GENERATION DEAD

Aquarian Weekly
2/21/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GENERATION DEAD

There have been 18 school shootings in this country in 2018. We’re six weeks in at the time of this writing. That is two school shootings a week. That means it is highly probable that by the time this hits the newsstands there will be a school shooting. Extrapolate that out over a year and it’s roughly 104 school shootings. That is people walking into our schools with guns, most of them automatic weapons, manufactured to kill as many living things as possible in the shortest amount of time over the swath of the widest geographic landscape. This is America in 2018.

At this rate, it is fairly likely that someone you know, in a place pretty close to you, is going to have to endure this tragedy. The odds are heading rapidly in that direction. This is America in 2018.

I merely write this not to begin an anti-gun rant or even to call for stricter gun laws or to whine like the bitches over at the NRA or Fox News. If you have read this space even for a week, never mind two decades, you know that is not where we reside. Freedom is a messy, horrible thing. It can and will get nuts, simply because people are nuts. Or at least people who are free to do things with that freedom that is antithetical to our purported Christian, exceptional view of America, which is, of course, total bullshit.

America elected Donald Trump. He is a violent, combative bully, who drew huge crowds egging on his supporters to beat the people who protested against him. He supports police violence and violence against illegal immigrants and brags about assaulting women. He loves calling people mean-spirited names and seems to have a preternatural need to act like a tough guy. This is the part of Trump I get. I grew up in the Bronx in the 1960s. We took beatings and gave them. We learned then that this is a nation of punks. We celebrate punks in film, video games, music, religion, politics, you name it. Of course, our president is a punk. This is the land of punks and bullies and people with guns shooting kids.

And sometimes the punks like to say, “Its ain’t guns, it’s people!” And they may be right, but then nearly a year ago today in a closed-to-the-media move, the punks go and pass a law to allow crazy people to get guns and the punk in the White House signed it.

So, let me reiterate, as a free-thinker, I am not about tossing laws at everything nor am I inclined to believe this country great or its people generally decent. I may be a little iffy on allowing the crazies to buy guns illegally, but, hey, someone has to pay for all those campaign costs, and the NRA ponies it up, so they get to force their agenda – see the punk/bully theory here. I also choose to believe we have less violent people than we like to think when 17 high school kids are suddenly gunned down in cold blood in class. If we were truly off the rails this would happen twice daily, instead of twice a week. The question one has to ask oneself at this juncture is how much can you accept this violence?

And here’s some free-thinking for you: Pretty soon all these kids who are being shot at are going to grow up, if we don’t kill them all, and they are not going to entertain a free-thinking, open-minded stance on the whole guns and crazies issue. They might – what did our nifty Speaker of the House call it the other day? – have a “knee-jerk reaction” to it all. We are slowly building a generation of the dead, and those who might survive it are not going to be in the mood for nuanced discussions on guns.

Just saying.

Take cigarettes for an example.

When I was in high school I would conservatively estimate that half the kids in my graduating class smoked cigarettes. This was June of 1980. I was 17. This was the generation where there were cigarette ads in magazines, especially magazines aimed at teenagers, and on TV and in billboards and posters everywhere. During that time, you could smoke on airplanes and in elevators and hospitals and restaurants. Now you can’t smoke in any of those places and there are no cigarette ads, even on the Internet, where I can buy the materials to build a bomb right now to blow up the next Boston marathon, legally. Time and a shitload of scientific study and its resulting evidence ostensibly killed the dominating presence of the cigarette. Of course, this was ushered merrily along by the entire controlling board of William Morris perjuring themselves in front of the U.S. Congress in the 1990s claiming that not only was nicotine not addictive, but that they had no knowledge of the chemicals they were dumping into it to make it even more so.

A generation of smoking, more or less, gone. I mean, kids smoke, but half of the senior class? Come on.

Pretty soon all these kids who are being shot at are going to grow up… and they are not going to entertain a free-thinking, open-minded stance on the whole guns and crazies issue.

Speaking of smoke, it is becoming painfully obvious to the same kids that this nonsense they have been fed about marijuana is bullshit, as did my generation, which is why my generation, not the lazy, lying, self-absorbed, hypocritical Boomers, are now taking over states to legalize it. Because we know it is not as addictive or as harmful as alcohol or even caffeine. This is due to more scientific study and its resulting evidence. So, pretty soon, despite 80 year-old fossils temporarily running the justice department as a way to bring us back to the stone age, it will be legal everywhere. Even sooner than that it will be legal where I write this, New Jersey, or there is one Irishman in the governor’s office who is in for a world of shit around here.

But I digress.

We now have a lot of kids – and they are growing with every shooting, and if things continue the way they’ve been going, and I see no end in sight, do you? – then they are going to be pissed. And usually those who are pissed finally get involved. And you wonder how long it will be? Ten years? When the idea of the freedom to shoot people will be as restricted as the freedom to smoke. You can smoke, you just can’t find out anything about it anywhere or really do it anywhere. This makes my free-thinking wince a little, but hey, this is how we roll. Who would have even imagined in 1980 or even 2010 that marriage equality would find its high-water mark and become the law of the land. A land run by punks and bullies and people with guns killing kids?

I have no thoughts on this matter that does not include cynicism, disgust and loathing. But this ain’t about me. I’m going to be dead soon, and hopefully not at the hand of a crazy man with an automatic weapon, but you never know. But probably not before Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump. They are old and will die soon and they don’t give a shit whether you die or not, kids. I only had to endure bomb threats and kids trying to punch me in the face repeatedly in the schoolyard. There are kids right now on TV crying because their friend was cut down in a hail of bullets.

They’re growing up.

And they will vote.

Generation dead will then have the floor.

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RUSSIA IS WINNING

Aquarian Weekly
2/7/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

RUSSIA IS WINNING

No matter where you fall on the President Trump/Russian Collusion or Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Theories, it isn’t hard to argue that Russia, clearly an enemy of these United States, is a big winner in this.

Currently, because of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, and the White House (for reasons that you can decide fits – I subscribe to Donald Trump is an egomaniac who would rather see the entire structure of the American electoral system be destroyed to make the point that his election was the best ever, since…well…let’s leave it at best ever) continues to battle against it. The argument is fluid; it never happened at all or is overrated or is Fake News or Hillary did it or whatever dime-store, half-assed bullshit passes for a defense in the last fifteen minutes.

Want more?

There are three separate investigations going on in the House of Representatives, the Senate and a Special Counsel appointed by the Justice Department. The aforementioned Justice Department is simultaneously at war with congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the White House. The previously noted FBI is at war with the White House and the House and the White House has gone far out of its way to attack the integrity of the FBI since January of last year, including the firing of its director (“Over the Russian thing” – Trump to NBC Nightly News), then the Twitter tirades that led to another chief FBI official to quit, and now is seriously deconstructing The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) authorities, which was bloated by the fancy Patriot Act (remember that, fans?) to greatly assist, no, provides unchecked power to the executive branch to curtail spying, the type of spying that led to the Russian meddling in the first place.

Need more?

Right now, the co-chair of the House Intelligence Committee David Nunez, who tried to sell some ruse to the press last year after sneaking into the White House to get approval or talking points or a sack full of money, is poised, against legal and security advisors, to release a top-secret FBI memo for blatant political purposes.

The very structure of the federal government hangs in the balance.

This may worry you if you give a shit about America, but it is by far the greatest victory of a foreign power against the United States since the Chinese kicked General Douglas MacArthur’s overwhelmed troops across the 38th Parallel in the late autumn of 1950.

It is an ass-kicking of epic proportions that must have people in the Kremlin, never mind Trump’s boss Vladimir Putin, dancing in the aisles.

I have not seen this kind of pummeling since Mike Tyson’s mid-1980s bouts. It is so lopsided and sad there has to be a referee somewhere that can stop it.

The kicker, and this is my favorite; the Senate this week voted 98-2 (talk about ass-kicking) to impose new and stricter sanctions on Russia, which is openly mocking our very institutions right under our noses.

And…wait for it…

President Donald Trump refused to sign it.

Game. Set. Match.

Why doesn’t Trump just hand the whole thing over to Putin right now? In fact, when he’s done with his insufferably ponderous State of the Union Address, which I think may be entering its 60th hour, he can call up Putin and end the charade of his actually running things. Heck, it might be fun for a while. Get monosyllabic bigotry in a more exotic language for a change, instead of Queens-dumb. Listening to Trump massacre the English language was entertaining for a bit, but it’s time for new blood.

At least Putin is in shape.

Mind you, this is a president that has picked a fight with every human you can name. Go ahead, name them: He is fighting them.

Putin?

Nope.

And what this tells you is that in some way, and I have no idea why, although the infamous Dossier does give us some clue, the Russians have our president by the balls.

Why doesn’t Trump just hand the whole thing over to Putin right now?

The final indignation to all this, again, if you give a shit about America, is not only are the Trump lawyers – wholly expected and understandable – whipping up the Johnny Cochran “O.J. Defense” of going after the cops and make it about them, but so is the entirety of one of our only two major parties; and the one that is in power. Nearly every breathing Republican in the legislative branch has not only gone out of their way to make this about the FBI and kowtow to the brainless at FOX News, but are ignoring the real crime to expand the jury’s (the American public’s) opinion that if the law is corrupt, which we all know it is, then the accused did nothing wrong.

The two are mutually exclusive crimes. Lawyers know this. It is called muddying the waters. It is a distraction tactic, and quite effective if done right. Cochran was a master at it.

O.J. murdered two people and got off. Even people rooting for O.J. to get off understood this. They just didn’t like cops.

Donald Trump did something wrong here; collude with Russians to meddle with an election he would win or obstruct the investigation into it because it makes him look bad. Either way, he and Republicans suddenly don’t like federal cops.

And once that goes bye-bye, then the Russians win.

The Russians are winning.

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THE IMMIGRATION SMOKESCREEN

Aquarian Weekly
1/31/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE IMMIGRATION SMOKESCREEN

We’ve already been over this, so I will not belabor anyone with statistics, but there really isn’t a giant immigration problem in this country. It is a smokescreen; always has been and always will be. This kind of ridiculous shit has been going on since the mid-19th century, hell, even before that, and this isn’t to say that the current immigration laws and policies of previous administrations and congresses should not be rationally discussed and debated and even overhauled. They should, but it is certainly not an issue that results in the shut-down of the federal government or ratcheting up this insane level of rhetoric to the degrees in which the current house, senate and our president is trying to sell.

Not to say that the looming idea of illegal immigrants, or more to the point, foreigners, did not ignite the Donald Trump candidacy. It did. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an ignorant, ill-informed, easily-duped, frightened jingoist in this country. We were built and founded by them. They vote. And they exist in crazy numbers for 2018, even 1918, but that is not where we’re at today.

Trump was elected because of trade. Period. He won by a total of around 77,000 votes throughout the Rust Belt to tilt the electoral college in his favor. This was discussed here as a measure of dissection after the election by myself and my former colleague here at the Aquarian Weekly, Bill Roberts, whom I bequeathed half of my space to for his prescience in seeing the Trump Train as a real possibility for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, which I, and most anyone who pays attention to such things, thought was pure madness in the fall of 2016. The outcry against American jobs going abroad in the industrial portion of this country is what turned the election, the off-shoot of the jingoistic fervor mentioned at the top.

Further evidence of this is the post-election polls that showed that had Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent and admitted socialist, won the Democratic primaries fair and square, which apparently was not available to him, he would have had a better shot at beating a painfully flawed idiot, whose only appeal was that he was not Hillary Clinton, who openly favored trade (including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership) and whose last name is associated with NAFTA, considered by those who abhor such things and consider it an attack on the American worker. Later Clinton tried to sell some nonsense about not being for trade, but no one bought it, like no one bought nearly everything else she said.

The infamous “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it” stupidity, which only the spectacularly dumb believed, was a symbol for the Rust Belt, since none of their disappearing factory jobs were ever taken by Mexicans or even the Chinese that Trump was obsessed with but seems not to possess the balls to even address after a year in office. Those jobs weren’t predominantly the victim of trade either. Those were mostly replaced by progress and technology, which, if you think about it, created them in the first place – another subject covered extensively in this space for two decades and backed by mounds of statistical evidence.

The latest hubbub on immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Trump’s $70 million wall that you and I are paying for, and the last time I checked I am not a citizen of Mexico, the politically-motivated shutdown of the government on January 20, and the half-assed “continuing resolution” slapped together to save face for this mess is all frankly bullshit. The greatest bull-shitters in this, beside Trump, who never disappoints in this arena, as he first talked about “bill of love” and supporting DACA, and then flipped when the sociopath whisperer, Stephen Miller told him to, are the Democrats.

Minority leader New York Senator Chuck Schumer way overplayed his hand when he tried to piggyback his cause in the wake of yet another in a long series of racist lunacy blurted out by our game show president during a bi-partisan meeting earlier this month. The public outcry against calling African nations “shitholes” and preferring white nations’ immigrants was horrifying for a president to utter, but it is not political capital. Polls clearly showed Americans are now fully convinced Trump is a racist and that DACA kids should be supported, but an overwhelming number did not want this to be an issue large enough to close down operations.

Now, to the smokescreen portion of this frolic.

The one thing you do not hear… is that a record number of jobs were outsourced to other countries in 2017.

Since taking office, the purported populist president has been touting the soaring stock market, which is certainly undeniable but has been rising exponentially since 2009, and the lowering of the unemployment rate, although it is dipping at the same rate, as is job-growth, that it has for the past six years. The one thing you do not hear, and why Republicans are glad for suckers like Chuck Schumer, is that a record number of jobs were outsourced to other countries in 2017.

Yup.

Considering what was discussed days after the election of the anti-trade, bring-jobs-back populist Trump, more than 93,000 jobs have been certified by the Department of Labor as lost to outsourcing or trade competition, slightly higher than the average of about 87,000 in the preceding five years under the former president. You remember that guy, who was so weak and stupid he couldn’t stop it, but this guy was going to fix all that.

Far more egregious is in the same study from this past December, federal contractors, a segment of employment a president can directly halt with no major legislation or grandstanding, made up ten-percent of that number. That is up from the previous average of four-percent. General Motors, Boeing and United Technologies (which owns Carrier that Trump crowed was keeping jobs after the election, but moved hundreds more overseas by Christmas) have basically told Donald Trump to go fuck himself, and moved their workers out of the country at a record pace.

Worse still, the huge tax overhaul that gave cover to corporations last month actually makes it easier for companies to outsource jobs. According to Quartz, an international media concern that mostly covers foreign trade; “One consequence of the law will be making it easier for companies to shift jobs overseas. The bill would stop taxation on U.S. companies’ routine foreign earnings, but experts say it is has not put in sufficient guardrails to prevent jobs from moving overseas.”

Oops.

So, when Democrats try and use DACA to make a stand on their weak opposition to “standing up to Trump” and Republicans try and act like they have any interest in anything to do with why their president was elected, and Trump continues to mock the concept of reality in telling you the sky is green when you know better; that, my friends, is a smokescreen.

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IN PRAISE OF ENCOUNTERS

Aquarian Weekly
1/17/18

REALITY CHECK

IN PRAISE OF ENCOUNTERS
Poetry/Paintings & A Slice of Dan Bern’s Life

By James Campion

I found it delectably ironic that Dan Bern, singer-songwriter, poet, painter, columnist would send me – within days of each other – a signed copy of his new book, Encounters and then an original tile painting of Joe Willie Namath. The book, for which I could not put down once I cracked it for a mere look-see, is a series of poems about Dan’s “encounters” with the famous, talented, and inspirational, each adorned with an original Bern painting of its subject. The paintings, not unlike the one of Namath he sent me, reminded me of the few times I’d gotten within shouting distance of my childhood hero, the legendary #12 of the New York Jets, but was rendered mute and paralyzed. It is not that, like Bern, I hadn’t had dozens of encounters, both professionally and personally, with famous athletes, as well as musicians, actors, film directors, authors, politicians, etc., but Namath is different. I told Dan that my earliest childhood memories are of staring at his poster through the bars of my crib. This stuff is deep-seated with a weird mythical hold over me.


This got me thinking of the insightful tone of Bern’s Encounters and how this is not a book of name-dropping and strange brushes with fame, but poignant and moving interactions – some closer and more intimate than others – that shifted the foundation of the author, so much so that in some if not all cases he would go on to put them in songs. And it is within these organic moments of admiration to worship to surprise to love to fear and ultimately inspiration that Encounters becomes the antidote to the insignificant forces of Instagram and Twitter and selfie happenstances with celebrity that now stand as something of a connection.

It should be said too that Encounters represents everything that Bern has displayed through his talents over the years; it is not only poetic and visual, but musical in the way in which he writes that shoulders the conversational with a rare glimpse into the human spirit. Yet it is in the paintings that the reader can see how Dan Bern absorbs his subjects, as he had in the drawings in his first novel, Quitting Science from 2004, a book I was fortunate enough to help bring to press. Taking fictionalized versions of the familiar and the famous and turning them into extensions of his unique form is where Bern lives and breathes.

“What it is really,” said the author when we discussed the book late into the night a few weeks back. “…is a memoir. But I’ve always hated memoir, because I feel your job as an artist is to invent, take things from your life and make characters. Yet with this forum I felt there was a way I could tell my personal stories without being cloying through the prism of these people that everybody kind of has a relationship with already.”

And so, with Bern, over the years, in different places, we meet Willie Mays, Jimmy Carter, Bob Dylan and John McEnroe; and none of them in ways that are predictable nor inconsequential. The encounters are, as stated, extensions of his own personality and how he remembers them, at times warmly, and others quizzically, but always reverentially. His poems and the paintings are his vehicle in discovering himself through others.

Bern achieves this wonderfully and without contrivance due to his self-deprecating humor on how he views these fleeting moments of significance or lack-thereof with the subjects, and what they ultimately mean to him. In some cases, as with his call into the Larry King radio show when he was just starting out as a professional musician that lasted only about a minute, and literally happened “over the air”, there is a remarkably sense of meaning. A passing comment about a dog with Leonard Cohen or a New Year’s Eve party at Bruce Springsteen’s house, an impromptu songwriting détente with Hunter S. Thompson in the back of a car or a scathing notice by Bob Dylan opens a window into the looming figures beyond the caricature.

“Just like any of these people in the book, I am grateful for what interactions I can and do have.”

“I find this type of writing more open than prose,” Bern answered when I pressed him on the book’s style, which he introduced last summer in his Reconsidering Nixon, which is a charming amalgam of lyrical prose/poetry. “I think after my mom died I became more reflective about my experiences and needed to get them down and this is the most effective way for me to relate these stories.”

I was particularly intrigued by Bern’s poem about our mutual friend, singer-songwriter and entrepreneur, Ani DiFranco. It was my connection to Ani, after years of interviews and off-the-record discussions, that I came to know Dan’s music, and of her work with him producing his second album, Fifty Eggs in 1998. The brutal honesty of their collaboration and its results is one of my favorite pieces in the book, because of the intimate, humorous, and in many ways surprising revelations.

“I have always been inspired by Ani, but there is also something that always seems to be in the way sometimes too,” says Bern, when we fondly reminisced about our times with her and how neither of us see or hear much of her as intimately anymore. “But just like any of these people in the book, I am grateful for what interactions I can and do have.”

Bern reminds me that there are very few women in Encounters for a reason: “There is a very different dynamic to those relationships, and I didn’t want to ever get into a kiss-and-tell corner with these poems.”

But out of all the ones that made it into Encounters, 17 out of the original 35 pieces, perhaps nothing compares to his détente with Wilt Chamberlain, legendary basketball star and ladies’ man with whom Bern had a chance encounter turn into becoming his tennis instructor for several weeks. “Forget the celebrity aspect to working with Chamberlain,” laughs Bern, who had been working part-time giving tennis lessons at a court Chamberlain frequented. “To witness such an athletic specimen, and, as a coach, to be able to work with someone like that, to watch him take to the lessons… the results were amazing. And to think that I had the chance to tutor a world class athlete that had nothing to do with how he earned his fame.”

Turning our celebrity culture on its head, as his songs have done for over two decades, Encounters is Dan Bern’s literary and artistic triumph and a true gift to the craft of storytelling.

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TIME FOR ATLAS TO SHRUG

Aquarian Weekly
1/10/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TIME FOR ATLAS TO SHRUG
Federal Government’s Attack on American Progress, Technology, Ingenuity & Creativity

Money is made possible only by the men who produce.
– Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

The abomination peddled to the American people as a tax cut at the end of 2017 by the anti-progress, anti-metropolis, socialist, redistribution-of-wealth Republican corporate puppets that handed a bill to the most productive and creative regions of this nation to pay for nanny-state corporate handouts is a blight on not only our economic freedoms but an outright attack on the true power centers of this republic. Piled high on their submental propaganda that technology and international trade is a modern evil intent on destroying the free enterprise of the 21st century, this law is antithetical to its authors’ purported ideology that was tossed where all ideologies go whence power calls, in the trash bin of history.

By handing over a shameless gift to the largest corporations in America while ignoring smaller ones – I am the proud owner of a corporation, Vincary Media, which will not be seeing any trimming of my tax rate from 35 to 21 percent as the multi-billion dollar ones are – what will be forever known as the draconian Trump Tax Hike of 2018 penalizes those who live in the highest tax brackets; in other words the greatest achievers, most productive cities, the media and technology centers, the bastions of trade and commerce that prop up the rest of this nation internally rotting from atavistic energy concerns to a barely breathing manufacturing (and I use that term as loosely as one can muster without bursting into paroxysms of laughter) hub.

Simply put; this ten-thousand dollar cap on state and local tax deductions, is in effect a discriminatory double-tax on the most important regions of the United States; more particularly New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, or to bang this point home ever more succinctly, the nation’s largest, most productive, creative and thus cutting-edge centers.

I live in one of those centers.

For the first time since writing this column (est.1997), and certainly the first time since having incorporated as a free-lancer (est. 2003), I was informed by my accountant that I will be paying more taxes this year. Not during two Democratic administrations and a Republican two-term one did I receive this call. I am going to pay more taxes. Let that sink in if you voted for any Republican (fiscal conservatives my ass) at any point over the past decade. Thank you. Appreciate it. Excuse me while I go kick Rush Limbaugh in his drug-addled balls.

Of course, this is the culmination of the sophomoric economic idiocy of our game show president, but really that drooling moron is window dressing compared to a congress that has previously been hijacked by self-styled tax guru, Grover Norquist, who somehow (Good for him) got these dinks to sign a pledge to “never raise taxes”, but is now clearly sucking at the teat of big business that would make the ghost of Calvin Coolidge wish he were a whore at the Mardi Gras parade. By the way, Norquist, like me, who lives in high-rent Washington D.C., is going to pay more taxes this year (Good for him).

The abomination peddled to the American people as a tax cut at the end of 2017… is a blight on not only our economic freedoms but an outright attack on the true power centers of this republic.

Everything that keeps this nation alive economically comes from urban centers. Even the preponderance of cash that is sent to farmers all over the fruited plain, as everything grown in this country is subsidized by tax money, and where does all that come from? You and me, well more like me since I live in a higher taxed area, but it sure ain’t corporations with their off-shore bank accounts and massive write-offs (corporations never paid 35 percent taxes, on average is was 14 percent and soon it will be in the single digits), while the rest of us suckers continue to fork over basically the same rates, which will rise in a decade but remain cut for corporations.

You want to know how funny this all is; Donald Trump’s precious Twitter was invented and founded in San Francisco, one of the highest taxed cities in America. Those people are F-U-C-K-E-D.

The queer aspect of this is it began under the watch of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has claimed in the past that he was inspired by Ayn Rand’s hoary screeds on the injustices of laws created by governments to support weakness, usually reserved for economics, as a result of ingenuity and creativity. Rand’s novels, most notably, The Fountainhead (wildly overrated combination of penis envy meets a preternatural industrial revolution jones) and Atlas Shrugged (painfully underrated ode to individualism and the bloated natural order of exceptionalism), deal with the intervention of government against the will of man, or the private state, which looks, by nature (according to Rand, and a theory of which I enthusiastically subscribe, Objectivism) runs counter to the tenets of a free society.

Once you single out one economic swath of the collective field to bear the burden, you are slanting it, or in more legal terms, practicing cronyism or racketeering. In a very binding way (and a tax law is as binding as it gets, bubba) what this congress and our president did was take away the motivation for the centers of our commerce, education, art and ingenuity to continue its greatness in order to prop up what Rand calls (and I am sure Ryan, when he was all cool in his, “Hey I’m a young conservative, look at my pecs,” period) moochers.

Rand’s novel proffers that the best and brightest protest by removing their minds and talents from this mooching society obsessed with ancient rituals like coal mining and Catholicism (Rand was card-carrying atheist, who thought Jesus was a sucker, something Republicans always fail to point out) and see how the rest of society fares. Spoiler alert, it crumbles.

Fun Ayn Rand fact, she scrapped her screeds and went for the real money in Hollywood writing banal scripts for B-movies, another place that will be fist-raped by this tax law.

And lest anyone use the pointed argument that my beef is with my absurdly high state tax, I remind you that if I go to Cabo San Lucas and choose a hotel on the beach, and then a room facing the ocean, I expect to pay more. I expect that being 34 miles from the greatest city on planet earth, with access to the best education, art, industry, technology etc., to pay more, but I also expect to have the write-offs commensurate with the rest of the country in which the property values are equal to the less than ideal area in which they find themselves.

Now those who choose cynicism and paranoia as a hobby, and I am all for that, may say this is Republicans and Trump penalizing states, especially urban and suburban (educated, cultured, high-level-producers), social progressive thinkers, media centers, and those who openly mock their knuckle-dragging bullshit, to pay for not supporting them. They will never pay the political price for having screwed us. And they are right.

But I say to them and you and all Americans; remember that waaaaayyyy more people died, it’s like ten-to-one in almost all calculations, in WWII (and every ensuing war for that matter) in New York, New Jersey and California. We have sacrificed and created enough.

Time for Atlas to Shrug.

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WELCOME BACK TO CORPORATE LAND

Aquarian Weekly
12/20/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WELCOME BACK TO CORPORATE LAND
Net Neutrality, Tax Rates and Deregulation A-Go-Go

It is an interesting plan devised by a man who has bankrupted more businesses than anyone in the history of modern American entrepreneurship, and backed by dinosaurs from the Industrial Revolution run under the guise of some Eisenhower-era dream of the old, America First, anti-global economic structure that has zero chance of working in the current 21st century landscape.

But okay.

The main goal of this Republican-controlled federal government has been to deregulate everything in sight, cede the entire ecological, moral and structural game to not the private sector, but the corporate-level powerbrokers. The idea is to make things so easy for multi-billion dollar businesses they will rush back to this country and provide jobs. This, as stated many times in this space, has never worked in a long-term growth of the economy. I am not going to bore everyone with details, but it can be verified by simply doing the research and crunching the numbers. I invite you to do it.

Having said that, it is important to point out that my criticism of this does not mean I support the complete government-controlled regulation-happy opposite argument. There is free market and then there is fixing the game for corporations. The latter is what we discuss here today.

So far Republicans have done next to nothing in the way of legislation. There is no administration that I can find, at least in the 20th century, that has gone a calendar year having done nothing with or without control of the entire government. Aside from an alarming spate of executive orders, which have purportedly moved the unemployment rate from 4.8 to 4.5 since Donald Trump has taken office, and the continued spike in the stock market, which today, as for the past eight years under the previous administration, means less than it did a half-century ago, because the main percentage of trading is done by the famed one-percent of the citizenry.

It is important to note that I write “purportedly” on these figures, because normally unless a major law is enacted, like say the 2001 Bush tax cuts or the 2009 Obama stimulus package – both passed by single-party control in the first year of those presidents – the economic indicators in the first year of any administration is the result of the previous one’s agenda. This is especially prevalent among two-term presidents, as George H. W. Bush found out in his first term after eight years of Reagonomics.

Either way you stand on this issue, it is easy to see that Trump and the Republicans mean to hand over all control of the American economy to the most powerful corporations, first and foremost through the language in the current tax bill before congress, which has a 29 percent approval of the American electorate. Not that polling or even popularity means anything. It is only illuminating when viewed through the lens of those polled that voted for the Donald Trump that ran as a populist, forgotten-man candidate. Despite being crushed in the popular vote, the president carried the Rust Belt to electoral college victory due to this weak Huey Long charade, which has now emerged as the predictable land-baron, big business stooge he truly is and has always been. The whole “con job” thing Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio bitched about in the primaries is coming home to roost.

There is free market and then there is fixing the game for corporations. The latter is what we discuss here today.

But again, if honey deals to the one-percent and corporations in the current language of the proposed tax bill, as covered in this space a few weeks ago, was not enough of a sign that Citizen Trump, The Voice of Johnny Lunch Pail, was a ruse, then the repeal of Net Neutrality by the always upstanding FCC (someone should have sacked this nonsense in the 1970s, but that is a column I have written too many times to fathom, so let’s leave it at that) seals it.

This repeal is the government’s gift to gargantuan service providers to decide the economic structure of the Internet, where, the entire country and really the world lives and breathes. Whether they pledge to or not, your service provider can now gauge consumers, block content they do not have complete or part ownership of, and dismantle any even playing field for start-ups, free-lance users or anyone not a massive, faceless conglomerate.

The chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai says this will free the internet for investment and innovation, as if this is a new thing. Never happened before. There was no 1990s boom, which was the last strong economic period. Everything that has transformed the brick-and-mortar economy into the cyber one never happened, according to Pai, who was an attorney for (ha!) Verizon and has railed against Net Neutrality from the second he took this unelected office in 2012.

No matter where you stand on your economic theories and principles, how exactly is Net Neutrality bad, unless you have the strings of providing access to the Internet.

It reads: “Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, Internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.”

You want to pay more money for what you already can do now and/or have your service provider decide what you can and can’t see, to allow only those with more money than you to have better, more complete access to the Internet? Then this is a fantastic ruling.

Again, no matter where you stand on this, we are in a new era of a complete corporate take-over of the American economic landscape. This was mostly true under every previous administration dating back to the earliest days of the American Century, but now it is unashamedly absolute. For the results of this, immediate and long-reaching, we will see whom it benefits.

But make no mistake, we are back in Corporate Land.

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ROY MOORE + ALABAMA = SENATE

Aquarian Weekly
12/13/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

ROY MOORE + ALABAMA = SENATE

I think they’re afraid I’m going to take Alabama values to Washington and I can’t wait.
– Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore Tweet, 12/5/17

You betcha.

Aside from Mississippi, which is one of the great jokes in the history of the human experiment known as the United States of America, Alabama’s abominable track record of civil rights abuses and cultural dumbness, usually backed by some hayseed reading of the Bible, is unprecedented. If you have half a brain you are embarrassed by it and most of the American south, which was allowed to rise from its ignominious beating after the Civil War only to predictably send horrid goons like Judge Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate.

Assuming the nine or ten or twelve (I’ve lost count) non-coordinated accusations of at least sexual misconduct and worse rape of underage girls for years – so bad he was banned from a fucking mall – is a fabricated Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, the fact that a man twice removed from the bench for criminal behavior, who states proudly that no Muslim should be allowed to serve as a civil servant and that homosexuals should be incarcerated, is considered a fair Republican candidate for one of only 100 jobs in the highest levels of our federal government is all you need to know about Ala-fucking-bama.

When Richard Nixon began his Southern Strategy in 1968, peeling off the racist vote from the Dixie-crats, who abandoned the party that fought vehemently against emancipation in the 19th century to pass the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act, the fate of the GOP was forever linked with lunacy. And this past week it has been sealed. The RNC, after first abandoning the criminally defiant Moore, is back on board, as is those who tried to save face, like the bottom-feeding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who initially asked for Moore to quit the race only to tell a national TV audience to “let the citizens of Alabama decide.”

And we know what Alabama will decide.

Roy Moore is going to the U.S. senate.

Why?

Because he is running in a state that would vote for the corpse of Charles Manson if he had an R in front of his name.

Think I’m being Jokey McJoke-Joke?

There is not one statewide Democrat in any level of office in the entire god-forsaken place.

No shit.

It’s a fixed game in stupid-ville. Believe me.

This is because Alabama is easily suckered by slack-jawed, religious morons who like to wave guns around to act like macho (latently gay) cowboys (spectacularly queer) while telling everyone that anyone above the Mason Dixon line is a godless sexually promiscuous Communist baby-killing dope-heads.

And although most of us are, the real problem is not that there are imbeciles who vote in Alabama, it is that one of only two of our nation’s major parties support and benefit from this weird shit, while telling us who to have sex with, what women can do with their bodies, who should get tax relief, and what constitutes an “American”.

Now, to be fair, the overwhelming support of Moore from our game show president, who himself has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by a dozen women and was caught on tape bragging about doing it for fun, is understandable. Donald Trump, I get. He’s a serial sex fiend and an unrepentant deviant and America elected him president, and really, how can he actually believe abused women accusing another sexual predator is sane behavior? Trump backing this shit-stain makes perfect sense.

What I don’t get is Roy Moore. Isn’t he supposed to be some kind evangelical religious nut, who was sacked from a state gig forcing the Ten Commandants down everyone’s throat? Even when apparently breaking one – adultery – as he was fucking his eventual wife whilst she was married. I mean, I get Trump. He was having hookers pee on him while sitting in a hot tub with teenage beauty contestants in the 90s. Moore was apparently being born again five times and thanking Jesus for his guns. Where is the consistency here?

Judge Moore is right about one thing; Alabama “values” are coming to Washington, as they have for nearly 250 years.

Hell, some of my heroes liked them young; Charlie Chaplin, J.D. Salinger, Chuck Berry, Woody Allen. It’s not my thing, but it’s Roy Moore’s thing, and aside from the rape allegations, if he gets his “virgin/whore” kicks trolling young girls in malls and signing their high school yearbooks after taking moonlit strolls and stealing kisses, it’s his thing, and I have no comment, but you know who always seems to have a comment on people’s sexual activates and is quick to judge the morals of every breathing human? Roy Moore.

But, okay, so Moore is a lying hypocrite. There are plenty of them in congress and certainly Alabama. But while in the last few months in Hollywood (producer, Harvey Weinstein, actor, Kevin Spacey), television (NBC and ABC morning show hosts, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose) and even politics (Minnesota Senator Al Franken) when similar cases were revealed, the accused were either ostracized, fired or forced to quit. Roy Moore is going to the U.S. Senate.

And one more parting note to Moore’s fellow evangelists, whatever the fuck that is, who have crawled from their ideological quagmire to rush to this cretin’s aid, I say, the jig is up. After the whole Trump thing and now this, there is no point any longer hiding behind the charade of God. There is not a single God in any monotheistic framework that would find Donald Trump or Roy Moore amenable to its edict.

Evangelists, like any salesmen, are opportunists. And like any sale, their whole phony god thing is mere exploitation, and worse yet, politically motivated. And next to child molestation, which could also be on Moore’s resume, political motivation is as low as it gets.

But more sympathetic, I could not be. I get that your time is nearly over, and this is your act of desperation, your last breath, the death rattle to all your Moral Majority crap that has been discredited and rightly ignored as we move the species into the twenty-first century without you.

My hope, nay, my prayer, if you will, is that soon, when you’re all rotting in your graves, this great, damaged nation, and humanity as a whole, will share chuckle that we ever considered anything you stood for real and binding.

Judge Moore is right about one thing; Alabama “values” are coming to Washington, as they have for nearly 250 years.

Welcome back.

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THE TAX REFORM SHUFFLE

Aquarian Weekly
12/6/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE TAX REFORM SHUFFLE

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation found that the tax cuts would not pay for themselves by generating enough revenue through economic growth to offset the tax cuts, as Republicans have claimed, but would instead add $1 trillion to budget deficits over the next 10 years. Projections estimate that the bill would lead to additional economic growth of 0.8 percent over a decade, well short of the acceleration needed for the tax cuts to pay for themselves over that time. The analysis said the tax cuts would generate about $458 billion in revenue over a decade, but would also require about $51 billion in additional interest costs. That would leave the bill with a $1 trillion price tag.
– NY Times 11/29/17

Yeah, this ain’t good.

Senate Republicans, because Senate Democrats are now playing the Mitch McConnell/Ted Cruz two-step of not being involved in anything the opposition party proposes, are sending to the floor, or are trying to send to the floor – as of this writing it has stalled due to concerns by some about the above analysis that projects a massive increase in the national debt, a tax reform bill that sucks ass. Remember when bloated deficits used to be an anathema to most Republicans, unless of course there is a Republican in the White House – Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who both ballooned the debt with unpaid-for massive tax cuts. But a budget deficit and the national debt is only part of the problem with this gigantic boondoggle.

Firstly, this type of massive legislation overhaul happens maybe once a generation, but because Donald Trump has appeared to have now gone completely off the rails – which is a step or two above the rails he careened off of long before he became president – with his picking name-calling fights with a lunatic in North Korea, retweeting three messages from what amounts to the British KKK, supporting a senate candidate from Alabama who has been accused at least eight times of weird illegal sexual shit with children, telling staffers that it was not his voice on the infamous Access Hollywood tape, despite admitting to it and apologizing for it in October, 2016, and his incessant ranting about how he is the greatest president of all time and all of the press except some brainless wind-fart called FOX & Friends, the font of American journalism, is not representing the country well abroad, they are rushing to get something done before either he ends up in a fetal position sucking his thumb and asking for daddy, gets impeached for the mounting evidence of obstruction of justice, or 2017 ends with zero legislation.

The last time the government reformed the tax code was 27 years ago. Two parties held power and there were ten months filled with committee presentations and debates and caucuses and compromise. This time a single party, in relative secret, whipped together a baked fiasco in a month on the whim of fantasy numbers about job growth and higher wages and middle-class blah blah blah. In contrast, the humongous Affordable Care Act was debated in three House committees and two Senate committees, and subject to hours of bipartisan debate that allowed for the introduction of amendments. Interestingly enough (if you find the height of hypocrisy of interest, which I most certainly do), the architect of this shit-show, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rightfully fought against the construction of the 2010 bill that no one seemed to know its contents, and now he makes an even more egregious maneuver for the same reason – do something…anything… NOW!

McConnell and the Republicans keep rolling out this myth that because they run things and Trump was elected that this is the will of the American people. Turns out only 29 percent of people polled approve this bill – not tax cuts, everyone loves those, just this particular bill, which we have established sucks ass – and although the president has zero mandate, having lost the popular vote by three-million and nearly all the Republicans are really in congress to halt the ACA, which they have spectacularly failed to do, they forge ahead.

And why do people overwhelming hate this thing?

Well, despite not knowing all the details of the current tax reform bill, both the House and the Senate versions, which kicks the mandate for the ACA off of the rule book, completely eliminates the valuable tax break, which allows taxpayers to deduct state and local income, sales and property taxes, and strikes down a 1954 law that keeps freeloading religious groups, who pay zero taxes while they dumb down the human collective spreading hate and voodoo nonsense, from spending their windfall on political lobbying, what we know of the suck-ass bill is that by 2027, according to the aforementioned Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut.

Wha…?

Yeah…it ain’t good.

a budget deficit and the national debt is only part of the problem with this gigantic boondoggle.

Now, authors of and voters for this monstrosity will tell you (AGAIN – these assholes never learn) that these numbers are needlessly dire, because, well, all these tax breaks on the rich and corporations, such as a 20 percent corporate tax rate, down from 34 percent, will provide funds for businesses to re-invest in America and American workers, the flag, Jesus and apple pie, Babe Ruth and the rotting skull of George Washington. In other words, the oft discredited “Trickle Down Economics”.

This, as always, is a steaming pile of horseshit. Never mind this type of thinking failed in the 1920s, leading to the great depression, or the 1980s, leading to an exploding deficit that began the exodus of American businesses aboard, but as recent as 2004 when congress invited American corporations to bring home overseas earnings at a sharply reduced rate, pitching it as a means of bolstering investment. But according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis research, these corporations spent as much as 90 percent of their windfall buying back their shares and giving giant bonuses to their CEOs.

This just in: Corporations are not in the patriotism business. They rightfully answer to their shareholders and bow to profits. Period. Any thought other than that is so painfully naïve it begs to question the mental capacity of those believing otherwise.

The painfully naïve will also try and sell you that these are also dire numbers, like the painfully naive who tried to tell you that young people would buy into the ACA and well, didn’t. Projections to pay for government stuff are like things Trump blurts out daily; not true, ever. They are based on nothing and very silly and at times downright demented.

For instance, the administration’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been on record since April stating that “a hundred people in my staff have been working around the clock on running scenarios for us.” He said it again earlier this month, assuring congress and the American people that the suck-ass bill would “pay for itself”. Republican Senator from South Carolina Bob Corker now says there is no such analysis available or forthcoming, which is leading to an investigation. Seems then that this last-ditch, phony effort to refute the “dire numbers” was, as all things in this Trump Administration disaster of a first year, made-up. Totally. Doesn’t exist.

Yeah…this ain’t good.

Meanwhile Mnuchin’s boss keeps stating this farce is “the biggest tax cut in history.” But guess what? Trump is lying. It is not.

According to The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget it would be “the eight largest as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 1918 and the fourth largest in inflation-adjusted dollars.” The latest report shows that the “largest tax cut in history” designation would go to either President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut or President Barack Obama’s 2012 extension of most of the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts, depending on how the size of the tax cut is measured.

Now, all of this can be assuaged if the senate were to say, raise the proposed corporate tax rate to 22-percent. But then the rich donors would go away, as Senator Lindsey Graham admitted last week. This cannot happen. The senate works for them, not you.

So, we get the suck-ass bill.

Remember when Citizen Trump was going to “drain the swamp” and work for the “little guy” and go after Wall Street and big banks? Remember the populist that got 70,000 votes in the Rust Belt that allowed him to run things?

Yeah…this ain’t good.

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STEPHEN KELLOGG – ROAD DIARY AT 40

Aquarian Weekly
Feature

11/15/17

STEPHEN KELLOGG – ROAD DIARY AT 40
Songwriter Marks Time Making Timeless Music

Gonna be a good friend
Gonna be a family guy
Gonna pour my heart out
Till the day after I die
And when I am an angel
Looking for a landing
Gonna be the last man standing

– Stephen Kellogg, “Last Man Standing”

“Hang on, man, I got to pull over.”

Talking to singer/songwriter, Stephen Kellogg as he works his way up the Hutchinson Parkway from New York City through Connecticut. “Wait…there’s a parking lot off this exit,” he earnestly reports. His cell phone is scrambling his sentences. Missing them could be dangerous. You see, Kellogg can be downright quotable when on the road, as his new record, Tour De Forty: Greatest Hits (So Far) Live will attest. It is a musical diary of sorts that captures his recent TD40 tour, which transformed the notable occasion of his turning 40 into a traveling review of his life in song. It also introduces new material that duly reflects this milestone while breathing new life into fan favorites.

“I always feel as though I’m singing to my contemporaries and singing to my peers and singing to people who are living through experiences like my own,” he says, as the engine hums along beneath him. “It feels like, ‘Hey, if you’re anything like me, here is a soundtrack for you.’”

Kellogg is bringing his soundtrack to the Bowery Ballroom this week to complete this year-long journey looking back and peering ahead. “This particular show will be a celebration,” he says, as it will also mark the official release of Tour De Forty. “I got some special guests sitting in, but it’s not a nostalgia show. It’s more like ‘Hey, we’re all still here everybody!’”

Kellogg sounds like a content man, who has happened upon a place he can now fully comprehend. As pulls his car off the road into “some sort of Mastercard headquarters” in Harrison, New York to get a clearer signal, I admit to him that it may be the first time I’ve literally interviewed a traveling musician talking about the road while he’s on the road.

He laughs knowingly; “I like to keep it real.”

And that makes sense too. Listening to Stephen Kellogg’s songs can get you back to “the real” with concussive rapidity. Each is an exercise in stripping away all the sheen that can sometimes be white noise to a composer. Artifice is something Kellogg cannot fathom. Listen to the first two minutes of “Open Heart”, which begins the new record; a probing ballad about being inspired to inspire, to pass on the fruits of the song; to live it and then tell it. And Kellogg is nothing if not a storyteller. He works from experience and sees the universal in the personal and uses inner dialogue as pronouncement.

“These songs hound me and they force me to ask, ‘What cosmic place am I…?’, he says. “And if I don’t write them down, don’t somehow share them, get them out, then they just follow me around and kick at my door and I start to feel so much that it becomes overwhelming.”

You can tell right away, Kellogg loves to talk about art as communication – between the muse and his mind; how it goes from there into the hands and through the guitar and out into the ether where the audience absorbs it and brings it back to him ten-fold. And this is where his traveling the nation over the past year has created a new beginning for him, while simultaneously wrapping up a profound chapter. You know, the storyteller thing again.

If you have a calling then you had better live it out, otherwise if you don’t it’s going to be a very frustrating existence.

Speaking of which, I first met Stephen in New York City while working with Counting Crows’ front man and songwriter, Adam Duritz on my current book project, to which Kellogg began picking my brain on his own attempt at penning a memoir of the road. “Counting Crows were always the blueprint of something I felt I could actually do,” he told me. “I always thought, ‘This makes sense to me. I can see how it works. I understand where that comes from.’ I cannot under estimate the importance of the Counting Crows to me personally.” And although he admitted to the difficulties of using his poetic muscles to tackle prose that night, one has to marvel at his dedication to communicate once again. It has indeed been an interesting run for him, as Tour De Forty dutifully documents. From the infectious “Fourth of July” to the sheer vulnerability of “Almost Woke You Up” to the sensuality in “Gravity” to the episodic grandeur of “Thanksgiving Day”, this is Stephen Kellogg as Homer setting sail.

“I thought maybe I would just start sharing more and more and more in an effort to really show people behind-the-curtain, so they could understand hopefully themselves and what they’re going through even more,” he says. “Sometimes I go out solo and I share a lot of stories and I talk about crazy shit my kids say and all that, but I know from being 40 myself that sometimes you just want to go out and you want to feel music that is meant to rock you and you want to remember that you’re still young. When I go a concert that’s what I’m looking for now. I want to sing along. I want to feel like, “Yeah! It’s okay to be 40! This is great!”

That is three times now that Kellogg has said “feel” as if he it was something tangible, like currency or a neatly packed gift, all ribbons and bows.

Here’s what you need to know about Stephen Kellogg, husband of his high school sweetheart, Kirsten, and father of four girls, Sophia, 12, Adeline 10, Noelle, six and Greta, five; he fronted a rock and roll band called the Sixers for eleven years and found himself a solo artist in 2012 with seven albums and thousands of fans in the rearview mirror. He had to get back up and re-invent himself and begin to examine his craft in a new way. “That was a rough period for me,” he remembers. “The Sixers were very much my Heartbreakers, my Crazy Horse. It was always my vision, but we were a band and we played like a band and we made a lot of those decisions together and then in this one year that goes away and you’re 35, which is still very young in the macro sense, but you’re also not a kid anymore and you say, ‘Damn… what happens now?”

What happened is Kellogg kept writing songs; some country, some folk, others rock and still others with a pop or Indie flavor. All of these styles ended up together on his last studio album, South, West, North, East, released in 2016 after being recorded in those four regions of the U.S.A.

“I gave myself permission to not have to always choose a lane because people want you to,” he says. “This way I got to be all the things that I actually am but it didn’t feel disorganized and jumbled because that was the whole concept of the record. South I did in Nashville, and that’s kind of the Southern rock part. West I did in Boulder, Colorado, and that’s more of the folk element. North I did in Woodstock, New York, and that was a little more of the Indie rock thing, and then East was a little bit of the pop thing and I did that in Washington, DC. Then I ended up calling the touring band South West North East, because I wanted some way to signal that this was a band effort and not a solo acoustic type thing.”

And that is where Stephen Kellogg feels most comfortable; at the intersection of the American invention; re-invention. The second act F. Scott Fitzgerald said could not be. But we so love the man who does not lie down on his sword at the first sign of adversity. The comeback is our shiny city on the hill, our better angels, our little pink house.

Of course none of this matters when a man sings, “If heaven and family and children / Are what’s left of the race that I ran / Then I’ll quietly slip to the slumbering peace / Of the sleep of a satisfied man” from another song included on Tour De Forty, “Satisfied Man”, arguably the most articulate expression of the significance of love and fatherhood and growing into one’s self as you could possibly hope to hear. You would not be blamed for thinking that comebacks only happen to those already not where they need to be, but that is far from Stephen Kellogg.

“I have kids that I love and adore and a wife I’m still crazy about after twenty-four years,” he says. “But I continue to do what I do because if you have a calling then you had better live it out, otherwise if you don’t it’s going to be a very frustrating existence.”

In filmmaker, Peter Harding’s short, Last Man Standing, which went on to become an Amazon exclusive film last year, Kellogg is seen both at home and on the road, and although his personality remains constant – upbeat, preternaturally hopeful and always philosophical – there is something that overcomes him there. And you get the feeling watching it that it is home where these songs come from, if not composed in repose, at least conceived, imagined and expressed. He brings his home into the art and the songs onto the road.

“I am taking a certain world view and message out into the world and trying to do some good with it,” he says, when I bring up the delicate balance of the road and family. “I feel very much called to share this message of letting people know they are not alone and this idea of forgiveness and perseverance and things like that that have been big themes in my own life.”

And this returns us to the aforementioned elegiac “Thanksgiving Day”, which sounds like a long handwritten letter in the age of emails and texts, with building stanzas deeply reflective of what this year has meant to Kellogg. This weird young man’s legacy to the maddening pursuit of art as memory and foresight. He sings in its opening verse; “The trees were blowing in the breeze all high above my head / When a cavalcade of memories appeared to me in words I wished I’d said / From that point on a song stayed in my thoughts most of the time / But when I tried to sing it out loud it would always leave my mind / Like the things you know are true, but never can explain when you get asked / A melody floating just within your grasp…”

“What has allowed me to be sort of an optimistic person and have a generally bright and happy life has been my ability to write the melancholy down and to share and to explore what’s causing that and where it’s coming from,” insists Kellogg. “And the same is true of other emotions, not just melancholia, but joy and anger is a big one for me. I feel so much anger, but by writing it down it has allowed me to not be an angry person.”

All these feelings, all these songs, all the miles down the road and many more to go; Stephen Kellogg is finishing up one journey in New York City on Thanksgiving weekend; a place where the song and the road can indeed become one. “We’ll play some football during the day and then go do a couple of shows that weekend and whenever possible I like to do New York City, because it’s the best. You know?”

Then he bids me ado, pulling out of that parking lot and heading back on the road…going home.

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MIXED MESSAGES – ELECTION DAY 2017

Aquarian Weekly
11/15/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MIXED MESSAGES – ELECTION DAY 2017

My dear friend of 28 years now, Rob Astorino, the current Republican County Executive of Westchester County, a highly expensive and mostly bucolic enclave in the hub of the Hudson Valley, New York, was seeking his third term this past Tuesday and was slaughtered by Democrat State Senator George Latimer. Rob was a popular public servant, whose career was on an incline from the time he told me in a Manhattan restaurant sometime in the early years of the prior decade that he wished to head into politics to “make a difference in my neighborhood” – something I tried to talk him out of, by the way. But he went in just the same, very successfully, until this year, the year of Donald Trump, or as the man whom my friend lost to in the 2014 New York gubernatorial race, Andrew Cuomo told the NY Post the next day, “This is bigger than just the county executive’s race, Rob Astorino is a fully financed subsidiary of Donald Trump.”

Of course none of the facts presented in that sentence are true. The president, now toxic to his party at an historically low 34-percent approval rating, had nothing to do with Rob Astorino. Without divulging things that are between me and my friends – many of Rob’s staff were instrumental in making me understand Trump within the party structure when the game show host was seeking the Republican nomination – I can tell you there wasn’t anything close to enthusiastic support for or from El Douche. But many of these same people made it clear to me that if Hillary Clinton had been president, their man would be heading back to a job he loved.

Now to be fair these are the deep cuts of losing an election, and boy was it gloomy in that room election night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, where I had seen Rob take home two victories in 2009 and 2013, but lose by a narrower margin than anyone could conceive in the 2014 governor race. Even that night there was a sense that Rob was headed somewhere. But Tuesday he was headed home.

There is no denying the Republican Party was trounced on every level all across this nation on Election Day 2017, one year removed from the titular start of the wildly goofy presidency of Donald Trump, but I think while the political-climate message in clear, I’m not sure we can determine unequivocally that what transpired Tuesday is any indication that the GOP was not looking at the normal backlash of a first-year presidency.

Although comparing the clown show going on right now on Pennsylvania Avenue to any previous president is silly, every chief executive in my lifetime had to endure a first-year and in some cases a first-half-of-the-first-term hit in the polls and in statewide elections. And it can rightfully be pointed out that despite the unexpectedly rousing victory enjoyed by Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, who was polling at a dead heat that morning and won by ten points, the Commonwealth of Virginia can now be considered a “blue state” – Barrack Obama won it twice, and even Hillary Clinton claimed it last year. In fact, three of the last four governors have been Democrats. Of course when you look at the victories of the first elected Latinas to the state house, the first LGBT candidate, who beat a man who called himself the state’s “chief homophobe” while failing to get a crazy anti-LBGT bathroom bill afloat, and a guy who lost his wife in a shooting beating an NRA lackey, there is more than Trump-hate going on here.

For instance, health care was cited, by a lot, as the most important issue among Virginia voters, many of which live just outside Washington DC. In fact, since Trump has been president and congress has thrice failed to nix it, the Affordable Care Act is on an incredible upswing in sign-ups and its approval rating has gone from well under 50 percent to nearly 65. This is an amazing turnaround and gives the Democratic Party, which seems to stand for nothing beyond “Trump sucks” – a winner right now, I grant you, but not a platform – something to run on in 2018.

But the Democrats have a bigger problem beyond no plan or direction; they are powerless.

Here in New Jersey, it was simply a slam-dunk. Exiting Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating is the lowest of any governor in the history of the United States – or at least since they began polling these things. Christie was at 15 percent on Election Day, which is just a tick above people who burn dogs for the Fourth of July and the guy who massacred those people in Vegas. His beleaguered Lt. governor was predictably shellacked and now a pro-pot, anti-bear-hunt Wall Street Irishman progressive takes charge. That sounds about right. This is some crazy state and we love it, no matter what dink is in Washington DC mucking up the works.

The Republicans do have a Trump Problem, which we will now call it – both politically and in the important public relations realm. The president’s cult of personality – the old, angry, rich white guy who thinks everything sucks except him thing appears to have a shelf life, and seeing how nearly every day someone from his campaign is either revealed to have ties to Russia or is indicted for a crime, circumstances don’t look to get any sunnier. But the Democrats have a bigger problem beyond no plan or direction; they are powerless.

Republicans still have the lion’s share of governorships and state legislatures throughout the republic, many of which have gerrymandered things to kind of queer the results. And the party does run things in DC, where the action would be if they can pass any kind of legislation in the upcoming year, because they have accomplished nada thus far in 2017. Nevertheless, Tuesday’s results do not swing the national balance, if anything it should embolden congress to try and do something if Republicans think a reckoning is coming in 2018.

I am truly saddened for my friend, Rob Astorino. He deserved a better fate. But things have gone sideways right now and inner fighting inside both major political parties means that although today it looks a lot like a spectacular repudiation of something the incorrigible Steve Bannon has taken to calling “Trumpism”, it is no clear indication that it means a hill of beans going forward, now or by the mid-terms elections.

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