Ghost Of Free Market Past (Ayn Rand)

Aquarian Weekly 12/23/09 REALITY CHECK

THE GHOST OF FREE MARKET PAST How Any Rand’s Individualist Orthodoxy Spirits The New Right

The worst of all crimes is the acceptance of the opinions of others. – Ayn Rand, as quoted in Goddess Of The Market” — Ayn Rand And The American Right by Jennifer Burns

Ayn RandUltimately, it was the controversies surrounding my third book, Trailing Jesus which helped drive its modest sales, but none of it has consistently equaled the response to what some labeled my brazen inclusion in a list of like-minded philosophers of the historical Jesus a quote by world-class atheist, Ayn Rand. To which I often retort that if Jesus and Ayn had ever spent any time together in a locked room, neither could decide which of them was indeed God. And in my estimation after six years of research, beyond Friedrich Nietzsche, Rand’s first and lasting philosophical hero, only the icon of Christianity could equal Rand’s unyielding defense of the individual as moral arbiter of his/her fate. And just as the figure and scope of a Jesus can be all things to all people, thus is the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

It is hard to find anyone, whether philosopher, psychologist or pop culture icon, which has filled more socio-political voids than Ayn Rand. Her wildly consumed novels have spawned millions of dedicated followers, sparked historic movements, and launched varied institutions, remaining as influential today as any of their contemporaries. And now that many of these same contemporaries, both disciples and detractors, begin to slip into history, and her legend grows with queer abandon, a renaissance in Rand’s pristine moral imperative of hallowed selfishness over evil altruism dawns a new age in America’s lasting ideological battle; the progressive collective rationality versus rugged American free-market individualism.

To that end, talk show hosts, columnists, protestors and political pundits routinely resurrect the nearly eighty year-old writings, teachings, and rants of Rand to plug their personal ideals, however disparate. From TEA Party enthusiasts to Don’t Tread On Me fanatics, Right Wing showman and fiscally conservative economists, there is always plenty of the Randian spirit readily available to be co-opted. Never has this been more evident than in the fallout of today’s crumbling economic implosion born of rapacious malfeasance and individual irresponsibility leading to the inevitable expansion of federal regulation and government intervention.

Nearly thirty years after her death, Rand strikes a figure that can remarkably embody the basic tenets of anarchy while also espousing a strong sense of patriotic duty — a dedication to personal responsibility in the perpetuation of capitalist ideals. And once again, as the new century hits its second decade and the winds of change shift dramatically, the timing of author, Jennifer Burns’s biography, Goddess Of The Market — Ayn Rand And The American Right is almost eerie.

“There is an infinite attraction to Rand and her philosophy because it is so unattainable,” Ms. Burns told me this week. “She spent a lifetime trying to create individualists out of human beings, who are social creatures at base, but because we are social creatures we struggle against our destinies and wish we could be what one reviewer said of Howard Roark (Rand’s practical idealist hero from The Fountainhead), that he is the superman — completely free, independent without a care for others, thus never feeling pain or disappointment, super-human.”

Rand’s superhero protagonists, specifically in her spectacularly popular novels, her relentlessly structured essays and the cult of her personal philosophy called Objectivism, wherein the mystical Disneyification of an entire generation is obliterated in a torrent of cold reasoning and self-reliant myopia, speak to the vastness of the American schizophrenia; a relentless pursuit of individual gratification basked in a noble reach to empower the whole.

Goddess Of The Market is the first book authored by a non-Randian disciple nor an ardent Objectivist, who was not only allowed access to Rand’s personal papers but places this schizophrenia into modern context.

“Rand is unique because she has clarified what is really a Christian theme of a charitable redistribution of wealth as immoral,” Burns says. “She’s able to dramatically strengthen the argument against the expanse of the state over the individual in less practical and more emotional terms.”

“Rand is unique because she has clarified what is really a Christian theme of a charitable redistribution of wealth as immoral,” Burns says. “She’s able to dramatically strengthen the argument against the expanse of the state over the individual in less practical and more emotional terms.”

Like the America Rand envisioned and was to forever worship as the triumph of science and progress over the mystical imprisonment of a Czarist and later a Communist Russia, her personal contradictions (Burns describes her as tempestuous and moody and in her book Rand appears spiteful, vengeful and randomly petty) were ignored for the greater “truth” in the glorious “pursuit of happiness”.

“The grand paradox that powered Rand’s career is the offshoot of a philosophical system she constructed as an absolute truth, which is if one was to reason properly one would come to a universal conclusion, ” Burns notes. “Yet the people most strongly attracted to the message of individualism aren’t as strongly developed as individuals and perhaps the most susceptible to this type of orthodoxy.”

This explains The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as key contributors to youthful literary exuberance, as Kerouac’s On The Road or Plath’s The Bell Jar seems to resonate among the impressionable.

“I always laugh when people pass Rand off as some kind of joke, like ‘Only teenagers read her’, Burns says. “Yeah, teenagers do come to her, and since that is when many of us form our beliefs for a lifetime, I think that’s pretty important.”

At the root of Rand’s influence and orthodoxy are the harsh realities of Objectivism. Even for the most zealous supporters, no matter how loyal, all are not included. Those not worthy of its distinctions are left without the slightest empathy. The “blessed” ones are most cherished for their art of invention, artistic brilliance, ingenuity and progress and may then reap the rightful rewards. Unlike the religious parameters of those “chosen” or “saved” in a specific faith gaining ultimate spiritual emancipation, Rand’s exalted few are merited by action, production and success.

However, unflinching philosophical orthodoxy aside, Rand is most potent as a political juggernaut, with pen and verbal assault, which she deftly used during her lifetime and left behind in her volumes of work. They were rendered as body blows to both the modern Conservative movement (Building a Christian Right edict in the war against Communism, William F. Buckley spent decades trying to discredit Rand’s hard-line materialism and staunch atheism) and her favorite whipping post, Liberalism.

From the days of the New Deal to the Great Society, Rand stood in firm opposition of any government intervention for any purpose, including “just” foreign wars and the conscription that accompanied them. And although appalled by Southern racism, she supported Barry Goldwater’s stance for state rights and against a Civil Rights bill. Moreover, Rand, while being a beacon for the rights of women and anti-censorship, in which she fought both battles to the teeth during her professional life, thought feminism asinine while also managing to support abortion and wrote vehement screeds against Hollywood propaganda for the Left, going as far as speaking on behalf of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In the end, though, it is Rand’s insistence, almost a passionate demand for the individual over almost any collective that places her neatly in the messiah line-up. Libertarians, anarchists and anti-government fist-pumpers and sign-wavers look to her as their shining example, perhaps today more than ever.

“Objectivism, whether you agree with it or not, is part of the American intellectual experience,” Burns concludes. “Ayn Rand has had a profound impact on so many Americans, defining how they think about capitalism, markets, and the question of morality.” In the weirdest of evolutions, the idea of trusting the human intellect and its lust for greed and expanding the limits of true freedom has led to some of the most ignominious failures of this democracy, as has its subsequent remedy, an expanding government clampdown, whether Trust Busters, The New Deal or The Big Bank Bailout. It speaks ultimately of Rand’s fatal flaw — the fatal flaw in the human spirit, to be our own worst enemy and as Twain once coined, getting the government “of the people and by the people” we deserve.

As Goddess Of The Market so intriguingly points out, Rand stands as a figure of absolute truth against so many American contradictions, not the least of which is what the new Right today must face if it is to gain a foothold to power again, a sense that at the core of the true American spirit lies the dollar sign and not the crucifix.

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Health Care Finale 2009

Aquarian Weekly 12/16/09 REALITY CHECK

HEALTH CARE FINALE

The clock is ticking for Democrats.

Harry ReidThe Health Care Reform Bill has now become for all intents and purposes as politically charged and attached to their success or failure going into 2010 as Iraq and the oft-befuddled and always erratic War on Terror was for Republicans. Much like our compromised ability to wage war while reconfiguring centuries of damaged theocratic lunacy plunged us deeper in debt, not to mention robbing the lives of thousands of our youth and alienating us from the rest of the world, this excessively dissected congressional fiasco resulting in hundreds of pages of gobbledygook and failed backroom deals clearly demonstrates how wrong political myopia can go.

As the opening decade of the new millennium comes to a close and the winds of change begin to shift once again, it is now the Democrats, after four years of a surge and then a significant shift in power, who find that the Two-Minute Warning has sounded. They are not down, but the game is tied. They have moved the ball painstakingly to midfield, but seemed to have stalled in every possible way.

Their president has been underwhelming at best; choosing to conclave with the intelligentsia and weigh every option on foreign policy while allowing his party’s legislators to juggle his most pressing agenda. A Super Majority in Congress has not been super enough to combat what is clearly a mass filibuster on “All-Things Obama” from Republicans, who have maintained an impressive solidarity, unlike Democrats back when their sweeping victories in 2006 heralded an anti-war cry by voters but bore no anti-war votes against the questionable military surge. Less ideological than political, the Republican negation ploy has served to stall what is unquestionably the closest the United States has come to sweeping National Health Care Reform, angering many Liberals and frightening away Independents in droves.

This current Democratic majority has had no footing on key Democratic issues emerging from the overwhelming 2008 elections; climate change legislation, scaling back of military engagements, increasing tax burdens on the top one-percent, introducing primary social agendas, etc. These and other pertinent issues are not merely a reflection of the historic Obama presidential bid, but the tattered remnants of what looked a year ago like a new age in progressive politics.

Ironically, the morbid U.S. economy, which ushered in this proposed new age in record numbers, has reduced its subsequent governing to nothing more than a rash of failed bills and inter-party fisticuffs, leaving those in power with an increasingly limited window in which to press forward.

Ironically, the morbid U.S. economy, which ushered in this proposed new age in record numbers, has reduced its subsequent governing to nothing more than a rash of failed bills and inter-party fisticuffs, leaving those in power with an increasingly limited window in which to press forward.

It is an accepted tenet of politics that in the first year of a new president’s initial term there will be a backlash. And since there is only Ronald Reagan’s popularity and political gravitas to compare to what Barack Obama accomplished in 2008, a fair comparison reminds us that the fortieth president of the United States went from a ridiculous seventy percent in mid-1981 to the mid-fifties by early ’82, which then plummeted to the forties and cost the Republicans 27 seats in the House.

It was a crippling recession in ’82 that felled The Gipper, a referendum on his Supply-Side economics, which many observers, and ultimately the voters decided was ill-conceived and too far-reaching. This time around the new Mr. Popular and his party will also go as the economy goes. Right now the fringe furor over the Recovery/Stimulus package, replete with mounds of government pork and sink holes of funding, which could be fairly argued wrested what looked like a complete collapse of the Western world back from the brink, polls as a bust.

Suddenly after nearly a decade of ignoring it, there is real fear about the national debt assuredly fueled by a steady rise in unemployment numbers that show no sign of subsiding before rising nearly into the teens. And just as the Afghan War has now shifted from the Bush Problem to the Obama Problem, so has the fallout of Bush’s disastrous economy. After nearly three years in power on the Hill and one year in the oval office with the strongest mandate handed to a Democratic president in two generations, it is put-up or shut-up time.

The tell-tale sign that things are getting into the “cornered” stage is the always-predictable Party Split, seen two years ago when many Fiscal Conservatives began jumping ship on the Cultural Warriors inside the soon-to-be doomed Republican Party. The troubling Terry Schiavo case, coupled with more than a few incidents of weird a-moral behavior by previously pious congressmen and a feeling among many conservative pundits and intellectuals that denying evolution and using a fear of homosexuality and decaying school prayer arguments to gain political favor were losing moderates and consequently elections.

Now, as the calendar gets set to turn to a mid-term election year, Democrats fighting for their political lives are seeing less liberal rooting and more anti-big government outcry from constituents. All politics is local and survival in congress is paramount, turning votes that previously could be counted on for Speaker Pelosi and the Left in a radical restructure of National Health Care into powder.

Moderates in the party are becoming more entrenched, emboldening Republicans, who wisely play a waiting game in the hopes that nothing is passed, which would spell complete failure for Obama and his party in the most crucial period of their time in power. This has led to at best a dilution of a serviceable Health Care Bill and at worse a rejection of what will likely be its only chance at succeeding for many of our lifetimes. What was once an ideological imperative, however popular (and it still holds a solid majority in the voting public) or unpopular (there is equally a trenchant paranoia that a government-run plan will rob and pillage all that is held dear) has now devolved into a political cause celeb.

The Democrats simply have to get something passed, check that, anything passed. Meanwhile half have no idea what that would be or what it would mean, the other half don’t care. The same can be said for their opponents, who continue to irresponsibly unleash one horror scenario after the other, much of it fiction, and all of it hyperbolic.

‘Tis the season for rancorous debate and desperate measures, which will only lead to results come the autumn of 2010, when we the people get to weigh in.

Tick-tock.

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Why We Care About Tiger Woods

Aquarian Weekly 12/9/09 REALITY CHECK

WHY WE CARE ABOUT TIGER WOODS

Salad DaysI was sitting sipping Bahamian beer with my wife at Rum Runners and listening to an ominous storm front move across Pelican Bay when I first heard the news of Tiger Woods’ “car accident”. I had my back to a dusty television jammed precariously between what looked to me like a 1950s loud speaker and an over-sized pool cue rack, but the sound of my wife bellowing over the charmingly bad seventies rock and a tall ebony barkeep racing for the jukebox volume hushed the revelry for a moment. Suddenly the tinny echo of the CNN reporter’s solemn announcement filled the void. It was “serious”; he said over and over, prompting a corpulent woman from Tampa to gasp, “He’s dead!” Her companion, a gangly, mustachioed hippie with a cheap Hawaiian shirt removed the ragged straw hat from his sweaty head and sighed, “First Michael Jackson, now this.”

Indeed, my wife agreed, Jackson was dead, murdered by a quack with nerve gas and a secret celebrity code; his whereabouts unknown, because apparently no one cares anymore who or what killed the King of Pop, and soon, when they dredged Tiger’s remains from the Florida everglades, likely masticated beyond recognition from a surge of ravenous crocodiles, there will be little anyone will care about — troop levels in Afghanistan, National Health Care Reform, or the all-important Black Friday retail numbers, which would doubtless decide the immediate economic future of the Western world.

No, everyone within earshot agreed: even the slightest injury to Tiger Woods would be beyond devastating news.

Why?

For starters, Woods, as the skinny brunette twenty-something from Nashville reminded us, easily rates in the top five of planet earth’s most famous people; certainly its most recognized athlete. He is this generation’s Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali, transcending his sport, his race, his culture, his very humanity. Hell, as the panting barkeep offered, “Anyone that has a goddamned logo with his initials on every type of clothing and has the balls to constantly wear the thing in public is like some kind of Superman.”

Yes, Tiger, the man for whom only one name may suffice, does wear a logo of his initials upon his head and emblazoned on his form-fitting golf shirts, making him without debate our latest Nietchzian Ubermensch; an almost pristine caricature of the modern American Adonis; a multi-racial, youth-driven, handsomely slender master performer of his craft, obsessed with victory and perfection and cashing in. Tiger, with his $100 million a year endorsements, his gorgeous blonde Viking wife and two adorable kids, GQ cover style and jet-setter decorum, seems so likable he can comfortably straddle the most difficult of dualities: Lovably unapproachable.

It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy would not only be unleashed, but this time, for a change, merited.

Could a rare profitable commodity so utterly indestructible truly be dead? Could he actually be unable to continue to set impossible standards of performance in the highbrow, country-club caste-crazy game he dominates with apparent ease?

The entire episode and its barely decipherable details seemed to set a pall on the whole island for the entire next day, which would have kept any normal couple from setting aside a three-day marathon of substance abuse, but I am happy to report, hardly curtailed us. My wife despises golf, which she has more than once dubbed “an elitist self-flagellation” in sober moments and far lengthier and even less comprehensible mockery under the influence. I have little use for the sport, as I have not played since high school, but do recall more than a decade ago predicting on a local television panel of sports journalists run by my friend Michael Miner, now a major player in almost every New York area sports media outlet, along with the gentleman currently running Westchester County, that Tiger would be the most celebrated athlete of his time. My esteemed colleagues differed on their prognostications since at the time Woods had not yet hit a golf ball for a dime.

Needless to say Woods eclipsed even my loftiest expectations, as he did for everyone else paying attention, as we all were on Saturday morning; the wife and I, half-asleep and ornery from an extended stopover at Miami International Airport. Every television and newspaper was busy arousing suspicions and offering half-cocked commentary. Now it seemed the Thanksgiving 2:30 am “car accident” happened between his driveway and the adjacent curbside, with smashed windows and his wife “hovering” over his “barely conscious” body with (gulp!) a golf club.

It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy would not only be unleashed, but this time, for a change, merited. This was no imaginary boy in a balloon or anonymous kid trapped down a well or sold into slavery by dog-fighting trainers, or rich gargoyles suckering other rich gargoyles out of their land-raping money, or the delicate nuances of drunken teenage pop stars exposing their genitalia. No. This was serious business, and it would not be ending soon.

Before long back in the States and at the control center here at The Desk, the information poured in fast and furious, some refuting and contradicting the earlier ones, others expounding on what could best be described as the most mishandled philandering and subsequent publicity fallout in recent memory.

Not one, but two major stories in the National Enquirer and Us Magazine surfaced with hardcore dates and voicemails and text messages between our beloved Tiger and some Las Vegas floozy. Then another sex kitten emerged, then retracted, then re-emerged, and all the while nothing from Tiger or his considerable “camp”. Soon the police would downplay the case as a “weird mishap” and voices from the other side of reason began defending the poor guy’s right to privacy, which by all measures of logic is usually sold down the proverbial river with the type of ridiculous celebrity attributed to the few and the brave and the stack of cash accompanying it.

My favorite comments came from athletes who claim that somehow explaining oneself to the press or to the fans is a “professional courtesy” and not an impetrative, as my long-lost sportswriter pal, Barry Stanton once mused to a coked-out Lawrence Taylor during a charity golf event, “No one pays top dollar to see you play football in the park with your pals.” Ironically, this exchange of intellectual lobbing was met with the wielding of a golf club fairly close to Stanton’s head. He escaped unharmed, but his point hit home.

Humans tend to be attracted to the subtext of almost every innocuous and banal subject, especially when it contains salacious details or dark secrets of the famous. But this is far different. And although Tiger eventually released a “statement of apology” and had come to accept his “transgressions” there is something infinitely intriguing about the indestructible reduced to indefensible. That is not just an American phenomenon, but mostly a human one.

I believe Tiger would have a better “Leave me alone, this is a private matter” defense if he didn’t revel in his Master Of The Universe persona and didn’t profit immensely from it, just as the case could not be defended seriously when the president of the United States used the people’s property and time to diddle on his spouse.

But no president, not even the current Super Cool one — also a multi-racial handsome, youth figure, who is constantly on public as well as political trial — has been as popular as Tiger Woods for the past decade-plus. Only he, perhaps the amiable Peyton Manning in football and certainly the smooth Derek Jeter in baseball approach his level of sports persona earning power. In another ironic twist the multi-racial Jeter, fresh from a renaissance season and a fifth World Series title, was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year this week.

Hey, if Jeter’s teammate, the enigmatic Alex Rodriguez can go from tar-and-feathered steroid cheat, choker outcast, to World Champion hero class-act teammate in six months, what can Tiger Woods do with this nugget of personal “self-flagellation”? You see, in the end, there will always be someone somewhere who will offer the argument that we just love to build ’em up and knock ’em down, but then they ignore the fundamental beauty of a free society; that it provides a platform to which those can build themselves up with the always thorny opportunity to come down easy or hard.

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Collectivism On Parade

Aquarian Weekly 11/25/09 REALITY CHECK

COLLECTIVISM ON PARADE

Collectivism – Any moral, political, or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human into a collective and the priority of group over the individual.

Forget National Health Care and bailouts or Cap & Trade laws sending us into a tyrannical existence. We’re already there, suckers. We’ve been under one onerous regime after the other most of my lifetime, but never in my 47 years as an American has the concept of individual open-minded thought been as overwhelmingly nullified by a rabidly myopic adherence to the collective mind-screw as it is now. As a boy, when I first learned of the almost cartoonist idiocy of McCarthyism, it was hard to fathom anyone allowing it to fester, much less become a national outcry, but after this week’s two glaring examples of collectivist madness, it starts to make sense.

Let’s begin with what can only be described as the most hyped panic by the populace over nothing, which is saying something when considering the parade of nothing that is passed off, consumed and debated as newsworthy on a daily basis. This absolute nonsensical outrage over something called a Government Task Force announcing its recommendation of by-annual mammograms for 40 year-old women, refuting the standard recommendation of annual tests from the American Cancer Society. The GTF now suggests waiting until 50 or older for yearly check-ups.

WHAT?

Ready your muskets!

The key words here are “recommendation” and “suggestion”. Yet the brouhaha from every circle of this country from the medical community to women’s rights groups, radio commentators to the ever-ready op ed scream-a-rama made this out to be some kind of misogynistic pogrom. It led all three networks’ mid-week news programs, and as far as I could tell none of them simply said; Who the fuck gives a flying fart what anyone recommends or suggests, if you want a mammogram, go! Holy shit.

The second example of this collectivist whining is the endless bickering over the minutest detail of our Health Care debate, and not necessarily from those in opposition. It has now become commonplace for those on the same side to have conniptions over something like the lack of abortion funding available from the federal government in the latest draft of the over two-thousand page proposed senate bill. The same people who clamor for government handouts now want to dictate what the government will provide, not unlike the banks and lending institutions, which were all-too pleased to take taxpayer money but bitch when regulation kicks in.

When you move into the realm of the collective, there are some individual wants and needs that are going to be trampled on. Have we all forgotten our school bus experiences?

This is what has become of us. If a group or institution makes a statement about religion, civil rights, social concerns, or really any ambiguous generality there is an incredible uprising of paranoiac apoplexy. Somehow, without so much as a moment of reasoned reflection a majority of submentals believe “fill in the blank” is what is to be followed to the letter without exception. It is no longer science fiction to imagine living in one of the few free societies left to civilization where there is a complete outbreak of irrational yammering every time a broad disquisition emerges.

You’re already here.

This is what has become of us. If a group or institution makes a statement about religion, civil rights, social concerns, or really any ambiguous generality there is an incredible uprising of paranoiac apoplexy.

As much as I hate to admit it, Orwell may have been right. However, this is one Big Brother that has come self-served, like a mass hallucination of Oedipal mayhem.

Mind you, this is different from the normal over-reaction people have to a Jesus movie, rap record or a tell-all book by a vacuous celebrity like the chick from One Day At A Time or a failed Alaskan governor cum vice presidential runner up. Fabricated news drummed up by high-priced publicity firms is as American as public drunkenness and mispronunciation. It also has no equivalent in the crazed preconditioned aftershock large groups have when something appears threatening, like a Beatle saying he’s more popular than God or when African Americans wanted to be educated in the same school systems. That behavior is as involuntarily prevalent in society as breathing. It’s simple stupidity. There’s no dissecting this or ridding ourselves of it. It’s called freedom. Stupid is not illegal. Thank goodness. However, mass hysteria over a singular way of thinking is a whole other heaping bowl of goofy.

This began in earnest, I believe, after the horrors of 9/11, when a generation of people led to believe that they were not really part of the planet, that the rest of the countries around the globe were our plaything, were rudely awakened. It also scared us because the public at large believed they were safe to go to work every day without having airliners crash into their buildings. This put a new onus on a totalitarian rule; wherein we accepted blindly this idea that in order to be “safe” we can trade in a few civil rights, wage pointless wars, and be subjected to mass hallucinations, like vague Orange Alerts that put the Pavlovian fear of Allah into our national psyche.

This is why we were so apoplectic after the Katrina disaster; we now believed as a tax-paying public that somehow the government could have prevented a natural disaster. Then the economy tanked, and these same fears exploded into what would become one of the most incredible turn of political events in our history; the election of an African American liberal who had been a senator for fifteen minutes. Why? Because the public substituted the word Change for Save. And when our new daddy didn’t come through in the first 300 days we whined and spat and began to abandon ship and search for random leaders who claim they want revolution, but all they want is ratings and to sell books.

Let’s face it, we have a Messiah complex in this country, wherein anything any proposed authority figure, or if they are on television, which gives them instant credibility, blabs we run, panic, and pump our fists for restitution.

The two-party system, which perpetuates this myth that there are only two sides to every argument has always anesthetized the public into a reactionary gaggle of talking-point parroting that is trained to wait for someone to provide a point of view, but even with that low a standard for original reasoning, what is happening now on the grandest scale is ridiculous.

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Fort Hood’s Sociological Backlash

Aquarian Weekly 11/18/09 REALITY CHECK

FORT HOOD’S SOCIOLOGICAL BACKLASH

Nidal Malik HasanHere we go again: Crazy person runs amok, kills randomly, and societyscrambles to explain it. DC Sniper, Columbine, Virginia Tech; all of which has been covered in this space over the past twelve years with no more insight than simply crazy persons hardly ever need a reason to be crazy, just as tigers have no other reason to hunt and kill and sharks to swim and feed, and so on. Crazy people do it for Jesus, Jodie Foster, Judas Priest, bad grades, dog chatter, Kool-Aid fix, poor economy, crappy parenting; you name it. This time it’s Fort Hood. It’s alienation. It’s ethnic confusion. It’s rejection of brainwashing. More to the point, it’s nature; random and cold and horrific. It is the world. It is life. It’s a crapshoot. This is how things go. There is no more analysis to proffer.

However, the most intriguing aspect of this one surrounds its sociological, psychological, and pathological temperament and how it eerily reflects almost every corner of political, ideological and moral debates that fill the pages of newspapers and countless hours of cable television blather each week. Its all there; religious fanaticism, gun violence, geographical mayhem, xenophobia, bigotry, science, bleeding-heart liberalism and overt militarism. One man; Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim, psychiatrist, and Major in the United States Armed Forces kills thirteen people at an army base in Texas.

Ooh wee.

Actually, when considering all this it is amazing Hasan made it this far without hurting himself or others. For an analogous example of this kind of crazy, one must return to Timothy Leary, the only other religious fanatic trained by the militarily to go off the deep end.

And so, with the accepted assumption that Hasan is nuts, let’s delve deeper into the more obvious origins of his murderous rampage and how they’ve been applied to the vox populi:

Texas

There is a pretty good chance that if you visit the Lone Star State more than half a dozen times, you will die. I personally have known or know people who have known nearly ten people who’ve been brutally murdered or shot down in broad daylight in Texas. It’s the home office of rampant gun violence, which is why it repeatedly leads the nation in government-sanctioned executions. Add a military base to this lunacy, and you have the geographical makings of a human firing range. When Governor Rick Perry floated the idea of Texas seceding from the Union, I begged the federal government to let it, then invade it as a threatening force, kick the goofy cowboy assholes out and give it back to Mexico. But alas, the mere mention of Texas and the military in the same sentence opens old Bush Presidency wounds that have surfaced during the aftermath of the Fort Hood tragedy.

Gun Control

Well, as mentioned before it is far more difficult to purchase a burrito in Texas than it is to acquire a semi-automatic weapon that can kill the largest contingent of people in the shortest amount of time. Hasan did not procure his murder weapon on a military base, but in a civilian store called — get this — Guns Galore. This is a gold mind for the anti-gun lobby, which when handed this kind of massacre can make Al Sharpton look bashful. A mere 24 hours after the shooting, there were solid reports out of Hollywood that prominent NRA board members attempted to dig up Chuck Heston to help fend off all comers.

Military – Pro & Con

It’s a time-tested hot-button issue; the military is a cruel and antiquated systemic nightmare that eats its own and chooses to ignore the occasional loons that are sequestered inside, like the Catholic Church or the Hip-Hop Awards. However, as much as the anti-military industrial complex marauders are ready to pounce, so are the boot-heeled flag-wavers, who will mark this as an example of PC, liberal whiners, who insist on keeping weak, overly-emotional shrinks on the payroll; and as the days wore on sent the discussion further into why women or gays are allowed to serve in the rough-and-tumble army zeitgeist. And, of course, now that we have an apologetically dithering commander-in-chief who has watered down our readiness, what do you expect?

Islam Bashing

This guy would have been better off a thrice-married Mormon. It is not a good time to be a Muslim in the military or for that matter the local convenience store, and now this. It naturally leads to a jingoistic backlash wherein before long there’s serious talk of al-qaeda and Taliban connections, Hasan’s alleged love letters to Islamic radical clerics and anonymous e-mails denouncing the Western Devil and the odd Jihad flying around. Then again, there are those who denounce any kind of religious fanaticism, which leads more times than not to Waco or Jim Jones or Charles Manson or the faithful driving car bombs into abortion clinics. But the big winners in this disaster are the neo-con cheerleaders, who went ballistic pointing out how much bombing, torturing, and nation-building this kind of mayhem merits.

Psychiatry vs. Morality

Oooh, Science is Bad is an oldie but goody. This is what happens when we take an inexact method of dissecting the human brain and separate it from a moral center, or perhaps to add the prior religious argument, take the inner psychological turmoil of a man too close to the realities of life while less-than gently balancing a radical spiritual quest for acceptance, and you have yourself a walking powder keg. Not to mention the U.S. military spending the better part of the last decade killing Muslims all over the place. But again, how much does crazy need other than crazy, whether it’s rock music, the Qur’an, a violent movie or suggestive cartoons, a bad marriage or a strange cocktail of anti-depressants to get motivated?

Prevention vs. Destiny

Ah, and that brings us to our last and most thorny of issues: Preventing crazy. Let’s face it, anti-social behavior is a Dickensian orphan trapped beneath an apparition’s cloak; unfortunate, yet perpetual. We cannot halt it, no matter how many people suppose that it could have been avoided. “How did they not know?” Well, of course it’s suspected through certain actions, but to actually “know” a relatively disturbed man but with no prior history of any violence is going to wander out of a barracks like a robot, walk down to the ubiquitous gun shop, purchase a weapon and randomly fire it into a crowd of his fellow soldiers is hardly something that could be prevented without a time machine or a crystal ball, neither of which are real items, just as the idea that we can save innocent victims or keep the earth from boiling over or protect everyone from their diets, drugs, sexual appetites or self-mutilation. It’s a myth, like “Things happen for a reason”. Sometimes, actually, most times they do not. Sorry.

What happened at Fort Hood is a terrible tragedy, but because it has no tangible explanation, it is unreasoned, haphazard, messy and incomprehensible, it creates a vacuum, and within that vacuum rhetoric, psychobabble and analysis creeps. It is as natural as the occasionally rare – thank goodness – crazy going crazy. Sleep tight.

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Foul Nectar of the Beatdown

Aquarian Weekly 11/11/09 REALITY CHECK

FOUL NECTAR OF THE BEATDOWN
New Republicanism & The New York Yankees Carry The Day

November can be a cruel month for some. Turkeys would not describe it as a “fine time”. Turkey blood flows freely when the October calendar turns and the winds blow cold. Their slaughter is complete and in great numbers. Turkeys would be glad to tell you what it is like to be absolutely certain that you are doomed. But, alas, they cannot. Politicians and Major League Baseball players have to do it for them. Perhaps the Philadelphia Phillies and Andy Spano and Jon Corzine and nearly the entirety of the Democratic Party’s line-up in Virginia can best define the brutal finality of being on the receiving end of The Beatdown.

jc & Rob Astorino on Election NightPoor Andy Spano. By late Tuesday, with four tall gins and a hat borrowed from Doctor Thompson’s kitbag, I watched solemnly as his battered and humiliated image appeared on the giant screen set up in the main ballroom of the Crowne Plaza. Over at the Rye Hilton, his aids had to wake him from what they said later was a “shock coma” to shuffle desperately onto a podium and explain how a 12-year incumbent in a three-to-one Democratic district could be severely thrashed by a 42- year-old broadcaster named Rob Astorino.

Astorino told me earlier that despite the odds he’d never felt calmer. The Cuban tending bar in the Scarsdale Room downstairs depicted the challenger’s demeanor as strangely confident; something between the last man at a blackjack table who is sure the bitty on his left will take a hit on 18 and leave him with his Ace and the cold, dark Mariano Rivera stare before he unloads another ungodly bat-shattering cutter to sting the knuckles of his helpless opponent.

Rivera, a pitching machine, who is to closing baseball games as Picasso was to slapping together a new art form between barely legals, is in many ways for the World Champion NY Yankees what the voter became to a vulnerable candidate like Andy Spano; the death knell. There is a bell that tolls when the hour is late and Number 42 is toeing the rubber. It is an abstract reverberation, like being smacked in the face with a scalding wet rice sack. There is a stinging heat, followed by an awareness of pain that does not soon fade; permanence in pinstripes.

Fiscal conservatism carried the day as much as good old Yankees mystique in a brand, spanking new stadium did.

Ah, but fate, like baseball, has a way of bringing home the pure-cut doses of reality only the loser can accept with any proper emotional prescience. Although it turned out Spano had no serviceable answer for his defeat, nor did the several stunned members of the Westchester press corps. Several of the more confused among them flailed their arms about twice spilling my eleven-dollar cocktail and putting a scare into the victor’s first-born son, Sean, my godchild, and a hearty soul who told me that his father would not only win on this night, but “dominate”. His words, not mine.

By the time we reached the staging area, Spano was finishing up his concession speech across town, still being streamed in living color on a massive screen with drunken louts gripping nude photos of Sarah Palin and shouting expletives at him.

“That’s pretty harsh,” said Astorino’s treasurer, Laura Schwartz, who had once shared press credentials with me to the Yankees last titles in 1999 and 2000. We found the entire scene oddly serendipitous, together awaiting Astorino’s victory speech mere feet from a rostrum jam-packed with half-crazed Republicans, each of whom wanted a small piece of The Beatdown.

“This is a crude form of poetic justice,” I told Schwartz, “a job only Walt Whitman can distinguish properly.”

Ignoring my observations, she pointed sadly up to Spano’s final steps from politics and whispered, “Look at how his bones sag; there’s a ghostly fog upon him, as if soul has been plunged in battery acid.”

“My God, woman!” I shouted. “To hell with Whitman, get a pen!”

But there were no pens; only a rabble of sign wavers hooting and chanting Astorino’s name. I kept thinking of the right field pavilion at Yankee Stadium for Game 2 of this year’s World Series; where the wife and I watched the Bronx Nine get off the mat down 0-1 to begin a four-out-of-five clip of winning that within a week would secure the franchise’s 27th title. Beneath the din of bestial fanaticism before us, it became apparent that this was no ordinary autumn.

The Yankees would win with the great Rivera on the mound, a vindicated A-Rod having turned his wrecked image and October baseball into something out Homer and, of course, the inimitable Derek Jeter sprinting in from his shortstop position having finished a post season wherein he collected an unfathomable 22 hits in 18 games for his fifth ring. But none of this transpired before a Republican named Chris Christie ousted incumbent favorite Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor.

Corzine and Christie ran a hate-filled smear-fest that ended badly for Corzine when he foolishly relied on the same “strong” Democratic base as the blindsided Spano. But the 47 year-old Christie, like Astorino, culled moderate Democrats and a boatload of angry independents with a newly formed but proved to be unbeatable Libertarian populist, anti-tax, anti-big government mantra. Long gone from these Republican tickets, albeit a smaller sampling than the routs of ’08 and the soon-to-be discussed challenges of 2010, were the divisive social issues that have turned many conservative dinosaurs like Rush Limbaugh into powder. It’s over for Limbaugh’s 1950s’ style politics and the sooner the national party understands this the better chance it has to rise from the ashes.

Fiscal conservatism carried the day as much as good old Yankees mystique in a brand, spanking new stadium did. That and the usual flip-flop mentality of the electorate which collectively expects to be given everything and not pay for it, which ultimately cost the progressives in a small but significant way in 2009. And while the young, bold Astorino is a proud religious man and runs the Catholic Channel for Sirius Radio, he also said without equivocation that his faith and social ideologies were not the issue; lowering the tax burden and responsibility in government was.

There is a new stadium in the Bronx with the same results. Will this be the start of a new century of republicanism?

It was no ordinary November.

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Rob Astorino In The Land Of Scum

Aquarian Weekly 10/29/09 REALITY CHECK

ROB ASTORINO; FRIEND & COLLEAGUE IN THE LAND OF SCUM
Rob Astorino
Not one hour ago I received a link to a story in the Journal News that turned my stomach, something that rarely happens to cynical old hacks who’ve not only seen but done it all twice. It seems that during the previous day’s debate between candidates for the county’s executive position at Pace University, the incumbent, 72 year-old Democrat Andrew Spano saw fit to frame his Republican opponent, 42 year-old Robert Astorino’s economic policies as racist. Spano, after a dozen years in office, the duration of which Westchester’s tax bracket has elevated to that of A-Rod, the Clintons or the guy who owns Madison Square Garden is finally being challenged and has gone the predictable ugly route.

Spano’s been around the block more than once and let’s face it maybe one time too many. He knows what he said and how it would be extrapolated; Astorino’s policies — “a cover for racism” — make the candidate a racist. This appears to be the new political “buzz” word, as was “commie” in the fifties and “subversive” in the sixties and “undesirable” in the seventies and, whenever the urge strikes, throw Nazi in there for good measure.

Sure its politics as usual, covered here with a sense of spiteful apathy and smarmy humor weekly. In fact, it’s completely understandable and sadly probable from our perspective; who doesn’t choose panic and mudslinging over an exchange of ideas? It is nothing else if not entertaining, which goes a long way when you sit where I do. Problem is this time the target of this gutless attack is someone I know well and sincerely respect.

I can tell you firsthand from a long-standing personal and working history with the candidate that neither Rob Astorino nor his proposed fiscal polices are racist. In fact, knowing Rob as I do, stooping to this ham-fisted attempt at demonizing speaks more of his opponent’s spectacular lack of honor, not to mention his lazily conceived and doom-addled strategy.

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

This is why for years now I have been reticent to use this hoarsely sacred weekly voice to champion his political causes, which has currently taken him through his second campaign for County Executive of Westchester, NY.

It’s Rob’s dream to make a difference. I know, because he has told me so, against all the bitter advice I have given him beneath the pall of such nonsense as “making a difference” or “changing the game for my kids”, and all the other piddling garbage most politicians regurgitate to justify some ego binge in which we’re supposed to comply.

Not Astorino.

I can tell you firsthand from a long-standing personal and working history with the candidate that neither Rob Astorino nor his proposed fiscal polices are racist. In fact, knowing Rob as I do, stooping to this ham-fisted attempt at demonizing speaks more of his opponent’s spectacular lack of honor, not to mention his lazily conceived and doom-addled strategy.

He does not run for accolade or some opaque definition of love and acceptance. He’s nailed that in several solid gigs in radio and television, and built it at home with his wife and three children. Neither does he run merely to win and then turn into a tired political lifer mannequin like his opponent. He runs for the sheer youthful passion of proving that democracy must begin and end with the will of the people, that to deny your neighbors a choice against the status quo is the ultimate act of unpatriotic cowardice. He runs because every once in a long while someone needs to prove the entire system is not a bust.

Yet, with all of that before me; kinship, professional respect and a story worth telling, I still felt in light of the subjective no-brakes miasma that normally fills this column that it was somehow inappropriate to comment. But when hit with this bullshit, which tops all the other bullshit hurled at Rob for trying to oust a man whose sense of decency has even managed to make me, a mean-spirited, black-hearted iniquity machine, nauseous, I could be silent no longer.

So in the interest of complete disclosure, I admit to my support in all facets of the Astorino campaign, his generosity in offering me full access for a book I’d planned to write a few times but was curtailed by one assignment after the other, and finally, despite an unabashed commitment to an existence of derelict paganism, standing as godfather for his first born.

Thus, I will guiltlessly forge ahead.

I do not know Andrew Spano from the proverbial wall’s hole, but I can clearly deduct from his actions in this campaign and the consecutively botched years at a job he is patently incapable of performing that he is a barely functioning fear-mongering dunderhead who has outlived any possible usefulness to the body politic but refuses to give up the ghost for either some bizarre state of euphoric inertia or sheer madness.

Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, any race, creed or color, there is something passe about Spano’s tired shtick in which in many ways a young idealist like Astorino, whatever you think of his policies, should always replace. This is what I believe fueled this country in 2008 — more than race or ideology. Eventually it’s just time for a new generation, a fresh voice to offer an alternative idea without the clatter which drowns it out, from town hall goofiness to debate wrangling.

Lord knows I’m not saying Spano has no right to spout fallacies or get rough and loose with the truth, even in light of his disastrous HUD deal that will likely bankrupt what is already the second highest taxed county in America. On the contrary, that kind of thing allows us contact with the core of a person’s balance, both intellectually and morally. It certainly puts a face to cheap politics. It is sad and it is decrepit and it should be sent packing.

Who knows what the voters will believe or carry with them into the privacy of the polling booth? Not sure who wins these battles of finger-wagging childishness after all. Not the people, I know that much. All I can offer without hesitation or regret is that after watching a tape of the entire debate, Andrew Spano, hardly a novice in this political landscape, was waxed verily by my friend, and when push came to shove grasped desperately at demeaning his opponent and then blatantly lied about Rob Astorino’s agenda and heart, and when given the opportunity, refused to retract it. Therefore his credibility on everything else he stands for is in question.

This makes Rob Astorino the better man.

Let’s hope the better man wins.

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Solutions For U.S. Health Care 2009

Aquarian Weekly 10/14/09 REALITY CHECK

SOLUTIONS (SORT OF) FOR NATIONAL HEALTH CARE Climbing Down From The Fence To Make The Hard Choices There is little chance anything resembling a pittance of national health care reform will be constructed much less passed through the legislative branch of our government any time soon. The time has long passed for any binding bi-partisan resolution on this subject, as if this was even a realistic consideration in the first place, and perhaps that is a good thing. Anything this convoluted and as incompetently debated is best left dormant. It’s far better to just leave things the way they are. It’s the American way. Laziness, fear, and stupidity are our most precious resources now. We invent little and manufacture less with a national psyche so ill-suited for life’s harsh realities we substitute celebrity outrages as the crudest form of original thought.

Uninsured American YouthThe sensitive reader may consider these observations mean-spirited or perhaps an ironic subjugation to the very points listed; so to be fair, we shall provide a quick example and move on to the more salient points.

Before sitting down to write this morning, I noticed a newsflash that the president of the United States has won the Nobel Peace Prize, no more an insignificant piece of information could be presented when compared to the greater issues before us. Nonetheless, it will doubtless take up at least one if not two news cycles, celebrated by Mr. Obama’s supporters, derided by his opponents, and manifest into another in a series of idiotic referendums on his executive position and personal affect; not unlike the utterly moronic and endless yammering about his bid to procure the Olympics for the United States.

In both cases, laziness, fear and stupidity jump to the fore: (Laziness) No one has the slightest idea how the Olympics base their choice of country, who makes this call, and what the effect a head of state may or may not have on the outcome, just like hardly a soul has any idea what the Nobel Peace prize is, what it stands for or who the hell doles these things out in the first place. (Fear) Placing great import on this “story” as a barometer of success or failure for a presidency or the personality that holds it only serves to battle resistance, which is considered by lazy people as a kind of barrier to a personal love or hate of said individual. (Stupidity) Well…

This brings us to a breakdown of National Health Care as it applies not necessarily to a solution or even a steadfast defense of or opposition to certain key issues, as it will show that true reform or clear restructuring of a most pressing and pertinent issue is often parried with no real focus on the hard choices.

To wit:

ESTHETIC SURGERY, DEATH PANELS & ABORTION AID

The first issue at hand when you consider National Health Care is that there are too many of us, and we all want to be thin, good-looking and live to see as many World Series as possible. I get it. But what is the greater good for society; that you cut out unsightly fat and tuck drooping skin, create as many useless human burdens as you wish, and live into decrepit old age to suck every last drop of resources – utilities and medicines to keep you breathing, nurses and assistance to move you around, shelter and sustenance to keep you going – and for what? Take up space? So your love ones can watch you breathe? Hard choices must be made; they are made every day by insurance companies. More people are sent into the void by lack of funds than any other reason, just as a preponderance of surgeries is selective and not crucial. Call it a Death Panel or common sense. Humans do not posses the dignity of elephants. Deal with it.

MANDATORY INSURANCE FOR YOUTH

Other than education, insurance is the one commodity Americas are willing to pay for, and pay for abundantly, and not receive. And more times than not when received, it is shoddy, rationed or denied in full.

The youth are a drain on our society; they’re relentless metabolic explosions, sexual rapaciousness, and penchant for all-things speed, mind-altering substances and overall daily attempts at cheating death cannot continue to go unchecked. Don’t tell me every time you see these mass protests with tear gas and baton beatings by police, rock concert mosh pits or shirtless goons at sub-zero football games, you’re not getting out the national debt calculator? An alarming percentage of these cretins are undeniably wild and most pressingly uninsured. I should know, I was one of them, to the point where my parents had to get special (just incase he impales himself or his liver implodes or is felled by fast-food abuse we will not be ruined) insurance. Freedom comes with a price, which is to be determined.

INSURANCE COMPANY DEMISE

Whether expanded competition across state lines, tort reform, single-payer options or one blanketed health insurance plan, it sure as hell beats any argument made by or for insurance companies, which work en masse on a principle that amounts to the biggest scam in the history of capitalism. Other than education, insurance is the one commodity Americas are willing to pay for, and pay for abundantly, and not receive. And more times than not when received, it is shoddy, rationed or denied in full. But hey, this is a free trade society and insurance companies, despite their heart-warming slogans and tearful ads are in business to make money, not give it away. Charities are for that, and even those are questionable at best. The very existence of companies based on taking money that will only be returned if and when disaster hits, and then arbitrarily deciding if the type of disaster merits a return on your funds is simply a horror show worth destroying. When people argue about the incompetence of the federal government, they are correct, but when compared to the lawlessly insidious practice of any insurance firm, it pales.

MORALITY

Finally, we come to the Big American Lie; that this country was built and is governed on a moral construct, that we have a universal and binding obligation to our citizenry to ensure the overall well-being of our future safety and continued happiness. By buying this nonsense we cannot make the hard choices that are needed for national survival. It is the freedom to pursue personal joy, create a political landscape to control one’s own environment, and finally to protect what can be prized from this faintly controlled anarchy with every fiber of our being that has erected this 233 year experiment into the richest and most powerful free society known to modern civilization. All this laziness, fear and stupidity is part of the very human nature we attempt to regulate, pigeonhole, and judge when we begin the challenging climb out of the muck. More times than not, wallowing in the muck beats the climb. It’s too hard, too scary, and too complicated a climb. We know muck. Give us muck; religion, television, and the occasional thrill, we’ll be fine.

 

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Afghanistan: The Original Quagmire

Aquarian Weekly 10/7/09
REALITY CHECK

AFGHANISTAN: THE ORIGINAL QUAGMIRE

The United States must leave Afghanistan now.

Not in eleven months or after careful discussion and continued study to determine an undisclosed time, but now.

Soon after, it must leave Iraq.

Desert Quagmire: The SequelThese and other difficult but sound decisions are only debatable because it is today, and not four or five or six years ago when these hard choices should have been made, instead of the slack-jawed flag-waving, ribbon-tying jingoistic miasma we received. Back then, if you had asked any voter if this country would still be embroiled in two wars seven or eight years on, they would have chuckled, even bristled with fear and fobbed it off as doom-speak and defeatist thinking by a paranoiac borne of anti-American rhetoric.

If only we could have employed a time machine and fast-forwarded the mood then to now, we may have seen how literally insane it is to continue to call what is going on in the Middle East a policy or a strategy or any clearly defined idea that unfolds into a serviceable conclusion.

But, alas, there will be no conclusion. It will drag on another five, ten years. And when it threatens to die down something else will pop up to take its place. Iran? North Korea? Maybe it will finally spill over into the real threat, Saudi Arabia or maybe the home base of true tyrannical charm, China. Nah, too much money to be made; comrades of convenience can abuse all the civil rights and unleash all the terrorists they please, just keep the oil and loans a-comin’.

Ah, but, don’t fret; you can wager for the rest of your natural born life there will be American foreign military presence wasting our money and stealing our children to not “win” somewhere.

And what the hell is “win” anyway? Can anyone describe what a victory over terrorism would look like? Is it possible? Of course the answer to these and other rhetorically sarcastic queries is no. It is not possible. It will be as it is now; nothing but stemming the tide, waiting them out, bleeding them dry, showing strength, taking the fight to them, all adding up to a slag heap of blood and treasure that will surely bankrupt the United States as it did the last in a long series of history’s fading super powers, the Soviet Union.

Nope, there will be no exiting Afghanistan or Iraq anytime soon.

And why not?

The government needs it.

War is nothing more than another in a spectacular line-up of wasteful, inefficient, badly orchestrated and overly funded government programs.

All these yahoos waving signs about tyranny and government take-overs of Health Care had better start turning their attention to our greatest mismanaged money-pit; the War Machine. With the money poured annually in this finger-in-the-dam waiting it out policy in the Middle East you could bankroll the education, health concerns and retirement of the entirety of North, Central and South America.

War is nothing more than another in a spectacular line-up of wasteful, inefficient, badly orchestrated and overly funded government programs.

This is why our president is “taking time to sort out details on Afghanistan” or some such falderal. When running for the office in 2007, Barack Obama visited Afghanistan and concluded that it was not only winnable but crucial to the war effort, then campaigned diligently on the “right vs. wrong” war ideology: Iraq = Wrong, Afghanistan = Right. The imbecilic college rah-rah mentality of grass roots political hysteria took this as some kind of anti-war slant, just as the poor suckers who were waiting for Obama to legalize gay marriage or even drugs — the latter of which, by the way, would defeat the Taliban in less than thirty days while also rescuing our suicidal farming industry.

But that must all seem like a dream to Joe Cool now that at the conclusion of the bloodiest month in Afghanistan in eight years of baseless meandering, the president hasn’t bothered to speak to the general running things over there but once since he was sworn in. Oh, and before people are all up in arms about this nugget of info, where has your press been? More importantly, where has your outrage been? Since the blatantly fascist ban on the control of the media’s coverage of returning coffins was lifted, only the Associated Press bothers to cover the dead shipped back from these completely useless and utterly winless exercises in abject murder and destruction, all under the appropriation of our beloved nation and on our dime.

Shit, did you even know that Cindy Sheehan is still protesting out there?

Yet, without our vocal participation, much of which is wasted daily investigating the president’s citizenship, which party asshole might be calling the other nitwit a killer, whose lousy children are being indoctrinated into some political mind frap, and an agonizing series of insignificant television personalities trading on unchecked hearsay as some kind of invincible factoid, the powers that be continue to dangle these criminal acts of global stupidity as if a philosophical, and worse still, political carrot of victory. And for the oddest of reasons, we as a people continue to bankroll and support this crap, and allow our brave and impressionable youth the fast lane to its slaughter.

When it comes to endless military campaigns, America goes beyond simple amnesia; it dabbles in a rare stew of revisionist lying and slapdash illusions sold as patriotism. Thus, we are trained to swallow impish notions that to cease making one abysmal mistake after the next is “cutting and running” or “giving up” or forefend, “quitting”.

This, of course, is nonsense, like most of the lies perpetuated by the Dullard Brigade; many of whom with different names from different ages poured our money and blood into stone-cold failures in Korea and Viet Nam and now Iraq and soon Afghanistan.

The Democrats won’t stop it. The Republicans sure won’t. Congress refuses and the president, the one who rightly railed against this cycle of madness appears to be fine with letting it continue.

Of course the generals keep asking for more troops. This is what generals do. Then the guilty and confused in the legislature come running to us with their hands out to get us to pay for it. This is how it goes, over and over and over and over and over until you are dead and a new set of saps take the reigns.

Forget about the national debt and political ideologies weighing heavy on the future of our children.

They’ll be too busy fighting and dying for that endless and most popular, bipartisan government program: War.

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Alice Cooper: Cabaret Villain

East Coast Rocker 9/23/09 Feature

THE INDESTRUCTABLE THREE-DIMENSIONAL CABARET VILLAIN
Alice Cooper – Over Sixty, Clean & Sober, and Still Kicking Ass

Alice CooperIf a nom de plume can be an enigma, then Alice Cooper is its riddle.

He is the flash-in-the-pan that is mere months from entering a sixth decade of volume-addled irony that is best described in his memorable tune, “Guilty”, as “waking up the neighbors with a roar like a teenaged heavy metal elephant gun.” He started out in the late-sixties scaring hippies and cracking up Frank Zappa, garnered admiration from Groucho Marx and Mae West, drank with John Lennon and Jim Morrison, and broke Rolling Stones touring records on the way to literally becoming an icon.

Alice Cooper is an American original; rock and roll’s Jesse James wrapped up in Charlie Brown angst and jammed inside Dracula’s unblinking gaze. The victim and the predator, the goofball and the kingfish, he has died a thousand times on stage by the rope, the guillotine and the odd Cyclopes, only to be resurrected in time for the Muppet Show. He became Salivador Dali’s artwork and Dylan’s “great unrecognized songwriter”. Without question he’s unleashed a generation of imitators acting out an endless homage from KISS to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga.

To us seventies kids fresh from the city streets rolled into the suburban dirge, The Coop was our resonant screech of infinite rebellion. He had us with “School’s Out”, cemented our devotion with “Elected” and scared the living shit out of us with “Years Ago/Steven” – to this day I cannot smell Lemon Pledge without getting a chill up my spine, vivid memories of a pre-teen innocently polishing his dust-caked dresser in grounded exile while their haunting strains wafted from my childhood Victrola.

Thanks to this magazine, I get a crack at my man, the skinny kid from the deserts of Arizona who, with a little make-up and a cheek-planted tongue, came to embody our most beloved nightmares.

james campion: Have you ever considered your lineage to Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp in American pop culture? When you think of Chaplin’s image today, portrayed in posters or statues, it’s always the Tramp. Also, in terms of the times; how Chaplin created this hobo character, which mocked the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, the way Alice certainly lampooned the excesses of the Me Decade, as both its villain and victim.

Alice Cooper: Oh, yeah, Alice was definitely a created as an American character, and I think he started out being a victim, because I was a victim. I was an alcoholic at the time, but never recognized it. When I invented Alice I guess it was subconsciously. Alice was always stooped over, always getting killed. The press was never real favorable. For a long time there was really nobody in Alice’s corner, so I kind of created him to be that whipping boy. Later, when I became a non-alcoholic, I created Alice to be Hannibal Lecter, and suddenly a different posture, different attitude. So there were two incarnations of Alice. But yeah, I don’t see why a hundred years from now someone shouldn’t be playing Alice, like somebody playing Captain Hook.

It’s interesting hearing you refer to Alice in the third person and that sort of lends itself to the idea that you can be possessed by whatever Alice you want for the short term to make certain social comments or present ironies.

“Alice was a necessary character because you couldn’t have a rock and roll drama without a villain.”

Alice was a necessary character because you couldn’t have a rock and roll drama without a villain. I mean, there needs to be heroes, villains and victims, and Alice needed to be a visual villain. There wasn’t one personified villain in rock and roll, so I said, “Well, I will gladly be that!” And the great thing about being the villain is usually the villain has a great sense of humor.

That brings me to your many imitators over the years. It seems to me that they’ve almost always failed to display the sense of humor, irony or satirical twist that Alice brought to light. Marilyn Manson, for instance, always came across to me as an overly serious rebellious figure, but without the necessary tongue-and-cheek quality that makes for more entertainment than manifesto.

Yeah, I kept waiting for the punch line. (laughs) Now, someone with a good sense of humor is Rob Zombie. Rob’s a tattoo parlor come to life. His stuff is so animated. He has as much reverence for Bela Lugosi as he does The Munsters; the scary and the absurd. He’s like my brother. We have exactly the same sense of humor. Frank Zappa was like that. Zappa had a real sense of absurdity, for the right reasons. He understood absurdity, what cannot be explained. You look at it and it’s purely absurd for the sake of being absurd.

A British rock journalist told me years ago that especially in the rock and roll world, if it has that “What the hell is this?” quality it’s likely to be something worth listening to or watching out for. I would say that somewhat describes the Alice Cooper mission statement.

Yeah, I think so. You know the guys in the Alice Cooper band were lucky to start out in high school as art students and journalists. We were verbal and had a certain artistic way of looking at things, so when we put it in a band it suddenly came together. Maybe because of this we got the joke sooner than anybody else. I mean we were very serious about playing in a rock band and making great music, but I always saw the absurdity of it and capitalized on it. I remember the first time I read Kurt Vonnegut and went, “What is that? There’s something very funny about this, but I don’t know what it is…but I like it.” Like the first time you see Monty Python and it upsets the entire boat and you’re laughing and just really inspired by it. When the Beatles first came along I was like everybody else, I looked at them and said, “What is that?” (laughs)

Yeah, like me trapped in my bedroom listening to “Welcome To My Nightmare” on a gloomy autumn day, dusting my dresser. To this day I cannot smell Lemon Pledge without getting that same chill up my spine.

Alice Cooper(sinister chuckle) How odd is that? (laughing harder) No, I understand that. There was a certain sexual side to my life when I was a kid; every time I went into a public bathroom and smelled those little urinal cakes……Oooh, remember when everything gave you a hard-on?

Ah, that brings me to the music. For me, the finest anthems of the rock genre are “My Generation” and “School’s Out”, both having two of the greatest lines; “Hope I die before I get old” and “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes.”

Right!

Now, I’ve not had the privilege to ask Pete Townshend about the former, but when you wrote that or sang it or listened to it back did you think, “What a fucking great line that is!”

Yeah, it really was one of those coloring out of the lines; …”We got no class, we got no principles, we got no innocence, we can’t even think of a word that rhymes!” Because I couldn’t! (laughs) I could not think of a word that rhymed with principles, and I went…”Okay then…”, and it perfectly illustrates the character’s dumbness. (laughs) Paul Rothschild, who produced the Doors and Paul Butterfield and Love, and who we’d tried so hard to get to produce us, told me years later that when “School’s Out” came on the radio he was driving in his Porsche and he pulled over and said, “That’s the greatest line I’ve ever heard.” (laughs)

Well, if nothing else, it captures the entire “Who cares?” bit.

It just fit in. It was the last piece of the puzzle on that song. It’s like the stuttering in “My Generation” I loved that. And that line, “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes” was kind of the capper on that one.

What do you think was your best stage show idea?

Well, everyone asks, “What’s your best stage song?” And I always answer “The Ballad of Dwight Frye”. Only because it puts Alice in a straight-jacket under a cold blue light singing about being in a mental institution and you can feel his claustrophobia and the struggle to get out. It’s a real theatrical experience in that he’s going, “I’ve got to get out of here…I gotta get out of here…I gotta get out of here!” And when he breaks out there’s this orgasm within the audience, because they’re feeling as claustrophobic as Alice. You can feel the veins in his neck popping and when he finally breaks out of that thing, they all break out too. They can breathe again. With all of the bigness of the show, with explosions and everything that’s going on, for those few seconds there’s just this one guy in a straight-jacket beneath a cold blue light struggling to get out. It brings it all down to a pinpoint on stage. And then when he gets out of it, of course, it explodes with the color and light and everything again. It’s a real release for the audience.

Hell, you can feel it on the record.

(laughs) I actually recorded it in a straight jacket. I told Bob Ezrin (legendary producer of many Alice Cooper classic albums, as well as Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and Kiss) this song should be done in a straight-jacket, and he said, “Let’s record it that way then!”

Are you comfortable being lumped in, and I mean this in the best way, with that whole Metal crowd, the hard rock crowd, because I’d always considered you even way back with the Alice Cooper band through your solo career as more of a cabaret performer with electric guitars.

With all of the bigness of the show, with explosions and everything that’s going on, for those few seconds there’s just this one guy in a straightjacket beneath a cold blue light struggling to get out. ”

I look at it this way; we always wanted to be the Yardbirds, to be as good as the Stones, so in that sense we were truly a hard rock band. We were never a Metal band. We were a hard rock band, and we wanted to be as good a rock band as anybody out there. We wanted the swagger. We wanted the snotiness. Guns & Roses had it. Just to get up there and be a snotty rock and roll band, but to be a really good one. The Stones had it. It was built in. And I wanted that to be part of Alice Cooper. The theatrics overtook it, but in my heart we were just a snotty rock and roll band.

Could you ever foresee shedding Alice? Obviously it has to happen eventually, you clip off the hair, get out the golf clubs and say, “Thank you very much, I’m done.” You ever see that happening, and would you miss the old boy?

I guess I could see that. I’ve always said the only time that’s ever going to happen, honestly, is if I physically can’t go on stage and do it, or if nobody shows up. (laughs) Then I know it’s over. If nobody’s going to show up to see it, then there’s no more reason to do it. But so far that hasn’t happened. I think there will always be an audience for Alice. So it’ll take something physical to stop me, and right now I’m probably in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life. (laughs) So I don’t see any end to what’s going on right now. It’s the hardest show we’ve maybe ever done physically and I’ve never been in better shape, so I feel great about it.

It could come full circle for you. I remember you telling a story once about one of your first gigs when you cleared the joint. (laughs)

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I don’t mind admitting we were a horrible band, but we worked harder than anybody to be a great band, and that’s the way I look at it now. I only work with the best musicians, because I want them to be as good as the songs are. Bob Ezrin had a lot to do with making us good songwriters and hopefully the next couple of albums I’ll be working with Bob again.

That’s great news.

Yeah, and you’re going to really love this new show. This new show is so crazy that every night I can’t wait to do it, because it’s so insane.

Unedited Transcript of Entire Interview

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