Hard Rain: A Bob Dylan Commentary – Tim Riley (1993)

What a wonderful read. Author Tim Riley, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director at Emerson College, who has written extensively about the Beatles and other music from the period, takes a welcomed unique slant on the Bob Dylan story in Hard Rain: A Bob Dylan Commentary. It is indeed a “commentary” from the first paragraph, methodically taking apart the accepted narrative of this mysterious icon to concentrate on what made Dylan a musical force across generations. 

Riley begins with Dylan’s genuflecting to the blues more than folk, which makes sense with the budding songsmith’s teen obsessions with Little Richard and Elvis Presley and later with his dramatic move to an electric sound. Yet this creative foundation is wholly ignored in many depictions of Dylan’s initial absorption of Woody Guthrie and his later tap into the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk movement. It is also a solid footing for how the author follows the celebrated singer-songwriter’s zigzag artistic sojourn, always on the move, always challenging both his own talents and the expectations of his audience.

It was especially intriguing to read something this close to the bone before the later waves of Dylan comebacks over the past decades – some hit or miss. I agree with almost all of Riley’s assessments of Dylan’s eighties into nineties works and performances. I endured one of those erratic shows at Radio City Hall that was just awful. I brought a young friend whom I was tutoring in the Dylan canon and found myself apologizing for it throughout. 

Also, it is ironic that right before I read this (thanks to the author for gifting me a copy, and his inclusion as a voice in my next book) when I was finishing up Sinéad O’Connor’s memoir. In the book’s epilogue, Riley rightly takes to task Dylan’s silence in the wake of a New York City crowd booing O’Connor after her infamous Saturday Night Live performance in which she ripped up a picture of the pope. The hypocritical tone-deaf idea that during a Bob Dylan tribute show, which Dylan attended, the celebration would ignore his own bravery to shake the foundations of power and take on the status quo, is articulately deconstructed.

Hard Rain: A Bob Dylan Commentary is a must read for any Dylan fan not mired in rock star worship, something the artist would likely abhor.

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The White Label Promo Preservation Society: 100 Flop Albums You Ought to Know – Sal Maída, Mitchell Cohen & Friends (2021)

Full disclosure: I was gifted this book whilst in Austin, Texas in late summer by one of its contributors, Mr. David Immerglück, a multi-instrumentalist for Counting Crows, the Monks of Doom, and other musical projects. A fellow lunatic music geek, it makes sense that the man we all affectionately call Immer would be included here with his essay about the obscurity of what he dubs “Welsh hippy rockers,” MAN, and their 1974 musical manifesto, Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics. But Immer is but one voice, and the MAN record, which I was gladly introduced to in this volume, is only the tip of the geek-dom iceberg. After just a few of these entrees, you will become a full-fledged member of The White Label Promo Preservation Society.

For newbies to this affliction, a “white label promo” is the vinyl hound’s most cherished find. Back in the day, these were unreleased-to-the-wider-public versions of records that would be shared only with reviewers and radio stations. I have more than a few in my humble collection, but it is only a wink and a nod to the converted, because this compendium casts a wider net. We are introduced by decades to dozens of hidden gems, lost classics, and otherwise bizarre oddities – all of which deserve the attention paid here. Thanks to the efforts of Sal Maída and Mitchell Cohen, who curated the book – as well as added their own essays – there is a place for forgotten worthiness to shine.

It is not just selections from fringe artists like Ars Nova, Zal Yanosky, Bunky & Jake, The Remains, and Milk ‘N’ Cookies, but significant names that released dismissed or plain missed classics; T Rex, The Drifters, Todd Rundgren, The Kinks, Fairport Convention, and much more. The care, excitement, and incredible research done on each and every album is beyond impressive. And now with streaming services and YouTube, readers can quickly try out these records and then join the fray in tracking them down on their original labels. The White Label Promo Preservation Society: 100 Flop Albums You Ought to Know is a record-lovers paradise, but also a lost period of pop music during its heyday that needs to be revisited and enjoyed by those who were not around to hear these “flops.”

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Shades of Springsteen: Politics, Love, Sports, and Masculinity – John Massaro (2021)

John Massaro is not a contemporary of Bruce Springsteen, nor one of those starry-eyed true believers that oft times slather on the worship sauce normally associated with the famed singer-songwriter’s career and exploits. In fact, although a fan and one that sees a reflection of his own biography in Springsteen, the octogenarian author of Shades of Springsteen, a professor at SUNY Potsdam College in New York, was only introduced to his Jersey brethren’s work in the mid-1980s, when the Boss was already seated atop the music world. Recovering from clinical depression, as is Springsteen, the author was whisked away on The Boss’ musical tales of escape, evolution, and redemption. This book is a tribute to all of that. 

Massaro’s thesis of connective tissue in the themes of the book’s subtitle Politics, Love, Sports and Masculinity that he artfully argues drive Springsteen’s canon and best explains the songwriter’s ability to overcome his own issues of depression, is solid. He digs deep, but with an entertaining flair, explaining how all of these themes comes through in nearly every stanza of Springsteen’s songs.

There is a fine needle Massaro threads here, but he does it with great care through stories of his own experiences in many of the places around New Jersey, specifically the Shore, of which Springsteen built into iconic symbols of the region. Despite being a generation removed from the songwriter, Massaro explored many of the same archetypes, long held by those from N.J. that Springsteen mined decades later. 

Although, I do enjoy most of Springsteen’s music and have different periods and songs I cherish more than others, it is my experience growing up in Freehold, New Jersey during the early to late 1970s in the shadow of his immense influence of our burgeoning culture that resonates with me. I am further along the line of generations to Massaro, but feel, as he does through Springsteen’s lyrics, that the connective tissue of lasting art is what makes us want to listen to these songs over and over and take the time to read about them too.  

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Rememberings – Sinéad O’Connor (2021)

This could have gone badly. As much as I adore and respect Sinéad O’Connor for her music, her socio-political stands, her commitment to her art and her causes, both real and imagined, she has been anything but a focused voice on any of them. Having battled mental and emotional illness most of her life while also displaying in her public persona a head-spinning level of mercurial behavior, when I heard she was penning a memoir I was as dubious as when Bob Dylan released what turned out to be a mostly fantasy-addled effort. However, my trepidations were happily proved unfounded. Unlike Dylan’s 2004 uneven Chronicles Vol 1, Rememberings is a brutally honest, and most importantly, consistent work. It reads like the imprint of a cruel world on the soul of a sensitive artist with just enough self-examination and personal epiphanies to induce awe.

Firstly, O’Connor is no writer, per sé. (To be fair, many of these rock and roll memoirs are hardly nods to literary devotion.) Still, there is a writer’s alacrity in the way O’Connor tells her story, bridging the gap between having spent decades burying the horrors of her childhood and her exploitation as a young singer-songwriter, and later MTV superstar in an age of shifting genres and interests, and her artistic integrity. All this transpired in a male-dominated industry that kicked her around for nothing more than its own willful ignorance and insecure self-preservation. O’Connor faces her demons and bravely shares the experience.

Parts of Rememberings is as poetic as its un-grammatical title. O’Connor uses her words and phrases to dig deeper into her psyche, allowing the reader a ringside seat. This is a frightening but rewarding endeavor that helps us understand that a portrait of a true artist is no walk in the park. Much of the myths and well-worn stories of her time under the looming control of her mentally ill mother or the nunnery for which she learned to use music to connect spiritually and psychologically with the world all the way to her weirdly framed wars with the Catholic Church, the U.S. government, and the music business are busted wide open.

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THE POLITICS OF CHOICE

Aquarian Weekly
12/8/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE POLITICS OF CHOICE       
How Candidates Use and May Use SCOTUS Decision on Roe v Wade
 
The most important Supreme Court hearings on women’s reproductive rights since the 1973 Roe v Wade decision to legalize abortion under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, specifically its Due Process Clause, providing the sacrosanct “right to privacy” to all citizens, male and female, is underway. A decision is expected this summer, and with the current ultra-right court, packed with three new judges that have a written and judicial history of opposing the law, it appears its current legal status is in jeopardy. The new controversial Mississippi law seeks to lower the abortion timeframe to fifteen weeks that pro-choice advocates claim will further roll back the rights of women against government interference to control what happens inside their bodies. The pro-life argument is that it protects a fetus at that point in the pregnancy, which new scientific evidence points to its viability to survive outside the mother.
 

To reiterate what I have always written here, I support all American’s Fourteen Amendment rights, as all Americans should. Many who cry about the government’s mandates on vaccines (“My body my choice”), have filched the pro-choice rallying cry as their own while simultaneously supporting overturning Roe v Wade. This is precisely why Senate Republicans played fast and loose with denying then President Obama a vote on his pick to replace the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia with ten months to go before the 2016 election and then with only six weeks to go before the 2020 election, rammed through a replacement for staunch defender of Roe v Wade, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg with a known anti-Roe candidate.

Abortion has always been ancillary political chum, but make no mistake, it is fully engaged in the construct now, and this will be a cut-and-dry political decision for this court. It wants to make it about constitutional law, but since 1973, Roe v Wade has been considered – over hundreds of challenges – to be “settled law”. So, like the whole flip-flop Republican maneuvers to stack this court with changing philosophies, this is now fully about politics.

The abortion debate has moved away from the 1980s into the 90s’ “third-rail” framing into political gold for Republicans, used to great effect in every local and national election for this century thus far. The slow, methodical building of local and appellate judges and the ignoring of the high crimes of the former president to remake the high court is evidence that this is now, by consequence, a fully engaged and shamelessly political issue on the table for Democrats should the expected ruling come down this summer.

According to recent polling, there is anywhere between sixty-five to seventy five percent of Americans who want no part of the government dictating what goes on in a citizen’s body. This is far higher than pro-gun number (also a Republican winner at the voting booth for decades), as nearly seven out of ten Americans want stricter gun laws. I have been consistent in my argument for the First Amendment, and therefore reluctantly support the Second Amendment on the merits of the slightest restructure of those rights as a slippery slope to government control over our constitutional heritage. And this is where I fall on abortion. It is not a moral or political decision for me. It is law and the spirit of the U.S. Constitution to protect our rights to not be invaded by a social, political, or governing institution. I believe every American should support this. But most conservatives are goofy with this issue and just chuck the whole “Don’t Tread on Me” edict. They want their guns and not adhere to health mandates but go nuts on a woman’s uterus. It breaks the hypocrisy charts, and it should not be.

But back to politics, where abortion has been mostly a winner for Republicans. It is not the main reason for hanging onto their shrinking support on most issues at the polls, but it helps. Religious support for Republicans during the Reagan Era shifted this paradigm. One wonders in the wake of this decision if the Biden Era will be seen as a new rallying cry for pro-choice activists once their rights have been so radically impinged.

Conservatives… want their guns and not adhere to health mandates but go nuts on a woman’s uterus. It breaks the hypocrisy charts, and it should not be.

I wholly support expanding the Supreme Court, blowing up the filibuster, and/or passing state laws here in New Jersey to protect women’s reproductive rights. I think it is as important as the Civil Rights issue, and later, for me, marriage equality. These are all dramatic political plays with major risks, but this issue calls for the kind of sweeping actions Republicans pulled in 2016 and 2020 to stack the SCOTUS with anti-Roe judges in the first place.

The Democrats are poised to take a serious beating in 2022. President Biden’s approval numbers are nearly at Trump-level tanking. Note: If there is a presidential poll that puts you in a discussion with Trump, it is time to panic. Inflation is real and it is going to get worse before it gets better. Oil prices are rising, as new Covid variants pop up. This whole new “Parents Rights” stuff that helped secure a Republican gubernatorial victory in a mostly blue state, is happening. There are some months to go, and things swing so quickly in this political climate, it is hard to predict six months out, never mind a year. Half a year ago, Biden had a 53-percent approval rating; the highest for a president since the first months of the Obama presidency thirteen long years ago. It hovers dangerously at 42-percent. Considering mid-term history, the massive redistricting going on right now, and the draconian anti-democratic laws being crafted in the wake of the Big Lie in Republican-run states, Dems are in electoral peril.

But… introduce this disastrous SCOTUS decision, and there is your wild card. Does the left have any chance to exploit abortion rights the way the right exploited wiping them out? Can this be, in essence, the passing of the Affordable Care Act kind of political wind shift that kick-started the right-wing Tea Party movement of 2010 this time galvanizing liberals and independents?

Let’s face reality here; the House is toast for Democrats, where redistricting tips the scales considerably. But the Senate is different, and in the wake of a Roe v Wade gutting, could rile up the independent vote (staunchly pro Roe v Wade) and the vacillating suburban women vote that wilted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but came out in droves to sink Donald Trump last year. It is, after all, the Senate that approves future federal judges; something Republicans have used as a craven cudgel to remake minority ideologies a force. It is political viper Mitch McConnell’s greatest or saddest legacy.

The SCOTUS decision, the final victory for the right’s decades-old fight to essentially end national abortion rights is upon us. It is as political as any decision in my lifetime for the high court, and it may be a powerful political pendulum that could swing the other way

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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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