TRUTH IN CHARACTER

8/6/14
Aquarian Weekly
Cover Piece

 

TRUTH IN CHARACTER
Sinead O’Connor’s Musical Catharsis: I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss

By James Campion

august-6-2014-sinead-o-connor
While visiting Dublin in early June, the wife and I came upon a mural painted on
the side of the city’s Hard Rock Café tucked within a phalanx of ancient pubs in the Temple Bar district. It was a beautiful rendering of a doe-eyed Sinead O’Connor peering from beneath a shawl, appearing as if a stricken Madonna. Above the image, damaged slightly by what looked like a heavy object having been hurled into the cement by her neck, was written; “Sinead you were right all along, we were wrong. So sorry.”

What Sinead O’Connor may have represented or said that at first came off as “wrong” but was later seen by the artist or her fellow Irish citizens as “right” is left to the imagination. But it matters little. For Sinead O’Connor has never been timid about speaking her mind, in song or in person, embodying the deviant contrarian that many of us at first may bristle – How dare she!, but later wonder how we missed being stricken by the same passionate outrage.

Sinead O’Connor. The mere name conjures controversy. For 30 years her career as punk provocateur, spiritual radical, unflinching feminist and social marauder has set her apart; for good or ill. The siren vocalist of poignant songs that pierce through the treacle of most rock sentiments never sought refuge in art; instead she draped her music about her personal and public life as a second skin. Perhaps it was always the presentation that preceded her – defiant glare of those enormous green eyes that leap from beneath the shimmering bald scalp extenuated by a menacing scowl that occasionally gives pause for a child-like giggle, as if half the bravado is act and the other id.

This is why Sinead O’Connor is a hero of mine, for her life collides with her art; her persona a canvas. Whether emotionally charged performances or combative interviews, hers is the complete package. There is no gimmick. If it were then her enormously zealous heart-over-mind sense of expression would not have needed a painted apology nor would it have at times rendered her a pariah despite an otherwise impressive run of success on the charts and inside pop culture.

But it all pales in the wake of her incredible work, the most striking, 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Yeah, the one with “Nothing Compares To U”, which is Prince’s finest song, but only a glimpse of what explodes from that record). There is not one time in a hundred spins of the gut-wrenching, “Three Babies” that chills don’t shoot through my nervous system as she clutches the high notes for “The face on you/The smell of you/ Will always be with me”. It may be the most haunting eight seconds ever recorded and only begins to lift the veil on a complicated soul.

Over the years, O’Connor has openly discussed and written extensively about the abuse she suffered as a child leading to her expression of disgust with the Catholic Church’s refusal to root out pedophiles – specifically in Ireland, which might explain the mural – which led to her infamous ripping up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in October of 1992, the first of many very sudden and very public heart-over-mind moments that has overshadowed her music.

The title of O’Connor’s new album, I Am Not Bossy, I’m The Boss says it all, well, almost. The record echoes like a clenched fist opening into a blooming flower; a return to fierce introspection; the insolent woman looking for tenderness. The first verse from the album’s opening song, “How About I Be Me” reveals a vulnerability behind being “the boss”: “Always gotta be the lioness/Taking care of everybody else/A woman like me needs love/A woman like me needs a man to be/Stronger than herself”. She sings time and again on several tracks about transcendent kisses and “making love”, as if hidden salvation.

I Am Not Bossy strips bare the public persona of the angered rebel, but not entirely. It strategically traverses the tightrope of irreverent brashness and tender yearning on twelve compelling numbers ranging from seductive ballads to confessional angst.

The great bowery poet, Charles Bukowski once wrote, “My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the “light” and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.” And it is in this search for the duality of truth in art that I sat down for a chat with O’Connor, some ten years in the making.

 

This is something of a Holy Grail for me, speaking with you. For some reason our planned interviews always seemed to get derailed. You’re my hero because you never dismiss the human condition in your work or philosophy, even when considering politics, religion or social issues. That is an enviable trait.

Well, thanks.

Let’s start with the record. It appears after several listens to be a combination of catharsis and introspection, much like most of your work, but this time it has an exhaling quality to it; a sense of relief – for instance many of the songs are short and sweet, barely running three minutes. They get right to the point, as if shoved out of your psyche. What was your frame of mind when you wrote and then recorded this material?

There are three songs that are personal/autobiographical; “How About I Be Me”, “Dense Water Deeper Down” and “8 Good Reasons”. The others are not my frame of mind, but the characters’. In the same way the Aretha Franklin album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You is the story of a relationship, when you listen to it in sequence, I wanted to echo that. And so there are perhaps three or four female characters on the record, but there is one that appears more often than the others. She’s the cathartic one. She’s on a journey to learn the difference between illusion and reality when it comes to discovering love, and her catharsis comes when she discovers it was herself she was longing for the whole time. The earlier songs where she is longing for this particular man are conversations between her and this guy, but she comes to the conclusion at the end of it all that it is not him she is longing for but her. (laughs) That’s a bit of a longwinded explanation, but you hit the nail on the head in terms of it being a catharsis. It’s just not mine. It’s a character that I’ve created.

She’s on a journey to learn the difference between illusion and reality when it comes to discovering love, and her catharsis comes when she discovers it was herself she was longing for the whole time.
 

You play around quite a bit with Hindu references on this record, “The Vishnu Room” being an obvious one, but I am interested in your use of Maya in “Harbour”. You sing;“And they said call it Maya/Go ahead call it Maya/But it’s not all Maya” – Maya being a Hindu word or symbol for illusion or delusion, to overcome the foolishness of posing or hiding and find the “true self”, which appears to be another central theme to these songs.

Yeah, it is the central theme. These characters…if you like, you can say represent every woman or every man, indeed, but there are a set of characters which represent the psyche of the main character, who  is the female character that turns up on “Your Green Jacket”, then “The Vishnu Room”, ‘The Voice of My Doctor”, “Harbour” and ends up with “Streetcars”. And through this song sequence there is this journey of longing for this guy whom she has projected all this stuff on and I suppose he is Maya, as he is always present, the same way the man in the Aretha Franklin record is always present throughout the album. And she has an experience with him, which leads her to understand he is not the man she thought he was, which doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, but she got a fright because he wasn’t what she had deluded herself into thinking he was. But instead of taking this as some dreadful thing, it leads her to discover that in fact it was herself she was longing for. So that description there of Maya…yeah, that’s it. That’s what the central character is going through.

The song also evokes something I know you have used your career to shed
light upon and that is child abuse, mostly institutional child abuse, and I couldn’t help thinking of that theme when listening to the lines; “Fumbling to get back what’s stolen/Thinking pain could be plastered over”.

Yeah, those conversations between characters set off something in my mind,

sineadbecause I’m what you might call a Stanislavski “method actor” singer/songwriter. What happened with the last album, some of the songs were written when people had given me movie scripts and I started then to write songs from the point of view of these characters. I enjoyed that, but I didn’t give the movie people the songs. So I created a scenario in my mind and based the character on someone I met in Holland, a young girl, and invented this story where the man on the record asks her about the marks she has on her and the song is an explanation of how she has these marks on her. It’s supposed to be left to the imagination. It’s part of her explaining to him that she is beginning to understand that she has been projecting this longing for things that she didn’t get growing up and she had perhaps projected onto men or the idea of a man who will come and rescue her and make everything wonderful. She realizes that’s not how things go, which ties up with the whole Maya thing.

Speaking of this Stanislavski “method acting” style of getting into character to sing; your voice sounds as strong and emotive as ever; it still gives me chills. There is always a moment or two or three in every record where you go to a place deep inside to get to that intense vocal expression. Where does that come from?    

It’s very hard to explain, because if you could describe music you wouldn’t need music. It’s kind of second nature, so it’s hard to describe to someone else. It’s like taking a breath. You do what you do. I’m sure every singer would tell you how much they wish they could put words on that, because there’s nothing more interesting to talk about than singing. For me, I just go into a world of my own and if you go into the Stanislavski method, as I call it, you get into the character – the who, what, where, when and why – and you forget you’re on a stage and forget there are people there and you get to who you are in the song, where you are, what is it you’re trying to say, who is it you’re trying to say it to and how you’re trying to say it. (laughs) But the big difference between this and actual method acting is you only stay in that character for three minutes, because you’ve got to sing another character in three minutes. (laughs)

 Speaking of characters, the record’s cover photo of you in the shiny black dress and the black wig evokes a visual way to depict a character or maybe it reflects your foolish side or perhaps your true self.

Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a very important aspect of it. It’s a poetic aspect, and what I mean by that is it’s a subtext, and I’ve done about 150 interviews already and you were the only one who managed to pick that up, although one person asked me if I was trying to disguise myself and I said, “Well, maybe the other has been a disguise.” (laughs)

 I have to compliment you on your confronting suicide on “8 Good Reasons”, which is such an arresting song that within it you actually question the idea of broaching it. You sing; “Don’t know if I should quite sing this song/Don’t know if it maybe might be wrong/But then again it maybe might be right/To tell you ‘bout the bullet and the red light”. It’s a beautifully harsh sentiment.

 In the case where songs are very personal it becomes subconscious when you write them. You don’t really know why you wrote it, you just had to write it. I was working with a guitar player named Graham Kearns and he wrote the music for the song and sent it to me. I don’t know…I just felt I had to write it. (chuckles) My favorite way of writing is when someone gives me a piece of music. When I hear the music I see pictures or think of things, whether they’re personal or imaginary things, and once I heard what Graham had given me I was immediately inspired by it.

When I hear the music I see pictures or think of things, whether they’re personal or imaginary things.

 

Can you reveal the 8 good reasons that are worth sticking around for?

They were my children’s eyes.

 Ha! That’s fantastic.

(laughs) Yeah.

I recently saw a television interview with you where you discussed the dangerous vagaries of the Internet, the meanness of it, the random, anonymous vitriol of it all. I wonder if that kind of bullying is something that hits home with you.IMG_5880_300

Well, Jesus, look what’s going on in Israel. It goes on in people’s sitting rooms because it goes on outside and vice versa. It’s not only on the Internet, is it? People aren’t very nice to one another.

 I saw a mural of you on the street in Temple Bar when I was in Dublin last month. On it was written, I presume by the artist, “Sinead you were right all along, we were wrong. So sorry.” Can you shed some light on this?

I wonder who painted it! (laughs) I’ll tell you what, if John Paul II or Ratzinger (Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI) did it I’d be real happy. It’s lovely. I’ve seen it. It’s very special to me. I’d really love to know who did it.

I have framed and hanging in my office the cover of the NY Daily News the day after you tore a picture of Pope John Paul II and that was, for me, a touchtone moment of speaking truth to power. And later we learned it was your vehement protest against the Church’s cover-up of decades of child abuse. I wonder if you believe this is a battle that will ever be won or will it rage on long after we’re gone.

No, I don’t think it will be a battle long after we’re gone because I believe in the Christian scriptures and it’s all written down exactly what’s going to happen. So, to put it briefly and more in a metaphorical form: Rain falls from the sky, stuff comes up from under the ground. As Jesus said; “Nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed and nothing is kept secret that won’t be made known.” I think we can all sit back and relax, because I believe in the scriptures and all will eventually be revealed.

Will you be touring the record here in the states?

Yeah, we’re coming there in October and again in November. You know – one side of the states the first time and another side the second time. (laughs)

Well, it really is a wonderful record and seems to be a creative rebirth for you; new label (Nettwerk) and all. I wonder if you feel that.

I really do. Very much so. Brilliant record company. Brilliant record. John  Reynolds being the most fantastic producer ever and I think very strong songs and a great songwriting team we have together.  It’s another beginning for me as a songwriter.

 

Read More

CONTEMPLATING GAZA

Aquarian Weekly
8/6/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CONTEMPLATING GAZA

In the Spring of 2003, a few months after the release of my third book, Trailing Jesus, I spoke to CNN Radio in New York City on the second floor of 1 Penn Plaza. It was another in a seemingly endless but exhilarating series of stops along a book tour that at first I welcomed with open arms and then watched deteriorate into bleating pabulum. You see, the Iraq War and the tour began at the same time, which I thought would be a nice sidebar to plugging a book about an American let loose in a religious and cultural war zone trailing the footsteps of the historical Yeshua of First Century Palestine. Sure. Big mistake.gaza-08-14-65

Turns out the only reason many radio or television stations, newspapers or magazines gave half a fart about an independently published tome of personal philosophy wrapped in a travel journal is they needed some perspective on George W. Bush’s foray into Biblical-style madness. And so with every stop, specifically this one, I was asked about the possibility that there could ever truly be peace in the Middle East. If America’s “involvement” there, whether at arm’s length (as in literally supplying tons of arms in the billions of dollars to half the region, specifically the place I had visited for a month in 1996, Israel) or directly had made a positive or negative difference.

The ultimate answer to this had nothing to do with America, but it seemed nihilistic, almost pathetic, especially in the setting of one trying to plug a fairly positive book about a peasant mason two-thousand years ago who was roundly rejected by his community, eviscerated by his religion and brutally executed by the state for “loving thy enemy”.

“Keep the conversation light,” I reminded myself. “Sell books.”

So for most of the tour, and many if not all of the interviews, I provided vague answers about respect and understanding and blah, blah, blah. But this one damn time, to a CNN board hand and a relatively cheerful reporter, I let it slip. I said; “No, I don’t think peace is possible there, not even a tenuous one that appears to be the norm for most of this planet.”

Of course, this forced the obligatory follow-up; the very thing I was trying to avoid. Get right to the book, my PR firm, Phenix & Phenix coached months before. Don’t dabble in world politics. Use the current event to get in, toss off something banal, and plug, plug, plug. Yes; Jesus, Moses, Abraham, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, and all that nifty stuff about “the first being last and the last first”. It was too late and I knew it.

And so, as the tape reveals, I soldiered on; trying my best not to appear despondent, but also unable to forget the friends I made in Jerusalem and many of the IDF soldiers I spoke with in length about the responsibility of destruction and the right to defend sovereignty or the Palestinian kids I marched out of Bethlehem beside, who told me their parents had been wrong about supporting the PLO and how they wished to be given a place at Israel’s table, despite all this nonsense about a true democracy with jailed citizens and radical freedom fighters, who in a few short years would simply be called terrorists, even by their own people.
“Really?” the reporter asked. “You honestly don’t hold out hope that there is a peaceful solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?”

“Keep the conversation light,” I reminded myself. “Sell books.”

And that’s when I went off the rails with the truth as I had learned it six years before. I had met so many good souls, so many people just like you and me. And I let it fly:

“None at all. The only thing I can say is it will continue the course of mayhem unless both parties change their views on how they go about their business of negotiating in good faith, and I think, again, this is part of the Jesus message for me. It’s like that old definition of insanity – ‘Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ I don’t think that politics, nationality, culture or religion can save those people from their own demise. I think the only thing that can save them is a completely new vision and understanding. They have to put down the flags. They have to release themselves from tradition. They have to destroy cultural barriers. They have to speak to each other as human beings, cross the lines of Jewish and Arab and Christian. They have to say, ‘That’s a person who bleeds such as I. That’s a person who weeps and cares for his/her children.’ No one on this planet is that different. We all want to pursue happiness, safety and love. They want to go to the grocery to buy a loaf of bread or take a cross-town bus without having to risk being blown up. So I think they have to look at the whole mess from a completely new way, and see what they are doing to others and how it is being done to them in the same, heartless, blind way. Until they do that, and I fear they never will, but until they do, I don’t think they’ll know peace. I’m sad to say.”

And, alas, I have nothing else to add these eleven years later. That is pretty much the only solution for this region; and not just Israel, which seems to work as a de facto microcosm for the cultural fisticuffs that passes for law around it. As long as there is religion that bares only the responsibility of interpretation and immovable cultural divides that reflect centuries of baked-in hatred, there will be what goes on today in Gaza City or Syria or whatever is left of Iraq, etc.

Nihilistic. Pathetic. Truth.

Read More

THE AGE OF POLITICAL INERTIA

Aquarian Weekly
7/22/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE AGE OF POLITICAL INERTIA
or How A Humanitarian Crisis Sheds Greater Light on Washington Dysfunction

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me

– Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie

Remember that crap?

It was the sort of utopian farce that conjures odd memory when first seeing footage of rabid faux nationalists cum Birchers shouting obscenely racist falderal at frightened children sitting on a government bus in some cow town north of San Diego. Many of these goobers weren’t even aware that the displaced refugees from Central American slaughterhouses they were “protesting” against were not immigrants – legal or illegal – nor were they from Mexico. Neither did they have the minutest understanding of the legal procedure for detaining and providing due process for such unfortunates or the policy of the USA since 2008 to provide shelter for displaced children from non-bordering nations.

But that is to be expected. What most Americans don’t know you could barely cram into the Grand Canyon. They are busying themselves with talk radio, porn and whatever Lebron James is tweeting. I am sure Michael Jackson had no idea what manner of disarray Africa found its political system in when he decided that somehow “we” were the world back in 1985, like some half-mad, crotch-obsessed, effeminate Jesus/Gandhi figure. But he got everyone singing about it. Americans like to sing. It keeps us from knowing what the hell is going on, so we can get our signs together and rush out to scream at children.Day-of-Protest-San-Diego-65

Hell, MJ was not so far off, since much of his pie-in-the-sky nonsense rang a bell in the loftiest halls of our federal government; long before Ronnie Reagan started playing footsies with Nicaragua; arming hordes of raping and pillaging jungle warriors in a wildly misguided attempt to “stem the tide of Communism”.

Nope. Our meddling and upheaval in Central America, coupled with our money-pit of failed and damaging anti-drug policies in Guatemala (Harry Truman’s 1954 coup de tat folly that led to decades of bloodshed and anarchy) and El Salvador, (Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “secret support” of a politically ambiguous civil war that appeared to only include drug cartels), has long-since led to the hellscape it is today. Granted, Reagan’s obsession with Nicaragua should have gotten him impeached and eventually led to the dilution of the Central Intelligence Agency, allowing its fractured remnants to orchestrate the sad joke that became the Iraq War, but this “crisis” emanates from our American soul.

But explaining this historical minutia to yammering goobers is not our aim here, nor should it be. Shit, these are the same crackers that spat at my ancestors generations before; the “Irish Need Not Apply” set, who spread the same ignorant hate-speech about “diseases” and burnt Catholic churches to the ground. Fearing those fleeing to this country from famine, death and genocide is human nature. Far be it for me to quibble with that.

However, what we aim to do now is point out that our elected officials, both houses of congress and our president, appear to not have a handle on our national responsibility to uphold our laws and get a handle on some sort of humanity – not necessarily a “We Are The World” kind of craziness, but maybe a sense that if we demand of other nations that refugees be taken in after say something as horrifically sweeping as the Holocaust to the unmitigated disaster in Syria/Iraq today, then certainly it needs to be summarily addressed on our own continent.

It’s mostly important to point out that this “crisis” has become microcosm of how completely inert this government is; from the executive branch on down. Everything has now become so political that it has crippled the government to work together to solve even an obviously open/shut case.

Congress’ responsibility during such a crisis is to act; in this case to appropriate funds to secure parts of the border, enhance the legal proceedings involving refugees, and at the very least provide care to the displaced. This is the basest form of legislative powers: Shit hits fan, act. Congress seems to think that this is an opportunity to point fingers, rewrite history, soapbox a restructure of immigration policy or cause a panic among the unwashed that somehow this is some sort of de facto invasion.

How is it that acting swiftly when it comes to bombing something or to scream about providing weapons and money to underground Syrian kill-clubs is no problem, but this is clown time?

This congress, now officially the most inactive in the history of this republic, has completely become so dysfunctional it is a headless quagmire of inner-bickering and grandstanding. But it pales in comparison to how Barrack Obama has handled this mess.

Why the president – especially after how abysmally his predecessor dealt with the devastation of Katrina – did not get his ass down to the border, is beyond explanation. Granted, there is a sense of theater and photo-op phoniness to such a trek, but it is incumbent on every president, whether Calvin Coolidge after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 or Jimmy Carter patrolling the burned-out remnants of the Bronx, NY in the ‘70s, to show up. Again, like congress’ inability to understand its job – as in failing to uphold the faith and credit of the nation in favor of showboating – Obama needs to show support to these disposed and frightened refugees, many of them children, and, more pointedly, for the citizens along our southern borders.

Americans like to sing. It keeps us from knowing what the hell is going on, so we can get our signs together and rush out to scream at children.

It is almost comically tragic that I am writing about this today, halfway through July and weeks after this reached “crisis” proportions.

There are limits to what this country can do about what is going on the Middle East – despite our obsession with it. Civil wars and cultural unrest has been going on before there was even a Bible or a Qur’an. The latest violence in Israel will likely change nothing. And Russia’s grand plan of annexing Ukraine is already disintegrating. What to do about the genocide in Africa or the ethnic cleansing in Syria or whatever the hell Iran is up to this week is something to debate. But this?

Action is required; morally, legally, historically.

What we are getting instead is inertia.

Read More

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT AT 50

Aquarian Weekly
7/9/14

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT AT 50

I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.

– Fredrick Douglass – Love of Man, Love of God, Love of Country 1847

Thirteen years before the United States of America was plunged into a long and bloody Civil War from which over 600,000 would be slaughtered beneath the nation’s original sin, Fredrick Douglass poured from his heart the core of patriotism. It is one of the most jolting, irreverent pieces of kick-ass writing scratched by human hand. It is the essence of the American horror, the dream; the senseless passion that arises from the heart of a man yearning to breathe free under the yoke of a hypocritical system ironically built on the concept of the word. It runs some forty-one hundred words and slams into your skull like a battering ram. It is as beautiful a rebuke and demand on this country as I have ever read anywhere by anyone.Douglass_47-52_65

It is those words that I come to time and again when confronted with the anguish of the African-American experience in this country, when it was barely possible for a black man to consider such things, much less formulate them into ideology and then push them, no, regurgitate them onto paper; a force of nature, a torrent, a battle cry. Because it is in Douglass’ experience which preludes a century of sheer madness passed along by law and religion and patriotism and the institutionalized discrimination bound by violence and destruction of men, women and children, eradicated legally and physically from the dream; the American promise of a vain, slave-owning genius by the name of Thomas Jefferson, who had the gall to write, even as he owned fellow human beings, about God having created all of us as equals to gain the liberty of revolution.

It was a revolution that did not include all, hardly; many of whom had lost their sons defeating the world’s most powerful military. Across fields of destruction, they fought until the land was indeed no longer under rule, in turn, trading one tyranny for another.

And still a century would nearly pass before the Emancipation Proclamation and the bloodiest of wars, the murder of a president and another hundred years of degradation. All the while Americans could have heeded the call of Douglass that begins as if a phoenix rising; “I like radical measures, whether adopted by Abolitionists or slaveholders. I do not know but I like them better when adopted by the latter. Hence I look with pleasure upon movements”.

Ah, yes, “movements”, wryly states its author, who understood it was the “slaveholder” who would carry his fate – Jefferson’s dream, perhaps? – or a movement centuries away, when it would be no longer about the “white man” tossing crumbs, but the black man pushing forth on the words of a movement, on the words of A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, T.R.M. Howard, Whitney Young, James Farmer, John Lewis, Jimmy Lee Jackson, Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Stanley Levison, Septima Clarke, Bernice Robinson, Esau Jenkins, Minnijean Brown, Robert F. Williams. Amzie Moore, Hartman Turnbow, David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Samuel Wilbert Tucker, Charles McDew, Bernard Lafayette, Charles Jones, Lonnie King, Julian Bond, Hosea Williams, Stokely Carmichael, James Meredith, Raylawni Branch, Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong, James Bevel, Malcolm X, and a preacher’s son from Atlanta, Georgia by the name of Martin Luther King Jr.

I write today because of men like King and Douglass, who in their prescience made a Declaration of Independence a living, breathing descendant of justice.

It was the Civil Rights Movement that stretched from Birmingham to Tulsa, Anniston to Tallahassee, all through the South and up into Chicago and many of the inner cities of the North, which gets little press when it comes to abject bigotry, but should not. And it is the brave voices, echoes of Douglass pondering aloud exactly what it means to be free, to seek liberty and a pursuit of happiness, to be a man; one man, one race, all races, all creeds underlining Jefferson’s great promise.

Freedom Riders and boycotts, lynchings and marchings, cops and courts, corruption and press, politics and anger, and peace, voting and fighting…and then, one day, July 2, 1964; 100 years after the bloody Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s shuttering sentences that scrambled up Jefferson. The gangly man in the stovepipe hat and the high-pitched voice stood on the battlefield of Gettysburg and dared measure “the great task remaining before us”. Yes, and what of that task, asked of his nineteenth predecessor, one Lyndon Baines Johnson, who wrangled the difficult votes to declare rights to humanity and liberty and all the haughty talk of freedom.

Oh, it would take two more sweeping acts of congress; one for voting rights in 1965 and one for housing rights in 1968, as if we could not, would not, goddamn us all, should not get this right after so many years and bloodshed and speeches – oh, those speeches – the fact that a man would be forced to “dream” that all Americans “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” – not realize, but dream.

I was not yet two years-old when MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, built for a man who a century before toiled at the behest of Fredrick Douglass to set the African-American slave free and the country aflame, and ask for the right to be recognized as a citizen of these United States. It is hard to believe this could take place in my lifetime; not 100 years ago, but within the American Century.

I am 51 now. I write today because of men like King and Douglass, who in their prescience made a Declaration of Independence a living, breathing descendant of justice.

Patriots all.

Read More

IN PRAISE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH (AGAIN)‏

Aquarian Weekly
6/25/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

IN PRAISE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH (AGAIN)

Ignoring the glaring hypocrisy of the ruling this week, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the First Amendment by striking down a 2007 Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around family planning centers. Of course it is ridiculous to have any such “boundary” stopping those who wish to express their support or most likely derision of potential abortions, although I have been known to cheer on those who aim to cease the dangerously high levels of population that will soon cripple the ecological and economic foundations of civilization. It’s a tough gig, cheering for abortions. It was like that “Fuck God!” chant I couldn’t get going in the Yankee Stadium bleachers during a rain out a few decades back.buffer_zone_65

Quick aside: Having heard the vilest things uttered by marginally intelligent and I assumed sentient beings there, I take it as a matter of pride that I reached a level they would not broach.

The hypocrisy comes when you consider that protests outside the Supreme Court are not only prohibited, but the buffer zone is a hell of lot wider than 35 feet. Throwing rocks is possible, but you are likely to see serious jail time for that. No one really can defend throwing a rock at the Supreme Court building, even if it is to curtail the over-population of our doomed planet.

Lord knows, and I believe strongly I am supported by the Creator God, whose main purpose, it seems, in the Torah is genocide, I do not deny abortion is a form of murder. It is. But is necessary killing, like bombing the Middle East or allowing crazies to buy any gun they want. I support all the Amendments, and with it the Second Amendment, no matter how many people are massacred daily. Abortion, school shootings, economic wars, these are mere collateral damage for being free. Freedom of choice – the American Dream – to maim, kill or even yell things at teenagers raped by their uncle when they want to flush the after affects.

Quick aside: According to the New Testament, mostly the Gospel of John, God aborted his son in the 99th trimester. Just saying.

And so, I fully support this ruling. Shit, in this county, and I am loathe to mention which county, because when this damaged sucker hits the presses I would like to keep my whereabouts hidden, I know first-hand that it is difficult to get at patrons entering buildings by either chanting obscene accusatory nonsense or merely trying to quietly council them on the ways they have gone astray.

To wit: Three years ago on a hot summer day, not unlike the one that has come the lazy afternoon I thrash this together, I decided to camp out in front of a Catholic Church not far from my residence, and calmly explain to the perhaps unknowing parishioners that by attending this establishment, they were inadvertently but without equivocation supporting institutionalized pedophilia. I handed out pamphlets that described in detail many of the hundreds of cases brought against the church for the continued and heinous sexual abuse of minors by priest and nuns, which the church not only failed to admonish for a century-plus or God-forefend, police, but openly sanctioned and defended.

I was asked to leave the premises, but thought at the time it might be within my constitutional rights to take my good time and whatever tattered mess is left of my good name, and attempt to save innocent children from further Catholic-sanctioned rapes. Glad to know that I can return to that dark place and try and spread the good word again someday.

Quick aside: I did not hear anyone chanting support of child rape. Just saying.

I also recall a time in the late 1980s’ when I joined a couple of other wise-asses to make an attempt to explain to those poor souls who thought it might be a good idea to join the U.S. Army that they should consider the abysmal record of this country to avoid mindless conflicts in which young men and now women are cut down or mutilated for meager pay and some bullshit concept like honor, as if to gain it, you must wear matching clothes and become fodder for the banking set. Yes, there were police involved that day, my friends. Apparently, that “buffer zone” needed no law, but was, as we now know (as if we needed a ruling on that) unconstitutional.

It’s a tough gig, cheering for abortions.

Before we leave this celebration of freedom of speech – and lest anyone think this is a veiled satire to berate the ruling, please do not, I stand by the above – I would be remiss in mentioning the hunting and/or bait and tackle establishments my wife once stalked warning those sauntering inside that blood would soon be on their hands. Now I am no Vegan or animal activist, and although I personally find hunting to be an insipidly barbaric activity practiced by sexually-threatened narcissists with mommy issues, I support hunters’ rights. And as much I love my wife, I think protesting anything is asinine and mostly solipsistic, and that one should understand that “killing for sport” is still killing, and the Genocide God is quite specific about that in His commandments, and, well…I’m just saying.

And isn’t that the crux of this unanimous ruling by the highest court in our land, a country built on laws and reason, not to mention land grabs, free labor and genocide. Rooting for or railing against abortions is all part of our national pride. I feel it. You feel it?

So, anyway, now I have to go tell the poor bastard with the “Impeach Obama” sign at the end of the road that he doesn’t get a new government, he gets Joe Biden.

Freedom!

Read More

TIME WARP‏

Aquarian Weekly
6/25/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TIME WARP
The Never-Ending Fancy Shit Show That Is Iraq

I leave the country for seven days and end up in a fucking time warp?

Or did I misread this latest madness on getting “involved” with Iraq again, as if that is an option. Let’s face the hideous fact that this has been an abject clusterfuck since we recognized Iraq as a sovereign nation in 1930 and began screwing around with it through secret CIA coups around 1960, which later culminated with one of those fancy “puppet regime” deals three years later.gplaio

From then on the CIA was all-in. Horrifying lowlights include the 1980s U.S. sale of chemical and biological weapons, viruses and bacteria along with anthrax and bubonic plague to Iraq to fend off the Iranian revolution, which was the predictable result of another of our fancy puppet dictators. This is where you get that ironically bile-inducing photo of a smiling Donald Rumsfeld shaking the hand of brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein in 1983 as part of our fancy “special envoy” assignment. Later, of course, it would be Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense – second in disaster only to the cruel joke that was Robert McNamara, architect of the fancy institutional slaughterhouse known as Viet Nam – who so bungled the fancy 2003 Iraq campaign that it has landed us back here in this weird redux of doom.

Lest we forget George H. W. Bush (an ex CIA man, of course), who as president in 1990 embroiled this country in the fancy oil-centric farce known as Desert Storm to curtail the monster we helped to create, which later, as we well know, led to the Osama bin Laden (another monster we helped to create to kick the Russians out of Afghanistan) fatwa against the United States (amongst other silly Islamic-based nonsense), that culminated in the bombings of an American embassy in Africa, the USS Cole and finally 9/11. Then baby Bush came along, bringing with him the crusty idiots who fucked this thing up in the first place (aka Dick Cheney and the aforementioned war criminal Rumsfeld) to invade Iraq with falsified intelligence and other badly planned fancy goofs.

Let us now take a moment to address our current president, who needs to know, as he contemplates another fancy run on this religious/cultural desert sink-hole, that he is only president because Hillary Clinton voted to give G.W. Bush a blank check to commit this foreign policy atrocity in 2003, and that despite his unbelievable streak of one stumblebum domestic folly after another lately, his current policy of not listening to war-mongering cretins, who never wear a uniform but feel the need to send us into suicide missions for their own tiny-penis reasoning, is the only thing keeping him in the “not-awful” column around here.

It goes without saying that when it comes to Iraq, enough is enough.

Like Syria should be Russia’s problem, so then is Iraq Iran’s problem, and maybe Ronald Reagan’s original theory to use Iraq as a fulcrum against its insane neighbor, something the two succeeding Republican presidents seemed oblivious of, is the best plan of action.

Right now the militant group, something called the Grand Poobah Liberation Army of Iraq and Oates, is wreaking havoc with the crack military army we trained to keep that part of crazy land from coming apart (something again we needlessly instigated, maintaining our putrid half-century of fancy operations). This has excited all the has-been brain farts that created this feces to write op-ed pieces in driveling rags like the Wall Street Journal to call for more fanciness. It’s hard to blame Cheney, though. This latest nonsense is his and history will record his fancy goof and that scares him, because Cheney believes in permanent retributions like hell and he knows he’s going there and the best thing he can do is hope that the blood stain won’t be on his children, like some kind of fancy Biblical curse.

Lord knows a decade-plus and trillions of American money and gallons of our blood, is not enough to control the uncontrollable. But just as in 2003, this fancy aggression argument is made with no idea how Iraq works or has worked for centuries.

It goes without saying that when it comes to Iraq, enough is enough.

This is tribal warfare between Sunnis and Shiites and should remain so, as it will remain so forever. Long after all of us our gone and more of our children’s children will return from some part of oil-land with key limbs missing, there will still be Sunnis and Shiites, and they will be killing each other over holy land or Allah or specific pant styles and it won’t make a damn difference if we are tough or dithering or arrogant or determined or support Israel or continue to blithely ignore the atrocities of Saudi Arabia or use solar power or drill-baby-drill. This is what goes on and we should seriously, after decades if not centuries of evidence, finally get the fuck out of it.

We are so naïve and have been for years (including myself, who stupidly felt that unfinished fancy business started by one Bush meant it needed to be dealt with by another one or it could come back to bite us) in the idea that we can “control” or “abate” or “defend” this infinite bloodletting. It is stupid and worse still insane and even the mere thought of putting more lives or money at risk for it is so completely off-the-charts foolhardy that it defies further comment.

As a matter of prediction; once these half-assed militants get near the real shit, say, Bagdad, where the Shiites will then be asked to defend their own, instead of indefensible desert outposts posing as “cities, (something the mighty U.S. Army could barely accomplish) then it will be bye-bye Sunni insurrection.

Bye-bye

Something the United States should finally be saying to Iraq for good.

Read More

OPEN LETTER TO MY WIFE III

Aquarian Weekly
6/11/14

REALITY CHECK

James Campion              


OPEN LETTER TO MY WIFE III
In Which We Discover Your True Grit After 15 Years Married To The Author        


Me, I always have you there.
Yours for the whole life.

– Arthur Rimbaud

Once again, as has been my feckless duty for the previous two public floggings – first on the occasion of our nuptials in June of 1999, when I sent to press a confession of my many and varied ills, and then a decade later on the tenth anniversary of our legal bonding – I take this precious ranting space to applaud your courage in still calling me your husband.

IMG_5645This time around we find ourselves in Dublin, Ireland on the twelfth day of this pagan tribute to the goddess of marriage, Juno. I tend to have these things hit the streets when we’re abroad and you are not able to read them, but then again the Internet has since screwed my insidious plan to express with glee this one-sided affair of our journey (advantage jc) with as little repercussion as possible.

Do not think I take this lightly. I know I married way above my class. Nor do I take lightly the unflinching dedication to this madness of a life we have slashed together as if a living, breathing Jackson Pollack. In fact, “abstract expressionism” would be a good description of this thing we’ve created by coming together, nay, staying together so long.

I tell friends almost daily, as I did a couple of days ago, how you have ruined me for other women. Say you come to your senses and boot me out, then how am I supposed to relate to ordinary mortals? Who would see this tornado of jack-assery coming the way you do, or fire against my brimstone the way you do, or crack wise, embrace rage, sink passion, brave doldrums, and rip through the artistic cosmos? Who, I ask you?

Fuck that. It’s prostitutes and bad poetry from then on.

You have taught me a valuable lesson lo these past seventeen years; fifteen in unholy matrimony: Love is not a universal concept. I probably should have seen that one coming, with all the evidence to the contrary. The idea that you can truly love someone else after being in love only works when you don’t have the scars of you, the brand of you, the scent, the fist, the silence, the exhale, the laughter, the abject mind-altering fuck-all of you. Sure, you can toss around affection and even understand random sex, but love? This comes from having your grip on my throat (I meant heart, not throat, no…wait, throat).

Here’s how you pulled that off: By allowing me to think you do not have this ironclad stranglehold on me; that somehow all these decisions that revolve around thinking of you every single day of my life since we plunged headlong into this without reason or logic have been mine and mine only. How some metaphysical hammerlock on my psyche doesn’t exist; it’s merely a “want” on my part or even (gulp!) a need. Yes, I need to have you consider me an important part of your existence, because, shit; not for one minute could you not be doing all this incredibly cool stuff – art, home-building, yoga, tequila abuse and zig-zag wandering across cityscapes – without me. Or taking care of every animal within a sixty-mile radius of this place we’ve built together in the mountains, which you stripped bare and rebuilt in your lioness image.

I guess the one thing you definitely could not have achieved is this now six year-old talking, singing, arguing, playing, challenging contraption called Scarlet. This offspring, this progeny, is partly my fault.

I guess the one thing you definitely could not have achieved is this now six year-old talking, singing, arguing, playing, challenging contraption called Scarlet. This offspring, this progeny, is partly my fault. This warped Vegan, Ramones-loving, snake-handling, cosmopolitan water-rat rhythm-machine with the innate ability to speak simultaneously with you whilst spouting divergent ideas has taken your staunch propaganda of empathy and protest and complicated my super-ego to a surprising level of boundless joy. What’s entirely my fault, however, is her shouting requests for “Dead Babies” at kiddie sing-alongs and reveling in what she calls the “bad things” like horror flicks, reptiles, punk music and whatever that creepy melody she hums late at night in bed that sounds like she’s conjuring demons.

What our daughter has received from you is the concussive beauty and steely strength and infinite compassion and the uncanny ability to draw six lines with a crayon and make me think of the Iliad or Twain or Beethoven’s Ninth or those unimaginably gorgeous Mexican sunsets. Most importantly, and dangerously for me, she also possesses your capacity to take hold of my jugular and squeeze; her grip is fierce, dare I say fiercer still than whatever it is you unleashed on me years ago and made me want to keep around. The uninitiated may call it masochistic, even fatalistic, but I call it loving you and now loving her and wondering how actually being loved by both of you is deserved.

But I am comfortable in my hoary role as the mutant in this dynamic; the bleating curmudgeon whose only purpose is to remind you of what being a mere human is like, and not avenging angels with the cute cat voices and the paint splattering all over and me over here never once struggling against your goddamn supernatural grip.

So now we’re in Dublin in search of the another bizarre heritage we share, beyond apathetic radicalism and constipated sensibilities and a dark faith that we never doubted each other for these fifteen years and how much I have cherished that rare, rare trust. It is what keeps me in your sway with infinite gratitude.

Your grip is strong, woman.

Don’t let go.

Read More

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.

Read More

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”.

astorino_campion_380_75

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.

Read More

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.

Read More