Ralph Nader Interview

Aquarian Weekly 8/25/04 REALITY CHECK/BUZZ

Campaign 2004
RALPH NADER’S LAST STAND?
A Candid Discussion with Independent Candidate for President, Ralph Nader

Ralph NaderThis discussion was conducted over the phone lines from Nader Campaign Headquarters in Washington D.C. and The Desk on 8/5/04.

In this polarized political landscape of 2004, it’s getting harder to not be swept up in the fervent “pick a side” mentality propagated by both The Right and The Left. Independent voices are as welcomed as dissenting voices were in the weeks after 9/11 or the weeks leading up to the Iraqi war. One such voice has been vilified from all sides for feeding his ego, mucking up the process, and aiding the enemy. He’s been begged to pack it in by the Democrats and even accused of getting Republican support to stay in. Yet he fights on, but for what purpose, to what end?

His name is Ralph Nader and he is running as an independent candidate for the country’s highest office, and this space (an unabashedly long suffering proponent of a viable independent national political voice) thought it wise to give him the floor to explain his side, a side not too popular whichever way you lean.

james campion: Why are running for the presidency again in 2004?

Ralph Nader: Because the two parties are proxies of large corporations who have turned Washington D.C. into corporate occupied territory and are excluding citizen groups from trying to improve their country.

jc: I agree with that assessment of the two-party system, but many voters, including those who support a majority of your issues feel that the Kerry campaign, despite your stance, embrace many of the same concerns. Why should a voter consider your independent campaign over a larger party who has a legitimate chance to unseat this president?

RN: The majority of people in this country want out of Iraq. Bush and Kerry are pro-war, pro-occupation. No withdrawal date. The majority wants to settle the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with an independent Palestinian state, including almost 70% of Jewish Americans. Kerry and Bush are supportive of the Israeli military policy. Kerry and Bush both support the Patriot Act. Kerry and Bush both support the bloated, redundant, wasteful, and sometimes corrupt military budget, which amounts to half of the federal government’s operating expenditures. Both Bush and Kerry are for corporate globalization, NAFTA and WTO style. They want to expand it. Both Bush and Kerry are for the failed war on drugs. Both Bush and Kerry do not have a health care plan for all or a living wage for all. Both Bush and Kerry are for capital punishment, although Kerry is for a modified form. Both Bush and Kerry do not support public funding of public campaigns. Both Bush and Kerry will not take a stand against the draft. We’ve sent them letters and they’ve refused to take a stand against the draft.

jc: Pretty good list. Let’s concentrate on two specific ones trumpeted by the mainstream media. Although Kerry has talked a good game about jobs being transferred to other countries, he did vote for NAFTA and is a supporter of the WTO. He is also a supporter of the war, whichever way he would like to slice it. I’ve written several times that you’re the only anti-war candidate standing, but why do you think it is so difficult for voters to differentiate your candidacy from the Kerry campaign, whose supporters continually cite that your existence in this race compromises their effort to oust Bush?

RN: It’s very simple, all these voters you talk about believe Bush has been a terrible president and so anything, they think, is better than Bush. But once they analyze it, anything is not very good at all. In other words, they are falling prey to the “least worst” voter choice, which, in effect, leaves Kerry without a mandate. Without having any demands made on him by environmental, labor, minority, consumer, youth groups, because they’re so freaked out by Bush, Kerry can get elected with no mandates. Now, what are mandates? Mandates are the way voters can pull candidates toward their interests before the election, when they have the bargaining power. If you don’t demand anything of Kerry you are just basically playing a one-sided tug-of-war that you’re losing, because the corporate lobbies are pulling Kerry and Bush 24-hours a day in the direction of no health insurance for all, no living wage for all, no reduction of the military industrial complex, no revision of the failed war on drugs, on and on.

Both parties are being pulled in one direction by extremely powerful forces, and Kerry and Bush are saying to their voters, “You’ve got nowhere to go, other than to stay home or vote for us, shut up and get in line.” Kerry says, “You obviously know that Bush is worse than me and Bush says, “You obviously know that Kerry is worse than me.”

Both parties are being pulled in one direction by extremely powerful forces, and Kerry and Bush are saying to their voters, “You’ve got nowhere to go, other than to stay home or vote for us, shut up and get in line.” Kerry says, “You obviously know that Bush is worse than me and Bush says, “You obviously know that Kerry is worse than me.”

The “Anybody But Bush” attitude is a brain closer. Nothings else is discussed, entertained, analyzed, or absorbed, not even the spillover vote from the Nader/Camejo candidacy, which might tip the scales in the few close races in the House and Senate and give the House and/or Senate to the Democrats, so if they don’t beat Bush, they can block him. They don’t even want to talk about that. It’s a kind of political hysteria that’s going on. The “politics of fear” at work.

jc: I call it the “politics of the moderate”, wherein the candidates of both parties feel they have to swing to the middle for a few months. Therefore the differentiation of the platforms is not distinguishable. In fact, I’m still waiting for a platform from the Kerry campaign, beyond being the alternative to crap.

RN: Exactly, in fact Kerry’s main strategy is to take major issues off the table by “me too-ing” Bush; the war in Iraq, the Israeli/Palestinian issue, the Patriot Act, and, most importantly, where he’s getting his money. Pretty soon you take so much off the table you become indistinguishable from your opponent. George Will said on television a couple of weeks ago, “I just read the Democratic platform, and you know what?, it could be the Republican platform.”

jc: Let me ask you politically about the games being played right now over you getting on the ballot in certain states. I understand you’ve just won a battle to be included on the ballot in New Jersey.

RN: Right.

jc: What exactly is the Democratic Party doing to keep you from getting on ballots in different states?

RN: As we speak, they have nine computer terminals trying to bump us off the Pennsylvania ballot. They hired three corporate law firms in Arizona and they bumped us off the ballot with all kinds of legal challenges we couldn’t afford to defend at $250 dollars-an-hour for our lawyers. They’ve stalled us in Oregon by infiltrating our convention. Under Oregon law, you can get on the ballot in two ways; a thousand registered voters all at once in an auditorium signing for you, under state election supervision, or fifteen thousand verified signatures around the state. So we took the convention room between five and seven in the evening about a month ago. Six-thirty arrived, and we got around eleven hundred people in the room, and the counters didn’t take signatures from half of them. This was done openly. Then in Illinois, the House Speaker sent some of his staff people over to examine our ballots, which is pretty inappropriate unless they took a leave.

jc: Would you say you represent a dissenting voice of the electorate? In other words, if some of your principles and your main platform for running for president fails to make a dent, a likely scenario, do you then believe by merely running you’ll make transparent the two-party machinations to keep an independent voice out of the process.

RN: Of course. We’re setting an example. We’re setting a framework. We’re laying the basis for post November 2 expansion of progressive political movement. We’re bringing in a lot of young people who will be the leaders of the future, who are presently turned off politics, and above all we’re pushing the agenda and trying to educate the voter to how to be much more discriminating between the two parties, and much more demanding. Some of the things we’ve stimulated are available on www.opendebates.org.

jc: In 2000, when you and Pat Buchanan were trying to get into the debates and the election commission arbitrarily put out a number of 15% of the vote needed to participate, I wrote a piece denouncing it and interviewed Pat on the subject, to which he was predictably candid. (“Raging Against The Machine” – Issue 1/26/00) And I would think that was the strongest example of your argument against the fear of the two-parties right there. But how direct has the Democratic Party been in speaking to you on your candidacy this time around? Did Terry McAuliff or anyone, even Kerry himself, ever approach you directly and ask you to not run.

Nader in 2000RN: Every time I talk to McAuliff, he says, “I hope you withdraw.”

jc: But have they promised you anything if you bowed out, tried to cut a deal?

RN: No. (laughs) Did they promise anything to Dennis Kucinich, a loyal Democrat, who campaigned for two years, and they handed him his head and refused him every one of his proposals for the Democratic platform? These guys are massively arrogant. It’s their way or no way. They’re unlike European majority or plurality parties who negotiate with small parties and coalitions. The arrogance here is unprecedented.

jc: I’d like to get to some items that have been reported and I have touched upon recently in previous columns regarding the Edwards choice for vice president and your alleged public, or not so public recommendation of him. A lot of people I talked to inside thought once that was accomplished it would serve as an appeasement to get you out of the race. How true was that nugget?

RN: Not true at all. This is just part of trying to make Kerry a better candidate, as far as wrongly injured people given their day in court, which Edwards should be champion, but is not. That’s been taken off the table too. You hear the Republicans ragging against wrongfully injured people’s right to go to court, an all-American right that goes back to the challenge of King George, the right of trial by jury that the colonies accused him of taking from them, and the Democrats can’t stand up for people who the business press has shown wrongfully injured and defrauded and are finding hard just to get a hearing in court with all the tort reform that is going on in state and federal legislature.

jc: How do you feel about your impact on the 2000 race, one of the closest in this nation’s history?

RN: The Democrats should be going after the Republican thieves who stole the election from their candidate, instead of the Green Party, but they’re into scapegoating, because they don’t want to look at their own internal weaknesses and infirmities.

jc: Many categorized your campaign, especially the Democrats, as that of playing the spoiler, and putting Bush, a sub-standard president, in office in the first place. Of course I applauded the Gore defeat merrily. So thanks for that.

We are all prisoners of an exclusive two-party monopoly with a barrier called an electoral college and we’ve got to break out of prison. We have to liberate our minds, begin voting our conscience, and stop voting for politicians who go to Washington and month after month vote against their supporters.

RN: Well actually it could have come out very well for the Democrats, because Gore did win nationally and in Florida in respect to a statewide count. The Republicans stole the election from Gore before, during, and after the Florida election. Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, the Supreme Court, and all the shenanigans with falsely designating ex-felons and the crazy ballots did them in.

jc: I’m so sick of hearing, “We won the popular vote!”, when that’s not the name of the game.

RN: Yeah, well you’d think since they won the popular vote they’d start the rollback of the Electoral College, and they’re not even doing that.

jc: But you must admit there is some credence that your 2004 candidacy threatens the Kerry campaign to some degree.

RN: Not so. Either campaign could benefit from our agenda. In late October I sent to the RNC and the DNC a 45-page document called “Agenda Inquiry for the Common Good”. Inside are 25 issues the Democrats could pick up on and landslide Bush, like living wage. That’s worth four, five million votes right there that they wouldn’t get. You’ll also find on there the letters we’re sending to Bush and Kerry. I mean, look, we sent them a letter to take a stand on the draft, they won’t take a stand on the draft. We’re going to send them a letter basically asking them to campaign in Hawaii and Alaska, which Democrats and Republican never travel to, because Hawaii is Democrat and Alaska’s Republican. So they carve the country up into these districts and they abandon these people, and they really resent it. I just came back from those two states. To me, if you run for president, you campaign in 50 states. You could flunk both parties just on the grounds that they’re carving up the country into single party districts.

jc: Regardless of what happens in this election, do you have a positive viewpoint for the political process at large as a result of this campaign?

RN: Well, we’re keeping the hope for a progressive agenda alive in the country. We’re giving voice to tens of millions of people. We’re the underdog candidates for tens of millions of American underdogs who get pushed around and defrauded and harmed and disrespected and excluded and underpaid and laid off and denied health care. That’s a pretty big constituency in this country, and it’s a pretty sad commentary on the Democratic Party that it chooses not to vibrantly represent these people because it wants to privately raise tens of millions of dollars in commercial interests to keep up with the Republican campaign finance fund-raising party. So we think that’s a very important role that we’re playing.

In my book, “The Good Fight” I quote Eugene Debs’ “The American people can have anything they want, the problem is they don’t seem to want anything at all, or at least it seems that way on Election Day.”

We are all prisoners of an exclusive two-party monopoly with a barrier called an electoral college and we’ve got to break out of prison. We have to liberate our minds, begin voting our conscience, and stop voting for politicians who go to Washington and month after month vote against their supporters.

jc: Do you foresee anyway come October that anyone can convince you on either side to step aside and throw your support for either national party candidate? Even if you are only on seven to ten to twelve ballots nationwide, do you see any way you’re not still standing come the first week of November?

RN: No, because all they can offer are words by politicians who’ve left a trail of broken promises to millions of Americans over the last decades. We’re not interested in words; we’re interested in deeds. They’ve had many years to demonstrate good deeds, and instead they’ve have sold our democracy, our elections, and our government for a mess of corporate pottage. They’ve turned over the U.S. government to an increasingly smaller number of giant multi-nationals, who’ve turned Washington into corporate occupied territory, and have no allegiance to our country or communities other than to control or abandoned them to China or elsewhere as they see fit. Check our web site, www.votenader.com/ and you’ll see how we’re challenging Kerry and Bush almost once or twice a week on various issues.

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Republicans Throw Ugly

Aquarian Weekly 8/18/04 REALITY CHECK

2004 CampaignCORNERED GOP BEASTS THROW UGLY

“Cruelty, very far from being a vice, is the first sentiment Nature injects in us all.” – Marquis de Sade

Dick ChaneyThe pathetic wail of a wounded beast is recognizable by every creature in the wild. For the pride, its hellacious cry means a swift change of address, for the hunted, a reprieve, and for the hunters, the wondrous sound of dinner. Of course, some choose to ignore it and others redefine it, for it is too painful to merely accept. In politico-speak, they are the sounds of haughty boasting, strategy changes, circling the support wagons, and – the telltale sign of the wounded – vicious and desperate attacks.

This past week the sound of the wounded Republican Party machine, still harboring hope that their presidential candidate will be left standing by 11/5, the way it holds out hope that Osama bin Laden will be captured alive, the Iraqi War will ease into a peaceful solution, the jobless rate will wane, and the incredibly outlandish national deficit will disappear before autumn has reached a crescendo.

The president’s men know Junior is in trouble, and they’re finally starting to show it.

Working back from the latest of these painful shrieks is last week’s CIA director appointment of war hawk, Porter Goss, a Florida congressman (the state that put Captain Shoe-In in the catbird seat in 2000 and one he is currently trailing in several polls) and a vociferous proponent of the hackneyed pre and post war Iraqi policies. By mere mention, Gross becomes the first partisan choice for the CIA in more than half a century and a blatantly red-faced stab at three political moves: Throw the groundswell popularity of the 9/11 Commission a bone without really complying to their wishes for a single intelligence chairman, stoke up the Florida constituency for a needed boost in the polls, and bury all chance of a dissenting voice in intelligence while things continue to sink into chaos in Iraq.

Although former CIA Director George Tenet should have been executed for treason, much less forced out, Goss is a desperation move. Anyone denying it knows next to nothing about presidential politics. You think these crazy fuckers in the White House are screwing around with less than three months to go straddled with a fantastically inarticulate candidate with less than a 50% approval rating? Think again.

Scrambling to find ways to sell an inferior product is why the big-ticket power suits get the large money on Madison Avenue, and why the mortality rate on Pennsylvania Avenue is higher by the minute.

These latest ads from the Swift Boat Jolly Rogers, or whatever these slack-jawed cretins are calling themselves, accusing John Kerry of everything from baby killing to desertion in Viet Nam reeks of paralyzing fear. Although the Bush campaign people have denounced the ads, the oldest move in the book, they come from a Texas Republican group and conveniently fall into the strategy of the White House to undercut the Kerry mantra from the convention two weeks ago; his “stellar” war record. This has Willie Horton stank all over it and the obvious signs of the loser’s lament.

When the Bush people were pushed by the John McCain primary campaign in 2000, they went a similar route, painting the POW sacrifices of McCain into the category of overrated to out and out lies. It worked like gangbusters, and despite the denials from on high, there can be no doubt where these little end-around’s came from then and are emanating from now. If there is still any question of their actual origin, it was answered when McCain, who gushed like a schoolgirl when introducing the president at every stop including a Florida appearance on 8/10, declined to speak at a New Mexico rally the next day.

There is also Bush’s axing of his latest campaign slogan “Turning the Corner”, appearing in well over $3 million worth of national political ads and a dozen of his recent stump speeches. Reports of near fisticuffs in the Bush campaign offices in D.C. over this have been corroborated by several sources. Seems someone missed the fact that it was a Herbert Hoover slogan during the months after the stock market crash that defined his doomed presidency.

Several of the brainchildren behind the “Turning” slogan, including it’s most vociferous proponent, senior strategist for the Bush campaign Matthew Dowd had all but convinced RNC chairman Ed Gillespie to keep it before Friday’s damning jobs report made the whole thing seem like a sick joke. As a result Dowd is days from being demoted, if not sacked altogether, leaving what has been described by our boy inside, Georgetown as “a rather divided focus group on how to redefine the indefinable”.

“Dowd is a scapegoat in a power struggle to rescue this thing,” Georgetown continued to report from inside the RNC main offices. “This is looking more and more each day like something between ‘Mission Accomplished’ and the Gore earth-tone costume changes back in 2000.”

Sounds like the Red Sox sitting on a late post-season lead kind of doom.

Finally, the White House’s decision to keep Secretary of State Colin Powell away from the GOP National Convention at month’s end under the guise that it is procedural sends up political red flags all over the place. Powell, who has been treated like leper by this administration since he fronted the laughable fictitious pitch for war before the UN last spring, will not even be in the building. Powell is just one of many insiders who have openly criticized several and varied aspects of the war’s handling from Washington to the Pentagon. Since, he has been labeled the crippling tag of “not on board”, and will not survive a second term if something miraculous puts the coughing George Bush train back on the tracks.

If nothing else, the Bush mid-summer strategy has been wisely defensive. Beats the alternative. Running on this mediocre to abysmal domestic or foreign affairs record is not a sane option. These radically paranoiac moves, and several lesser ones like sending that fat coward Dick Chaney around to paint Kerry as some kind of hippie peacenik speak volumes to that end. Scrambling to find ways to sell an inferior product is why the big-ticket power suits get the large money on Madison Avenue, and why the mortality rate on Pennsylvania Avenue is higher by the minute.

Politics, like nature, has a way of eradicating its wounded, whether the corpse knows enough to lie down or not.

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NJ Democrats Block Nader Campaign

Aquarian Weekly 8/11/04 REALITY CHECK

2004 Campaign RUNNING SCARED New Jersey Democrats Play Hardball To Block Nader Campaign

Terry MacSay what you will about Ralph Nader’s 2004 edition of an independent candidacy, there can be no argument on his right to conduct one, unless you are members of the New Jersey Democratic Party, who have seen fit to try and block Nader from getting on the ballot over the past weeks. Lawyers allegedly hired by Governor McGreevey’s top aids lost the battle late last month, so Nader will be allowed to participate in New Jersey. However his campaign is currently tied up in legal scuffles in several states to include a third candidate, which is wrong constitutionally and very wrong politically for the Democrats, who despite being solid contenders this November have, in this reporter’s summation, shown petty and cheap methods to keep the disaster of 2000 at bay.

Fear mongering, a Bush administration staple, is now firmly entrenched in the Kerry campaign. These dime-store tactics and infantile personal attacks on Nader’s integrity as a candidate will only serve to alienate the all-important independent voter and cause many who voted for Nader in 2000 to do so out of a show of protest for voter rights.

Many feel, and I must count myself as one, that enough is enough for Ralph Nader. But if that’s truly the case then no one should vote for him, like no one should listen to Howard Stern or Eminem or watch bad reality television if they don’t want and it will all go away. The whole point of democracy (even in a compromised democratic republic) is for its people to be heard, especially in elections. The power wing of the Democratic Party apparently doesn’t adhere to this principle. It has perpetuated these frivolous blockades of the independent candidate to ultimately only damage the image of their candidate, who, in its wake, appears scared and weak and unable to take on the landscape of an arduous campaign without leveling the playing field in his favor.

Isn’t this what the Democrats accused Republicans of pulling in Florida four years ago?

In a letter recently sent to Democratic chairman, Terry McAuliffe, the man who buried Howard Dean, Nader wrote “I am writing to request that you stop Democratic Party officials, state Democratic partisans, corporate lobbyists, and law firms from inappropriately and maliciously taking steps to keep the Nader-Camejo ticket off the ballot. I was disturbed to read press reports from the Democratic Convention that indicated sessions were held at the convention to plan a national campaign to keep Nader-Camejo off the ballot and limit the choices of voters.”

The accusations went on to list Dem corporate lobbyists, a stream of attorneys and key Dem officials, including using Dean (ironically the only anti-war candidate besides Nader and the recently silenced Dennis Kucinich) to block the independent campaign from getting on the ballot in key battleground states.

Hate Bush all you want, but victory at the cost of the freedom to vote with conscience and make a stamp on the public record is sinking to everything The Left claims Bush represents.

Nader’s charges support the theme this space has presented for months, that this Kerry/Edwards campaign had better be about something other than the alternative to another four years of Bush fast, because in the end it might not be enough to stop the expected late rally by an incumbent in September, particularly if Nader corrals even the slightest groundswell of independent voters. What the Democrats should be doing is working harder to cull the disenfranchised vote, not pushing its only voice, however wacky and repetitious they deem it, out of the process to force these people to choose between a two-party system they rightly feel has been long co-opted by money and political favors.

In other words if the Dems keep this shit up it could backlash and lead to a Bush victory, which history tells us will have crippling effects on the immediate future of the war effort and the structure of this executive branch. Second terms have been unkind mistresses to presidents for half a century (Nixon – Watergate, Reagan – Iran-Contra, Clinton – Impeachment) and this one has the chance to sink into the kind of oblivion rarely seen on a national political stage.

But the growing litany of problems with George W. Bush and his doomed presidency will have to wait for a future column. For now, having spoken to Nader in length over the past days, (full interview on the record to come in Issue 8/25) the idea of a late bow out to endorse Kerry is less and less likely due to these constant harassments. Kerry must now fight, albeit a slight one, on two fronts for the presidency.

There is no secret the Bush people see, and rightfully so, an inadvertent ally in Nader. In four or five key battleground states in 2000, not the least of which was the penultimate Florida count, Nader votes pulled some 60% of possible Gore votes out that easily could have sent Bush back to Texas. What Ross Perot’s historic independent run did to make Clinton presidency a reality has happened already once for Junior, and these ardent and clumsily pusillanimous blockades of voter rights conducted by the Democratic Party speaks volumes to those fears.

Crazy as it seems, I adhere to the outlandish idea that if people wanted to vote for Gore in 2000, they would have. What frightened Democrats choose to believe instead is if forced to vote for Gore, maybe more people would have.

What transpired in the Supreme Court of Florida in 2000 was a travesty, despite these myths that Gore somehow won the election because he carried the popular vote, as if having more hits in a baseball game you finish with less runs counts as a victory, and its legacy should be for the press (asleep at the wheel on this one) and the American people (busy keeping tabs on an Olsen Twin’s weight loss) to stand up and be heard. Voter fraud, pay-offs, corporate and special interest lobbies are all part of the two-party system that is so patently dysfunctional and crooked it begs the manner of revolution, but not allowing an independent dissenting voice to join the fray is the exact reason why there is a Ralph Nader and why so many Americans refuse to be included in what they view as a fixed process.

Hate Bush all you want, but victory at the cost of the freedom to vote with conscience and make a stamp on the public record is sinking to everything The Left claims Bush represents. Trading one set of shenanigans for another is playing big-time politics, and all of us having spent anytime around this bilge understand it, and in weaker moments claim to love it, but in the end the people must be allowed to vote for a tree stump if they so choose.

Isn’t that what these asshole country-club white guys keep telling us we’re sending the poor out to die for?

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John Kerry Reports For Duty

Aquarian Weekly 8/4/04 REALITY CHECK

Democratic Convention 2004 G.I. JOHN DIGS IN

John Kerry For 50-plus minutes last Thursday night the Democratic nominee for President of the United States ended four long days of bashing, cajoling, revising and challenging from every spectrum of the party during its Beantown convention, finally setting a course for battle over the next 90 days. When considering the amount of cable, network, internet and radio coverage all over the planet, and the relative ambiguity of his primary platform, this may not only have been John Kerry’s most important hour, but arguably the most dissected speech given by a presidential candidate ever.

And although it was not Ronald Reagan in 1980 or the first JFK in ’60, it put a little meat on the bones of the Kerry campaign and transformed the otherwise vagueness of his vacillating messages that so far had all but added up to “I’m not Bush” into a viable street-fighter mentality needed to force a debate this fall.

After the usual spitfire incoherence of Ted Kennedy and Al Sharpton, the overly contrived shill of Senator Rodham and the expected bombastic brilliance of a Big Bill rally-chat, a fine piece of oration by Illinois senator, Barack Obama and a wildly overrated presentation by the vice presidential candidate 24 hours earlier, Kerry burned through four key segments of what his people believe he will need to defeat a man who barely knocked off the worst campaigner this reporter has ever seen or covered four years ago.

The overwhelming key to Kerry’s coming out party was his military service. No less than ten times by my count the Massachusetts senator roused the locals by referring to his experience as a foot soldier or his sentiments blooming from such a position or his sympathy for the present-day soldier or remembering his fellow Viet Nam soldiers. Beginning with a salute and his announcement that he was “reporting for duty” immediately put the onus on his toughness in these tough times to which the Bush people believe they have erected a kind of monopoly upon.

This puts the expected White House backlash on the defensive for no other reason but its administration’s assistance that everyone must, regardless of opinion “Support the troops!” Well, for half of his acceptance speech, the one that would finally define him to the American people, John Kerry effectively announced himself “One of the troops!”

Somehow Kerry has managed to erase hundreds of hours of sound bites bloated with anti-war rhetoric from his youth, the likes of which seemed to galvanize the Democratic base during the primaries and co-opted the Howard Dean movement to the tune of comeback victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and a burial of Dean. Taking the mantle from the opponent seems to be this man’s style, and that bodes well for victory in this stinking arena.

The second, and not without merit or coincidence, Kerry hammered home images of hope from every corner of populist-speak. Not unlike the 2000 Al Gore snoozer that actually zoomed a 15-point spike in the polls, Kerry read a laundry list of impossible federal programs from (ho-um, here we go again) the ever-popular Universal Health Care to Middle Class Tax Breaks and “hit-the-rich-corporate-devils” commentary to the gauche but always effective swing-vote middle America tap dance of a united, free and working country.

For half of his acceptance speech, the one that would finally define him to the American people, John Kerry effectively announced himself “One of the troops!”

Yet Kerry was also able to invoke a sixties mentality, an almost Hippy-Messiah kind of mantra with “We believed we could change the world. And you know what? We did. But we’re not finished. The journey isn’t complete. The march isn’t over. The promise isn’t perfected. Tonight, we’re setting out again. And together, we’re going to write the next great chapter of America’s story.”

A bold slice of Baby Boomer Pollyanna to say the least.

The man who voted for NAFTA having the balls to shout about halting the export of jobs to other countries has the ring of winner written all over it. Where Gore failed to realize the sick genius of Big Bill, the Kerry people fully understand its importance to political survival.

These first two points has given root to what you will be hearing, seeing and enduring from this campaign over the next three months and it has to scare anyone working for the Bush campaign because the “All-Things-To-All-People” stuff worked gangbusters for Al Gore, and everyone with half a brain knows if he wasn’t hated by most of the voting public he would have waxed Captain Shoe-In with it by Labor Day. Believe me, several key members of the Bush 2000 staff told me as much on several occasions when I warned them of Gore’s power to promise the moon for a vote.

The third point of the Kerry speech, which was without argument a speed-reading exercise to take advantage of primetime network coverage, was the aforementioned “I’m Not Bush” portion. The sign of a serious contender is not forgetting what created your candidacy in the first place: The other guy’s pathetic performance while in charge. For there is no doubt that every re-election bid ever conducted has been a referendum on the incumbent, and this one reeks of it. John Kerry is not too proud to admit, “As long as I’m not George Bush, you have to at least consider me!” The very reason John Edwards is the antithesis to Dick Chaney, physically, emotionally, ideologically, metaphysically, and the perfect reason to invoke the idea that after 9/11 this country was all together in a support group and somehow the Bush administration managed to ruin it.

Last but certainly not least, because the brand spanking new nominee closed with it hard, John Kerry has put out the united front of taking the high road, laying down a positive, touchy-feely gauntlet for the next few crucial weeks when the Republican machine will try and gain a foothold into whatever bump this convention may hold by lambasting him on his flip-flop, liberal mess of a voting record.

To wit: “My friends, the high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And that’s why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks.”

This way Kerry can gain a measure of momentum from something like a Michael Moore propaganda film, while not being straddled with having to defend its aggressive stance. After Moore, for whom I’ve had a good relationship from afar through his lovely wife and his always-passionate and humorous satire, was taken apart by Ted Koppel the other night, Kerry would be wise to take any road that lets the other guy gut Bush like a prize fish and reap the benefits without the inevitable embarrassment.

Every pundit across the land waited for John Kerry to either fall flat on his face or rock the foundation of this election season with his acceptance speech, but on the final night of the Democratic Convention, his first real moment in the spotlight, he did neither. What he did was set up an interesting scenario by which the attack must now come to him rather than from him, and if so, perhaps at a cost for his opponent. He told us he is a soldier who cares about everyone from every walk of life and affiliation and who is not the other guy because that is what being the opponent is all about and when you get on board with it let’s remember to play nice.

John Kerry may still be a blurry image to many of the voting public, but he is now at least an image, and one that the president will have to contend with and not easily brush aside any longer. The Liberal who wants to jack up the military and raise taxes for your financial relief has spoken.

Good luck fighting that nonsense.

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Skull & Bones/Kerry & Bush

Aquarian Weekly 7/28/04 REALITY CHECK

2004 Campaign THE MEDIOCRE ELITE ARISE

“The founders of Time Inc. and the C.I.A., as well as several Secretaries of State and National Security Advisors-the men who made the decision to drop the Hiroshima bomb, invade the Bay of Pigs and plunge us into Vietnam, the Tafts, the Bundys, the Buckleys, the Harrimans, the Lovetts-all took part in this initiation ritual of Skull & Bones.” – Ron Rosenbaum, New York Observer 4/23/2001

Since this will have to serve as the official launch of this space’s coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign, the second such foray in the life of this particular column, and the third I have more or less “covered” as a “professional journalist”, I shall come clean.

I have no dog in this fight.

My preternatural abhorrence of Al Gore four years ago, along with facing down the insane hope that Bill Bradley would get out of New Jersey alive and the boredom-induced fantasy of another Ralph Nader ego-fest had landed me in the untenable position to hound the Bush people to ignominious victory – however slight and torpid the whole fiasco turned out. Despite the relative messes hence, I stand by my efforts to deter the spawn of Medea from ever being elected anything higher than Tennessee dogcatcher and sentencing his miserable shill of a wife to doughnut-gorging oblivion.

And however stupid a dream it remains that someday a man or woman of great vision and integrity would ever have the balls, money or political connections to reach this most feculent arena of executive power, I manage to stumble on unimpeded in the practice of fence-sitting despot.

It is my fate.

Some of us accept it and move on, a kind of Tolstoy recognition that most of what we humans endeavor to achieve is rendered meaningless by the mere effort.

It’s comforting. Try it sometime.

However, as resident Loon-in-Residence here at The Desk, I am forever tied to an infuriating exercise called Mining the Truth, whatever level that may be in these times of “my guy is right no matter what the hell the facts may provide”. And I am paid by this periodical to disseminate the odd opinion on a weekly basis, so I strive on boats against the current.

Exclusive club of the elite, privileged and the dangerously ambitious; this is what our framers envisioned for a democracy, but at least those guys had guts.

Firstly, although I do not believe he will win this thing, I do not despise George W. Bush the way most of his detractors do. This idea perpetuated by The Left that the president is some kind of Machiavellian evil genius is poorly researched. At best, and I believe we’ve been pretty consistent around here throughout his term, Junior is patently mediocre, his cabinet wildly overrated, and the overall effect of his time at Pennsylvania Avenue minor.

There was a pretty good chance Bush was going to be under-whelming if this country hadn’t been attacked nine months into his run, and if I remember correctly no one in the Republican Party tried to sell him as International Affairs Chief anyway. The worst you can say about Captain Shoe-In is he was in over his head. But the GOP needed a relative centrist who wouldn’t screw up the sinking Gore ship. These frothing politicos never considered his inability to actual govern; just win a damn general election. Jesus, the power people in his office shook like frightened children a few months after 9/11. Not even they could believe this bumpkin had to make snap decisions for the free world, which is why many of the crazed ones made the calls and now here we are.

But unless this administration is lucky enough to be around when they produce Osama bin Laden (not likely since he’s been dead for over three years) dump that albatross Dick Chaney for John McCain (a Right Wing no-no) or have video of the challenger humping farm animals, it’s over. So why beleaguer the poor boy. He’ll be a footnote like his father and it will be up to your grandchildren’s historians to try and figure out how it happened.

As for the Democratic front-runner, I believe he would fair no better at this job. His spotty record in the Senate is nothing to wax poetic about. John Kerry is more or less the Dems version of Bob Dole – It’s my turn, dammmit!! His claim to fame over these past few months is that he’s more electable than Howard Dean, who managed to scare that screeching son of bitch Chris Matthews half to death, and Matthews worked on the Carter campaign.

I don’t know what Kerry stands for; neither do you, and apparently neither does he. A Catholic Pro-Choice, rich-guy, working-class-hero, anti-war candidate who voted for the war? I liked it better when he was a 60s’ radical telling everyone he was a war criminal on Meet The Press. You think this Beltway lifer is rescinding the Patriot Act or going after large corporations, or the Pentagon, or fashioning universal Health Care out of a shoestring budget? Good luck, smoky.

Look, before we begin this four-month sprint through two conventions, countless late-night rambling diatribes with insiders and campaign spinners and get all bloody and tired, one thing needs to be put on the record, and I promise not to bring it up again: John Kerry and George Bush are both ranking members of Yale’s secret society called Skull & Bones. High finance, white, misogynistic, frat yuppie fuckers of which there are only 800 living members. Skull & Bones is a mysterious ancient club of the North Eastern establishment. The aim of Skull & Bones is to acquire power and pass the benefits to brothers and the like-minded. Dozens of men working for Bush and Kerry belong to this atavistic thing. Look it up. I’m running out of space.

Exclusive club of the elite, privileged and the dangerously ambitious; this is what our framers envisioned for a democracy, but at least those guys had guts.

I often get grief from readers about not revealing my true leanings politically, despite hiding behind this laughable guise of political columnist. So now you know. I hate both these idiots and although I share some measure of ideology and disagreement with both, I also believe it won’t mean a hill of beans when the machine takes hold.

You know, the machine that produces candidates for president of the United States from the same damned silver-mouthed melting pot which produced gems like William Howard Taft, who infamously wrote, “I don’t remember that I ever was president.”

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The John Edwards Factor

Aquarian Weekly 7/14/04 REALITY CHECK

THE EDWARDS FACTOR

John EdwardsTrue to his transparent nature, John Forbes Kerry has gone scratch on his choice for vice president. John Edwards is the southern democrat that every northeastern presidential candidate has felt the need to tap into for decades, one that sates the party’s hunger for solidarity and forces Republicans to fight in geographical areas thought untouchable. Meaning the idea of the Edwards pick is not to gain minor victories in the almost impregnable southern electorate, but to distract the Bush forces away from the mid-west battleground states for key chunks of time while they defend once solid ground.

These are the machinations of the front-runner. However slim and vacillating that lead may be – up to and around seven to eight points by press time, according to whatever source you subscribe to – this has been, and still is Kerry’s puppy to lose. Incumbents with this kind of spotty record sitting on sloppy police actions face uphill battles. Daring leaps must come from the Bush camp. This is what the Edwards pick tells us. But how much does it help the Kerry ticket come fall?

A formidable opponent during this past winter’s primaries and the best campaigner currently in this tussle, Edwards helps unify the Democrats the way the reformed ugliness between Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan cracked the whip for republicans in 1980. The fact is the Kerry campaign is a rudderless ship with no policy direction and little momentum. There has been an air of stagnation around his people for months, and as the roll out of Edwards clearly displays, the Kerry people will milk its energy for all its worth to co-opt the strong Edwards rhetoric of “us vs. them” used effectively as “The Tale of Two Americas”; a postulate of the rich, powerful war-mongers taking advantage of the rest of us regular suckers during the North Carolina senator’s primary run.

It’s more of the same tired crap, but now at least it comes from a decent communicator, one who isn’t chipper over merely NOT being George Bush.

Edwards, unlike Kerry, is a dynamic personality and a self-made millionaire. As an enormously successful trial attorney, he possesses the gift of communicating difficult concepts, couching emotion in scintillating terms, and putting on the kind of show the Dems expected from a Bill Clinton – in other words, a master bullshitter.

Edwards, unlike Kerry, is a dynamic personality and a self-made millionaire. As an enormously successful trial attorney, he possesses the gift of communicating difficult concepts, couching emotion in scintillating terms, and putting on the kind of show the Dems expected from a Bill Clinton – in other words, a master bullshitter. The Dems will doubtless continue to espouse gloom and doom, something Kerry is frighteningly adhered to since his shocking victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, but without so much the sour edge. Edwards exudes the innate ability to tell you bad news with a radiant demeanor and attack like a rabid pit bull as the sunshine kid.

Sound enough reasons for the Edwards selection.

However, the bold move for Kerry would have been John McCain. He tried that bizarre route of crossing parties to put the hammer down on a wounded incumbent and came up snake eyes. So you can’t fault him for trying to rock the Kasbah, but it does leave the door open for McCain to be lured to the post on the opposite side of the voting ledger.

More on that later.

Then there was the traditional elder statesman pick of the party, Bob Graham. Silver-haired experience for the green national candidate with a summer lead helped George Bush four years ago. His pick of Dick Chaney was wildly popular within the GOP and somewhat allayed the fears of an electorate assured of his inability to envision a global view. What terrible irony that turned out to be.

Of course this space has long maintained that Dick Gephardt was the smartest choice. A Missouri man with strong ties to union bosses and an insider approach to hitting the most vulnerable swing-states this fall, Gephardt would have helped secure the biggest electoral votes up for grabs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. Edwards helps only in distracting the Bush camp in the south. He never showed a pulse up there during any primary.

So what of the chance that John McCain would step in for Dick Chaney come September? A distinct possibility if these poll numbers continue to level out or even plummet for Bush. By convention time the GOP will be so up in arms the president will have no choice but to woo his old punching bag back into the ring for a little of the two-step. And if McCain should nibble – and I’m told this is nuts and he wouldn’t take this bait if it reeked of infinite power – Kerry would not win.

Underestimating John McCain’s appeal to the all-important Independent voter base was nearly a fatal mistake for G.W. in 2000, one the Dem power base knows all too well.

Now before you’re too quick to dismiss this madness, it’s important to remember the kind of desperation the most powerful gig in the known universe slipping through one’s fingers has on a man. From what I could gather within the Beltway two weeks ago, this is more than rumor and could begin to gain momentum once the lead bulges to double-digits.

But back on planet Kerry, Edwards is the logically safe choice when considering two things; Kerry’s solid, if not curious standing in the national polls and the need to galvanize the Democratic and Independent electorate. Unless you’re a complete idiot like Sean Hannity, you must admit there is a definite groundswell against the president, and if people actually turn out this time it is always bad business for the incumbent, unless that guy’s name is Ronald Reagan, and they finally buried that unsinkable loon a few weeks back.

Finally, the power and influence of the Edwards pick can be seen in the vicious first salvos thrown by the Republicans within minutes of the announcement. As they stumble over themselves painting the man as a greedy, slick, liberal, ambulance-chaser the numbers climb and time is short.

Meanwhile, with four and one half months to go two men stand in the way of total victory either way in what threatens to be a death match to the end; John McCain and Ralph Nader.

Don’t think for one minute Nader’s comments on wanting to see Edwards as the pick was any coincidence he is the pick. Right now everyone, and I do mean everyone in the Democratic Party feels without Nader mucking up the works it is all but over, and Nader knows it too, which is why he’ll stay in this thing until the last minute for a power play, no matter what craziness he tells his people in weaker moments.

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Saudi Revolution

Aquarian Weekly 6/30/04 REALITY CHECK

YOU SAY YOU WANT A SAUDI REVOLUTION?

Crown Prince AbdullahMake no mistake about this; there is a full-scale revolution breaking in Saudi Arabia right now. This is beyond terrorism or the usual random acts of violence seen around the Middle East, like what is currently become daily routine in Iraq or a right-of-passage hobby in Israel. This is revolution, like what transpired here and in France during the latter stages of the 18th century or in Cuba, Viet Nam and Iran in the late 20th century. And that’s how this government, or any restructured version this November, must understand it and eventually deal with it.

However, unlike the revolutions noted above the Saudi Muslim extremist movement, fragmented and haphazard as it is, has no competent central leadership nor does it have a fucking clue how to unseat a government. It is, they are, all over the map. Beheading foreign transients, assassinating negotiators and blowing up jeeps are all well and good, but where is the government installations or media outlets, the embassy attacks or anything that could signify a true threat to the Saudi monarchy? Granted, it is a weak and silly attempt at revolution, but it is revolution nonetheless.

The plan, for whatever it’s worth, currently revolves around scaring the shit out of American engineers and ambassadors to expunge the 30,000 or so U.S. citizens from Saudi Arabia to weaken its economy and crack the back of its government. Things have not changed in 50 years. Without U.S. and European engineers and scientists the Saudi production of oil – its only export worth a damn – would likely sputter and implode. So it’s a descent plan, and one that’s been enacted by other successful revolutions, however it will not be enough.

You see, unlike Cuba or even Viet Nam the U.S. government, one either run by G.W. Bush or John Kerry will not allow a band of Arab pirates to run amok in Saudi Arabia. This is why on his current book tour Bill Clinton has been praising the Bush administration’s doctrine in Iraq and Junior gushed about “the great Bill Clinton” last week during the unveiling of a portrait at the White House.

Regardless of partisan politics the U.S. government is in deep with Saudi Arabia. Is there anyone left in this electorate who fails to realize why we liberated Kuwait a decade ago and our troops are presently still in Iraq? To secure Saudi Arabia, chief. You think there’s any coincidence the Saudi ambassador knew about the invasion of Iraq before the Secretary of State, who was asked to sell this badly staged magic show to the U.N.? It’s also why the U.S. Army will be asked to defend the Saudi monarchy eventually.

This is a mistake. It is painfully obvious we have backed the wrong horse on this. Let the Saudi’s crumble. It’s time the American people are made aware of the monsters running the Saudi regime and its two-faced policies of making billions on American ingenuity and a U.S. dependence on oil while also sucking up to entrenched traditions of hating Western infidels and filling school curriculums with murderous religious fanaticism. The time has come for these rapacious phonies to be shown the guillotine. If we’re really into freeing the world, let’s start with Saudi Arabia.

For those uninitiated in foreign policy, this is called an End Around. That’s how you beat terrorism; join ’em, or more to the point, let them join us.

Now of course I’m not saying we forget 9/11 and hand the store over to radical loons, but what’s the point of continuously fighting a cadre of fifty different powerless psycho groups wearing masks and skulking in caves and living on the tenets of ancient religious mumbo jumbo? This has doomed other major sovereignties like Rome, Russia, etc. It’s high time we let these cretins run the desert. If it’s their turn to topple the monarchies over there, so be it. Why should we stand in the way? Because we’re afraid these anarchists will blow up the oil reserves and build some kind of religious commune worthy of the Essences and screw the rest of the world?

C’mon.

Whoever takes control in Saudi Arabia today or tomorrow will deal with America, because when it comes to oil consumption, it is the 400-pound gorilla, and they have to deal with us.

We have to stop painting these terrorists as invincible sub-creatures fueled merely by hatreds of freedom and Western customs and begin to realize they’re no different from us. They’re weak and stupid and buy into all sorts of hokey bullshit. They crave money, power, clean laundry, and sex. They’re not mindless brutish aliens hell bent on wiping out the evils of corporate American greed to bring the Arab world back to 12th century customs. They’re cash-hungry power-mad humans, with all the same jealousies and temptations as every other asshole that has fist-fucked this planet for a slice of the pie.

You can bet the ranch the second these shit-stains take charge they’ll be dealing oil to us like the current pack of thugs. We barely understand the names, so what’s the difference what Sheik is selling us the oil? We might even get it cheaper if OPEC goes under. I’m all for that.

Remember the Russian revolution? Remember how Socialist tenets would rule post-war Europe and eventually the globe? There was going to be equality of economic status across the land. Kings will be defunct. Right. Then Stalin booted the socialists out and started the Soviet dictatorship run under the guise of Communism. He beat Hitler so he could become Hitler. And in a sense we helped him.

There’s been a lot of nonsense reasoning reborn with Reagan’s death that America somehow ended Communism in Europe, except the truth is Communism died like all “isms” die, when there’s no money in it.

The popular wisdom to protect oil trade by keeping it from the hands of lunatic factions erupting in Saudi Arabia is wrong. This is because the popular wisdom chooses to believe the creed of criminals wanting to destroy oil production and cripple the United States, instead of realizing that in the history of human experience no people have turned their backs on making a buck. Whoever takes control in Saudi Arabia today or tomorrow will deal with America, because when it comes to oil consumption, it is the 400-pound gorilla, and they have to deal with us.

We’ve been looking at this the wrong way because your leaders are old-school punks who’ve been running around the world imposing an atavistic will on peoples they consider inferior or somehow inhuman. This has gotten us into all sorts of trouble. And I fear John Kerry, if he ever says anything binding besides, “I’m not George Bush” will slip right in and perpetuate the same tiresome dogma. Name one administration, Republican or Democrat that hasn’t.

You can’t.

Of course if you’ve read this space for any length of time you know we consider Osama bin Laden a corpse. But let’s just say for the sake of this argument that he’s still alive. Let him – or any other phony revolutionary lout for that matter – take Saudi Arabia back for Allah or whatever ridiculous con he’s pitching his minions. Allow him to take power and succumb to the big spender in the oil market. Then we’ll buy his oil like the gluttonous goons we are, and soon after, one of the poor saps who bought into his “rebel with a cause” routine will be appalled at the sacrilegious impertinence of dealing with the western devils and put a bullet in his head.

Mission accomplished.

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Sarah Jones is The Real Deal

Aquarian Weekly 6/23/04 REALITY CHECK

THE BIG, BAD VOICES OF SARAH JONES

“We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.”

– Abigail Adams

“I have a dream of a new American language.” – Dan Bern

Sarah JonesSarah Jones is the perfect physical satirist, a walking, talking vessel of effusive commentary, using every inch of her body, every tone of her cadence, every syllable of her language, and every move of her appendages to skewer our most taboo subjects. Her form, her face, her very spirit are the tools of her compelling prose and poetry. The medium is indeed the message for Jones, the shake of a hand, the twitch of an eye, the subtly of her focus gracefully befitting her considerable imagination. Yet the afterglow of her message also resonates like a piercing megaphone; an enviable virtuosity of several crafts that turns Jones’ one woman show, “Bridge & Tunnel” – currently playing at the cozy Bleecker Street Theater – into a symphonic masterpiece.

The show is framed beautifully as a fictional poetry group comprised of the most diverse cultural amalgam possible, allowing the pliable Jones to unload a cadre of New York’s most potent characters from the painfully amiable Pakistani host of “I.A.M.A.P.O.E.T.T.O.O.” to its vibrantly portrayed contributors including a loquacious Vietnamese slam-champ, an elderly yenta, a coldly pedantic Australian nihilist, a nostalgically melancholic Mexican paraplegic, et al. Through them Jones hits every note in the range of human emotion without a hint of maudlin shtick.

First and foremost, Sarah Jones is an exceptional wordsmith. Each character in “Bridge & Tunnel” brims with the narrative structure of a sharply manicured short story or a well-crafted essay. Their monologues, initially seeming almost incoherent, begin to slowly take cogent shape, leading us on a journey, some uncomfortable, others heart-warming, but every one recognizably haunting. As a playwright, not just a scribbler creating a vehicle for her immense thespian talents, Jones displays the type of rare promise in “Bridge & Tunnel” which launches a future prominent voice in modern American theater, one not seen in nearly half a century.

As a playwright, not just a scribbler creating a vehicle for her immense thespian talents, Jones displays the type of rare promise in “Bridge & Tunnel” which launches a future prominent voice in modern American theater, one not seen in nearly half a century.

Jones has been fittingly compared to Lenny Bruce, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Pryor in her ability to entertain and provoke, educate and vilify, but after witnessing nearly two hours of 14 characters from every angle of the American social lexicon one denotes more than a hint of Twain or Voltaire.

But unlike many of the underground artsy projects found in the bowels of Greenwich Village, “Bridge & Tunnel” does not pound home metaphor and imagery with the indelicacy of a sledgehammer. Instead Jones’ work, and the provocative presentation of it, sneaks and peeks, draws you into disturbing portraits, peculiar viewpoints, and endearing insights. Sometimes these themes and emotions come together simultaneously, culling various responses from an audience unsure whether to laugh or cry.

Assuredly, during the late-spring Saturday afternoon matinee I attended, there was plenty of cheering. However, it was hard to tell if it was delight or the usual aplomb afforded the “new big thing”. Since its launch earlier this year, “Bridge & Tunnel” has had quite a run and Jones is hot now, and getting hotter. The show and her one-woman, all-encompassing contribution to it has received rave reviews and earned a full segment on the CBS Sunday Morning show. That’s about when I started paying attention to Jones’ work, after several repeated e-mails and calls from colleagues.

At 29-years old, Jones is already a performance artist of impeccable comedic and dramatic timing and an actor of considerable range with a voice of social eloquence. Many far more equipped to comment on the genre brand her a “can’t-miss” talent bound for film and celebrity. But for me, there is something deeper here than just a rising star; for starters a strong African-American woman’s voice, smart and fair in its observations. Both overtly political and wholly human, “Bridge & Tunnel” does not speak blithely for a cause beyond compassion and humor. It is merely an extension of its author, brash, yet enticing, hard, yet endearing. This is why Sarah Jones is unique in this splash world of hyperbolic nonsense.

This is why I believe she will be a significant generational siren, a cool customer in polarized political times amidst an increasingly mounting nation of divergent cultures.

Sitting through “Bridge & Tunnel” and its obvious messages of tolerance and understanding beyond just race, but gender, generation, ideology, religious and social custom, I was seduced by the distinct idea that I was not merely watching a consummate professional spark through sleek numbers and dead-on characterizations, which they most certainly are, but witnessing the maturation of a deft author more than capable of drawing true emotions with her words, not stabbing you with calculated tear-inducing, contemplative tricks.

In other words, Sarah Jones is the real deal. “Bridge & Tunnel” is reflective of that. Everyone should see it, if for nothing else, but to get a rare glimpse of the power of the written word exposed to the elements of pure expression.

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D-Day 60 Years Hence

Aquarian Weekly 6/7/04 REALITY CHECK

D-DAY – 60 YEARS HENCE

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

– Thomas Paine

D-Day RememberedSixty years ago this week the future of Europe and the map of the entire globe was up for grabs. The once unstoppable German Blitzkrieg, which had ripped through Europe like a hacksaw of death and destruction for close to a decade, was finally backtracking against heavy advances from rabid Soviet troops and desert and airborne skirmishes with Britain. The United States contributions to the Allied effort were considerable, (the invasion of Italy and the swift rash of victories thereafter) but not wholly definitive. The word had cut through the US military intelligence that a bold maneuver was needed for American troops to continue to split its attention on a two-front war with Germany in Europe and the Asian theater against the Empire of Japan.

Then came June 6, 1944, forever known as D-Day, when the most ambitious amphibious battle operation in human history turned the World War II effort on its head. Within hours of Operation Overlord’s incredible commencement, the most significant historical day of the 20th century would turn its second half into the American Century. The American soldier, made up of its poor, huddled masses gained a foothold on Nazi occupied territory and within three months Paris was secure and Berlin was all but doomed.

In the annals of this war-torn mess we call civilization, there has never been a more signature few hours than these.

D-Day.

Volumes of books and historical documents cover the details. No point here, only to recall the incredible cunning and immeasurable bravery of the men and women who carried this ridiculously ballsy move out. Now, 60 years later, it is easy to view it as merely heroic, or even strategic as if it makes sense on a map with blue and red lines and tiny figures moving across the terrain of Europe.

But what we discuss here is the almost otherworldly triumph, an angelic form of man against man, the painful realities of Cain and Abel and a mutant fury burning in the hearts of humanity set forth to settle the billion dollar industry of nations. The extraordinary sacrifice of youth laid out by many of the combatants who were scarcely of the age to vote or drink or settle a score in the court of law. Many were barely literate and knew little about the political machinations of hoary leaders or lunatic con men swept up by genocidal madness.

The history of the civilized world shoved into order in one bold stroke. Carried out by less than ordinary people cracking the foundation of infinity. Citizens of these United States who were unable to sit in a café or ride in the front of a bus or enter the confines of a country club or stand at a water fountain or use a public restroom or live in 80% of the neighborhoods that made up the land they represented, pushing up a beachhead of hellish firepower 3,500 miles away. This is D-Day.

The numbers, when digested through the veil of time are staggering.

The largest armada ever assembled, including 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft, carrying approximately 154,000 British, Canadian and American soldiers, including 23,000 arriving by parachute and glider. Three thousand of them would not see a June 7.

One day.

The Longest Day.

D-Day.

Handing over a life unspent for the restructuring of a map, for the survival of an ideology, a union, a race, and for the booming economy of countless generations.

Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became a legend in those few excruciating hours. His cause was great, his guts unquestioned, and his scheme, masterminded over two years with Britain’s finest, a bold and tactical masterpiece. He was its architect. D-Day earned him many citations and statues, and soon after, the presidency. Eisenhower would later tell many of his biographers that even he was nothing more than a soldier among many that day, in fact, hardly a participant of utmost importance.

That kind of description would be saved for G.I. Joe; grocers and ditch diggers, mechanics and salesman, bus boys and couriers, drifters and union men by the score; the common man making an uncommon contribution to the future of the planet. Fathers and brothers and husbands and sons, daughters and mothers, thousands of them, boarding destiny, handing over their sunsets and ballgames and the sweet affection of their lovers for the infinite void of death. Handing over a life unspent for the restructuring of a map, for the survival of an ideology, a union, a race, and for the booming economy of countless generations.

The people who defeated the Master Race were its greatest ideological enemy; the Kikes, Hebes, Niggers, Wops, Mics, Gooks, the proposed drek of the American underbelly saving the free world for the privileged once more. Hitler’s Mud People ending the Thousand Year Reich in a few weeks.

All this talk of war lately has garnered the well-worn notion that World War II was the last “just” war or that its generation of soldier was “the greatest”, that somehow what is happening abroad right now or what transpired in Korea or Viet Nam or Grenada or Bosnia fall under the neat category of military police actions. Not so for the common man, or woman.

They have to fend for the plight of the world politic.

Right or wrong.

Again and again.

Always have.

D-Day.

For 60 years you have known someone who knows someone who was a part of it. Everything before it and after it meant something different because of it.

The soul’s torment marches on.

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 6/2/04 REALITY CHECK

THE GEORGETOWN FACTORGOP Trash Talking Part II

John KerryThe following is the continuation of a conversation conducted over the phone on 5/18 between the author and this space’s most reliably inscrutable Republican snitch Georgetown.

james campion: Okay, now let’s get back to this presidential campaign. How much money will Bush have to fight?

Georgetown: I don’t know. Could he have $100 million by July or August? Sure. It won’t matter. Nothing matters now but Iraq. He brought this upon himself. It means everything. It’s a referendum on this administration. It’s a fucking shame.

jc: But Kerry cannot compete financially.

GT: What? He’s loaded. His wife is an international bank. He’s fine. Her money saved him in Iowa. It makes no sense that he’s trying to circumvent the campaign finance rules by holding off his nomination at the convention. It’s stupid politics too. He’ll get a bump out of that thing if it goes as a news story and the networks carry it. If it’s a political rally in Boston, he won’t get nearly the coverage and no bump. He’s taking bad advice. He needs a “Good-Time Hour” attack. This is what those things are now. He needs to show a warmer side on a larger stage. His people know it, but they’re obsessed with money over there. It’s bullshit politics.

jc: This election as of right now, as all incumbent presidential campaigns, is about the president. But eventually Kerry has to stand for something other than “I’m not Bush.”

GT: I’m not so sure, but okay.

jc: Historically Kerry is a better one-on-one campaigner than he is on a larger scale stump. I’m hearing his inability to conduct a massive national campaign will compromise his efforts, so he needs to stay close until the debates. Kerry’s twice the debater Gore was and despite a horribly boring performance from Gore in 2000 and a distinct rally from Bush on the debate front, everyone knows the president’s ability to extemporize in these settings is awful. Kerry has to stay close enough to pummel him in the debates, or it’s a crapshoot, despite the Iraq results.

GT: Fair points, but I would say, above all, if Bush doesn’t raise his approval ratings above 50% by Labor Day this will be a dogfight and that does not bode well for a mediocre campaigner like Bush. He had the advantage of playing from in front and outside the fray in 2000.

jc: Where he earned the apt nickname, Captain Shoe-in.

GT: It’s the exact opposite now. No one, despite what they tell you from Karl Rove on down has a fucking clue how the president will respond. He’s surprised everyone before. It looks like he’ll have to do it again.

jc: Let’s nail down the battleground states. For the sake of this discussion I see 18 currently. Listing in alphabetical order, they are; Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Take me through them from a White House/GOP perspective.

GT: I hate doing this in May. See me in August. jc: Never mind. This is about when Gore screwed up in 2000 and Bush sr. started to slide in 1992. They both waited too long.

GT: Clinton won in August of ’92 when Perot dropped out. Gore never competed. Never.

jc: Granted, but Bush could have crushed Clinton that summer. He did not respect the campaign. This Bush does. He just completed a tour of Ohio, Missouri and Michigan. And I see Kerry has dumped a ton of TV money into Colorado. He’s been in the Midwest for weeks. It’s go time. Talk to me.

“It’s as simple as this; Kerry leads or is in the ballpark in these Midwest states. If that is the case this fall, he will be president with or without Florida.

GT: For the sake of argument, and it’s very early, mind you, I see Arizona as more of a done deal for the White House. I think the Kerry people were banking too much on how much McCain hates Bush, and make no mistake, he has not forgiven him for South Carolina, but Arizona is not a battleground state. The White House will carry it.

jc: Are you talking about all that pro choice stuff during the 2000 primary after McCain took New Hampshire?

GT: All the stuff. I know people who as recently as Easter have it solid that McCain would not mind seeing Bush crash and burn on a personal level, although I give McCain a ton of credit. He’s never been interested in bettering his career by playing statistical politics. I know one thing; he despises Kerry’s Viet Nam flip-flops more than his grudge with Bush. So it’s a toss up on a personal basis, but it doesn’t matter. I see McCain as a key ally in Arizona, and maybe the whole campaign itself. Believe me, that’s why we have Campaign Finance laws now. The Bush people saw this coming. They appeased McCain for Arizona. It’s going Republican in November.

jc: So they’ll use McCain to circumvent Kerry’s heroic soldier stance.

GT: You bet your ass.

jc: Forget New Hampshire. Kerry is not losing New Hampshire. And Missouri is solid Democrat if Gephardt is the VP nominee. I would say Michigan is also in jeopardy of going Democrat as a result.

GT: Conceivably. I’d count on Missouri, but not Michigan per se. We’re really worried about Ohio. You’re talking a miniscule Bush victory in 2000 there and they’re a bankrupt state with thousands of lost jobs. Bush shouldn’t waste any money in Ohio. He’s done there. Michigan is a toss up with Gephardt or not.

jc: It’s always a toss up.

GT: The most unpredictable national election state ever.

jc: Scale of one to ten, ten being a solid yes, where does the White House stand on Florida right now?

GT: I’m going to say five for you right now, but my gut feeling is more toward seven or eight in November. Do not underestimate the Bush political machine down there. Is the governor working it? Yes.

jc: I think Ohio, Michigan and Missouri, not Florida, will carry the day in November.

GT: It’s as simple as this; Kerry leads or is in the ballpark in these Midwest states. If that is the case this fall, he will be president with or without Florida. If Bush wins Florida, but loses those two or three of those states he’s toast. I don’t think the White House thinks Florida is a concern this time around, and I’d have to agree.

jc: How are the Bush people seeing this campaign, as an aggressive fight or a stabilizing force. In other words…

GT: In other words do they see it as a rabid defense of the prize or a strong hold against a wild card candidate?

jc: Right.

GT: I think they’ll start off stabilizing the fight. They already have. They’ll paint Kerry every which way to Sunday as a loose canon, but eventually these guys have to get down and dirty with Kerry and bring out the anti-liberal guns, or they will not win. You see I don’t view this campaign as “too close to call”. This is Kerry’s to lose now. I think the president has to get ugly soon. Bring the fear. Fear will keep Bush in work. Fear of the unknown is the best medicine. Saved Johnson in ’64 and Truman in ’48. Poll the fear factor. Then you’ll see competent results.

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