The Death Of Wall Street

Aquarian Weekly 1/10/01 REALITY CHECK

TRIMMING THE FAT FROM THE FIRE

“But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence; the least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.” – Lord Byron

The year 2000 was a shitty one for Wall Street. Not to say that it was in the level of shit as 1987 or even 1929 when words like Satan and suicide ran roughshod through the high rollers and slander and begging became the hobbies of the day. No, 2000 was merely shitty, and to hear the econo-lads, dressed in their power suits of armor tell it, there hasn’t been a follow-up year since 1945 that hasn’t blossomed from such a healthy dose of fertilizer.

Money, after all, has legs. It learns to bounce and has survived much worse hits. So they tell us the sun will indeed come up tomorrow and 2001 could prove historical for all the right reasons. Meanwhile, the best and brightest sell off their heretofore fortunes like seized property at an IRS auction.

Many don’t even know it yet, but losing that much money that fast leaves a sort of pale, sunken hue to the collective face, a powerful grip on the intestines that rips up into the brain and gives off the false sense of endorphins.

The dotcom revolution, as most revolutions, has had its share of martyrs. Many have abandoned their once unsinkable vessels and traded their Mercedes for a first class ticket to a remote corner of Peru where a 12″ hunting knife and the industrial-sized can of mace are worth more than a team of accountants and stammering coke fiends masquerading as stockbrokers. But the poor souls still left to breathe in the foul stench of defeat instead choose to smell wondrous roses. They send memos to press offices everywhere decrying the hint of bankruptcy and speak of world peace as if it is attached to an affordable airline ticket.

But they lie. Many don’t even know it yet, but losing that much money that fast leaves a sort of pale, sunken hue to the collective face, a powerful grip on the intestines that rips up into the brain and gives off the false sense of endorphins. The painful result of this is chairman and CEO of Priceline.com, Richard Braddock blathering on for 40 uninterrupted minutes of MSNBC airtime throwing out vapid concepts like “liquid funds” and “projected upswings” when he should be quoting from the heavy passages of Revelation with a .44 Magnum pressed to his temple.

Exactly one year ago Amazon.com founder, Jeffrey Bezos was Time magazine’s Person of The Year and 20% of the ads on the all-important Super Bowl list, snatching a record $2.2 million for 30 seconds of CBS network time, were web sites. Four months later those same companies reported 70% loses. By spring tech stocks took a monumental beating and the word last summer was that the formally entrenched Internet-business wave had hit a terminal low tide and the wounded prognosticators, who once laughed at the steady oil market, were watching in horror as the see saw tipped hard.

It was about that time when my discussion with Wall Street Jovial’s Dave Gahary hit the stands, (“How The Gravy Train Skids” Issue 4/19/00) and the demented Internet publisher ended one of several doom-struck diatribes with the now infamous quote, “Very little about the structure of the stock market could be considered legitimate,” which rings more true today than it did 13 months ago.

Politicians like to use the word Recession when things get as bad as they have been over the past ten months. Jimmy Carter liked to use that one while people were trading brass-knuckle blows on mile-long gas lines and the American dollar was a worthless scrap of toilet paper abroad. Carter didn’t survive that kind of ugliness. He never heard the piper’s dirge. People close to the numbers know what went down then, and they damn well know now that unless the government starts drilling every inch of Alaska gas prices will not resemble anything called normal before Memorial Day. And in its wake whatever lunacy the George Bush administration will be running past Congress in the way of a $1.3 trillion tax cut will seem like slapping a band-aid on a severed head.

Three days before sending this to press a colleague described to me the current NASDAQ disaster as “fake money being poured into a vat of speculative horse dung”, implying, I believe, that a whole lot of people can presently feel comfortable referring to themselves as first-class suckers being fleeced by the age-tested “get-rich-quick” scheme. This scenario had been laid out quite nicely by Internet Week’s Bill Frezza last April with “The Rube Effect”, a neatly described con devised by the excitable voices on the other end of the telephone who convince Johnny House Payment that hillside bungalows in Malibu are ripe to be had for someone possessing “the balls to go and get it.” Frezza compared the doomed 1980s’ bond market to the tech stock boom of the late 90s’, but with the utmost respect for Mr. Frezza and PT Barnum, suckers have been around since humans could scrape crude drawings on cave walls, and they are, without question, an integral part of any solid economy, yet they are not sufficient excuses for such a swift and savage decline in profits.

Junk bonds and illegal backbiting hardly explain away several years of growing profits and perennial companies jumping onboard the information highway like frat- house drunkards road tripping. This was a real boom, not some Harold Hill morality scam, and there is a long line of the “smart people” who will argue that point, if you can get them on the phone between bale-outs.

One of those is the venerable Father Finucane whose been vaguely impersonating a man of the cloth for nearly a decade while gambling with trusted yuppie funds and cashed savings bonds. The good Father’s answer to this mess is simple, but effective. If the law of nature is chaos, then roll with it. No reason to argue with circumstance when it is clear that God’s plan is to close doors while opening others. To that end he has devised several plans revolving around dynamite and vacant ATM machines with “light security.” He is a maverick in a land of followers and his days among the free are numbered, but he is right for these times.

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Spoils From The Victor – Bush Backer Flaunts Gore Pain.

Aquarian Weekly 1/3/01 REALITY CHECK

SPOILS FROM THE VICTOR

As is the annual custom in this space, my prime GOP source and overall political snitch, Georgetown is loosed for a brutal reappraisal of recent events. Although his tale is long, and amidst the pantheon of the Reality Check faithful, a constant muse of vitriol from this author, there are places in the human heart rarely discovered lest revealed by his rather sharply forked tongue.

jc: I’ll dispense with pretense and let you pick the subject.

Georgetown: George W. Bush is president. Say it.

jc: Not yet.

GT: Mere time. I don’t know why you lied to your readers for three years making noise about shooting Al Gore, or at the very least, cranking out weekly columns depicting him as the fascist scum he truly is when you did nothing for the cause.

jc: The cause?

GT: And then you fucked me with that lame column on the convention. I spent ten days in that miserable excuse of a town enduring countless dinners with NRA geeks and someone claiming to be Jerry Falwell’s “love child” so you can have first-rate coverage and you write about my fistfight in the pit?

jc: Thoughts on the election?

Popular vote? Why do you think both candidates spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time and television ads in the battleground states, so they can clean up the popular vote? Please.

GT: I have to say my favorite are these Democrats going to parties pounding the hard stuff with Bon Jovi and telling anyone who’ll listen that Al Gore won that election because he received the popular vote and got ripped off by the Supreme Court. Popular vote? Why do you think both candidates spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time and television ads in the battleground states, so they can clean up the popular vote? Please. Sell that sore-loser bullshit to the weeping dupes over at ground control.

We watched the Gores parade Hollywood’s elite across Miami until 2:00 am on Election Eve so he could wrap up the close numbers in Florida. He knew he needed it, not some bloated California or New York numbers. Then the fucking networks give Florida up at 7:30 when there are two time zones in the goddamn state. Fucking Tom Brokaw. Wake his ass up for five minutes and drain the vodka out of his veins. What a joke.

jc: And the Supreme Court?

GT: A monumental rim job, that first go-round. This is the weakest line-up of judges in the history of this country and we’ve had some beauts. How these fossils could send a remand to the Florida Supreme Court knowing the goddamn thing was coming back is beyond rational. Why did they waste everyone’s time–for forty pages of nothing telling the court to rethink what they already went to the mat for in the first place? You think the Florida court, already on the DNC payroll, was going to allow that to stop them? Damn right Gore should be pissed at the Supreme Court. They wasted two weeks playing legal volleyball with Tallassee and then seven of nine of these airheads say it’s too late to count?

jc: So you have it on good authority that the Florida Supreme Court was bought off by the Democratic National Committee.

GT: Print that. Nobody pays attention in Florida politics. There are people I heard from down there during this thing that would put Boss Tweed in the minor leagues. This was world-class politics. We were all wired into a main nerve of energy rarely seen in most civilizations. Makes you proud to be an American when you see what serious money can do to the process. And that was right after you wrote that nonsense about “no constitutional crisis.” That took a pair of brass nuts. We were reinventing constitutional crisis down there, pal.

jc: I’m not writing this slanderous nightmare. Not even The Aquarian would print it.

GT: Slanderous? Who the hell are you kidding?

jc: Fair point. How long did you stay in Florida?

GT: Not one day. I received my calls in Washington the whole time. I got the scoop on the deep-red phone. We were making plans if the Supreme Court went belly up.

jc: What plans?

GT: That’s not ending up in Reality Check, anonymous or not.

jc: What happened to your boy, Lazio? Hillary ate him for breakfast upstate.

GT: That’s what “I’m from New York – She’s not” gets you.

jc: What’s the feedback?

GT: He’s our new Jacob Marley.

jc: How do you think Bush ran his campaign?

GT: Mediocre. I knew all along that it was going to be tight. I was against all that money spent in California and I would’ve been more aggressive in New Jersey and Michigan, especially with McCain hanging around. I thought the Dems screwed up by not using Clinton earlier. He helped bring in the minority and middle ground vote in two national elections. Polls never wavered on the fact that he would’ve beaten Bush himself. Gore used him as an excuse. Fact is no one liked Gore. If they could even stand him he would’ve run away with the thing. And I wasn’t too crazy about how Bush handled the drunk-driving thing. My plan was attack. They wanted to explain. That’s no way to run a campaign. Explaining is for losers and preachers. That cost millions of votes.

jc: What was the inside scoop on how the story was leaked so late?

GT: That was a Lieberman gig from day one. His people were working on that since the summer. I know of at least four or five journalists on the Gore campaign who held onto that info for three months.

jc: C’mon.

GT: It’ll come out eventually. It always does.

jc: Thoughts on the cabinet thus far?

GT: I think this Whitman thing is to get her out of the way. And notice that Junior ran foreign policy names up there first. Powell has always been a company man, despite all that Eisenhower “I don’t do politics” shit. And Condoleezza Rice is a genius.

jc: Why does Bush insist on screaming about the inevitable economic down turn, does he want to inherit a serious recession just to fuck the Clinton legacy?

GT: Yes. This is revenge of daddy.

jc: His first move?

GT: Military. He’ll go heavy military, money wise and maybe yank a few troops out of Europe. You’ll never know Clinton was president three months after Jan. 20.

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Al Gore is a Loser ‘s requiem for a lightweight

Aquarian Weekly 12/20/00 REALITY CHECK

REQUIEM FOR A LIGHTWEIGHT

Al Gore is a loser. This is what the history books will bare out after the obligatory screeching dies down. Those who imagined a less than dramatic kicking-and-screaming exit by a man so patently damaged by a lifetime in Washington politics as to become inhuman were sadly mistaken. The vice president did not go quietly, but he is gone for now, and don’t think those of us in the know think he’s going anywhere far. Most think he’ll have plenty to say, but it will not be from a position of authority and for now that is enough for me.

There was a time, not long ago, that I was frozen with fear over the prospect of an Albert Gore jr. presidency. My disdain for him had grown over the years from irritation to abhorrence. The moment his smug pout started spewing righteous babble at Frank Zappa during his wife’s First Amendment lynching disguised as “parental concern” to the savage dismantling of Bill Bradley’s considerable integrity, Gore’s enemy status reached dangerous levels in the Putnam Bunker. But as Election Day approached it quickly accelerated into the kind of mind-numbing fear from which I am only now recovering.

The Bradley people were entertained by my many letters warning them to rile Dollar Bill into a kill-frenzy before facing Gore, but they didn’t laugh for long. And the more the doomed phalanx of Bush staffers e-mailed me one fuck-up after the other from the campaign trail and the poll numbers tightened; I began to envision the horrifying possibility that Gore might actually win.

After throwing together post-primary notes for a column I entitled “Why George W. Bush Can’t Win In November” (Aq.3/8/00) the carcass of John McCain was hardly cold and Junior had leaned so far right only circus freaks could vote for him with a clear conscience. But I’m man enough to admit I thought that McCain was the last line of defense against Gore. And I’m man enough to sheepishly admit I was convinced that if there were true evil in politics, not just stupidity, mediocrity and petty, partisan greed, it took horrifying shape in Al Gore’s heart.

Evidence was mounting daily. There were those Joseph Lieberman fascist diatribes about “a vote for Gore is a vote for God” and the “battle between good and evil” masquerading as Bible-induced epiphanies coupled with the appointment of another wretched Democratic Party goon like William Daly hatched from the militant loins of his deranged father to run the campaign. Gore was looking eerily like a young Richard Nixon slandering Helen Gahagan Douglas in an all-hell damn-the-torpedoes stump. During these dark hours many of my sources have solid, written evidence of my consistent assassination rants. The most damning of these was an e-mail note I sent to Alec Baldwin:

I am sorry to hear of your departure to land’s unknown should Junior win this thing, but your leaving the country is small pittance when you consider that I may have to kill Al Gore should he win, and then your politics would force you to keep me from lethal injection. I implore you now to pray to whatever god you subscribe that Gore loses for his sake and the sake of any movement to keep slugs like me from systematic death.

But that was silly talk from a wounded journalist angered that cheap used-car peddlers represented anything important This might have a sent a weaker man careening toward total mental breakdown, but I had to remind myself of several adages echoed in this space about the litany of monsters that have called themselves president. And even though Gore could very well have been my own personal demon, it was time to get perspective.

Al Gore was never truly evil. He is just terribly flawed, instinctively insincere and severely overrated as a danger to anything binding. Even my off-hand tavern references to Gore as Nixon fell far short of the truth. Nixon held true to his beliefs that everyone but himself knew what the hell was good for the country. Gore began this way, but ended up a tired parody of something he previously thought was important. But, alas, he is just a loser, and not all the lawyers, decrying pundits; sign-waving miscreants or Jesse Jackson speeches can change that. Forgive me for deriving a soothing comfort in those words, the same wash of supreme joy I experience every time that mortally satanic creature, Bud Selig hands George Steinbrenner a World Series Trophy, but I do.

There were nights lately that my dream of penning a vicious attack on Gore had reached orgasmic proportions, but most dreams die hard and orgasms don’t last. These are the harsh realities of life, like the fact that Al Gore is nothing more than Walter Mondale with a grudge. In retrospect his talk of “winning the popular vote” and “correct hand counts” were so completely mad and pathetic that many of his staff was reduced to weeping trolls in its wake. Even the confused Supreme Court was too embarrassed to render a sane decision on the thing. No one with half a brain believes this man had won anything, because there are no consolation prizes for losers in politics and moral victories are spin placebos for anyone harboring hopes to occupy the oval office.

But at least Mondale had to admit to total, humiliating defeat. His trouncing was as historical as it was gruesome. Al Gore’s loss was so excruciatingly close to victory four or five different times that you can be assured that as you read this he is staring into space thinking about what-might-have-been, the overt behavior of the loser.

George W. Bush is a dumb ass and will no doubt be a useless leader in the fumes of this barely legal victory, but he won. Al Gore lost. To write that is divinely real, like Fitzgerald’s “high white note.” His stupidity notwithstanding, Bush will forever stand as the symbol of a two-party system joke rendered on a populace sure that it spits out the worst humanity can offer. But he is not Al Gore. He lost.

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Ten Lies About The 2000 Presidential Dispute gets real on political mayhem

Aquarian Weekly 12/13/00 REALITY CHECK

TEN LIES ABOUT THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL DISPUTE

The following is a detailed expose of the transparent propaganda provided by arguing parties and overhwelmed pundits regarding what will surely be the endlessly disputed results from the 2000 presidential election.

1. This near-constitutional crisis will all but cripple the country and widen the chasm of ideological fervor among Democrats and Republicans further heightening the apathy of the American people. Yes, and Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Unfortunately this never reached the point of constitutional crisis. In fact, one must marvel at the authors of that document for jackknifing those attempting to usurp its wisdom, proving once again that the foundation of this republic was built on the complete understanding of humanity’s fragile nature and politicians’ insidious machinations.

As stated many times in this space, we’ve survived a Civil War, a Great Depression, two World Wars and Richard Nixon; litigious donnybrooks and political slap fights put as much a dent in this country as a lack of recycling would ultimately do to damage the planet.

We have always been the central office for apathy. It is important to remember that nearly two-thirds of the people inhabiting the original 13 colonies wanted to break ranks with England in the first place.

2. Al Gore, Joseph Lieberman and the DNC’s fight to contest the election is based on the principles of voter rights and a truthful outcome. Bullshit squared. Nobody with half a brain buys this crap from losers. Anyone who has ever competed for anything, much less political office, thinks they’re going to lose or believe even in defeat they weren’t the better choice. You give an ego-mad righteous clan like this the popular vote and a miniscule electoral deficit and there is no telling how far they will stretch the credibility of law in order to change the outcome. If these people truly wanted the proper vote tallies there would be a hue and cry to recount the whole damn nation, with its nearly four million lost votes and refuted ballots in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, etc and not a few Democratic-laden counties in Florida. This is about the gnawing feeling that had a few Floridians not been stupid or careless Gore would have been president of the United States.

3. George W. Bush wishes to move this process forward for the good of the country and begin a transition to the next administration. Sure, and seats are now available on the flying pigs. It will be interesting to see how “moving the process forward quickly” would be if Captain Shoe-In falls behind the eight ball as he did when the Florida Supreme Court started allowing dimpled chads from southern Georgia and Cuba to be counted until Easter. Bush has more votes. He wants to keep it that way. Winners don’t bother with goofy propositions like truth and fairness and nobody getting a break from the refs is in any hurry for a replay. The Bush people have run the same mantra up the poll for two months…Hold Off The Dogs.

4. Gore and the DNC had no allusions about winning, but has used these litany of lawsuits and this contest to dilute Bush’s victory and set up a Democratic landslide in 2002. This is a good one, especially if you spent last year looking for Sasquatch and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. This would be giving the fractured din currently representing the Democrats far too much credit. It also misunderstands the damage the Republicans incurred with vapid impeachment proceedings in ’98. If nothing else this mess has doomed Gore’s standing in a party that already thinks he tanked this gig with extreme prejudice. Which brings us to…

5. Because Gore won the popular vote and lost by a mere 537 in Florida he will be in the driver’s seat for a 2004 run. This is very wishful thinking after this foot-stomping piss fight being dragged through every court from Tallassee to the District of Columbia. Many Democrats, especially ones due up for re-election, are not happy that 57% of the people think Gore is a sore loser and using the system to hijack a couple of hundred votes to satiate some sick fantasy. What seemed like a sure bet that Gore would use key Tonight Show minutes during the next couple of years of a dented economy and a meager GOP control to say, “Remember me!” has turned into the legal equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster. So…

6. Bush will use his bipartisan skills developed as Governor of Texas to reunite the parties, which has already begun with his choosing of Democrats for the cabinet. Who’s buying this bridge? Anything Bush does now revolves around public relations and political fanfare. The second Gore gives up the ghost Junior creases a Joker smile and runs amok. Texas is less a state than a gunrunning outback of thieving oil barons, and it is a testament to Gore’s blatant failings that its governor bested him–something he’ll have to stomach for eternity.

7. The Attorney General of Florida and its Supreme Court are partisan, but fair-minded soldiers for the system. Hardly, but who cares? Of course Katherine Harris is in Bush’s back pocket and the governor of the state is the man’s brother–almost the entire Florida Supreme Court is a left wing tool. But this is the framework of this republic, Democracy American Style, loaded with lawyers and spin-doctors and yammering journalists pumping the bilge. Failure of machines and rooting interest may be too much for our delicate psyche, but checks-and-balances are the very essence of this government and one single harmonious voice would be its death.

8. Voters were disenfranchised in certain counties of Florida by antiquated and confusing ballots. Check stupid and confused from Lie #2, neither of which are excuses under the law for being “disenfranchised”. These are the same ballots these people have been using for years and printed in the newspaper on Election Day.

9. Countries around the world are laughing at us. You realize how off-the-charts ridiculous this crapolla is when you peruse the many contingency plans designed by other governments in case of a contested election, that is those countries not run like an atavistic interment camp. These plans usually involve militias and tanks and geeks from a leaky parliament squawking at bullet-riddled walls.

10. When this historical ride is over we’ll miss it. I heard that from a Wall Street geek right before he was summarily shoved off a subway platform. Do with it what you will.

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Last Night They Shot John Lennon

Aquarian Weekly 12/6/00 REALITY CHECK

LAST NIGHT THEY SHOT JOHN LENNON

Editor’s Note: The following are the thoughts of the author in the wee hours of December 9, 1980, the morning after John Lennon had been murdered.

“I heard something ’bout my Ma and my Pa They didn’t want me so they made me a star” – john lennon

Last night they shot John Lennon. Wrapped him up like the world’s present and played his songs. Holding their hands to befriend him. Last night they shot John Lennon.

The journey from icon to martyr to idol is a short one. Usually this means a truncated existence filled with wonder, success, fame and the misinterpretation of one’s intention wrapped neatly into a package of innuendo and lies. It has been less than three hours since John Lennon was gunned down in front of his home, in front of Central Park, in front of the world. Before long this man-cum-icon will be remembered for being the nucleus of a movement, a revolution, a cultural hiccup on a planet of revisionists. His circumstance had been like few witnessed before. But would a lonely boy from an impoverished dock town on the Northern coast of England have traded it for another minute of life?

John Lennon outlived Jesus Christ by seven years. He once said his rock group; The Beatles were more popular. Were they more popular because the Son of God never sold a million records or played Ed Sullivan, although mania and idolatry also followed Galilean carpenters…water to wine…top five singles on the Billboard chart.

And if God were a man and he could pen something akin to “A Day in the Life” and make us shutter, or perhaps sing “Imagine” and piss a few more of us clamoring humans off, would that have given him immortality? Would John Lennon still be alive if he’d chosen to huck freight or been a fisherman? Can we expect John Lennon to rise from the dead?

There are many reasons to believe the 60s’ died last night…the decade, the meaning, and the emotional effect of a million souls that were severely injured by Altamont and Viet Nam and Watergate. John Lennon’s band was more popular than all of those things, so much so that many who called it the crowning achievement of 20th century pop art wanted a revival. John Lennon agreed to revivals of the past only when everyone returned there. “The Beatles will get back together when every goes back to High School,” he promised. That is when the 60’s died, with the sex and the war and the exploitation of “All You Need is Love.” But most of all, the 60s’ died with innocence.

When I was a boy about fifteen. I could hear the static pumping. From within my treasured room it sent my heart jumping. I forget what they call it now. Since then people don’t say much. Sometimes they say nothing at all. At least when I was young and angry I would never fall. I forget what happens now.

He was the orphan thug from the streets, spit out by his absent father, abandoned by his dead mother and rescued by the cute boy with the crudely tuned guitar and the Little Richard wail. Paul McCartney was the brother John Lennon never had, but Elvis Presley was his iconoclastic parent. “There was nothing before Elvis,” John Lennon said. Let there be light and music and anger in the glow of beer lamps and the breath of gnarled hookers where the boys rip and tear through black music from the States–youth on the edge and building strength in the German ghetto where the children of war met.

We called it Beatlemania. There were the haircuts; boots, suits and a money machine going to the “toppermost of the poppermost”, a place John Lennon believed laid the medicine for wounds. He looked for healing in fame, money, drugs, Eastern religion and a woman named Yoko. He put the same determined angst of his youth into love and invented philanthropic culture in song. “We all shine on” he wrote after Beatlemania and “God is a concept by which we measure our pain” because screaming about pain is better than inflicting it.

This is what being more popular than Jesus Christ gets you.

And the givers of the golden ring taketh away. They hated him. They hated him not being whom they had made with their own bedlam. They hated his new wife and they hated his new music and they hated his new politics and they hated his new haircut. Anger turned back on original ideas and art is nothing new in civilization. Ask Socrates. Ask Picasso. Ask Beethoven. Ask Lenny Bruce.

He moved to New York because it was a metaphor for his pain, his muse, his sanctuary from all this mass hatred and love, this phony symphony of celebrity that has little to nothing to do with art or the artist. Georgia O’Keefe went to the desert, Ernest Hemmingway retreated to Cuba, Charlie Chaplin was banished to Switzerland and Beatle John and his Japanese wife moved to Manhattan. Cradled in this urban madness inside his head he escaped the spotlight for five years to raise a second son and resurrect his spirit.

Then he came back outside the shell and made songs. “Just like starting over,” he wrote, and then one of the echoes of Beatlemania entered his cocoon and fired four pistol shots into his hero’s back. His name will be infamous, his crime more so, but he is only an echo.

This is what you get for being more popular than Jesus Christ.

Last night my heart stopped jumping.Last night it just sat and cried. Just when I thought the tears had dried. Last night some dream ended. Last night they shot John Lennon.

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james campion.com

The Aquarian Weekly 11/29/00 REALITY CHECK

SURVIVING THE GREAT “SYSTEM” ANAL PROBE

This unconscionable constitutional tragedy currently being perpetuated in Florida by party trolls and a bloated cadre of lawyers is a dangerous anal probe into what those of us on the ground floor of this abortion call “the system.” It became glaringly obvious late on Election Day that whatever the outcome someone was going to be shocked, devastated and/or pissed. What has transpired since has not only confirmed these possibilities, but sent a sickening reverberation straight to the heart of this republic. And although the framework of this fragile democracy is the best government conceived by humans, there is still no guarantee of its perfection or fairness.

It has taken the most controversial presidential race since 1876–when congress bartered land deals to anoint Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency– in order to bare our democratic wounds and the ambiguous methods of designing, compiling and enacting our voter privilege. When an election, at any level, is this excruciatingly close the chance for crazed backlash is very good, and as a result of this latest national train wreck “the system” is now thrust into the kangaroo court of public opinion, where truth is almost always defined. But the further you dig into this murky abyss devised by menlong buried, the more you understand its flawed nature.

Firstly, it is important to review the parameters available to the electorate. This country is, as noted earlier, a republic–a United States, not a united people of America– and this wild talk lately about turning it into a true democracy with a popular vote is reactionary prattle. These are the same people who would be whining that only big cities and media centers would elect a president while two thirds of the country would have little to no say.

Those hearty few attending the first Continental Congress knew empowering the colonies while erecting a government in the fumes of revolution was a sticky endeavor. It took 25 more years for the US government to emulate the Romans and allow the state to govern its own. And that is “the system” George W. Bush and Al Gore agreed to wage battle.

Secondly, above the din of outrage is the glaring fact that out of the 250 million people in this country only 100 million, 50% of registered voters, bothered to participate in “the system.” A large majority of those who did play along were able to find their way to the voting booth, cast a ballot without much confusion, and even left knowing what the hell it is they had just done.

The litany of errors and complaints by silly Floridians about their right to vote being yanked because of their own ignorance or carelessness has only caused a rash of enlightenment throughout the land. By the time of this writing there have been no less than fifteen states reporting ballot confusion, voter fraud, missing ballot boxes, paid-off homeless, double voting, police bullying, and a series of inconsistencies so foul that the amount of lawsuits being filed could not possibly reach fruition in any of our lifetimes. Meanwhile, close numbers and vacillating results in New Mexico, Iowa, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Missouri threaten more lengthy recounts and legal wrangling.

Into this mayhem comes the revote theory, so off-the-charts wacky that many former Manson Family members and sacked Pets.com employees are lining up to be spokespeople. So now we’ll get all those sharp tacks that screwed it up the first time, couple them with the angry dolts who are sorry they voted for Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, throw in the always-available paid lackeys, and let it ride. This kind of shit may fly at a Glassboro kegger, but deciding the 43rd President of the United States the first time is proving too difficult for us.

Then there is the terror of what is actually happening: a national election being decided by one state, controlled by partisan judges and attorney generals presiding over clairvoyant hand counts, where hired drones spin electronic ballots into lamp light to guess at voter intent. It is entirely possible that a Zippy the Chimp funzo dance on a Twister mat would be a more legally binding and fair-minded attempt at choosing the leader of the free world.

As much as I would love to see Al Gore deported in a rusty iron maiden and George W. Bush beaten by teenage drunks, I feel for them. There is little question that had it been Bush sitting in his cushy hotel room late Election Night staring down the barrel of defeat, there would have been noise. But many in the circumference of this firestorm do not believe it would have reached the levels of dementia the Gore people hit about 3:00 am when the numbers in Florida started dropping like a good day on the NASDAQ.

Gore has been reminded his whole life, from Viet Nam to the PMRC, from the senate to the chaotic ’88 primary, from Bill Clinton’s call to Air force Two and nearly eight years of trying to live down the most charismatic, lunatic politician in the last 50 years, that he is expected to be president. He sits a mere hundred votes from the promise land, but if he and the Democratic National Committee or the rankled Bush people insist on dragging “the system” through the courts there will be a slow dismantling of a delicate fabric that as a result might be viewed as silly and antiquated, awakening a need for mob rules, and no government has been able to survive that without massive bloodshed since the beginning of civilization.

Simply, the whole thing is fucked, but we dare not study it, for we will witness its demise. No societal ideology can withstand an anal probe like that, least of all one hatched by rebels and built with Civil Wars and constitutional amendments. Once you begin to poke under the rocks, and the slugs begin to scamper for cover, the collective horror will be palpable.

It is a cracked floor that Bush and Gore were asked to dance upon, but dance they did. Richard M. Nixon learned 40 years earlier, when the dirty deal goes down you eat shit, regardless of how badly you were robbed by bootleg cash and mob payoffs. And as the great voodoo madam, Sissy Meechum once crowed, “The time to cry is before the flood, not afterwards.”

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A Subway Series Memoir – James Campion’s 2000 World Series Journal.

Aquarian Weekly 11/22/00
REALITY CHECK

LAST EXIT TO QUEENS
Subway Series Memoir Part II – (read part I)

And so the crazed and frenzied follow this mess over bridges and under tunnels, digesting hype-job articles about the Mets being wimps and the Yankees stomping their psyches, and broadcasters calling for a full-scale war. This is the atmosphere for the third game of this Subway Series, pulling into the parking lot of Shea Stadium and the circus maximus provided by every radio station in the tri-state area. Unlike the grandeur of Yankee Stadium, this is an edifice built on the fumes of 1950s’ affluence and 1960s’ swirl, the place where the Beatles played and Joe Willie Namath used football sidelines for a fashion show. This is the home of miracles and strange happenings in post-season affairs. This is where the Yankees aim to continue an unfathomable 14-game World Series winning streak.

Teams that win 14 consecutive games in June are hailed as something of a juggernaut. In October it is ridiculous. And as the media throng descends on this orange and blue building, and the fans pour in carrying hundreds of placards screaming, “BELIEVE”, many think this could be another Yankees Fall Classic sweep. Tim McCarver, Fox analyst sent packing by the Mets and onto the Yanks to dissect the bunt forty ways to Sunday, was standing at a urinal in the Stadium Press box Saturday night bemoaning the Mets verve. “This is the World Series for crying out loud,” he whined. “You think these guys could run out a ground ball?”

Believing is good, but made better when Orlando Hernandez is considered “due for a loss”. The Yankees Cuban defector ace is 8-0 in October games. But the Mets are loose and play games with each other’s motivation before the first pitch, hanging with N’Sync who appear more like lost boys from the Con Ed bus trip than a pop group. One kid with blonde, curly hair asks me where the exit is and I cannot help but lead while asking him politely to sing the national anthem better than Billy Joel. “What?” he says, mouth agape. “Just do it,” I order.

N’Sync found the exit, kicked ass on the hardest melody to negotiate through a public address speaker, and by the eighth inning the Mets were tired of stumbling and threw up a two spot to take a 4-2 lead into the ninth that, this time, would not be relinquished. World Series win-streak halted, El Duque defeated. Strange happenings for road teams in October and life in this series.

Wednesday night there is an air that all had been tossed into some cauldron of doubt and pressure. Now we have a contest, a meaning to this push-and-shove, but there is an old adage that a series cannot be considered competitive until the road team gets one. That is what the eyes of Yankees wonder boy, Derek Jeter says. He tells us that he is lucky to be with a team that provides him three rings in four years. “The problem with other teams is that they don’t have this kid,” NY Times, stalwart, Dave Anderson tells me. He is one of only a handful of reporters here to actually cover a Subway Series. “Jeter is one of the best players I’ve ever seen in any sport,” he smiles.

The optimistic air of Shea and the cheering and the believing takes a hit when Jeter deposits the first pitch of game 4 into the left-field pavilion. By the fifth, the Yanks hold a 3-2 lead and Torre goes to the bullpen for David Cone. The once proud starter, relentlessly pummeled throughout the season, is asked to get one out, Mike Piazza, the Mets catcher and recent controversy tornado. Piazza had homered previously. Cone pops him up. Through the next four innings both teams threaten, but the Yankees win.

The mood changes immediately.

The next night, what would turn out to be the final game of the long-awaited Subway Series, goes on without me. I am physically and mentally ill. Constant parades of meaningless sound bites and media cramming, along with rapacious Woodstock-like merchandising, has rendered me unable to attend what becomes a coronation of a team that everyone with half an inkling about this game knew was going to find a way to win the last game of the year.

So from the comfort of my couch, and not those lame auxiliary media seats five hundred feet above home plate with the biting winds creasing the back of my head, I watch Al Leiter and Andy Pettitte chase the echoes of Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. Both are brilliant from the start and pitch their hearts out, but Leiter leaves a hard-luck loser. The Yanks scratch a two-run lead in the ninth with another string of two-out hits and walks, and when that Piazza guy drives a ball to the fence and it nestles into Bernie Williams’ glove the historical becomes history.

Since 1995 the core of this Yankees team has battled for championships, winning four. Along the way they have broken records, set impossible standards, and overcome every obstacle from disease, addiction, age and pressure. Still, facing the Subway Series with nothing more to gain, but much to lose, may have been their greatest challenge. Veteran’s Paul O’Neil and Tino Martinez hit, Martiano Rivera pitches, and Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter.

There is no way the Yankees could lose this one and make it feel alright. The Mets can speak of “close games” and “almosts”, they were pushing an envelope unopened. But when you win, like this Yankees team wins, you are expected to keep winning. This is especially true in New York where silly slogans and happy tunes are suddenly replaced by yesterday’s news for the “once golden.” From spring training to champagne pouring, it is always win or nothing for the New York Yankees, the boys of autumn.

Tough chore. Tought team.

Maybe the best in three or four generations, or a Subway Series ago.

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A Subway Series Memoir – James Campion’s 2000 World Series Journal

Aquarian Weekly 11/15/00
REALITY CHECK

GRIDLOCK NY
A Subway Series Memoir (Part I)

After ten years of covering baseball in one form or another, and entering my third consecutive season entertaining a journalistic meandering at the World Series, it is easy to see from the moment I glide off the Deegan Expressway toward Yankee Stadium that these will not be games, but times. These are times that this cathedral of baseball has known for nearly 80 years. Times from Harlem and the Polo Grounds to times in the friendly band box in Brooklyn called Ebbets Field, where the hated Yankees took 11 of 14 Subway Series building an impossible resume of winning. This was long before the times in the 60s’ when the National League came back to New York in the form of the hapless, but lovable NY Mets.

Thousands of people, hundreds of vendors and little walking room in the expansive courtyard surrounding this building, where the air is unseasonably warm, but thick with smoke and voices and music. Rock concert and a professional wrestling buzz cuts through a sport better suited for picnics and beaches, an urban, bucolic flavor that is both tense and uplifting the way Manhattan can be on any given night. It is the core of New York City when New York City embraces being the center of the world.

Inside the ballpark, down in its bowels with the sporting press and grunts and celebrities groping for a glimmer of the spotlight backwash, the atmosphere is even more cramped. The makeshift interview room is mobbed to listen to Yankees manager, Joe Torre. He is looking eerily calm despite the weight of four worlds on him. His team is attempting to do something only four other teams had done previously; win a third consecutive world championship. And his team will be asked to do it by beating another New York team in the first such a World Series since 1956.

The owner doesn’t like losing to the Mets in exhibition games, much less the grandest stage. George Steinbrenner was so worried he might give the Mets locker room fodder through a rankled slip of the lip he didn’t even attend the Yankees pennant celebration a few days earlier. Despite his team’s recent success, this is for all the cards in the deck. Torre knows this well. He says he doesn’t like people comparing this series to ones in June or July or any Mayor’s Trophy. His shortstop, Derek Jeter told me after the Yankees won the pennant a few days ago, “Forget that other stuff about rivalries, this is for the championship.” Secretly, the people upstairs didn’t want any part of the Mets. My friend, and general manager, Brian Cashman assures me that I don’t want to be any part of him over the next ten days.

Mets manager, Bobby Valentine also appears relaxed. He doesn’t carry the same pressure as Torre, save the millions of Mets fans who are sick and tired of surrendering the Big Apple to the condescending Yankees fans and the inevitable band-wagon chic who don pinstripes to feel a part of something. But Valentine’s team didn’t even win its division and it is the first time the franchise has been in one of these in 14 years. In fact, he spends most of his press conference defending his team’s right to battle history. “The Yanks are not as good as they once were,” says Mets eclectic reliever, Turk Wendell. “We’ll win in five,” Hawaiian born, left fielder, Benny Agbayani tells Howard Stern and Regis Philbin. No one wants to lose a Subway Series, but no one wants to feel they don’t belong. “We’re good too,” Valentine tells us.

From the moment the capacity crowd begins its crescendo of noises with the seesaw chants of “Let’s go Yankees” and “Let’s go Mets”, the opening game is as tight as a sealed drum. The Mets take a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning. The Yankees win in the twelfth. One young man repeatedly stabs another young man in the chest in a sports bar eight miles from my house over a baseball argument. But at nearly 2:00 am in the Bronx there are still hundreds of people waiting for the players to get in their cars or board the buses pointing toward Queens. The city that never sleeps goes overtime.

The next night there is talk of the Mets’ star slugger, Mike Piazza’s beaning at the hands of the Yankees’ newest villian, Roger Clemens earlier in the season. Even though the pitcher is from Boston and the catcher is from L.A, this is a NY thang.

Piazza’s teammates want to get Clemens back and the macho posturing reaches epic levels by game time. This brings rolling eyes and pooh-poohs from the veteran press, who think it beneath them to scour such depths of sensationalism when just playing a World Series entirely inside one town is enough. They convene for hours in the print room, literally rubbing elbows while tickling laptops, downing gallons of coffee and tearing off miles of chewing gum. Buried under a barrage of literature, stats and numbers, never to be used by anyone not acting as a nerdish, baseball actuary, they rumor, they curse, and they write anything twice. This is their turf.

In the first inning of game two, amid the flashbulbs and squeals, Piazza’s bat cracks in half and the splintered barrel fatefully skids toward Clemens’ feet. The pitcher whips it at the Piazza’s feet. Defacto commissioner and emissary of Satan, Bud Selig sees riot flashing before his eyes from his box seat as the Fox people call Los Angeles and tell them to run post-game polls. Organist, Eddie Layton plays a soothing tune. Piazza screams. Clemens points. The benches empty, but nothing happens. Yanks enter the ninth up 6-0, as Clemens did the rest of his intimidation, 2-hit shutout routine with the ball. Mets rally late against the Yankees bullpen, but lose again 6-5.

Clemens tells us he thought the bat was the ball, and more about never seeing anyone or “no intent.” Boston writers attack him and Torre with spiteful, if not useful, questions. Torre, forced to defend this lunacy, threatens to walk out of the press conference. Later, Piazza laughs and says something about it all being “bizarre.” Valentine claims to be the only man in NYC to not see anything. Mets utility man, Lenny Harris wants to fist fight Clemens right there in the hallway below the Stadium. “We have to go to their house now,” says Yankees centerfielder, Bernie Williams. “We’ll see.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 11/1/00 REALITY CHECK

Campaign 2000LAST TANGO IN GHOSTLAND

“The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.” -Adolf Hitler

It is common knowledge among historians that the deranged make interesting public figures. Adolf Hitler was one of those rare mutant breeds that possessed a voracious appetite for the wild ride to the top. And it was an equally long drop to a syphilis-crazed breakdown that came far too late for civilization. Although he was not alone in the dark history of politics, Hitler was everything that is wrong with humanity and its societal systems; especially for those of us still hoping things like greed and hate will be kept relatively in check.

But before any of the mayhem and horror attached to his name would be unleashed, Hitler was nothing more than a political bully with no need for silly endeavors like elections. He made up the rules and no one bothered to ask him to explain it.

Elections are a tad different. When things go awry, the public is to blame. It is incumbent on us to make these people to stay in the ballpark of reality while their busy getting all hyped to fulfill their own version of some abject destiny. Surely, even the most optimistic flag waver in Kosovo today doesn’t believe the results of that election charade amount to a hill of beans, but sometimes even when we pick our leaders, who the hell really knows?

That is why a failure to vote, although oft noted as an egregious mockery of our civil right, is less a crime than voting for someone you believe would make a shambles of your weekly planner, much less the free world. And this notion that throwing a vote away on fringe loons and independent types is elitist drivel peddled by low-rent two-party sycophants. If you believe the system is fixed and archaic and the candidates boring and predictable don’t let anyone tell you that you have to play along like the company lap dog. Where, exactly, is the freedom in that?

Presidential politics stopped becoming big fun for those of us mired in reams of Kennedy and Nixon minutia. But Jack got his head blown off and Dick was sent packing as a crooked shyster. For a short time Ronald Reagan made it fun, but before long, he too became a tired windbag. This is why nearly half the nation’s populace abstained from voting for or against Bill Clinton in his two victorious runs. Many now admit they only voted as a sick joke to ram rod some hippie goofball down the throat of mom-and-pop apple pie. And for a while even they had to admit the thrill was gone when Big Bill turned out to be less rebellious and more lecherous.

So, you’ll get no argument from this space if you wish to stay home on Election Day. Mohandas Gandhi believed sedition did more for change than the normal violence or democratic attempts, especially when Indian lawyers were treated like illiterate farmers by English slave traders. Standing aside while the crazy train skips your stop is nothing to be ashamed of, unless you’re lazy or you don’t care.

This poses the greatest problem for American citizens. We are lazy and we like it that way. Just try and get us interested in anything. We’ve been dazzled and wooed with every bit of technology and fanfare available to us. Getting us pumped takes a bit of doing. But if you believe that George W. Bush or Al Gore deserve the job you’ll choose them to undertake, then you should take the time to exorcise your rights. And in doing so, you had better make damn sure they are the men you think they are.

And this is where the issue of voting with confidence gets a tad sticky. The men available to this voting public are mediocre statesmen/politicos with a weak resume and weaker leadership skills that will not bode well for the next four years. The first few months of which will be replete with monumental global turmoil including a quickly eroding Middle East stand-off from the Gaza Strip to Yemen, a highly volatile mess in the Balkans AGAIN, hordes of terrorists skulking into U.S military institutions, Korean backlash and China trade concerns. Add that to a domestic economic crossroads in oil prices and stock market fear coupled with intercity racial stresses ignited daily by a criminal lack of education and you not only refuse to put your fingerprints on this terrible craziness, but a first class ticket to Australia remains a distinct possibility.

This will be my last political blather for a while. There are too many other concerns and not nearly enough space. Do what you want and do what you must, but do yourself a favor and sleep well with the consequences. And if you don’t feel like taking the blame, abstain. Sure we have to live with the results, but we lived through Gerald Ford and George Bush, bell-bottom pants, disco, Max Headroom, a man by the name of Stump Merrill managing the New York Yankees, Oliver North Collector plate commercials, 30 Beach Boy reunions, 14 Million Whatever Marches, ten Julia Roberts’ tortured celebrity relationships, “We Are The World”, the electric car experiments, nearly a decade of “Three’s Company” etc.

We’ll make it.

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The Truth About Hillary Clinton – Political satirist, James Campion dissects the Hillary Senate Campaign.

Aquarian Weekly 10/25/00 REALITY CHECK

DECONSTRUCTING HILLARY

Political whores and power mongers are easy to spot in the waning moments of a campaign, especially campaigns surpassing a combined spending spree of $100 million between the two candidates. And there isn’t a half-assed pundit, pollster or sad commentary geek filling up newspapers with thousands of feeble prognostications who fails to be blinded by its queen; Hillary Rodham Clinton. This New York senate race is, has been, and will continue be all about the first lady. The GOP could have a door stop running against her and people will vote based on their love or hate for her.

The important element of this is the Clinton celebrity and the advantage and albatross it provides. Senator Rodham is at the crescendo of a decade-long game she’s played stumping for a man who has treated her like a scabby harlett throughout its duration. William Jefferson Clinton may have seen his wife’s gory mutations before any of us, but he has since become nothing more than a back-seat lecther in its wake.

Her opponent, Rick Lazio, is a few short months removed from sitting in his home out on Long Island and bemoaning the fact that his party didn’t think him a big enough name to take on the gaudy popularity numbers the first lady presented as a formidible senate challenge. This was a job for the Mayor of NYC, who first refused to offically announce anything beyond a raging hatred for Senator Rodham and then was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Rudolf Giuliani promptly backed out and in came Lazio with enviable spitfire and brimstone.

So Lazio jumped right in and became the anti-Hillary candidate phase two, because the New York senate race has always been about Ms. Rodham, or Hillary, as her “people” remind you she’s to be called. Sequestered in her rhinestone bathe of light, equivilant to a rock tour or a pre-war Hollywood opening night gala, the first lady’s suit of armor is shiny for a reason. The woman has never known a battle she couldn’t avoid.

Legitamate press never gets to her. Press conferences are nothing more than events for us fourth estate peons to gaze lovningly upon her devine personage. She smiles. She dances. She is a breath of jasmine from her lofty perch of azure. Television appearances are few and usually involve late-night comedians. Ted Koppel and Tim Russert, never mind traveling reporters, are off limits to the queen of pap. At the time of this writing there have been two debates, but it was deemed to rough and tumble for the delicate flower of Washington’s elite and the other was a party set-up that the Lazio people stupidly stumbled into with little investigation on their part.

Mere weeks remain in this charade of a campaign and what questions, what scrutiny, what hard-core politcs is Senator Rodham facing? Lazio brings no memory of powerful candidates with heaps of energy, but he at least he makes himself available to the press and handles the tough questions, ANY questions posed to him. His opponent is apprently too good or too busy or too sheltered for that.

These complaints may sound like the whining, selfish complaints of a spoiled journalist used to being fed fresh meat every time some ego-mad sucker needs coverage, and to that charge I plead ever guilty, but this is the very reason Hillary, with all her cries for equality and compassion, is a transparent candidate.

And how come my brethren let her get away with these lame duck and covers? Are we so silly with worshuip for a good story that campaigns are reduced to coronations before we have a glimmer of what a candidate stands for beyond notoriety? When will Senator Rodham be forced to face someone with a camera or a notepad who isn’t sporting a goon smile while peppering her with questions about the Chappaqua fire department picnic? Jackie Kennedy, princess of Camelot and national fashion plate, took more shit than this woman. The time has come for her mighty and untouchable hems to get filthy with debate rhetoric and that world-class litigious brain to crank its gears.

Lazio, predictably busy trying to be all things to all voters, has tried the credibility attack with his soft money overtures. It is admirable considering he’s had half the time to create the native New Yawker image from Giuliani’s shadow and separate himself from the stench of the Newt Gingrich clan the GOP so effectively shoved into the background at the convention. But Lazio is a New York politician and has served as a congressman for eight years. He has not been riding the ebb and flow of party casa de la Clinton for a decade of unpresidented verbal sewage.

In the end, this will mean nothing. Will Westchester, Central and Upstate New York voters despise or revere Hillary enough either way to defeat or elect her. Rick Lazio is the kid in class you hang with because the popular asshole ignores you. More than any election in this nation’s history beyond perhaps Jesse Ventura’s meteoric rise in Minnesota two years ago. And whether she wins or not there is a real sense now that celebrity can slant a race so completey that issues mean less than zero.

Senator Rodham and the Westchester crack team keeping her alive on bulging African American and women votes knows this. They will try and keep those and build on the all-important suburbs and Jewish/Hispanic votes and ride this puppy all the way to Washington without their candidate having to answer a single hard-line question about her ability to be grammar school principle, much less senator of New York. And that would be their victory and democracies loss. But this is something these people know quite well.

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