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

Aquarian Weekly 1/23/02 REALITY CHECK


“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


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


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


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


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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Ken Kesey : 1935 – 2001 ‘s tribute.

Aquarian Weekly 11/28/01 REALITY CHECK

KEN KESEY: 1935 – 2001

“These things don’t happen,” Harding said to the girl solemnly. “These things are fantasies you lie awake at night dreaming up and then afraid to tell your analyst. You’re not really here. That wine isn’t real; none of this exists. Now, let’s go on from there.”– Ken Kesey from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

I carried around a dog-eared copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest my entire sophomore year of high school. It is hard to admit now, in print, but it’s true. I’d already read the damn thing twice, but hoped, in some strange way, that the spirit of it would somehow work its way into me. I tried a similar move with The Great Gatsby, but that didn’t take. Not that Cuckoo’s Nest took in any conventional or tangible way, it’s just that it spoke to me in modes that I needed to be spoken to.

It is hard to fully impart that experience now, some 25 years later, but needless to say, it was influential in all that word denotes. It was training of the first degree, a lesson in language and metaphor as bazooka, and for that I will forever be grateful.

You see, young writers love Cuckoo’s Nest, because there is a freedom there, a real sense of creative liberty. And with liberty there is the wonderful feeling of danger and confusion, and all the elements of great art, the kind of stuff that makes a young man feel alive and worthy of wasting his time in front of a typewriter or with a musical instrument or any form of creative expression. It’s like when the Jazz guys talk about Coltrane or Monk or Miles Davis or the paint crowd creams over Jackson Pollock’s colorful mess.

There is a load of that same stuff in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. These are books that scorch the eyes and twist the brain, but, for me, they came later. Cuckoo’s Nest, and soon after, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five were first for me. And firsts; first kiss, first sunrise, first time behind the wheel, first drink, first night on the beach, first ballgame, first published work, first true love; these are the memories that stick and jab and keep coming back to remind us that we feel, that we live.

Ken Kesey was one of those wonderful confused danger addicts who could create something of this kind because he felt life to the core. And Cuckoo’s Nest was his manifesto.

Critically, his second novel, Sometimes A Great Notion received more noise, but Cuckoo’s Nest was immortalized in film and theater, and has an edge to it that is eminently American in its reach. It is free and wild and has an open air of possibility that reflects what is truly great about the American literary spirit; check that, the American spirit, period.

If Kesey had merely written Cuckoo’s Nest – he compiled the notes for the book while volunteering for LSD experiments and then working as a psychiatric aide at Menlo Park Veterans Administration Hospital – there would have been sufficient enough evidence that he was comfortable teetering on high wires.

But Kesey lived his art in the same fashion, by being the honest troubadour of lunacy and mayhem, the quintessential Californian jester, the clown prince of whimsical release. His gift was harboring energy, not letting it go. He could let it engulf him, channel it, and make it into a book, make it into Cuckoo’s Nest.

Kesey was one of those nine lives types, a genetic mutation of Baby Boomer angst and good old-fashioned Great Depression bravado. Sadly, many of those lives were spent jerking off around Mexico in a drug haze, or sitting as the Grand Poobah of a lost gaggle of hippies in the California Mountains. But even then, Kesey used the foul nature of the beast as performance art – the precursor to Andy Kaufman – in what he called the Merry Pranksters.

You see, young writers love Cuckoo’s Nest, because there is a freedom there, a real sense of creative liberty. And with liberty there is the wonderful feeling of danger and confusion, and all the elements of great art, the kind of stuff that makes a young man feel alive and worthy of wasting his time in front of a typewriter or with a musical instrument or any form of creative expression.

Ah, the Pranksters. Never has a more meaningless endeavor culled the imagination, while demonstrating how a warped cross-country bus ride could capture the pointless rebellion of youth with hallucinogenic stupidity. It was less fun, than militant madness, a stretch of mind-swelling, spiteful counter culture hyperbole. And it was fueled by Kesey’s formulaic mania, sometimes satirical, sometimes emboldened farce.

But a mere prank was never really Kesey’s style. He was what a very good friend of mine calls the “balls to the wall” mentality.

Kesey rode the sucker to the bitter end, or in this case, New York’s World Fair. Filmed the whole thing. Naked, painted hippies, bikers and the human match stick, Neal Cassidy behind the wheel, it was the true movable feast, a happening, a ruckus. Tom Wolfe came along for the ride. He wrote a book and called it The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The high brows called it the new journalism; Wolfe became a famous novelist, Kesey became an infamous one.

Kesey once said that a writer couldn’t be famous because it was “hard to observe when every one is observing you.”

Kesey said a great deal of smart and insightful things about spirituality and politics and art and literature, but that was buried beneath years of drug busts and insurrections of varied kinds. The jester routine wore thin. The maverick became the caricature, and then some kind of Buddha for the sixties generation of aging optimists.

And Kesey welcomed all monikers. He didn’t have a name for any of it. To Ken Kesey, it was just life worth living until the end.

The end always comes too soon for the hearts of fire. I have another copy of Cuckoo’s Nest somewhere. Maybe I’ll give it to my godchild, Nicole when she’s fifteen.

The world needs more wonderfully dangerous, confused lunatics.

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How Michael Bloomberg Took New York City investigates 2001 mayoral run.

Aquarian Weekly 11/14/01 REALITY CHECK


This is a tough time to write about politics. What with a smoking crater on the lower west side of Manhattan and half the tri-state area crazy with fear over terrorist activities, real and imaged. Not to mention this reporter’s late-summer exodus into the Garden State via the Bear Mountain run, making this the first campaign season that I spent away from all the cronies at Gracie Mansion in nearly fifteen years.

It was hard to follow anything in Jersey after the first week of September. There were some e-mail invites to Bret Shundler events down in Wayne, but one of them fell on the night the Counting Crows were over at William Paterson University, and my sister-in-law and her husband were visiting from Syracuse. It was a timing thing.

It was also a reverse vengeance move on my part. This was something I learned in Journalism 101 over at Trenton State in the early 80s’. “Reverse Vengeance” is when someone attacks the validity of a story you write, then asks you to cover another. That’s a no-go in the reporting world.

Bloomberg will be the next mayor of the Big Apple because it was bruised on 9/11 and Uncle Rudy rose from the political grave to do what he does best: “clean the streets and kick the ass.” And all those people who’d forgotten “the scary years” remembered what kind of Wild West show New York had been under Dinkens and feared Green like the plague.

I was able to actually practice this “theory” during a spring internship program in which students were asked to pen a query letter to an editorial department head critiquing the periodical’s material and direction, and then offering their “unique” services to correct it. Most of my fellow classmates chose Esquire or The National Review or Sports Illustrated. My choice was TV Guide.

My only mistake, apparently, was trashing the whole concept of television in the thing. This was curious to my professor, seeing how I was a radio/television major. None-the-less, my query letter was laced with expletives and references to the entire medium “resembling the pasty substance spewed from a coke-head on a whiskey binge.” It was good writing though, just not something a big-time editor wanted to read from a snot-nosed college kid.

I received a one-sentence response a month later on TV Guide letterhead from a mister Gerald Eisen that read: “You think its amusing to compare the entire television industry to a drug addict’s puke?”

I still have the damn thing.

But I think I was just writing about Bret Shundler.

Seems someone in the Friends For Shundler group denied a story I wrote in the 7/4 issue of this paper about the candidate spinning doughnuts up on Route 59 in Rockland County during the primaries. This was a spurious argument on all ends. The Bergen Record broke the story. I just commented on something a friend of mine from Haverstraw described as “pretty out there behavior for someone running for governor.”

So Jim McGreevy won. And from all accounts Jersey Dems are thrilled. Many of them remember the mess Jim Florio made of the taxes here, threatening to use the National Guard on the Garden State Parkway against “any motorist making hand gestures at the coin baskets and then blowing their horns in an attempt to travel for free.”

Florio was a madman, but he was right. There are no free rides on the parkway, not then, not now, not ever.

Which brings me to the NYC mayoral race, that wasn’t much of race at all four days before the polls opened. By Saturday afternoon before 11/6, Democrat Mark Green had a solid 16% lead over Michael Bloomberg. And that was after a furious comeback which took him from a nearly 30% quagmire last summer.

Of course, last summer his Republican meal ticket, Rudy Giuliani was mired in divorce proceedings, his wife threatening to kick him out of the mansion downtown. The mayor of NYC was reduced to shacking up with an assistant in a one-room walk-up on the lower East side. He was in no shape to stump for anyone.

It was a bitter denouement to 18 months of cop beatings and the slaughtering of innocents by the NYPD. Moreover, there was a sense that New Yorkers had somehow traded their civil rights for safety and truckloads of Disney money.

People were starting to forget Uncle Rudy’s amazing reconstruction of the cesspool of hate and disorder David Dinkens had left him. I could not blame them. They weren’t sitting next to me at Giuliani’s campaign hub in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn on the night Uncle Rudy was elected 107th mayor of New York. He was one of their own, come home to clean the streets and kick the ass, and if I close my eyes right now I can see his grinning face up on that twenty foot screen telling his people not to fear anymore.

Driving home on the BQE that night, it was hard to decipher just who “his people” were exactly. White people? Cops? Italians? Yankees fans?

Either way, it was only a few months into Uncle Rudy’s reign that the Third Avenue bridge exit off the Major Deegan, once crawling with stoned and violent squeegie guys, turned into a police state. This was good news for everyone, even the squeegie guys, who were given three-squares a day with the homeless in prison camps up in Ossining.

Now where was I going with this? Oh yes, Bloomberg’s comeback.

The press loves to talk about things like miracles. But there are no miracles in politics or sports. The Mets won in 1969 because they had better pitching and clutch hitting than the Orioles. The ’78 Yankees made up a 14 game deficit in six weeks to the Bosox because they had a guy named Ron Guidry who took the ball every fifth day and rammed it down the throat of anyone holding wood. And they had Thurman Munson, who once told Maury Allen of the NY Post that he would “gladly pistol whip anyone with a ‘B’ on their cap for five minutes of peace.”

Bloomberg will be the next mayor of the Big Apple because it was bruised on 9/11 and Uncle Rudy rose from the political grave to do what he does best: “clean the streets and kick the ass.” And all those people who’d forgotten “the scary years” remembered what kind of Wild West show New York had been under Dinkens and feared Green like the plague.

Not to mention Green, a liberal democrat, was pummeled in the all-important Hispanic vote due to his shameless dismantling of Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrar two months ago.

Green tried the same crap with Bloomberg, playing up court records and minor league race bating, but he is grass, and Mikey is the toast of the town because his buddy, Uncle Rudy said so. The Big Apple will miss him. You know, the apple with the smoking crater downtown.

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 11/7/01 REALITY CHECK


“Be a scribe! Your body will be sleek, your hand will be soft. You are one who sits grandly in your house; your servants answer speedily; beer is poured copiously; all who see you rejoice in good cheer. Happy is the heart of him who writes; he is young each day.” — Ptahotpe, c. 2350 B.C.

Someone recently sent me that gibberish. I was glad to get it. It caused my drained constitution to fill with gaiety and laughter. Servants? Rejoicing in good cheer? Imagine a writer described as sleek and soft, especially a journalist. Most of the journalists I know are chubby and rankled. The only thing soft is their underbelly when times get tough. And times were tough these past two months for journalists. Many of whom were confronted with all these innuendos of mailbox death and the latest fairy tales coming out of Afghanistan. Information is a touchy subject in times of war, especially bad information, and there has been plenty of that.

Most news organizations have not handled bad news well lately. It is usually a bell-wringing dance party at the network level whenever misery comes calling, but most of these people are frightened now. You have to wear rubber gloves just to deliver pizza at the New York Times, and everyone at the GE building are issued gasmasks and need four kinds of ID to get on the main floor of the NBC Nightly News.

Most news organizations have not handled bad news well lately. It is usually a bell-wringing dance party at the network level whenever misery comes calling, but most of these people are frightened now. You have to wear rubber gloves just to deliver pizza at the New York Times, and everyone at the GE building are issued gasmasks and need four kinds of ID to get on the main floor of the NBC Nightly News.

Then there was the nasty business of who would be allowed to wear red, white and blue ribbons on the air. The American people apparently need to know what messenger is on board with the home team. This is getting harder in Atlanta where Ted Turner is now offering seven figures for fifteen minutes of airtime to anyone claiming to be a terrorist, know a terrorist, or can spell terrorist.

“The first casualty of War is always Truth.”

Winston Churchill coined that one, in between Nazi air raids, and those excruciatingly long love letters he penned for FDR in weaker moments. And not only is it a damn sight more on the money than that silly garbage about “the happy heart of he who writes’, but it is truer than anything your apt to see or hear or read in the way of real news for a very long time.

Now at least the media is in the same rocking boat as their consumers. The last couple of weeks most claims of patriotism went the way of fear mongering and slanted racial profiling, like all the gas stations battling to see which has the largest American flag to avoid misguided retribution. Up in my neck of the woods the poor bastard peddling petroleum has to display posters differentiating him from potential terrorists.

The media has also had a hard time explaining things like religion lately. Television people are so petrified of painting Islam as some kind of vitriolic freak domain; they preface all statements regarding it with a lecture on peace and love. Then to make things ever more difficult for the commentator, the director runs the obligatory video of Palestinians burning American flags in an angered frenzy.

“What’s wrong with these people, Bob?”

“The thing is Ted, they don’t get it. They’re abusing a beautiful and lovely religion.”

“You mean like every religion, Bob?”

“Jesus Christ, go to commercial! Go to commercial!”

What passes for news these days is dime-store charlatans posing as “experts” and “pundits” peddling innuendo and rumor, or vapid talk show dipshits like Sean Hannity painting peace protestors as infidels in the most specious ape-like scenarios known to modern reason.

Why even the crap spewed weekly in this space is hardly worth forwarding to anyone wanting to witness anything resembling The Truth.

However, there was an intriguing report last week that McDonald’s food, or the results of it, has killed more Americans in the past six weeks than Anthrax.

The number of Anthrax-related deaths has now reached a whopping four. There were more casualties at Dan Davis’ Halloween Party, although that is hardly a fair comparison. Managing editors have been known to throw dangerous soirees. The death toll at Chris Uhl’s last dinner party is still to be determined.

Other news that has slipped through the cracks:

Key sources swear that no one in al Qaeda, or anyone funding it, would be caught dead sending hand-written warning letters to Tom Brokaw’s assistant from Trenton, New Jersey. Especially since half the limo drivers on the NBC payroll are illegal aliens who would kill Brokaw without outside motivation.


Anyone attempting to drive in reverse on 161st street outside Yankee Stadium during the World Series rush, (an annual autumnal tradition) were pulled out of the car by NYPD, beaten and sent to an undisclosed area of the Bronx Correctional Facility down the block.

These stories are all true, or at least part of them, or the main parts of them. But the chances they will make headlines when doped-up college kids are leaving badly typed bomb threats on transcontinental flights are nil.

The main story, mostly disseminated from the Reality Check News & Information Desk, and not disqualified in any form of media, is that Osama bin Laden is dead, and has been dead for more than a month. Killed by his own people, close advisors, who use the Bible and the Koran as foreign relation guides.

They cannot allow the Big Gun to be dragged from the bunker caves in shackles and plastic prison booties to be exposed as a lame hack and reduced to Western culture’s new Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

Instead, they’ll keep telling the American Scum that he is alive and doing well, leaking two-month old videos of the “new Jesus” wagging his tongue at the Evil Western Empire. Stay tuned for more casualties.

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Counting Crows – 2001 College Tour Review


Aquarian Weekly


Counting Crows / William Paterson University 10/19/01

Wayne, New Jersey

The Counting Crows mini-college tour swung by Wayne New Jersey’s William Paterson University Recreation Center last Friday, where a few thousand kids braved the steaming heat and brutal acoustics for nearly two hours of inspired music and whispered musings.

Counting Crows, more specifically, its singer/songwriter and poet laureate, Adam Duritz, was made for such nights: A receptive, angst-ridden audience ready for a serenade of lost love and disillusioned melancholia.

Duritz meandered on stage with his charges to announce that his voice was ravaged and proposed “a mellow night” of intimate performance. But this was a set of variant intensity, highlighted by new songs from a current project still in its creative incubation period and rousing versions of old favorites.

And by evening’s end, the youthful and fervent audience realized, more completely, the layers that lie behind not only the band’s live performance, but its meticulous song structuring as well.

The new stuff included “Black and Blue”, an infectious 70s’ style tune with a pop sensibility more reminiscent of the Crows debut work, “Richard Manuel is Dead”, a fine tribute to the sound and personality of Manuel’s 60s’ group, The Band, “Carriage”, a lilting torch song recalling the pain of parting, and “Miami”, the strongest of the bunch, displaying the rhythmic chug of the band’s more recent offerings.

Although Duritz is the obvious focal point, emotionally and physically – now a more burly, imposing figure than in previous appearances — the band has a personality best described as camaraderie. To watch the six musical pieces interact sonically and personally on stage is to witness a true mesh of distinction. As a unit, the Counting Crows are less performing songs, as they are working parts of them.

The evening’s catalog material was peppered by Duritz’s inspired rants of longing and loneliness, taking time out to periodically berate and cajole the hooting throng, punctuated by chilling versions of “Anna Begins”, “High Life” and full audience sing-alongs of “Omaha” and “Rain King”, the latter infused with a melodic reading of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” during the bridge.

The best part of this, and any Counting Crows show, is the immediacy of the event. No two are alike, and as an observer you feel as though you may be seeing the band in its debut or swansong, and not some knock-off public relations appearance. Something the genre’s stalwarts used to be all about.

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