MADAM SHOO-IN: DAILY CRISIS

Aquarian Weekly
9/6/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MADAM SHOO-IN: DAILY CRISIS
Hillary Clinton on Defense

It was pretty much expected, even by his supporters, that Donald Trump would have little to no idea what he was doing on a campaign trail – having never considered such a thing until mid-summer of 2015. This has been on glaring display now for months. Hillary Clinton is another story. She has been campaigning for some three decades. She has been trolling around Washington since Nixon was in the White House, lived in the place throughout the 1990s, ran and won a senate seat twice in New York, and was Secretary of State for the first Obama term. Yet, it appears by every indication (beyond the cadre of ridiculous cash and a ground machine that would rival Sherman’s obliteration of the South) that she is lost in this game.

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How is this possible?

First off, Clinton stinks at this. She is a wonk. She is a “figure stuff out/get in the weeds” candidate. She also hates this. Hates it. At the time of this writing, she has not held a formal press conference since December 5, 2015 – 270 days or so, and none in the calendar year; a year, by the way, that she is running for fucking president. Now, the Clinton Campaign will rightly claim that she’s had press events and taken questions from organizations, spoken to voters, and made herself available for impromptu discussions on press planes and hotel lobbies, and she goes on cable news shows occasionally, but to not hold a single traditional press conference is not only nuts but it tells you quite a bit what the campaign thinks about having its candidate standing in front of a microphone for any length of time.

Next up, she has zero-to-negative personality. Who knows what she thinks about anything, really. When she does get to “expressing herself”, it sounds eerily as if she works on the thin line between condescension and aloofness. There is very little she says, when she does say anything, which resembles the actual subject she is ostensibly addressing. This leads to charges of her being “crooked” or the Clinton staple – flat out lying. She and her multi-million dollar team knew this was already baked into the Clinton brand, but she has done absolutely nothing to correct it. If anything she has enhanced it by spastically bumbling through the delicate art of deflection.

More crucially, on a daily basis, there is something akin to blatant scandal (State emails/private server), weird political whitewashing (Benghazi), or a quasi-icky and wholly inappropriate masquerade (Clinton Foundation/State Department connections). It is truly astounding how much the current Clinton presidential campaign mirrors the first one; Big Bill, in 1992, wherein there were new and improved shenanigans rolled out every week, as if a circus tent – draft-dodging, pot-smoking, serial philandering, shady land deals, odd associations. All the while, Clinton fobbed it off as scurrilous rumor or the work of the infamous “Right Wing Conspiracy”. And because his opponent underestimated him and Ross Perot sucked up 16 percent of the vote, he became president. Hillary will too, of course. Because, it appears, the white noise that is Clinton scandals just don’t matter anymore.

Yet, it appears by every indication … that she is lost in this game.

Well, that’s not entirely true. If we are going to live in the cold world of numbers, then things have begun to plateau in Clinton-land. The latest mid-August revelation that major donors to the Clinton Foundation had gotten an audience with the Secretary of State – according to the AP report, 85 of 154 meetings were with donors – was the beginning of this latest crack in the façade. Although the story was later criticized by other news organizations for conveniently or sloppily leaving the full 1,700 meetings during the same period, which changes the startling figure from over 50 percent to five, the Clinton team seemed to think a viable defense was that the Clinton Foundation “does good work” and is the “world’s leading charity”. Then it released statements that both she and Mr. Clinton would cease relations with the foundation once she is president.

So, “not good” if she’s president, but “okay” when she is Secretary of State? This is as preposterous a response to a major accusation as possible. Nobody bought it, not even her constituents, who began back-tracking within minutes of hearing this nonsense. This neatly explains why the polls have tightened and why what looked like a total annihilation of her Republican opponent will now merely be a comfortable victory.

But as continually stated here, unless she is indicted for an actual crime, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be president. We’ve been on this for a couple of years now, so we see no reason to waver, but this does not excuse the above issues. Madam Shoo-In cannot shake all of this crap the Clintons seem to wade in as a matter of principle. It has actually further tanked her already historical low approval rating and strengthened the notion that she cannot and should not be trusted. Her only salvation is that this number is bested by Trump, who appears daily as less corrupt than mad.

His hour-long “Immigration Plan” roll-out this week was so factually inaccurate it is probably fair to call it fiction, which underlines his completely made-up excuse for not releasing his tax returns because of an audit – a man whose only claim to doing the job he seeks is his business record not releasing financials is like if I tried to get a book deal without presenting a manuscript.

So when people ask me how a woman whose approval ratings blow, who is a shitty candidate, and has a daily crisis hanging over her head could become president, look no further than her opponent and the party for which he stands – antiquated, racially insulated, unrealistic and tone deaf.

The question should be how does a candidate with an iron-clad coalition that twice elected her predecessor, overwhelming dominance in voting demographics, flush with four times the money, and twice the campaign infrastructure only hold a modest lead?

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ISIS – THE END IS NIGH

Aquarian Weekly
8/31/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

ISIS – THE END IS NIGH
Out of Money, Losing Ground and Soon Mosul

What appeared as a rather aggressive prediction in this space sometime this past winter is now all-but a reality. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will soon have to remove Iraq from its fancy acronym by Christmas. Renewed Iraqi Forces backed by an infusion of additional U.S. Special Forces, bolstered by relentless U.S. airstrikes, and the two-front war being waged by Iran, before and after its historic nuclear deal with the west, and a heroic effort by Kurdish militants, has pushed the severely weakened terrorist organization into end game.

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The operative word there is “end”.

It is all but over in Iraq for ISIS. It is dead broke; unable to pay its “military”, which began defecting in droves once the money dried up. In large part this is thanks to the international banking freeze-out on financial institutions heretofore laundering its cash flow. The dramatic reduction of its dwindling brain trust – many of whom were assassinated in the Pentagon’s ongoing mob-like drone hits for months on end – has been reduced to burning oil fields and abandoning the airports that were crucial to its operations there.

The increased and random terror attacks on the sieve-like borders and flimsy security measures in Europe and the highly misguided hits in Turkey, along with the flow of unarmed and wounded ISIS defectors into Syria and Libya, have not only provided glaring signs of its implosion in Iraq, but proves what anyone who has studied the history of not only the Middle East but civilization at large has learned; building a “state” on spastically conceived murders crudely promoted as religious insurrection is a doomed wager. Always has been, always will be.

The operative word there is “doomed”.

A report this week from CNN on a secret underground terrorist anti-ISIS fighting force within the key city of Mosul, which ISIS captured and has used as its capital since June, 2014, has sped up the timetable for the death rattle. Using the ISIS model of hit-and-run propaganda, daylight mortar attacks, and ingenious social media meets smart phone network of picking off ISIS intelligence stalwarts and skillfully planting of landmines on main roads in and out of town, with coded messages to frightened citizens to steer clear of planned attacks, is beginning to spook what is left of this mess.

Moreover, this incredibly effective shadow insurrection has been arming the city’s citizens for weeks now with hidden Iraqi Army weapons left over from the chaos following the initial U.S. invasion to rise up once the country’s new forces break through into the outskirts of Mosul, which could be any day now.

The operative words to focus on there are “any day”.

Soon, this gutless turn-tail-and-run into Syria maneuver will go belly up. According to an August 11 report in the Independent, ISIS has been “decimated” in Syria, where it is predictably beginning to turn on itself, another absolute in the history of civilization when stupid lunatics claim to forge a “new world order’ but are really brainless religious-fanatic thugs whose mission statement to break shit is misinterpreted by the dolt class as revolution. A senior U.S. Commander there, Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland estimates that the number of ISIS fighters now stands between a paltry 15,000 and 20,000, down from 45,000 six months ago.

“The enemy is in retreat on all fronts,” MacFarland told the Associated Press two days later.

Admittedly, the Pentagon’s history, whether more recent (Afghanistan/Iraq/Libya) or classic (Korea/Viet Nam/Lebanon) of predicting sunshine right before midnight is dubious, but widespread reporting from Al Jazeera, hardly a cheerleading media outlet for U.S. military operations, has been describing this ass-kicking since mid-February when towns that ISIS was supposed to have locked up until Muhammad comes back, began tanking. In June, the State Department estimates 120 ISIS leaders, many of them mindlessly ran their images all over the Internet for more than a year, have been cut down by either U.S. strikes or its ground forces in the past twelve months.

The operative word there is “doomed”.

Does this mean that the west is free of terrorism? Of course not. If anything, the last vestiges of a movement can be expected to lash out in the most radical subterranean fashion. We have seen this already. As stated, the ramp-up of ISIS random attacks (many if not all of them copycat rogue loons with mommy issues trying to impress girls) began once the failure of its jihad was evident. But make no mistake, this caliphate is over. For all intents of purposes, its very existence, based on the bully edict of fear, intimidation and the ruse of its indestructibility, is gone. Long, long gone.

And the operative word here kids is “gone”.

It is actually miraculous it lasted this long. Underestimated, sure. Hatched from a text-book cultural and economic vacuum, absolutely. Flush with funds and an abnormal recruitment in a perfect storm of religious brain washing meets squalor, bingo. But it always had a shelf life, especially when the killing of Americans began and the Turks were dragged into this, and it has reached it. Yet, for militant crazies with no real plan but YouTube beheadings and wrecking shit, it was quite a run. People around here were pretty scared. And that is something.

But the ISIS we have grown to despise and fear is really a shell of itself, and now it will be relegated to that ever-packed ash heap of history. A sad reminder of humanity’s darkest spirit, always ready to appear from nowhere, but really, it was there all the time.

And before long, sadly, there will be another one.

But for now…caliphate out!

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THE LAST GASP FOR CITIZEN TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
8/24/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE LAST GASP FOR CITIZEN TRUMP
The Lunatic Fringe Just Got A Whole Lot Loonier

There are few people remaining with any idea of what is happening in the real world which operate under the delusion that Donald Trump is not doomed, and he just grabbed two of them. The most entrenched political zealots Trump could find will now be running this imploding media circus he calls a campaign; head honcho for Breitbart, an ultra right-wing conspiracy web site that is currently reporting that the scientific research behind climate change is voodoo cooked up by the NY Times and Hillary Clinton killed Jesus, Steve Bannon, and Ann Coulter wanna-be pollster, Kellyanne Conway, whose previous hatred for Trump while working with his vanquished foe, the embattled idiot, Lyin’ Ted Cruz, has been pushed aside for a gig as bailer on a sinking skiff.

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Things have just begun to get fun around here.

Man, if you don’t enjoy the splendor of Trump’s (what’s this fourth or fifth) campaign shake-up, you just don’t get why I spend any amount of time doing this weekly. Trump couldn’t have picked a better pair of the most vicious political Rottweilers operating on a fringe/fantasy archipelago of dogmatic rhetoric mixed with jabbering non sequiturs if he fused them in a lab. It is as if they are his evil siblings, no, his clones.

This means, of course, that this stunning tumble in the polls Trump has been experiencing for weeks has convinced him that any person, let that read veteran political strategist, Paul Manafort, who was trying in vain to keep the Trumpster “on message and off Twitter”, is now relegated to the trash heap. It will now be Trump Unhinged backed by a Trekkie-meets-Flat-Earth web site that has spent the past 14 months bolstering his ego against high odds through a grueling primary and a woman who knows where all the bodies are buried.

Beyond the poetic beauty of all this is some down and dirty strategy: Trump knows no one wants the damaged and antiquated crap Republicans have been selling for decades. This is why he deigned to come down that fancy escalator last summer in the first place, and for all intents and purposes began dismantling his “good” name and any scintilla of self respect he might have harbored in the process. Talking points about “smaller government and tax cuts and acting like the answer-man for everything” is all well and good, but so far it has been a monumental bust. These moves are Trump’s way of telling us that this had better be about how much everyone kind of doesn’t really like or want to vote for Hillary Clinton and nothing about him, because the Bannon/Conway connection has made a living eviscerating the other side and less trying to “sell the same old crap Republicans have been selling for the past decades”. In fact, Bannon, no fan of “establishment” Republicans, has openly accused Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of being a con artist and dubbed Republicanism “a failed brand.”

These are the perfect Trump tacticians; a man for whom nothing is beneath him and a woman who did heavy lifting for a snake-oil hack.

And I applaud it.

As stated, and I believe I shall do it again here; Trump never had a real chance at ever being president, just like Bernie Sanders. It took Trump a while to get it, but he is obviously on board with this now, despite his protestations to donors on a conference call this week explaining away flat-lining poll numbers with large crowds at rallies. The Bannon/Conway hail-Mary-last-ditch-grasp-for-straws begins the classic Trump exit strategy. It’s not unlike his moves towards bankruptcy or bailing on a failing venture. He starts by separating himself from the reality of a faltering project, then builds a case against those who he believes (anyone but himself) is to blame, and then scorches the earth with the force of his personality and relentless bombast. If you have lived around New York for any amount of time, especially since the 1980s, you could see this move coming a mile away.

Trump’s “shake-up” is about blowing this thing up, which was always my wish from the second he started polling in the mid-30s around late September last year against a field of same-old-shit. If a Republican is going to lose a national election, which will be the case for at least a generation, then making a mockery of the system is the whole point. And now it will be duly mocked, in the most heinous, sub-mental way. Bannon/Conway will make this a food fight and the way things are going that is good mojo. Go down swinging and cause harm and foul along the way.

These are the perfect Trump tacticians; a man for whom nothing is beneath him and a woman who did heavy lifting for a snake-oil hack.

Part of this new “strategy” will be for Bannon to devise an escape-route out of the debates for his candidate. It has been my contention, drawing from glaring evidence during the primaries, that Trump has no intention of showing up to all of the scheduled debates and has already begun bitching about television formatting, choice of moderators and other paranoid falderal to lay the groundwork for this. It will be Bannon’s job, for which he is well-trained and uniquely equipped, to claim all-sorts of made-up stuff to accommodate this maneuver and make it look heroic.

Another interesting development in the side-show of Bannon’s tutelage is once Trump goes back to real estate and media whoring this November, the collection of hardliners like FOX’s Sean Hannity (who likely brokered this deal since he has been pushing the Breitbart canard about Clinton being mentally ill for weeks on his Howard Sternesque newsy show) will make a good living keeping their candidate’s 35 or so percent of the party’s base alive and well.

This goofy dream the GOP establishment has of blaming another presidential drubbing on its latest “outsider” candidate for its shortcomings and thus sweeping clean any remnants of this dalliance with celebrity is in for a serious reality check. Bannon, who has worked in tandem for plenty of right-wing efforts to jolt the system in foreign elections through his attack dog web site, is in for the long haul.

A fox is not only in the hen house, it is now running it.

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NEW YAWK, NEW YAWK

Aquarian Weekly
8/17/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

NEW YAWK, NEW YAWK
All Empire State Presidential Election & Its National Referendum

Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.
– Woody Allen as Alvy Singer, Annie Hall

For only the fourth time in American history, two presidential candidates will hail from the same state; not necessarily as natives, as Hillary Rodham Clinton is from Illinois while Donald Trump is from Queens, but nonetheless they share both the sheen and stank of the Empire State, specifically New York City. Both have their base of campaign operations in the big town, Clinton in Brooklyn and Trump in Manhattan. Coincidently both are the most untrustworthy and disliked duo of candidates in American polling history. After all, when considering their nearly one-hundred percent name recognition – both a blessing and a curse of our culture’s ongoing obsession with celebrity – it is quite obvious what the rest of the nation feels about the world’s largest, richest, most exciting and, quite frankly best city.

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They hate it.

But make no mistake; the hate is misguided, as is the case with most “hates”. First there is complete puzzlement. Those who do not like cities hate city-dwellers, because they cannot understand how someone could live in one for a myriad of reasons, but even those who live in other cities like Chicago, Houston, L.A. and Boston hate New York. This, of course, is simple “penis envy” of the highest most Freudian order, but hate nonetheless.

Having grown up in the Bronx, which should read as “barely survived with all of my teeth” and nurturing a life-long, preternatural, unworldly romance with Manhattan, it is both vexing and interesting to me the reaction most people have to it. I enjoy regaling fellow New Yorkers with the discussion I repeatedly had with the good citizens of Jerusalem when I visited Israel in 1996. It seems every conversation would inevitably turn to the question of my origin. When I would tell them New York (remember these are people living in a perpetual six-thousand year old war zone), they would say, “Wow, it’s pretty dangerous there, huh?”

For those who do not or have never lived in or around NYC, it is hard to fathom Donald Trump. Clinton is weird, because although she was a senator here for eight years and thus has lived here for sixteen years now, she is a carpetbagger, the way, say, Mick Jagger was in the late 1970s; all those songs about New Yawk from the jet-set British perspective; both envy and fear and titillation and finally condemnation. To wit: “Love and hope and sex and dreams/Are still surviving on the street/Look at me, I’m in tatters/I’m a shattered.”

However Trump is silly with New Yawk. There isn’t five seconds of anything Trump says whether in interviews, rallies or on the stump that doesn’t reek of it. The main reason that Trump survives what other candidates have never survived is his deep-seeded New Yawk-ese. If Trump unleashed half his crazy shit with a southern accent it would be horrifying, like listening to William Jennings Bryant after six whiskies. But coming from a Baby Boomer with that hair and those suits and that accent, it is defiance. And because Trump has attached his hyperbole to this New Yawk attitude and shifted all this nonsense to the nifty excuse of not being “politically correct”, what is normally seen as hickish now appears ballsy.

In essence, Trump is saying what New Yawk says, “I am bigger and better and make all the money and have all the history and everything worth a shit begins here, so suck it if you don’t like it..”

Also, Trump represents everything people assume they hate about New Yawk; he is a boisterous braggart, shoot-from-the-hip ball-buster, who would as soon as spend sixty seconds berating you in the crudest way than spend another thirty seconds actually considering your right to exist. He is a know-it-all, who likely knows next to nothing, but never gets called on it, because he has cash and fame and builds big things bigger than your things and so go fuck yourself. In essence, Trump is saying what New Yawk says, “I am bigger and better and make all the money and have all the history and everything worth a shit begins here, so suck it if you don’t like it, because this is a country filled with broke famers and religious idiots without us.”

This is how Hillary Clinton becomes New Yawk with her “gets to make her own rules” thing, which is true, or used to be true about New Yorkers. In the late 1980s into the early 1990s I could do anything I wanted in NYC; especially in a car. Throughout every borough, I broke about 250 laws, most of it in front of cops, and even had my car stolen, broken into, jacked, and suffered all manner of street crimes and felt it somehow came out in the wash. Here’s where most columnists would say they were not proud of this achievement. You see, I am. Nowadays the town is in more of a lock-down mode, which has resulted in far less street crime than any city on the planet, but you would never know this, especially when the secretary of state has been accused of everything plus murder by her opponents, and really, the FBI.

Donald Trump, of course, runs roughshod over everything decent Americans hold dear; which is another underappreciated New Yawk trait. You see, while other cities around the globe there is a reverence for the past. New York, as columnist/novelist/New Yawker, Pete Hamill once mused, “…buries its past with a detached and cruel apathy”. If it is not moving forward or “worth” anything to the “now”, it goes, fast. When you live around here and you live with that concussive, almost shocking realization that everything is expendable and nothing is sacred, you get Donald Trump and you certainly get Hillary Clinton.

It’s just seems like the rest of the country doesn’t. Big time.

Six out of ten Americans think these New Yawkers are shit. And this makes sense to me. And since neither has any intention of curbing this abhorrence, I should think it will continue until January, 2017,when one of these New Yawkers, carpetbagger or born-and-bred, will be moving to D.C.

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REVENGE OF THE POLITICIANS

Aquarian Weekly
8/3/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

Democratic National Convention 2016
REVENGE OF THE POLITICIANS
The System Punches Back “Old School” In Philadelphia

In 1988, with his party facing long odds in keeping the White House for a dozen years, outgoing President Ronald Reagan told his party’s convention that there was no need for change. “We are the change,” he boldly stated. The Gipper said there was no need to stop the machine, it was doing just fine. This is the theme for current outgoing President Barack Obama, who has embodied the unflinching spirit of a man who never questioned the motives of his government or America as the shining promise to humanity. George H. W. Bush followed the eight years of a deified right wing administration, thus beginning a Bush dynasty that would seek the presidency through four elections in eight of the next twelve years, as now Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the legacy of a left wing pillar, perhaps putting a capper on a Clinton political dynasty that would have a stake in four of the last six presidential elections.

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This is the third-term of Barack Obama on trial; just as Bush would be Reagan’s, and like the Great Communicator, the Grand Orator is betting on above-water approval ratings, a stable economy and a sense among his faithful that the transformative eight years of his presidency is embraced by not only Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but a majority of the American electorate. By being the first sitting president to show up at his party’s convention since Reagan (both the toxicity of late-second-term Clinton and Bush were told to stay away), Obama made it clear that although ushering in a business man with zero political experience is as change as change could be, “We are the change.”

This is all ye need know about what went down for four days in late July in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. The president’s point was driven home by a classic “Morning in America” speech and a phalanx of professional politicians, all of them winners; William Jefferson Clinton, Joe Biden, even Jimmy Carter via video hook-up; nary a John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale or Al Gore to be found mucking up the works. Winners of elections and debates; professionals, lifers making the case that a wild-card TV star becoming president is not only crazy, but dangerous, irresponsible and downright unpatriotic. They sold stability, status quo, strength and experience.

What the hell happened?

I grew up in the 1970s and lived through the 1980s into the ‘90s and then began writing regularly about politics then and into the era of 9/11, wherein Republicans embodied all of those things, while Democrats came with the outsider, long-shot that was likely to be pasted by someone waving flags, rolling out military personnel and entrenched establishment types. Now suddenly it’s the Democrats who are pitching more of the same-ol’ and appealing to our pragmatic core.

For four days, the Democrats filled the stage with preachers and gospel choirs evoking God wherever possible, pulled in military leaders and disgruntled moderate Republicans frightened by the prospect of a loose-cannon with his finger on the button, and selling this “Rise Up” American “exceptionalism” that was once owned by a Republican Party that has decided to blow it up and gather all of its chips into a singular cult-of-personality candidate. In other words, Trump’s convention was about Trump (and a whole lot of Hillary bashing), while Clinton’s was some kind of Kumbaya collective of flag-wrapping, goose-bump inducing tribute to all-things positive and sunny (with a whole lot of Trump bashing).

Ronald Reagan proved that myths can be powerful. His party embraced myths for decades, and now.. the battle for twenty-first century patriotism is on.

Poor Bernie Sanders, 74 year-old, socialist Vermont senator and recent presidential candidate, bested by the system that put on this show in his presence. He ranted for months about a revolution in front of millions of rabid, almost religious followers, many of them young and new to this whole shebang. They believed him and they were not buying any of his newly minted “solidarity/unity” jag. The first day of the convention he found himself angrily confronted by a humiliated California delegation of supporters who booed him like A-Rod at Fenway.

Then, later that day – the opening of the Hillary Show – nearly 1,900 of his delegates brought a bellowing voice of anti-establishment fervor that tried to raise its ugly head in Cleveland the week before but was crushed under the steel boot of the Trump Campaign. One delegate from Iowa told a reporter on MSNBC, “Bernie has been making us drink Mountain Dew for months, and now he wants us to go to bed.”

Throughout the next couple of days, entertained by Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz, a host of Broadway stars and Katy Perry they roused chants of “No TPP!” and “No more wars!” and used every mention of or any wave from Sanders to erupt in cheers.

None of that mattered. Sanders put it to bed by evoking the name Trump. This was the medicine to his thwarted revolution, which had been ignored by party chairman, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, who was booted before her own convention when the Russians or WikiLeaks or a combination of the Ring Wing Conspiracy and the Blue Meanies hacked into and leaked emails proving she had and used her bias for Madam Shoo-In throughout a process Sanders kept calling rigged right up until he gave this “unify” speech.

It wasn’t until First Lady Michelle Obama gave the speech of the convention that first night, filled with a sober, sensitive and endearing rhetoric, did the Sandersnistas quell, but only proportionally. They were still out there even when Madam Shoo-in accepted the nomination of her party the final day; waving “No-TPP” signs and shouting “Fix!” and “Rigged!” when given the opportunity.

And so Clinton’s acceptance speech, an historic moment in American politics (nearly a century after women received the right to vote, a woman finally represents a major political party), became a rallying cry to forget much of what irks the electorate (seven out of ten Americans think the country is on the wrong track, compared to four out of ten in 1988) and a defense of Obama’s America as the “real” America.

Ronald Reagan proved that myths can be powerful. His party embraced myths for decades, and now, it seems, due in part to the incredible negatives heaped upon both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that the battle for twenty-first century patriotism is on.

Again.

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THE TRUMP SHOW

Aquarian Weekly
7/27/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

Republican National Convention 2016
THE TRUMP SHOW
Plagiarism, Insurrection and High Theater in Cleveland

The most dramatic, chaotic, and in every possible way historic national party convention of my lifetime has ended, and with it what you know of the Republican Party.

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Citizen Donald J. Trump accepted the nomination to run for the most powerful post on the planet; sit as arbiter of its largest economy and its enormous military might. During the four-day proceedings, which is normally a political infomercial with funny hats, bad music and occasionally Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, there was the blatant plagiarizing of a less than decade’s-old speech, an alarmingly spastic tirade by Rudy Giuliani, a dozen people who painted America as a dystopian horror-scape of apocalyptic genocide, ten-thousand calls to jail the Democratic opponent, a parade of Trump children telling us they love daddy, the last time Chris Christie will be nationally relevant, and for some reason, Scott Baio.

The star of the proceedings was Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who played his unflinching I-Me-Mine character to the hilt and unleashed an exhaustive Clinton-like 28-minute aria on the blessed tenets of conservatism with not the slightest nod to the party’s candidate. In fact, Cruz went as far as coaxing the TV audience to “vote their conscience” which is lawyerly political-speak for “don’t vote for this asshole” and left the stage to a torrent of boos and catcalls. Proving with sports-car precision how amazingly focused on all-things Ted Cruz he remains, he has now shifted his “Me or the Highway” approach from the Republican establishment to the party’s grassroots and with it likely his political career.

Cruz, of course, is betting against Trump stock like Trump bet on the housing market collapse in ’08 by assuming this is a black swan candidacy in which he will emerge as the “Told Ya So” candidate in four years. This of course only works if the party and its base doesn’t lay on him part of the blame for the candidate’s eventual defeat, which if you listened to the donor class and party loyalists’ evisceration of his gambit, he may well be.

Oh, and as the raucous GOP crowd turned on the sore-loser lament, Trump, in a wildly unconventional move, emerged from the dark wings of the arena to start interacting with the apoplectic audience.

Pure theater.

The Trump Show had begun.

In fact, Trump not only ignored the traditional theatrics of keeping the nominee from sight until the final day’s acceptance speech, he showed up every day, including introducing his wife before things got underway early Thursday.

During this whole wonderfully free-formed fiasco, Chairman and CEO of FOX News Roger Ailes was sacked amid lawsuits and a lengthy investigation surrounding his groping of the myriad of blonde-bombshell studio hosts he hired over the past two decades of rolling out some of the lowest forms of carnival-like programming masked as journalism. Ailes was famously mocked and discarded as a piker by Trump a few months ago when the Republican nominee refused to kiss his sagging ass and defied party rules to show up for a highly promoted network debate.

In 24 short hours, Trump vanquished his two most ardent enemies, one run from the arena under a cloak of security and the other an unemployed sexual deviant.

This set the stage for the man himself, who changed the silver-and-black podium the plebeians were forced to use and replaced it with an Elvis-in-Vegas black-and-gold one to better unfurl an excruciatingly ponderous one hour and fifteen minutes (longest acceptance speech in nearly half a century) harangue on every possible subject pertinent to modern society.

Strangely enough Trump was the least interesting part of the week in Cleveland, which began when hundreds of delegates across eleven states tried to halt proceedings to re-write party rules. The long-shot plan was to free delegates to “vote their conscience” (“don’t vote for this asshole”) and throw the entire convention into turmoil. Trump crushed this too.

The most dramatic, chaotic, and in every possible way historic national party convention of my lifetime has ended, and with it what you know of the Republican Party.

One curious but predictable aspect of this convention was the campaign’s opportunistic bandwagon jump on the Nixionian “Law & Order” trope, preying on the fears heightened by over-saturated media coverage of the violence home and abroad; specifically the shooting of unarmed black men by white cops and angry lunatics enacting vengeance for these crimes by mowing down police. Trump’s and by association now the Republican Party’s gamble here is to embrace the “state” over citizen safety and civil rights and align completely with law enforcement, regardless of the frightening number of incidents of unprovoked killings by armed civil servants. The dangerous and quite frankly, considering Trump’s constant ringing of the “politically incorrect” bell, silencing of criticism against deadly injustice by tax-funded protectors of our communities and couching it as something akin to un-American damages his general election prospects.

But make no mistake, Donald Trump has done something remarkable here, something that has not been done by a presidential candidate since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932; he has fundamentally changed the entire structure and outlook of a major political party. Where open and unfettered free trade reigned for half a century, there is nationalism. Where colonialism and international intervention and annexation exploded across the globe since the 1890s and expanded in the mid-twentieth century with the NATO alliance, now becomes America-first isolationism. Hell, the fact that a Republican candidate stood on a convention stage and uttered the words, “corporate greed and rigged Wall Street influence” is as stunning as it was to hear a CEO being cheered for stating, “I am proud to be gay.”

And yet the Trump Show did nothing, and I mean nothing, to expand the candidate’s appeal to independent voters, Millennials, single women, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, or Asians, all demographics that he and his party have all-but alienated. This was the last, best time for Trump to remake at least part of the image he trotted out in a very aggressive primary campaign, wherein he hurled unprecedented insults at everyone and everything. This was the week to pull it back, pivot, become a viable national candidate; and he did not. Perhaps to his credit, or his political naiveté, he vociferously doubled down on all of it. This is Trump’s biggest gamble. It has always been his gamble and it has worked all the way to accepting this most unlikely nomination.

He promised a show in Cleveland, and he gave us one. He now promises to be elected president of the United States. That one will be much more difficult.

Win or lose, however, it is even more difficult still to imagine the Republican Party ever being the same.

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HYPOCRITES & SORE LOSERS ON PARADE

Aquarian Weekly
7/20/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

HYPOCRITES & SORE LOSERS ON PARADE
Republican Lifers Turn Their Backs On Republicans

Mr. Trump must unify the GOP. This means forgoing attacks on fellow Republicans, acting gracious toward party leaders who skipped the convention, and making the gathering about more than simply himself. He should emphasize the party’s values and the success of down-ballot candidates.
– Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2016

No. No. No. No.

My old drinking buddy, Karl Rove has once again emerged from his moth-ball laden hyperbolic chamber of bitter defeat and humiliation to wax poetic on what the man whom he derided for eight months should do to become president of the United States. But like his infamously doomed FOX NEWS argument on election night four years ago that Obama did not win Ohio and thus the presidency, he is wrong.

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Rove is so spectacularly wrong it proves once again how an alarming number of stalwart Republicans, confused by its electorate, cling to the weird notion that elections and democracy don’t matter. These past eleven months of campaigning, polling, actual election results from a long and painful primary is merely a mirage and Mitt Romney is president and the Bushes aren’t relegated to the junk heap of American history and everything Rove believes in has not been roundly rejected.

The pending nomination of the Republican candidate for president will be entering the arena in Cleveland for the party’s convention this week precisely because he has de-unified Rove’s precious Grand Old Party, which has been looking older by the year. He garnered more votes than any Republican who ever sought the office in the party’s 162 years specifically because he has been ungracious to the politically shackled and ideologically paralyzed “party leaders”. He is now one of only two Americans standing who have a shot at the presidency in large part because he made this whole thing about “simply himself”.

It is as if Rove has stumbled from H.G. Wells’ late nineteenth century time machine blathering about the wonders of carborundum.

And so poor wounded, blubbering Karl represents the parade of anachronistic stumblebums that have been kicked to the curb and now insist on walking out on the will of the Republican electorate, which overwhelming chose Citizen Donald J. Trump over the usual putrid fare. It is that same gaggle that whines and stomps its collective feet like children and refuses to support the people’s nominee. Major party figures, nearly the whole of the senate and a huge portion of Republicans in congress are either sitting this one out or openly running for cover.

Let me get this straight; Republicans, who have build their brand, careers, their very existence on the Republican Party, which is purportedly a representation of Republicans, the majority of which voted for Donald Trump throughout four months over 50 states and several U.S. territories, are not participating in this (they love to claim) sacred democratic act – the very democratic act they have sworn to uphold in the very jobs that define them?

So, democracy is all well and good, unless the results of said democracy don’t go your way.

Slap that nonsense on a bumper sticker, some rube will buy it.

Also, it is important to point out at this juncture in the diatribe that the Republican Party had all of the candidates sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee, which would be decided fair-and-square under the rules they agreed to, and now only one of them, Ted Cruz, is going to honor it?

It should also be pointed out that Cruz would show up to anything as long as there are cameras and a microphone. He is headed to a Christian/NRA Monster Truck Rally right after he speaks and is rumored to be hawking some new metal cleaner on the Home Shopping Network every Thursday for two months.

This is as interesting a political story as we have seen in these shape-shifting historical times. Party lifers, public sector parasites, who’ve built dynasties and decades upon decades of power and privilege through the ranks of the Republican Party, the Bushes, Mitt Romney, John McCain, even the governor of Ohio, John Kasich, who sought the office only a few months ago, all refuse to endorse the party’s candidate and will not show up to the party’s convention this week.

If there is not a more glaring example of why Trump has been a boon to the American political landscape, nothing is. For all intents and purposes, Trump has so badly broken these freeloading lapdogs they have forgotten how many far more disturbing miscreants they deigned to support in the past. None of these sore-losers have any trouble singing the glorious praises of such shady luminaries as Ronald Regan and his underhanded cronies, war-criminal, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, who cheated on his wife while she lie dying of cancer, or the hypocritical ward heeler, Romney, who now sees Trump as a lunatic but begged for his endorsement in 2012 while the former was still insisting the sitting president of the United States was illegitimate for not having been born in this country.

It is as if Rove has stumbled from H.G. Wells’ late nineteenth century time machine blathering about the wonders of carborundum.

This week, Trump’s whipping boy, Jeb Bush had the gall to state on national television that Trump lacked the necessary tools to lead, because as a Bush, he claims to know “first-hand what leadership is”. Yes, and as he conveniently dismisses his brother’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, he now conveniently forgets how pathetically awful his father and brother had been as presidents. Hell, Jeb says he won’t even vote. Really? This ungrateful, soul-sucking jack ass, whose only reason for even having a chance at a national voice is because daddy’s condom broke, is openly refusing to “do his duty as an American” because he doesn’t “agree” with either candidate.

Who agrees with candidates?

I have no problem abstaining from the mostly meaningless exercise of voting and have openly defended everyone’s right to do so, but Jeb Bush? He is government. He is the Republican Party.

And all this because Trump called him names.

Can you imagine if anyone actually voted for this pussy?

Lord knows what kind of freak show Donald Trump has planned for this week, but it doesn’t appear that beyond the speaker of the house or senate majority leader and some fairly insignificant congressmen and maybe Sarah Palin or Gingrich or whatever sycophant the nominee drags onto the ticket, it will not include “party leaders”.

Trump’s run, this convention, the entirety of the ridiculous political party system is being dragged into the spotlight and that light has come to show us that indeed those who choose to stay away and thus reject the will of its party’s voters admit in the most vigorous way that they do not care for or represent the people, the very description of the jobs they have supposedly held for more years than should be tolerated.

I don’t have a fucking clue what “America” Donald Trump thinks would be “Great”, but this one right now is pretty goddamn fantastic.

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NOW…IT’S OVER

Aquarian Weekly
7/12/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

NOW…IT’S OVER
Madam Shoo-In Avoids Prison & Will Coast to the White House

The last, best hope to keep Hillary Rodham Clinton from the presidency left the FBI building this week, as its director, James Comey finished a nearly fifteen minute harangue rebuking every facet of the former secretary of state’s comportment in the excruciatingly drawn out “email scandal”, stopping just short of the pay-off; indictment. As stated in this space for over a year now, indictment was the only thing that could keep Madam Shoo-in from her destiny, which is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And even that was a pipedream; as it is always possible to juggle court battles while stumping for a Democrat these days.

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The “Broom Handle” theory, soon to be an iron-clad axiom, is simply this: You can run a broom handle for president as a Democrat now and garner a minimum of 233 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The way the opposition party has been going since the mid-1980s has rendered it fairly obsolete and therefore incapable of competing on a national ticket for at least a generation, and with the wild card Donald J. Trump now at the top of its 2016 ticket, it is almost certain to further disappear.

We have already deconstructed the queer beauty of the Trump candidacy, which on a daily basis fills my tainted soul with a measure of joy difficult to express without the use of poetry. This fabulous Summer of Fun will someday fill volumes in the historical record, but that is for another time and place. Today we deal in a “reality check” far more concrete: beyond a completely outlandish and wholly unforeseen calamity, Hillary Rodham Clinton will become the 45th president of the United States.

For his part, Comey, a staunch Republican appointed by George W. Bush to the post of Attorney General in 2003, most famous for tossing Martha Stewart in jail for securities fraud and openly refuting Bush’s federal wire-tapping program, did what any former prosecuting attorney would do when faced with the evidence he was given; tell everyone this is shitty behavior but not a crime. Adding to this, Comey, a D.C. lifer, was not about to alter the will of the people over “the Clintons being the Clintons”. Using as precedent the pardoning of Richard Nixon and the white-wash of Iran-contra that should have not only impeached both presidents but landed them both in jail, Comey did his duty as a public official and let it slide.

After being thwarted as a respected man of law, Comey did his due diligence as a proper Republican and unleashed as many accusations about a person’s character as he could on Clinton in his actual-fifteen-minutes-of-fame, casting aspirations on her motives, judgment and blatant disregard for basic state department procedure. But make no mistake, Comey took with him any shot Trump and the Republicans had at achieving the executive branch of this government and turning it into “who knows?” – which may be sad for some of us, who ponder Who Knows as a preferable, or at least interesting, place for things to go at this juncture.

But alas, there is a very real possibility that Clinton will garner well over 300 electoral tallies and roll into history as the first woman president, which will be lauded as some kind of incredible achievement for a country so proud of its freedoms and democracy, but will place 64th in a list of nations who have since elected/appointed a woman as head of state. Whoo-hoo!

And although this is obviously editorial speculation by a well-worn mental defective, it is nonetheless a pretty sound one when considering all the factors; either in voting demographics, geographical polling, two decades of national statistics, and the fact that mere weeks from the Republican Convention nearly seven of ten members of Donald Trump’s party are conjuring harsh and inventive ways to avoid, dismiss, explain him away or even dump him altogether in a nineteenth century styled bloodless coup on its floor. At best Trump needed Clinton to be led away in an orange jump-suit with ankle chains.

Comey… did what any former prosecuting attorney would do when faced with the evidence he was given; tell everyone this is shitty behavior but not a crime.

Why do you think Republican senators have spent over seven million dollars over nine separate investigations throughout four brutal years trying to pin something-anything on Clinton for the Benghazi tragedy. Even when their own report cleared her of any shenanigans but the normal red-tape shit that lands war zone-placed CIA agents in the crossfire, they kept it up. Why? Because these are learned politicians who have studied the Broom Handle Theory and know it is sound.

Shit, once Bernie Sanders quits his Bastille-storming charade and endorses the woman who bested him in the primaries, and now that Barack Obama, whose approval ratings rest in second-term Reagan-esque 50-percent territory, is on the stump, this presidential campaign will be merely spectator sport.

This is exactly why I have touted Trump’s candidacy so fervently. He provides daily entertainment that sets him apart from the sort of sad-sack, half-assed loser pabulum displayed daily by the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney. Trump will lose, but he will lose with a pizzazz sorely needed in our political rhetoric. In the short year he has been bounding across the national political scene, Trump has mocked and challenged every corner of our bloated, corrupt and mostly fixed system. For all intents and purposes he has eviscerated Republican politics and shed a light on our most putrid and damaging traits as citizens.

To wit: The day before this column was penned, Trump told an audience in North Carolina that Saddam Hussein, whom this country spent trillions of dollars and spilled American and Iraqi blood to oust, was an exemplary force for anti-terrorism, which is what every president since this nation put him into his dictatorial post believed but did not have the guts to express in public. It is this Trumpian craziness that will put Clinton and the entire system that bore her on trial, which this country needs to see in the worst way.

Of course, as stated, Trump will inevitably go down to ignominious defeat and head back to funding Clinton’s kind soon, but the ride will not be business as usual, and this is a grand thing for our ongoing blessed democratic experiment, no matter what ridiculous thing he spouts or tweets and what outlandish charge some liberal think-tank-defamation-whine-fest chooses to call it.

Whether Clinton fucked up or not is never our concern around here. The horrors of politics are routinely dissected here with the kind of detached acceptance of the numb coupled with an acute and rigorous understanding that for the first 150 years of this republic the sickening level of debased monsters that ascended to the presidency makes either of these candidates – both buried beneath a torrent of record polling negatives – a fine choice for the post.

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THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE ROLLING STONES

Aquarian Weekly
6/22/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE ROLLING STONES
In Praise of The Sun and the Moon and The Rolling Stones & A Candid Discussion with Author, Rich Cohen

There must be hundreds of books written about the Rolling Stones. Conservatively, I have read about twenty to twenty-five, half of which I would deem good, and less than a third great. Rich Cohen has managed to write a spectacular one. It is aptly titled; The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stones, taken from something Keith Richards told the author in 1994 when he was covering the band for Rolling Stone. You see, like me, Cohen, and a preponderance of humans inhabiting this spinning sphere, we don’t know a world without the Stones. What we’re talking about here is the abiogenesis of rock and roll; the subatomic atoms of modern pop and rock, the DNA of global youth culture.

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Here is Cohen’s remarkable achievement; he explains this phenomenon in a most novelistic way; deconstructing the characters and framing the period dominated by the Stones with great care. His is a story of many Rolling Stones; the blues cover band, the British avant-garde, the neo-American hybrid, the faux-celebrity-junkie-chic marauders, a reinvented, reconfigured reflection of rebellion, and, of course, rock star excess. It is throughout all this explaining that Cohen dives into personal experiences with the band, as a kid, as a teen, as a reporter, as an historian. Each expression is a unique one, and some even deal in contradictions; like all great heroic literature.

It is a fascinating read; treading the difficult balance of appealing to the casual observer and a rabid fan.

How the hell did he do it?

“I had to basically pretend I was writing fifty years from now and everybody’s dead and worry about the consequences later,” Cohen explains over the phone from his Connecticut home, the enthusiasm in his voice quite evident in the pace in which he recalls the journey. “I thought, ‘It’s such a huge story and every book is right in the middle of it, but if you can sort of step back and write about it like you would write about World War II or Winston Churchill, then you can see what things meant and how things happened and see the whole picture.’”

To drive this point home, Cohen casually notes the inspiration of a Wallace Stevens poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. “If you can get a lot of different angles on something you can ultimately get something that’s alive and in-depth,” he continues. “So if you can see the Rolling Stones from the point of view of a kid, from the point of view of a rock journalist, from the point of view of an older guy, and then from the points of view of Maryanne Faithfull, from the point of view of reporters covering Altamont, and you can put all that together and you can get a complete picture of them.”

The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones puts an epic into tidy perspective, another pretty impressive feat, all boiled down to the two figures at the eye of the storm, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – childhood friends, confidants, combatants, and co-conspirators; growing up together in the cauldron of infamy. “To me, what’s interesting about Jagger and Richards is that it’s the completely typical friendship we’ve all had,” says Cohen. “You have these friends when you’re young and you want to be together all the time, you live together, and then at a certain point, you grow up and you’re not together anymore. And so much of their music came from them being together; hanging out for hours and hours and coming up with these songs, and once they grow up, they’re not together any more, and the music changes.”

Cohen captures two seemingly insignificant slices of life that act as lasting portraits of the two men; Richards playfully lecturing a business man on an airplane about life and Jagger chasing corrupt manager, Allen Klein, wanting to beat him up. I wondered if he had found these characteristics – Keith, the libertine braggart, and Mick, the myopic pragmatist – prevalent when he met them in the 1990s. “Absolutely! But exaggerated,” he says. “All of the trouble that they’ve had, it’s all there from when they first meet. It’s just two completely strong personalities that are complementary, but clash. It is calculating in a good way and necessary for the survival of that band.”

Pressed further, Cohen provides deeper insight into the gears that makes the colossal machinery rumble along mostly unimpeded for five decades: “If Mick was going to go in a swimming pool, he would go look at, figure out the depth, and then take off his bathing suit and jump in. Keith would just run and jump in without looking… in all of his clothes. It’s like two totally different kinds of guys. And right at the beginning, when I first met them, Keith’s got his doctor’s bag. He’s taking whatever he’s taking. He’s playing the guitar. He’s saying crazy, cryptic things. He’s laughing. He’s smoking. And Mick is sitting in the trailer on the phone talking business. And you need that guy. That’s why the Rolling Stones are still playing. And also I don’t think Jagger gets enough credit for insisting, right from the beginning when Brian Jones only wanted to hire him, “I don’t go in without Keith.” He’s always brought Keith along in that way.”

The book’s most poignant moments centers on a uniquely Stonesian trait; the absorption of people and places to fuel their music and enhance their image before blithely casting them asunder; the cold brilliance of which cannot be ignored when discussing the band’s lasting influence on the whole of Western culture for half a century. “They have to make this decision,” he says. “What are they willing to sacrifice for what they want, which is basically wealth, fame, and to be rock stars?”

This begins, according to Cohen, when the band decides early on to jettison original member Ian Stewart on the premise that “he doesn’t fit the image’, as put down by young hipster manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. It is a ruthless moment Cohen says causes the Stones to “lose their soul”, which happens again and again with such influences as original roommate, James Phelge, Jagger’s girlfriend, Maryanne Faithful, the band’s witchy matriarch, Anita Pallenberg, and the feeble but talented Graham Parsons. Eventually it would happen to Oldham, and tragically to founding member, Brian Jones, who would be kicked out of the band after years of deteriorating drug abuse and eventually drown in his pool at the age of twenty-seven.

“It’s very obvious what happened to Brian Jones,” Cohen recounts to me in a matter-of-fact tone. “He had this idea for a band and the band became more successful than he planned on and he lost control it. Not because of any evil thing, but because people identify with the singer. It’s just the way it works. You know, you go to a Frank Sinatra concert; you’re looking at Frank Sinatra. You’re not looking at the Count Basie Orchestra. So the singer becomes the star.

“Then Mick and Keith write ‘Satisfaction’ and that’s it. And Brian Jones is sort of now a second tier figure in his own band. And then you mix in all the other stuff, which are Anita Pallenberg and the LSD and his paranoia and his own probably pretty bad personality. Now you got a guy, who doesn’t actually kill himself, but he basically puts himself in a situation where he can easily die, over and over again, and then one night he does die. And what the Stones did was they realized at a certain point that they couldn’t hang onto him, they couldn’t save him, and he was just dragging them down… so they got rid of him.”

Once again, the fascinating aspect of The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones is its intriguing compartmentalizing of the Stones career through its early incarnations of blues, psychedelia, country-rock, stadium rock, and on and on, that is broken up in two stages by one tragic event; Altamont. The chapter, which the author calls the book’s anchor, is riveting, and puts in motion Cohen’s perspective style; as it gets beneath the surface of the tragedy of a myopic counterculture disaster rife with drug-addled violence that ends in the fatal stabbing of a gun-wielding kid by the Hell’s Angels.

Stirring first-hand accounts from stage manager, Sam Cutler, doctor, Robert Hyde, who carried away the mutilated body of the twenty-two year-old, Meredith Hunter, the late Albert Maysles, whose film cameras imprinted the carnage forevermore in the seminal, Gimmie Shelter, and many others provide new insights into what is arguably the mythical epoch to not only the Stones story, but that of the 1960s and the latter half of the twentieth century. “After getting all these stories you wind up with what I saw as this kind of kaleidoscopic scene at the end of the 1960s that was so intensely covered at the time, and now when it’s written about it’s either written about too closely or not at all,” Cohen reasons. “It’s like there’s no stepping back and looking at it like, ‘What really happened?’ and what it really meant without getting emotional about it.”

The book’s most poignant moments centers on a uniquely Stonesian trait; the absorption of people and places to fuel their music and enhance their image before blithely casting them asunder

Another device Cohen uses wonderfully in the storytelling is his trips to the places that “created” the Stones, like the original, putrid Edith Grove apartment, where Mick, Keith and Brian dreamed up their destinies, and most notably the infamous Villa in the South of France called Nellcôte, where Richards convened the band in tax exile to record arguably the Stone’s, and the genre’s, finest statement; Exile on Main Street. The author describes his impetuous trespassing, as he jumps the fence and sets the haunting mood of this once mystical hub of rock debauchery, camaraderie, and creative discovery. It is something Cohen believes is ingrained in the entire Stones legacy.

“One of the great things that’s key to the Rolling Stones is they have great taste,” he says. “They started out copying really good music, and that’s what they did for everything. If you look at Mick Jagger, and the art that he would have around him, in his house, its great art. Like years before you’d hear of painters, he knows this guy’s a great. That means when they would go work, they’d do it in great places.”

Cohen knows about those kinds of places, as he, Jagger, and master director, Martin Scorsese hit it out of the park with the dynamic and spot-on depiction of New York City’s smoldering hot-bed of musical reinvention for HBO’s Vinyl. Just as in the series, the characters of The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones are at once inspired and later possessed by their surroundings, coming to define them forever.

I pressed Cohen on whether he felt intimidated to give the Stones a pass on some of the wincing points of their careers, which he most certainly does not, in the glare of the friendships he had built with drummer, Charlie Watts or especially the working relationship with Jagger.

“You have to decide, are you loyal to Mick Jagger, or are you loyal to the reader?” he says. “I’m going for the big thing here. I can tell you everything I know. And the fact is if you really love these guys and love this music and get deep, deep into it, you just come across these things you have to struggle with. Not going to Brian Jones’ funeral; I just can’t understand that. Even if you hated him, how could you not go to his funeral? And there’s no way I can’t look at that and not comment on it. It’s like the Tom Wolfe line; ’A man in full.’”

This is what Rich Cohen has brought to the lexicon of the Rolling Stones; a uniquely first-hand account of fawning fandom and hard journalism, a place for the clamor to be silenced and the mass of gathered information to be digested.

“It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly,” he tells me in conclusion. “It’s not a portrait of a saint, and they wouldn’t say they’re saints. So you got a lot of sin in there too, and if you don’t write about the sin, then it just becomes bullshit. It becomes propaganda and then it’s not good.”

The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones is not merely good; it is, again… spectacular.

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MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

Aquarian Weekly
6/15/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

He is America’s greatest ego.
– Norman Mailer

Few lives are as epic as Muhammad Ali’s. It is an American epic, an African American epic, a religious epic, a boxing epic, a socio-political epic, a generational epic, and most of all, an inspirational epic. It is what the great Joseph Campbell coined the Mono-Myth, a composite philosophy of the “hero’s journey” in which all valiant stories, especially those entrenched in the Western culture, are the same – a character of common means ventures forth into a supernatural realm to defeat darker forces and emerges with a great victory. It, of course, stands to reason that Muhammad Ali is my hero in every possible way that the term may be defined. I have been and continue to be inspired by, in awe of, idolize, emulate, and use his seemingly indestructible force of will to empower me. In my youth, Ali was a towering, almost comic book figure. In my professional years, I wrote extensively about him in heroic terms whenever commissioned, and even sometimes for pure joy. His Mono-Myth has become my Mono-Myth; like the enduring myth of America, sport and life.

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Any understanding on the immensity that was Ali has to begin with his times. Confucius said, “May you live in interesting times”, and Ali did. Of course, it was he that made them eminently more interesting, but it is an indisputable fact that from the mid to late 1960s through the 1970s, Ali was quite simply the most famous human dead or alive. Everywhere. There are people in China who have no idea who Jesus Christ is or was, or Thomas Jefferson in Zimbabwe or Elvis Presley in Venezuela or Michael Jordan in Jordan. But everyone knew who Ali was. He was international in a singular way. He was Ali. Period. Ali was universal. Even if people had no idea why they knew him, that his name was Cassius Clay and he hailed from Louisville, Kentucky, or that he engineered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history at twenty-two, or that he took on the entire U.S. government for five years and won, or that he became the first boxer to lose and then win the world title three times. He was Ali, and Ali is universal. Ali is life.

But that is not what makes Ali epic; it is his flaws. It is his darker side, which I am sure will be ignored this week when the world mourns his passing. It is his raging narcissism and viciousness, his forays with racism, religious fanaticism, repeated adultery and misogyny. Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear. You had the feeling when you saw Ali or listened to him that he had known fear, like we all do, and then he took it down like he took Liston down when he was a seven-to-one underdog and a newly minted member of the Nation of Islam, which is to say he was the devil.

It took Joe Frazier, his greatest opponent and likely the second best heavy weight fighter in the latter half of the twentieth century, decades to get over Ali’s dehumanizing of him during pre-fight promotions; something Ali invented and did better than anyone ever. But it crossed the line. It became something else for a black man to call another “gorilla” on national television, repeatedly, in poetic and jocular form, to his face; to say he was the white man’s champion. Frazier, like all epic opponents brought the worst out of Ali, but it also brought the absolute best out of him too. He handed “the greatest” his first defeat in the real and only true “fight of the century”; Madison Square Garden, March 8, 1971 – the first time two undefeated titans would square off. It was the night the world stopped. It is the greatest, most covered, most mythologized sporting event of my lifetime. It was, in a word, epic. And when it was over, Ali nearly died. But, as the epic story goes, he rose again.

Ali emerged from this brutal beating to defeat Frazier in the rematch. But all of this pales in comparison to how Ali had seen him as an enemy first; an enemy of Allah, of the African experience, of his spiritual quest to be free of the forces of evil perpetuating a war that will stain our national soul forever. And before he could fight Frazier for the title, he had it stripped from him, because he refused to fight in Viet Nam, as all men should have rejected the immoral and useless sin that massacred 60,000 Americans, and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese and Cambodians and severed a nation. Assassinations and riots and protests and a national spying ring that would bring down a president; there was a crack at the base of the system, and standing on the fault-line was Ali. Because Ali was not American, Muslim, Black, he was Ali. He is universal, epic.

I keep this Ali quote, with other inspiring musings about speaking truth to power in a drawer where I do most of my writing, to remind me of what we do here at The Desk, but it may be my favorite: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. . . Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Ali also famously said, “It ain’t bragging, if it’s true.” It was his calling card, and what made him both the most hated and beloved athlete in this country; changing his name, throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River, taking on the government and winning a unanimous Supreme Court decision against the unconstitutional murder of thousands of American kids and wiping out any rational idea to the entire horror show. It was, even as a kid, what made knowing, watching, worshiping Ali a special thing. The sun came up, my mom loved me, my eyes are blue, and Ali is the champ.

Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear.

I remember part of my childhood went away the night a brutish dolt by the name of Leon Spinks took the articulate, brilliant, poetic, epic Ali down. He was no longer the champ – even when he wasn’t the champ, like when they stripped it, or temporarily when Frazier beat him into a bloody stump, but forever; like he was old and Spinks was not and boxing would go back to its primitive barbarism again with no charisma and no universal personality, a vacuum soon filled by the bestial visage of Mike Tyson, which would teach us all what missing Ali would mean.

Of course, Ali would step back in the ring again, and again, and again, until his mind would eventually go away and his body would shake and they would call it Parkinson’s Syndrome, but we knew it was a human tank called George Foreman beating on him for fifteen rounds in Zaire and those three wars with Frazier and Spinks taking him down ignominiously, and that asinine exhibition in suicide against Larry Holmes. He got back in the ring and took the title back one more time from Spinks, but there was something hollow and sad about it, and we knew we weren’t kids anymore, or at least I wasn’t; and all those things about “invincible” and being “the greatest” was finite, like life. But until that moment, for me, it was infinite, because Ali said it would be, and if he didn’t say it, he meant it anyway. He was, after all, finite, and so I was no longer a kid and soon would be an adult and am now 53 and mourning the passing of my hero.

My writing hero, Hunter S. Thompson, oddly or not oddly, also from Louisville, once wrote of Ali (in maybe the finest twenty-four words said about him), “Anybody who can sell his act for $5 million an hour all over the world is working a vein somewhere between magic and madness.”

And it is between those two poles in which the hero resides; where he thrives, where he captures our imagination beyond the terrible notion that life is just this series of beats and electrons and periods of joy and grief and that it is special in the way you want it to be.

Ali gave me that, and I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

This is what you get from universal and epic.

You get Ali.

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