200 Favorite Albums – Author, James Campion’s list.

200 FAVORITE ALBUMS
(no live, best of…, or soundtracks included)

During a symposium for music journalists sponsored by public radio, jc was asked to list his 50 favorite albums of the rock-n-roll era, complete with mini-reviews for the Top Ten. Taken from the original notes rendered in the winter of 1998, jc told jamescampion.com that he reserves the right to update it at anytime, to which he then perused and changed considerably adding 50 more titles in the winter of 2002 and yet another update in the spring of 2009. The most recent of these updates was in the winter of 2022, when it expanded to 200. Nevertheless the list is fairly concrete, and, as usual, open for healthy debate.

Last Updated 2/22

1. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John (1975) Captain Fantastic
The ultimate collection from all-time song-writing team, Bernie Taupin and Elton John performed as a trip down English memory lane with one of the most underrated rock bands of the era. Killer opening tune, (title track) and dramatic closer (“Curtains”). A champion of melodies and musicianship, it combines the pomp of 70s’ pop with poetic angst. A flawless effort from artists in their prime.
Highlights: “Bitter Fingers”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “Writing”.

2. Quadrophenia – The Who (1973)Quadrophenia
An evolved rock ensemble tackling the essence of its author, Pete Townshend to perfection. The best concept/opera ever set to tape with an anger and sensitivity rarely displayed by artists of this genre. Defines the frustration of youth and its warped dreams of coming to age while offering a tapestry of powerful release and somber beauty.
Highlights: “The Real Me”, “5:15”, “Love Reign O’er Me

3. Exile On Main St. – The Rolling Stones (1972)        Exile on Main St.
The greatest rock-n-roll band in the world at the height of its powers, cranking out musical inspiration with nasty delight. Recorded in a castle basement with the grit of high flying junkie hipsters, it is everything the Stones did well in every stage of its existence: country, blues, gospel, boogie, and barroom rockabilly.
Highlights: “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup”, “Let It Loose”.

    4. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The musical centerpiece for an affluent postwar generation, it heralded the age of Aquarius, issued in the era of the album as an art form, and reinvented the most famous pop band on the planet. Lyrically effusive, musically colorful, and eminently entertaining; the history of rock-n-roll is split by its presence.
Highlights: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Being For The Benefit Of Mister Kite”, “A Day In The Life”.

5. The Joshua Tree – U2 (1987)The Joshua Tree
Documenting the most fertile period of one of the 80s’ most important bands, it is a musical journey both spiritual and cathartic. One of the finest opening songs (“Where The Streets Have No Name”) sets the stage for this brilliant array of folk/rock songs displaying the apex of U2’s unique sound and fury. It’s overall lyrical vision of earth, fire and water set to infectious melodies and dark images cut deep. Highlights: “With Or Without You”, “Bullet The Blue Sky”, “Running To Stand Still”.

6. Sign ‘O’ The Times – Prince (1987)Sign O' The Times
A mad genius caught in the infinite groove and the wild abandon of his mystical world, this is the quintessential collection of muses by any artist attempting to use popular music as a single career statement. Eschewing collaboration for the myopic vision, this is Prince Rogers Nelson as funk Gershwin setting impossible standards of creativity. Highlights: “Play In The Sunshine”, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”, “Adore”.

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got7. I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got – Sinead O’Connor (1990)
The most honest account of a woman artist exorcising spiritual demons, rendered with raw passion and infinite grace. Before O’Connor’s public furor and marketing defiance loomed over the work, it is a sweet and horrific demonstration of what a songwriter can do when facing the mirror and describing the view. Highlights: “I Am Stretched On Your Grave”, “Three Babies”, “Last Day Of Our Acquaintance”.

8. Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan (1974)Blood On The Tracks
The best example of what an important social icon is capable of when turning his caustic, probing guns inward for a biographical purging. Spinning ballads and literal tales of the infamous lonely minstrel; this is Dylan on the psyche couch spitting out personal questions about the age of loss.
Highlights: “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Simple Twist Of Fate”, “Shelter From The Storm”.

New American Language9. New American Language – Dan Bern (2002)
It’s pop, it’s folk, it’s rock, it’s country, but mostly it’s melodiously infectious and begs the listener to actually listen. One of the best new albums of the new century’s opening decade from a man fast becoming a musical chronicler of our bizarre times, and besides being as funny as hell, a damn good songwriter. Highlights: “Sweetness”, “God Said No”, “Albuquerque Lullaby”.

10. Living With Ghosts – Patty Griffith (1992)Living With Ghosts
Elegant melodies and provocative lyrics bloom from the pure grit of a distinctly pristine voice and come to life in these quaintly stripped down compositions. Originally recorded for a demo, it is a startling debut from a signature songwriter of her time poised to unleash the deepest fears and soul aspirations onto tape. Highlights: “Moses”, “Poor Man’s House”, “Forgiveness”.

11. Good Old Boys – Randy Newman (1974)Good Old Boys
The master of mordant metaphor and biting satire doled out in two minute ditties of twisted wit and wisdom offers up a smorgasbord of haughty characters born from the bowels of crazed self-loathing. Only a songwriting genius such as Newman could conjure such manic diversity delivered in goose-bump inducing melodies and striking orchestration. From the opening lines of “Rednecks”, this one hits hard. Highlights: “Birmingham”, “Louisiana 1927”, “A Wedding In Cherokee County”.

12. Tommy – The Who (1969)Tommy
Expanding the mind, cleansing the soul and satirizing the whole damn world. Pete Townshend’s initial foray into the Rock Opera yields a rough and tumble unit’s cerebral side. Ardent imagery and bizarre glimpses into a metaphysical era, while impaling the various modes of culture, this is a special place where philosophy meets tonality with a vengeance. Highlights: “Overture”, Pinball Wizard”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

13. Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon (1970)Plastic Ono Band
One man bellowing from the inside out for the whole wide world to hear. It is a stripped-down raw-wound collection of painful songs beautifully presented under the guise of healing. A signature effort from one of the most influential voices of a generation at the crossroads of a life three-quarters complete.
Highlights: “Mother”, “Isolation”, “God”.

14. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (1966)Pet Sounds
Precursor for the age of studio chaos and experimentation. Gorgeous tunes with omniscient orchestration written and presented in glorious splendor by the genre’s resident ingenious broken spirit, Brian Wilson. Sweet harmonies and dreamy arrangements set in the backdrop of childlike fantasy.
Highlights: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “You Still Believe In Me”, “God Only Knows”.

15. Destroyer – Kiss (1976) Destroyer
A wonderfully noisy postcard from the ostentatiously loud and dynamic 70s’ pap/metal/fantasy troubadours. Hits the traditional highs of great albums with a rollicking opener, “Detroit Rock City” and closes with the ethereal sex rant, “Do You Love Me?”, not to mention an orchestral bombast, rousing choir and the genre’s first ballad. As good as hard rock gets.
Highlights: “God Of Thunder”, Shout It Out Loud”, “Beth”.

Night At The Opera16. A Night at the Opera – Queen (1975)
A fitting title for an eclectic collection of electric arias of rhythmic playfulness, this breakout siren from one of the virtuoso bands of the period unloads the full repertoire of tricks from down-and-dirty rock, bouncy ragtime, operatic swooning and one of the finest pop songs of the 70s’ in “You’re My Best Friend” and its most outlandishly tasty bombast, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Highlights: “Death On Two Legs”, “’39, “Love Of My Life”.

Not A Pretty Girl17. Not a Pretty Girl – Ani DiFranco – (1995)
The ultimate screaming, pompous, angry, curiously romantic serenade from an incredibly diverse poet, musician, and folk singer in the zone. The evolving momentum of her work leads to this seminal musical moment and launches several more levels of creative explosions worthy of the great composers of 20th century passions. Highlights: “Worthy”, “Hour Follows Hour”, 32 Flavors”.

18. The Wall – Pink Floyd (1979) The Wall
The only accomplished “audio film,” it is the signature 60s/70s art band’s final stab at bassist and songwriter, Roger Waters’ career-long fascination with the artistic seduction of madness. Beautifully produced and presented in a tour de force of sound, fury and virtuosity, a well of infinite sadness resonates with every note. Highlights: “Mother”, “Nobody Home”, Comfortably Numb”.

19. Hunky Dory – David Bowie (1972)Hunky Dory
No better slice of the musical chameleon at the height of his songwriting, singing, and poetic powers. It is the framework for an an entire movement of 70s’ folk/glam/storytelling albums with a central figure speaking through the schizophrenic prisms of boundless imagination. The glaring example of Bowie’s engaging duality is on display with the opening strains of the positively charged “Changes” to the final note of the disturbingly somber “The Bewlay Brothers”. Highlights: “Oh! You Pretty Things”, “Life On Mars?”, Quicksand”.

20. King of America – Elvis Costello (1985)King Of America
Everything Costello has given to the pantheon of modern songwriting and performing is evident in this masterpiece of lyric and melody. Arguably the finest collection of songs presented in the post-Beatles/Dylan period of balladeers with a few properly placed chords wrapped around a heavy bushel of irony, Costello’s distinct voicing and unnerving timbre is chillingly powerful throughout.
Highlights: “Brilliant Mistake”, “Indoor Fireworks”, “Poisoned Rose”.

21. Rain Dogs – Tom Waits (1986)

22. August & Everything After – Counting Crows (1993)

23. Modern Happiness – Eric Hutchinson & The Believers (2018)

24. Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon (1976)

25. Ram – Paul and Linda McCartney (1971)

26. Around the World in a Day – Prince and the Revolution (1985)

27. Sail Away – Randy Newman (1971)

28. Mothership Connection – Parliament (1975)

29. Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones (1969)

30. Blue – Joni Mitchell (1971)

31. Moondance – Van Morrison (1971)

32. Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet (1990)

33. Welcome Interstate Managers – Fountains of Wayne (2003)

34. Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos (1991)

35. The Sunset Tree – The Mountain Goats (2005)

36. Look Sharp – Joe Jackson (1979)

37. sincerely e – Elizabeth & The Catapult (2021)

38. Purple Rain – Prince & The Revolution (1984)

39. Armed Forces – Elvis Costello (1978)

40. This Desert Life – Counting Crows (1999)

41. Document – R.E.M. (1987)

42. Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones (1971)

43. Who’s Next – The Who (1971)

44. Rocket To Russia – Ramones (1977)

45. The White Album – The Beatles (1968)

46. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette (1995)

47. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You – Aretha Franklin (1967)

48. Hi, How Are You? – Daniel Johnston (1983)

49. Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon (1978)

50. Cissy – Seán Barna (2018)

51. Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel (1968)

52. Maybe Tomorrow – Jackson Five (1971)

53. Tapestry – Carole King (1971)

54. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill (1998)

55. Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper (1975)

56. Paul’s Boutique – Beastie Boys (1989)

57. Fleeting Days – Dan Bern (2003)

58. Dookie – Green Day (1994)

59. Thousand Dollar Dinners – Matt Sucich (2019)

60. Soviet Kitsch – Regina Spektor (2003)

61. The Doors – The Doors (1967)

62. Sprained Ankle – Julien Baker (2015)

63. Jazz – Queen (1978)

64. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish (2019) 

65. The Sun Sessions – Elvis Presley (1976)

66. Tidal – Fiona Apple (1996)

67. Hard Candy – Counting Crows (2002)

68. Uh-Huh – John Cougar Mellencamp (1984)

69. Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson (1971)

70. Bringing It All Back Home – Bob Dylan (1965)

71. Yolk in the Fur – Wild Pink (2018)

72. Innervisions – Stevie Wonder (1973)

73. The La’s – The La’s (1990)

74. Southern Accents – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1985)

75. Pure Fiction – Eric Hutchinson (2004)

76. Small Change – Tom Waits (1976)

77. 1999 – Prince (1982)

78. Revolver – The Beatles (1966)

79. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

80. Billion Dollar Babies – Alice Cooper (1973)

81. Out of Time – R.E.M. (1991)

82. Berlin – Lou Reed (1973)

83. Let There Be Rock – AC/DC (1977)

84. Outlandos D’Amour – The Police (1979)

85. Yip Jump Music – Daniel Johnston (1983)

86. Drifter – Dan Bern (2012)

87. Central Reservation – Beth Orton (1999)

88. Nothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction (1988)

89. Rites Of Passage – Indigo Girls (1992)

90. Joshua, Judges, Ruth – Lyle Lovett (1992)

91. Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen (1982)

92. The Dream of the Blue Turtles – Sting (1985)

93. Recovering The Satellites – Counting Crows (1996)

94. Toys in the Attic – Aerosmith  (1975)

95. Ten – Pearl Jam (1991)

96. Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars – David Bowie (1972)

97. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (1973)

98. The Cars – The Cars (1978)

99. Business As Usual – Men At Work (1982)

100. Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey (2019)

101. Band on the Run – Paul McCartney & Wings

102. Trouble in Paradise – Randy Newman (1982)

103. Graceland – Paul Simon (1985)

104. Gold – Ryan Adams (2001)

105. The Velvet Underground & Nico – Velvet Underground (1967)

106. Freewheelin’ – Bob Dylan (1963)

107. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983)

108. School’s Out – Alice Cooper (1972)

109. Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart (1971)

110. Objects in the Mirror – Stephen Kellogg (2018)

111. Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones (1979)

112. Some Girls – The Rolling Stones (1978)

113. The Wind – Warren Zevon (2003)

114. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (1968)

115. Talking Book – Stevie Wonder (1972)

116. Damn the Torpedoes – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1979)

117. The Rainbow Children – Prince (2001)

118. Nothing is Wrong – Dawes (2011)

119. Rubber Soul – The Beatles (1966)

120. Exodus – Bob Marley and the Wailers (1977) 

121. Remain in Light – Talking Heads (1980)

122. Back in Black – AC/DC (1980)

123. Ghost in the Machine – The Police (1981)

124. Azure Ray – Azure Ray (2001) 

125. Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan (1966)

126. Ringo – Ringo Starr (1973) 

127. Parade – Prince & the Revolution (1986)

128. Misplaced Childhood – Marillion (1985)

129. Transformer – Lou Reed (1972) 

130. Dilate – Ani DiFranco (1994)

131. Magic Gone – Pedal (2018) 

132. Madonna – Madonna (1983)

133. Beggars Banquet – The Rolling Stones (1968)

134. Sentimental Hygiene – Warren Zevon (1987)

135. Dirty Mind – Prince (1980)

136. The Texas Campfire Tapes – Michelle Shocked (1986)

137. Universal Mother – Sinead O’Connor (1994)

138. Bryter Layter – Nick Drake (1971)

139. Under Rug Swept – Alanis Morrisette (2002)

140. No Need to Argue – The Cranberries (1994)

141. Illinois  – Sufjan Stevens (2005)

142. God Bless Tiny Tim – Tiny Tim (1967)

143. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

144. My Aim is True – Elvis Costello (1977)

145. Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings – Counting Crows (2008)

146. Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969)

147. Music From Big Pink – The Band (1968)

148. Habitual Eater – Van Goose (2019)

149. The Ramones – The Ramones (1976)

150. Hot Buttered Soul – Isaac Hayes (1969)

151. Private Revolution – World Party (1986)

152. What’s Goin’ On – Marvin Gaye (1971)

153. 1,000 Kisses – Patty Griffin (2002)

154. Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player – Elton John (1973)

155. L.A. Woman – The Doors (1970)

156. Jungle Groove – James Brown (1986)

157. The Who By Numbers – The Who (1975)

158. The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen (1973)

159. Mule Variations – Tom Waits (1999)

160. Trouble –  Ray LaMontagne (2004)

161. Black & Blue – The Rolling Stones (1976)

162. Parallel Lines – Blondie (1978) 

163. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road – Lucinda Williams (1998)

164. So Tonight that I Might See – Mazzy Star (1993)

165. Katy Lied – Steely Dan (1975)

166. Loaded – Velvet Underground (1970)

167. All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes – Pete Townshend (1982)

168. This is Big Audio Dynamite – Big Audio Dynamite (1985)

169. Lady Soul – Aretha Franklin (1968)

170. We Started Nothing – The Ting Tings (2008)

171. Songs – Regina Spektor (2002)

172. Move It On Over – George Thorogood & the Destroyers (1978)

173. Ani DiFranco – Ani DiFranco (1990)

174. Voices of Freedom – Little Steven & Disciples of Soul (1984)

175. Mellow Gold – Beck (1994)

176. Nothing Like the Sun – Sting (1987)

177. Horses – Patti Smith (1975)

178. Simple Dreams – Linda Ronstadt (1977)

179. Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1970)

180. Never Mind the Bullocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols (1977)

181. Daddy’s Home – St. Vincent (2021)

182. Court and Spark – Joni Mitchell (1974)

183. Abandoned Luncheonette – Hall & Oats (1973) 

184. The Barbara Streisand Album – Barbara Streisand (1963) 

185. London Calling – The Clash (1979)

186. Rocks – Aerosmith (1976) 

187. Honky Chateau – Elton John (1972)

188. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy (1988)

189. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992)

190. Bat Out of Hell – Meatloaf (1977)

191. There Goes Rhymin’ Simon – Paul Simon (1973)

192. The Pretender – Jackson Browne (1976)

193. Psychoderelict- Pete Townshend (1994) 

194. War – U2 (1983)

195. The Stranger – Billy Joel (1977)

196. Making Movies – Dire Straits (1980)

197. License to Ill – Beastie Boys (1986)

198. Imagination – Gladys Knight & the Pips  (1973)

199. News of the World – Queen (1977)

200. OK Computer – Radiohead (1997) 

50 Favorite Films

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Rove & Carville Invade Radio City Music Hall

Aquarian Weekly 6/3/09 REALITY CHECK

DINOSAURS ON SIXTH AVENUE
Recording The Death Rattle Of Karl Rove & James Carville

For me, the notion of ‘teenage wasteland’ is about waste. It’s not about getting wasted, it’s about waste; wasted life, wasted opportunity, wasted years. And I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the planet and did nothing to change it. – Pete Townshend

Politics is the art of controlling your environment. – Hunter S. Thompson

Rove & CarvilleThis, I told myself, was not going to be pleasant. A rainy, windswept late-spring evening on Manhattan Island ruined by a dismal assignment to “cover” the final brain flatus of two dying breeds, Karl Rove and James Carville, once giants in a field still very much inhabited by similar groaning creatures but the likes of which will rarely be seen again. Two middle-aged southern white men, whose claim to legacy is the achievement of other men’s dreams and, in weird unexplainable ways, doomed ideologies of bygone eras.

“Mach Shau!” my friend and colleague for the evening, Master Buzz exclaimed before we entered the main room of the still gloriously stunning Radio City Music Hall. This immediately lightened my mood, for I knew it as the clarion call of soused German audiences along the grimy stages of the Reeperbahn in early-sixties Hamburg.

Make Show.

Yes, and what of this “show”; a debate series of political misfits hurled at New York audiences for a price. It bordered on the obscene: Paying to see what is widely available from all ends 24/7 online and on cable television? It was not unlike those insidious live events staged with cartoon characters to pry the last dollars from guilty parents.

Entitled “Strategies, Alliances and Policy” and moderated by PBS’s Charlie Rose, the ruse unfurled a symposium air; properly attired set of comfortable chairs, dotted with bottles of designer water and a floral arrangement. By all outward appearances it was to be an educational evening of interesting anecdotes shared between celebrated rivals, but it was Buzz who noticed right away a terrible kind of misty funk about the place. I could only describe it as the scent of death. No one around us could smell it, but it was there; a rancid pall which might emanate from discarded carcasses left to rot in the midday sun. It was distracting but also strikingly clear. Rot, I told myself, don’t forget to tell the readers about the rot.

Soon Rose was behind the podium at stage right butchering what little notes he’d taken for the evening’s proceedings. He began strongly enough, but soon looked like a man stricken by confusion. We were sure the powerful odor had taken control of his senses, cracking his otherwise impenetrable professional facade. He tried to soldier on, but soon gave up, simply announcing the names of the men he was to moderate, hoping to Jesus the onerous stench would abate and allow him to conduct the business at hand.

Rove and Carville then emerged from the wings together, smiling and waving as if geeks in a traveling carnival. I winced at the sight. Buzz had to cover his face to keep from retching. I wanted to poke the gray-haired couple in front of us to see if what we were experiencing was also giving them this inexplicable bout of inertia. When I finally did, the woman’s head slumped forward, dangling awkwardly on the end of her spinal column. A young bearded man across from us gasped. I could tell he was not prepared for what was to come next.

I can only say that it was odd to see these men paraded out this way. I had been in the room with both of them before, watching Carville from afar at a Bill Bradley media junket in the summer of 1999 and almost a year later crammed in a hotel bar in Florida with the man behind our 43rd president, George W. Bush. That night Rove sported the impish grin of bloated cat with a tummy full of canary. Eight years before, Carville never looked unsure of his place in Americana while he was ramrodding Bill Clinton into the White House. But they now appeared sad, captured in a desperate plea to be loved, and finding only disdain. Apparently unaware of the horrors unfolding around them, the crowd cheered.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public.

Half-expecting a hooded executioner brandishing a battle-axe to follow them to center stage, I kept thinking; Why would they do such a thing? Hasn’t everything both of them hold dear on The Right & The Left been shattered by the political events of the past year? Carville’s beloved Clinton Machine beaten severely by the process and rejected outright with no hint of honor and Rove’s eight-year reign summarily mocked, debased, and sent out of the Big Town riding high on the dreaded rail?

Shit, Rove re-invented Republicanism by politicizing the entire executive branch of the federal government, while Carville orchestrated a series of improbable comebacks for a morally bankrupt sociopath. Both are pundit darlings now; Rove guests on FOXNEWS and pens a predictably smarmy column for the Wall Street Journal, Carville squeaks in when he can on CNN and MSNBC, taking cab fare and cheap bottles of wine for speaking engagements.

Only four minutes into the exercise told us the answer. Rove, dressed like an actuary in a gleaming power-suit and clutching a thick notebook of charts, graphs and stats, he immediately began defending his president’s unmatched series of incomprehensible mishaps, while Carville laughed in his barely coherent Cajun style, throwing his hands up and yawping spastically. Rove became obsessed with “protecting the country after 9/11”, and Carville equally obsessed with two terms of “peace and prosperity”. Rove crowed on about the “shifting trends” of the opening century and Carville whined incessantly about Katrina.

None of the subjects, save Rose’s blithe inclusion of the new nominee for the Supreme Court, which had been rolled out only hours before, concentrated on the present. With the exception of one segment, when both guests, reeling from the terrible realization that they’d both passed their effectiveness as human beings, began to assess the Youth Vote for the next generation.

When faced with having stayed at the circus too long, Carville stammered on about how neither Barack Obama’s electric campaign nor the internet had as much to do with the now Golden Age of Liberalism as the failure of Republicans or a Democratic Party imprimatur. Rove did nothing to explain how his plan to rule Washington for decades turned into a terminal dismantling of the modern Republican Party.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public. It was never about “the economy stupid” or “compassionate conservativism”, “supporting the troops” or “mounting a defense against a Vast Right Wing conspiracy”. It was about looking like the winner, no matter the circumstance. It was, as it will always be for the powerbroker: What did I sweat and bleed for? Was it worth it? Was it what I wanted? And was it ever going to be any better for me again?

By the time protests began to rage in the audience, it all seemed staged and predictable, as if the former vice president were suddenly a media darling trying in vein to appear relevant again.

At least someone still thinks these men matter.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

The Sins Of Pakistan

Aquarian Weekly 5/27/09 REALITY CHECK

THE SINS OF PAKISTAN How Sovereignty & Absinthe Will Defeat The Taliban Once & For All

A victory in the fight against terrorism is in fact a guarantee for the security and protection of our coming generations. – Pakistani Prime Minsiter Yusuf Raza Gilani

It has been a dormant fifteen days since I emerged from the dark voodoo-drenched tanks in the black heart of the French Quarter, where One For The Roadnow instead of begging the kitchen help for sweet absinthe, one can purchase a glass over the bar for eighteen American, complete with a tourist-seducing fire show. Traditionally, the French frown on such activities, but this has never stopped me from blazing my own goodly share of sugarcane, and as it turned out the lovely barkeep at the Old Absinthe House on the Rue de Bourbon hailing from the suburbs “just north of Paris” exhibited the right accent and deft of wrist to best apply the ice water where needed. These flashpoints from hazy days lost in New Orleans may appear random to the untrained eye, until one realizes from time to time you need companionship when summoning the Green Fairy, and I have been blessed over the years with many a hale and hearty volunteer, but on this night it happened to be an Italian accountant from Brooklyn, NY and a former member of the Israeli Defense Force by way of Manhattan.

The accountant had come less for the wormwood than the music, as did my dearest brother-in-arms, Buzz and his engagingly erudite woman, both of whom had stayed at the hotel after weird vibrations from deceased authors took hold. This could not be properly explained then and I shall respect this edict now. As for my new Israeli friend, he was happy to discuss his mandatory “three-year duty” but was not as forthcoming about the sordid details of the World’s Finest Fighting Force, however we both agreed on two very important points; the drink and the company were pretty fine and the Pakistan Army will crush the Taliban and speedily make nice what the U.S. military and its befuddled intelligentsia have screwed royally in the deserts of Iraq. This, we also agreed, would bring about serious and debilitating setbacks to the misguided clusterfuck that represents the radical Islamic revolution against the Saudi Empire and its benefactors, Uncle Sam.

This may be a lot to digest in two paragraphs, but there is no sane way to quickly describe being half out of one’s head on finely distilled Roquette 1797 while confronting the kind of naked truths best kept hidden from “normal” Bourbon Street revelers. Yes, my friend assured me, the Pakistani Army would not only expunge the rag-tag revolutionary horde from its Afghanistan border, but also “gut the entire operation” – again, I reminded him, a job we failed to accomplish seven long years ago.

Leave it up to the Experienced Intelligence Community in the District of Columbia to wonder how a trained fighting force, familiar with the enemy – since most of them were created by the Pakistan government to combat the ever-present threat of neighboring India – can be properly motivated.

We agreed once more that after enjoying a three-to-one ratio of men and ten-to-one in arms and cash, the highly motivated Pakistani forces will win the day, but alas fail to find Osama bin Laden among the defeated, for he has long been slain, dismembered and carefully planted along the mountainous region to keep the terrible Western Devil from apprehending him like a common criminal; de-liced on cable television and sent to the gallows like his sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein. But they will find hundreds of acres of poppy growth and chemical plants feeding the western world its taste of the Brown Master or H or as the physicists call it, diacetylmorphine. It is better known to the rest of us as Heroin.

While Pakistan hails the United States as its most cherished ally in the pursuit of “radical militants”, their enemy hails the same country as one of its best customers. It is the export of heroin that built the Taliban in the first place, not the oft-cited dedication to the Qur’an or any half-baked Jihad or parades of virgins awaiting the fallen in the afterlife. No, it’s the glorious god poppy that has put them on the map and sent them foolishly into battle with a nation heretofore obsessed with the dangers of their Hindu neighbors in India.

Not surprising, our half-assed “dismantling” of the original Taliban has reared its ugly head again, but not as surprising, even with a new commander-in-chief aboard, is the U.S.’s critique of Pakistan for “not being proactive enough in battling militants who are launching attacks from a swath of tribal areas”, despite, of course, the $10 billion handed over to former U.S. puppet, Pervez Musharraf to dick around like an Anglo-aristocrat for most of the last decade. Now he is gone, under suspicion of conspiracy to murder and other formally forgivable sins, as his successors are left to play the no-mercy IDF game. Musharraf predictably claims this will “backfire”, but anyone on the ground with any real experience with desert fighters disagree.

I learned back on ’96 to trust a member of the IDF when it came to not fucking around. This is the credo I made clear to my contacts at the Jerusalem Post in October of 2001 when I received several and varied e-mails fingering Iraq as the “bankrolling of 9/11 and the single most crucial target” in the terrorist vengeance jag we were all going to be on for the next few years. And I assured my new friend that not one of those journalists were from Texas, as he assured me that when a nation is put on alert to a gang of religious marauders breathing down its fractious democratic sovereignty, there is no use diddling around with the vagaries of an “exit strategy”. Leave it up to the Big Bad White House Chess Club to deconstruct a country defending its capitol and its nuclear arsenal.

Leave it up to the Experienced Intelligence Community in the District of Columbia to wonder how a trained fighting force, familiar with the enemy – since most of them were created by the Pakistan government to combat the ever-present threat of neighboring India – can be properly motivated.

Just the same, New Orleans is far enough away from Washington and something resembling reality to offer a more complete view of how things will go now that people who have a real stake beyond oil and strategic allies are in charge of this War On Terror. All one has to do is ask the statue of Andrew Jackson set in a vast park at the north end of The Quarter, a testament to what a motivated fighting unit can do when its cities are on the brink.

It was, however, more than an epiphany to realize all of America’s most cherished goals for most of the 21st Century’s first bloody decade has centered on crushing this so-called al Qaeda by way of the Taliban, somewhat sidetracked by the Iraq War and the gory circus hatched on the Middle East. But we were stupid and naïve then, a tough combination when dealing with Naked Truths, whether hyped up on a Euro liquid dream stomper on a balmy Friday night by the mighty Mississippi or rolling out field maps for the Pentagon Press.

Turns out Commander Bush had it right before 9/11; let the damned desert people figure this thing out for themselves.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Obama At The Century Mark

Aquarian Weekly 5/6/09 REALITY CHECK

THE CENTURY MARK Joe Cool’s Honeymoon Epilogue

We have ten fingers and ten toes, therefore we make its denominations our benchmark; a decade, a century, a millennium, etc. But it wasn’t until FDR that we are now expected to judge the honeymoon period of a new president by his first 100 days. Okay, but when you consider that the last guy’s entire two terms hung on the events of 9/11/01, which happened long after the first 100 days, it tends to dilute its significance. However, in my lifetime alone the first 100 days have proven noteworthy. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had lousy first 100 days; the former never recovered, but the latter learned valuable lessons, rallied, and hung around to be re-elected. Hard to argue with either Lyndon Johnson’s or Ronald Reagan’s success in their first 100 days, then you remember Viet Nam and the economic collapse of 1982 and it dilutes them. So, in the interest of proper pundit decorum, where does Joe Cool stand after his century mark?

New Sheriff In TownBy any count, Barack Hussein Obama has been virtually unstoppable. He has already engineered the largest federal stimulus package in the nation’s history and in the process completely neutered the opposing party, while managing to balance his approval ratings in the sixties — not to mention his personal meter, which remains in the stratosphere. People love this guy. They love his youth, exuberance, his wife and family, his dog and the near butler-like penchant to please. They like that he isn’t like the last guy, or really any guy who has held the office. He even apologizes for dumb shit and humbly passes the credit for popular moves to his subordinates.

But he has not apologized for being liberal. No, sir. He promised it during the election and has come hard on nearly fifty years of post-war liberal agenda from healthcare to energy reform to government oversight. Change is flying all over the place. I recalled last week what a Republican insider told me after Captain Shoo-In finally wrested the presidency away from his opponent; “In six months, you won’t recognize this place.” He was right, and here’s something he may also agree with: It is getting harder each day to believe there ever was a President George W. Bush.

Oh, things haven’t been all that politically sunny. There were major screw-ups in cabinet appointments and several embarrassing kick-starts to the crack economic team, not to mention weird things abroad, but the air around Washington has gone from lockdown paranoia to a drunken spending spree of love and hope, and whether it all amounts to gangbusters or plain bust does not erase the 100-Day Sprint, which has come up gold for the new guy.

Unfortunately for his detractors, feces-hitting-fan won’t happen for sometime. But fear not, it will happen. It has to. No deficit can be this bloated and not sink something somewhere. Mass foreclosures are coming. Nasty doings in Pakistan are on the way. The auto industry is weeks from completely imploding. More partisan ugliness and party in fighting is definitely afoot. But for now it is wine & roses. Feds say the economy is beginning to show signs, and unless there is a major attack on this nation, then these first 100 days, whether fairly or not, will be determined by its health.

He has come to play with an odd combination of grace and muscle; the dexterity of a ballet dancer and the brutal force of a steroid-addled wrestler. It has been a tough act to impede, and it shows no signs of slowing.

There are those, and they are in the minority presently, that believe it less risky to wage war all over the place on Chinese loans than raising the tax rate three percent to prop up the banking system. They have had their say and if things continue to go badly or come up for air and then tank again, they will have their day once more. But for now, they are in the wilderness.

Case in point: One Arlen Specter, the 29-year senator from Pennsylvania, knows a good escape hatch when he sees it. He has decided to ceremoniously hitch his wagon to the winning team, knowing that local squeakers in state primaries pale in comparison to steamrollers in the national headquarters. Specter came in with The Gipper. He knows good Mojo. So he jumps the sinker for a shot at The Win. He wants to stay a senator and he doesn’t care who knows it. He doesn’t lie about his sexuality to stay around or give big speeches about morality. He wants a clear road to victory and cannot see it as a Republican anymore. Fair enough. Joe Lieberman had a similar revelation two years ago, went all independent, and then decided to sharpen his hawk talons. But he was sent back to the Democrats with a whipped tail between his legs never to be heard from again.

Soon the Democrats will have a filibuster-proof 60 strong in the Senate and continue to stranglehold the congress. The man at the top, for all the talk about his inability to lead from day one has hit the ground in a full-flail, throwing everything everywhere, and making it look like an evening stroll. He has come to play with an odd combination of grace and muscle; the dexterity of a ballet dancer and the brutal force of a steroid-addled wrestler. It has been a tough act to impede, and it shows no signs of slowing.

History tells us the storm clouds are coming. They always do. Things are tough now, but most of the bad stuff was cobbled together by someone else over a long stretch. Right now the “Not My Doing” chant works. Soon the bad smell will end up on him, as it does with all the guys in the Big Chair, and that is usually when the mettle is tested and the pudding bares proof.

I agree with conservative columnist, David Brooks when he said the other day that Obama has bitten off more than anyone could chew and that always leads to choking. But after 100 days with the majority of the public and the legislative branch of the federal government in his back pocket and a crippling economic crisis filling his sails, he’s come up aces. It is the pinnacle of civic chest-thumping — a political juggernaut whose shit has yet to stink.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Last Words On U.S. Torture

Aquarian Weekly 4/29/09 REALITY CHECK

LAST WORDS ON THE UNITED STATES OF TORTURE

As usual, everyone has this torture thing wrong. The Right conveniently paints it as “special tactics to ensure security” and The Left predictably sees it as “indefensible war crimes”. GitmoThese simple designations have not changed in the nearly eight years that have passed since The Jihad came home to Lower Manhattan. All the denials by the Bush Administration to last week’s release of “classified memos” dealing with a host of rough-and-tumble action on the coastline of Cuba has added up to a spectacular load of shit. As is the subsequent shock, outrage, and surprise we express when faced with the inevitable truths of existence. But we’re all entitled to our opinions and our perspectives, but not so much entitled to our own facts.

Let’s get at least one of these inconvenient facts settled; this idea that the United States is above anything nasty and underhanded in the realm of warfare or just about all else one can conjure up is living a wondrous fantasy someone, maybe your school teachers, your church, your parents, or a radio talk show host has led you to believe.

No worries. This is why I’m here.

Time to curb your flag-waving Pollyanna for July 4, and leave the rest to the people who made the revolution possible. It helps take the edge off.

You know how hard it is to maintain Power status when you’ve been hit in the kisser by the Little Guy and then spend all your time and energy avenging it, only to come up broke and weakened by the terrible truth that you ain’t all that Big and you’re days may indeed be numbered? I have seen it from the playgrounds to the halls of governance. It is not pretty. And it never produces anything close to good feelings or sober responses. Humans who have felt the smooth brilliance of the Brass Ring slip off a digit tend to practice the art of crazy.

The whole notion of torturing human beings for information or a deterrent to future terrorist activities are dime-store rationalizations for the insatiable need to inflict a pound of flesh for one surrendered. It is brutally feral and a unique insight into our more bitter demons, something we have nourished like our yearning to breathe free lo these two-plus centuries. It is no more a tactic as it is for the bully in class to take your own fist and punch you repeatedly in the face, reciting the beloved query; “Why are you hitting yourself?”

Moreover, this is a nation built on the primacy of the human spirit to make one’s decisions free from the judgment of someone else’s parameters; Live & Let Live, Power To The People, Let Freedom Ring. This is a country like none other in the annals of civilization in that the rugged individualist can pursue the dreams and aspirations of what he/she strives to accomplish on his/her own merits, damned be the naysayers and full speed ahead.

We are the world’s drug; the true opiate of the masses. We’re the dangerously mercurial lover that is untrustworthy and vindictive, but so goddamned fun.

This brings me to the second and most vitally undeniable fact: Anyone signing onto a Holy War as a martyr deluxe does so with the understanding that they are not only expected to be tortured, but hopefully die in the process. That is the very definition of religious martyr. This is their sole and divine purpose. Everyone needs a Pontius Pilate to help nudge along the destiny. It is a simple Yin/Yang equation. The world at large, certainly the United States, didn’t demand that these people choose this route. It is not our place as a society or its government to deny them their goals, especially if they are doing so under their own free will, a marvelous concept protected and heralded by our forefathers and branded in word and deed for 233 glorious years.

This, of course, includes freedom to worship without hindrance. Spirituality is a funny thing; it cannot be and should not be defined. The mysteries are deep and we as an evolved and rational people need to accept this. Some go a-churchin’, some fast, some get out rugs and pray, others run around with signs or pump fists, and then there are those who go in for the hardcore theology, The Jihad. Strict Freudians call this Playing For Keeps.

Understandably, it is hard for an occasional weekend worshiper to comprehend the expanding soul of the religious extremist, no matter what the faith. These are the True Believers who use this life to attain the mystical Part II, because somewhere along the line Part I has either failed them or someone possessing enough charm has convinced them of this. It is the ticket they purchase to be part of the international mischief making. Suicide is like chocolate ice cream to these people. They have no sense of what else exists beyond The Mission. These types of creatures have given up anything resembling our empathy and certainly given up the scant refuge of The Law or what you and me dabbling in the real world might call Rights.

This is the trade off for the Holy Freedom Fighter. They want to bleed, suffer and die. Their dreams are something akin to Mel Gibson’s: Gore = Salvation. This doesn’t change when they’re busted and out of options. Religious conviction is above The Law. It is beyond our notion of Rights. It is The Truth and it will set one free, or so it goes.

So let’s stop thinking that there is anything we can do to “help” those who sign on to mass murder in a blaze of self-mutilation for a place in heaven. They don’t need to be saved. That is condescending patronization of the most elitist order.

If anything, the idea that we’re still talking about these people in the present tense is remarkable. I made the tidy suggestion seven years or so ago that we should have led them into the desert and have them dig their own graves and then shoot them. We have denied them their place in the Great Hall of Lunatics, and there is no telling what price we shall pay to The Lord God when the final screed is read, but enough about existential madness.

The very notion that we hide from enacting vengeance and mayhem on mutants is sad and unnecessary. Whom are we trying to impress? The UN? Amnesty International? Green Peace? Bono?

Look, I have belonged to, given cash to, and worked for Amnesty International for decades. I support the freeing of artists, writers, spiritual leaders, and all other oppressed peoples across this miserable globe, but not one of these individuals have overtly positioned themselves as terrorists, despite whatever despotic regime dubs them so.

The rest are up for grabs; torture, death, you name it.

If I were a card-carrying Jihadist, I’d expect nothing less.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

What Is News?

Aquarian Weekly 4/22/09 REALITY CHECK

WHAT IS NEWS?

Okay, this is rarely a subject I write about, but talk about incessantly with friends, colleagues and family: What is news? In other words, what should be something we know about nationally or as we used to say in bullpen sessions in bare-bones weeklies, what is newsworthy? Should there be a national litmus for defining news, as opposed to a random happening that might be interesting if examined ad nauseam. Local news is exempt from this discussion. It is always going to be loaded with stuff like brush fires and community drives, the odd burglary and the always-popular weather anomalies. Then there is the obligatory cute story about kittens or a guy breaking the state record for sitting in a tree. Because it’s extremely difficult to fill print and air space anywhere, especially in say Omaha, Nebraska, local news doesn’t count. Neither does morning television or radio count, which are both chockfull of banal absurdity. But national news needs to have some standards of coverage, which I argue it has abused beyond repair.

Tea Party '09I was reminded of all this when a debate began over the coverage of the so-called TEA Party protests, which were dubious in their construct for several salient reasons, not the least of which was that tea was not literally involved and of course its falling short as an homage to the original Boston Tea Party since it was not over “taxation without representation” but just taxation. I get people don’t like taxes or the government to spend money, even if they ironically love entitlements, a large military, infrastructure, air travel, and the entirety of the monetary system. But really, who is in favor of taxes? This is what I call a slam-dunk issue and thus no need for heralding the protest, like anti-war rallies. War is bad. We get it. Give me something I can work with like the fight against cat juggling or Mother’s Against Kicking Babies.

But nevertheless a protest is definitely news, even if it is cringingly promoted by a major news organization and as a result almost completely ignored by others. This usually reeks of a staged event, like something out of Citizen Kane, so then how much of it was an actual story as opposed to another in a random string of barely interesting human endeavors kick-starting another news cycle?

News Cycle, which means a 24-72 hour period when one story becomes the most important thing in the civilized universe and then disappears completely, is also a major culprit for jamming odd events or arbitrary tragedies into a form of celebratory voyeurism. There are too many of these babies to recount, but you know what I mean. One is going on right now. Pay attention to see if it lasts the week. I doubt it.

To put to bed current events and get to the universal argument of what is news and what isn’t, we go to the Pirate/U.S. Navy story, which absolutely is news. In fact, it is big time news. When an impoverished nation bores outlaws of the high seas and holds up the greatest navy in the history of human kind, it is a cranking story. It has international intrigue, national security interests, life and death outcomes, and may ultimately affect the nation’s health and well being. This compared to say a kidnapping of a ten year-old in Bucks County, Pennsylvania is not newsworthy outside of Bucks County. Maybe if the kid was the offspring of an inaugural transcontinental flight pilot or perhaps if the ten-year old were the kidnapper, then we’d have something, otherwise, if Mr. And Mrs. Smith loses their kid to a crazed neighbor for a few weeks, I don’t need to know about it.

We are the world’s drug; the true opiate of the masses. We’re the dangerously mercurial lover that is untrustworthy and vindictive, but so goddamned fun.

This kind of thing has been a problem since the 1980s in broadcast/network news. It is a terrible epidemic of what I call the “Kid Down The Well Syndrome” – my own spiteful homage to the Depression Era penchant for struggling radio news outlets to bring the drama of small town fire departments’ attempted rescue of stupid, unsupervised children after they were stuck somewhere.

Today the advent of 24-hour news has taken KDWS to another level of minutia. This does not include dime-a-dozen opinion scream-fests hosted by pasty middle-aged men in desperate need of blowjobs and access to history books, but does include marginal stories that have been dragged out for literally weeks. Good examples of this is the death of Princess Diana, which has since taken on this queer Elvis revisionist disease or the JFK Junior airplane crash, or even the demise of someone who was on a constant deathwatch like Ronald Reagan or Gerald Ford. The reason I forgive talk-hosts from this breakdown is that I believe it important that pre-teens learning civics to see that even grown men have a difficult time understanding the stark differences between socialism and fascism. I include the marking of dead major celebrities or political figures as marginal for it is not an on-going event. They are dead. Tell us, and move on.

Everyone knows it was the OJ. Trial that put cable networks on this course. The ratings were nuts, the national furor over the rainbow, and the opportunity for career-building and book deals too good to pass up. Shit, the only reason Greta Van Sustren could afford to reconstruct her face and muck up the airwaves with endless pabulum on desperate boyfriends who prostitute their missing sisters or deadbeat dads smuggling dope from Indonesia to sate a gambling jones or the latest KDWS was Orenthal James Simpson, another reason The Juice should get the juice.

All right, sorry about the bad pun, but this is a particularly galling subject, these missing kids in hotels and abused animal stories do not compare in the newsworthy department to a lunatic Asian guy in Binghamton shooting up the neighborhood because a black guy is president or something fairly wacky like that. That’s news, because lone gunman with a shoulder chip is America’s news bread-and-butter. It’s tradition, so it gets precedence.

I shan’t belabor the point another sentence, but to leave you with a short list of what is news and not news, so if you see it, you can quickly identify it and either be well-informed or turn the station/page. If you stay with the story, you’re going to have to admit that even though you do not buy the National Enquirer and do not consider yourself a nosey rubbernecker, you’re either completely bored with the concept of your own existence or simply too lazy to turn away from Headline News and the ear-piercing claptrap coming out of the angry woman with the retro haircut.

News/Not News Top Ten

1. The president’s choice of pet is not news. Dog rips out president’s jugular is news.

2. Anyone saying something really dumb like “Hitler was a fair diplomat” or “So-and-so likes to hump squirrels” is not news. Government either spying on its citizens or its officials voting on bills they have not read or understood is news.

3. Any law broken on a cell phone camera is not news. A law broken that costs you money like banks being run like casinos is news.

4. Internet scams on the elderly and kids are not news. Internet viruses that infiltrate our international spy network are news.

5. Any domestic squabble, violence or general bad behavior, unless it becomes serial and spreads throughout a fairly large region of the country is not news. Raul Castro poisoning his brother’s cigars is news.

6. Someone famous announcing any new revelations about their sexuality is not news. The homosexual community gaining their civil rights is news.

7. In fact, anything about someone famous, unless they are running for major office, saving the Third World (not talking about it, actually saving it) or firebombing a village – this includes sports celebrities, who are dumber than dirt and even less important, is not news. Fuck celebrities. This is never news.

8. Nothing a former civil servant has to say, especially those who will be dead much sooner than later and thus have no stake in the issues being decided is not news. An Al Gore vs. Dick Chaney pheasant shoot at the equator is news.

9. Dumb ass boyfriends of defeated candidates dumping their pregnant teenaged girlfriends are not news. If dumb boyfriend takes on almost future mother-in-law for Alaskan governor’s office, then it’s news.

10. Any jackass mauled by bears at the zoo is not news. Same bears being awarded custody to jackass’s children is news.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Dawn Of The Ice Age

Aquarian Weekly 4/15/09 REALITY CHECK

DAWN OF THE ICE AGE

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. – Mark Twain

High & MightyThere is currently a heated debate on the direction of U.S. foreign policy following our president’s whirlwind European/Middle East tour; much of it regurgitated miasma from ideological handbook recital. The ultra-right wing yelps about appeasement and weakness while calling for reactionary aggressiveness, the super-left wants open forums, troop withdrawals, and a denouncing of anything approaching a tough tactic, and the poor moderates can’t decide if we have ourselves a polished statesman or a half-assed apologist. No matter. This is the fact: The United States of America is a bankrupt nation under a mountain of debt decaying from a dying economy with a weakened military and little to no credibility on the world stage. We make nothing and we can’t fight wars anymore, our two most lasting attributes for most of the last century. Our options are few and most of them are not pleasant.

It’s nice of everyone to chime in as it was for Joe Cool to glide effortlessly between diplomacy, as he did when discussing opening relations with Iran, and displaying stiff rhetoric after North Korea played their every-three-years-please-look-at-us card. But let’s face it; what do we really have to offer the rest of the world right now? Our dollar stinks, our property is under-valued and we’re on the dole. We’re into the better part of a decade fighting god-knows-what in third world countries and the guy who actually hit us is still at large, although as stated here since late 2001 is probably stone dead.

It’s not the best hand to play during international summits.

This is why nobody digs our global stimulus chicanery nor is too keen on buying into another big troop build-up on the Pakistan border. Sure, this is a new guy, but it’s the same brand; loud and proud with nothing to back it up — no money, no balls, and a track record of shitty intelligence and even shittier battle execution. We’re like a once unbeatable heavyweight champ whose time in the ring ran too long; slow punches and even slower reflexes, a ghostly image of greatness staggering through the final sad exhibition.

It is time to rebuild, not go around demanding this and reprimanding that. And part of the rebuilding comes and goes with what’s happening abroad. It’s a global economy now. Pulling in the oars and ignoring everyone else is no longer an option. And in almost every way fathomable we are in no position to advise military restraint or fiscal responsibility, and we cannot with a straight face make anymore veiled attempts at engaging in another in an agonizing series of “evil axis” rants when we’re into a tyrannical communist regime for $500 billion.

We are the world’s drug; the true opiate of the masses. We’re the dangerously mercurial lover that is untrustworthy and vindictive, but so goddamned fun.

But this is also bad news for the rest of the planet, which we have propped up like straw man for a long time, some say too long — purchasing too much crap and visiting too many miserable places and sending our best scientists and technological engineers all over the place to run things. We send a fuselage of cash and provisions nearly every time some starving nation is on the brink and lord knows we offer up our fighting forces every time some crackpot pisses off the U.N.

The party’s over folks, or it should be, but you know it isn’t. We can’t stand not being bold and the rest of the spinning sphere wouldn’t know what to do without leaning on us or hating us. They need it. We are the world’s drug; the true opiate of the masses. We’re the dangerously mercurial lover that is untrustworthy and vindictive, but so goddamned fun.

But enough of the hackneyed metaphors, we’re more than happy to play along and pretend to still have the moves, send our brand-new young and hip president to thrash together the odd syllable and appear as if we’re still in the game. Shit, all he’s done is bow to the Saudi King, he didn’t hold hands and tip toe through the tulips like the last guy or send Americans to die blowing up countries like his daddy. But we will shut down the torture chambers, sort of, and make inroads to treat the Iranian menace with something approaching respect. We’ll even get off the high horse and begin to take stock of our decades of silly transcontinental chess matches and put our own house in order.

How this will happen is anyone’s guess. Maybe outlaw investment banking or sell the rest of our bonds to Euro-trash skinheads. We could stop this ridiculous embargo against Cuba and legalize drugs so we can partner up with the Taliban. Watch how fast we have allies when they see our insatiable gorging of recreational pharmaceuticals. War on Terror, over and out.

But alas, we’re not in the solving business here. We proudly hail from the Part Of The Problem wing. We point out how things went awry and how best to run from it. This is why we welcome the new voices of the “unpatriotic” like the former vice president and whatever bleating troll is speaking for Newt Gingrich these days. And we’d also like to welcome to the other side a new member of the dissidence team, Karl Rove, who after decades of trying to silence our hobbies is now ejaculating his barely coherent twaddle for buck or two. Good for you, Karl. Good for all of you.

Our tent is large in Radical Avenue. Pull up a stool, gentlemen, there’s plenty of room. Let’s just lay off all this “we must handle ” and “we must fight” goofiness. Those days are over, or not — like the purported slicing of the military budget that bloats four percent. We’re also tightening our belts here at The Desk, cutting our energy budget by raising our beer consumption ten percent.

See you in hell.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

G-20 Summit Protest Riots Reviewed

Aquarian Weekly 4/8/09 REALITY CHECK

ANARCHY IN THE U.K. G-20 Summit Sends The Euro-Masses A-Riotin’

Nothing jacks my adrenaline like a good old-fashioned protest riot. Some of my favorite moments in TV viewing had to be the near orgasmic Rodney King mayhem of 1992, where police brutality met economic inequities in a king-hell blowout worthy of slick ’round the clock coverage. Dancin' In The StreetsIt made the Watts riots a generation earlier look like the Easter Parade. But ’92 turned out to be a weak year for anarchic spectacles when compared to the wild century-closing festivities of 1999, which managed to produce two absolute doosies; the spastically delightful eruption of teen angst at Woodstock III, where an exploited youth culture invented by TV and cola later described as “the crass commercialization of music and nudity” sparked an arson’s paradise, and who could forget the weirdly cross-ideological WTO street theater that made a war zone of Seattle.

I wrote about all three of those “happenings”, two of them in this space. Mostly, the pieces mocked the entire idea of getting that angry over outrageously-priced bottled water or finding enough armed solidarity to topple international free-trade agreements, but I must admit against the better judgment I have left that I get teary when I see kids heaving objects through windows or yanking people from their cars and beating them with baseball bats. There is a certain type of romanticism to the grouping of irate misanthropes taking on “the establishment” that gets to me, like Jesus riding the crazies from the Galilee into Jerusalem to “bring a sword, not peace” or Che Guevara telling the UN the seeds of revolution grow like weeds upon imperial corruption.

So, I get horny when I hear “The whole world is watching!” from the 1968 savage assault upon college kids by Chicago cops at the Democratic Convention? Sue me.

This week, the G-20 Summit, aka the planet’s industrial masters of naked power and pecuniary foot stomping met to decide our fate. The usual transpired; Russia acted as if it still mattered, Saudi Arabia toed the tricky line between atavistic war lording and the 21st century glad hand. China complained, Japan winced, and the German/French annoy-alliance pitched minor fits. Joe Cool and his wife pissed off the royals, made with the tight-lipped diplomacy and tried to extricate the United States from the cowboy thumb-nose mantra of the past eight years. But the real story was happening on the streets of London where every lunatic from Prague to Belfast rolled up their collective sleeve for a time-honored fuselage of wig-out.

More times than not firings have a greater affect than actual fire.

It’s just not as much fun.

As stated in last week’s ramble, there is little else in the realm of human fury that rankles the masses quite like the rich and powerful getting all pomp in their finery deciding if they’ll allow us to still have a civilization. This becomes especially galling after a good year and a half of rapacious drunken regurgitation of whatever may be left of free market capitalism. It’s the kind of thing that sometimes ends in Tea Parties or powdered heads filling Guillotines, but never without at least a little torch wielding and fist pumping chants by a motivated mob made up of the had-it-with-everything set.

Normally any meeting of powerbrokers brings the pain for the gaudy numbers of have-nots that can attract a march or two. This comes in handy during wartime, which is always going on somewhere, and specifically when grossly abundant nations have to hear about starvation in India and AIDS in Africa, atrocities aplenty in half of the third world, and whatever nonsense the Iranians or Venezuelans are cooking up. However, when the world economy is crumbling beneath an avalanche of fraud and greed and those who have sunk us are lighting their cigars with taxpayer sweat, anything called the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors is going to rile up even the most apathetic bystander.

By the time of this writing the property damage is rising and the arrests pour in. There has been one mysterious death, but that could happen at a Manchester football match, so whose counting? The pictures and video are good, though. Most of the really hardcore mania has made its way via cell phone jorunalists onto YouTube. There is even a poll to see if the damage rivals the French labor uprising of April, 2006. But it has to be rigged, because no one takes to the streets to make bloody rumble like the French.

But mass hysteria, while it has its place in the arena of entertainment, really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the world of big nation building and high finance. The beautiful people shan’t see the goofiness, and even if they happen to catch a few seconds on the BBC, they can switch it off like the rest of us. “It’s nice that people want to be involved,” they will snicker, “but the really important decisions have to be made in a vaccum.”

This is why our president was not screwing around when he whacked the CEO of GM before boarding Air Force One to leap the pond. He had to show muscle, become the voice of the people, show the rest of the world that although we are a country of gambling addicts forced to bring everyone down with us, this is no bottomless pit. The end is coming one way or the other, a fact made much clearer by the returning of $353 million in federal bailout funds by eight American banks late in the week.

More times than not firings have a greater affect than actual fire.

It’s just not as much fun.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Populist Outrage Oh-Nine

Aquarian Weekly 4/1/09 REALITY CHECK

OUTRAGE SQUARED Pitch Forks & Torches, La Spring Chic

Anger is not an argument. -Daniel Webster

A.I.G.Outrage is cheap currency these days. Cheaper still then in late 2004 when it appeared as if all critical decisions at the State Department were being made by lab chimps and the Pentagon was leaking lysergamides. Now it’s a full-out poll-to-poll pogrom on both the rich and powerful and the poor and disenfranchised. Bankers to welfare moms, stockbrokers to inside traders are all on the block. This president, the last president, this congress and the last one, the Treasury secretary to the chairman of the Federal Reserve are all suspects. We’re pissed; pissed at ourselves, at capitalism and socialism, at do-nothing politicians and do-to-much politicians. We want stuff fixed but we don’t want to pay for it, all the while demanding a strange mutation of regulatory freedom. But most of all we don’t know whom to skewer first and why.

This is the American trip. We’ve been here before in too many incidents with too many origins to mention. I would say it’s less an American thing than a human trip – to want everything and for someone else to make it happen – but since I’m an American, I will be glad to represent.

I hear outrages every day from every corner of colleague to friend to passerby. I hear it on the radio and on TV and read it in the newspapers and online. Some of it is well founded and should be expressed, as it was in the 2008 elections. Almost anyone paying attention understood that the overwhelming reason for Barack Obama’s victory as well as the Republican trouncing on Capitol Hill, although not the only one, was the tanking economy. Elected officials were hardly the only guilty parties. Huge lending institutions, Wall St., greedy insurance firms, disingenuous mortgage companies, pie-eyed consumers and insatiable borrowers are all to blame for what can now be pretty accurately described as the deepest economic downturn most of us have ever seen.

But outrage is a fickle bitch goddess. It’s like the morning dew. It settles on roses as it settles on dog shit. As is our wont here at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, we concentrate on the dog shit.

Let’s begin with almost all of the punditry outrage, which is an interesting hodgepodge of the uninformed, the half-baked and the plain idiotic, ie; former Clinton advisor and present mudslinger, Dick Morris asserting there is a conspiracy within the present administration to nationalize the banks by having the toxic-asset plan fail so the need for the teat of government kindness will be in vogue. Then there is The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel calling for the disgraced criminal ex-governor, Eliot Spitzer to take over the Treasury Department. Fuck it. If we’re going in the Ann Coulter bin for crazy grandstanding, why not pardon Bernie Madoff, yank him out of maximum security and have him run the U.S. Treasury. In these troubled times, who’s made more money than Madoff?

Democracy? What a sham that is. You know what fuels democracy? Money. Know why we even live in a so-called democracy? Money. You know why we won the Cold War over a decaying concept of 19th century communism? Not moral fortitude or guts or American know-how, and certainly not any doddering fossil like Ronald Reagan. It was money. We had it, the Soviet Union didn’t. Game. Set. Match.

And really, that’s what most of this outrage is about. Money. And why not? What’s more important than currency, property and assets? Nothing – not religion, family, love, sex, drugs, mom, apple pie or goddamned baseball. This is why for six long years I argued against every goody-two-shoes on both sides of the ideological aisle that wiping out half the Middle East and sending people to die for oil was far more a salient purpose than spreading democracy. Democracy? What a sham that is. You know what fuels democracy? Money. Know why we even live in a so-called democracy? Money. You know why we won the Cold War over a decaying concept of 19th century communism? Not moral fortitude or guts or American know-how, and certainly not any doddering fossil like Ronald Reagan. It was money. We had it, the Soviet Union didn’t. Game. Set. Match.

I get correspondence to this space daily on the usual falderal that angers people, not the least of which is all the psychopathic abandon this country has enacted all over the globe for a century. And not one of these atrocities, mistakes or even triumphs happen without money – solvent, liquid, hard capital.

This is why your federal government is taking your tax dollars, which is the bedrock of this fancy democracy, and throwing it around like a soused sailor on leave. Without all of this money, there is no government representing the people, who are then out on their asses, left to pitch dime store Christianity and social injustice overboard for a burka and a Qur’an.

Why do you think the president has gone on what can only be described by the sane among us as a Brangelina-level media junket. The Tonight Show, 60 Minutes, ESPN, town hall tours, special hit-and-run prime-time press conferences, a friggin’ op-ed in 30 major newspapers across the globe, Joe Cool has gotten in front of this thing, putting a likable face to a mass fiduciary tourniquet, something the congress not only lacks but willfully destroys.

What has Nancy Pelosi done that has not circumvented the White House at every turn? Churning populace fodder out of daily angst, like dragging the CEO of A.I.G. into the chamber for a Roger Clemens time-wasting lynching or heading this unconstitutional wrist-slapping 90% taxation on further corporate bonuses, which literally had the president, a constitutional lawyer, laughing like a school girl on national television more than once. Not to mention the shameless fan dance House members – led by poster boy for bad loan central, Barney Frank – unfurled in the face of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the former of whom makes less sense than a shock-treatment outpatient and the latter of whom continues to illustrate his spectacular lack of reasoning by telling the American public he wished to sue A.I.G. for disgraceful bonuses when the company had every right to proffer them.

Lord knows I do not begrudge outrage. I’d skip like a giddy schoolgirl if some proactive miscreant were to extricate the CEO of Cablevision from his post with a butterfly net and a polo mallet, but where would that get us? It’s just not constructive.

Our best bet right now is to bury our remaining funds in the backyard, barricade the environs, and wait for the carnivorous fiends who put us here to clear out the mire. They always do, and we always pay, and there’s always another buck down the line.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Stewart vs. Cramer

Aquarian Weekly 3/18/09 REALITY CHECK

SEND IN THE CLOWNS Satire & Bluster Tap Into Nation’s Anger

Jon StewartFor two consecutive weeks, the shenanigans of a radio talk show commentator and a Comedy Central satirist infused their will on the vox populi. What is business as usual in the world of fringe insights primped up in mockery became at first fascinating oddities, then frantic topics of debate, and finally the exposing of some pretty serious ills.

During the first days of March, right wing radio master showman, Rush Limbaugh made an appearance at the CPAC convention in Washington D.C. A rabid gathering of disenfranchised hardliners, the Conservative Political Action Conference has welcomed heads of state, former and future presidents, old-world brainiacs, influence peddlers, religious loons, and corporate land rapers, all movers and shakers inside what until recently has been the rock solid base of the nation’s conservative movement. Ostensibly, Limbaugh was to rally the troops and continue to defend his assertion that any conservative and/or Republican worth his salt should root for the current president to fail. However, the black-clad jock spent most of his lengthy address bashing the current environment in the Republican Party as weak and its leadership misguided, making a final stand against what is at best a designer buffet of worn-out ideologies, the origin and authenticity of which he claims to hold dear.

Love him or hate him, deny his influence or bask in his megalomania, one thing is certain, Limbaugh’s hard-ass assault on the sinking vessel of conservatism is warranted and perhaps needed more than ever. And this became patently obvious in the days following the liberal fallout, media backlash, moderate recoiling of Limbaugh’s diatribe.

Many Republican members of congress, holdovers from the spend-thrift days of George W. Bush, who’d enjoyed years casting anti-war sentiments as un-American, began immediately denouncing the notion of “wanting the president to fail” as defeatist. Having spent the previous weeks appearing either fiscally responsible or politically petty, they were in the throes of stridently defending unanimous votes against any and all versions of the federal government’s massive stimulus bill. It was not the time to appear as merely spoilers or a blockade to the mad attempts of the Democrats to enact what has been for over a year now the will of the people to do SOMETHING/ANYTHING.

Then for reasons only known to he and his shrink, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who fancies himself something between Kanye West and Henny Youngman, while appearing on yet another in a seemingly endless array of variety shows, demeaned Limbaugh’s influence on his party and called his act “incendiary” and “ugly”. When Limbaugh excoriated him the next day as an empty shirt and a myopic vaudevillian, Steele curled into a fetal position, meekly apologized and disappeared into the ether. This pathetic performance by the “de facto” head of the GOP was on the heels of Georgia congressman Phil Gingrey making an appearance on Limbaugh’s show to kiss his sizable but formidable posterior.

This is how the system, screwed as it is, works best.

Limbaugh proved, albeit in an inimitably fractious and juvenile way, that there is a voice in the Republican Party that has been lost; the fiscal straightjacket wing; the wing that had been, and in many recent cases by Limbaugh himself, hijacked by misogynistic social marauder homophobes from the God Police. In a few well-placed tirades and verbal jousts Limbaugh vividly exposed the gaping maw in the Republicans’ damaged flanks, something the timidly inarticulate car salesman approach of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wildly failed to accomplish after Barack Obama’s wiz bang address to congress last month.

Filling the vacuum of Rush Week in the news cycle, Daily Show host, Jon Stewart all-but dominated the pop culture wing of the news this past week with a scathing rip-job of the dog and pony shtick known as CNBC. After Stewart brilliantly deconstructed the now infamous Howard Beale wig-out by Rick Santelli, in which the network’s exchange floor reporter derided “deadbeats” who bought homes above their means as the true culprits in the nation’s housing meltdown, CNBC’s most visible voice, Jim Cramer crisscrossed the media circuit belittling Stewart and his “funny little show”.

Stewart’s “funny little show” is Comedy Central’s golden nugget, a mostly progressive satirical look at the day’s news that has been trumped into must-see college stoner television, and a damned hilarious pounding of all-things hypocrisy. Stewart, a once journeyman comedian cum actor, cum host de jour, has helmed the Daily Show’s gaggle of fiendishly intelligent goofiness for over a decade, during which time he’s given birth to the equally witty Colbert Report and more than once playfully taken on other over-hyped cable pundits like Bill O’Rielly, but never to this much fanfare and spitefulness.

Before long the Daily Show began gleefully hammering Cramer in a game of old-fashioned dozens, playing clips of the maniacal prognosticator demonstratively unfurling one monumentally wrong prediction after the other for months. This brought the high and mighty NBC family into the war of words, which continued to make the once proud news organization look defensive and amateurish, engaging morning show hosts, nightly anchors and commentators into the fray. All the while providing delicious fodder for Stewart and his band of cut-up savants and the facility over each and every show to pull out what Stewart finally exclaimed were “inept at best and criminal at worst” flippantly proffered suggestions for investors to entrust their hard-earned money.

The story ended later in the week when Cramer, fresh from an ironic appearance on the Martha Stewart show, visited the Daily Show, where he stammered like a guilty school kid in the principle’s office as Stewart and crew played streamed online video of Cramer admitting to an embarrassing series of insider trading malfeasances.

Stewart’s smolderingly vicious and brutally honest surgery of the nonsense that passes for sober reviews and previews of the volatile nature of stock market play was both frightening and illuminating. Cramer, for his part, perfectly played the exposed Wizard of Oz as the stuttering, befuddled man behind the curtain. Cramer, Stewart most assuredly pointed out, is the unfortunate but indisputable face of an unfathomable monster known as speculative market trading which could no more bring vast riches to the lazy dreamers of our nation than it can be a thermometer of our economic solvency or strategic governance.

The Republican Party is still mired in ridiculous mud slinging over culture wars and fiscal mishaps, and the world of financial journalism is still blank stares sold as unblinking certitude, but for two straight weeks a pair of clowns – one from the Right and one from the Left – took the best our American free speech and blessed dissent could offer, wrapped it up in an entertaining brand of fisticuffs, and ultimately brought to light that which must be illuminated.

This is how the system, screwed as it is, works best.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More