The (New) Never Deal

Aquarian Weekly 12/19/12 REALITY CHECK

THE (NEW) NEVER DEAL The Madness Method Explained

Now that things have gone underground in Washington, the wheels of our national fate are turning. A sign of progress is that the first body of this standoff has been tossed out. Susan Rice has fallen on the sword and will remove one jack-boot the president had to humiliate the already damaged Republicans. Accepting her de facto resignation from consideration for secretary of state due to her role as puppet mouthpiece for the Benghazi debacle in September is the olive branch or duck and cover the White House needs. Meanwhile at the Capitol, the speaker of the House has driven his blade through the carcass of Paul Ryan, the only pariah left from the failed attempt to carry out senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell’s doomed operation; “Make Barack Obama a one-term president.”

Human bids are crucial to these types of negotiations. American history is ripe with the skin trade amongst politicians. In 1832, Andrew Jackson, sick with brain warts, offered several men up to the obviously mad Henry Clay in the National Bank Affair, many of which disappeared completely from public life. Clay, well known for treating states as if poker chips, was well acquainted with Jackson’s proclivity for gunplay and offered the president six counties in Kentucky to open.

So now that the sides have mercifully stopped grandstanding to the press every five seconds and begun to hammer away in private, there is tight security on who is taking the worst beating and who can appear the least wretched to the American public when this bloated dung bag is finally sent up for a vote.

John Boehner has already tested the waters on this. The speaker is a poll freak. Many in his employ claim he hangs the results in pie charts above his desk, so that when the TEA Partiers enter his office to complain they can plainly see that now 70 percent of the voting public, 50 percent of Republicans, wish to tax the top two percent. According to the Wall St. Journal, hardly a bastion of leftist propaganda, now 80 percent of voters want a compromise, and for the first time since its inception, over half of those polled believe the election settled any discussion on the survival of Obamacare.

As explained nearly a month ago in this space, the jig is up for House Republicans. But according to reports inside the capitol, after a private briefing with its caucus, there appears to be little budging on the raising of revues on the rich. Not because it’s the national will or a normal executive mandate carried immediately after a general election, but because districts and counties historically fuel members of congress, not states like senators, or the nation as a whole like presidents. The congress has always been a tough nut, made much tougher since for some weird reason the Republican establishment thought it could ignore the influx of the TEA Party fervor in 2010 and elevate an old-line lifer to the post of speaker and then nominate a liberal to lead its national ticket.

But stranger events are to come, as the word being bandied about in the “smart” circles centers on both the White House and the congress allowing this debate to purposely spill over January 1; so all can save political face. And quite frankly, it makes perfect sense.

For Republicans, the claim can be that taxes have now hiked on everyone automatically, thus a compromise can occur without breaking the no-tax pledge and the guilty can appear to be actually lowering taxes. Of course, the hope will be that most people don’t read this column, which most do not, and will forget that it was congress that devised this insane plan in the first place, in essence defaulting on all promises.

This, of course, fills this heart with bubbles of sweet joy, if only because it proves the point of this entire Reality Check News & Information gig: All of this is utter bullshit.

For Joe Cool, the White House can continue to point to the abysmally low public rating of the current congress as do-nothing and act as a hero for five minutes. All of this is plausible, because in the original agreement, the Fiscal Cliff directive has a retroactive clause, allowing a deal to be struck on, say, January 5 or even February 5, in order for everyone to appear functional during an actual crisis, instead of merely avoiding one, which in cinematic parlance is boffo.

This, of course, fills this heart with bubbles of sweet joy, if only because it proves the point of this entire Reality Check News & Information gig: All of this is utter bullshit.

Remember when everyone told us this latest in a series of stalemate elections would decide the existence of the nation? And remember how it was the most important thing since Adam banged Eve? Yeah, well, you voted and no one in charge seems to give a flying fart. Everything, as the saying goes, is as it was before. Maybe Barack Obama is standing a little taller and the part of congress with a self-preservation streak is humbled, but for the most part it is status quo with no one standing aside to say, “I guess the people decided”, because the people, as usual, decide nothing pertinent, except whose picture gets to hang in customs when you slink back across the border with your baggage packed with Cuban cigars.

For the record, this has never happened to me. It is merely a vacant analogy.

And what then of this terrible Fiscal Cliff that will doom us all; where blood will run through the gutters of our streets while Baby Jesus weeps for our living souls?

Also bullshit.

See? Doesn’t all that hand ringing on whether Mitt Romney was an imbecile or if Obama stole Florida seem silly now? What fools we were to let these pikers rile our gills, make us feud with friends, take to the streets in gory garb, and wait on line for three hours to vote. It was a fuck around, a piss in the wind. It’s akin to surviving a roller coaster ride in which you truly believed you might die and then as you exit a ten year-old kid jumps into your seat.

This is a thrill ride worth writing about. Sometimes I feel as emboldened as that woman who spent her life with the apes. Hell, it brings back fond memories of being half out of my mind; check that, completely out of my mind on gin, sucking on a fresh stogie at Shelly’s Backroom with my pal, Georgetown a generation ago: Newt Gingrich throwing a fit for not getting the good seat on Bill Clinton’s plane and shutting down the government. How we would laugh.

For instance, I can hear us now deconstructing the fact that with Susan Rice gone, most likely to take the non-hearing national security advisor position, John Kerry, once the bane of the Right Wing smear system, will instead be named secretary of state. Meanwhile, Republican Chuck Hagel will be the new secretary of defense; a man who refused to support the anti-Rice cheerleader, John McCain for president against, you guessed it, Barack Obama in 2008. And then, in the font of poetic justice, Scott Brown, sent packing on a rail by the voters of Massachusetts will get to run again for Kerry’s vacant senate seat.

I complete this analysis at the Clemens Estate, but I’m spiritually in Shelly’s right now.

Another round, please!

 

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Ego Dance To Armageddon

Aquarian Weekly 12/12/12 REALITY CHECK

EGO DANCE TO ARMAGEDDON Public Flogging Off “The Cliff”

That is the thing you want to remember if you work in either journalism or politics — or both, like I do — and there is no way to duck it. You will be flogged for being right and flogged for being wrong, and it hurts both ways, but it doesn’t hurt as much when you’re right. – Hunter S. Thompson

Yes, the good Doctor wrote that back in 1988 and as usual he had his finger on the pulse. I did not fully absorb the quote until the Nineties, but by ’88 I had already dropped out of journalism and radio and decided instead to front a rock band to caterwaul seditious lyrics of my own making; horrible things that caused many people to wretch, but others to sing along, and that is when I became aware of what dissatisfaction sounds like en masse. I didn’t need television or newspapers; the medium and message reverberated back at me ten-fold.

John BoehnerIt is the kind of memory; a complete vision of unfiltered defiance, which provides me the fuel to thrash out these words each week. It’s not likely something I will ever be able to strip from my mind. For my money, it’s the closest thing to absolute truth I’ve experienced to date; and it’s not like I’ve stopped looking.

A motivated gathering of restless youth, jacked on several and varied substances in smoky rooms with spastic lighting will provide even the most cynical shitheel a reasonable facsimile of how the delicate balance of emotional impulses could precisely communicate the intellectual conclusion that what’s happening outside the place is nothing you want any part of. That’s when I learned that whatever twit coined the phrase “youth is wasted on the young” had never actually been young, because we knew, or at least those kids knew — I only knew that pretty soon I would be trading in those lyrics for a typewriter and run as far as I could from the truth binge — that the days of railing like a banshee against being sucked into the system would soon end. There was a desperate sense of tranquil recognition that comes from failing to fiercely defy the inevitable. We’d soon be joining the Grand Fuck and there was nothing any of us could do about it.

However, giving in does not mean staying silent for some of us. That generation and the two after it, something called X and this Millennium crew have carved out a throng of bloggers and tweeters and podcasters and anonymous bitchers. The Internet, social media and the like have put the journalism tag on us all, and for good or ill it is here to stay, at least until the government finds some half-assed way to regulate the life from it. For now, everybody’s a television; something I wrote as one of those miserably prescient lyrics that found themselves bouncing over distorted guitar lines that spoke more about the chaos of the human experiment than anything I’ve penned in this space for 15 years.

Public displays of ego warfare are what separate two generations from 1988. Everything that came before; whether politics, journalism or music for that matter, is rendered null and void. Airing our laundry to the masses is rote, not exception. Expressing ideas, but mostly complaints, through the bullhorn of social media, the Internet or calling into the radio rant is the way of discourse. Woody Allen once mused that dissent and commentary would merge to form dysentery, which for my money rivals anything Thompson said about being right or wrong and being flogged for it.

Maybe it should all have been aired out like congress and the White House now openly fight for our fiscal solvency. The whole mess is bad mojo for things like progress and compromise, but it’s gangbusters for truth.

Which brings me to my point, such as it is: this incessant need for the members of congress and the White House to continue to negotiate, debate and grandstand as a matter of public display rather than the preferred cloak of secrecy, wherein the asinine pitches from both sides can be mocked and argued without the need to defend personal honor or political cloud. Once a stance is made public, it is ever more difficult for the chest-thumping, base-bating nonsense that passes for opening gestures to be compromised.

Suddenly, this has become — as did the completely nonsensical debt ceiling rumble of 2011 — an ego trip of sound bites and grandstanding; a repeat of campaigns past. Going to the press and or the public to blurt out defiance is no way to successfully to come to this fairly important decision in keeping the nation from the kind of austere measures that might stall whatever plodding recovery this is and plunge us into another crippling recession.

But it is truth; the truth of what humans are capable of when frightened of being perceived The Loser. It lifts the veil on the process, like the 2000 presidential election did; cracks appearing at the foundation of this American experiment.

Of course, it makes no sense to use the press or the cable news networks to hash out a deal in which both sides will have to eat some measure of shit. But it gives the voting public a chance to see what Otto von Bismarck’s “sausage making” is all about. And believe me; even people who love sausage want nothing to do with knowing what’s in there or how they’re prepared.

But what if they did?

What if, for instance, the majority of the voting public came to grips with the fact that this nation has been at war for over ten years without so much as paying a dime more in taxes or lifting a finger to assist in the effort, beyond those families who have given of their young for a concept none of us are really sure of. What if we really knew what was in the Patriot Act or the Affordable Health Care Act or where most of our tax dollars end up?

Maybe it should all have been aired out like congress and the White House now openly fight for our fiscal solvency. The whole mess is bad mojo for things like progress and compromise, but it’s gangbusters for truth.

It leaves one wondering if we can handle it?

My guess is no. We don’t “handle” — we whine like bitches and take to the streets dressed as comic book characters or minutemen.

But hell, I know what’s it’s like to cringe from truth. I bagged my waltz with that kind of painful crap years ago, and since this is likely to end up as all these things end up, with someone being flogged, right or wrong, I say a few weeks of truth may be ugly and scare the hell out of everyone, but it’s sure as shit is fun.

 

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Second-Term Obama Comes Out Swinging

Aquarian Weekly 11/28/12 REALITY CHECK

THE EMPEROR’S NEW SHOW Second-Term Obama Comes Out Swinging

It’s balls-out time for Joe Cool. Elections, as they say, have consequences. The last president to win a second term did so by a paltry sixty thousand votes in Ohio and began talking like Kubla Khan about “spending political capital”. None of this is lost on Barack Obama, who swept through 11 of the purported 12 battleground states; a performance, when compared to George W. Bush, looks like a windfall. It appears to have turned the first-term demure, pragmatic no-drama Obama into Daddy Warbucks.

Barack ObamaIf the president’s first post-election press conference is any indication, there’s a new sheriff in town: “If there was one thing that everybody understood was a big difference between myself and Mr. Romney, it was, when it comes to how we reduce our deficit, I argued for a balanced, responsible approach, and part of that included making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more. I think every voter out there understood that that was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me, not — by the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me.”

Those are the sounds a man makes when he no longer has to run for office. It is powerful, even majestic, if not terrifying. Makes the most fearless among us truly understand the lofty position of the end game. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? End game. No more matches, debating or begging for money or trolling votes. Nothing left to do but talk tough and crack skulls.

Those on Capitol Hill are well acquainted with those sounds, specifically House Speaker John Boehner, who did his best to appear conciliatory in their wake. As if still in control of something pertinent, Boehner had to pay lip service to raising revenues with meager caveats. It was a stellar performance by a man whose job now is to hand out the shit cakes and shout, “Bottoms up!” It comes with the territory, and will be done, no doubt, with far less bravado and joyful tears than two years ago when he had the defiant look of a winner.

It is Boehner that must bring down the bummer on the Republican caucus. The people have spoken and none of it is what they want to hear. Hard rain, chief. This explains his sending whatever’s left of Paul Ryan in to rally the troops, which in Washington-speak means coming to grips with defeat and what it means to know when the jig is up.

Both Boehner and Obama are poised to tackle the Fiscal Cliff. And why not? They both know what it’s like to be sandbagged for a sniff of power. It’s a wash; 2008 turned into 2010 and that turned quickly to 2012. It is Obama’s serve and he is not lobbing a fucking thing anymore. This has got ace written all over it.

Sure elections have consequences, but sometimes more so for the guy sticking around to do the job.

House Republicans are screwed and they know it. Slowly, the elder statesmen, the lifers — those who could no longer give a flying fart for the fumes of the TEA Party when faced with re-election — are getting in line.

Perhaps it’s the reason Republicans have unleashed Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte to run with this murky Benghazi scandal, which appears to only be a scandal for those who wish the election results had gone the other way. It’s a welcomed distraction to dogpile on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and just the kind of red meat you feed the base and the donors before you lick boots.

Whether the shaky intelligence, dismal security measures and incredibly crappy communication after the U.S. Embassy in Libya went up in flames in early September was a campaign conspiracy or an embarrassing lack of control by the White House is hardly the point. Of course there were problems, and a strategic “handling” of said problems. This is standard procedure and has been long before any of us were born.

And for those of us who don’t have a grasp of how George Washington may or may not have handled the Whiskey Rebellion, the public only has to go back to 2001, when the federal government was well aware of the imminent attack on New York and chose to ignore it, and how, ironically, the woman most responsible for this horrendous disaster was the president’s National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State. This other woman named Rice also went on a bevy of Sunday morning news shows in 2002 and lied about solid evidence of enriched uranium being shipped into Iraq; a lie boldly echoed by Senators McCain and Graham on the floor of the Senate.

This, of course, makes this fabricated pogrom on Susan Rice, a mere errant girl for the big boys, anything but political theater and will fail to reach the new year with any legs. The only question will be whether Joe Cool takes this dead-end ploy to derail his decision on whether to name Rice as Hillary Clinton’s successor as a dare; something Republicans would love, since they have a better chance of pissing up that rope than the one they face on the budget crisis. After the first few post-election weeks of the newly emboldened Obama, the smart money is flooding in that direction. But can the Republican Party afford a bunch of old white guys pitching a fit at an African American woman trying to replace another very popular woman?

How’s that for politics, jack?

Nah, not even the wild and wooly Congress has the stones to pull that off. In fact, the only person going down around there is Grover Norquist, whose masterful lobbying reached epic proportions when he demanded dozens of Republican candidates sign a “no tax” pledge. That idea, while queerly noble, went bye-bye on November 6. A fact not lost on a slow march of Republican senators who’ve already jumped ship in order to better read the tea leaves of 2014, when their asses will be on the line. Each and every one is fully aware of how 65 percent of the citizenry either being against something (Obamacare and the 2010 Democratic fall-out) or for it (2012 election and taxing the rich) brings its own hammer.

The Republicans will give ’til it hurts, but should not forget that they still control the purse strings, ultimately. And the election, while binding, did not have the overwhelming tide the Democrats are selling. While the president is right, he has a solid majority of Americans demanding their tax cuts remain at the expense of the top two percent after January 1, no one with half a brain thinks this is some kind of Liberal mandate.

While significant, Obama’s victory was mostly culture-based, specifically with Hispanics and women, and less economical. Many voters (48 percent of which did not vote for him) still felt his opponent possessed the better grip on fixing the nation’s fiscal issues. His campaign, outreach, and ground game was vastly superior and Mitt Romney, as pointed out with sickening regularity for over a year now, mostly sucked.

The president should take heed that his predecessor, while walking around like the new emperor in 2004, eventually realized his fancy clothes were just a figment of his imagination, and before long his ill-conceived attempt to privatize Social Security did little but signal his second term woes.

Sure elections have consequences, but sometimes more so for the guy sticking around to do the job.

 

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 11/28/12 REALITY CHECK

READERS RESPONSES

Love your assessment of the numbers reflecting the reality for months on the projected Obama victory, refuted, as many realities are often refuted by the Right, to their ultimate detriment. (THE JOE COOL STOMP II — Issue: 11/14/11) Look, these people have been running against a straw man for years. The president they wanted to run against, Muslim appeaser, socialist, weak on foreign policy, clueless, doesn’t exist. They had the chance to make an alternative argument against the guy that actually held the position, but thought it better to echo nonsense by Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin; lunatics all. Not only lunatics, but living in a fantasy world perpetuated by the FOX machine and accepted as fact by ill-informed voters, who were actually shocked when the cold, hard facts they had laughed at came home as actually votes.

V. Elias

 

Man, Mitt Romney had to work hard to blow this. More power to him. He is a champion loser.

Adalson

 

This is now five out of the last six election cycles where the Republicans have lost the popular vote. Their message is stale, antiquated, and soon to go the way of the Whigs. The hijacking of the party during the eighties of the Religious Right and the corporate culture, much of which dumped millions upon millions of dollars to elect Mitt Romney their puppet, have been bested more times than not. This is not likely to change anytime soon. Immigration, contraception, evolution, climate change, tax cuts for the rich, anti-women, anti-homosexual, anti-intellectualism has doomed it.

The brand, as you say, is damaged. The question is who has the balls to change it?

Freddie Regaldo

 

See, you lose me when you let a little soft-on-Obama ankle show. There was nothing impressive about Obama winning. I actually had it backwards when I said nobody cared about Romney – they actually did, but in a negative way to the tune of 2+ million LESS Repub votes than McCain got in ’08. I thought for sure the anti-Obama sentiment would override the obvious Romney stank, but hey I wouldn’t be the first to be wrong in the history of the world. Add to that the fact that Obama himself didn’t draw as many votes as he did in ’08 and there goes your “impressive” analysis.

The bottom line is the Rhinos control the Repub party, they put a Rhino up for Pres who claimed to be conservative when true conservatives knew that was BS, and you have the same result as in most elections whenever Rhinos go up against Dems – utter failure. As long as they control the party and continue to out-Lib the Dems they’re going to be losers, despite the Media Intelligencia’s blaming the Tea Party for everything cause they’re scared shitless of them. One could say the 2 mill who stayed home might have gotten off the couch had Romney picked a real Tea Party conservative, not to take anything away from Paul Ryan, but it’s all pissing in the wind at this point.

I will now sit back and enjoy the spin of the coming and inevitable government failures as the fault of the party who controls only 1/2 of 1/3 of government…

Ken Eustace

 

You make a fair point; what data was Dick Morris, whose job, actually job — not hobby — is to dissect this data, using? It’s not just that the Republican side of things is out of touch with an evolving nation, but they don’t even have serviceable people to understand the process. It’s sad. I used to be a Republican. Now I cringe when any of these people speak. It’s like the party of idiots now.

GG16

 

Mr. Campion – this article is . . . brilliant. (THANKS FOR NEXT TO NOTHING — Issue: 11/21/12) Couldn’t have said it better. My hats off to you.

Blows Against The Empire

 

Yes, it is true. Only two States legalized cannabis. Only a few voted for gay rights. It is true that these things should already be legal in this country. I get it. But the facts are that things are not that way. People in 48 states are still being arrested for pot. This is a relatively small first step, but it is most importantly, a first step. After generations of inequality, and the severing of some of our personal liberties, we are finally making progress. I am excited to see something being done about cannabis prohibition, even though the present situation is not perfect, it began the first serious realization that it can be done. The conversation is upon the world stage now. The genie is out. I am not going backward.

ShumannFu

 

On one part of this piece is correct — fundamental rights should never be subject to popular vote. We allowed it to happen without challenge, and paid the price. So where were you in 2004? Why weren’t you filing lawsuits to stop them?

And now that things are turning in our favor, now that we have a much broader base of support among the public, you’re having a fit.

Real constructive, that.

Huntercgo

 

Giordono Bruno was burned alive for beliefs that were largely fact. He audaciously claimed the Sun was just another star, that other stars had planets orbiting them and likely had life. While that latter is yet unobserved, we retain two absurd words bereft of factual basis. We still reference our daily revolution from a biased, geocentric viewpoint; we call it a sunrise or a sunset. The sun does neither.

Unless we are grossly incorrect, our species lived over 160,000 years in nearly the same level of relative ignorance as the wilds around us. We struggled for 1,000 of our more recent years to comprehend what is now regarded as basic math. The newer language of science existed for 200 years before the revelations of Einstein were realized. We struggle to understand how much of Einstein was correct, and how much deserves correction.

It is no less a wonder how it could be that our interpretation and expression of enlightened ideals remains imperfect, errant and incomplete. Within a short few years the wisdom of recognizing the equality of all people was tarnished by the specification that whole categories were exempt as only 3/5ths of a human being.

We must continue the struggle to understand and implement our own convictions, and to eliminate the contradictions and injustices we invoke upon ourselves. The paradox will continue. We made huge progress over the epochs, and quickly compared to the Eons before us, yet it moves glacially compared to the span of our lives.

JVene

 

This article reads like a scream for attention. Things are getting better and you’re pissed about it. It’s precisely this kind of sensationalism that makes it hard to get the progress both you and I want. Also, I disagree about the religion part of this argument. If they want to be non-taxed, they ought to be playing by the same rules required of every other citizen association that collects and spends money and wants to do so in a tax free way. The religion part of the first amendment is no more inalienable than the right to assemble part.

Pied

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9/11 Remembered? – No, Thanks

Aquarian Weekly 9/7/11 REALITY CHECK

NO, THANKS

“If rape is imminent…relax and enjoy it.”

Napoleon said that. The former Emperor of France was a brute and a tyrant, but a cockeyed optimist at heart. It was by far the smartest thing he ever uttered in his highly significant 52 years on this planet, far more prescient than “If you don’t like it, then send me to Saint Helena” or “Let’s try Russia”.

I have found this disturbing axiom on the indifference of suffering useful in many stages of my life, through personal torment and professional upheaval. In many ways, in a decidedly lesser damaging quotient, there is generally a lot of “grin and bear it” to the march of time and the events that define it.

What may be far more insidious is the marking of life’s horrors as if it is of the utmost importance to recall over and over; perhaps to avoid repeating or to honor those felled by it or to merely see it as momentous in a morbid way.

It is the way I have always seen the concept of funerals, and no amount of stockpiled guilt or psychological babble will convince me otherwise. They are barbaric and needlessly painful and often in the case of dignitaries, heads’ of state or celebrities maudlin beyond stomaching.

This is in fact how this space chooses to “remember” or as it is put in certain quarters “commemorate” the ten-year anniversary of 9/11/01 — as those with the pen wax poetic and those with the pulpit speechify and those who were there recall with reverence the retelling of what is a prime example of the worst humanity has wrought.

This is a sickness only people who suspend reason for emotion would find comforting. I find it appalling and degrading.

Count me out. I lived through it and wrote endlessly about it in this space lo these ten years and will not pay its anniversary mind, save ironically for these words of protest.

I only thought about broaching the subject the other day when I saw a photographer displaying his celebrated “falling man” photo. One of the quotes went something like “It is peaceful and almost hypnotic, as if there was no violence or tragedy attached to moment”. Whatever the exact words, the sentiment was in the ballpark of “beauty from disaster”. Yes, a man plummeting to his death, a death he chose because it was either that or be charred alive inside a burning building which only moments before was his bustling downtown office was a Keatsesque experience.

Truth is only beauty when you haven’t had to witness that miserable shit.

Truth is only beauty when you haven’t had to witness that miserable shit.

This is the sort of middling crap I am going to find hard to endure and harder I fear to ignore this week. You know, the slow motion shots of carnage, ensuing rescue, eyewitness accounts of heroism and a town and nation’s rebirth, the viscous fallout of terrorism meets monetary international concerns all wrapped up nicely in a triumphant “they couldn’t stamp us out” flag-folding, marching band tribute to Mother Country.

Fuck that.

Remember the Alamo, Pearl Harbor Day, The Great Chicago Fire, whatever. It is the height of grieving bullshit that strives to numb the pain and wipe away the abhorrence. Not me, chum. I embrace those things like a beloved child’s toy. I say hang onto it. Keep it close. Nurture it as your own. Remember, “Love your enemy”?

That reminds me of how I feel about Easter. What the hell are these people celebrating? Your savior being mutilated by the state and due to some existential falderal lifted to religious significance by a supposed preordained act inflicted upon the “son” of an omnipotent ruler of the universe? I choose to be pissed about the murder of a revolutionary spirit. I ask the Jehovah Witness contingent every time it descends upon the Clemens Estate. “Aren’t you pissed they killed Jesus?” They have no serviceable answer. Of course not, they are stuck in perpetual grieving commemoration.

Don’t even bring up the abject horrors of Passover.

Perhaps after extrapolating these putrid nuggets from yearly spring rituals, once every ten years reliving mass murder as some kind of patriotic duty seems a trifle, but I’m not buying in.

Hey, half of the county in which I currently reside is under water. The devastation around here is epic. Never has anyone I spoke to from my or any generation breathing seen this kind of disaster in New Jersey. None of us are in the mood to recall any part of a decade-old crushing blow.

So have your commemoration without me. Consider this my spat of defiance, America. Keep your 9/11/01 breast-clutching slobber-fest. I don’t want to heal. I like to rub the scar and all the scars that followed that terrible morning and think about how we’ve learned nothing.

 

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Boycott Beijing Olympics 2008

Aquarian Weekly 8/20/08 REALITY CHECK

BEIJING OLYMPICS: LET PESTILENCE RING!

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. – George W. Bush Inaugural Speech 1/20/05

‘All who live in tyranny’ would start with China, which this country openly trades with and the UN recognizes despite its historic and continued crimes against civil and human rights, forced abortions, execution and mass imprisoning of dissenting citizens, religious leaders, writers, artists etc. Oh, and that nastiness with Tibet. Oooh, that’s bad, man. I can’t wait for King George to spit in their face and demand to let their people go. My testicles tingle at the thought of it. – jc IN BUSH WE TRUST 2/25/05

Beijing OlympicsThe above is a running joke the president and I have going. He spews what I’ve playfully called in print his “ragingly sanctimonious myopia” and I call him on it. It’s fun. It’s what presidents do, and how journalists are supposed to react. Who knows what the fuck passes for journalism or dissent anymore. Perhaps if you can find one mainstream media outlet not owned by a multi-billion dollar corporation, then maybe someone would notice the spectacularly potent illustration of abject hypocrisy currently on display at the Beijing Olympics.

The United States of America, its government, its media, and by extension, its people, its spirit and what remains of its moral conscience is in the midst of celebrating a fascist state, which for more than half a century has been the home office for human misery, civil rights abuses, and less-than-discreet forms of genocide to rival that of any country on the planet. The very notion that our nation wages war around the globe to ostensibly spread democracy and herald the tenets of freedom and then vigorously trades with and borrows billions of dollars from a republic it openly embraces in an international sporting event is nothing short of a colossal travesty.

Forget the Olympics “not being about politics” – despite the fact that it absolutely has been in recent history, as evidenced in our boycott of the Moscow games in 1980 and the Russians subsequent nose-thumbing four years later in Los Angeles – lauding the self-righteous deceit of an oppressive regime on the world stage is at best pathetic and at worst evil.

This is what comes from being in debt to monsters. For the best manifestation of this please refer to either video of the president dancing like an imbecile at the Olympic opening ceremonies or the later chapters of Brett Easton Ellis’ sophomoric novel, Less Than Zero, wherein the protagonist, an incorrigible dope fiend, is reduced to blowing closet queers to support his smack habit.

So how does it feel to see our Cowboy President sucking up to his nefarious benefactors this way? Makes your chest swell with pride to be the moral compass and beacon of liberty to the world. Proud to blather on about the wonders of democracy while the Chinese people have no right to freedom of religion, artistic or literary expression, speech, press, property, or even basic human rights demanded by the United Nations, of which China is a member.

But that shouldn’t really shock those of us even remotely paying attention or on the network payroll over at the National Broadcasting Company, since this government under every president for decades has also willingly protected the interests of Saudi Arabia, which ranks in the top five with China for the systematic execution of its citizens. By conservative estimates, since obviously China does not share state secrets, its government annually puts to death 10,000 of its people for “crimes against the government”, which include dissent in any form and the always-popular tax fraud.

The other fun fact about the daily human rights abuses in China is the forced-labor of minors making all the crap we buy from Walmart to Target to every supermarket across the fruited plains, not to mention ridiculously expensive shit like Nike sneakers and the such, which are being “manufactured” right now in sweat shops by children who were either abandoned or enslaved. Don’t worry; it’s only predominantly female children, because with the One-Child Policy instituted by the government in 1979, the atavistic patriarchy of China’s culture has bred forced abortions of females and/or their sale into slavery or outright abandonment to allow for male heirs.

The United States of America, its government, its media, and by extension, its people, its spirit and what remains of its moral conscience is in the midst of celebrating a fascist state, which for more than half a century has been the home office for human misery, civil rights abuses, and less-than-discreet forms of genocide to rival that of any country on the planet.

My favorite “controversy” to emerge from the Games’ opening ceremonies surrounded a cute little girl’s lip-synching of a less attractive girl’s recording. Oh, the terrible injustice! The embarrassment of such a cold and calculating public-relations maneuver! This is tantamount to complaining that the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany had garish overtones of nationalism.

Then there is the minor annoyance of organ harvesting of live victims imprisoned for their belief in a spiritual practice called Falun Gong. Earlier this decade there were reports from several sources describing conditions at the Sujiatun Concetration Camp, one of 36 operating in country today, which describe hospitalized Falun Gong practitioners being kept alive in the basement where their organs are to be carved out for transplants of “normal” citizens. An alleged eyewitness detailed botched or “unworthy” victims of the practice being “thrown directly into the crematorium to be burnt”.

Detractors from inside China’s spectacualrly corrupt governement, and specfically government-contriolled newspapers, have refuted these “camps and practices”, but what would you expect? Assuming these are fabrications of Amnesty International or merely disgruntled revolutionaries, they still bare investigation, especially since the United States went to war on the flimsy evidence of WMD inside a foreign nation.

But that was all a load of bullshit anyway, like the freeing of the Iraqi people, which would have engendered less than mild enthusiasm had they not been sitting on billions of crude oil and threatening the sovereignty of our Saudi and Isreali allies. Selective global morality has been a favorite of this country for centuries.

Take another of King George’s proclamations in May of 2005 (apparently a whiz-bang year for “tough-guy rhetoric”) to the people of Georgia, who are right now being invaded by Russia: “The path of freedom you have chosen is not easy, but you will not travel it alone. Americans respect your courageous choice for liberty. And as you build a free and democratic Georgia, the American people will stand with you.”

Really?

How come Georgia’s president makes appeals to John McCain to save his hide as Russia demands he abdicate his position or face total war, instead of engaging the sitting president? Could it be the Republican presidential candidate’s lobbying to bring Georgia into NATO, which would have placed us in an unwanted and unwinnable war with its enemies?

I’m not begrudging a single athlete here nor NBC their ratings (or lack thereof) or do I wish to skunk your enjoyment in viewing this Olympics. But please don’t wake up on the Monday after and scream about human rights abuses and terrible regimes abroad and expect to be considered anything but a jabbering dolt.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Queen Of Vernon 1993 – 2007

Aquarian Weekly 1/2/08 REALITY CHECK

QUEEN OF VERNON 1993-2007

The Lion of Judah shall break every chain. – Rastafarian Prayer

The Queen Of VernonShe was regal. Not in any preordained, systemic, lordly manner, but there was a distinct nobility to her that was able to transform you. Somehow in her presence you possessed the capacity to escape the parameters of the mundane, shed your worldly ignorance, and witness, if only of that infinitesimal moment, what the religious describe as the reward of salvation, a glimpse of heaven, a visceral peace with the injustices of shuffling coldly across this spinning sphere.

She was, in a very real sense, a vessel. In her, all things were possible. Suddenly you were okay with the idea of burning bushes. You accepted the unknown. Magic happened.

It was in her walk, proudly distant but informal, a passionate gait. You could lose your breath to watch it, especially when it was coming toward you. You could brace for it, but it did not matter. You were always stunned by its infectious rhythm, an unsettling balance of silences.

It was also in the whisper of her voice, forever seducing a response. In the daytime, with its meandering din, it would be lost, muffled, ignored. She opened her tiny mouth and it would seem as if nothing was coming. She was miming, passing air futilely. But at night, the dead quiet of its suspended middle, it was a clarion, a broken but furious roar. It reminded you that listening meant more than hearing. It meant receiving the message unfettered by distraction. It meant respecting her presence.

But it was always in the eyes where she would ultimately steal your soul. Your will was hers, and although she knew it, she let you think it was your doing, your entire purpose for being around. One peer into those pools of infinite emerald beacons, bizarre portals into Neverland, would paralyze you. And when you were captured there, dumbstruck by this abduction of your senses, you half expected seraphim to begin battering your skull with deafening arias from La Bohème.

Not sure where any of this came from, I only know it was there. Everyone I knew who visited with her would feel it. None of us could explain it in any sane way, but they would tell me, and I would not argue. I was its willing victim again and again. I sympathized with them all. Whoever they were at whatever age, they would chase her down. Ask where she was hiding. Try and win her attention. But she would never give of it liberally, just the opposite. You had to win it. You had to achieve her.

And that’s the nut, really. The rarity of her. And not in the sense that she would make herself scarce, she was attainable by merely looking. She was there, as beauty and grace is there daily for us to grasp if we would just take the time to see it. She was a reminder that whatever redemption exists, it does so in repose, not wild abandon. Wait for it.

Wait.

In between the cracks, through the mist and noise and over the grinding hours of our advancing age, it will always be there. You simply have to see it. It waits for you. She would wait for you.

Transfixed, nearly hypnotized, I began to lose my grip. I could hear traffic and birds chirping, but it sounded as if submerged. All things faded. It was, for that moment, just us. Then she blinked, and went about her way, showing me the walk that launched a thousand melodies.

I would watch her wait. She waited on people, on nature, on the morning, the weather, and the passageways to the next best thing. I watched her wait all the time. It calmed me. Humbled me. She would sit for hours, silent, frozen, staring. Sometimes it was into the woods. Other times it was into the abyss. Many times it was both; like when she was young, sitting on the main chair at The Desk and staring into the black screen, hoping for a spark in there. I would embarrassingly tell I was the one who had to make the words dance. I could not on most days and begged her forgiveness.

But still she would wait.

If you were ready, when you were ready, she was ready, and not a moment before. It’s true, she would avoid most contact, and when forced, give of herself grudgingly, but oh, when you won her patience and received her audience, it was as if the pilot light provided you to figure things kicked on, and the gears began working again. And somewhere in the little pinholes that the toughest parts of this life leaves you, a tiny space was filled.

No matter how many times this would happen, it would be like the first time.

My first time was ten years ago in a little hamlet on the banks of the Hudson River. There was an inclined walkway, a cluster of trees, and a slightest hint of sunlight peaking through the clouds. I was descending a crude stone staircase when I saw her. She was waiting, again, at the bottom. She startled me at first, but I did not back away. I bent down to stare. You had to bend down to really get into it with her, dive in. No fear. Open. Naked.

She stared back. There was nothing said.

Transfixed, nearly hypnotized, I began to lose my grip. I could hear traffic and birds chirping, but it sounded as if submerged. All things faded. It was, for that moment, just us. Then she blinked, and went about her way, showing me the walk that launched a thousand melodies.

I was visiting that day with the woman who would be my wife. We were younger then, well, she was younger, I was always old, a festering crank, a bitching creep of a man. She was then as she is today, an immovable phalanx of emotion. Her compassion for the vessels of the unknown remains impenetrable. And amid talk of poetry and art and dreams and nightmares, we broached what I had begun to describe as “the moment”. She had felt it too. She knew where I had been, for she was there only months before when she found the vessel caged. She knew instinctively that she had to free her, which is why, among many intriguing things, I married the woman.

My wife knows a good entranceway into the beyond when she sees it. After all, it is in the waiting.

So they lived together for awhile, my wife and the vessel, but the vessel had to go away, ten or twelve days, and my wife was not sure she would ever see her again. But of course she did. She merely had to wait. She had to collect the time. She needed to show patience.

Soon the vessel came to live with the rest of us sloppy, boisterous, strutting boys, and the two of them taught us the ways of the fairer sex. We traveled together from one outpost to the other; the Putnam Bunker, Fort Vernon, the Clemens Estate, each stop the girls put us straight; taking the high ground, gathering the hours, offering glimpses of the unknown.

On the way, the vessel was anointed the Queen of Vernon, the mountain princess of the gateway west. It was her prime, the days of the hunt. Then she embraced the vagaries of the Compound, where she seduced another, a cherished friend named ironically after a monarch of distinction, Elizabeth, who was to share her final hours. It is here, on the hill, where she rests now.

Her name was Mazzy.

She was our lady feline.

She died on Christmas Eve.

Long Live the Queen.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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James Campion’s “Reality Check” Celebrates Ten Years

Aquarian Weekly 8/15 – 8/29/07 REALITY CHECK

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS YOU KNOW IT, AND HE FEELS FINE
Reflections On Ten Years Of Reality Check

jc 2007

Humans need laws. We are weak and stupid and would reduce our quality of life to fossil fragments without them. We have so many laws now it would choke forty civilizations. We cram God and country and all that weepy singsong crap down every throat possible. Yet we continue to reign as the most heinous creatures sucking air. – Tramps, Thugs & The Corporate Lie 12/8/99

It feels almost as though Campion and the yet-unconquered mountain of human reason were made to square off against each other, and when I read his regular dispatches from the front of whatever war he happens to be fighting that week, I picture him standing before that mighty pile of rock, shouting out the real deal, telling logic and actuality how it really goes down on this twisted and interminably fucked planet of ours. The mountain, for its part, has no response.

And what incredible self-indulgence could drive one to grate week after week on the spinal nerves of America’s backbone in hopes of maybe digging through the spin and misinterpretation, the utter lack of context, to the discovery of true motives. Like planting a flag on the North Pole and calling it yours, so too is the futility of speaking truth to a power that simply will not listen, and doubly admirable then is continuing on until the throat is raw and bleeding.

Undaunted by the hopelessness of his or anyone (everyone) else’s position, Campion continues forward, upward and deeper inside, pulling apart the sediment of that mountain, element by element, so that at the end of it he may have the pieces wholly dissected and ready to be put back together in a way that actually makes sense. Those upon whom the title of “rational” would be heaped can only stand on the sidelines and whisper well-earned wishes of “good luck,” or otherwise lose themselves in their own desperate sneers of, “you’re out of your mind.” In either case, Campion is the one who does while we are the ones who watch.

Unable to idle in an age of enforced stillness, his is the frantic and hyperventilating voice of a man who cannot give himself up to the ultimate cynicism-that belief that in between two sides of any story there is no truth to be found. Whether there is or not, I’m at no liberty to say, but I take great comfort knowing there remains at least one good human being out there dedicating his decades to finding out for sure.

To the next 10,

JJ KoczanAquarian Weekly Managing Ed. July 2004-May 2007

John CusackCampion’s whole bleak trip is a means to an end. It’s so apocalyptic it has to be a put-on, or it reveals ulterior motives, like a reverse pep talk. As long as he’s painting everything dark you no longer feel so bad about your place in it.

John Cusack Actor

Interventions and parental group therapy are nice, but a carefully placed fist to the temple sets the bully straight and gives a lifetime of hope for the bullied. I’ve had plenty of experience with bullies, and it sounds to me like the AMA is bullying us into robbing our kids of childhood’s most precious victory, the ass-whupping of the deserved. Life is about a series of defeating bullies; the sooner we understand it, the better. – In Defense Of The American Bully 6/26/02

I first came across “jc” while interviewing him about Deep Tank Jersey and Fear No Art, the latter had just been published. Coffee turned to beer and critical interpretations of music [Lester Bangs on low battery life] led to insights about religious exile – no Main Street here – rather an address amid a hipster neighborhood yet to be discovered by the New Yorker or some other rag worthy of at least a few page turns before interest turns to self congratulatory prose. You won’t find Campion there, however. He lurks between the shadows cast by accepted “rogue” journalists. Lyricist John Perry Barlow penned the phrase “Shadow boxing the apocalypse;” Campion’s column is his gloves. Ten years in, the laces are tattered, the red, leather mitts scuffed but his blows still hit hard, especially when on target.

Late last year my wife and I read excerpts of Midnight For Cinderella at some joint in New York City celebrating its release. The bar was loud, the PA was at times inaudible, but somehow Campion’s truths, his take, rang true.

Keep on, keeping on…

Will King Musician (“Coming On In From The Cold”) Journalist (North Country News, The New Jersey Cooperator, Rescue Magazine)

James Campion was an ardent supporter of my former column, Ruminations for many years, during which time he made outlandish declarations about my thoughts and writing. He is often self-indulgent (aren’t we all!) and takes his own opinions way too seriously (ahem! I too have been guilty of same!) but he’s also brilliant at his best, consistently passionate and insightful.

Rita J. King Journalist/Author (Village Voice, CorpWatch, Huffington Post)

Breakfast With HunterJames Campion sees the truth in art and life in ways that few people recognize and even fewer are able to express so eloquently.

Wayne Ewing Filmmaker (Breakfast with Hunter, When I Die, The Last Campaign)

Come now, fellow travelers, this is the waning century. Let us rise from slumber and count the coffee beans among us. Power corrupts, and absolute power is like an IV loaded with speedballs cruising through the main vein. It is King Richard III wandering through the desert looking to trade the Third World for a goddamned horse. No human can survive it with a shred of decency left intact. There are horrible places on this globe where you can go to see the fierce results of its wounds. – Ugly Truth 3/24/98

When I started Hackwriters I had lots of enthusiastic writers but none with any political savvy. James sent in a piece that was witty, intelligent and a little wicked. I knew immediately that here was a guy with talent and a great set of values. James Campion wants the world to be better than it is and knows that someone has to point out the imperfections. I cannot think of a better man to point the finger than James Campion and we have valued every piece for eight long years. The world is still imperfect so anticipate that James has a long career ahead of him.

Sam North Editor of Hackwriters.com

Dan BernCampion doesn’t bash sacred cows – he bludgeons them, removes their entrails, leaves them wishing they had never been cows at all. And yet, for all of it, Campion has that thing held probably in common by all great satirists, be they Swift, Twain, Mencken, Vonnegut, or Campion’s beloved Hunter Thompson: a deep romanticism, an unshakeable love for the things, people, ball teams, bands, towns and ideas that have been unable to lose him along the way.

Dan Bern Singer/Songwriter (12 CDs and EPs, including New American Language, Fleeting Days, and Breathe) Author (Quitting Science, Tales of Toscana, Ted The Cow, World Cup)

I am lucky to have friends with guts of steel and the resolve of titans. Unfortunately for them I have none of these attributes, and can only churn out bad words and funny asides about meaningless bullshit, so I offer only my gratitude and undying friendship to the faithful. The Desk is dead. Long live The Desk. – A Bittersweet End To The Putnam Bunker 9/5/01

Know this, if you know anything about what is slowly happening to the social landscape of this country, as long as this nation is at war the truth can no longer be considered an absolute, it is a concept to be manipulated and raped and put on display for those with agendas to dance around like savages soliciting rain. – Post Mortem On War Coverage 4/9/03

Pat BuchananI think we have pretty much astonished the establishment so far. We’ve been out there fighting battles, and the more they call us names and the more they say this and that it just tells me that we’re in this thing for the long haul.

Pat Buchanan Political Commentator, two-time presidential candidate, speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan

One question to the editor of the Aquarian: Did you ever actually check Jim’s references ten years ago? Apparently not. The good thing is, through on the job training and a naturally poisonous keyboard, Jim has managed to make even this rock-ribbed Republican occasionally laugh at my own party. That’s talent. There aren’t many writers with the wit and sarcasm of Jim Campion. In fact, I can only think of one. And you’re lucky enough to have him.

Rob Astorino Former Westchester County Legislator, Executive Producer of the Michael Kay Show/ESPN, and current program director of The Catholic Channel on Sirius Radio

“So how does it feel to be Clinton’s butt buddy? How can someone be so wrong so often and still be able to live with themselves?” The response of “if you don’t like it write your own fucking column” began my three-year journey of sharing the political page of the Aquarian with one, James Campion.

James’ writing style is pure genius. It is a wicked combination of intellect and street smarts that says he can kick your ass while simultaneously spouting the works of Aristotle and the combined ERA of the ’78 Yankees starting rotation. His biting wit and satire on all things sports, political or pop culture makes waiting out the week all that more fun.

He ain’t lib and he ain’t conservative…he’s James Campion, and I believe he hates everyone equally.

Thanks for the laughs and the inspiration. May you have many more 10-year anniversaries. The thinking public needs you around.

Bill Roberts Conservatively Speaking

What level of brain-dead mannequins are we enduring with this vat of bilge? We need gory caged ferret fights to the death. That is how democracy works, not some number-crunching pinheads with interchangeable personalities. Likeable sods with wet feet and dapper ties leave us with grinning charlatans from the South pampered by daddy’s oil and tobacco money. This is what we deserve now. We don’t want any nasty commentary on the way things are, just force-feed us the Pollyanna pabulum and send us to bed with no dinner. – Notes From The Campaign Fringe 10/18/00

Messenger RecordsDuring my 11 years as an owner of an independent record label, I’ve come across only a small handful of writers who go beyond great writing talent. Having integrity and the resolution to act upon it is not a choice; it’s in their DNA. James is one of those few. He is militantly honest and passionate, and he seeks and exposes the truth wherever he can find it. James is among the best of the good guys.

Brandon Kessler Messenger Records

CAMPION… the name itself brings pimples to my geese! First time I saw him I thought he was one of the dwarves from the castle, turns out he’s a glorious midget with a knack for the written word. GENIUS… that’s what he is… I’ve not seen such unrestrained rambling since I spoke at that Meth convention in Prague. Say what you want about Meth heads… at least they DO!! And Campion… Do’s… yes…. the man is BRILLIANT!! I love his writing so much I HATE IT! Kaptain Von Karl, my Minister of Propaganda idolizes the freak! Especially for his infamously twisted plan to make his Jesus book so big… no one would be inclined to move, let alone lift and carry it back to a book shelf, thereby forcing the poor sap who purchased it to create a permanent advertisement for Campion on their coffee table. The “child” in Campion is strong… the “imp” and “brat” powerful… He is quite assuredly… a shaman, a prophet… an Asshole! Long live the Midget Asshole!

The Mighty Chief Wonka BLAZO!! (Publisher of “Fear No Art”)

Colonel Campion has illustrated a consistent objectivity in the dispensing of ire. No one is sacred, no punches are pulled. One week he’ll piss off the conservatives, the next the liberals, and the next both. But hey, fair is fair, and if you’re going to lift up that rock, you’d better expose all the slugs.

Chris Uhl Aquarian Weekly Managing Ed. 1998-2002

The manifestation of violence from hatred is delicate. It is nurtured as much as the trip from love to philanthropy. What happens on a dim Tuesday just outside of Denver should not be looked at as an aberration as much as a culmination. We are lucky more children don’t take to the streets with savage vengeance for the abuse, distrust, and pain we substitute for understanding, and the garbled misinformation we trade for teaching. – Cyclical Pain: Child Abuse In The 90s 4/21/99

Eric HutchinsonI love James’ writing, and not just because he usually speaks highly of me in it. He displays a sincere, thoughtful touch while still managing to sound jaded and pissed off at just about everything. His rantings are the stuff Dennis Miller wishes he had the mental capacity to pull off. James is the moral compass of Northern New Jersey. Now THAT’S scary.

Eric Hutchinson Singer/Songwriter (…Before I Sold Out, Sunds Like This)

James Campion, a More Handsome Michael Moore?

I first met Mr. Campion when he was shaking his finger at the universe along with my friend Al Quagliata, they spoke at length with a scathing vocabulary which seemed to police the very stars into alignment. They were at a bar and I coerced Al to introduce me to his handsome pontificating partner. James was friendly for a moment, then asked me what project I was working on and how I knew Al. I confess I was worried that he might criticize me along with the corrupt politicians and racist movie stars. I briefed him on “Putnam,” a one-act musical about superstars (Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, etc.) staging early deaths to get out of the fame ring. Quagliata (excellent comic actor/impressionist) was portraying John Lennon at the time. Lucky for me, James softened to the concept that a talent agency might just enact a celebrity’s demise if for no other reason than to get the paparazzi off their backs, giving some validity to the notorious Elvis sightings. Then like a rodeo cowboy, he immediately jumped back on the journalistic beast, holding on tight to the beliefs he’s been riding now for ten years. I’ve been a fan ever since we met and highly recommend Trailing Jesus before the Middle East disappears entirely.

Sharon Fogarty Playwright (The Overdevlopment of Scott, Putnam, Portrait of the Artist as a Dumb Blonde)

It has never been particularly important for me to have anything resembling a strong philosophy or belief. Those things are transient, like standing at a railway station and hoping to get to Detroit by taking the nonstop to Philadelphia. I want the next train that pulls in to head in my desired direction, but no matter what I believe, the damn thing is going to Philly. It’s a train all right, but not the one I hope it will be. – What Is Belief? 8/8/01

A national election being decided by one state, controlled by partisan judges and attorney generals presiding over clairvoyant hand counts, where hired drones spin electronic ballots into lamplight to guess at voter intent: It is entirely possible that a Zippy the Chimp funzo dance on a Twister mat would be a more legally binding and fair-minded attempt at choosing the leader of the free world. – Surviving The Great “System” Anal Probe 11/29/00

Ralph NaderI thank you, James, for your continuous support of my independent message and your reasoned good will in the face of political hysteria, and most of all keeping the hope for a progressive agenda alive in this country. I’ve tried to give voice to tens of millions of people as the underdog candidate for Americans who get pushed around and defrauded and harmed and disrespected and excluded and underpaid and laid off and denied health care. The American people need to know they can have anything they want, the problem is they don’t seem to want anything at all, or at least it appears that way on Election Day.

We’re all prisoners of an exclusive two-party monopoly with a barrier called an electoral college and we’ve got to break out of prison. We have to liberate our minds, begin voting our conscience, and stop voting for politicians who go to Washington and month after month vote against their supporters. They’ve turned over the U.S. government to an increasingly smaller number of giant multi-nationals, who’ve turned Washington into corporate occupied territory, and have no allegiance to our country or communities other than to control or abandon them to China or elsewhere as they see fit.

Keep up the good fight.

Ralph Nader Historic consumer advocate, three time independent presidential candidate, author, and tireless activist

Your piece on my book The Trials Of Lenny Bruce was really terrific. You’ve done Lenny and me a great honor. I’m even more grateful for your enthusiastic endorsement of and efforts on behalf of my work. Also, having perused your book, Fear No Art, I can honestly say it is a please to experience the range of emotions expected from the works of a fine essayist.

David Skover Dean’s Distinguished Research Scholar & Professor of Law at Seattle University

Kathleen Glynn & Michael MooreKeep giving them hell, James.

Kathleen Gynn Author, Film Producer, Activist

The abuse of LSD at the New York Times has reached epidemic proportions. I happen to know it isn’t just at the print level anymore, but management and editorial staff have now imbibed beyond any definition of recreational consumption. This is why the Times has never understood George W. Bush. The president is a cokehead. He has all the tendencies: paranoia, overt machismo, a painful inability to construct coherent thoughts verbally, and a penchant to scratch his groin incessantly without shame. Only a serious speed freak would continue to describe what is happening in Iraq as progress. And only acid junkies would comment so blindly that there is some kind of insidious U.S. plan for a bloodless coup in that mess. – Manifest Destiny Made Easier Through Modern Chemistry 12/29/04

While I’ve yet to meet the man, James Campion is on a short list of people I wouldn’t mind sharing a bunker with. Bravely holding ground, wisely weighing when to flank and attack, and keenly aware of his enemies’ weak points, he pens Reality Check, the longest currently-running column The Aquarian Weekly is proud to publish, based on an entirely unscientific, dusty once-over of our archives. It’s that breed of brazen, unemotional analysis of the world’s organized evil that we hold dear here, and there’s no better soldier than James.

Patrick Slevin Aquairan Weekly Managing Editor

James Campion keeps amazing me. He is one of the few demented souls our industry has produced. As fast as I could, I’ve tried to think of new and exciting editorial ideas to throw his way and every time I did he came through with flying colors. I’m proud to call him friend, but I have warned him more than once if I get one more call in the middle of the night begging for plane fare to D.C. in order to find kidnapped journalists I will shoot him.

Dan Davis Editor-In-Chief/Editorial Director Magna Publishing Group

Denise MihalikI have had the most delicious time conspiring with James. He is inspiring, truthful, audacious, and a TOTAL muse. He’s liberated and free and inspires others to be themselves. UNAFRAID. He mused me into creating a slew of art for his book, Midnight For Cinderella, which was out of the ordinary for me and totally rad. I have never had so much fun working with anyone in my life. Creatively he just says… GO…DO…BE.

Denise Mihalik Artist/Photographer

I think if people actually read the Bible, there could be trouble. But people don’t read. They watch television and snowboard and make money and plot getting laid. And when it comes time to do whatever they feel like doing or hating or co-opting, they interpret things like the Bible in their own interesting way. Worse still, they rely on crooked hacks to do it for them, which gets us all in trouble. – Gay Bishops & Other Modern Illusions 8/13/03

Jim Campion is pure gold. There is not an ounce of bullshit in his commentary. The man is straight up, and what more can you ask from a politically charged, passionate scribe. His battles are selfless, righteous and to the point. In recent defense of my plight, Jim Campion went above and beyond the call of duty in a piece entitled; Hooligans in the Press Room (almost one year ago to the day). The piece was vintage Campion; pure and seething, as he attacked a pack of clueless piranhas (a new publisher and managing editor) at the North County News who dismantled the best weekly sports section in the nation in one fell swoop.

When he worked freelance for me back in the wee ’90s covering the sports beat in Westchester and Putnam County, I looked forward to Campion’s fiery piece each week, just as I looked forward to our weekly beers at the End Zone Sports Bar in Putnam Valley, NY. The readers of Reality Check are now prone to his prose, hooked to his interpretation, and fortunate for his views. A decade of excellence has captured their eyes and minds… may his venomous spew continue.

Ray Gallagher NYSPA Award-Winning Editor, Writer & Photographer (North County News, Bedford Record, Lewisboro Ledger, Putnam Co. News & Recorder, P’Ville/Mt. Kisco Examiner & the Hastings Enterprise)

Ani DiFrancoI enjoy our conversations. I really do. But I do not use e-mail and I get all my news from the Nation and Ms. Magazine. I live on a bus most of the time, and I steer pretty clear of the TV. I can’t watch TV. It depresses me or enrages me. CNN is an impossible place to tap into anything real since all of the information is completely co-opted and controlled by corporate forces. I really don’t have a mind for the hyper details of foreign policy, or of what the stupid white men are doing, but I do have some basic ideas and feelings and impressions. I would make a very bad columnist like yourself, because if you believe in objectivity, then your reading of any kind of media is going to be misguided.

But I do enjoy our conversations.

Ani DiFranco Singer/Songwriter/Poet/Activist

Just know that authors inspire young writers, but scribes like Thompson, Twain or Mencken do not inspire, they abduct. Taken hostage, bound and gagged and beaten mercilessly from the first sentence. It is violent and disturbing, like all of life’s greatest gifts, not unlike an actual birth, with pain and screaming and blood everywhere. – Hunter Stockton Thompson 1937-2005 3/2/05

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Corporate Lunacy In The Wake Of Katrina

Aquarian Weekly 9/20/06 REALITY CHECK

CHING-CHING, CASH IN ON TRAGEDY! Part II Aggressive Accounting, Money-Grabs, & The Future Of New Orleans

New OrleansIn Part II of our interview with Rita J. King on her investigative report, Big, Easy Money: Disaster Profiteering On The American Gulf Coast for CorpWatch (corpwatch.org), we uncover more greed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: Corporate feeding frenzies leading to the fleecing of the unfortunate and the jobbing of the lazy federal government, which, in turn, fleeces us in the tax game, and learn how the these crimes could eventually bury the beauty and tradition that was once New Orleans.

These “business practices”, while being sneaky and rotten, are pretty much expected as shenanigans as usual. The question must be then, is all of this unethical behavior technically illegal?

It’s not necessarily illegal, but it clearly demonstrates the degree to which laws are set up to favor corporations. At a certain point you have to say it’s not a matter of politics, or anything other than the obvious fact that the greater good is not being served. I am not prepared to completely blame corporations for that – they’re playing a game. It’s called capitalism. I understand that. But if the system isn’t working, this is how empires crumble. In the history of the world, I’m not sure there’s ever been a civilization that has recognized its own demise in time to do anything productive to avoid the calamity.

Taxpayers need to know that the Army Corps of Engineers, Bechtel and Halliburton, among others, are using the same contract vehicles in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. They need to know that there are indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity open-ended contingency contracts being used on the Gulf Coast to squeeze out local companies, and cost-plus contracts that allow them to collect a profit on everything they spend, which really gives them an incentive to overspend. The report lays out the astronomical charges in detail. The American people need to read it.

“It’s not just that it’s expensive to get things done, we’re throwing billions of dollars at things that are not getting done – it’s wasteful, it’s disgusting, and how can we really expect the rest of the world to believe we’re interested in preserving their respective cultures, if we’re willing to decimate our own?

After all this research and investigation, what is your final assessment of these repeated money-grabs? Will they eventually bleed taxpayers and/or the federal government dry and consequently stall the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast or New Orleans specifically?

Corporate law requires that corporations put profit above everything else. People need to keep that in mind. The law is subject to the people. If people don’t like their taxes to skyrocket and their money to be squandered they must act. It’s not just that it’s expensive to get things done, we’re throwing billions of dollars at things that are not getting done – it’s wasteful, it’s disgusting, and how can we really expect the rest of the world to believe we’re interested in preserving their respective cultures, if we’re willing to decimate our own?

I wonder, in the absence of the minority voices, whose master plan to rebuild will be followed. The Louisiana Recovery Authority is coming up with a master plan, but in whose image? What are the values being used? It’s very unclear. It is one of the most precious regions in this country for its cultural diversity. You can’t rebuild what was already there, but you can value the history. I think the single most important characteristic of the rebuilding effort needs to be a creative approach to synthesizing the past to build a viable future.

Ironically, I watched a documentary on the rich and mysterious history of New Orleans only a few weeks before the devastation, and it was one of the first things I thought of, how much of it will be washed away inevitably?

When the early French settlers came to New Orleans, they almost perished from the heat, and so they brought in slaves from Ghana, because the climates are so similar, and the slaves wove into the wrought-iron gates of the city a symbol called the Sankofa, which still stands today. It is a heart with spirals on the inside and the outside and it means – which Bob Marley immortalized in his wonderful, “No Woman/No Cry”; “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” You can’t rebuild unless you take the past into account. I believe the image of the Sankofa should stand as the pervasive symbol of the entire rebuilding effort of New Orleans.

But will it ever be rebuilt – physically, culturally, or symbolically?

The future of the city is uncertain, but I question the wisdom of rebuilding it in an area where the levees haven’t been improved. Climatologists are predicting increased ferocity in weather patterns in the near future. So rebuilding in this climate has to be undertaken with the utmost caution.

You’re talking planning, wisdom and compassion, so my humble guess is it will never be rebuilt.

Well, will it be rebuilt to my utopian vision? No. But it will be rebuilt to someone’s vision, and as such I think people need to keep a sharp focus on this process. We’ve been given an unprecedented opportunity here to look at our values, and the manner in which this rebuilding process is accomplished says something about the lives of every American. So people can hash out their ideas of American values until they’re red, white, blue in the face, but if they do not take a step back and realize this is the defining gesture of our lifetime, how we rebuild the Gulf Coast, then there is the risk it can be inevitably turned into a Mardi Gras theme park.

Really, what it comes down to is there’s something different about that place, and if we lose it, it will be a huge victory for homogenization.

Besides the public, or those who go to the Corpwatch web site, who is going to see this report?

The 20,000-word report is available with photographs online, in PDF format, and it’s also available as a pamphlet, the size of a magazine, which has been disseminated to most major media, and I believe it will be given to all congressional representatives. We are hoping to do a book, because, to my knowledge, CorpWatch is the only not-for-profit organization that has trailed Homeland Security’s spending since its inception. CorpWatch has written reports on spending in Afghanistan, Iraq, an alternative Halliburton report, and now this. All of it can be viewed on their site.

For more on the report and Rita J. King’s continued investigative journalism, please visit: ritajking.com

Part I: Corporate Lunacy in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

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A Discussion with Dan Bern Part I

Aquarian Weekly 4/16/03 REALITY CHECK

TALKIN’ DAN BERN MUSE – Part I An Interview with Singer/Songwriter, Dan Bern conducted over the phone lines on the road from Pittsburgh to Philly from The Desk at Fort Vernon. 3/26/03

Dan Bern songs speak to me. That is the power of song, and it is not lost on him. And although he is one of the most prolific composers of this era – Messenger Records chairman, Brandon Kessler told me he could release Dan Bernan album a week – there is an obvious care given to each lyric, each characterization, each wonderfully crafted chord progression. This is because Bern is cut in the mold of the old-time songster who would use the medium to cajole and soothe the listener right along with its author, as if sharing an experience. And the range of his emotions is wide.

He should have a wider audience, and he’s working on it, touring like a madman – he even recently played his baseball songs at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown – but mainly because Dan Bern is everything right about the craft of songwriting and performing. A troubadour, a poet, a painter and a writer, he shies away from nothing, opening dangerous channels to allow his audience to peer down with him.

The first time I saw him; he blew me away, the honesty and humor right there for everyone to see. No pretensions, no illusions, pure ugliness and beauty set to music. Soon after, Bern’s recordings played in the background for the final excruciating days of finishing my last book; no small task since completing a book is like being in some kind of labor/limbo for months. And it was a pleasure to hand him a copy after his Bowery Ballroom show mere days after conducting this interview.

It was more of a discussion than an interview really, as Bern let his slow, infectious drawl pour over the answers with an old country wisdom belying his mid-thirties experience. We started out with a jibe on his playfully rambling song, “Jerusalem”, which happens to be the first one on his first, self-titled 1997 recording, a song in which Bern announces that he is the Messiah; a nugget too good to ignore for a wise-ass like me.

jc: Let me start off by asking, are you still the Messiah, or has that changed for you the last couple of years?

Dan Bern: No. (chuckles)

jc: No, it hasn’t changed? Or no, you’re not the Messiah?

DB: No.

jc: (laughs) The only reason I’m asking is I’m Beelzebub. So I guess you and I have a meeting in the desert sometime soon.

“The whole idea of writing or painting is some kind of multiple perspective and somewhere in there may be some world view, but it can’t be through one lone voice that never changes and shifts. It wouldn’t be honest.

DB: I’m looking forward to it. Anytime, bring it on.

jc: Do you see yourself less as a folksinger and more as a satirist? Most of your work, specifically “Cure For AIDS” and the “Swastika Song” are in that vein, less serious commentary than satire.

DB: Well, it shifts around. I think it really depends on the song. Actually, those labels – folksinger or satirist – I tend to shy away from them myself, or anything that can put you in a box. Other people do it, but I never found it necessary. This way I can take it from song to song.

jc: Would you say that your songs are more observations rather than commentary?

DB: I think you have to make the observations, but then, what do you do with them? What are they for? How do they fit into some larger picture? So I think the observation is part of the work, but then what does it mean? What did you make the observation for?

jc: So would you consider the meaning behind these observations in your songs more from an optimist’s standpoint or a pessimist’s?

DB: I certainly have my moments of pessimism, but I think overall just to be out here doing this, being able to write songs in the face of everything else, there’s a hope, a belief in something.

jc: So you’d say writing the songs, even from the pessimist’s side, is something of a catharsis for you and the hope comes from the listener going through the same thing?

DB: I think so. If you’re just looking to depress people, what’s the point? If someone is out there going through terrible times, from losing their house to just fighting traffic, and they spend their hard earned money to go out and hear me play my songs, there has to be something positive there. I know if I’m going to a show I’m expecting to be uplifted somehow, gain a kind of inspiration from it. I’d hope that’s happening with my performances.

jc: How much of your own personal experience do you put in the songs? In other words, you write predominantly in the first person, so when you use “I” in a song, are you talking directly from your own experience?

DB: Well that shifts too. There’s some reflection of me. It’s the narrator, really. If you look at it like a short story, the “I” is coming from the narrator, not the guy who wrote it. There’s an assumption that within the theme there will be a good deal of a similarity with the author. It works like some kind of a mirror, but you have to give yourself the complete freedom to take the truth as you see it and stretch the hell out of it. (chuckles)

jc: (laughs) All right, but for instance, the touching aspects of a song like “Lithuania” seems extremely biographical, while also speaking to various different avenues of the universal personality, even if the listener didn’t happen to have grandparents who were murdered by Nazis. There is something personal, yet eminently relatable to ghosts of our past that shape us, the relatives we’ve never met, the experiences of escaping our legacy.

DB: Yes, a song like that crosses over. That song is very much, if not completely, autobiographical.

jc: As opposed to something satirical like “The Swastika Song”, which comments on the same issues as “Lithuania”, but in a completely different voice. You are coming to grips with the issues of the past in “Lithuania” and grabbing back a part of history that has been annexed by hate to return it to a positive art form in “The Swastika Song”.

DB: (chuckles) Yeah, it’s like a big mural on the wall. You throw it up there.

jc: Would you consider yourself a realist? Or do you try and create a world that is best suited for your art?

DB: Hopefully I’m covering the whole ball of wax song by song. Again, in the course of a two or three hour show, I feel the need for the songs to speak clearly and linearly at some point and distort and stretch at other points. I don’t think I’d be comfortable sitting with only one way of speaking of things.

jc: Or one viewpoint.

DB: Yeah, the whole idea of writing or painting is some kind of multiple perspective and somewhere in there may be some world view, but it can’t be through one lone voice that never changes and shifts. It wouldn’t be honest.

NEXT WEEK: PART II

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