Rand Paul: The Tea Party Man

Aquarian Weekly 2/16/11 REALITY CHECK

THE TEA PARTY MAN Rand Paul’s Maverick Battle For The New Right

Rand Paul is a dangerous man. The thing is it’s difficult to tell whether the Freshman Senator from Kentucky is more dangerous to the Left or the Right. Inarguably, he is dangerous to The System, for if nothing else he isn’t screwing around. He means to slash and dash the federal government by tying its purse strings and thus shrink it way past anything Ronald Reagan ever dreamed. The Gipper, like all poser fiscal conservatives, especially the newly minted Republican legislators, had not seen anything like Rand Paul. Certainly those who disingenuously rode the wave of the Tea Party angst won’t be able to stand idly by and allow this man to begin chipping away at policy with a zealot vehemence that would make Newt Gingrich look like a welfare freak. And although Democrats may casually dismiss him as a libertarian nut, they will also have public relations issues with a coyote sniffing around their usually manageable hen house.

Rand PaulApparently Rand Paul wasn’t merely piggybacking the anti-government groundswell of 2010. He was damned serious. And now that 2011 begins with him on the inside, he’s going to stand on principle, at least for the time being. This is nothing Republicans want to hear, fearing another 1995 disaster when a landslide of GOP support went sideways fast. Soon Big Bill Clinton was being sworn in again. Running through the halls of congress with an economic battle axe runs counterpoint to what the Republicans have in mind; take a lot of useless congressional votes, blame the Democratic-controlled Senate for their failures, and subsequently get rid of Barack Obama so they can go back to running up the debt on some other asinine war or massive Medicare handout.

On the heels of his newly formed $500 billion budget-gutting bill proposal that the Wall Street Journal calls “modest” and the New York Times deemed “ludicrous”, Paul has gone through the cable news circuit heralding his unflinching agenda. Apparently willing to put his immutable principles to the test with a vote, Paul has wasted no time carving out his own spot on Capitol Hill

And if he has to, Paul will go it alone.

For instance, on February 3, Paul was the lone dissenter against a bill that would outlaw citizens from aiming laser pointers at aircrafts. This is akin to an innocuous “no torturing puppies” piece of legislation. But Paul was opposed, agreeing it a sound safety issue but also pointing out that many states already have such laws on the books and should decide for themselves on the length and breadth of the “regulation”. This of course parallels Paul’s intellectual argument against certain aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights bill that became something of a public embarrassment for him during his campaign. After the obligatory backlash, Paul eased up on his original disagreement that any private enterprise be forced to comply with federal laws to serve patrons it felt unfit for service, namely African Americans.

Although months ago we dissected the issue as a goofy professorial discussion on States vs. Federal rights and not blatant racism, there seemed to be a disconnect with Paul’s ability to distinguish between core philosophy and plain governance.

To Paul, people seem to muck up the works with their silly needs and messy gray area interpretations. This kind of character tends to scare the hell out of professional politicians, happy to skip around the edges and pay lip service to facts.

You see, Paul is a wonk, a geek, a stat nerd with nary the bombastic personality of a Gingrich or the plastic charm of a Reagan. He comes on as a robot, unwilling to deal in emotional or endearing aspects of issues. It is numbers; deficits, surpluses and how to best control them that moves Rand Paul. To Paul, people seem to muck up the works with their silly needs and messy gray area interpretations. This kind of character tends to scare the hell out of professional politicians, happy to skip around the edges and pay lip service to facts. It is never about where your tax dollars are spent for Rand Paul, only the reasons to spend it. And he sees very little reason to spend it anywhere.

It is this no-nonsense dedication to reducing the power and expanse of the federal government that Paul brings his $500 billion plan to congress. With proposed cuts to the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation removing $42 billion and further reductions to the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development of approximately $50 billion each, the bill also includes removing education from the federal government’s jurisdiction, allegedly creating an almost $80 billion in cuts.

As predictable as it is that a fiscal conservative would choose to beat on Agriculture, Energy, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, Paul doesn’t stop there, proving his libertarian mettle and that he’ll not renege on reducing government ala Regan and the last Republican president or even the Gingrich Republicans of a generation ago. Paul’s bill takes aim at the usual Republican spend-thrift strongholds like international aid, Homeland Security and the Defense Department.

In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this week, Paul emphatically stated his desire to cut “wasteful spending” at the Pentagon. “Since 2001, our annual defense budget has increased nearly 120%” writes Paul. “Even subtracting the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending is up 67%. These levels of spending are unjustifiable and unsustainable.”

Balls. That’s what it takes to go where Paul is going, where no one elected to congress as a member of either party has gone in our lifetimes.

But even Rand Paul’s balls have their limits. His proposed $500 billion in cuts, which he stoically calls “just getting started”, would keep 85 percent of the federal government churning out the entitlements; namely Social Security or Medicare.

Not even a true maverick like Paul would dare touch the untouchable, but Rome was not taken down in a day.

It is unlikely Rand Paul will get any of this past the committee stage; much less a vote in the House or the Senate, but it will be worth watching. His stand will be also worth discussing in the coming year as the initial grass roots tremors against government spending and tax issues fade into what is sure to be the expected “Patience is a Virtue” pitch the Republican-controlled House will hide behind. It appears as if Paul will stand virtually alone against the raising of the debt ceiling, which is approaching rapidly.

That’s when we’ll find out where Paul’s enemies reside; Left or Right.

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Egyptian Experiment In Anarchy

Aquarian Weekly 2/9/11 REALITY CHECK

CAIRO: EGYPTIAN EXPERIMENT IN ANARCHY Human Rights, Crude Oil & The Jeffersonian Con

When I first began penning this column in the late-1990s’ there seemed to be a spate American anarchist movements. A few whose thoughts were given voice and then viciously impugned in this space are the American Revolutionary Vanguard (last heard from in 2005), North American Anarchist Movement (last seen in 2002), and the Independent Institute (petered out in 2000). And those were just three that had an Internet presence. Oh, there were more, trust me. And I heard from many. Then the Patriot Act kicked in and the fun was over. Anarchy was out. Or at least stamped out by Big Brother. Just as well, it was an insipidly impractical solution for whatever ails, coming from the far Left or the far Right. No one likes to keep 24-hour vigil at the homestead to keep it from being looted or burned to the ground. Oh, and running water and ample electricity are commodities too precious to dump on account of political fervor.

Egyptian ProtestorsLast summer when the Tea Party enthusiasts started to contact us, we made our way to several events; even spoke at one, with much of the same detached irony that borders on contempt displayed here weekly. Not sure what they expected, but it’s what they got. In spades. Hey, you ask a wise ass to your silly gathering, you get one — a beggar’s version of Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes with less moaning and more booing.

But belly-up anarchist movements and our exploits in addressing pseudo revolutionaries are a mere detour to a more sober discussion on what is going on in Cairo, Egypt right now, which is a bonafide uprising and mere hours (at the time of this writing) from hard core anarchy. As American-made tear gas reigns down on what is coming up on two weeks of street mayhem, there is a certain by-the-hour sense of news shifting like desert sand in a storm. No one has a fucking scintilla of an idea where it will blow next and everyone’s fortunes are at stake. This makes for news. And in a world filled with crap that passes for fact and dung filling in the commentary spaces, this is the real deal.

It is a far more serious, less intellectual and even less-so emotional glimpse into pure desperation going on in Egypt right now. It is dissimilar to what went down in Iran two years ago, mainly because it is wholly economic and not in the least anti-theocratic. That botched mutiny was mostly youth-related. Like many of the failed communal counter-culture blips of the 1960s, it tanked. This will happen when enthusiasm over tyrannical religious rule is your only fuel. Money is a different animal. State-strangling corruption leads to economic strife, which then leads to a failure to feed the kids and keep the heat on. This is what we have unfolding on our television sets.

Egypt’s “democratic” state, supported with a stream of U.S. funds only out-matched by Israel, has hit the wall. It is democratic in name only and fails to even resemble our half-baked republic. Truth be told, and now it is being told, Egypt is more or less a crude-oil based dictatorship masquerading as a democracy to bolster the West’s energy’s concerns and act as a buttress against another 1967 all-out war with Israel. This charade has gone on for thirty years under the rule of a reality-compromised “president”, who has enjoyed American funds, weapons and protection for keeping the oilrigs flowing after Anwar Sadat was gunned down in 1981. This gained him unwavering support over the course of now five American presidents and was especially significant in the wake of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, when another U.S. pawn dictator was sent packing.

One of our few staunchly Arab-run allies is on the brink of total ruin. And go figure; after we’ve spent a decade jamming our big nose into Middle East business with goofy eighth-grade level pipe dreams of democracy and McDonalds for all.

In the course of this all-out revolt, our man has morphed seamlessly from stern leader to soothing orator to conciliatory speechmaker to placating sad sack. This was all starkly illustrated as he casually announced he wouldn’t run for re-election as the capitol of his country was being burned to the ground. A more delusional response is hard to conjure.

But the hallucinations of Hosni Mubarak are hardly at issue here. The main crux of the matter in Cairo is how the United States, Saudi Arabia, OPEC and Israel will deal with the fallout. And there will soon be fallout, because as the country stands on the brink of military lockdown, there will only be anarchy left. And within it, there comes a vacuum. And that vacuum breeds uncertainty. And if there is one place uncertainty cannot be allowed to endure for the oil industry or its bitch, America, it is Egypt. Of course the Saudis have been whistling past the graveyard for some time, but let’s face it, kids; if Saudi Arabia goes its electric cars and solar panels for everyone.

Seeing Egypt in flames has taken the heart out of our secretary of state. Hillary Clinton has changed her stance on this nightmare so many times there isn’t any point to it anymore. The United States, if the White House is any indication, has only one play here — appear as if we’re for freedom and the people and then get some new puppet asshole in there to patch up the works. We’re too close to closing shop in Iraq and winding down festivities in Afghanistan. The northeast is under mountains of snow and the airline and auto industries are on life support. This is no time for Egypt to descend into craziness.

One of our few staunchly Arab-run allies is on the brink of total ruin. And go figure; after we’ve spent a decade jamming our big nose into Middle East business with goofy eighth-grade level pipe dreams of democracy and McDonalds for all.

This is why as we go to press it is becoming obvious that whatever lip service Mubarak paid to his citizens, the hammer of violence would soon be succeeding it. Suddenly, after over a week of riots, looting and unlawful lunacy, with parked tanks as spectators, the pro-Mubarak vigilantes begin flailing machetes and heaving Malakoff cocktails into crowds of protestors. Of course, this makes things tough on his sponsor, the U.S. of A. We like our bankrolling of the rough stuff a little less public. First journalists get the beat down and then the cameras are turned off.

Call it revolution if you must, although a true revolution comes with some kind of leadership direction or manifesto or declaration of rights and basic post-fighting structural overview. Call it a conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood, although it is less likely than the laughable “9/11 was an inside job” paranoia. Or call it what it really is; anarchy.

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The Joe Cool Comeback Rally

Aquarian Weekly 2/2/11 REALITY CHECK

THE JOE COOL COMEBACK RALLY Inside Barack Obama’s State of the Union Call to Charm

We are poised for progress. -President Barack Obama 1/27/11

Listening to people who recently expanded the nation’s deficit by extending an unfunded tax law speak of deficits as the death of the human spirit and then applaud this nonsense giddily may be an abysmal way to spend a Tuesday night, but around here it’s go time. Around here, State of the Union addresses are required viewing, which is why it is far easier to stomach coming from someone of northern articulation than that of the smooth drawl of gooberism. Barack ObamaAlthough the illusions that somehow a post-Boomer progressive might throw off a few “legalize drugs” or “support gay marriage” promises or bag the useless bloat of Homeland Security and give up the ridiculous practice of Middle Eastern nation building have long been shattered, there remained a few interesting turns.

Shedding the non-interesting tones; that of the overtly Reaganesqe “Shining City on the Hill” Pollyanna – opportunity and creativity – or the JFK sing-song – sacrifice and co-operation, “America is not just a place on a map but a light to the world” – nestled boldly between the call to strengthen the nation’s standing in the global economy by not being “out-innovated, out-educated and out-built” lent an air of populism to the taken-to-the-woodshed lectern milieu.

Noting the more upbeat and even humorous if not glad-handing aspects of the interminably long address, the president of the United States took the opportunistic component of a State of the Union stage to reclaim his elected position as head honcho. Mere weeks after losing the House in a landslide, Barack Obama has found traction. First in his signing of the Bush Tax Cuts extension at the eleventh hour and then his rousing speech at the Tucson memorial services, both of which jacked his approval numbers to their highest in over a year, the president came across as cautiously confident.

The content, a laundry list of forward-thinking optimism – energy renewal, business ingenuity, workforce resourcefulness, private sector innovation and the always-gangbusting education – helped to ease down the medicine portion. Its most prescient moments replete with nods to a new generation of cyber jobs and international trade that likely scared the living shit out of the nearly ten percent of the country’s unemployed.

Again, none of this plowed any new field, with a few notable exceptions.

It is clear that the Democrats defeat in November has pushed the president further to the center with a sense that whatever had come in the previous two years would not do so with apology or reflection. Nowhere did Obama philosophically recall “mistakes” and postured “learned moments” that Bill Clinton offered in the wake of the Contract with America in early 1995. In fact, the president remained defiant against any talk of repealing his beloved Health Care Law, which was an easy victory lap considering the flaccid House-vote charade that preceded it. Nonetheless, there was conciliatory lip service paid to discretionary spending freezes and tough military jargon, and the key note to the recent campaign outrages; broader tax relief efforts for small business.

When the commander-in-chief says, “In South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders” it’s time for more crazy from Michele Bachmann.

An odd omission from the over one hour address was not even a puff of smoke blown towards gun control, specifically in the wake of the semi-automatic shooting of a congressperson on a street corner in broad daylight. And let’s face it; the Tucson/Gun Control connection is to liberalism what 9/11 was to neo-cons. It is the proverbial slam-dunk. Yet, not a peep. Its absence was as inauspicious as it was resounding.

And since the State of the Union is never a one-way affair, the Republican response by Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan may have been predictably terse as it was filled with doom and gloom, but paled in comparison to the creepy garbling coming from Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Much of the public-access-like production mocked verily in the press the following day was never the issue, but the mere fact that Bachman saw fit to speak at all on the part of a non-existent political entity, the apocryphal Tea Party, over and in some cases above the usually lone Republican rebuttal.

Bachmann is beginning to gain a fan base here. After nearly two hours of intellectual and ideological speechifying, a little crazy is applauded. She is a nut, but a nut with true grit. And there is always a place for crazy when we’re pushing midnight.

Still, this time around the State of the Union held a higher political order. This has been a rough twelve months for the president. But in defeat, he has registered a certified victory, an almost elegant backslap, unfurling a humbled exterior that was absent in his first two years in office. The Republicans are to thank for that. And when they abandon their principles to raise the debt ceiling in the months ahead, as the Democrats did in 2007 by funding a war they ran to halt, the chief officer of the republic will look ever more presidential.

Because somewhere along the line, the State of the Union address has become a television affair, this tribal media junket to retool agendas and sell weird theologies, just as party conventions have become hoorah showpieces to posture and pander. A call to arms, as much as this one pained to achieve, it was not. Not unlike the speaker of the House of Representatives posing as a marauder at the barricades on CNN the following evening to discuss the “broken congress”, when he has been a key member for sixteen years.

It is an act. Tired and pathetic, but nonetheless an act, which incidentally, painting education and career choices as a patriotic duty is as moronically passé as comparing Soviet space dominance to expanding broadband to the outskirts of Iowa.

When the commander-in-chief says, “In South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders” it’s time for more crazy from Michele Bachmann.

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Echoes of Tucson

Aquarian Weekly 1/19/11 REALITY CHECK

THE ECHOES OF TUCSON IN THE UNITED STATES OF FANTASYLAND

The “what should be” never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no “what should be”, there is only what is. -Lenny Bruce

The Great American Experiment plods along, wounded again as it has and always will be by those whose sense of freedom goes beyond rational boundaries — beyond rhetoric or artistic expression or dissent — into the well-worn satchel of destruction. Our list of carnage is long and painful and following each is a backlash of panicked reasoning when in reality, as stated here over the past years, whether Gabrielle GiffordsColumbine or Oklahoma City or 9/11 or Virginia Tech or Fort Hood, it is merely a burp in the system. Now it’s Tucson. And despite the obvious fact we have another lunatic with a cache of weaponry firing indiscriminately at strangers in a crowd, there is a rush to find societal fault, bad wiring in the machinery, motivations and inspirations in politics, media, art forms. Hardly. It is once again the terrible price paid for a free society, one that we all ultimately choose to live within. Although precarious and predatory, it is theoretically free, and with it comes dangers. Many dangers

The only issue, as with the above incidents mentioned and the hundreds more before them, is the continued bad policy of assuaging grief by attempting to sanitize the results of what a free society may engender; greed, bigotry, irrational hatred, unchecked vanity cultural and economic envy, and my favorite, stupidity. All part of the human psyche allowed to roam relatively free within the parameters arbitrarily erected by elected officials, who most times create unjust laws or make the repeated mistake to place singular blame of human frailty on a word, a drug, a gun, a song, a cultural movement, a political statement or a religious belief.

Jared Loughner no more killed those people because of a toxic political environment or pseudo-macho imagery from the Sarah Palin web site than those who tried to build a Muslim Cultural Center in lower Manhattan was a direct offshoot or commentary on the horrors of 9/11. This is the way some people see it, or for the purposes of their belief system, may want it, but the reality of which does not exist. It only does so in their heads; the contents of which should never cause a restructure of our basic freedoms; to express individual thought, creativity, sexuality, personal faith, sensibilities, etc.

Long before there was a Reality Check New & Information Desk, the results of which are more or less unfurled here weekly, there has been the constant battle to understand why it becomes so easy for humans to deny the realities of their baser instincts in the veiled attempt to fashion in its place a more palatable fantasy. It is as if there is a rush to accept this universal illusion perpetuated to better ignore Lenny Bruce’s “what is” with a juvenile grab bag of “what should be”.

Forget about rolling the subject all the way back to the first book of the Bible, in which the authors dealt with the fundamental fear in humanity to endure the unfathomable irrationality of nature; the slithering snake in the perfect garden, the eternal sense of security shattered by the primal heart of darkness, and all that crap. Let’s merely delve into the past week, where predating the tragedy in Tucson, three particularly interesting incidents of “what should be” spat defiantly in the eye of “what is”.

Jared Loughner no more killed those people because of a toxic political environment or pseudo-macho imagery from the Sarah Palin web site than those who tried to build a Muslim Cultural Center in lower Manhattan was a direct offshoot or commentary on the horrors of 9/11.

Within days of each other there was the incredible story that NewSouth publishers would be releasing a sanitized version of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the rather auspicious reading aloud of the U.S. Constitution by the newly minted congress, and the insane faux celebrity of a homeless drunkard as some queer form of societal reclamation.

Firstly, NewSouth would literally be rewriting arguably the American literary masterpiece by this nation’s most original and rightfully lauded author. For whatever “what should be” reasons that would either send Mr. Clemens’ ghost writhing in abject rage or rolling about in unfettered laughter, it was apparently more important to cleanse the scarred era of slavery from the American psyche and ignore a pejorative invective to supplicate modern sensibilities.

It is bullshit, plain and simple. Beyond the gall one would have to dare manipulate the manuscript of a master so frivolously is enough of a resounding argument against this atrocity, but to easily overlook Twain’s brilliant satire on the casual dehumanization of a race long before the Emancipation Proclamation could be realized is tantamount to hallucination. There were actual news stories on how many times the offending word was used in the book as if this were some kind of litmus to its existence. A more damaging constraint on intellectual artillery against the evils of society is hard to imagine.

On the same day this idiocy was revealed, the 112th congress thought it cute to underline its objective in holding its governing standards on the priority of the Constitution by having its members each read aloud a portion of it, but thought it prudent to gloss over the flawed tenets on which this nation was founded; as in accepting certain humans as a fraction of their existence. It was also decided that the “what is” of women being denied the right to vote and the outlawing of liquor be expunged from the record, as if these never happened.

A day or so within these two pathetic attempts at trying to deny reality with heavy doses of “what should be”, a poor soul was filmed by a local television station in Ohio and splashed all over the Internet. The ensuing blitz of compassion cum media frenzy had the quite suddenly famous golden-voiced Ted Williams, sporting a rap sheet a mile long and a parade of children apparently unwilling to shelter, spiraling into the kind of oblivion that put him back in the place he had already ended up. Williams is the poster boy for “what should be”, given a host of voice-over gigs within hours of his appearance on the Today Show, and the obligatory skeletons beginning to paint the actual story of half-mad indigent whose cuddly exterior hardly fit with the grim reality of his crime-riddled drug addicted past.

And so a few days later, we had Jared Loughner firing weapons into a crowd at a political event and the chimes of backlash began to ring in the direction of the harsh rhetoric of a recent Right Wing political movement, sometimes stupidly referred to as “a revolution” and painted with the broad brush of fist-pumping, gun-toting oratory. Ironically, much of the same people who were quick to target one ideology as a direct result of irreparable damage were then accused of inspiring another. So, maybe it is fitting they were forced to answer for it, but it doesn’t make it “what is”, only a flimsy helping of the bitter end of “what should be”.

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Congress Circa 112

Aquarian Weekly 1/12/11 REALITY CHECK

CONGRESS CIRCA 112

The business of America is business. -Calvin Coolidge

The 30th president of the United States was a horrible jackass with an incurable rash of brain warts and a queer brand of constructionist that ran a counterbalance to all known modes of reasoning. Calvin Coolidge was simply the worst Republican politician of the 20th century whose name was not Richard Milhouse Nixon. His ideas were roundly debunked within minutes of his injurious attempt at governance, the gory results of which fueled the greatest meltdown in modern capitalism. 112 CongressThis brought about a bastardized gargantuan liberal dream for the better part of a quarter century, also debunked as severe a suicidal fiasco as could possibly be fashioned by a modern soul not named Karl Marx. Only the third worst Republican president of the American Century could renew FDR’s New Deal spirit, in one G.W. Bush, who’s bungled two-term disaster put Barack Hussein Obama in the Oval Office and, with the eager assistance of a predominantly Democratic legislature, monitored the tripling of the national debt.

And so here come the denizens of Coolidge’s rancid dung heap; the corporate lackeys and scourge of the union thugs, the anti-environment, deregulation fanatical New Republicans, whose proposed mission is to “fix broken government” by dismantling its unchecked gluttony.

Of course this only happens on talk radio and Ayn Rand books, but in this government, the one the 112th congress and its hordes of freshmen enter with heads held high, it will be business as usual. Business being the operative word, since this will be the Business Congress or as it will be known for a short time before The System bogs down their lofty rhetoric and even loftier ambitions, The Laissez-faire Marauders.

Yes, but that will die as quickly a death as did the anti-war fervor that ushered in the 110th congress, which collectively talked trash about ceasing the two unfunded, ill-conceived, unwarranted foreign occupations, only to slink away four years later with both still raging and only a heap of dubious domestic spending to show for it. Neo-conservatism was out in ’06, broke and embarrassed under a siege of misappropriations, absent funds and scores of dead Americans for what was beginning to appear as a red herring, this strange and terrible ruse perpetuated on an angered and sandbagged public. Now it is half-baked liberal hubris sent packing under the guise of fiscal revolution and power to the people. Its architects run out of the capitol on a rail as their president’s approval numbers climb on the wings of a debt bloating extended tax cut.

The 110th congress galloped in high on the horse of transparency in government and a halt to the heaps of illegal shenanigans that doomed their previous Republican cohorts, only to engage in backroom dealings and rule-bending partisanship and whatever insane shit Charlie Rangel pulled. But now the 112th is here to “triumphantly return to open rules”, akin to the Bush Era being a new time for clean and respectable government after the nasty Clinton besmirching of the office, only to be awash in a parade of scandals from Scooter Libby to the unprecedented political house-cleaning of U.S. Attorneys.

If I were John Boehner, I too would be openly weeping.

The great Hunter S. Thompson once told me that there is only so much shit people will eat, but I disagree. I think a healthy gorging of dung is what makes penning this column each week so satisfying. Hell, it keeps us voting. Most importantly, it keeps the illusion of democracy alive and well in this the Chinese Century.

The last congress put the kibosh on Hope & Change, much as this one will be pissing on the TEA Party mirage, when “the will of the people” will be best served as hollow voices for another attempt at raping the business landscape with guiltless banshees masquerading as free market saints. Reminiscent of the gutted Fanny & Freddie bottomless pits which held the state’s manipulation of the market hostage, coupled with faceless bank gamblers who sold crap bonds for sure things and then bet against the house.

It is time to roll again, a Wild West show worthy of the last Wild West show and the one before that, more watered down free market malarkey prefabricated by The Gipper and the self-mutilating Contract With America.

Thirty-three hours into the New Guys came an immediate backtrack on the latest Pledge to America. Cutting $100 billion of government spending in the first year now becomes a “hypothetical cut”. Cut-As-You-Go bill proposals allowing for only budget slicing initiatives goes bye-bye with the showy House vote to repeal the Health Care Law, which according to the Congressional Budget Office would add $230 billion to the current national debt. And then there’s the all bills must have a clause in the U.S. Constitution giving it absolute authority scheme. However, of the initial three initiatives proposed by the 112th — cut the congressional budget, repeal the health care bill, and instruct House committees to present new health care legislation — none carry the aforementioned citation.

If I were John Boehner, I too would be openly weeping.

But who really thought any of this would change a thing? The closest this space came to buying any portion of this falderal was in 2008, when a new generation was supposed to carve out a true “progressive” approach to governing. Instead it was more goofy old-world big government kowtowing to party politics and then finger-pointing windbag gobbledygook draped in a “what’s good for us” palaver. It was wrong and defeatist and put the very notion of change on hiatus when the entirety of a Carter/Clinton redux marched into the president’s cabinet, not to mention tax frauds and hedge fund cheats in top finance positions, the whole shebang put on effective flat line notice today when William M. Daley (a fucking Chicago Daley of the Son of “beat on the hippies” Daleys) was named chief of staff, replacing the previous Chitown party-entrenched troll.

Anyone who has the balls to label yours truly a cynic after this recidivist crap needs to rub the fairy dust and red white & blue gook from their peepers and salute your commemorative Ollie North plate.

Happy New Year, indeed.

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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.

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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?

 

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“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…

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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