REVENGE OF THE POLITICIANS

Aquarian Weekly
8/3/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

What the hell happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again.

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THE TRUMP SHOW

Aquarian Weekly
7/27/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pure theater.

The Trump Show had begun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HYPOCRITES & SORE LOSERS ON PARADE

Aquarian Weekly
7/20/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

No. No. No. No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who agrees with candidates?

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

And all this because Trump called him names.

Can you imagine if anyone actually voted for this pussy?

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

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

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

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NOW…IT’S OVER

Aquarian Weekly
7/12/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE ROLLING STONES

Aquarian Weekly
6/22/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

How the hell did he do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

Aquarian Weekly
6/15/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

He is America’s greatest ego.
– Norman Mailer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ali gave me that, and I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

This is what you get from universal and epic.

You get Ali.

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DEEP TANK JERSEY – 20th Anniversary Edition

Deep Tank Jersey

The classic underground sensation is back with a brand new cover and updated material on the wild summer days with DogVoices circa 1995!

Relive the magic and mayhem of those bygone days of summer along the legendary New Jersey Club Circuit with James Campion’s journal from edge.

20th Anniversary Edition Includes:


Brand new essay by the author
– James recounts the entire story behind the story; his memories of how it all began and his researching and writing one of the most compelling stories ever written about the New Jersey rock and roll club scene.

Brand new interviews with all the major participants – In-depth and revealing conversations between author James Campion and the members of the original DogVoices, their manager, Bo Blaze, and the mysterious, Nadine.

Three features,  two previously published and one never-published, on DogVoices by the author through the years:

FREAK DOMAIN REVISITED: THE SAD AND TERRIBLE TRUTH ABOUT DOGVOICES
A 1998 piece long out of print from the East Coast Rocker in which James goes in search of the members and DogVoices.

DEEP TANK TO WEIRD BLOOD Jersey Shore Music Icon Rob Monte Says Good-Bye (For Now)
A 2010 piece for the Aquarian Weekly by James on the final performing days of DogVoices’ wildman singer and master showman, Rob Monte.

PETER BLASEVICK CALLS IT QUITS
A hilarious “Faux Eulogy” written by James and read at Pete’s last professional gig in 2004.

TRUTH IN EXPERIENCE: NONFICTION ON THE RUN
A Discussion With Independent Author James Campion About Expose vs. Straight Storytelling – A 1996 interview with James on the writing of the book.

Get your copy now for $25!





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WHY BERNIE SANDERS MATTERS

Aquarian Weekly
6/1/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHY BERNIE SANDERS MATTERS

Everybody’s gone but me and you
And I can’t be the last to leave

– Bob Dylan

At this juncture it would take an act of God or the teamsters or something dreamed up by the ghost of Frank Kapra for 74 year-old Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to wrest the Democratic nomination away from Hillary Rodham Clinton. The former secretary of state is but a handful of delegates away from wrapping this up and she owns an impressive number of controversial “super delegates” – not to mention the unofficial two and half million more votes she has garnered in this process. It is also not stretching credibility to argue Clinton has dominated the primaries with traditional Democratic voters – women, African Americans, Hispanics, and the core of union support, etc, and has used her campaign to fund-raise for down-ballot Democrats.

However…

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,  speaks at the Alliance for Retired Americans 2015 National Legislative Conference in Washington, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

The 2016 presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders matters.

The fact that I am writing about Sanders on the cusp of June is one pretty good reason. A year ago he was a completely unknown senator from a tiny northeastern state, whose claim to fame was copping to being a socialist. He was supposed to be this platform-shifting “issues candidate” that before being fodder would maybe force Clinton to edge slightly to the left before she went on to crush whatever loon made it out of the Republican contest. In any other year Sanders would be… say, Dennis Kucinich. But this is the witchy season of 2016, a bizarre year where a TV star mogul gets to play and win. Madam Shoo-In should have made Sanders go away around early March. This is how things are usually done around here. Yet, he has not only failed to go away, he is surging to the finish; making a terrible noise, along with the millions that make up his mostly young, feisty and fed-up constituency.

This would make Sanders a Ted Kennedy circa 1980; chipping at the inevitable nominee from the left to the detriment of the general election. But he is more than that. Sanders represents to Democrats what Donald J. Trump accomplished on the Republican side; he is an insurgence candidate, an anti-Washington, anti-establishment figure that has captured this year’s zeitgeist; a must for any presidential candidates (ask the sixteen or so actual GOP politicians that are home wondering what the hell just happened). If anything, Bernie Sanders has been the only real news on the Democratic side since February. His rallies (larger and more raucous than even the Donald’s), his character, (parodied brilliantly by Larry David on SNL), his suddenly “man-for-his-times” stature has eclipsed Clinton from every angle.

Turns out that Sanders is the only true issues candidate; leading a progressive charge against a sitting Democratic president. And as much as it is fairly fabricated, Sanders at least appears pure, untainted by the evils of Washington D.C. Of course, he has spent decades in the same quagmire as his opponent, but Clinton, who reeks of establishment and been-there-done-that gives him rare breathing room on this count. Again, in this climate, he is appealing, which according to most Democratic and national polls matters more to voters now than ever.

But Sanders matters not for hanging in there, staying the course ideologically, and timing; he matters because he is shifting the direction of the coming general election dramatically and has already (as has Trump on the other side) put the system under the microscope – the democratic vagaries of caucuses, strange delegate proportions, antiquated and shady party rules. Both he and Trump like to use the word “rigged”, which of course is nonsense, but indeed the structure of party primaries is such that it promotes scrutiny solely on the general misunderstanding of them by the public. Reminds me of watching a baseball game with a friend, who was unaware of the rule that a catcher must secure a third strike in order for the batter to be out; so when the ball whizzed to the backstop and the batter sped to first, he was incredulous. “The guy’s out! Why is he on first?” Well, you see, according to the rules… “But he struck out!” Okay, it’s weird, but that’s the rules, right?

Beyond the inside baseball aspect of Sanders’ movement, allowing the electorate to see behind the curtains, his candidacy has done a masterful job of revealing the warts of Clinton’s. Without sinking to the level of most political campaigns, the mere presence of Sanders, has put the onus on Clinton to stand for something, which beyond the standard liberal talking points, is a flimsy notion at best. Sanders has exposed Clinton’s greatest weaknesses as a stump candidate, an orator, or even a likable, relatable character. Remember what “likable enough” got her in ’08? Her blandness, already baked in, would have seemed less egregious against the standard opponent. Against the flamboyantly disheveled New Yawk ethnicity of Sanders, she appears invisible.

He matters because he is shifting the direction of the coming general election dramatically and has already (as has Trump on the other side) put the system under the microscope.

Of course, the biggest complaint of Sandersnistas is the seeming wild popularity of their candidate; his winning so many states, but constantly trailing. This puts the rigged idea into the lap of the “rigger”, which would be Clinton, further enhancing her villain persona, something Trump has already begun to weave into his already incendiary rhetoric. The now official Republican nominee has smartly coalesced his anti-establishment movement on the right with Sanders egalitarian rants, prompting him to run as a true independent, effectively handing the election to Trump by default – not to mention feeding this narrative that has grown in the ensuing months that the young and impressionable newbies rallying to Sanders’ populist message will see a viable revolutionary option in Trump.

Sanders has never really had a chance here. There was a moment in mid-March or immediately after his stirring upset in Michigan when Sanders could have made a move. He did not. He was roundly defeated by Clinton when it mattered most and it has left him as this annoying afterthought for Madam Shoo-In, which she has wrongly ignored or condescended to as if this whole silly primary thing is merely a winding road to her coronation. But by hanging in there until his party’s convention, Sanders has pushed this to the limit. If he wins California in early June and rides into Philly with serious momentum and poll numbers that show him trouncing Trump, while Clinton, with her damaging untrustworthy numbers weighting her down, barely squeaks by, he will have a fairly good argument to sway the aforementioned “super delegates” his way and throw the whole shebang into chaos.

And with more troubling news coming from the state department investigation on Clinton’s private server this week, Sanders may come to matter as much as anyone in American politics in 2016, including Donald J. Trump.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE – WTF?

Aquarian Weekly
5/11/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

DONALD J. TRUMP, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE – WTF?

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.
– Mark Twain

Today, as you read this, the presumptive nominee of one of our republic’s two major political parties is a man who eleven months ago was a tabloid-addled, real estate mogul turned reality TV personality. How did this happen? Let’s dissect.

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Never Underestimate the Power of Celebrity or the Grim Reality of Math

In the late 1980s I proposed the idea that if Clint Eastwood ran for president, he might not win but would garner about a third of the vote for merely being Clint Eastwood. This is long before a weight-lifter/movie star became governor of the nation’s largest state. Once Donald Trump, a well-known macho big mouth, descended his fancy escalator at the Trump Towers on Fifth Avenue, he owned one-third of the Republican electorate by simply being Donald Trump. This is the celebrity quotient seemingly lost on the political class that at any time may come calling and is ignored at its own peril.

This one-third quotient would have been nothing but an entertaining fart in the wind if Trump were opposed by a reasonable three or four candidates divvying up the remaining 65 percent. This did not happen in 2015. A record seventeen candidates emerged slicing up two, five, eight and ten percent of the pie between them, leading to a growing narrative to those who thought Trump a goof (myself included) having a legitimate shot (something I came to realize all-too clearly in late September). And since not one of the other sixteen candidates chose to confront this mathematical certainty, most stayed in the race, which made Trump’s 33 percent a solid bet.

Trump did not get a majority of the vote until his home state of New York, 34 states into the process. By then most of the field had winnowed and Trump had legs enough to break a record for the most GOP primary votes ever.

Shitty Field & the Republican Lie

Since 2009 the Republican Party, with the ardent assistance of talk radio and FOX News, rolled out the fantasy that President Barack Obama would plunge the nation into Hades. Not that he was a sub-par president, mind you, but Satan. When none of this actually happened, they decided to claim it did anyway. This narrative, wholly baseless, not unlike the left’s insane panic when Ronald Reagan became president, created a netherworld of fact-free political discourse that led to a TEA Party movement at first exploited and eventually reduced to a whole lot of nothing in Washington D.C., which predictably upset a whole lot of people.

Fast forward to the comically large Republican candidate field, which operated under another GOP lie that it would be the finest in a generation. It was not. It sucked, and people knew it, and thus “outsider” Donald Trump became the voice of the disenfranchised tired of the lie. His support was that of a defiantly powerful weapon against bullshit.

The actual shitty field was made up of wildly unpopular governors; Bobby Jindel and Chris Christie, unlikable sods with crappy records and no point to run for re-election, much less the presidency, and popular governors, Rick Perry, a dullard, who put glasses on to appear as if he were not a dullard, which made him look more like a dullard, Scott Walker, who campaigned as if he would rather have a three-way with the Clintons than run for president, and John Kasich, who never seemed to articulate what his actual point was. And finally two long-retired ex-governors, another goddamn Bush, who was merely fodder for Trump’s most effective coming out party; the burying of this pathetic era in American history, and for reasons only known to his shrink, George Pataki. Then there was Marco Rubio, a wildly unpopular senator that lived on the lie he was the Hispanic Obama, but turned out to be in way over his head, and the latest in the Paul family to be shoved aside as a libertarian kook. For fun there was Dr. Ben Carson, a mumbling neurosurgeon and religious loon, who had his fifteen minutes of fame for being “nice”, thrice-failed religious loons, Santorum/Huckabee. Senator Lindsey Graham, who polled as well as me at zero percent, which made abject business failure, Carly Fiorina look good, her eventually running mate, Ted Cruz, a man who looked like the guy you would cast in a slimy politician role for your movie about corruption, and some guy named Gilmore.

Not a Jefferson in the bunch.

The Social Media Pissed-Off Two-Step

This is the social media era and Donald Trump is its demigod. He lives for the short-attention span this opiate satiates and the outlandish quip in short spurts it demands, which translates well to Twitter and cable news, the Internet for old people. Trump dominated every medium mostly made up of two things – a narcissistic obsession with self-promoting the most mundane claptrap and expressing the kind of the hate-speak no one would dare say in any measure of polite society.

Anger, whether legitimate of not, is anger. You can’t tell people they’re not angry if they’re angry, and since the electorate has been repeatedly lied to by both parties for centuries, it came to a head in a very unusual but understandable way. On the left, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tapped into the anger of progressives that feel abandoned by Obama while Trump tapped into the general anger of the lies the right has fed its base.

When people are angry they like to say outlandish things to hopefully shock the system; a collective Lenny Bruce moment when merely uttering “cocksucker” in a lounge becomes social commentary. This is why when Donald Trump said things that would not only fell normal politicians but destroy careers and reputations, it elevated his stature. He was the living embodiment of anger; an avatar for the very core of ourselves; righteous indignation. He was like the birth of punk music; crude, raw, and defiant, a middle-aged Kurt Cobain character with disdain for decorum and a hard-on for disorder.

Trump is a man for his times, but he also represents our culture of flimsy factoids and fantasy narratives and that somehow being pissed-off is a solution to anything.

For the first time, those who spent their days sitting at home elbow-deep in the Costco-sized Cheetos tub firing off horrifyingly hilarious vitriol under the cover of cowardice could now have a voice and a place to get nuts. Trump and Sanders provided the rhetoric and rallies to take it to the streets, and the primary voting days to file their protest. Some of this frightened those who are afraid of things like free speech and expression, but for those of us who celebrate the ugly experiment that is democracy reflecting the terrors of human nature, it was glorious times.

Trump, and to a lesser extent but no less riotous, Sanders allowed America to bear its soul, and it got real…fast.

The Boring & Sacrilegious Christ Analogy & the Vote

Trump was never really a candidate, he was a symbol. Like the symbol of Jesus of Nazareth some two thousand years ago, the character rolling into Jerusalem and pronouncing his messianic priority, calling everything crap; the social system, the political system, the religious system, the entire thing crap. His declaration of one man replacing all of it is at once egalitarian (what we would call populist today) and fascist, (a nebulous accusation of a singular proposal to return all-things to not crap) resonates. Both guys were faced with a similar push-back from those who needed to survive on the status quo. And when Jesus was executed, his point grew into this other thing entirely. What we call Christianity today is just another fulcrum for the frightened to keep reality at bay.

You think I’m nuts? Ask Ted Cruz, who said as much in his concession speech once Trump made mincemeat of the entire field. He talked about his own march being halted, but the “idea” living on, or “resurrected” in some other larger movement. Problem for Cruz is he was not the Jesus in this analogy, which was borne out by his being bested in nearly every state with evangelicals by Trump. It is Citizen Trump, the human grenade, that calls everything crap and has all the answers to make it not crap; him, alone – not a system or an ideology or even a party, just Trump. Very Christ-like. Or Mussolini-like. But I find it hard to differentiate the symbolic nature of Mussolini and Christ, but that is for another column entirely.

But, again, none of this matters without “the vote”. It was “the vote” that crushed the system and the ideology and the party, none of which could handle or understand Trump. The voters did. The anger did. The timing sure did. Every step of the way the voting came his way and it was ignored by the other candidates and the party and mostly the media, who looked at this as it looks at all things, a shiny object in which to sell ad space. None of these entities understand Trump or the fear and anger people have about a changing world they are not part of, whether socially or economically. Not that Trump can do anything about it, like the Christ thing, but it is better than the crap that is currently happening or what they believe is the crap that is happening.

The voting, not all the other stuff, kept the Trump Train on the tracks. Trump did not hijack the party as the lazy right-wing pundits and the Wall St. Journal claim; he got the votes. This is how it works. And it worked for Trump this time.

In Conclusion

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum, whether Hitler or the Beatles. Trump is a man for his times, but he also represents our culture of flimsy factoids and fantasy narratives and that somehow being pissed-off is a solution to anything. Sometimes it is, like a bunch of British colonists unhappy about the tax/representation balance overseas, and for Trump, if he is to compete against the odds to actually be president, it had better be.

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WHAT’S THE POINT OF TED CRUZ?

Aquarian Weekly
5/4/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHAT’S THE POINT OF TED CRUZ?
(Or For That Matter John Kasich)

So why should a bunch of principles get in the way of tactics?
-Matt Bai

Maybe I’m mistaken. It would not be the first time and will hardly be the last. But someone please tell me that the point and purpose of the presidential candidacy for Texas Senator Ted Cruz is not just “Vote for me, because I’m not Donald Trump”. Granted, I don’t always expect a “New Frontier” or “Morning in America” or even “Yes We Can”; inspiring generational movements that rally around both an idea and an individual who transcends an era. I can live with the middling “I Like Ike” or “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”. I can wrap my mind around a flaccid “Compassionate Conservatism” routine or even the fifteen different versions of “Reformer” that come and go like mouthwash ads. But I’m not sure “If You Want To Stop Someone Else, I’m The Guy” is necessarily a goose-bump inducing rallying cry.

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I never begrudge anyone who runs for office, and I am loathe to make any suggestions as to when a candidate should enter or exit a race, especially one of this magnitude; so if Ted Cruz wants to make victory speeches after getting his clocked cleaned in some 30 primaries or pick running mates when he is on death’s door, then I say more power to him. However, I think there should be a point to it. There seems to be none here; beyond one pathetic ploy after the other until the whole thing appears sad.

Lord knows I understand there are plenty of races wherein a candidate shows up to just stop a weakened opponent; the tried-and-true “lesser of two evils” jag. It is just damn rare for someone to articulate it as a campaign strategy. Hell, John Kerry and Mitt Romney ran on, “me or else”. Of course this worked out badly for them, but it’s not like they held press conferences talking like a tic-tac-toe X; “Play me to block!”

And just when you thought this nonsense couldn’t get more tragic, Cruz, now mathematically eliminated from a first-ballot contest, merely says, out loud (in campaign speeches, with people sitting in front of him, on television holding a microphone and everything), that “Sure, I can’t win, but neither can Trump if you vote for me. In fact, don’t even vote for me, vote for someone else in other states to prevent him from winning.”

It is so inspiring you can put music to it. The bumper sticker might be larger than normal, but it has a certain dramatic ring. Can’t you hear the women swooning and men fighting back the tears? I get chills writing this.

Okay, so Cruz is nuts, but I maintain he is not any crazier than your average politician. Granted, he may be a little crazier since he keep telling us he isn’t one. He’s like a salesman who begins his pitch by telling you he isn’t selling anything. Cruz is as political as they come. He will do or say anything to get elected. He reeks of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. For instance, early in the campaign his staff pulled a fast one on former sort-of candidate, Ben Carson by spreading false information to his voters during the Iowa caucuses that he had dropped out. When confronted about this at the following debate he had three ways to go; apologize, spin about false narratives, or lie. He chose lying. If you look at the campaigning and governing history of both Clinton and Nixon, they both had choices on several and varied occasions to handle their affairs, and in each case, they chose to lie.

But say what you want about the increasingly bizarre “I’m Not Him” strategy of Ted Cruz, what Ohio Governor John Kasich is running on is pure madness.

someone please tell me that the point and purpose of the presidential candidacy for Texas Senator Ted Cruz is not just “Vote for me, because I’m not Donald Trump”.

At least Cruz has managed to pull down a dozen states and a fair share of delegates, working his organization tirelessly within a hazy, backdoor system to gain the requisite votes to take this thing into an open convention come July. Kasich has won one state, his own, and gathered about ten delegates in the past six weeks. No one covers him. He never gets any traction. His argument from day-one has been, “I’m the adult, clear-thinking one.” I find this even less inspiring than the rousing “I’m No Him” scheme. Kasich doesn’t even care that he has less support than candidates who dropped out months ago. And he obviously doesn’t give a flying fart about his party, which will implode if somehow his fantasy of lying in the weeds to get the nomination on a sixth ballot comes true. No one really wants Cruz, but they really don’t want the damage John Kasich will inflict on the party now.

Kasich was the best candidate for the Republicans to defeat Hillary Clinton this past June. Now he looks like an establishment kook, who is just waiting for all this annoying surge voting to cease, so he and his cronies can get back to controlling the system. If Kasich is the nominee, Clinton could actually win southern states.

I’m not sure there was any point to Cruz or Kasich in the first place. Case in point: the goofy #NeverTrump alliance to join forces in their stirring “I’m Not Him” momentum. If either of them were truly principled or had a reason for anyone to vote for them, then how could they coalesce? Kasich is a centrist pro-government compromiser, everything Cruz claims to despise. And Kasich is actually running against the very concept of the agitator/non-compromising Cruz. It would seem by this move that these gentlemen would collude with the irrationally hated President Barrack Obama at this point if it meant there is the slimmest chance they could be in a position to be the nominee.

Apparently this nonsensical tactic backfired when neither campaign adhered to its incoherent messaging for more than a few hours; further illustrating all this pointlessness. Cruz could not stand abandoning futility completely, so he yanked poor Carly Fiorina into the fray in the hopes that Trump might once again blurt out another slice of misogynistic claptrap and scare people over to him.

This is what the year of Trump has wrought. Every campaign is about him, even the ones that claim to be alternatives. Before Trump, Cruz had it all planned. He was the “outsider” in a season of anger and resentment, and Kasich was the viable, electable candidate, who could stop the inevitability of corruptible Madam Shoo-In. Love him. Hate him. But Trump is real and his actual movement is happening. “Make America Great Again” is as vague and confusing as Trump himself, but at least it’s a slogan and an actual mission statement you can get behind or rail against. It’s not, “If I Can’t Play, I’m Making Up Another Game”.

If the Republican Party tries to stop this from happening, no matter what swinging dick is left to pick up the scraps, the whole mess will turn into #NeverGOP, making way for a Hillary Clinton landslide.

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