VA SCANDAL: OUR IMPRINT, OUR LEGACY, OUR SIN‏

Aquarian Weekly
5/28/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

VA SCANDAL: OUR IMPRINT, OUR LEGACY, OUR SIN

One can conceive, even fathom something as horrifying as the Veteran’s Administration systematically allowing dozens of wounded soldiers to die and then scramble to cover it up, just as easily as one can conceive and even fathom the bizarrely ritualistic lies, deceit and ideological idiocy that put them there in the first place. There is the din of bureaucracy, money, ineptitude, and plain human nature to ignore “problems” of this magnitude when it is so overwhelming it reaches Biblical proportions. The question before us is why is it that so many dubiously opaque crises/scandals seem to be pored over with obsessive myopia, but this one, for decades, has been shrugged with a collective shoulder.Memorial-Day-AP75

Over two administrations now, both Republican and Democrat, there have been revelations of egregious treatment of veterans by our system; the first, the woeful conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital in 2007 and now these new murderous allegations of the VA Health Care System in Arizona. Never mind the known troubles with such institutions since WWII well into the 1970’s, depicted graphically in memoirs by veterans of several wars too numerous to recount here. Yet, despite some oversight and investigations that receives a third if not less of the media coverage and overall slanderous rhetoric of lesser “crimes”, these fail to resonate with the American public, no matter what ideological line one inhabits. And while there is bi-partisan rage and lip-service condemnation from two presidents, this abomination, as damaging to whatever withering tatter of a soul is left of this nation as one can imagine, we see none of the hyperbolic outrage given to the ACA or the IRS scandal or this obsessive nonsense surrounding the Benghazi embassy attack.

Why?

Is it because it involves the military and the Pentagon; and these have been arguably the most untouchable monoliths of our bloated and mostly ineffectual federal government? Why is it that it takes about five minutes of knee-jerk debate and a few flimsy pieces of evidence or bent reasoning to stumble headlong into war; flushing billions upon trillions of our money on needless slaughter from the jungles of Viet Nam to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, but when it comes to dealing with its most heinous realities, that our youth has been cut down, mutilated and massacred, we meander along endless lines of time?

This is how big our Military Industrial Complex has become; a gorging monster of bureaucracy that consumes up to 19 percent of our national budget, nearly as much as the much-ballyhooed entitlements, Social Security (24 percent), or the combined spending for Medicare and Medicaid (22 percent). According to a Peter G. Peterson Foundation study published in April of this year, the U.S. defense budget dwarfs those of ballpark economic stalwarts combined; China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, Germany, Japan and India respectively at $607 billion to our stupefying $640 billion. And several studies have shown, and much of it pointed out in congress during last year’s sequester debates, that a healthy dose of it is either outdated or unnecessary.

Yet no one blinks an eye.

Why is this self-contained, hardly ever dissected monstrosity spread around the globe like a bottomless money-pit never put up for discussion by anyone on either side of the political aisle when seriously deciding the fate of the national debt or outlandish deficits or other well-tread political footballs?

How did the denizens of defense, this sub-cultured, fund-gobbling cottage industry, become so untouchable that it barely gets a whisper and people run from it like gun laws?

Why is it that it takes about five minutes of knee-jerk debate and a few flimsy pieces of evidence or bent reasoning to stumble headlong into war… but when it comes to dealing with its most heinous realities, that our youth has been cut down, mutilated and massacred, we meander along endless lines of time?

This VA disaster, a legitimate scandal of epic proportions and an a pox on our American ideals, whatever pile of streaming feces that emerges from, should be front and center above all else. What kind of putrid nation that waxes poetic at every nauseating turn about “supporting our troops” and respecting and thanking our fallen for “protecting our freedoms” on the eve of Memorial Day allows this to happen without gutting the whole damn thing piece by piece?

The Military Industrial Complex is too big to fail or god forbid too expansive to even approach with a critical eye; and so the victims of its gorging mass of inhuman machinery get swept under the rug. We should be ashamed that these people, and they are people as they were people when they were so flippantly referred to as “troops”, (a more dehumanizing term is hard to find), are even languishing in these half-assed institutions, needing the kind of one-on-one care rarely afforded to them, while waiting for treatment as if someone with a head cold.

Everyone and everything is to blame for this. Forget merely firing directors and tossing more shit on congress and the president; we the people should look ourselves in the mirror as we continue to go about our business and complain about health care costs and standards of living and taxes and regulations and drugs and civil rights as neighbors and sons and daughters and friends continuously get shipped off to a nihilistic never-land to be carved up in order to keep this monster fat and happy.

After the morally bankrupt nightmare that was Viet Nam and all the pathetic fuck-all that followed, we still find ourselves whistling past a very real and lasting graveyard that has out names on it; our legacy, our sick obsession with war.

Our sin.

This is ours.

We own it.

For good.

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ROB ASTORINO TAKES THE STAGE

Aquarian Weekly
5/21/14

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

ROB ASTORINO TAKES THE STAGE
Republican Candidate for Governor of New York On The Road Less Traveled

The Rye Town Hilton or the Westchester Hilton at Rye or whatever they’re calling this behemoth by the Hudson these days was packed with over four hundred Republican delegates from across New York State to officially nominate my longtime friend and compatriot, Rob Astorino for governor this week. It was a surreal site, and not because I would normally be throwing up near this many national or local party insiders unless someone is paying me, but as his friends and family repeated over and over; this is the BIG step.

It’s weird enough having as close a friend as Rob run for such a lofty position, as even he admitted to the immense national position governor of New York affords a newcomer, but for a two-term county executive with a ten-person staff and a significant spread against a state brand name like Cuomo?

Sure it was a blast, as always, to visit with Rob and his family in the VIP room hours before he would take the stage to accept his party’s nomination. After the ponderous roll call that turns ceremony into torture, he stood poised to take a larger stage, the national stage, the one where nobody can turn back from; it is, as Rob so poignantly whispered to me as they readied his march towards this cauldron, “now a part of history”.

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It is not lost on Astorino or his staff that they are looking at a hard road against a political brawler in Andrew Cuomo whose pedigree to personally eviscerate opponents is well documented. And although Astorino survived the pitiful likes of Andy Spano, who treated the 2009 campaign for county executive as a bar fracas, this will be different.

By the time the NY State Republican Party decided to cast its collective vote for my friend, the Cuomo re-election machine had already labeled him a racist and extremist, the standard opening salvo for a Republican candidate these days. And for some of the many GOP candidates across this fruited plain, this is not entirely unfounded, but this is just lazy politics. Those kind of mutants don’t win elections in Westchester, one of the bastions of progressive politics for the past half-century plus.

However, there is no point in my gushing on about someone I consider a brother in many respects, so I’ll try and keep the rest of this thing analytical and explain why Cuomo’s early scheme of first dismissing my friend as a novice and then trying to besmirch his reputation is a failing one.

Firstly, Astorino has shielded himself wisely in those who will be of utmost import to keep him where he is comfortable, within the arena of ideas. His running mate for Lt. Governor is Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss, who happens to be an African American and president of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, is key for two reasons; it renders absurd the asinine notion that the candidate is racist and it fires up the key central and western parts of the state, where former Republican governor George Pataki siphoned enough votes to beat Mario Cuomo in 1994 (a campaign I covered). You see, although Astorino walks the party line of gun rights, he does not make it his rallying cry, but Moss will and did in his opening speech, which pretty much centered on it for ten consecutive minutes.

Next, the Astorino camp paraded not one but two women to introduce him, (important these days for any Republican, thanks in no small part to the idiot rambling of several candidates these past years), one an African American and longtime friend, Pearl Quarles, who spoke tenderly of knowing the candidate’s genuine compassion as a father and lifetime resident of Westchester, and Buffalo Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who spoke convincingly of his dedication in soliciting all voters under his tent.

Back to Pataki, whose improbable victory 20 years ago evokes similarities to Astorino for me (not the least of which is that the opponents name is Cuomo), especially since I also covered his run for mayor of Peekskill, mere miles from where Rob has spent his entire life, and where we both worked as sports broadcasters for ten years. As I stood with many of the former Pataki aids before and during Astorino’s acceptance speech, there was detailed talk of the candidate also embracing the underdog role. Rob had made it a point to assure me he relishes coming from out of nowhere to challenge, as he did in 2009. His grueling defense of his record last year in a successful re-election campaign was a different animal, and he knows it. The inevitability of Cuomo in a year where Democrats are most likely going to get their clocks cleaned nationally is no slam-dunk. No one knew much about Pataki in May of ’94, in fact, non name recognition alone cost him nearly 20 points in the polls; something he made up in a manner of weeks in the autumn of that year.

“If Cuomo wants to sling mud at me, and I expect this to be nasty, then that’s his deal. I have other ideas.”

Finally, the most pertinent aspect of Astorino’s image is that there is no image, despite hokey visuals of him interacting joyfully with his family and speaking stridently with his constituents in pre-fab settings on the Hudson or the inner city. Astorino is the real deal, and it was on display during what I think was the finest speech I have seen him deliver and one of the best stump speeches I have heard since Barack Obama’s stirring oratory following his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.

During the 20-minute slice of political art, Astorino abandoned the kind of artifice usually doled out at these things – red meat, name-calling, rousing one-line hokum – and began to deconstruct what he deems the ills of New York by statistically unfurling its failures nationwide, and in each instance New York, which he repeatedly referred to as “the empire state”, was dead last. Fiftieth, he pointed out, in education, tax burdens, infrastructure, growth, etc. The most impactful moment was his referring to aging New Yorkers as waiting out a de facto economic prison sentence, recounting discussions with neighbors who were simply eyeing retirement for a chance to abandon New York for more affordable environs.

Not once did Astorino call Cuomo a socialist or anti-American or an extremist, but simply and effectively pointed out his derision for the Common Core Act or the Safety Act, as any opponent would, otherwise, what’s the point of the democratic exercise? Not once did he rant like a professional wrestler about being “a true conservative” or refer to Cuomo as a loony liberal, and believe me, this was the room to pounce.

Astorino also steered clear of social issues, as he has done with great effectiveness in two runs for county executive in a widely Democratic county. In fact, I counted no hackneyed hoot-and-holler moments in this speech, which I deemed (with great reference to Doctor Thompson) a king-hell whoop of a political dissertation in a spontaneous text to the man as he wrapped up this impressive opening salvo with a brilliant list of the glorious history of NY from sports to invention to celebrity, evoking the best of Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” miasma without the Gipper’s Hollywood schmaltz.

As Rob told me before taking the stage, “If Cuomo wants to sling mud at me, and I expect this to be nasty, then that’s his deal. I have other ideas.”

Ideas?

Imagine that.

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NO CURE FOR STUPID

Aquarian Weekly
5/7/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

NO CURE FOR STUPID

It is time we begin to phase out the word racist from our vocabulary. Not expunge it in some social construct like what we so cautiously present as the “N” word now, as if an acronym can lessen its impact. What I mean is just stop giving credence to it, as if a superfluous adjective, not unlike Hate-Crime; the distinction being that there are violent crimes committed to help a brother out. The word is useless and thus obsolete like mubblefubbles and dretched or firefanged. My favorite may be shittle. Most of my work is “shittle”, and not for reasons you may think. These terms were once at the top of their games, but are relegated to the scrapheap of history; where racist belongs.

Racist used to be a thing; like a knight. There are no more knights, except in fiction, because it is not of this time or place. It is anachronistic and bizarre to think of a gentleman donning pounds of iron to joust some other asshole or to take on the hordes. We would chuckle at someone doing that today, unless it was done over bad food in some theme park restaurant. This is the racist today; an oddity, something you might find in the Wax Museum Chamber of Horrors.donald-sterling_270

To continue to evolve as a society, I say we let racist fade into the sunset and chuckle at those who may espouse irrational discriminatory views, as we would someone using a rotary phone.

However, what is still in vogue, and always will be, is stupidity.

This week, L.A. Clippers owner, Roger Sterling made discriminatory comments about African Americans, much of which has been played and re-printed to death, so I shan’t repeat it here. Suffice to say, he is stupid and has offered his stupidity up to harshly judge one race of people. This, like stupidity, is a not a crime. The problem for Sterling is he owns a franchise in the National Basketball Association and it cannot have his stupidity bringing down the money train.

Choosing to accept one race above another as “acceptable” is not a good business model, specifically for a concern with a dominant African American employee base. And so the NBA, which has forgiven Sterling previous legal issues regarding race to allow him to own a franchise in the second largest market in the country, kicks him out. Sterling had been sued multiple times in the past for racial discrimination, including a 2009 case in which he paid $2.7 million to settle allegations his companies targeted and discriminated against blacks, Hispanics and families with children in renting apartments in greater Los Angeles.

The league displayed its stupidity by ignoring this moron for decades. Shit, the NAACP was going to hand this guy an achievement award next month despite documented acts of discrimination. How stupid is that?

The point is the NBA and the NAACP would never have provided these privileges to a racist, just someone who is stupid. Because, let’s face it, if you listened to Donald Trump speaking about this recently, you know that you can be really, really stupid and own stuff.

What about that idiot who owns Chick-Fil-A?

But these guys are not alone. Stupidly is rampant; amazingly so. Despite literature, science, experience, and the enlightenment of the information/technology age there are just some of us that cling to stupidity. Granted, some cannot help it. And our hearts go out to them. Then there are others who, and this is purely on the assumption that unless there is a serious problem with learning disabilities or mental illness or head trauma, adult humans in a fairly free society simply choose stupidity.

For instance, had Sterling been ranting on tape about the shape of someone’s skull deciding their level of intellect or that a good idea to cease California mudslides would be to burn a wayward woman at the stake we would call him stupid.

This is the racist today; an oddity, something you might find in the Wax Museum Chamber of Horrors.

It is important to note the distinction between mere stupidity and racism, which was all the rage for generations around here, resulting in the systematic slaughter and exploitation of the Native American, the horrors of slavery and the ensuing Jim Crow laws, using the Chinese to test dynamite whilst building the railroads or using the Irish and Italians as Industrial Revolution fodder, the internment camps for the Germans in WWI and the Japanese during WWII, keeping minorities from competing in collegiate and professional sport or even entering educational institutions, and lest we forget generally treating Jews like a disease. These were institutionally sanctioned rules of law or acceptable social parameters placed on the color of skin or race or religion, and let’s face it, now they’ve moved on to decide acceptable acts of sexuality.

We now consider those actions absurd, accepting the choice of sexuality, but we’re working on it.

Stupidity is a difficult disease. But for the most part it is hard to believe we live on the same soil and breathe the same air as these cretins, not unlike going to the doctor today and being reminded that bloodletting and leaches used to be accepted forms of medicine.

Honestly, you cannot be a racist today. It’s impossible. Are there people who still believe the earth is flat? Sure. But…come on.

The other reason racist must go is that some people still enjoy being labeled a racist. We are only doing them a favor bestowing an anti-social term upon them, as if they are warriors in the fight for white supremacy, when really, they’re just stupid, like those who choose to ignore climate change for fear it might cause environmentalists to make them stop using the earth as a dumping ground for toxins or those who think anyone with some Mediterranean blood are terrorists.

You know what is racist? The laws in this country that are slanted against inner city black kids jammed into our prisons, voter-Id laws that target minorities, Stand Your Ground laws that work like gangbusters for whites, but not so much for everyone else, not to mention the many victims of these egregious laws.

Sure, throw Sterling to the dung heap.

And send “racist” there too.

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BUNDY RANCH SOLUTION: FREE-FOR-ALL IN NEVADA

Aquarian Weekly
4/30/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion              


BUNDY RANCH SOLUTION: FREE-FOR-ALL IN NEVADA

The key to organizing an alternative society is to organize people around what they can do, and more importantly, what they want to do.

– Abbie Hoffman
Yeeee-haaa!

I love this blithering asshole, Cliven Bundy. He is a dumb hick bigot dipshit and he is my hero. Soon I will take his advice and begin a life (or at least write about) a life of blessed anarchy where it belongs…The Bundy Ranch.Bundy

Right now this scofflaw has been sitting on miles of my land; American taxpayer…I. That’s right. Squatter. Freeloader. Welfare King. And I figure, just like my daily visits to the Bank of America when I was a reluctant but proud shareholder of that corrupt institution, which included me shouting about turning up the air-conditioning and demanding to hear Daniel Johnston tunes in the lobby, I will have plenty to impart in the area of wisdom and well wishes.

It’s obvious this nation’s defense has been compromised since 9/11, what with all the torture chambers and six-hour waits at the airport. Otherwise there would be no good explanation why this good-for-nothing shit-stain rancher would not pay me and my taxpaying brethren the over one million bucks he owes in back taxes for 20 years of fraud and not be taken down like road kill.

Where is George Washington when you need him? Hell, you might ask those poor bastards the federal army plowed under over some barrels of whiskey in the wee months of this republic, forcing the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the federal government to ostensibly represent our interests with appropriations culled for being a citizen.

But George is gone, and ever since Nixon decided it might be a good idea to murder children at Kent State, people tend to frown on armed denizens of the nation “cleaning house”, so to speak. Take out the trash, like we say here in New Jersey. Here in Jersey we like our civic representation to use us as fodder, especially at rush hour and then deny it ever happened – then when busted apologize and whitewash the thing with “internal investigations” – in other words good, old time politics; something between a hockey fight and the human centipede concept.

But never mind us; this Bundy Stand-Off nonsense is about ripping stuff off and calling it rebellion. And I am all for that. I was a fan of the Rodney King riots, but this is way better. Despite Mr. Bundy’s inability to parse four words in the King’s English without his brain going sideways and the odd white supremacist rant, he possesses something of a genius strand. It is vague, but it is there. Of course suckering FOXNEWS in getting behind anti-American causes and calling it American causes these days is like running over the Branch Davidians at Waco.

I was a fan of the Rodney King riots, but this is way better. Despite Mr. Bundy’s inability to parse four words in the King’s English without his brain going sideways and the odd white supremacist rant, he possesses something of a genius strand.

Shit, Janet Reno knew what she was doing; tanks rolling over a burning arsenal is as American as a deadbeat rancher, and I salute any idiot who refuses to recognize the American government and its representation, namely me, and still rides around on a horse waving the goddamn flag. Like those moron TEA Party jack-offs and their “Keep The Government Out Of My Medicaid” signs.

We’re getting off track here. Way off. We need to plan this out. How can we take advantage of this Bundy character’s new philosophy: Whatever you can get away with you can own, or Finder Keeper’s, which works great among prepubescents or people with an IQ just north of flat-line.

Sign me up.

I say fuck the government or the FBI or whatever gets these goobers all militia-ed up and put together a small army of our own; North Eastern Rebel Force 12 (why twelve? I love Joe Namath and I was married on the twelfth and it’s none of your goddamn business, tyrant!). Then march down to this old fart and plow under his land, (His land? There is no “ownership” in Bundy World) turn it into a rock festival; jam godless music at deafening volumes and take long, painful shits all over his property, festoon the joint with used condoms, beer cans and syringes, and find out where Bundy sleeps and have ten-deep orgies before organizing a group puke all over his bedroom. In fact, turn his house into the center of a giant tribute bonfire.

That is the way Cliven Bundy rolls.

And thus….we roll.

Like Frank and his brother Jesse James, who knew what is was like to flout convention, take on a new philosophy of lawlessness, which blazed a trail of land-rape and gun justice that would make these high school dropouts and their cousin-wives down in Nevada look like the Webelos.

Now, my friends, that is true anarchy.

Then when it’s over, we’ll erect a statue to Grampy Cliven, godfather of Do What You Like And Damn The Torpedoes; a renewed sense of American tradition, where you just steal what you wish and call it a cause.

Yeeeeeee-haaaaaa!

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ERIC HUTCHINSON’S PURE FICTION

Aquarian Weekly
4/16/14
Cover Piece

 

ERIC HUTCHINSON’S PURE FICTION
Pop Singer/Songwriter Gets Back to Basics; Rhythm + Melody = Hit

It was one of those brutal New York City winter nights this past January when april-16-2014-eric-hutchinson_small
I met up with Eric Hutchinson at the Monkey Bar in midtown. He was sitting alone in a booth towards the front across from the bar dressed in a high-collar, blue zippered sweater and jeans, his hair a little longer, his face a little thinner. He looked relaxed, confident; as if he had shed the excess from his life and work. Ella Fitzgerald played softly on the jukebox. An elderly couple chatted at the far corner. Hutchinson ordered a Scotch, neat. I had my obligatory Hendricks and tonic, two limes, lots of ice. I had come to find out what was behind the songs I had lived with for two weeks on a first mix of his new album, which he would title, Pure Fiction.

“It’s called Pure Fiction, because when I finished writing the songs that would end up on this album and started looking them over, I noticed that none of them were about me,” Hutchinson began. “When I took myself out of the way, I wrote about something else. But then I thought anything that comes from me on some level is about me. I still wrote it, I still made it; it came from somewhere, and I think on this album I tried not to get in the way of that as much. If I wrote a lyric, maybe at some time earlier I would have thought this is too cheesy or this is too simple, but this time I said, ‘I wrote it for a reason and I don’t want to get in the way of what I’m writing it for.’ I tried really hard this time around to not screw with stuff more than it needed to be. And I enjoyed that process.”

Hutchinson’s first two studio albums brimmed with the kind of hooks, choruses and clever lyrics an ascendant star needs to make on his way to the firmament, but he was now without a label for the first time in years. He recently released a set of live songs from his last tour, Almost Solo in NYC, which featured his deftly humorous storytelling as much his considerable musical talents, but decided it was time to trim the whole thing way down, get back to what put him in the discussion with the industry’s hottest new talent in the first place.

“You get a lot of good things from being involved with a major label system like exposure I never would have gotten,” says Hutchinson. “But the other side of it is it’s almost never on my time-line. The last album took a long time, partially it was me, but partially because once it was done there was a lot of stuff out of my control. My mantra on this album was ‘I want to make it, I want to put it out, and I don’t want anything to be between that.’ I wanted that control.”

“My mantra on this album was ‘I want to make it, I want to put it out, and I don’t want anything to be between that.’ I wanted that control.”

Released from music-biz trappings, the 33 year-old singer/songwriter returned to his roots; back to his apartment, back to the guitar, and reconnected with his adoration for the well-constructed song – tearing it down and building it back up, one note at a time.

“I sat at in my home studio asking, ‘Can I play this song on the guitar? Can I make this song work?’ recalls Hutchinson. “Because it’s not about hiding behind tricks, it’s about ‘Is this a song when it’s broken down to its bare basics – is it a song or not? Is it tangible?’ I would be at the piano or guitar and just play it as hard as I could and just sort of sing and leave the recorder going and for twenty minutes maybe bang on the piano as hard as I could, smash the guitar, totally sing guttural. Then, leave it alone. Go back the next day and see what jumps out from that, what works.”

Much of this primal, stripped down style is clearly evident in each track of Pure Fiction; a truly masterful presentation of Hutchinson’s acute pop sensibilities. In fact, Pure Fiction is Hutchinson’s elegy to pop music, his raison d’être, a place to fit all those melodies that are so comforting in their immediate hook you’d swear you’ve heard them before. The album’s first single, “Tell The World” is a wonderfully crafted sing-along and a striking prologue to the album’s underlying theme – holding onto our moments and shamelessly shouting it from a mountain top.ERIC_HUTCHINSON14291_Web_25

“I found myself in the worst place a writer can be, which was happy,” he chuckled to himself. “I live in New York, I’m married, I’ve got a dog – I’ve got a nice life…and when I sat down to write this time I didn’t feel like emptying the chest all over again and having to dig out my problems. And I became aware midway through that there’s a lot of that in there anyway, but I kind of felt it was thematically working and I didn’t try and go away from it when it was clear I wanted to keep saying it. It’s also a little bit about ‘I’m in a great place, but doesn’t everyone always hate you when you’re in a great place?’”

To hear Hutchinson explain it “Tell The World” is less joyous romp than social commentary on how everything that ends up on Facebook and Instagram reflects only our best moments in life, however there is a great joy in the song, especially the vocal, which is as infectious as anything he has committed to a track. His experience with achieving a measure of stardom and accepting his good fortune without trepidation infuse Pure Fiction with a feel-good vibe, something he found while traveling the country on tour and experiencing life outside the bubble of New York, where he lives, but mostly seeing the world for leisure.

“I put up this inspiration board right in front of me at my workspace when I was playing piano or guitar and singing into the mic,” effuses Hutchinson. “I was actually thinking about what I am looking at when I’m working. This method took me back to Barcelona, when I went to visit the Joan Miró museum and I was in heaven. The whole city is amazing. It’s so beautiful. And his stuff was so beautiful I immediately thought, ‘Should I be looking at something that pleases me when I’m writing; would it bring something out?’”

“I guess the more places you go, the more you realize the same things matter to everybody.”

The “inspiration wall” can be heard in the nearest Hutchinson has come to a ballad, “Sun Goes Down”; his “Dock of the Bay” moment, mixing a haunting melody with striking lyrical imagery. “I got this postcard and just described what was on it,” says Hutchinson; the postcard as metaphor for the captured moments of Pure Fiction: “On the front a desert sky orange, red and brown/ She wrote will you think of me/When the sun goes down.”

“I guess the more places you go, the more you realize the same things matter to everybody,” he says, smiling.

We ordered another round as the room began to fill and the background banter reverberated. Hutchinson made sure I understood the spiritual center of Pure Fiction which is infused in tracks like “Love Like You”, an achingly infectious song with a tension that draws the listener to the lyric through an almost hypnotic vocal performance, mixing Beatles bop with the velvet strains of Al Green. But it is in the juxtaposition of subtle duplicitous lines like “This is a crash landing, we’re living a dream”, which hint at Hutchinson’s playful seduction of how much happiness is the result of blind chance.

But it was anything but blind chance when Hutchinson entered the studio last summer, where he constructed the songs meticulously, showcasing an array of rhythms for flavor – South African, bosa nova, four-on-the-floor rock and slap-back funk – giving personality to dance numbers like “I Got The Feelin’ Now”, “A Little More” and “I Don’t Love U”. Wrapping the tracks in airtight tempo allowed his dexterous vocal lifts and twists to breathe inside percussion. “I tried really hard to not get in the way of these songs,” says Hutchinson. “I usually agonize over a certain chord progression or lyric, but this time I just let it happen. I stopped wondering what it was or where any of it came from.”hutch

To complete the cycle back to basics, Hutchinson worked on Pure Fiction in L.A. at the late Elliott Smith’s humble studio on Van Nuys Boulevard where he recorded his debut, Sounds Like This in 2008. Under the tutelage of two producers, Jerrod Bettis, (Adele, Better Than Ezra, Backstreet Boys) who played much of the accompanying instruments, and Aben Eubanks (Kelly Clarkson) he opened his mind to new recording techniques , but remained dedicated to my description of him when we first met in 2006; songsmith.

“It’s that attention to detail all the way across, where every single thing matters, which could also be the unraveling as you get close to the end of the album,” Hutchinson says, laughing. “In the old days you get the whole band together and figure out later what the hell that sounded like – did the bass player play the right thing or not – but to me that’s the whole thing; we get the drums down, and then I get the acoustic guitar, and I make sure the acoustic guitar works and then Jarred picks up the bass and I say, ‘Well, that’s great, but that part could have gone there.’ It’s the only way I know how to make music.”

New found professional freedom, a comfort in knowing his place in the music biz and a masterfully crafted pop album has Eric Hutchinson right where he wants to be. “I’ve been doing this for how many years, but whenever anyone asks me, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ it’s like the first time it’s ever been asked. I never have an answer, you know? And on the last album I was chasing this thing that I’m a soul artist and the show reflected that on some level, but I think after making this album, I can answer people; I make pop music. This is pop music, and I think this show will reflect that a little more. The last show was little more like a soul review and I think this will be a little more pop, whatever that is? I guess we’ll figure that out. Yeah, these songs are pop. I’m a pop artist.”

“Yeah, these songs are pop. I’m a pop artist.”

Perhaps the strongest musical statement on Pure Fiction is “Forever”, a collaboration with The 88’s Keith Slettedahl, a first. It is a master’s course in dynamic ranges; from the massaged acoustic open to the lilting lead vocal as prologue to chest-caving bass drum kicks, all of it bedding the wash of harmonies that appear as if a choir. It evokes the best of the British New Romantics period seeped in a New York club milieu. “I was trying to get out of my head space, and for me, that meant co-writing with someone else for the very first time,” says Hutchinson. “For the first time I can listen and kind of say it’s not mine. I can appreciate all that he contributed to it. Talk about getting out of your own way, I was completely out of it, because it was his thing, and I came to love it more than anything I could come up with.”

When we parted, well over an hour of coming to grips with this crossroads album of his, and where it will lead him, he assured me that just speaking aloud its intentions brought to light all the hard work it took to realize Pure Fiction. But doubtless it will be more well-defined this time around.

“My manager (Dave Morris) is obsessed with the idea of how many artists finally figure it out by their third album; Springsteen, Billy Joel, their first albums are not the ones people talk about, they don’t have the hits on them,” says Hutchinson. “But to me, I think, the third album was about figuring it out. The first one was just gut level, raw, had to get it out there, the second album was over-thinking it all, and this one is me tinkering and learning from those two and changing it up a little bit.”

 

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DESPERATE DEMOCRATS LOWBALL STRATEGY 2014

Aquarian Weekly
4/23/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion


DESPERATE DEMOCRATS LOWBALL STRATEGY 2014

Karl Rove once told me that the only thing that matters when you are looking at miles of bad road is what you do to shorten it. I remember he let the “shhh” just roll through his teeth; “shhhhorten it”. They were gritted like a challenged pit bull. His eyes seemed weird, unfocused, as if he were thinking of six things at once. But his words rang true.Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz

That was in the summer of 2000 just outside of Orlando, Florida. I remembered it a few months later when his candidate eviscerated a blindsided John McCain in South Carolina with scurrilous rumors of a “Negro love child” and “Rabid atheism”. And I remembered it when Rove openly told reporters those last desperate weeks in the late-summer of 2004 that he was going to “rile the base with anti-gay” legislation. And his candidate won re-election.

I can’t recall who or what Rove elected both times. Another Bush? Perhaps it worked out. Maybe not. One thing is for certain, his arch enemies, the Democrats have decided that the projected ass-kicking they are looking at come this November – and it is going to be severe and cost them the senate and completely neuter this president – will not come at a price for the Republican Party.

Since the Democrats owned the store in 2010 with the passing for the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans have made a mockery of “statement votes” in the House, most pointedly the 281 or so times they attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now the Democrats announce something called the Paycheck Fairness Act, a desperate attempt at useless legislation that has no chance of becoming law, but will make Republicans, who will certainly piss on it, appear anti-woman.

Women, especially single women, are a boon to Democrats, coming out nearly 3-1 for Barack Obama in 2012. Much of this was aided by brutish Republican candidates waxing poetic about “levels of rape” and more than hinting that women’s contraception was a euphemism for whore.

This shameless attempt to fire up the women’s vote with political window dressing was launched out of the White House, which floated out a bogus figure of women in the workplace making 77 percent of what a man earns. Statistics from several studies including Bureau of Labor Statistics report it closer to 83 percent or in other studies closer to 88 percent, still others by profession average at 91 percent. Of course, these studies like most studies of a fluid and variant subject tend to fluctuate, but is nearly, if not completely impossible, to legislate.

But it is a moot point, since this is a political ploy by House Democrats who are merely using this as an election year stunt. It is pandering, like Rove did with the Religious Right and your garden-variety bigotry in 2000 and again in ’04.

Shhhhorten it.

Now the Democrats announce something called the Paycheck Fairness Act, a desperate attempt at useless legislation that has no chance of becoming law, but will make Republicans, who will certainly piss on it, appear anti-woman.

Speaking of which, you may have noticed a bit more talk in the past week about the covert racism of the Republican Party due to the race of the president. What was once innuendo has become blatant accusations, which, of course, are difficult to substantiate. And even though there is truth to how people are motivated by politics, it is not a real debate. Saying a political party or a member of government is racist for disagreeing with a sitting president is as specious as a government who labeled you as siding with terrorists or un-American if you protested the Iraq War. We’ve been down that slippery slope for decades. It is not politics, it is human nature, and to whitewash an entire opposition party with racism or anti-American rhetoric is fabricated, self-serving and reeks of desperation.

Shhhhhorten it.

On a similar note, pay attention to how things roll out after the Republicans take the senate. There will be a concerted effort on the part of the establishment to push for a comprehensive immigration bill during the final two years before the 2016 presidential election, to begin the healing process between the Republican Party and the Latino/Hispanic vote, which is toxic to its national election hopes thanks to such stellar ideas as “Voluntary Deportation” and building giant walls on the border. They’ve already rolled Jeb Bush out to pour honey on this turd. Believe me, it’s coming.

Another Bush?

Shhhhhorten it.

But fear not, this transparent dance with demographics can’t work, right? Because all one has to do is look at 2006, when Democratic candidates ran on the promise to end the Iraq War. It was one of the great slaughters in mid-term history leading to a whole lot of nothing. Well, not nothing; the Affordable Care Act.

But fear not, Republicans, you have your own pile of feces called Voter ID Laws enacted in 30 states for only one reason; politics. If there is one thing that does not need government overreach it is voter fraud, which is less than half of one percent of millions of votes cast each year in all 50 states, but there they are just the same.

Shhhhorten it.

But the Dems have it this season. The party is pulling out all the stops to halt what is an inevitable transfer of power in the legislative branch and a two-thirds majority in the federal government. Two years of Republican majority is plenty of time to strengthen the already invincible electorate waiting for our next president, Hilary Rodham Clinton.

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MONEY, CORRUPTION & THE FREE THINKER PRINCIPLE

Aquarian Weekly
4/16/14
REALITY CHECK
 

James Campion

 

MONEY, CORRUPTION & THE FREE THINKER PRINCIPLE
Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, & over these ideals they dispute & cannot unite–but they all worship money.
– Mark Twain

 Believe none of what you hear and half of what you believe.
– Something Benjamin Franklin heard in a French whorehouse and repeated at a Philadelphia beer garden
This week the Supreme Court further removed the shackles for wealthy donors to
contribute as much as they wish for political candidates, building on the momentum of the Citizens United ruling of 2007. The decision was 5-4 right down the line of political ideology, five conservative to four liberal judges, which is telling since this has been an issue for high-profile Republican donors like the Koch brothers that have turned quid pro quo cash deals into an art form. However, the dissent by liberal judges is disingenuous since Labor Unions routinely make up the preponderance of big money donations across the country in outrageous sums, and have been long before the Koch brothers knew how lucrative buying congressman could be.koch-brothers

Be that as it may, the following sentiments will not be going down the ideological slippery slope of hypocrisy wherein you have the Right whining about liberal media and the Left bitching about FOXNEWS. This is indeed about the First Amendment and the right to support any candidate of your choice with how you choose to do it. It is also about the realities of this republic, which was colonized, founded and manipulated since day one by money.

Firstly, taking the freedom of speech angle, it is unconstitutional to put limits on a citizen’s voice in the political process. For corporations, big money donors or whatever the fuck Citizens United is, this is the avenue in which they can impart said voice. If this were a true democracy, which it is not, never has been, and was never considered as such by our mostly rich framers, then, of course, there would be an issue with the rest of us (or at least those of you without a weekly column) that have no real voice beyond the ballot box. This is why, despite my abject mockery of TEA Party rallies and the 99-percent protests, there is a real desire for the rest of us to “be involved” without having a boatload of money to invest in our civic interests.

But that does not change the fact that if you have dough, you should be able to spend it how you like, within legal boundaries, which, as stated, should not preclude the First Amendment.

Of course money corrupts the system, just like bad journalism, idiot pundits and kowtowing to the lowest common denominator, which is by far the very essence of this nation’s lasting legacy.

Those opposed to this argument will shout that the system is circumvented by a collected few, which is as American as your mom’s apple pie and steroid abuse. From the shipyard of Boston Harbor to the railroads moguls of the Midwest and the pile of feces printed daily by Randolph Hearst and the tentacle reach of Big Oil, the influence of cash is our heritage. It kicked the English out, eviscerated the natives, ripped off the French, Dutch, Spanish and Mexicans, burned the South to the ground and ended slavery, smacked the Kaiser, toppled Hitler and eventually bankrupted the Soviet Union. It is what got us into Viet Nam and Iraq, elected a Kennedy and bribed Florida judges to put G.W. in office. It is our political pedigree.

Arguing about this now is like suggesting that red, white and blue is not quite right for the flag.

And don’t talk about corruption, which is where all this capping of donations started in 1974 when Dick Nixon blew up the entirety of the executive branch. Like the sallow ruins of 9/11 and whatever crazy shit happened thereafter from illegal jailing and wiretapping, covert wars and the vice president shooting a man in the face over quail meat, Watergate unleashed a torrent of silly overreactions that put a lean on our Bill of Rights that I strongly believe the Supreme Court corrected, whatever its political motivation.

But Nixon gave corruption a bad name. His ravenous paranoia stripped us of our right to have to actually see past the fantasy campaign ads and Super Pack machinations and realize that Citizens United is made-up shit concocted by the dickless to feel important, and do our due diligence as citizens, like ignoring Tipper Gore’s dream of having society parent our children by putting a goddamn sticker on everything. As if a record called “Kill The Cops” needs a warning. Or even merits one, since it is not actually killing cops, just singing about it. And all that awful crap about not being able to burn a piece of cloth because it happens to be designed as an American Flag. Next you’re going to have people suggest Bill O’Reilly shouldn’t be allowed to go on the Today Show and demand every American kid be force-fed Judeo-Christian principles without being smacked with a rubber mallet.

Of course money corrupts the system, just like bad journalism, idiot pundits and kowtowing to the lowest common denominator, which is by far the very essence of this nation’s lasting legacy. Everything can corrupt given the proper circumstances, and sometimes it is welcomed corruption. Lord knows George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali, Alice Cooper, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, H.L Mencken, Hunter S. Thompson, Edward Hopper corrupted me, and I am a better man for it.

It’s called free thinking. Try it sometime. Turn off the radio and podcasts and politically manipulated television stations and put down the signs and toss away the cute slogans and corrupt yourself.

Then maybe you won’t be so threatened by everyone else’s corruption.

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RELIGIOUS NONSENSE & THE LAW

Aquarian Weekly
4/2/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion             

RELIGIOUS NONSENSE & THE LAW

I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.
– Muhammad Ali

This week religion has jammed its hefty portion of silly into the ways of reality. Again. Why not? Humans are proficient at propping up fantasy to avoid obeying the law. Lord knows I do.

Firstly, we have the Supreme Court case of Sebelius v Hobby Lobby or some company against the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, claims that it not only sells knick knacks but stands for Christian values and therefore refuses to adhere to the ACA mandate that it provide contraception to its employees as part of its health plan.

Good one.hobby

Although I admire this craziness, it has no grounds. Religious freedom is not a free pass to discriminate or ignore laws. This was the point of obliterating the egregious Jim Crow horror show which originated in churches in the South and was propagated by Christian organizations like the Klu Klux Klan. It expanded to owners of diners, hotels, gas station etc, all of whom decided that they did not care for civil rights because it jibed with their interpretation of Christian ethics.

The other proposed opposition to the law is contentious objector status, which was broached during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Vatican this week.

This bit of fluff theater was a nifty time to bring up three very political notions expressed by the popular Pope Francis over the past year. One is income inequality, a biggie in the First Century Jesus movement but mostly ignored by the preponderance of Christians worldwide, especially in this country. Two was the call for tolerance of all gender, creed, race and sexual orientation. The last one had many conservatives in the Vatican running for cover assuring the intolerant across the globe that the Holy Church still has their back. And finally, the aforementioned conscientious objector option for those who adhere to church dogma that preaches contraceptive use is equal to abortion and should be banned.

Whew, a lot to get to, so let’s start with conscientious objector.

Claiming conscientious objector status was famously tried in the Supreme Court in 1971 when boxing champion and social activist, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted by the United States Army during the Viet Nam War on religious grounds. However, although the court ruled in Ali’s favor it did not cite his “conscientious objector” defense, but rather that the United States government had failed to properly specify why Ali’s application had been denied, thereby requiring the conviction to be overturned. In other words, it was an easy unanimous vote due to a technicality, and quite frankly because popular opinion had swung significantly in Ali’s defense due to the abject disaster that was the Viet Nam War, which had heightened considerably since the time Ali was stripped of his title and banned from boxing in 1968.

Shit, there are plenty of religions that believe blood transfusions are against protocol, others cite the evil of surgery, and still others believe photographs steal your soul and leeches are the way to go. But forget religion. That’s small potatoes. Can you imagine if some giant chemical concern decides it wants to break even more laws than it currently does? You think your drinking water is poisoned now?

You see, unlike Hobby Lobby, Ali manned up and took the unfair stripping of his title and languished for years to stand by his principles. He broke the law and paid the price, something this company is trying to avoid.

Hey, no more a sympathetic companion could Hobby Lobby find than this space, but on the grounds that they can pick and choose what laws they want to obey is not realistic, not to mention its lawyer began opening arguments trying to conflate a corporation with the rights of an individual under the constitution. The Civil Rights Act is enough precedent to halt Hobby Lobby denying health care coverage to its workers, specifically women, who have several health-related reasons for needing contraception beyond sexual activity.

But there is no need to bring up religion and sex in the same sentence in this or any lifetime.
Shit, there are plenty of religions that believe blood transfusions are against protocol, others cite the evil of surgery, and still others believe photographs steal your soul and leeches are the way to go. But forget religion. That’s small potatoes. Can you imagine if some giant chemical concern decides it wants to break even more laws than it currently does? You think your drinking water is poisoned now?

Now the idea of income equality is a cute aside, but for the Catholic Church it is a joke. It may be a noble cause espoused by Jesus, who was by for all intents and purposes an egalitarian, which is a fancy philosophical term for socialist, but have you seen the friggin’ Vatican? Bling on bling piled on bling. It’s like Ted Nugent preaching gun control. Please.

When the Vatican strips its jewels and gold and sells it to feed the poor, I’m on board.

Quick question: What Would Jesus Do? Short Answer: Strip the Vatican bare and give everything to the poor.
Never mind the marriage equality thing. No one is asking the Christians to be gung ho, and no one should care. Using religion to discriminate is as old and as dirt. We’ll leave this one alone.

Finally, the most appalling aspect of the week is that Barack Obama met with the leaders of an organization that has perpetuated a century-plus of unchecked and unprosecuted pedophilia; more to the point aided and abetted these acts by shamelessly covering up. A more disgusting display by a president is hard to imagine. Who wants their tax dollars going to this immoral sham?

Come to think of it, maybe it would be a boon if Hobby Lobby won this case, pushing religion into the public sector, then we can start taxing religious freeloaders and get on with the twenty-first century.


Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author

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CRIMEA: THE RUSSIAN SHEEP THEOREM

Aquarian Weekly
3/26/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

CRIMEA: THE RUSSIAN SHEEP THEOREM

Take a moment and thank your preferred deity or talisman that John McCain didn’t become president in 2008. Regardless of what you think of this current model, McCain is certifiably insane with aggression and has urged this country to embroil itself in every skirmish, revolution, uprising, civil war and invasion across this globe for the past five plus years. If there were a president McCain, we’d be bloodied, broke and stuck in 14 desperate places on this planet.

I know it is par for the course for Republicans to espouse a “strength in military action” foreign policy, excepting for the fiscally conservative isolationists like my friend Pat Buchanan or the ramblin’ Paul’s (Ron and son Rand) and some of the TEA Party contingent whose sole purpose for breathing is to piss on Obamacare. Even when Ted Cruz comments on Barack Obama’s international weakness, things eventually get around to Obamacare bankrupting the republic. It’s akin to cramming my healthy obsession with Marriage Equality into every argument – “A-Rod was railroaded by the tyrannical Bud Selig machine, not unlike gay Americans….”putin_75

Be that as it may, this latest McCain and his ilk jones to have us stained with Russia’s problems as some kind of “message” to its sociopathic President Vladimir Putin, is once again misguided. I merely refer to Mr. Putin’s mental state based on CIA evaluations which reveal “sociopathic tendencies” as in acute narcissism, fragmented delusions, eating disorders, and what is described in one memo as an uncontrolled urge to perform anal sex with sheep. Putin is obviously not centered, and there have been leaks from inside by incarcerated journalists that Putin has been basing his domestic agenda on telepathic “signs” from an alien god-head/father figure he is convinced raped his mother in late 1951.

At least McCain’s excuse for his brain bubbles is being beaten crippled for five years in a Vietnamese prison during a senseless “police action” that gutted a generation, but now our elected commander-in-chief has been tempted by this goofy backlash to unleash sanctions on Putin for trying to annex neighboring Crimea in response to the Eastern rim of Ukraine going up in flames. Russia’s puppet government in a shambles and the resultant uprising should be no concern of the United States. If Western Europe would like to ante up to protect its interests (oil), or if Putin has arguments over national security (ego), then bully for them.

It is hypocritical for this nation, which has annexed land and propped up puppet regimes and diddled in everyone else’s elected governments for centuries, to be pussyfooting around with the likes of Putin or the mess that is Russia, which is more or less now divided by its own headaches in Syria. Secondly, what is going on in Crimea (along with the nifty shoved-through “special election” that has an occupied province vote to legally join the state of Russia) is perfectly within the parameters of a 21-year agreement passed by the Russian parliament.

A binding 1993 resolution declared the Crimean port of Sevastopol, a Russian city, and by implication Crimea, a Russian province. This is known in the parlance of the damned as “irredentism”, advocacy of the restoration to a country of any territory formerly belonging to it. Britain used this argument in 1812 to disastrous results for its crumbling empire and Saddam Hussein had similar notions in 1990 when he told the world in no uncertain terms that just because a bunch of decrepit Anglos decided to draw lines in the sand to better rape the Middle East, did not mean that Kuwait didn’t still “belong” to the sovereignty of Iraq.

Interestingly, Hussein had a similar taste for farm animals, as did British Prime Minister Lord Liverpool (although historians quibble over what species and gender), and neither ultimately got what they wanted. Although President James Madison, Liverpool’s combatant in 1812, whose deviant proclivities tended towards the abuse of Jimsonweed (it is widely agreed upon by most accounts that Madison was “altered” by it for the original drafting of the Federalist Papers) did make a bold attempt to annex Canada as part of the continuing unchecked slaughter of Native Americans.

None of these damaging historical fuck-ups seemed to bother George H. Bush when he got all McCained up and kicked Hussein out of Kuwait directly leading to the bombings in Ryadh and Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996 respectively, and the al Queda attacks on the Kenyan and Tanzania embassies in 1998, the U.S.S Cole in October of 2000 and eventually the horrors of 9/11/01 in New York City and Washington DC. And, of course, inevitably his son’s senseless “vengeance” war in Iraq in 2003.

That is over an estimated 9,300 U.S. deaths (including the ceaseless Afghani war totals) over a line in the sand.

His country is broke and he fucks sheep. Let the French deal with this crap.

But I digress. Or maybe not. The key here is irredentism, to which the U.S. owes a debt of gratitude for our ripping off California, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Colorado from our neighbors, Mexico (not to mention the bloody fray that got us the vast wasteland of reason called Texas). Lest we forget Alaska, a nifty bit of land grabbing that still pisses many Russian hardliners to this day.

And that brings us full circle back to the evil, horrible, strong-willed Russia and its sheep-fucking tyrant, Putin. Or the leader apparently some wish our befuddled president resembled, which is odd, because I have often wondered if neo-con theorists tended to lean towards bestiality.

But let us not conjure the ghastly image of George W. Bush keeping his little black Scottish Terrier, Barney away from Dick Cheney’s office and concentrate on the difference between being morally offended by the actions of another nation tending to the ugly business of doing what nation’s do and “getting involved”.

Quick Note: Other amateur historians such as myself may be motivated to stupidly argue that this dance with irredentism has an ugly partner called Adolf Hitler (who could not screw farm animals due to his chronic impotence from wetting his pants for most of WWI). Hitler’s claim to most of Eastern Europe as “Germania” was simply made up as an excuse to murder more Jews. Not even a syphilis-ravaged mind as his could have actually believed this bullshit.

Lest we forget the most important point, we suck at war. We’re good at getting into them, but we haven’t done a damn thing worth a shit since D-Day and it’s time we stop acting as if we did. We’ll just do what we always do and outspend everyone in nuclear tonnage and jack around every so often in someone else’s backyard in the guise of “freedom” or “human rights”; even though we ignore the civil rights of gay Americans as we speak. (Take that, Cruz) But lord knows no one wants another decade of this miserable shit.

Putin is weak. He needed to keep Ukraine in line and stop Syria from going sideways, and his Olympics was an abject embarrassment. His country is broke and he fucks sheep. Let the French deal with this crap.

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MY FRIEND…THE NEXT GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK?

Aquarian Weekly
3/12/13
James Campion
REALITY CHECK

MY FRIEND…THE NEXT GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK?

While being a professional colleague of mine for nearly twenty years, during which he has displayed nothing but an enviable commitment to ethics in all forms, Rob Astorino has managed to succeed at the impossible; competing in two vocations replete with soulless bottom-feeding degenerates; journalism and politics, while maintaining an unwavering comportment that is impervious to corruption. Despite this reporter’s repulsive dereliction of scruples and frightening lack of integrity, he has called me friend; as I, him. And as I gracelessly careen towards the half century mark, it is not a term I dare use loosely. Robert is indeed a friend; a true bedrock warrior in the infinite roll call we all must cherish when the karma winds shift in weirdly unpredictable directions.

– Rob Astorino in The Land Of Scum, Reality Check: 10/29/09

My dear friend, Rob Astorino is running for governor of New York State.

No shit.

It’s crazy. He isn’t just a passing professional acquaintance. I’m the godfather to his first born son, Sean. And now, after four years and re-election as Westchester County Executive, he is set to truly become a national political figure.

Not sure how I feel about that.rob_Astorino_75

I have known Rob Astorino since 1991. We were sports reporters in Westchester, New York and thrown together to broadcast local High School sports, mainly men’s football and basketball. We became semi-famous for this. We traveled quite a bit, shared hotel rooms and chatted up all-things. We both hosted sports shows and found ourselves in the employ of snipers, who used our talents for meager pay in trade to get access to Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, etc. Later we would host a pretty peppy sports-talk show on WFAS Radio out of White Plains, where we drove the NY sporting press insane with our flights of fancy in the press box and locker rooms.

These are stories for a book, not a 900-word screed.

Throughout this time, aside from the occasional remark, we did not discuss politics.

Good for him. He steered fairly clear of my acute cocktail of radicalism and spite.

One day, somewhere around 2006, maybe 2007, whilst producing ESPN’S Michael Kay radio show, as we lunched in mid-town Manhattan, he confided in me his wishes to enter politics.

“You’re fucking kidding, I’m sure,” I said, chunks of masticated sandwich tumbling from my gaping maw.

“Nope,” he said, and proceeded to regale me with his wishes to “make a difference” and “protect my family”, the usual nonsense similar lunatics have blurted in a torrent of rationale. But instead of being queered by it, I was truly moved. I figure this poor bastard’s in for it, but for whatever reason, it all made sense. He appeared unerringly sincere. It was one of the few moments in my adult life where I was immediately convinced of someone’s sense of purpose. This happened all the time when I was a kid. Kids believe in stuff. Rob believed.

Despite serious trepidations, I did what I could to assist his campaign for Westchester County Executive, at one point there were serious talks about covering it for a book, but my schedule and his harried existence made it tough. I did manage to crank out a couple of scathing attacks on his opponent, Andrew Spano, a bent curmudgeon of a man, whose main contribution to that 2009 campaign was to spew the bile of the doomed. And, indeed, he was doomed, for on November, 3, at 42 years-old, Astorino was elected.

He served a controversial term taking on the usual union noise, straining to cut budgets and stemming the inevitable tide of rising taxes, all the while making his way within the environs of the schizophrenic Republican Party – its infiltrations, loons, machinations, ups-and-downs – running and winning another term this past November.

But now it’s the big time.

Back around Christmas, as he met with advisors and sent an exploratory crew that deals with the usual pabulum of putting together an endeavor of this size, we spoke in length about his chances, his mental capacity to handle what amounts to two campaigns in as many years (and the mental capacity of his poor family, all of whom wince and writhe, cheer and beam with every step) – one as a favored incumbent, and now once again as the underdog.

“I have this all figured,” he said, as confidently as that first fateful day over regurgitated sandwiches. “Get my head handed to me, and I finish my term as planned, then go back to the private sector, maybe get back into broadcasting, work within the party. I come close, give it a real fight, and maybe build myself as someone who can play on the bigger stage, then weigh my options, or, maybe, just maybe, I will be the next governor of New York.”

It was a big deal to be hearing this, in his kitchen, with our children running around, a few miles from where we broadcasted our first game together decades ago: Rob Astorino, my friend, running for governor of New York.

After four years and re-election as Westchester County Executive, he is set to truly become a national political figure.

I have gotten to know many politicians and musicians, actors, and artists on the grand stage, but there is no one I have known for longer or have been closer to than Rob. And I know, and he knows, where he is headed, and the depths and heights he will travail on both sides of the political aisle. This is a place that I know all too well. Both aisles are rancid.

And so, I’m sure there will be a column or two in there along the way. But without apologizing, it will not be objective – as if anything in reporting or politics ever really is.

Hell, if nothing else, it would be advantageous to my outlaw existence – most of it taking place in NYC – to have a pardon in my back pocket.

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