Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

Rugged Individualism Meets God’s Wrath & Loses

In a 9/15/05 column in this space titled “The Big Desperate: New Orleans Drowns It’s Poor and Huddled Masses”, I opined on the concept of self-preservation after one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in decades. My general rambling point was that too many politicians and officials, and quite frankly residents, ignored major issues with the woefully insufficient levies, despite decades of warnings and previous damaging floods. Then Hurricane Katrina came along, and we all know how that worked out. I didn’t necessary “defend” the Bush administration’s dormant response to it – which was so bad we still refer to a president’s fuck up in a crisis now as “His Katrina Moment” – but I did mention that ignoring probable dangers in lieu of profits, getting elected, or finding affordable housing in a flood zone, will most likely lead to homelessness and drowning. And expecting those same systemic abnormalities to come to the rescue when the poop hits the proverbial fan seems kind of naive. This is what’s currently going on in Texas, where, ironically, the very same George W. Bush had been governor for four years.

Texas is run more than any state as a separate entity to the rest of the country. It’s been their “thing” since they stole the land from Spain, who stole it from Mexico. Even their bullshit “Remember the Alamo” story is another in a long line of American revisions: Illegal land barons trapped by angered landowners refusing to vacate the filched property they had zero rights to and are summarily slaughtered, ostensibly committing suicide, suddenly become heroically martyred symbols of frontier spirit. We’re good at nonsense history like this; changing the villain/hero dynamic to fit our national conscience. Our history books are jammed with this crap. Our children are still taught it. It is an abomination. Leads to voting for game show hosts and believing elections are stolen.

But I digress.

The Texas mantra has been to run things in the Lone Star State tradition of self-reliant, rugged individualism. This is being sorely tested by a once in a generation winter storm that has eviscerated a singular grid system running ninety percent (90%!!!!!) of the state. And, to make matters worse, the company running the system has zero standby plans for emergencies, causing electricity prices to skyrocket during the crisis.

Texas and its snowy crisis have become both the symbol and the epicenter of political haranguing.

The perfectly named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT) collapsed this week because it was not remotely designed or equipped to deal with this shit. The extreme freezing temperatures and unusual snow falls are not as re-occurrent as floods in New Orleans, but the ERCOT monopoly is complete, and it is currently fucking thousands of Texas residents, many of whom were and still without power since this happened some days ago; burst pipes, no water or food, Texans living in their cars and freezing or burning furniture to survive. It is a post-apocalyptic nightmare down there. And it was their choice; or at least the choice of the politicians and the system they created on a myth.

This “choice” (and I assume not everyone’s opinion was considered in this perpetual cowboy fantasy) to live in a singular grid free of federal oversight and regulation was met with (shockingly) a tone-deaf response from Republican Governor Greg Abbott. Instead of shouldering the blame, as he should in his position, Abbott took to the conservative airwaves to warn us all about a Green New Deal and somehow blaming the ten percent of the rest of the state’s energy concerns on solar wind turbines or Karl Marx and Hollywood.

Whatever spurious excuses and political falderal the faltering Abbott offered appeared less about reviewing the systemic mistakes made over decades of ignoring the facts, and more about Texas’s liberal sacred cows like Beto O’Rourke cravenly taking the crisis opportunity to attach this to climate change and the refusal of former Governor Rick Perry (another idiot) to expand Medicaid, leaving about five million residents without health insurance, including an estimated 625,000 children.

But none of this is the actual issue here. Texas has a plan: Do Not Have Anything To Do With Anything Beyond Our Borders. And that plan works for them, until it doesn’t, and now it isn’t. Over twenty souls (so far) have gone to meet their maker as a result. This is a surprise, how? What happened to “Every man for himself means every man for himself – in good times and bad?” This is how it goes. You make your choice, and you live with it. Shit, take Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who shuffled off to sunny Cancun with his family this week while people froze to death in his district. This is a man who fully understands the Texas Edict. “There’s really nothing I could do, anyway,” he said, before he made up some stories about his kids and then rushed back amid a belligerent outcry against his doing “The Texas Thing”. Cruz is not the problem; it is the system that created him and the constituents who make him a senator against their best interests.

To wit: Have you seen the Texas/Arkansas border photo yet? It shows what is literally called Stateline Boulevard, a border road that divides Texas and Arkansas, and the Arkansas side is cleared and plowed and the Texas side is buried in snow.

That is the Texas Plan. Good for them. Now what? Let’s see if they have what it takes to get out from under it.

What I ask is; what happens in its wake? It is very interesting politically. Texas has been trending blue for three election cycles now. There is a groundswell of new residents and larger cities with bigger international interests that think “Go It Alone” is not good for business. And business greases the wheels of America and thus, American politics. Texas and its snowy crisis have become both the symbol and the epicenter of political haranguing.

The very future of The Lone Star ideology, and more importantly for the rest of us, American politics for generations will emerge from it.

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

Members of Cult Terrorists Pay the Price for Political Theater 

As the second impeachment trial of the former president rolls on, I can’t help but think of all the random Americans who turned into cultist, terrorist, insurrectionists as a result of the repeated chant to “Stop the Steal” from those who merely used it to deflect from the reality of defeat. This tactic, as discussed ad nauseum in this space, was openly declared for months and at every turn appeared to those familiar with dime-store propaganda to be a fabricated media smokescreen. For whatever the reasoning – delusion, irrationality, classic grifting – the fallout is the people who believe it, and those who act upon it; especially when specifically prodded by the perpetuator of The Big Lie.

I shan’t spend more than a sentence making the point that this behavior has been propagated since humans could communicate, sometimes to horrific results. Being suckered or brainwashed or riled up by the ravings of a megalomaniac is as common a human trait as love, jealousy, fear, and hate. It is baked into our DNA. We can’t help it. The thing that matters most are the lives of these people who seem to be (and I am only guessing here) so empty and bereft of emotional contentment that they seek outside sources to provide a level of self-esteem. Again, for whatever the reasoning there were a whole lot of people who bought into this thing with zero evidence and no logical framework. It was, for them, (another guess?) a brighter alternative than the ignominious ending to what they deemed as an imperative

Some took to Facebook or chatted up their theories on Twitter. Still others made a placard and did some protesting or kept their election signs up on the lawn a few more weeks after the election. And while that last one is pathetic and a little sad, none of those things are criminal. I believe people have every right to think the earth is flat or that Tom Brady doesn’t cheat. Whatever gets you through the night. It is the criminal thing that we’re interested in here. Some people felt the need to act as if this was Armageddon, as if there was nothing left to lose. The desperate and disappointed among us are also a dime a dozen. In the grand pantheon of the human experience, the illusion of fate and doom can be powerful sparks to weird and violent actions. The results were on display on January 6.

I’m reminded of the most famous of these illusions, the Resurrection of Christ. I am using the word illusion; one might use faith – a belief in something with no tangible evidence. For me, as I delved into over ten years of research on this subject for my third book, Trailing Jesus, I was unceasingly intrigued by the refusal to abandon a movement as dramatically ingrained in the spirit of first century Palestine simply because of the systemic execution of its leader whom many believed was God. It was decided to ignore the gory facts of this and repeat that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t really die or that his purpose was to die, and whammo! you have a resurrection. Defeat? Nah, victory! The cults and violence that succeeded this story is the legend of western civilization. And the funny thing is, it had little to nothing to do with the original Jesus movement. For more on that, you can read my book.

Shameless plugging aside, let’s take the most famous of the Big Lie suckers, Q-Anon. Part of this belief depends on certain dates that would allegedly hand a divine intervention victory to the ousted president. January 6 as one of those, which brought many of them to Washington D.C. to commit crimes against the nation. The next date is March 4. Let’s see how that goes for them.

Politics, religion or cults are okay in their place. No point risking it all for any of it.

But cultists are easy targets. They look to something otherworldly (like resurrection) to cure the pain of loss. But what of the Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers, two right-wing extremist groups who plotted the attack on the Capitol and used the president’s January 6 “rally” to enact violence and mayhem? These political terrorist groups used the trauma of defeat as a call to action to overturn the results as a matter of “principle”. Political principle is as good a reason for terrorism, or as Osama bin Laden once jibed, “One man’s terrorist is one man’s freedom fighter.” But at least bin Laden (American intervention), like the IRA (draconian British colonialism) or even the Weathermen (Viet Nam draft), based their rage on something tangible, despite building its violent grievances on lies.

I look to the Kennedy Assassination to find where people like the Proud Boys live. For years the main reason for delving into conspiracy theories about the murder of the president in broad daylight was not the shock of the incident but the idea that a bumpkin communist with an antiquated rifle could cut down the mighty Camelot. Now, unlike The Big Lie of 2020, there is ample evidence that there were shenanigans with that incident, however, it does not explain the initial and continued motivation to find out something more befitting the magnitude of this tragedy – it had to be more – a government plot, a mafia hit, a vengeance jag for Fidel Castro. This falls under the category of hero/godhead worship, but in a more socially foundational construct. The country is being taken away from us is the theory here. The “rally” that ignited the violence of 1/6 was titled “Save America”. These guys heeded that call to arms.

This is the core of the Capitol insurrection, which began the moment the former president did not accept defeat and decided to jack up the demented into providing a reason to unleash their grievances upon the symbol of American democracy, inviting them to the place of their eventual crimes, and finally allowing, even cajoling them to run amok as he tweeted inflammatory rhetoric condemning the vice president and anyone not buying into The Big Lie for one last media event. Finally, and most egregiously, is the ignoring of a call for the national guard to protect fellow Americans. That is something for the Senate to debate. But, let’s face it; there is little chance that committing political suicide is available to already feckless Republican sycophants who once called the former president a conman, liar, psychopath and nonetheless did his bidding to maintain power. These cretins get to keep their gig and make like nothing happened. Good for them.

But what about the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, Q-Anon suckers? They are arrested, humiliated, their lives ruined. They will do time for this. They’re losing their jobs, what good standing they may have perpetuated as a front for their extremism, and for what? A revolution? As horrific as January 6 was, that is one sad revolution. They are now criminals. Terrorists. Maybe martyrs for the cause – the ravaged butt end of The Big Lie? I wonder if they will be thinking of St. Peter’s last thoughts as they hung him upside down to die or St. Stephen’s bloody carcass lying beneath a torrent of stones. How did that all work out?

Not that I give a shit about any of these idiots, mind you. They’re adults. We all have to endure the consequences of our stupid shit, even though many of their lawyers are blaming this on all the brainwashing I covered above. You see, only presidents and rich people get away with stuff. These people are duly fucked and fucked for nothing. Nada. Bullshit. The ravings of a dung stain on history.

There is a lesson here. Maybe one person might read this and say, “Hey, the next time a stranger tells me something that only benefits his/her agenda, perhaps I should step back and think for myself before putting on a funny outfit and break shit and kill people or join some confusingly named group (come on, who doesn’t think of the Village People when you hear Proud Boys? You know you do). Politics, religion or cults are okay in their place. No point risking it all for any of it. Those things will fail you. Every time. And man, did the latest gaggle of the duped get jobbed on this one.

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

& The Future of Southern Politics 

To celebrate Black History Month, I dedicate a column this week to a brilliantly prescient account of the present and future political climate in the United States as proffered by African American journalist, Charles Blow in his new bookThe Devil You Know – A Black Manifesto. Its central theme, already played out in the 2020 presidential election and again just last month in the heretofore red stronghold of Georgia, is a new “great migration”, this time in the opposite direction. Citing the Great Northward Migration or the Black Migration of the early to mid-twentieth century that saw six million African Americans leave the rural South to Northern urban centers, Blow posits that the shift Democrats were seeking after its subpar showing in the 2016 presidential elections in the Rust Belt to a new “southern strategy” might well tell the tale for coming generations.

“The proposition is simple,” writes Blow. “As many Black descendants of the Great Migration as possible should return to the South from which their ancestors fled, which are the true centers of power in this country, and as such control the lion’s share of the issues that bedevil Black lives: criminal justice, judicial processes, education, health care, economic opportunity and assistance.”

For Blow, this begins in the cities, the most economically thriving part of the new South, especially in its major metropolitan centers. In a 2018 Forbes report, the worst cities for Black Americans were found in the North from the Great Migration, whereas the majority of Black wealth was being realized in the South. More than one thousand of the nation’s twelve-hundred majority Black cities reside there, all of which are home to most of the nation’s Black-owned businesses and boast the most Blacks in local government.

This, of course, like all economic calling, including the first Great Migration, is where the direction of any racial, economic, or generational group will lead. It is the plot line of the American story.

Blow’s points, noteworthy in how the voting went in the past two election cycles but crucially in the most recent, is why The Devil You Know is perhaps the most important political theory book of the past two decades. It summarizes the foundation of the Black voter explosion that helped culminated in over eighty million votes for President Joe Biden, whose own flagging campaign was rescued by the Black vote in the Democratic Primary. Those numbers, already calculated among Democratic insiders, who tallied the most fervent support for the defeated Hillary Clinton four years earlier in the African American vote, measurably increased for Democrats in 2020, as it did also for Republicans. More young Blacks under the age of forty-four supported the losing party, thus allowing Republicans to outperform the top of the damaged ticket, leading many to surmise that the general numbers of a steady voting bloc were evident everywhere.

New Black voters… were lying in wait for the general election and to turn a reliable red state a deeper blue

Seeing how only eight percent of the Black vote routinely supports Republican candidates, the party has some work to do, but according to Blow’s research and reasoning this is ever more evident in the South, where a traditionally White voting bloc had shifted from Democrat in the early part of the previous century to Republican during the Civil Rights movement, resulting in the blowback against the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act signed into law by a Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson in the early 1960s. LBJ’s predecessor, also a Democrat, John F. Kennedy and his Justice Department, run by the president’s brother Robert, became the first administration to openly challenge the region’s draconian and racist Jim Crow laws. This led, as we know, to Richard Nixon’s shamelessly racist “Southern Strategy”, which fanned the flames of fear amongst white voters, and some Blacks as well, to the changes implemented by overzealous federal government interference. Nixon would win overwhelmingly for a Republican for the first time there and change regional politics for nearly half a century.

Despite overwhelming numbers for the African American community, due to voter suppression, violence, and corrupt police activities, it became ever more difficult for politicians to secure or count on Black support throughout the South. The shift changed in the early 1990s, as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton began to solidify the heretofore silent Black vote to his advantage, and although he failed to win a popular vote average nationally, consolidated this constituency to gain two consecutive terms as president. However, the Democratic Party did not spend enough time and effort working that segment of their voter base, which ended up costing Al Gore a razor-thin election in 2000 and later another tight loss by John Kerry in 2004.

It was, of course, the electing of Barack Obama, the first Black candidate president in 2008 in which the greatest number of African Americans flocked to the polls. Obama became the first Democrat to win the presidency by a considerable margin since LBJ in 1964, but his party could not maintain that level of support in his re-election bid of 2012, despite securing a second term. Many political scholars cite a lack of faith in a true Southern breakout of Black votes.

This changed dramatically in 2020.

The most prevalent formation of this change was enacted by one of the most effective and powerful political minds of the past decade, Stacey Abrams, who while losing her bid for governor of Georgia in 2018, found formally silent Black voting blocs amidst the urban centers of Atlanta and Columbus. A former state legislator, lawyer and author, Abrams canvased Georgian counties for two years, expanding the base and registering record numbers of new Black voters. These were lying in wait for the general election and to turn a reliable red state a deeper blue, a blue that became solidified with the election of two senators in a January run-off, one of them a Black candidate.

Similar numbers were revealed in Arizona, another state the Republicans lost in 2020, much as the Dems lost Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania four years earlier, Black destination cities of Phoenix, Tucson and Tempe have shifted the balance of political power in the state, leading to inter-party fisticuffs just weeks ago when Martha McSally broke ranks with Republican pushing to overturn the 2020 election results – causing a restructure of the political landscape back to the state’s more racially divided roots. Blow believes, although a heavier lift, the influx of African American entrepreneurs entering the largest growing cities in America – Houston and Dallas in Texas, and Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina – will cause a dramatic shift in not only the political power structure but also a need for the Republican Party to either court this vote or expunge the white supremist underbelly currently battling for a majority voice in The Grand Old Party to remain relevant.

Blow’s book, while certainly political – I concentrated on his theory of economic migration to urban centers acting as Democratic strongholds, such as Detroit and Philadelphia in states Biden won back this cycle – it is more a study of the racial power structure in the second decade of the twenty-first century. This goes beyond, of course, winning elections, it proves Hunter S. Thompson’s, another great son of the South, axiom; “Politics is the art of controlling your environment.”

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

Joe Biden’s Bid to Exorcise Bad Faith Politics

Who had the over/under on the word “unity” in Joe Biden’s inauguration address?

Many, definitely Fox News’s Chris Wallace, heard all this talk of unity as a seminal moment in American politics. I heard it differently. I heard the New Guy trying to lay down a narrative; disagreement on issues, ideology and policy is welcome, bullshit name-calling and nonsense blather for the Big Show, not so much. If there is an apt analogy, I go with bringing a knife to a gun fight, and this speech was a bazooka.

There has been quite a bit of parsing of the 2020 election for the losing side, because the losers made it about them. And commenting on it, while banal and mostly foolish, was justified because it was legitimate news – not so much the lies about voter fraud, just the initial fallout from it, and that news led us to an insurrection and one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks in modern times. However, not to be forgotten in that whole mess – which was, in truth, part of the plan to make it about losers – Joseph R. Biden Jr. received more votes than any human who has run for president of the United States. Specifically, 81,283,485.

That is a lot of fucking votes.

Yet many Republicans, either for the Big Show to solidify political standing or lazy mob mentality, first ignored and then tried to disenfranchise those votes. But now they have to cast legislative votes to help Biden make D.C. move or not, and one thing the New Guy has over the previous one is that he is actual politician, and a very studied one at that. Burning bridges as an opening salvo for TV ratings and to rile the great unwashed might work fine in Hollywood or New York Real Estate, but what the New Guy knows is that regardless of the landscape, there is a political way forward. This, and not whatever that crazy shit that went on the past four years, is how things get done around here. Rhetoric used as a means to an end.

The results of this “plan” certainly remains to be seen; but make no mistake, the president’s inauguration speech was the opening paragraph in a political thesis he formulated long before January 20.

Now, I know this partisan bickering thing – always a feature of national politics – began to get really ugly during the Obama Administration. A major part of this was achieved through obstruction politics, the other part is that Obama was truly shitty at the hard knocks of negotiation, getting his hands dirty with meetings and interplay. He had, according to sources on both sides of the aisle, an overt disdain for congressional fisticuffs. Obama had only been a senator for five minutes when he ran for the highest office in the land. This is why he chose Joe Biden as a running mate, among the normal electoral concerns – older white guy with centrist ties to the Rust Belt. This is precisely why I thought Biden had the best chance to end our national nightmare, and guess what, he did.

Biden was Obama’s inside man for eight years. When no one would deal with the president, Old Joe was there to kick up the dirt of his three decades in the chamber. Any legislation accomplished during the 44th president’s two terms, especially the last one and a half when he coughed up the House and Senate, was mostly due to Biden. This is the guy who gave the “unity” speech; some of which was the obvious pivot from bleating asshole to old-world statesman, but the real underlying rhetoric told not a tale of the past, but one of the immediate future.

What the New Guy knows is that regardless of the landscape, there is a political way forward.

And as mentioned, it was all strategically planned out. The day before the inauguration, Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain made available to the White House press corps the four pillars of the incoming president’s agenda: Covid-19, Economy, Environment and Racial Equity. Let’s consider the breakdown: Crisis. Collateral Damage of Crisis. Long-Reaching Results of Crisis. Most Effected by Crisis.

A few minutes after the nifty “unity” speech, Biden went to work; signing seventeen executive orders to directly hit all these subjects. There was a cold, calculating myopia about it. Time to move on. New Guy.

On the second day, the Biden staff was appalled to learn that not only was a national vaccine roll-out a mess, but it was also non-existent. The previous administration did not have one. For the two months it could have been administered, and for the months leading up to it, only politics and then lying and whining about politics mattered. As thousands died and millions become infected by the worst pandemic in a century, the federal government, which has all of our money, tanked it.

Turns out my assessment that “the house was on fire, time to put it out first, and worry about where to put the furniture,” during the summer, was spot on.

So, I’m taking this prediction winning streak and letting it ride. I say, the New Guy puts to use the post-election goodwill to transform narrative (“unity”) into legislative manipulation. (Hey, look at that, a president with a positive approval rating!) Biden may have lost something off his fastball at age seventy-seven, but if he knows one thing, it is legislative manipulation. This is what his inauguration speech tells me and believe me, if Republicans want to stay relevant in congress, they had better know this: Merely saying legislation is socialist or that the opposition hates America or some dime-store nugget that excites talk radio is no longer going to cut it. Oh, they’ll try. It’s hard to break habits. But that is what is before them. It is the consequence of the election: eighty-one million said, “New Guy, please!”

Cult of Personality has literally left the building, and it has been replaced by the New Guy – wonky, stealthy, shrewdly effective, and always smiling that smile. Placate the left, challenge the right, the way of the politico

Infant time is over.

The New Guy is in town.

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

This is Mitch McConnell’s Dilemma

Let’s do some math.

Donald J. Trump, fast working his way into history as one of the worst humans to ever occupy the presidency of the United States, is compiling some ignominious achievements. This week he became the first one of these to be impeached twice. I argue he should have been impeached for obstructing justice a dozen times during the Mueller investigation, but two is still the record. He is the first presidential candidate to lose the popular vote twice, and the first sitting president to never have an approval rating above fifty percent. He is the first one-term president since Herbert Hoover, another failed businessman, to lose the presidency, the House and the Senate in one term. He also joins Hoover in being the only chief executive in the last century to leave the presidency with less working Americans than when he arrived.

Trump sucked at being president. Really sucked.

And now he is a terrorist; and will likely be charged as such in a Washington D.C. court once he becomes a civilian, joining several states in their hopes to make him legally pay for sucking so hard.

Nevertheless, sucking is very popular in the Republican Party.

Trump, whose national approval rating has dipped to thirty-eight percent – and that’s a composite of all legitimate polls, some have him as low as thirty-two percent – enjoys a fifty-one percent approval rating in his party, forty-five percent of which approved of the sacking of the U.S. Capitol and the violence against police by neo-Nazi domestic terrorists, which also included a plan to hang the vice president and murder the speaker of the house. Added to this, forty-two percent of Republicans now say they would still vote for Trump in the 2024 presidential primaries. The forty-two number is pertinent, since it is approximately the average of the president’s approval rating for most of a presidency that featured some whopping failures, egregious crimes, a phalanx of stunning lies, and the overall aforementioned sucking.

The nation rids itself of Donald J. Trump this week, but the Republican Party has a lingering problem with him; how do they convince nearly half their base to ignore all of this sucking – which caused him to lose the general election by seven million votes, cough up Republican strongholds of Arizona and Georgia, putting in play seminal red states like Texas and North Carolina, and eventually lose two run-offs in formally deep-red Georgia to an African-American and a Jewish-American in which somewhere between fifteen and twenty-three percent of the Republican turnout went bye-bye?

This is the question that will have to be answered on the sidelines, as the GOP will become, thanks primarily to this spectacular sucking by Trump, the minority party for the next two years. Evidence that Republicans can win outside the Trump coalition of the damned is that the party picked up House seats and kept the Senate tied despite this electoral slaughter; meaning those who voted against Trump still voted for Republican candidates down-ballot.  

Trump sucked at being president. Really sucked.

The current Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, who played Trump like a master for the past four years to stack conservative judges, get corporate tax rates slashed, and help gut the federal government, has a decision to make; something he floated within minutes of the House’s call to impeach the president as a seditionist traitor to the republic this past week. According to leaks straight from his office, McConnell thinks that a Trump conviction in the U.S. Senate “will make it easier to purge him from the party.”

Hmmmm… purge?

Well, you don’t have to run for president, which Trump will certainly not be able to do if convicted, to dominate the Republican Party. Ask Religious Right TV Evangelist Pat Robinson or Tax-Pledge advocate Grover Glenn Norquist or General Loon Alex Jones. These three men control the voice, the tenor and the very existence of the Republican Party, and none of them have held, or in the case of the last two, have any interest in holding office. However, the will-he-won’t-he run in 2024 drag of the electorate and the inevitable Trump calls for primaries against sitting Republican lawmakers has McConnell, a coldly shrewd and calculating political animal, ruminating on his last chance at power.

To wit: McConnell holds the key to the eventual sixty-seven votes it would take to convict Trump in the Senate and end his political career; thus, taking him out of the running. This does move towards expunging much of the stench of the past four years and especially the madness of the last two months of claiming non-existent election fraud and the attack on the Capitol building by marauders caught on tape shouting, “We were invited here by the president of the United States!” or those who have already been arrested, who are saying they were just, in classic Nazi fashion, following El Douche’s orders.

This prompted a record (another Trump milestone) ten Republican members of congress to vote to impeach the president, which makes this impeachment the most bipartisan of the three previous, including the first Trump fiasco. The loudest voice came from the Number-Three Republican in the House, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who issued a scathing anti-Trump statement, the culmination of which read; “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”


The downside of “purging” Trump from the Party?

An internal Republican poll says it all: Eighty-percent of GOP voters, an enormous seventy-six percent in battleground states, are less likely to vote for a member of Congress/U.S. Senator who votes for impeachment. And if Georgia is any indication, and according to similar internal polling there is a consensus within the Party that Trump’s repeated bullshit about elections being rigged and attacking the Republican governor and state attorney’s general despite their original support for his candidacy, caused the abysmal turnout. Can you win an election as a Republican without placating the crazies?

Truth is Trump likely gave the Republicans their last shot at the presidency, as it would seem these numbers prove they would have definitely lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016 without his hidden uneducated, displaced, white anger vote. This is the GOP base now. Neo-Nazi terrorists outnumber religious right, fiscal responsible, suburban mom voters in the Party, many of which flipped to President-Elect Joe Biden in November. McConnell has to decide whether to lose elections for the foreseeable future to slowly rebuild the Party into a legitimate one again or risk merely going the way of the nineteenth century Whigs.

And what if Trump decides to start his own Party for fun and spite? He was never really a Republican anyway. There is more evidence Trump was a Democratic Trojan Horse or a Russian operative than an actual GOP candidate. The level of historic analysis on his Herculean sucking may bear this out.

This impeachment trial and its outcome is now in Mitch McConnell’s hands. He can whip the votes, make the argument to save the Republican Party, or not. He could be pragmatic, as is his wont, just bite the bullet, hold his nose, and continue to appease anti-American forces to help keep the Party machine running.

To purge or not purge, that is McConnell’s dilemma.

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion


When history records this, it will come to one conclusion: Donald Trump was the most effective anti-American terrorist ever. No one, not Osama bin Laden, has done the kind of lasting damage to the foundation of the United States of America than our president is enacting right now. If America’s enemies could have drawn this up, I doubt they would have even dreamed this scenario. 

In the last few months I have written about events surrounding American politics that sound more like Berlin in 1932 than America in 2020. Perhaps no better example is what transpired on January 6, 2021; the day the United States Congress was to ratify the electoral victory of Joseph Biden as 46thpresident of the United States. In a nutshell; The current president, Donald J. Trump used a mob rally he scheduled from the White House and incited it to storm the Capitol building. Goons armed to the teeth, shouting, shoving, looting, desecrating, threatening. Blood was shed. Five died, including a police officer. A bloody coup on the United States orchestrated by the chief executive and commander-in-chief, who turned against one of the three branches of the federal government to overthrow the will of the people and consolidate power, anointing himself king, thus effectively ending the 243 year-old American democracy.

I really shouldn’t have to write much more than this. But sadly, idiots abound.

This is where we end up with the Trump legacy; armed fascist thugs breaking windows of our most sacred federal building, marching inside and shouting “Our house!” Members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate cowering beneath desks, furniture being buttressed against ancient doors of the republic, men in suits with guns drawn towards it, as if in a zombie film. Dressed in their right-wing cult outfits, identified members of Neo-Nazi groups, Right Wing insurrectionist organizations, and proud members of the Republican Party (state lawmakers from West Virginia and Pennsylvania) taking selfies behind the desk of the Speaker of the House, sitting in the main seat of the chamber shouting “Donald Trump is president!”

The shit show that normally awaits the end of a relationship with Donald Trump – whether business, political, personal – has taken its final public bow in the mist of tear gas and mayhem. Two weeks until the final vestiges of his grand anti-American experiment slinks away into the trash bin of history after four abysmal years of filling his cabinet with those who despise the very positions they hold, heads of agencies that having spent decades trying to destroy them, a gutted state department, a fractured military, a war within his own political party, overt attempts to extort states to “find me votes” to subvert his ignominious and resounding 2020 defeat, ends with people breaking into the Capitol and trashing the place. Here we are, at the butt end of another Trump failure: Shambles. Embarrassment. Disgust. Broke. Diseased.

Make America Great Again

MAGA will forever stand for Terrorism. Racism. Fascism. Destruction.

Capitulation to Russian interference and the coddling of dictators. Appeasement to Nazis, anti-Semites, white supremacists, violent extremists. The game show host at the bow pointing the ship directly into the abyss. It was built on lies. The lie of the foreigner. “The borders are a sieve,” the candidate said. They were not. It ends with the president repeating a lie; “The election was rigged.” It was not. He calls those who sack the Capitol “patriots” and pledges his undying love to their hate and destruction.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” shouted Trump from a podium facing the Capitol, his deranged followers turning and shouting, “Let’s go!” Then he finished with; “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

The assault of the Capitol by Neo-Nazis to disrupt the will of the American people is the final legacy of the dark, divisive, destruction of the Donald Trump era.

After all of this, seven Republican senators join him to contest the election results and act as symbols for this siege on the Capitol. Two of them began the 2024 GOP Primary by auditioning for this cretinous rabble; Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a shameless hack and, of course, Ted Cruz, who has consistently displayed zero scruples. Hawley is a feckless opportunist trying to fill the void left by the MAGA sinkhole before him as Cruz has worshipped a man who accused him of stealing the Iowa Primary back in 2016, suggested his father aided the JFK assassination, and called his wife a dog, all the while nicknaming him Lyin’ Ted. How shameless can you be when you once said of the president; “Trump is a narcissist and serial philanderer and morality doesn’t exist for him” and you now help him enable sedition.

These cowards, joined by 139 Republican members of congress, challenged our free and fair election, the core of this democracy. They committed treason on the floor of the very building their thug brothers and sisters just sacked. I personally call out Congressman Van Drew of N.J.’s 2nd District for his subversive act and vow to use this space to have him expunged as a representative of my state. Although, for the record, I have retired from challenging congressmen to fist fights. But, you know, I can take him.  

And what of the executive branch of the government? It stood down to protect its legislative branch. Calls for the National Guard to be deployed from Maryland were met with silence from the Defense Department. For ninety crucial minutes its governor, Republican Larry Hogan, begged someone to grant him allowance to assist. It wasn’t until the Pentagon intervened by contacting Vice President Mike Pence’s office were they able to engage, and by then it was far too late.

Let me make this clear: The U.S. Army broke from the commander-in-chief in a time of high national crisis to rescue the Republic from him.

Let that sink in.

Recall it when remembering the atrocious presidency of Donald Trump.

The assault of the Capitol by Neo-Nazis to disrupt the will of the American people is the final legacy of the dark, divisive, destruction of the Donald Trump era. Lunatics waving blue police flags spitting at cops, face-painted, armed marauders with Jesus shirts smashing windows and a mutant carrying a Confederate Flag into the people’s rotunda pretty much wraps this smoking heap of miserable dung in a tight ribbon. Those will be the images of this hate mongering, lie-filled clusterfuck of an administration and everyone, let that read everyone who served it, voted for it, and defend it still, even those who now decry it, as if they are shocked by what it has wrought. It all ends in a blaze of ignominious conflagration. They own this.

Investigations must be launched to find those police captured on video opening gates and waving this overt attack on America, stepping aside to allow one of their own to be killed. We need answers on the egregious lack of planning to protect Washington D.C. when many of these white supremist groups had plotted this in the open, under the banner of “Storm the Capitol – January 6” on Instagram and Facebook for months; the president tweeting on December 20 to come to D.C.; “It will be wild!” And so we need to know exactly why Donald Trump’s government pulled funding and closed the Justice Department’s task force to infiltrate and prepare to thwart Right- Wing uprisings? Was this the plan all along? Overthrow the government with assistance from the chief executive?

This bloody coup and its perpetrators cannot be forgotten. History awaits the final toll, and underlines the memory of January 6, 2021, and its villain, Donald J. Trump.   

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion


This year sucked. Sure, we were decimated with a pandemic, faced with systemic racial reckoning, and run, for a few more days at least, by a dangerous idiot, but what 2020 really did was take my eye off the prize in this space. And that prize is New Jersey’s vote to legalize marijuana, something I have written about and actively campaigned for with much fervor here for years. It is the reason I supported Phil Murphy for governor. Finally, after a couple of painful years of stonewalling by morally-suspect Republicans and a regretful contingent of feckless out-of-touch Democrats in our state government, our call here for a vote came to fruition. And boy, did that work out. Weed is legal in New Jersey.

I wish to write this again.

Weed is legal in New Jersey.

The day before I put down these words, the state Assembly voted 49-24 with six abstentions to pass bill S21, and the Senate later followed, passing it 23-17.

You know why?

Because we say so.

It was the will of the people, who voted two-to-one on November 3 to amend the state constitution and make weed legal.

This is how democracy works.

Call up Donald Trump and let him know. He needs some lessons. On second thought, fuck that moron, he’s going to Florida in a few days. He’s their problem now.

Hmmmm, 2021, welcome.

“I feel that nothing will have a greater impact that I’ve done in my career in the Legislature on all New Jerseyans,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the bill’s sponsor, blustered with glee moments before the vote. You could almost detect a tear of joy there, but it was likely the pain of being a N.J. lawmaker. No one should have to endure that without some herb. Hell, this was a tough one, as Scutari, one of my heroes, said, “It’s been a long journey.”

This, dear reader, is the sweet sound of freedom in a year that had a shit-ton of restrictions, rules, curfews, and limits. Soon Governor Murphy will sign this baby into law and his campaign promise, the only reason I backed him in these pages, will be made real.

Weed is legal in New Jersey.

Forgive me, I cannot help but to keep typing this. It’s almost involuntary. I could see it on the horizon, I could argue it, and dream it, and even conjure it as some kind of positive affirmation on what is good and true in our statehood, but now it is happening. And, by the way, I am not even a pothead. I could take it or leave it. It mostly makes me hungry and sit in front of the TV until all hours watching old Elvis Costello and the Attractions boot videos. I prefer gin.

Nevertheless, weed is legal here.

The details will have to be worked out. This is a major business model and one that has had uneven results in other states. There are, by the way, sixteen of us now. Whereas in Colorado things went smoothly, other states have had issues. But where New Jersey is concerned, this could not have happened at a better time. The economy has tanked, and some jobs are not coming back. The very concept of the office is being re-examined by accountants from Bangor to the Baja Peninsula. Empty buildings. Quieter streets. This is part of the “new normal” and so the influx of tax from commuting, rentals, to simple sales tax has diminished to the point of affecting schools, police, fireman, and the pressing matter of infrastructure.

This will of the people comes at the right time.

As reported on “The bill currently directs seventy-percent of the state sales tax revenue from marijuana purchases and an excise tax on marijuana growers to certain minority communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war.”

Moreover, soon, when the vaccine takes effect (yay, vaccine!), people will be coming out of their holes and much like the 1920s after the last massive pandemic rocked the nation and WWI drove a spike through the heart of our collective faith, they will be ready to party! The Roaring Twenties Redux, without all the Prohibition. Nothing stopped those maniacs, and we shall follow in their Flapper/Charleston/Gatsby wake. So, we need to regulate their product, push the pushers and dealers to the side and assist in making things easier for our overloaded cops. This will be a boon to all of those things.  

This also means we can clear our prisons of low-level drug offenders. Saves on feeding, clothing and accommodating them. When I was in the Manhattan tombs two October’s ago for a few evenings on a bullshit charge, I would conservatively estimate that over ninety-percent of the poor bastards in there were on minor drug busts. And ninety-nine percent were people of color. But it will soon be 2021, and this should not be a thing, and it is no longer a thing, and for that I celebrate The Vote and the coming of 2021.

“This bill to legalize cannabis is a strong commitment to social justice,” Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, one of the bills’ sponsors, told, “This bill establishes measures to make the cannabis business diverse and equitable.”

As predicted, the people want this, and they will now get it. And like most experiments in freedom, this may be rocky and maybe it won’t be the cash windfall I and the governor believe it will be, but it is way overdue. It was always – thank you, Randolph Hearst – an arbitrary and capricious law, making a plant illegal, and we here in New Jersey, at least, have rectified it. And thus, it will not be long before New York follows suit. They must, or risk losing much revenue, because until then the tolls and local economic boon will be coming this way.

Oh, and the cool thing about having a Democrat in the White House again is the federal government won’t spend tax dollars, energy and manpower trying to enforce antiquated federal law and let the states experiment, let the free market and the people decide the outcome of our destiny.

To write that in a year that has seen us isolated and sacrificed and arguing stupidly over what we can wear and not wear and ignore the greater health and consciousness of our friends, family and neighbors, this news, this will of the people comes at the right time.

Weed is legal in New Jersey.

And now, 2021…  

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C’mon, Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus – David Cassidy (1994)

Reading the latest books on Prince and Lenny Kravitz for this Rock Reads segment brought me back to one I’d read when it came out twenty-six years ago, David Cassidy’s C’mon, Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus. Of course, I would. Cassidy’s iconic Keith Partridge, the feather-haired, guitar-slinging, pukka-shell sporting lead singer-songwriter of the fictional Partridge Family was as important a figure in the third wave of rock history than almost anyone. The Partridge Family television show about a family that rides around in a multi-colored Ken Kesey-style bus playing music and getting into adventures reached millions of kids – the aforementioned Prince and Kravitz, as well as Green Day’s Billie Joe, who continues to cite it as an influence – and your humble reviewer, sitting in his Bronx apartment gawking at how damn cool long hair, playing guitar and attracting screaming girls could be. Keith Partridge was our Elvis, our Beatles. We had little Michael Jackson and his cartoon Jackson 5 and Keith.

Before his untimely death in 2017, Cassidy aged well, still acting, performing in Vegas, making the talk-show circuit and explaining what the hell it was like to live in a kiddy pool while experimenting with drugs, dreaming of being Jimi Hendrix, and posing nude for a cover of Rolling Stone. The Partridge Family released many albums throughout the early Seventies, as did Cassidy, and he went on tour, and those tours were a mixture of Beatlemania and Satyricon, and then it was back on set Monday morning at 5:00a.m. to play a teenager. 

Cassidy, son of the famous (actors Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward) and careening through his youth with reckless abandon is a fine storyteller; self-depreciating and exacting. He tells it like it is, copping Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson’s infamous phrase for the subtitle of his book, and writes with a helping measure of empathy for his demented father and his Partridge Family co-star, the inimitable dumpster fire that is Danny Bonaduce.

C’mon, Get Happy is a fun and eye-opening read. It takes you to a time when pop culture and the underground would meet oddly to form the 1970s and beyond.  

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Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World – Rob Sheffield (2017)

Rob Sheffield’s Dreaming the Beatles may be the finest book on the subject. Considering the dearth of Beatles literature, this is a feat worth celebrating. But it is true. There has never been, at first a more modern, and second, a better perspective framing of the band to end all bands put to print. My greatest compliment may be that if I were to recommend to future generations why the Beatles were so important, wildly over-and-underrated, and how they hypnotized an entire generation and continue to gather even more disciples, it would be Dreaming the Beatles.

Sheffield lends a post-Boomer slant to all this deconstruction; rightfully claiming a space in the 1990s where the Beatles as a force in consumer consciousness and a lasting iconicity cemented their legacy far more than for those who had either lived through it, or for myself, just missed it and were left with its echoes. There is also a wonderful re-imagining of each Beatle personality in Dreaming the Beatles; the emotional pillars of John, Paul, George and Ringo beyond the monolithic Fab Four. Again, despite having read dozens of volumes on these monumental figures, I found that Sheffield does a remarkable job of re-humanizing them while baring their most enviable and abhorrent traits. 

Perhaps its best feature is the book never loses its sense of humor about all this pop-culture proselytizing. I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of post-Beatles worship versus backlash, as if shifting the tele Perhaps its best feature is the book never loses its sense of humor about all this pop-culture proselytizing. I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of post-Beatles worship versus backlash, as if shifting the telescope from one end to the other and seeing the past as a far-off spec of what we now embrace as our musical Big Bang.   

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There Was A Light: The Cosmic History of Chris Bell and the Rise of Big Star – Rich Tupica (2020)

Interestingly, despite its short but mythic existence, the Memphis band Big Star – critics’ darling in the pall of curious career implosion – has very little of its story in book form. In fact, there is none. Aside from the 2012 documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, wherein a new generation of gawkers could debate how a band this good with songs this incredible be a total bust, no one has gone where Rich Tupica’s There Was Light does. The author chooses the best possible entry into this mystery by using its doomed but sympathetic founder, Chris Bell as the titular protagonist of the tale. Bell is one of a myriad of misunderstood rock geniuses that fell hard and left us too soon – a lá Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith. He also deftly uses the oral history template to get firsthand accounts of much of what has been passed on in the cloudy realm of pop culture historians as an inquisitive train wreck, but on closer inspection, was really just a bunch of guys trying to make music and make it.   

Hovering over the proceedings is the specter of Alex Chilton, whose music biography stretches back to teenaged lead singer of the Box Tops and his sometimes brilliant and most times combative relationship with Bell. There is also the ancillary matter of Bell’s battle with sexual identity and the more pertinent one of his mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. 

There Was a Light pulls no punches but reading the accounts of every major figure in the compellingly tragic story of Big Star, including Bell in a series of culled quotes, and discovering more of his solo work, make this an important document in the annals of rock and roll history.  

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