The Battle For Civil Liberties After 9/11 – A James Campion Special Report

Aquarian Weekly 3/6/02 REALITY CHECK

BATTLE LINE AMERICA

I think it’s important to point out that Donald Rumsfeld has gone insane. His Meet the Press, 2/24/02 appearance frightened me in ways that is hard to discern at the moment, but suffice it to suggest that he is clinically mad and currently has the power of two Caesars and Benito Mussolini thrown in for good measure.

No American citizen should have to suffer through anything like that without a network banner warning or a scrolling marquee underneath. Jesus, I felt like those crazed farmers after the “War of the Worlds” broadcast for most of the morning before a phone call from Georgetown jerked me back to reality.

“See that beautiful maniac, Rumsfeld?” he said with preternatural glee. “Goddamnit he’s good.”

I only broach this because my concern is always with national interest and not with the radical impulses of the foreign press. Rumor of the Pentagon leaking false stories doesn’t alarm my journalistic sensibilities, mainly because I sold them not long after college for a case of Genesee Cream Ale and a moped. On the contrary, I believe the more unstable the voice, the better.

It is apparently not bothering enough Americans that the events of 9/11 has given the government a free reign to slowly turn this country into subtle forms of marshal law, an Orwellian spectacle of never ending military missions and infinite wars.

There were times when the loose-cannon approach served Ronald Reagan well. The Soviets viewed the Reagan people as capable of anything, and that’s how Ronnie liked it. UN officials were sure the president would burn the planet to cinder on what they dubbed his more severe “incontinent days”. And by 1986, Muammar Kadafi found himself waking up in the middle of the night soaked with sweat and screaming about John Wayne gremlins gnawing on his testicles with nightmarishly penetrating fangs.

Ordinarily appearing on a network news program as a jabbering lunatic would be advantageous during times of global crisis, but it appears that Rumsfeld is making major decisions on restructuring civil liberties under the auspices that we are perpetually under attack. With the preponderance of this latest blind national acceptance of anything that comes down from the Pentagon or the FBI or the CIA these days, we had better be damn sure those signing off on them aren’t frothing at the mouth.

I don’t believe Rumsfeld is aware that he is loosing his mind, and he doesn’t appear to be merely a blubbering ass like Jesse Helms or Ted Kennedy. Normally, I would blame his behavior on “interview stress”, caffeine overload or bad briefing, like someone forgetting to remind the Secretary of Defense that the Pentagon has been bilking the American people since its inception, and it probably isn’t a good idea to try and sell mercenaries as choir boys on holiday when the red light is on over the camera.

The truth is there is a quagmire in Washington now that will be hard to siphon with one session of congress or one election, and since the secretary of defense is appointed, and not elected, and the current commander and chief is going nowhere, we are confronted with serious issues.

Some congressmen have already begun running for reelection by blaming the slag economy on the millions a day we’re spending on super jets cruising New York Harbor and the circumference of the Beltway. Others take credit for riding the wave of sudden hysteria into what will no doubt mean the kind of military spending that drove the national debt into NASA proportions during the 80s’.

But it will be hard for Democrats to get a sniff while this near untouchable Texan cowboy is mucking up the oval office with letters to the parents of kids who keep getting charred on senseless military missions or the pink slips for “special agents” who were pulling down six figures a year not to find Osama bin Laden.

It is apparently not bothering enough Americans that the events of 9/11 has given the government a free reign to slowly turn this country into subtle forms of marshal law, an Orwellian spectacle of never ending military missions and infinite wars.

Anyone whose career is dependant on the outcome of the next phase of this “war on terrorism” have to believe that if there is no concrete move on Iraq by summer’s end it becomes an ever harder to sell to the American people, the crumbling Arab coalition and the Pentagon itself.

Rumsfeld’s Sunday morning television stint notwithstanding, there is a certain air of John Mitchell bluster to his press conferences that set off alarms here at The Desk. This “holier than thou” Vince Lombari shtick has gone from wonderfully eccentric to annoyingly pedantic. His snide remarks broke up press row when Afghani caves were being smoked daily for two months, but in the glare of this latest military hiatus they sound like juvenile smoke screens.

Meanwhile Muslim women are being molested at airports and any protest against racial profiling is suddenly a hint of un-American activity.

Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, has taken that title to filter every possible panic the FBI sniffs to the point of hysteria. Of course there will be threats at major events, the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, a Britney Spears afternoon jog. But what Americans don’t know is that this has been happening for decades, and because your government failed to protect us initially, we are stumbling toward a third world police state.

What September has done is raise the level of terror, its exact directive. Now we may be living in terror of our own government.

And this is a government currently being run domestically by attorney general, John Ashcroft, Ridge and Rumsfeld and Pentagon officials who have been on an unnatural level of readiness for six months. This is apparently too much pressure of for these boys, and if not, they really ought to prepare their spokesmen better.

The press cannot be trusted to uncover the truth on any of this. The news channels have been reduced to beauty pageants and piss fights between the left and right, and the New York Times is now soliciting unmarried freelancers to cover Middle East events since the video slaughter of Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl.

It is not a safe time to be an editor and chief when the good reporters are asked to stand down and wear flag pins and the freelance warriors are taking their lives in their hands just showing up for work.

For me it will be a comfortable ride, and I will not be swayed. I’ve fortified Fort Vernon and put the cats on full alert. And thank the gods of journalism I cloak myself in this weekly column so I don’t have to work press conferences or damned piker leads any longer.

Oh yeah, and my wife’s bullhorn privileges have been suspended until further notice.

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Inside Enron digs deep.

Aquarian Weekly 2/20/02 REALITY CHECK

INSIDE THE ENRON FIASCOA Special Report From The Desk

This ain’t about this that what where or how This is about the freaks doing everything they wanna do Now.” – Prince Rogers Nelson

With very little funds and even less disposable time, the Reality Check New & Information staff was able to track down several reliable sources in an ongoing investigation into the wildly popular Enron fiasco. The subjects, ranging from low-level insiders with the beleaguered corporation to peripheral clients of the dubious Arthur Anderson Accounting Firm, relayed the following details under their own volition. No one was paid, drugged or coerced into coming forth nor were they necessarily direct victims of any presently discussed alleged corporate and accounting malfeasance.

As is the ritual around here, the bulk of the information was edited for content by myself and sent to each individual contributor to either reject or qualify. It is important to note that all interested parties stood by the following story.

Late in the winter of 2000 the Enron Corporation purchased huge tracks of land in the Alaskan wildlife area to ostensibly build an amusement park to be run by current vice president, Dick Chaney under the supervision of Greenpeace. But it was merely a front for illegal drilling and gun running to be overseen by Chinese naval captains who were using kickbacks from prominent investors to torture Tibetan monks and fund forced abortions.

Whitman was on a private Enron jet with our Zippy Smith the day a cub reporter from the Fort Worth Telegram called Enron executives to rebut a rumor that the company never existed and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar energy concern was nothing more than a Liza Minelli impersonator from South Florida.

A gentleman, whom we shall dub, Zippy Smith handled the clandestine negotiations and claims that one of the key investors was a high-ranking government official whose main responsibility was the recruitment of Serbian refugees to act as a diversion at the Russian border.

It was during this time, according to Smith’s estimation, that nearly a third of Enron’s donations to the Clinton administration were used to develop specific levels of germ warfare in the basement of a Pizza Hut outside the city of Khobar in Saudi Arabia.

Another source, known to us as Dark Horse, confirmed much of Smith’s allegations, but made it clear that Enron was never officially registered as a corporation at all. From the start, former CEO Kenneth Lay, recently in the news for pleading the fifth during congressional hearings, was implemented at the helm as a patsy.

According to Dark Horse, Lay was a notorious cross-dresser and charter member of Divas Key West; a Florida based female impersonator entertainment company. During the Gulf War, Lay worked as an assistant to Dick Chaney and was expected to barter deals with every rogue element in OPEC, including the overtly effeminate stepfather of Osama bin Laden. But a third source close to the operation tells us that Lay was never there, and that his name was being used unbeknownst to him while working feverishly on his award-winning Liza Minelli routine.

This source, to whom we must refer to as Chunky, claims to have been present at several meetings in which Chaney ordered around a diminutive Arab boy whom he routinely called Kenny. It was this kid’s job to answer any phone calls regarding “the Alaskan thing.”

The plot thickens from here.

Zippy Smith explicitly confirms the Dark Horse tale and told us that around this time the Bush sr. administration was trying to outfox Saddam Hussein by creating fictitious energy concerns. The historically squeaky clean, Arthur Anderson accounting firm was hired with obscene defense monies to create the phony corporations from thin air under the guise of national security.

It turns out that one of the surviving names was Enron, and during the Internet boom of the mid-90s’ several recently indicted accountants in the employ of Arthur Anderson began creating a solvent company from five-year old fabricated books.

Our Arthur Anderson source echoed the story while adding that all of the documents originally drawn up included the names of deceased land barons from the late 1800s’. These are the papers key AA accountants shredded during the final days of Enron.

It was around this time that Kenneth Lay darted back into the picture after his alleged incarceration on trumped up charges of public nudity and male prostitution. Both Smith and Dark Horse agree that Lay’s subsequent suit against the Monroe County police was mysteriously dismissed. Apparently an unnamed character witness later identified as Cliffy Boy revealed that Lay had been merely working undercover as a correspondent for 60 Minutes.

CBS executives could not be reached for comment. It was getting late and we were hungry.

Dark Horse intimates that the mysterious Cliffy Boy was the late J. Clifford Baxter, former vice chairman of Enron who was found dead of an apparent suicide outside his home in Sugar Land, Texas, but is vehement in his claim that “this was no suicide, Bub.”

The question raised several times throughout the investigation was how were the employees involved in the decade-long scam?

Dark Horse told us that the original employees were in on the scheme, but left soon after unloading their phony stocks at record highs. Many of the original members of the Enron Project used the fast cash to buy shares in the Houston Astros and named the stadium after the bogus company for laughs.

The governor of Texas at the time, now president, George W. Bush, former owner of the Texas Rangers and a known Astros hater, threatened to blow the whistle on Enron, but the project had been his father’s puppy and continued to rake in billions for the state. So Bush decided instead to use blackmail to procure ridiculous campaign funds in exchange for announcing Dick Chaney as his running mate.

The new employees were merely on a need to know basis, which didn’t seem like trouble until the NASDAQ collapse in July of 2000.

By September of that year Enron needed new blood and started working with the CIA, pillaged by budget cuts and mostly bored stiff, to deal with underground real estate groups in the purchasing of land throughout the US and Canada. Zippy tells us the plan was to drill for oil beneath the radar of the soon to be doomed Environmental Protection Agency.

Come fall, all that mattered little when G.W. outspent John McCain in the GOP primaries and squeaked by the general election to become President of the United States and appoint party lackey, Christie Todd Whitman to head of the EPA.

Whitman was on a private Enron jet with our Zippy Smith the day a cub reporter from the Fort Worth Telegram called Enron executives to rebut a rumor that the company never existed and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar energy concern was nothing more than a Liza Minelli impersonator from South Florida.

This prompted a frenzied mass selling off of all phony stock and a cover-up worthy of Wall Street, throwing thousands of innocents into sudden poverty and a cadre of boring pundits from the drone of actuary hell into our living rooms nightly. Not to mention the millions that will be spent trying these freaks in several and varied courts.

With apologies to that drunken fossil, Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

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Elton Brand is Good People ‘s personal take on a young athlete.

Aquarian Weekly 2/13/02 REALITY CHECK

WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

Oddly, this is the second consecutive column on sports; but not literally, since every profession, in and out of the spotlight of celebrity, harbors the good and the lousy. And since this space mostly concentrates — with some notable exceptions — on the lousy, I thought it a welcomed respite to laud the good.

Sadly, this is a society addicted to the perception that young, brash celebrities make for interesting press if they are angry, criminal or just plain annoying. So it is quite refreshing when a relevant story pertains to a subject with a level of intellect, pride and a compassionate respect rarely displayed by even those of considerable maturity.

On the fourth day of February, Peekskill High School, a sizable institution located in a struggling economic hamlet of northern Westchester, New York retired the jersey of its greatest basketball players, Elton Brand.

Governor, George Pataki, a Peekskill HS alum and former mayor of the town, its current mayor and dignitaries from the school district joined the crammed gym to share in the pomp.

It was a profound experience to witness the growth of a physical specimen gaining complete control over the detailed elements and challenges of his game. With each passing season, his talents became refined, as if adding bolder colors to a painting or gorgeous counter melodies to a symphony, until it seemed there could be no more bloom on the rose.

I was among the represented sporting press mainly due to a local broadcasting gig I’ve enjoyed since the late 80s’. But, admittedly, I attended the event with the same pride I’d felt when a kid I’d seen play the game at the tender age of thirteen was chosen first in the 1998 NBA draft.

Brand arrived dressed in a stylish tan suit, still exhibiting the same genuine, almost innocent smile he’d displayed in his adolescence. At first shielded by a modest entourage, he broke ranks to welcome many of the people who were instrumental in his success. He hugged, shook hands and intermingled with everyone in the press area, but did so with none of the disingenuous condescension of a grubbing politician or a petulant punk star allowing the sycophants a whiff of stardom.

And when he spoke of his recent triumphs, he exuded a keen instinct that his achievements were not merely for himself or even his family, but a town, a generation, a culture, a race and a sport.

“I think I do understand the impact,” he said when I asked him if he knew what it meant to a small, decaying urban town that one of their own flourished in its graying pall. “People know that it takes more than just one talent to truly succeed,” Brand continued. “My parents always stressed a good academic background, to be good at what you do, but be a good person also.”

He trailed off when he said, “good person”, as if it seemed ludicrous to him that it wasn’t a given that anyone who could dunk a basketball, split an atom or sweep the gym wouldn’t try to be the best person they could be.

Having called most of Brand’s televised games for his four stellar years as the center for two title squads, I was impressed at how he handled it all. Our conversations on and off the air were never strained, many times I learned something deeper about the human spirit from him, this precocious boy embracing a burgeoning gift, cradling its jewels, but never squeezing too tightly.

There was never a doubt about his considerable skills as an athlete, an almost pristine ballet of power and grace on a basketball court. It was a profound experience to witness the growth of a physical specimen gaining complete control over the detailed elements and challenges of his game. With each passing season, his talents became refined, as if adding bolder colors to a painting or gorgeous counter melodies to a symphony, until it seemed there could be no more bloom on the rose.

But instead of becoming detached, the bane of the modern athlete, Brand embraced the responsibility of his considerable talents. He was a straight A student, quiet, but never reserved. I never saw him brood or recoil from the ridiculous stampede of attention, accolade or criticism a wunderkind must endure. He was a source of great support to his team and schoolmates, whether troubled or scholarly.

“There were great players before me,” Brand told me hours before the ceremony. “Hey, and there will be great ones coming. I’m just glad to be a part of that group.”

And it’s a tough group, the “too good – to soon” set, from any era and any school. Elton Brand, and others like him, experience what can only be described as a world wind youth. Athletes have a short window. The journey from novice to expert spans a third of the normal lifetime. The pressures of time begin immediately, and the clock runs quickly.

By the age of 13, Brand was already touted as a “can’t miss”, a throwaway sports phrase that usually renders children to the level of lucrative product. Peekskill’s head coach, Lou Panzenaro told me on local radio that winter that a 6′ 9” kid was dunking on his varsity players. As a freshman he was the best player on the team and by his sophomore year, the best in the region.

By his senior year Brand was one of maybe five to ten of the best talents in the country. He was elevated to a McDonald’s All-American, became a significant player for Duke University, the premier basketball and academic institution in the nation, and the number one draft pick of the NBA in 1998 by the Chicago Bulls.

Traded this past off-season to the Los Angeles Clippers, Brand has raised his level of play to near All-Star status, and his new teammates root the hardest for him. Two of them, Corey Maggette and Darius Miles joined Brand for what they described as “the long trip” from NYC earlier in the day.

“My boy is the best teammate,” Miles told me, as the crowded gym chanted Brand’s name moments before the unveiling of his retired jersey. “I’ve learned a lot about the game and more from him. There was no question I would come up here to see him honored.”

The late, great Dick Schaap, who’d spent quality time with every significant athlete for the better part of the past century, once told me something I won’t soon forget, and something that came streaming back when a mountain of a young man in a tan suit gave me a bear hug and thanked me for sharing in his honor.

“Only the smallest percentage of people ever perfect anything,” Schaap said. “And athletes do it before they even know who the heck they are as people. Not to mention they do it with everyone counting on them, watching their every move and expecting them to carry the day all the time.”

Elton Brand is carrying the day just fine.

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Mike Tyson, Instant Replay and MLB Crimes – Essay on sports by James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 1/30/02 REALITY CHECK

GREMLINS IN THE TOY DEPARTMENT

I am no longer officially counted among the sporting press. It’s been almost a calendar year since my credentials in the sports world elapsed with the sudden halt of a Westchester radio gig, and aside from the occasional perusal of sports pages, rabid gambling on pro football and an impromptu sports trivia fest on New Year’s Eve, I have been woefully out of the loop. So in the interest of not allowing certain chickens to fly the proverbial coop, I shall use this week’s space to vent the foul odors emanating from the toy department.

Firstly, Mike Tyson should be shackled to a spinning platform in the middle of some designated town square like Hugo’s Hunchback. He is a freak of nature, a grunting slum ogre, whom the citizens of this nation apparently cannot get enough of; so the money boys keep parading his pathetic savagery out of moth balls every quarter for a taste.

Meanwhile, his raping and pillaging zooms merrily along under the radar. This is the same radar that saw fit to strip the great Muhammad Ali of his title for protesting an abomination halfway across the globe. Military fiascos over women’s rights; sounds about right for the boxing elite.

Boxing needs Tyson. Otherwise, it is a dead sport. The financial gluttony of pay-per-farce has rendered its faceless participants to fringe characters that only insiders and diseased gamblers have any use for. But Tyson is different. However tired his “angry street punk” act becomes, people still pay to see the madman implode under the weight of his own transparent sanity, or perhaps, there is the hope he might test the limits of an already sadistic exhibition.

Mike Tyson should be shackled to a spinning platform in the middle of some designated town square like Hugo’s Hunchback.

Every time Tyson turns a press conference into a prison riot, he titillates our darker side. Certainly, it is human nature to coddle a warped fascination of the villain. Tyson exploits this social malady quite well. We marvel at his anti-social, violent nature, and choose to blame it all on the brutality of his profession. All the while, Tyson serves our primal need for the grotesque, the sports version of the Elephant Man.

And it warms my heart to see the “boxing people”, the snuff pimps of sport, become self-righteous every time Tyson explodes, as evidenced earlier this week at another of their meaningless media events. Even though they know full well that as long as Tyson is the fire-breathing dragon to whatever dupe in shining armor they put in front of him, he will take the lowest road possible.

But mayhem makes good headlines and highlights, two things the realm of big-time sports must rely on for readers and ratings and sexy stories for smart-ass commentators and grizzled scribes to paint into instant calamity.

This makes it all the more curious that many of the same sensationalists who fill the quota of sports journalism do not spend more time carving up the evil empire known as Major League Baseball.

It seems defacto, commissioner, Bud Selig, architect of the assassination of the 1994 baseball season, with its convenient alliances, backroom payoffs and empty promises, has been at it again.

This glorified con man wants baseball fans to buy the idea that the contracting of teams from this miserably bloated league is some kind of charity solution to the drunken spree of spending that has gone on under the guise of an atavistic anti-trust exemption for a quarter century.

Who is swallowing this incredible sack of horseshit?

The owners expanded a league they claimed was careening toward bankruptcy time and again for two decades, diluting the talent and screwing up the competitive nature of a gorgeous game to pay for their self-inflicted wounds. Now entire franchises are being shifted around like plastic hotels on a monopoly board, while cities and politicians and judges and fans clamor and sue and lobby to save baseball from leaving their respective towns.

As a result, the 2002 season will begin with lame-duck teams, franchises with no ownership, glaring conflicts of interest and no concrete bargaining agreement. Only about six to ten teams have the funds to compete under the current structure, no one wants to play in Canada, Disney couldn’t turn a fucking profit in Hollywood and I could swear I heard some sick bastard suggest they put another team in the District of Columbia.

Finally, I need to get something straight about the National Football League’s stance on the arbitrary nature of this Instant Replay stuff.

Wasn’t this supposed remove controversy from the game?

CBS analyst, Phil Simms told me last year that he thought the whole thing was too ambiguous for its own good, that there are too many instances where no one understands its parameters; not the coaches, the fans, the media, or most importantly, the officials.

The league challenged the officials by ramming technology down their throats as a glaring second-guess machine, and then placated them with loopholes to circumvent its authority by coming up with new and exciting ways to void its use.

Despite the fact that this abomination saved me cash last week, what happened to the Oakland Raiders in New England last Saturday night is a tragic. The officials compromised the entire structure of the play-off system, and not a soul had a clue why, least of all my pal, Simms, who was standing in the frozen booth extolling the victorious Raiders while the anonymous Replay Official was changing the outcome.

The truth is the league is buoyed by the gambling culture; although anyone with any power would be loath to admit it. Hey, the league was tired of hearing that slow and incompetent officials were deciding the “integrity” of the game. There are photo finishes in horse racing, right? Instant Replay was supposed cure all of that.

Instead it has ground the game to a halt at key moments, put the already overwhelmed officials on the hot seat and sucked the life out of fairness by silly explanations, archaic rule interpretations and the always popular “inadvertent whistle”.

Makes you wish Vince Lombardi could be standing in the snow to listen to that dog crap. Now that would be worth the wait.

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What’s Next For The War On Terrorism? investigates.

Aquarian Weekly 1/23/02 REALITY CHECK

WHAT NOW?

“Regiments are costly articles everywhere, and more so in this country than any other under the sun.” – John Adams

There is the assumption among the literary set that most people sit when attempting to read. If for some reason you find you are the exception to this, it is time you grabbed a squat.

The United States is prepared to take $42 billion of your money to rebuild a country they just spent an estimated $4 billion destroying. By all measures, this is a whopping bill for dismantling an Arab mafia.

Sorry, I’m wrong.

Afghani women can now wear lipstick, Tora Bora bars can restock their jukeboxes with Elvis records and the US Army has successfully proven once again that without the help of a global power behind rebel factions, most Arab nations fold like cheaply tailored Boy Scout tents.

Yes, and the transport of the 50 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees, currently being held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, could not have been cheap.

The stockholders of this republic needed to be consulted on this.

We’re funding 12-hour airplane trips with two guards per man, jail cells furnished with handy Korans, televisions and exercise bikes? That’s got to run in the high six figures for each guy. And this does not include a lengthy trial vehemently protested by Ed Asner.

I think a public vote was in order: High six figures for transport and lodging or $45 per man to put a bullet in their heads where they stood. This price could have been negotiated down, if they were to dig their own graves for easy dumping.

Sure the options range from disturbing to brutal, but this is a damaged economy and we were told that survival is the order of the day.

I’m referring to domestic survival here.

Now that the rabid purchasing of American flags has subsided, the US economy is on a record roll of futility. Last year, for the first time since I began sucking air, the rate of inflation reversed upon itself. This is the economic equivalent of “Planet of the Apes”. It just doesn’t happen.

This Enron fiasco is so patently evil and corrupt it threatens the future of corporate embezzlement, inside trading, or anything that dupes the middle class into droned mediocrity for the remainder of this century.

There is a web of lies and financial indiscretions, and then there is Armageddon. The good people at Enron careened into the latter. And there is very solid evidence suggesting its malfeasance is not unique.

After all, this is a country fueled by corporate greed.

What shall we do without it?

Things are so bad right now by the time you finish reading this sentence another thousand people will be out of work. Apparently not even K-Mart will survive this, which will adversely affect the wardrobes of millions of mid-westerners.

Lord Almighty, even the executive producer of ESPN Radio New York is hounding me with poetic e-mails about $100 worth of Miami Dolphins paraphernalia I’ve owed him for two years of bad gambling, even though that wretched team mistook the first round of the play-offs for a goddamn bye week.

Wars are supposed to be good for economies.

What the hell is going on?

So now that the tears have dried and people can stand on planks above Ground Zero and see the results of the New War, and Osama bin Laden’s corpse is making its way across the Mediterranean Sea on a motorized dingy, or whatever wildly misguided intelligence you’d like to believe, it is becoming apparent that our president is about to be in the same spot his father found himself a decade ago.

The CIA allegedly has plenty of evidence that the Iraqi government, or regime, or madman dictator, aided and bankrolled the attack on this nation. This is not a subject of debate. It is a given. What is before the current administration is that if the United States actually continues this War on Terrorism it will have to do so in Baghdad or it will be waltzing toward failure.

Either that or the state department can start taking requests for Dublin and a house cleaning of the IRA or perhaps a raid on Manila’s transcontinental drug cartel. But that seems even less likely than a chief executive with the last name Bush doing anything to upset the massive oil concerns in Saudi Arabia or inconveniencing the other nations of this precarious alliance currently thriving in terror central.

And if I can borrow the tired holiday advertising campaign that THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF you don’t spend your money like a drunken sailor on doomsday, despite the stock market looking like a Dickensian workhouse…

THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF…We continue to chase dead men around the Middle East. As covered extensively in this space, al Qaeda will not allow figureheads to fall into enemy hands to be humiliated by the Western Satan. They have long since assassinated them for the love of Allah. The remedy is to call their bluff by claiming we’ve already captured bin Laden and Mohammad Omar and have sentenced them to clean toilets in the Pentagon unto death.

THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF… We spend five seconds listening to Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His money-pit scheme to continue raiding caves and craters in Afghanistan with American troops is insanity. Get those kids out of there or face another Somalia farce, adding to the astronomical costs of lunatics idly waiting to form governments with third century BC, chieftain/war lord civic methods.

THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF… We don’t completely abandon military presence in Pakistan before the impending nuclear piss fight with India turns the region into a smoking sinkhole. Its government is barely in control, and a war with a rabid neighboring enemy will cause American causalities and diplomatic troubles. Not to mention the costs.

At the current rate, we’ll be giving back that $400 a head in order to pay for this JohnWayne, macho hoedown.

Hey, vengeance is an expensive ride.

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In Praise of “Gangs of New York”

Aquarian Weekly 1/8/02 REALITY CHECK

THE BIRTHING OF HISTORYIn Praise of “Gangs of New York”

“Gangs of New York” is a masterpiece. Ripped from the pages of Herbert Asbury’s brutal depiction of nineteenth century Manhattan street life, it is one of the finest films I have seen in years, and although I have enjoyed quite a few brilliant offerings at the movies since taking this post at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, it is only the second slice of celluloid art I’ve been motivated to devote a column to.

Needless to say my two viewings of Martin Scorsese’s latest effort, and I deign to write his best, left me in awe of the passion and dedication of one of this country’s most celebrated filmmakers when he is forced to confront his most beguiling demons; the city of New York and his wavering faith in human kind.

Scorsese has wrestled with the idiosyncrasies of faith in the backdrop of the Big Apple before. His early Holy Trilogy includes the painfully autobiographical “Mean Streets”, the disturbingly accurate portrayal of ’70’s Manhattan in “Taxi Driver”, and the ultimate ode to blood sacrifice in “Raging Bull”. He later vividly expounded on these themes in the stirring, if not flawed adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ” and his up-to-now signature film, “Goodfellas”, but the pure guts and raw honesty of “Gangs of New York’ resonates in those wonderfully grimy artistic beginnings.

Every moment of “Gangs of New York” harkens Scorsese’s best work, but eclipses it simply by tearing at the fabric of his normally metaphoric characterizations of the New York spirit/curse of true grit and tough love.

Every moment of “Gangs of New York” harkens Scorsese’s best work, but eclipses it simply by tearing at the fabric of his normally metaphoric characterizations of the New York spirit/curse of true grit and tough love. “Gangs” takes his vision to a new level, paradoxically reveling in its victims as triumphant and villains as sympathetic deities.

Set in mid-nineteenth century lower Manhattan’s combustible Five Points, amidst the racial and cultural upheaval of a birthing nation cracking under the weight of civil war, “Gangs” explores the epic struggle of humanity in the imposing shadow of a burgeoning city. Peasants from across the globe pour onto its streets, forced to subsist within the boundaries of corrupt law and violent religious reprisals, their will for survival roaring above the cannon fodder of a modernized American dream.

At its core, “Gangs” is a brutally honest psalm to this survival, the purest form of human survival in a chaotic landscape of prejudice, fear, pride and greed. New Yorkers trapped in a jungle of political strife and cultural mayhem which helped to give agonizing birth to the greatest city in the world.

An overtly violent film from one of the genre’s most honest portrayers of street life, Scorsese strips bare the time-worn vengeance theme to unfold an almost Shakespearean quandary of good vs. evil, or past vs. the inevitable evolution of progress. Unlike recent historical epics that scratch the surface of this subject’s moral imperative such as 1995’s “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” of 2000, “Gangs of New York” presents characters of varying depths. The line between the villain and hero is constantly blurred, as in true life. There is no sacred vision, only the eruption of existence in a cold world.

Throughout this film, one does not just view, but experiences a time long before the veiled era of common sensibilities. Deep within the bloodstained streets and impoverished neighborhoods ruled with an iron hand by thieving politicians and frightened thugs the audience can never question the savage realities thrust from its rage, only wonder time and again how any society could thrive from it.

In addition to the combined writing efforts of Scorsese, Steven Zallian, Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan’s gripping screenplay brimming with memorable scenes (my favorites include the burning of a downtown building while rival fire companies rumble beneath the ravaging flames and a line of Irish immigrants simultaneously signing for their US citizenship and army induction moments after exiting the ship, handed a rifle and paraded onto a ship headed for the front) and quotes (When the participants of a hilariously dirty political campaign learn the candidate is a formally savage gang member with an inordinate amount of kills, the comment is simply, “We should have run him for mayor.”) there are a number of memorable performances here as well.

Leonardo DiCacprio’s role as the angst-riddled Amsterdam Vallon breathes new life into the resume of the once revered, but recently maligned young actor. He is the eyes and ears of the audience, lending an enticing, yet monotone, narration that ably accompanies Scorsese’s sweeping scenes. Again, he is a far more believable heroic figure in a story and time when a steely fortitude was demanded not from the extraordinary but the everyman.

Cameron Diaz supports DiCaprio’s dangerous journey with a fiery rendering of a wise and conniving street lass turned revolutionary and Jim Broadbent’s lasting portrayal of the indomitably corruptible Boss Tweed, the famously insidious NY political power monger, is right on.

But “Gangs of New York” is all about Daniel Day-Lewis’s mind-bending depiction of the outrageously evil William Cutting, aka “Bill the Butcher”. He forcefully dominates the screen, cajoling, slashing, barking and bleeding, yet he plays the emotions of this psychologically damaged soul with a wry sensibility. Cutting is both sinner and saint, patriarchal charmer and black hand, a gory amalgamation of Scorsese’s Jake La Motta meets Travis Bickle with the mind and mettle of a latter day mob boss. When considering the British actor’s usually polished demeanor, it is literally mesmerizing.

Finally, “Gangs of New York” soars because it does not turn away from the nauseous reality of cultural fear and hatred, the perpetuation of skewered values based on race, creed and nationality. The film dissects the duplicitous struggle to face the crude nature of our traditions and generational sins, and for a three-hour romp through the darkest secrets of our human psyche, it’s a damn entertaining ride.

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Remembering Rudy Giuliani – A James Campion Tribute

Aquarian Weekly 1/2/02 REALITY CHECK

REMEMBERING UNCLE RUDY, KING OF NEW GOTHAM

No one glides more comfortably in the straits of the abyss than myself. I have called the worst part of the human condition home for decades, rode the black steed into the fires of Hades and emerged merrily chomping on a stogie and nursing a German beer. I have been bloodied and battered by first amendment abusers and earned meager wages for trashing nearly every breathing mammal in the employ of modern politics. But I am here to bemoan the death of the Rudolf Giuliani’s tenure as mayor of NYC.

I have always loved Uncle Rudy, King of New Gotham, Savior of the Urban Money Pit, Redeemer of the Fractured Island.

Somewhere along the mid-90s’ I wrote Uncle Rudy was the best public servant of my lifetime, and on his final days in office, I am proud to reiterate it.

I loved Uncle Rudy before it was hip and patriotic and obligatory, because I love New York City, and Uncle Rudy saved it.

It was an era of prosperity for anyone who loves the Big Apple, and as much as I claim to love Uncle Rudy, I love NYC even more. Even after the press boys at Gracie Mansion took my name off the list, I talked to him following nearly every Yankees celebration for four years, and he told me how much he would miss all of it. I told him how proud I was of the city, and how it looked like it could withstand anything.

I loved Uncle Rudy before he became Time magazine’s man of the year, because the gutless editorial department was too frightened to put a mass murderer on its cover. Before the mayor of New York was mayor of the world soon after George Bush sr’s chickens came home to roost in the opulence of lower Manhattan. Before the greatest city in the world became the greatest city in the world once again.

Until Uncle Rudy, campaign promises rang as hollow as guarantees from banks or insurance companies. It was, and still is, an accepted joke of the people and their leaders that nothing will really ever be done about anything. “Band-aids on gaping wounds” is how one elder reporter once described a particular campaign speech to me. And he sat through plenty of them. Told me to get another profession. “Stop sniffing after them pant-legs of powerful men who only use the press to inflate their delusions,” he snarled. “Then they become your delusions, boy.”

Those were the images I recall dying a brave death the night Uncle Rudy defeated David Dinkens in a drag out, knock down battle for the soul of New York City. No one in the pubs or the delis or the subway runs from Canal to Columbia, whether they lived on the right or the left wings believed Dinkens could lose. From the Hip Hop fusion of Harlem to the rapacious lunacy of Wall Street, was anyone buying that a Republican could win the mayoral race with spit and fire, much less govern?

They’ll tell you now they could feel it, but they lie.

I can remember listening to that victory speech tooling down the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway, sneaking a peek at the Statue of Liberty by the old bridge and wondering if this crazed New Yawker, this glorified policeman, this shrill for the law-and-order choir that paid him handsomely to battle crooks under the guise of morality would have the balls to take on Mamma Bureaucracy.

But they underestimated the little bastard. Uncle Rudy did no dances and had no diplomacy. He called us cesspool merchants and feeble bleeding hearts and vowed to end the bullshit and clean up the town, New Sheriff and all that old Western nonsense. He had the badge and you could take the highway or bend to his bark.

Me and my pal Dibbs heard that bark tooling through Times Square during The Change. This was before MTV and Disney and the rich athletes poured their money into it. You could feel the old harlot coagulate and blister in the artificial midnight sun of the midtown lights. “He’s moving all the porn theaters and massage parlors and strip clubs outta here?” he laughed. “We won’t be able to see them, but WHO’S KIDDING WHO?”

Man we laughed.

That’s when we spent all of our money keeping NYC in the black on clubs and pubs and ridiculously over-priced restaurants, and the women at NYU, even though we could see those cameras Uncle Rudy put in Washington Square Park and Union Square and the Bowery. And what the hell happened to the squeegee guys down at the Third Avenue Bridge? And whatdya mean we can’t camp out in Central Park by Strawberry Fields or dump the Village Halloween Parade out on the street at four in the morning? And where on earth did all those ornery, crazed indigents go on every corner with the smell, the guilt, and the brick throwing madness?

I spent the better part of the late 80s’ and early 90s’ in NYC when it was a gunner’s paradise; the drug capital of Sodom and the cheapest street lay on the Eastern seaboard. But mostly it was a corporation bankrupt with smearing ointments and perfumes on terminal skin diseases. Everyone was leaving, again, like in the 70s’, like when the president told us to borrow money from the Saudis and Bella Absug was on the streets with a tambourine and a hat.

Then Uncle Rudy said he was going to clean it up. It wasn’t about politics then. Later it became a political circus, like when The Man told George Pataki he could look somewhere else for votes and backed the NYC chairman of the board, Mario Cuomo, a liberal democrat.

Then the party booted Uncle Rudy off the VIP list in the ’96 convention. But Uncle Rudy couldn’t be bothered. He had to bolster the cops and secure the streets, and put the hammer down.

And that hammer came down a few times too many, and maybe too hard. Innocents were gunned down like the last days of Saigon and raped in the bathroom of precincts, and it wasn’t too popular to be the strong armed mayor defending the blood lust and reminding everyone how NYC was the safest big city on the continent and tourism numbers were at a record high.

Then 9/11/01 happened and Uncle Rudy’s brand of the Big Bad was suddenly in vogue and the nation understood that the greasy wheel with the hammer was all the rage when skyscrapers became war zones and firemen and police were heroes again.

It was an era of prosperity for anyone who loves the Big Apple, and as much as I claim to love Uncle Rudy, I love NYC even more. Even after the press boys at Gracie Mansion took my name off the list, I talked to him following nearly every Yankees celebration for four years, and he told me how much he would miss all of it. I told him how proud I was of the city, and how it looked like it could withstand anything.

It sure did.

Now rules are rules and some other guy is promising some other stuff. But it ain’t Uncle Rudy. He was the King.

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War On Terrorism Revealed digs the dirt of Washington.

Aquarian Weekly 12/26/01 REALITY CHECK

A GEORGETOWN CHRISTMAS

Editor’s Note:

Having only heard from the infamous GOP snitch once since the events of 9/11/01, which was described by Mr. Campion as a disjointed message rendered mainly through indecipherable code, the insider known as Georgetown contacted jc the week before Christmas from an undisclosed location via the walkie-talkie feature of his Nextel phone. The following is the most coherent portions of that conversation.

jc: It’s been a long time. I put several calls into your office, and no one is willing to go on record regarding your whereabouts. You were assumed dead until I saw your picture on the CNN web site in the background of the Ashcroft deposition on treason.

GT: Hey, everyone on the payroll is a little busy right now. Plus, after reading those irresponsible columns you were cranking out for weeks on the war, I couldn’t lend credibility to any of it. You know the only reason you have any clout down here is because I keep calling you a cancer. That’s a popular term right now.

jc: Irresponsible?

GT: What is this bullshit about bin Laden being dead? He’s not dead. I know four major Saudi diplomats who had dinner with him last week. That legless fuck, what’s his name, the guy in that video with him, called the embassy in Pakistan and leaked his travel arrangements to the secretary. Christ, he’s using an American jeep to pick up broads at the border. Where do you get your info?

jc: I need to see a body. No one can to produce it, because it’s chopped up and buried in caves all over the desert. This allows his disciples to claim he ascended to heaven on some big rock in Tora Bora where he sits at the right hand of Mohammad laughing at the Western Satan.

What is this bullshit about bin Laden being dead? He’s not dead. I know four major Saudi diplomats who had dinner with him last week. That legless fuck, what’s his name, the guy in that video with him, called the embassy in Pakistan and leaked his travel arrangements to the secretary. Christ, he’s using an American jeep to pick up broads at the border.

GT: This is why it is impossible to talk to you now. You think this is all a big joke

jc: I’m not joking. He’s dead.

GT: He’s not dead. We have tapes dated 12/13 that have him ordering mescaline from his connection out of a hotel in Riyadh. He’s changed his name to Shlomo, and often passes himself off as an Israeli diamond merchant.

jc: That sounds like a blatant rumor. What did he need mescaline for? He was sitting on a mountain of smack.

GT: The man’s a junky whore.

jc: Anyone in this government have any balls to call the Saudis out for this?

GT: King George is not going there. Not with a 90% approval rating and gas prices plummeting.

jc: Iraq?

GT: There are already CIA agents planting Wall Street Journal press credentials on Iraqi military officers. American press affiliation is now punishable by hanging. Except for the NY Times, which is considered an ally of the Hussein regime.

jc: So, this will bring the grand total to three American presidents defeated by Saddam the Terrible.

GT: Not so fast. There will be weapons inspectors in there by Valentine’s Day. You can count on that. We have Hussein’s brother-in-law handcuffed to a shower nozzle in an Atlantic City hotel room. He’s standing in about a foot of water with his testicles connected to a car battery.

jc: Old-fashioned CIA stuff.

GT: You were right about one thing in those ridiculous columns: The real spy-ring is back, baby.

jc: I need to see more assassinations.

GT: They’re coming.

jc: Since you’re being brutally honest, can you comment on the 60 Minutes report last Sunday that Republican congressmen were sending death threats to Jim Jeffords’ house.

GT: So? That fucking, scum sucking, traitor humped the system, screwed his constituents, the party and the whole goddamn country. He should be standing next to that John Walker kid when they send him to the firing squad.

jc: Are you confirming that story?

GT: Wish I could, but CBS hasn’t gotten anything right since Uncle Walty walked.

jc: You think that kid’s a traitor?

GT: Jeffords is no kid.

jc: I mean the American kid who fought with the Taliban.

GT: I’ll eat monkey shit if he’s convicted of anything.

jc: I didn’t ask you that.

GT: Traitor.

jc: Back to the Jefford’s factor. Are you guys concerned about the budget vote?

GT: I’m concerned about the fact that the people of Vermont voted for a Republican and ended up with an Independent that is holding up the GOP agenda, backed by one of the most popular presidents in forty years. Now this bastard is holding court to the highest bidder. It’s fucking criminal and should be exposed for what it is: self-aggrandizement.

jc: See if you agree with this: Junior runs this War on Terrorism up the flag poll for four years, brilliantly masking the inevitable bankruptcy of the US economy.

GT: How about this one? Seventy percent of all Americans under the age of 25 join the military, leaving more money for their parents to spend now that they don’t have to bail them out, pay for drug rehab or support college in perpetuity.

jc: Do you expect the government to start investigating all these celebrity charity events?

GT: Let’s call that whole thing what it is: a PR farce. They’ve spent thirty years trying to figure out where the Concert For Bangladesh money went and now George Harrison’s dropped dead. Christ, you can’t expect dolts like George Clooney to know what’s going on. And it’s painful watching that O’Reilly guy sucking up free press by calling him names. It’s like watching Madonna at a Hollywood premier. Creeps the hell out of me.

jc: I’m not even that cynical.

GT: Didn’t I just hear you do a radio spot recently where you swore college football is fixed?

jc: I’ve started a petition to hold the next BCS poll meeting in Cleveland so their brutish drunken Browns fans can pelt them with garbage.

GT: You can put a bonnet on a whore, but that doesn’t make her queen of the Easter parade.

jc: Ouch.

GT: I was talking about football.

jc: Last one. I’ve been dying to know how badly you think we fucked up on 9/11.

GT: (long pause) Have kids, then tell them to have children, and hopefully by then they will know what happened.

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 12/12/01 REALITY CHECK

ISRAEL UNDER SIEGE

The state of Israel is under attack. This is not a particularly new revelation. It has been under attack since its inception, which has long surpassed any record for civilized conflict harkening back thousands of years. But this latest atrocity is apparently not going to easily slide into the pages of “here we go again” or “let’s get to the bargaining table for some whiz bang peace talks”. This one will change the face of Israel, its borders and its history, once again.

Didn’t you know? There have been a wide variety of peace talks and treaties signed. Yes, several presidents and ambassadors, dignitaries and heads of state have stood smiling for the cameras, heralding their new and improved peace accords. The faces and dates change, and there is celebrating and political posturing, and then there are dead babies on the cross down bus and slaughtered civilians in inadvertent crossfire.

Israel is defending itself.

And it’s about time.

What has happened over this past week is long past due. The hour has arrived for this nation to fight back in earnest. It is time it chooses survival over compromise. Anyone arguing against this has not stood next to wounded protestors on the streets of Jerusalem. I invite them to the experience. It is well worth the trip if you are going to debate peace processes and diplomatic posturing.

The enemy of order is the Palestinian Liberation Organization, its leader, Yasser Arafat and its offshoot freedom fighters, Hamas.

It is time for the United States government to get onboard with this view of Arafat, and what has been wrongfully perceived as an underdog Arab nation being denied strips of sand promised by God.

These are dangerous days for freedom fighters. They are now officially dubbed “terrorists”. This is what happens when the USA is yanked into the proceedings. Of course, with billions upon billions of annual dollars poured into Israel’s military and political aid, the USA has been more than involved since WWII.

But it’s different now. That kind of “involved” was before the big buildings disintegrated into the streets of lower Manhattan. Now it is a direct involvement, the type that tends to change semantics.

So, this incredible charade Arafat has perpetuated for decades as some kind of fatigues-wearing, hate-mongering guerilla wild man turned dignified world leader, is now finished. He is exposed, finally, as a thug instigator, murderer and inciter of violence and destruction. He can no longer hide behind this mask of suffering minority leader. He is the villain we pain to paint in Osama bin Laden, although bin Laden’s resume has to take a back seat to the disingenuous spin machine keeping this psycho windbag in a seat of authority.

It is time for the United States government to get onboard with this view of Arafat, and what has been wrongfully perceived as an underdog Arab nation being denied strips of sand promised by God. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians presently being charred by angry Israeli Defense Forces see it this way. They are abused, imprisoned and killed for the actions of a rogue military organization, acting under the ridiculous guise of a government asking for rightful sovereignty.

It needs to be eradicated. And those who have harbored, bankrolled and/or defended its actions must be silenced.

This is no different than what the United States is conducting thousands of miles from its borders, except for the fact that the enemies of Israel are its citizens. At any moment, a countryman could slink into a grocery store, hotel or city bus and detonate a bomb strapped to his torso. This happened last week, and the week before that, and the one before that.

There is a fine line between compassionate diplomacy and self-preservation, and this last devastating blow in Jerusalem, which left 25 more innocents dead, has crossed that line, again.

The PLO has been kicked out of nearly every bordering Arab country from Jordan to Lebanon and settled onto Israel soil to cause deadly mayhem. It exists only to terrorize. Whatever lied behind its original purpose is buried beneath all this hate.

For years, clear-thinking people have been screaming about these atrocities in several languages from several ports. Only now, in a world-turned-war-zone, with the American spirit wounded, can the rest take heed.

If Israel is going to be an ally of the United States, then it must be allowed to defend itself from this madness. It will not be pretty. It will be war. It has been war, just called “unrest” for decades. Now it has a proper term, because America has unleashed it on the world: The War On Terrorism.

Well, Israel is the birthplace of terrorism, the home office for killing innocents. This is where it all began in religious order on holy land, and has been raging for centuries.

The United States present raping of Afghanistan and its eventual revisit of the “Saddam Hussein Problem” puts Israel squarely on the firing line. If there were ever a place that would constitute the use of the term “Ground Zero”, it would be there.

Arafat, and the present Palestinian government, has had their chances, and they’ll probably have a few more, although it should end right here. His “police” will make a few grandiose gestures and symbolic arrests, but the track record is long, and none of it approaches positive.

This is not about religion or politics. This is about the preservation of life.

But if history teaches us anything, sadly, the smart money is always on religion and politics.

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Chris Uhl, Patriot ‘s loving tribute to a managing editor.

Aquarian Weekly 12/5/01 REALITY CHECK

SWANSONG FOR THE DEPUTY

There is growing evidence that Britney Spears is a cyborg, Taliban leader, Mullah Omar is a cross dresser and Bobby Knight has a flesh-eating brain tumor. The entire planet is inches from cinder and there is a pending court case in northern California between two cretins who claim ownership of Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball. There have been six Jesus and Elvis sightings at the Texas/ Arkansas border since 11/1, and the word I’m getting is that my cat has made it across the Hudson and is slinking up route 287 into Westchester as I write this.

But I’m going to waste this week’s precious news space heralding the escape of this magazine’s managing editor, Chris Uhl.

I have no fucking idea who this man really is. I only met him in person once, at a Bennigan’s Restaurant in Ramsey, or some godforsaken hamlet of this maniacal state, and he seemed like a nice enough fellow. I secretly taped the entire conversation, but it revealed nothing except his love for The Simpsons and the Yankees and that I would sooner receive a champagne enema from Jerry Falwell’s agent than get another dime out of the Aquarian for my weekly grind.

It was always comforting to know that Chris Uhl could be reached at the office, for free tickets or credentials or to promise Pat Buchanan the cover for the privilege of having him slobber cocktail weenies all over me for fifteen minutes.

But there in lies the beauty of Chris Uhl. Before he even shook my hand he penned a preface for my second book, and claimed to understand most of what was in it, which was largely the ungodly pus I sent to press nearly every week for three years. And he was glad to do it. He said he liked my work, even cherished my place on the staff. Then he sent me what can only be described as a scathing attack on my person and race, something the FBI could use to derail chimp molesters and gunrunners.

Of course, I loved it, and sent it to the publisher. And why not? Uhl (I liked to call him Uhl to make sure some other Christopher wasn’t jiving me on company policy) was a patriot. He saw the danger in my eyes without peering into them. That is the talent I will miss, even if it will be easy for the rest of the staff to usher him off to Pennsylvania.

Yes, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of rotten whiskey and the lap dance. Somewhere in its borders they make chocolate and harbor freaks that pay good money for the right to attend sporting events and throw beer at icons and midgets.

Jesus, I’m running off the subject.

And that reminds me of another reason why I loved working with Uhl.

He once requested I take over this sidebar mess he was throwing together every week, which commented on current events and pop culture. I had done that gig in my weaker moments when I started humping words for this publication five years ago. But on the occasion of my filling in, I used the space to accuse him of every crime realized by modern man, including a few I made up for embarrassment purposes. And in a telling admonishment of his personality, the girls in the editorial department let it fly.

I never officially apologized for it.

And I never will.

Because Chris Uhl didn’t need apologies or money or drugs, he craved the action. And only a supreme being with a descent resume could begin to understand what kind of action he was seeing in this gig. Oh, there were rumors, but I didn’t believe them, or I did believe them, I can’t remember. They seemed likely, but what do you really know about managing editors?

The guy who hired me to work for this periodical years ago once told me that killing stable rats at Freehold Raceway was more rewarding than editing stories about New Jersey club bands. He couldn’t fathom my interest in writing a book about it. Told me to save up for a cat scan. Then a week or so before he quit to work for a national men’s magazine I called him in the middle of the night demanding expense money to chase a woman journalist who’d been kidnapped by Republican party officials in Washington. He laughed, hung up, and dumped me on Chris Uhl.

The rest is boring, and most of it was covered above.

But the reason why I still crank out this meaningless tripe every week is because the Aquarian welcomes it with open arms, and rarely questions it. And for that, I can only be eternally grateful. Having to deal with so many editors and publications and creative outlets in an infinite freelance dirge, it was always comforting to know that Chris Uhl could be reached at the office, for free tickets or credentials or to promise Pat Buchanan the cover for the privilege of having him slobber cocktail weenies all over me for fifteen minutes.

Now Chris Uhl is off to do what he recently told me was his passion in the first place, writing.

So I offer him this advice: Writing sucks. It is painful and demeaning, lonely and desperate, and feeds paranoia like no other profession. And that’s when you can earn or publish anything. When you can’t get it together, it causes pain and anguish. And the irony begins when you realize that you are better off in that state. None of your friends like you when you’re on, when you’re rolling, losing sleep and sure that what is coming out of you is the best, no, strike that, the worst garbage ever put to paper. What in the hell could I have been thinking? I am shit. I should be tortured and spat on and kicked to the gutter.

But Chris Uhl already knows he should be kicked to the gutter. He can write. I’ve seen the results. He’ll be fine.

It’s that girlfriend he keeps referring to that I worry about. What will become of her? Trapped in Pennsylvania with an ex-editor, strung out on over-the-counter amphetamines and trying to string together coherent sentences at 3:00 am for a noon deadline.

Pray for her soul.

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