COMEY SPEAKS

Aquarian Weekly
6/14/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

COMEY SPEAKS
Fired and Vilified Former FBI Director Takes His Swings

One hundred and thirty-eight days into his presidency, Donald J. Trump’s lawyer is holding a press conference defending his client against charges of obstruction of justice and borderline treason.

Let that be the lead. Everything else pales.

That is not entirely true.

Here is something worth considering: The entirety of the United States intelligence community, including the NSA, CIA and FBI has all confirmed that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election. The president of the nation under siege denies it ever happened and calls any investigation into these crimes a “witch hunt”. When no one listens to his carefully crafted delusions, he fires the director of the FBI. In exile Trump publicly humiliates Comey; calling him “a blowhard” and “a showboat” and finally “a nut job” (that part was in a secret meeting with Russians, if you can believe it). This all stemmed from the firing of his national security advisor, who is currently under criminal investigation and whom, for reasons only known to the cosmos, he keeps defending, including asking on numerous occasions several officials connected with the investigation to back off. This list boasts the aforementioned sacked FBI Director James Comey.

That guy got his day in court yesterday when he testified to all this and more in front of the U.S. Senate.

Like most of my columns lately on Donald J Trump, this is merely a review of the facts, which has been taken by the Trump Cultists as some kind of commentary. What is above actually happened, and more hilariously or frighteningly – the word you choose depends on how much you “love” the country and whatever bullshit it might represent to you – it is still happening and will continue to happen while our game show host is running things.

To wit: After Comey’s testimony the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, no fan of this president but gleefully trading in his so-called principles to get his agenda signed by him, defended Trump’s actions as a sign he doesn’t know what he’s doing. “He’s new to this,” Ryan said, and not with a straight face – I shit you not, the man was smiling, watch it – “He doesn’t get the traditional protocol.”

This is where we’re at now, making the point for those who argued that despite his overt misogyny and overall juvenile behavior and a virile disdain for the truth and much of the English language that would have felled a normal candidate, El Douche was woefully ill-prepared for the position in which he holds. Obviously the analogies are endless, but as I like to use houses as my go-to, it is tantamount to hiring a guy who won a fishing contest to build your house, and a few months in there are obvious signs he is fucking up and then someone named Paul comes to your dilapidated dwelling and says, “Well, come on, give him a break, he’s a fisherman.”

Be that as it may, what Comey told congress and the world yesterday was both damning and not-so. Facts, as we have seen these last months, are squirrely little annoyances open to interpretation. Some will see high crimes and as Trump’s sleazy divorce lawyer claimed, “vindication”. For instance, there were also arguments posed that Comey’s testimony both buried and vindicated Hillary Clinton. One way of the other one must ask, as I have for months, why does the president act as if he is guilty or at least hiding something? I don’t know, beyond my theory that he is either stupid or guilty or both. You come up with a reason. I’m out of guesses.

A real estate mogul in Manhattan would have no trouble “leaning” on someone who wasn’t “playing ball”. Comey spoke as if he were shocked at this.

Still, it was riveting television for those who live in this mire as I do. But what did we actually learn that wasn’t already leaked beforehand?

I was more than mildly curious to hear how Comey, supposedly a button-down hardcore lawman, would explain why when, according to him and his copious notes on his infamous “dinner with the president”, he was being bullied and, let’s face it, bribed and threatened by the president, he did not report it immediately to the justice department or quit. Comey had two excuses; not queering his ongoing investigation by alerting the president to his doubts he was grounded in reality and secondly to avoid alarming those within the FBI that their boss was unhinged.

I am not sure I buy any of it. I think Comey was under his own delusion that he could keep his high-profile gig. Comey is nothing if he is not a media whore. His performance when clearing Hillary Clinton of any criminal activity last July was a joke and almost everything he has done since then has been goofy. Not that this is any reason not to believe him, but okay, let’s just leave that to the ether and move onto what Comey thinks of the president: He is an asshole. That is basically what you get out of a couple of hours of this. Comey thought Trump was acting at the very least inappropriately with a guarantee to lie about anything done or said in private conversations.

But to be fair we already knew Trump was an asshole and we already knew he had no grasp of decorum. Even those who voted for him thinks these things. They wanted him to be their asshole and do something radically different than what would be normally accepted as decorum, which is why I vowed from day-one to not hold this guy to the same scrutiny as those who were actual politicians.

And this is the key for a lifer like Comey. He has no idea what the world of New York City real estate is like. It is something between organized crime and blood sport. People like Donald Trump have little or no use for things like decorum or law for that matter. Law is a roadblock to progress. For examples of Trump’s obliteration of every possible law just check his record over the past forty years, but for a general understanding of what we’re dealing with in the White House now look up what has happened to my beloved Chelsea Hotel since it was absorbed by a real estate mogul in 2007. When you stop throwing up, continue reading…

And decorum, well that nonsense is for the meek and the meek suck pipes and go home. A real estate mogul in Manhattan would have no trouble “leaning” on someone who wasn’t “playing ball”. Comey spoke as if he were shocked at this. What does he know about this crazy wild, wild west shit? He thinks he is dealing with a president. He is dealing with El Douche. You don’t get on TV with petty things like pride or integrity. You get there like a bulldozer rolling over a slave burial ground south of Canal Street. Pave, crush, evict and shame. This is the armory of the real estate mogul.

And in a strange way this is why Comey’s testimony, while damning to everything thing including the main stream media, the justice department, the president and even his own department is merely a sidelight to this key sentence: One hundred and thirty-eight days into his presidency, Donald J. Trump’s lawyer is holding a press conference defending his client against charges of obstruction of justice and borderline treason.

This is what we have now.

Enjoy.

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APOLOGY SYNDROME 2017

Aquarian Weekly
6/7/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

APOLOGY SYNDROME 2017

Where’s the punch line?
– Alice Cooper to jc, 9/13

There is a mural in an alleyway in the Temple Bar district of Dublin, Ireland of Sinead O’Connor. It reads; “Sinead you were right all along, we were wrong, so sorry.” In October of 1992 the Irish singer/songwriter infamously ripped a photograph of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, proclaiming, “Fight the real enemy.” It set off a firestorm here, but in the entrenched Catholic traditions of her home country it was tantamount to treason. I would gather that in the annals of artistic protest, of which there have blessedly been thousands throughout Western civilization, this one was a doozey. Needless to say O’Connor was vilified and black-balled and even booed off the stage at, of all things, a Bob Dylan Tribute concert in friggin’ New York City a few weeks later. She never recovered professionally.

Turns out, as the mural succinctly and eloquently states, that although the performance protest was oblique and combative, her style anyway, it was a trite salvo in the war that was waged in the ensuing century against the Catholic Church for covering up the sexual abuse of children, to which we would later learn O’Connor had been a victim of; having endured such horrors, as hundreds of her fellow Irish youth, at the hands of predatory nuns, all of whom were whisked away without retribution for decades.

But long before being redeemed, O’Connor, one of my heroes, and I was honored to be able to tell her so personally when I interviewed her for a feature in this paper in 2014 just a few weeks after I took a photo of my wife standing in front of the aforementioned mural, she never apologized. Even when the torrent of hatred and professional and personal strife poured down on her. And you know why? Because right or wrong, this was her statement. And she stood by it, as all statements made by citizens or artists or politicians must; whether you are railroaded for it or not.

You would think.

I was reminded of Sinead and that mural and the night she stared into a camera on live television and tore up a photo of a revered holy representative of her church, and for the record O’Connor has never stopped being a Catholic and in fact was ordained in some radical sect of the church as a priest in the late 1990s, when comedian Kathy Griffin fecklessly apologized for what I assume was some kind of provocative performance/protest art. You’ve seen it by now. She is standing holding the bloody severed head of our president. Oh, not really the severed head, that would be bad, just an effigy.

Why is she apologizing for this?

Whether you agree with this or not or think it “goes too far”, which should not be in your lexicon if you believe in the sacred tenants of the U.S. Constitution, I think we can all agree that apologizing for something you believe makes no sense, especially when it is not off the cuff. This was a conscious free expression.

Now, we all know Griffin apologized because everyone went nuts. So she is not apologizing for her opinion or the way she chose in a very strategic way to express it. She is, of course, doing it because she got canned from CNN; that she only planned, produced, and sent the thing out all over social media to get attention to assist her flagging career but got the Sinead O’Connor shit storm instead. She was apparently wildly unfamiliar with what happens when you appear with the severed, bloody head of the president of the United States.

So it really isn’t an apology. It’s like the Anthony Weiner type apology for being caught or because things didn’t work out in her favor, not because she is sincerely sorry. Remember when Prince Harry went to a Halloween bash dressed as a Nazi? Remember everything Kanye West has done and said for the past decade-plus? Remember Congressman George Allen? Yeah, I don’t remember him, either. Still, all apologized for basically nothing but people being mad at them. Kathy Griffin is full of shit. She is sorry because she’s fucked. That is not really an apology and shouldn’t be.

Also, why would she feel the need to apologize for offending anyone? Isn’t that the point of the provocateur, whether Lenny Bruce or Thomas Paine or Salvador Dali. Not that I am comparing a woman who spends every New Year’s Eve figuring out new ways to joke about blowing Anderson Cooper in Times Square to these mighty figures, but when you swim in that pool you can’t be surprised by getting wet.

Also, let’s face it, Griffin is apologizing because she put her singular name and face to this gesture. What is the difference between this and burning the previous two presidents in effigy, which they were, over and over, in dozens and dozens of protests? Or the despicable shit people throw up on the Internet? One comes with a signature, the other is anonymous or done in a mob but they are the same thing. Different venue. But the same thing.

Art.. is an extension of opinion, and like comedy, need not ever apologize.

Now, there has been much talk about political correctness and the backlash against free speech, mainly by the Right lately. This used to be the domain of the Left. But freedom is a mighty pendulum that will swing and swing hard, and one man’s insult is another man’s right, and I support that in every possible way. But, like all things, it comes with degrees or definitions. I am not broaching parameters here, only what kind of free speech tumbles into shouting fire in a crowded theater. Or more to the point, which can be accepted as opinion versus doing what ironically has been an art form for the president in question, blatant falsehood.

For instance, when former Breitbart, (The Onion of the Right), provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos caused riots at the formally Free Speech Center UC Berkley campus last February, I had several debates with alumni and we came to this conclusion; the protest was only justified because Yiannopoulos is the Alice Cooper of commentary and as an entertainer in this field he is virtually peerless, but should a place of higher learning be accommodating a guy espousing what amounts to flat-earth theories. This is equivalent to a medical school allowing a man touting leeches as the elixir for menstrual pain. However, a few months later when conservative Howard Stern type commentator, Ann Coulter backed out of her appearance there due to protests, it was a tad different. Coulter is kooky, but she is not telling you the earth is flat. She is saying she thinks Mexicans are evil and Jews need to be “perfected” and that Joseph McCarthy was a hero. These are opinions. I think Ann Coulter is a stupid idiot (opinion), not a fat guy from Cleveland (falsehood).

Art, and whether you like it or not Griffin standing with the severed, bloody head of the president is art, is an extension of opinion, and like comedy, need not ever apologize. And even if you apologize, doesn’t un-paint the Mona Lisa or un-record “Anarchy in the UK”.

People who make a stand, no matter how trite or vulgar or combative, need to stop acting as if it is not when it goes bad. Going bad is the point. Did Kathy Griffin think no one would be offended by holding the severed, bleeding head of Donald Trump?

Oh, and on the flip side of all this political correctness off-shoot, Donald Trump and those who support him are not allowed to be offended by anything. Trump is the vilest human going. This is his thing. He has insulted anything and everything repeatedly to spectacular results. You can make the argument he has “normalized” this behavior, and I could not be more pleased at this. So he or anyone who has supported this act doesn’t get to whine about his 11 year-old little shit “having a hard time with this.” You think Rosie O’Donnell’s kid was digging Trump calling her a fat, disgusting pig over and over again, or the children of the disabled reporter were thrilled that the then Republican candidate for president was acting spastic in front of a capacity crowd to get laughs or the dozens of other disgusting things the president has said and done over the past two years? How do you think Barack Obama’s girls feel when this blowhard accuses their father of high crimes with no evidence after two years of saying he had evidence that didn’t exist that he wasn’t even an American?

Fuck him. Grow a pair and get a helmet.

As for Kathy Griffin, fuck off.

You are no Sinead O’Connor.

Author’s Note: I wish to apologize for anyone I offended in the previous column.

Second Author’s Note: Fuck you.

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LOVE…TO…TURN…YOU…ON

Aquarian Weekly
5/31/17

COVER PIECE

James Campion

LOVE…TO…TURN…YOU…ON
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at 50

It was fifty years ago today…

June 1, 1967, to be exact; the day the cultural axis of the Western hemisphere is altered by a singular artistic event. The Beatles, the most celebrated, imitated and dissected entertainers on the planet, release their eighth studio album.

It is true that anything released by The Beatles is a momentous event, especially an album, which used to mean a bunch of desperate songs thrown together for forty or so minutes around one hit single to wrest money from impressionable teenagers. The Beatles turned it into a cohesive collection of musical and lyrical insights into the artists and their times. However, this one is made far more significant due to four (as in Fab Four) key elements that will indelibly mark its dramatic impact and widespread influence; timing, arrogance, creativity and grandeur. It is those ingredients that make Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band unquestionably the most important aural, visual, and especially cultural rock…ahem…artistic statement of its time.

In the decades that follow June 1, 1967, Sgt. Pepper’s will be heralded, with very little protest, as the greatest artistic endeavor of the twentieth century. Enough of this hyperbole eventually results in a serious backlash of “highly overrated” and for a time it is hardly considered even The Beatles best work, just the fawning reverberation of sophistic Baby Boomer miasma. Yeah, enough of goddamn Sgt. Peppers, what about..?

Yet what is missed by those who insist on Top Lists and the unofficial results of critical bar stool geek spats is the historical space the album carved for itself above and beyond the music found therein or the musicians who wrote, performed, produced and released it. Simply put, after Sgt. Pepper’s what once existed in the art form and its genre could no longer do so without acknowledging it. So incredibly dense and concussive was its force and meaning it would spawn an entire age of replication, homage and satire. It would place interior dialog, social commentary, psychedelic hippie fashion, Indian spirituality, and a mash-up of generational call-to-arms meets mind-altering self-expression into to-do list for poets, musicians, performance artists, painters, graphic designers…(gasp for breath) and such and so forth for evermore.

And it is especially important to remember that unlike other seismic shifts in, say, literature, Moby Dick, or film, Citizen Kane; both considered horrendous failures upon their release but are now accepted as signature expressions of their art forms, there would be no gradual recognition of this fact. It happens on June 1, 1967. The day Sgt. Pepper’s made the world anew.

Timing

Like its birth in the opening years of the 1960s, a magical, turbulent, youth-infused era of revolution, experimentation and liberation, and its arrival in America, smack in the middle of the century it dominated, The Beatles instinct to capture the moment is unparalleled.

Consider that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band arrives ten months after the band plays live for the last time, closing the book on an unparalleled level of global mania to begin an unprecedented era for a performing act to, well, not have an act, but instead retreat into art for art’s sake; no more showbiz in the showbiz – no more mop tops, fancy boots, matching suits, screaming girls, Ed Sullivan, Shea Stadium, Hollywood Bowl, Queen’s Command Performance. For the first time in popular music it will be the music and its packaged presentation that becomes the impetus, execution and result.

In those months away, the band would exhale from its achievements over the past three years of miraculous popularity and creative evolution, the evidence of which is found on their previous two albums, Rubber Soul and Revolver that explored maturation and alienation, spirituality and drug-induced mind expansion sending musicologists to the thesaurus and contemporaries like The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys to the woodshed. Every rock artist (the roll part would be discarded as some middling kiddie form in the wake of the new guideposts The Beatles had built) would be shaken to the core. All of them almost immediately began experimenting frantically to keep up. Beach Boys Svengali, Brian Wilson would infamously descend into near madness creating a masterwork he called Pet Sounds, which then made dizzy the two main composers in The Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

By late 1966, McCartney is immersed in London’s growing avant-garde underground, while Lennon is entranced by a portentous Japanese performance artist, and lead guitarist, George Harrison is lost in the hills of East Bengal and its hypnotizing Hindustani rhythms. While for his part drummer, Ringo Starr is just happy being Ringo Starr, they had all moved swiftly from marijuana to LSD to escape the crushing effects of celebrity and become creative individualists; helping them come to grips with the emerging world bazaar of like-minded egalitarian hedonists they’ve inspired.

The time has come to distill this into an imprint, and with the coming year of war, assassination, and indistinct revolution, it would be a welcomed moment frozen in time.

Arrogance

The entire Beatles universe squeezes into Studio B of EMI’s Abbey Road complex in the form of six supremely talented and motivated men at the peak of their abilities.

John and Paul, whose prolific compositions continue to soar beyond scope, George, whose own songs have found transport in their comet’s tail, the dutiful and wholly underrated drummer, Ringo, the band’s producer and musical Sherpa, George Martin, and an instinctual sonic worker-bee engineer, Geoff Emerick fill the magnetic strips of the Studer J37 four-track reel-to-reel with sounds never before heard. And I write that with no trepidation, as I defy anyone to find anything that sonically resembles the spastic calliope tape-looped instrumental break in Lennon’s “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” or the sitar/orchestral call-and-response in Harrison’s “Within You Without You”. The eradication of monetary, time-frame or creative parameters means that no one can stop The Beatles but themselves.

Freed from the hindrance of having four instruments present their vision on stage, they deem the whole Beatles thing too narrow a framework from which to work. They will be something else, literally and figuratively. The alter-ego of Sgt. Pepper and his band (complete with uniforms and fictional characters like Billy Shears and Lucy in the sky with her diamonds, the voices of troubled parents and the drone of chanting mystics), which comes with an introductory theme song in case you were expecting something else, allows them to be anything they wish.

The transformation begins with musical memoirs. “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which share their humble beginnings draped in psychedelic notions. Every heroic epic needs an origin story, and this ground-breaking double-A side single would act as precursor for the Pepper experience with its eerie Meletron openings and Bach trumpets, boldly declaring “behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout” that “nothing is real”.

Its spectacular success, supported visually by promotional films (perhaps the first ever music videos) reveal the band’s new look – facial hair and vivid clothing with long coats and flowing scarves – obliterating the monochromatic ensemble that conquered the planet and replacing it with trippy avatars that provide the group free reign to turn the studio into both palette and stage.

It took The Beatles ten hours to record their first album. It would take 700 hours over six months to bring Sgt. Pepper and his band of lonely hearts to life.

One wonders if something from 1917 had remotely mattered as much on June 1, 1967.

Creativity

It opens with the tuning of a quaint orchestra beneath the murmur of an expectant crowd and ends in an apocalyptic hum. Along the way there are stops on a river with tangerine trees under marmalade skies, a traveling carnival, and a glimpse through the walls of illusion; penetratingly illuminating slices of life as seen by extraordinary commentators – a little girl who runs away from home, a young man ruminating on love in advancing age, an insecure soul whose machismo has kept him from true happiness, and still another who witnesses a fatal car accident that somehow makes him laugh.

On Sgt. Pepper’s The Beatles will introduce thematic cohesion (concept album, anyone?) to pop music. A song cycle that connects exploration to an understanding of humanity through the use of global instrumentation and sophisticated melodies that soar above the drudgery of their subjects’ loneliness, confusion and insecurity with an eye (and ear) aimed at a higher meaning; achieved, by the way, in merely 39 minutes and 52 seconds of listening. Not bad for an epic.

According to both Emerick and Martin in their memoirs – Martin would pen a detailed account forty years later and tour his lecture, “The Making of Sgt. Pepper’s” in 1999 that I would attend at New York’s prestigious Town Hall with my long-time friend and colleague, Chris Barrera in which he plays naked tracks and duly explains the team’s numerous intricate recording techniques – the mission for Sgt. Pepper’s is to push every possible boundary; technically, lyrically, and, of course, musically. It is, in the end, the sound of the album that shakes the foundation of the rock esthetic. It is also crucial that the songs will have little to no breaks between them; they flow, as if a singular statement. Thus, The Beatles achieve a soundtrack worthy of the demigods they’ve become – bigger than Jesus and all that – signaling not only The Summer of Love but a road map for Prog Rock that will dominate the next decade.

It seems redundant to list the songs again, but suffice it to say, whenever you listen to Sgt. Pepper’s, no matter how many times you may have already done so there is still something at which to marvel. For me it is always “A Day in the Life”; a remarkable feat of songwriting (Lennon being Lennon in his detached surrealism while McCartney is soooo melodiously McCartney), performance, (this may be the finest effort of expressive rock drumming ever), production (the reverb on Lennon’s voice alone set against the sheen of the acoustic guitar and the percussive piano flourishes is enough to induce chills, but the dissonant orchestral crescendos…come on!), and mood (a central dynamic for the entire album). Sgt. Pepper’s forever sets the standard for a great album; a memorable opening to an engaging final song of Side One (remember sides, kids?), a stark open to Side Two, and a startling coda.

The first time I would hear Sgt. Pepper’s in its entirety, as intended, was at around ten pm on June 1, 1977 on its tenth anniversary. New York’s rock station, WPLJ or maybe it was WNEW, played it at the top of the hour all evening. I caught the last playing. For the first time (even with all the music I had heard up to that point, most of it sparked by The Beatles) lying in bed with tightly snug headphones I could see this music, not just listen to it. It was like a great film that I could relive in my head. In other words, I think I got it.

Grandeur

Everyone gets it. Well, nearly everyone. There is some bitching from the odd reviewer who thinks this is all a bit much. This again recounts Sgt. Pepper’s greatest achievement; it hits the ground running.

Much of it thanks to its design; the first album to print the lyrics, the band dressed in their Pepper military garb, and the colors, ooh-boy, the colors. The cover, art-directed by Swingin’ London trend-setter, Robert Fraser and photographed by the omnipresent Michael Cooper, is not merely iconic; it literally celebrates the concept of iconicity. The Beatles surrounded by their heroes, the faces of the century, artists and athletes and dignitaries and characters, even their own wax figures. It is hard to imagine the impact of this until you spend a little time perusing album covers of the day; it is like Dorothy wandering out of her Kansas black and white into Oz. It is three-dimensional sensory overload.

The release comes with communal overtones. For the first time labels in both the UK and America launch a Beatles album at the same time (June 2 in the States), with no difference in the track listing, alternate titles or covers. Suddenly it is Sgt. Pepper’s. Period. Right now. The sights and sounds of something new and exciting. Fans and other artists play it simultaneously through open windows, blasting it over rooftops and into the streets while pouring over the lyrics and singing along to the infectious tunes; “I get high with a little help from my friends!” – “It’s getting better all the time (It can’t get no worse!)!” – “Lucy in the sky with diamonds!”

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band debuts in the UK at number one – where it solidly remains for 22 consecutive weeks – selling 250,000 copies during the first seven days. Soon it would eclipse everything that came before it in terms of sales and impact (Beatles or otherwise). It will sell nearly three million by year’s end in the U.S. and eventually top 11 million. On June 6, Jimi Hendrix, who has exploded onto the British music scene, opens a concert with the title track as The Beatles and seemingly the whole of the hip, young, tuned-in glitterati look on. It is a triumph, an alchemic achievement in art, fashion, music, influence, statement, and homage. And it will not have to wait to be understood as such. It is immediate, like a storm. More like an eclipse.

Legacy

Sgt. Pepper’s becomes something like the ’27 Yankees; so uniquely magnificent it is used as a demarcation of sorts, as in, “It’s not like it’s Sgt. Pepper’s or anything” or the obligatory “this is Michael Jackson’s Sgt. Pepper’s”. It would make the record album so important it would render the single release to merely a prelude. It would cement rock music as an indelible link to the other musical movements of centuries past. It would refine the entire culture into a single resonant day. And it would begin to erode the band that made it happen.

On May 19, Beatles manager, Brian Epstein hosts a release party packed with the beautiful people, hangers-on and journalists, as the album blasts forth stunning everyone. John, Paul, George and Ringo arrive decked out in their 1967 best; psychedelic ties and fur coats and ruffled shirts amidst an absurd shower of balloons and confetti as fancy drugs and drink flow. Paul meets American photographer, Linda Eastman, whom he would marry in due time and announce in the British press that he is dissolving the group in a torrent of lawsuits. Before this, John would disappear into Yoko Ono and reduce The Beatles to some kind of existential prison. George trades the trappings of fame for Eastern philosophy. Ringo keeps being Ringo.

Before the end of the year they would lose their beloved manager, Brian Epstein (apparent drug overdose), produce their first flop, the opaque Magical Mystery Tour film, follow a lascivious mystic, put out a series of solo efforts crammed into a double album that inspires ritualistic murders, and before imploding, play an afternoon concert on a roof of their offices that is shut down by police. They would still make some pretty damn great music, but it appears that Sgt. Pepper’s would not only be The Beatles’ apex, it is their swansong – at least in terms of solidarity between its members, its support group and its fans, all of which on June 1, 1967 figured it would go on like this infinitely.

After all “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is more than a seminal Beatles album or the creative height for the rock and roll elite; it is a pristinely captured moment of hope. This, above all, is why it matters 50 years hence. One wonders if something from 1917 had remotely mattered as much on June 1, 1967.

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DONALD TRUMP: STUPID, GUILTY OR BOTH?

Aquarian Weekly
5/17/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

DONALD TRUMP: STUPID, GUILTY OR BOTH?

The firing of FBI Director James Comey confirms two things; the president of the United States is probably guilty and most definitely stupid.

There is no other explanation for this maneuver; its timing, its politics, it optics, its reflection of the current investigation into his campaign’s role in Russia’s meddling in our national electoral process, or the eventual handling of the announcement. Unless you’re guzzling the Trump Kool-Aid, no one can possibly offer a rationale for doing this, or at least doing this now, that doesn’t end with guilty, stupid or both.

Trump’s letter of dismissal to Comey told the whole tale. The president decided to include an aside about having been told personally by the man he was sacking that he was not directly under investigation…three times; a ham-fisted attempt to deflect the idea that this had nothing to do with being under investigation. By the way, that alone would be grounds to dismiss an FBI director. Whispering in the ear of the subject of an investigation that it ain’t really about him before its conclusion breaks so many laws it is hard to fathom.

Even more idiotic is Trump revealing a previous dinner engagement with Comey to NBC News the following day that included discussions on the director keeping his job. “I told him I’d think about it,” said Trump in the way a CEO dangles career survival as a bargaining chip. Later a NY Times report cited sources close to Comey that claimed the “thinking about it” came with a caveat of “loyalty”, to which Comey said he would provide the president only his “honesty”, something Trump obviously could not abide.

The second part of the letter frames several calls for Comey’s dismissal by members of the Justice Department, more pointedly, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. According to the voices that defended this move over the ensuing 24 hours, like the vice president, two press secretaries (can anyone find Sean Spicer?) and the usual host of spinners, it was Rosenstein’s strong recommendation that Comey be removed that sprang “the decisive president” into action, thus, in essence, laying the responsibility for it on someone else. However, in a spectacular twist of stupidity, the president pissed on all that and once gain told NBC News it had nothing to do with any recommendation. “I was going to fire Comey all the time,” Trump admitted, adding stuff about Comey being “a grandstander” and “a showboat”, which is like Metallica telling you that your band is too loud.

Joining the stupid/guilty party is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who also recommended Comey’s dismissal in print, despite having to recuse himself from anything connected to the Russian investigation after lying to congress about his own potential involvement.

And the reason given for the firing? (drum roll) Comey had destroyed the FBI’s morale and …wait for it…hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Cue laugh track.

Just last week, Trump, painfully unaware he is no longer in a campaign, stood in front of his cult following as they chanted “Lock her up!” and smiled. He repeatedly praised Comey for his “guts” in handling the Clinton email investigation for months and then when he became president not only allowed him to continue in the position, he never once mentioned removing him.

And then he did; just one coincidental day after the recently fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates spent hours presented damning evidence that either stupidity, guilt or both led to the firing of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for his illegal involvement with the Russians. You don’t have to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to sleuth this one.

…Comey said he would provide the president only his “honesty”, something Trump obviously could not abide.

Then, a day after the firing, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appeared before congress and completely refuted the White House claim that Comey committed any “atrocities” (their word) or what the president and his spinners referred to as a department “loss of confidence” in him. In fact, McCabe said Comey engendered “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” adding, “The vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.” In other words, for about the four-hundredth time since taking office, (voter fraud, fake news, wiretapped by Obama, ships heading to Korean Peninsula) Trump made it all up.

This is once again a solution looking for a reason.

Now, whether you choose to ignore the glaring evidence pointing toward guilt or explain it away with sub-mental theorizing about witch hunts, no one actually knows if Donald Trump or the dozen or so of his campaign staffers are actually guilty of anything beyond hubris and, well, stupidity, but one thing is for certain, through his erratic tweeting and haphazard reactions to all of it the president sure thinks he’s guilty of something.

First and foremost although he continues to call the investigation and the Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, confirmed by every level of U.S. intelligence community, a hoax, the president has spent an enormous amount of energy and time defending himself. And while mocking investigations against you is classic Al Capone stuff, Trump only echoes the idea that there is something worth mocking.

Secondly, the White House has done back-flips to get ahead of the story at every turn, hoping to thwart its momentum, from releasing bogus info to one of the lead congressional investigators to the aforementioned sacking of Sally Yates mere weeks after she warned the administration of its abysmal pick of a traitor as national security advisor.

And now in this final act of desperation, following his hollow “Mission Accomplished” moment in the White House rose garden hailing a healthcare bill that will certainly be hacked into unrecognizable pieces by a frightened senate and sent back to the House in a body bag, the president disappears for five days before emerging with this bungled firing of the person who holds the most delicate position to nail him.

What shouldn’t be lost in all this is that Comey was really shitty at this job, or at least performing the public face of it. His July 5, 2016 berating of a major party candidate after exonerating her of criminal activity as if she were a kindergarten student was not only unprofessional and idiotic but put the onus on future directors to not only present “just the facts, ma’am”, but add some kind of Supreme Court dissent to each decision. Then, unconscionably, he halted the democratic process of a national election by erroneously leading the American electorate to believe that the same investigation was re-opened on flimsy evidence that wasn’t really evidence.

And while I think Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump had little to nothing to do with Comey’s blatant overreach and clumsy communication, it does not clear him of being shitty.

Even so, this would have been a gutsy move by Trump in January or even February, but now? When Comey was currently requesting further resources to increase the investigation? When Trump had a meeting with Russian diplomats closed off to the media?

Yeah, stupid, guilty or both.

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THE TRUMP CENTURY MARK

Aquarian Weekly
5/3/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE TRUMP CENTURY MARK
Dissecting the Worst First 100 Days of a Presidency

Congratulations to Donald J. Trump. Not since 1933 when they started using this century metric to measure the length and breadth of a newly minted president have we seen more chaos, failure and mayhem in the first 100 days of an administration. This was his aim and now it is his greatest achievement. In other words, this is what the office looks like when it is held by a game show host. Not surprising, but certainly entertaining and exciting and full of the type of lunacy that brings a joy to my black heart and worthy of review.

It would take at least four of these columns to cover this properly. But all of it has to start with the fact that Donald Trump broke a speed record for urinating on the constitution, a pastime of nearly all of our presidents. The second he lifted his hand off the Bible, Trump was in violation of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 for failing to officially divest himself of his business holdings, which are numerous and international and a major conflict of several interests all at once. Then, before long he would replace his top advisor, an alt-right white supremacist web master, with his son-in-law and daughter, both of whom still represent these businesses and are now considered the most powerful people in the U.S government.

This, of course, would soon pale in comparison to how Trump got the gig, which was under investigation within weeks of his presidency when it was learned that the FBI had been officially examining his campaign since July for colluding with the Russian government to skew the outcome of the U.S election in his favor. We have learned, almost daily, that more people inside the campaign than not had either taken cash from or met with Russian officials under cover. Several are under indictment and one, the friggin’ National Security Advisor, General Michael “Lock Her Up” Flynn was sacked after 27 days and is most likely going to jail.

Don’t kid yourself; to be the first president to be investigated within the first 100 days by a bipartisan committee in both houses of congress and the highest law officials in the government is a goddamned spectacular feat. And when it looked as though it couldn’t get more sordid, the White House colluded with one of its lead investigators by secretly handing him erroneous information to back an unsubstantiated claim made by the president via Twitter that the former president illegally wire-tapped his private residence. When this ruse went belly up – several sources including his attorney general and the FBI director said no such thing occurred – he blamed one of the United States most trusted allies, the British Intelligence community.

Election tampering, colluding with a known enemy of the United States to queer an election, refusal to divest business ties and slander is a pretty daunting criminal record for about four months of governing; all of which has earned Trump the lowest approval ratings of any president in his first months in office. The lowest. Not the bottom five or one of the worst, the worst. Ever.

And for laughs, the president, who issued about two-dozen executive orders as if on a drunken binge (something he mocked the prior president for doing), ordered some kind of bizarre and wholly unconstitutional ban on Muslims from entering the country. When it was struck down in court in about five seconds of argument he issued a second one which was then immediately struck down in court. Both remain there and will do so until someone enterprising nut adds an amendment to our constitution making it legal for the government to discriminate on the basis of religion, which I am rooting for but has zero chance of happening.

In other words, this is what the office looks like when it is held by a game show host.

But crimes are not the only thing that has stamped this as the absolute worst 100 days in presidential history; save for William Henry Harrison, who summarily dropped dead on day 31.

There was the complete and utter collapse of a seven-year Republican promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Despite owning both houses and the executive branch, they twice failed to even vote on Trump Care, which was viewed by both parties and the majority of the American people as some kind of aborted half-assed band-aid on the existing law everyone apparently hates…except they really don’t. In fact, Donald Trump has turned out to be the law’s best advocate, as it has not only grown in popularity in polls but people have come out of the woodwork, ala the TEA Part uprising against it, to decry its doom, consequently spooking members of congress all over the place.

This turned what is usually a honeymoon period wherein the first legislative attempt is always (not sometimes) always achieved into a historically damaging crash and burn. All of it despite the entire Trump staff threatening members of congress (all Republican) with every known political black-ops in the ledger along with the kind of pathetic pleading that has people believing Donald Trump is actually some kind of decent negotiator.

Oh, the deals and winning we expected…oh, the losses we’ve seen.

Trump has also ignored staffing a majority of the state department and other key departments that still at the time of this writing have 2,000 vacancies. And his choices to run pretty significant government agencies have been downright hilarious. Just to name two (I’ll leave off Ben Carson, who begged Trump to not give him a job, because he was incapable of doing it) an EPA Director who tried to sue the EPA several times and the head of the Energy Department who vowed to shut down the department of energy when running for president, but couldn’t recall its name when declaring it. “Oops!” Oh, you know, the same guy said Trump was “a cancer on the Republican Party” during the primaries.

Trump wasted no time declaring war on the American press calling it “the enemy” or “fake news” whenever it pointed out his daily delusions, not the least of which was framing his three-million popular-vote loss in the general election as “massive voter fraud”. Let me stop for a moment and explain that the winner of the election screamed for weeks that the entire electoral process was fraudulent. Oh, and after saying he would have no time to golf once president, Trump has spent more time playing it and used up more tax payer money in the first four months on travel to do so than eight years of the previous president. He even held nuclear strategy sessions at his own non-classified golf resort called “The Winter White House”. This included the flipping of his already nebulous position on Syria in 24 hours and ordering a bombing raid on a whim over chocolate cake.

For more fun, he compared the U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany, joined the Pentagon in lying about Navy war ships speeding to the Korean Peninsula during a contentious week of saber-rattling with a lunatic, defended a talk show host who was eventually fired after millions in payouts for sexual harassment, while several cases against his own sexual harassment are pending. He settled on fraud charges against his bogus Trump University despite promising to fight and win the case and tweets incessantly that every massive protest against his wacky presidency (and there has been hundreds every weekend since his inauguration all over the nation) are funded by the Democratic Party.

He has taken completely opposite positions on issues he vehemently campaigned on like regarding Chinese manipulation of currency and the legitimacy of NATO, which he admitted in print he had no idea about, and reneged on everything listed under Trump’s Contract with America (still on his web site) guaranteed to be completed in his first 100 Days; Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act, End the Offshoring (tic) Act, American Energy and Infrastructure Act, School Choice and Education Opportunity Act, Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act, Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act, End Illegal Immigration Act, Restoring Community Safety Act, Restoring National Security Act, Clean Up Corruption in Washington Act.

And guess what, folks? Remember the infamous border wall? Mexico ain’t paying for it. Not now or in any fantasy con this guy is whipping up. And if there is a wall, highly doubtful at this or any juncture, you’re paying for it.

To be fair, he did appoint a candidate for the Supreme Court, which was confirmed by the Senate, even though they have blown up the entire rule structure for all time. There’s that.

“Politicians are idiots, they don’t know what they’re doing,” candidate Donald Trump said repeatedly on the campaign trail. Now he is president and proving this with tremendous alacrity.

By any standard or metric measuring for the past 80 years this has been one whiz bang, horrifyingly beautiful shit-circus of a presidency.

I cannot wait for the next 1,300.

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WHEN AN ARMADA IS NOT AN ARMADA

Aquarian Weekly
4/26/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHEN AN ARMADA IS NOT AN ARMADA
And Doomsday is Delayed For a Lark

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: he (North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung-un) is doing the wrong thing.
– President Donald Trump to the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, April 12, 2017

In the case of our super-mighty pre-emptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes.
Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper for North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party, April 20, 2017

Take a moment from your latest freak-out about something nonsensical and pay attention to the following paragraphs that detail one of the most dangerous and egregious fuck-ups our federal government has perpetuated on us since 9/11. Luckily this time thousands weren’t killed and buildings didn’t disappear in our greatest and richest city.

At the outset I must admit that after nearly 100 days, I am starting to get a handle on this President Trump thing. Rightly accused of lying his ass off nearly every time he opens his mouth is kind of missing a more pressing point. I think it is not so much lying as it is making stuff up that he thinks of on the spot with little to no actual factoids or tangible premise involved. It’s like talking to a four year-old about space men without the cute voice or some imaginative asides. Trump just plain makes stuff up. And this is nothing new. He has been doing this for decades and did so at an alarmingly hilarious rate when he presented himself for the job of President of the United States and then won the right to perform it. Now he has taken this art form or mentally damaged tick (you choose) to new levels.

I do not have the time or the inclination to recount the entirety of Trump’s craziness here – we shall “try” and review the obligatory First 100 Days metric next week. Right now we will concentrate on one spectacular doozey, then move onto something seriously flawed in our Democracy, which has nothing to do with Donald J. Trump.

Before the president employed his “make shit up on the spot” stylings to this monumental screw-up, let us go back to April 8 of this “foul year of Our Lord” 2017, when Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., the head of the military’s Pacific Command publicly announced the diversion of an aircraft carrier called the Carl Vinson, its wing of fighter jets and three guided-missile destroyers and cruisers from a planned series of exercises and port calls in Australia to complete a new mission in the Western Pacific, more specifically the Sea of Japan, and far more essentially, the Korean Peninsula.

This was fairly important (okay, I will suspend sarcasm for a moment) fucking gigantically pertinent information for the American public and the world, mainly due to North Korea being run by a murderously wild-child monarch by the name of Kim Jong-un, who has recently upped his usual saber-rattling about launching nuclear missiles towards the United States because daddy didn’t love him.

Seeing how the current commander-in-chief, also riddled with daddy issues, is embroiled in several scandals and wants to appear like the tough-guy he “made up” during the campaign, it appeared from that announcement that conflict was nigh – and not just any conflict; nuclear war level conflagration or millions-die-in-an-instant kind of level.

Summarily, all the news outlets, even the real ones, reported this maneuver. And when asked about this in the ensuing days, the ninth, tenth, eleventh and especially April 12, the president, vice president, White House press secretary, defense secretary, the Pentagon, and the guy who played the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Easter Bunny (damn it, it is so hard to abandon sarcasm completely here) confirmed and even detailed a show of military force heading to what could easily be framed as a war zone, and has been since the Korean Conflict of the early 1950s “ended” without an official treaty.

..maybe if we are fixing to turn islands into cinder on our dime and maybe brace ourselves for retribution it might be okay to give us the head’s up?

The government and the press told us the United States was basically calling the bluff of a loon with nuclear weapons with its own barrel of severe weaponry over and over and over for eleven days.

Then it wasn’t happening.

It never happened.

Totally made up.

All of it.

Not one iota of this potential major, world-changing event happened or was happening.

We found out about all of this more or less on April 18.

Do I have to write What the Fuck? Or should I merely go with the more accepted acronym WTF? Or maybe I should just move this whole operation down to Australia and bid the rest of you suckers adieu.

Then, for the purposes of perspective, whatever the hell that is, we’ll fast forward to the fallout, which enjoyed the predictable political spin-doctoring acrobatics perfected by more worthy semi-truth tellers on military schemes from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama.

But I expect presidents and the Pentagon to lie. Part of it is strategic, some parts are to keep people alive, still other parts include a heavy rotation of “Can’t help it, man.” However, I am trying to figure out why we even have a press corps. Is it to show us funny cat videos; because I have YouTube for that. Is it to have six boxes of talking heads yelling about who sucks less, Democrats or Republicans? Is it to better position one’s self to sexually stalk fellow employees? I need something on this, because I would like to know how nearly two weeks go by with notions of nuclear holocaust dancing in our heads with no one in the government, the military or the national press knowing what the hell is going on with our war ships?

I know it’s too much to ask for competent chief executives or basic legislation or even anything approaching sane decorum, but maybe if we are fixing to turn islands into cinder on our dime and maybe brace ourselves for retribution it might be okay to give us the head’s up? Or if this is not too much to hope for, not make all of it up.

But then again…

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The Trump Doctrine

Aquarian Weekly
4/19/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE TRUMP DOCTRINE
Spoiler Alert: There Is None

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy. I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. … But it’s not what you would think.”
– President Donald Trump to the Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2017

When an unhinged simpleton is commander-in-chief of the most power and richest armed forces on the planet you get the week we just had.

Let’s review.

Under mounting evidence that key members of the 2016 Trump campaign committed high treason in colluding with the Russian government, a known and hostile adversary of the United States, to intervene on its behalf in this country’s previous presidential election, President Trump dispatched his heretofore missing-in-action Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Turkey to proclaim that “the longer-term status of President [Bashar] Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” This sent neo-cons like Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain into the predictable tizzy, but it did echo the president’s oft repeated vow to be a different Republican and the new voice of “America First” to stay out of the civil wars of foreign nations with little to no lasting sovereign or fiscal interests to the U.S.

This was especially prevalent to matter of Syria, where not only had candidate Trump shrugged his shoulders about Assad, using the “We should have left Saddam Hussein in power because a tough dictator is far more stable than the mess that emerged in the vacuum after the failed maneuvers of the Bush Doctrine”, he doubled down with a constant and almost creepy defense and praise of Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin throughout 2016.

Citizen Trump famously tweeted his advice on this issue in 2012 to the former president, “We should stay the hell out of Syria, the “rebels” are just as bad as the current regime. (caps are his) “WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS? ZERO.”

Then, with no warning beyond a four-minute aside by Tillerson prior to the arrival of the Chinese to Trump’s private residence in Mar a Largo, Florida, no discussion with congress, or any announcement to the American people, the president dramatically shifted his stance, more like violently spun the whole thing around with dizzying speed, bagging the very foundation of his campaign’s divergence from the usual “fix the planet” Republican mantra of the Bush Administration he unmercifully mocked for over a year by bombing an Al Shayrat airfield in Syria. Something Citizen Trump thought better of in 2013 when someone else had this gig, judging from his tweet tsunami on the subject: “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict?” and “Obama needs Congressional approval. The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!”

This was of course in response to the horrific photos and videos taken after Assad’s chemical weapons dump on Syrian civilians, many of them children, the week before. Trump had commented on how affected he was by them, which is noble and human and no one blames him. However, Trump no longer hosts a TV show and gets up at four am to angrily tweet about shit he knows little to nothing about. He owns this now, and by owning it, he owns America’s role in the greater construct of foreign affairs and relations. This is something, again, an unhinged simpleton is learning on the job, and this past week the very notion of a Trump Doctrine has been laid to waste.

During all of this, while consuming in his Louis XIV style meal and what he described to FOX News as “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” with Chinese Presdient Xi Jinping at his aforementioned luxury accommodations a thousand miles or so from D.C., Trump gave the orders that upset several international apple-carts. First and foremost, American military personnel are working mostly under cover in the fight against ISIS (the only reason we are in the country in the first place) had to summarily evacuate missions, the Russian government, under heavy suspicion of meddling in the American election by congress and the FBI, has a reed-thin agreement on overt military action, especially from the air, as there are daily missions to ostensibly defeat ISIS as an ally, and finally pushing us head first in a civil war in which there are no allies or strategic end-game.

Beyond the president acting like a tough guy and playing with his boats in the bath, what exactly does any of this accomplish?

One is right to ask about the moral imperative for the United States to not sit idly by and watch children slaughtered by a mad man, but if this kind of thing, which has gone sideways now since 2001 in two other countries, and went mostly badly in Libya for the previous administration, (another maneuver derided by TV show Trump) then one might ask what “help” does bombing one airbase actually do to curtail Assad or his ability to wreak havoc on his people? And one also then has the right to ask what to do about Assad, to which Trump has offered no plan, except to punt any thought of removing him from power, which before Tillerson’s fancy speech in the final days of last month was the official stance of the U.S. It no longer is, or is it?

Then there is North Korea.

Trump gladly admitted this week in a lengthy interview with the Wall Street Journal he had no idea about Chinese/North Korean relations, its history, or how complicated all this “curbing” the lunatic, Kim Jong Un would be. Yet this didn’t stop him from blathering on about Un and North Korea being “in trouble” and sending what he described as an “armada”, actually the 97,000-ton USS Carl Vinson with an escort of a guided-missile cruiser and two destroyers, to the Korean peninsula heightening tensions there beyond anything seen since the early 1950s when this country was in a conflict there known as the Korean War.

Beyond the president acting like a tough guy and playing with his boats in the bath, what exactly does any of this accomplish? And let’s say there is an all-out war where thousands are killed and the North Korean situation is “taken care of”, who pays for the reconstruction and all that fun stuff that this president vowed to eliminate from the federal government’s responsibilities in lieu of American jobs ignored by fixing the world’s problems that all the stupid weak politicians prior to him got mired in?

Before the week ended apparently the Pentagon, which has unilateral approval from the White House without express consent from the president, unleashed the largest bomb since the atomic blasts in Japan over sixty years ago on ISIS tunnels at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And so I ask, and not rhetorically, what is the Trump Doctrine?

Bush Doctrine? Aggressive vengeance and nation-building.

Obama Doctrine? Diplomacy and stasis.

This has been replaced by seat-of-the-pants knee-jerk nonsense.

Let’s see how that works.

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WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HAVE SEX WITH BILL O’REILLY?

Aquarian Weekly
4/12/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HAVE SEX WITH BILL O’REILLY?

Tales of Old, Unattractive Perverts & Other Sociological Phenomenon

I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.
– President Donald Trump

Aside from rodeo clown, hosting a cable news show is about as low as one can sink in show business. Bill O’Reilly is on top of this dung heap. Has been for a long time. In terms of power and ratings and all-things meaningful to his ilk, he is the shit. This allows him to sell books with his name on them that someone else writes and tee shirts with pithy sayings that he stole from a 1971 MAD magazine or American flag mugs or some other over-priced useless crap he peddles to shut-ins. O’Reilly is especially excellent at yelling about things he has very little knowledge of, taunting opponents of this childish miasma in the specious guise of heroism, meanwhile branding himself as a faux badass, but what he quite apparently cannot do is get women to fuck him.

This problem has reportedly cost his network FOX News some $13 million in sexual harassment settlements over the past decade-plus; something it is reasonably comfortable doing. Although now that big-time advertisers, three dozen so far, have begun to sever ties with this behavior, things might change. But not likely, as FOX has proven this is mere chump change and business as usual, for in the past year its chairman, Roger Ailes was sent packing after a phalanx of sexual harassment charges followed by more pay-offs.

Ailes, a bestial troll-like creature, whose fetish for vengeance and propaganda helped make him one of our more influential political whores, treated the hiring practices of this “news outlet” as his own personal gawking institute. But alas, Ailes, a poster-boy for the type of damage bad diet, aging and baldness can do to what was probably a mess to look at to begin with, could not actually get any women, so he decided to use his power to force himself on unsuspecting and most certainly disgusted females in his employ.

O’Reilly has apparently taken this mantle as his own, and now is breaking sexual harassment pay-off records – even when one considers the moral apathy of aging news anchors, wherein a neat haircut, expensive suit, and the ability to read shit on an electronic scroll gives one access to plenty of women to ogle and harass for chuckles.

And so as a public service, I ask with all sincerity, if anyone is interested in screwing this man, please step forward.

Is there no one that will give this poor, wrinkled, coffee-breathed, whiskey-swilling blowhard a tickle; if for no other reason but to keep him off innocent, younger more attractive types who would sooner jam metal spikes into their eyes than allow him the odd grope?

Of course O’Reilly is a piker compared to our new president, who has endured at least a dozen reported accusations of sexual harassment of all kinds. In fact, it is hard not to be affronted when you see the president being interviewed by this cretin; two old, fat, disgusting, golf-obsessed drooling miscreants trading secrets on how to best grab a woman by the genitals and still maintain status at some gig that will have them, like top-rated cable news show and leader of the free world.

And may I say that it is poetic that these types of repulsive bottom-feeding, sexually deprived knuckle-draggers are tops in our media and political cultures. It reflects the values of a nation that allows elderly men the artificial means to screw like animals and deny the poor women who have to endure these nauseating troglodytes contraception to avoid making any more of them.

And by the way, has anyone heard from Bill Cosby lately? What the hell is keeping this very same society from hanging this serial rapist upside down and carving his testicles off on national television? Because I’ll say that kind of display may deter these predators from heaving their flabby hides all over drugged women, or at least give us the satisfaction of seeing them taken out of the sex business altogether.

And if you give it some thought, it really comes down to a generational thing. Although, in all due respect, my dad is 78 and he is the most principled human I know, much less a man. But to be fair, O’Reilly (67), Donald Trump (70), Roger Ailes (76) and Bill Cosby (79) come from an age in which pinching a woman’s ass was considered playful flirting. They honestly do not believe any of this abhorrent activity is particularly galling. This is why the president of the United States takes the time to Tweet a defense of O’Reilly and why this past October, when Trump was busted bragging about sexual assault, the host said on his show that all of this was transpiring in “private” and he would not play the offending tape because “It is crude ‘guy talk’.”

Is there no one that will give this poor, wrinkled, coffee-breathed, whiskey-swilling blowhard a tickle?

Yeah, not sure what “guys” O’Reilly and Trump hang out with. Sounds more like “psychopath talk” to me.

But just for laughs, let’s try some of this “guy talk”; I’d like to take Bill O’Reilly and tie him to the back of my car and drive him through Manhattan traffic and then piss on his bleeding wounds while a homeless guy jacks off on his head.

Actually, this is fun.

More guy talk: Donald Trump is fucking weak-ass braggart, who is so hard up for a woman to not be horrified by his bad hair, orange complexion and bulging gut he has to get little boys to laugh at his jokes about women who would normally wretch at the sight of him.

Actually, I change my mind; this is fantastic. I love “guy talk”. But I digress. We need to get this man laid.

I’ll tell you how bizarrely offended O’Reilly must be that he has to force himself on women. Deviant sexuality is rampant in this country. While southern goober states try and outlaw every sub-level of human sexuality, there are women right now trolling the Internet to beg the most heinous savages known to civilized man for some action. Yet poor Bill O’Reilly has to trade jobs for a sniff. I mean, how low does one have to drop on the “In a pinch, after many cocktails I might consider this” meter before breaking laws? Is there even a level we can imagine for that kind of abject repugnance?

It must kill O’Reilly that say a 34 year-old Jared Kushner, who sounds like he would need a few minutes to spell FOX, is now running the most powerful and richest country in the world’s foreign policy for no other reason than he is putting is penis in the president’s daughter. This guy can’t get anyone to look his way and this dim bulb is meeting with Iraqi officials and overseeing the bombing of Syrian airfields while his wife imports dresses from the Russian mafia.

But, hell, life ain’t fair. O’Reilly fucked up. He should have married rich instead of become a performing cable monkey. But that is still no reason to stalk women like Aqualung. (That’s right folks, it took Bill O’Reilly’s absent sex life to force a Jethro Tull reference out of this space).

So for the love of God, will someone please have sex with Bill O’Reilly!

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GOVERNMENT ZERO

Aquarian Weekly
4/5/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GOVERNMENT ZERO
What Transpires When People Who Hate Civics Run Things

Last week, after seven years and over 60 attempts to fashion legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the entirely Republican-controlled federal government failed to do so. Badly. Shamefully. Sadly. This was without question the most devastating political defeat a president has suffered within the first 100 days in office in my over half-century of citizenship and by far the silliest. It was damned fun and pretty exciting stuff, but what we’ll deal with here is what does all of this tell us about our present governing edict?

Answer: There is none.

And that’s the point.

That was the point of exploiting the TEA Party movement.

That is the point of Donald J. Trump, business-man-and-chief.

First off, when a major political party stands for less government or in some cases no government intervention or control over just about anything, and then that party gets into power, things get sticky. Not unlike the non-vote to authorize troop deployment in Syria in 2015, even after fear/war-mongering to beat many bands and being prompted by the last president, this non-vote tells a larger tale.

It is harder to put your name on a clusterfuck than merely calling it one.

As stated above, no less than 60 times Republicans in congress voted to repeal the ACA, knowing full well the then president, whose name has been attached to it as Obamacare, would veto it. No muss, no fuss. Those are merely protest votes. Period. Protesting is fun. Better yet, mocking it, calling it names and vowing to have better and more effective policies when you’re not entirely in charge is a piece of cake. I know. I do it all the time. So do you. It’s like coaching from your couch or the upper deck. It is loud and gives you a measure of joy, but it is more or less meaningless.

For instance, Trump said about four hundred times during his campaign that he would repeal and replace the ACA on his first day, which, of course, is insane, like almost everything the candidate said for 18 months and by the way continues to say as he deals with several policy failures and about two-dozen scandals now that he’s in office. Then he said it was more “complicated” than he imagined. Then he said he loved the “terrific” bill, and then not so much. Then he threatened and charmed the opposition, and when it looked like no one was buying his bilge, quickly distanced himself from it. Finally, in a hilarious turn-about in trust in the national media, called a reporter from the dreaded “fake-news” Washington Post to declare he was pulling the whole shebang due to lack of support.

This is the very definition of meaningless; like saying for over a year, “Who’s going to pay for the border wall….Mexico!” And then release a budget that has you and me paying billions for the damn thing; nary a pesos involved.

You see once promise-a-minute Donald Trump started spouting his wildly out of control and highly ill-informed unicornian nonsense about giving every American “better” and “cheaper” health care, a bomb went off in anti-government land. And since the speaker of the house has no principles and is merely a political hack trying to cobble together a tattered legacy from project shit-storm, he tried to make the thing work, despite the fact that eight-out-of-ten polled thought his bill sucked from every angle.

Trump said about four hundred times during his campaign that he would repeal and replace the ACA on his first day, which, of course, is insane, like almost everything the candidate said for 18 months.

Most importantly, and deliciously ironic, is the fact that the Freedom Caucus, a right-wing TEA Party produced gaggle of non-politicos, who could not govern itself out of the proverbial paper bag, and who only sit in these seats because of the abject horror that the original passing of the ACA engendered among the great unwashed, hated it. And no amount of fancy reality TV, New Yawk real estate, Negotiator and Chief blather about “Vote for this to make me look good even though I have no fucking clue what’s in it” was going to change that. These guys were sent to Washington to stop government, not participate in it. Some idiot on the radio probably thought this would change when a president with an R in front of his name pulled into town; which explains the idiot on the radio, but still amounted to failure.

Or maybe not?

If the point of governing, according to say, the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution or other things that apparently no longer matter, means debating and voting and all those noisy difficult, complicated things, then this is a horror show. But if it means just stopping anything from really getting done and stripping the people of the right to clean air and checks on corporate corruption and such, then this is a rousing success.

Because for the time being this is Government Zero, a less-is-more axiom that really prefers nothing. And we will find out if this experiment works. Maybe it does. But that won’t matter either, for the last variable in this equation is us.

Until the past few weeks more than half the American people did not like the ACA. Yet, almost seven out of ten polled loved what was in it. Then once congress and El Douche started pitching its dismantling, the law’s popularity shot up to over 60 percent.

Now you figure that out and get back to me.

And while you’re chewing on that, the House of Representatives, voted to eliminate ISP privacy rules, which means corporations can purchase your internet browsing history. The head of the EPA just lifted the ban on using pesticides on your fruits and vegetables. And if you’re Muslim, look out.

All this “stop government from doing anything” is up for debate, and has been for centuries, beginning with the “four accepted theories” for the origin and purpose of government; natural, divine, social compact, and force.

Blame the Greeks, specifically Aristotle and Plato, who theorized that humans are political beings by “nature” and could not survive without some form of government in place. Blame God or His questionable spokesman for prophesying that government is ordained from some aborted Ten Commandments template. Blame John Locke, who spent a lifetime trying to project the idea that government was purposely created by humans because they realized there was something missing to protect them and ensure their way of life. Then blame every empire that rose up from our thorny civilization for using conquest to impose government on fill-in-the-blank.

Now we can blame Donald Trump and the 115th Congress of the United States for our present stasis, which presents a fifth theory; Government Zero, in which government is in place to deny government’s origin and purpose.

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CHARLES EDWARD ANDERSON “CHUCK” BERRY – 1926 – 2017

Aquarian Weekly
3/29/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CHARLES EDWARD ANDERSON “CHUCK” BERRY – 1926 – 2017

E=Mc2 – Albert Einstein

Rock and Roll – Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry invented rock and roll.

Whatever it was before him, some analogous, coagulated pre-form that would come to be known as rock and roll, is ultimately irrelevant in the hands of Chuck Berry, because as a cultural, iconic, lyrical, American force, what happens in, say, the first thirty seconds of “Johnny B. Goode”, is the very foundation for all that came after it. Six decades of a genre, a movement, a youth zeitgeist fused together in volume, rhythm, sex, greed, freedom, slashed together in 1955 and wood-shedded along the Chitlin’ Circuit through Jim Crow and out the American Bandstand tiny mono speakers and flickering black and white televisions in 1958 has had some legs. Duck-walk, two-string bending, riff-laden rapper delight is a celebration of all things. It is, he is, the symbol of that most cherished American institution; excess.

Yes, Virginia, there is no Aquarian Weekly or Rolling Stone or certainly no Rolling Stones or The Beatles or The Beach Boys or The Velvet Underground or Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix or AC/DC or MTV or The Sex Pistols or Madonna or Jam Master Flash or Beyoncé or whatever the hell is smoldering in some garage somewhere around your corner without Chuck Berry. The thread leads back to the further reaches of lurid New Orleans brothels and the primordial sweat of Mobile swill and the smoky whiskey-stench of a Chicago South Side juke joint, but it really begins in a shape that forms this thing, this huge, unstoppable thing; filled with rebellion and seduction and speed and drugs and death and rebirth and subversive poetic fashion rebuke in the slender, dark, smooth tones of a Chuck Berry song.

Elvis Presley wanted to be black, and those who were not black got that. Mostly. And those who didn’t were fooling themselves. This is all you need to know about the import of the purported King of Rock and Roll. You see, Chuck Berry had no interest in being white, but he was interested in their ears and eyeballs and their greenbacks and he knew how to get in there, like a generational virus. And he did not need Ed Sullivan or the Colonel or some ostentatious Memphis mansion between Bluebird and Craft to prove it. This is what the twelve-bar, I-IV-V, four-on-the-floor fat-back boogie woogie shuffle gets you. It’s a fever, man, and it spreads.

There can be a strong case that none of it has not improved a whit from the moment it emerged came from those amplifiers when Chuck Berry got the screaming Gibson hollow-body ES-335 turned up, a piece of eminent machinery built by some enterprising guitar engineer that could not have imagined what the hell he had wrought.

If he is known for nothing else, Charles Edward Anderson Berry was an alchemist. He transformed Mississippi mud-water and mid-west exhaust-pipe fumes into gold. Grits and burgers, bobby socks and pig-tails, souped-up engines and Army jocks and testosterone fist-fight, slick-talking pool hall jail-cats and apple pie, baseball, corner-store egg-cream slicksters dr-rrrrroppin’ the coin right into the slot. Hail, hail, little sweet sixteen, the middle class pimple-faces are taking over and it’s time to give them a lesson in the street-walk jive. Make no mistake, Chuck Berry was first and foremost a capitalist; his rise to fame and his individualist nature along with an uncompromising attitude permeated his life and his art reeked of it.

Chuck Berry became in many ways both the figure and bane of the American edict; his subversion of the button-down, conservative 1950s and its bursting sexual rage of rock and roll eased neatly into one of the most profitable, conglomerate showbiz industries known to the Western world. You could not undo Chuck Berry. He made damn sure you could never go back. It was his little invention that made the American way the choice over every other way, as it also assisted greatly in dismantling its hypocrisies.

Berry was deeply and richly mid-America, like the car and the microwave and the step one-two-three soldier boy after the second war to end all wars. Born in St. Louis, Missouri as a blues trope – the fourth child out of six; you make up the rhyme if you wish. He grew up in the snooze of the kind of mass wealth that is accumulated when you stomp the conquerors of Europe and carve the world up for amusement. His daddy was a builder and a Baptist deacon, who could preach about concrete and Jesus and his mamma, a school principal, was smart and beautiful, and took shit from no man.

It was when he may have heard those scratchy J& M 78’s of Caledonia Inn’s Professor Longhair and Fats Domino that he picked up the instrument that would make him the first guitar hero. Right around the same time he was sent to the rather auspicious Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men after a botched car robbery that may or may not have included a gun. He would not botch the guitar. It was far more lethal and lucrative. He would wield it as his weapon of choice for another 70 years, turning an entire movement into his plaything in the process.

The two best things Chuck Berry would ever do would be to join a rhythm and blues outfit called the Jonnie Johnson Trio and then stumble into Muddy Waters, whose acquaintance would lead to his signing with the legendary Chess Records.

Johnson, arguably the finest and certainly the most influential boogie-woogie pianist of the era, provided a stage for Berry to expand on his T-Bone Walker moves; slide, spin, split, and ramble, whilst riffing wildly beneath a torrent of foot stompers. Johnson would also be the template for the songwriter he would become; many of the best of Berry’s work is heard first from the piano, what those who would play with him quizzically understood as those “strange keys”; all flats and sharps that would keep pace with what was first the realm of the 88 keys to salvation. Ain’t no coincidence what is sometimes considered as the first ever rock and roll song, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats set the tempo of the instrument in 1951. Soon to follow would be freaks and madmen such as the likes of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

It was Berry’s unique combination of piano phrasing and the horn riff that he clipped from Louis Jordan’s 1946 romp, “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman (They’ll Do it Every Time)” that provided him a signature guitar intro for nearly all of his rockers, and most famously, the aforementioned “Johnny B. Goode”, which is without question the most recognizable rock and roll song from its inaugural period and covered in more styles of music than almost anything written from the era. Johnson’s contributions to Berry’s work is paramount and helps to better understand his signature beat-turning guitar solos that shift and toss the rhythms inside-out, a device so imitated but never duplicated it is almost criminal.

For his part, Muddy Waters, who had already invented the rock band with his electric Chicago outfit of bass, drums and guitar, would be all that the young guitarist needed to gain the favor of Leonard Chess. In a little room on South Michigan Avenue, Chuck Berry would record a song called “Maybelline”, a thrasher version of some bumpkin ditty he turned into hot-rod metaphor heaven. With all its V8 Ford/Cadillac Coupe DeVille scatting and chug-chug guitar raunch, it is pure Americana and yet it isn’t. It is what would later be attributed to epiphany songs like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “She Loves You” and “When Doves Cry” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that are at once familiar, but on a more primal level come on disturbing in the best sense. “Maybelline” shattered the glass before anyone knew it was there to be shattered.

You could not undo Chuck Berry. He made damn sure you could never go back.

The car/girl thing was Chuck’s raison d’être, and subsequently the very core of the rock and roll ethos. The engine of the nation and the engine of your loins and the engine of the music and the manic state of fury that comes from good times; this is where Chuck Berry splits from the black blues experience. Even in his most famous blues number, “Wee Wee Hours” there is a tenderness not found in the braggadocio or steamy sexual threats that could never have found a place on mainstream radio in 1955. There are no snake-moans or painful yawps associated with anything in his reliably formulaic canon. Joy and youth and a love of fun reached beyond the racism that plagued the nation.

Chuck did something unique; he did not fight or comment on or bludgeon the great racial divide, he ignored it. “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, and “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” obliterate lines and would define the latter half of this decade and the first wave of rock and roll by attracting those who would make it the billion-dollar concept, as it would become in the hands of whiter and in many cases non-American faces.

In the glare of The Beatles, his “Rock and Roll Music”, a clever mashing of musical styles made to bend to Chuck Berry’s will, became a mantra. Lennon and McCartney both understand the inner couplet rhyming of “use it/lose it/music/if you…want to dance with me” that they nicked it for dozens of songs. And in the hands of The Rolling Stones “Round and Round” becomes a sinister caterwaul against insipidness. Watch something truly horrifying as Mom & Pop Lunch Pail sit agape while digesting the Stones on national TV rip their way through that song and usher in the next half-century of satanic debauchery. Watch them use the 1960s to invent the ‘70s while giving us Berry’s 1950s.

Perhaps this lineage can best be described in two seminal Chuck Berry compositions, “You Can’t Catch Me” (1956) and “Back in The U.S.A” (1959); both set a dizzying course from The Beatles “Come Together” to The Beach Boys “Surfin’ U.S.A.” to The Beatles again in “Back in the USSR” to Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper”, which ends up in some circular parody of itself and still out-shines the bunch with lyrical gems like “I put my foot on my tank and I began to roll / Moanin’ siren, ’twas the state patrol / So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn / Bye bye New Jersey, I’ve become airborne.”

By the time this was all happening, and the 1960s happened, and all those bands and their offspring were pouring so much syrup on Chuck’s pancakes you could hardly taste the damn things anymore, Mr. Berry was done. Or sort of done. At least done as an American institution. Or a perceived American institution. As much as an African-American man can be. But he became again the first in a long line of rock and roll miscreants, outlaws, and nose-thumbers.

The lore goes like this; at the end of the 1950s, before all the noise from England when the pop charts were thrust into an opaque dissonance of Pat Boone blahs, the second most important singer/songwriter of the first rock and roll wave, Buddy Holly died in an airplane crash, Little Richard became a preacher, Jerry Lee Lewis went off and did the Southern thing and married his 13 year-old cousin, and Elvis went into the army. Chuck Berry, as a prelude to the coming decades of anti-social, anti-authoritarian acts, went to jail.

The official records state he made a mockery of the Mann Act, when he allegedly had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old Apache waitress, whom he then transported across state lines to work as a hatcheck girl at his club. After several appeals on the grounds that (clear thy throat) the judge’s comments and attitude were racist and prejudiced the jury against him, he went to prison for 17 months.

For all intents and purposes that would be the end of the glory years for the man who gave us the music, the guitar hero, the outlaw rocker, and the mantra-poet that everyone from Dylan to Nas has since liberally borrowed.

But, of course, Chuck Berry would hear of none of it. He toured and toured and did more touring, in caravans and festivals and by himself, grabbing only his guitar and a hat and coat and meeting reverentially confused young musicians along the way from Bruce Springsteen to Keith Richards to my dear friend and once band-mate, Barry Geller. And for good measure as last resort to piss off and endear all at once, he oddly had his only #1 record in 1973 with a double-entendre tour-de-force called “My Ding-a-Ling”, which you needn’t be Fellini to deconstruct.

What followed were, to put it mildly, “the mean years” in which “dealing” with Chuck Berry became something of a Herculean chore; whether promoters or musicians, the press, the fans, whomever. For a great example of his prickly-to-outright-bitchy demeanor check out the 1987 tribute concert film, Hail, Hail Rock and Roll which illustrates clearly that this is a man who trusted no one and listened to less. The aforementioned Keith Richards, who looked at Berry as nothing less than a messiah, spends the entire journey from rehearsals through the show fighting with him. This makes perfect sense since Keith’s best feature, beyond commandeering the guitar and staying alive, is social combat. The first time these two met Berry punched him in the face.

I can say, for my part, I have played and sung Chuck Berry songs my entire adult life and enjoyed every note and syllable, and for some time, in the 1980s – during which in a one-year span early in that decade I would see both Chuck and Muddy perform on separate occasions – I would make it a prerequisite that anyone worth his weight had to at least get through one of those tunes to make the grade.

The very DNA of this thing that has enchanted me viscerally and intellectually for my entire life begins and in many ways ends with Chuck Berry.

He may not have invented freedom and rebellion and seduction and mischief and rollicking fun, but he distilled it into a goddamned raucous art form.

Good work, if you can get it.

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