Aretha Franklin – 1942 – 2018

Aquarian Weekly
8/22/18

Tribute

James Campion

Aretha Franklin – 1942 – 2018

Recently on a podcast called Underwater Sunshine that I co-host with the lead singer and main songwriter for Counting Crows, Adam Duritz, we played a live version of Aretha Franklin singing her early 1970s composition, “Call Me” from a stunning box set, Don’t Fight The Feeling: Aretha Franklin & King Curtis Live at the Filmore West. Adam had suggested the song as part of a Road Songs theme because as a traveling performer he’s always related to its now antiquated idea of life away from friends, family and lovers, which meant communication was near impossible. In an era where everyone can be contacted at any point, this may be a difficult concept to understand. But after listening to the poignancy of Aretha’s phrasing and signature vocal elasticity, it was hard not to understand it. It is one of those things, listening to Aretha, you understand. She communicates the key element of a song in the most efficient way – as does Sinatra and Elvis and Billie Holiday, but Aretha is better than them, or not so much better as more emotive. Her instincts for inhabiting the quintessence of a song is incomparable. She is the storyteller, a translator of feeling. Yeah, after the song finished playing I whispered, “Holy shit, that is another species.” Adam laughed. We both just sighed. We understood.

And, as Adam pointed out, there isn’t a whole lot of lyrics in that song. Doesn’t matter. She is bringing the real, mining the song’s texture, and, by the way, doing it live, without a net – courageous and impervious to danger. It is quite a thrill to be out there with her, even for a few minutes, to listen to the band try and keep up, to create the musical equivalence of a nice landing spot where she will eventually drift down from the stratosphere.

No one could own a song like Aretha Franklin. Understanding this is only part of the revelation of listening to her.

In 1967 Aretha recorded a song co-written by the great Carole King, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. Structurally and lyrically, it is a masterpiece in soulful pride and expressive solemnity that eventually ended up on King’s groundbreaking 1971 release, Tapestry. Becoming the best-selling record by a woman artist ever until Whitney Houston’s 1985 debut topped it, it is one of the most personal statements of the singer-songwriter period. I love King’s version of it; she’s delivers such a wounded and beseeching performance. But it absolutely pales to Aretha’s reading, because, as a strong black woman, who had taken the slings and arrows the song connotes as a both an African American and a woman, she absorbs its essence and then funnels it into that searing timbre and mastery of octaves that slays you every time. It is as if there is no point to figure its implication beyond Aretha’s meaning, which, of course, you understood immediately and continue to understand 51 years after its release.

Now… “Respect”, which everyone who remembers Aretha in print this week will no doubt refer. It is quite simply the finest soul single ever recorded in a world that is chock full of them. In the same year that Aretha slayed “A Natural Woman” she took the distinct writing and phrasing style of one of the finest rhythm and blues singers in American song, Otis Redding, and turned his cultural defiance into her feminist anthem. What transformed the 25 year-old Aretha Franklin from a misused and wholly misunderstood torch singer by Columbia Records into the Queen of Soul is her legendary Atlantic Records sessions, which produced the transcendent I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You, the nucleus of which is found in this performance.

“Respect” is a tour de force in the art and majesty that was Aretha, as is the entire album and what eventually transpired in her years at Atlantic, which was cranking out music like this for a generation daily. She ran the studio like a master, sitting at its center, on piano, molding songs into down and dirty arias that rock and slither and take triumphant leaps into pathos and rapture. It is the pristine sound of America jammed through your speakers and into your bloodstream. Redding’s song does not spell out the title – as recognizable a break in a popular song as can possibly be imagined – never mind her arrangement of the backing vocals, an irresistible combination of show tune meets Chitlin’ Circuit. All that “Just a little bit…” and the “re-re-re-re-re-re-re-respect” and the syncopated brilliance of “Sock it to me…Sock it to me” is pure Aretha. “Respect” is a defining moment in popular song, when a good thing, even a great thing, becomes a standard, and the performer, an icon.

No one could own a song like Aretha Franklin. Understanding this is only part of the revelation of listening to her.

Then there is Aretha: Lady Soul.

Aretha Franklin’s 1968 masterwork, which cemented the whole thing forevermore, takes the bold promise of “Respect” and the album that surrounds it, and makes it stand. This is a distinctly American artist ushering the whole of the American experience back home, taking her craft beyond race and gender and style and genre to a place where anyone who attempts the artform of singing must embrace or get used to or become kin to or…understand. “A Natural Woman” ends up on Aretha: Lady Soul, but if you need to ever be lifted to some other plain, the opening track, “Chain of Fools” is your guide. It is the musical equivalent of GPS. Follow it. Trust it. Go there with her.

Listening to those Atlantic recordings is to hear a stellar, unique and indestructible artist in control. Aretha as Homer or Moses or Isis. When she’s done with her song, it is forever burned into your being. Hell, you take it with you. The say you can’t do such a thing, Aretha begs to differ.

Her natural instrument, that voice, the soul of it, not just the type of music, Soul, but the indefinable aspect of our humanity, would never fail her. She could, indeed, as I have often joked about with the supernatural Ella Fitzgerald, her jazz sister, sing the phone book and it would kick your ass. But it is in the tracks that make up those two albums in particular and a few that follow that paint the portrait of Aretha Franklin. This includes the unbridled and riveting spontaneity of Aretha in Paris – the way she impeccably leads the band, with a full horn section, is an insight into how she made those songs in the studio. It contains what I think is the best version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” outside of the Rolling Stones, as it lends some measure of r-e-s-p-e-c-t to Otis Redding’s dynamic late 1960s version that the Stones would eventually cop.

Just a week or so ago I was messing around with a version of “People Get Ready” on guitar, an elegiacal Curtis Mayfield song made first famous by his Impressions in 1965 and covered by nearly anyone who has carried a tune. While listening to alternative versions on YouTube, I stumbled on Aretha’s version. I stopped messing with it.

She owns that song. Like she owns everything she took a pass at.

One of the most distinct voices in the American experience is silenced.

Come to think of it, no it’s not. She left it, so take it with you.

Understand?

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SALINGER (THE CAT) 2006 – 2018

Aquarian Weekly
8/8/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SALINGER (THE CAT) 2006 – 2018

If you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.

– J.D. Salinger, Cather in the Rye

I’m not sure I’m buying that twice in my lifetime now a male, black cat of mine decided it no longer wanted to be and wandered off into the woods to cease living as some sort of bizarre coincidence. I see this as either a flaw in my make-up or in the general system I have found myself in. J.D. Salinger didn’t believe in randomness and I believe neither did his namesake, my late, great 12 year-old little man, Salinger. It’s been a couple of weeks now that he went missing. And this is not at all like Salinger, whose life was clockwork with a personality that was always caution-first. We never worried about him, until we did, and now he is gone. Long gone. And we will miss him. He was my boy, the one cat of the three that truly loved me. When he came in from a long day of mayhem I was his go-to. He checked in with daddy and I dug that. It is also right to point out as a matter of opening here that three of the cats that paid any kind of attention to me contracted some kind of thyroid condition that killed them before their times, Mr. Kitty, the black patriarch, Mazzy, the Queen of Vernon, and now Salinger.

A few words, this week, for Salinger, if I may. This will be the third feline eulogy that has found its way into this space over the past 21 years, which weirdly but poetically mirrors my time with my wife, Erin. We did lose a feral cat we took to naming Tom Cat last year, who after years of terrorizing our cats and eventually being the recipient of my Vegan-Super-Human-Animal-Lover wife and daughter’s considerable efforts to keep alive crawled into our basement to expire. But he did not rate this space. Salinger does. Because, unlike Mr. Kitty or Mazzy or even the mighty Gueem, I personally picked Salinger out from a bevy of shelter cats when he was the cutest little kitten – wide-eyed and frisky, a smattering of white on his chest like a priest collar, and this adorable penchant to jam his face into my chin, so I can feel his fangs on my skin. He kept following me around the place the entire time we were looking. So, I guess, in essence he picked me.

And he always, even on the last day I saw him, found a moment to walk his way onto my chest and give me that special Salinger kiss. It was cool. We kissed all the time. It was, for all intents and purposes our forbidden love, filled with inter-species, inter-racial, homosexual overtones that only we understood. His falling asleep on his back, legs akimbo, growling seductively might have added to our odd pairing, I admit, but a chin-jamming kiss by Salinger could make things all right most days. And when that wouldn’t do it he always knew the right time to curl up under my right arm to watch TV. It was one of my favorite things we did together. He would hop into bed and plop himself down in the crook of my arm and sit and watch the TV with me, occasionally looking up lovingly at me and then jam those fangs into my face, or sometimes biting my ear just a little, purring to beat the loudest band. His purring, especially at night, could rival The Who at Monterey – ear-splitting but beatific. Probably should have named him Townshend.

He was black. He was proud. He was a lover and a hunter.

The name? Yeah, Salinger. Just so happens when we got Salinger and his little sis, Sadie (two-for-one deal that my wife, of course, talked me into – little black cats jammed into a box together, licking each other and snuggling and biting and fighting and being a classic duo), I was on this J.D. Salinger kick. This happens every few years with me, but in 2006 it was pretty intense. My dear friend and master songwriter, scribe and painter, Dan Bern and I had plans to go up to New Hampshire and write about it. Not to bother the reclusive Salinger, but just hang around the little hamlet of Cornish and swing by his post office or where he got his coffee in the morning or where he might take his afternoon walks. You know, kind of gather in his spirit. We never made it. Naming Salinger kind of brought comfort to all that, even when the human Salinger died eight years ago those big eyes of his would look up at me and say, “Well dad, I’m still here, right?” That was nice.

It is also not coincidental that once Salinger stopped coming in from his long summer sojourns a few weeks back there appeared to both Erin and I to be something of a pep in the step of the local chipmunks. The frogs were hopping pleasantly. Birds that used to twitter and screech at the very sight of him sang songs of delight. Mice were giddy. For the Wicked Witch was indeed felled. Salinger, as much as the Vegan-Super-Human-Animal-Lovers adored and coddled him, murdered so much wildlife these past dozen years it is hard to fathom. He reached heights that would be the envy of jungle cats everywhere. He got his three-square a day, but this did not stop him from bringing in the odd mole or baby squirrel and gnawing insatiably on its mangled carcass at all hours of the night. How many times did we return from some activity to find live birds flying around the bedroom or a chipmunk frantically scurrying around the kitchen, courtesy of Salinger? He was a beast that terrorized for hundreds of yards on and around the property and deep into the woods and across the street along the lake. You could catch him at any hour of the day joyfully batting around some frightened and doomed creature. Carnage was Salinger’s game, and he was proud of it.

For years I would posit to my wife that if we were to suddenly shrink down to mouse-size the cats would eat us without hesitation. She would and still does make a veiled argument that they would recognize us and spare our hides. However, even she had to agree that there was little doubt what Salinger would do to any of us given half the chance. Whatever was left of the dozens of frogs I had to mercy kill over these past years would attest to this. He would smack us around until we died and then eat us whole, well, except for the heart and liver and whatever else that damn cat would leave for me to deal with some mornings.

But that is all in the past now. My little man is gone. My Salinger. Our Germs, German, Germie, or as my daughter, Scarlet liked to call him “Oh No!” because, well, any story about Salinger we would share would begin with an obligatory, “Oh, no!”

He was black. He was proud. He was a lover and a hunter. His meow late at night could take the paint off your walls and the coat of hair upon him was like silk.

Petting him honored my soul.

I miss him right now.

Fuck.

Good-bye Salinger.

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WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE PRESIDENT COMMITTED TREASON?

Aquarian Weekly
7/25/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE PRESIDENT COMMITTED TREASON?

Intelligence gathered by the FBI, CIA, and NSA, concludes with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.
– Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Report, January 5, 2018

I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.
– Donald J. Trump, Helsinki, Finland, July 15, 2018

Treason – The crime of betraying one’s country.

– Miriam-Websters Dictionary

Sometime in the afternoon of Monday, July 15, 2018 the president of the United States stood on a stage, mere feet from arguably the most dangerous and powerful international tyrant of the early 21st century, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and defended him against the entirety of his government’s intelligence community that has all the evidence needed to convict the Russian government of its ongoing cyber war against America. It was, even for this moronic stooge of a chief executive, a stunning achievement; he managed in a few sentences to betray the sovereignty of the nation he purports to lead on foreign soil while simultaneously acting like the weakest lapdog this nation has sent into any summit. Donald J. Trump, the 46th president of this republic boldly told the world without coercion – filled with the kind of icky compliments he saved for the other tyrant that suckered him last month, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – that Russian and Putin are now the big players on the world stage and the U.S. will gladly rubber stamp its aggression against its neighboring nations, its war crimes in Syria and the overt acts of war against us.

By its very definition, and coming from a president, these words amount to treason.

And in case that assertion might be consumed as columnist hyperbole, even the zombie-eyed Kool-Aid cultists who have defended every goofy thing Trump has done since he stumbled into 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue echoed similar rhetoric the minute he left that podium. Most of the state-run TV hosts at FOX News had a fit. Newt Gingrich…Newt Gingrich! The man who has a poster of a shirtless Trump hugging a money bag over his bed ripped him a new asshole. CIA, State Department and Homeland Security officials had to issue statements rebuking this craziness, and even heretofore frightened congressional Republicans took to the airwaves to decry him as some kind of capitulating traitor that looked guiltier now over all this collusion talk than ever before.

Of course, this major gaff meets crime in the continuing saga of the Trump era begs several interpretations, but to begin it is hard to ignore that this president has already been shadowed by the FBI in the summer of his campaign due to Russian ties and is currently under investigation by a special counsel on this very point. Even the man for whom he did backflips to ass-kiss buried him when Putin openly admitted in the same presser that he wanted no part of a Hillary Clinton presidency. She was, as she was as Secretary of State, going to lean hard on Putin’s shenanigans as Trump spent most of the campaign complimenting Putin and making excuses for his abysmal reign, and then followed this up for two years as president denying every fact, every arrest, and every piece of evidence that Russia was deeply invested and unprecedentedly manipulative of our democratic system.

The results of what Trump did can only be seen these ways; you choose: 1. Our president is a Russian special agent. 2. Trump is in Putin’s back pocket because he helped hand him the presidency. 3. The Russian government has a ton of evidence of Trump’s wildly analyzed and duly reported decades of illegal Russian business dealings and money laundering or the alleged photos of hookers pissing on him. 4. Trump is the stupidest person you have ever seen with absolutely no sense of self-preservation and literally makes up every sentence that bounds around his mostly empty cranium the millisecond it leaves his mouth or runs down his fingers into the sub-mental blather that make up his imbecilic tweets.

I vote for the last one.

Being an egotistical mouth-breather is no excuse for selling your country down the river on the world stage at the behest of a tyrant.

I do not think Trump has some Russian grand plan. Trump has no plan, grand or otherwise. This whole thing is just another reality show and PR campaign to make him feel loved by his dead father. The fact that he is using this nation to work through these issues doesn’t necessarily bother me, but it is getting tiresome. I truly believe he spends more time on manipulating that hair of his than anything to do with international intrigue. He knows we all think the Russians helped him and about half the people who had anything to do with him becoming president has/had Russian ties, and many of them have been arrested or indicted to this end. He is a megalomaniac who wants everyone to think he does everything by himself and only he can do it and everyone else is a stupid idiot. The narrative that Putin handed him the gig and controls his every move pisses him off – even the implication of it, quite apparently, as his years of angry tweets and endless comments; he actually spent part of the presser talking about Hillary Clinton and the electoral college. This whole thing sends him into a frothing rage. Also, his knee-jerk response to everything since the 1980s lets you know he gives no thought to what he is about to think or say, so yeah…it’s that.

However, being an egotistical mouth-breather is no excuse for selling your country down the river on the world stage at the behest of a tyrant.

Donald Trump committed treason. This is what the history books will record down through the centuries and this is what the tattered and embarrassed fallout for America will be after July 15, 2018.

Of course, once Trump returned from Finland he was confronted with this shitstorm and got some lackey to whip up a mea culpa, which he read in Clintonian splendor, a little bit of the Checkers Speech meets Reagonesque, “I don’t recall” trying on his best Manny Ramirez, “I really meant…” None of which anyone with a functioned cerebellum bought. So he predictably took to Twitter and went all Kanye West meets the teenage girl down the block and unleashed on everyone but himself. Blah blah blah, same Trump shit.

THEN…

Some enterprising people who still give a crap about this country noticed that in the same appearance the president let out (once again, self-inflicted wounds) that in his two-hour private Putin meeting with only interpreters in the room that the administration has still not framed for the American people, he was considering allowing an American citizen and former Russian Ambassador Michael McFaul to be interrogated by the Russian government.

Once again…shit storm. And then half-assed explanations from the press secretary, followed soon by a qualification that, um, no that ain’t happening – this after the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense told the press that there would be resignations in the face of such madness.

Somewhere in there another Russian agent, this time on American soil, was arrested for working with National Rifle Association to gain funds and enact espionage on Democratic candidates during the 2016 campaign.

THEN…

Without the knowledge of anyone in the United Stated government, you know, the people he chose to do these jobs framed in the Constitution, Trump announced he has invited Vladimir Putin to the White House. On live national television in the middle of an interview, Trump’s Director of National Intelligence heard the special announcement and did what amounts to a double-take before sitting silently for a good 30 seconds and stammering, “That should be something.”

By this morning, things are moving so fast for all I know Putin is sitting at Trump’s desk right now, the president is back to denying the Russians had anything to do with election meddling and to this date his administration has done absolutely nothing to prevent it from happening again this November.

So, where were you when the president of the United States committed treason? Then did it again? Then made flimsy excuses for it? Then denied he made excuses? Then reneged on the excuses? And then invited an enemy of the state to hang out in the people’s house?

I was here, at The Desk, where I have been for 20 years, and not since 9/11 have I had a column that had to be written as early in the week as this one.

Where were you?

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EXPLAINING “ROE v. WADE” IN THE AGE OF STUPID

Aquarian Weekly
7/11/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EXPLAINING “ROE v. WADE” IN THE AGE OF STUPID

Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will be retiring from the highest court in the land after three decades there is the very real possibility that the person the president chooses will be vehemently anti-abortion and therefore nearly every case some of the less-enlightened states have been trying to push up to the Supreme Court will find a sympathetic ear, making it harder for women to have control over their reproductive rights and even put into jeopardy the 1973 Court ruling of Roe v. Wade that is at the heart of the Religious Right movement and a precious resource for those who happen to own the equipment the government will then be allowed to control, namely women, which is why I am always baffled when women vote Republican, but that is a subject for another column.

This is about the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade and where it stands in the pantheon of decisions based on that little document which keep lunatics like Donald Trump from turning this whole shebang into his personal Atlantic City mob quest.

Speaking of our game show president, it will be his (gulp!) decision to replace Justice Kennedy for the next generation. And, to be kind, Trump’s choices of personnel have been woefully subpar. If we’re honest, which we have consistently tried to be here for two decades, his choices have been horrifyingly abysmal. Have you seen Donald Trump’s closest confident and lawyer lately? In custody. His campaign manager? In jail. His choice for the man to run the EPA had to finally quit after some 14 investigations, the head of Education is uneducated, there is a surgeon running HUD, the Secretary of State ran EXXON, and then there is Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, so you get the point. There is a very good chance if Trump is involved in making personnel decisions they will definitely be awful. Supreme Court? He’s already sent one ideologue there.

But take El Douche’s failings aside, and let’s concentrate on the wider religious conservative movement in this country since the 1980s – you could go back to Nixon’s Silent Majority and Southern Strategy, but I think that is under-cutting the influence of the Religious Right on the Reagan Administration and the puritanical return to dumbness which percolated during that decade – and what that has done to the political direction of the Right since then and its concentration on Roe v. Wade.

This has always been a major sticking point for what began this sort of mangled quasi-Christian thing called Evangelicals in the 1980s that made shitloads of cash for insipid mouth breathers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and their ilk, who for some weird reason (First Amendment mostly) were allowed to bring their voodoo shit into the vox populi, or the dumbing down of political discourse. Their witch-doctor influence was paramount in creating a mutated wing of the Republican Party that before was filled with mostly multi-issued economic voters. The legalization of abortion was to many of these people the culmination of the eroding of the nation’s moral center the minute they allowed Elvis Presley to shake his ass on network television in 1956.

The 1960s broke these people and by the 70s the Culture Wars were in full swing. The attempt to return the culture back to pre-Elvis-ass-shaking days fell to Ronald Reagan, who believed the Viet Nam War was a success and all the Shiny City on the Hill stuff that was co-opted by the mobilization of the Religious Right to stop things like the Equal Rights Amendment, convincing women that they would have to share bathrooms and work on a shipping dock if passed. And, of course, right smack in the middle of all this drug-addled, sexually depravity came Legal Abortion!

I have found no one who thinks the government should control your liver, brain, heart, stomach, so why the uterus?

How these frightened shut-ins mostly see abortion, and it turns out they are partly correct, is that it is a form of infanticide. And I get it, as I have family members and good friends who are (and I hate this word, because some of these people are hunters, pro-war and pro death penalty, so as a word-man I find these semantics foul) Pro-Life. However, despite my libertine bent (I believe all vices should be legal, as it is the bedrock of liberty promised by our little document and a key part of this human experiment called America) I feel for this argument. I am vehemently Pro-Choice, what Pro-Lifers like to call Pro-Abortion, but that is like saying someone who is all about the Second Amendment is Pro-Murder. It’s silly and falls into the category of stupid, and since we are smack in the middle of the Age of Stupid it is important to explain why I support the Roe v. Wade decision and why it is important to the foundation of our liberty and is the correct and sound decision by the Court and what many in the country (a majority of which support Roe v Wade – roughly six out of ten) believe.

Roe v. Wade is not about abortion, although it is the key result of the decision, it is about the government’s right to enter the bodies of tax paying citizens and control the results. God forbid you’re a victim of rape, you then have to carry the child of your rapist? What if your life is in danger, you roll the dice? This is the problem with asking, “What about the rights of the fetus?” That is not a thing, a fetus does not have rights. You know who does have rights? The woman carrying the fetus.

Forget abortion. What if the government decides that the pancreas is negatively affecting the national health? It can then, with no Roe v Wade president, order a national removal of the pancreas. This is not science fiction, it can happen. What if the government decides that there are too many people on this continent? National crisis! You know how many liberties we’ve surrendered because of those two words? The food supplies are low, like in China back when they instituted its draconian law of one child per family, which resulted in forced abortions and the murder of thousands of female babies because, shit we need a boy to keep the family name going. The government will then have the right to make a law that forces people to have only one child and that through the eradication of Roe v. Wade ironically gives it the right to command forced abortions. Again, it is possible, because Roe v. Wade is not about abortion, it is about the government controlling the human body.

Nobody, no matter what political stance you support, thinks this is a good idea. I have found no one who thinks the government should control your liver, brain, heart, stomach, so why the uterus?

This is what happens when you allow people to use the Bible to control our laws. My favorite is the Ten Commandments, which states that merely coveting things is a sin, thus illegal (religious crazy people’s interpretation). It is not the basis of law. It is religion, and it should be separated from the state as the founders intended. The law should protect the citizen, whose rights are provided by the Constitution, not a religious document. This is why there is no slavery or women vote, because some enterprising soul chucked the Bible nonsense and went with citizen rights. Roe v. Wade protects citizen rights. Period. I am for that, not abortions or the rest of it. Rights. Citizens.

Ignorance of what was behind the Roe v Wade decision is what should disturb clear-thinking Americans who cherish liberty. But ignorance is kind of in now, and this is why so many Evangelicals continue to support easily the most immoral fucker we’ve elected president since the Civil War.

But this space is about fighting ignorance, so there’s that.

Citizen.

Rights.

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THE KIM JONG-UN SHOW

Aquarian Weekly
6/20/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE KIM JONG-UN SHOW
When Two Ego-Mad Lunatics Masturbate on Official Documents & a U.S. President Praises a Murderous Thug

One thing I’ll say for Donald J. Trump as president, he really does outdo his idiocy on historical levels.

For the first time in over a half century a North Korean leader meets with a U.S president and it is one of the most flaccid, useless, innocuous occurrences in the grandest tradition of phot-op, international politics. Nothing was officially decided, as two tyrannical goofballs whose relationship with anything resembling truth is a kind of rhetorical hide-and-seek anyway, told each other a bunch of stuff and then signed a paper saying they told each other a bunch of stuff.

Nothing is binding. Nothing is permanent or specific. No one has to do anything said or signed. There are no consequences or concessions ratified by either of these men’s governments. Either of them, who have made reneging on deals a religious art form, can walk away from this right now as I write this. Of course those who worship these dinks celebrate and those who despise them complain, while people paying attention to detail wonder what the fuck just transpired.

Enter Reality Check.

First off, I support any weirdly constructed attempt to stop human annihilation. This is why I supported the new way in which the Barack Obama administration dealt with Iran in their nuclear deal, which had way more teeth than this farce and was mocked openly and then trashed by the same guy who signed on with one of the worst murdering, human rights monsters on the planet. Shit, even those who mock Neville Chamberlain’s Munich capitulation to Adolf Hitler in 1938 understand he did it to “keep the peace”, which was all the rave in discussing what went down when Kim Jong-un met with Trump in Singapore this past week. “Stopping the war games” as our game show president couched it, mirroring in many ways major “agreements” with this family dynasty over the past three administrations that started out with lots of promises and “good will” and ended up with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a crazy man threatening the U.S.

I should say at this juncture it is merely an opening salvo, but nonetheless a one-sided one. Jong-un was the winner here – not North Korea or South Korea or America or the Asia as a whole. He is still very much the same Jong-un, a maniac who slaughters and jails his people and murders Americans and members of his own family and children etc, and is still sitting on tons of weaponry, of which he expressed only the desire to end all of that with, again, no specifics or dates/deadlines or agreeing to inspectors or really any concessions beyond, “Sure, let’s give this a try”, which rings as hollow as whatever Hitler told Chamberlain to continue to carve up Europe.

What has changed is Jung-un’s perception in the West and in China, which is what he wanted. Sitting next to the leader of the free world and historically shaking his hand is a bigger deal for an ostracized tyrant, who is deep in sanctions and surrounded by enemies within and without, than it is for an American president, who has nothing to gain by sitting with this loon beyond a hollow political “win” and the low-bar prospect that he is so insane that the two of these men mere months ago were dick-fighting with millions of lives at stake.

So what we’re celebrating, if that is what is happening, is that there wasn’t the egotistical massacre of innocents by two rich kids who woke up on third and think they hit a triple or as the New Republic nailed it: “Nepotism Solidarity” telling each other whatever they wanted to hear to claim victory.

It is also important, though, to point out that while being constantly compared to Hitler, Bush II and Obama and now Trump are not, but you know who is a good one for this name-calling? Kim Jong-un. And if in 1938 American flags were touching up against Swastika flags like what happened in Singapore last week, probably 80 to 85 percent of Americans would not have minded, as many in this country hardly blinked. In fact, that was about the percentage of Americans interested in getting involved in “Hitler’s war” in the summer of 1941 until that December when the Japanese re-introduced us to world politics. But all of that is in our review mirror and to see that pomp paraded before the world cameras made me a tad queasy, but what was truly sickening was the outpouring of ass-kissing our president bestowed on this North Korean Hitler that is hard for even me to comprehend.

Nothing was officially decided, as two tyrannical goofballs … told each other a bunch of stuff and then signed a paper saying they told each other a bunch of stuff.

Despite working for peace or during war time – cold or otherwise – never did FDR publicly condone personally or ideologically Stalin nor did Reagan of Gorbachev, and neither did Obama when dealing with Iranian leaders. This was queer, eerie and painful stuff when considering Trump never had to go this far. Why would he say these things? And repeat them over and over on American television. It is pure madness.

For a fun exercise let’s put up Jung-un’s crimes next to Trump’s praise of him.

Come on, it’s hilariously horrifying:

Millions of North Koreans have died from forced starvations to keep people in line with the draconian 300-page Commission of Inquiry that “operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience” to Mr. Kim.

Trump to Seann Hannity on June 12: “He’s got a very good personality, he’s funny, and he’s very, very smart. He’s a great negotiator, and he’s a very strategic kind of a guy. We got along very well from the very beginning. I think we understand each other.”

Since Mr. Kim assumed power in 2011, taking over from his father, Kim Jong-il, he has consolidated his power through executions. In the first six years as leader, he has ordered the executions of at least 340 people, according to the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank arm of the National Intelligence Service. In 2016, Kim Yong-jin, the deputy premier for education, was killed in front of a firing squad after showing “disrespectful posture” in a meeting. Hyon Yong-chol, a general over the armed forces, fell asleep in a meeting. He was executed with an antiaircraft gun.

Trump to Brett Baier on June 13: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have – if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 could do that.”

Up to 120,000 inmates were in the country’s four major political prisons in 2014 and were subjected to gruesome conditions, according to the United Nations report. Prisoners are starved, forced to work, tortured and raped. Reproductive rights are denied through forced abortions and infanticide. Some are executed — sometimes in public. Hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died in the camps over the past 50 years, the United Nations report found.

Trump to ABC News on June 12: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

Rape and other forms of torture, beatings and brutal interrogations are common for people whose alleged crimes might have been nothing more than falling asleep at a political event or playing foreign music. Mothers were in some cases reportedly forced to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants.

Trump to Fox and Friends, June 15: “Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Um…what?

And on and on it goes…still. It is quite exhausting how this man goes out of his way to put Kim Jung-un on a pedestal.

Why?

For apparently nothing, or close to nothing or…to find the low-bar…keep an Asia peninsula from annihilation.

This is now the foreign policy of the United States of America.

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THE LOST CHILDREN OF AMERICA

Aquarian Weekly
6/13/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE LOST CHILDREN OF AMERICA
U.S. Border Stations Overrun by Our New National Sin

It is June of 2018 in the United States of America. Right now 550 children have been stripped from their parents and are being detained in over-crowded border stations funded by your tax dollars. Three hundred of these children are in custody for over the 72-hour period allowed by law. They are being held against their will away from their family. Held in a de facto concentration camp. This is happening now. June, 2018. Here in the United States. Children. Detention Camps.

These are children of refugees seeking asylum. They have not been convicted of any crime – they have just been charged, and most have the valid defense that they are legitimately fleeing persecution. Seeking asylum at our borders is a legal right protected under U.S. law.

But law is a tricky thing for this present administration.

Who is good with this?

The United States federal government has demanded by writ of a “no tolerance” policy – another haphazardly thrown together tyrannical baby-tantrum by our game show president, echoed by his damaged and bleating troll of an attorney general and enacted by the puppets of this jack-booted regime. In a horrifying scene reminiscent of the mass exodus of Native Americans from their land during the 1830 Indian Removal Act signed by the monster on our twenty-dollar bill (Donald Trump’s hero), President Andrew Jackson, the Customs and Border Protection agents have been running out of space to shelter the hundreds of migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the United States border.

I am also reminded of another of Trump’s heroes, Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Operation Wetback, a truly ignominious slice of Americana enacted on Mexican Americans in 1954, which stunningly the current president of the United States heralded during several Republican debates. Or how about Franklin Roosevelt’s Japanese relocation camps?

Shall we go on?

Refugee children being ripped from parents and detained with our money. You are paying for this. Let it sink in.

Regardless of how you fall on this politically or ideologically or even (gulp!) morally, this is not how this whole concept of America is supposed to go, even when duly considering its ugly, petty, racist, violent past. This is 2018 and it is disgusting, embarrassing and pathetic.

This, I guess, is what all the hoopla surrounding the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison camp was about for the past seventeen years. My take has always been that once you practice in terrorism you then hand in your society ticket. But what exactly did these children do but be born?

Fun Fact: The idiots who support this are the same ones who cannot stop telling women what to do with their bodies to save “unborn children”, while these already fully-formed children apparently don’t count.

Even the original plan for housing the children; keeping them in custody at U.S. border stations, and eventually military bases or detention facilities away from their parents, is so patently abhorrent it is hard to believe we can muster the anger to be pissed about some weird, self-absorbed hissy fit this child president conjured this week to keep professional black athletes from the White House for having the audacity to protest the systemic murder of innocents. This nonsense was all the rage this week, and more stuff about how whatever is left of Rudy Giuliani’s sanity, drowning out children being detained away from their parents at the border on our dime.

This has become Mr. Trump’s Iraq. Now we have, instead of U.S. Marines acting as traffic cops and relocation directors, Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement officers acting as babysitters. They are neither trained nor equipped for caring for in many cases mere toddlers. That’s correct, I’m writing this right now; toddlers are alone, being cared for by strangers with no experience in this.

All of this might not be the sexiest news, but it will soon be history. This generation will have to remember this and it will be another sad chapter in our long putrid story of lunatics besmirching the very flag and institutions this joke president and his cabal spend all their hot air defending.

It is during these times when Twain’s “we get the leaders we deserve” axiom comes home for me. This is our country now. This is where we have sunk. Refugee children being ripped from parents and detained with our money. You are paying for this. Let it sink in. You work, they take part of your earnings, and then enact this egregious shit. You and me, we own this. It is ours.

Does this feel right to you?

The actions of this banana republic, this soulless, mean-spirited machine is our current legacy. I ask, and the answer may be yes, and for that, I cannot argue; but is any of this acceptable to you?

Children.

Detainment camps.

June of 2018 in the United States of America.

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THE UNITED TRUMP OF TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
6/6/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE UNITED TRUMP OF TRUMP
All of a Sudden We’re Citizens of Trump Enterprises

Not sure if you’ve noticed but the current president of the United States has been using his post as a personal vendetta machine. He has also begun very haphazardly to drag the country into a mid-80s Trump business model known to insiders as the “Atlantic City Kamikaze”. This is when all of his fabricated bravado and complete disregard for anything resembling rationality crumbles beneath the weight of his transcendent bullshit. To those who were suckered into voting for this idiot the signs may look like a cornered animal or a man showing signs of descending into madness. Those who ignore this will see him as a champion of something or other or whatever they tell themselves to make excuses for what is turning into a car wreck of a presidency. Either way it is happening and to bear witness is a fine thing. Historians will marvel that we made it through it all. But we will. Because we are Americans. We have survived worse. Not as stupid, mind you, but worse.

Although that last sentence is getting harder to write as the days mount in the political abortion Trump is performing on this nation.

I was moved last week to point out this kamikaze routine taking the government into some half-bent form of a banana republic. The greatest example, among many, is Trump’s continued threatening of the justice department and the rule of law. Last week members of congress, most pointedly his puppet, Devin Nunez of California, who purportedly recused himself from the farcical “intelligence committee investigation” for running under the cover of night to the White House in March of last year to brief the president on evidence, met with Trump and justice department heads to mull over (get this) even more evidence.

Let me write this out clearly: Trump feels the need to use his executive power to control a national security investigation, of which he is an ongoing suspect.

What kind of goofy dictatorship does Trump think he’s running?

He presumes, as was expected, that the United States has been transformed by his magnetic personality into Trump Enterprises, and that all must flow through him. And in a way it is kind of what he told everyone he would do if we were dumb and desperate enough to put him in charge and yet people who claim to love the concept of America (whatever the hell that is, they seem to know, they’re always shouting it in cute chants and making songs about it) and still voted for him have to endure the fact that his very presence is a mockery of the whole goddamn thing.

Recently Trump bemoaned the rigors of the U.S. Constitution as a weird albatross, not unlike Manhattan zoning laws or women’s rights, a bland document that’s just getting in the way of his greatness. He believes, as he believes in the infallibility of his mentor Vladimir Putin, that the Russian form of government is superior to all these annoying parameters he’s forced to endure. Putin gets to do what he wants, why can’t he?

This is why half the White House staff contradicts his tweets daily and there are meetings with foreign leaders planned, then cancelled, then planned, then changed. This is why half the state department is missing. This is why he continues to feel no heat over bitching that his attorney general should have “protected him” and the director of the FBI should have taken a “loyalty oath”.

We are Americans. We have survived worse. Not as stupid, mind you, but worse.

In a way, Trump is turning into King George III. He has not lost his nut, he is merely expressing his need to rule completely and fuck-all about anything else. And I love when he holds his Nuremberg-esque rallies and stands there with his jaw out with a grimace and asks the great unwashed if he is right about all this and they cheer like bleating goats.

Those who defend Trump’s bull-in-China-shop machinations believe his actions against the highest law offices in the land and his own justice department are somehow justified because he keeps calling the massive investigation he himself launched due to his “What me worry?” kamikaze stylings a “witch hunt”, even though he fired the man investigating him and then went on NBC to tell everyone it was because of the Russia investigation – something he now predictably and laughably denies. This, not some left-wing cabal, is what led to a special counsel. Just like the FBI telling Trump and his campaign staff in August, 2016 that the Russians were interacting with ancillary figures around his campaign, which led to a planted informant that Trump now calls “Spygate”, because some half-witted rodeo clown on FOX News made it up to sell Emergency Alert Bracelets to its elderly viewers.

But how do they explain his plans on pardoning “obstruction of justice” clarions like Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart, because his sacked FBI Director James Comey, who just wrote a book making Trump look like a foul-mouthed fascist paranoiac, put them in jail?

How do they explain his imbecilic war on Amazon, and more specifically its founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos?

Bezos is everything Trump is not. A truly successful business mogul. He has foresight and can communicate ideas above a fifth-grade level. His anger is in check. He does not brag about abusing women or agreeing with Howard Stern that his daughter is “a piece of ass”. He has never been sued and paid out millions for fraud and has not endured several bankruptcies. His baby, Amazon, is arguably the greatest single economic shape-shifter since the cotton gin. It is not the ashes of the USFL, another Trump kamikaze move, or whatever the fuck Trump University was. So Trump hates him. He also hates that he owns the Washington Post, which has does its finest work in four decades using eager White House sources and incredible investigative journalism to uncover the criminal charade Trumps’ cronies are perpetuating on this republic.

Trump bellows hard and loud about Amazon ripping Americans off through the U.S. Post Office, when in reality it is enterprises like Amazon that keep the USPS off life support.

Take Trump’s “Mexico pays for the wall” nonsense that was as silly as those who believed it and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto laughing in his face and extrapolate that out to this completely moronic and dangerous trade war no one with any idea how economics works thinks is remotely a good idea.

Trump doesn’t “like” the WTO, so he ignores it. Trump doesn’t like the Iran Nuclear Deal because it was Barack Obama’s idea, so even though he shows a spectacular inability to understand a scintilla of it, he bags it.

There are too many of these Trump vendettas to cover in a mere one-thousand or so words. Every day there is some bizarre shit our president thinks is owed to him on our account. He is his own granny state of wining, foot-stomping immaturity. And damn if we didn’t give this game show host the keys to the kingdom.

America is just another piece of gaudy property Trump is turning into a sinking Atlantic City casino boondoggle.

God bless that.

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THE FIGHT TO LEGALIZE WEED IN NJ CONTINUES

Aquarian Weekly
5/30/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE FIGHT TO LEGALIZE WEED IN NJ CONTINUES

There’s no reason to believe we can’t get there. This is not a rolling-off-the-log one, though. This is not one you get overnight. This takes time. We’re in that process right now.
– NJ Governor Phil Murphy, NJ 2019 Budget Address, May 8, 2018

Unlike the clown boy we have in the White House who is doing his illegal best to turn this damaged nation into a full-blown banana republic, we here in NJ hold our officials to a higher standard. Actually, we don’t. This place is a cesspool and has been for decades. The last guy here, you know, Chris Christie, was so spectacularly corrupt his record-low polling became legend. It led to the successful run by uber-progressive, Phil Murphy. As stated by Mr. Murphy throughout his campaign, the linchpin/cornerstone/foundation of his economic agenda and outlook for the Garden State leaned heavily on the rightful legalization of marijuana for sale, growth, and industry. The American way. Private sector growth and ingenuity free from government intercedence (especially this draconian federal government – that’s right Jeff Sessions, we mean you).

In other words: Don’t Tread on Us!

And while it is true that Murphy surfed into office on an anti-Trump wave last November, a wave growing by the month, the results of which will be evident this fall or not – we’ll see – there was no doubt his forward-thinking and fresh take on this issue was key to the resurgence of this state. It certainly was key to this space’s rousing endorsement of Mr. Murphy. This came, of course, with a caveat: Murphy had to get on this. Has it happened yet? Nope.

As I write this, Murphy’s party has total dominance in the state legislature, a body that had already drafted a bill to legalize marijuana when Christie was still limping around Trenton trying to avoid tomatoes being thrown at him by wandering urchins, which was duly supported by our new governor, who, once again, stomped to victory.

But it has been over the requisite 100 days – a mark that is common for government executives – of this administration and we have seen nothing but muckraking, filibustering, the usual religious, voodoo science and morality cries against legalization. This is the kind of cheap political nonsense that kept slavery alive for well over a century, massacred, then “relocated” native Americans, kept women from voting for 140 years, battled against civil rights, marriage equality, and on and on. It should be beyond our scope in the 21st century. This is not Alabama or anywhere near the god-forsaken South. This is New Jersey. Enough of this shit. Let’s get down to brass tacks and stop acting like it’s 1888, despite the old-fart, stuck in the 19th century national administration run by a guy who should be on a porch screaming at kids to get off his lawn.

Prohibition never works. Never will.

Based on several April polls conducted by NJ.com, half the citizens of our weird state are in favor of legalizing weed. And these are people over 45. People under that and especially people under 40 – in other words the future of this country, not fossils like this bleating troll of an attorney general, Jefferson Sessions, who is so goddamn out of it he still thinks Reefer Madness is a documentary and considers “high-tea” a code for shooting up, support this measure. Also, six out of ten NJ residents believe (and they are very correct) that bringing a new industry into the state will not only help with infrastructure (have you seen some of these byways around here?) and assist in funding schools and valued civil servants like firemen and police, etc.

And this is a majority. Murphy won with 55 percent of the vote. The current president of the U.S. didn’t get 50 percent of the electorate and he was duly slaughtered in the raw democratic vote by a woman who was generally despised. We have a true executive here. Not some also-ran pulled in by frightened steel worker union types. This is what democracy has wrought. Murphy has a mandate. Let’s get to it.

A few months back, I published a list of your representatives and their phone numbers for those like-minded free-thinkers and true free-market champions to pepper them with reason. That time has passed. It is time to begin to berate and cajole. We pay their salaries and it is time they begin to understand this, and to also understand one key element of what has changed around here in the past month.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court correctly lifted an imbecilic ban on sport book in this country – another in a long line of ridiculous Judeo-Christian edicts on “sin” versus “law”, as if nine-tenths of nearly everything humans do for money or sport is not a sin. Sin is how you make a buck and keep the trains rolling, move merchandise and get along. Again, if we were to base everything on morality we would have no business in this country, or really a country. Come on. Gambling, like recreational drugs – booze, coffee, etc –and even killing machines like guns – is big business. Where is the morality there? It is not there. So shove it.

What was the highest court in the land’s argument for legalizing the betting on sporting events nationwide? It’s kind of crazy to allow one state the right to supply something to its citizenry and another a different set of criteria, or as Justice Samuel Alito reasoned:
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”

The key word there is “regulate”. Now apparently those who oppose the legalization are also the same ones who are anti-regulation. The EPA currently is a gutted joke run by a corrupt psychopath who believes the entire operation has less to do with the government preventing dangerous attacks on our environment and the general health than it is to get him swanky hotel rooms and free jet rides. So don’t give me any of your regulatory nonsense. Congress shall make no laws infringing upon our freedom. State rights! All that shit. Whatever hook you want to hang your tired ideology on it is time to couple the plant with the wager. There is no difference. Get off your high (pun intended) horse and dig on the reality of this.

I am not sure I can write anything more on the details of this. It is all out there. Some of our legislators have reportedly checked out the industry of what has turned Colorado’s economy around and they are starting to waver, because money makes the world go ‘round and because marijuana is less harmful to the human body and mind than alcohol, so it is time to stop pretending we’re God, or whatever, and begin to see clearly the path that is open to us. Let the Volstead Act, a crazy attempt at morally adjudicating our behavior, be your guide. Prohibition never works. Never will. Like supply-side economics and leech bloodletting.

This is the last time I shall persuade Mr. Murphy to come through with his campaign promise. This ain’t no mythical wall some real estate game show host made up because daddy didn’t love him. This is sound policy and I expect the governor to find a way to make it happen. The next words that come from here will be filled with vitriol and rage and the excuses will not be tolerated, nor should they by you.

Get to work.

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TOM WOLFE – 1930 – 2018

Aquarian Weekly
5/23/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TOM WOLFE – 1930 – 2018

Tom Wolfe was a novelist in journalist’s clothes – included with his signature white suits and cane and top hat and matching shoes and all the rest. This is what people in the know will tell you. But I wholly disagree with this. I believe it was the opposite. He was a journalist first. Even in his best fiction, which for me pales in comparison to his best journalism, you will find more than traces of a man living comfortably in the Who What When Where and Why. He wrote nine non-fiction books from 1965 to 1981, all of them uniquely coddled with a style that rang bells and hit marks, sort of a bizarre combination of rousing endorsement and stinging rebuke on the form without compromise. It was art, man. And that is coming from someone who has spent decades of comparing this “spooky art” – as Norman Mailer put it – to craft. But Wolfe was indeed an artist, because he meant to be. And that’s where it comes down to it for those of us who were fueled on that stuff and chose this course for our own level of scribe-dom.

These observations could also apply to Mark Twain and Ernest Hemmingway, two of the most important voices in the emergence of uniquely American letters, both of whom were journalists (Hemmingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises is a pure work of journalism and he never denied it). And like them here is also what needs to be written about Tom Wolfe: The environments in which his work was created would not be the same or have the same resonance without Wolfe’s talent to frame them, which was significant and relentless, and if there is a finer more poignant or even goddamn honest thing you can say about a writer of true stories than I have yet to hear or read it.

In fact, I would say his New Journalism, a term he coined, wrote diligently towards and acted as its curator for decades, was a thing to behold. It became for me and a whole generation of gestating authors more important than fiction because it is as George McGovern’s Campaign Strategist Frank Mankiewicz opined on Hunter S. Thompson’s “coverage” of events in 1972, “the most accurate and least factual account” of things possible. Thompson later mused in his brilliant Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 that objective journalism has failed us. It is what eventually landed a monster like Richard Nixon in the White House, a lesson we had to apparently learn again nearly half a century later.

Wolfe understood this better than all of his contemporaries; Norman Mailer, Gay Telese, Terry Southern, Joan Didion, and George Plimpton, all of them in one way or another guideposts that gave voice to this space in the manner in which all of it goes down. This is because Tom Wolfe stood on the high ground, took a moment to look down after a long breath and put the damn thing into perspective. What was happening to the craft? He needed to know. Mailer didn’t. Thompson didn’t. Joan kind of wanted to know but she knew that by asking was to take on too much lifting.

But that was long after Wolfe took his first gig at the Herald Tribune a few months before I entered the human race proper in 1962. The Herald hired bright, uber-pretentious seekers then; setting the paper apart from the rest of the steaming crap that boiled up from the subway grates in NYC in the post-war grit of Charles Foster Kane’s “Declaration of Principles”. These were rooms filled with terrible marauders and dime-store lede-driven tacticians that needed the kid to bring the new form. What would that be? Did Truman Capote know when he took that train to Kansas and wrote about wayward drifters who slaughtered a family for a few bucks that was never there? Many said In Cold Blood was the first “novel as fiction”, others, and Mailer would be one of those, would point to his Armies of the Night, which is a princely piece of vitriol that would reverberate from the 1955 founding of the Village Voice in the corner of the White Horse Tavern after too much drinking and way too much revolutionary thought.

It was his multi-layered command of the language that made him twist it like Picasso’s brush.

Be that as it may, I came to Wolfe around the time of Mailer’s breakout through George Plimpton. In the autumn of 1968, my dad took me to see the film Paper Lion in a theater in the bustling Parkchester section of the North Bronx. Not long after, maybe before middle-school, I would read the book. But it was Alan Alda’s depiction of the skinny intellectual trying to make sense of pro football by being a pro football player that had given me my own perspective on what it meant to be a storyteller. It was Plimpton’s work with the Paris Review that then led me to a Wolfe interview in which he revealed methods of combing taped interviews and observations to paint larger pictures of the craft that would have me devouring The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby before long. I would eventually find my way to his kinetic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test after getting abducted by Ken Kesey’s fever-dream opus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a high school literary class and I knew that if I could or would make the words work; to heel and parry and spin and dance, it would have to be this way.

You see, I got Wolfe right away. This his Wolfe’s gift. He did not mess around. It was his multi-layered command of the language that made him twist it like Picasso’s brush. He could coin “Radical Chic” as easily as the “Me Decade” and it all made sense. It was the way in which he provided clarity to his subjects and gave them meaning. This is what is at the heart, if not a veiled comparison, of my first published book, Deep Tank Jersey – One Man’s Journey into the Heart of a New Jersey Club Band. And although the book reeks of Jack Kerouac and much of the journalism I had studied to get to where that book ends up, it is Wolfe who informs it. It would not have gotten off the ground if not for Wolfe and his New Journalism or the idea of it. It is the ideas that come through and that make us want to read it and to eventually write it because it has to be written, like art.

Like Tom Wolfe.

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IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME…IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME!

Aquarian Weekly
5/2/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME…IT’S UNCLE RUDY TIME!
(Sung to The Tune of the “Howdy Doody” Theme)

As I have written dozens of times in this space over the span of these 20 years, Rudolf William Louis Giuliani is by far the best politician of my lifetime, certainly in the time I have covered politics. He said if he were elected mayor he would clean up the cesspool of violence, crime and degradation that was New York City, bring back businesses and all that. He was elected in 1993 and he did. I was there the night he defeated David Dinkins; crammed into the New York Hilton on Sixth Avenue across from the Ziegfeld Theater around two in the morning, the returns rolling in slowly, and then it was over. Giuliani, looking haggard but defiant with his 50.7 percent of the vote, said the usual shit about law and order, as those of us in press row laughed. Oh, how we laughed. Clean up New York City?

Back then Donald Trump was a whore real estate junkie, and also a Democrat. His only stumble into politics was his full page Daily News ad calling for the hanging of the Central Park Five, all of whom were eventually found not guilty for raping a woman in 1989. It seemed like a pathetically transparent grandstand by another vacuous celebrity who knew nothing about the facts but needed to “weigh in”, a kneejerk reaction that he thought would play well as the tough guy to whatever suckers he was trying to roll somewhere on the island of Manhattan. In other words, Classic Donald Trump.

Back then Giuliani was the voice of the law in the most powerful legal team in the nexus of American street justice in the Southern District of New York, busting Wall St. fraud and mobsters. He was fond of referring to The Donald, as we called him back then, as a “two-bit hustler” around the main office building downtown. He said it more than once to one of his rising stars, James Comey, because Uncle Rudy (as I started dubbing him eventually) had no use for Donald Trump and lord knows any officer of the law busting money men for fraud was no ally of Trump’s.

But in 2016, there was no one more vociferous cheerleader for Donald Trump’s campaign for president than Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11, America’s Mayor and a FOX News regular. No one could figure it out. Everyone in the know had a ton of stories of Giuliani openly mocking Trump as far back as when Uncle Rudy pulled out of a race against Hillary Clinton for NY Senate in 2000, when Trump dumped millions into a winning Clinton campaign. Four years later, the Clintons would be there to celebrate Trumps’ third marriage.

Even when Trump was reeling from the Access Hollywood tape a month before Election Day, Giuliani ran to any microphone he could find – one of the great quips of the 1990s around the press corps for years was “The most dangerous place in New York is between Rudy Giuliani and a hot mic” – to defend the candidate. He then began showing up to Trump’s rabid rallies, firing up the crowd with demented, almost fascistic nonsense that many considered the final nails in the credibility of a man who once spent $3.6 million to gather one delegate for an ill-fated run for president in 2008.

It was, in the end, vengeance for Uncle Rudy, who despised Hillary Clinton more than he could stomach standing next to Trump, who he knew was a corrupt liberal phony, who would likely destroy the Republican Party before he would get a niff at the White House. Clinton, as Uncle Rudy recalls it, mocked his pulling out of the 2000 rumble for senate because of health reasons as some kind of wimpy slink away. He did not forget it and he went hard after her, accusing her of every known crime since the dawn of civilization.

And then Giuliani did something quite interesting. He went on FOX News and started telling everyone that he had it cold from deep sources inside the FBI that the Hillary email stuff was not over. “Big news,” he grinned like the Cheshire Cat a day or so before his old buddy, James Comey re-opened the investigation publicly and to this day is cited (wrongly, mind you) in the half-assed liberal excuse-mill as the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton. However, it was another appearance on the goofy “news’ channel that eventually alerted the FBI that something funky was going on within the Trump campaign and Wikileaks and the Russian government when Giuliani again promised more bad news for his enemy. He knew, he said, that the Russians had Clinton emails and soon they will be released.

What he has to do now may be tougher; keep himself and the president of the United States out of deep shit.

Trump, for his part, went on television that night and begged the Russian government to steal more Clinton emails. This, and not the alleged dossier and all the other Trump excuse-mill crap, was what put the tail on Trump that consequently led to Comey’s firing, the recusal of the Attorney General on the Russia case and the appointment of the special counsel.

James Comey, you may have heard, has laid this entire timeline out in his new book that doesn’t need any further publicity – if I see Comey’s mug on my TV again I may throw up. Suffice to say, within days of the Comey run on all-things media, Giuliani decided to “get involved”. He is now part of the crumbling, bumbling, completely ineffectual Trump Legal Team that has been unable to control its client. And there really isn’t any reason to ask why.

Before the Comey book release, Trump’s private lawyer, Michael Cohen, who has been his “fixer” for decades, was raided and picked up by the FBI with, allegedly reams of material that no one with half a brain doesn’t think is loaded with criminal activity, suddenly tossing a critical part of this investigation into the Southern District of New York, Uncle Rudy’s old stomping grounds.

Giuliani, a man who lived on the edge of the organized crime and Wall St. cartels knows when someone is about to cough it up. And it will not go down with his name attached to it. Because that is exactly what is transpiring, and all that talk about how supportive America’s Mayor was in 2016 is about to go out the window. Hillary Clinton is in the rearview mirror and the only thing keeping Giuliani out of this investigation is his contacts and his moxie, which he will use with every last breath.

And then, with Shakespearean type tragedy, Donald Trump put in a call to his favorite FOX morning show and went on a non sequitur rant to beat all of them for 30 uninterrupted minutes of what can only be described as abject lunacy, no less than eight times implicating himself in several open cases and contradicting Cohen’s lawyers’ plea to keep the cache of documents and emails that may implicate the president in dozens of crimes out of the government’s hands.

Rudy Giuliani is a quarter century older than he was that early morning in 1993 when he set forth to become what I still believe is one of the most impressive jobs in the history of governance. But what he has to do now may be tougher; keep himself and the president of the United States out of deep shit.

Good luck.

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