has had to rush back home to tend to his family (wife and four girls) who were in a bit of a car bang-up (everyone’s fine), he’s severely sprained his left thumb (the one that grips the guitar neck) and battled a pretty nasty throat bug. He’s also played to packed houses of adoring fans and used the opportunity of this roving duet to bring these close-to-the-bone sonnets to love and loss and age and death and family and money and social and political concerns to the public completely unfiltered.

It is beyond the music, though. There is a connection Kellogg makes with audiences that is unique; the shared experience of his personal story, the way he finds the universal thread of humanity that gets under the skin with a voice that is a mixture of sultry country-tinged pinpoint melodic crooning and genuine rock and folk aw-shucks. He sings without the haughty weight of symbolism in the album’s first single, “High Highs, Low Lows”; Only one way the river flows / Was it comedy or tragedy / Both I would suppose / High highs and low lows. And when he is done everyone in the room is with him.

“The tour we’re doing, just me and Eric sharing it all night after night, which is the first of two ways we’re bringing this album to audience, just feels so correct,” Kellogg told me a few weeks back when he began this journey. “These songs and these venues are the perfect introduction, but then we’ll go out and play the album the way we recorded it… with a full band.”

Donnelly, who plays in both incarnations, co-wrote six of the songs on Objects in the Mirror, acting as co-producer along the way. He was also the impetus for the entire project as he prompted his friend to Come on and make an album already!

“It’s really special having Eric with me on the road and being able to share what I see going on out in the audience when we play these songs,” Kellogg said an hour or so before showtime. “Beyond being a great musician to play with a lot of his heart is in this record too, and it’s been pretty nice to soak it up together.”

The room is pin quiet when the new songs come (well, mostly, on this night Kellogg has to uncharacteristically berate some loud chatter over by the bar, which garners righteous applause). You get the feeling when listening to them one after the other that the songwriter is peeling back layers from his life. “Song for Daughters”, wherein he sings my favorite track on the new album– spoiler alert, I too have a daughter – has begun to move people as much as the songwriter. It’s chorus of Don’t be too hard on yourselves is chill-inducing, but not in any maudlin way. Just the opposite, there is a genuine sense of communicating with his children the way Kellogg does with the audience, through his most powerful tool, music.

He sings, This is a song for our daughters, cause there’s some things they need to hear / We never know when it’s our time to go, so let me be perfectly clear / You’re gonna win, you’re gonna lose, you’re gonna walk around in your shoes / ‘Til one day it’s you who will say… Don’t be too hard on yourselves…

One of Kellogg’s female brood has joined him on this leg of the tour, 11 year-old Adeline, an adorably semi-bored soul who occasionally puts her head on daddy’s shoulder during our backstage chat. Of course, I have to ask her about when her sisters had first heard the song. “Well, I remember dad got all of us together in the living room at my house and he played it for us and at first I didn’t really want to hear it because I didn’t feel like listening to a song right then…” Laughter fills the room, and after she politely allowed it to die down, she finishes. “But I listened to it and I really felt some kind of connection, and it is an incredible song and I was really proud of him for writing it.”

Adeline’s dad’s performances on this tour, and the current one he’s embarked on with a full band, suitably reflect what he achieved on Objects in the Mirror; this sense of self and a surge of positivity that comes from never having abandoned that most precious of human resources, hope. It is all over his record, from the sometimes humorous but endearing “All The Love (That Comes To Me)” (I’ve got all I ever wanted / But I still cannot believe / How I love to take for granted / All the love that comes to me) to his profession of undying love from the very start for his wife of nearly17 years (they’ve been together “26 years and counting”), Kristen, “Love of My Life” (But of all of the best memories that live in my head / It’s you in those blue jeans on the day that we met) there is a fierce embrace of life.  

“I’m feeling that the presentation of these songs is a different role than I’ve played before,” Kellogg tells me. “It feels more inclusive and it sort of operates on the basic premise that most people are fundamentally good and trying to take a breath and get back to that. And you know what, that feels really important these days.”

To that end, Objects in the Mirror does not shy away from the current climate of anti-civility that exists from Washington DC to the Internet, as in “Symphony of Joy” that cross-checks the breaking of glass ceilings and when they finally shatter; Those who pinned you to the margins, baby, they’ll be sweeping up. “I’m trying to find ways to discuss the way the world is right now that is beyond ‘they’re wrong and we’re right’,” says Kellogg. “But I feel anger too, and I am constantly battling this sense of just being furious with what’s going on, but I just can’t use my emotions up on that. I have to find the happiness in there.” And for this he presents perspective, specifically, and perhaps not coincidentally on the two penultimate tracks on the album, “I Will Always Have Your Back” and “Right There By You”.

However, there is one track on Objects that may explain this sentiment the best. It hits on several themes, some controversial, some spiritual, but mostly inspirational. It is called “Prayers”, but it ain’t what you think. Played softly on a piano – one of the first Kellogg has written on an instrument he is just beginning to comprehend – it is a beseeching to go beyond the vagaries of detachment and the impulse to give up, and offers a rather strict edict; Every unkind thing we say leads to our unhappiness / No one in the world gets by without feeling bad sometimes / I’m not trying to be a jerk / But say your prayers, get off your ass and get back to work.

Some have bristled at this as a tad insensitive, but when watching the songwriter hunched over the piano and singing it softly on this night, with zero pretense, it is hard not to embrace his refrain.  

“I reworked that one a lot, almost as much as I’ve worked on a song, because I didn’t want it to feel soap boxy at all,” he recalls with some measure of humor. “I was going for this idea, you know, say your prayers, hope for the best, but then roll up your fucking sleeves and let’s go! It requires you too, and that’s always been my shaky relationship with religion and spirituality. I found myself wanting to sing about it and the lyric really isn’t totally where I can land for songs, that end line, ‘Say your prayers and get off your ass and back to work’, so I wanted to make sure that I was one-hundred percent behind it and comfortable, and ultimately by the time that I was done with it, I was. But in no way did I expect what that song was going to mean to people.”

However, it is when Kellogg and Donnelly perform the title track that there’s not a rustle in the audience. Suddenly, all the hoopla by the bar and the clinking of glasses and murmur of the back tables drop silent. Last day I remember mama acting like herself / When the angels took her home / I was never so alone. “Objects in the Mirror”, as a song and an album, and as Kellogg likes to point out, an idea speaks of the journey, the one we have taken and the one we find ourselves on; most of it has little to do with our choices. Life happens, and it is good to remind one’s self of how and when it changes us. His touchstones are right there for us to see – childhood impressions, iconic public events, personal tragedies, the loss of innocence – the moments of mourning of death or the slow passage of time or the ever-evolving heart and its comprehending of an oft-times cruel world. This is both an unblinking glimpse at the tragic while celebrating the survival of it, as is his show, which is open, and conversational – in both storytelling and song-sharing.

“I am constantly battling this sense of just being furious with what’s going on, but I just can’t use my emotions up on that. I have to find the happiness in there.”

Donnelly’s recollection of the song speaks of how the album’s themes began to emerge. “Stephen had given me a Dropbox file of about 80 different ideas and ‘Objects’ had a couple different iterations and I remember that line wasn’t quite there yet, but it was close, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s something, but I don’t know what it is yet’,” he says. “And at the very end of the process, Stephen mentioned liking what he called then ‘the date song’ and then connected those dots of the objects in the mirror idea with this date song, and we started texting ideas back and forth. That’s when I knew Stephen was off to the races.”

Donnelly, whose work on the album Kellogg is quick to point out was not only paramount, but crucial, made sure I knew that he watched his partner at the top of his game when it came time to working with some of the best Nashville session cats, as if catching a glimpse of one of the world’s most accomplished athletes in his prime. “Maybe it’s because Stephen didn’t have a set band and was completely in charge of the project, but he became this person that I hadn’t seen before,” recalls Donnelly of the duo’s first days in Nashville. “It’s incredible to say this, whether playing the guitar or singing, I don’t think he made a single mistake, and the entire record was done live! I mean, that just doesn’t happen. On ten songs in four days, there wasn’t one time that we listened back to a take and said, ‘Oh, the vocal wasn’t good, but we’ll just have him re-sing it.’ It was just a really cool thing to be around how focused and how in his element Stephen was throughout those sessions.”

‘I feel like…woah, this album has created a moment for me,” Kellogg concluded during our initial conversation later last year, when the sessions were still freshly in his own rearview. “And for every listener that quotes it or shares it or someone who writes about it or you guys podcasting about it (Adam Duritz of Counting Crows and yours truly played some of the songs on our weekly Underwater Sunshine podcast) is all part of the momentum that allows you to believe in yourself enough to think like, yeah, I have things to say and we’re going to get this out in the world and act as the medicine that we intended it to be.”

The ovation continues throughout the night. It continues as Kellogg takes his band across the country getting these songs of hope and loss and love out in the world. I can hear them now, still bouncing off the walls of the place enough to last, like memories, like objects in our own mirrors, for a little longer than a single show.

Kellogg thanks everyone, gayly tips his hat and heads to the next stage to administer another dose of his musical medicine.

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FINAL WORD ON MUELLER REPORT & OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Aquarian Weekly
4/10/19

Reality Check

James Campion


FINAL WORD ON MUELLER REPORT & OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE


As stated time and again in this space, this whole Russian obsession the Trump campaign and its administration’s first two years of governance has displayed had nothing to do with collusion. The undisputed proof that the President of the United States plotted with a foreign government to help push the election in his favor seems crazy when considering this guy can’t keep two thoughts in his head for five consecutive minutes, much less oversee a Machiavellian scheme of this magnitude. Donald Trump doesn’t possess the mental capacity or the sense of survival techniques inherent in someone who would do anything like this. However, what I have been commenting on now for over two years was this dumbfounding collage of self-incriminating acts that made it look as if the president were guilty of something. He is so delusional to the consequences of his actions and certainly his comments that he keeps making things worse for himself. To his credit, Special Counsel Robert Mueller shut the Trump noise out and actually saved the president from himself by coming to the conclusion that despite the mounting idiocy coming from the White House to make him continuously appear as guilty as sin – weird tweets, incessant haranguing of the special counsel and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a dozen or so colleagues and alleged co-conspirators lying to congress and the FBI, 34 indictments, Trump was not guilty of at least an ill-conceived strategy with a paper trail.

We’ll get to more of Trump’s rampant stupidity that caused all these investigations in the first place, but let’s get to the crux of the issue for which this space has indeed repeatedly stated: Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.

First off, we know nothing about what is in the Mueller Report because right now Attorney General William Barr (the third one in two years under Trump and handpicked by him for his anti-Mueller rhetoric) has not released it. After a few hours over a day and a half of perusing over 300 pages of the thing, Barr summarized Mueller’s findings on collusion and stated quite cryptically that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” This is because Mueller believed he had enough evidence to conclude that Trump had obstructed justice. This has been bared out by Barr’s original statement and more recently in a detailed NY Times report that has Team Mueller bitching that this is starting to smell like a cover-up.  But unless motivated (and of course Barr is not) there is no precedence in implicating a sitting president on obstruction of justice if there is nothing to obstruct justice from. In other words, in Barr’s reasoning, if there is no collusion then what is Trump exactly trying to protect himself from?

And this is where Trump’s stupidity comes stumbling in.

Trump of course came roaring out of the gate (or in this case the golf course) to proclaim himself exonerated on all counts – which ran counter to his hand-picked attorney general’s specific comment about the report not exonerating him. In his usual bumble-fuck manner the president shouted about how much this whole thing was a waste of taxpayer money and time and put undue pressure on the first two years of his presidency. Startlingly, this is all true, but then this buffoon says it was all some kind of plot against him, as if he were a political martyr in the vaunted guise of a Clintonian “vast right-wing conspiracy” defense.

But, you see, no matter how you slice it, Donald Trump caused this whole thing by, again, doing and saying things that implicated him.

First, against the dire protestations of the man who actually helped him get elected, Steve Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man who was essentially investigating his possible involvement in an ongoing criminal review of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Not to mention at that time Trump bent over backwards to make up stories (counter to the overwhelming evidence gathered by the entirety of the U.S. intelligence community) that it was anyone but Russia who had hacked into his opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails among other illegal and hostile maneuvers.

This single act would have been enough to force Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to investigate the president, but then Trump did something even more incriminating, he admitted guilt. On national television.  

Rosenstein, another Trump appointee by the way, was thrown into this steaming pile of shit because his boss, the then acting attorney general, Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the case after being one of a hundred people around Trump that lied to congress about absolutely never having spoken to any Russians during the campaign. In fact, for the record, Trump repeated for fourteen months – from the time this came up during the campaign and well into his presidency – that no one near him had ever spoken to a single Russian, when, it turns out, all of them did – his family, his campaign manager, his associates (both business and political) and many members of his presidential staff.

When Trump told the anchor of NBC News that he fired Comey (already a controversial and suspicious move) because of “the Russia thing”, even after his beleaguered staff had gone crazy concocting some bizarre fiction and subsequent written statement claiming Comey was an FBI pariah that needed to be sacked by recommendation of, if you can believe it, Rod Rosenstein, he made it impossible for anyone to ignore it. Trump: “He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”

Bingo! Obstruction of Justice 101.

Also, for the record, Trump said this past August that he never said such a thing and that NBC “spliced” his answer to incriminate him, just like he eventually claimed it was never his voice on the Access Hollywood tape, even though he immediately apologized for bragging about assaulting women three weeks before he was elected the leader of the free world.

Donald Trump caused this whole thing by doing and saying things that implicated him.

Thus, Bob Mueller recommended that the DOJ consider Trump’s actions as possible obstruction of justice, (this is apparently what is riling them up enough to reach out to the media to berate Bob Barr), but among other things we have yet to see the entire report, which right now is being held up in the (ahem) Department of Justice. Why? If it “exonerates” Trump and he wins and the media and the Democrats and the FBI eat shit, then release it. No redactions. The whole report. That we paid for. Yet, thus far, and a preponderance of Republican legislators have worked as this guy’s echo chamber, the DOJ does not want us to see the whole report, which further raises suspicion on what’s in it. Apparently, no one supporting Trump wants this thing to see the light.

Again, all of this makes Trump look incredibly guilty of something. And if that’s the case then maybe the media didn’t go all that nuts, the Democrats may have a damn good reason to hold this maniac accountable, and the FBI was and is doing its job quite nicely.

Refusing to release this report is again another asinine move by Trump and his zealots, pretty much presuming there is ugly stuff in there. Maybe there isn’t, like there wasn’t collusion. But then why were all those people around the president lying? And going to jail for it? And what’s with all the meetings with Russians? And what about these private nobody-is-allowed-to-be-in-the-room-and there-are-no-transcripts meetings the POTA has with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin?

If I may offer my humble explanation: Beyond the president’s business dealings with Moscow, which hopefully will be revealed when we finally see his tax returns, Donald Trump’s insecurity and childish knee-jerk reaction about everything from Spike Lee to Saturday Night Live to a dead John McCain reared its ugly head once it became obvious that the Russians had aided and abetted his barely over the finish line election in 2016. He was pissed because Clinton won the popular vote and that his inauguration was far smaller than Barack Obama’s and all the other facts that run counter to his delusions of grandeur. Therefore, Trump tried to squash it, never realizing it made him look like he was involved all the time. Then when it came down to actual accountability he did what he has been doing since the 1980s; attack the messenger (the media) and the source of his headache, (Robert Mueller), before finding an alternate culprit (Democrats).

The comedic tragedy of Trump/Mueller comes down to this; over 1,100 times (a count roughly put together this week by the NY Times) the president of the United States framed the special counsel’s attempt to get to the bottom of our nation being attacked by a foreign adversary as a “hoax” or a “witch hunt”, but now uses it’s a questionable summary of his detailed report to defend his sad-sack actions that caused it all in the first place.

No more spot-on event could better describe the first two dismal years of this abortion of a presidency.            

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TO THE BALLOT

Aquarian Weekly
4/3/19

Reality Check

James Campion


TO THE BALLOT
Time for the People of NJ and Not Our Feckless Politicians to Legalize Recreational Marijuana


Eventually barriers do fall to those who are committed to breaking them down.
– NJ Governor Phil Murphy

In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.
– Mark Twain


Predictably, do-nothing NJ lawmakers have sunk the legalization of recreational marijuana this week, and not by striking it down, but by NEVER GETTING TO A VOTE! And so, in the interest of actual democracy (remember that kids?) I propose we do it the democratic way and have a vote. What a concept. Let the ballot box decide if we’re going to drop this delusory, over-officious, money-grubbing, half-assed nonsense about a plant and get down to the business of business. I will stand by the tally. I only ask that we have one.

Governor Phil Murphy and the Democratic-led legislature have failed, miserably. Republicans are, as always, useless. I will spend the next two years campaigning against all of them, but this is not about repercussions for abject failure, this is about moving forward and taking matters into our own hands. The will of the people, as our founders framed it.

No sense going over why this gutless body didn’t even put the matter to a vote – a myriad of the same crap you hear all the time, whether it is to keep minorities or women from voting, recognizing same-sex marriage – religious, taxation, antiquated, bigoted, irrational fears for the moral destruction of society. Stupidly, I have put my faith (is that even the right word?) in the self-serving myopic machinations of politicians, and they fucked up. Again.

Thus far I have made it a point that unlike the zombie Trump zealots who continue to somehow support him despite a spate of broken promises he used to narrowly win the presidency throughout the Rust Belt, not the least of which his constant ranting on repealing and replacing the ACA with a cheaper, better alternative health system, and my favorite boondoggle; bringing manufacturing jobs back and (chuckle) expanding the coal industry, I will hold Mr. Murphy accountable for his only campaign promise I cared two licks about – legalizing recreational marijuana.

Of course, the sensible commentator side of me realizes that the governor was motivated and had plenty of state senate support, control of most of the legislature, and even pushed hard these last months to get a vote, but let’s be honest, there are no medals for trying. This is not about wanting to do something. I would guess that Trump, beyond his infantile tweeting and defending himself against forty investigations, may wish to bring jobs back, he just can’t, and has not, and for this he should be held accountable. Same goes for Murphy. Whether he is a showbiz clown or a progressive Democrat. Results matter. Not talk and tweeting and posturing and desire. Everyone wants something. Politics and governance are about getting it done.

Why should drug dealers and drug lords profit? Why not firefighters or teachers or funds coming in to fix roads and bridges?

This is why it is imperative now that this state put the matter on the ballot this November. I believe it would have a far better chance to pass and thus no one has to feel like they’re damning children (God forbid people actually parent their miserable offspring) or pissing off God or doing whatever frightens politicians. Take it off their desks and lay it on ours. Let us decide. Once that part of it is done, they can bitch and fight over how to tax, regulate or enforce laws dealing with it. Apparently passing controversial bills has become an anathema to lawmakers. With elections looming, they wilt in the bright light of actually doing their jobs. Not even a vote? No public debate or forum? Just a bunch of suits in rooms deciding what’s legal so they can divvy up the tax revenues? Well that revenue comes from us, so let’s decide how we wish to use it.

Truth is money is what this all about for me. I barely smoke weed. I don’t care if its legal or not beyond cashing in. If and when I want contraband, I get it, like my former insane consumption of pure French absinthe. However, why should drug dealers and drug lords profit? Why not firefighters or teachers or funds coming in to fix roads and bridges? Hence, I do not subscribe to the civil rights concept of this. It is not a right to be feed your head. Ask the poor bastards that passed the Volstead Act. Marriage equality was indeed a civil rights issue. This is a commonsense issue.

This is not like say, climate change, which is real, and it is embarrassing I have to state this, but since an entire political party chooses to ignore scientific fact for economic posturing, I guess I do. People are going to believe what they believe. I assume humans are doomed and no matter what we do about the environment, it will come to pass. Thank goodness. We’re a virus and we need to go. No, this is direct line to simply monetize or if you will, exploit a thriving industry. This is how we built this country – free land grabs and slave labor. All I’m asking is we get down to the nitty gritty here, and to – what part of the proposed bill proffered – get those people out of jail doing serious time for smoking a particular plant. We spend enough money with jailing the poor in this country, drugs should not be part of it.

Commonsense needs to be on the ballot. And I am far from saying I think this will solve anything. Holy shit, a moron is president. Regardless of that electoral abortion, I will, as stated, stand by the decisions of the citizens of NJ, because what else do we have left?

The frightened and weak members of our legislature have had their day.

Put weed on the ballot.

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CABLEVISION MONOPOLY & THE MORAL IMPERATIVE

Aquarian Weekly
3/27/19

Reality Check

James Campion

CABLEVISION MONOPOLY & THE MORAL IMPERATIVE 
Or…The Death of Choice in The Cyber Age

I live in a fortified compound in the mountains. It is my life choice, well, my wife’s and mine. I choose only to live an urban or rural existence. I want to be either lost in a sea of humanity or invisible in nature. Splendid, if I may, dear Warren, isolation. Suburbia is not for me…or us. As a consequence, we do not have broadband up here yet. Therefore, if we want access to the Internet – let that read, phones, web service, television, ANYTHING…we need to use Cablevision. If you are unfamiliar with this company, it’s because they choose to go by the “hideout” title of Optimum. Why? Mainly, because they suck, and their owner is a bleating troll of a man and his family is the vermin that have single-handedly destroyed the NY Knicks. But that is for another column. For now, we concentrate on this monopoly and how it is wholly unconstitutional. 

So, how come it exists?

Well, you say, there is plenty of unconstitutional shit that exists: income tax, health insurance monopolies, bullshit drug laws, the Patriot fucking Act, but that is not bothering me now. This is. So stick your “what abouts…” somewhere and follow along. 

Recently, I was mere days late with a payment to Cablevision. It was the first time since the 1980s and certainly for the first time since I have been at my current address here in the mountains that this has occurred. But I noticed a ten-dollar charge on my current bill as a consequence of this heinous faux paus. Now, I’m a big boy and I take what I have coming…mostly. I am willing to pay my due for tardiness or driving into a temporary police barrier or for the bizarre things I did in Freeport, Bahamas lo those many years ago. However, I did have a point here. 

You see, in the weeks after the Hurricane Sandy recovery, I entered a debate with the upper regions of management at Cablevision on how ten days of non-service should be deducted from my bill. They disagreed, claiming, perhaps quite rightly, that circumstances being as they are, a natural disaster dictated that they could not provide service. To refute this sidetracking, I actually used the example that would come to befall me this week: “Well, I bet, that if I were late ten days with my monthly payment, I would suffer the consequences.” They hemmed and hawed with that, never mentioning that for a late payment (one day or one month) there is a charge. 

And so, I went hard at Cablevision this week, who, predictably hid behind some poor woman from India, who answered my complaints with great aplomb. Although it was nearly impossible to understand her apologizing and saying she could do nothing about the charge due to her heavy accent. Despite this, I tried to explain that for three-plus decades I have been duly paying my bills promptly without fail, and shouldn’t there be a special dispensation for loyal, on-time late bill payers? “Sorry, sir…” was how each of her tack answers, clearly read from some sheet, began. 

You are still connected to an insidious anti-American plot to dominate your Internet service.

I asked, as is my wont, for several supervisors, but not surprisingly none came. What may have been surprising to the woman halfway across the globe was I patiently waited for nearly 45 minutes for one of these cowards to emerge and handle my growing recalcitrance. The hearty customer service woman even stayed on the phone with me and after a time too became a little miffed. 

You know who gets away with this shit? Companies that have a monopoly.

You know how I know Cablevision does not care if I am screwed around or to even give me an audience to my complaint?

Allow me to demonstrate…

I thanked the woman and offered my condolences for the unforgiving gig she had to perform and proceeded to check and see what other providers of the Internet I may procure.

Spoiler alert: There are none.

Actually, that is not entirely true. Verizon (after several and varied calls to them and enduring its rather cumbersome web site experience) finally offered my home a direct DSL line, only if I would commit to two years with them and accepted their TV package, which I do not need. I just want Internet, and quality Internet. I have two girls at home, helping me clog up four devices and three televisions, who would skin me alive if they had to suffer sub-par Internet speed. DSL would not cut it. So, really, it is partially true that I cannot find competition for high-speed Internet in the Jersey mountains, a mere 34 miles from the biggest city and largest media center on planet earth. Not to mention residing in a country that busted monopolies in the early 20th century.

My quandary, of which I stated to the overly bubbly representative from Verizon named Ethan, was “I would as soon as pay a homeless man to stand on my lawn with a rusty antennae than to hand over another dime to the veracious monstrosity that is Cablevision, however I cannot live for five minutes on DSL with my daughter’s Herculean tick-tock output and the constant stream of anti-Trump rhetoric blasting from every monitor in the house.” 

This was vexing to say the very least. The amount of hate and rage that filled my otherwise dormant heart over ten bucks may seem like abject craziness to you, but at that moment it was to be my Alamo.

So…?

I finally swallowed hard and manned up. Calling into Cablevision with the express purpose of ending my relationship with this demon corporation and begin extricating myself from the soul-crushing grid had become a moral imperative. This had transformed from a meager customer/company spat into Armageddon.

Strangely, but maybe not so much, the phone prompt wait is next to nothing when one chooses “Ceasing Service”. The voice on the other end sounds as if it were down the block and not in the Middle East. It is warming and congenial and did not ever respond to my whining with anything less than empathy. The name, blessedly, of this avenging angel was Jessica, who even echoed my sentiments with a positive, “Oh, yeah,” when I mentioned that in this day and age Internet service is as important as heat and electricity (well maybe not electricity, since you need electricity to get the WiFi going, but still). And this sweetly accommodating soul not only waved the wicked ten-dollar late fee, but duly discounted my bill the same tenner in perpetuity.

Suddenly, miraculously, my anger was assuaged, and I was $130 richer. 

Who cares? is how you would correctly respond if you read most of this piece. You are still connected to an insidious anti-American plot to dominate your Internet service, you might say. And you would be correct. But, come on, DSL? What year is this? And how can my girls handle an entire Sunday without adorable cat videos on YouTube or how can I get through a day without Tweeting something horrible?

So, I guess, let’s look into this appalling stain on our liberties at a later date and excuse me while I order something I definitely do not need on Amazon.  

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ENOUGH WITH FOX NEWS

Aquarian Weekly
3/20/19

Reality Check

James Campion


ENOUGH WITH FOX NEWS

Most columns that begin with “I never do this” and then the columnist goes on to do it is total bullshit. And yet, here I go: I hardly ever comment on other news outlets or media in general in this space. I think over the nearly 23 years of penning Reality Check I may have dedicated an entire column on matters of media once or twice, and mostly it was in a mocking capacity and scarcely worth noting. When I do make passing critiques on the silliness of cable news or morning shows or the way-too-easy-target talk radio crap-fest, it is merely in the service of a larger point – however rambling or meaningless said point. But today I am forced to comment on FOX News merely because it is suddenly embroiled in a first amendment issue, the likes of which I have spent a lifetime interpreting, and in most cases, defending to its most precious core.

Recently, the Democratic Party has refused FOX News’ request to host any of its presidential candidate debates. This is, of course, the privilege of the party, as it can find any outlet to do so, but the reasoning has gone beyond the right-leaning channel’s penchant to be overly critical and sometimes rancorous towards the party and its liberal platform as a matter of principle over coverage. Party chairman, Tom Perez, issued a statement this week that the cable news outlet “is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates.”

Now, normally, I would take issue with this. Mainly because words like “fair” are quite subjective and downright arbitrary and don’t belong in a serious political discussion and the very idea of “neutral” is at worst nebulous and at best in the eye of the beholder. Hate speech, liberal or conservative ideas, broad mayhem set beside intellectual exchanges all fall under the right to free speech and a free press. However, it has become increasingly disturbing how much FOX News has acted as a state-run propaganda wing of the White House in the past two years, specifically in the past 14 months. So much so that it must be finally stated that what has become of the already marred FOX News brand over the past decades has reached an untenable level of subjective glad-handing and worse still a direct link to governance. Therefore, it can no longer be looked upon as anything resembling a news source. It is for intents and purposes the kind of bizarro shit you see on YouTube or read on Facebook or listen to at the end of the bar around 3:15 am, and once again (yikes!) working as an unelected branch of the federal government.

recent study by New Yorker magazine has fully revealed the length and breadth of the damage FOX News has done to what was already loosely being sold as journalism. The exposé brilliantly researched and written by respected investigative reporter, Jane Mayer, with a myriad of inside sources, is beyond damning. It lays out a systemic pattern of back-and-forth sharing between Donald Trump and its public employees of information, suggested policy and agenda formats for U.S. public and international policy, and a measure of cover-ups on legitimate stories of executive branch crimes and misleading and/or alternate reality concepts peddled as facts.

It appears when the public elects a product of television – and its shortcuts to reasoning and immediate gratification of response, extrapolated in the concussive mendacity of Twitter and most of the Internet – there are consequences. It appears the choice of this president to use one singular communication tool posing as “news” to both figure governing techniques and ideologies, and to have those echoed back to him as if a cheerleading squad, and then promote fiction as a narrative to have it reported as fact, thus creating new fictions, is both stupid and dangerous.    

You have to go back to early 20thcentury Randolph Hearst level of journalistic corruption to equal the well-organized presidential publicity machine FOX has become

Now, to be fair (fair?), there is – and the New Yorker is as guilty of this as any – an alternate argument that much of what comes from commentary or coverage on the liberal side has also been queer and icky and at times downright lunacy. I used to watch FOX as my role here dictates to digest all the areas of coverage until I started to experience a dramatic shift in merely defending this president or stretching the credulity of an argument into pretzels as an insult to my intelligence. But I also watch MSNBC and can report that while it is the oft-times overly enthusiastic opposition wing of this edict, and it goes beyond the pale in setting up scenarios (much like FOX during the Obama administration) giving hope to the resistance that soon there will be impeachments and all the stuff that riles up the bases on both sides, it has never directly influenced presidential policy. You have to go back to early 20thcentury Randolph Hearst level of journalistic corruption to equal the well-organized presidential publicity machine FOX has become wherein hosts of shows, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and FOX & Friends, which even those within the Donald Trump orbit have admitted the president is both obsessed with and educated by, have crossed the barrier normally set up for purported news organizations.

The most egregious example of this is the recent furor over an emergency at the nation’s southern border, which has been roundly refuted by those actually controlling the border and every other news organization. Again, there are many in the Republican Party and even the White House staff who see the entire episode as classic Trump hyperbole, but by in large has received legitimate “coverage” on FOX News, including the election-period nonsense about invading caravans of illegal alien criminals, and the completely made up figures of drug trafficking, et al. Whether the argument about border security is lacking or is fine or whatever is up for debate, but a crisis? No. Yet it is covered as such by FOX, which is regurgitating the paranoid musings of a lunatic as a legitimate story. Either way it is not news and therefore cannot be considered a source of news. In the end, it cannot be allowed to do newsy things like moderate debates.

Bill Sammon, managing editor of Fox News’s Washington bureau, recently referenced poor Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith and Martha MacCallum as those who “embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism.” This is true in the sense that those are sincere reporters who find themselves besmirched by their affiliation with this clown show. Problem is if they are truly pros they would not only quit FOX but go on a pilgrimage to stop these embarrassingly pro-Trump-or bust tactics. They can stay if they wish. I shall not. And apparently those not named Donald Trump, who have a choice to be covered by legitimate news outlets, will not either. And who can blame them?

Enough with FOX News.

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TRUMP vs KIM II

Aquarian Weekly
3/6/19

Reality Check

James Campion


TRUMP vs KIM II
This Time It’s More Stupid & Just as Meaningless


I know much should not be expected from a game show host posing as president, but this one takes the cake – even for The Donald. How he was now twice suckered by this fat little shit heel in North Korea is beyond comprehension. The guy is pushing 73 years-old, obese, on a myriad of medications for old guys and he has to schlep halfway across the world to suck up to a dictator, offering one gushing compliment after the other and tossing around words like love as if a 1960’s soul song parody, and he gets the same thing; North Korea and Kim Jung-un have zero intentions of ceasing their nuclear capabilities or giving up their cache of weapons for America or China or anyone. Nor should he, since the last meeting between these two submentals, when they both shook hands, took photos and told everyone everything was fine, he has gone his merry way. And it appears will continue to do so.

Well, as long as Donald Trump loves him, like the murderous Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, American Enemy #1, Vladimir Putin, accused pedophiles, rapists, sexual harassers, sleazy NFL owners, and Virginia Nazis, we’re okay.  

So now, after all the pomp and blather and the usual pressers and fantastic publicity Jung-un gains from having the leader of the world’s most powerful nation fawning all over him while he continues to make a mockery of human rights, the whole thing falls apart with no deal, but plenty of finger-pointing contradictory post mortems from two lying-ass camps, and a steaming pile of embarrassment for the United States.

I don’t have to ask this question, but I will: Did Trump think his fabulous charm and tough swagger was going to sway this lunatic? Because it sure seemed like he and his sycophants were hinting that for months. This is after the first détente in which Trump kissed Jung-un’s ass and was certain that North Korea, shuttering in his wake, had already agreed to stop proliferating its nuclear arsenal. When his intelligence agencies, the ones he daily vilifies as if Russia’s carnival barker, showed him proof this was not in fact the case, just the opposite, that North Korea had ramped up their weapons efforts since, the president told them they were nuts and went back to eating cheeseburgers and watching FOX & Friends.

And so, entering this farce as he does everything – ill-prepared and breathing in his mind-numbing double-shots of delusion – the president was rife for being duped and duped he would be. Within hours of ramping up his heretofore woefully lacking negotiating skills, Trump bailed on the negotiations. He claims Kim-un would not budge on his weaponry (no shit) even while asking for the U.S. to lift all sanctions. Predictably, North Korea claims they would have gladly (I am sure, heh-heh) stopped their nuclear program for only a handful of lifted sanctions.

Let’s review: Lying sack of shit tyrant and the guy from North Korea both lied to each other, their own countries, and the world…again.

And while Trump was over in Viet Nam (he finally got there after his bullshit deferment during the war) lap-dogging a dictator who spat in his face and sent him home with his tail between his knees, his scumbag hood lawyer/fixer was telling the U.S. Congress what we already know – he’s a cheat, a racist and a con artist. This also bodes well for the international press, who snicker behind our amateur president’s back as he takes everything from diplomacy to government shutdowns to twitter fights with Spike Lee as performance art instead of actual governance.

But listen, unlike Trump himself, who mocked an actual working treaty with a tyrannical regime in Iran as “the worst deal ever”, I believe in trying new things with crazies, instead of the same old. So when the president was selling this idea that if he couldn’t get to Kim with nastiness and then smooching, no one can…so why not try? I did not disagree. I had doubts this moron could pull it off, but the idea was sound. Why continue to do what we’ve done for over a half century with North Korea? This was and is my point about the Iran deal, which Trump claimed to hate, while knowing nothing about it except it was conceived and executed by Democrats during the Obama Administration. Thus, in his usual spectacular level of hypocrisy he does the same thing as Obama did with Iran with Jung-un, but instead of bringing actual diplomats or representatives from the state department and written agreements that must be documented, he sits for tea and chats with a man who has him over the barrel, kicks the American press out of the room – because he knows he is getting his clocked cleaned – and then tells everyone he’s ending the proceedings.

Did Trump think his fabulous charm and tough swagger was going to sway this lunatic?

This hokey clusterfuck Trump has weaved in North Korea is just the tip of a foreign policy disaster he has going. Never mind the dozens of people in the defense and state departments that gave abandoned ship on this lavish foreign policy in which it is a one-man fantasy camp – as in standing next to the aforementioned Putin on foreign soil and telling the American press he believes a Russian despot over his own intelligence that Russia did not, in fact, commit a single hacking crime against our presidential election.

To wit: Standing at a press conference in Viet Nam, Trump defended Jung-un over the death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who died after suffering a massive brain injury while in a North Korean prison. “I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump told reporters.

This is the kind of idiocy that sent the former Defense Secretary James Mattis running for the hills. Infamously, it was Mattis who had to explain to the befuddled El Douche in January of 2017 that we need U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula “in order to prevent World War III” when Trump couldn’t grasp why we spend any money there. Later, Mattis would tell his subordinates at Defense that Trump “has the understanding of a fifth- or sixth-grader.”

This is an insult to my daughter and her friends, as I believe they would comprehend a need for defending the region, but I’ll take that up with Mattis at a later date.

But digesting these nuggets, all of this North Korea goofiness makes sense now, doesn’t it?

I am never going to assume anything with this mess of a presidency, but I would guess this will be it for the Trump/Kim love affair. Who knows if there will be more threats, vindictive nicknames or bizarre tweets, but with the Syrian situation in flux, this weird pussyfooting with Venezuela (troops in Columbia?), India and Pakistan (both nuclear powers) on the brink of war, and the powder keg Middle East, it is good to see a complete dunce has our back.

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WHERE WE ARE ON WEED

Aquarian Weekly
2/27/19

Reality Check

James Campion


WHERE WE ARE ON WEED
NJ Finally Poised to Vote to Legalize, Tax & Regulate Recreational Marijuana 

You know you’re close to actual legislation when committees are being formed, with fancy titles, and taxation has numbers to it and government officials, including the governor himself are going on the record with time tables. This means, at least as it currently stands, we are as close to an actual vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of New Jersey than we have ever been, and that is pretty damn cool and about friggin’ time.

“We’re still trying to machine this to get it over the goal line, but I think we’re all working really hard to get this done,” Governor Phil Murphy told reporters this week, tamping down too much excitement. “We’ve said all along that this is not a light lift.”

The pulling back of expectations is also a good sign, as NJ legislators begin massaging the vote with numbers that everyone can live with. We are just about through the morality bullshit stage where people warn against blood running through the streets and a plague of frogs. We’re into reality time here (oh, if only the federal government worked in this construct) and we’ll soon have people on record to how we shall continue to proceed into the 21stcentury.

With New York suddenly breathing down our necks, the Garden State needs to make this happen – beyond even the promises of Governor Murphy, who was supported in this space in 2017 for this and this only. It is a very lucrative and successful business model currently seeing a variant of successes in eleven states. But just like anything else going state-to-state without a federal law to back it up, these are vacillating experiences. Each state has taxed, regulated and policed the new laws in differing ways. In fact, some have “relaxed” restrictions now, sort of a test pattern of legislation most recently in Michigan, Utah and Missouri – in all cases the popularity of legalizing recreation weed is well over 60 percent.

Here in NJ we’re at 62 percent, but much higher among people under 50. How this is being represented by our…ahem…representatives will to be determined. The measure needs 21 votes in the Senate to pass. The conservative estimate of absolute votes on record currently is 16. The hold up on some of these potential thumbs-up votes have to deal with reaching agreements on the initial number of licenses to be distributed and how many public consumption sites would be allowed. There is also language in the latest bill which include expungements — clearing marijuana convictions from criminal records – that has to be ironed out. But perhaps the most pressing hurdle was traversed over the past month when taxation was put to rest.

Ah, yes. Taxation. This is the main reason this space had called for this measure – beyond the hypocrisy of having alcohol, sport-book gambling, bear hunts, et al being legal and a profitable substance being viewed with an early 20th century lens – is the money that could curtail the high cost of living in this state; property and school taxes being the big culprits. How lawmakers came to an agreement makes perfect sense, which scares me, because usually making sense is enough to doom any bill. “There will be a $42 excise tax on every ounce that is sold, regardless of price,” State Senator Nicholas Scutari told CBS News this week. “There will be a three-year look-back in case we need to reevaluate that because it is a possibility that the price goes down so low that $42 becomes unmanageably high.”

We’re into reality time here … and we’ll soon have people on record to how we shall continue to proceed into the 21stcentury.

The reason why taxing by weight is important is the simple supply and demand shift in the pricing of a once illegal substance brought into the economic structure of a state. For instance, a Cuban cigar is somewhere in the range of $32 to $35 right now. A similar quality cigar, like my favorite, the Ashton Magnum, singularly goes for anywhere from $11 to $15. The mistake is in thinking that you’re taxing a $32 item once it is legally and thus readily available, but if the U.S. Congress were to lift the ridiculously meaningless embargo on Cuba the price of these cigars would plummet to the range of Dominican cigars (Ashton is Dominican), which are in the class, but in my estimation have not yet reached the level of quality of the Cuban. All of this, of course, effects how the cigars will be taxed.

There is not enough time to go into the ridiculously high tobacco tax here, but holy shit, man.

In essence, this kind of market shift is what happened to flat-screen TVs over the past decade-plus. What used to be a luxury item, priced as such, flooded the market and became pedestrian. And this is where the government has to be prepared to ride the decrease in price for the legalized brand of pot, as opposed to those who may still choose the black market to purchase theirs. I personally think it is silly not to since now one will know what one is actually buying.

The price of an ounce of marijuana has plummeted to half in the past year in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize it in 2014. It has reportedly generated over $5 billion in revenues for the state in the past five years, but I am not sure if Colorado legislators provided a failsafe for the free market to dictate the price, which it always will. My guess is they are getting hammered in their projections – for a good example of this see the federal government’s projections for the success (not) of the passing of the Affordable Care Act or the recent Republican tax reform law (not), which both woefully misread the actual pace of its returns. This is something governments due by rule. NJ has to be on this, and it looks like it is.

Governor Murphy originally wanted a tax closer to 25 percent, but with the tax-by-ounce agreement it will be closer to 12 percent to start. Either way the projections are good for added tax revenue immediately for the state.

All of this to say that we are close, as close as we can possibly be to getting there, but we are talking about votes and changing the laws dramatically for a controversial subject. Nevertheless, one that has rightfully been discussed in rational ways in the past half-decade leading to us profiting from it.

Hooray for the free market and democracy. Only a half century to make a plant legal.

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