Dear Mista Christie

Aquarian Weekly 3/7/12 REALITY CHECK

DEAR MISTA CHRISTIE

 

The following was sent to the N.J. governor’s office the morning of February 29, 2012, 11 days after Chris Christie vetoed the New Jersey legislature’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage in a mostly progressive state, which already recognizes civil unions, and whose majority of citizens support the referendum.

 

Office of the Governor PO Box 001 Trenton, NJ 08625 Att: Mr. Christie

“Marriage is the union of two different surnames, in friendship and in love, in order to continue the posterity of the former sages, and to furnish those who shall preside at the sacrifices to heaven and earth, at those in the ancestral temple, and at those at the altars to the spirits of the land and grain.” – Confucius

I send this missive neither as a taxpaying citizen of New Jersey, which I certainly am, nor as an activist for progressive measures in and out of the political arena, which I find mostly to be a masturbatory enterprise. And trust me on this, despite my weekly contributions to the editorial din as founder and president of the Reality Check News & Information Desk; ideological agenda is less an aim than a useful cudgel to effectively pummel for laughs and a paycheck. What you are dealing with here is a generational contemporary. In fact, you are literally three days older than me.

And so fellow post-boomer Virgo, it comes as some surprise that you decided to veto the Same-Sex marriage bill recently passed through our state legislature.

Come on, man. I used to think this type of systemic bigotry was the tarnished emblem of a bygone era filled with vapid familial/cultural inbreeds that perpetuated myths in order to protect their own myths; pathetic fading echoes of Jim Crow and McCarthyism. Remember we used to laugh at those ridiculous dumb-asses who stonewalled a woman’s right to vote, a woman’s right to choose, an African-American’s right to eat at a diner, sleep in a hotel or use public bathrooms? The insipid puritan throwbacks that pitched a fit when Jack Johnson showed up at a PR event with a white woman or when Elvis shook his hips on TV were freakish wax images from the black-and-white dark ages.

Our generation is supposed to be so far removed from this type of atavistic nonsense it’s laughable that one of us would gain power and pull the same tired shit. Being on the wrong side of history was the sad work of the frightened old guys, the feeble-minded post-war, pre-enlightenment drones who ignored a reasoned evolution of thought, and not all that Sixties crap we stomped out in the Seventies and Eighties when the cold stark realities of a drug-fueled, sex-addled hedonism for hedonism sake “movement” was reduced to a burned out Disco nightmare. Fuck “Born to Run”, you don’t know a thing about that song. Shit, Springsteen wrote forty songs about New Jersey and they are all “I gotta get out of this backwater hellscape, babe!” “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, Mista Christie. That’s our anthem. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Apparently.

You grew up in Jersey, not Alabama or Mississippi, right? Where the hell is this coming from?

Is it because you’re part of a political party, which is something akin to being a Boy Scout? Okay, there may be rules of engagement and secret handshakes that those of us in the Freethinker milieu find curious if not goofy, but don’t you pride yourself on being a bit of a freethinker (small f) on several issues both social and fiscal within the Republican brand?

So, what’s your play?

Your official public position as reported is; “I am adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced — an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide. I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change. This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.”

All right, so the whole constitutional thing is not your strong suit. I can accept that. You’re the union-busting, tax-slashing blustery wise-guy — although my property taxes were just hiked and I’m not sure any taxes have been eased since your swearing in, but that is another letter for another day. But you do realize that you have been duly elected as a caretaker of said constitution, along with your fellow legislators, to interpret and uphold its tenets. Then what’s with the buck passing? This feckless maneuver appears more curious than your veto in that you have fashioned your cult of personality to that of a tough-talking straight-shooter Jersey type out of a 1930s Jimmy Cagney flick. Seems odd this is too big of an issue in which for you to come to grips.

For now, this agonizing episode in head-in-the-sand politics as usual hits hardest at home, in my state and from my generation. I am embarrassed for both of us. But hell, I guess we’re just another in a long line of cowards.

Oh, and by the way, voting on a civil right isn’t exactly how constitutions are written up. The Bill of Rights, as granted by the United States Constitution, supersedes all half-baked state initiatives. Please see the American Civil War of 1861 or the Civil Rights Act a century later for prime examples.

And while it is hard to believe you buy into the whole facile Religious Right silliness, the legislation contains a religious opt-out clause, meaning no church clergy would be required to perform gay marriages and places of worship would not have to allow same-sex weddings at their facilities.

It can’t be philosophical or historical, can it? No one who has cracked a book or two can seriously believe there is such a thing as “sanctity of marriage”. Maybe you’re not familiar with the history of the institution, which pre-dates anything resembling modern Judaism or for that matter Christianity by centuries. Marriage is a business agreement, a property grab-caste jumping exercise that the Catholic church turned into a money-making scheme and the puritans ran up every flag pole they could get their grubby hands on.

Let’s say for the wildest sake of argument you are concerned for the fabricated “definition” of marriage; then why don’t you make a cause of repealing your state’s No-Fault Divorce Cause of Action, which grants legal separation to any husband and wife that lives separately in different houses for a period of at least eighteen consecutive months? Anyone without dung for brains can see the threat this law is to the purported “sanctity of marriage”, which as stated can be easily disproved as a lark by a serious perusal of historical fact.

Marriage is merely a business merger without humans, whose emotions, sexual energy and pure, embroiled passion give it whatever meaning it possesses. Maybe you heard that homosexuals are human.

So I can only assume you’re a homophobe?

It’s fine. I don’t particularly embrace anyone or most anyone’s culture, but then again I’m not representing anyone or their culture, but the governor, sir, is the governor of all, and the majority is not always right. I heard you say much the same when some of your more unpopular policies were polled into the ground. You civil servants come to that eventually. Hell, I say it too when stuff I believe (the four or five I have left) are polled into the ground. Thing is no poll or vote is going to make a wrong a right and you have a steaming bowl of wrong on your hands here, no matter your reason.

Finally, since you’re a secular leader and most of what is described above is what I call voodoo gobbledygook, your specious argument, assuming you are not a spectacularly uniformed homophobic party lackey, rests on the Civil Union law currently on the books. In fact, you have stated that you are “just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits.”

Well then, consider the case of John Grant and Daniel Weiss, an Asbury Park couple in a civil union and are among many who recently testified in support of gay marriage. According to a well-documented story from several local news reports, including my old pals at the Asbury Park Press, when Grant was in a life-threatening automobile accident and rushed to a New York hospital in 2010 — before that state legalized gay marriage — Weiss said he couldn’t authorize badly needed surgery or even go through his partner’s wallet to find his health insurance card. He said their civil union was essentially worthless; Grant’s neurosurgeon even asked, “What is a civil union?”

Look, man, you appear to be a fairly coherent guy, but this move is an anachronistic mess and whether you did it for political reasons, personal phobias or an abject ignorance about what you are defending here, this is a plain and simple denial of civil rights by a democratic government and for that you shall be judged; now and in November of 2013 when you will be run out of this state on a rail.

For now, this agonizing episode in head-in-the-sand politics as usual hits hardest at home, in my state and from my generation. I am embarrassed for both of us. But hell, I guess we’re just another in a long line of cowards.

At least, if the research buzz I’m getting here at The Desk is to be trusted, this next generation thinks we’re a fucking joke. Remember thinking that about the others? No? That explains it.

Yours in Disgust,

jc

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Frontrunner Shuffle 2012

Aquarian Weekly 2/29/12 REALITY CHECK

THE FRONTRUNNER SHUFFLE or Where the Hell is Reince Priebus?

Since I am the only reporter willing to go on record as to the extent of the Republican National Committee Chairman’s increasingly alarming drinking problem, it is also incumbent on this space to place it in context with the queer developments surrounding its fallout. By all accounts and clearly evident in the dramatic closing of Republican establishment ranks prior to an unsuspecting and purportedly damaging Rick Santorum surge in popularity, the spastically bizarre public behavior of Reince Priebus, while understandable, has sent shockwaves through the halls of the GOP powerbase mere days before the Michigan and Arizona primaries.

Rick SantorumAfter an alleged 72 hours of no sleep and a regrettable slip in press judgment, Priebus spent the first week of February tossing out urbane similarities between a sitting U.S. president and a foreigner accused of negligent homicide. This prompted angry stewards of billionaire Republican donors, David H. and Charles G. Koch to summarily pull the chairman from the public spotlight. Several backroom meetings for which the buzz from moles included “mild face slapping to repeated beatings over the head with a rolled up Wall Street Journal” led to a Priebus media blackout.

A spokesman for the RNC claimed that the days leading up to what aids are now describing as “the post-Triple-Sweep” binge wherein Priebus, caught shouting at a frightened cabbie in front of Denver’s swank Hotel Teatro, disappeared without a trace.

Reports of the RNC’s befuddled reaction to the abject whipping of party frontrunner, Mitt Romney by a suddenly resurgent Santorum sent Priebus’ already fragile state and penchant for Scotch-shooters to deplorable levels. Assistants were left to scramble to bus in confused vagrants and angry students promised Xbox 360 systems to fill out the student center at the University of Colorado for what was to be a victory speech turned funereal groan. By the time Romney was done speaking the crowd had turned ugly, but word spread that Priebus was already halfway to Grand Junction, where he was to pick up the latest windfall of Salt Lake City Super Pac money that never arrived.

Priebus then disappeared until his unhinged television appearances and the subsequent Koch Brothers beatings.

Problem was that no one noticed.

There has been a great deal of doom-speak coming from the war room lackeys now that a crazed fox is in the 2012 hen house. Many who believed Romney’s steady politico static-free waxen anti-Obama figure would cast a mighty shadow over what the Grand Old Party was sure this past summer was the weakest incumbent since Jimmy Carter. Rick Santorum was considered at best as a strange counter-point to whatever wild nonsense Newt Gingrich was spouting to split enough votes to keep a moderate billboard candidate from unraveling.

Two weeks of a religious loon going off half-cocked about sex, drugs and Satan was not on the agenda.

Long before the Santorum nightmare, worries began to fester throughout the party when Romney stumbled off script and told a CNN morning show that he didn’t care about the poor and chuckled lightly when asked why he thought his extra 300 grand in speaking-engagement income for 2011 was small change, but once his tax records were brought to light and the Republican machine began accusing the White House of playing “class-warfare”, all appeared well. Best of all, Gingrich spit the bit in two uneven debate performances and in an obvious panic started talking seriously about building lunar colonies and calling it a 51st state. Consequently, Romney stomped in Florida, a key swing state Barrack Obama carried in 2008.

Suddenly, the Mister Fix-It routine was ringing a tad hollow.

Combined with a subsequent Nevada caucus win, the word cocky was used in several interviews with insiders this space conducted after Florida. The Romney camp, backed by RNC strategy, ignored the sanctioned Missouri Primary, which was stripped of its delegates due to scheduling problems with the party. But while Romney spent his time trying to sew up Colorado, a caucus he would lose to Santorum along with one in Minnesota, the former Pennsylvania senator spent weeks pulling together his Iowa plan of door knocking/flesh pressing retail politics in Missouri to complete the 2/7 sweep.

Banned from media appearances, rumors abounded that the party dispatched Priebus to Maine to stop the bleeding, and with heavy party participation, which reports out of Bangor are now citing as “insider party fraud”, Romney squeaked by Ron Paul. Stunned, the Paul campaign, having done its own Santorum-like sweep of the state for months, challenged the results, and once the local and then national press began sniffing out the tallies, it was obvious that many counties — key Paul strongholds — were either not counted or erroneously called for Romney.

Details of the shenanigans pulled by Republican officials in Maine are sketchy and the delegates are being withheld pending investigations or a complete re-vote, but what has happened in the past three weeks to the Romney campaign does not exactly defy explanation.

For one, Romney’s only claim on his candidacy is a de facto John Kerry argument that he is the most electable and not the guy currently in charge. And secondly, he is the self-proclaimed economic wizard and therefore holds the best fulcrum against a damaged economy. But as weeks wore on past Christmas the stock market made its three-year Obama administration climb up to 13,000 for the first time since the spring of ’08 and was soon followed by a slow dip in unemployment and a gradual pace of domestic growth, consumer confidence, and a Super Bowl ad by a Hollywood touch-guy icon lauding the resurrection of the once tanked U.S. car industry.

Suddenly, the Mister Fix-It routine was ringing a tad hollow.

Meanwhile, with a renewed advantage in an upward economic swing and its opponents for the moment stalled, the White House found itself embroiled in a ridiculous Religious Liberty vs. Public Health issue that was nothing of the sort. This ready-made controversy emboldened the social issue/culture warrior base of a party that had been yanked back into a fiscal responsibility platform by the TEA Party surge of 2010. The grateful recipient of this severe shift in public debate from money to contraception is Rick Santorum, who took the football and literally threw Hail Marys all over the joint; pulling out the Jerry Falwell playbook on family, God and apple pie until it hurt.

Santorum hit every cultural low note from Detroit to Tempe and actually took minor leads in Michigan and Arizona, as well as overtaking Romney in the national polls. His Johnny Lunch-Pail gate mixed with a sweater-vest kind of sweet uncle charm made Santorum the perfect anti-robotic Romney. According to Republican strategists, Santorum’s only weakness as a national candidate is that he is out of his fucking mind, much of which was on full display in a plethora of stump speeches given since his Triple-Sweep performance. A careful reading of his 2008 religious/culture warrior screed, It Takes a Family; Conservatism and the Common Good that made the rounds of media derision didn’t help.

This daily dose of voodoo goofiness forced blow-back from the highest rafters of party donors, many of whom leaned so hard on Santorum it reduced his recent polished debate performances into a glassy-eyed Al Goresque charade in a CNN debate days before the primaries. This roused a Romney poll comeback. At one point in the televised massacre, Romney had Santorum apologizing for voting for derided crap the last two-term Republican president pitched as viable policy.

One week until Super Tuesday and Reince Priebus is still at large.

How long until he finds Jesus?

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Israel Threat

Aquarian Weekly 2/22/12 REALITY CHECK

THE ISRAEL THREAT A Sideways Path to War with Iran

The near east U.S. military outpost known as Israel is about to go rogue. For all intents and purposes, much to the eternal glee of Hezbollah and whatever is left of al Qaeda, our overextended and bankrupt nation is about to be dragged into a direct confrontation with Iran. This maneuver, while antithetical to any sane solution in dealing with an already heavily sanctioned and highly motivated regional instigator, bloodshed is coming; and not the big-talk, ostensibly humanitarian carpet-bombing campaign we usually employ. This is the IDF we’re talking about, the most deadly efficient military in the world. It will not be pleasant and it will plunge the entire shit house into flaming wreckage and our fingerprints will be all over it.

Benjamin NetanyahuMake no mistake, the United States of America wants no part of Iran and hasn’t for decades of seriously dangerous Iranian madness, not the least of which happened in the late-70’s when its theocratic revolution topped off festivities by taking American citizens hostage. During the post-9/11 American “humanitarian carpet-bombing campaign” in Iraq, Iran (mortal enemies of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) repeatedly aided, funded and directly carried out insurrectionist attacks on U.S. soldiers and contractors.

None of this brought about even a discussion on the invasion of Iran, nor did its tired rhetoric about turning Israel into rubble and massacring the evil Jew sautéed in a thick Arabic sauce of Holocaust denial. And this was during the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld era of war-tribunal-free-for-all. Now after over ten years of Middle East wars, economic disaster and a renewed sense that no amount of bombing, killing and nation-building is going to take the crazy out of the crazies, a conversation about taking aggressive action against Iran is about as an unwelcomed as can be imagined beyond a CPAC Convention.

This would normally be bad news for Israel. For without a nod from the United States, Israel cannot seriously contemplate all-out aggression against Iran, never mind the type of military invasion it has hinted at for months should Iran cross some imaginary “redline” of nuclear advancement.

However, the bad news is also on the other foot, since according to Israel the “redline” is apparently within striking distance.

This week’s show biz routine rolled out by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which featured an unveiling of an operational nuclear reactor with fancy fuel rods and impressive form-fitting white labs coats, was in one bold swoop a show of scientific progress achieved by 16th century tribesmen, a nose-thumb to international sanctions and a veiled threat to Israel. There was high talk of medical isotopes and major progress on nuclear centrifuges, all of which the U.S. State Department announced was “nothing new” and what the international community was expecting for some time, even in the face of Iran’s continued insistence the operation is purely an energy upgrade.

Israel has every right to defend itself and has a fair argument against an emboldened Iran, but beyond finger-wagging speeches by the White House and deeper sanctions, which has already damaged the Iranian economy by over half; it will have to do so without an American figurehead.

No one, of course, believes a word of it. But while the U.S. sees a slow-moving national ego-stroke within a region quickly turning into an anarchistic tinderbox in Syria, Egypt and Libya, Israel, and especially its knee-jerk Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, sees opportunity.

The Central Intelligence Agency lists Netanyahu as a loose cannon, whose iron fist approach has garnered him non-consecutive victories over a 16-year period and a host of belligerent military campaigns of variant successes and failures, His performance last year berating the president of the United States in the Oval Office in front of the international press and the assassinations of Iranian scientists over a two-year period has put the U.S. on notice. Despite billions of American aid and military might, Israel will not sit this one out.

For its part, Iran has been begging for an irate reaction from the blustery Netanyahu. Its underground terrorist hits of Israeli diplomats in separate bombings of India, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and most recently Bangkok, the blame of which has been denied by Iranian officials, has carried with it an air of vengeance and overt saber rattling that flies in the face of its own diplomatic attempts to reopen nuclear talks with the West. This has all smartly transpired amid rumors that there could be an olive-branch agreement to allow UN inspectors to tour the Tehran nuclear facilities.

This and U.S. intelligence reports that Iran is at best two years removed from achieving the ability to make warheads, has dispatched a State Department envoy to Tel Aviv to allay Israeli fears and keep the United States from dealing with what appears to be no imminent threat its interests.

Although the same people who believe Iran is developing its nuclear capabilities for energy concerns also believe there will be a threat at some point in the next five to ten years, there is a two-front dilemma occurring in a more pertinent area to U.S. interests; the vital Strait of Hormuz. This slender waterway provides the transport of nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply, which not only affects the West, but Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, as well as the new burgeoning republic or Iraq to the north.

The United States decade of carnage in the region and the crumbling resolve of a once moderate to malleable Arab coalition, one in which George H. W. Bush exploited to exacerbate the already pathetic ties to our oil addiction, has forced this stand-off into a diplomatic pussyfoot. Our Saudi alliance against a nuclear Iran, tenuously kept under wraps, is threatened by any hint of U.S. military involvement in Israel’s growing fury. It is simple pragmatism. It confronts each and every era in this volatile loony bin called the Middle East to which we must bow or begin trading in those monster trucks for hybrid minis.

Israel has every right to defend itself and has a fair argument against an emboldened Iran, but beyond finger-wagging speeches by the White House and deeper sanctions, which has already damaged the Iranian economy by over half; it will have to do so without an American figurehead.

But what is the reality in that?

As a wise man once uttered; “Slim to none and slim just left the building.”

And thus, in an ironic twist Israel has become as dangerous a threat to U.S. security as any terrorist organization.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

A Question of Secular Faith

Aquarian Weekly 2/15/12 REALITY CHECK

A QUESTION OF SECULAR FAITH The Role of Law in Perpetual Religious Times

Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it [liberty], needs them not.

– James Madison

Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.

– 9th Circuit Court Ruling on Prop 8

James MadisonAnd with that, the childish nonsense that continues to be an issue in a purported free society protected by law meets its latest nadir. The wholly unconstitutional pogrom on civil rights perpetuated by atavistic 16th century theocrats silly with gay-marriage bans has taken another blessed step towards oblivion. And soon, when a brave soul decides to present this madness to the Supreme Court, as has been done with the criminality of the Patriot Act and will soon visit the wholly farcical National Health Care Law, then all the crazy votes from all the crazy people will do no good.

It is hard to believe we’ve been trolling this subject for lo these fifteen or so years. Frankly, I am embarrassed every time I have to write it, as if I were carrying on an endless battle against the Flat Earth Society. But we do. And slowly but surely this will go the way of most of the embarrassing nonsense that has littered the checkered history of this republic.

But this is not what we’ve set about to cover this week, although it falls under a similar umbrella of Law vs. Religion.

There has been much furor recently over religious liberty and the aforementioned National Health Care Law vis-à-vis the Catholic Church and its bevy of universities, colleges, hospitals and care centers, wherein the federal government is mandating these institutions provide full insurance coverage to its employees, which include contraception devices.

You may rightly ask why any institution has to provide anything mandated by the government, but then you would be here for weeks pouring over the hundreds upon thousands of regulations – some of merit, many goofy – that the federal government has mandated for decades. Nevertheless, it is a fair question, and it too must have its day in court.

However, a divisive political climate and the opportunity of an election year has curiously turned a legal matter into an issue of “religious liberty”, as in why should Catholic-run institutions be forced to provide a service its dogma is patently against?

Now, mind you, we’ve fought these religious vs. the state battles before with slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, prohibition, the teaching of evolution, interracial marriage, abortion, etc. Most of these have seen religion get its ass kicked, so in a binding, legal sense, this is probably not going to go well for religion, but it appears to me that this is not a matter of religious liberty, but only that of “extensions” of the Catholic Church to run public hospitals and institutions of higher learning that cater to all members of society.

Granted, nearly 98 percent Catholics have admitted to using or having used contraception devices at one point or other, so there appears to be some foxes in the theocratic henhouse so to speak, but Catholic hospitals and universities are open for business (and these are indeed businesses and not Mother Teresa missions) to Jews, Muslims, Evangelicals, atheists, agnostics, snake-charmers, and so on. More to the point, these businesses hire American citizens of all faiths and as such must adhere to the labor laws of the land and not dogmatic tenet.

Whether the Health Care Law is an abuse of personal liberty – and this space argues it certainly is – will be a subject dissected within the parameters of constitutional law, available to believers and non-believers alike. It will not be played out in a pulpit.

There is also the question of what government grants these health institutions receive and in that case we return to our age-old argument against the taxpayer funding of art and its hindrance on artistic freedom. If you take the cash and then use it to create something deemed offense by the benefactors, then it leaves the artist very little in the way of defending his/her freedom or even full ownership of the artistic vision. In other words, freedom, and all it denotes, is sold to a bidder and that bidder gets to call the tune.

A funny aside; many of the same people who once aggressively promoted the actual repression of religious liberty, or just liberty in general, are the ones now crying foul. Remember the Islamic center a taxpaying citizen wanted to build within a ten-block radius of Ground Zero in New York City? Yeah, that one. The argument against his right to purchase a building and put whatever he damn well pleased in it (as long as it wasn’t a sex-related endeavor near a school, which is more unconstitutional nonsense) was that it was Islamic. Since Muslims killed the victims of 9/11, it was deemed insensitive by its opponents. Rights trampled over insensitivity, not rights infringed upon for the public health.

This current debate is simply not about religious liberty, despite the politically exploitive attempts to make it so by the Republican-controlled congress and three of the four remaining GOP presidential candidates, excluding Ron Paul, of course. It is that sort of mucking of the point that has kept Same-Sex Marriage from its rightful place in the civil rights arena. It is not about indefinable poetic hodgepodge surrounding “the sanctity of marriage” or voodoo gobbledygook as in “God intended”. It is the idiosyncratic denial of basic liberty guaranteed by the Bill Rights.

The framers of the United States Constitution, specifically Thomas Jefferson and his political apprentice and author of the document, James Madison put their heads together to create the secular template for this republic in 1786 with Virginia’s Act for Establishing Religious Freedom – the first of its kind in any formed government anywhere. Madison, fearing the establishment of Christian-only laws, wrote what many historians consider as important a treatise as Jefferson’s masterful Declaration of Independence; Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. Madison’s main objective in Memorial was to as much promote the absence of religion in the civic conscience as it did in keeping one religion from dictating the law of the land; be it Christian or otherwise.

This, and only this, is where the matter lies.

The government is not forcing the Catholic Church to alter its course within the parameters of its faith, as in mandating priests to promote the use of birth control or forcing condom dispensers in church restrooms, no more than it would demand equal rights to women denied the opportunity to be priests. But if the Catholic Church wishes to play in the public free market, it must play by its rules, not the other way around.

You want to bitch about religious oppression? Ask a Mormon Church how it feels about the late-19th century abolishment of its polygamy practices in two separate laws passed over the course of 20 years.

Whether the Health Care Law is an abuse of personal liberty – and this space argues it certainly is – will be a subject dissected within the parameters of constitutional law, available to believers and non-believers alike. It will not be played out in a pulpit.

Just as both Jefferson and Madison portended.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Joe Cool Carries The Two

Aquarian Weekly 2/1/12 REALITY CHECK

JOE COOL CARRIES THE TWO White House to Play Percentages in 2012 Race

For ninety interminably long minutes on 1/24/12, the president of the United States played his hand. All that anyone needs to know about the obligatory laundry list cum base rouser that usually fills a final first-term State of the Union address is that it’s going to be the Summer of Populism for the most pragmatic chief executive of my lifetime. This is how Barack Hussein Obama burst upon his first campaign for the job he eventually won in the autumn of 2008, and the way he has governed since. The White House will play the percentages, weigh the margins, and use the Karl Rove schematic for winning a national electoral election: Ignore useless national polls and vacillating approval ratings and figure the best way to get to the magic 270.

Barack ObamaWhile his proposed Republican challengers walk all over each other trying desperately to shift Right, mainly because two of the frontrunners have to distance a centrist to liberal past and get the party’s nomination, Joe Cool studies the trends of a thorny electorate that has shown the kind of mercurial nature mostly exhibited by the bipolar. In the last decade alone the national vote has gone from geo-political to anti-war to wildly progressive to conservatively entrenched to whatever the hell is happening now.

This is why Obama’s State of the Union appeared to be written by less ideologue than actuary.

The Numbers People are what matter in elections. They have the vital information on who is available to woo, who is already on board, and who is most likely to be courted. National politics is not sport. An election, as it is at every level, is a sum-game; the first one to the measuring stick takes the oath. Emotions, ideas, credentials; these are the tools of the loser. Winning a presidential election is about key numbers — not the most, but the most within the most. Think of a Salvador Dali painting sifted violently through a Warholian blender. This is the Electoral College in action, a warped contest of democratic synergy dominated only by those who embrace nuance.

And here’s what Joe Cool’s Numbers People read…

Currently, the percentage of Americans jazzed about cutting deficits and protecting the Middle Class tax burden by raising the tax rate on the wealthy is 73.

Seven out of ten Americans in this polarizing political climate is a margin akin to a Hugo Chavez election result. This will get the attention of even the most naïve Numbers People. As unpopular as any proposed tinkering with National Health Care was two years ago, which gave rise to the TEA Party movement, sticking it to the rich is even more beloved. This also includes the trendy Occupy Wall St. movement, whatever that is now.

Not only has the idea of putting the squeeze to the wealthy grown in popularity since the hilariously unnecessary piss fight over raising the debt ceiling a few months back, but it has happened on the insistence of Republicans. Normally, or more to the point forever, Republicans have mocked deficit hawks as chicken-little anti-capitalists. This has changed, and thus become bad news for those who know that the only way to cut deficits and pay off the national debt is through either draconian cuts to popular programs or raising government revenues.

Election year calls for austerity is shitty game planning. Ask Jimmy Carter. So it’s raising revenue, and the way this works is whoever has the most is usually tracked down. Kind of like your rich uncle when your band was after seed money for that P.A. you needed to gig.

No matter the national anger, the lukewarm base reception or the perception that we’re careening toward the new Greece, 19 gets Barack Obama a second term.

The White House will be jacking up this winning formula to dizzying degrees if half of what we heard in the State of the Union can be believed, because 73 percent of anything sings the high note to 46 percent approval ratings and 63 percent wrong-track polling.

Although much of the anti-Obama stuff, a fair portion of it fabricated by dumb-speak about a forged birth certificate, Muslim roots and socialist leanings, is white noise to Independent voters; the other key set of digits for the Numbers People.

In the last three presidential elections not skewed by Ross Perot, the Democratic and Republican bases equaled out at 42 percent each. This means that roughly 16 percent of the national vote is Independent, which rolled to George W. Bush in two elections and overwhelming in Obama’s column in 2008. Recent polls have the Independent vote, including newcomers, which were predominantly Democrat in ’08 but a fair portion have flocked to Ron Paul so far, ballooning to nearly 30 percent. However, much of this polling, according to the best Numbers People, cannot be trusted since there appears to currently be a rabid anti-government sentiment on both sides of the political aisle clearly borne out in the 11 percent approval for 112th congress.

Still, neither party can rely on the base to elect their candidate. Independents remain the only source of gained votes, the individuals for whom every attack ad, stump speech and debate performance will be aimed.

Finally, Numbers People, for all of this talk about “people”, are not as interested in the human error of spastic belief systems and knee-jerk political climate changes. The actual “winning” lies in the Electoral College and its 270 votes needed to be president.

Right now the White House has gone on record in surmising that with Obama’s fat-cat coffers and concentrated canvassing of Democratic strongholds, the president is most likely to garner the John Kerry votes of 2004. This is what gamblers call an even bet, the short odds, the hedge numbers. This, according to Numbers People reasoning, leaves them 19 electoral votes to corral. No matter the national anger, the lukewarm base reception or the perception that we’re careening toward the new Greece, 19 gets Barack Obama a second term.

This, mind you citizens living in the non-numbers world, is an exacting summation without an actual opponent, which appears to most assuredly be either a rich robot or a raving lunatic; or if you are a student of recent history; Michael Dukakis or John McCain.

So, while the rest of the nation and the world heard a State of the Union replete with political rhetoric and class warfare tactics wrapped in a red, white & blue gunny, friends of the Numbers People heard the cold clatter of calculation.

Carry the two and hail to the chief!

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

South Carolina Mudsling 2012

Aquarian Weekly 1/25/12 REALITY CHECK

SOUTH CAROLINA MUDSLINGRepublican Fringe Fights Back Against Citizen Romney

Fifteen days after the Iowa Caucuses, Mitt Romney, its presumed victor, received pre-dawn news that he actually placed runner-up. Antiquated third-world vote-tallying techniques perfected in the mid-nineteenth century by Boss Tweed led officials in Des Moines to report Rick Santorum had actually won. Realizing that along with losing a few delegates, the frontrunner will no longer be able to claim “only non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to sweep the first two contests of the primary season” status and thus draping himself in the cloak of inevitability was not Citizen Romney’s worst turn of the day.

Newt GingrichRomney, enduring his most trying week as a national candidate over calls, much of it from his opponents, for the release of his tax records stemming from allegations of an off-shore tax dodge, received darker vibrations only hours later. Before the morning was out, former Texas Governor and the field’s comedy relief, Rick Perry dropped out of the race and quickly endorsed Romney’s only real competition in the South Carolina Primary, Newt Gingrich.

Many were initially shocked that the self-destructive Perry, having been buried in Iowa, decided to limp from is “reassessment” conclave in Texas to contest South Carolina despite anemic poll numbers and strange debate performances in which his brain failed him and when it functioned was concocting a new invasion of Iraq. But rumors abounded for the past week that Perry promised a Secret Conservative Coalition, then meeting in his home state to coalesce behind one sustainable conservative alternative to Romney, that if he polled below ten percent on the eve of the South Carolina Primary he would toss his support, however pathetic, to the candidate closest to winning the state.

And so Perry’s rapidly paced quit/endorse routine was less a surprise to Romney than the Santorum campaign, which was promised the full support of the same Secret Conservative Coalition immediately after its emergency summit wrapped the previous weekend. Scrambling to beg the Perry staff on holding off the Gingrich endorsement until after the South Carolina vote, scheduled for 1/21, Santorum’s staff soon realized it was a lost cause. Perry, avoiding any mention of the Texas deal to back the most likely candidate and best derail Romney in South Carolina, instead cited his long-standing friendship with Gingrich, which led to the former speaker penning the foreword to his 2010 book, Fed up!, as the source of his reasoning.

In a strange twist of events, Gingrich received word from Texas to roll up behind Santorum two days before the Perry endorsement. The best reporting on this, much of it barely existent, describes a defiant candidate spending nearly an hour deconstructing the former Pennsylvania senator as a one-trick pony, who, outside of moldy social issues still has the stench of ignominious senatorial defeat upon him. Gingrich allegedly finished the one-sided conversation by promising the type of scorched earth South Carolina technique that the George W. Bush campaign unleashed on John McCain in 2000 that all-but sealed up the nomination.

Amazingly, this put Newt Gingrich, left for dead three times on the 2012 campaign, as the main challenger to a breezy Mitt Romney nomination.

Santorum’s sudden Iowa victory and the Gingrich resurrection notwithstanding, Romney’s clumsy dance around releasing his tax records and a series of verbal flubs slowly but surely had begun to paint the former Massachusetts governor as an unholy amalgam of Gordon Gekko and Daddy Warbucks. The detached business mogul, Citizen Romney, a big hit in New Hampshire, is a losing play in the south. By the time Perry tossed his five percent support to Gingrich, Romney’s fifteen-point lead had shrunk to less than ten in most polls.

You could almost hear the feint echoes of “vast left-wing conspiracy” in this tired nineties-era act.

For his part, Gingrich’s red-meat performance in a FOXNEWS debate before a rabid southern conservative crowd a few days prior, which garnered him several standing ovations, helped the former speaker gain serious traction. While Santorum appeared oddly civil and Romney predictably wooden, Gingrich fired one spiteful sound bite after the next, hammering the press, the president, and the entirety of the American system of governance since 1835. By the time Gingrich concluded his multi-pronged stomp, the edgework mystic, Ron Paul appeared a far more viable centrist choice.

This is the hardcore South Carolina pushback that was promised by Republican insiders and the very reason for RNC chairman Reince Priebus’ drinking binge that was dutifully reported in this space three weeks ago. It is, as history dictates for the GOP, the challengers’ firewall and the last-chance corral for someone to put the brakes on the Citizen Romney machine — well funded, methodically organized, and far-reaching — that is still boasting double-digit leads in Florida and beyond.

But the rosy comeback glow was quickly dimmed the very same night Gingrich was apprised of his recent surge and the Perry nod, as ABC News aired an interview with his second wife, who candidly talked of his six-year affair with a House staffer and current wife while he spent months publically decrying the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. The buzzword to come out of the interview was “open marriage” that, while not as horrifying as “gay marriage” to the Right, appears to shamelessly defecate on even the vaguest concept of “family values”.

Gingrich then took to his defense by pitching one of his celebrated fits for the first four minutes of a CNN debate by blaming the “left-wing elite press” for screwing a woman who wasn’t his wife for the better part of a decade. You could almost hear the feint echoes of “vast left-wing conspiracy” in this tired nineties-era act. But it was ultimately a key debate for Santorum, as he took the fight in a surprisingly cogent fashion to all comers and lifted his brand beyond goofy religious axioms to the only real conservative candidate left standing.

In the same debate, Romney, who has made an art form of playing both sides of an argument, broke the record for contradicting one’s self. Rightly hammering Barack Obama for what he deemed “crony capitalism” — the president’s kowtowing to labor interests and failed environmental concerns — within 25 seconds (20 of which were consumed by the moderator) he stated, “I know we’re going to get attacked on capitalism and people say we have to practice it ‘this way or that way’, but my view is that I will defend any type of capitalism.”

Make no mistake, Santorum, a solid debater, Gingrich, an excellent sound bite, and Paul, an enviable rebel, are all sucking Romney’s fumes. But their yo-yo campaigns clearly illustrate that he is a dangerously flawed candidate. Yet he remains the man the Party wants to court a vital and growing Independent vote that will ultimately decide the presidency in November. Something the Republican establishment fear Gingrich or Santorum will fail miserably to achieve.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Citizen Romney 2012

Aquarian Weekly 1/18/12 REALITY CHECK

CITIZEN ROMNEY

It is futile to fight against, when one doesn’t know what one is fighting for. -Ayn Rand

Mitt RomneyFor all intents and purposes, the Republican Primary season is over. The unprecedented victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have taken the starch out of things. Not so much for his own prowess, as his flimsy character chronically reveals severe fault lines that become ever more distinct upon the slightest inspection, it’s that not one of his opponents appears to be a viable candidate for president, have a third of his funds, and suffer daily push-backs from every corner of the GOP establishment. All that is left of this gory charade is for the drag-ass press monkeys to scratch out sorry stories of failed hopes and disingenuous claims, gaffs a-plenty by desperate challengers too stubborn to admit the jig is up, and an agonizing rehashing of poll after miserable poll.

Don’t be fooled by any of it.

It’s over.

No Republican non-incumbent has ever won the first two contests in a run for president — and after January 21 in South Carolina, most likely the first three — and failed to become his party’s nominee. The Romney Campaign has made mincemeat of an already compromised field — unprepared, unrealistic, underwhelming and unfortunate bottom feeders, and Ron Paul, who, to his undying credit, has run as staunchly unwavering an ideological race as this reporter has ever covered or witnessed.

There is something wickedly crucial about what Dr. Paul is pulling off; getting on national television and state ballots talking about gutting the Federal Reserve, legalizing drugs, eradicating all modes of food and energy regulations and pulling every last American soldier from all over the globe. But he’s running for president, not Super Id Guru, and after he collects his run-off delegates and puts the scare into the RNC that he might bolt with his new and improved voters to offer a third party choice, he will shuffle off to Wonderland.

Unless someone, and fast, finds a live boy or a dead girl, Romney is on his way. Lord knows he’s been running a national campaign from the get-go. He fails to even acknowledge there are any other Republicans in this thing. It’s “Obama this and Obama that”. This is as national a campaign as can be run this early and it ain’t gonna stop. And why should it? He gets shit from the far Right, and he wins. He gets shit from radio row, and he wins. He gets shit from the Wall St. Journal, The National Review, Time, FOXNEWS, MSNBC, your cousin, your cousin’s friend and their local bartender, and he keeps winning.

My father, a man of few words and one who is not known to weigh in on these things too deeply, said to me the other day; “Someone other than Mitt Romney will have to win a primary at some point to make a case, no?”

Romney apparently doesn’t need to be a formidable candidate, barely garnishing a third of his party’s support.

Romney apparently doesn’t need to be a formidable candidate, barely garnishing a third of his party’s support. Even in what is ostensibly his home state, which borders the one he ran from 2002 to 2006, he pulled only 39 percent of the vote. This is known in stock car racing circles as “cruise control”. Romney is the quintessence of a tepid caricature, Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman; “Liked but not well-liked”.

This queer combination of succeeding by default has filled Romney with an “aura of invincibility”, a bravado born of a frontrunner running way out front. And while a disturbing preponderance of voters prefers someone else, there are too many of the “someone else” crowd. Since none of them have gained any traction for more than two week clips, there is Citizen Romney.

Citizen Romney is the new and improved candidate, who has smartly buried Willard Mitt Romney’s senate candidate/governor past as a fiscal and social liberal by selling himself as Business Man Deluxe. This outsider, “not a politician” move went as far as having the candidate utter in a recent debate that he doesn’t consider politics a career. When asked to comment why a man running for the most powerful office, and thus the most coveted by a politician, would have the gall to claim no real interest in the profession, a member of his staff offered this space a polite “no comment”.

Good move.

Citizen Romney is betting the farm that voters will 1) Forget he has repeatedly concocted dozens of personalities and embraced two-sided ideologies to get elected to whatever was in front of him and 2) In a grander scale, he wishes to bypass the messy furor of TEA Party/ Occupy Wall St. — anti-big government/anti-big business marauders to play the unrepentant ruthless millionaire baron. Don’t like it? You’re just offering up “the politics of envy”.

The only problem with the Citizen Romney character is Mitt Romney was at best a fair and at worst a crappy business man, if he was a business man at all. His only claim to fame, Bain Capital, consists of the kind of investment firm that feeds off weak corporate models of bloated workforce and wasteful production rank and file. To claim, as the candidate repeatedly has, that this corporate chop-shop activity resembles a “job creating” enterprise stretches credibility until it screams for mercy.

When hammered in New Hampshire by Newt Gingrich (fresh from taking his own beating in Iowa by Romney) and Rick Perry (merely fighting for relevancy) as a “vulture capitalist”, Romney cited his opponent’s’ socialist leanings, gaining support from many Republican mouthpieces who’ve adopted the turd-like notion that any measure of the free market is to be defended. While Gingrich rightly argues that “criticizing one business man for one set of practices is not an assault on capitalism” it’s bad Republican mojo, and for a fleeting moment actually put a minor conservative wave under Citizen Romney.

But “minor” is the operative word here.

Echoing much of what is coming from conservative circles following Romney’s victories, this week, in a lengthy American Spectator screed disemboweling the candidate, conservative pundit Peter Ferrara compared Romney to such ignominious losers as Thomas Dewey, Jerry Ford, Bob Dole, and John McCain.

Ferrara writes; “As the Republican candidate, he would be the least electable most of all because he would not inspire the maximum vote from grassroots conservatives, failing just where his friend John McCain did, as Bob Dole did before him. That effect would be felt all the way down the ticket, as Republicans fail to win the Senate and Congressional seats with a disappointing turnout that they could have with a grassroots earthquake, as was inspired by the Reagan Revolution in 1980.” And Citizen Romney keeps on winning.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Iowa Caucuses 2012

Aquarian Weekly 1/11/12 REALITY CHECK

HAWKEYE HOODWINK
Iowa Caucuses Dilate Republican Ranks

Reince Priebus is not a drinker. Friends say he will occasionally sip white wine at corporate functions to appear erudite or nurse a beer at $1,000-a-plate fundraisers to better affect grassroots credibility. But these mere acts of social obligation are usually seen as a civilized way to “take the edge off”, an important salve in any campaign year. So it was something of a news story coming out of Iowa late Tuesday night that the Republican National Committee Chairman was reportedly seen “guzzling 16-year old Glenkinchie straight from bottle as if it were Gatorade”.

Reince Priebus

Beginning his second year on the job, Priebus has one goal this winter; usher in, as smoothly as possible, a non-polarizing fiscal conservative candidate for president of the United States. The best people assured the 39-year old stoically tight-lipped Priebus that Mitt Romney was that man. A memo sent to his desk in September emphatically stated, “With unemployment teetering around nine percent and ‘wrong-track’ polls tossing dirt on a weak incumbent, this is no time to ‘get cute'”.

These, among several follow-ups through the holidays, were memos not to be ignored. Not if you consider yourself chairman of anything, much less a resurgent political party hijacked by amateurs who’ve routinely made mincemeat of the speaker of the house and plummeted the already gruesome approval numbers for congress to a spectacularly dismal 12 percent.

This is the Republican Party, after all; a tight ship of “earned” status and unshakable tenets in decorum and hierarchy, wherein the eleventh commandment set down by the almighty Gipper that no Republican shall besmirch the other is sacrosanct.

Thus, a week before the Iowa Caucuses – largely ignored by the party elite, as even four years ago evangelical favorite, former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee secured victory and solidified his place for over two months of primaries – there was a sense that even the incredible expanse of the Ron Paul Iowa Plan was screeching to a halt. This bit of prime news encouraged the Romney camp to call Priebus personally and assure him victory.

Then, literally out of nowhere, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum began one of the most inexplicable political comebacks in recent history by taking his eight-month old non-funded, barely staffed, and directionless campaign and canvassing all of Iowa’s 99 counties, pressing the flesh with those he’d entertained over 350 times in town hall meetings attended by one to one hundred people. Within six days his immovable eight percent polling catapulted to 22 percent, leapfrogging every other candidate who had some kind of lead in the state since mid-August.

By the time the caucuses commenced at seven pm on January 3, the Santorum surge, untouched by media vetting or opponent challenges, smartly heisted the abandon-ship votes from Ron Paul’s radical libertarian stance and what was left of New Gingrich, who had been mercilessly pilloried by Romney’s $3 million Super PAC media machine for a week. This was later interpreted by the delusional Gingrich as underhanded smearing, despite the fact that he was one of the leading voices supporting the free speech element of Super PACS and in all fairness nary a charge levied turned out to be either false or distorted. Apparently merely citing the career credentials of the former speaker is enough to shave 15 points off his lead.

Thus, along with his cannonball method of downing Scotch, these almost jarringly sudden unforeseen events led to several confirmed reports describing Priebus’ behavior at 10:30 pm that night as “disturbingly unbalanced”. He was seen in the lobby of the Renaissance Savery Hotel “openly crying” and “shouting discordant slurs at bell hops” while “shoving his press secretary into a candy machine on the way to a private bathroom”.

Romney may well be the first frontrunner in modern American politics to win the opening tally of a presidential race and be considered by all accounts an abject loser.

A local television crew captured the fallout as the shaken employee was seen rubbing his injured arm. “He can’t be blamed,” the young man whispered. “I mean…Rick Santorum?”

On an enormous monitor above the unsettling scene, a grinning Santorum, the eventual second-place finisher in Iowa by a record-close eight votes, stood before a raucous throng and announced, “Game on.”

Minutes later, as The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol was telling the FOXNEWS audience that “there has to be a mystery candidate to fill this vacuum” phones began to ring at RNC headquarters on First St. in downtown Washington D.C. On the other end donors to the Romney Campaign – by far the richest in the field – wanted to know how in holy hell a flat broke religious fanatic who hadn’t held a government position in the nearly six years since being slaughtered by 18 points in his home state, mainly due to his abysmal senatorial record of spendthrift legislation backed with a rapacious earmark appetite, with a crew of less than 20 and a pick-up truck could get .0006 percent less votes than the party’s presumptive nominee?

While Santorum spoke in maudlin tones about the coalfields of Pennsylvania, comparing the sitting president of the Unites States to Mussolini and thanking God for guns, a group of what Politico reported the next morning as “Movement Conservatives” scheduled an emergency meeting in Texas “to coalesce behind a presidential hopeful that is not Willard Mitt Romney”.

Romney may well be the first frontrunner in modern American politics to win the opening tally of a presidential race and be considered by all accounts an abject loser. The numbers don’t lie. Four years ago the former governor of Massachusetts lost in Iowa by ten points to the aforementioned Huckabee, garnering only 25 percent of the vote. This time around, after four years of national face-time and over two years of organizational ramping up, he received 25 percent of the vote, (breaking Bob Dole’s 1996 total of 26 percent for the lowest in history) and ironically only five more actual votes than the last time around.

The 25 percent also represents something of a polling ceiling for Romney nationwide, and over the summer four of his opponents out-polled him, not only in Iowa, but nationally; meaning that nearly three-quarters of the Republican electorate is at odds with the Republican establishment, represented by the RNC and its chairman, the suddenly embattled, Reince Priebus.

No amount of screeching or Scotch can shift these numbers.

Numbers the RNC had stupidly ignored in keeping the major party donors funds flowing in Romney’s direction, despite fleeting moments of celebrity by Michelle Bachmann, (jettisoned from the race Wednesday by a last place showing in Iowa, her native state) Rick Perry, (a fifth-place finisher who returned to Texas to be told by his people he should use his remaining $3 million to fight it out in South Carolina in two weeks) the long-gone Herman Cain and more recently Newt Gingrich.

News did not improve for the RNC as Gingrich, who called Romney a liar on national television the day of the Iowa vote, turned what was to be a concession speech on his fourth-place showing in Iowa into a declaration of vengeance against Romney, something he echoed throughout his week in New Hampshire on every conservative talk radio show in the nation. Plots of a triangulation of fire coming at the frontrunner from the resurgent Santorum and the angered Gingrich was quickly squashed when it dawned on both campaigns that this would merely split their already meager support and embolden Romney not only in New Hampshire on January 10, the only primary where he polls aver 30 percent, but in South Carolina; what observers are already dubbing the Right Wing Waterloo.

With two debates scheduled – one official and another informal on Meet The Press over the weekend in New Hampshire – and a major coalition of conservative players scheming on how to make a social fascist and fiscal Keynesian the alternative choice, it is this space’s public service to suggest Mr. Priebus begin carrying a flask.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

12

Aquarian Weekly 12/28/11 REALITY CHECK

12

This will be the last column I pen this year, in the final days of this twelfth month of 2011, and I choose to write about the number 12.

In a few days we embark on 2012, and each year I try and end the previous one with a tag line or a semantic touchstone for where things may go over the following calendar run. It’s a way of cleansing by throwing something out there for kicks. We hardly ever — and by hardly ever, we mean mostly — predict how things will pan out. Never did go much for the “past is prologue” stuff. Don’t look back. Rearview mirrors are for suckers. This is more our speed.

jcNone of this is true, of course. The entire purpose of this space is to point out that nothing is new and that somewhere along the line of civilization, and most assuredly in the history of these United States of America, there has been a dead-ringer or worse catastrophe than the one currently being endured. This calms the natives from believing the End is Nigh, an age old defection in the human condition that bridges raging ego with a preternatural fear of the unknown to justify the eradication of existence, when all it really means is that things are subject to a natural shift and we’re just pissed about it.

However, the end of the year is hardly for reflection but dissection, and in that spirit we offered up 2011 as the year of “challenge”, as the political and social landscape of our nation would be motivated to defend, refute or understand the largest legislative maneuver in nearly half a century; the National Health Care Law. Before that in 2010, we predicted a re-birth of fiscal conservatism by examining a growing worship of Ayn Rand by the wounded Right Wing. Back in 2009, which we labeled the Year of the Guilty, we took a turn for the weird. Not sure where that was going.

Now 2012 is upon us and it is long in coming for me.

The number 12 is my number.

Well, I was initially partial to the number 2 in the grand scheme of the primary numbers, but my grandmother and mother were both born on a twelve, and later I was married on a 12. My first hero, Joe Namath wore number 12 and his team won its only title on a 12. When I was 12 my head exploded when I heard The Who’s Tommy for the first time, which completely altered my being, and then shortly after or during this experience, my body exploded into another completely different being.

Yet, somewhere along the line I learned from the Oxford Dictionary that a study of the number (or word) twelve’s etymology suggests that “twelve” arises from the Germanic compound “twalif” “two-leftover”, so a literal translation would yield “two remaining-after having ten taken”. Therefore, the remaining “tw”- hints that twelve and two are related.

Nice.

Also, in any monotheistic measure, 12 rules; as in 12 tribes of Israel for Judaism, 12 apostles and a bunch of crazy 12 stuff in Revelation for Christianity, which brings us to the Mayan calendar, end of the world thing, and well — I get that. Also, there are 12 Imams, whom are considered the legitimate successors of Muhammad in Islam. But my favorite is the Hindu 12, which indicates the number names for Surya, the Sun God.

Really nice.

Of course, my awareness of the number 12 is not without its constant reminder: The Roman calendar has 12 months, broken up by 24-hour days split into 12-hour periods, which begin at the stroke of midnight (12:00 am). In fact, the very basic units of time (60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours) can all perfectly divide by 12. And for what’s it’s worth, the Western and Chinese zodiacs have 12 signs.

This year of ’12 could be the year we get out of the war business for a while. That would be nice.

Maybe my absolute favorite (and let the music geeks have at it on this one) 12 is the number of pitch classes in an octave, not counting the duplicated (octave) pitch. Also, 12 is the total number of major keys, (not counting enharmonic equivalents) and the total number of minor keys (also not counting equivalents). This applies only to twelve-tone equal temperament, the most common tuning used today in western influenced music.

Beyond nice.

Crucial, really.

There are 12 steps in AA.

There are 12 face cards in a deck.

There are 12 Federal Reserve Districts in the U.S.

Human visitors to the moon; 12.

You may have heard something about the number 12 deriving from Egeria, the Roman water goddess, often pictured carrying 12 jugs of water, which she summarily spills to create the earth’s lakes, oceans and rivers.

Here’s a final tidbit about my 12; the word “twelve” (the largest number with one syllable) is also the largest number with a single-morpheme in English. In linguistics a “morpheme” is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language.

Chew on that for a while.

So, while we’re enjoying our 12 days of Christmas, I wish to ponder on all-things 2012, a presidential election year. The hope here, and a mild prediction, is that a true third party candidate will emerge to finally challenge the status quo.

Why not?

Has that not been my mantra for eternity? Why not in ’12? If not now, when? If the Payroll Tax debate, as innocuous and petty a tit-for-tat political piss battle as can be imagined, ends in a virtual stalemate, what is the point of a Two-Party system? (and let’s not deal with the ironies of my conveniently decrying the number 2 appearing here, shall we?)

Not sure who or what a third-party candidate would look like, and the foolish dream is it won’t be a nut like Ross Perot or Donald Trump, but we’re feeling positive for a few fleeting seconds, so go rain on someone else’s parade.

This year of ’12 could be the year we get out of the war business for a while. That would be nice. When Iraq goes to the dogs after trillions spent and thousands dead and maimed we’ll turn our attention to letting Afghanistan tumble, ignore the Middle East and continue this interesting infatuation with Asia, the New Europe for the New Century.

The desert is out in 2012.

Sadly, what is also out in 2012 is Hackwriters.com, which has been printing this column across the U.K. and the rest of planet earth for the past 12 years. Along with the brave souls at this paper, and several others who have come and gone over the nearly 15 years we’ve been at this, Hackwriters and its staff have been right on the front lines with the Reality Check News & Information Desk.

We wish their next endeavor in 2012 to be better.

Why not?

Embrace the 12.

It’s good for you.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Ron Paul Factor 2012

Aquarian Weekly 12/21/11 REALITY CHECK

THE RON PAUL FACTOR Iowa & the Soul of the Grand Old Party

Soon the nation will learn where the Republican Party stands. In less than three weeks, the Iowa Caucus will begin the painstaking selection of a presidential candidate. This is when polls, punditry and prognostication become fact. So…who represents the party now? Conservative? Moderate? Religious Right? Washington Lifer? Libertarian?

Who will be the figurehead, the titular leader of the New Conservative movement, so in vogue only one short year ago?

Ron PaulTwelve months on, where does the Grand Old Party find its voice?

In 2010, it was anti-big-government, no-tax-under-any-circumstances, anti-union, anti-entitlements, anti-Obama. By January of this year, Republicans were taking half of the legislative branch and turning the United States Senate into a stalemate. Feels like only yesterday the Liberal Revolution of 2008 and its president was all-but finished.

Oh, it was a serious beat down; not only of Democrats, but old-line, establishment Republicans, who had to make way for several and varied first-timers, anti-politicians — motivated citizens with no ties or obligations to the “way things are done” Washington milieu. There was no telling where this could lead?

The hope was that it would lead to a purer form of politics. Where the Left lost its way after putting so much social, political and youthful hope in Barack Obama, the Right would rise from the ashes of Bush/Cheney/Delay spendthrift, scandal-addled, war-mongering mania to a hard-line fiscal razing of the system.

Gay bashing, Muslim-phobia, myopic jingoism was out and “Read our lips — No New Taxes” was in. Jesus, there was even talk from Republicans about reducing the national debt or bust.

What a merry time of misrule it was.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum…or Paul Ryan, we hardly knew ye.

After the party’s successful exploitation of the original TEA Party, which has since split into more disparate factions than the birth of Christianity, predictable backlashes ensued. Public unions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Maine, Arizona and Alaska fought against the tide of reduced entitlements and abolished collective bargaining rights. Then the federal government nearly shutdown, as the no-compromise freshman engaged in a suddenly catastrophic deficit pogrom. And then there was Occupy Wall St., which, much like the TEA Party, ignored ridicule, fickle media infatuation and harsh criticism to remain a viable voice of conscience.

So it’s reasonable to assume two things: Republicans will either stick to their guns and stay the course of conservative purity or abandon ship and select a dyed-in-the-wool national candidate to surf the middle, seduce independents and take on what is sure to be a multi-million dollar Obama Machine the likes of which has rarely been seen in the modern political landscape.

Of course, as stated, Iowa will kick-start this process, but can hardly be considered a reliable barometer for the Republican Primary. Many weird things happen in Iowa, much of it difficult to recount here without a smattering of hem and a fair amount of hawing. However, it is a vote and it counts, unlike the bullshit that appears nightly on cable news. And right now, if polls be trusted, the resurrection of one of Washington’s most reviled demagogues, Newt Gingrich, leads the ever-vacillating Mitt Romney Mach II by ten percentage points with perennial Libertarian, Ron Paul right beside him.

Is the TEA Party yesterday’s news, used and tossed to the curb to allow an “electable” candidate to emerge?

Gingrich has no money and no party support. The national conservative press and former colleagues regularly shove each other out of the way to eviscerate him. Yet, he appears to be the only-man-standing in a four-month round-robin competition for Anyone But Romney. For reasons that we’ll dissect in the coming weeks neither Romney nor Gingrich represent a scintilla of pure conservatism. In many crucial ways, these are Limo Liberals at best and in reality Big Government Dinosaurs. Their record of voting, supporting and lobbying for progressive causes and Keynesian economic strategies are well documented.

Ron Paul, however, is the interesting candidate.

He is certainly interesting for his Barry Goldwater approach — the pre-William F. Buckley, Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan conservative. If nothing else he is ideologically pure; a political doppelganger of the TEA Party faithful, many of which, if under random doses of sodium pentathol would have to admit Gingrich and Romney are closer to Barack Obama than anything they sent to congress last year. While the two frontrunners have changed positions on key conservative tenets daily, Paul has been spouting his unflinching rhetoric for decades.

But Ron Paul is most interesting because the caucus landscape is his canvas — reporters from every circle have all agreed he’s had more one-on-one connections with them and the people of Iowa (both integral newsmakers and ordinary voters) than any of the six or seven Republicans left standing in this race. Moreover, Paul has an Iowa ground organization far and wide, the kind of grassroots measure Obama conducted when Hillary Clinton was busy measuring drapes for the Oval Office.

Now, there is very little one can say that is crazier than Ron Paul is a clear bet to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012, but that is not the issue. The issue in Iowa, the only game in town on January 3, will tell us where the wind may blow for the Republican Party. Is the TEA Party yesterday’s news, used and tossed to the curb to allow an “electable” candidate to emerge? Remember the “un-electable” Michelle Bachman took the straw poll here in the summer and vaulted to conservative darling for as long as she could keep her mouth shut, which ended abruptly when she told the Today Show that the MPV vaccine causes mental retardation.

Say Paul, who has made no secret of his extremely controversial stands on legalizing drugs, wiping out any kind of government regulations, gutting the Military Industrial Complex, tearing asunder federal safety nets, and eradicating a bevy of government agencies, wins in Iowa. Does that mean there is a chink in the armor of those in the party who have spent the better part of three years trying to make Obama a one-term president? And if the establishment, so cushy with TEA Party hardliners a year ago when it suited them, turn their back on these results and the subsequent press, bump in polls, and political gravitas it provides a true conservative like Ron Paul, then what fills that vacuum; a true Independent candidate? Who then stops attention hounds like Donald Trump or Sarah Palin from screaming about trading in principles for hollow victory or an unenthusiastic showing to usher in four more years of Obama?

Who then stops crazies like Ann Coulter or stalwarts like George Will from pounding the party on grab-ass or disunity?

Yes, Ron Paul in Iowa might have small legs in the battle, but the war will be waged in a different mindset if he wins.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More