DOES DONALD TRUMP WANT TO BE IMPEACHED?

Aquarian Weekly
10/9/19

Reality Check

James Campion


DOES DONALD TRUMP WANT TO BE IMPEACHED?

Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.1 This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation. Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about “foreign Interference, Intrigue, and Influence.” 
– Memo from the chair of the Federal Election Commission Ellen L. Weintraub, June 13

After the five or six people still left defending our beleaguered game show president bent themselves in logical pretzels for close to a week claiming Donald Trump absolutely did not ask a foreign country to intervene on a potential political opponent, Joe Biden, despite a whistleblower complaint and a declassified review of the July 25 phone call between the U.S. president and the president of Ukraine that appeared to show that Donald Trump was trading allocated funds to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression for dirt on Biden and his son, Hunter, here is what Trump told live television cameras on the White House lawn on October 3: “Well, I would think if they (Ukraine) were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that’s newly formed and all these companies, and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say with President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend they start an investigation into the Bidens, because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”

This begs the question: Does Donald Trump want to be impeached?

I think this is another one that goes into the flimsy but understandable yes/no column when dealing with this lunatic. Let me explain.

Let’s do “No” first.

As covered for years in this space, Donald Trump enters almost everything he tries his hand at as a complete neophyte. This is why it’s almost always a mess eventually. Sometimes he stumbles into a success, but eventually he destroys it with knee-jerk hubris – see Trump steaks, Trump University, the USFL, the Atlantic City debacle and his TV show for examples of this. Most of his talents, if there are any, is in selling a brand and that brand is a billboard depiction of what he would like to be but is not. You can only fake shit for so long, and ultimately the jig is up. This “method” has transferred to the highest office in the land and therefore he has little to no idea what he is doing when he says something like the above. This is like your toddler blurting out “fuck” at your dinner party. The kid doesn’t know he is cursing. He just does it. If you are not sure you are implicating yourself in a crime, then you do it. Trump and Rudolf Giuliani, former NYC mayor and Trump’s personal lawyer, believe – Giuliani has told several news outlets that he is “a hero” – that rooting out corruption abroad is a calling. This, of course, is an administration that has supported murdering American journalists in Saudi Arabia, turning away from unchecked missile testing and human rights atrocities in North Korea and defending whatever the fuck Vladimir Putin does on daily basis.

Text messages released after former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker (he quit in disgrace) was deposed by congress for nine hours this week, reveal that many who were tasked with carrying out this nonsense believed Trump was on shaky ground but either didn’t care or was plain stupid.

Throughout the summer Volker told Giuliani that his sources on these purported incriminating documents he keeps waving around on cable news were false and misleading, but like most zealots around Trump, Giuliani, a private citizen who has little to no idea what the hell he’s doing either, believed as long as they fit the narrative of Biden’s guilt, he’d plow ahead. This kind of warning cost the ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch her gig in the spring when Trump removed her because Giuliani couldn’t get her to help him commit these crimes. All of this out in the open and without care for who would know it.

This is like your toddler blurting out “fuck” at your dinner party.

On the day of the infamous “shake-down” phone call, state department officials were trying like hell to first identity, then facilitate and finally cover up this half-baked scheme to have Ukraine investigate an American politician running for president and most importantly to go on the record for it, clearing the way for the story to damage Biden before the primaries. Volker texted top advisor to the Ukrainian president Andriy Yermak, “I think potus really wants the deliverable.” Later, on September 1, when this was still being bungled along by members of the state department, William Taylor, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, texted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland responded with, “Call me.” This call, which was clearly ordered by Sondland to keep off the record had confirmed Taylor’s fears that they were breaking the law, because on September 9, Taylor texted Sondland: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Sondland, who had endeavored mightily to keep this craziness from having an electronic paper trail, responded with, “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

All the while Trump thought this was okay, in fact, noble pursuits, and for the most part, as the admission of his crimes on the record (again) prove, he still does.

Now, the “yes” part.

I think there is a large part of Trump’s thinking, such as it is, that this kind of muckraking battle to the end will benefit him politically and harm Joe Biden. This has been his mission all along. He also knows that Russia helped him win last time and this shameless begging of foreign aid in assisting this time clearly shows he would rather be leaned on by a Democratically controlled congress than not attempt it. Biden’s numbers, which the president initially ignored and then predictably mocked in the only states that count: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri are startling. Unlike Hilary Clinton, they are double-digit leads. It is better to be impeached than to face ignominious defeat. If this were Elizabeth Warren or some other Democratic rival, I can look past its political immolation context, but it’s Biden, his greatest threat, by far.

And finally, Trump is aware that a Republican-controlled senate would never oust him. The party is hanging by a thread as it is. Without the Trump base there is no party. They are doomed. The demographics and historical winds have already swung left and will continue to do so for the rest of this century if not for the thirty-two percent that keep this rot from completely fading into dust. They have to stick with Trump and he knows it, and this will allow him to claim another hollow victory once the senate boots the impeachment to the curb. Just in time for the 2020 campaign to heat up.

I usually go with the former. I don’t think Trump is soliciting impeachment. I just think Trump is an idiot. Everything he has done as president bared this out. The cover ups are coming from the state department and White House officials who cannot control this fool. But make no mistake, Trump’s statement this week that he absolutely would like foreign counties to get involved in the 2020 election seals his welcoming impeachment whether he wants it or not. 

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GAME SHOW HOST + PRESIDENCY = IMPEACHMENT

Aquarian Weekly
10/2/19

Reality Check

James Campion


GAME SHOW HOST + PRESIDENCY = IMPEACHMENT   

In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.
– Opening statement in National Security Whistleblower Complaint, delivered 8/19/19 to Director of National Intelligence and reviewed by the U/S Congress, 9/26/19

Well, of course. How else could this possibly end? It was only a matter of time that this abomination of a presidency would finally sink us into a constitutional crisis and wind up in the embarrassment of impeachment. Because most likely Donald Trump isn’t going anywhere, unless we send him packing in November of 2020. The Senate Republicans are not going to convict a president with an intra-party popularity around 90 percent even if he “shoots someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.” It is political suicide and that is the game they are playing here – not any hokey bullshit patriotic sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. That is a line you learn in middle school that pertains to none of what actually happens or has happened in Washington DC since they elevated a mosquito infested Southern swamp into the nation’s capital in 1790. Nah, Trump will stay with his shame and his historical marker as a hack criminal whose best work was saved for B-level television and the inside straight he pulled on November 6, 2016 that we now know occurred with ample assistance from the Russian government. You could see this coming from the start of this mess, as I wrote to friends within minutes of his Election Day victory, it was merely a “Countdown to Impeachment”. He would do something stupid and wrong, I reasoned, and he has done many things stupid and wrong since, but this latest Ukrainian shit will finally get that scarlet letter “I” painted on his bloated visage forevermore.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

History is a bitch and it has come calling for Donald J. Trump. His unimpeded lunacy has a shelf life and it has reached its apex. Our national crisis of one; this bleating troll of a man whose check has bounced and the bank, well, the bank needs the money, bub. And El Douche knows all about that. His phalanx of failures resulting in a spectacular number of bankruptcies and sad-sack ventures has led to these secret tax returns he still uses an army of lawyers to prevent us from seeing. Oh, the tales they would tell: More embarrassments that will likely come crashing in once he set in motion the congress’s legal might to impeach. Oof, it has become a civic lesson for Donnie, who chose to run the United States like a casino and went belly up. Because belly up is the default position for him. Self destruction is his raison d’être. His art is masochism.

Ahhh, but The Donald thinks the dogshit in his fist is a sweet-smelling rose. This, and myopic racism is what his father gave him with a preternatural gift of denial and an unrivaled level of self-unawareness. And that’s probably best. It’s always a boon for the victim to not see it coming. My cats know that deal, but the president, well, he needs some education on how this whole system works when it has been cracked in pieces as he’s been stumbling through his Mr. Magoo governing style, careening into crime after crime and then telling us all about it on Twitter and national television. Remember when he admitted to NBC News that he fired the head of the FBI because of “the Russian thing”, which brought the weight of a two-year investigation that he tried to thwart at every turn? This, of course, and a mid-term thrashing handed congress over to his political enemies on a silver platter. That should have been enough to impeach, as the ten blatant instances of obstruction of justice that continues with this latest Ukrainian clusterfuck.

I mean, how stupid do you have to be to pull this shit and then evoke the Justice Department, the puppet attorney general, the vice president, and drag your mentally ill private attorney, who then fingered the entire state department, into this nonsense? There are so many fuck-ups in Trump’s attempt to mob-threaten a foreign country to investigate a totally ginned up bullshit story about the son of his likely political opponent, whom he is losing to in every poll since Joe Biden shuffled meekly into this race. Not the least of which is to put the whole affair into “a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature” according to the fancy whistleblower complaint released on 9/26 to congress, and “not the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.” Only because…wait for it…this is the crap Hillary Clinton rightfully got for having a separate email server. Every time you hear Trumpites mention “Hilary’s emails” this is why. And well… duh.

Hey, you wanted a game show host to give this a try.

The most damning excerpt in the whistleblower complaint is the White House directing the “lock down of all records of the phone call”, which, (clearing my throat for effect) is an all-star super-duper topper most of the poppermost Cover Up. And it will end in the disbarment and perhaps jailing of Steven Engel, director of the Office of Legal Counsel, who blocked the whistleblower complaint from being handed over to congress, which is dictated by law, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, head of the criminal division, who brazenly passed on investigating the president’s crime, Attorney General Bill Barr, who not only denies having heard about any such call to pursue a conspiracy theory probably pitched by FOX News talk show host Sean Hannity that it was Ukraine not Russia that helped Trump win in 2016 despite the intelligence community and the Mueller Report conclusions, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who according to Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, put him in the “untenable position of denying the material to congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community,” which is literally his job description, and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolf Giuliani, whose erratic criminal behavior for months enthusiastically headed up this fiasco.

So, in very Nixonian fashion, this whole “getting dirt on the opponent” that took on national security alerts in 2016 with the Russian government basically entrenched in what would be the future president’s campaign, was taken to yet another country with the same crime and then, well covered up. Trump, descending into a state of complete doddering madness, had the bright idea to declassify a private conversation with the Ukrainian president that… wait for this one… totally incriminated him. This is what the president of the United States released to the public and an impeachment inquiry the day before the damning whistleblower complaint dropped: Trump to newly sworn-in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…it sounds horrible to me.”

I think I’ve written this here before, but for the purposes of people who are still stunningly defending this recidivist criminal behavior: Game. Set. Match.

The president of the United States withheld funds appropriated for the defense of an American ally to gain dirt on a political opponent, got a half dozen White House lawyers to lie and cover it up and then proudly shared the evidence to bury him. Or a typical Tuesday afternoon in the Trump Administration.

Hey, you wanted a game show host to give this a try.

Really, I mean, given everything that has transpired up to this, is impeachment that much of a stretch? 

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DANIEL JOHNSTON – 1961 – 2019

Aquarian Weekly
9/18/19

Reality Check

James Campion


DANIEL JOHNSTON – 1961 – 2019

Listen up and I’ll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren’t so bold

That is the first verse of a song called “The Story of an Artist”, which would be the eighth track on the second self-made, independently released cassette by the then 21 year-old cartoonist/painter/singer-songwriter/producer/amateur film-maker/underground entrepreneur, Daniel Dale Johnston. It’s a paean to the struggling artist nearly crumbling under the strains of time while his friends, family and potential audience ignores or berates him. His voice, accompanied by an upright piano in desperate need of tuning, is a tender, upper register tweak held together with invisible strings and duct tape. Its phrasing and timbre make the sound of the broken but unbowed, irresistibly childlike and yet old before its time. He stabs at the words, as if harrowingly building a jagged conduit to his soul. The second verse goes like this…

And everyone in friends and family
Sayin’ “Hey go get a job
Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?”

Daniel Johnston was odd. This had less to do with what would later be a duel diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. No, Daniel was odd because he was indeed an artist, with a story to show and tell. This made his movements, both physical and metaphysical, seem like a man in slow motion. While all else whisked around him in a scurry to become things and own things and conquer stuff, there was never a moment in his life where he was not an artist, even when he was passing out his tapes as arguably the most famous McDonald’s employee in the nation. This was in 1984, after a period of working in a traveling carnival, when he settled in Austin and began making these lo-fi, DYI, down and dirty and hilariously pin-point perfect cassettes of weird, wonderful music complete with original artwork on its inserts, including tiny drawings in and around the song titles. And, according to those who knew him at the time, he almost never used a copy machine. He would simply draw new covers for every single tape. Because, well, he was no “busser” or vagrant or random slob living on his sister’s couch. He was an artist.

“And we don’t really like what you do
We don’t think anyone ever will
We think you have a problem
And this problem’s made you ill”

He wrote tons of songs and recorded those songs on piano, guitar and chord organ with a $59 Sanyo monaural boombox he’d had since he was a teenager. He also made incredible surrealist drawings with vivid characters filled with pathos and dread and biting humor and furious audacity. The bravery in this work, like the ultra-creative films he made as a kid, is clear to anyone who ever attempted to put themselves “out there” creatively, who put things down to have them come back hard, to bare the ugly, the beseeching, insecure, frightened, unrequited edge of the edge. This is where the artist and the man/boy existed in Daniel Johnston. Beyond all the dangerous thoughts and burps and demons inside his head, this was his center. 

But the artist walks alone
And someone says behind his back
“He’s got some gall to call himself that
He doesn’t even know where he’s at.”

I first heard one of these Daniel Johnston tapes in 1988. A good friend of mine, Eddie, who had recently changed his name to Sean, a fellow songwriter and lunatic, had gotten it from another of our kind. These things were making their way up through Austin into the waiting hands of the NYC suburb starving artist cabal and shaking us up. Yip Jump Music and Hi, How Are You were the ones that initially stunned us. The latter had the iconic alien-looking Frog with the eyeball tentacles that served Daniel’s vision of good against evil. “Jeremiah the Innocent” was a godhead Buddha-like figure of moral certitude staring its way into your psyche. He would paint a mural of it on the exterior wall of what was originally the Sound Exchange record store in downtown Austin. It has remained a symbol of the strange, counter-culture revivalist nature of the town for decades. Daniel’s Jeremiah, his spirit of song, story and visions, is its patron saint.

The artist walks among the flowers
Appreciating the sun
He’s out there all his waking hours
Oh and who’s to say he’s wrong

He was no “busser” or vagrant or random slob living on his sister’s couch. He was an artist.

Hi, How Are You is a fucking masterpiece. It will always be near and dear to my heart – Daniel autographed a limited-edition album cover for me that hangs proudly in my writing nook. Although Yip Jump Music came first, early in ’83, and it has two of his best songs,“Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances”, both featured Johnston’s first use of his signature sound clips (children’s toys), crudely eerie but socially intriguing overdubbing (between two boom boxes), and a madcap white-boy unhinged sort of rapping that added to the sonic collage. But the whole Daniel Johnston presentation was fully formed two years earlier with his initial tape compilations, Songs of Pain, (1981), which includes probably my favorite of his early work, “Like a Monkey in a Zoo”, hurriedly followed by Don’t Be Scared, where “The Story of an Artist” resides, and The What of Whom (1982) More Songs of Pain (1983), even though you will find gems in everything Daniel recorded, like the achingly melancholic “True Love Will Find You in the End” from Retired Boxer(1984) and a song I have played countless times on guitar in abject glee, the infectious, “I Know What I Want” from Respect (1985).

These were the years where it appeared to those of us entranced by it, that Daniel was rushing to get these musical vignettes out of his skull and onto the whirling tape in front of him as fast as possible, before…

And they sit in front of their tv
Sayin’ “Hey isn’t this a lot of fun?”
And they laugh at the artist
Saying “He don’t know how to have fun.”

All the while, Daniel was descending into madness. He had several nervous breakdowns, long periods of incoherence and days of wandering lost through town, various erratic episodes due to prescription drug reactions, one harrowing one in which he took the keys from a plane his father, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, was manning and tossed them out the window. William Johnston’s training saved them as he managed to land it safely. He went to New York to record an album. Disappeared for days. These and similar incidents landed Daniel for extended stints in mental institutions, which is where he was in 1992 when Kurt Cobain wore a Hi How Are You shirt to the MTV Music Awards. Almost immediately Daniel began receiving calls from entertainment agents from all over the country. The MTV connection is odd since in the previous decade Johnston, curious about the cameras and hubbub, wandered into a production of the network’s The Cutting Edge featuring performers from Austin’s “New Sincerity” music scene in order to better hawk his tapes. The producers were so enamored with this off-kilter bohemian fast-food jockey, they gave him a spot on the bill of a show they were taping.

The odd detente of Hollywood agents and a committed mental patient was predictably terrible. Daniel had deep bouts of paranoia, much of it covered with incredible sensitivity in the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He wrongly jettisoned his biggest fan and benefactor, then manager Jeff Tartakov, who by then had mass produced the Johnston catalog and kept Daniel financially afloat and in the public eye. By then Daniel was trading his art for comic books and ignoring his music almost entirely. But he finally signed with Atlantic Records in 1994 and his debut album, Fun was produced by Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers, a huge fan. It predictably bombed. Critics were more or less confused and fans of his DYI days hated it. I love it. It has “Life in Vain”, one of my faves.

The best things in life are truly free
Singing birds and laughing bees
“You’ve got me wrong”, says he
“The sun don’t shine in your TV”

Mental illness and later obesity plagued Daniel for the rest of his life. He would have periods of stable behavior and tour, or at least make some shows here and abroad, but then would begin to detach and spiral. I had at least two potential times I could have seen him, but he cancelled, and we understood. My friend, songwriter, Dan Bern played with him in Europe and made him a character in his first novel, which I helped him edit and publish, titled, Quitting Science, while another new friend, the honey-voiced Maria Taylor of Azure Ray played piano with him a few years ago. But he mostly lived with his parents out in a garage/studio they set up for him. And, of course, he kept recording and releasing music and painting and drawing. When they passed away he began to deteriorate more and more. Again, there were moments of lucidity, an understanding of his worth and canon, occasional art shows (London’s Aquarium Gallery, New York’s Clementine Gallery, Sacramento’s Verge Gallery) and tribute recordings by such musical luminaries as Beck, Tom Waits, and bands like Teenage Fanclub, Death Cab for Cutie and the Flaming Lips.

Daniel Johnston was that artist that if you knew someone who knew and loved his stuff you were connected immediately. Daniel fans, people who were turned by his songs – those melodic gems hidden inside roughly ham-fisted playing and tape hiss and room echo, sung with such unerring emotion – were also inspired by their making and their dissemination. We shared those tapes. We played his songs and marveled at those characters that poured out of his pen or paint brush because there was something in Daniel Johnston that speaks to and for the goofy outcast making something for the sake of making it and to better reflect you into the world. And against all odds, mental illness and poverty, he forged ahead.

Until now.

Listen up and I’ll tell a story
About an artist growin’ old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others like to watch the world

And that is sad for those of us who see Dan still, sitting hunched over that piano and hitting record and belting out all of it.

He died this week.

He was 58.

And he was an artist.

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HOW LONG FOOTBALL?

Aquarian Weekly
9/11/19

Reality Check

James Campion


HOW LONG FOOTBALL?
The Decline in American Youth Football is Real and Increasing 


The short answer to the above question is probably forever. But the long answer is not in any form you can recognize, and that part has already begun.

It is because of this march towards whatever the game is now and what it eventually will become that prompted me to stop watching football with any interest four seasons ago. And this is no small feat. Pro Football, really any football, was my favorite sport. I played when I was a kid. Absolutely fell in love with the gorgeous artistic propaganda of NFL Films, so much so that the iconic music they used on those stuck in my brain as deeply as any pop song from my childhood. I even applied to work for NFL Films right out of college. I did not get the gig. Bummer.

Giving up football fandom was tough at first, but it made no sense to watch something called pro football that was fast becoming… I don’t know how to describe watching a sport in which you have no idea what it happening: What’s a catch? What’s a touchdown? What’s a tackle? What is cheating? Man, I loved football, especially pro football, and it went somewhere else and I did not follow.

The main reason the sport has changed into something I no longer find the least bit interesting – beyond the rise in fantasy sports craze, video games that effected how the game is played and covered, and technology (replay stuff is intolerable nonsense) – is valid. Playing football causes brain damage. It is simple as that. This is something we should have known forty years ago as we watched behemoths (many of them jacked on amphetamines and later a phalanx of human growth hormones and anabolic steroids) smash their skulls into each other. Sure, they wore helmets and we thought that was fine. It turned out not to be fine. Many of the players went insane or died of brain-related diseases. Some got violent with spouses, their children and the general public. Some committed suicide. Then came the inevitable lawsuits and the National Football Leagues’ shameless but understandable denials. Gotta keep those bucks flowing.

This “deny the science” for self-interest thing is very big with business types. You know the deal: Coal poured into poison and then into your water is fine. American Jobs! The NFL is a microcosm of this. But eventually the cat scan was out of the bag and now the rules include not being able to lay a hand on anyone, much less tackle them, and because the great unwashed love scoring and not anything resembling the original concept of the game – defense and ball control – they just let it fly. The game is a joke.

Oh, we should point out that the question in the headline above is proffered merely because late this summer statistics were released that illustrated a serious decline in competitive group sports among high schoolers across the country. The main culprit is football. Parents, especially moms, want no part of their children’s brains scrambled as teenagers. Science has also discovered that while the head (with the brain in it – kind of an important organ) should not be used as a battering ram, it is really bad mojo for developing brains. And since .00001 percent of those kids ever go to college for free or make a living smashing their brains into mush and then committing suicide, why risk it?

If youth football factories are fading then so is the treadmill of talent that will fill rosters that fill schedules and thus fill stadiums to make money for colleges and the NFL.

From Forbes magazine last month: “According to the National Federation of High School Association’s (NFHS) latest participation survey, released in late August, eleven-player tackle football, numerically speaking, is solely responsible for the first decline in boys’ high school sports participation since 1988-89, and mostly responsible for the first decline in overall high school participation since that same school year.”

Let that read a three-percent decline, which is not astronomical, but it’s a decline in a sport that has been on a steady, unhealthy incline for a century. In fact, according to the same report, 26 percent of boys participated in HS football prior to the early ought’s, but since it is down to one in five. And those numbers have steadily declined over the past 15 years, even when considering Texas that has some fifty thousand people show up to HS football games. The numbers are more or less stagnant there, but no increase. Almost everywhere else in America football is waning.

What am I getting at? Well, if youth football factories are fading then so is the treadmill of talent that will fill rosters that fill schedules and thus fill stadiums to make money for colleges and the NFL. Of course, this could take generations, but then again, with every retiree dying young from brain disease or with every violent act or anti-social behavior exhibited by current HS, college and pro players of the game, and man it is an alarming number, the public relations gets darker and more and more people will became aware and want to protect their children from any of it.

A few years ago a friend of a friend and now someone I know, author, Steve Almond wrote an eye-opening book on all of this from a similar perspective, obsessive fan to serious skeptic, Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto  in which he asks why do inner city kids or low-income country youth have to choose football as a route to a better life? Why couldn’t the 2009 film The Blind Side, which tells the true story of a poor Memphis black kid who uses football to rise above his daunting circumstances, be about a kid excelling in math or science or becoming (gulp!) a writer?

As a result of all of this, football may go the way of the aforementioned steroids. Congressional investigation, more lawsuits, you name it. But as long as there is gambling and beer to be sold and huge network contracts and every sports media outlet sucks up to the mighty NFL, then let’s face it, football ain’t going anywhere soon.

But it may be going at some point. And to write that is quite remarkable. But, hell, if I can bag it, so can America. I doubt there was a more obsessive fan than me. Four years of no football and counting. Try it.    

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HATRED ON PARADE

Aquarian Weekly
8/21/19

Reality Check

James Campion


HATRED ON PARADE
The Rise of White Nationalism & the Ongoing Threat of Domestic Terrorism 


Remember when we were all afraid of ISIS killing us in the streets a few years back? Oh, those were the salad days. We were so much happier then. Foreign religious maniacs, we kind of get. White guys with a grudge and armed to the teeth, we mostly ignore, sometimes laugh at, and strangely vote for. But in the wake of the massacre in El Paso (20 dead, 27 wounded) engineered by a white nationalist, who was, like ISIS, part of an international network of terrorists (his fancy manifesto pointed to inspiration from the New Zealand right-wing Mosque shootings) it is clear we have ourselves a growing epidemic. Citing figures from the Anti-Defamation League, during the years of 2009 through 2018, international terrorism was responsible for twenty-three percent of ideological murders, while far-right extremist killings topped out at seventy-three percent. Moreover, the same report noted that these growing extremist murders have spiked thirty-five percent from 2017 to 2018, “making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995.”

Members of the Ku Klux Klan yell as they fly Confederate flags during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina July 18, 2015. A Ku Klux Klan chapter and an African-American group planned overlapping demonstrations on Saturday outside the South Carolina State House, where state officials removed the Confederate battle flag last week. REUTERS/Chris Keane? TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX1KUSD

Take that ISIS.

White nationalist terrorism has become a 9/11 level problem, but oddly it is treated like some weird anomaly, or to listen to rhetoric excuses of “overrated” or a “hoax”. Systemically, it is flat-out ignored. In fact, the Trump Administration immediately stripped funding and diverted attention away from domestic terrorism, much of it put in place after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, then the most lethal mass-murder in our history (168 dead, including 19 children, and five-hundred injured). In March, when asked at the White House whether white nationalists were a growing threat around the world, the president replied: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.”

It has been clear from day-one that Donald Trump is working on some level of racial paranoia and renders special dispensation from his usual attack-dog mode when commenting or not commenting on white nationalism, which is a nice way of saying he is a racist – the latest example on the heels of the El Paso shooting is the admission from the administration’s Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli that the new proposed stricter limitations on legal immigration is now needed since in the past there were “just people coming from Europe”. As if on cue, as I write this Trump is forcing the hand of Israel to ban two Muslim congresswomen from entering that country. But the president’s overt bigotry does not excuse the rest of our government. Homeland Security, the FBI or the CIA has payed ancillary attention to this crisis while lunatics fabricate invasions from Mexico, a dangerous lie which the El Paso shooter cited as igniting this latest tragedy.

Angry white people afraid of progress and foreign interlopers is what made Donald Trump president.

So, in essence, unlike the national derangement we endured post-9/11 which sent our government into fascist spasms – sanctioning torture, cobbling together the goofy Patriot Act, and invading a nation with no connection to the attacks – we now have a government that ignores, and in some cases, openly supports white nationalist terrorism. The United States of America has apparently and willfully entered the infamous “axis of evil”.

To wit: Mere hours and days after 9/11, things went understandably haywire around here. It was a justified reaction, if not weirdly dangerous and mostly illogical. But where is a similar reaction now? An alarming number of dead Americans (fifty extremist-related killings in the U.S. in 2018, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970) and tons of evidence these killings are motivated, inspired and carried out with a similar myopic agenda; destroy American values and choose the victory of one sect of humanity over another. ISIS. White Nationalism. Same shit. Waaaaayyyy different reaction.

It is now exactly two years since that abomination in Charlottesville with neo-Nazis and the KKK proudly marching around town with torches threatening Jews, African Americans and homosexuals that resulted in a street riot and the murder of a woman, followed by flaccid hemming and hawing from Donald Trump, which earned him high praise from the Klu Klux Klan. The murder has still not been designated as a hate crime nor has the investigation into the groups that organized the rally/riot bared anything more on these insurrectionists.

This past spring, a few months after the October synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh a judiciary committee convening on the rise of alt-right hate crimes held a hearing in which FBI Director Christopher A. Wray revealed that the bureau has arrested 250 white nationalist terrorists engaged in anti-American activities over the past two years. However, Dave Gomez, a former FBI supervisor, who oversaw terrorism cases, told the Washington Post that he believes FBI officials are wary of pursuing white nationalists aggressively because of the fierce political debates surrounding the issue. “I believe Christopher A. Wray is an honorable man, but I think in many ways the FBI is hamstrung in trying to investigate the white supremacist movement like the old FBI would,” Gomez told The Post. “There’s some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base. It’s a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor.”

So, on a political level, this makes sense. Angry white people afraid of progress and foreign interlopers is what made Donald Trump president. Even his “the press is the enemy of the people” crap inspired a Florida man who created a two-week crisis by mailing sixteen packages of inoperative pipe bombs packed with fireworks powder and shards of glass to thirteen famous Democrats and CNN who was ironically under sentence the week of the El Paso shooting. Before going to jail he told the court he believed “enemies of President Donald Trump were trying to hurt him and other Trump supporters.” In fact, Trump smartly leans on this fear and anger every time he needs a boost, and tripled-down on this craziness in the fall of last year to try and stem the tide of what would turn out to be a mid-term election pummeling by advancing a total lie about an invading caravan coming up through the southern border – using the term “invasion” over and over again, another inspiration for the El Paso shooter, even going as far as sending in troops to combat this illusion.

But it is simply the fact that the government is turning its back on this growing threat that is troubling, yet it does not surprise me. This country’s history is littered with this miserable shit. And the current climate does indicate that things are only going to get worse. What does surprise me that it is 2019 and we are still dealing with these horrors. But they are real, and they are becoming commonplace, and they must stop.

But who is going to stop it?

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AUGUST 15 – 18, 1969

Aquarian Weekly
8/14/19

Reality Check

James Campion

AUGUST 15 – 18, 1969
The Woodstock Miracle & The Aging of Aquarius

The third and final of a three-part series on major events in our recent history which will be commemorating their fiftieth anniversary this summer. As they approached, it turns out, for me, the memories of these significant dates brought vivid childhood reflections that have remained with me and would be integral to my view of self, America, and society at large.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden  
– Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock” 

In the wake of the anarchic violence sparked, among other things, by the haphazard logistics and spectacular avarice that marred the twentieth anniversary Woodstock ’99 festival, this is what I wrote in this space (R.I.P WOODSTOCK, Issue 7/28/99): “By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting luck for compassion. Those stumbling into a wonderful mistake and sliding through relatively unscathed thirty years ago achieved a level of fortune rarely reached in the annals of civilization.” Man, was that ever cynical. Even for me. But mostly true. However, two decades later, I tend to believe (it may be advanced age talking) that for three days half a million mostly naked and rain-drenched kids jamming into a field in a sleepy farm hamlet listening to the greatest assemblage of rock/pop acts ever while peacefully sampling an impressive bevy of drugs is something that should be done again and again and again.

Thing is, it can’t. And it won’t. But in mid-August 1969, less than a month after the first manned moon landing and mere days after the news of horrific ritualistic murders in Hollywood, it sure as hell did. During the weekend hours that passed in that field in Bethel, New York, the world got to see the best of the human spirit – not by conquest or violence, our favorite pastimes, but sharing, caring, singing and imbibing. Lots and lots of imbibing.

Sure, there are music festivals. Successful ones that have continued for years. And for the most part they are well run, safe, and mostly fun, but the event billed fifty years ago this week as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” was only two of those. It was ill-conceived, somewhat rushed and hardly pragmatic in its execution. The persons to food, water and shelter quotient was way off. There were loads of very weird and sixties-level strong drugs. Technical problems and difficulties getting the acts in and out abounded as a large stretch of the NY Thruway was shut down. It rained and rained and rained some more. The entire area in and around the event was nearly declared a disaster area by the state. The U.S. Army and National Guard had to be summoned to assist while the Collective Hog Farm – the longest running and most effective socialist construct next to Medicare – worked overtime. Yet, it was a magnificent, historical success by any measure. In its way, it remains one of the most shockingly implausible examples of togetherness and collective kindness ever displayed by any group of people anywhere.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for Woodstock. I was actually up there that week. My parents trucked us up to the Catskills from the Bronx every summer and on this particular trip everyone at the motel got violently ill. Later we learned the wells were overused and much of the local plumbing had backed up and…well, you can imagine. But it was years later in college when I first saw the award-winning film and read Bob Spitz’s brilliant Barefoot in Babylon that it burrowed itself into my psyche. Fast-forward to the very night I first kissed the woman I would marry after we strolled in an evening buzz through the empty fields of what I can only describe that night as quiet aura. You can see there is something about the whole thing that intrigues me. Still does. 

Woodstock is our shining example of good. This, we can say, is what people can do.

Woodstock started off as a half-cocked plan to exploit the art/music community in the small Ulster Country town of less than five thousand in the late sixties when Bob Dylan made it famous by escaping the tumult of messianic fumes for bucolic splendor. Some rich kids and financial backers wanted to build a studio up there to offer the rich and famous rock elite a bit of “back to the garden” aesthetics. But that fell through, so why not a concert? And when the county recoiled in horror at the mere hint of a bohemian invasion, they found a private patch of land in Sullivan County in which they convinced anyone who would listen, including the farm’s owner, fifty year-old Max Yasgur, that only around a hundred thousand or so kids might come up to enjoy a little music for a weekend. Then after hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane among dozens of other generational talents were booked to play, a half million strong from all over the planet descended on the place. Under-manned and barely constructed, this idea-run-amok inevitably turned into a free gig.

The backers, most famously Michael Lang (age 24 at the time) and Artie Kornfeld (26), two middle-class Jewish guys from Brooklyn, took a financial pummeling. Later this was recouped handsomely from residuals made on the 1970 film and two subsequent soundtrack albums. But on those blistering hot and damp mid-August days it was all goofy grins and pot smoke. In fact, everyone was intoxicated in some way, making the lack of violence or looting or whatever even more incredible. Many of the acts were also under the influence of something. Carlos Santana, whose band had its coming out party on that Saturday (probably the film’s most dynamic moment) claims to have hallucinated his guitar as a slithering snake in his hands after consuming a concoction of acid and mescaline. Much of the LSD that weekend was homemade and named merely for its color (blue, greed, and the infamous brown) and moved stealthy throughout the crowd and backstage. Lead singer, Roger Daltrey, trying as he might to avoid this, merely had a cup of (turns out spiked) tea and tripped through much of The Who’s dawn set – a set that saw his guitarist Pete Townshend knock a ranting Abby Hoffman unconscious with his Gibson (okay, there was some violence). Janis Joplin later said she remembered none of it and refused to have her uneven set included in either the film or the soundtrack.

Beyond the stupefied superstars, there were wonderful stories of a fresh-faced 20 year-old newcomer Bert Sommer arousing a standing ovation from the throng, the mousy-voiced bubblegum folkie Melanie taking the trip with her mom and being hoisted upon the stage when no one would follow a rain squall, the charming twenty-minute set from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian, who announced in his fluttery stoned voice that a baby had been born in the throng, the spastic bluesy brilliance of Joe Cocker howling like a wounded beast through the Beatles foggy “With A Little Help From My Friends” and one of the finest funk sets of the 1960s outside of the mighty James Brown band from Sly and the Family Stone that cemented their pop cred for all time. (another highlight of the movie).

But it was the kids. This sea of youth. This entangled, muddy, cruddy, inescapable intransigent multitude of peaceniks that would seal the Woodstock legend. Hey, I am no Baby Boomer disciple. I’ve cast most of that generation as a self-centered megalomaniacal phony-fest. But give it up to them, because with White Nationalism on the rise, and hate-speak in our political and social rhetoric and the general disgusting behavior that is the norm on social media and the Internet, Woodstock is our shining example of good. This, we can say, is what people can do, if…        

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AUGUST 9, 1969

Aquarian Weekly
8/7/19

Reality Check

James Campion


AUGUST 9, 1969
Tinsel Town Terror & The Demonizing of the Drug Culture

The second of a non-concurrent three-part series on major events in our recent history which will be commemorating their fiftieth anniversary this summer. As they approached, it turns out, for me, the memories of these significant dates brought vivid childhood reflections that have remained with me and would be integral to my view of self, America, and society at large.


All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure are ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.
– Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

In the wee hours on the morning of August 9, 1969 four ragamuffin refugees from the California commune/cult acid culture hijacked by a lunatic thirty-four year-old con man, pimp murderer, Charles Milles Manson slipped over the high steel black fencing of 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Once on the grounds they shot to death an eighteen-year-old student, who was merely visiting a friend that worked the grounds of the estate, and then proceeded inside the mansion to massacre in the most brutal way five people, none of whom they had ever so much as met. The screams of the victims, some of them high profile names of American business royalty and one, the young, beautiful nearly nine-months pregnant actress, Sharon Tate, then the wife of celebrated Polish film-maker, Roman Polanski, could be heard echoing through the Hollywood Hills. The crippling fear it engendered in the community, and eventually the nation would be deeply embedded in our collective psyche forever. But perhaps the most jarring cultural/generational impact of these few hours of this extremely bloody and random violence was further imprinted by the cryptic messages smeared along the walls of palatial estate. Piggies.AriseHelter Skelter.

Unlike the moon landing, which I discussed two weeks ago, what would be known as the Manson Murders was not an immediate social-shattering event until the facts began to unfold. This bizarre unraveling would tumble well into the next decade, as the 35 year-old California District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi would investigate, try and convict Manson and his zombie cohorts, Charles “Tex” Watson (age 23), Susan Atkins (21), Patricia Krenwinkel (21), and Leslie Van Houten (19) for these premeditated murders (12/13/71) then publish a book (Helter Skelter – The True Story of the Manson Murders with Curt Gentry, 1974) that would cement its iconography for all time. A TV film was made in 1976, which I saw at 13 and it frightened me like nothing I had experienced. And I was an avid horror buff. Later when I read Bugliosi’s detailed accounts it further intrigued and truly weirded me out. So much so most of my friends, my beloved cousin (sis) Michelle, and any poor bastard who might saunter up to me at a party had to hear about this thing. Shit, the first conversation I would have with the woman who would be my wife surrounded this ghastly tale.

What these cultist, even ritualistic murders would do to Hollywood. and as stated the nation – by the way, these kids went to another middle-aged couple’s house in the area later on August 9 and once again massacred its inhabitants, again festooning bloody messages everywhere –was further exacerbated by its gruesomely puzzling subtext.

It is difficult to separate the “hippy era” of chemical experimentation, free love and egalitarian constructs and brush past Charles Manson and his “Family”, a distilled group of impossibly young runaways and vagabonds mixed with virulent bikers, rapists, drug dealers and professional criminals. Their earthy appearance enhanced by trippy language, long hair, beads, tie-dye and quasi-spiritual granola mumbo jumbo infiltrated the otherwise peace and love edict of first the Haight Ashbury movement up in San Francisco and predictably the brainlessly commercial miasma of what L.A. presented for a tsunami of youth that flooded its streets for most of the decade. Essentially, Manson preyed on a youth crusade to exploit, rip-off and eventually exact vengeance for nearly a lifetime spent in juvenile houses and prison.

But none of this occurred in a vacuum. If anything, The Family, just one of many cult/commune subcultures, illustrated a major fault line developing within the mass hallucination of what was always an unfocused generational shift existing somewhere between fuck-it and serious revolutionary politics.

From the purported and ultra-hyped Summer of Love in 1967 through the assassinations, street riots and horrors of Viet Nam that wreaked havoc in 1968, the relentless heat and intensity of the summer of ’69, made far eerier by the visions of men walking on the moon weeks before, would be the dramatic backdrop for the killings. The stories later of how Manson maniacally brainwashed these otherwise naïve children of our white, privileged middle-class American Dream with sex and drugs bent on the queer interpretations of strangely opaque songs by the deified Beatles and the Bible’s apocalyptic Book of Revelation as a template to terrorist mayhem trembled the zeitgeist. All of this would usher in the pessimistic realities of the nineteen-seventies, nineteen-eighties’ plastic evangelical, unchecked greed and finally the shrugging apathies of the century’s final decade.

In other words, Charles Manson killed “The Sixties”. Within months the aforementioned Beatles, who more less invented and then provided a soundtrack for its times would fracture, a concert in the hills of northern California would result in violence and murder, protesting college kids would be gunned down at Kent State, and Richard Nixon would polarize the country and then obliterate any trust in our institutions.

It is difficult to separate the “hippy era” of chemical experimentation, free love and egalitarian constructs and brush past Charles Manson and his “Family”

The reason why so many late seventies punks and anti-establishment figures of the following decades would wear Manson’s image on their shirts or evoke these thumb-in-the-eye actions against the status quo as a symbol of fear is that the influence of his crimes rose above mere news. The Manson Murders were in the most heinous way American Art; ask Marilyn Manson (um, you get it, right?) or Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers – 1994) or the bare aesthetics of our current smoldering violent nature splayed out over the Internet, on TV and in our neighborhoods. Cult of personality and a whiff of revulsion is how you get the over-saturated media mass-shooting celebrity demons, reality show cretins, and eventually, Donald Trump.

In the end, it is the Boomer visage of Manson that has eclipsed all of the violence, mass murder, serial killer underbelly of American culture. He was a satanic figure to the establishment and for a time (Rolling Stone put him on the cover with the tagline, “Our Continuing Coverage of the Apocalypse”) a symbol of crass import to the counter-culture before that slid eventually into the grim realities of Hunter S. Thompson’s eulogy of “the wave” in his brilliant Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the Rolling Stones brutally poignant Let It Bleed album, and the gritty, ferocious films of the auteur era (Scorsese, Peckinpah).

Turns out Charles Manson just wanted to be a rock star. He recorded mostly shitty demos for record guru Terry Melcher, who previously owned the mansion on Cielo Drive, and hung out with the Beach Boys and ingratiated himself in the Hollywood bohemian culture he sought to destroy. In reality Manson was no hippy. He was a product of the nineteen-fifties’ have-and-have-nots insurrection that would play out in the Civil Rights movement, Beat Poetry and Be-Ins, the Berkeley Free Speech, etc. and would forge a new path; a path for a few hours on August 9, 1969 that turned down a dark and dangerous cul-de-sac and forced us to rediscover our perpetual fascination with our damaged anti-heroes; Frank and Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Al Capone, Pretty “Boy” Floyd, Charles Manson.

But fear not. In less than a week, three days in a hamlet in upstate New York would offer a glimpse of light and reflect the honesty in all that the human experiment can offer to defend itself against all…that…darkness.  

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JULY 20, 1969

Aquarian Weekly
7/24/19

Reality Check

James Campion


JULY 20, 1969
The Apollo 11 Moon Landing at 50

This is the first of a non-concurrent three-part series on major events in our recent history which will be commemorating their fiftieth anniversary this summer. As they approached, it turns out, for me, the memories of these significant dates brought vivid childhood reflections that have remained with me and would be integral to my view of self, America, and society at large. 


I’m a rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone.
– Bernie Taupin


I am six years old in July of 1969. Living in the middle apartment in a three-family pre-war brownstone owned by my mother’s parents in the Bronx, NY. So far this has been a year of awaking for me. There has already been a moment etched into my psyche forever. It became a bit of an obsessive one, back when I still watched professional football, back when Joe Namath was more than a mere mortal. Actually, that second part more than lingers for me. The NY Jets won the Super Bowl in January of that year. This happened. Really. I still harbor the most unerringly strong recollections of the last few minutes of that game. Mostly through the nervous joy my father experienced. I was there, with him. This giant, this hero, Namath, a cultural and athletic professional lighting rod and also sometimes the Jets quarterback with his white shoes, eye-black and tufts of hair peeking out of his helmet would become something of an avatar of my father, as he paced in and out of the room mumbling to himself about time. We watched that day as Namath obliterated myths to create his own. And now, six months later – an eternity for a kid – I am wrapping my mind around a human being walking on the moon. So says my mother, since, in a way, this is her Super Bowl. The ramp up, the launch, the whole thing. Man, my mom is way into this.

Years after these sweltering hot NYC summer evenings, while rummaging through boxes stuffed in attics and garages throughout our constant moving around NJ into Westchester, et al, I would find the Life Magazine cover with astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the lunar surface. The camera and the man who preceded him as the first humans to traverse the moon, Neil Armstrong reflected in his space helmet was always an eerie sight. My mom even kept that week’s TV Guide. For you kids, this was the Internet for television when people still watched it on a screen housed in a piece of furniture that was the centerpiece of your living rooms. This is a woman who kept nothing. If I turned my head for a moment, it was gone. My mom was no hoarder. But of all the stuff that happened historically when I was a kid, beside Lee Harvey Oswald being murdered on our box inside the furniture, the Apollo 11 moon landing was my mom’s touchstone.

The moon.

From a six year-old’s perspective, this whole concept is kind of out there. So much so, I stand for an inordinate amount of time in front of our front stoop looking up into the illuminated night sky the evening of July 19 staring at it. I cannot be sure it was a full moon that evening, but it was more than half visible in the city glow above our street. It was so stark white against the ebony background, so flat, two-dimensional. Almost fake. My mind races. There are people heading there to hang out. Right now. This is as much as it was understood by me, with all of my Major Matt Mason stuff, my green alien figures and plastic spaceships. When you’re six you assume people have been flying around all over space in the cartoons you’re fed or the science fiction that passes for actual news. But even so, it is odd to see this glistening orb up in the sky and to know that someone…tomorrow…is going to be tooling around on it.

Now, forget me for a minute – which I know is hard in this space since I more or less interject myself into everything I write here – but try and consider the world without having at least conceived of space travel? Today, we don’t even give it a second thought, since we went to the moon pretty much every year after 1969 until the mid-seventies. We actually took for granted having humans playing golf and driving buggies up there. Or at least we told ourselves that and maybe even (and I am one of the occasional skeptics here) told ourselves it never happened.

On July 20, 1969 that we all watched a man in a weird, rumpled white space suit hop his way down a ladder.

My pal, author Rich Cohen, who I got to know a few years ago when we were both working on music books – his, the Stones, mine, Warren Zevon – just had a piece published in the latest Paris Review about these ubiquitous conspiracy theories regarding the events of July 20, 1969. Much of this hoo-ha surrounds fellow Bronx-native and film genius Stanley Kubrick and his masterworks, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, the former being the first anyone had seen of weightlessness and the cold, frightening, soul-crushing nothingness of space and the inhumanity of the computers and machines that take us there and what that entails for our species in the long, long, long run. That film was released in 1968 and what it foretold was eerily familiar to those who eventually would travel there.

To that end, this is what Cohen wrote as a sidebar to his theme that got on top of me while I was working on this column: “I’ve met three of the twelve men who walked on the moon. They had one important thing in common when I looked into their eyes: they were all bonkers.”

This is where the imagination of that six year-old boy and the grandiosity of America in the Cold War Era meets the flesh and bone of those who were actually a part of the Apollo 11 mission. How much of this – seeing the earth as a fading marble in the distance, the silence of space against the instruments beeping and flashing around them in their “floating tin can” as David Bowie would write and release that same year as “Space Oddity”, a nice musical play on Kubrick’s horrors of rapid, mind-bending technological and spiritual evolution – would mess with their, well, everything. Later, this idea of taking the deep-seeded fears of isolation within humanity and the constant battle waged between the ego of the hairless ape and the vastness of the universe became part of our culture. We, the searchers fueled by our Manifest Destiny, going beyond the stars, where we cannot comprehend, and come back different. Very different. Or, as Cohen, mused, bonkers.

We were all bonkers in 1969. Crazy shit happened. The Jets, eighteen to twenty-three point underdogs would win the first ever named Super Bowl and soon the NY Mets, having been the laughing stock of all sports the year I was born, just seven seasons earlier, would capture all of our hearts on the way to an amazing World Series victory that October. Then other crazy, crazy shit that will come in just a few weeks, which I will broach in parts two and three of these connected columns, illustrates how much humanity can simultaneously elevate and devastate itself down here. We were, in many ways, different. A seal was broken on us, on America, on science and faith and pride and fear, as it had on race and gender and generation.

And it is down here, on July 20, 1969 that we all watched a man in a weird, rumpled white space suit hop his way down a ladder and take “one small step for man but one giant leap for mankind” and hang out on that translucent sphere perched high, high, high above Van Ness Avenue. The night you can view these crackling black and white images being flashed on the box inside the furniture while also looking out your window to try and rationalize all of this. How is this happening? It is pretty damn exciting. It is pretty damn frightening.

The moon.

July 20, 1969.      

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POWER TO THE JERSEY PEOPLE

Aquarian Weekly
7/17/19

Reality Check

James Campion


POWER TO THE JERSEY PEOPLE
Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Will Be on Us


It seems to me an unjust law is no law at all.
                              – Saint Augustine

Due to the abject failure of this Democrat-led New Jersey legislature with the usual 19th century bullshit from useless Republicans, our government, thankfully, has punted the responsibility of legalizing marijuana to us, the citizens. Not sure deciding whether a plant is legal or not should necessarily fall to a vote, but that’s where we are now. You might recall, I called for this during this past spring’s implosion of the year-long marijuana bill (S2703). And so the matter will indeed move to the ballot in November of 2020.

Waiting that long seems idiotic, why not this November, you might ask? A fair question, and one I proffered before my experience in politics figured two reasons to wait that long – some members of this lame body may lose their gigs over this fiasco and help secure the number for a cold legislative redress in early 2020 or the overwhelming hatred of the dunce in the White House that will sweep in every inch of progressive breath to overwhelm voting booths across this mostly blue state.

Currently legalizing weed in Jersey has a 60 percent approval, so the numbers are there. Trump is running again in 2020 and he has a nearly 70 percent disapproval rating in the Garden State. Yeah, it is just a matter of getting people to the polls.

Until then, there has been some progress to first expand or level the legal blockades to medical marijuana (long overdue) and most importantly a move to alleviate some of the draconian laws and medieval penalties for those who wish to imbibe. 

These asinine laws are not only atavistic and imbecilic, they are starkly racist. A Jersey trifecta!

Throughout the brutal process to get legislators’ heads out of their collective asses and help us bring New Jersey into the 21st century and infuse the state with shitloads of funds for schools, fire and police departments and to curtail the insanely rising property taxes, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (the smartest person in local politics I have covered in over 30 years)  prevented his colleagues from voting on the bill expanding the medical program (S10) until he could get enough votes for the recreational marijuana bill. But after the March collapse, Sweeney announced in May that he would have a bill on Governor Phil Murphy’s desk by June’s end and he delivered. Last week Murphy signed Honig’s Law, named after Jake Honig, who was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2012, a cancer that traveled to his brain. He underwent dozens of rounds of chemotherapy, proton radiation and surgeries at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia but succumbed a few days after Murphy took office. He was seven years-old.

Throughout the entirety of the Chris Christie administration, Jake’s parents, Mike and Janet Honig of Howell, NJ bought dried cannabis in order to distill oil for their son. But inevitably each month they would run out of the medicine halfway through. The short-sighted, suck-ass medicinal marijuana law enacted in 2010 set a strict two-ounce monthly purchasing limit, disallowing the Honig’s to ease their son’s excruciating pain. This prompted his father to routinely express outrage that it has taken lawmakers so long to change the rules of an antiquated and quite frankly mean-spirited program to allow patients to buy more marijuana. Mike told NJ Advance Media, “When Jake was off his medical marijuana, he would vomit, he would be nauseous. He was would be in so much pain, he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t sleep. He was agitated.”

Now I won’t say Christie, or the NJ government, killed little Jake Honig, but they did not assist in easing his agony. And all because of weirdly constructed, badly researched laws enacted federally in the 1930s only to be overturned as unconstitutional and then rammed into the equally shortsighted and plainly stupid 1970s Controlled Substances Act that helped a ton of gangsters, cartels and the mob get plenty rich over the past half century, while seven year-old boys die in pain.

Before we bid farewell to our intermittent updates on this ongoing putrid silliness there is the matter of decriminalization, which is the very least we can do on the recreational end.

After the governor signed the Honig bill in a ceremony at Tommy’s Tavern on Killer Route 9 in my old stomping grounds in Freehold, Murphy was asked about decriminalization and a proposed bill by State Senator Sweeney in May – “I think we can’t allow a system where 600 people are gonna get arrested this week — 450 or more of color,” Murphy said. “Anybody who thinks status quo is acceptable has not taken time to understand the status quo.”

And that’s the nut. This is a major step in real, binding justice reform, which is always a laff riot in DC at the federal level, despite tons of lip service and empty campaign promises by the current and certainly past administrations. The laws here are total and utter bullshit. Even cops are tired of it. According to recent FBI data, New Jersey law enforcement arrests more people for marijuana possession than every state except Texas and New York. To put a finer (and sadder) point on it, African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at a rate three-times higher than white people, despite similar pot usage rates between the groups, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

These asinine laws are not only atavistic and imbecilic, they are starkly racist. A Jersey trifecta!

But fear not! We are slowly but surely crawling from pre-historic thinking. The new Honig law will likely add dozens of medical marijuana providers, greatly increasing capacity from the six providers currently operating. This is excellent economic news for the state and at least some steps in the direction I expect us to go and why I supported Governor Murphy’s election.

Having written all of this, to hades with politicians.

Power to the Jersey People!

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THE MORAL LOW GROUND

Aquarian Weekly
7/3/19

Reality Check

James Campion


THE MORAL LOW GROUND
Conditions at Our Southern Border & What It Says About Our Country

Admittedly, the person who pens this column every week is either an asshole or a genius. Or both. The mantle I have chosen to drape myself in does not come with gray areas. I sometimes point out that hypocrites fail to see those in their black and white existence, but mostly I tend to work on the margins between beauty and disgust. Predominantly disgust. This is due primarily to my insistence on commenting on politics, but that is merely a subtext for the great human experiment, America. We’ll be celebrating its two-hundred and forty-third birthday this week, so this is where the asshole comes in: Sure, remind us of our shitty side when we’re about to merrily force-feed hot dogs at an alarming, get our dime-store mini flags out of mothballs and blow stuff up. But consider the genius of this. It is not unlike Dickens getting all up in your self-absorbed misery when you just want to get some eggnog and a new tie. Humanity is a tricky subject.

And it is of our humanity of which I write this week. Forget politics and countries and religion and the rest of that John Lennon song. Let’s concentrate on humans. For the purposes of the true grit here, children.

The images and news emanating from what amounts to concentration camps, or if you are Laura Ingram – a comedy show host from a cable network – “essentially summer camps”, has really struck me hard. From the very beginning when we became aware of what our government was doing with our money I tweeted daily, “There are children locked away in cages and we’re paying for it.” I thought this might cut through the usually self-absorbed hate-fest that is Twitter. After a time, even I thought it silly to keep bringing it up. Apparently, like perpetual war (Americans have been fighting in Afghanistan for eighteen years now and Iraq for sixteen), we have more or less come to accept this as our national normal.

Now, I am not here to cast blame. We know who is to blame, if you choose to blame anyone. Our president, who likes to say he runs everything, so get out of his way and get sick of winning, blames congress. Congress blames the game show host. Some people blame Mexico. Some blame past administrations. But I blame humanity. And if you’re reading this, you’re human, so yeah, us. Our government, that means us in this fancy American experiment, is putting fellow human beings in hot, clammy, lice-infected flu-cages in stifling heat under inhumane conditions. And that cannot sit right with anyone. Can it?

This always gets me to think about the moral high ground that America is supposed to, theoretically, or for some, theologically, stand for. In other words, if this were happening in the Middle East or Central America there would be debates on when the bombing should start. Yet, we’re paying for it. When I am done with this piece, I will send it to press, and then at the end of a period, I will get money. Then, at some point, I will pay taxes on that money. Those taxes will go to what doctors have recently described as “torture facilities”. Now, I have written extensively in the past about the kind of torture or “enhanced interrogation” methods our government used on apprehended terrorists at the beginning of this century. I believe for terrorists, anything goes. Once you choose terrorism, you’re essentially saying “no thanks” to society and its norms. If you wish to see those norms eradicated, then you kind of hand in your human card. However, not sure people escaping poverty and violence and sneaking into the country equals the same thing. Some argue it is. Those people have wildly exaggerated what they feel is an open attack on our nation and for them, this nightmare of caged children is justified. No tolerance. Stay home or get this kind of treatment.

Makes sense. But is it good? Or even moral? Or something we represent as a nation or as fellow members of humanity?

I blame humanity. And if you’re reading this, you’re human, so yeah, us.

What has always made me ill about the concept of morality is its vacillating institutional tool, religion, and especially its most bizarre creatures, evangelists. Mostly it is their sadly quixotic ways in which they flub the very idea of it. All religions are filled with this craziness, but Christians, when considering the source, do and say the most hateful and judgmental things. We can argue whether Jesus was an egalitarian and hated capitalism and money and property and welcomed the inclusion of all peoples against the ruling religious class or not. We can even assume him God. But I am not entirely sure how you balance what is happening to the children at the border with any level of comprehension about a Christ figure. Never mind Yeshua the Nazarene. Yet, there are a whole lotta Christians who support this policy and this administration, and I don’t get that. Never will.

I only bring this up because the No Tolerance Policy that led to these horrors was sold, predictably, by quoting Biblical scripture. Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” Ignoring that the former Saul of Tarsus, a man known for torturing Christians as a weekend hobby before some shit happened to him on the road across the border, using the Bible to sell oppression and systemic criminal activity is as old as the damn thing. But that brings us back to our national morality, even a secular compassion for our fellow humans.

How do we, a nation so full of itself, so prideful of our accomplishments to assist the less fortunate and protecting the weak and needy, stand by and watch this happen?

I have no answer and that is not a rhetorical question. I want to know.

Do you?

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