THE CURIOUS CASE OF AARON RODGERS & “THE WOKE MOB”

Aquarian Weekly
11/17/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE CURIOUS CASE OF AARON RODGERS & “THE WOKE MOB”
 
I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now, so before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I would like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself.
– Green Bay Packers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers after getting caught in a dangerous lie about having been vaccinated according to league rules.
 
 
Spoiler alert: There is no “Wake Mob” that busted Aaron Rodgers. For very weird reasons, he didn’t want to get the Covid-19 vaccination, so when he was caught bullshitting his teammates, the league, the fans, the press, and anyone else who may have been in contact with him, and then consequently contracted the virus, he relied on the new way for idiots to get out jail free; blame it on “Cancel Culture”. Since Rodgers is purportedly a “smart guy” – when using football player metrics, this is like being the thinnest Sumo Wrestler – we’ll assume the maneuver is less brain damaged muscle goon and more like Ted Cruz lite. This is assuming the Texas Senator doesn’t have brain damage, which is still very much up for debate. Nevertheless, Rodgers is part of a league that makes him millions of dollars a year playing a kid’s game, and that league has a rule about Covid vaccinations, and he broke it. He could have at least blamed it on some middling employee like Tom Brady always does when he is nabbed cheating. But he went the lazy “Woke Mob” and “Cancel Culture” route, and that put him on the Reality Check radar.

I haven’t watched pro football for five, six years now. I don’t like the game anymore – the rules, the general play philosophy, the replay, the way it is broadcasted or the cadre of criminals that play for, coach, or run its teams. The whole thing is a cesspool unworthy of my attention. If it were still enjoyable, or more to the point, I still gambled, then I would endure the other stuff. I am no moralist. But the game sucks and the players mostly suck now and couldn’t hold a sweaty jock to anyone who played the thing before 1982, never mind the 1990s. It’s a joke. But I do know who Aaron Rodgers is, since he won a Super Bowl and an MVP before I bailed. He seems like a fine gentleman. He is friends with friends of mine. I don’t mean to disparage him here. But he needs to be made example. Not necessarily in the vaccination debate, which is even more inane than the NFL, but because we need to call-out phonies who fuck up and then conveniently blame some imaginary goblins.

The “Woke Mob” is a pejorative reference, I presume, to being “woke”, which when reintroduced into the lexicon in 2017 (a socio-political reaction to the Neanderthal horrors of a misogynistic racist having been elected president of the United States and duly supported Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia that year) is defined by Miriam Webster’s as “Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” It was also attached that year to a modern women’s movement after the massive national inauguration day women’s march. But Woke is not a 2017 invention. Its earliest usage is as old as me, and if my knees are any indication, that is a long run. In a 1962 New York Times Magazine article written by African American novelist, William Melvin Kelley, titled “If You’re Woke You Dig It”, the author of that year’s controversial best-seller, A Different Drummer deftly satirized the mostly white Beatnik (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs, etc.) movement’s appropriation of Black vernacular in their work.

We need to call-out phonies who fuck up and then conveniently blame some imaginary goblins.

Now, I don’t expect a Green Bay Packer QB or that fat idiot from Texas to know any of this, but people yammering on about shit they don’t know has kept the words flowing in this space for nearly quarter of a century, and I don’t expect that spigot to turn off anytime soon, so we forge ahead on this imbecilic issue.

Now, to Rodgers’ moronic attempt to place himself within the Cancel Culture argument – also a misinterpretation of a wider social undercurrent still in its infancy. Like sports trades, any social movement needs perspective. When people were in the middle of the Civil Rights era, there were arguments against providing rights to Black people considered cogent – state’s rights, property rights, who gives a shit about Black people, that sort of thing. Now, we think these things are insane. Unless you consider people cracking the social mores of society and being ostracized for this as some kind of sin against liberty. But that is a terrible shortcut to actual thinking. No one is jailing Aaron Rodgers for this, he’s not being “cancelled” – sent adrift like Bill Cosby, who got funneled into Cancel Culture after his repeated raping of drugged women for decades. In fact, I would respect Rodgers more if he was stripped of his right to earn a living like Muhammad Ali was by the boxing commission for rightly rejecting the draft on religious grounds. He could be a martyr. Get a little Lenny Bruce thing going. But he won’t, because he is a phony dipshit, who just wants to remain likable after lying about a dangerous disease he’s been spreading in secret.

Rodgers, unlike Colin Kaepernick, is still a viable talent. When Kaepernick was demonized for his right to protest the killing of unarmed Black men by police in 2016 – something the league did not prohibit, like unvaccinated cry-babies – his abilities had eroded so much that blackballing him from the league, which he most certainly was, worked famously. It also helps that Rodgers is a white man. And if you ain’t Woke, you might miss that point.

I am not into labels, and I really hate grown men who don’t man-up when they’re busted. If Rodgers wants to make a stand on this, which he most certainly won’t, because it will cost him a shitload of money and the last part of his prime, and let’s face it, the kind of courage and strength Ali possessed would not bitch about Woke nonsense.

You want to have the fluid social movement argument about Woke and Cancel Culture that will look as lovely to your grandkids as the state’s rights stuff did in 1962 to keep Black people from using the same toilet as a Caucasians, then have at it. Just don’t use them to make excuses because you got pinched. Own up. Move on.    

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FUN WITH FACEBOOK

Aquarian Weekly
11/3/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
FUN WITH FACEBOOK
Coming to Grips with Humanity One “Like” at a Time
 
Facebook’s rank-and-file employees warned their leaders about the company’s effects on society and politics in the United States. And they say its inability to effectively moderate content has magnified those dangers, both in the U.S. and abroad.      
             – NPR Review of Facebook Papers 10/25
 
The release of the Facebook Papers has underlined a point I have consistently, and most times vulgarly made in this space for twenty-four years now: The problem is never with politics, companies, media outlets, art, etc, it is with us. We’re the problem. We make this stuff. And sometimes with the best intentions. Television was to its inventors a way to communicate and educate the masses, raise their awareness, and challenge the intellect and imagination for generations to come. It ended up with Real Housewives of the Jersey Shore and Tucker Carlson. We also buy, consume, and support this stuff we make. We do this. It is our way. So, who could possibly be surprised that when some college dink creates a way to rate women on the Internet that it would devolve even further into a mud pit of domestic terrorism, human trafficking, and Baal Worship groups?

Apparently one Frances Haugen was surprised. So much so, that the former Facebook product manager disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission a cache of communication and damning data that reveal that (wait for the shocking conclusion to this allegation…) Facebook’s leaders “repeatedly and knowingly put the company’s image and profitability ahead of the public good – even at the risk of violence and other harm.”

This is adorable. Next, we’ll be stunned to learn that oil companies spend billions to lobby and cover-up their pollution of the planet or that the National Football League is nothing more than a gambling delivery system.

You know who runs oil companies and the NFL? Us. You know who uses oil/gas to run our vehicles and heat our homes and incessantly watch the promotion of violence, stupidity and brain damage? Us. We don’t care about the planet or the dumbing of our culture, any more than we care if our neighbor dies of Covid. God forbid they might be gay or socialist or religious or want to get an abortion. Then we care. A lot. An annoying lot. But companies? They don’t give a shit about anything but “profitability.” Even “image” is a crapshoot. It’s actually refreshing when someone doesn’t try to sell, say, fascism as some kind of self-help, security measure. This was always the difference between someone like say Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, although to be fair to Reagan he wasn’t a psychotic terrorist, but still, I like my fascists to be up front about it. Trump is at least that.

But, as usual, I digress.

Also, if I may, this Haugen person was a product manager – and what the fuck does a product manager do at an internet social media site? – not some poor sucker that worked in the mail room. When she joined this rancid outfit, Haugen was presumably under the delusion that it was there to nurture babies and keep kittens safe. The woman is thirty-eight years-old (twenty-one when Facebook was launched) and attended fucking Harvard! Didn’t she read the dozens of books painting its founder Mark Zuckerberg as an angry misogynist and raging sociopath? Assuming she’s not a reader (do you have to read to get through Harvard?) there was even a popular film about the whole thing that presents Zuckerberg as all of the above, in addition to a narcissistic, exploitive, backstabbing, lying piece of steaming shit. So, um… Haugen went to work there anyway. Then, I guess, she suddenly found Jesus?

Our nature does not lean towards our “better angels’ it leans towards Facebook.

But enough about Haugen. I am sure she is trying to save her soul by whistleblowing, and for entertainment purposes, we thank her. But let’s get to the Facebook Papers, which I assume submits that somehow Facebook has an obligation to keep lunatics from being lunatics or idiots from believing idiotic shit, or whatever it is alleging. Spoiler alert, Facebook was invented and implemented for exactly these things. It is a platform for humans to do what humans do. It is in a way a microcosm of America, which has always stood as the Great Human Experiment. Give people the rights and freedoms to hang themselves or as Lincoln surmised choose to express “the better angles of our nature” and things don’t go so well. I love Abraham Lincoln. He was by far our greatest president and the true moral compass for a nation so badly damaged by “our nature” that he wiped out half the nation and gave his life for the effort. But in this case Honest Abe was wrong. Our nature does not lean towards our “better angels’ it leans towards Facebook.

We could have used Facebook to come together as a global village and cease hunger and genocide, instead we used it to perpetuate something called Q-Anon, which is a middle-school version of Dianetics, if L. Ron Hubbard’s parents procreated with sub-mental cousins.

The first big revelation in the Facebook Papers is that its algorithms do not properly translate globally, leading to misinformation and hate-speech, which hardly ever transpires here in our English-speaking nation (Cue laugh track). You know what else doesn’t translate globally? Porn and Trumpism. Neither gives a shit, and if you consider this for a hot minute, why should Facebook? You think Chiquita Banana corporation carefully considered the oppression of the Cuban people? How about Apple? Do they lose sleep over eight year-old Chinese girls putting their IPhones together in poorly ventilated sweat shops for twelve hours a day? I am sure most of us who have these phones don’t give it another thought. But Facebook needs to care?

After the January 6 attempted bloody coup against our government and the blatant attack on the core of our democratic system perpetuated by the then sitting president of the United States and backed by a large majority of one of the two major parties in this country, it was revealed that much of the effort was planned on Facebook. This must have also been astonishing, since most of the people who use Facebook now are middle-aged white angry people. But, alas, the network only labeled these activities “harmful” but “non-violating.” Which makes sense, because unlike those who actually worked in congress and helped plan the overthrow of the government on behalf of a crybaby, Facebook does not and should not be the arbitrator of political decorum or possible sedition. Those who argue that Twitter has acted more responsibly, then good for Twitter. While it was their decision to kick off domestic terrorists, this is a business model for Facebook. Hell, someone beyond OAN has to profit from this.

Now, the revelation of human trafficking of Filipino maids is a different story. If this brings Facebook to its knees, then so be it. That ain’t cool, because unlike anything stated above, or the nifty discussions on whether the “Like” button is a form of bullying, that activity is illegal – but again, is only a glimpse into what depths human nature can go when it has a chance to exploit, profit or subjugate.

Ahh, Facebook. It is our mirror. We see ourselves and we don’t like it, so we blame the glass. This is what we do, but then we’d only have ourselves left to shout at, and what fun is that? That would be, to use the visual parlance of the platform, a thumbs down.

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NEW JERSEY CHOICE FOR GOVERNOR IS SIMPLE

Aquarian Weekly
10/27/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
NEW JERSEY CHOICE FOR GOVERNOR IS SIMPLE
Treason, Banning Abortion, Lean on Voting Rights, and Attack on LGBTQ or Not
 
New Jersey is not Texas or Alabama, or God forbid Florida. We do not elect religious loons or social puritans. We occasionally get sucked into cults of personality, like with the tough-talking poser Chris Christie, who sold us a guy-next door boondoggle and ended up a spluttering sewage pump. He was a portly fucktard and a total bust as governor. Even a knuckle-dragging celebrity whore like Donald Trump routinely ignored him. This is the free-thinking state. Our stronghold against the national fervor to turn the concept of democracy into a propagandized circus freakshow for hack lawyers, Internet goons and land rapists. We have open debates on things like corruption here. We know who our criminals are and if we choose to elect them on merit, fine. But eventually we merrily expunge fascists when they reveal themselves. I helped get one of those out of my district, so I know. And this is why there is no other choice but to vote for Governor Phil Murphy for a second term.

It is odd to cite “the lesser of two evils” in this case. Murphy has actually been a solid governor. His leadership during the Covid crisis received less press than the shamed and sacked former governor of New York, whose name escapes me at the moment. The other guy, a shameless publicity hound and ego pimp, ultimately did more harm than good. There was a steady hand in this government during the depths of the pandemic of 2020 and beyond. No grandstanding. No panic. No shifting agenda. And, of course, there is the legalization of marijuana, the only reason I touted Murphy’s first run for the seat four years ago. He delivered. And soon we shall see its results on state income, as we have already seen a welcomed plummet in ridiculous drug arrests. Murphy deserves another term.

But this is less a full-throated endorsement for the Democratic candidate as it is a warning to New Jersey voters about Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli. The latter is a dangerous gamble with the state’s stand on women’s reproductive rights, a fortification of democratic parameters like voter protection, security for the LGBTQ community in the workplace, and the above-cited measured approach to the Covid crisis.

Firstly, make no mistake New Jersians; Roe v Wade is on life support nationally. Once this radical right-wing Supreme Court gets ahold of the phalanx of abortion cases coming this year, the matter will be thrown to the states. Nearly seventy percent of N.J. voters support Governor Murphy’s “Reproductive Freedom Act,” which expands the medical care for women and acts as a stronghold against the inevitable attack on women’s fundamental control over their bodies from federal government interference. A Don’t Tread on Me concept that has escaped those who wave that particular flag. Don’t get me started on the misuse of symbolic laundry. I have fought on that hill too many times to recall.

Nonetheless, women’s rights are in serious peril in the wake of a Ciattarelli administration. A source inside the campaign was quite open with me about the candidate’s Right to Life stance – a politically correct phrase for “Open Your Legs and Let the Statehouse In.” It is the most crucial issue facing the state, especially, again, with the imminent striking down of Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court.
  

A vote for Jack Ciattarelli means a total overhaul in our voting system.

The source also confirmed that although Ciattarelli has tried to distance himself from the treason-wing of his party, he not only attended a Stop the Steal event this past year, later claiming ignorance of the thing, which should make you stop for a moment and consider his mental faculties, but he also spoke at a Pro-Trump rally, boasting a roll back in the state’s current LGBTQ curriculum and pledging to wipe out mask mandates for schools. So, in a way, he is a Right to Life candidate who is okay with killing kids already out of the womb. This is a problem for me. I have one of those “out of the womb” kids. I like having her around. And Jack Ciattarelli is not allowing the state government to endanger her, so he can appeal to the zombies at OAN.
  

And make no mistake, a vote for Jack Ciattarelli means a total overhaul in our voting system; pulling polling stations out of Black neighborhoods and implementing all these useless and anti-democratic, anti-voting laws the other fascists are signing into law in Republican-controlled states across the fruited plain. Do you want partisan flunkies overturning your vote to give an election to the loser? That’s a thing right now. States handing over the power for government employees to blithely overturn the will of the people. And Jack Ciattarelli supports this. Loudly. Boldly.

Ciattarelli’s act may play well in goober states. But here his policies and beliefs are sadly atavistic, so he has predictably leaned heavy these past weeks on the Lower Taxes bullshit. Let me ask you, because I know the answer, I’ve been living in this state since late 2001; did your taxes go down over the two Chris Christie terms? No. They did not. So, if you are going to toss out democracy, habeas corpus rights, the protection of the socially persecuted, and put your kids in danger, shouldn’t you at least pay a little less money to the state? But you won’t. Not a dime. In fact, like with Christie, your taxes will go up. And they will continue to go up if this puritanical crackpot gets in office and turns the thing into the latest Republican shit-show.
 

And that is the nut, isn’t it? As my friend Doc Buzz once mused so presciently about all-things politics; Who’s kidding who? Ciattarelli is a Republican. And until further notice, this is the party of Trump. And Trump is a treasonous criminal, who should have been dragged from that podium on January 6 and tried on sedition charges instead of ending up shuffling his fat carcass around Mar-a-Lago speed-injecting acetaminophen and pissing on women dressed like his mother.
 

New Jersey is not Mar-a-Lago. There is a scrouge across this land and we need a defense against dangerous idiocy.

Vote Murphy.

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ALL EYES ON THE COMMONWEALTH

Aquarian Weekly
10/20/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
ALL EYES ON THE COMMONWEALTH
The Governor’s Race May Predict a 2022 Mid-Term Outcome      
 
In two weeks, the national temperature of the voting public will be taken again. The last one, the doomed recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, in September, did not end well for Republicans. But this was before the approval-ratings nosedive for President Joe Biden, who has appeared overwhelmed and mostly impotent in the face of several crisis from Afghanistan to the border to Covid-19 surges to inflation, which has led to a national malaise and as a result the hemorrhaging of the Independent vote. Virginia is not only a “purple” state but has leaned solidly in the Democrats’ column since 2012 – an unprecedented thirteen-cycle winning streak in a highly competitive state. While stressing again, as in California last month, most politics is local, a governor’s race in a key battleground state like Virginia is a fair to crucial bellwether on how badly things could go for Democrats in the 2022 mid-terms.

Beyond national prognostications – a fun exercise for political junkies like yours truly – reside the players. The two candidates acutely represent both parties. Former Governor of Virginia and current Democratic candidate to regain that title, Terry McAuliffe is a pre-Obama lifer, mostly centrist and connected to the national political machine. He has the full backing of the national party, which means his president Joe Biden. His opponent, Glenn Allen Youngkin, is a former CEO of the $260 billion global investment Carlyle Group, loudly endorsed by former failed businessman and recent ignominious loser of the 2020 presidential race, Donald J. Trump.

On the ground, Virginia is not immune to the national issues facing a mostly post-Covid United States. Economic strains including jobs, vaccine mandates, the undermining of democratic ideals and the state of the current presidential administration is on the table for Virginia voters.

So, the state (a bellwether of national politics), the parties (locked in a death-match of reality and conspiracy) and the candidates (reflections of this ongoing narrative) are all entwined in this one. It is why we have these elections. It is why we vote. And when it is done, we accept the outcome as the will of the people and not some lopsided agenda-fueled tyrannical overthrow of the system based on ego-addled lies. But that is for many future columns to come. Virginia is the order of the week.

Virginia – seemingly always at the center of the national fervor and our historical tipping point.

For the record, McAuliffe is a loathsome hack. He toiled for both Clintons in wins and losses and ran the party for a spate in the early aughts. He represents wheel-and-deal party politics and is roundly dismissed by most politicos as something of a relic. Youngkin is a Republican, which now unfortunately represents anti-American domestic terrorism. He claims to be against the brutal violence perpetuated during the dark hours of January 6 at our Capitol and is trying to distance himself from recent rallies for his campaign hosted by petulant thug Steve Bannon, who is soon to go to jail for contempt of congress in his role inciting the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election results in a bloody coup. At a recent pro-Youngkin rally, participants pledged allegiance to a flag used on January 6, which unfortunately for the candidate reminds voters of what it means to back anyone on a Republican ticket now.

But the Democrats have had a bad sixty or so days. The barely Democrat-controlled congress is in a stalemate on how much more we can jack up the deficit, duly bloated in record numbers by the outgoing Republican-led congress for four years of drunken spending. Both parties fight against the power of the other to spend our money and now it is the progressives v the moderates on what should have been a slam-dunk effort to expand infrastructure spending eight years ago. As mentioned, Biden’s national numbers (52-percent disapproval in Virginia as a result) are in a sinkhole and McAuliffe can no better hide from this than Youngkin can wipe the stain of Trumpism (eleven months of claiming the 2020 election was a fraud with zero evidence) from his candidacy.

Ever more the reason why the Commonwealth of Virginia, once the most powerful force in the nascent days of the republic, birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, the father of modern democracy and the former capital of the Confederacy, is back at the center of our national soul. The very history of America plays out on its bloody ground. And in two weeks it shall again.

As of this writing, McAuliffe barely leads Youngkin by three points, well within the margin of error. Biden easily carried Virginia by ten points only eleven months ago. Youngkin, a very wealthy CEO, has outspent his opponent, exposing his weakness on crime and economics in a phalanx of attack adds. McAuliffe is clinging to two key popular issues: The state favors vaccine mandates for businesses (fifty-four percent) and keeping Roe V. Wade legal polls at sixty percent. Recent abortion-restriction laws in Texas have alerted voters to the reality of this issue most of all. What a shocker. In a close race, the Republican is all about crime and the Democrat is all about reproductive rights.

As far as the numbers guys are concerned, this one is hard to prognosticate. Beyond the national climate or local issues, there is recent history in polling. According to the Five Thirty Eight estimates, a model for higher turnout has McAuliffe leading Youngkin by eight points instead of three points. This is similar to the 2017 race between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, in which the latter trailed by the same three points going into the election but ended up losing by a solid nine points. The problem with this, the celebrated prediction group notes, is that in 2017 there was an unpopular Republican president. Now that particular shoe is on the other foot.

The final word on this election, as in most close elections, is Independents. Right now, Youngkin leads McAuliffie by nine points there. That is the difference between Biden carrying Virginia last year and the Democratic candidate coughing it up in two weeks. Whether this tells us how 2022 will play out and the prospects for a Republican wave or a more tempered Democratic defeat is dubious. But less so when considering Virginia – seemingly always at the center of the national fervor and our historical tipping point.
 

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NAVIGATING THE CAR DEALERSHIP GAMUT  

Aquarian Weekly
10/6/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
NAVIGATING THE CAR DEALERSHIP GAMUT  
& Seeking an Auto in Wild Times of Mega Deception  
 
 
Editor’s Note: This column is dedicated to jc’s brother, P.J. Campion, whose guidance, and stellar recon work put him in a position to survive some crazy shit.
 
Author’s Note: If you have read this column for even a week, much less the last twenty-four years, you know what a cynical skeptic I am. I’ve purchased many cars and faced some bizarre behavior for decades, and hell, Southeast Toyota Finance would not take my late father’s lease after he exited the planet in 2019 without putting the car up for auction and our family having to pay the balance. I know how ruthless and dishonest this industry can be. So, make sure you keep this in mind when reading the following mayhem. 
 
Before the deluge of angst, I’m going to lead this one with a positive. After one solid week of searching for either a new car lease or a used car purchase in a time of computer chip shortages, shrinking inventory and underhanded car dealer bullshit I found the car I ultimately wanted: a Mitsubishi Outlander SE. Thanks in no small part to the honest and upstanding folks at Nielson Mitsubishi in Rockaway, N.J. Especially its manager Andrew Kamaris and salesman Ryan Bet. Those guys were an welcomed oasis in an arid landscape of abject prevarication. The Nielsen Group is the only dealership in a thirty-mile radius of my home that is not currently raising prices by anywhere from five to eight grand on automobiles and running bait and switch schemes to rival a congressional bill caucus. It is the wild west out there.

Boy, did I find this out the hard way.

My experience started about two weeks ago with a recon visit to Route 17 Mitsubishi in Ramsey, N.J. Spoke to a fast-talking lifer named Pete. He assured me what I was looking for was in stock at the advertised price – a base model Outlander. I was more interested in this level of what they call in the industry “trim” than the slightly more expensive SE that I ended up with, but more on that later. Because, you see, Pete did not care about any ad (Two grand down, three-year lease, at 10K miles a year for $334) that drove me to the dealership in the first place, nor that he assured me on the phone before I came in that he had “everything in stock.” He showed me the SE. We drove it. Throughout the test drive I was flabbergasted that the base model had heated and electric seats, climate control, etc. “Oh, yeah, and plus, we don’t have computer chips in these, so we never had a shortage.”

Pete, like his promise of “everything in stock”, was making all of this up. He then came back with well north of $450 a month with four-grand down and a four-year lease. (I did not want a four-year lease. He told me I could bolt on the lease after three. He did not mention that I would still have to pay for a car I was no longer driving.) None of which was in the ad. When I showed him the ad, he proceeded to lie badly that it was for a front-wheel drive vehicle. (Note: I have worked with truly agile liars in my time. Pete sucked at it.) It was not front-wheel drive in the ad. My bro, P.J confirmed this on the phone and sent me the link. I showed Pete the link. This put Pete on his heels, forcing him to blurt out that the car in the ad was the ES (base model), not what I drove. I reminded him that he assured me that what I drove was the base model. He started coming apart at this point in our Dali-esque illogic-speak. This rote character out of central casting of a slick, old-time car huckster was not holding it together. I told him and whatever suit came out pretending to be the manager that if they got the car I wanted, I would be back two days hence to buy it. Pete and the de facto “manager” said they would have it by then. They even sent me a text asking if I was still coming a day later. I never heard from them again.

P.J suggested the aforementioned Nielsen Group around this time and when I called the guy (whose name I do not recall, but this could have been my hero, Ryan) he did not blow smoke up my skirt. “We just do not have any ES models in the color you want, man. It’s tough to get or keep anything now.” To make matters more complicated I really wanted the car in dark gray. I understood and appreciated his honesty. It turns out I should have stayed with Nielsen. But…

I moved onto another dealer fairly close (like 45 minutes away close) in Goshen, N.Y. Mainly because my pal, Brock lives up there and he is a car guy, and he trusted his area to come through for me. But predictably, Healy Mitsubishi could not help but crank up the lie machine. When I called, they said they had the cars on their web site in their lot. I had not been completely felled by a phalanx of deceit yet, so I took the long trip to Goshen. (Cue the sinister music here) A lovely young woman greeted us and proceeded to say that not only did they not have any of those cars listed on their site, but the first woman I spoke to, who answered the Healy Mitsubishi phone and oozed confidence to this end, had no authority to promise any of this. She is merely the “web person.” I would confront this “web person” mystery before too long with another manufacturer.  

Fed up with Mitsubishi, my bro did some recon on a car my late dad was interested in back in the day, a Nissan Montero. Route 23 Nissan in Butler answered my queries about its availably and price this way: “My manager wants to know what you want to pay for the car?” I told him five-hundred bucks with a used moped trade-in. He did not get the joke. I wished to know what the professionals at Nissan wanted to charge for the car, since I had never even seen the fucking thing in person, just some photos on the Internet. They did not call me back for nearly the entire week, and when they did, they said that I had to put five-grand down and that it would be marked up six grand and the monthly payments were north of five bills. I wished them well and said I preferred my offer with the moped. He still did not get it.

As mentioned, once I drove Pete’s SE, the bastard had me hooked, so my bro sent me to Route 46 Mitsubishi, where comedy and tragedy reside comfortably to form a miserable cocktail of time-wasting crapolla. To their credit, these lunatics hid nothing. The manager, a corpulent smile-fiend with an open shirt revealing a giant crucifix laying on a tuft of chest hair sat me down and explained the current economic climate. “I’m going to be honest with you, ignore the MSRP, the way the industry is right now you can automatically add five grand to every sticker price,” he said, affecting an air of parental guidance. He may have even touched my knee sympathetically, but I probably conjured that due to lightheadedness. Yet, I still drove one of their ES series, and it was something like $498 a month with $5,500 down. (and by the way, I found out the ES’s hood undulates spastically if you get it over sixty MPH, something they failed to mention until I told them about my highway experience). “Oh, that’s a recall.” So, I’m woefully overpaying for a damaged car I must eventually take back in? Fantastic.

Before I left, I found a plaque with the president and vice president (I assume of the dealership), who wanted me to call if I was not 100% satisfied. You can imagine that I did this, because I did. At first I got something called the Sun Homes Sales Group in Florida. When I called again, the prompt sent me right to the VP. I left my message of hate and rage. He never returned my call for comment.

One last shot. A used Outlander. My bro found City Motor Group in Haskell that advertised a used 2016 SE. Looked clean, he said. $16,769.00. Forty-five thousand miles on it. Drove down there. Perfectly cordial bunch. Test drove it. Liked it. Then they sent me to the “finance guy” and things went sideways fast. After something called a “Multi-State Inspection” fee of $1,800.00 and other “hidden” fees added on – a list I had to wrest from the guy as if it were Trump’s tax returns – the final number was 21-grand, another five-thousand dollar mark-up. When I brought up the idea that making sure a car they were selling could pass inspection might be on them, like, say, if you buy a steak in a restaurant you assume that meant it was being cooked without a special fee, he said that because things are so crazy out there they can get away with it. “We used to pay for this, but now people are willing to pay for it.” He was right. When I checked on the car writing this, it was sold. (Cue the P.T. Barnum quote about suckers…)

Note: On the City Motor Group web site is a Code of Ethics under something called the National Independent Automotive Dealers Association that has as much integrity as the “multi-state inspection” charge, because if you go to their web site you get a 404 Web Page Not Found message. It reads (I added the italics for comedic emphasis): “Members of the NIADA and its state associations are independent auto dealers that abide by a strict Code of Ethics for membership that will give you additional peace of mind. Among other things, NIADA dealers commit to operating with integrity, honor and fair dealing toward the general public, comply with all city, county, state and federal laws, employ truth and accuracy in advertising and selling, and constantly strive to improve business methods to the end that the public is better served.”

When you’re done throwing up, it’s important to note the operative words found in that pile of steaming shit: “all city, county, state and federal laws.” There are no laws. It’s like OPEC without the third-century garb. That should frighten us the most, but I digress.

At this point I can tell you I tried to buy a car listed as a 2021 Chevy Trailblazer at Schumacher Chevrolet in Clifton that was not only on their web site, but I called first and spoke to another “mysterious web person,” who told me as I was six-minutes out they had the car on the lot. Ten or so minutes later the guy on the floor said it sold two days ago after he said it was a “service model” and some other stammering nonsense. But I won’t burden you any further.
    

Suffice to say, P.J.’s desperate last-minute plan of building the Outlander of my choice on their corporate web site the Sunday evening before the good people at Nielsen saved my ass was a winner. After only a couple of minutes with these guys I knew the difference between a preponderance of dealers out there that are using this crisis to gouge consumers and those who are riding it out with us and trying to do the right thing. And quite frankly, considering the vagaries of capitalism, who knows what the “right thing” is? They are selling these cars. People need them and dealerships need to stay solvent selling only a portion of their inventory. No one expects this computer chip shortage to subside until maybe the end of next year and who knows what a world looks like without Covid anymore?

But beware. There are sharks in the water now. And they have ramped up their image of charlatans a notch or two. Finding salesman like Andrew and Ryan in these waters is rare. But they are out there. Hang in there like P.J. and me. But don’t give into the “That’s the way it is now, eat it” mentality. They want you to give in, to get lazy. To accept their reality. It does not have to be. Love my car. Love even more that it took all of the above and more to get it at the proper price from honest sellers.

NEVER SURRENDER.

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CALIFORNIA SCHEMING

Aquarian Weekly
9/15/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
CALIFORNIA SCHEMING
What the Golden State Recall Election Tells Us About National Politics 
 
 
Six weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom was in trouble. The recall election slated for 9/14 looked to be hanging in the balance. When a recall was first broached last year after a backlash resulting from his flouting his own mask mandate and other stressing economic issues facing his state, the idea of ousting him before the end of his term was about 50-50. But there was a serious swell rising against the beleaguered Democrat. Since, there have been alternative Republican candidates entering “the race”. Then the numbers shifted dramatically. The frontrunner, Larry Elder is the biggest culprit, if Republican strategists on the ground are to be believed. Elder’s presence has morphed a competitive contest into a rather banal one.

Elder is another of these goofy “conservative” talk show hosts. Before the age of Trump this used to mean something. Now, it is a place for abject lunacy. His candidacy in a wildly Democratic state centers mostly around name recognition, the usual twenty-nine to thirty-eight percent far-right militant radical vote, and for window dressing, being African American does not hurt. For a while that kind of thing held some sway, especially when he received a rousing endorsement from Trump himself. It was enough to gain a plurality among the right. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the governor’s seat; Elder started appealing to the body politic. It was then when things went rapidly south.

And I need to stress rapidly.

Californians, it turns out, are not so keen on someone who says before his first cup of tea upon being sworn in he would eliminate the mask mandates put in place by the current administration, and then make it more difficult to fully vaccinate the state. This stuff is gold on the radio, where resentment, fear and outlandish blather helps sell beer. On the campaign trail, however, it is poison. In the past two weeks the nearly 50-50 split to kick Newsom to the curb has gone the other way almost twenty percent. Now nearly seven out of ten in the state support keeping the governor right where he is. Twenty percent did not shift by the selling of a new Newsom, but the very possibility of a crazy Elder.

What California tells us, if anything, is that although a chief executive may not be the popular choice, his opponent matters.

Now, I know that contextualizing a state or any local race into a national prognostication is foolhardy at best and quite frankly fucking insane at its core, but for the purposes of fun, let’s take what was happening to an obviously vulnerable sitting executive and extrapolate his story of seeming defeat to an unlikely reprieve on the national scene.

While Newsome’s governorship was being taken off life support, the president of the United States has been in a significant tailspin. Not since George W. Bush, the last president to enjoy a crossover appeal and rejection, has a president suffered the kind of nosedive approval ratings as Joe Biden in the past three weeks. As broached in the space recently, his steady fifty-three percent approvals since inauguration in January has sunk him to forty-five percent. Not once in those weeks has there been a respite. The numbers dive, slowly, steadily.

The botched and badly communicated exit from Afghanistan and the return of the Covid restrictions, rising hospitalizations and deaths being the two big reasons. There has always been a sense that Biden is not completely compos mentis, and the former did not help this assessment. The Covid thing is beyond his control. The federal government can only do so much. If states like Florida, Texas, and most of the South wish to force schools to not mask children and basically ignore the Delta variant explosion, then so be it. But among independent voters, these issues have led to a softening and then a mass exodus.

This is a crisis point for Biden. Independents decide close elections. And without an opponent, and if things were to be settled this November instead of three years from now, he would be very beatable.

Which brings me back to California. There is still a fervor to want change at the top, and Newsome’s approval numbers may not be overwhelming (he is at Biden’s former fifty-three percent) but once Larry Elder took his radio schtick into actual politics, it went the other way. If a Trumpian candidate is pummeled in California now, one wonders if Joe Biden might consider trolling Donald Trump to announce his candidacy. Because there is a very strong possibility that if a sane, actual conservative runs in 2024, the president is in deep shit.

Of course, Biden has three years, not three months. But what California tells us, if anything, is that although a chief executive may not be the popular choice, his opponent matters. Not sure there is (the November election is less than a year ago) the stomach for another Trump run or for another Trumpian candidate. And since Elder has already started predictably claiming election fraud a week out, the fallout might also be equally as ugly.

Let’s see if the Elder vote shows up to make this competitive. But if he loses, and if he loses by ten points, his presence in the race clearly forced the electorate to choose between incompetence and bat shit crazy dangerous.  

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WOMEN IN BONDAGE

Aquarian Weekly
9/8/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
WOMEN IN BONDAGE
Supreme Court Ignores Unconstitutional Bans on Abortion in Texas, Thus Enslaving Women’s Bodies at the Behest of the State
    
 
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
– Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
 
 
The moment former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stopped breathing the rights of women were put on life support. This overwhelming conservative court is now poised to strike down the forty-eight year-old Roe v Wade decision that we were told (like we were told the twenty-year Afghanistan War would be swift) was “decided law.” It is not. It never was. Until an amendment exists, (but it kind of exists, doesn’t it? – more on that in a couple of paragraphs), there is no such thing as “decided law.” They are likely coming for marriage equality as well. If the slow gutting of the Civil Rights Act is any indication, there is some radical judicial shenanigans to come.

But this is not a column about the vagaries of political justices or religious fanatics or the age-old arguments about fetal rights or heartbeats. This is about one thing, and has always been about that thing: Can a democratically constructed government based on a human’s right to live free in a nation built on the concept of law dictate what happens inside the body of its citizens?

The answer to that question must always be no. The government should not demand you remove your appendix or change your sexual organs. There are anti-choice, pro-lifers who bitch about the strong suggestion they receive a vaccine to save their lives and the lives of other fellow citizens, many of them family and friends. Not a mandate. A Suggestion. Yet, they wholly support the government dictating what goes on inside their bodies.

Oh, no, wait a minute, not everyone’s bodies. Women’s bodies. Just women. So, um, it is prejudicial on top of the other life and liberty stuff. Oh, I get it. Sure. And so, the end of Roe v Wade, a correct legal decision based on the basic principles of liberty, would mean that there can come a day when the government could force a woman to terminate a pregnancy. Oops. Yes. It would. Why wouldn’t it? Roe v Wade protects the systemic control over the bodies of more than half our citizenry. It protects women. Women are citizens. Thus, striking it down makes women’s bodies slaves to the state. This issue should be argued on the merits of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Okay, so maybe the Thirteenth Amendment is going too far – not sure it is – but there is always the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants the rights of citizens (women, the whole of women, including the uterus) over draconian laws instituted by lunatics. Of course, that amendment, passed in 1868, only granted these rights to men. It is specifically in the wording. Men only. But then the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919, supersedes it. Allowing not only women to vote but making them equal in the eyes of laws previously passed for men. So, now we’re up to three amendments. How many do we need to grant equal rights to women? Apparently more, as in the 1970s there was the proposition – stymied, of course – for an Equal Rights Amendment. Because maybe four fucking amendments might get women where they need to be.

Which brings us back to this: My daughter. Your daughter. Our daughters. Slaves to the state. None of them would have control over what happens inside them, now that Texas flouts the constitution, as they do, and many states do now with voting rights, and pushes this issue to its logical end – enslaving women. All of these things to be dictated by government over citizens. Unconstitutional. Period.

Women have taken your shit for as long as there has been anything known as society…

This has not been a good year for the constitution or democracy. It starts with a president trying overturn a free and fair election and become a dictator, then anarchists attacking the state capitol, and now the Supreme Court paving the way to enslave women’s body as the behest of the state.

Yeah, and we fear the Taliban halfway across the globe. No point. It’s here. And now. Next up, burkas. 

I shan’t get into the spectacular level of hypocrisy in the conservative, anti-government, Don’t Tread on Me clan that demand that women cash in their uterus. It is an appalling lack of ideological self-awareness, or really awareness or rationality. It is, in fact, the very definition of irrational, like most of the arguments to allow the government to take control of women. Government control. Over the body of a citizen of the United States. This is where we are heading.

And we need to get our heads around that. It is coming. Both of Donald Trump’s SCOTUS appointees are intractably anti Roe v Wade in previous rulings, comportment and commentary. We’ve already covered this. That particular ship has left the dock a while ago. It is a done deal. Its time is limited. And for those who have fought on the front lines against it for decades, your time has come. Good for you. But that does not mean it isn’t draconian and wrong and has no place in a society built on the concept that we are all free. Not women. Not for long.

Women have taken your shit for as long as there has been anything known as society – long before anyone considered freedom or that women were not property. Women. Property. To marry off and auction off and stigmatize and marginalize and objectify and demean and corner and make less-than. They’ve been on the butt end of religion and law and social mores and bigotry. But since 1973, when a woman couldn’t own a credit card or be a doctor or get a loan, they had at the very least, control of their bodies. And this is our ticking time bomb now. And this non-ruling ruling by the highest court in the land means, for now, there isn’t a fucking thing that can be done about it.

But right now, not tomorrow or next week or some time when we get our shit together, it is time to begin working out a plan to up-end anti-choice candidates for any office. It should be the democratic litmus test of all litmus tests. It used to be. But we got soft. The anti-choice crowd were hoping we would sleep on it. And we did. They made it their crusade. And now they are reaping the benefits. But the only way to protect the rights of women – even the unknowing women who support the pro-life movement at the peril of their own rights – is to upend this and make it our moral fight. Stop playing defense and get on offense to make it a law and maybe even an amendment, or at least evoke the rights granted by three amendments and the existence of a ratified constitution that the systemic control of any citizen is illegal and immoral. 

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CHARLES ROBERT WATTS – 1941 – 2021

Aquarian Weekly
9/1/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
CHARLES ROBERT WATTS – 1941 – 2021
 
There is a magical few seconds that transpires in the 1969 Rolling Stones track, “Monkey Man” in which the band falls out and it’s just guitarist Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts that, for me, defines the essence of rock and roll. It has the requisite infectious rhythm, boy does it ever, the raunch, the sexual fury, the defiant bloodletting, and funky groove dynamic that would come to underscore what the Stones meant to the genre. There are hundreds of examples from hundreds of songs that might get you there, but that few seconds, from 1:48 to about 2:08, when Charlie pulls you back into the song by laying into one of his signature rolls that is epic Stones. In fact, screw it, listen to the song from 1:48 until Mick Jagger starts yelping like a maniac and marvel at Charlie’s incredible accents and fills from there on out and you’ll be just fine. It is why those who love this music, dance to it, fuck to it, imbibe to it, drive to it, and study it, always come back to it and the Stones again and again.

Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones during rehearsal, New York, May 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

I use the word magical here because what happens with the Stones truly is. There is no viable explanation for Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, two disparate personalities inexorably linked – a perfectly balanced but oddly contorted element of what the right musicians can do when serendipitously tossed together in youth and purpose. A lot has been celebrated over the years about Mick and Keith. Rightly so. Songwriters. Icons. Pioneers. Sure. But for me, the Stones start with Keith and Charlie. I thought of Keith first when I heard Charlie died this week. Keith, of course, is the core of the Rolling Stones’ soundbeyond what the great and powerful, and dashing and famous – and honestly underrated – Mick Jagger could muster within this weird and wonderful construct, but Keith always said it was he and Charlie who fueled that engine. And it was always a strange engine that began with Keith setting the mean-streets groove and Charlie bringing it home. When Ron Wood, member of other outfits long before he joined the Stones in 1975, came aboard he marveled at how the Stones fed off the tempo of its rhythm guitarist and hung together on a tightrope by its drummer’s instincts. For awhile bassist Bill Wyman – also widely underrated in the annals of this classic outfit – held down the fort too, but it was always a dangerously haphazard ride that could only have been anchored by Charles Robert Watts.

(For a proper tribute to Messrs. Wyman and Watts please dig on “Miss You.” Right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Watts did things in the Stones so miraculous that it was mostly overlooked for nearly six decades. Not overlooked as much as ignored. When he passed, the main plaudits for Charlie’s talents all over social media and in the music press centered around his steadiness, how he remained a classy lynchpin of non-showy drumming in the swirl of the Stones hurricane, how he was a metronome and a rock. And although all those things are true of Charlie Watts, they totally missed his most essential contribution to the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. The Rolling Stones only ever existed beyond hit-makers and social pirates and institutional corporate touring machinery because of the unique just-a-tad behind the beat drumming of Charlie Watts.

Trained in jazz, he never stopped loving and revering its intricacies, which made you understand that his approach to rock and roll as a pounding forcefield was never his bag. He attacked it with subtitles and accents and nuances that brought diamond/snowflake qualities to the Stones canon. Watts’s drumming had no origin or a map. Charlie does not play “Honky Tonk Women,”“Brown Sugar,” or thank goodness  “(I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” like an in-the-pocket drummer might. He re-imagines that pocket and challenges the rest of the band to stick it out on his call. Keith starts it, and Charlie wraps it up in his bow.

Watching Charlie Watts was the key to appreciating this. After being a Stones fan as a teenager, my first times seeing them – 1978 and 1981 – I suddenly understood the optical illusion of Charlie Watts, that little lift the sick off the hi-hat right when the thwack of the snare came down, the stuttered kick drum, and the rest of his quirky blues-funk-muddy-water-thud-punch. Supple wrist action, military style grip, the violent use of the crash as a ride when noise is needed.

His finest work may be on the band’s finest album, Exile on Main St., “Rocks Off, Shake Your Hips,” “Lovin’ Cup” to name just three stand-outs), but it’s all there in the 1960s single phase, (“She’s a Rainbow” a particulate favorite Charlie thang for me), after the blues cover band, and Chuck Berry tribute band phase, (“Route 66” – first song on the first album… ummm… wow), the pop phase (“Ruby Tuesday,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby?”, the revolution phase (“Holy crap,, “Street Fightin’ Man,” right?) and the heroin chic fear-mongering phase (My god, when he kicks into “Sister Morphine” … fucking chills), that culminates in the greatest run of the era – Beggar’s Banquet through Exile – brutal beauty. It rattles walls and topples steeples, and Charlie is absolutely transcendent on those records and subsequent tours. Charlie may be the best thing about one of the most influential (and maybe best?) rock and roll live albums ever, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. This is why he is on the cover; alone with a donkey, leaping off the road. An inside joke, since Charlie loathed touring. Loved the gig. Loved the two hours pounding away on “Midnight Rambler” and the rest, but hated the whole thing – the press, the gladhanding, the hotels, the constant movement. He’s a sitter. Drummers sit and make their mark. The other members move all over the place and pose for posterity. Charlie was a good sitter.

The Rolling Stones only ever existed beyond hit-makers and social pirates and institutional corporate touring machinery because of the unique just-a-tad behind the beat drumming of Charlie Watts.

There is not enough space here to fully frame the man, (graphic artist, cartoonist, jazz band leader), so I concentrate on his drumming, which, again was so damn unique that when it was announced two weeks ago that the Stones were “replacing” him for an upcoming tour with an excellent drummer, Steve Jordan, I nonetheless whipped off texts to friends that it is a joke consider anyone beyond Charlie playing Stones songs. He is the soul of them, so much so that the trillions of cover versions over the years by bar bands and superstars sound like cheap imitations of imitations. No one can play Rolling Stones songs but the Rolling Stones, or (ahem), the Stones with Charlie Watts. I have written here a dozen times that there is no such thing as Gonzo Journalism beyond Hunter Thompson. People claim to practice it, but only one man did it. There was never any Minneapolis Sound, it was Pr


Stones songs only exist in the realm of the Stones. No matter how many humans attempt to get the groove on “Start Me Up,” it is not, nor will it ever actually be “Start Me Up”. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what the hell it is or what the Stones are doing on that song to make it work, never mind appear to the untrained ear to be simple, but, trust me, it is more complicated musically than anything the prog rockers or fusion bands attempted to convince us was complicated to make a point about prowess.

Of course, because Charlie took a slanted view at simplicity in his playing, we all slept on the point this week on the plain fact that the man is a creative unicorn, the way Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, his contemporizes who got more press, were, and had forged for themselves within what those bands were doing.  

“Gimmie Shelter”; the monster of all monsters in the rock realm. There is nothing that can touch it, and Watts’s drumming on that is something out of Grendel. When he slams those accents in-between verses it fells me every time. Also, less known, is the 1981 Tattoo You track “Slave,” which may be Charlie’s finest moment. I think it is the best Stones song of the last decade they truly mattered, and for most of it they didn’t even play together. But “Slave” is Charlie’s Great Gatsby, his Mona Lisa, his lasting imprint on my favorite band of all time. It is less song than Charlie being Charlie. Unlike “Gimmie Shelter” the greatness is not in its composition but its execution, where all Rolling Stones songs came to be heard, conquer, and burn an indelible mark in our collective brain.

   Pretty good work for a sitter.

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AFGHANISTAN – THE BIG FAIL

Aquarian Weekly
8/25/21

Reality Check

James Campion


AFGHANISTAN – THE BIG FAIL

Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.
– Italian proverb

Man, I have written a whole lot about Afghanistan over two decades. Not as much as Iraq, but a lot. It has been a long, strange trip, over three presidencies, two of which claimed some sort of victory there and all three that dangled withdrawal. This past week or so the announced finality and exit of American troops from the region after the nation’s longest war did not go well. The government that we spent two decades building and the military that we spent two decades training, folded in a week to the Taliban that we were sold were defeated fifteen years earlier. The United States streak of losing military actions and de-facto wars since 1945 continues. This is an epic fail for the U.S. And despite the above quote, it has a shit-ton of fathers.

This could have been predicted in 2001, when President George W. Bush knee-jerked into what we all thought – and were told – was a brief military operation to dismantle the wheels of terrorism that led to 9/11, the first in a series of spectacular lies that would take forty columns to review. The Soviet Union had a similar run in the Afghanistan in the 1980s that ran the gamut from swift invasion, troubled occupation, frustrated abandonment, and a nation completely sunk into chaos. Their final report on conditions on the ground in 1989 were as follows: “Clearly visible is the growth of [Afghan] self-sufficiency, self-confidence, ability to evaluate the situation correctly … which they lacked during our military presence in Afghanistan.”

Oops.

Does this skewed overview of the situation sound familiar?

Which brings us back to our own botched calculation over thirty years later.

Despite the above’s recent history readily available to all involved – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the usual suspects – five years into the “quick military operation,” Bush claimed victory, as he did three years earlier in the notorious “Mission Accomplished” speech about Iraq (that war is still going on, I think? Maybe? Sort of.), stating “We have defeated the Taliban and freed the nation.” Then he sent more troops in and went away, making way for Barack Obama. That didn’t go particularly well either, despite the obvious opposition to the campaign by the incoming commander-in-chief.

After running for office on ending “endless wars” and hoping to bring what was then an already “too long” fiasco in Afghanistan, Obama added 30,000 troops to the fray within months of being elected, claiming an eighteen-month surge to bring the war to a conclusion. This, as you might ascertain, did not occur. So, the last guy ran on absolutely ending “endless wars.” Donald Trump promptly told the nation that Bush and his cronies were war mongers, the generals were idiots, and he alone could fix it. Of course, like everything that came from Trump, this was total bullshit. The former draft-dodger told the press in 2017 after becoming president that “We have wasted too much blood and treasure on Afghanistan” and blustered about pulling out at least a dozen times in his four years. The events of this week prove that never happened on his watch.

This war… was about vengeance for 9/11 and to shroud our dependence on foreign oil in a patriotic security mission.

Then we have Joe Biden, who as senator, watched our secret war to arm the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to help facilitate the Soviet boondoggle, then abandon our allies, leading to the rise of al Qaeda, and the emergence in the 1990s of Osama bin Laden, and, well, you know the deal. Biden was even in the room as Obama’s vice president when word came that bin Laden had been killed way back in May of 2011. Everyone thought, well, maybe, now we can pull out of this mess after ten years. Nah. Let’s do ten more.

Biden, or someone after him, at some point, was going to have to take the L for this. How long are we supposed to police and build and manage a foreign government and prop up its military? This is not rhetorical. I mean to ask this: How long? Thirty years? Forty? Forever? This thing had to end. Afghanistan is not Syria or even Iraq – this was not an ongoing skirmish. This was a finger-in-the-damn proposition. The U.S. Army is not a police unit. It is not a building contractor operation. It is there to invade and break shit, kill people, and get the fuck out. Afghanistan was something else, and that something else, like all things, had to end. The defeat in Afghanistan was inevitable. Okay, you think defeat is too hard, you need the edges smoothed, then how about an Incomplete? Whatever the semantics, it was as immediate as it was predictable. The entire farce of the War on Terror – a never-ending money pit of violence, lies and fuck-ups – was set up for bad endings. Think of all of this like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. You just know… right?

This does not excuse the images of people hanging off airplanes and women and children running for their lives and the predictable anti-American chanting and effigy burning. These are not good looks for any president. Ask Jimmy Carter. Biden is in charge now, not Bush or Obama or Trump. He wanted the gig. He’s a big boy (unlike the last cry baby) and he has taken the shit storm like a man. And he should. His historically steady approval ratings have sunk five points to under fifty percent for the first time in his first eight months on the job, and while most of it is related to the backlash over the Delta variant and its probable negative effects on an economy that has already dipped its toes into the early stages of inflation, the swiftness of Afghanistan’s fall into the hands of an enemy we were told was bested fifteen long years is a tough pill to swallow for Americans.

But lest we forget, this war was never about protecting women’s rights or nation building or whatever Judea-Christian falderal you hear, it was about vengeance for 9/11 and to shroud our dependence on foreign oil in a patriotic security mission. It was all bullshit. It is always bullshit when it comes to war, and it had to end, badly or otherwise.

Here’s the only silver lining, and it is at best a long shot. I would think, moreover I would hope we take measured, reasoned, and careful consideration before going the war route in the future. George H. W. Bush promised “no more Viet Nams” in his Kuwait show that gave a generation the false hope we had learned from our mistakes there and in Korea a decade earlier. But we clearly did not. And if twenty years of wasted human life, abject destruction, and trillions of dollars spent in Afghanistan just to see the images of the last week isn’t enough a lesson, then we, and anyone we deign to assist in the future, deserve to be fucked.

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GOVERNORS BAWL

Aquarian Weekly
8/11/21

Reality Check

James Campion

GOVERNORS BAWL


To say the very least, this has been a strange summer for the governors of four of our biggest states: California, Florida, New York and Texas. To say the most, it has been a friggin’ shit show.

Two Democrats.

Two Republicans.

Half of this notorious quartet is mired in an alarming spike in the new Covid variant, Delta, while continuing to mostly ignore its impact on their citizens and play politics with their constituents’ lives. One barely hangs on beneath a torrent of several sexual misconduct allegations that this week came to boiling point after the state’s attorney general announced the findings of an investigation previously touted by the accused as his salvation. And one still faces a recall election this fall after his alleged failures in handling a growing housing crisis, rising homeless numbers, a distressing crime rate and climate change that’s fueled water and electricity woes – not to mention failing to curtail the virus outbreak last year, seemingly fiddling while L.A. burned, so to speak.

A couple of these gentlemen entertain aspirations for the White House, which means, if the last guy was any indication, they are well on their way. Donald Trump also monumentally fucked up a response to Covid and bragged about his assaulting women, and he got to be president. Never mind his continued lie about having the 2020 election stolen from him, which caused a violent breech on the Capitol, killing now… six officers, is it? Yes, Blue Lives Matter, except if you are protecting a federal building against heavily armed middle-aged white right-wing extremists. Then fuck it.

But I digress.

Let’s go alphabetically by state.

California is an economically savaged state with environmental issues from wildfires to floods to smog and pollution – make no mistake, if the northern part of the state goes bye-bye (the most beautiful stretch of land on this continent) then we may well all pack it in. But mostly, for now, it has a serious Covid issue. Although fifty-three percent of California residents are fully vaccinated, way better than most states, it has not been enough to prevent Delta from spreading. To make matters worse, beleaguered Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom was spotted late last year flouting his own mandates, eating at the ritzy French Laundry restaurant, maskless.

In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is facing increased pressure from inside and outside his party to take any action to address the state’s surging number of cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus. He responded by signing an executive order last week banning cities and counties from mandating their kids wear masks in school. And as he did last year during the height of the pandemic, DeSantis has refused to heed CDC guidelines or even acknowledge any measure of mask mandates for businesses, leading to what is now the state’s worst Covid infection numbers, even when considering 2020, and, moreover, according to the Miami Herald, an unprecedented explosion of children being admitted to pediatric hospitals due to Covid. Only Texas has reported a higher spike in child patients, but we’ll get to that horror show shortly.

And while lives are not in the balance and the economic woes of New York, especially NYC, have been recently lessoned, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, once the darling of his party and the nation due to his handling of the pandemic for most of 2020, is being squeezed by Democrats and Republicans alike to resign his office following the results of an investigation conducted by the state’s attorney general that reported that he had sexually harassed eleven women and created a general “hostile” work environment for women. Not surprisingly, due to the new climate of boys will be boys set forth by “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” Trump, Cuomo is digging in, using The Donald’s playbook of acting victimized by Cancel Culture and a politically motivated witch hunt. Problem for Cuomo is the Democratic Party kind of frowns on this behavior instead of celebrates it as some kind of dying breed of white male dominance. Impeachment is now on the table.

Four huge states. Large populations. Bad vibes. Crime. Ineffectual governance. Political survival.

And last, but certainly not least, is the sad tale of Texas and its governor, Greg Abbott. Like DeSantis, taking cues from failed real estate criminals rather than scientists and doctors, Abbott resists any changes in the state’s policies toward Covid-19 even as the Delta variant spreads at the worst rate in the country. Cases are up more than two-hundred percent in Texas over the past two weeks. On the surface that seems bad. Looking deeper, it is morally bankrupt systemic malfeasance. In the face of all this, Abbott doubled down on his do-nothing strategy this week, bringing to mind the incredibly ineffectual Herbert Hoover laissez-faire non-planning that worked so well to exacerbate the Great Depression. To put it mildly, the utterly silly apathetic governance applied here is gutting the state’s morale on beating back the disease enough to reduce confidence in both the private sector and its government. In other words, if the governor has no ideas beyond “Screw it”, then the only way to describe his office is useless.

Four huge states. Large populations. Bad vibes. Crime. Ineffectual governance. Political survival.

It’s going to be a fun summer.

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