ALL EYES ON THE COMMONWEALTH

Aquarian Weekly
10/20/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
ALL EYES ON THE COMMONWEALTH
The Governor’s Race May Predict a 2022 Mid-Term Outcome      
 
In two weeks, the national temperature of the voting public will be taken again. The last one, the doomed recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, in September, did not end well for Republicans. But this was before the approval-ratings nosedive for President Joe Biden, who has appeared overwhelmed and mostly impotent in the face of several crisis from Afghanistan to the border to Covid-19 surges to inflation, which has led to a national malaise and as a result the hemorrhaging of the Independent vote. Virginia is not only a “purple” state but has leaned solidly in the Democrats’ column since 2012 – an unprecedented thirteen-cycle winning streak in a highly competitive state. While stressing again, as in California last month, most politics is local, a governor’s race in a key battleground state like Virginia is a fair to crucial bellwether on how badly things could go for Democrats in the 2022 mid-terms.

Beyond national prognostications – a fun exercise for political junkies like yours truly – reside the players. The two candidates acutely represent both parties. Former Governor of Virginia and current Democratic candidate to regain that title, Terry McAuliffe is a pre-Obama lifer, mostly centrist and connected to the national political machine. He has the full backing of the national party, which means his president Joe Biden. His opponent, Glenn Allen Youngkin, is a former CEO of the $260 billion global investment Carlyle Group, loudly endorsed by former failed businessman and recent ignominious loser of the 2020 presidential race, Donald J. Trump.

On the ground, Virginia is not immune to the national issues facing a mostly post-Covid United States. Economic strains including jobs, vaccine mandates, the undermining of democratic ideals and the state of the current presidential administration is on the table for Virginia voters.

So, the state (a bellwether of national politics), the parties (locked in a death-match of reality and conspiracy) and the candidates (reflections of this ongoing narrative) are all entwined in this one. It is why we have these elections. It is why we vote. And when it is done, we accept the outcome as the will of the people and not some lopsided agenda-fueled tyrannical overthrow of the system based on ego-addled lies. But that is for many future columns to come. Virginia is the order of the week.

Virginia – seemingly always at the center of the national fervor and our historical tipping point.

For the record, McAuliffe is a loathsome hack. He toiled for both Clintons in wins and losses and ran the party for a spate in the early aughts. He represents wheel-and-deal party politics and is roundly dismissed by most politicos as something of a relic. Youngkin is a Republican, which now unfortunately represents anti-American domestic terrorism. He claims to be against the brutal violence perpetuated during the dark hours of January 6 at our Capitol and is trying to distance himself from recent rallies for his campaign hosted by petulant thug Steve Bannon, who is soon to go to jail for contempt of congress in his role inciting the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election results in a bloody coup. At a recent pro-Youngkin rally, participants pledged allegiance to a flag used on January 6, which unfortunately for the candidate reminds voters of what it means to back anyone on a Republican ticket now.

But the Democrats have had a bad sixty or so days. The barely Democrat-controlled congress is in a stalemate on how much more we can jack up the deficit, duly bloated in record numbers by the outgoing Republican-led congress for four years of drunken spending. Both parties fight against the power of the other to spend our money and now it is the progressives v the moderates on what should have been a slam-dunk effort to expand infrastructure spending eight years ago. As mentioned, Biden’s national numbers (52-percent disapproval in Virginia as a result) are in a sinkhole and McAuliffe can no better hide from this than Youngkin can wipe the stain of Trumpism (eleven months of claiming the 2020 election was a fraud with zero evidence) from his candidacy.

Ever more the reason why the Commonwealth of Virginia, once the most powerful force in the nascent days of the republic, birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, the father of modern democracy and the former capital of the Confederacy, is back at the center of our national soul. The very history of America plays out on its bloody ground. And in two weeks it shall again.

As of this writing, McAuliffe barely leads Youngkin by three points, well within the margin of error. Biden easily carried Virginia by ten points only eleven months ago. Youngkin, a very wealthy CEO, has outspent his opponent, exposing his weakness on crime and economics in a phalanx of attack adds. McAuliffe is clinging to two key popular issues: The state favors vaccine mandates for businesses (fifty-four percent) and keeping Roe V. Wade legal polls at sixty percent. Recent abortion-restriction laws in Texas have alerted voters to the reality of this issue most of all. What a shocker. In a close race, the Republican is all about crime and the Democrat is all about reproductive rights.

As far as the numbers guys are concerned, this one is hard to prognosticate. Beyond the national climate or local issues, there is recent history in polling. According to the Five Thirty Eight estimates, a model for higher turnout has McAuliffe leading Youngkin by eight points instead of three points. This is similar to the 2017 race between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, in which the latter trailed by the same three points going into the election but ended up losing by a solid nine points. The problem with this, the celebrated prediction group notes, is that in 2017 there was an unpopular Republican president. Now that particular shoe is on the other foot.

The final word on this election, as in most close elections, is Independents. Right now, Youngkin leads McAuliffie by nine points there. That is the difference between Biden carrying Virginia last year and the Democratic candidate coughing it up in two weeks. Whether this tells us how 2022 will play out and the prospects for a Republican wave or a more tempered Democratic defeat is dubious. But less so when considering Virginia – seemingly always at the center of the national fervor and our historical tipping point.
 

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NAVIGATING THE CAR DEALERSHIP GAMUT  

Aquarian Weekly
10/6/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
NAVIGATING THE CAR DEALERSHIP GAMUT  
& Seeking an Auto in Wild Times of Mega Deception  
 
 
Editor’s Note: This column is dedicated to jc’s brother, P.J. Campion, whose guidance, and stellar recon work put him in a position to survive some crazy shit.
 
Author’s Note: If you have read this column for even a week, much less the last twenty-four years, you know what a cynical skeptic I am. I’ve purchased many cars and faced some bizarre behavior for decades, and hell, Southeast Toyota Finance would not take my late father’s lease after he exited the planet in 2019 without putting the car up for auction and our family having to pay the balance. I know how ruthless and dishonest this industry can be. So, make sure you keep this in mind when reading the following mayhem. 
 
Before the deluge of angst, I’m going to lead this one with a positive. After one solid week of searching for either a new car lease or a used car purchase in a time of computer chip shortages, shrinking inventory and underhanded car dealer bullshit I found the car I ultimately wanted: a Mitsubishi Outlander SE. Thanks in no small part to the honest and upstanding folks at Nielson Mitsubishi in Rockaway, N.J. Especially its manager Andrew Kamaris and salesman Ryan Bet. Those guys were an welcomed oasis in an arid landscape of abject prevarication. The Nielsen Group is the only dealership in a thirty-mile radius of my home that is not currently raising prices by anywhere from five to eight grand on automobiles and running bait and switch schemes to rival a congressional bill caucus. It is the wild west out there.

Boy, did I find this out the hard way.

My experience started about two weeks ago with a recon visit to Route 17 Mitsubishi in Ramsey, N.J. Spoke to a fast-talking lifer named Pete. He assured me what I was looking for was in stock at the advertised price – a base model Outlander. I was more interested in this level of what they call in the industry “trim” than the slightly more expensive SE that I ended up with, but more on that later. Because, you see, Pete did not care about any ad (Two grand down, three-year lease, at 10K miles a year for $334) that drove me to the dealership in the first place, nor that he assured me on the phone before I came in that he had “everything in stock.” He showed me the SE. We drove it. Throughout the test drive I was flabbergasted that the base model had heated and electric seats, climate control, etc. “Oh, yeah, and plus, we don’t have computer chips in these, so we never had a shortage.”

Pete, like his promise of “everything in stock”, was making all of this up. He then came back with well north of $450 a month with four-grand down and a four-year lease. (I did not want a four-year lease. He told me I could bolt on the lease after three. He did not mention that I would still have to pay for a car I was no longer driving.) None of which was in the ad. When I showed him the ad, he proceeded to lie badly that it was for a front-wheel drive vehicle. (Note: I have worked with truly agile liars in my time. Pete sucked at it.) It was not front-wheel drive in the ad. My bro, P.J confirmed this on the phone and sent me the link. I showed Pete the link. This put Pete on his heels, forcing him to blurt out that the car in the ad was the ES (base model), not what I drove. I reminded him that he assured me that what I drove was the base model. He started coming apart at this point in our Dali-esque illogic-speak. This rote character out of central casting of a slick, old-time car huckster was not holding it together. I told him and whatever suit came out pretending to be the manager that if they got the car I wanted, I would be back two days hence to buy it. Pete and the de facto “manager” said they would have it by then. They even sent me a text asking if I was still coming a day later. I never heard from them again.

P.J suggested the aforementioned Nielsen Group around this time and when I called the guy (whose name I do not recall, but this could have been my hero, Ryan) he did not blow smoke up my skirt. “We just do not have any ES models in the color you want, man. It’s tough to get or keep anything now.” To make matters more complicated I really wanted the car in dark gray. I understood and appreciated his honesty. It turns out I should have stayed with Nielsen. But…

I moved onto another dealer fairly close (like 45 minutes away close) in Goshen, N.Y. Mainly because my pal, Brock lives up there and he is a car guy, and he trusted his area to come through for me. But predictably, Healy Mitsubishi could not help but crank up the lie machine. When I called, they said they had the cars on their web site in their lot. I had not been completely felled by a phalanx of deceit yet, so I took the long trip to Goshen. (Cue the sinister music here) A lovely young woman greeted us and proceeded to say that not only did they not have any of those cars listed on their site, but the first woman I spoke to, who answered the Healy Mitsubishi phone and oozed confidence to this end, had no authority to promise any of this. She is merely the “web person.” I would confront this “web person” mystery before too long with another manufacturer.  

Fed up with Mitsubishi, my bro did some recon on a car my late dad was interested in back in the day, a Nissan Montero. Route 23 Nissan in Butler answered my queries about its availably and price this way: “My manager wants to know what you want to pay for the car?” I told him five-hundred bucks with a used moped trade-in. He did not get the joke. I wished to know what the professionals at Nissan wanted to charge for the car, since I had never even seen the fucking thing in person, just some photos on the Internet. They did not call me back for nearly the entire week, and when they did, they said that I had to put five-grand down and that it would be marked up six grand and the monthly payments were north of five bills. I wished them well and said I preferred my offer with the moped. He still did not get it.

As mentioned, once I drove Pete’s SE, the bastard had me hooked, so my bro sent me to Route 46 Mitsubishi, where comedy and tragedy reside comfortably to form a miserable cocktail of time-wasting crapolla. To their credit, these lunatics hid nothing. The manager, a corpulent smile-fiend with an open shirt revealing a giant crucifix laying on a tuft of chest hair sat me down and explained the current economic climate. “I’m going to be honest with you, ignore the MSRP, the way the industry is right now you can automatically add five grand to every sticker price,” he said, affecting an air of parental guidance. He may have even touched my knee sympathetically, but I probably conjured that due to lightheadedness. Yet, I still drove one of their ES series, and it was something like $498 a month with $5,500 down. (and by the way, I found out the ES’s hood undulates spastically if you get it over sixty MPH, something they failed to mention until I told them about my highway experience). “Oh, that’s a recall.” So, I’m woefully overpaying for a damaged car I must eventually take back in? Fantastic.

Before I left, I found a plaque with the president and vice president (I assume of the dealership), who wanted me to call if I was not 100% satisfied. You can imagine that I did this, because I did. At first I got something called the Sun Homes Sales Group in Florida. When I called again, the prompt sent me right to the VP. I left my message of hate and rage. He never returned my call for comment.

One last shot. A used Outlander. My bro found City Motor Group in Haskell that advertised a used 2016 SE. Looked clean, he said. $16,769.00. Forty-five thousand miles on it. Drove down there. Perfectly cordial bunch. Test drove it. Liked it. Then they sent me to the “finance guy” and things went sideways fast. After something called a “Multi-State Inspection” fee of $1,800.00 and other “hidden” fees added on – a list I had to wrest from the guy as if it were Trump’s tax returns – the final number was 21-grand, another five-thousand dollar mark-up. When I brought up the idea that making sure a car they were selling could pass inspection might be on them, like, say, if you buy a steak in a restaurant you assume that meant it was being cooked without a special fee, he said that because things are so crazy out there they can get away with it. “We used to pay for this, but now people are willing to pay for it.” He was right. When I checked on the car writing this, it was sold. (Cue the P.T. Barnum quote about suckers…)

Note: On the City Motor Group web site is a Code of Ethics under something called the National Independent Automotive Dealers Association that has as much integrity as the “multi-state inspection” charge, because if you go to their web site you get a 404 Web Page Not Found message. It reads (I added the italics for comedic emphasis): “Members of the NIADA and its state associations are independent auto dealers that abide by a strict Code of Ethics for membership that will give you additional peace of mind. Among other things, NIADA dealers commit to operating with integrity, honor and fair dealing toward the general public, comply with all city, county, state and federal laws, employ truth and accuracy in advertising and selling, and constantly strive to improve business methods to the end that the public is better served.”

When you’re done throwing up, it’s important to note the operative words found in that pile of steaming shit: “all city, county, state and federal laws.” There are no laws. It’s like OPEC without the third-century garb. That should frighten us the most, but I digress.

At this point I can tell you I tried to buy a car listed as a 2021 Chevy Trailblazer at Schumacher Chevrolet in Clifton that was not only on their web site, but I called first and spoke to another “mysterious web person,” who told me as I was six-minutes out they had the car on the lot. Ten or so minutes later the guy on the floor said it sold two days ago after he said it was a “service model” and some other stammering nonsense. But I won’t burden you any further.
    

Suffice to say, P.J.’s desperate last-minute plan of building the Outlander of my choice on their corporate web site the Sunday evening before the good people at Nielsen saved my ass was a winner. After only a couple of minutes with these guys I knew the difference between a preponderance of dealers out there that are using this crisis to gouge consumers and those who are riding it out with us and trying to do the right thing. And quite frankly, considering the vagaries of capitalism, who knows what the “right thing” is? They are selling these cars. People need them and dealerships need to stay solvent selling only a portion of their inventory. No one expects this computer chip shortage to subside until maybe the end of next year and who knows what a world looks like without Covid anymore?

But beware. There are sharks in the water now. And they have ramped up their image of charlatans a notch or two. Finding salesman like Andrew and Ryan in these waters is rare. But they are out there. Hang in there like P.J. and me. But don’t give into the “That’s the way it is now, eat it” mentality. They want you to give in, to get lazy. To accept their reality. It does not have to be. Love my car. Love even more that it took all of the above and more to get it at the proper price from honest sellers.

NEVER SURRENDER.

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CALIFORNIA SCHEMING

Aquarian Weekly
9/15/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
CALIFORNIA SCHEMING
What the Golden State Recall Election Tells Us About National Politics 
 
 
Six weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom was in trouble. The recall election slated for 9/14 looked to be hanging in the balance. When a recall was first broached last year after a backlash resulting from his flouting his own mask mandate and other stressing economic issues facing his state, the idea of ousting him before the end of his term was about 50-50. But there was a serious swell rising against the beleaguered Democrat. Since, there have been alternative Republican candidates entering “the race”. Then the numbers shifted dramatically. The frontrunner, Larry Elder is the biggest culprit, if Republican strategists on the ground are to be believed. Elder’s presence has morphed a competitive contest into a rather banal one.

Elder is another of these goofy “conservative” talk show hosts. Before the age of Trump this used to mean something. Now, it is a place for abject lunacy. His candidacy in a wildly Democratic state centers mostly around name recognition, the usual twenty-nine to thirty-eight percent far-right militant radical vote, and for window dressing, being African American does not hurt. For a while that kind of thing held some sway, especially when he received a rousing endorsement from Trump himself. It was enough to gain a plurality among the right. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the governor’s seat; Elder started appealing to the body politic. It was then when things went rapidly south.

And I need to stress rapidly.

Californians, it turns out, are not so keen on someone who says before his first cup of tea upon being sworn in he would eliminate the mask mandates put in place by the current administration, and then make it more difficult to fully vaccinate the state. This stuff is gold on the radio, where resentment, fear and outlandish blather helps sell beer. On the campaign trail, however, it is poison. In the past two weeks the nearly 50-50 split to kick Newsom to the curb has gone the other way almost twenty percent. Now nearly seven out of ten in the state support keeping the governor right where he is. Twenty percent did not shift by the selling of a new Newsom, but the very possibility of a crazy Elder.

What California tells us, if anything, is that although a chief executive may not be the popular choice, his opponent matters.

Now, I know that contextualizing a state or any local race into a national prognostication is foolhardy at best and quite frankly fucking insane at its core, but for the purposes of fun, let’s take what was happening to an obviously vulnerable sitting executive and extrapolate his story of seeming defeat to an unlikely reprieve on the national scene.

While Newsome’s governorship was being taken off life support, the president of the United States has been in a significant tailspin. Not since George W. Bush, the last president to enjoy a crossover appeal and rejection, has a president suffered the kind of nosedive approval ratings as Joe Biden in the past three weeks. As broached in the space recently, his steady fifty-three percent approvals since inauguration in January has sunk him to forty-five percent. Not once in those weeks has there been a respite. The numbers dive, slowly, steadily.

The botched and badly communicated exit from Afghanistan and the return of the Covid restrictions, rising hospitalizations and deaths being the two big reasons. There has always been a sense that Biden is not completely compos mentis, and the former did not help this assessment. The Covid thing is beyond his control. The federal government can only do so much. If states like Florida, Texas, and most of the South wish to force schools to not mask children and basically ignore the Delta variant explosion, then so be it. But among independent voters, these issues have led to a softening and then a mass exodus.

This is a crisis point for Biden. Independents decide close elections. And without an opponent, and if things were to be settled this November instead of three years from now, he would be very beatable.

Which brings me back to California. There is still a fervor to want change at the top, and Newsome’s approval numbers may not be overwhelming (he is at Biden’s former fifty-three percent) but once Larry Elder took his radio schtick into actual politics, it went the other way. If a Trumpian candidate is pummeled in California now, one wonders if Joe Biden might consider trolling Donald Trump to announce his candidacy. Because there is a very strong possibility that if a sane, actual conservative runs in 2024, the president is in deep shit.

Of course, Biden has three years, not three months. But what California tells us, if anything, is that although a chief executive may not be the popular choice, his opponent matters. Not sure there is (the November election is less than a year ago) the stomach for another Trump run or for another Trumpian candidate. And since Elder has already started predictably claiming election fraud a week out, the fallout might also be equally as ugly.

Let’s see if the Elder vote shows up to make this competitive. But if he loses, and if he loses by ten points, his presence in the race clearly forced the electorate to choose between incompetence and bat shit crazy dangerous.  

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WOMEN IN BONDAGE

Aquarian Weekly
9/8/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
WOMEN IN BONDAGE
Supreme Court Ignores Unconstitutional Bans on Abortion in Texas, Thus Enslaving Women’s Bodies at the Behest of the State
    
 
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
– Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
 
 
The moment former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stopped breathing the rights of women were put on life support. This overwhelming conservative court is now poised to strike down the forty-eight year-old Roe v Wade decision that we were told (like we were told the twenty-year Afghanistan War would be swift) was “decided law.” It is not. It never was. Until an amendment exists, (but it kind of exists, doesn’t it? – more on that in a couple of paragraphs), there is no such thing as “decided law.” They are likely coming for marriage equality as well. If the slow gutting of the Civil Rights Act is any indication, there is some radical judicial shenanigans to come.

But this is not a column about the vagaries of political justices or religious fanatics or the age-old arguments about fetal rights or heartbeats. This is about one thing, and has always been about that thing: Can a democratically constructed government based on a human’s right to live free in a nation built on the concept of law dictate what happens inside the body of its citizens?

The answer to that question must always be no. The government should not demand you remove your appendix or change your sexual organs. There are anti-choice, pro-lifers who bitch about the strong suggestion they receive a vaccine to save their lives and the lives of other fellow citizens, many of them family and friends. Not a mandate. A Suggestion. Yet, they wholly support the government dictating what goes on inside their bodies.

Oh, no, wait a minute, not everyone’s bodies. Women’s bodies. Just women. So, um, it is prejudicial on top of the other life and liberty stuff. Oh, I get it. Sure. And so, the end of Roe v Wade, a correct legal decision based on the basic principles of liberty, would mean that there can come a day when the government could force a woman to terminate a pregnancy. Oops. Yes. It would. Why wouldn’t it? Roe v Wade protects the systemic control over the bodies of more than half our citizenry. It protects women. Women are citizens. Thus, striking it down makes women’s bodies slaves to the state. This issue should be argued on the merits of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Okay, so maybe the Thirteenth Amendment is going too far – not sure it is – but there is always the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants the rights of citizens (women, the whole of women, including the uterus) over draconian laws instituted by lunatics. Of course, that amendment, passed in 1868, only granted these rights to men. It is specifically in the wording. Men only. But then the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919, supersedes it. Allowing not only women to vote but making them equal in the eyes of laws previously passed for men. So, now we’re up to three amendments. How many do we need to grant equal rights to women? Apparently more, as in the 1970s there was the proposition – stymied, of course – for an Equal Rights Amendment. Because maybe four fucking amendments might get women where they need to be.

Which brings us back to this: My daughter. Your daughter. Our daughters. Slaves to the state. None of them would have control over what happens inside them, now that Texas flouts the constitution, as they do, and many states do now with voting rights, and pushes this issue to its logical end – enslaving women. All of these things to be dictated by government over citizens. Unconstitutional. Period.

Women have taken your shit for as long as there has been anything known as society…

This has not been a good year for the constitution or democracy. It starts with a president trying overturn a free and fair election and become a dictator, then anarchists attacking the state capitol, and now the Supreme Court paving the way to enslave women’s body as the behest of the state.

Yeah, and we fear the Taliban halfway across the globe. No point. It’s here. And now. Next up, burkas. 

I shan’t get into the spectacular level of hypocrisy in the conservative, anti-government, Don’t Tread on Me clan that demand that women cash in their uterus. It is an appalling lack of ideological self-awareness, or really awareness or rationality. It is, in fact, the very definition of irrational, like most of the arguments to allow the government to take control of women. Government control. Over the body of a citizen of the United States. This is where we are heading.

And we need to get our heads around that. It is coming. Both of Donald Trump’s SCOTUS appointees are intractably anti Roe v Wade in previous rulings, comportment and commentary. We’ve already covered this. That particular ship has left the dock a while ago. It is a done deal. Its time is limited. And for those who have fought on the front lines against it for decades, your time has come. Good for you. But that does not mean it isn’t draconian and wrong and has no place in a society built on the concept that we are all free. Not women. Not for long.

Women have taken your shit for as long as there has been anything known as society – long before anyone considered freedom or that women were not property. Women. Property. To marry off and auction off and stigmatize and marginalize and objectify and demean and corner and make less-than. They’ve been on the butt end of religion and law and social mores and bigotry. But since 1973, when a woman couldn’t own a credit card or be a doctor or get a loan, they had at the very least, control of their bodies. And this is our ticking time bomb now. And this non-ruling ruling by the highest court in the land means, for now, there isn’t a fucking thing that can be done about it.

But right now, not tomorrow or next week or some time when we get our shit together, it is time to begin working out a plan to up-end anti-choice candidates for any office. It should be the democratic litmus test of all litmus tests. It used to be. But we got soft. The anti-choice crowd were hoping we would sleep on it. And we did. They made it their crusade. And now they are reaping the benefits. But the only way to protect the rights of women – even the unknowing women who support the pro-life movement at the peril of their own rights – is to upend this and make it our moral fight. Stop playing defense and get on offense to make it a law and maybe even an amendment, or at least evoke the rights granted by three amendments and the existence of a ratified constitution that the systemic control of any citizen is illegal and immoral. 

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CHARLES ROBERT WATTS – 1941 – 2021

Aquarian Weekly
9/1/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
CHARLES ROBERT WATTS – 1941 – 2021
 
There is a magical few seconds that transpires in the 1969 Rolling Stones track, “Monkey Man” in which the band falls out and it’s just guitarist Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts that, for me, defines the essence of rock and roll. It has the requisite infectious rhythm, boy does it ever, the raunch, the sexual fury, the defiant bloodletting, and funky groove dynamic that would come to underscore what the Stones meant to the genre. There are hundreds of examples from hundreds of songs that might get you there, but that few seconds, from 1:48 to about 2:08, when Charlie pulls you back into the song by laying into one of his signature rolls that is epic Stones. In fact, screw it, listen to the song from 1:48 until Mick Jagger starts yelping like a maniac and marvel at Charlie’s incredible accents and fills from there on out and you’ll be just fine. It is why those who love this music, dance to it, fuck to it, imbibe to it, drive to it, and study it, always come back to it and the Stones again and again.

Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones during rehearsal, New York, May 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

I use the word magical here because what happens with the Stones truly is. There is no viable explanation for Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, two disparate personalities inexorably linked – a perfectly balanced but oddly contorted element of what the right musicians can do when serendipitously tossed together in youth and purpose. A lot has been celebrated over the years about Mick and Keith. Rightly so. Songwriters. Icons. Pioneers. Sure. But for me, the Stones start with Keith and Charlie. I thought of Keith first when I heard Charlie died this week. Keith, of course, is the core of the Rolling Stones’ soundbeyond what the great and powerful, and dashing and famous – and honestly underrated – Mick Jagger could muster within this weird and wonderful construct, but Keith always said it was he and Charlie who fueled that engine. And it was always a strange engine that began with Keith setting the mean-streets groove and Charlie bringing it home. When Ron Wood, member of other outfits long before he joined the Stones in 1975, came aboard he marveled at how the Stones fed off the tempo of its rhythm guitarist and hung together on a tightrope by its drummer’s instincts. For awhile bassist Bill Wyman – also widely underrated in the annals of this classic outfit – held down the fort too, but it was always a dangerously haphazard ride that could only have been anchored by Charles Robert Watts.

(For a proper tribute to Messrs. Wyman and Watts please dig on “Miss You.” Right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Watts did things in the Stones so miraculous that it was mostly overlooked for nearly six decades. Not overlooked as much as ignored. When he passed, the main plaudits for Charlie’s talents all over social media and in the music press centered around his steadiness, how he remained a classy lynchpin of non-showy drumming in the swirl of the Stones hurricane, how he was a metronome and a rock. And although all those things are true of Charlie Watts, they totally missed his most essential contribution to the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. The Rolling Stones only ever existed beyond hit-makers and social pirates and institutional corporate touring machinery because of the unique just-a-tad behind the beat drumming of Charlie Watts.

Trained in jazz, he never stopped loving and revering its intricacies, which made you understand that his approach to rock and roll as a pounding forcefield was never his bag. He attacked it with subtitles and accents and nuances that brought diamond/snowflake qualities to the Stones canon. Watts’s drumming had no origin or a map. Charlie does not play “Honky Tonk Women,”“Brown Sugar,” or thank goodness  “(I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” like an in-the-pocket drummer might. He re-imagines that pocket and challenges the rest of the band to stick it out on his call. Keith starts it, and Charlie wraps it up in his bow.

Watching Charlie Watts was the key to appreciating this. After being a Stones fan as a teenager, my first times seeing them – 1978 and 1981 – I suddenly understood the optical illusion of Charlie Watts, that little lift the sick off the hi-hat right when the thwack of the snare came down, the stuttered kick drum, and the rest of his quirky blues-funk-muddy-water-thud-punch. Supple wrist action, military style grip, the violent use of the crash as a ride when noise is needed.

His finest work may be on the band’s finest album, Exile on Main St., “Rocks Off, Shake Your Hips,” “Lovin’ Cup” to name just three stand-outs), but it’s all there in the 1960s single phase, (“She’s a Rainbow” a particulate favorite Charlie thang for me), after the blues cover band, and Chuck Berry tribute band phase, (“Route 66” – first song on the first album… ummm… wow), the pop phase (“Ruby Tuesday,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby?”, the revolution phase (“Holy crap,, “Street Fightin’ Man,” right?) and the heroin chic fear-mongering phase (My god, when he kicks into “Sister Morphine” … fucking chills), that culminates in the greatest run of the era – Beggar’s Banquet through Exile – brutal beauty. It rattles walls and topples steeples, and Charlie is absolutely transcendent on those records and subsequent tours. Charlie may be the best thing about one of the most influential (and maybe best?) rock and roll live albums ever, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. This is why he is on the cover; alone with a donkey, leaping off the road. An inside joke, since Charlie loathed touring. Loved the gig. Loved the two hours pounding away on “Midnight Rambler” and the rest, but hated the whole thing – the press, the gladhanding, the hotels, the constant movement. He’s a sitter. Drummers sit and make their mark. The other members move all over the place and pose for posterity. Charlie was a good sitter.

The Rolling Stones only ever existed beyond hit-makers and social pirates and institutional corporate touring machinery because of the unique just-a-tad behind the beat drumming of Charlie Watts.

There is not enough space here to fully frame the man, (graphic artist, cartoonist, jazz band leader), so I concentrate on his drumming, which, again was so damn unique that when it was announced two weeks ago that the Stones were “replacing” him for an upcoming tour with an excellent drummer, Steve Jordan, I nonetheless whipped off texts to friends that it is a joke consider anyone beyond Charlie playing Stones songs. He is the soul of them, so much so that the trillions of cover versions over the years by bar bands and superstars sound like cheap imitations of imitations. No one can play Rolling Stones songs but the Rolling Stones, or (ahem), the Stones with Charlie Watts. I have written here a dozen times that there is no such thing as Gonzo Journalism beyond Hunter Thompson. People claim to practice it, but only one man did it. There was never any Minneapolis Sound, it was Pr


Stones songs only exist in the realm of the Stones. No matter how many humans attempt to get the groove on “Start Me Up,” it is not, nor will it ever actually be “Start Me Up”. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what the hell it is or what the Stones are doing on that song to make it work, never mind appear to the untrained ear to be simple, but, trust me, it is more complicated musically than anything the prog rockers or fusion bands attempted to convince us was complicated to make a point about prowess.

Of course, because Charlie took a slanted view at simplicity in his playing, we all slept on the point this week on the plain fact that the man is a creative unicorn, the way Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, his contemporizes who got more press, were, and had forged for themselves within what those bands were doing.  

“Gimmie Shelter”; the monster of all monsters in the rock realm. There is nothing that can touch it, and Watts’s drumming on that is something out of Grendel. When he slams those accents in-between verses it fells me every time. Also, less known, is the 1981 Tattoo You track “Slave,” which may be Charlie’s finest moment. I think it is the best Stones song of the last decade they truly mattered, and for most of it they didn’t even play together. But “Slave” is Charlie’s Great Gatsby, his Mona Lisa, his lasting imprint on my favorite band of all time. It is less song than Charlie being Charlie. Unlike “Gimmie Shelter” the greatness is not in its composition but its execution, where all Rolling Stones songs came to be heard, conquer, and burn an indelible mark in our collective brain.

   Pretty good work for a sitter.

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AFGHANISTAN – THE BIG FAIL

Aquarian Weekly
8/25/21

Reality Check

James Campion


AFGHANISTAN – THE BIG FAIL

Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.
– Italian proverb

Man, I have written a whole lot about Afghanistan over two decades. Not as much as Iraq, but a lot. It has been a long, strange trip, over three presidencies, two of which claimed some sort of victory there and all three that dangled withdrawal. This past week or so the announced finality and exit of American troops from the region after the nation’s longest war did not go well. The government that we spent two decades building and the military that we spent two decades training, folded in a week to the Taliban that we were sold were defeated fifteen years earlier. The United States streak of losing military actions and de-facto wars since 1945 continues. This is an epic fail for the U.S. And despite the above quote, it has a shit-ton of fathers.

This could have been predicted in 2001, when President George W. Bush knee-jerked into what we all thought – and were told – was a brief military operation to dismantle the wheels of terrorism that led to 9/11, the first in a series of spectacular lies that would take forty columns to review. The Soviet Union had a similar run in the Afghanistan in the 1980s that ran the gamut from swift invasion, troubled occupation, frustrated abandonment, and a nation completely sunk into chaos. Their final report on conditions on the ground in 1989 were as follows: “Clearly visible is the growth of [Afghan] self-sufficiency, self-confidence, ability to evaluate the situation correctly … which they lacked during our military presence in Afghanistan.”

Oops.

Does this skewed overview of the situation sound familiar?

Which brings us back to our own botched calculation over thirty years later.

Despite the above’s recent history readily available to all involved – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the usual suspects – five years into the “quick military operation,” Bush claimed victory, as he did three years earlier in the notorious “Mission Accomplished” speech about Iraq (that war is still going on, I think? Maybe? Sort of.), stating “We have defeated the Taliban and freed the nation.” Then he sent more troops in and went away, making way for Barack Obama. That didn’t go particularly well either, despite the obvious opposition to the campaign by the incoming commander-in-chief.

After running for office on ending “endless wars” and hoping to bring what was then an already “too long” fiasco in Afghanistan, Obama added 30,000 troops to the fray within months of being elected, claiming an eighteen-month surge to bring the war to a conclusion. This, as you might ascertain, did not occur. So, the last guy ran on absolutely ending “endless wars.” Donald Trump promptly told the nation that Bush and his cronies were war mongers, the generals were idiots, and he alone could fix it. Of course, like everything that came from Trump, this was total bullshit. The former draft-dodger told the press in 2017 after becoming president that “We have wasted too much blood and treasure on Afghanistan” and blustered about pulling out at least a dozen times in his four years. The events of this week prove that never happened on his watch.

This war… was about vengeance for 9/11 and to shroud our dependence on foreign oil in a patriotic security mission.

Then we have Joe Biden, who as senator, watched our secret war to arm the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to help facilitate the Soviet boondoggle, then abandon our allies, leading to the rise of al Qaeda, and the emergence in the 1990s of Osama bin Laden, and, well, you know the deal. Biden was even in the room as Obama’s vice president when word came that bin Laden had been killed way back in May of 2011. Everyone thought, well, maybe, now we can pull out of this mess after ten years. Nah. Let’s do ten more.

Biden, or someone after him, at some point, was going to have to take the L for this. How long are we supposed to police and build and manage a foreign government and prop up its military? This is not rhetorical. I mean to ask this: How long? Thirty years? Forty? Forever? This thing had to end. Afghanistan is not Syria or even Iraq – this was not an ongoing skirmish. This was a finger-in-the-damn proposition. The U.S. Army is not a police unit. It is not a building contractor operation. It is there to invade and break shit, kill people, and get the fuck out. Afghanistan was something else, and that something else, like all things, had to end. The defeat in Afghanistan was inevitable. Okay, you think defeat is too hard, you need the edges smoothed, then how about an Incomplete? Whatever the semantics, it was as immediate as it was predictable. The entire farce of the War on Terror – a never-ending money pit of violence, lies and fuck-ups – was set up for bad endings. Think of all of this like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. You just know… right?

This does not excuse the images of people hanging off airplanes and women and children running for their lives and the predictable anti-American chanting and effigy burning. These are not good looks for any president. Ask Jimmy Carter. Biden is in charge now, not Bush or Obama or Trump. He wanted the gig. He’s a big boy (unlike the last cry baby) and he has taken the shit storm like a man. And he should. His historically steady approval ratings have sunk five points to under fifty percent for the first time in his first eight months on the job, and while most of it is related to the backlash over the Delta variant and its probable negative effects on an economy that has already dipped its toes into the early stages of inflation, the swiftness of Afghanistan’s fall into the hands of an enemy we were told was bested fifteen long years is a tough pill to swallow for Americans.

But lest we forget, this war was never about protecting women’s rights or nation building or whatever Judea-Christian falderal you hear, it was about vengeance for 9/11 and to shroud our dependence on foreign oil in a patriotic security mission. It was all bullshit. It is always bullshit when it comes to war, and it had to end, badly or otherwise.

Here’s the only silver lining, and it is at best a long shot. I would think, moreover I would hope we take measured, reasoned, and careful consideration before going the war route in the future. George H. W. Bush promised “no more Viet Nams” in his Kuwait show that gave a generation the false hope we had learned from our mistakes there and in Korea a decade earlier. But we clearly did not. And if twenty years of wasted human life, abject destruction, and trillions of dollars spent in Afghanistan just to see the images of the last week isn’t enough a lesson, then we, and anyone we deign to assist in the future, deserve to be fucked.

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GOVERNORS BAWL

Aquarian Weekly
8/11/21

Reality Check

James Campion

GOVERNORS BAWL


To say the very least, this has been a strange summer for the governors of four of our biggest states: California, Florida, New York and Texas. To say the most, it has been a friggin’ shit show.

Two Democrats.

Two Republicans.

Half of this notorious quartet is mired in an alarming spike in the new Covid variant, Delta, while continuing to mostly ignore its impact on their citizens and play politics with their constituents’ lives. One barely hangs on beneath a torrent of several sexual misconduct allegations that this week came to boiling point after the state’s attorney general announced the findings of an investigation previously touted by the accused as his salvation. And one still faces a recall election this fall after his alleged failures in handling a growing housing crisis, rising homeless numbers, a distressing crime rate and climate change that’s fueled water and electricity woes – not to mention failing to curtail the virus outbreak last year, seemingly fiddling while L.A. burned, so to speak.

A couple of these gentlemen entertain aspirations for the White House, which means, if the last guy was any indication, they are well on their way. Donald Trump also monumentally fucked up a response to Covid and bragged about his assaulting women, and he got to be president. Never mind his continued lie about having the 2020 election stolen from him, which caused a violent breech on the Capitol, killing now… six officers, is it? Yes, Blue Lives Matter, except if you are protecting a federal building against heavily armed middle-aged white right-wing extremists. Then fuck it.

But I digress.

Let’s go alphabetically by state.

California is an economically savaged state with environmental issues from wildfires to floods to smog and pollution – make no mistake, if the northern part of the state goes bye-bye (the most beautiful stretch of land on this continent) then we may well all pack it in. But mostly, for now, it has a serious Covid issue. Although fifty-three percent of California residents are fully vaccinated, way better than most states, it has not been enough to prevent Delta from spreading. To make matters worse, beleaguered Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom was spotted late last year flouting his own mandates, eating at the ritzy French Laundry restaurant, maskless.

In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is facing increased pressure from inside and outside his party to take any action to address the state’s surging number of cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus. He responded by signing an executive order last week banning cities and counties from mandating their kids wear masks in school. And as he did last year during the height of the pandemic, DeSantis has refused to heed CDC guidelines or even acknowledge any measure of mask mandates for businesses, leading to what is now the state’s worst Covid infection numbers, even when considering 2020, and, moreover, according to the Miami Herald, an unprecedented explosion of children being admitted to pediatric hospitals due to Covid. Only Texas has reported a higher spike in child patients, but we’ll get to that horror show shortly.

And while lives are not in the balance and the economic woes of New York, especially NYC, have been recently lessoned, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, once the darling of his party and the nation due to his handling of the pandemic for most of 2020, is being squeezed by Democrats and Republicans alike to resign his office following the results of an investigation conducted by the state’s attorney general that reported that he had sexually harassed eleven women and created a general “hostile” work environment for women. Not surprisingly, due to the new climate of boys will be boys set forth by “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” Trump, Cuomo is digging in, using The Donald’s playbook of acting victimized by Cancel Culture and a politically motivated witch hunt. Problem for Cuomo is the Democratic Party kind of frowns on this behavior instead of celebrates it as some kind of dying breed of white male dominance. Impeachment is now on the table.

Four huge states. Large populations. Bad vibes. Crime. Ineffectual governance. Political survival.

And last, but certainly not least, is the sad tale of Texas and its governor, Greg Abbott. Like DeSantis, taking cues from failed real estate criminals rather than scientists and doctors, Abbott resists any changes in the state’s policies toward Covid-19 even as the Delta variant spreads at the worst rate in the country. Cases are up more than two-hundred percent in Texas over the past two weeks. On the surface that seems bad. Looking deeper, it is morally bankrupt systemic malfeasance. In the face of all this, Abbott doubled down on his do-nothing strategy this week, bringing to mind the incredibly ineffectual Herbert Hoover laissez-faire non-planning that worked so well to exacerbate the Great Depression. To put it mildly, the utterly silly apathetic governance applied here is gutting the state’s morale on beating back the disease enough to reduce confidence in both the private sector and its government. In other words, if the governor has no ideas beyond “Screw it”, then the only way to describe his office is useless.

Four huge states. Large populations. Bad vibes. Crime. Ineffectual governance. Political survival.

It’s going to be a fun summer.

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SUDDEN REPUBLICAN ABOUT-FACE ON VACCINES EXPLAINED

Aquarian Weekly
7/28/21

Reality Check

James Campion

SUDDEN REPUBLICAN ABOUT-FACE ON VACCINES EXPLAINED


After a year of claiming the Covid-19 pandemic was an orchestrated fraud on the American people, overrated, a weird flu that will disappear in a few weeks, a way for the federal government to strip its citizenry of its rights, and the ensuing vaccines being deadly tools to control our brains, the voices of the Republican Party have suddenly reversed course. This past week staunch detractors of the vaccine roll-out, cravenly fabricated for political purposes, have begun to quite vigorously implore that their loyal sheep march in a different direction. What the hell just happened?

Firstly, it should be pointed out that most Republican governors, members of congress, cable newsies and other voices from the right never truly believed this anti-vaccine, pandemic-denying bullshit. Most of these people hunkered down in their homes, slathered on the hand sanitizer, and masked up. These same people were the first in line to get vaccinated. There has been a wonderful line of Internet backlash against colossal idiot, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who a year ago told the world that once Joe Biden won the election, there would be no more pandemic. “He doesn’t even have to be sworn in,” Cruz proclaimed. “It will suddenly disappear.” Cruz, for the record, is vaccinated. His family, at least the ones who didn’t conspire to kill JFK, is vaccinated. Yet, he continues to take to the floor and rail against all of it. He is a phony. It is a political show to secure the former lunatic president’s slack-jawed base. No one believes any of it.

This shameless circus of hypocrisy brings us to the second issue: The Delta variant.

In the past few months, a second wave of a more aggressively infectious Covid virus has spread throughout the U.S. Depending on your source, ninety-eight to ninety-nine percent of those who are infected (and the numbers are rising every day) are un-vaccinated. The three worst states are Cruz’s Texas, run by Republicans, Missouri, run by Republicans, and Florida, run by one of the most defiant anti-vaccine psychos, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. One of the leading opponents of shutting down his state to curtail the spread of Covid last year, Florida had dips and spikes in the infected and the fallen like no other state. Now Florida finds itself at the epicenter of this new outbreak (45,000 new cases, 10,459 in June). There is widespread panic, especially among the elderly, a fair portion of the state’s population. But if last year’s ignoring of thousands of deaths is any indication, DeSantis doesn’t give a shit about old people dying. DeSantis cares about Republican voters dying.

It is bad politics to kill your voter base.

Nearly seven out of ten Republicans refuse to be vaccinated. These are mostly the voter base of the party – white and uneducated, or what is left of this cult. Do the math. If ninety-nine percent of the unvaccinated are getting infected by the new variant and seventy percent of these victims are Republicans, and you run a state that routinely has a one to three percent victory margin, then the governor cannot withstand losing votes to the Grim Reaper.    

Here is DeSantis two days before I’m writing this: “If you look at the people that are being admitted to hospitals, over ninety-five percent of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality. Telling them that the vaccines don’t work, I think that’s the worst message you can send to people at this time because I think that the data has been really, really good in terms of preserving people.”

Can a columnist write WTF?

I think I just did.

Getting back to Texas, according to a recent Texas Tribune report, the state has endured nearly nine thousand Covid deaths since February. All but forty-three were unvaccinated people. Not sure what nearly one hundred percent of eighty-five hundred people comes to, but as far as I can tell that is a lot of dead Republicans.

The other day, my pal, proud Republican and fierce anti-Trump voice, S.E. Cupp took to CNN airwaves to make this very case. “Republican politicians and right-wing radio and TV voices are literally killing their own voters,” she said. And for a shrinking party who has chosen to run amok all over voter and democratic rights to remain relevant, this is not a winning strategy. Within hours of Cupp’s declaration. FOX News nighttime rodeo clown Sean Hannity implored his listeners for the first time since the pandemic hit in early 2020 to take it seriously and get vaccinated. A lapdog shill for Donald Trump for four years and the purveyor of the worst conspiracy propaganda around, with the notable exception of comedian Tucker Carlson, (also vaccinated), who continues to rail against vaccines nightly, Hannity can nonetheless see the writing on the wall.

It is bad politics to kill your voter base. If you are going to make up stories about Trump winning the previous election, the one he was smoked in, to keep the thing breathing, why put a pillow over its face?

If this all sounds the bottom of the barrel being scraped, you know your sounds. But I add, again, for those with political aspiration. Keep those in your camp breathing. Helps come election day.

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THE POLITICS, CULTURE & SPIRIT OF SOUL

Aquarian Weekly
7/21/21

Reality Check

James Campion

THE POLITICS, CULTURE & SPIRIT OF SOUL
In Praise of Summer of Soul

Musician and filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson may well have made the seminal concert film of the age – the rock/soul/funk/gospel/blues American age. In his brilliantly engaging and crucially significant Summer of Soul, we get to simultaneously experience the culmination of our musical and cultural roots and the future of this nation’s sonic roadmap.

Thanks to my pal, singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson, for suggesting we take this in at an actual movie theater (imagine that post-pandemic fans) in the East Village this past week, I was mesmerized from the opening frames. The film launches with a fast-maturing, nattily attired Stevie Wonder sliding from center stage to ravage the drums. Suddenly, you are thrust into the moment – the heat, the excitement, the history. Summer of Soul literally brings to life long-lost footage from the summer of 1969, the absolute nexus of the pop world, a soul revelation from Motown to Stax, down the Bayou into the Baptist churches and Pentecostal revivals, the Delta Blues and the urban street funk and salsa searing rhythms.

Of course, the music isn’t the only theme of Summer of Soul. The voices – from the period and watching the footage along with us – proudly speak of community, faith, solidarity, and a relentless hope that permeated the audience and the performers that summer. Despite surviving a year of assassination, racial turmoil and economic stresses, Black pride is indefatigable. Pride for Harlem, for New York City, and for the powers of youth and art to overcome the systemic bigotry of 1960s America. All the issues we endure today, captured in the stories of journalists, musicians, audience members, and from the stage.

This film should be shown in schools and studied for years to come.

There is a moment in the film that left me shuddering; Jesse Jackson’s memories of the very moment Martin Luther King was assassinated, one year earlier on that hotel balcony in Memphis. He describes King’s last words before the fateful shot, joyfully turning to bandleader, Ben Branch, who was to play at a rally that evening; “Make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord,’” his favorite gospel song. Cut to Branch playing behind the legendary Mahalia Jackson and an impossibly young Mavis Staples singing the song. Singing is not even a fair description. More like awakening the echoes of the holy rapture.

And this is where Summer of Soul breathes; where its message drives deep; the music.   

Unlike the film, Woodstock, a documentary on the famous festival that took place during this run of shows at what was called the Harlem Cultural Festival that took place on weekends from June 29 to August 24 in 1969, Summer of Soul is a concert film in the truest sense of the word. While it does capture the zeitgeist of late-60s New York City, Harlem in particular, it concentrates on the stage. It is not an “experience” film of the event, as much as it reflects the talent, image, and influence of those who are connecting with the huge crowds – some 300,000 flocked to what is now Marcus Garvey Park that summer. Quick and essential shots of audience reactions grooving, weeping, shouting, and looking awestruck at what is transpiring before them adds to the allure of the story Questlove is telling. But it never interferes with the draw – the music.

And man, what music. In it, there is the very history of American song styles. And how incredibly young and vibrant the performers all appear. B.B. King is still smack in his prime as he tears through a fierce version of “Why I Sing the Blues”, a running history of the pain and anguish of the Black American experience that flows like a roaring river from its vocals down into King’s fingers, as he shreds his leads. Sly and the Family Stone, who will play arguably Woodstock’s hottest set within a week or so of their blistering performance here, are so incredibly mind-bogglingly killer, it gives credence to their massive cross-over powers of the time. Same goes for the 5th Dimension, riding high on their “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” mega-hit, they nail it with such verve, it is as though they needed for the Black Harlem audience to embrace them. Watching an emotional Marilyn McCoo and her husband, Billy Davis Jr. watch themselves performing a half century ago is another of the film’s many highlights.

Questlove and his editor Joshua L. Pearson uncovered forty hours of film which was to be sold as the Black Woodstock, but was lost to time, until now. And why? How did this not find an audience? Many of the performers were primed to have incredible runs in the 1970s. Black audiences could be counted on to frequent theaters and support their music. It is a question the film-makers ask again and again.

If it is not obvious by now, I adored this film. It should be shown in schools and studied for years to come. The layers in its message and its music are crucial to our understanding of where we have been and where we are going. It is a cultural masterwork and entertaining as hell.

Bravo.   

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THE OVERRATED CRIME NARRATIVE

Aquarian Weekly
7/14/21

Reality Check

James Campion

THE OVERRATED CRIME NARRATIVE
Backlash To Shitty Policing & Right-Wing Paranoia Fuels Myth


Last week I indicated the uptick in crime in New York City, mostly violent crime, which has, across the board in the U.S., increased during the pandemic of 2020 and spilled into the first six months of this year. This is why I touted the centrist, former police captain and current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for the next mayor of NYC. The trends are not good, but it is important to point out that they are a mere blip in not only NYC’s recent and ignominious crime history, but also the greater U.S. After a year of Black Lives Matter backlash to white cops murdering African Americans at an alarming clip, and the ensuing absurd Defund the Police movement, leading into an embarrassingly sycophantic pro-police resistance, the numbers of growing crime rates have not only been exaggerated, but fetishized, mythologized, and just plain made up.

U.S.: violent crime rate graph 1990-2018

The raw numbers do not back up this latest American hysteria, much of it predictably fueled by the Republican Party, currently out of power and viable ideas that don’t include Dr. Suess. Much of my sources within the party have openly admitted that “fear of crime” is the go-to for the 2022 mid-terms. Don’t get me wrong, I support anything a party can do to stay relevant, but it seems odd that one of the most heinously violent domestic terrorist crimes committed in my lifetime only six months ago, the January 6 attack on the Capitol, seems to not bother these people at all, yet they cling to fantasies of shadowy figures running amok killing innocents in record numbers.

And lest anyone think this is a slanted partisan deconstruction of Republican bullshit; I remind you that last summer when it would behoove me to continue to bash the former president for what appeared at the time to be a daily raging violent outburst of humanity – oft-times compared to the late 1960s – I cautioned readers  to pump the brakes, it wasn’t even close. And more famously, I took much shit from my liberal friends for tamping down the whole “Just like Vietnam” craziness that transpired during the height of the Iraq War, which, again, was not comparable in any possible way. The idea of Reality Check is to keep it real, to strip the usual “Worst Ever” or “Best Ever” miasma that has soiled what now passes for intellectual debate.

Now, back to crime.

“Americans overall are much less likely to be killed today than they were in the 1990s, and the homicide rate across big cities is still close to half what it was a quarter century ago.”

The fact is that 2020, while, again, showing a rise in violent crime, mostly due to a once-in-a-century pandemic, was concerning (homicides up twenty-five percent), it does not warrant this kind of public and political frenzy. In fact, last year, because businesses, bars, and general lockdown curtailed humans from interacting with other humans and their stuff, the U.S. crime rate dropped considerably: Over ten percent for robberies, nearly eight percent for property damage, and nearly fifteen percent for rape. According to a Guardian piece this week, “Americans overall are much less likely to be killed today than they were in the 1990s, and the homicide rate across big cities is still close to half what it was a quarter century ago.”

I remind you again, there were armed lunatics within fifty feet of the vice president of the United States screaming for his head in the U.S. Capitol a few months back. This seems to be an actual issue that maybe should be worrisome.

As the above quote hints, all of this numbers-crunching includes 1991, the “murder year” of all years. This includes the ultra-violent 1960s and the wild and wooly 70s, where the states with the most humans (Florida, New York, California, and Illinois – in that order) topped the charts. Ghost states like Montana and Utah with about two thousand people in them were predictably toward the bottom. Since 1991, and including 2020, and this year, the steady decline in crime (especially violent crime) has gone down considerably, and except for some anomalies like last year, has stayed that way.

There is also this silly idea that larger cities are currently under siege. This is also not true. And while there are more people with diverse racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds to consider in cities, crime numbers there may surprise you.

According to FBI 2021 data of the Most Dangerous Cities, the Top Five are Muskegon Heights, Michigan, Tukwila, Washington, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, Little Rock, Arkansas. Nary a Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Houston in the bunch. For larger cities, would you guess that considering the murder rate per capita for the size and scope of cities that St. Louis, MO (69.4) is the murder capital of the U.S.A.? Followed by Baltimore, MD (51.1), New Orleans, LA (40.6), Detroit, MI (39.7) Rounding out the bad towns are Cleveland, OH (33.7), Las Vegas, NV (31.4) and Kansas City, MO (31.2) just outside the curve. New York and Los Angeles are not even in the Top Fifteen.

Now, it is a well-worn subject in this space how over-the-top this country is when compared to other advanced and rich nations in our gun violence. This has been the case in 1991, 2001, 2011 and this year. That has not changed for the worse. It has always sucked. It is a sad commentary on us, but hardly an indication that things have suddenly gone off the rails. But even considering these cases, the FBI figures that nearly eighty to ninety percent of the victims of these shootings know their assailant. And since domestic violence was the most significant issue last year – along with the insane anti-Asia violent crime wave – these stats have held true.

All of these numbers are easily found. I found them. Taking the word of desperate politicians and cable news for anything is a dereliction of your citizenry, but on a hot-button issue, and especially since it may keep you up at night cradling a handgun, it is probably a good idea you take a gander yourself.

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