Citizen Health Care

Aquarian Weekly 12/29/10 REALITY CHECK

CITIZEN HEALTH CARE

Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market. – Henry E. Hudson of the Federal District Court in Richmond, Virginia 12/13/10

The new year will begin for the federal government in the courts, where the Health Care Law, derisively dubbed Obamacare, will be deconstructed and hammered about, as it should be. The most sweeping piece of federal legislation in half a century will go the way of Social Security and the Civil Rights Act, both boldly and unabashedly unconstitutional, and both challenged vehemently through the court system. Washington & Whiskey RebellionIt is the way of the Patriot Act, also ridiculously unconstitutional, details of which were roundly defeated in every court it entered for close to a decade now. This is precisely why when many readers of this space accused me of not being more outraged in print over its passing, I continued to retort, as I have when discussing the Health Care Law, that if it is truly illegal, then someone somewhere will take it the judicial route and curtail the madness.

Ending the madness, historically speaking, is a tougher chore.

The federal government, as any entity, whether structured by humans or selected by nature, is to expand its power, even as it is checked and balanced and corralled by federalist parameters. Since the time of the Whiskey Rebellion during George Washington’s initial foray into the presidency to John Adams’ Alien Sedition Act, followed by the expansion of powers under Andrew Jackson and through Abe Lincoln’s Marshall Law, including decades of illegal conscription acts forcing young men to die against their will for the state, the New Deal, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Watergate and Iran-Contra, and now Obamacare, this is business as usual.

Ironically, this time it is a spate of Republican support to use the “evil activist judicial system” as a tool to repeal Obama’s greatest political triumph. Both Judge Hudson and Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II (joining a predictable 19 of 20 attorneys general) are Republican. A more political uprising there couldn’t be, but it does not mean the motivation to challenge the law or the subsequent ruling is wrong. It is not.

Of course forcing citizens to buy something is unconstitutional, even under the aforementioned Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, giving congress all kinds of insane power to tax and shift infrastructure and kick you out of your home if a highway works better there. This was the conservative, libertarian and wholly out-of-step argument against forcing private business to serve minorities under the Civil Rights Act and mostly each step of the income tax boondoggle that has grown exponentially.

Hell, I have long argued that forcing drivers to purchase insurance in order to drive or even demand they be licensed is unconstitutional, as is setting speed limits and safety standards like seatbelts. These are complete and indisputable infringements on the freedoms to access a way of travel. The flimsy argument against mine is that no one needs to drive an automobile and that it is a privilege not a right. This is true, as it is something of a public service to keep the uninsured from running amok, causing those legally insured from having to monetarily rectify a situation born of “choice”. Someone may rightfully choose not to be insured, but what does the state do when that individual comes in direct contact with those who are responsibly insured?

The state, I maintain, should back off. Let us handle it. Free market.

I have always believed much like other frontiersman that it is every sucker for himself. Period. This is freedom. Screw safety, regulation and goddamn commerce. Screw your neighbor and fuck unjust laws. Freedom.

I have always believed much like other frontiersman that it is every sucker for himself. Period. This is freedom. Screw safety, regulation and goddamn commerce. Screw your neighbor and fuck unjust laws. Freedom.

‘Tis the season, after all.

Shit, never mind mere whiny modes of “public service”, matters of “health” have slowly but surely crept into the over-regulatory, behavioral arena for years now, from tobacco to alcohol taxes. Moreover, overreaching regulations on where one can imbibe to how much one can imbibe and what one can do when imbibing, which also runs into the questionably constitutional area of who the hell decides what is enough imbibing before operating an automobile. I can attest that tolerance is not a generality, but is treated as such. Or as I once soberly told a judge in a potential DWI jury duty jag I was summons to attend, I am a remarkably better and safer driver soused than jacked up on stress and caffeine while trying to juggle the morning paper, flip radio knobs and a operating a cell phone.

Why should the state or the government decide how much alcohol I can consume and not be able to operate a vehicle? It is specious and arbitrary and blatantly unconstitutional.

At least the Health Care Law, along with the other outlandishly restrictive laws dreamed up by congress over the decades, was debated, voted on and vetted through the press. The difference, if appears, that in the cases of The New Deal or Civil Rights there was a groundswell of public support, wherein hardly 40 percent of the electorate wanted anything to do with national health care. A good deal of those people drive drunk. Some are driving drunk right now.

‘Tis the season, after all.

How about when un-elected officials in say the FCC decide what music, television or art is considered indecent. Decency laws are always bullshit, like drug laws, whether marijuana or steroids, which were demonized by lobbies and later ignored by scientific fact and drawn into more unjust laws.

So good luck to the Common Wealth of Virginia and the harangue of politics, for most laws are unconstitutional; whether state or federal, fiduciary or moral.

Everyone for themselves.

‘Tis the season, after all.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Politics Of The Tax Cut

Aquarian Weekly 12/8/10 REALITY CHECK

THE POLITICS OF THE TAX CUT

The current posturing in Washington D.C. over the expiration of the “Bush Tax Cuts” is predictably reminiscent of what occurs when…well, you fill in the blank. Mitch McConnelThis latest lame duck congress has one option, extend the cuts, all the cuts, period. The time for discussing options has passed. Politically, it has been run out of town on the proverbial rail. The Democrats have nothing further relevant to add in the matter. That ship sailed with the Recovery Act and the Health Care bill. These moves were costly and created a vacuum for the opposition to piggyback the oldest protest in the books; taxation. Therefore, any further blather about whether this government will allow the entire shebang to go down is off the table.

Also off the table is the yammering about the national debt or the massive U.S. deficit. These are buzz words for campaign ads and canned speeches. No one, and we mean no one has the balls in this woeful economy to begin tightening strings and begging national sacrifice. It is as doomed a plan as it was when poor Jimmy Carter hatched it and any such notion would likely swing the electorate back to the president come 2012.

Debt mongering is suicide for the burgeoning Republican movement, which is half fabricated and a third hocus-pocus anyway. Republicans will have their own internal struggles come the inevitably necessary but ideologically embarrassing raising of the debt ceiling around springtime. That is when we’ll learn all we need to know about the smoke and mirrors TEA Party movement, which by all accounts was really something Dick Army and FOXNEWS dreamed up.

Now, lets deal in realities, albeit, limited realities.

The president and his recently eviscerated party has proposed raising the limit on whom would receive the benefits of a nada increase, from the originally proposed $250,000 a year to $1 million. Let that read from the merely affluent to the outright wealthy. It should be noted that the arbitrary $1 million mark ignores an interesting nugget; if one takes into to consideration the normal standard or living increases, $250,000 becomes over $350,000, and yet no one addresses this.

Erroneously repeated information is an American tradition. Just as we wink-wink still celebrate (and teach in schools by the way) Columbus, who actually crash landed in what is now the Bahamas, as some sort of discoverer of North America when the Vikings beat him by 400 years. The political voices keep repeating $250,000! $250.000! as if it’s real. Anyone taking two seconds to check what the standard of living was in 1993 when the pre-Bush, Clinton tax code was in effect would rightly translate it to the aforementioned $350.000.

But what do you expect from people who vote for and against a bill they didn’t read or understand (and still don’t, by that way) and then actually run for re-election on this pitiable stand?

Certainly the $250,000 vs. $1 million is class warfare, but this, like accepting and passing down myth as historical record, is nothing new. This country was built on class warfare, even the blatantly ill-informed dunderheads on cable television who bray endlessly about founding fathers can attest to that. The idea that the rich make the most from the American capitalist system and should thus pay more, despite the obvious fact that they already pay more by percentage (and we conspicuously exclude corporate entities that according to a widely publicized 2008 Government Accountability office study determined that from 1998 to 2005 67% of American corporations paid no Federal Income taxes) is an abject failure.

Letting the Bush Tax Cuts, much of which was never budgeted and were badly planned and bared little fruit, to lapse at this point would be an economic disaster and certainly stem the tide of GOP support and further erode any kind of political traction the Democrats could hope for.

The wealthy provide the jobs and investments needed to keep the country afloat, never mind moving in the direction of a recovery; this is agreed to by even those who moderately espouse more stringent government regulations on international trade, environmental issues and books cooking. The stabilization of the tax code is critical for this bracket, and although perhaps a roughly estimated eight percent of the national debt could begin to be slashed by a $1 million threshold effort, the damages could be severe in the short term.

And the short term is always the prime consideration in The District.

On the heels of an upheaval in the electorate last month and the very real continued national expenditures on the military occupation of two countries and a massive entitlement system that will never be broached by any politician interested in future employment, taxes cannot and will not be raised.

The political question is still out there; who benefits?

Right now Republicans have the popular talking points, despite the actual facts that middle class taxpayers had their greatest relief as part of the original stimulus package and the across-the-board marginal tax rate being generally lower under the Obama administration than at any time under anti-tax hero, Ronald Reagan, not to exclude the generally accepted fact among credible economists that the original Bush Tax Cuts sank job growth for the first two years of its existence.

Democrats, as is their wont, run scared. This time it is warranted. There is more than mere tax rates and class warfare on the docket. There are capitol gains, estate taxes, corporate taxes and certain marriage penalties and child deductions to consider; all of which are sticking points to the argument, which currently cannot be won by the party in power.

This is why at the time of this writing, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell headed up a Republican vow to block any new bills in congress unless the tax issue is resolved, making it appear as if the GOP and not Obama is answering the call of the American electorate. It also sets up a nice challenge to the White House to keep a government shutdown in the offing, an ill-fated tactic of Newt Gingrich’s “revolution” in 1994, which eventually ushered in Bill Clinton’s comeback two years later.

Letting the Bush Tax Cuts, much of which was never budgeted and were badly planned and bared little fruit, to lapse at this point would be an economic disaster and certainly stem the tide of GOP support and further erode any kind of political traction the Democrats could hope for. With a few weeks to go before the deadline and the Christmas break approaching, there is little choice but to extend them all. The only question for Washington will be at what political gain?

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

“Wizard Of Oz” Remake?

Aquarian Weekly 11/24/10 REALITY CHECK

THE WIZARD OF OZ” REMAKE (NO SHIT)

It is official. This is the worst period in the history of Hollywood.

There, I said it.

Wizard Of OzIf you’re familiar with even two sentences of this column over the past 13 years, you’ve come to expect our throwing ice water on most flaming hyperbole, like “Worst president ever!”, “Worst disaster ever!”, “Worst economic crisis ever!” or “Best (fill in the blank) ever!”. Then we crank out a thousand or so words explaining why everyone conveniently forgot what was likely a far worse or much better (fill in the blank). However, I vehemently stand by the above lead now that some coke-addled rapacious corporate geek has green-lit a remake of The Wizard of Oz.

In all of the American century, it is hard to find a more iconic piece of art, its characters or its music, its influence or the bedrock resonance in the psyche of generations than The Wizard of Oz. Okay, maybe you can argue one or two that come close or perhaps might be equivalent, but then I’d use up my allotted space to easily refute it, and where would that get us?

Let’s agree for the purposes of this week’s rant that we’re pretty much in the ballpark in saying that if there is a piece of suitably untouchable Americana, a seminal work of art and a signature expression of a particular time and place in its creation, it would be The Wizard of Oz, okay?

And if it’s merely twentieth century pop art, then so be it. I would not be so bold as to place it beside The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises or Death of a Salesman or Birth of the Cool or the original recording of Kind Hearted Woman Blues. But how much of any of those ends up in the forefront of present-day culture, whether to be exploited, engender an emotion or act as homage? I would argue none.

But coming soon, celebrated director, Robert Zemeckis of Back to the Future and Forrest Gump fame is tabbed by Warner Bros. to take the original script of one of the most beloved films in all of the art form’s history and hatch a modern, digitally ravaged, CG-festooned version of it.

The first question has to center on the issue of bad taste (a Hollywood prerequisite that everything is for sale, like, well…hell, re-staging Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” for countless shitty Jesus films or whatever crap is attributed to Babe Ruth — It always astounded me they could not make a film of someone as famous, complex, and paradoxical as Babe Ruth, but keep coming up with these fairly moving horse movies like Seabiscuit or abysmal solipsistic schlock like Rudy. (The thing practically writes itself!).

But who cares about taste? We’re firmly entrenched in the “nothing is sacred” camp around here. They can remake anything they want. It’s merely a vehicle, a piece of sellable content sitting around gathering dust to these cretins. No matter how abhorrently pathetic the previous “What the…?” re-makes have been, most notably Planet of the Apes and The Bad News Bears — I didn’t mind King Kong, but then they made forty King Kong movies, so it kind of came as less a shock anyway. Some lunatic thought it made sense to re-do Psycho (shot-for-shot) and half the planet had a fit when George Lucas had the gall to change a few scenes in Star Wars, and it’s his friggin’ movie! But, again, this is The Wizard of Oz we’re dealing with here.

The more pressing question then becomes “Why?”

Shit, then why not re-record The Beatles stuff with better equipment and more talented musicians, like they do with Beethoven. Let’s fight WWII over again now that we have more precise military devises and deadlier weaponry? Hey, why don’t we re-try O.J. with more competent lawyers?

Seriously, the only reasons to desecrate this masterpiece have to be money and technology. We can promote the shit out of this, build curiosity by making the trailer look super hip (for great examples of truly appalling films trumped by amazingly edited trailers, please see every Tim Burton movie since Edward Scissorhands) or we’ll simply take all our toys and make this thing look way cooler. Shit, then why not re-record The Beatles stuff with better equipment and more talented musicians, like they do with Beethoven. Let’s fight WWII over again now that we have more precise military devises and deadlier weaponry? Hey, why don’t we re-try O.J. with more competent lawyers?

Wait, I’m veering way off course here. I have an airtight argument, can’t muck it up with flippant asides that may have its place in appetizing irony but dilutes the point.

When this craze of incessant Hollywood remakes began to really hit its stride in the late nineties (mainly due to the independent film uprising, wherein the truly original artistic visions grew tired of being booted out of executive offices and told to go back to the college dorms to blow weed and put out their films anyway, eventually making money and winning awards and then wooing big stars to their productions, which scared the living daylights out of the big studios) I would always joke, “When they remake The Wizard of Oz, then you know it’s over.”

Well…

This makes our opening line a solid piece of warranted hyperbole. And so I will repeat it for effect: It is officially the worst time in the history of big-ticket American movie making.

The exploitation of races and gaudy musicals in the thirties, the bad monster and gangster films of the forties, the really horrific attempts to battle the advent of television in the fifties with drive-in fodder, 3-D (which predictably is back) and mindless rock and roll teenage falderal moving into the Beach Blanket Bingo or embarrassing attempts to make social statement sixties, where a wave of film makers had to begin the golden age of Hollywood’s artistic expressions, all have their place in “Worst”. But the last ten or so years, with its endless rehashing of computer animation and repackaged series whether warlock or vampire related, and even the lauded work of badly imitated subject matter from the original gritty independent versions, has solidified the flat-lining of Hollywood.

Now they go and put dirt on the entire thing by re-making The Wizard of Oz.

So I say good luck to the poor asshole that has to sit on that hay cart and belt out “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.

Let the cringing begin…

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Elephant Avalanche (Mid-Terms 2010)

Aquarian Weekly 11/10/10 REALITY CHECK

ELEPHANT AVALANCHE Republicans Demolish Democratic Brand and Usher in the Year of Vengeance

The Democrats didn’t win. Barack Obama did. They rode the coattails of Joe Cool into masking an 18 percent approval rating. Pelosi is, as is her Congress, a wretched failure. They ran in ’06 on stopping a “war” that still rages. Fuck her. Fuck Harry Reid. And fuck every goddamned Republican who tries to grandstand. Their ways of doing things were run out of office on a rail. Oh, their day of final reckoning is nigh. Believe me, jack. – Vox Stimuli — Reality Check 2/11/09

Boehner BrigadeNovember 2, 2010, an historic political beating takes place on Capitol Hill, a mere two years after the exact opposite transpired on Pennsylvania Avenue – after two straight election cycles wherein Republicans were roundly rejected by the American voter only to

emerge with their grandest and most convincing congressional victory in more than half a century. What happened to Clinton in 1994 and Reagan in 1982 pales in comparison to the carnage on Barack Obama’s hands. It is a weird broth of miracle and lousy candidates that the Senate did not too switch hands. But make no mistake, between the over 60-seat shift in the House and a swarm of governorships across the northeast through the heartland, the political landscape for the Democratic brand has hit the wall.

Because let’s face it, these parties are, and quite frankly never were, really ideological ports of call or steadfast political opponents. They are merely brands, like the New Dick Nixon or Bill Clinton 2.0, Compassionate Conservatism or Anti-War populists. It’s just selling the same dishwashing liquid in a different container. And for some reason, and this is the most fascinating part of not only this week’s mid-term results but of the past eight years specifically; the American electorate, who have been unfairly painted with an apathetic or distrusting of government brush, actually believe in its collective heart that things will be different each and every time they enter the booth.

This time, many Republican leaders declared the day after the massacre, will be different. “This will be…” GOP Chairman Michael Steele told several television outlets the morning of 11/3; “…our last chance to get it right.”

But get what right? What will be different than 1952 or 1994 or anytime in between or afterward? And I ask this with all due sincerity, because I asked it in print the week after the current president of the United States gained the greatest margin of victory for a Democratic candidate since 1964. What will be different this time? I warned the man in print, “Don’t fuck this up” several times.

Guess what?

Exit polls, for whatever they’re worth, revealed that an equal number of voters are mostly concerned with the national debt and an increase in taxes. Yet, the same group, or any group for that matter, also unequivocally supports Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, some form of attention paid to our sad level of Education, and the military industrial complex. So, as discussed in this space for the better part of almost 14 long years, what are you going to cut to reduce the deficit, or if not, how do you reduce it without raising taxes?

Exit polls, for whatever they’re worth, revealed that an equal number of voters are mostly concerned with the national debt and an increase in taxes. Yet, the same group, or any group for that matter, also unequivocally supports Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, some form of attention paid to our sad level of Education, and the military industrial complex.

And if you are an American today, no matter how you voted, this is what you must ask, and be dubious of any answer that does not side with one or the other, regardless of political consequence or gain.

This is why the sad state of reporting has continued to focus on personalities and foibles and misquotes and apologies and attack ads and hidden campaign contributions and who is pithy and who is dumb and not why nary a politician — on the Right, which now has a piece of the pie, or the Left, which has frittered away a third of it — will face these immutable facts of governance.

One thing is for certain, for now, the Democrats have had their chance. To their credit they had to know the Health Care fiasco would cost them, and if the Stimulus/Recovery monstrosity did not accomplish the impossible, which they clearly and stupidly promised, there would be severe repercussions. It didn’t matter that most of their constituency still believes it wasn’t enough, and from the progressive standpoint, it was not. The Democrats acted as if the clock was ticking. They had two years to enact the great 20th Century liberal agendas, and just like the latter 20th Century dreams of neo-conservatism buried the Republicans eventually, the hammer has come down.

But despite the historic crushing, it is not 2004 quite yet. The Democrats hold the highest office and the most powerful legislative branch. They are far from their lowest ebb, the equivalent of the Republican brand in 2008, two years after a Democratic uprising in ’06 and a liberal wave that culminated in the electing of the most progressive of national candidates. This effectively shoved the GOP in the darkest of corners since the 1930s, and from those shadows the Republicans waged a fist-pumping populist political backlash that echoes the old football saying about how when things go badly the back-up quarterback is the most popular guy in the stadium. Hey, he might not be good enough to start, but maybe he can salvage the sinking ship.

So, after an abysmal record over the first eight years of the 21st century, where no previous Republican legislative branch and its president had dared expand government to such aggressive degrees, leading to a complete turnover in leadership where Democrats do which is their wont, crank up the spending, here they come again. This time, though, there is a smattering of “new” conservative voices, who appear in no mood to compromise or govern in a centrist manner.

But those are battles yet to be waged. For now, the electorate has gone anti-incumbent for the third straight election year.

This would mean whatever comes sweeping in now — less government, tax cutting, fiscal conservative Republican types, wholly different than the anti-gay, Bible-thumping, military fear-mongering types, who were first sent packing four years ago — will be responsible for changing all of our fortunes through government after running on an implacable platform that government is never the answer. But then would that mean there will be another massive swing in 2012?

Not so fast.

Speaker of the House elect (for lack of better terminology) John Beohnor, who has been in Washington for thirty years through several and varied types of New Republicans and New Democrats, will now be the face of change. A more ironic joke there cannot be, but since the Republicans could not wrest control of the Senate, Beohner’s troops can unleash a series of very wild and radical bills pushed through congress, sure to be rejected by the Senate, then effectively to be used as a woeful cry of obstructionist tactics, which best serves the Republican brand come that fateful autumn two years hence.

In other words, politics as usual.

If you want Pollyanna, go elsewhere.

Around here, we work The Reality Check.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Cablevision vs. News Corp. vs. Customers

Aquarian Weekly 11/3/10 REALITY CHECK

CONSUMER VS. CABLEVISION VS. NEWS CORP. One Man’s Journey Into the Conglomerate Abyss

For those not at the mercy of Cablevision’s stranglehold on cable television provisions up here in the northeast, it is important to begin this week with what corporate shenanigans have been transpiring over the past fourteen days.

News Corp, which owns the Fox Network, has pulled its product from Cablevision because it maintains that not only has the cable provider asked to pay a bundled discount for content without paying for the full package, but Cablevision has charged its customers, of which I am one, for said content without forwarding a substantial portion of these charges into the News Corp. bank account. News Corp. also argues that these alleged charges are not attached to rival ABC, NBC or CBS network programming.

Dolan vs. MurdochCablevision responds by claiming it pays a competitive rate to News Corp. for the right to include its stations on the basic cable package and in so doing has already forked over what was negotiated; despite News Corp. whining that it costs considerably more than other networks to produce its “high quality” content.

Cablevision, which has gorged consumers for decades with hidden rate hikes backed by ambiguously half-assed rhetoric, says it does not want to pay News Corp. a dime more than agreed so as to not have to raise the current rates, thus putting its customers, which again I am one, under siege by a salacious corporate monster, of which, let’s face it, Cablevision can consider itself counted.

And although it is propaganda worthy of P.T. Barnum, Cablevision has likely nailed it on the head. I am sure News Corp. is a salacious corporate monster. Problem here is I do not pay a monthly stipend to News Corp. I, as every last Cablevision customer, make out a check payable to Cablevision.

You see where we’re going here?

At around the seven-day mark of this stand-off, or about a day or so before we all realized around here the N.Y. Yankees wouldn’t be defending its title in this year’s World Series — broadcasted by Fox — I placed a call to Cablevision customer service. A lovely woman by the name of Roslyn answered.

“Roslyn,” I began pleasantly. “How is Cablevision providing a requisite discount for the reduced services this month?”

“Sorry, sir,” Roslyn innocently asked; “What services do you mean?”

“I am paying for all the broadcast stations,” I explained “And I see you’re two short this month, so I would just like to know how Cablevision plans to compensate its customers.”

Roslyn, bless her heart, then proceeded to read awkwardly from a prepared script about the ongoing negotiations, a nod to FCC regulations, and a bit on the ideas of “bargaining in good faith”. She continued politely, if not disingenuously, to offer a series of canned apologies, which concluded with a promise that when all this is sorted out customers will be duly apprised of the next step.

“Yes,” I calmly retorted, “But no matter the outcome, I have been paying full price for an inferior or lesser service for a week’s time, and so I expect, as any consumer of any sub-standard service or product would, to receive an equivalent reduction in billing.”

Once again, as if I had merely recited the alphabet or sung the final stanza of “Hey Jude” rather than offer a rational argument, Roslyn politely read from her script.

Before she could finish, I inquired as nicely as I could if she would be happy perhaps working an extra four hours a week for the same pay as she now receives, or more to the point, if she would have an issue with her hour lunch breaks being reduced to half an hour with no fair reparations.

“Well sir,” she sweetly answered. “That’s illegal.”

“Ahhhh,” I exhaled. “And so wouldn’t you agree as the representative of Cablevision currently on this phone line that what your company is doing to its customers is tantamount to the illegality offered in my pithy analogy?”

There was apparently no script for this part, for Roslyn responded with stone silence.

Fearing she had been bludgeoned into unconsciousness by reason, I posed to her one last binding query; “Roslyn, is it Cablevision’s official stance that it will charge the same price for less service?”

To her credit, Roslyn exited the logic train here and asked if I’d be more comfortable speaking with management. I agreed it would be best, but alas when she returned she instead gave me the press relations number in Long Island at Cablevision headquarters.

I called that number a day or so later, perhaps the Tuesday of this week, and received assurances from an amiable Lisa that a misters Charlie Shueler Executive VP of Communications and Jim Maiella Vice President of Media Relations Cable & Communications would be contacting me before my noon, Friday deadline.

Nothing by Thursday prompted me to call again. After further assurances from Lisa, the core of which had now begun to resemble the trade value of air, she provided me with the direct number for Mr. Maiella’s office. Since Lisa worked for Charles Shueler, you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce this line of pass-the-buck.

Friday morning around nine, I phoned Maiella’s office and spoke to his secretary. I could tell by her disappointed tone, she knew right away my identity and purpose, and after putting me on hold, said Maiella was unavailable at the moment, but would call me at home before my deadline.

A half an hour later, I received an e-mail message from Maiella with a series of attached media to outline the company marching orders on the state of Fox, the World Series, general Cablevision propaganda, and probably a lollypop. It read: “James – anything specific I can help you with? Do you have our most recent information/announcements on the Fox matter? Please let me know how we can help.”

And so, we can conclude that it is Cablevision’s official policy at this time and place — not a magical future date and time — that it will continue to charge its customers the same rate for half a bagel.

Not to be too much of a pain, I wrote; “I only need an answer on two issues from a consumer stand point: As a Cablevision customer, as too are many of my readers, I was wondering what plan Cablevision has in place to compensate monetarily or otherwise for this downgrade in service, or to be less pejorative, a lesser service than the one offered prior to Fox pulling its station. Secondly, I would like to know if there is no resolution to this dispute, if there will be an adjustment in the rates. Since as a customer we do not pay News Corp., and care little how the bread is baked, only if it is tasty, then we need some qualification on what will transpire as a result of two weeks of reduced service. Simply, I ask, as my column proffers, ‘Is it Cablevision’s official stance that there will be no requisite adjustment to the current rates for reduced service?’

I then gave Mr. Maiella a chance to respond without speaking, and so he took it:

“Background information – please don’t quote directly, but you can attribute the information to the company – we are obviously public with the MLB.com reimbursement offer but we have not made any announcement related to broader rebates. I would be happy to make sure that you receive any information in that regard when it is available, does that sound fair?”

I did not think it fair, nor do I think you would. And so:

“I would like you to offer something on the record. I pretty much laid out my timeline on contacting Cablevision in the piece and it unfortunately or perhaps fortunately led to you. I think the fair thing for my readers is to have something on the record from someone at the company. If not you, is there anyone who would give me a direct quote, so I can conclude my story? I assure you this is not a hatchet job or an end-around. I simply would like a “Listen, we’re through the looking glass here” or “We haven’t dealt with” or something. Maybe it is a “stay tuned” situation, which I am sure you are accustomed to, but I need a quote of some kind.

I concluded by asking if he’d like to speak directly.

Nothing until nearly eleven, when I called and caught a none-too-pleased Mr. Maiella, who at first demonstratively asked if this was (using my terminology) a hatchet job — perfectly describing the timeline story, but couching it in demeaning terms. I had to agree that although it was a “timeline piece” replete with mockery, but it was in my own unique and lovable idiom and without template and hardly an agenda beyond wanting to receive a simple answer.

The length and breadth of our nearly twenty minute discussion had to be off the record –take that how you wish — in which Mr. Maiella, a pretty stand-up fellow in a pretty damnable situation, tried to make the case that programming costs drive up rates and that Cablevision’s phone and internet rates have not increased in seven years. He also basically agreed with some humor that my “baked bread analogy” was apt when considering that if I went to buy a bagel and the baker was selling me half a bagel at the original price to avoid having to charge me twice as much for a full one due to a flour price increase I might be incredulous.

“It doesn’t seem like you’re getting into the substance of what they want and what we’re trying to be more reasonable about,” Maiella asked.

“Nope,” I said. “Not at all.”

At the end of this back-and-forth Maiella agreed to try and get back with more than the basic company line by noon, but if it winds up in a direct quote, then: “We have not made any announcement on rebates, but we’ll be in touch with our customers in the future.”

I send this to press at 12:29 pm on Friday with no other statement.

Information I received some eight days and twelve or so phone calls ago From Roslyn.

And so, we can conclude that it is Cablevision’s official policy at this time and place — not a magical future date and time — that it will continue to charge its customers the same rate for half a bagel.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

March Of The Crazies

Aquarian Weekly 10/27/10 REALITY CHECK

MARCH OF THE CRAZIES TEA Party Candidates Fight for the Soul of the Republican Party

Two weeks out from Go Time and the Grand Old Party’s pre-hatched chickens have already been accounted for. Many in the know, including this space, are predicting a nearly 60-seat Republican push in the House and a fair challenge to the Senate. All shapes, sizes and ideologies from the entrenched to the noteworthy to the outright wacky will soon regain the seat of power frittered away in 2006 under a torrent of malfeasance, hubris and warmongering. But today’s power vacuum is large and unforgiving, doubtless more so than in several cycles, and certainly as distinct as any political season.

This is blood sport now, and not just in the competition or the winning, but the governing, which is soon in coming and shall land hard on those grasping at the brass ring. The District is now a dark place offering little comfort, less reverence, and no confidence. The American voter is angry and spiteful and has thrown all modes of caution to the breeze, casting its lot with anything that doesn’t reek of the “power base”. And so the axiom Beware of What You Wish For is in effect and will begin in earnest this January. That’s when the Right-Leaning citizenry will expect a boatload of shifting, not unlike what the Left experienced in 2008, which now appears to them as something of an empty sandbag.

Sharon AngleIt is a sandbag that will be quick to refill if what is transpiring inside the Republican Party has any resonance. Those members ignoring the hardcore fiscal conservatism and strict constructionist waters boiling below the surface of business-as-usual, special interest neo-cons and corporate lackeys will find an ideological civil war on their hands, the results of which may well usher in an Obama second term or if there is any justice, a significant Third Party emergence.

But the severe lack of justice in matters of politics and fanciful dreams of a tangible, viable, winnable Third Party in American politics is the talk of madness. And though we revel in reams of madness here, we’ll sidestep the big gorilla this time to discuss the future of the party that is about to take control of the legislative branch of our federal government, which also means the chairing of every major committee, not to mention a boatload of governorships across the land.

Soon the Republican Party, the latest configuration of which presided over the absolute cold-blooded destruction of modern conservatism with aggressive nation building, unchecked federal spending and illegal warrant-less wiretapping will be back in business. The question for many of its lifers, whether soon-to-be- House Speaker, John Boehner or the prehistoric John McCain, is what party will it be? Or more to the point: Whose party?

It is becoming painfully apparent that despite mounds of corporate money begged for and collected by spin-master, Karl Rove, which secretly fills the coffers of the so-called populist anti-elitist TEA Partiers, there remains a voter-base groundswell of candidates with neither a political resume nor a lick of allegiance to the Republican brand. To them Ronald Reagan was a spendthrift appeaser, never mind G.W. Bush, whose abhorrent fiscal incontinence led to what they deem a Democratic-led Socialist takeover of the United States.

In more direct terms, things will go from bad to worse for Democrats in November, but by next summer there could be a complete implosion inside the victorious Republican camp.

Take for instance the very telling comment by Colorado TEA Party Republican candidate for senate. “The freshman class will challenge the status quo in the Republican conference,” blustered a proud and motivated Ken Buck, a rabble-rousing bigot who believes homosexuality is akin to alcoholism. But being a dumb ass is not what has landed Buck in the fight of his political life against embattled incumbent Democrat, Michael Bennett. He has stated publicly on more than one occasion that given the chance he would personally gut the modern Republican Party.

This is blood sport now, and not just in the competition or the winning, but the governing, which is soon in coming and shall land hard on those grasping at the brass ring.

But even those who don’t openly mock Buck as a simpleton think his bark is far worse than his bite, which cannot be said for TEA Party original, Rand Paul, whose rise as the son of the only bonafide conservative candidate in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections to Libertarian poster boy should scare the crap out of any Republican. Paul, much like his father, believes unequivocally that the party has turned on its principles by kowtowing to religious and social marauders. His primary victory speech, loaded with populist rhetoric, became something of a rallying cry for many TEA Party independents that find the Christian Right and Family Matters crowd stupid and corruptible.

It is only fitting that Paul’s opponent is challenging his Christian beliefs. Democrat Jack Conway, the present Kentucky attorney general, is a soulless empty suit, whose vacuous smile is direct from central casting’s search for slimy politician type who would gladly sell his grandmother to the Arabs for a single vote. His desperate attempt to paint Paul as a sadomasochistic pagan may be merely prelude to what the traditional wing of his party might unleash upon his election.

Then there is the curious case of Sharron Angle, whose tight battle with the great symbol of tax-and-spend Liberalism run amok, Harry Reid in Nevada has shook the core of the party. No one is quite sure how someone as wildly unpopular as Reid, who would be fortunate to have his parking validated in Reno these days, could be within the margin of error in any poll worth noting.

The problem for Angle has turned out to be Angle. She is a gaffe machine worthy of Joe Biden and falls into the bizarre world of the lovable but barely coherent made popular in recent American folklore by queen dullard Sarah Palin and turned into an art form by Delaware senate candidate, Christine O’Donnell. Palin, by the way, has already made several dire warnings that Republicans had better start kissing TEA Party ass or “it is through”, while O’Donnell has now gone to the press bemoaning her lack of vocal and most importantly financial support from the party.

O’Donnell told ABC News this week, “We’re hoping that the National Republican Senatorial Committee will help us, but it’s two and a half weeks left and they’re not.”

O’Donnell, Palin and Angle, not unlike their Republican sisterhood, California’s Carly Fiorina, who has been forced to go outside the party and dump her own considerable coffers into the race, and Connecticut’s Linda McMahon, now having “loaned” over $40 million of her own funds to her campaign, have caused more than a stir within the party. Many Reagan and Bush stalwarts have denounced their candidacy, despite a strong showing among independents and the conservative base. Coupled with the paucity of financial support from Republicans, one can only deduct a sense of tension on where the party is headed.

But whether it is over a cliff or the foundation of an unchecked movement, there is little argument it is the fringe, the core, or the new Republicans that have the strongest voice in this the 2010 mid-term elections. In a time when the opposition’s uprising historically rests with a sitting president’s record, it may turn out to be a referendum on Right Wing political power.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Democrats Circle The Wagons

Aquarian Weekly 10/13/10 REALITY CHECK

DEMOCRATS CIRCLE THE WAGONS
Last Ditch Effort To Fire-Up, Insult & Beg Progressives to Stem GOP Tide

There were no U.S. military survivors at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but later reports from Native Americans, most notably the widely interviewed Joseph White Cow Bull, who’d taken part in slaughtering every last member of George Armstrong Custer’s charge, believed they could hear the doomed general hollering at his troops. Witnesses to the enemy swore each desperate salvo from the man who’d dedicated the last years of his professional life to wiping out the “red hordes”, changed course, almost manically, as if predicting the very modes of grief made famous in modern psychology; denial — rallying his outnumbered and ambushed troops, anger — questioning their manhood, allegiance and alleged superior genetic make-up to that of the savages, and finally a sad measure of bartering, to save a lost cause in its most dire moments.

David AxelrodCuster may have been eventually and ignominiously bludgeoned to death by a Northern Cheyenne woman named Buffalo Calf Road Woman, but his lessons survived a century and a half of political strategies — some with far better conclusions. The best and most recent example of this was just six short years ago when a weakened president with two fast-failing wars, a bloated deficit and plummeting approval numbers, rallied in a whiz-bang circle-the-wagons last-ditch attempt to rile up his party’s base and take the attack to the enemy, which at the time seemed as pathetic as Custer in his last throes but returned the highest office in the land to George W. Bush.

Recently, Karl Rove, the architect of Bush’s comeback of 2004, has been quite vocal about some of the wildly half-mad candidates mucking up this year’s version of Republican insurgence. He knows better than most when you have the enemy on the run you do not play the long odds. In ’04, when tapping into the increasingly dormant Religious Right vote with promises that if the president’s opponent, the out-maneuvered and oddly silent John Kerry would take power then abortions would flow freely, gays would rule and the glorious war effort against the godless Muslims would be lost.

Rove’s 2004 political mastery was a classic example of badgering, rallying and laying down the choice for the most fanatical among the GOP base; those who’d vote for a weakened Republican rather than face the consequences. The strategy to promise an anti-gay amendment and everlasting military protection neutered the questions about his candidate’s immobilized state and made certain those who had the most to lose would not sit idly by.

This is what the White House has now unabashedly offered as a final stratagem for the battered and bloodied Democrats in congress, who not only face a demoralizing defeat next month, but in avoiding the onslaught have run scared from the president. Even the vice president, known far and wide for an uproariously inarticulate blabbermouth technique, has gone on network television to castigate progressives and liberals to “buck up” and “quit whining”, despite the broken promises to closing Gitmo, a single-payer National Health Care option, a failure at Cap & Trade or Illegal Immigrant Emancipation orthodoxy, and most agonizingly, a sucking up to the “guilty” Wall St. set. This doesn’t even factor in the ultra-left’s hope that Obama was above politics and had more than a minor interest in ending nation building, adjusting existing marijuana laws, and maybe go to battle for gay rights in the military and on the stump.

Even taking the most fundamental approach to party politics, the base is the thing. In cases of an avalanche of mid-term angst and general inner-party malaise, it is the only thing.

Biden is insane, and soon will be replaced by Hillary Clinton to save Obama in 2012, but there may be nothing left to run on if 2010 is completely lost. Progressives, liberals, and even those in the center expecting some sort of epiphany, have gone ballistic, and in so doing, have caused a serious shift in Democratic politics. Thus, as time runs out, and the numbers and impassioned anti-incumbent rage surges against them, the Democrats’ only hope is to temper the blow, stop the political hemorrhaging and hang onto the House or at the very least the Senate.

Even taking the most fundamental approach to party politics, the base is the thing. In cases of an avalanche of mid-term angst and general inner-party malaise, it is the only thing.

Take for instance the president’s recent appearance at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, streamed online to several campuses nationwide, using the social networking and youth movement his staff brilliantly tapped for his improbable 2008 rise and victory. The September 28 speech, symbolically recalling his most stirring oratory after the 2008 Wisconsin primary victory, began earnestly with a Ronald Reagan type “stay the course” routine, with promises of unfinished business, then a dollop of Jimmy Carter “want to go back to the last nightmare?” concluding with a firebrand call to arms for those who he most relied upon to stake his claim; first inside the party against the mighty Clinton Machine and then nationally across center-right tides, where the now all-but lost Independents reside.

It was a rallying cry echoed plenty since, which was piggybacked by left-shilling MSNBC — much as FOXNEWS has shamelessly trumpeted the fractious TEA Party movement — when the week after Obama’s Wisconsin plea, the network hosted a Education Nation week, wherein the focus was on teacher unions and the growing dumbing-down of Americans over the past decades. The hint there is the elitist, and in many cases honest, approach that the radical Right voices count on the electorate’s ignorance with emotional alternatives to critically tangible solutions.

Although the battles are disparate and motivated by local concerns, they have lasting national consequences to the future of Nation Health Care, the Bush Tax Cuts, continued troop surges in Afghanistan, and the effectiveness of President Barack Obama’s last two years in office.

Whether Republican or Democrat, the strategy in such a “crisis” has always been and is now exceedingly employed; rally the troops and circle the wagons with hefty Custer-like denials, harangues and a healthy does of old-world beseeching.

Either way it’s cut, the Buffalo Calf Road Woman is raising her club.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Why The Fuck Isn’t Kiss In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Aquarian Weekly 10/6/10 REALITY CHECK

WHY THE FUCK ISN’T KISS IN THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME? or Why The Hell Is There a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame In The First Place?

Boys, I’m not gonna go on and on about this fucking spirit shit. I’ll talk about the blues and influences and how I dig you guys and bing-bam-boom, I’ll be out of there. It’s just fucking rock n’ roll, after all. – Keith Richards to the members of ZZ Top backstage at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Committee (whatever the hell that is), has seen fit to nominate Alice Cooper, sixteen years after his, or if you prefer the band to the character, its eligibility. This makes what is already an abject mockery of what even the most casual observer of the genre would consider downright silly.Kiss Alive! For those of us who cherish its everlasting effect on our souls, it is an insult. After all, The Coop, an icon and creative pioneer in 1970s hard rock, is as influential to rock and roll history as Elvis Presley and his Caucasian-hijacking of an African-American invention is to the ’50s, The Beatles and its image-driven cultural phenomenon is to the ’60s, Madonna and her sexually-charged chameleon star-trip is to the 80s’, and the spit-in-the-face of all that is holy Nirvana in the ’90s.

For several decades, Alice Cooper was a drunken, spiteful, sloppy, defiant, obscene, deafening burlesque freak show that cared less for anything healthy and descent than anyone or anything imaginable; or as he put it to me in this magazine last year, “You couldn’t have a rock and roll drama without a villain.” That, my friends, is rock and roll in a nutshell. Refusing to recognize that impugns any point of celebrating it.

Shit, anyone failing to list “School’s Out” in their Top Ten of most on-the-money rock and roll songs has no fucking clue what the entire rock and roll trip is about; or more likely the case in the realm of the high-brow geeks running this vapid dog & pony show in Cleveland, got off the train with anything post-Traffic.

Turns out Cooper’s drinking buddy, Jim Morrison was right about handing the rebel stick over to the Madison Avenue suits and Hollywood posers who would likely render whatever erect pecker or moist pussy it manifested into a flaccid, dried up twat.

Keith Richards, the godfather of all that is modern rock and roll, and the man for whom even death recoils in horror, would concur. At least if you judge it from the look of a man who’d worked his ass off concocting an outlaw life of violent upheaval and massive substance abuse into gorgeous riffs of heavenly power only to be dumped in his waning years headlong into presenting goddamned ZZ Top to a bunch of gut-sagging, hair-thinned cretins posing as rock critics boozing beside the putrid gaggle of industry turds dressed for prom night.

Video evidence of the event shows Keith looking sick to his stomach and cackling like a hyena at the absurdity of his mission, and doing it right in the heavily-bearded faces of the band he was to induct into this laughing stock of an embalming center.

Keith and Jimmy Morrison knew what those of us who ever cared for rock and roll know; Alice Cooper is the real deal; whether the “keepers of the flame” deign to admit it or not. The Coop and his band kicked the ass and took the names to the tune of record numbers when they ruled the world, and there was a time when they sure as hell did. For a few years no one manipulated our wicked zeitgeist or exploited its most precious disgust better than Alice Cooper.

The only act that even comes close is Kiss. And guess what? Kiss has never even been nominated.

Kiss.

The biggest-selling live act in the history of rock and roll, which not only emerged full-fledged from the gloriously outlandish Alice Cooper excess-driven, shock-treatment womb, but also liberated the genre from its deadening artsy-fartsy, late-sixties to early-seventies jam-band, self-indulgence — predating the usually lauded Bruce Springsteen and the soon-to-seek vengeance of Punk.

Sorry if condescending scribes at the hippie journalists’ convention thumb their coke-addled noses at it, but Kiss stomped the terra without regret and didn’t beg your permission.

Kiss is rock and roll, as much as Parliament is funk, the Bee Gees disco, Michael Jackson pop and Joni Mitchell folk, all of whom have already been inducted into this so-called HOF.

Kiss was, and stupefying still is theater, pomp and bombast; a distorted blitzkrieg off-spring of a Jerry Lee Lewis piano assault, a Jimi Hendrix guitar fire, The Who’s instrumental auto-destruction, an Iggy Pop chest carving, and whatever crazy crap Peter Gabriel or Frank Zappa ever dreamed up. Grease paint, pyrotechnics, leather, and juvenile odes to sex and mayhem are a recipe for rock and roll greatness, and yet for some reason it is trumped by The Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, and REM — all acts I enjoy and certainly belong in whatever goofy palaver dinosaurs like Jann Wenner fabricate these days, but not at the exclusion of motherfucking Kiss.

I’m sorry, kids, nothing that aforementioned trio produced approaches the anthemic core of the rock and roll gut like “Rock N’ Roll All Nite”, never mind the brilliant fist-pump of “Detroit Rock City”.

Recently a friend, while speaking of his time in Cleveland, asked if I’d visited the HOF museum. To which I followed with a twenty-minute diatribe culminating in the notion that any such asinine endeavor calling itself a rock and roll institution (whatever the hell that is) and claiming to celebrate those whose fame is worthy of its blessed enshrinement, but yet so completely incapable of seeing the worth and testament of titans like Kiss, is nothing I need to see. It’s akin to going to a pizzeria and getting served celery.

And let’s be honest, the entire concept of having a shrine or snobbish observance of rock & roll is antithetical to everything the damn art form stands for in the first place, and second, and most disturbing, is it confirms what purist caretaker, Lester Bangs predicted and oft-times celebrated as its demise propagated by the over-intellectualizing arrogance of the “rock critic elite”.

Barely aware of the comings and goings of something as moronically feckless as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I was unaware as recently as a week ago that neither Alice Cooper nor Kiss had been included, yet the very bands they helped launch, specifically Van Halen and AC/DC, waltzed in before them. This seemed beyond ludicrous, until I saw the roll call of acts that have preceded their groundbreaking, hit-making, record-smashing concert-receipt resume.

Metallica? Without Alice Cooper and Kiss, where is Metallica beyond a garage in suburban San Francisco? But then at least it’s a rock band, unlike folkie Pete Seeger, gospel queen Mahalia Jackson, soul master Curtis Mayfield, torch song goddess Billie Holiday, crooner Nat “King” Cole, country outlaw Johnny Cash, or for the sake of the Christ, The O’Jays, Jelly Roll Morton, , Brenda Lee, Bill Willis & His Texas Playboys, or fucking Bob Seger.

Bob fucking Seger? What’s next Barry Manilow and Bread?

When Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were playing backyard barbecues in Gainesville and Elvis Costello was learning to snarl with horn-rimmed glasses, Kiss was plowing through America and everywhere making noxious rip-roaring cacophony — making movies, starring in comic books, and turning pop culture sideways.

Sorry if condescending scribes at the hippie journalists’ convention thumb their coke-addled noses at it, but Kiss stomped the terra without regret and didn’t beg your permission.

Oh, and this year’s nominees — alongside the long-overlooked Alice and in place of Kiss? Dr. John, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Donavan, and Donna Summer.

I rest my case.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Money Season 2010

Aquarian Weekly 9/22/10 REALITY CHECK

THE MONEY SEASON

The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? – Revelation 6:15

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin to slit throats. – H. L. Mencken

This is the Money season. The mid-term elections are under fifty days away and the running campaign dialogue is about the economy, Jack; jobs, taxes, stimulus and deficit. In 2002 it was Vengeance, 2006 Anti-War; this time around it’s Money. Beohner - ObamaAnd since there are only two political parties to choose from, they’ve opportunely split the baby on how Money is created, saved, spent, utilized and doled out; from the private sector to Washington D.C. Thing is it’s important to come to grips with the fact that there will be nothing new offered by either faction. What the “new” Republicans have in mind, whether it’s the No Government TEA Party enthusiasts or traditional party hacks, it will be no different than Goldwater or Reagan or Gingrich. And what the Democrats counter with will be another healthy dose of FDR, Clinton and Pelosi/Obama.

Not one candidate you will hear from has the guts to tell you what the real deal is. I dare you to find them.

What’s the real deal?

For starters the always populace idea that the national deficit is killing businesses, crushing the dollar, spiking unemployment and laying out a death sentence for our children will be discussed in general terms but with no solutions. This is because fifty percent of the American public eligible to do so fails to pay taxes. Another fifty percent of said public is receiving entitlement payouts.

Ouch.

No money coming in and tons going out create a deficit; from the corner lemonade stand to General Electric. There is no new math. It’s the same shit.

Now, what you’ll get is Republicans repeatedly pointing out both of these factoids, but with a glaring refusal to face the obvious: The nose-pinching decision to either raise taxes, overtly enforce or enhance the current tax laws, or cut a heaping share of entitlements.

All of these “options” are, of course, political suicide, even in a year wherein anyone not in charge is an acceptable alternative, no matter how brainless or bizarre. Not even conservatives have the balls to start fucking with people’s entitlements. That went the way of Calvin Coolidge and his doom-struck clan. Even the Mighty Ronnie Reagan saved Social Security and when the Lords of Newt scared enough of the elderly, they ran to the booths to re-elect the Minister of Fun.

What about hammering away at tax cheats, loopholes and shelters?

Sure.

This will happen. Next week.

Only the Democrats will start pitching that kind of nonsense, couched in atavistic Middle Class warfare rhetoric and the always-gangbusters anti-rich miasma, conveniently forgetting that from the dawn of civilization it is the ones with the Money who put Money on the Money tree. And since this is the Money Season, and definitely not the Democrat Season, this would also constitute a hot steaming bowl of political suicide.

But its desperation time in Dem Land and tossing out unconstitutional pogroms on the wealthy with randomly shifting tax laws, whether the ones in their favor or to penalize them, is expected. Not unlike Republicans suggesting emergency amendments denying another small segment of society — two percent or so — the right to marry.

Hell, like it or not — or having a political solution or not — there is not much wiggle room on either raising taxes or cutting benefits to lower the deficit or risk playing roulette with the tax laws in a time of economic crisis.

Hey, as long as we’re deep into the Money Season, it can’t go without saying this country has always been schizophrenic when it comes to the rich, from celebrities to moguls. We worship them, dream of becoming them, but despise them to the point of wanting to siphon their funds to lighten our tax burden.

This segues neatly into the approaching deadline to extend, revise or let go of the so-dubbed Bush Tax Cuts. Of course none of these options does a thing for the aforementioned national debt but pile upon it.

The Republican plan to perpetuate a non-funded hand-back raises the deficit three trillion. The Democratic plan to revise it and punish the top two percent of the economic equation jacks it to four trillion. No one, not one candidate or political play we are faced with does a thing to stop the deficit from climbing, let alone decrease it.

Not one.

No one.

Meanwhile, as the country was temporarily distracted by a 9/11 hoax hatched by superstitious goobers using their voodoo tome to motivate the burning of a rival’s superstitious falderal, the United States government was selling billions of dollars of weaponry to the very country from which our attackers and their mastermind hail, Saudi Arabia. A supposed American ally, just as the Afghans, Saddam Hussein and lately the backstabbing Pakistani government before them, the Saudis will likely gather taxpayer funded firearms to turn on us in a generation.

Perhaps that would be Money best used to tackle the above issues, but then selling weapons to the world is one of our hottest commodities, like construction, food and engines. It’s just that unless it’s killing machines, we import twice as much as we export, another recipe for economic woes and political fallout.

Hell, like it or not — or having a political solution or not — there is not much wiggle room on either raising taxes or cutting benefits to lower the deficit or risk playing roulette with the tax laws in a time of economic crisis.

Oh, and by the way, this whole deficit whining is mostly a scare tactic. Non-partisan experts pretty much agree that with the lowest interest rates on record the deficit is actually more manageable now than thirty years ago. It’s better to keep money in the pockets of those who can and will use it to create jobs and loan or borrow Money, perhaps even, if miracles are still available to us, create new and improved manufacturing vocations for a change. Many of the same experts figure it’s been a little over twenty years since the U.S. of A. has done anything close to that.

So hard choices need to be made and difficult truths need to be uttered.

None of this is forthcoming from anyone.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Rob Monte Says Good-Bye (for now)

Aquarian Weekly 9/15/10 REALITY CHECK

DEEP TANK TO WEIRD BLOOD Jersey Shore Music Icon Rob Monte Says Good-Bye (For Now)

It’s a steamy, late-afternoon on the Friday before the titular summer’s end and Robert Montesdeoca, aka Rob Monte, The Columbian Freak Boy is about to head southeast to do what he has done for the past 20 years; sing, prance and entertain over every inch of a packed barroom. He will do it as he always has; in front of a popular New Jersey rock band. He will make a lot of money for some and some for himself. It is business as usual for the grizzled stage warrior. This time, however, is different. This time will be his last. The long, rock & roll road ends for the man most know as merely Monte this Labor Day Weekend 2010. He is calling it quits after some 20 years of running amok on the famed Jersey Rock Circuit; much of it a blur and all of it chock full of what he politely calls “reckless abandon” while “feeling very comfortable playing it by the seat of my ass.”

Rob Monte“I am one-hundred percent ready” he tells me when I ask if this is truly it. “But for awhile I felt guilty saying it aloud or to anyone, because I might disappoint them.”

That’s always been the nut for Rob Monte, who took every show, hell, every song to be a long walk to the gallows, as if tomorrow was a rumor and squeezing every last inch of a Saturday night meant a little bit more than everything.

There is weird blood running in the man’s veins, much of it tainted with alcohol and the gripping fear that someone in his presence might not be having the time of their lives. It’s a rough gig spending nearly an entirety of an adult life convincing audiences that infinite merriment is tangible while the clock has other ideas.

“It was a unique period,” he exhales, before packing his kitbag of lunacy for one last go-round, two-decades of memory working its way through the fog. “Beer funnels? You can’t do that in clubs anymore, bro! People think that was the dark ages — hundreds of people smoking in clubs? The drinking and driving? The complete chaos?”

His voice cackles over the phone line and it sends a chill down my spine. I have heard that laugh before, a broken gravel of a coughing guffaw, fused with a kind of mischief that knows soon there will be danger afoot. “Whatever the formula was, it worked,” he admits with confidence. “Even with everyone trying to reel me in, there I was deep in some Irish drinking contest off stage, while the band figured it out.”

And the “figuring out” is what made the incredible professionals Monte has played with over the years so fascinating. There are far too many to name here, but know they are brave subjects in an improbable conquering horde of weekend marauders just the same.

“The bands? Four sober guys following along, hanging with me, I want to thank all of them. Thank them or apologize!” Monte laughs, but then there is a serious shift to his tone. “Hey, there was trouble sometimes, but once the club read the register they’d forgive us.”

Monte’s story is hardly unique. It is but one of thousands played out across this great land, where somewhere tonight there are hard-bitten dreamers tossing about elusive glories in cover tunes and original numbers; piano troubadours and harp-mouthed folkies and jazz cats and sing-song beauties putting on one more show for one more dollar and one more round of applause. But here in New Jersey, when a man steps down from his well-earned throne as King of Long Beach Island, it is pretty big news. For the mythical, radical, hysterical place I once called Clubland in my book, Deep Tank Jersey, it is monumental.

As far as icons go, if there is such an animal trolling the sordid corridors once inhabited by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, Rob Monte sure as hell is. He has fronted several bands of varying degrees of reputation and earning power for the past two decades, the most lucrative and history making is DogVoices, the birth of which during its most lavishly successful summer is depicted in the aforementioned book by yours truly. Therefore, Monte’s swansong is also a somewhat selfish personal tribute for this space. It can be argued that without Deep Tank Jersey and the wild events of the summer of 1995, the access and honesty of the original five members of DogVoices, and all those clubs and roadies and fans and wonderfully colorful hangers-on, there may not be a Reality Check News & Information Desk.

There is weird blood running in the man’s veins, much of it tainted with alcohol and the gripping fear that someone in his presence might not be having the time of their lives. It’s a rough gig spending nearly an entirety of an adult life convincing audiences that infinite merriment is tangible while the clock has other ideas.

So blame the whole damn thing on Monte, who was foolish enough to allow the sordid tale of young men treading the floorboards from Atlantic City to Clifton to be recorded for posterity.

Lord knows it is hard for me to believe a word of it today, and I wrote the damn thing. Worse still, I lived it. Barely. Like most of the poor souls who stepped into a Jersey Rock Club looking for a good time but were assaulted with a strange combination of burlesque and mud wrestling soaked in gallons of beer and sweat. Rob Monte the ringmaster of it all, from midnight ocean dives to launches from the odd hotel roof, impromptu strip shows and Tequila-shot binges, bar dancing and a rabble of dawn seekers thrown into the spotlight for an inch of what Monte has come to call home.

It is a home he never takes for granted as he continued to review his incredible run at a pace that would have killed several if not all other men not named Keith Richards.

“I plan on playing my last gig at the Ringside Pub in January,” he says with pride. “The owner, Bob Harper is a friend and mentor. I started there, and I should end there.”

Along with the Ringside, a modest but hopping rock venue in the hamlet of Caldwell, there is the now-defunct Wally’s and Nickel’s Alley, Wild Mike’s, the Wreck Room, and the legendary Mother’s, all of them outlasted by the unsinkable Columbian Freak Boy.

Then there is the cash cow for any serious full-time cover band; the Jersey Shore, where for 18 consecutive years Monte has plied his trade at Nardi’s, the Sea Shell and of course, Bar A. “I have to play Bar A once more in December,” Monte says. “My craziest stunts may have happened there. I broke ribs jumping off that balcony. The owner, Tom Jannarone has always been there for me.”

The center of Monte’s universe for nearly 20 years has been Long Beach Island, known to many in the tri-state area as an interesting amalgam of quiet, sunny family getaways and completely maddening midnight parties, the latter of which became the central force in an impressive career of playing popular songs of the day with a splash of carnival folly.

“The Quarterdeck, Sea Shell, Nardi’s, Joe Pop’s, you could play over four days without ever leaving the island,” Monte chuckles, as if struggling to recall earlier triumphs.

Now, placing it all into perspective, he can securely move into a fulltime career mentoring younger bands with his newly formed Monte Booking Agency, where the man himself tutors his acts to steer clear of the Monte Method.

“No way Monte could survive now,” he says, speaking in the third person as if this Monte creature is a thing of fiction. “Most of the bands I book now don’t know about the Deep Tank Jersey years. I tell them to do the opposite!”

And what about any parting words, a final stage dive or perhaps a Daffy Duck self-immolation jag?

He laughs again and sighs; “I cannot plan anything. It goes against everything I’ve done as an entertainer. So there’ll be no final song. No canned speech.”

Whatever it will be, its toll will end one part of an implausible career, close an era, and provide another reason for those who were there to recall the past.

For me, I wish good luck to my friend, a long-gone protagonist in my first published work.

And good luck to the rest of the Weird Blood who dare scour the depths of what is left of the Deep Tank.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More