THE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF THE PLANET & THE MERRY HUMAN VIRUS

Aquarian Weekly
4/17/19

Reality Check

James Campion

THE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF THE PLANET & THE MERRY HUMAN VIRUS 

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
– Genesis 1:26-28

You know the deal; if there is a choice to be made – the environment or the human need to destroy shit – the latter wins out. Every time. If we had a slogan it would be; Humanity – Fucking Up Everything Natural For 200,000 Fun-Filled Years. This was true long before anyone thought to write this concept down, and then some enterprisingly insane Israelite decided to frame it as a holy edict by this God thing they made up: Dominion. The Torah (or as the Christians started calling it a few centuries in) the Bible is silly with it. Webster’s defines it as “sovereignty or control” or in more detailed conventions, “a governmental system”. Given this, we are “responsible” for this, but more times than not provided a choice between the planet and us, we choose us. Welcome to humanity, the virus of our terrarium.

Okay, so there is my opening paragraph for Earth Day.

When my fantastic new managing editor, Dan Alleva asked me to add my two cents to this occasion I shuddered. But I like Dan. He is doing a fine job already. He deserves much better than this, because I believe he generally cares about this thing. Enough that we should devote an entire issue of this paper to it. And that is quite noble, if not a tad naïve, at least from this damaged perspective. Yeah, we know, Campion; we’re all doomed, blah blah blah. Well, this seems about right, especially when considering I was asked to play at a No Nukes rally in the mid 80s and showed up with a song I wrote titled “Living in the Underground” that gleefully hoped for the end of times so we can all dance around in a tunnel to Elvis Presley records, or that I was invited to speak at a Tea Party thing in the late aughts in which within the first two minutes I called everyone there a blithering idiot before being roundly booed off the stage, and then there was the time a thoughtful and brilliant writer asked me to pen a screed on freedom of speech for an online community of creatives and I handed in 3,000 words of such rancid bellicosity that she could not run it.

So, considering the source, you were probably not going to get any kumbaya out of me. And to be fair, even in the context of the great human experiment, America, the previous administration was the kindest ever to the earth in its policies, I believe most of it was overkill and hindered our economic growth, and so I am as guilty as anyone in assisting in the planet’s demise. Quite frankly, I will always be guilty of choosing my own comfort over the earth. We all do. Come on. Shit, Al Gore spent years decrying Global Warming while whisking around in a private jet. Why? Because Al Gore is a human, and he can’t help it. We mean well, or we think we do – coming up with fancy philosophies and mottos and (ahem) Earth Days, but we still merrily burn fossil fuels and use plastic all over the joint and eat animals who are filling the ozone with methane.

Right now, as I write this, coal is being burned to make the electricity that lights my way and I used a car to get here to write it. Wait, I have to sip water out of this Styrofoam cup to keep hydrated, so I have the energy to slowly and quite deliberately erode the livable space my kid will have to inhabit.   

But for the purposes of mocking the doofus that sits in the White House today, who doesn’t believe in things like science or really any ounce of reality, I offer what our God-fearing country is now doing to help speed (and I do mean speed) along the destruction of the planet, or as Master George Carlin put it, us: “Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam … The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

First our game show president, after he struck Climate Change as a threat to national security, appointed a man who had sued the Environmental Protection Agency 13 times to run it. Scott Pruitt, a science denying ambulance-chaser from Oklahoma, immediately bragged to the Washington Post that he has “moved to shrink the agency’s reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous environmental rules.” Then, within weeks of making a move akin to choosing Al Capone to head of the FBI, Pruitt loosened all regulations on toxic air pollution. Because, you know, it’s not bad enough we don’t give a shit about the planet, but we need to use kill-friendly toxicity to ramp it up.  

Al Gore spent years decrying Global Warming while whisking around in a private jet. Why? Because Al Gore is a human, and he can’t help it.

Pruitt then began gutting every clean-water act known to modern law before he had to quit in ignominy under 14 different counts of fraud and who knows what else? The man is scum, even by human standards. But wait, he was replaced by an anti-environmental lobbyist for coal, Andrew Wheeler, who is currently poisoning something.     

But these two are merely poster boys for what has transpired thus far over the first two dismal years of this farce.

The United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement that was not necessarily one headed by Barack Obama but fit into his agenda to “save us” from ourselves. Poor bastard. But the Clean Power Plan was Obama’s baby and of course the Trump Administration has rolled back even the most commonsense aspects of it to “save the coal industry”, which is also dying a slow death that has actually accelerated during Trump’s silliness.

And my favorite, since we all claim to love animals, but really, really don’t; in July of 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to change the way the Endangered Species Act is administered, saying more weight would be put on economic considerations when designating an endangered animal’s habitat, this includes the Migratory Bird Treaty Act reinterpretation, which means as long as you can make a buck you are allowed to kill birds, lots of birds, endangered or otherwise. It is, well, a Bird Holocaust, if you will.

I wish I could put that in the lyrics of my new Earth Day song; The bird holocaust is underway / Construct your power lines / Install your wind turbines / And smile, smile, smile until we slowly waste away. Something like that. I’m working on it. Maybe put it to the tune of “Imagine”, so John Lennon can be the first corpse to puke.

There’s more horrible shit going on, and I haven’t even gotten to China, which will surely erode the ozone so drastically that everyone will have some form of skin cancer to go with all the poison food and allergies and out-of-whack hormonal damage our offspring’s offspring will suffer until we indeed mutate into every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Did I mention the oceans?

Who has time for that condemned shit? Not me. Gotta get back to polluting.

Happy fucking Earth Day.

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FINAL WORD ON MUELLER REPORT & OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Aquarian Weekly
4/10/19

Reality Check

James Campion


FINAL WORD ON MUELLER REPORT & OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE


As stated time and again in this space, this whole Russian obsession the Trump campaign and its administration’s first two years of governance has displayed had nothing to do with collusion. The undisputed proof that the President of the United States plotted with a foreign government to help push the election in his favor seems crazy when considering this guy can’t keep two thoughts in his head for five consecutive minutes, much less oversee a Machiavellian scheme of this magnitude. Donald Trump doesn’t possess the mental capacity or the sense of survival techniques inherent in someone who would do anything like this. However, what I have been commenting on now for over two years was this dumbfounding collage of self-incriminating acts that made it look as if the president were guilty of something. He is so delusional to the consequences of his actions and certainly his comments that he keeps making things worse for himself. To his credit, Special Counsel Robert Mueller shut the Trump noise out and actually saved the president from himself by coming to the conclusion that despite the mounting idiocy coming from the White House to make him continuously appear as guilty as sin – weird tweets, incessant haranguing of the special counsel and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a dozen or so colleagues and alleged co-conspirators lying to congress and the FBI, 34 indictments, Trump was not guilty of at least an ill-conceived strategy with a paper trail.

We’ll get to more of Trump’s rampant stupidity that caused all these investigations in the first place, but let’s get to the crux of the issue for which this space has indeed repeatedly stated: Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.

First off, we know nothing about what is in the Mueller Report because right now Attorney General William Barr (the third one in two years under Trump and handpicked by him for his anti-Mueller rhetoric) has not released it. After a few hours over a day and a half of perusing over 300 pages of the thing, Barr summarized Mueller’s findings on collusion and stated quite cryptically that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” This is because Mueller believed he had enough evidence to conclude that Trump had obstructed justice. This has been bared out by Barr’s original statement and more recently in a detailed NY Times report that has Team Mueller bitching that this is starting to smell like a cover-up.  But unless motivated (and of course Barr is not) there is no precedence in implicating a sitting president on obstruction of justice if there is nothing to obstruct justice from. In other words, in Barr’s reasoning, if there is no collusion then what is Trump exactly trying to protect himself from?

And this is where Trump’s stupidity comes stumbling in.

Trump of course came roaring out of the gate (or in this case the golf course) to proclaim himself exonerated on all counts – which ran counter to his hand-picked attorney general’s specific comment about the report not exonerating him. In his usual bumble-fuck manner the president shouted about how much this whole thing was a waste of taxpayer money and time and put undue pressure on the first two years of his presidency. Startlingly, this is all true, but then this buffoon says it was all some kind of plot against him, as if he were a political martyr in the vaunted guise of a Clintonian “vast right-wing conspiracy” defense.

But, you see, no matter how you slice it, Donald Trump caused this whole thing by, again, doing and saying things that implicated him.

First, against the dire protestations of the man who actually helped him get elected, Steve Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man who was essentially investigating his possible involvement in an ongoing criminal review of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Not to mention at that time Trump bent over backwards to make up stories (counter to the overwhelming evidence gathered by the entirety of the U.S. intelligence community) that it was anyone but Russia who had hacked into his opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails among other illegal and hostile maneuvers.

This single act would have been enough to force Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to investigate the president, but then Trump did something even more incriminating, he admitted guilt. On national television.  

Rosenstein, another Trump appointee by the way, was thrown into this steaming pile of shit because his boss, the then acting attorney general, Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the case after being one of a hundred people around Trump that lied to congress about absolutely never having spoken to any Russians during the campaign. In fact, for the record, Trump repeated for fourteen months – from the time this came up during the campaign and well into his presidency – that no one near him had ever spoken to a single Russian, when, it turns out, all of them did – his family, his campaign manager, his associates (both business and political) and many members of his presidential staff.

When Trump told the anchor of NBC News that he fired Comey (already a controversial and suspicious move) because of “the Russia thing”, even after his beleaguered staff had gone crazy concocting some bizarre fiction and subsequent written statement claiming Comey was an FBI pariah that needed to be sacked by recommendation of, if you can believe it, Rod Rosenstein, he made it impossible for anyone to ignore it. Trump: “He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”

Bingo! Obstruction of Justice 101.

Also, for the record, Trump said this past August that he never said such a thing and that NBC “spliced” his answer to incriminate him, just like he eventually claimed it was never his voice on the Access Hollywood tape, even though he immediately apologized for bragging about assaulting women three weeks before he was elected the leader of the free world.

Donald Trump caused this whole thing by doing and saying things that implicated him.

Thus, Bob Mueller recommended that the DOJ consider Trump’s actions as possible obstruction of justice, (this is apparently what is riling them up enough to reach out to the media to berate Bob Barr), but among other things we have yet to see the entire report, which right now is being held up in the (ahem) Department of Justice. Why? If it “exonerates” Trump and he wins and the media and the Democrats and the FBI eat shit, then release it. No redactions. The whole report. That we paid for. Yet, thus far, and a preponderance of Republican legislators have worked as this guy’s echo chamber, the DOJ does not want us to see the whole report, which further raises suspicion on what’s in it. Apparently, no one supporting Trump wants this thing to see the light.

Again, all of this makes Trump look incredibly guilty of something. And if that’s the case then maybe the media didn’t go all that nuts, the Democrats may have a damn good reason to hold this maniac accountable, and the FBI was and is doing its job quite nicely.

Refusing to release this report is again another asinine move by Trump and his zealots, pretty much presuming there is ugly stuff in there. Maybe there isn’t, like there wasn’t collusion. But then why were all those people around the president lying? And going to jail for it? And what’s with all the meetings with Russians? And what about these private nobody-is-allowed-to-be-in-the-room-and there-are-no-transcripts meetings the POTA has with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin?

If I may offer my humble explanation: Beyond the president’s business dealings with Moscow, which hopefully will be revealed when we finally see his tax returns, Donald Trump’s insecurity and childish knee-jerk reaction about everything from Spike Lee to Saturday Night Live to a dead John McCain reared its ugly head once it became obvious that the Russians had aided and abetted his barely over the finish line election in 2016. He was pissed because Clinton won the popular vote and that his inauguration was far smaller than Barack Obama’s and all the other facts that run counter to his delusions of grandeur. Therefore, Trump tried to squash it, never realizing it made him look like he was involved all the time. Then when it came down to actual accountability he did what he has been doing since the 1980s; attack the messenger (the media) and the source of his headache, (Robert Mueller), before finding an alternate culprit (Democrats).

The comedic tragedy of Trump/Mueller comes down to this; over 1,100 times (a count roughly put together this week by the NY Times) the president of the United States framed the special counsel’s attempt to get to the bottom of our nation being attacked by a foreign adversary as a “hoax” or a “witch hunt”, but now uses it’s a questionable summary of his detailed report to defend his sad-sack actions that caused it all in the first place.

No more spot-on event could better describe the first two dismal years of this abortion of a presidency.            

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TO THE BALLOT

Aquarian Weekly
4/3/19

Reality Check

James Campion


TO THE BALLOT
Time for the People of NJ and Not Our Feckless Politicians to Legalize Recreational Marijuana


Eventually barriers do fall to those who are committed to breaking them down.
– NJ Governor Phil Murphy

In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.
– Mark Twain


Predictably, do-nothing NJ lawmakers have sunk the legalization of recreational marijuana this week, and not by striking it down, but by NEVER GETTING TO A VOTE! And so, in the interest of actual democracy (remember that kids?) I propose we do it the democratic way and have a vote. What a concept. Let the ballot box decide if we’re going to drop this delusory, over-officious, money-grubbing, half-assed nonsense about a plant and get down to the business of business. I will stand by the tally. I only ask that we have one.

Governor Phil Murphy and the Democratic-led legislature have failed, miserably. Republicans are, as always, useless. I will spend the next two years campaigning against all of them, but this is not about repercussions for abject failure, this is about moving forward and taking matters into our own hands. The will of the people, as our founders framed it.

No sense going over why this gutless body didn’t even put the matter to a vote – a myriad of the same crap you hear all the time, whether it is to keep minorities or women from voting, recognizing same-sex marriage – religious, taxation, antiquated, bigoted, irrational fears for the moral destruction of society. Stupidly, I have put my faith (is that even the right word?) in the self-serving myopic machinations of politicians, and they fucked up. Again.

Thus far I have made it a point that unlike the zombie Trump zealots who continue to somehow support him despite a spate of broken promises he used to narrowly win the presidency throughout the Rust Belt, not the least of which his constant ranting on repealing and replacing the ACA with a cheaper, better alternative health system, and my favorite boondoggle; bringing manufacturing jobs back and (chuckle) expanding the coal industry, I will hold Mr. Murphy accountable for his only campaign promise I cared two licks about – legalizing recreational marijuana.

Of course, the sensible commentator side of me realizes that the governor was motivated and had plenty of state senate support, control of most of the legislature, and even pushed hard these last months to get a vote, but let’s be honest, there are no medals for trying. This is not about wanting to do something. I would guess that Trump, beyond his infantile tweeting and defending himself against forty investigations, may wish to bring jobs back, he just can’t, and has not, and for this he should be held accountable. Same goes for Murphy. Whether he is a showbiz clown or a progressive Democrat. Results matter. Not talk and tweeting and posturing and desire. Everyone wants something. Politics and governance are about getting it done.

Why should drug dealers and drug lords profit? Why not firefighters or teachers or funds coming in to fix roads and bridges?

This is why it is imperative now that this state put the matter on the ballot this November. I believe it would have a far better chance to pass and thus no one has to feel like they’re damning children (God forbid people actually parent their miserable offspring) or pissing off God or doing whatever frightens politicians. Take it off their desks and lay it on ours. Let us decide. Once that part of it is done, they can bitch and fight over how to tax, regulate or enforce laws dealing with it. Apparently passing controversial bills has become an anathema to lawmakers. With elections looming, they wilt in the bright light of actually doing their jobs. Not even a vote? No public debate or forum? Just a bunch of suits in rooms deciding what’s legal so they can divvy up the tax revenues? Well that revenue comes from us, so let’s decide how we wish to use it.

Truth is money is what this all about for me. I barely smoke weed. I don’t care if its legal or not beyond cashing in. If and when I want contraband, I get it, like my former insane consumption of pure French absinthe. However, why should drug dealers and drug lords profit? Why not firefighters or teachers or funds coming in to fix roads and bridges? Hence, I do not subscribe to the civil rights concept of this. It is not a right to be feed your head. Ask the poor bastards that passed the Volstead Act. Marriage equality was indeed a civil rights issue. This is a commonsense issue.

This is not like say, climate change, which is real, and it is embarrassing I have to state this, but since an entire political party chooses to ignore scientific fact for economic posturing, I guess I do. People are going to believe what they believe. I assume humans are doomed and no matter what we do about the environment, it will come to pass. Thank goodness. We’re a virus and we need to go. No, this is direct line to simply monetize or if you will, exploit a thriving industry. This is how we built this country – free land grabs and slave labor. All I’m asking is we get down to the nitty gritty here, and to – what part of the proposed bill proffered – get those people out of jail doing serious time for smoking a particular plant. We spend enough money with jailing the poor in this country, drugs should not be part of it.

Commonsense needs to be on the ballot. And I am far from saying I think this will solve anything. Holy shit, a moron is president. Regardless of that electoral abortion, I will, as stated, stand by the decisions of the citizens of NJ, because what else do we have left?

The frightened and weak members of our legislature have had their day.

Put weed on the ballot.

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CABLEVISION MONOPOLY & THE MORAL IMPERATIVE

Aquarian Weekly
3/27/19

Reality Check

James Campion

CABLEVISION MONOPOLY & THE MORAL IMPERATIVE 
Or…The Death of Choice in The Cyber Age

I live in a fortified compound in the mountains. It is my life choice, well, my wife’s and mine. I choose only to live an urban or rural existence. I want to be either lost in a sea of humanity or invisible in nature. Splendid, if I may, dear Warren, isolation. Suburbia is not for me…or us. As a consequence, we do not have broadband up here yet. Therefore, if we want access to the Internet – let that read, phones, web service, television, ANYTHING…we need to use Cablevision. If you are unfamiliar with this company, it’s because they choose to go by the “hideout” title of Optimum. Why? Mainly, because they suck, and their owner is a bleating troll of a man and his family is the vermin that have single-handedly destroyed the NY Knicks. But that is for another column. For now, we concentrate on this monopoly and how it is wholly unconstitutional. 

So, how come it exists?

Well, you say, there is plenty of unconstitutional shit that exists: income tax, health insurance monopolies, bullshit drug laws, the Patriot fucking Act, but that is not bothering me now. This is. So stick your “what abouts…” somewhere and follow along. 

Recently, I was mere days late with a payment to Cablevision. It was the first time since the 1980s and certainly for the first time since I have been at my current address here in the mountains that this has occurred. But I noticed a ten-dollar charge on my current bill as a consequence of this heinous faux paus. Now, I’m a big boy and I take what I have coming…mostly. I am willing to pay my due for tardiness or driving into a temporary police barrier or for the bizarre things I did in Freeport, Bahamas lo those many years ago. However, I did have a point here. 

You see, in the weeks after the Hurricane Sandy recovery, I entered a debate with the upper regions of management at Cablevision on how ten days of non-service should be deducted from my bill. They disagreed, claiming, perhaps quite rightly, that circumstances being as they are, a natural disaster dictated that they could not provide service. To refute this sidetracking, I actually used the example that would come to befall me this week: “Well, I bet, that if I were late ten days with my monthly payment, I would suffer the consequences.” They hemmed and hawed with that, never mentioning that for a late payment (one day or one month) there is a charge. 

And so, I went hard at Cablevision this week, who, predictably hid behind some poor woman from India, who answered my complaints with great aplomb. Although it was nearly impossible to understand her apologizing and saying she could do nothing about the charge due to her heavy accent. Despite this, I tried to explain that for three-plus decades I have been duly paying my bills promptly without fail, and shouldn’t there be a special dispensation for loyal, on-time late bill payers? “Sorry, sir…” was how each of her tack answers, clearly read from some sheet, began. 

You are still connected to an insidious anti-American plot to dominate your Internet service.

I asked, as is my wont, for several supervisors, but not surprisingly none came. What may have been surprising to the woman halfway across the globe was I patiently waited for nearly 45 minutes for one of these cowards to emerge and handle my growing recalcitrance. The hearty customer service woman even stayed on the phone with me and after a time too became a little miffed. 

You know who gets away with this shit? Companies that have a monopoly.

You know how I know Cablevision does not care if I am screwed around or to even give me an audience to my complaint?

Allow me to demonstrate…

I thanked the woman and offered my condolences for the unforgiving gig she had to perform and proceeded to check and see what other providers of the Internet I may procure.

Spoiler alert: There are none.

Actually, that is not entirely true. Verizon (after several and varied calls to them and enduring its rather cumbersome web site experience) finally offered my home a direct DSL line, only if I would commit to two years with them and accepted their TV package, which I do not need. I just want Internet, and quality Internet. I have two girls at home, helping me clog up four devices and three televisions, who would skin me alive if they had to suffer sub-par Internet speed. DSL would not cut it. So, really, it is partially true that I cannot find competition for high-speed Internet in the Jersey mountains, a mere 34 miles from the biggest city and largest media center on planet earth. Not to mention residing in a country that busted monopolies in the early 20th century.

My quandary, of which I stated to the overly bubbly representative from Verizon named Ethan, was “I would as soon as pay a homeless man to stand on my lawn with a rusty antennae than to hand over another dime to the veracious monstrosity that is Cablevision, however I cannot live for five minutes on DSL with my daughter’s Herculean tick-tock output and the constant stream of anti-Trump rhetoric blasting from every monitor in the house.” 

This was vexing to say the very least. The amount of hate and rage that filled my otherwise dormant heart over ten bucks may seem like abject craziness to you, but at that moment it was to be my Alamo.

So…?

I finally swallowed hard and manned up. Calling into Cablevision with the express purpose of ending my relationship with this demon corporation and begin extricating myself from the soul-crushing grid had become a moral imperative. This had transformed from a meager customer/company spat into Armageddon.

Strangely, but maybe not so much, the phone prompt wait is next to nothing when one chooses “Ceasing Service”. The voice on the other end sounds as if it were down the block and not in the Middle East. It is warming and congenial and did not ever respond to my whining with anything less than empathy. The name, blessedly, of this avenging angel was Jessica, who even echoed my sentiments with a positive, “Oh, yeah,” when I mentioned that in this day and age Internet service is as important as heat and electricity (well maybe not electricity, since you need electricity to get the WiFi going, but still). And this sweetly accommodating soul not only waved the wicked ten-dollar late fee, but duly discounted my bill the same tenner in perpetuity.

Suddenly, miraculously, my anger was assuaged, and I was $130 richer. 

Who cares? is how you would correctly respond if you read most of this piece. You are still connected to an insidious anti-American plot to dominate your Internet service, you might say. And you would be correct. But, come on, DSL? What year is this? And how can my girls handle an entire Sunday without adorable cat videos on YouTube or how can I get through a day without Tweeting something horrible?

So, I guess, let’s look into this appalling stain on our liberties at a later date and excuse me while I order something I definitely do not need on Amazon.  

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ENOUGH WITH FOX NEWS

Aquarian Weekly
3/20/19

Reality Check

James Campion


ENOUGH WITH FOX NEWS

Most columns that begin with “I never do this” and then the columnist goes on to do it is total bullshit. And yet, here I go: I hardly ever comment on other news outlets or media in general in this space. I think over the nearly 23 years of penning Reality Check I may have dedicated an entire column on matters of media once or twice, and mostly it was in a mocking capacity and scarcely worth noting. When I do make passing critiques on the silliness of cable news or morning shows or the way-too-easy-target talk radio crap-fest, it is merely in the service of a larger point – however rambling or meaningless said point. But today I am forced to comment on FOX News merely because it is suddenly embroiled in a first amendment issue, the likes of which I have spent a lifetime interpreting, and in most cases, defending to its most precious core.

Recently, the Democratic Party has refused FOX News’ request to host any of its presidential candidate debates. This is, of course, the privilege of the party, as it can find any outlet to do so, but the reasoning has gone beyond the right-leaning channel’s penchant to be overly critical and sometimes rancorous towards the party and its liberal platform as a matter of principle over coverage. Party chairman, Tom Perez, issued a statement this week that the cable news outlet “is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates.”

Now, normally, I would take issue with this. Mainly because words like “fair” are quite subjective and downright arbitrary and don’t belong in a serious political discussion and the very idea of “neutral” is at worst nebulous and at best in the eye of the beholder. Hate speech, liberal or conservative ideas, broad mayhem set beside intellectual exchanges all fall under the right to free speech and a free press. However, it has become increasingly disturbing how much FOX News has acted as a state-run propaganda wing of the White House in the past two years, specifically in the past 14 months. So much so that it must be finally stated that what has become of the already marred FOX News brand over the past decades has reached an untenable level of subjective glad-handing and worse still a direct link to governance. Therefore, it can no longer be looked upon as anything resembling a news source. It is for intents and purposes the kind of bizarro shit you see on YouTube or read on Facebook or listen to at the end of the bar around 3:15 am, and once again (yikes!) working as an unelected branch of the federal government.

recent study by New Yorker magazine has fully revealed the length and breadth of the damage FOX News has done to what was already loosely being sold as journalism. The exposé brilliantly researched and written by respected investigative reporter, Jane Mayer, with a myriad of inside sources, is beyond damning. It lays out a systemic pattern of back-and-forth sharing between Donald Trump and its public employees of information, suggested policy and agenda formats for U.S. public and international policy, and a measure of cover-ups on legitimate stories of executive branch crimes and misleading and/or alternate reality concepts peddled as facts.

It appears when the public elects a product of television – and its shortcuts to reasoning and immediate gratification of response, extrapolated in the concussive mendacity of Twitter and most of the Internet – there are consequences. It appears the choice of this president to use one singular communication tool posing as “news” to both figure governing techniques and ideologies, and to have those echoed back to him as if a cheerleading squad, and then promote fiction as a narrative to have it reported as fact, thus creating new fictions, is both stupid and dangerous.    

You have to go back to early 20thcentury Randolph Hearst level of journalistic corruption to equal the well-organized presidential publicity machine FOX has become

Now, to be fair (fair?), there is – and the New Yorker is as guilty of this as any – an alternate argument that much of what comes from commentary or coverage on the liberal side has also been queer and icky and at times downright lunacy. I used to watch FOX as my role here dictates to digest all the areas of coverage until I started to experience a dramatic shift in merely defending this president or stretching the credulity of an argument into pretzels as an insult to my intelligence. But I also watch MSNBC and can report that while it is the oft-times overly enthusiastic opposition wing of this edict, and it goes beyond the pale in setting up scenarios (much like FOX during the Obama administration) giving hope to the resistance that soon there will be impeachments and all the stuff that riles up the bases on both sides, it has never directly influenced presidential policy. You have to go back to early 20thcentury Randolph Hearst level of journalistic corruption to equal the well-organized presidential publicity machine FOX has become wherein hosts of shows, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and FOX & Friends, which even those within the Donald Trump orbit have admitted the president is both obsessed with and educated by, have crossed the barrier normally set up for purported news organizations.

The most egregious example of this is the recent furor over an emergency at the nation’s southern border, which has been roundly refuted by those actually controlling the border and every other news organization. Again, there are many in the Republican Party and even the White House staff who see the entire episode as classic Trump hyperbole, but by in large has received legitimate “coverage” on FOX News, including the election-period nonsense about invading caravans of illegal alien criminals, and the completely made up figures of drug trafficking, et al. Whether the argument about border security is lacking or is fine or whatever is up for debate, but a crisis? No. Yet it is covered as such by FOX, which is regurgitating the paranoid musings of a lunatic as a legitimate story. Either way it is not news and therefore cannot be considered a source of news. In the end, it cannot be allowed to do newsy things like moderate debates.

Bill Sammon, managing editor of Fox News’s Washington bureau, recently referenced poor Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith and Martha MacCallum as those who “embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism.” This is true in the sense that those are sincere reporters who find themselves besmirched by their affiliation with this clown show. Problem is if they are truly pros they would not only quit FOX but go on a pilgrimage to stop these embarrassingly pro-Trump-or bust tactics. They can stay if they wish. I shall not. And apparently those not named Donald Trump, who have a choice to be covered by legitimate news outlets, will not either. And who can blame them?

Enough with FOX News.

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TRUMP vs KIM II

Aquarian Weekly
3/6/19

Reality Check

James Campion


TRUMP vs KIM II
This Time It’s More Stupid & Just as Meaningless


I know much should not be expected from a game show host posing as president, but this one takes the cake – even for The Donald. How he was now twice suckered by this fat little shit heel in North Korea is beyond comprehension. The guy is pushing 73 years-old, obese, on a myriad of medications for old guys and he has to schlep halfway across the world to suck up to a dictator, offering one gushing compliment after the other and tossing around words like love as if a 1960’s soul song parody, and he gets the same thing; North Korea and Kim Jung-un have zero intentions of ceasing their nuclear capabilities or giving up their cache of weapons for America or China or anyone. Nor should he, since the last meeting between these two submentals, when they both shook hands, took photos and told everyone everything was fine, he has gone his merry way. And it appears will continue to do so.

Well, as long as Donald Trump loves him, like the murderous Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, American Enemy #1, Vladimir Putin, accused pedophiles, rapists, sexual harassers, sleazy NFL owners, and Virginia Nazis, we’re okay.  

So now, after all the pomp and blather and the usual pressers and fantastic publicity Jung-un gains from having the leader of the world’s most powerful nation fawning all over him while he continues to make a mockery of human rights, the whole thing falls apart with no deal, but plenty of finger-pointing contradictory post mortems from two lying-ass camps, and a steaming pile of embarrassment for the United States.

I don’t have to ask this question, but I will: Did Trump think his fabulous charm and tough swagger was going to sway this lunatic? Because it sure seemed like he and his sycophants were hinting that for months. This is after the first détente in which Trump kissed Jung-un’s ass and was certain that North Korea, shuttering in his wake, had already agreed to stop proliferating its nuclear arsenal. When his intelligence agencies, the ones he daily vilifies as if Russia’s carnival barker, showed him proof this was not in fact the case, just the opposite, that North Korea had ramped up their weapons efforts since, the president told them they were nuts and went back to eating cheeseburgers and watching FOX & Friends.

And so, entering this farce as he does everything – ill-prepared and breathing in his mind-numbing double-shots of delusion – the president was rife for being duped and duped he would be. Within hours of ramping up his heretofore woefully lacking negotiating skills, Trump bailed on the negotiations. He claims Kim-un would not budge on his weaponry (no shit) even while asking for the U.S. to lift all sanctions. Predictably, North Korea claims they would have gladly (I am sure, heh-heh) stopped their nuclear program for only a handful of lifted sanctions.

Let’s review: Lying sack of shit tyrant and the guy from North Korea both lied to each other, their own countries, and the world…again.

And while Trump was over in Viet Nam (he finally got there after his bullshit deferment during the war) lap-dogging a dictator who spat in his face and sent him home with his tail between his knees, his scumbag hood lawyer/fixer was telling the U.S. Congress what we already know – he’s a cheat, a racist and a con artist. This also bodes well for the international press, who snicker behind our amateur president’s back as he takes everything from diplomacy to government shutdowns to twitter fights with Spike Lee as performance art instead of actual governance.

But listen, unlike Trump himself, who mocked an actual working treaty with a tyrannical regime in Iran as “the worst deal ever”, I believe in trying new things with crazies, instead of the same old. So when the president was selling this idea that if he couldn’t get to Kim with nastiness and then smooching, no one can…so why not try? I did not disagree. I had doubts this moron could pull it off, but the idea was sound. Why continue to do what we’ve done for over a half century with North Korea? This was and is my point about the Iran deal, which Trump claimed to hate, while knowing nothing about it except it was conceived and executed by Democrats during the Obama Administration. Thus, in his usual spectacular level of hypocrisy he does the same thing as Obama did with Iran with Jung-un, but instead of bringing actual diplomats or representatives from the state department and written agreements that must be documented, he sits for tea and chats with a man who has him over the barrel, kicks the American press out of the room – because he knows he is getting his clocked cleaned – and then tells everyone he’s ending the proceedings.

Did Trump think his fabulous charm and tough swagger was going to sway this lunatic?

This hokey clusterfuck Trump has weaved in North Korea is just the tip of a foreign policy disaster he has going. Never mind the dozens of people in the defense and state departments that gave abandoned ship on this lavish foreign policy in which it is a one-man fantasy camp – as in standing next to the aforementioned Putin on foreign soil and telling the American press he believes a Russian despot over his own intelligence that Russia did not, in fact, commit a single hacking crime against our presidential election.

To wit: Standing at a press conference in Viet Nam, Trump defended Jung-un over the death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who died after suffering a massive brain injury while in a North Korean prison. “I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump told reporters.

This is the kind of idiocy that sent the former Defense Secretary James Mattis running for the hills. Infamously, it was Mattis who had to explain to the befuddled El Douche in January of 2017 that we need U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula “in order to prevent World War III” when Trump couldn’t grasp why we spend any money there. Later, Mattis would tell his subordinates at Defense that Trump “has the understanding of a fifth- or sixth-grader.”

This is an insult to my daughter and her friends, as I believe they would comprehend a need for defending the region, but I’ll take that up with Mattis at a later date.

But digesting these nuggets, all of this North Korea goofiness makes sense now, doesn’t it?

I am never going to assume anything with this mess of a presidency, but I would guess this will be it for the Trump/Kim love affair. Who knows if there will be more threats, vindictive nicknames or bizarre tweets, but with the Syrian situation in flux, this weird pussyfooting with Venezuela (troops in Columbia?), India and Pakistan (both nuclear powers) on the brink of war, and the powder keg Middle East, it is good to see a complete dunce has our back.

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WHERE WE ARE ON WEED

Aquarian Weekly
2/27/19

Reality Check

James Campion


WHERE WE ARE ON WEED
NJ Finally Poised to Vote to Legalize, Tax & Regulate Recreational Marijuana 

You know you’re close to actual legislation when committees are being formed, with fancy titles, and taxation has numbers to it and government officials, including the governor himself are going on the record with time tables. This means, at least as it currently stands, we are as close to an actual vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of New Jersey than we have ever been, and that is pretty damn cool and about friggin’ time.

“We’re still trying to machine this to get it over the goal line, but I think we’re all working really hard to get this done,” Governor Phil Murphy told reporters this week, tamping down too much excitement. “We’ve said all along that this is not a light lift.”

The pulling back of expectations is also a good sign, as NJ legislators begin massaging the vote with numbers that everyone can live with. We are just about through the morality bullshit stage where people warn against blood running through the streets and a plague of frogs. We’re into reality time here (oh, if only the federal government worked in this construct) and we’ll soon have people on record to how we shall continue to proceed into the 21stcentury.

With New York suddenly breathing down our necks, the Garden State needs to make this happen – beyond even the promises of Governor Murphy, who was supported in this space in 2017 for this and this only. It is a very lucrative and successful business model currently seeing a variant of successes in eleven states. But just like anything else going state-to-state without a federal law to back it up, these are vacillating experiences. Each state has taxed, regulated and policed the new laws in differing ways. In fact, some have “relaxed” restrictions now, sort of a test pattern of legislation most recently in Michigan, Utah and Missouri – in all cases the popularity of legalizing recreation weed is well over 60 percent.

Here in NJ we’re at 62 percent, but much higher among people under 50. How this is being represented by our…ahem…representatives will to be determined. The measure needs 21 votes in the Senate to pass. The conservative estimate of absolute votes on record currently is 16. The hold up on some of these potential thumbs-up votes have to deal with reaching agreements on the initial number of licenses to be distributed and how many public consumption sites would be allowed. There is also language in the latest bill which include expungements — clearing marijuana convictions from criminal records – that has to be ironed out. But perhaps the most pressing hurdle was traversed over the past month when taxation was put to rest.

Ah, yes. Taxation. This is the main reason this space had called for this measure – beyond the hypocrisy of having alcohol, sport-book gambling, bear hunts, et al being legal and a profitable substance being viewed with an early 20th century lens – is the money that could curtail the high cost of living in this state; property and school taxes being the big culprits. How lawmakers came to an agreement makes perfect sense, which scares me, because usually making sense is enough to doom any bill. “There will be a $42 excise tax on every ounce that is sold, regardless of price,” State Senator Nicholas Scutari told CBS News this week. “There will be a three-year look-back in case we need to reevaluate that because it is a possibility that the price goes down so low that $42 becomes unmanageably high.”

We’re into reality time here … and we’ll soon have people on record to how we shall continue to proceed into the 21stcentury.

The reason why taxing by weight is important is the simple supply and demand shift in the pricing of a once illegal substance brought into the economic structure of a state. For instance, a Cuban cigar is somewhere in the range of $32 to $35 right now. A similar quality cigar, like my favorite, the Ashton Magnum, singularly goes for anywhere from $11 to $15. The mistake is in thinking that you’re taxing a $32 item once it is legally and thus readily available, but if the U.S. Congress were to lift the ridiculously meaningless embargo on Cuba the price of these cigars would plummet to the range of Dominican cigars (Ashton is Dominican), which are in the class, but in my estimation have not yet reached the level of quality of the Cuban. All of this, of course, effects how the cigars will be taxed.

There is not enough time to go into the ridiculously high tobacco tax here, but holy shit, man.

In essence, this kind of market shift is what happened to flat-screen TVs over the past decade-plus. What used to be a luxury item, priced as such, flooded the market and became pedestrian. And this is where the government has to be prepared to ride the decrease in price for the legalized brand of pot, as opposed to those who may still choose the black market to purchase theirs. I personally think it is silly not to since now one will know what one is actually buying.

The price of an ounce of marijuana has plummeted to half in the past year in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize it in 2014. It has reportedly generated over $5 billion in revenues for the state in the past five years, but I am not sure if Colorado legislators provided a failsafe for the free market to dictate the price, which it always will. My guess is they are getting hammered in their projections – for a good example of this see the federal government’s projections for the success (not) of the passing of the Affordable Care Act or the recent Republican tax reform law (not), which both woefully misread the actual pace of its returns. This is something governments due by rule. NJ has to be on this, and it looks like it is.

Governor Murphy originally wanted a tax closer to 25 percent, but with the tax-by-ounce agreement it will be closer to 12 percent to start. Either way the projections are good for added tax revenue immediately for the state.

All of this to say that we are close, as close as we can possibly be to getting there, but we are talking about votes and changing the laws dramatically for a controversial subject. Nevertheless, one that has rightfully been discussed in rational ways in the past half-decade leading to us profiting from it.

Hooray for the free market and democracy. Only a half century to make a plant legal.

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NATIONAL EMERGENCY FALLOUT

Aquarian Weekly
2/20/19

Reality Check

James Campion


NATIONAL EMERGENCY FALLOUT
Or The Political Price For Betting On Fantasies

Let me reiterate what I wrote here one month ago nearly to the day: President Donald Trump has every legal right to declare a national emergency to procure funds (doing an end around of congress) to build a border wall for any reason he deems necessary. There is no constitutional dispute that can oppose this and any such attempt to stop it should not stand up in court. Presidents have the power to do some crazy shit. The issue is with the system, not Trump. However, supporters of the president who think this is bad precedent might be correct, since once it is in place a future Democratic president can and now most likely will (especially this leftist bunch gearing up to run in 2020) call for a national emergency on guns or climate change in 2021 should they defeat Trump in his re-election bid, assuming he makes it that far. Who knows with this nut? But the question once he does needs to be: What of the political fallout?

The 88 percent of Republicans – all that is left of Trump’s core support – who have stood strong for the president, more or less anywhere from 39 to 44 percent of the national electorate – may see this battle at the border, wholly made up by Trump, as an imperative that supersedes political consideration. In other words, if this costs him a second term, so be it. It’s that important. That is admirable. Truly. Even if there is no crisis or emergency at the border nor any of the sketchy arguments for this wall, which won’t even work for what these people want anyway, and yada yada yada, Trump ran on this nonsense and the nation (or at least a minority of them bailed out by the Electoral College) voted him in and this is what we get.

Still, the idea of building a wall along the southern border of the United States is unpopular. According to an average from PollingReport.com, somewhere in the ballpark of 67 to 70 percent of Americans oppose using their tax dollars to pay for this boondoggle. Once again, Mexico was going to pay for this. When you’re done laughing at that move along to the paltry polling average of Americans who support this national emergency maneuver; 31 percent.  That is abysmal, even considering Trump’s sad polling standards.

Again, not that it matters legally or morally or whatever crap people like to argue, this move, while wholly constitutional if not wacky, will bring consequences. And assuming Trump wants to run again, then these numbers are scary. Of course, since we all thought him doomed in 2016, his side will rightly argue we don’t know what we’re talking about. But consider this; at the current rate of popularity, no president has ever seen a second term, and some were bloodied in a primary challenge or…well, quit.

I brought up a presidential emergency thing when citing the Viet Nam conflict/police action/advisory mission/war last month. It was lunacy and a made-up crisis that was by far the worst event that was cast upon this nation since I began breathing. How did that work out for Lyndon Johnson? He quit. And well he should have. The fallout from this horrible mess was severe and rapid and it destroyed his presidency.

This move, while wholly constitutional if not wacky, will bring consequences. And assuming Trump wants to run again, then these numbers are scary.

Right now, Trump, whose national approval rating is averaged out at around 40 percent is hanging by a thread among independents – the voting block that he carried by four-percent in the autumn of 2016 and to which he has not only lost but flat-out hemorrhaged, at least for now. This was brought to bear last autumn when Republicans lost 40 seats in the House of Representatives with a whopping 12-percent of Independents abandoning the president.

No matter how you slice this – even with the mysterious non-voter/non-polled electorate that came out of the woodwork in the Rust Belt to put Trump over the top in 2016 – if these numbers hold, or, as many Republicans have predicted – go further south (no pun intended) for Trump there is virtually no way he can be re-elected. Unless, of course, he can get Hillary Clinton to run again. And I am not sure that even works out for him.

Thus, this is a bold political move for a president that has not displayed a scintilla of evidence he has a fucking clue what he is doing.

To wit: If this was a national emergency, which Trump all but announced when he threw his hat in the ring in the summer of 2015, then once he was sworn in with an overwhelming Republican majority in both houses of congress, he would have pursued the money more vigorously. He did not. Next, he could have just studied the election results from November 2018 and surmised that his enemy had just stormed the gates and been given a mandate from the American voting public to curtail him. This was duly verified by the abject failure of the Trump strategy to paint the border as a sieve and the siege evil caravan instead of trying to taut a solid economy and stem the tide of the Blue Wave.

Now here he is months later stumbling into another political landmine for something even he, until last fall, didn’t consider that dire.

Trump can call for all the national emergencies he wants. He’s president. But assuming he’s not impeached, does this finally and completely doom him for 2020?

The numbers tell you, yes.     

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THE NEW LEFT

Aquarian Weekly
2/13/19

Reality Check

James Campion

THE NEW LEFT
& The Dawn of Generation Progressive 


The abysmally erratic first two years of our Game Show President unleashed an explosion of women into the U.S. Congress this year, most notably a 29 year-old no-nonsense balls-out Bronx kid named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aka AOC – in the social media parlance of our times. AOC is an unapologetic, vocal, and bring-the-pain socialist. Trust me, this is coming from someone who was registered as one in the late 1980s and hounded for half a decade to write for and speak on behalf of its tenants – so much so that it eventually sent me running screaming back to a libertine level of capitalism. But this ain’t the 80s, it is the age of Trump, whose inability to form a sentence or have an original thought or understand much less embrace any ideological concept has allowed him to be hijacked by isolationists, evangelical nuts, and the age-old GOP Trickle-Down thing that is coming home to roost for middle-class tax returns this year. Since, the tribes have gone to their corners. Trump holds on to his 35 to 40 percent zealotry while the New Left has taken control of a third of the federal government that will challenge where the Democratic Party may go into the fast-approaching 2020 presidential scrum.

All of the above would have been considered fair political analysis before things went way off the rails. Now anything goes, because if this current craziness is acceptable than bring on the opposite craziness, right? Compared to the pall of 2019 DC, which has no real agenda beyond feeding the fragile ego of a maniac, and the general feckless capitulation therein, we have ourselves a vacuum, and it is being filled.

But, really, how crazy is socialism in a country with income tax, Social Security, Medicare and the most popular entertainment on the planet, the NFL – a completely socialist construct that controls wages, shares revenue, shuts down free speech, exploits bullshit patriotism, blackballs its employees, awards liars and cheaters, and forces American cities to build giant edifices in which to ply their brain-damaging trade? Shit, they want to kick people off their land to build a southern border wall no one needs or wants. Socialism is everywhere, bub, and to be fair it is really popular and it’s getting more and more so. There is now an entire generation of kids who are finally seeing our fixed game and now with a bunch of demented old white men running things into the ground, giving each other tax breaks and attacking minorities, immigrants and the socially progressive, they have awakened from their normal level of stupor to get involved.
 

And they are not alone. What AOC and nearly every early Democratic candidate for 2020 has learned is everything they are bringing to the fore is amazingly mainstream.

At the top of the list is an expansion of what is suddenly not only an invincible Affordable Care Act, which is the main reason the House of Representatives flipped in such a dramatic way last November than anything else. Clearly unpopular in 2010, ironically costing the previous president the House, it now costs the current one its chamber. The ACA has become a major plus for progressive candidates. In fact, a FOX News poll right before the 2018 midterms revealed 51 percent of Americans support the ACA while 40 percent despise the 2017 GOP tax cut which is predictably unraveling among middle class voters, especially in the states that made Donald Trump president, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. And that is FOX News! The others, as you can imagine, lean further left and were even higher. This has also been exacerbated by the realization that the jobs El Douche promised these poor suckers are not coming back. For instance, the coal industry, despite a massive deregulation campaign, has been losing more jobs under Trump than Barrack Obama, but this of course has nothing to do with presidents. It’s called capitalism and progress. If only Trump or those who voted for him understood this before it was too late.    

The New Left isn’t coming. It is here.

You would think nothing could compare to the power of the ACA or the fury building out there against the rich. But let’s consider the 77,000 desperate Rust Belt Trump voters also supported another admitted socialist, Bernie Sanders. Like Trump, Sanders was the populist, isolationist, anti-trade, pro-American working-class candidate standing against Hillary Clinton. There is enough post-2016 data that makes it possible that had Sanders not been ripped off by the Democratic Party and the Clinton Campaign, he may be the 45th president instead of whatever the hell this thing is in the White House. This has always been about Hillary Clinton and not Trump or Sanders for that matter.

The numbers don’t lie. In fact, we should have seen this coming. For instance; the only right-leaning president to win the popular vote in the last quarter-century-plus is George W. Bush in 2004. Obama won it twice. And despite the propaganda, Obama, a pro-free-trade, pro-Wall St., geopolitical centrist was not remotely as “radical” as AOC or what is a large Democratic caucus in the congress right now. In fact, The New Left is the final nail in the Clinton/Moderate/Electable coffin. Those days, like the days of pure conservatism Trump has slaughtered, are over.      

Need some more samples of how The New Left is more mainstream than you think? How about two out of three Americans, and its building monthly, support gun control measures? Many of them are starting, for the first time in my lifetime, to inch this majority to challenge the Second Amendment, which I thought silly in the 1980s. And no one can blame a generation filled with kids who’ve been shot at now in record numbers for over a decade. I kind of predicted this one a while ago, and it is starting to happen and happen with a wind at its political back.

Marriage equality is not even up for debate anymore, obviously, but its support is now in the eighty-percent level, which is stunning, even for an old marriage equality warhorse like me. Roe v Wade? Holy crap. While the numbers for restrictions on abortion have risen in recent years, with the advent of science, still a solid 60 percent of Americans do not support overturning it.

Finally, the two new ones that have rightfully brought the fear of Allah into the hearts of the ultra-right across the board is AOC’s call for a Green Initiative. But eight out of ten Americans accept the overwhelming science on Climate Change, including 65 percent of Republicans, while the president thinks it is – like all things with this guy– a hoax. And the 70-percent tax rate on people making over $10 million a year that has sent the Right into paroxysms of fear and loathing? Eighty percent of Americans agree with this idea. Factor in the over three million popular-vote even Clinton accrued and the sheer volume of voters that came out for Democrats in 2018, those are the kind of numbers that win elections. As long as we keep having them and the new generations who support socialist measures come along, you can see why GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing backflips trying to pass laws to suppress it.

The New Left isn’t coming.

It is here.  

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THE DISHONEST ARTIST

Aquarian Weekly
1/30/19

Reality Check

James Campion

Guest Columnist – Sean Barna


THE DISHONEST ARTIST

This week I turn over this space over to a guest columnist for only the third or fourth time in my nearly 22 years of Reality Check. Sean Barna is a wonderfully honest singer-songwriter that I have personally interviewed and featured in this music paper last year after the release of his brilliantly courageous Cissy EP, but most importantly I am now proud to call him friend, colleague and brother-in-arms. His work inspires me, his songs challenge me, and his performances are experiences. My place in all of what you are about to read may be minor but nonetheless noteworthy. His recent personal and familial revelations and how they have reflected and effected his art written beautifully below was sent to me out of the blue this week and I asked the author if he would allow me to share it with my readers. Fortunately, for us all, he said yes. And so it is with honor that I bequeath my little corner of the world to Sean’s voice. 
                                                                                             – jc 


Every year, on the Friday evening of MLK weekend, I park my car on CO-RD 30, at the base of Red Mountain, in Lake City, Colo., and trek through the snow for an hour to my friend Kale’s cabin tucked away from civilization at 10,500 feet. By the time the sun is down on Friday, I am joined by twelve to fifteen of some of my dearest friends, not to mention a newborn baby, two toddlers, and four or five dogs. We have all the eggs, cheese, tortillas, and chili we will need for the weekend, and plenty of cheap beer and whiskey to pass the time between meals. There are almost too many of us to fit comfortably in this two-bedroom cabin, but when I get anxious, I open the sliding glass door and walk out onto the porch, where I can stare down at frozen Lake San Cristobal to find solitude and silence.


Most of this group met in 2009 and 2010, when we were all living in Paonia, Colo. Many have moved on from that place of magic, but Paonia is our common thread. From these people, and from the majesty of the snow-covered San Juan Mountains, I draw life-affirming energy. While I traverse up the mountain atop six feet of snow pack with borrowed snow shoes, my city-ravaged body toiling through every step, I feel powerful and free.

This past Sunday, January 20, while two of these friends encouraged me from the saddle of a parked snowmobile, I sent a voice memo to my parents telling them, “I am definitely a queer person, and have been for a long time. I’m also with someone, and happily so.” Then I turned off my phone and ascended 2,000 feet up the mountain, breathless from the altitude and hoping to calm the anxiety and ignore the feeling that I needed to vomit.

I am 33 years-old. The negativity and anxiety I invited into my life by staying silent about my sexuality has been unbearable for a while, as was the near-constant focus on worst-case scenarios of coming out. My dentist asked me once, “Do you suffer from anxiety? You are grinding your teeth so hard at night they are actually breaking.” Not cracking — breaking.

Of course, every coming out story is unique, but for me, the decision was laced with a dangerous mix of shame, fear, and a genuine concern for how my parents would take it. In 2003, an inattentive driver with a suspended license hit my brother with a car and killed him. The effect on my parents was immense, devastating, and remains the great tragedy of their lives. Of course, this was also a tragedy for me, and any decision to come out as queer had to be made in the fog of grief. What I thought for a long time was that I could not hurt them anymore, even if protecting them put an extra burden on me. My queerness, I thought, would be inherently painful for them.

But my brother died fifteen years ago, and at this point I’ve released two EPs and one LP that do not shy away from queer themes or, for that matter, the grief of losing my brother. Especially in last year’s EP, Cissy, I deal with queer themes in nearly every lyric. “Serious Child” is about the underbelly of Brooklyn nightlife, “Danger Baby” is a tragic story of a trans woman who loses her battle to an intolerant society, “Modern Man” is a searing dissection of masculinity, and “Queer Mad Blues” is a love letter to queer people having a hard time. My observations of queerness did not go unnoticed, including by the gay-centric publication, NewNowNext, Billboard’s LGBTQ column, Aquarian Weekly, and a few podcasts.

On the podcast Underwater Sunshine, author James Campion and singer Adam Duritz of Counting Crows spent nearly an hour going lyric by lyric, dissecting where Cissy fits into the canon of queer songwriting. Adam sings on one of the songs and is one of my best friends and he tried to steer the conversation away from it actually being stated that I am, myself, queer. James did not realize I was not “out” and could not help making the obvious observation that the scene I was describing was, in fact, my scene.

Every coming out story is unique, but for me, the decision was laced with a dangerous mix of shame, fear, and a genuine concern for how my parents would take it.

I understand — my lyrics are honest, and I am proud of them. Because of this, my friends thought I was being ridiculous. They would say, “Haven’t your parents heard the lyrics? They must already know.” In fact, they know all the lyrics by heart, but in public interviews I would instead discuss the honesty and fearlessness of the drag queens I had come to know in the Brooklyn drag scene. Much of Cissy is about these drag queens. Instead of talking about my role in queer art, I would talk about theirs. Then, in mid-November, on the third floor of a typical walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, one of the queens, Misty Meaner pulled me aside and dressed me down. Or as it is known in gay culture, she read me — hard, brutal, and for more than an hour, while our friends barely pretended not to notice. She said I owed it to my parents, I owed it to other queer people who have come out, and I owed it to myself. “You better get your shit together and stop being a coward,” she said.

I was playing a role I was ashamed of, that of the dishonest artist. In the midst of finalizing the lyrics for my next LP, Margaret Thatcher of the Lower East Side, and on the eve of a tour and official showcase at SXSW that will bring more publicity, I knew I had arrived at an unsustainable situation. I started telling my friends that I would come out while I was in Colorado. I knew the reflection of the sun on the untouched snow of a 13,000-foot mountain peak would make me feel small and impermanent, its cleansing brightness reminding me that it’s a miracle any of us exist at all. Standing in this place, reaching the peak after hours of arduous hiking, you can always look back and see the footprints to be reminded of your journey. I knew that if I could carry my secret all the way up this mountain and then back to New York City, I might carry it forever.

In the end, I told my parents my secret by texting them a voice memo. I did not know how they would respond, so I climbed. When I finally unlocked my phone to read their reactions, I was halfway up the mountain. I saw that within three minutes of receiving my message, my parents responded with grace, kindness, and love. Every fear I had was unfounded. And, of course, they already knew.

They’d heard my songs, after all.

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