The Real China & U.S. Relations Discovered – Satirist, James Campion inside the “China Syndrome”.

Aquarian Weekly 4/18/01 REALITY CHECK

THE CHINA SYNDROME

The annual Reality Check News & Information Desk memo to the State Department regarding China and the defacto Cold War we’ve been waging with them for thirty years has once again only revealed the redundancy of its measures, the idiocy of its intent and the gnawing fact that it wasn’t due until mid-summer. But an international incident has a way of expediting useless correspondence, and there is little reason why anyone over there would be surprised at the events culminating from a spy plane boo-boo or why anyone should apologize for it.

A Chinese pilot died and 24 American spies were detained for a bit, but in the grand scheme of international espionage, all things ended somewhere between hunky and dory.

Human life has never rated particularly high in the overall theme of foreign relations. The Huns and the Vikings tried it for a time, but found raping and pillaging far more lucrative. The Greeks and Romans realized after a short bout of conscience that it just got in the way, and most of today’s nations manage that difficult balance of moral center while disregarding humanity completely.

The United States puts conditions on human life based on size of paycheck, color of skin and whether testicles are involved. China is completely lost in this category.

The real debate here is about financial diplomacy and the collective super ego: who looks like they won or lost before we’re back to business as usual.

And it is that spirit which is celebrated each time one of our corporations deals with China’s marketplace and the almighty free trade is freewheeling. Yet we spy and they spy, and we meet and they meet, and both countries put up wonderful fronts for the press and mom and pop apple pie and those unfortunate human rights casualties masquerading as citizens of China.

So it is a tad laughable that anything approaching a hostage situation, complete with room service and Great Wall rights, would rile anyone on either end of this political farce. Of course the Chinese are clumsy when it comes to snowing public relations, something this country has excelled at for a long time. Meanwhile, there are college kids in Beijing right now who hack into the Pentagon computer system on their lunch hour while IBM copyboys are sending forty miles of Chinese military secrets across crackling phone lines daily.

So for eleven days both countries postured over whom would apologize and how, and then in the wondrous tradition of a Bill Clinton grand jury appearance, the word “sorry” became only an apology when attached to a specific incident, as in “we’re sorry for the guy dying, but not for spying” or “we’re sorry we had to land because of your pilot’s inexplicably fatal actions, but not for landing on your air base.”

Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, a little perplexed that he’s not allowed to buy anyone in the new administration yet, was in the precarious position of staring down THE superpower on the planet, with one-tenth of its nuclear firepower and a host of his own spies in U.S. prisons. Zemin’s flimsy credibility stems from China’s massive population of potential American product consumers and the cheap slave labor that keeps K-Mart upper management in Christmas bonuses. China’s half-assed policy with Taiwan and North Korea is a minor inconvenience, and any real nuclear threat over the past four decades has been minimal at best.

China is no Soviet Union, regardless of what the flag-waving brutes tell you. The Chinese haven’t been as aggressive nor have they flaunted military might around the region the way Russia did for decades after World War II. China’s greatest crimes are within its borders and the human-rights abominations that are often ignored in Tibet.

And with all this spying going on, the U.S. government knows every gory detail.

This is followed by the obligatory public outrage, a few annual protests, an in-depth investigative report on 60 minutes during sweeps week and a bevy of speeches by government officials looking to keep the gig.

But yet we keep trading and smiling and spying, so, of course, there will be the occasional reconnaissance air craft lumbering across the sky – over international waters in international airspace, mind you – and something might or might not run into it. Then things are going to be strange and silly for a short time while everyone in charge scrambles to save face.

The real debate here is about financial diplomacy and the collective super ego: who looks like they won or lost before we’re back to business as usual. And rest assured business is what we’re talking about, because the days of “Yankee-Go-Home” and “Over There” and the comfy sense of national pride take the back seat to popular terms like “Bottom Line” and Profit Margins”.

George W. Bush has gotten what he wished for all along, he is the CEO of American Trade Concerns LTD, and it’s his job to keep those wheels greased and put out little brush fires like this latest embarrassment. And anytime a spy mission or a an under-the-table deal surfaces to the embarrassment of the two nations, there will be a ton of meetings and name calling and nasty good old-fashioned pride. And when it has been taken care of, like this latest screw up, then the money machine will be jumpstarted and all is right with the world again.

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Campaign Finance For An Enlightened Age ‘s manifesto for the cash poor politico.

Aquarian Weekly 4/11/01 REALITY CHECK

CAMPAIGN FINANCE FOR AN ENLIGHTENED AGE

Hey, goodbye all you punks Stay young and stay high Just hand me my checkbook And I’ll crawl out to die – Pete Townshend

I recently received a petition masquerading as a public relations memo faxed from the McCain/Feingold rah-rah group. It inadvertently alerted me to a growing problem in Washington called the Campaign Finance Reform bill. It was packed with twenty Senate phone numbers and instructions to flood their offices with calls demanding a ban on soft money contributions from corporations, special interest groups and Hollywood types.

A gentleman calling himself Cuddy signed the thing with a pleasant, “Thanks for your help”; an assumption that rubbed me the wrong way for reasons I will touch upon further ahead.

The whole Reform thing seemed like a good idea last year when everyone in the Republican Party attached the flimsy “reformer” ideology to every campaign speech. First John McCain was a Reformer, which helped him rap up the New Hampshire primary, and then George W. Bush became the “Real Reformer” and crushed the original Reformer. After a few months of this, Al Gore decided that being a Reformer was just as good as any other bullshit that might get him elected.

Meanwhile boatloads of cash came pouring into every campaign all the way to November. Ironically McCain rode the crest of the duplicitous wave that rode G.W. into the White House. Junior even had the old war hero up for a photo-op or two and then went about the business of making the Democrats pay for eight years of the Flying Clinton Show.

But a strange thing happened on the way to the inauguration hootenanny: John McCain wasn’t fucking around. He really wanted to reform campaign finance laws, and do it yesterday. Bush promptly dismissed this as grandstanding, gave McCain and his soldier-in-arms, Russ Feingold a friendly pat on the fanny and told them maybe.

Last week McCain bugged everyone within earshot to consider, vote, conclave and piss-fight over some measure of campaign finance reform. Proponents like Tennessee senator, Fred Thompson argued for stringent laws banning everything but citizen limits, making the NRA, union money, Exxon and the ACLU impotent in its wake. Opponents like Kentucky senator, Mitch McConnell, who told Time last week that the whole thing was “stunningly stupid”, join Nebraska senator, Chuck Hagel by adding fat to the bill with the hopes that it will be laughed out of Congress by happy hour.

But anyone discussing this with any serious hope of being elected to anything above and beyond dogcatcher needs to keep the soft, hard or sideways money coming from all ends. And I, for one, concur, because its high time I cash in on the American political sweepstakes.

It is my plan over the next two to three years, perhaps even the following 16 months, to earn an obscene payoff for illegal activities, including, among other gems, fraud, laundering, blackmail and journalism all wrapped up in a neat little package with one goal: Make myself independently wealthy enough to sufficiently create a special interest clan called the AAPGF: Artists Against Puritan Goat Fuckers.

I’m still working out the name, and not because Goat Fuckers is too strong and possibly offensive to the PETA crowd. On the contrary, Goat Fuckers stays, but if you really want to get something done inside the Beltway you need eye-opening political contributions and AAPGF is a difficult sound bite pronunciation for the producers of Hardball. And make no mistake, we’ll be spending quality television time making a ruckus and getting the ear of politicos with power dreams.

Initially the AAPGF would secure a finer ride for its president, maybe something in a Mercedes convertible and perhaps larger carnivorous fish for the recently manicured moat surrounding the Putnam Bunker. A close second would be the actual group, a heavy-bacon watchdog agency railing against any level of censorship. Major contributions from solvent creative types, huge studios and productions companies will help purchase the odd congressmen and senator, who we’ll ride through the system and crush any bill threatening the First Amendment like Campaign Finance Reform.

Plan B would be to stockpile the funds and go the other way for laughs. Ramrod the bill home with my pal Caddy over at the McCain office and pass the power of campaigns into the hands of the journalists. Then we’ll see who gets the serious kickbacks, that can, and will be funneled into a private cartel of freaks threatening anyone seen trying to regulate anything remotely creative.

Not that campaign finance reform is creative, but it does fall under the soothing blanket of the First Amendment. The National Rifle Association and National Organization for Women have every right to battle for their constituents as politicians do. And the AAPGF will not back down to any laws hampering our near-libel attempts at painting enemies of free expression as Morality Thugs orFear Pimps, our two favorite pejorative monikers. Murder and rape are worthy causes, but where is the support for people wanting to photograph 100 nudes on Wall Street or painting elephant shit on religious icons?

And while the freelance scribe business is both utterly degrading and grossly underpaid, it does have its setbacks. Why can’t an eager sod like myself take the American dream and abuse it to absurd degrees, with vague references to voicing the disgruntled nature of the bored and frightened, and cash in on the effort? I ask you: Can you deny a fellow patriot his right to buy happiness?

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Challenging The Verizon Gestapo: A Study in Technological Fascism

Aquarian Weekly 4/4/01 REALITY CHECK

CHALLENGING THE VERIZON GESTAPO: A STUDY IN TECHNOLOGICAL FASCISM

“Always read your phone bill.” -The Mighty Chief Wonka

These con job fuckers at Verizon have gone too far now. And it is my duty, nay; my birthright to notify any unsuspecting slaves of corporate tyranny, and detail the doom technology has wrought. And despite spending decades decrying the demise of Ma Bell, and the litany of useless drivel being spewed in the name of the evil long distance carrier, the time has come for all out war.

Verizon represents all that is wrong in the cold realities of a world where the conversation has taken a backseat to E-mail and the beeper and the voice service drone issuing in the goddamn tone.

Don’t let those television ads that parade a wide spectrum of humanity abusing the sanctity of the peace sign to signify the global Verizon village snow you. That’s the first sign of the brainwashing technique, like hamburger slop-pimps at MacDonald’s peddling saturated plastic fat as food and the cheap soda pop barkers at Pepsi hawking toxic chemicals mixed in syrup as hip youth elixir.

Manipulating the media is Fascism 101. Mesmerizing images set to soothing and recognizable music, providing a sense of comfort and excitement, is something I learned to abuse in the first fifteen minutes of an introductory college advertising course. Verizon’s vision of freedom from an antiquated society with billion dollar Big Brother methods that suck every penny from gluttonous communication spoiled prisoners, is run-of-the-mill Madison Avenue crap, practiced daily by the shoe-shine mentality of power-ties in conscience limbo.

I’m usually not thrown by these training-wheel methods, or even simple corporate rape, but the moment Verizon bought out “everything phone” in the area of the Putnam Bunker some months ago, and the district goons at Putnam County Central changed the area code with little warning, I’ve been forced to confront them.

Verizon’s first move was the arbitrary dropping of my MCI coverage without notification or prompting. Consequently, I was charged the maximum penalty for calls down the block.

Needless to say, it is always an adrenaline jack to have a 200% increase in the phone bill. This brings the obligatory caustic phone calls to Verizon’s “customer service”, which now consists of four hundred phone bays run by trebly computer voices and a series of infuriating key-pad punching exorcises.

This pointless maze of numerical combinations finally put me in touch with an operator in Tucson, Arizona, who would love to help, but has trouble locating New York on a map with anything less than a two-out-of-three guess ratio. When someone answering to the title of supervisor finally took over he directed me to MCI, whose people know nothing of area code changes, but proceeded to charge me up the ass for every second of use just the same.

MCI blames the whole thing on Verizon for storming in and forcing their hand. MCI reps seem to think that Verizon’s foray into long distance service has caused a sabotage war, taking consumer checkbooks as casualties.

But I’ve had issues with MCI since they decided it a cute idea to send me bi-monthly bills so they can use my pre-payments to help meet a decade of lofty Michael Jordan/Warner Bros. advertising contract pay-offs.

After days of foul language and rising blood pressure, MCI credited my account through Verizon, prompting me to cancel all connections with long distance. But unbeknownst to the layman, the degree of difficulty in blocking long distance service rivals splitting the atom or getting an AP reporter to pay for lunch.

No less than three times Verizon requested an independent third party confirmation to enforce the block, and then ignored it, leaving a detailed message on my answering machine claiming they could not enact my order without a third party confirmation.

Resisting the urge to split my cat’s skull with a five iron, the fourth try it went something like this:

Verizon: Hello this is Fwad (last name deleted) at Verizon customer service. How may I be of service to you?

jc: I’m on to you Fwad, you and your whole rotten operation. No simple procedure is this fucked up time and again without someone in charge pulling the strings in the background. I know how this works, bating and switching, feigning stupidity and transferring blame. Promises were made Fwad, reputations on the line.

Verizon: If I can just have your name and phone number, area code first, I can assist you.

jc: Don’t try to break me with cryptic requests. I’ve been through this with other militant factions, like those negligent layabouts at Burke Heat, who run soot through your ducts for six months and tell you to buy the filter yourself, while all the time they play Russian roulette with my gas line running discharge through the oil exhaust.

Verizon: I’m sure I know nothing about any Burke Heat, sir. If you’d just give me…

jc: Yeah, I give you my number and the next thing I know my vital information is in your master computer’s data base somewhere and I’ll be force fed Verizon propaganda until my death. And why do you tape these little conversations, eh Fwad?

Verizon: To better serve you in the…

jc: I’ll tell you, to play with our minds. I just punched my phone number into the computer, then you ask for it again? And why do you need my social security number or my date of birth? I became a tad suspicious when I was asked for a blood test after questioning a simple service charge once. And what the fuck are these hidden taxes, Fwad?

Verizon: What seems to be the exact problem, Mr. Campion?

jc: Now you know my name? And if you know my name, why do you need my phone number?

Verizon: Sir, what is it I can do for you?

jc: Please, in the name of all that’s holy, block my line for any and all long distance access. I don’t want anyone to be able to make anything beyond a toll call on this line, ever!

Verizon: You do realize Verizon offers affordable rates for long distance, and if you sign up now…

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Anatomy Of A Tax Cut ‘s real solutions for an unreal republic.

Aquarian Weekly 3/21/01 REALITY CHECK

ANATOMY OF A TAX CUT

Seven out of ten Americans believe they surrender too much of their funds to the federal government. The other 30% either fail to pay taxes or burn money at parties for laughs. Most admit a “tax cut” would be less a reprieve than an overdue refund fantasy cooked up by decomposing Reaganites silly with glee over running the store for at least the next two years. And anyone presently holding tech stocks or a casino comp card won’t argue with any of it. But all agree that a $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal is dubious at best.

This is a country founded on taxation angst, even when many of the original colonists were more than pleased with a lunatic king arbitrarily jacking up the odd tea tariff. But money has a way of conquering weaker emotions like loyalty, and today “we are the people” paying inordinate sums of our hard-earned greenbacks to an organization that barely has the capacity to deliver the mail or defend our borders. Schools are a breeding ground for murdering middleclass cretins and most of the federal government’s money-pit institutions are corrupt, obsolete and in dire need of gutting or scrapping.

A $1.6 trillion tax cut is massive for any government, especially one teetering on economic recession with a wounded stock market and looming debt.

Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle and his chicken-little contingent, propose a paltry $750 billion to $900 billion plan with warnings that anyone claiming under $120 thousand of annual income will get nothing more than a diner tip from the federal government, while corporate gluttons and rock stars will be in the Marc Rich payment plan.

Daschle has to say that, he’s a Democrat. And Republicans have to disagree, otherwise they’ll all have to reenter the private sector and pay for their drinks. But anything Daschle offers will be a far cry from the $3 to $4 trillion windfall the GOP campaign gurus hammered against Al Gore’s “risky scheme” mantra this past fall.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey and House Whip Tom DeLay, both wild and wooly Texas Republicans, would like a $2.2 trillion tax slashing over the next ten years.

Into this gaping chasm floats one George W. Bush and his litany of advisors, parading through a tax-bating U.S. tour. And while already proving as full of crap as anyone who’d ever manned the position -see his flaccid follow-up to early John McCain meetings regarding soft money, the Real Reformer will not be cranking up anything resembling campaign finance reform. But he will be paying back those who backed his presidential charge with promises of a hefty tax cut.

But how hefty?

The victorious 230 to 198 vote ramming the bill through the House, was pleasant, but expected. The same ride through the Senate, split right down the partisan middle, will be an entirely different animal.

That’s why our barely-mister-president has taken this baby on the road through Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he painted its Democratic senators as gutless toads clinging to fat-cat traditions, and Louisiana, for Cajun delicacy and a rousing old-fashioned political pep rally, with everything but the caboose bunting.

Then it was onto Florida and then New Jersey, where the president accused Democratic senators’ Robert Torricelli and John Corzine of all forms of heinous crimes including land rape and jockey tampering.

Bush has a month before the tax debate begins in earnest. What to do with a projected 10-year, $5.6 trillion surplus? Should he stand tall and reject anything but the steadfast number? Should he compromise on a trigger function of the bill that would warn us of impending debts in the near future? Should he make the same deal with Satan that put Bill Clinton on an economic lucky streak?

One maneuver Bush cannot pull off is taking this thing on television to usurp the power of congress with a friendly televised discourse. That was Ronald Reagan’s gig. In 1981the Gipper sat behind a desk with old glory waving behind him and peddled the goods. But Bush is no salesman. If anything, he’s a motivator, and someone who the GOP pray can cope with the slings and arrows to come.

But in the end politics may derail anything resembling the present bill, morphing it into something akin to slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. So in the interest of economic sanity and lightening the government’s bloated budget, I offer these key suggestions:

Firstly, we must wipe out income tax. This is capitalism’s albatross. What was the point of a 50-year Cold War if every citizen cannot chase the brass ring? There are other ways to keep the federal government solvent.

For instance, take away all tax-exempt status, especially churches, mosques and synagogues. In fact, to lighten the load on welfare programs, open these buildings up to the poor and homeless and put these people to work. Make organized religion and other scams masquerading as religion carry their weight.

Next, make the drinking age 18 to coincide with tobacco smoking and legalize marijuana. Anyone old enough to participate in war and vote for public servants and government policy should be able to dull their senses legally. Then tax the hell out of these products and enforce the law on any minor caught imbibing. All parents of the apprehended miscreants will pay huge fines.

Capitalists love addiction. We cannot get enough drugs, gambling and sex. The government needs to cash in on these blessed weaknesses. To that end, legalize casino gambling nationwide and then once we have that regulated properly, sports gambling.

This will provide the government with tons of funds for building up the military, Medicare and what is left of Social Security. Check the gaudy lottery numbers, which, by the way, is legal gambling.

And speaking of Social Security, bag this mess. No one under fifty should have any illusions about collecting money from a doomed system. Cut it off for anyone born after a decided date. This will add more to a paycheck for gambling and carousing, flooding the economy with plenty of money to grease corporate kingfish and special interest lobbyists.

Now let’s get started.

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 3/7/01 REALITY CHECK

HELP WIPE OUT FEDERAL EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY IN OUR TIME

“The President shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” -U.S. Constitution Article II Section 2

There was a time, not too long ago–or maybe eons ago, it’s hard to tell now–that I found myself in a Bayridge, Brooklyn loft listening to a plot to kidnap Casper Weinberger. There were always plots back then, concocted by the type of people who laughed at any talk of reason, especially at 3:00 am after two consecutive days of serious drinking. So I sloughed it off as speed-addled gibberish, finished my beer and got the hell out of there.

“Grab Weinberger out of his three-story luxury home, throw him in a potato gunny and drag him to the crack boulevards in downtown D.C., then we’ll get the real story.”

That was the plan, and I would have volunteered to wrap the rope around the damn sack if I thought it would accomplish anything beyond garnering us a federal sentence. But not even Ollie North would be doing that kind of time. Ollie took the fifth, and so did Bill Clinton’s friends and lovers last week. And anyone else he diddled in the Lincoln bedroom those last precious hours in the White House.

But overt posturing about ideologies and party politics never did jazz me. Those things are nothing more than a smokescreen for the rich and powerful, and all the grass roots movements, protests or odd kidnapping would never slow them down.

The Iran-Contra boys got off easy. George Bush sr. saw to that. He was, after all, a CIA man first, and “once CIA, always CIA.” So Casper and Ollie’s cabin boy, Elliott Abrams, and Reagan’s security advisor, Robert C. McFarlane, who thought it was a good idea to swallow the Valium mother lode rather than rot in prison, all received cushy pardons from the president for pissing on the constitution. This was Bush’s parting gift to the bleeding hearts that dared question the judgment of The Great Communicator.

But those were top-level political criminals, not like the cheap whores Bill Clinton pardoned. Dime-store hoods like Marc Rich and chubby crackers like Hugh Rodham are pond scum compared to the depth of human mucus presidents dine with daily.

And no matter how much the bored national press tries to hype this daily litany of street trash the president set free, William Jefferson Clinton only carries the notorious, if not eminently predictable tradition, of abusing absolute power.

The Clinton’s were bought and sold long before they left Little Rock. Every president is, and will always be. Criminals are as much a part of our national landscape as public servants. Except criminals have money to burn, and politicians need flammable funds by the boatload, especially big-time politicians.

Big Bill wanted to make his “money people” happy. They pushed him over the top in New Hampshire in ’92 and promises were made, promises he couldn’t keep, like the one Joseph Kennedy made to the Chicago mob and Richard Daley to swing Illinois to his boy Jack so daddy could fuck the government for yanking his ambassador status back in World War II.

Federal executive clemency allowed George Washington’s pardon of all participants in the Whiskey Rebellion, Abe Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson’s full and complete pardon to “all and every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion” known as the Civil War.

Violent drunks and confederates aside, it is Gerald Ford’s pardoning of this nation’s greatest criminal Richard Nixon, and now Clinton’s obvious fire sale of freedom for campaign funds, legal fees and key votes for the wife, that has the dander dancing again.

But to call anything administered in the name of complete and absolute power illegal or immoral is missing the point of this, or any other, republic.

Big Bill knew he was meat on the way out. His legacy was humping, and his would-be successor used every angle to avoid mentioning it in a doomed campaign. Another Bush was breathing down his neck, and it was time to pay the piper. Hollywood money machines need to be greased, and Hollywood isn’t just a city in California. The constitution clearly allows it, so the argument is with the system not the use of it.

In the case of Rich and his flamboyant ex-wife, who dumped millions into Clinton endeavors, and more importantly, the state of Israel, the answer was easy. The Clinton’s bought off a 20-year fugitive to bolster significant Jewish votes for Hillary’s senate run. Should the Clinton’s apologize for bartering deals to hold onto power if the constitution provides such unchecked autonomy?

The second article of the constitution also hands military power over to its government’s executive branch. The Korean and Viet Nam police actions were the result of presidential decrees, cleverly sidestepping the messy business of having the legislative branch declare war. Thousands of Americans lost their lives in these little power plays, everything from Truman’s miscalculations to LBJ’s escalations to Reagan and Bush’s wars of convenience.

Bill Clinton is the same man who crawled from the Arkansas slime nine years ago. The public voted him in, and the constitution allowed him to run amok. The uproar is not with the past, but the current state of law allowing anyone in the United States government absolute power.

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Who Killed Napster? dissects the murder of free music.

Aquarian Weekly 2/21/01 REALITY CHECK

WHO KILLED NAPSTER?

Appeals will come and go. They inevitably do. But for the record, at least the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals version of it, the freebie cyber music fest known as NAPSTER is history. You’ll eventually pay a fee for the service of downloading music, unless you scramble to the countless other places popping up daily. However, life on NAPSTER, as we have come to know and love it, is over.

I say love for I too have enjoyed its guilty pleasures, and despite being an artist who sells his wares online and elsewhere, I have used the excuse that I shouldn’t have to spend nearly $20 for one song, or I’m searching for out-of-print stuff some company has deemed unworthy, or I dig getting bootlegged material that the artist would never get a penny for anyway. It’s trading, after all. It’s just trading with millions instead of a few.

Industry types always panic when technology comes calling. Television was supposed destroy the movie industry. The audiotape sent big wigs from record companies to every court in the land trying to put a stop to that egregious threat to profit and power. Then it was the VCR and its looming danger to everything holy. All the clichés about money should be thrown into the mix now with NAPSTER. Somewhere someone is getting something for free, and goddammit what are we even here for?

There are certain realities that rear their ugly head when people get happy at rebelling against evil corporations, who arbitrarily jack-up the prices of items because they know damn well you’ll pay it. Artistic endeavors, however silly they may seem to the average American, are difficult enough without “free” being added to the equation. Musicians are told most of their lives they won’t amount to shit, so when they are the shit, they don’t let go of it easily. Despite Limp Bizkit’s wild and crazy apathy about NAPSTER, they’re in the same boat as Metallica – crusaders against NAPSTER for artists’ rights – because if no one pays them, they have to get real jobs or steal car stereos.

Yes, artists take a hit, at least established ones, because many unknowns now cheer NAPSTER for putting them on even ground with the huge bottom line distributors who need only the latest fashion and Britney Spears and could give half a fart about some punk outfit in Wyoming or a funk band in Greenwich Village. Sure record companies pony up the cash on nobodies (studio time, videos, limos, drugs, groupies), music publishers protect their rights (undermining, suing and threatening) and distributors have to take their cut (bullying, paying off teamsters and squeezing every cent from moguls) and music outlets, both online and in stores, need a little taste (protection against thievery, advertising and sandbagging the locals), but eventually the consumer takes the financial hit. No company is in business to lose money, at least those not run by the Beatles, and when a compact disc costs three cents and is being retailed at $17.99 it’s hard to feel any sorrow.

So we download like crazy people, to the tune of 50 million to date, and an estimated 250 million songs were downloaded the day before the second ruling last week. Programs and cd burners make it all-too easy to get this stuff from Lil’ Johnny’s collection into our car stereo; no stores, no annoying people telling you what you have to like and none of your money going bye-bye. You don’t have to listen too hard to hear the fear burning through the heart of the record industry, although, ironically, their collective profit margins broke records last year. The vocation of making tons of money off of someone else’s talent may be in serious trouble, but the present statistics don’t bare it out.

Perhaps like free-agency in sports, the new landscape will seem like a victory for human rights, but may end up screwing us in the long run. NAPSTER, and all it stands for, feeds our insatiable appetite for immediate gratification. Think about it, if you could anything for free that isn’t technically stolen, wouldn’t you consider it?

Right about here I usually start spouting rude comments about how the whole phone system in this country is fucked thanks to the dismantling of the evil Ma Bell, but instead I’ll use the space to remind those in need that anytime the government gets involved in matters of mammon stuff will be broken, and not easily fixed. Regulation is a horrible word in big business, until the public starts getting too much value, and then someone has to put a stop to it. Of course, it’s that type of thinking that eliminated cocaine from Coca-Cola’s ingredients.

But I digress, because all we’re really talking about here is rapacious talent sluts taking the fall for literally a tune. Now those seven-figure agents tooling down Hollywood Blvd.and mainlining Ajax for the right to rape some kid rapper on the East coast will have to give up the condo on the Virgin Islands because some poor sap wanted to download a dumb ass Metallica song. Meanwhile the same agencies are trying to subvert the right to even make those records in order to allay the fears of mid-western PTA drones, who spend quality church time riling up senators to halt the work of Satan.

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Underground Rave Beatings! goes to the mat for violence against stupidity.

Aquarian Weekly 2/14/01 REALITY CHECK

THE TRUTH ABOUT WILLIE & THE UNDERGROUND SHARKS

“The Hammerhead, they say, is no different today than he was in One Million B.C. He is a ruthless, stupid beast with only one instinct–to attack, to hurt & cripple & kill.” – Doctor H.S. Thompson

I received a letter recently, which appeared in this space last week, complaining of my association with a modern renegade known to my readers as Willie. It went on to site my “exploitation of criminals” in order to fill columns. As an example, the author described in detail a beating his friend took at the hands of Willie during what he described as a rave in downtown Manhattan. Then he managed to heap the vicarious blame on me. I could not vouch for the veracity of that particular incident, but it was not outside the realm of possibility. If fact, knowing Willie’s considerably savage track record, it sank comfortably in the cushion of plausibility, but my connection to this is still hazy.

It is true that in the nearly four years of penning this column Willie has provided me with several rather interesting, if not dangerous, news stories. As discussed here last year, some have thought him a figment of my imagination, a metaphoric tool used to dismantle a variance of subjects ranging from drug abuse to racism to violence. And although I would love to take credit for any satire, Willie is all-too real.

But to apologize for his behavior or the “exploitation” of it would only be hypocritical. As a journalist, admittedly a rogue one at that, people like Willie are a necessary evil, and perhaps it is going too far labeling them evil in the first place. Evil is such a vacillating concept in the world of hard news, even out here on the fringe. This is, after all, a new age of acceptance and forgiveness, where reverends embezzle and father a love child, Super Bowl MVP’s are ex-cons and IRS accountants crawl off to the White House with a .38-caliber revolver and a dream. Our most revered artists are weak and flawed and our politicians reach new lows daily.

Evil is so ambiguous now we must attach the word HATE onto the front of CRIME to further accentuate its heinous nature. By that logic a punch to the head of a gay man is far more damaging than one to a heterosexual. Defining evil now is only a matter of creating compound sins and clever chants, but fingering it is a far more difficult endeavor.

As for the alleged “rave beatings”, it is only fair to point out that beatings at these things are a dime a dozen. Many kids who gobble Ecstasy find a good beating a welcomed enhancement to the high. There is nothing better than breaking the chains of well-being and peace with a fine stomping at the hands of an anonymous madman whose only purpose in hanging around in the first place is to doll them out like Easter candy. More of these flopping cretins should be beaten, people like Willie might say, like cell-phone drivers and those dipshits who sue tobacco companies. And who would argue with their freedom?

The underground is filled with natural-selection beasts like Willie, and so are politics and Wall Street and suburbia for that matter. He is the bully, the boogieman, the great equalizer reminding everyone that humanity is not the home of compassion, but the result of brutal evolution, where the strong and maniacal unleash their frustration on those who might live under the illusion that they are somehow more refined or “better” than the rest. We shouldn’t shun or fear them. The idea is to befriend these mutants, pull them close to your bosom and mother their intentions, or at the very least, bring a notebook and study their habits.

This is what the police do. The undercover gig is a popular one on the force. A NYC detective told me recently that most busts take months, even years to set up, and for every dick forging relationships with the beautiful people, there is a reporter on his rolodex waiting for a scoop. To his credit, Willie isn’t on anyone’s payroll and would sooner stomp the life out of a narc than turn state’s evidence, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for pikers like Ray Lewis or Puffy Combs.

I first met Willie in Brooklyn in the early 90s’, and anyone spending quality time there learns quickly that twisted bodyguards are not to be scoffed at. Are we supposed to ignore places like Brooklyn, or should we hunker down and live on the edge, make it our homes if just for experiment? These are the questions my little letter-writing friend flippantly mocks with righteous blather in hopes to guilt those of us who’ve traded in such silly twinges of emotion for a press card.

This is tantamount to those reviewers of my first book writing that I glorified alcoholism. Perhaps they skimmed through the thing, like most lazy critics, and skipped the consequences of what I was experiencing, choosing instead to make blanket statements about people living in an “onerous vacuum.” Those are the same mumbling whiners who wrote that “Deep Tank Jersey” was fiction. But unless you live in the game, it is hard to record it.

Willie is the game, just like any other creature you might cover as part of what journalism invites. At every level, from presidents to crack heads, it is all about the story, and after writing enough of them it is hard to differentiate between George W. Bush and a man lying in the gutter violently puking on himself. And for a columnist, mountainous men gobbling Viagra and demanding to see “black folk” in Denny’s or pounding Margaritas while burning through EZ- Pass booths, constitutes a story. Certainly a Darwinian nightmare skulking in the rave shadows and looking to pounce on unsuspecting wild-eyed teens in the dawn hours says more about that culture than any cover story in Time. My only regret is I wasn’t there to record it.

Either way, the deal goes down and the story gets written, and those who get paid are paid. Some people would say I’m the one being exploited, but Willie would never write anything like that.

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Reality Check – Author, James Campion comes clean.

Press

The Underground Press Quarterly2/01

THE ART OF FEAR OR LOOKING FOR MR. REALITY CHECK

by Darren Ecstein

It’s not often that a relativly unknown columnist from a rock n’ roll weekly begins to take hold of the radical press, dubbing himself a “rogue journalist” and invitingly begs for comparisons to H.L. Mencken or Hunter Thompson. And it is even more rare that the same man can pull it off with painful consistency. James Campion, if not already a thorn in the side of all that is not sacred, wants you to believe all this. And anyone who has taken notice has yet to deny him that.

Not that Campion’s Reality Check column, read weekly in the New Jersey-based, Aquarian Weekly entertainment paper, is nothing if not a home for the findings of the mysteriously potent News & Information Desk. There is very little journalism involved. “There’s no room for the truth in hardcore reporting,” Campion smirks, biting down hard on a cigar and jiggling the ice in his half-gulped Gin & Tonic. Campion not only insists in biting the media hand that feeds him at every turn, but also refuses to do interviews outside of bars, pubs or taverns. “The darkness becomes the subject matter,” he jokes, as we sit to chat about all things underground.

But Campion’s gruff exterior adds to his current status as 21st century enigma, spending days working sporting events and press conferences like a legitimate reporter, penning two books (Deep Tank Jersey, published in 1996 and Fear No Art just out last year) in a three-year period and finding solace in the company of young writers and even occasionally middle school students who hang on his every word during early morning, high-octane fueled lectures. As much as he mocks his peers and a growing profession as a freelancer, Campion cares about the craft of writing, often citing other’s work and referring to his style as “hackneyed ranting with limited punctuation.” He tells his audiance to learn the rules before breaking them. “It’s a Picasso thing,” he smiles.

The “Picasso thing” has served Campion well for the past decade or so of rogue journalism. When we sat down to chat in a downtown bar in Yorktown, NY, just a hop and a skip up the Taconic Parkway into Westchester and a mere mile or so from the infamous Putnam Bunker, where most of his most celebrated and villified musings originate, he appeared relaxed, but later came on as frantic and untamed as his work. Our hour long discussion rarely broke the furious momentum and added to an already legendary list of annoying, but informative past interviews, to which we proudly count our humble publication as one.

How close do the original pieces in Fear No Art echo the ones that hit the news stands for three years in the Aquarian Weekly?

That’s interesting you’d ask that, considering we didn’t really promote the fact that a great deal of my original columns were edited in some form or another for their initial publication, and it is true that they appear in more or less their original form in the book. But, really, the reason we don’t harp on that is the Aquarian Weekly is one of the bravest, balls-out publications on the East Coast, bar none. That is the sole reason I still practice this meanignless journalism crap. Those crazy bastards print some of the most insane gibbersish I can muster. I’ve even sent them stuff that I was sure wouldn’t make it to press, but there it was the following week.

But wasn’t that the bedrock of Fear No Art, to reissue work in its original form?

Right again, but that’s not the reason it was finalazed. That gave me the excuse to unload already published stuff. That, and because I’ve quadrupled my readership since ’97 when I started there, so many of the people who are interested now had no idea who I was or what the hell was going on at the News Desk. So, why not release it in a compendeum form and kind of archive it.

Is it fair to say that at the time you started penning Reality Check, when, I think it was called something else, you would’ve considered yourself more a non-fiction author than a journalist.

No, I wrote and published one book. I still don’t think of myself as an author yet. I went to school for journalism. I don’t know, but I guess I’m just facinated with the human element in a story, the relatable effects of fragility and endurance in our collective spirit. I find it an ever available impetus for creativity.

Do you think you’re a mean person? You know, I mean, for instance, do you ever cringe at, say, a title of one of your Fear No Art pieces called “In Defense of Larry Flynt & Other Scumbags Like Him?”

No. I thought that was quite charming. Sort of like Flynt himself. He’s both repulsive and charming in his own way. It was more of a homage to Flynt and his ilk really.

Are you kidding right now?

Not at all. That piece speaks for itself. Interestingly enough, I think after that one came out the editors asked me to take over the headlines. I usually don’t like that part of the gig. But I don’t think I’m mean.

Just sarcastic for the sake of meaness.

See that’s missing the whole point of satire. You think anyone but me, even fans of my work, gives a shit what I think, really? Commentary is so transient. It’s all part of the background noise. I saw Larry Flynt speak at some free speech thing and he called himself a scumbag. I did my homework on that one.

Fear No Art also has a preponderance of serious material, emotional insights. Then, BAM! you’re hitting below the belt again.

A preponderance? Yes, I am a complicated specimen. It’s part of my lovable quality.

I guess what I’m aiming at is your unique ability to play both sides of the emotion for intrigue or reaction.

Yes, okay. I see that, but not the first part about being mean. My wife has a great way of describing my thing. She says that even though I don’t mean to be horrible, it is very easy to take it that way. You see, you need human interaction to understand the level of muck you can dredge up when you live in that part of your head. But as easily as I can get whipped up into that kind of frenzy, I’m out. So, it’s not anger or frustration or even angst that boils up inside me, it’s manufactured from parts of my brain I won’t let out in normal circumstances. Like right now, I can tear your head off, just snap and start bashing you over the head with this stool, but I choose to bottle that and use it for artistic pursuits. You know, let it flow in a more resourceful fashion. It’s quite civilized.

I appreciate your presently reserved additude.

No problem. I am trained, like a literary Samuri.

Literary Samuri. That’s pretty good. Now what’s the deal with this guy, Willie?

Yes.

Is he real?

Of course, why not? You think I can make that up. People who say that give me more credit than I deserve. I’m not a fiction writer. I couldn’t make him up. Willie’s name has been changed to protect the guilt-ridden, but he is all man and he’s coming for you.

So all of Willie’s exploits are one hundred percent on the level, not embelished for purposes of sensationalism or readership, as you someitmes elude to.

Well it’s good to see you actaully read the stuff. Usually people who ask me about Willie are coming from the rumor mill loaded for bear. No, as much as I joke for the sake of legal, almost safety, purposes, those stories are dead on. I’m afraid to admit it, but it’s true. Willie is a freelancer’s dream. He knows news before it happens. It’s a level of clarvoyance rarely seen. I could expect calls from him daily if I didn’t set limits. Actually the limits are set by society and its penal system, but for the most part, I need to corrall that additude for my own selfish gain. But it’s quite symbiotic in its twisted way. Willie loves the publicity and the glare of being an outlaw and I love writing about outlaws, so it works.

Did you ever leave something out of the stories for legal purposes or thought better about sending one of your adventures to print?

Nope. I don’t have a very aggresssive editor in my head. And, like I say, I wouldn’t trade the Aquarian Weekly in for Time magazine. Maybe the paycheck, but the freedom is the key. If anything, I feel the need to find even more disgusting displays of humanity to dissect. It’s much more interesting.

What is your relationship to the mainstream press?

I don’t have one.

You still have to deal with it.

Sure, but I don’t have any relationships that effect my writing or my view. I have friends in the press, network, print, magazine, but the whole thing is a blur and I don’t get emotionally involved. I will defend the press at every juncture, because there is always a trickle down effect. Anyone who says there isn’t ain’t paying attention. You see, I’m able to stay insulated because someone else has to be responsible. The main stream always takes the first hit. That’s why I like being mired in the freelance, the underground. People tend to talk to you more. They make the common mistake in thinking that it will not make it into a national magazine, but they’re wrong.

So what your saying is you can be as maverick as you want and the press take more crap by simply having a greater audience.

If you will. Although the responsibility in actual reporting is getting less and less prevalent to the layman.

You don’t use mainstream connections to take on a story?

I admit to nothing. And anyway, I’m not writing stories. I write columns, editorial blather. I could not care any less about stories. I see it one way and then there is the way it is either reported or accepted. I often refer to the JFK assasination. Where was the balls of the liberal press then? While their boy is lying in a pool of blood they’re cranking out AP or UPI background CIA bullshit on Oswald? I know this for a fact because I’ve talked to some of the press guys who dropped the ball on that one. More recently, the story I personally had solid was when Pat Buchanan left the GOP. That one was under the proverbial radar for months. No one believed it for one minute, but I knew those guys at Buchanan headquarters who were already geering up for a presidential campaign and decided they weren’t going into a field of one hundred Republicans. I hung with those guys, had constant phone and E-mail connection with them. Some of these people had Pat’s ear and they used me to leak out that shit about the GOP to soften up the blow. Not just me, some other popel started to hammer away on it outside the mainstream. And then when they had enough ink floating aorund out there, they went mainstream. Not that I’m comparing Uncle Pat to the Kennedy assasination, but I use both incidents to expose the pack mentality of the press. In the wake of CNN and the Internet, it’s flacid response is staggering. Nobody bought the Buchanan story at first, but I did. And I defy anyone to say they beat me with it.

That brings me to Georgetown.

I’m not talking about Georgetown.

But he is the essence of your style. He’s full of mystery and innuendo and hyperbole. Many think him a metaphor or an annonymous sounding board for your more radical and libelous views.

Yes, well, that’s great.

Can you at least address him as a character or a symbol?

Why? What’s the point? I’ve had enough problems with the likes of him already. He’s sick. He has many psychological problems that I will not address here. It wouldn’t be fair to him or his family, whether he’s working with an alias or not. I cannot talk about him nor do I even want to think about him until I am forced to. Do you understand the kind of pressure even knowing that son of a bitch has brought to me? Jesus, it’s frightening to even broach it.

See, that seems like more hyperbole.

Fine, but I’m not going to talk about it.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the book on my sabatical to Israel a few years back. It took longer than I wanted because of my journalism kick, this column, running the goddamn New & Information Desk, working on some bullshit screenplay and now this insane scroll I’m penning for the BLAZO!! people. It’s twisted and deranged and I don’t think I can reveal any of it. I don’t even know what it is. I guess another underground journal or something akin to a living urban legend. Chief Wonka and the boys on the run. Pretty heady stuff. I would quit the thing, but I signed on for life. Once in the care of Wonka, there’s no going back to legit publishing.

Sounds serious.

I’m in deep, man. I don’t even know if I’ll live to finish it. It’s fucking killing me and wasting my friggin’ time, but it’s also fulfilling in a strange sort of way. Almost masochistic in its charm. I don’t mind telling you it’s the worst crap I’ve ever committed to paper and no one is going to believe or understand a word of it. I just wish Lewis Carroll or one of those drugged-out bastards like Huxley or Baum were alive to write it, so I can go back to gambling or stealing wine from the Pataki people.

Hey, did you really do that?

If you believe what they put in the papers. But I don’t. Do you?

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Bill Clinton Remembered

Aquarian Weekly 1/31/01 REALITY CHECK

SO LONG TO BILL CLINTON – MINISTER OF FUN

Unlike many of my columnist brethren I have not found a good enough reason to compile an editorial overview of the Clinton presidency. Looking back serves only the purposes of historians and lawyers, and having never been accused of either profession, there is nothing for me to gain but the check mailed to the Putnam Bunker for penning it. But we were all there during these past eight years, and many have stories to impart and thoughts to convey. I am just not one of them, because the more I bang on this damned keyboard in front of me, the more I cannot think of one rational point that would encapsulate those times with any true justice.

Putting the universe in a paper cup was John Lennon’s deal, and then some transient manic-depressive put five bullets into him, and, for me, wrapping up the legacy of William Jefferson Clinton would be a far more fatal folly. And although death does not necessarily await the conclusion of this essay of the absurd, there was a time that evoking the image of Big Bill meant walking a tightrope against a stiff wind with no net in sight.

Politics has always been a crude hobby of mine, like getting loaded and debating the unanswerable or betting money I don’t have on football. But politics to Bill Clinton was life and death, and to get in the ring with him meant playing for keeps. Even reporting on it was a scarring experience. Some people learned that too late, but not me. I was always sure that being president was only some kind of warped high for Bill Clinton, a king-hell fuck around worthy of Ripley’s, but as serious as bone cancer, and I wasn’t about to put it all on the line to explain it.

In the summer of 1992 I was pushing 30, working as a sports columnist for a Westchester paper and coaching little monsters from Gravesend Brooklyn in the art of basketball. My dear friend, Chris Barrera happened to be working a media event for the burgeoning Clinton campaign at the Rye Hilton, where he shook the then governor of Arkansas’ hand and put all his eggs squarely in his basket. What followed was a strong affiliation with a Baby-Boomer giant, hatched from a Dead Head dream – a sax-playing, pot-smoking, war-protesting Elvis with a silky delivery – willing to get down with the corporate war mongers and deal makers to lay the leather.

The rest of us were laughing heartily at Bill Clinton that summer. He was accused of sex crimes, draft dodging and busy fending off a potential investigation for illegal money laundering. Gary Hart couldn’t survive an afternoon on a yacht, what chance did a man who was derisively cheered for wrapping up an interminably long-winded speech at the ’88 Democratic Convention have against a president of the United States that was riding high in the saddle after Desert Storm.

Those close to George Bush were sure the fat years of Ronald Reagan were still feeding the fire. He had the allusions of King George and the delusions of King Lear, but before long he would find himself bloodied in the Clinton ring. Meanwhile, a bleating curmudgeon named Ross Perot was busy suckering an electorate into believing that America was some kind of factory that needed a spit shine. He too failed to prepare for “the ring” and did nothing but help make Bill Clinton president.

And damn if Big Bill didn’t come out swinging with “gays in the military” and sending his wife into congress on a wing and a prayer to enact his greatest campaign promise. But as the liberals grumbled and the right wing smirked Hillary made a mockery of a national health care, and before two years were up, the Clinton’s were causing their party to lose control of congress for the first time in 40 years.

Then the government closed down, and political barnacles like Dick Morris came out of crevices to read Big Bill a riot act that would have him not only surviving the Republican storming of the Bastille, but looking like a mutated conservative doing it. Before long Newt Gingrich was another casualty of “the ring” and the sunny side of the economic street had unemployment down and the national debt being paid off like never before.

After all, Big Bill earned his executive wings with The Comeback, not one in particular, but a long line of beating the kind of truly savage odds Vegas junkies only dream about. A mere mortal would have been finished before his first limping campaign hit New Hampshire, but Bill Clinton survived, check that, thrived in the shit storm. Every cub reporter within ten feet of him had the makings of some hot story of rape, murder and embezzlement back then. Freelancers made a fortune on Bill Clinton; one of the hidden perks of his booming economy.

And those same freelancers came calling when word trickled that someone was coming clean on record about the chief. Man, those were the days of wine and roses for anyone calling journalism home. Chumps with three quotes and a flip pad could get credentials by the time Monica Lewinsky was done squawking into a tapped phone. Even people with no business commenting on politics made a descent living. Anyone in the press corps who weren’t goofy with excitement weren’t around long, because Bill Clinton was news, he breathed it in and expelled its virtues. It was all just rock and roll for Big Bill, not unlike Keith Richards’ statement about not having trouble with drugs, but cops. And Big Bill knew all about Keith Richards.

For me there is only one story worthy of explaining Bill Clinton.

During the height of his pending impeachment, Big Bill was on the golf course with Vernon Jordan when a call came from one of his lawyers about the grand jury transcripts, and after several minutes of stone-faced listening, the president answered, “You bet.” When queried on whether the news was bad or good, Clinton grinned and said, “Bad for me, which is how I like it.”

It was hard not to love that type of balls, no matter what you thought of William Jefferson Clinton. And I respected the demented will to go hard at every angle, despite being as guilty as a jackal in a hen house. But now Big Bill is literally history, and as Dick Nixon once mused, whoever writes the history will make the judgments. That was never Bill Clinton’s gig. He came, he saw, he banged it like a chubby intern. They only made one of his like. If there had been another, he would have found it and eaten it alive.

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Christie Todd Whitman In Washington Winterland honors NJ governor.

Aquarian Weekly 1/24/01 REALITY CHECK

EXILE ON ECOLOGY STREET– CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN IN WASHINGTON WINTERLAND

At the behest of my furiously potent, if not rough-and-ready, managing editor, CAPTAIN UHL, I aim to crank out a few hundred words on the momentous confirmation of New Jersey governor, Christie Todd Whitman as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator. After all, any act of professional charity is too paltry for the man responsible for deflecting any potential law suits levied on this publication as a result of this column, and as a fitting literary tribute to the captain’s undying service in pushing up deadlines and penning the foreword to my second book–not to mention some erroneous rumors I perpetuated regarding his love for terrorism and high stakes gambling–I am game.

But all joking aside, as I stated to Mr. Uhl in a rather lengthy e-mail, there is trouble for me whenever Tsar Whitman is the assignment.

Due to an unfortunate freelance gig landing in the New Jersey Monthly on the crack Whitman team some years back I was squeezed out, denied access, and held responsible for depicting Whitman staffers as “vapid hyenas stoked on low-grade bennies” and describing the governor’s vanquished tax cut proposal as “an economic fantasy worthy of Asimov.” It was honest reporting, very nasty stuff, for which I’ve apologized more than once. But it was all for naught, and there is no way I can thoroughly dissect this appointment at the level I am accustomed, leaving me a limited peripheral overview. But I like Whitman, just not as much as CAPTAIN UHL, and duty calls so…

The EPA appointment is, at its most basic roots, somewhere between a party burial and laughable miscasting. Christie Todd Whitman is pro-choice in a pro-life party with a pro-life president now on the payroll of the religious right. There is little question that her pro-choice stance had already taken her from darling of the GOP to political pariah within 10 months of barely upsetting Jim Florio for governor of New Jersey. So badly was her insider reputation that someone who could very well have once been Bob Dole’s vice presidential running mate was left to fend off Jim McGreevey in a tax war for re-election and was frozen out in the party’s national convention in 1996.

Political corpses are hardly a safe bet for resurrection, especially on a national level, and by the time I finished a column entitled, “Partisan Suicide” (Aquarian Issue 11/18/97) Whitman’s political funeral had already commenced. And make no mistake, the EPA is where the politically dead go when their party is trying to simultaneously build its female base and hide the baby-killers. But addressing the overwhelming numbers of women voters who are pro-choice and attempting to breed harmony after a paper-thin victory decided by the Supreme Court makes for strange political decisions.

Which brings us to another level of this appointment’s roots: the mere fact that anyone responsible for New Jersey could possibly be in charge of an environmental anything. This makes sense only when confronted with George Bush’s environmental record in Texas, which is, at best, criminal. In 1995, Whitman’s nearly $80 million slashing of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection’s budget was good for trimming governmental fat, but so severe Senator’s were holding press bids to slam her.

“Because we don’t have dead dolphins washing up on shore, the environment is obviously not the same issue it was,” said David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, in 1996.

Pollution fines decreased every year during Whitman’s one-plus terms while the northern part of the New Jersey Turnpike still twists under a pall of chemical reek. And although these items don’t necessarily label Whitman as a concubine to industry and Satan’s land rapist, it doesn’t leave her resume with a mother-nature glow either.

Whitman, like most Republicans, doesn’t care much for agencies and government regulators, but finds herself ironically cornered into one for ostensibly a promotion, but in reality, a political prison to which there will be no easy exit.

As for her truncated legacy as governor of the Garden State, there can only be praise for keeping the Devils from moving to Nashville at the expense of taxpayers and a doubled parking rate for every event held at the Meadowlands. New Jersey is still high on the car insurance gallows, mostly jacked by the worst drivers in the 48 contiguous states, fraudulent claims from gun runners and bookies slipping over the George Washington Bridge clamoring for no sales tax, and a shoreline ripe with bloated expenses.

But Whitman was funny when pressed, and she is a woman, for which there has to be some measure of victory. Howard Stern seems to like her, and she was quite adept at smiling on the promotional ads for wildlife. But now the poor thing is headed for a black hole with no bottom and very little leverage, but it’s good work if you can get it.

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