EQYPT: DEMOCRACY, RELIGION & THE GREAT DIVIDE

Aquarian Weekly
7/24/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EQYPT: DEMOCRACY, RELIGION & THE GREAT DIVIDE

Author’s Note: It is imperative that one comes to the following with the jaundiced view shared by this space that in no way do we think there was, is and will be anything truly binding to this fourth or fifth Arab Spring in Egypt. Mostly, these people are nuts. This is no way to run a democracy; incessant revolution is bad for commerce, tourism and general stability, and if history has taught us anything – and that concept only works if you know anything about past events that almost always effect current ones – then Egypt may well go the way of 19th century France or 20th century Russia. It was difficult for anyone to fathom the volatile nature of those places and the volumes of gibberish it produced from people who lived through it, much less those with the clarity of hindsight. Let’s just say if the entire place isn’t burned to the ground by late-October it is a victory for the human race. Now carry on…egypt

The current chaos that is Egypt provides juicy insight into how a 21st century Middle East democracy can run; either as an extension of the fourth century tribal councils that dominate a fair portion of the region or some semblance of a secular law-based structure which might serve as example and catalyst to the world stage.

Granted, the former has had a tremendous head start. Tribal councils are pretty straightforward and have little room for messy things like debate, dissent, diversity, human rights or, god-forbid, voting. Hard-line is easy; it’s the way things have been done and the guys in charge use mystical reams of holy rhetoric and violence to keep the occasional “How about we try…” set in line. Democracy, with its handing over major decisions on ideological concerns to the greater populace, is dangerous for any culture; even those not mired in the whole pre-enlightenment milieu.

Unlike Israel, which had partial democracy heaped upon it by world war, genocide, colonialism and the inevitable march of progress, Egypt has exhibited an insularly deliberate crawl into the values of individual freedoms. The Egyptian model is unique. It comes – with all due respect to the piles of money it receives to make nice-nice with super powers – from an internal will to balance its religious traditions with its yearning to grant a voice to all its people.

However, unlike Israel, the echo of puppet regimes and violent upheavals surrounding its boarders has given the nation pause. There has never been a sense that Islam is without its influence in Egypt. On the contrary, it lives and breathes within its tenuous democratic construct in a far more powerful way than the nationalistic fervor of the Zionists. One does not get the sense that the bankrolled democracy of Israel is flexible in the way it perceives its sovereignty or its separation from its enemies, which is every bordering state.

Egypt is bipolar; even in its geographical location – the cultural origins of Africa mired in Middle Eastern turmoil; loaded with oil and little else, save for a tourism trade slowly eroded over the years with a growing western sense that its potential dangers outweigh its seductive landscape.

Its generational gap is growing, and with it an embrace of the type of technologies which obliterate superstitions that oppress women, art, press, and general free expression. As in all nations teetering on social revolution, the world’s alternative visions wash over Egyptian youth with reckless abandon. And unlike the outrage aimed at western ideals and culture prevalent in the 1979 Iranian revolution, Egyptian youth do not appear to be sated by returning to the purity of the past.

This begs the question; can Egypt truly be a model for the rest of the region’s view of democracy; a far more organic and sane template than the war-ravaged, westernized abomination in Iraq formulated by aging, white, Anglo-Saxon Cold War relics at the barrel of a gun.

The Egyptian people, made up of some Christians, but mostly Muslims, and within the Islamic faith, the Salifis, Sunnis,Sufis, have not yet found a common ground democratically. The question for them, as it was in the first Arab Spring over two and a half years ago, is to choose a religious-based society run by a religious-based government or one democratic secular state that respects all sects and faiths and moves the evolution of free thinking forward. This was, allegedly, the nation’s aim when booting its previously democratically elected president, Hosni Mubarak in favor of a new order, dissolved parliament and restructured constitution.

However, after a military “handling” of a special election, the Salifi-led Muslim Brotherhood movement took the reins of the fractured parliament with less than 50 percent of the national will and then propped its new president (receiving barely 51 percent of the vote), Mohammad Mosi into power. Mosi and the Muslim Brotherhood, wholly unpopular among the rankled 49 percent from day-one, began to run things as if they had been handed one of those tribal council type deals and this was not going to fly with a country still stinging from the street protests that captured the world enough for the military to act in ousting Mubatrak in the first place.

Egypt is suddenly faced with a singular religious dilemma in its burgeoning if not slightly off-kilter democracy. The Mosi/Muslim Brotherhood “experiment” was a bust. The near-majority of the nation now roundly rejects the running of things by order of the Qu’ran, including state-sanctioned crimes against non-Salifi citizens. But what is the choice? To fully separate a deeply-held religious base from the public sector; respect its moral and traditional tenets, but keep it where it belongs in mosques and homes and not in the building of roads, delivering of mail or especially the law of the land. Or give up.

This begs the question; can Egypt truly be a model for the rest of the region’s view of democracy; a far more organic and sane template than the war-ravaged, westernized abomination in Iraq formulated by aging, white, Anglo-Saxon Cold War relics at the barrel of a gun.

It is, unfortunately, the barrel of the gun that rules the near complete anarchy that has exploded on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and many cities across Egypt now that the military has once again taken charge; failing to give into semantics that the country has suffered its second military coup in two years and faces sanctions from its benefactors, including a scrambling U.S. that appears it will continue to send its $1.6 billion of “aid” to its tenuous ally if an exhumed mummy ran the place.

Although half the country losing an election, throwing a hissy fit and forcing the army to take over the government does not a democracy make, this could well be Egypt’s chance to stand up for the human condition in a region ravaged by civil rights atrocities and religious madness. It is a chance, as rare as they come, to shift the course of history and find a legitimate, internal, democratic form of government which represents the whole of the people against the myths of religion and tyrannical traditions that conspire to strangle liberty.

Author Postscript: Not likely.

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

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GRAPEFRUIT CIRCUS BLOWS THROUGH TOWN

Aquarian Weekly
7/17/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GRAPEFRUIT CIRCUS BLOWS THROUGH TOWN
Florida’s Reality Show Kangaroo Trial Achieves Maximum Effect

A spectacular bevy of ridiculous bullshit has gone down in the now-approaching seventeen years I’ve penned this column. I have been forced to write about more than a few of them – the last one being the whole Donald Trump pay-attention-to-me-I-have-money-and-a-tv-show-otherwise-I’m-the-guy-you-try-and-avoid-while-getting-on-the-subway-screaming-that-aliens-have-lodged-a-brain-washing-device-in-my-rectum media blitz. Normally I think everything is entertaining; mostly kids falling down wells or dogs dragging seniors from burning buildings or wells, but rarely is any of it news. But this whole George Zimmerman trial has to be news, right? It is on television all the time; and I mean ALL the time. It’s like the Olympics without all the talented shut-ins on steroids.zim_2

So, let’s see, we’ve already covered the outcome of this on the 28th of March, 2012 in a rather spiteful piece called LOOK AWAY DIXIE LAND on how embarrassingly terrible the South always seems to be when things like this “happen” – what with all their silly laws that allow people to shoot other people for “feeling threatened”. By the way, that is the law; this Stand Your Ground thing, which is so off the charts goofy it deserves to unearth the level of crap we have endured now for well over a year and in our faces for the past weeks.

Way back when, before Al Sharpton got involved, this was not self-defense or race profiling or gun control or even, (gulp!) politics, whether Floridian or national. This was and still is about a law that allows a man to kill another man at his discretion.

Outside of the poor souls that live in Florida, no one should give a shit about their laws anyway, unless they want to challenge that law as unconstitutional, which it may or may not be. Let’s face it; killing people on a whim was very popular in 1788, when the thing was ratified. Dueling was all the rage then, until it reached national status – kind of like a Zimmerman Trail circa 1804, sans cameras, lawyer-experts or HLN. When Aaron Burr, the sitting vice president, shot to death a founding father of the nation and a recent secretary of state because Aaron Burr was pissed about being framed as “voluptuary in the extreme”, only then did the whole dueling craze pass into oblivion.

For the record, the word “voluptuary” (the kind of accusation people understood as reasonable cause to be blasted in the chest with steaming hot lead at twenty paces) was a nineteenth century slight intimating that a person of repute was far more interested in money and sex than high-minded human endeavors, which is now considered high compliment among rappers, professional athletes, bishops and 83 percent of congress.

But, I digress, as is my wont here when procrastination beats actually putting into words that George Zimmerman was completely within his rights under Florida law to shoot a kid – a kid, mind you, armed with nothing but Skittles – in the heart at point-blank range, simply because he was getting his ass kicked.

And that’s the nut for me; Zimmerman is innocent of whatever happened in Florida, where killing is a way of life, like orange picking and dying in a retirement home, but he’s still a pussy.

Jesus, man. Do you have any idea how many ass-kickings I’ve received? And many of them have not been solicited; the way Zimmerman apparently felt the need to do. I hardly had to be chased down to get my beatings. In fact, it was mostly the other way around. And for the record, if I were being chased by that asshole, you can bet if he caught up to me, I would not be hanging around asking what it is he might think in his muddled I-need-to-be-important psyche. I might go at him like a wild banshee and sort out the consequences later.

For poor, young, black Trayvon Martin, the consequence was death.

In the end, whether South or North, this is the model of how we handle things in this country – a little show piece and then back to the business of bullshit. It is a rare delight, however, to have our steaming pile paraded the way it has in this “trail” hour after miserable hour and day after miserable day to help us fully understand how truly brutal the human condition can be.

And, by the way, I am not saying race was not a factor. Of course it was. Everyone admits the crimes in the area Zimmerman was patrolling were being committed by mostly, if not all, people of color. And by “patrolling”, I mean running around acting like he was some kind of de facto authority with his CB-radio and his gun and his little pick-up truck, trying to act like Chuck Norris or some other middle-aged goofy white guy the television culture has elevated to the level of folk hero.

The black kid running with the hoodie and the macho talk about “creepy looking crackers” and Zimmerman, in hot pursuit, intoning about “fucking punks always getting away with it” all plays a part. But the most pertinent is a man and a boy (male testosterone on heavy display) doing everything in their power to provoke, instigate, grandstand and put themselves into a position where violence ensued.

It’s pretty much a stark metaphor for human civilization and not so much a far cry from Burr’s fatal shooting of Hamilton all those years ago, and everything in between.

And here is where we get to why any of this got to trial in the first place, and why it has been rolled out like a reality show. The state of Florida wants this to go down with some kind of ancillary nod towards decorum. You can’t have all these shootings go on without someone getting their dander up. Throw them this dog & pony show for a few weeks, allow some cameras and commentators in, and then when the guy walks, and there are few riots here or there – one can only hope – then it’s back to business and nothing changes.

This is how it goes in the South: “Lynchings? Oh, they’re horrible, but a legal and perfectly honorable way to make sure black men don’t, you know, look in the general direction of a white woman or dare to take a sip out of a fountain marked for whites, or, apparently, walk down the street with some candy and soda. Sorry, it’s the law, have a nice day.”

In the end, whether South or North, this is the model of how we handle things in this country – a little show piece and then back to the business of bullshit. It is a rare delight, however, to have our steaming pile paraded the way it has in this “trail” hour after miserable hour and day after miserable day to help us fully understand how truly brutal the human condition can be.

What should happen is someone should sue the state and drag Jeb Bush – goddamn it if only George Senior had kept the thing in his pants, we might have avoided some serious crap these past decades – into court and pound him incessantly for signing such an unconscionably asinine bill into law.

The villain here is Florida and Bush and whatever local yahoos cobbled these suggestions of free-wheel killing on a “feel” to “feel” basis.

George Zimmerman is not the problem. He is the proverbial pimple on the monstrous ass of this lunacy. He is a lesion on the rotting husk of a dying man. He is mucus. He is pus. He’s our chubby symptom.

Oh, and as a postscript to this madness; over 70 people were murdered by gun violence over the holiday weekend in Chicago, Illinois.

When is Al Sharpton heading up there?

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DOWN GOES DOMA

 

Aquarian Weekly
7/3/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

DOWN GOES DOMA
Along with Prop 8, Supreme Court Ends Latest Era of Legal Discrimination

Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

– Justice Anthony Kennedy

Unconstitutional.a

Of course.

The Defense of Marriage Act, a nifty piece of legislation which disallowed a segment of taxpaying citizens access to the Bill of Rights, is now dead and buried. DOMA, as it is most popularly referred to, was another in a long line of “laws” heaped upon the public by the government to strip us of our civil liberties, as in the now debated Patriot Act. Only this one insidiously singled out a segment of society, denying them access to systems put in place to protect spouses and their property and dignity.
Justice Kennedy expounds; “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.”

Amen.

The fact that DOMA was ever formed, voted on, passed, and signed into law is an abject embarrassment for the length of breath of this republic and it is lucky for this country and the people in it that 84 year-old Edith Windsor stood up and said, “What?” Motivated by over 300 grand of estate tax she wouldn’t have had to pay if not for these goofy laws saying she couldn’t marry a woman named Thea she’d lived with for four decades simply because he was not a man named Theo, Windsor became this era’s Oliver Brown.

Upon announcing incredulity with silly laws, Brown v. The Board of Education put a spike through serration, which is a nice word for saying “state sanctioned discrimination” or “legal bigotry”. People like Windsor and Brown make all of our hollow talk about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and haughty spouting about the U.S. Constitution being our Bible, which is all correct, can now rest easier that a little more of  us are allowed inside the freedom boat, protected against social tyranny.

The great irony of an abomination called the Defense of Marriage Act is that it was designed and presided over by a Speaker of the House and signed into law by a president, both of whom had routinely made sport of cheating on their spouses (Newt Gingrich, twice divorced, and Bill Clinton’s well-documented misogyny). Although it never quite seriously explained why two of the most powerful men in America would not be more of a “threat” to the sanctity of marriage than an everyday citizen who deserved the same chance to shit all over their spouses. The answer was always that people who make an open mockery of this institution are less a stain on marriage than two people of the same sex.

And that’s the rub.

It is selective moralizing.

We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to safeguard against such nonsense.
And that’s apparently what opponents of this obvious and way overdue Supreme Court ruling don’t get. They get all uppity and defensive saying, “Oh, if we defend traditional marriage we are called bigots!” Well, yes, if you are only applying this glorious worship of an institution to one segment of society then it is the very definition of discrimination, and this is only practiced by bigots. Hence, you are a bigot.

Of course, they muddy the whole thing by calling themselves traditionalists, which is old hat for people trying to deny rights they enjoy to other citizens, whether it’s the Irish owning land or Jews allowed access to certain institutions or women voting or African Americans eating at a diner below the Mason Dixon line. “This is the way it’s always been done,” they say. “Why are you going around changing stuff?” The other day talk show host Rush Limbaugh couched his derision on the ruling by actually saying out loud that “things are going along just fine and then the gays say, ‘Hey we want to be able to marry’ and then its madness.”

Yes, can you imagine waking up one day and realizing your height keeps you from getting a driver’s license? And when you say, “Wait a minute!” Some sanctimonious nitwit says, “Take it easy, buddy, things are fine the way they are. This is how we do it and have always done it.” I bet you would take it like a good citizen and realize that tradition is far more important and you’d run out and get yourself a bike.

Sure.

I guess things were going along just fine until some moron invented a radio, huh?

And I know she’s silly and cannot really be taken seriously outside the geeks at CPAC, but the other day when Michelle Bachmann, who would not have been able to publicly voice political opinion, never mind cast a ballot, less than a century ago, stands on the capitol steps as a senator and derides this law on the basis of Biblical law, which openly frames women as nothing more than livestock, is beyond absurdity. Not sure she realizes how much of a metaphor for this ruling she’s truly become. Hell, if Moses or George Washington showed up to her little speech yesterday, if they could ever stop choking, both men would have wondered what bizarre joke was playing out by having a woman legislator speaking to a crowd of people she was not serving soup to.

Look, traditionalists and Bible thumpers won’t get it. This is their thing. And this is why we have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution, to protect us from those who don’t get it, which brings us to the second Supreme Court ruling, California’s goofy Proposition 8, an excellent example of why leaving civil liberties up to the vagaries of state laws is also thorny. Having people vote whether, say, people with blonde hair can have kids is dangerous. And lawmakers? Well, we’ve already seen how that goes on the federal level. Right now in Texas the state legislature and its governor are trying to make it legal to shoot women on the way to get a pap smear. Something like that. I can’t tell.
Most laws in Texas end up allowing the shooting of someone or something. It’s hard to fathom what those preciously colorful idiots are doing down there. It’s like “the weird kid in the basement” state.

And so, regardless of all the other junk and flaws and spectacular hypocrisy that we’re straddled with around here on a daily basis year after fuck-awful year, we have a very proud day in the American experiment; the fantastic Don’t Tread on Me, “Give me liberty or give me death” and “All men are created equal” part that seems to perfectly rear its beautiful head when some generation or segment of our society decides what another can or can’t do.

This is going to be one hell of an Independence Day at The Desk.

Yee-Ha!

 

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EVERYTHING IS DISEASE

Aquarian Weekly
6/26/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

EVERYTHING IS DISEASE

Disease – a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.
– Webster Dictionary

The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments.
– NY Times June 18, 2013

The fancy bureaucratic body that brought you “bully awareness” in the summer of 2002, covered adroitly if not with snot-nosed assery in this space in the 6/26/02 Reality Check under the headline IN DEFENSE OF THE AMERICAN BULLY, now opens the floodgates to a juicy pile of human frailties with its “Obesity is a Disease” offering. And if you failed to notice the little nugget attached to the lead in this week’s NY Times piece about spurring more insurers to “pay for treatments”, then it gets even better for us all.

First things first; it is official that everything is now a disease and therefore must be treated as so.kid

I am vertically challenged.

Disease.

I am also a jerk.

Disease.

I cannot wait for my next annual physical. My doctor already thinks I’m insane. He’s going to love this one.

“How are you feeling, James?”

“Short.”

“Ha! Funny.”

“Discrimination!”

“What?”

“The person who came in before me was a load and I’m short; so what’s the difference?”

“There are no health concerns for being short.”

“Really? You should have seen the beatings I took in schoolyards. Also, I repeatedly wrench my back trying to reach high shelves. Not to mention the agony I’ve suffered searching for a decent-fitting tweed jacket.”

“This is not funny, what is actually wrong with you?”

“I’m also a jerk.”

“This is true, but it is not a disease.”

“Tell that to my wife.”

And believe me, I shall be taking these matters up with my insurance company, and just to stick the social knife in and twist it, I’m going to get a national insurer under the Affordable Care Act and you can pay for my being a jerk, which, in an existential sense, makes me an even greater jerk in need of serious attention.

Faith is now also a disease.

Believing in the existence of something with no immutable evidence is a serious disease. Now some would say this falls under the heading of insanity, but I ask; whose sicker, the corpulent or those who put the balance of their health and well-being on wild supernatural notions?

You know how many faiths there are and how much money these things bring in? There is a whole slew of the diseased out there just waiting to be treated. Soon there will be a pill for this; “Here, take two of these and by morning you’ll come to the conclusion that your entire belief system is childish and sad and you will then either turn into a jerk, which is something we also have a pill for, or live out your life not basing your view of reality on fairy tales.”

Now this is progress and evolution. The AMA has a point and I’m on board.

And is fat like obese, as in “I’m feeling fat today”? Is it “I’m feeling diseased today”? Or “Man, I should not have eaten that street burrito at two am after fifteen beers” diseased? Or the “Entire Midwest region of the continental United States” diseased? Or “80 percent of the Pittsburgh Steelers tailgaters” disease?

The only problem is it threatens the Gay Rehabilitation racket, especially now that everything is a disease – eye color, skin color, hair style, dialect, sexual orientation. Even Alan Chambers, whose unbelievably brilliant money-printing con-job Exodus International (another in the endless line of diseased faiths) had to close the largest gay rehabilitation centers going. Chambers, a self-loathing gay man whose wish was that everyone end up like him and shut off their identity under the guise of shame, guilt and that faith thing again to get “straight”, sees the writing on the wall: This is the AMA’s problem now.

Chambers recently addressed a gathering of the diseased faithful and said for the past 37 years this whole “you can pray the gay away” sham was hurtful and wrong and some other thing he thinks is either getting him into heaven or keeping him out of jail. Couldn’t be sure, since most of it was in tongues, but, suffice to say, there really isn’t any point in trying to change gays as there isn’t in changing caucasians or people who are really good at playing the piano. These people are simply diseased.

Not sure how far we can go with sexual proclivity here, it has many possibilities that go far beyond things like “sex-addict”, which has all the scientific probability in humans as say alcoholism or gambling addiction or drug addiction, all of which, beyond mere genetics like in a preponderance of cases with obesity or sexual orientation, height, race or whatever else we’re passing around with all the sex, are apparently diseases.

And should we get in on the whole “what and who decides what makes someone obese” discussion? Does the line shift, like how much alcohol in the blood stream is legal? Or how much sugar should be in drinks? Or what plant you can smoke and which one you can’t? Or how fast you can go on certain roads?

And is fat like obese, as in “I’m feeling fat today”? Is it “I’m feeling diseased today”? Or “Man, I should not have eaten that street burrito at two am after fifteen beers” diseased? Or the “Entire Midwest region of the continental United States” diseased? Or “80 percent of the Pittsburgh Steelers tailgaters” disease?

And where does stupid fall in all this? Can we get a little love for the stupid? There is so many of us out here. We have talk shows and run for congress and dupe the faithful and develop TV series that exploit the stupid and run customer service for Expedia and work the counters at Guitar Center and build condos in flood zones and get high ranking jobs with the NSA and consider Chris Bosh, who scored zero points in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, part of some imaginary Big Three or root for the NY Jets or play the lottery or continue to teach our children that Columbus discovered America.

But most importantly, should there be a Jerk Council now? Can we get some funding on developing a cure, maybe call it Jerk-Off? Something catchy like that.

Just trying to help.

Which is also a disease.

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EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY

Aquarian Weekly
6/19/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY?

If there is one thing that this space has tried to illustrate for the past 16 years is that hypocrites are not the exclusive property of ideological or political affiliation. In the past weeks, as we have been inundated by a phalanx of stories depicting with grand detail one fuck up after the other from the current administration, which whisked into Washington five years ago on a transparent change in government delusion, here come hordes of congressman like Rand Paul (threatening to take the NSA to the Supreme Court after he dismissed the same body as meaningless following the landmark Affordable Care Act ruling) and senators like Lindsey Graham (supporting the government’s spying on citizens’ phone and e-mail records while arguing that gun background checks are an invasion of privacy). It is a wonder you vote.
snowden
I have never seriously voted. Mostly, I backed candidates with no chance to win as a protest against two representatives from massive corporate-backed political parties offering nothing approaching an original thought or concept. Then my mortal enemy, Al Gore decided he needed to be president, so I all-but worked with the Bush campaign to smear his sorry ass back to Tennessee only to watch the dumb-struck asshole who bested him make a mockery of governance for eight long years. Then I decided to vote for Barack Obama, as a member of my own generation in protest against the annoyingly overrated Boomer dipshits who preceded him, only to be once again stuck with another lost idiot acting as if he just woke up and someone told him he was president.

But my voting record and vast disappointment with politics aside, there never appears to be anyone truly minding the store, so it’s back to figuring out exactly how the shit-house will go down this time.

This week the latest in a long line of computer geeks given access to a spectacularly massive cadre of sensitive national security files, Edward J. Snowden has clearly represented why neither political party will ever have the answers needed to quell the rapacious need for the American people to appear free while feeling safe, or other such fairy tales.

Okay, so you would have to be completely in the tank for the sorry butt end of whatever remains of a national Right Wing movement in this country not to have noticed that for two congresses now Republicans have provided nothing in the way of serious legislative rebuttal to what they deem as “socialist, anti-American and freedom-threatening policies”. In place of doing its job, the GOP-controlled congress decided to throw feces against the wall and screech like monkeys to make the Democratic president look ineffectual.

This worked great. He was re-elected by the greatest margin a member of his party tallied to secure the presidency since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. I was two at the time. I was 50 last November. That is a long run with no Democratic dominance at the executive level. And you know what; it ain’t gonna end soon. Not with the current demographics of the country pointing Left and an entire generation of young people fairly certain the majority of the Republican platform is religiously-based nihilistic bigotry.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth.

On the heels of this we have Mr. Snowden, a 29 year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee (contractor to the National Security Agency) and chronicled supporter of Ron Paul’s anti-government brigade, leaking classified top-secret material to a foreign newspaper. As another quick aside, lord knows the sub-contractor element is not lost on me, the near victim of many hoaxes perpetuated by “businesses” I thought I was hiring to do jobs, only to find they merely fobbed it off to some other dinks, whose only care to the completion of said job was to not get caught screwing up, which in my case, they most assuredly did.

Snowden’s motivations for leaking vital defense intelligence on a lark are best framed by the reporter who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald told the NY Times this week that his infamous source for the British paper, The Guardian scoop “knew that in order for someone to do this story the way it had to be done he had to be in an adversarial posture vis-a-vis the U.S. government.”

Snowden, an “ex-CIA” (once CIA always CIA – ask Lee Harvey Oswald and George H.W. Bush) who claims after making a living working in the business of citizen surveillance suddenly found Jesus and decided this was crazy, wanted to join the “feces tossing task force” and make nasty for what could tactfully be described as a beleaguered president. However, Greenwald’s analysis mirrors the very argument for Daniel Ellsberg’s outing of the gargantuan lies the U.S. government laid on the American public for over a decade of unsanctioned mass murder in Viet Nam.

You see, although it appears as if Snowden is just a radicalized version of say Mitch McConnell, whose failed attempt at turning his senatorial position into the home-base for making Obama a one-term president, there is something far more interesting. Both Snowden and his non de plume Greenwald are Ellsberg worshippers (full disclosure, so is the author). Moreover, Snowden reportedly met directly with the nation’s most cherished whistleblower through documentarian, Laura Poitras this past January.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth. Greenwald’s current post at The Guardian has given the ex-litigator and award-winning blogger legitimate reporter contacts and sources, many of which were used to reveal the “secret wars” both hot and cold the U.S. has been running since 9/11, including the Dick Cheney/Karl Rove/Scooter Libby outing of a CIA agent in 2005.

Greenwald, an ex-patriot forced to live in Rio De Janeiro with his Brazilian partner because of discrimination against same-sex marriage, which consequently disallows similar rights of citizenship to heterosexual couples, has personal as well as ideological issues with the United States government of which he wrote in the preface to his wonderfully cynical 2006 book, How Would a Patriot Act, “the fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American.”

The Snowden/Greenwald partnership in bi-partisan derision for the flimsy foundations of this republic has come at a crucial time, as new and old neo-con voices begin to bellow about dragging the U.S. into another bloody quagmire in Syria – trumped by ex-president, Democrat Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate, Republican John McCain.

Killer drones, Gitmo, an endless war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, systemic discrimination and the rank hypocrisy of our times, all neatly wrapped up in one single act of blessed conceit by pissed-off people with a pen.

That is something I can finally vote for.

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Y T-Shirt

Get your fresh-looking Y T-shirt here. Remember: shipping is always free at jamescampion.com!

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The Self-Perpetuating Gorge Of Power or How The IRS Becomes Hal 9000

Aquarian Weekly
6/5/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

Take heed and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
– Matthew 16:6

irsJesus of Nazareth was as anti-establishment as it gets; a spiritual ascetic, who actually considered himself God within a sect of people weaned on the primacy of an all-powerful deity. And he took that lunacy to the streets, right into the heart of the power structure that was the religious and political fulcrums against individualism. Thus making a peasant from a fishing enclave nestled in the armpit of the Roman Empire, the most influential anti-religious and anti-systemic figure in Western thought.
But that’s not how we know this Jesus. His revolution, one of collective upheaval and a Nieitzschean sledgehammer railing against the hypocrisy of times, is reduced to religious worship and Roman blood ritual. His is less an inspirational siren for soul-saving grace as it is a cautionary tale of what power structures must do when threatened. Jesus told a religion and a republic it was not needed for spiritual attainment or cultural identity, so they strung him up and waited for the next doomed idiot to utter such insurrection.

This is why Jesus of Nazareth is my hero and I spent over a decade researching his methods and parables, or those attributed to him and his short-lived movement, and why it ended up in a monstrosity I titled Trailing Jesus. People normally read the thing and wonder what it is I was getting at, and quite frankly I’m not even sure – except for one key element: Once you have a structure of power surmised, erected, and maintained by humans, it is nearly impossible to eradicate it. Oh, you can revolt and rebuild some other thing in its place, but it will very likely be the same shit.

Or worse; presuming Christianity’s systemic machinations are more damaging than first century Judaism, which is a whole separate discussion.

Now, what we have today, say, with the IRS or the FBI in this country, is what we have endured for decades. And, as stated in this space two weeks ago, there is little we can actually do about it. Sure, whoever happens to control the legislative branch – especially if it is the opposing party of the executive branch – will rattle around like sniffing hounds and braying goats and tell us there is a pox on the house of lords, but it will just be the noise of those who only want to stick their own power monger in there to keep the ball rolling and the checks cashed.

To be more specific and less political, (I’ll need ten or so columns to dissect the tyrannical madness unleashed during the FBI’s first 105 years) I present to you the Internal Revenue Service, one of our republic’s most necessary evils. It is a massive and powerful branch of the treasury department that absorbs the flow of our money to be used for whatever the giant, bloated system sees fit; war, social programs, puppet regimes in third world countries, recovery projects for tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, torturing foreigners, propping up the welfare state, and other sundry items. This is an unchecked machine, not unlike Stanley Kubrick’s HAL 9000 super computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey (a metaphor that never gets old for me) which only cares about one thing, as all “conscious beings”, whether mammal or machine: Self-preservation.

The IRS did what any self-respecting power gorge would; it targeted its enemies and sought to defuse their influence over the electoral process. Made sense to Jesus and it makes sense to me.

For a democratic society, the power to tax is so absolute – a huge underlying factor to the perpetuation of the Roman Empire; the political assassins of Jesus of Nazareth – that the judicial branch of our system recently pronounced the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act as less an unconstitutional stronghold of the free market and more of the aforementioned tax. This was decided ultimately by the swing vote of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, a conservative.
Long before the Roberts’ ruling, the anti-government movement called the TEA Party gained traction – mainly due to the initial passing of the PPACA. At the beginning, this group was as organically fun-loving as those who protested the ten or so wars we had going in the first decade of this century. But then they were absorbed by the Republican Party (the ying to the yang of this systemic virus) and as a result caused a civil war within the GOP that produced many a goofy result. The most damaging of these was the completely asinine debt ceiling debate, which effectively prevented the congress of the United States from paying its bills. What the anti-war movement, and the subsequent 2006 Democratic re-taking of congress, failed to do, the TEA Party Republicans accomplished; temporarily sealing the purse strings of the federal government.

So, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or Jesus to figure where this was going; a direct threat to the IRS, its powerbase and its influence over one of the most sweeping pieces of federal regulation ever enacted by congress. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the PPACA, which takes full effect in 2014, put a massive chunk of the federal budget in the hands and regulatory power of the Internal Revenue Service; meaning more branch locations and jobs and larger budgets with which to hand out apparently unchallenged payrolls.

The IRS did what any self-respecting power gorge would; it targeted its enemies and sought to defuse their influence over the electoral process. Made sense to Jesus and it makes sense to me.

Before we go this week, I offer up a potential red herring that has been rearing its ugly cranium; reports out of the Pentagon (the font of honesty and integrity for lo these many decades of power abuse) that the Chinese have been hacking into our systems to build similar death machines as that of our Air Force, etc. Little by little, I see a story here or there about it, and if FOXNEWS wasn’t ejaculating all over the place with all these purported Obama shenanigans, then they may well have been far more into it, since it reeks of the Military Industrial Complex, our other fat-ass necessary evil. Floating danger tales through the media is as old as the hills and has merit in the power gorge, simply because these cutbacks the Pentagon has suffered as a result of the infamous sequester will not do, like congress changing flight patterns to soften its collective travel plans while the rest of us slog it out.

You see, the use of the word “leaven” in the above quote from Matthew (the one Jewish author of the four canonical gospels, who knew exactly what Jesus, a Jew, was fighting against) is key here, because bread is a staple of survival, and when it leavens it expands or “swells”, not unlike systemic power that becomes its own being separate from its intended construct.

Or as Jesus may have couched it; “Woe unto you” to which HAL 9000 might have responded, “Sorry, Dave.”

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying & The Love The Shield Law

Aquarian Weekly
5/29/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

Quit while you’re ahead. – Carl Bernstein

holderJust received notice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that I am a criminal.
Well, could be a criminal. Aim to be a criminal? Not sure. The statute of limitations must be up on this puppy from 10/10/01 — KASBAH ROCKING:
“Right now a Columbian refugee is having dinner with an overtly effeminate Taliban gunrunner in a quaint bistro on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. They’re discussing the coming ski season and desert fall fashions. Drinks are flowing and names are innocently exchanged. Every witty aside by the young gunrunner is met with hearty laughter, as a hidden tape recorder hums inside the Columbian’s left breast pocket.

By morning the gunrunner will be missing. Word will spread through the sequestered Taliban offices, memos will be sent, and maybe a few more soldiers will defect to the Northern Alliance. But after a few days, there will be no mention of him. When his family comes calling, they will be sent to a briefing, and perhaps, also turn up missing.

A few days later maps and phone records will mysteriously disappear. There will be internal arguments and stepped-up security. Rankled officials will call for strip searches, and someone might be shot for treason. Word will spread that two or three training camp security personnel didn’t show up for work that morning, and relative innocents will be tortured. The air of paranoia will thicken and the stench will spread quickly.

And what of the friendly Columbian gentlemen?

He will be enjoying a weekend in Paris by Halloween, and several other well-versed, highly cash-motivated ex-cons will take his place long before he boards the airplane.”

Oh, yes; those were heady times; mere weeks after 9/11 when reporters were afraid to print such nonsense, but the Reality Check News & Information Desk was on duty. Now, it seems, the FBI, to which we warned only two weeks ago, has gone Gestapo on us here at the Fourth Estate; The Government Will Decide The Difference Between Good Investigative Journalism and Treason.

By the mere exercise of excelling at my job, (to which I have avoided for lo these many years since my journalism professor at Trenton State wanted to know why I chose TV Guide for the semester’s internship) I stand accused by a system I am sworn to watchdog like the Dairy Council sitting on the board of review at the FDA and claiming that milk is good for the bones of a human over five months old when all of the science argues against it. Yeah, like that.
These are strange times to be a journalist, especially one on the fringes like myself and Geraldo Rivera, who once told me over several cocktails, and I assume from his manic stuttering and distracted blinking, a dangerous amount of cocaine that if one were to really think about it, what passes for journalism is at best a crime.

Ah, yes, but a threat to national security?

The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief….However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly–when committed in other quarters.”

The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief….However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly–when committed in other quarters.”

Or as investigative journalist extraordinaire, Carl Bernstein once imparted to me in the press box at Shea Stadium during Game 3 of the 2000 World Series, “Quite while you’re ahead.” I had asked him about the future of investigative journalism, such as it is beyond TMZ, which at the turn of the century had yet to exist but nonetheless had forefathers of wonderful schlock like Inside Edition or The Drudge Report. Oh, how we laughed.

Bernstein knew a few things, more so than his partner in the greatest of all scoops, The Watergate Scandal, which so many today wish would crop up again, so they can say they were there, but they would be wrong, because for journalists there was only one “there” there and it was that steamy night in D.C. when it all went wrong for Dick Nixon. Lately Bob Woodward has been feeling the heat from the current White House. Maybe he’s no longer welcome at Pennsylvania Avenue, even with a Democrat in there.

But Woodward, like Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan is a registered Republican, although he did not work for Ronald Reagan like Noonan did or write seventeen books feeding into the myths of Reagan. None of this could be helped, because Noonan is an idiot, and I am not writing this to be mean or biting, she has an obvious mental disability, and if they allow her to speak anymore on Meet The Press THAT would be criminal.

Speaking of long-running “news” shows, I once received a fax here at The Desk from David Westin, then president of ABC NEWS, when the great Ted Koppel was sent packing to make room for some Hollywood bullshit, to which I sent this response and then later to press (THE RAPING OF ABC NEWS — 3/13/02): “Trouble is news doesn’t bring the big numbers anymore, otherwise how could anyone explain these infinite obsessions with Monica Lewinsky, O.J. Simpson and Jennifer Anniston? Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreeds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?”

So nobody understands more than I that aside from pedophiles and terrorists, journalists are the most reviled of groups. I expect backlash to hearing incessantly and with little humor that you are not what mommy told you, but criminal? Not sure that beats the hell out of being hunted, as in the immediate wake of 9/11 when I sent to press this observation on the anthrax/journalist scare (CASUALTIES OF WAR — 11/7/01): “Most of these people are frightened now. You have to wear rubber gloves just to deliver pizza at the New York Times and everyone at the GE building are issued gasmasks and need four kinds of ID to get on the main floor of the NBC Nightly News.”

There were tougher times to be a journalist, like during the opening months of prohibition when giants in the business like H.L. Mencken would storm through Baltimore newsrooms flailing his arms about like a spastic ape spitting pistachio shells at secretaries. No booze is worse than being labeled a criminal by the FBI, believe me. Take me down, but leave the gin.

So now I hear they’re discussing passing another goddamn law called the Shield Law, which will officially grant the First Amendment to those whose livelihoods depend on it.

Shit, it’s more than freedom for some of us. It’s, you know, definition. Like congressmen wearing flag pins.

Not all obsessions need a symbol, bub.

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James Campion – Sportswriter and Broadcaster

 

SPORTS BIO

jc at Yankee StadiumFor four years jc penned a sports column called Sports Shorts for a weekly newspaper called the North County News out of Yorktown, NY, where he gained notoriety and acclaim for his emotional, funny, and often compelling look at the world of fun and games. Although some of the work was considered for his latest book, Fear No Art, jc thought it too much a departure from the flow and subject matter dominant in the original manuscript, and thus left this fertile period out almost entirely. Now exclusively for jamescampion.com, the author has selected some of his favorite pieces from that era and beyond. They appear in public here for the first time since their original release.

A broadcaster and writer during his formative years in high school and college, jc embraced his first love, sports. Fascinated by the raw and unpredictable nature of the athlete in his/her physically and mentally challenging environment, he sought to portray their triumphs and tragedies in a far different slant from the normal fare, without forgetting the voices and craft of the genre’s true giants. As one of the only national columnists for the small, but influential, Westchester newspaper (it won many NY state awards for journalism during his stay and beyond) jc became both celebrity and demon by his rabid readers, balancing his radio and television work as a local talk show host.

jc and cb on Sports Club - 1992His many live sports-talk television programs from Cablevision’s “The Sports Club Live” (1989-1996) to Continental Cablevision’s “Sports Talk Live” (1995-1997) and the award-winning baseball interview show, “X-Tra Inning” (1990-1994) and co-hosting WLNA radio’s “Sports Nite” (1993-1995) provided jc with a wide-ranging and oft times loyal fan base. He was able to meet many prominent sports figures and attend some of the most exciting and important events of the time while extending his reporting talents.

Although there was little sign among his peers at the time that jc would abandon his prominent post at the North County News and head on the road with a New Jersey club band in the summer of ’95 to write his first book, Deep Tank Jersey, many admirers of his later work point to these years covering sports as not only a stepping stone to a promising career, but another vehicle for his unique literary voice. Evidence of this is that during the early 90s’ jc was working extensively on research for what was to be his first book about the legendary Yankees/Red Sox of 1978. A book, mentioned in several interviews, that he plans to finish one day. His last extensive sportswriting work was a one-year stint penning the Sporting Strife column for the New Jersey entertainment weekly, East Coast Rocker in 1996.

jc and Rob Astorino - 1991Today jc remains the voice of local sports in Westchester, recently completing a four-year run with his nightly radio show, “Inside Sports” on WFAS radio out of White Plains, where he and his co-host, Rob Astorino have covered the World Series, the NBA Finals and more. As the television voice of high school football and basketball for MJM. productions, headed by long-time producer/director Mike Miner, and the Cablevision Network, jc continues to give local athletes a chance to shine. His annual Major League Baseball and NFL previews for Genesis magazine are read nationally, and he continues to contribute stories for the North County News.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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In Search of Reggie

North County News 8/5/93

IN SEARCH OF REGGIE…

For the better part of ten years, I was surrounded by pictures of him on my bedroom walls. Every night before I fell asleep he’d be staring down at me, and every morning I’d awake to a still photograph of his famous powerful, two-handed swing.

I listened to his exploits on my radio and studied him on the tube. His career marked my childhood: the Swingin’ A’s in grammar school, the Mighty Yanks in high school.

It was during one of those years that I swore I’d be there when they put him in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. And last week, Reginald Martinez Jackson and I had a date with destiny.

I arrived in the quaint village of Cooperstown, not as the wide-eyed fanatic of my youth, but just another member of the bulging media; trying like hell to look uninterested in my suit and tie, like it was just another job, and Reggie Jackson was just another story to cover.

Of course, when Reggie was involved there was always a story. For 21 years he was the quintessential sports superstar, a human spotlight magnet. He talked with unhinging bravado and backed it up; from his rookie season in 1969 when he shocked the baseball world by blasting 41 home runs by the all-star break, his Ruthian blast in the ’71 mid-season classic, to every consecutive swing of the bat during his three-homer outburst in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

The humble smile he’s been donning for most of the day, his day, leapt off his face, and the dauntless grin of coiled arrogance that managed to hit belt 563 career home runs nodded toward me. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, son; I was just trying to turn on a fastball.”

Everywhere you ventured to look throughout the usually quiet hamlet of upstate New York, there was a likeness or mention of him. Just a simple “Reggie” would do. No second name was needed. Unless, of course, it was “Mr. October.”; a name he earned in five World Series appearances in which he would hit a lifetime .357 with 10 home runs and grab two MVP awards.

Collectors’ cards, photos, silver coins and tee shirts of every size and color lined Main Street on the way to the building where they would hang his plaque forever. But the image of him had somehow changed from the hero of yesterday. That was a Reggie Jackson who glared unceasingly into the eyes of convention without blinking. He broke the rules, set the pace, and put a considerable mark on a game bloated with atavistic traditions and unspoken etiquette for the black athlete balancing a sizable chip on his shoulder. Who exactly was this man I thought I’d known from the seemingly endless array of games I watched and books I’d read?

I first met him in the baseball summer 1990 as a member of the television medium. He was casually moving about the batting cage at Yankee Stadium working for the California Angels radio team. He was standing only a few feet from where he slammed those three incredible home runs on three consecutive pitches that October night 13 years before, when I sat a million miles away in Freehold, New Jersey beaming.

I shook his hand, making an offhand remark about some motivational letter I’d sent him earlier that historic season when he was struggling and being booed unmercifully by fans home and away, and jokingly wondered if he remembered receiving it. He looked at me strangely, the way I’d pretty much expected, and I thanked him for the memories. “Thanks buddy,” he smiled and strolled away confidently.

Although that classic Reggie ego had shown through, he appeared small in his pink polo shirt and jeans, not at all the giant in pinstripes from bygone days swaggering across my television screen like a conquering knight from the court of King Arthur.

Now on a lazy Sunday morning on the first day of April, 1993, I found myself standing just a few feet from the podium he was delivering his Hall Of Fame induction speech. His eyes were swollen from tears of joy. He appeared worn, his hair line in a gray, middle-aged recede, decked out in a navy blue suit and bright blue tie; a vision of the quiet executive he’d become the last few years.

He spoke gently about his loved ones, his influences in the game he loved, and his ultimate respect for the honor bestowed upon him. The young lion that once quipped “I’m the straw that stirs the drink,” was now the straw that was happy to just be in the glass. He was humble, gracious, and at times apologetic for the in-your-face attitude that made him the kind of player that would expect a trip to immortality. In other words, he was anything but Reggie Jackson.

There was little in that speech that hinted at that Reggie Jackson. But I figured that in the post-ceremony press conference, away from his adoring public, probing cameras, and the rows of baseball great behind him, the real Reggie would emerge from the shadow of this mellowed facsimile. I was wrong.

There he sat, less than 20 minutes later, grinning politely, offering the odd joke and talking about his respect for the beauty of the game. I couldn’t take much more, so I up went my diminutive left arm, waving for his acknowledgment.

Before he was done pointing at me to begin, I rambled out a double-edged question about his years of frustration battling against the tide of adversities that often finds a young man of pride, talent, and conviction. I asked if he contemplated chucking the whole thing to waltz into an easier life devoid of blaring headlines and echoing boos. I eluded to the moment of his speech when he chronicled his agonizingly controversial first year with the Yankees, after he’d won three consecutive championships in Oakland and took less money to play for the Bronx Bombers only to be treated like a journeyman by manager Billy Martin, a man he’d admitted to despising in his autobiography.

“Quit?” he snarled, his stare burning a hole through my skull. “I had 300 more home runs to hit, and too many moments to create.”

Before he was done, that infamous intimidating Reggie heat was beginning to rise from out of his tightly buttoned collar. Yet, I mustered the audacity to conclude that perhaps by releasing the anger of the entire year acted as motivation for the events of Oct. 18, 1977 when those three World Series swings planted him in the record books and in the lap of legend.

“Are these real questions?” he asked, looking around the room packed with media from all over the world. “Because it sounds like your just throwing these off the top of your head,” he laughed. “Maybe you should ask one of these guys to help you out.”

The room of mostly grizzled sports writers and broadcasters chuckled at my dilemma. It was likely that each of them had been on the wicked end of Reggie’s venom before. However, I smiled back at him and demanded an answer. “What were you thinking when you stepped to the plate to make history?”

It was at that moment when the larger-than-life figure of boyhood memories melded together with the man before me. The humble smile he’s been donning for most of the day, his day, leapt off his face, and the dauntless grin of coiled arrogance that managed to hit belt 563 career home runs nodded toward me. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, son; I was just trying to turn on a fastball.”

I still haven’t stopped smiling.

Congratulations Reggie.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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