GUNS: MONEY, POLITICS & HYPERBOLE

Aquarian Weekly

1/13/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GUNS: MONEY, POLITICS & HYPERBOLE

If my December 9 column, MASS SHOOTING IN SAN BERNADINO, or as it is better known among the faithful, “Blah, blah, blah…” is any indication, I, nor anyone else have anything new or particularly salient to say about guns and violence in this country. I have written at least fifty or more columns since 1997 detailing basic human nature, the price and sacrifice relative freedom puts upon its citizenry, and the sordid history of this nation, and so there will be nothing in here approaching the cause or half-baked swipe at solutions to the inordinate amount of guns we enjoy or the misuse of said guns.Executive Vice President of the NRA LaPierre holds a 300 Remington Ultra Mag that was auctioned off after he gave the keynote address at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah

What we will discuss now, in the wake of our president’s recent emotional speech at the White House and live CNN town hall, and finally, and more importantly, his executive actions to curtail the mass shootings and illegal and surreptitious flow of weapons throughout the United States, is the way in which the specter of all this is good business in several corners of our society.

I see this issue as nothing more than a pathetic off-shoot of Prohibition or the woeful failure of the War on Drugs or any other debate on the symptoms of our nature.

Staying with Barack Obama for a moment; the notion that this president is not a big fan of guns is not some kind of myth, like his Islamic leanings or his country of origin or the completely outlandish notion that what may be the most Wall Street-friendly president since Herbert Hoover is some kind of closet socialist. With an accommodating congress, I do believe there would be stricter gun laws under this president. Now, some progressives may argue that this did not occur despite two years of a Democratic-controlled legislature, but I counter with a fairly sizable economic stimulus package, an unprecedented auto-industry bail-out, and the Affordable Care Act taking up the lion’s share of progressive agenda. And even though this general disdain for the gun fetish does not immediately roll over into the narrative that Obama has a secret plan to take anyone’s guns away, (we’ll get to that line of bullshit later), it is real and must be included in any analysis of the issue.

So, if Obama wishes to try and appear neutral here, it is silly and false. His previous words, actions, and his not-so-subtle notions that federal intervention on the gun issue are well documented. When he denies it, I cringe. He is not being the least bit honest and that’s okay, for if he were honest an already manically paranoid segment of the electorate would go further off the deep end.

This obvious anti-gun stance or at very least misunderstanding of the excitably fervent pro-gun contingent appears to be a real threat to those who do not wish to budge on any infringement on the Second Amendment, even though very few who argue this know anything about the Second Amendment. I cannot say I do not hold a similar if not militant defense of the First Amendment, as I have spent my adult life openly fighting against any sort of systemic censorship; banned books, jailed comedians, movie ratings, music-warning stickers, over-reach by an un-elected FCC or Christian robots robbing me of my right to free expression and to absorb others is my myopic passion. So, I get it.

And although I rate Obama’s recent White House speech on a measured approach to increasing background checks and closing gun-show loopholes as a minor but at least positive step in perhaps toning down the nearly 30,000 gun-related deaths in this country as one of his best, it is a spit in the wind. And I am not going out on a limb to guess that he knows this by his repeated mention that if he can save one life he is pleased. So of course you applaud a president in approaching this rare level of political bravery (although this is less heroic in the face of his being a lame duck with no other elections to win like his “evolving” on a civil rights issue for marriage equality in his 50s’), because behind Social Security, the American gun owner is our political third-rail. However, this may appease the nine out of ten Americans who support stricter gun laws and even the eight out of ten Republicans not strangled by the NRA gun lobby who agree, it is not a real solution, and so I scoff.

You see, despite the fact that it appears every five seconds someone kills someone else with a gun, and that virulent police activity has gone goofy, violent crimes in this country, including gun-related, have been reduced considerably in the last half-century. According to FBI reports, “The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly to the lowest rate in nearly 40 years. In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States. Small towns, especially, are seeing far fewer murders: In cities with populations under 10,000, the number has plunged by more than 25 percent.”

So this latest maneuver by Obama is pure politics; sloppy and unhinged, but it pales in comparison to the NRA, who have a fail-safe measure to cash in on tragedy and mayhem like no other time in its existence.

The NRA has used its own perpetuating myth of Obama’s scourge on gun owners (by in large gun laws have widely expanded during his administration) by ramping up sales due to the pending idea that if one does not stock up, one will be without. Every time the president has merely mentioned guns in a speech the NRA sends out email blasts and unleashes its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre on television to rally more sales. It is brilliant, Madison Avenue type propaganda, which I applaud from a purely business standpoint, but it is hogwash, and LaPiere knows it.

LaPiere and the NRA do not care about guns rights or the Second Amendment. They care about serving their gun manufacturing masters by selling as many guns as possible.

The reason why I am sure of this is simply because he is adamant in applying guns to every measure of incident, weather terrorist or government overreach or mini-militia or you name it. You don’t get to be vice president of anything, especially a group funded for and manipulated by the gun industry, without seizing an opportunity to sell, sell, sell. As much as Obama jumps aboard every mass shooting as if an opportunity to squeeze political sympathy towards his cause, the NRA, led in public relations by LaPiere, brings up the insane idea that by buying more guns and thus arming everyone in sight that these random shootings will be abridged – as if people would come to Christmas parties armed to the teeth or kindergarten children packing, or any person generally minding their own business who are gunned down by a psycho because mommy didn’t love them or the Lithium is too expensive can be averted by buying lots of guns.

This whole thing is a con.

this latest maneuver by Obama is pure politics; sloppy and unhinged, but it pales in comparison to the NRA, who have a fail-safe measure to cash in on tragedy and mayhem like no other time in its existence.

Small leans on gun laws or people buying more guns will do nothing to stop or even restrict the very thing that prompts these “debates” (by this we mean opportunities to con), period.

It is a con.

We are being conned from both ends.

Accept this premise, and then perhaps we can secure our own responsibility in this.

Not before.

For that angle, please refer to the 50 previous columns I’ve written.

Blah, blah, blah…

Read More

MASS SHOOTING IN SAN BERNADINO

Aquarian Weekly
12/9/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MASS SHOOTING IN SAN BERNADINO

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah,blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

sb_blah

Blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah, blah blah; blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah blah…blah blah…blah blah… blah blah blah.

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah – blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah (blah blah blah – blah blah blah, blah blah blah). Blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blh blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah – blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

BLAH BLAH BLAH! BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blh blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blh blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blh blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

BLAH BLAH BLAH! BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah.

Blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blh blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah, blah blah blah blah Blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Blah blah Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah, blah blah?

Read More

APRES PARIS LE DELUGE

Aquarian Weekly
11/25/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

APRES PARIS LE DELUGE
Look, Ma, Everyone Has Gone Crazy…Again

Be afraid of the lame, they’ll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old, they’ll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold, they’ll inherit your blood
Apres moi le deluge, after me comes the flood

– Regina Spektor

I think it was my then managing editor, Chris Uhl, who aptly named this column Reality Check. I wanted to name it Fear No Art, but he was the managing editor and I gave in, but got him back by titling my first published collection of columns and essays Fear No Art in 2000; the one where I predict 9/11 and implore the United States government to make Osama bin Laden its number one priority in 1998. Ah, it’s all ancient history now. But, you see, it’s not. Uhl, it turns out, was correct. It is indeed time for a reality check, while also reminding ourselves of what lies in the shadows when we choose to ignore cold, sober fact and replace it with brush-fire panic.

paris-nov-13-2015

The tragedy in Paris last Friday was horrifying; one might say, terrifying, which is the whole point of terrorism.

It certainly has unleashed the crazy in many of us.

And one cannot merely blame French President Francois Hollande, who has gone all Dick Cheney this week or the United States congress and more than two dozen governors, who have decided to ignore the fancy U.S. Constitution they’re always touting as sacrosanct to arbitrarily reject 10,000 Syrian refugees or our president, who has become queerly dismissive and condescending, or the host of presidential candidates, many of whom are running dying campaigns, making desperate attempts to appear tough or anti-Muslim or whatever claptrap plays in the sticks; one must look at us – 75 percent of whom wanted nothing to do with this nut house in the Middle East again just two weeks ago to a neck-wrenching u-turn of 65 percent wanting blood.

Oh, how nostalgia runs deep.

We’ve been here before. Of course ours was a first strike, shocking beyond belief, and within our borders. We had spent a half century whistling along while our government played chess with the Middle East and we consumed the oil as if a bottomless bounty with no consequences. So we went completely spastic; trading in civil rights and trampling on law, and invading everything. Now we know better; or maybe we don’t. Either way, we all need to calm the fuck down.

Here’s how I see the Paris attacks; a desperate attempt for a suddenly flummoxed and barely structured organization, ISIS, whose original edict or caliphate or religious falderal that hides behind maniacs with lives so spectacularly empty they trade them in for “a cause”, no more pathetic an existence can be conjured by human thought, has been seriously curtailed over the past few months. ISIS is not used to losing. It is losing.

As published here on 7/22 (THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS) and again on 10/7 (SYRIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST EITHER/OR THEORY) the days of the growing ISIS movement are over. The Paris attack not only does not alter this opinion, it strengthens it.

If one had money on ISIS, as if a sporting event, or looks at it as one might with the long-view of an historical eye; visa vie the Nazis making what appeared at the time as merely another aggressive move towards the East and the Soviet Union at the height of its power, which turned out to indeed be the beginning of the end for them, then it is easy to see that this maneuver serves no strategic purpose for its progress. Hitting a major European city, especially one that heretofore had no skin in the game but was merely the easiest target because of a) its normal unrest, b) its large Muslim population, and c) its borders are a sieve, only makes it more difficult for ISIS to complete its mission; unless of course it hopes as a last resort to turn the tide by terrorizing the efforts to thwart it.

Let’s remember, the original aim a of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), was the return of territories (which they see as holy), once robbed by centuries of progress (wholly Western created) to a 12th or 14th or whatever century construct in the name of Allah and Muhammad… blah, blah, blood on your children, Biblical/Qur’an stupidity. This had nothing to do with the al Qaeda model of striking a blow against infidels abroad. ISIS was not global, it was primeval territoriality. Then the United States decided to send in humanitarian aid to assist refugees on a mountain in early August of 2014. Only then did Americans appear on videos being beheaded. This caused a predictable stir here and got the John McCains of the world riled up. Of course a stiff wind motivates McCain to invade someone, which is why I thank the god Baal on a daily basis that bleating lunatic was never president. Moreover, the current president began yammering on about “red lines in the sand” in Syria and put us squarely into its cultural civil war, which stars a brutal dictator (a dime a dozen in the Middle East), President Bashar Assad, who is a puppet of the Russian government and its own brutal dictator, Vladimir Putin.

You see, “getting involved” is a bad move. It’s too late, of course. We’re involved. To what extent, we’ll see. I know two things for sure; 1) once Barack Obama exits stage left, there is no one currently running for his job that has a hoot-in-hell of winning it that will not get us more involved than him, on both sides of the political aisle, and 2) the progress and aim of ISIS is coming to a close.

Now we know better; or maybe we don’t. Either way, we all need to calm the fuck down.

It will not take months or even a year to complete, because its rise and expansion has taken decades-plus, as ISIS has transformed and morphed in some way shape or form since the late-90s. But whatever the hell it was trying to ultimately accomplish is pretty much done. And every time they conjure up a Paris or a Libya or the failed attempt in Germany, it speeds up its demise.

Sure, there is going to be some lone wacko who walks into a café or bar in New York or Washington or London to try and take a few of us out for “the cause”, but that is our world now; just as it is on a far greater scale that some gun-nut finds his way into a school to shoot a bunch of kids. And don’t think destroying ISIS destroys religious-motivate hatred anymore than the Pope talking about the church being horrified by priests raping children will halt that.

Apres moi le deluge.

Read More

THIS REVOLUTION IS TELEVISED

Aquarian Weekly
11/11/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THIS REVOLUTION IS TELEVISED
Pre-Holiday Conflict In The Republican Party Fuels Presidential Campaigns

Word I’m getting from those on the inside is that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is back on the sauce. His drinking problem, which began to rear its ugly head around this time four years ago, has returned with a Hemmingway-like vengeance. Only this time he doesn’t have a minor core of religious nuts or gun goofballs to deal with, while desperately trying to adhere to a 2012 post-mortem declaration by big-money donors and establishment voices to make the next national GOP candidate electable. This time he is facing a full-out revolt, not just ideologically, but quite literally.

RNC-debate

For the first time in distant memory all the current Republican presidential campaigns met in private this past week to cobble together demands on how the party will represent their needs; specifically in these showcases dressed up as debates. These included, among other key issues, the choosing of softball moderators and the temperature in the venues. The consensus is that Priebus has not had their “interests” in mind – whatever a collective of fourteen’s general interests may be. The byproduct of this is the lost-cause campaigns that are not yet polling at one-percent, like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki, Rick Santorum, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who want out of the kiddie-table, pre-showcase debates to bloat an already crowded stage of ten, with every candidate getting equal time.

All of the campaigns want these things to be two hours, during which they are allotted four minutes at the top and the conclusion to speechify. This, of course, would give each candidate about additional six minutes to differentiate themselves from the field, but only if those differentiations do not include stupid things they say or stand for.

Most of this blew up after CNBC ran a clown show that turned into a whine-fest about the liberal media and then an out-right cry-baby complaint department. Even the declared winner (if there could be such a thing in these insipidly devised events) Marco Rubio, the mostly absentee senator from Florida, who turned opponent Donald Trump’s rightful tirade on how million-dollar Super Pacs (of which Rubio is second to only Jeb Bush) make candidates special-interest puppets into an opportunity to claim that the mainstream media is a Super Pac for the Democratic Party. Nice job.

To be fair, the CNBC production and the performance by its moderators was abysmal at best and a downright mugging at worst. How a financial network cannot ask a single question about the current administration’s largest trade agreement or force Republican candidates to explain to voters how another GOP president won’t sink the economic solvency of the western hemisphere again is beyond me. Bad questions, allowing candidates to shout incessantly over one another, and not having the proper notes to refute claims that candidates didn’t say things that were on their websites is inexcusable.

Having said that, bitching about it is bush league, especially during the damn thing. Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent two minutes complaining after being asked one of the few legitimate questions and then was perturbed to not get another two minutes to actually answer the question. Predictably, this kind of nonsense plays well with the base of the Republican Party, and the public in general, who all have some measure of beef with the media – specifically the networks who run these showcases dressed up as debates as if professional wrestling matches; complete with dramatic openings and promises of major conflict. The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment. However, attacking the messenger has a short shelf life. Didn’t help Nixon or the Clintons and it pretty much sank Newt Gingrich last time around.

There were rumors after the debate, most of them started by this columnist, that Priebus was already hammered on six Grand Marnier’s after his precious showcase had gone rogue, and yammered like a ten year-old about the line of questions and the decorum of the moderators, claiming the same kind of “attack dog” victimization as the Clinton Campaign parlayed into soaring poll numbers the previous week. It was well calculated on his part, but little did he know the candidates were not fucking around.

It is important to point out at this juncture that the current frontrunners – and have been for months – Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with zero political credentials between them, despite running for the top political job in the land, had no problem with the moderators or the showcase dressed up as a debate. Chaos fits their narrative just fine; the process is screwed. They’re merely here to provide an alternative. Ted Cruz, who has been in the U.S. Senate now for almost six years but continues to claim outsider status, once again piggybacked Trump and Carson’s headwind by comically suggesting that Rush Limbaugh and other right wing radio entertainers moderate. Good one.

The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment.

Seems Trump and Carson and a few other candidates eventually came to the conclusion that it is not such a good idea to allow barely relevant opponents a chance to muck up an already crowded field. Soon after the brief solidarity, Trump, in his inimitable fashion, began suggesting candidates start extracting themselves from the process, so he can have more time to do the Trump thing. Carson mumbled something about Jesus with his eyes closed and his poll numbers soared.

Priebus had a conference call with RNC officials to have someone on staff to make sure he has enough cognac on hand.

There are eight more of these left.

Read More

SYRIA – A BIG MISTAKE

Aquarian Weekly
11/4/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SYRIA – A BIG MISTAKE
Maybe They’re Wearing Sneakers

I won’t waste any precious column space mincing words or joking around. This latest move by the Obama Administration to “shift gears” or “change strategies” in the current bedlam that is Syria is a mistake; check that – a big mistake.

syria_mistake

Of course the knee-jerk reaction to cite Viet Nam or the last Iraq War, two of the most egregiously criminal conflicts this country embroiled its military and people in, is patently unfair. What is not unfair is that if this escalates – and thus far this president has not been honest about how things are being handled there, almost without question repeatedly saying the opposite of what appears to anyone paying attention to be the actual policy (the most obvious of these is the continued nonsense about “no boots on the ground” or “no combat personnel”) – it will certainly resemble them.

These are the soft lies of ramping up a war that no one wants and no one sees coming until we are trillions in debt and there are kids coming home in boxes or with vital parts missing.

What makes this worse than even those conflicts at its origins is that there is no clear enemy. We do not know, neither does our fancy intelligence that helped usher us into the Iraq War, who the hell we’re fighting for or against. This is a fact. Pentagon officials declined on two different occasions this week to specify which groups they will work with, or where they will be located. The Russians, who have stupidly thrown themselves into this thing to prop up a doomed regime, have no idea who they are fighting. Those fighting on the ground barely know, if they know at all.

Right now there are several factions, none of which could loosely be described as an American ally or even an eventual threat to the United States, perpetually fighting – door to door and street to street – in Syria. There are “rebels”, who are made up of ISIS fighters and al Qaeda and Saudis and Kurds and Turks, and on “the other side” there are Syrian defense fighters at the behest of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and next to them Iranian-backed soldiers of fortune, and a different faction of al-Qaeda, and from what I see on CNN, thrown into the sinkhole, is a cadre of free-lance Americans who are playing Cowboys and Indians because their penises are too small or their girlfriend left them or McDonald’s isn’t hiring.

Syria right now makes Viet Nam and Iraq look sane.

Let me write again: This is a big mistake.

The announcement this week (and by announcement, I mean more bullshit that is nowhere near what is actually happening, which is likely ten-times worse and coming in about two months too late) that 50 or so “special operators” will be in country to “advise” and “deploy” and “recon” and all the other shuck-and-jive we’ve heard from the Westmorelands and Wolfowitzs who foolishly lead their charges into damnation.

A glaring example of this is the combat soldier killed in combat while carrying out a combat mission in Iraq, which ignited nearly a week of yammering out of the Pentagon about how he really wasn’t in combat. This is what our greatest war criminal, Lyndon Baines Johnson would have called “a riddle wrapped in an enigma” before he sent thousands of American kids to die in a jungle against their will for nothing.

Senior White House “officials” and Pentagon spokesmen echoed the mantra that these troops will be deployed for less than 60 days at a time, and then this nugget: “We will not be establishing our own, U.S.-led headquarters … we will go to where they are. Our vision, at least at the outset, is for them to go for small amounts of time and to one location. I don’t anticipate they’ll be moving from place to place with regularity. They are not going to be out and about to advise and assist in the way we are in Iraq. This is to get guys on the ground and get eyes on … to see what more is possible. This is a start.”

Oh, it’s a start all right. Like Kennedy’s set of advisors and Mission Accomplished; the usual fog of war that takes our money and our youth and our legitimacy; we’re no longer legitimate, if we ever were, or at least not since WWII. We have no international voice that really matters, and this myth keeps us from admitting that not everything that happens everywhere is our business and that barely anything that happened in Viet Nam and Iraq was of vital or any defensive interest to this country.

We do not know, neither does our fancy intelligence that helped usher us into the Iraq War, who the hell we’re fighting for or against.

It is a lie. It is a dangerous, unholy lie, and we keep hearing it, and now we hear it from our anti-war president, the one I have championed for his previously smart and cautious Middle East policy; one that does not repeat the mistakes of centuries of over-zealousness by nations trying to quell centuries of blood-lust.

But that is over now. Barack Obama has begun the path for which he was definitely not elected. And trust me, whether it is Hillary Clinton or whatever war puppet the Republicans spat out, it will be far worse.

Barack Obama, September, 2013: “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Maybe they’re wearing sneakers.

Read More

A HOUSE DIVIDED

Aquarian Weekly
10/14/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

A HOUSE DIVIDED
Who The Hell Wants To Be Speaker of the House?

You may have heard that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the second most powerful post in the United States government, John Boehner has quit. For the first time in the 226 years of the U.S. Congress a speaker is resigning without either getting a better gig or being kicked out. Usually this type of job is a keeper and those who are fortunate enough to secure it hang onto it like grim death. So then the question remains; why did Boehner walk away from this austere position – incidentally whilst joyfully singing “Zippity Doo Dah” – offering no real explanation beyond repeatedly stating “It’s time.”

House Speaker Boehner Holds Weekly News Conference

There was some talk immediately following the news that it had something to do with the Pope’s visit, which is nice, but goofy. The other less goofy one was his not having the votes to be re-elected, which turned out to be false as it was the previous times this was broached. Another theory revolved around the more extreme Right Wing of his caucus threatening to shut down the government again over the funding of Planned Parenthood under what could only be described by people with a grasp of the facts as anti-abortion falderal. And although that one turned out to also be less than the truth for now, there was a kernel of it in there.

While Boehner, who vehemently denied there was ever any real motivation to defend PP or at least to halt the entire running of the people’s business over a $500 million purse, the very notion of this political suicide is symptomatic of his tenure as speaker. Since the 2010 TEA Party insurgence into congress, the second Republican wave in less than 20 years that put him in charge, Boehner has become the least effective speaker ever. This is not high school hyperbole like “This is the worst tragedy ever!” or “Worst president ever!”, but fact. The 112th through the 114th versions of our legislative branch has done less in its allotted time to govern than any other before.

Boehner’s biggest issue was with the so-called Freedom Caucus of about 50 for whom the idea of governing is an anathema, which I am not willing to deride since that is the reason they were sent to Washington by voters; to halt the march of big government and curtail the tyrannical rule of Monarch Obama and his Muslim hordes. And if that is why they are there, then one has to applaud their gusto, for it has been the sad storyline for centuries that members of congress are elected on some platform they have no intention of forwarding or their ideas are crushed within the first year in D.C and they become part of the very problem they were elected to solve.

However, as the speaker has recently stated on his “I’m going to bury everyone who screwed me” tour recently, the members of the Freedom Caucus promised stuff that they cannot deliver on and thus he is straddled with the anger and disappointment of an easily gullible electorate that believes shutting down the government, filibustering or taking empty votes would somehow override a second-term president without veto-proof control of the U.S. Senate – basic eighth grade civics most Americans who yell and scream and about things they don’t understand, like the Constitution, should know is impossible.

This is why over fifty-percent of the Republican primary polls insist on a presidential candidate with no political background – a doctor, a failed CEO, and a TV star; all promising crazy things that cannot be accomplished under the current structure of U.S. law. And this is precisely why this week Boehner’s proposed replacement, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed his name from consideration in front of a stunned and angry gaggle of Republican congressmen and then told the National Review that conservative members wanted things they couldn’t deliver and maybe the party has to hit rock bottom before things improve.

McCarthy is an interesting failure here, mainly because in 2010 he was one of the leading recruiters of the very people he is now calling out for scuttling his chance at speaker. More than anyone in congress he led the charge, financially and otherwise, to bring in candidates with little to no experience in governing, compromise or debate in the structure set up by the third incarnation of our Continental Congress in 1789.

Usually this type of job is a keeper and those who are fortunate enough to secure it hang onto it like grim death.

Of course this seemed dubious to members of the press and as rumors swirled of an alleged affair haunting McCarthy, word began to leak that it was actually moderate Republicans, or at least not those in the intransigent Freedom Caucasus, who began hectoring McCarthy to step aside after he unconscionably told a national FOX News audience that the entire Benghazi Investigative Committee (what is it now eight or nine versions now?) was a secret Republican plot to besmirch former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her bid for president, which unintendedly reinvigorated her stumbling campaign and pretty much neutered the whole idea of the thing.

This chaos has predictably further emboldened the Freedom Caucasus, who spent two days leaking notions that McCarthy was not conservative enough and did not have the stomach to bury the government over Planned Parenthood or any other election year craziness that might come up, which certainly means John Boehner, seemingly a socialist hippie to them, would have zero support to hang on until another “suitable” candidate arises. And so now a man for whom this gig became untenable is stuck for the foreseeable future, which includes another debt-ceiling fight and budget vote on December 11.

A panicked Boehner reached out to former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to save the day. Ryan, one of the brightest and most stable of Republican legislators to this point has no interest in dooming his political career taking a thankless job in which he will be publically flogged by half-witted dreamers. And while Ryan is an admitted Ayn Rand political theorist, (Rand makes the Freedom Caucus look like a Liberal think-tank) he is first and foremost a pragmatist, and this is no climate for such an animal.

And so who wants to be speaker of the house? Who wants to be two heartbeats from the president and lord over the making of law and handling a multi-trillion dollar national budget? Who wants to lead the leaderless and deal with a president who does not have to be re-elected?

Anyone?

Read More

JOE COOL DOMINATING‏

Aquarian Weekly
9/16/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

JOE COOL DOMINATING
Don’t Look Now – Barack Obama Is Beating Second-Term Jinx

So far, this has been an immutable fact of the American presidency: Second terms are a disaster. Bad. Filled with impeachments and quitting and unconstitutional shenanigans. Queer luck. Doomed circumstance; economically, militarily, personally. The list is long, and in my lifetime (born in September of 1962) it has been a given.

Until now.obama-sunglasses

So far this burden has avoided Barack Obama (and by “so far”, of course I mean the president has over a year left in his presidency with plenty of time to have something catastrophic or moronic befall him). The fact is the president has excelled in his second term; victories against congress (TPP, Iran Deal), positive happenstance (gas prices, stock market), and a defiant attitude one gets when one does not have to run for anything anymore, which completely condemned presidents for the past half century.

We know the deal (and I consider LBJ: 1965-1968 his second term, since he was president for over a year prior) all the second terms since the Kennedy assassination have been awful.

To wit: Lyndon Johnson ostensibly quit by announcing he would not seek the nomination of his party to run as a result of his historically abysmal foreign policy that sank the U.S. in the nation’s most senseless war ever. His successor, Richard Nixon, did, in fact, quit nearly three years into his second term for crimes committed during his first and a goodly amount of covering up there-after. Ronald Reagan had his Iran-Contra scandal, which for all intents and purposes should have gotten him impeached, but did indict or jail more members of his administration than any before. Then there is Bill Clinton, who was indeed impeached (only president to have that dishonor in 130-odd years), who spent most of his second term being investigated for a series of odd things which led to perjuring himself before congress about an affair he had with his intern. Finally, we have George W. Bush, whose completely bungled Iraq War galvanized the opposition party to take over congress, trumped by the incredibly horrifying federal government reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and then the economic implosion of the Western hemisphere.

Holy shit.

Barack Obama is a glorified amalgamation of Washington/Lincoln/FDR compared to that rogues’ gallery.

But, wait, there’s more: Don’t look now, but the president’s latest victory, the historic Iran Deal that will be his second term’s lasting legacy for good or ill, which could mean hang onto your hats, since he is due for a second-term sinkhole, will not only go through, but doesn’t even reach the usually embarrassing veto stage that looked inevitable just a month ago.

I happen to support the deal, as stated here in July (THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAS ON ISIS – Issue: 7/22/15) and after hearing the debate, reading the details, and listening to the objective, non-political commentary of nuclear-proliferation experts from around the globe, it has cemented my belief that this is the best option to integrate a rogue nation into the realm of diplomacy while keeping it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This is not unlike the Kennedy Test-Ban Treaty, (which if you go for conspiracy theories did more to get him killed than anything else), Nixon’s detente policy and the opening of diplomatic relations with China (his finest and most lasting achievement), and the SALT talks and treaties developed for decades under many presidents, but truly championed – much to the chagrin of similar war-hawk conservative voices as we hear today – in the 1980s by Ronald Reagan (also his finest achievement).

Be that as it may, for a second-term president to spearhead this kind of international coalition with so many countries at a time of heightened strife in the Middle East in the wake of the previous administration’s destructive policies in the region, and a constant barrage of misinformation and doom-speak in the press is nothing short of miraculous.

This deal is, and again I state “so far”, the icing on the cake of a second term that has seen Obama’s most controversial and sweeping piece of domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act (something I did not and still do not support) survive two Supreme Court rulings, pretty much cementing it for all time as the law of the land, and it has actually not been the coming calamity the opposition predicted; from loss of jobs to death panels and exploding taxes. On the contrary, firstly the ACA has dropped the number of uninsured Americans (16.4 million), a rate of 35 percent; the biggest improvement in 40 years. This was its aim, although I am dubious to its costs and subsidies, which are not sustainable in the long run, along with the other monstrous government entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. But, for now, in a charmed second term, not even 17 Republicans running for president think it is harmful enough to even broach. That ship, as they say, has left the dock and will sail on into future administrations.

And although several of Obama’s executive actions (while still not eclipsing his predecessor) have rankled those in congress (the political goal of executive actions), they have staved off gridlock. The most pleasing of all, supported by nearly eight out of ten Americans, the president’s opening of relations with Cuba after 50 years of completely failed policy that was so antiquated it had become a joke. This was the “change” that was supposed come around during a rocky first term, but was mostly ignored, like the emerging marriage equality movement that coalesced during Obama’s second term (thanks in some part to his “evolving” on the subject – a kind of goofy, “get with the program” thing that few beyond yours truly has given him shit for) galvanizing the progressive Left like never before.

We know the deal … all the second terms since the Kennedy assassination have been awful.

Much of this has little to nothing to do with a president, these kind of side issues and perks, like gasoline prices dipping below two dollars for the first time in eons; something no one thought possible in 2012 or the Dow rising from an abysmal 7,500 in 2009 to a record 18,200 before the recent dip, which still sits at over 16,000. But then again the “policies” routinely ridiculed by the opposition has in some way resulted in U.S. economic growth at fairly healthy 3.7 percent, as unemployment rate of 5.1 percent – it was 9.3 when Bush left town and according to factcheck.org the U.S. economy, by far the world’s most stable, has now gained nearly five times more jobs under Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Don’t misunderstand me; there are plenty and varied negatives to this administration, some may point out the chaos in the Middle East, which is pretty much the same chaos that has gone down since the birth of this nation, but I for one have applauded Obama for keeping us out of this nonsense for once (Afghanistan notwithstanding, which has got to end sooner than later for my taste). I argue that most of the president’s mishaps happened during his first term, which historically speaking should have cost him the White House in 2012, but it did not. And granted a second term, he has authored one far superior to those that preceded him, at least since I’ve been sucking air.

Considering the craziness listed above, that is as close to not-crappy as anyone under the age of 50 has ever witnessed.

Read More

MEDIA, MONEY & DONALD TRUMP‏

Aquarian Weekly
8/26/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MEDIA, MONEY & DONALD TRUMP

All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.
– Marshall McLuhan

Winning!
– Charlie Sheen

The current issue of Time magazine features an extreme close-up of real estate mogul turned presidential candidate, Donald Trump, whose squint-eyed, pursed-lip Mussolini-like pomp has recently taken on a kind of Miley Cyrus meets Charlie Sheen quality. The text below him simply says “Deal with it”. Inside, there is an article featuring photographs of Trump with a bald eagle perched on his outstretched arm performing his now recognizable thumbs-up routine. This is only one, if not an utterly grotesque example of what has transpired over the past 60 days or so; the tried and true coupling of interesting weirdo being lapped up and shoveled at us by a corporate-backed profit machine known as the media.

trump-prez-fingers

This is always what the media has done well, (see the Spanish-American War, Hearst Publishing, McCarthyism and the Woodstock generation) but since all of the mainstream outlets for news organizations have been bankrolled by huge corporations, whose ratings numbers and advertising dollars trump (pun intended) the faintest idea of news, this is now the standard business model. Of course, with Trump leading all the national and local primary polls his act has now become news, but I maintain it would not have done so on its own momentum, if not for the candidate’s brilliant use of the media to create it. And once it is patently obvious that his shenanigans attracted numbers, all bets were off.

Full disclosure: This whole episode is wildly entertaining to me. I cannot get enough of its “torching the system and blowing up the usual boring expectations of August in off-year politics” – take the 24 million people who purportedly watched the FOX News candidate showcase masquerading as a debate, which four years ago garnered 3.2 million viewers. The Republican Party is running 45 people, 43 of which have no chance of getting its nomination, and unless the nation’s shifting demographics dramatically swing back to its 1988 levels in the next fourteen months, almost none of them will be president. For a political junkie, the Donald Trump Show is a welcomed distraction; especially the stuff about how he has made a living off purchasing the system and how it is a sham and his run is a metaphoric exploitation of it.

This is an art form, and I, for one, applaud it.

Side note: Trump has been at this particular activity for over 30 years in the media capital of planet earth and studied under Don King. He is very good at turning the rote into spectacle. It is a potent cocktail of nature and construct, like Shelly’s Frankenstein complete with groaning.

But let’s not mistake show biz for a grass roots movement.

Another side note: The surge of Barack Obama in the late summer of 2007 that mesmerized the national press, bitched about ad nauseum by the whining right wing as a media creation, was true grass roots, as it came from out of nowhere and built on its own momentum. It is like Obama was punk and Trump is disco. One forged a place into the mainstream by the force of its conviction as fashion; the other was made-up crap jammed down our throats as the fashion.

For someone who has spent most of his sentient existence studying the cross-pollination of creative entities and media manipulation, this whole thing, while appearing mostly fabricated, has legs. Just because it smells like hype infused with a generational pull greased by a fervor for profit, (pop stars, celebrities, etc) does not mean it doesn’t have merit or deeper meaning to some. It does, but it is also a difficult balancing act – one that is given credence through the lens of the television and the Internet; Marshall McLuhan’s wet dream.

There are literally hundreds of examples of Trump getting a pop culture level of coverage, but the most glaring may have been FOX News airing last Friday of one of Trump’s “events”, which preceded a live interview with fellow Republican candidate, Carly Fiorina, whose “outside Washington” thing trolls the lower rungs of the polling. The network pulled away from it to put Fiorina on the screen and then proceeded to not only ask Fiorina about Trump, which is now standard procedure these days, but then cut back in the middle of her answer to the live feed of an animated Trump, who even without sound was more compelling than whatever Fiorina was prattling on about.

The other interesting media maneuver that has benefited Trump is these panels that incessantly discuss why anyone finds him interesting or if his candidacy has any substance. It reminds one of the breakdown panels after some lunatic shoots up a mall and they begin to dissect video games, mental illness and gun control. There is now an industry in “explaining” Trump, as if he is the Yeti.

This is precisely why Trump’s penchant for blurting out the kind of bizarre rhetoric that would bury any other politician does not harm him. In fact, as a pop culture star, it enhances his notoriety. It is another media maneuver that I call the “Hokey Fight Syndrome”, something which ESPN brilliantly pulled off back when people still followed hockey; the network would run gruesome video of hockey fights and add “tisk-tisk” commentary that was meant to show you that while they knew hockey fights were what you wanted to see, they were outwardly appalled by it. Then they would show another hockey fight. Showing crazy Trump quotes and decrying them matters little in this game. They are shown and therefore they are part of the show.

It is a potent cocktail of nature and construct, like Shelly’s Frankenstein complete with groaning.

The media also prefers the carnival barker; “Wait until you see the economic plan (bearded lady) and foreign policy (lizard boy) we have for you! It will be spectacular!” In this equation having a point or even scintilla of a policy platform matters even less than how it is presented; which, of course, neuters the legitimate press (whatever that is) by presenting my good friend and colleague Doctor Slater’s axiom, “You can’t argue with crazy.”

Once this boldly impenetrable character is rolled out and makes a spectacle of what was formally a pretty dull and predictable exercise, there is a clamor to overdose on it. Take the aforementioned FOX debate for example. There were rumblings, and still are, that FOX, well entrenched in Republican politics, had other plans for this race that did not include the Donald Trump Show, and its battle with him turned into a stalemate that had FOX not airing anything Donald Trump for seventy-two hours. This so effected its ratings, the normally powerful medium backed down and went back to what everyone else was doing, “All-Trump-All-The-Time”.

Since I have vowed years ago not to write about presidential politics until at least the September before an election year, I shan’t discuss the Trump campaign’s legitimacy or electoral chances yet. Just know this, while the media can saturate us with something strange, it can and will turn like a wild animal. If Trump is truly a media creation, he will eventually be consumed by this insatiable beast he has appeared to tame. If this is somehow merely a conveyance to his end-game, whatever that may be, then we’re into the real fun.

Read More

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & MADE-UP SHIT

Aquarian Weekly
8/12/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & MADE-UP SHIT

I want to make clear from the outset that I honestly could not care less if Planned Parenthood is defunded or shut down or whatever this wacky congress would like to do. Have at it. I also think that whoever was caught on camera being blithe about sensitive issues should be terminated and there should be some oversight to how a government-run, taxpayer funded institution is run. What needs to be pointed out is this gnawing penchant for political activists – both on the Left and the Right (this time it is the Right) to go off half-cocked and just make shit up to support its agenda. The anti-gun lobby has done it repeatedly after every shooting that occurs in this country (and Lord knows it is daily and insane and speaks more about us than the weapons used, but that is for another column) or the recently hyped Black Lives Matter movement that moves from shedding light on a serious issue of racist practices by an inordinately large number of police killing unarmed black men to an all-out assault on police in general.

planned-parenthood

If you’ve read just one paragraph of this space since 1997, you would know I have no problem with people getting riled up about a cause. And I think if you are even remotely familiar with my work you also know it is not acceptable to create your own facts in the fervent pursuit of your passion. This is the most dangerous area of our discourse, always has been. It takes us from “I disagree with his policies” to “he’s Hitler”, which is more irrational, sub-mental hyperbole than making shit up, but the journey is the same. This problem is further exacerbated when purported news outlets like the pathetically inauthentic FOX NEWS/MSNBC cabal take a story that really doesn’t exist and make it one. It’s one thing for citizens, activists, protesters, lobbyists, or paid political pundits (including the radio host goofballs) to spin their own “truths”, but when supposed journalists not only work fast and loose with facts but blurt out-and-out lies as news, things take on a kind of Alice in Wonderland aura.

Okay, so the biggest problem pro-life crowd has with Planned Parenthood is its safe and convenient (and legal) taxpayer-funded locations to provide abortions for women who decide to go that route (pro-choice). In fact, PP is the number-one enemy of the pro-lifers to the point where, for instance, petitions for mayors, congressmen and governors to close these (perfectly legal) locations are a key to elections. In the past decade many Republican officials have been skirting national law and passing laws to curtail the effectiveness of PP on the state level on the accepted assumption that PP is an abortion factory, when in fact the percentage of abortions to the other specifically women’s health provisions account for about three percent or 328,000 of the group’s nearly 10.6 million services provided last year. And although I support the right for those who oppose abortion to try the political route (as opposed to killing doctors) to advance their agendas, I also do not support a systemic flouting of law for “moral” reasons. Once again, though, this is a subject for another column – one I have written at least a dozen or more times.

The meager (when compared to the ridiculous amount of money thrown at useless murdering like the U.S. military) $528 million is about forty percent of its annual budget, less than pennies to individual taxpayers. Yet, the federal defunding (states can and do provide a sizable sum) of the other ninety-seven percent of PP’s services will adversely affect its usefulness. So while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care. In an approaching election year, this kind of reactionary nonsense seduces political suicide for Republicans, who already have problems looking like they are perpetually waging social war on women.

And so once videos of PP officials casually describing in detail the “selling” of aborted fetus parts donated legally by the mothers, the pouncing began. The “outrage” singles out the profiting of this ghoulish practice and the horrors of not only the inhumane practices, but the entire idea of PP being some kind of underground human trafficking scheme.

The problem with this is none of it is true. Not a word. PP has for years provided a service to use aborted fetal tissue with written consent of the parents to scientific research for a myriad of diseases and never profits from it. The money causally discussed in the videos (which is a matter of decorum not criminality) subsidizes the preservation and transportation of said tissue, and in most cases these funds are reimbursed. While some may find this appalling, it is no different than you donating your organs to science or to save lives after you’re gone. The spectacularly irresponsible narrative that PP is coldly cashing in on this is a fantasy concocted by overzealous activists that count on you being ignorant to the facts at hand.

…while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care.

The bigger problem with wildly disseminating misinformation and the orchestrated fabrication of all this leads to government officials, presidential candidates, and members of congress hinting at “investigations”, which like most investigations will end up costing taxpayers more money than the actual funding of an institution and will need nowhere, because there is no crime or story here. The story should be that people who oppose abortion will use any measure, however fanciful and inaccurate, to advance their agenda. And perhaps the most glaring problem will come if congress decides to shut the federal government down over this straw man, (and the sad fact is almost all of these politicians know this is trumped up bullshit, but pursue it to gather favor and potential votes) which will cost us fifty times what we’re discussing here, if we’re so worried about money.

Believe what you will about pro-life or pro-choice, but here are the facts; a woman’s right to choose is protected by law, Planned Parenthood is a legally run women’s health institution that provides useful services to millions of patients annually, and while people with agendas may live by their own versions of truth, none of it alters the first two. And while anti-abortion activists do not hold a patent on making shit up, they are in this case very much making shit up.

Read More

UBER VERSUS NYC

Aquarian Weekly
7/29/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

UBER VERSUS NYC

This was bound to happen here. It has happened elsewhere. The grassroots ingenuity of transport services, more specifically Uber and to a lesser extent Lyft, offer a convenient alternative to mass transit and traditional cab services. In the case of Uber, which thanks to my friend Dan Bern I personally used to great effect in my spring visit to Nashville, Tennessee – a town spread out into disparate neighborhoods yet bereft of available conveyance for those not wanting to rent a car – it adds a fairly unregulated number of extra vehicles to the area while threatening the livelihoods of the existing official vehicular fleet. In other words, Uber is to a region-city-town-county what Napster was to the music business. There may be compromise and reshuffling, but there will be no going back.

lyft_cab

In Nashville, for instance, it took months of wrangling with the local cab services to settle on an agreement to infuse the Uber fleet into the city’s environment, mostly because many of the cabbies (minuscule in comparison to a metropolis silly with them like NYC) saw an opportunity for themselves to break out and become Uber drivers.

Uber drivers must pass a rigorous review of driving records and other key personal histories, but is according to the drivers I spoke to more lucrative than the traditional hack route. It is a well-oiled concept that invites single moms, college students, struggling lower-economic, two-job types, and others to take on a livery business to help make ends meet. Some drivers I met in Nashville raved about its flexibility and its boost to their incomes (average Uber income per hour is $12, while it is $30 in NYC). Some loved it as a distraction – one woman concerned my brothers-in-law and myself by boldly stating she had been driving people around town for some thirty hours without sleep and wondered (if she hadn’t passed out by then) if we needed a ride to the airport the next day. Needless to say we passed on her, but used Uber nonetheless.

Uber is cheaper than cab and car services simply because there is no expected tipping. You sign up through an app on your phone, connect it to your credit card or Paypal and hit it. Within minutes, depending on where you’re an independent driver arrives promptly. In Nashville we rarely waited more than four to five minutes for a car, most times it was two to three minutes.

But Nashville is a burb compared to places like Chicago, L.A., Houston, and especially the largest city on the planet, New York. In fact, my only Uber experience in NYC was a bad one. In early June my wife and I found ourselves in our usual position of fairly inebriated on McDougal Street in the Village and it was late and we needed to get back to our hotel in Tribeca. Normally I’d hail a cab and end of story, but I decided to try out Uber in the big town. I hit the app and a car was promised in three minutes. The car purportedly showed up on Bleecker around the corner in the requisite time. Not sure why it wasn’t in front of us. The driver called me, but the street was buzzing with people and traffic and it was hard to hear him. I explained that we were around the corner, but his response was unintelligible. Just then a free cab happened to be passing right by us, so I flagged it, told the Uber guy never mind, and went about our business. The next day I received a ten-dollar cancellation fee from Uber. I wanted to fight it, but screw it.

I ended up using cabs the rest of my brief stay that weekend, and part of me felt it right, since cabbies have always held a special place in my heart. I’ve had some amazing adventures in cabs all over this world. Drivers always take my advice and always put the pedal to the medal – I rarely trust any cabbie that does not blatantly break the law, especially in NYC. It is a must. And, on a personal note, my grandfather was a proud member of the hack brigade and I believe in supporting these guys/gals whenever possible.

This takes us to the issue at hand. City of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio is now faced with the same dilemma as every New York mayor before him, how to integrate progress into the city construct seamlessly without destroying the echo-structure of the town. He must simultaneously serve all New Yorkers; consumers and workers, while managing the progress of capitalism. New York’s history is filled with these moments, and for the most part New York was the experiment for the rest of the country, the most significant of these were canals, roadways, social programs, fiscal parameters, subways, building, or general infrastructure, and a host of inventions thrown into an urban environment left to its own devices.

De Blasio claims that Uber and Lyft present a possible ecological and traffic-congestion problem to the city. His latter claim is not unfounded. Uber adds hundreds of cars a day to the already uber-(pun intended)-congested streets, and having driven for over four decades around all five boroughs (I parceled medical records around NYC during the late 80s and early 90s to supplement my meager freelance earnings), I can tell you it ain’t beanbag. I have seen things on the byways of NYC that are hard to explain in print. Suffice to say – though since the city’s rebirth in the mid-90s things have been less hair-raising – it is not an easy town to traverse. This is the concern of city officials, as much as the added smelly and dangerous exhaust the additional vehicles provide. But I shan’t go down a road that claims that a few less cars will save New York from its noxious fumes. That is part of the charm, come on.

De Blasio has begun his push-back by imposing limits to the amount of cars Uber can have “on the job” at any one time. I don’t think this unreasonable, but as a business model, no one wants to have “limits” imposed on your expansion, and Uber is expanding big time. The company estimates adding 25,000 customers every week.

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how.

Uber is making its case that by rightfully pointing out that De Blasio has another reason for his push-back, NYC cabs are in jeopardy of going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. Also, more ubiquitous and affordable modes of transportation via the car lowers the mass-transit numbers, which every mayor wants to keep up, freeing the streets of congestion. Uber has countered with a multi-million dollar ad campaign online and on TV suggesting that lower-income, minority travelers now have an option, especially in the outer-boroughs, where cabs loathe to tread; specifically because they are not guaranteed a return fare.

But the sinister underbelly of this, which puts De Blasio in a tight bind to his liberal constituency, is that cabbies for decades have refused to pick up black and Hispanic fares for a variety of reasons that do not jibe with the civil rights of these individuals. Uber has no such agenda or history. De Blasio and the cab lobby cannot hide from this argument. It is real. I have seen it myself and spoken to those who have been denied rides.

Uber also has a hidden, less than moral-outrage argument for its own push-back. If Uber becomes part of the regulation of NYC-Transit, does it lose its “affordable” outside the system appeal?

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how. Maybe a compromise is coming, but if De Blasio or city officials think by ignoring a popular service with progressive tendencies a winning quotient in NYC, they will also go the way of the horse and buggy.

As usual, the rest of the nation watches the outcome.

Read More
Page 11 of 46« First...«910111213»203040...Last »