Seán Barna: Impressions Be Damned

James Campion

September 19, 2018

 

Seán Barna: Impressions Be Damned
Confronting Religion, Grief & Anti-Gay Bigotry in Seán Barna’s Brilliant Cissy

Seán Barna sits across from me looking off into the distance as he contemplates a question I’ve asked him about the importance of his new EP, Cissy, which I have just finished telling him is a wholly provocative, mesmerizingly intense and unerringly brave collection of five songs that turned me sideways just a few weeks before. A tall, sinewy, dark presence, distinctly accentuated by gray pants and a black tee shirt, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter runs his long fingers through his lengthy, ebony hair that is ever so slightly streaked with gray, and finally sighs, “I had nothing, no songs, no idea for a record. I’d just moved up to Brooklyn from Washington D.C. after the presidential election, where my team didn’t do so well, and all of a sudden I was into this really interesting scene, where I figured I’d go out and try and find the rage in the streets being expressed in music and art and I found that people just aren’t fucking doing it.”

Eschewing irony, Barna suddenly becomes disturbed by the memory, looking back at me to intone, “Songwriters are really dropping the ball right now, in my opinion. It’s like, ‘What are you doing? What’re you saying?’ It’s as if everyone is suddenly doing an impression of a songwriter, instead of being a songwriter.”

Seán Barna did not want to be that songwriter. Not now. Not ever. His first two records, the stirringly autobiographical, 2014 EP, Cutter Street and Pictures of an Exhibition (2017) and the recent single release of “Straight Motherfuckers and Their Famous Friends” more than hint at his determined outlook on the craft. But it is within the stories that Cissy tells — of this time, this place and the revelation of his subjects; inspecting, even dissecting, and eventually unfurling their sexuality, their fears and shameless fury in the face of societal headwinds that make it an important musical and spiritual document, a cut above what he had failed to hear on stages across New York City.

Barna channels these visions when he sings in the opening track, “Serious Child”, a wonderfully crafted sonic homage to Phil Spector-era pop rhythms; “And if these mirrors are right, we’ve had our fair share/Killing ourselves under synthetic hair/We’d be the belles of the ball if Jesus were here/Single and queer in the bathrooms of Brooklyn.” It is a song that at once evokes religion, culture, identity, sexuality and duality within and without the gay community, his community; feeling marginalized, vilified, even hunted. “It’s all in there for me,” he says. “The drag queens, drug abuse, the absolute utter hypocrisy of religion and how fucking disgusted we all are with it.”

All roads — his family, his career, his lifestyle and beliefs and loves and hates, and the untimely death of his younger brother in 2003 — have led to Cissy for Barna; these remarkably poignant songs that stare unblinkingly at dread, lust, defiance, liberation and youthful alienation. It is a confessional of the deepest grief and this relentless passion to reflect a culture eviscerated by bigotry, ignorance and oppression. Confronted with power cords and drum fills and the twittering emotion of vocals so exceedingly raw they lay bare the concussive nature of the music they adorn, Barna has indeed created something “important”. Like all true art and seminal rock ‘n’ roll, Cissy comes from a place of desperation — in the best sense of the word — desperate to express and share.

“I am very interested in how people deal with pain… because it’s ravaged my life,” he says.

“So, in the face of all that, do you think it’s important?” I ask again.

This time he doesn’t hesitate. “I would like to think that it is important,” he says, letting a knowing smile crease his face. “It’s certainly important to me. For me, it was as if before it I didn’t know I was that good… if that makes any sense.” He laughs at his impertinence and concludes; “That’s a very brash thing to say.”

This brashness is not coincidental. Turns out there were places in New York that shared Barna’s urgency to express anger and defiance that made a lasting impression on him and would eventually inform the songs he would write for Cissy. “I was going to these drag bars and finding people who were fearless,” he says, getting animated. “They didn’t get to this point because they’re scared of you anymore. And I could hear them saying, ‘If you feel unsafe tonight, you come tell us and that motherfucker will be out, whoever it is.’ I’ve kicked people out of these bars myself. There’s an anxiety that exists in these communities and we’re sticking together, basically, is the way that it feels.”

Barna sings on the record’s second track, “Danger Baby”, “These are desperate times, we are wandering away/Did you hear? There was another shooting today/The straight motherfuckers are getting their way/Tonight we’re scared, but tomorrow we make them pay”.

“These characters are based on real people, with, of course, with the exaggeration you’re allowed as a writer,” he says. “But none of them are that far removed from things I’ve seen in drug scenes. I’m basically describing a scene and making it seem like I’m making up these great lyrics, but really, I’m telling you something that actually happened.”

Although the characters’ conflicts and redemptions found in these songs needed to be written and eventually recorded, it wasn’t until Barna called his friend and fellow musician, Dave Drago that the seeds of Cissy were sown. He playfully describes his calling Drago up to complain that he was overwhelmed with inspiration with no tangible material to show for it. “He told me to ‘Shut the fuck up and get up here and let’s make a record!’”

A producer/arranger/manager, Drago’s 1809 recording studio housed inside a re-purposed 19th century Erie Canal-side Tavern located in the little hamlet of Macedon, New York offered Barna just what its web site exclaims; “Relaxing surroundings, sleeping accommodations” where musicians “can easily remove yourself from daily life to focus on making the best recording of your career”.

“I sat in his ‘guitar-isolation room’ and started to go through these voice notes and 20-second clips of ideas (you can hear one of them whispered at the opening of “Danger Baby”) just trying to pick out melodies and put things together and figure something out,” Barna remembers. “Then Dave and I basically chose the forms of the songs, meaning that I decided on how many verses there were going to be before I even had them.” After a hearty night of drinking, Barna woke up and recorded “Serious Child”, first laying down the drums (Barna is a studied and accomplished percussionist of 22 years) singing lyrics he’d only conjured the day before. “I knew I was in a sprint,” he laughs now. “I had to do my best work very quickly.”

The furious spontaneity in which the guerilla-like writing and subsequent recording of the songs that make up Cissy duly reflects its ignoring of artifice. There was for Barna no time to think it out, edit himself, or consider the consequences of such honest expression.

“It was hard for Dave and me to not acknowledge what was happening, because we both knew there was something going on here with this record,” says Barna. “From the time that he literally woke up from a drunken sleep and said, ‘Cissy!’ and then went back to sleep and remembered it in the morning, hungover, and told me, I was like. ‘Oh man, this is good.’”

Two of the EP’s songs were already formed before Barna teamed up with Drago in upstate New York, although he acknowledges the duo transformed them into more accessible compositions — the heart-wrenching elegy to how his mother survived the death of his brother, “Routines” and its stirring coda, the brilliantly sparse and emotional “Queer Mad Blues”. The former moved Counting Crows’ lead singer and main songwriter, Adam Duritz to want to sing on it and the latter conjured the spirit of the Beat Generation poetry so vividly I could not help but gush about it on our Underwater Sunshine podcast when Adam first played it for me. “I was trying to stay in this place that artists get into, the writing zone,” Barna recounted when I marveled at the speed and purpose of the work. “I’m sure you’ve felt this too, the zone where nothing can deflect you or get in the way of your confidence. I knew there were stories to tell.”

“Routines” is written in the guise of Barna’s mother, whose grief is so overwhelming she must stick to the everyday mundane to maintain her equilibrium, creating structure to shelter her against the sheer madness of losing a child, who was struck by a car at the tender age of 13. “I asked myself, ‘How as a writer can you get in somebody else’s head… somebody else’s perspective?’” he explains, reminding me that through expressing his mother’s loss, he was translating the pain of the entire family, including himself. “I just had this vision of my mom on her porch, where she sits all the time smoking a cigarette and drinking her Coors Light. Here is somebody who isn’t speaking for herself, she’s just existing until it’s over, and there’s a profound sadness in that to me.

“I know that if I’m about to cry, I’m where I need to be for that kind of song. When Adam heard it, he said, ‘I gotta sing on this.’ And, of course, that meant everything. Adam is the reason I started writing songs in the first place. I saw Counting Crows for the first time in 2007 and this fucking man, this modern man — that’s why he’s mentioned in that song, by the way — was on the end of the stage with his heart ripped right open and laying on the goddamn stage and I was like, ‘Woah! We didn’t do that in my Catholic-Irish-Italian family!’”

The cornerstone compositions that hold together the desperate themes of sexuality, duality, revolt and youthful rage in Cissy are found in the bouncing rock of “Modern Man” and the record’s final statement, “Queer Mad Blues”. Both could be summed up in the lines, “I’ll paint my nails when it suits me/Breathtaking, isn’t it?/Masculinity/I’m a modern man”. Its understated growl of the ghostly apparition of Lou Reed’s best 1970s recklessness of intuition reeks of New York and the Velvet Underground, the urban centers, pitch black bars and the spilling out of the demimonde and the playing with gender definitions. When it all gets too much, Barna beseeches, “Sing the good songs/Do the good drugs/Turn the news off, and love, love, love/I’m a modern man,” as if echoing a lost psyche scrambling to find its own sense of the real, beyond apologies and explanations, just a man who needs to tell you about it.

The lynchpin of “Modern Man” that prompts me to give it a standing ovation every time I hear it is the verse that name-checks the legendary McDougal Street Gaslight Café, which is still huddled in the heart of the bohemian soul of Greenwich Village, bearing the scar of the underground poets and musicians and outsiders with a singular voice that has been drowned out, according to Barna, by the din of apathy. “I heard there is a protest today…” he sings with the strained relish of a damaged prophet scrambling along the corridors of our American refuge. “But the Gaslight is already closed/Yeah, the Gaslight is already closed/So let’s keep it numb/Let’s keep it reckless/Cuz the Gaslight is already closed.”

“Places like the Gaslight don’t exist for me,” expounds Barna. “I go over there, and I look at it sometimes, but I won’t go in… I just look at the stairwell and think, ‘Wow, I used to be able to walk in there and have meaning as a songwriter and have a voice’, but nobody is listening so I’m going to do drugs instead. The Gaslight is closed and there’s no change to be had. It’s kind of like giving up a little bit…but not really.”

“Queer Mad Blues” is far different but no less signifying of this search for the authentic cry in the wilderness. Delicately picked on an acoustic guitar and sung as if an audacious confessional, it stands alone, naked to all of the anger-speak and sedition of Cissy to walk the thinnest line of all, sanity. Its final lines toll the mission bell as a call to arms for a generation adrift and perhaps not aware of the dangers that come with expressing such anger: “Took what I wanted/The queens and the jokes/I burned all my belongings but not this leather coat/You found your disease, tried and true/You meant what you said, now spread the news.”

As if channeling Jack Kerouac’s famous stanza from On the Road, a book that had taken the young Seán Barna by storm like so many before and after him “Queer Mad Blues” completes the lineage. Saint Jack writes in the book, “[…]the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center-light pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Barna sings, “Blues are blues, even queer ones/The sad ones, the scared ones, the mad ones…and even the queer ones.” Six decades since Kerouac’s ode to the displaced thrill-seekers adrift along the inter-generational byways, Cissy ends with a repeated, “The sad ones, the scared ones, the mad ones, And even the queer ones.”

When I recite these lines back to Barna, he straightens from his comfortably slouched mid-interview stance and becomes animated. “I am trying to express anxiety in people through my life. I use my life as a metaphor to explain how fucked up the world is and the world as a metaphor for how fucked up I am! And I try to interchange those so you can’t figure out what’s going on necessarily with me. ‘Queer Mad Blues’ in a general sense, captures this sadness I felt in my life and I’m obviously talking about queer people, that there’s a gay sadness that exists, just an inherent sadness to a lot of queer people and that’s derived from society, but I need to say that you cannot let it get you down. You have to stand up and you have to demand your rights because no one is going to give them to you for free. You have to speak loudly to be brutally, viciously honest, in art and that’s why I have no goddamn tolerance for the singer-songwriter ‘impression’ or whatever else it is. That’s why I was drawn to drag. I’ve never done drag, I’m never going to do drag, but watching these people be fearless in their art is the best thing that I think we can do as artists right now; continue to speak for ourselves.”

Important?

Listen to the five songs on Cissy and decide. It is, if nothing else, music for its time, with or without the Gaslight Café.

“The record itself is a “Fuck you! We’re still here and we’re still going to speak!’”, Barna says before we part for a beer at the White Horse Tavern, where Kerouac used to drink, where the Village Voice, which recently went belly up, was conjured, where the Clancy Brothers and Bob Dylan crossed paths, where Dylan Thomas fell into ignominy. Hesitating again, Barna looks up at the ceiling and exhales one last time to conclude; “I’m just going to be louder. I’m going to become more art, bigger art, better art, because we are the resistance to this thing and artists always have been, whatever little part you play in that.”

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CATHOLIC CHURCH’S ONGOING CHILD RAPE PROBLEM

Aquarian Weekly
9/5/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CATHOLIC CHURCH’S ONGOING CHILD RAPE PROBLEM

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
– Matthew 23:13

Holy shit.

A few weeks ago, a grand jury report shed light on internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania that show that more than 300 “predator priests” have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims. And it could be more. “We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands,” the grand jury report states.

Also from the report: “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”

Promoted.

Rape = Promotion.

Let that sink in. I’ll give you a minute.

How’s that sitting with you?

I repeat, holy shit.

Let me ask this question as succinctly and as straight forward as I can: If there is an organization that has repeatedly been outed for decades with the perpetuation of child abuse and systemic pedophilia that has run rampart throughout the Catholic Church all over the world, but specifically here in the U.S., why should it be allowed to continue as such?

This is a serious issue. Right? Children being raped by priests and the institution hiding it from the public and the continued protection of predators against children being either mostly ignored or at least in a twisted sense being accepted as some kind of “new normal” these days is sort of important, no? And this in an era when outlandish reactions to say something like ISIS in the Middle East and the embarrassingly moronic current reaction by this federal government and many of our citizens to illegal immigration, both of which is treated as if the wolf is at the door. But where is the outrage and special taskforce or movement to oust the Catholic Church from our shores as a dangerous, predatory, criminal organization?

Where is the major presser from Attorney General Jeff Sessions – obsessed with jailing brown people and pot users – about launching a major investigation, fuck that, a War on the Catholic Church?

Three hundred priests protected by an organization that systemically rapes children, boys AND, by the way, girls, lest we get the usual “gays are predators” nonsense from the Bigot Brigade. This happens. Here. In our country; where we have concentration camps for the children of illegal immigrants. A multi-billion dollar untaxed conglomerate is raping kids and not only making excuses for it and/or covering it up, but spending millions to do so.

Millions of dollars, I might add, given into baskets by Catholics, who unfortunately for them are complicit in this unchecked horror show.

Paying for rape.

“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

This gets a HOLY SHIT.

The grand jury described the church’s methods as “a playbook for concealing the truth” after FBI agents identified a series of practices they found in diocese files.

And to make it even more sickening, this has been a discussion of fact for more than half a century here and for over a century in counties like Ireland, which has now begun a rightful public uproar for the church to do something about it, like holding the current Pope responsible. None of this, though, seems to resonate here, where there are now Religious Freedom Task Forces. What is that? A group that decides the best way to hide pedophiles?

How about we demand the Vatican extricate Pope Francis to our shores to stand trial for this heinous crime?

This is what we would do if a foreign or domestic organization’s CEO was pulling this shit, so why not the Pope?

Really, it is the timeline and the ignoring and the excusing and the hiding and the covering up that is the final mind-blower. This ain’t this week’s problem. This is what the Catholic Church does. It has become a haven for child rapists and, apparently, seemingly no one there cares a lick beyond protecting their money-making scheme. But the fact that we here in secular/law land don’t care is the bigger issue.

Example: Every night Chris Matthews, an avowed Catholic who was educated in its system and sent his children to Catholic universities, goes on TV and decries the gutless Republicans who continue to walk like zombies in the disdainful shadow of this buffoon president of ours. However, the day this news broke, he admitted he would still go to church. This is the length and breadth of hypocrisy. Or is it? Do we have some kind of disconnect to our religious institutions? Do we allow it to continue this behavior because they are beyond reproach? And if this is true (and after reading this, who doesn’t’ think so?) then how dangerous is this whole thing?

Aside from the violent retribution, what is the difference between an untouchable, untaxable, outside-the-law religious group imposing its dogma on the public at large and the dreaded Sharia law we’re all supposed to be frightened of?

Yeah…nothing.

Now, lest anyone think this is another case of Campion slamming organized religion and its bloated institutions, I think it is interesting this investigation came out of Pennsylvania, (the report covers six dioceses in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton) as the 2012 Penn State incident regarding a massive cover up of years of sexual abuse by the now infamous Jerry Sandusky went from a national disgrace to what officials at Penn State currently call “a complicated complex and emotional” situation. In other words, we went from disgust to contemplation in a few years. Hell, even the NCAA reduced what were initially slap-on-the-wrist penalties after two years. Apparently, religion and football and the passage of time make it okay for us to accept the raping of children.

People still venerate Penn State saint, Joe Paterno, who covered up these crimes for years.

Rape = Veneration.

I am out of holy shits.

Best argument of all: This grand jury report came out two weeks ago. Last evening I watched six reports about how Donald Trump, American flag fan, doesn’t know how to color it in. Yeah, I get it, the president is an idiot. But there are children being raped right now in this country and the rapists are being promoted by a non-taxable, untouchable institution protected by superstitious nonsense.

That is the story.

What are we doing about it?

Nothing.

Okay…one more…

Holy shit.

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TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2018 – THE DAY THE RAVEN TAPPED FOR MR. TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
8/29/18

Reality Check

James Campion

TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2018 – THE DAY THE RAVEN TAPPED FOR MR. TRUMP

As to Count Number Seven, on or about the summer of 2016, in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office, I and the CEO of a media company at the request of the candidate worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign from publicly disclosing this information. After a number of discussions, we eventually accomplished the goal by the media company entering into a contract with the individual under which she received compensation of $150,000. I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principle purpose of influencing the election.

    Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, under oath as part of a guilty plea to eight counts of tax evasion, fraud and felony charges for illegal use of campaign funds during the 2016 presidential campaign to cover up incriminating information against candidate Trump – The Southern District of NY Court, August 21, 2018.

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

– Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”

Tuesday August 21, 2018; the day that tipped speculation and hearsay and mounting circumstantial evidence that the president of the United States has committed high crimes and misdemeanors into physical evidence corroborated by witnesses who were directed by him to commit these crimes. What transpired on that day will change the paradigm of these charges, rumors and speculation and put things squarely in the category of fact. So much so even the man for whom lying is a second language has gone out of his way to shift the “I did not know about nor pay any money to Stormy Daniels” to “I did not use campaign funds, it was my money…I paid it.”

One thing you have to say for Donald Trump, once he’s accused of a crime, like say obstructing justice, when he fired the FBI Director investigating him over “the Russian thing” and then admitting it on NBC a day later, he loves to proudly cop to it. What he pulled on Fox & Friends less than 24 hours after his personal lawyer pushed the first in many dominoes that threaten to reveal the dark and putrid underbelly of his erratically dumb and dangerous presidency is quite remarkable. In the same interview he became the first president in my lifetime, and I would confidently guess the first one ever, to actually utter the word impeachment as some demented form of brain-farting pre-defense.

But what of the cheap hood “attorney” that fired the first of many blows to take down El Douche?

Michael Cohen is one of those creatures that seem to gravitate and thrive and are later discarded as pond scum by our current Game Show President. His word is likely as trustworthy as Donald Trump’s, which, as noted, is not at all trustworthy. (A composite of fact checking web sites have Trump making roughly 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days, a staggering 7.58 lies a day). To be frank, Cohen’s gig was less “attorney” in any conventional sense and more “fixer” for Trump, which means he was paid (and handsomely for this crime, nearly half a million) to cover over the odd misdemeanor and side-stepping of annoying laws that are needed for the rich and douchy. But mostly, and most importantly, Cohen is a pussy. Faced with eight counts and pleading guilty and making a plea deal sounds about right whether he is telling the truth or not. He does not want to go to jail for the rest of his life for Trump or anyone. The people in and around Trump tend to see the world as this Us vs. Them concept, very mob like, kind of how this president has handled everything for over 30 years. Trump even loves combing the mob lexicon for terms like “flip” and “rat” to explain all this. This is just Cohen doing the Trump thing.

So maybe Cohen is lying his ass off.

However, prosecutors don’t offer plea deals without hard, corroborating evidence; tapes, documents, paper-trails. So if Cohen is not lying his ass off, the only thing keeping this president from facing impeachment hearings is his party staying in power and continuing its partisan and gutless pursuit of agenda over the constitution or the integrity of the nation or whatever bullshit people convince themselves of to make you think America is some kind of moral compass spun true north by a patriarchal god figure.

Campaign finance law is a felony. Committing a felony is a high crime. High crimes are impeachable.

Game. Set. Match.

Remember when Republicans went after Bill Clinton for Whitewater and someone stumbled on evidence the president was getting hummers from an intern and Clinton told his sucker wife and the rest of the suckers it was a “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” and then lied under oath leading to impeachment? This is like that, but far worse. This affected a national election decided by 77,000 votes, lending to the kind of thing Trump and his supporters hate – unlike that bullshit about Barack Obama’s birth certificate this idiot had up his sleeve years ago – introducing the argument that we are dealing with an illegitimate presidency.

And then…on the same day Cohen buried his former boss whom he said just a few months ago would “take a bullet for”, the president’s former campaign manager was found guilty of eight counts of tax evasion and money laundering and all the stuff that forces Trump from releasing his tax returns. For now, this has nothing to do with the president, which is all he cares about as he praises a man going to jail for at least a decade and faces a second more serious trial in DC. But Manafort did not get asked to run the Trump campaign when it appeared to be going off the rails in the summer of 2016 on a whim. Manafort and Trump run in the same circles and use the same banks to launder money and avoid taxes and cheat the other poor sap Americans who have to pay them.

If I can take a moment to reiterate how many times Trump praises criminals, Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and now Paul Manafort. Not sure what this says about the man. You and your maker decide.

Campaign finance law is a felony. Committing a felony is a high crime. High crimes are impeachable.

But, wait, there’s more!

By dinnertime on that fateful date history will one day record as the political equivalent of explosive diarrhea, came the biggest, baddest heat-seeking missile launched directly at El Douche.

Suddenly the most dangerous man in America is Lanny Davis. In an ironically delicious twist of fate, Bill Clinton’s former White House counsel and enthusiastic Donald Trump despiser has wormed his way into advising Cohen to eviscerate what is left of this punchline presidency. Davis, as if taking a victory lap worthy of the man he plans to take down, went on every cable show known to modern man, except FOX News, which was showing pictures of Trump kissing a blow-up doll of the Virgin Mary atop a tank running over Mexicans, to say that his client is itching to tell everything about the infamous June, 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Donnie Junior got mixed up with the Russians. The one that tipped off the FBI and then, well, daddy fired the director, which led to the appointment of the special counsel, which tipped off authorities to Michael Cohen, Attorney at Law.

In fact, the very next day Cohen was subpoenaed by New York City’s attorney general for illegal shenanigans involving the ruse that is the Trump Foundation raided by the Trump Campaign to embezzle hush money to pay off porn stars. Normally the attorney will return these calls. Cohen made it himself, begging to reveal illicit details about the president’s shady shit, which caused Davis to tell the world that the infamous Steele Dossier – slowly but surely seeming to be corroborated by events since its release – may indeed be correct about Michael Cohen’s arranging payments to Russian spies to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

And if this is true, not even Orin Hatch, David Nunez, Sean Hannity or the ghost of George Washington can keep this president from impeachment, which is becoming very likely if the Democrats take control of congress in a few months.

And then the dominoes kept on falling.

Two days after the Cohen plea, longtime Trump supporter and media henchman, David Pecker, the CEO of American Media Inc. (the “CEO of a media company” implicated in Cohen’s plea), who runs a submental supermarket rag called the National Enquirer, which has acted as the media arm of Trump’s seedy celebrity and purchased dozens of stories to keep quiet on his various extra-marital affairs, illegal real estate deals and the other nefarious crap these cretins do before breakfast, was granted immunity to unload this cache of embarrassment into the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Jot this down, kids; August 21, 2018.

The day the raven tapped on the White House door, asked for Mr. Trump, and uttered “Nevermore”.

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Aretha Franklin – 1942 – 2018

Aquarian Weekly
8/22/18

Tribute

James Campion

 

Aretha Franklin – 1942 – 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there is Aretha: Lady Soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understand?

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SALINGER (THE CAT) 2006 – 2018

Aquarian Weekly
8/8/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SALINGER (THE CAT) 2006 – 2018

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

– J.D. Salinger, Cather in the Rye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petting him honored my soul.

I miss him right now.

Fuck.

Good-bye Salinger.

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WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE PRESIDENT COMMITTED TREASON?

Aquarian Weekly
7/25/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE PRESIDENT COMMITTED TREASON?

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

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

Treason – The crime of betraying one’s country.

– Miriam-Websters Dictionary

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

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

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

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

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

I vote for the last one.

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

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

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

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

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

THEN…

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

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

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

THEN…

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

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

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

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

Where were you?

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

Aquarian Weekly
7/11/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizen.

Rights.

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THE KIM JONG-UN SHOW

Aquarian Weekly
6/20/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

Enter Reality Check.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on, it’s hilariously horrifying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um…what?

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

Why?

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

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

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THE LOST CHILDREN OF AMERICA

Aquarian Weekly
6/13/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

But law is a tricky thing for this present administration.

Who is good with this?

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

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

Shall we go on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this feel right to you?

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

Children.

Detainment camps.

June of 2018 in the United States of America.

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THE UNITED TRUMP OF TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
6/6/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless that.

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