“Planet Simpson” Review

Aquarian Weekly 12/29/04 REALITY CHECK

In Praise of The Simpsons & An Engaging New Book That Hits The Mark

The Simpsons“And so it has gone for the Great American Joke, from Mark Twain to H.L. Mencken to Lenny Bruce to National Lampoon. If you look closely at a recent map of the United States of America and find a chasm where the Great American Joke lives – scenic, satirical Hypocritical Gap – there you find Springfield, U.S.A.” – Chris Turner from “Planet Simpson”

For 16 seasons The Simpsons; the sharpest, most biting satire ever unleashed outside the underground and splashed onto the global mainstream, has managed to affect the cultural landscape while simultaneously ripping its fabric to hilarious shreds. It is the most subversive kind of art, sprung from the very medium it attacks, gaining the popularity and relevance of an international icon, while also being its most uncompromising critic. For a mere TV show, a cartoon one at that, it is unique in its construct, dissemination, and finally its vast and varied audience, which include poet laureates to head’s of state, rock stars, and scores of professors from the loftiest heights of academia. So now finally we have a study of its brilliance and influence worthy of the subject. It is a 400-plus page tribute, dissection, and investigation entitled “Planet Simpson – How A Cartoon Masterpiece Defined A Generation” by Canadian journalist and pop culture essayist, Chris Turner.

Someone had to do it, and for all true fans of what could be deemed (as many critique circles already have) the best show in television history, it would appear the right man for the job did.

“When many critics or fans discuss they’re favorite rock band or filmmaker, they’re convinced that whatever is happening within that phenomenon will change everything,” Turner told me in our discussion earlier this month. “But there are so few cases when that is actually the case. The Simpsons are one of those.”

From The Simpsons’ heralded and over hyped infancy to its Golden Age of the early to mid-90s’, which Turner calls “an awesome achievement in pop art”, all the way through its incredible level of consistency in writing, voice-acting, production, and direction, “Planet Simpson” expertly reviews and defines the longest running prime time television comedy by leaving no philosophical or cultural query unturned. Turner’s astoundingly encyclopedic research on the hundreds of episodes and thousands of key moments pleases the discerning fan while also deftly presenting the show’s highlights for the novice. The best compliment for any book of this ambition would be that it serves as a practical explanation for why we all love The Simpsons as much as we do, and “Planet Simpson” does this in spades.

“Unlike many other television shows that have limits to its relevance, it seems The Simpsons holds up to this kind of obsession,” Turner reflects. “I never get the feeling from the big-time fans that they’re using the show to escape the realities of the world around them, just the opposite. The Simpsons actually tends to bring you closer to reality in a lot of ways.”

Turner’s Simpsons is a juggernaut of pop iconoclasm wrapped in the astute blade of cutting humor hitting so resolutely close to the bone its existence is nearly a wonderful mirage. The author states emphatically, “You almost felt in the early seasons that The Simpsons was too good, too smart, and too biting that it would be taken off the air. It didn’t belong somehow.”

It is the most subversive kind of art, sprung from the very medium it attacks, gaining the popularity and relevance of an international icon, while also being its most uncompromising critic.

“Planet Simpson” begins by laying out the groundwork for what Turner dubs “The Simpsonian Humor Principle”, which is somewhat based on the satirist/comedian Lenny Bruce’s “What Should be…” vs. “What is…” riffs; the false assumption that it’s human nature to base our judgments of the world at large on “what should be” like God, country, principle, morality, and open, selfless dedication to each other and our environment, an almost superman vision of society. The “What is…” is the actual maddening complexity of human nature filled with greed, insolence, power-struggle, jealousy and pettiness. According to Bruce, and the best The Simpsons have to offer, by ignoring the imperfections and fears of our world and replacing them with rose-colored fallacies we create the framework for disappointment and disillusionment.

“There is only what is,” scoffed Bruce in 1964. “The what-should-be never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is only what is.”

From here “Planet Simpson” takes off in several provocative directions, highlighted by Turner’s strong grasp of the socio-political landscape of the world that The Simpsons draw material from weekly. Whether it is a study of the consumerism lunacy of 90s’ America, the power of corporate tentacles throughout the civilized world, or our silly obsession with celebrity, Turner tells us where and how and why The Simpsons seem to have it nailed and consistently get away with pushing an envelope other art forms wish they could touch.

Turner agrees with Simpsons’ creators like Matt Groening and Sam Simon who have stated that because of the two-dimensional façade of a cartoon, much more is accepted and allows for the writers a greater palate with less limitations.

“The example I often use for this is where Homer is giving Bart advice on how to deal with women and ends up getting inexplicably drunk during it,” Turner cites. “He comes to no conclusion, blathering incoherently. Whereas the normal sitcom dad might have some bland, formulaic advice, we get poor frustrated Homer getting inebriated.”

The book cleverly breaks down The Simpsons’ family members into defining chapters, encapsulating their individual and collective luster and why they have resonated under the satirical umbrella of “what is” so effectively for so long: Homer; goofy, lovable father or gluttonous, consumer-addled hedonist? Bart; misguided imp or rebellious punk icon? Lisa; smart, compassionate voice of reason or pompous intellectual finger-pointer? Marge; the show’s patient moral center or enabling nag-victim? Each character is studied for its reflection of human nature and how their image has represented us hilariously and so vividly without apology for the show’s incredible run.

Then, of course, there is Springfield, U.S.A. and its inhabitants, which run the gamut of society’s ills and thrills from politics in the overtly slimy Mayor Quimby; “I propose that I use what’s, uh, left of the town treasury to move to a more prosperous town and run for mayor. And, uh, once elected, I will send for the rest of you” to organized religion in the blatantly judgmental Reverend Lovejoy; “And as we pass the collection plate, please give as if the person next to you was watching” to corrupt attorneys in the dangerously inept Lionel Hutz; “Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, ‘The Never-Ending Story'” to our mediocre crop of educators in the overwhelmed Principle Skinner, “God bless the man who invented permission slips”.

The Simpsons uses its medium as well as any art uses its medium,” Turner told me in closing. “Over the past half-century high art has been all about transcending its medium, playing with pop icons and commenting on society at large, from Andy Warhol on down, and The Simpsons does that as well or better than all of them. Without hyperbole, I believe it is to television, a powerful 20th century art form, what theater was to Shakespeare during his time.”


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George W. Bush’s Agenda

Aquarian Weekly 12/15/04 REALITY CHECK


Kofi AnnanThe following is a continuation of a discussion taped in the last days of November with Republican insider and eight-year contributor to Reality Check, Georgetown.

james campion: How is this administration going to conduct foreign policy with damaged credibility at home and fence-mending abroad to be done? I ask specifically about the proposed handling of Iran and Korea, more legitimate threats to the US than Iraq, and the president’s interminable piss-fight with the UN.

Georgetown: The president has already begun mending fences with Canada, using it as a springboard for France and Germany. And it seems that now, more than ever in the past four years, France has become a major voice in foreign intelligence. Several aborted embassy attacks on American concerns due to the intel diligence of French interception have been reported. These things are normally fuzzy, but I think, this time, accurate.

The credibility issue is a fair one, and I know of your beef with re-electing a president with international egg on his face, but if the Iranians and the Koreans continue to threaten the world economy with strident war stances, it will backfire on them. I don’t think the US has to lead the charge to quell these regimes. Threat to businesses will do it for them.

jc: Are you saying this time this government errs on the side of caution?

GT: I think the rogue element inside the Pentagon to invade Iraq has been silenced for now. Many of us in the party believe, and I think the election bares this out, that the majority of the American people blame the military and the CIA for the ambiguous motivation to go to the war, and, right or wrong, see the president as making the choices they would have made based on that intelligence and fervor manifested by their over zealousness.

jc: Once again, giving the commander in chief a pass, but okay.

GT: Again, this is a fair argument, but it was not the first time, nor will it be the last that the executive branch of this republic is mislead in a crisis by its subordinates.

jc: What about this UN stuff? Specifically the Kofi Annan brother’s malfeasance in the Food for Oil mess and the usual stalling on critical issues concerning terrorism. Bush has to make a stand one way or the other, despite the hypocrisy of say, Rumsfeld who kept the mess of the Iraqi prison scandal off him, but wants to pin guilt by association on Annan.

GT: The UN stuff is too hot to handle politically. Bush cannot seem like he is pushing an opponent under the train, and the perception of someone in charge taking the fall for his people screwing up hits too close to home. I think the UN needs to clean itself up. Not that we’re blameless, because we belong to the United Nations, and rightfully so. We’re its muscle. In the end, the UN covers the right of free trade, which keeps the world together. There are still problems in the Sudan and elsewhere. The UN needs us, and we need them to help clean up after the Iraq election or to pick up the slack in securing a country headed for anarchy.

The UN needs us, and we need them to help clean up after the Iraq election or to pick up the slack in securing a country headed for anarchy.

jc: Speaking of which, is there still optimism, however guarded, that this experiment in Iraq will see the light of day before the end of the Bush administration?

GT: No. Those days are over. Now that Bush has been elected you will here a great deal more brutal and realistic language concerning Iraq. It is plain fantasy now to believe that any of us will live to see a true, steady, and solvent democracy in the Middle East. That is for the next generation to continue or abandon, maybe even as soon as the next administration.

jc: Before we touch upon domestic concerns, what the hell is Bush doing with his buddy Putin, for whom he “looked deeply into his soul”? The word we’re getting is Putin is slowly developing the blue print for a second Soviet Union and doing so by poking into the Ukraine’s political structure? Where do we stand on this for the foreseeable future?

GT: There is no way the United States can do anything but comment and smile about that. Move on.

jc: A few quick ones. Social Security reform. How hard will congress jostle this around, and how much is Bush really dedicated to this?

GT: This will not be a top priority until after the 2006 elections. Those members of congress hoping to be elected need to tread with caution over this, not to mention it really won’t begin to strain the system until the first Baby Boom retirement glut in 2010 or so. Makes no political sense to run hard at it right away.

jc: Are there people under the age of 55 that still think they’re getting anything out of the government?

GT: Apparently.

jc: How about making the tax cut permanent?

GT: Top of the list. The Republicans will muscle this through during the first session after the new year.

jc: Supreme Court judge appointees?

GT: Honestly? Only Bush knows how far right he will go and how hard he’ll fight for the choices. This is a wild card worth watching for both sides and could also effect the 2006 elections.

jc: Why, because the perception will be that Bush has slid about as far right as someone in his position can? Why keep up the centrist veil when most of the actions of this president, except for his Big Government penchant, have been socially conservative?

GT: IF you are pressing about the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, forget it. Partial birth abortion is on the docket. That’s a different animal politically. It’s the automatic weapon caveat to any legal movement on that amendment. He wants to, deep down, make a stance, but as much as I admire what he has done since 9/11, I don’t Bush has the balls.


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George W. Bush’s Second Term

Aquarian Weekly 12/8/04 REALITY CHECK

THE IRON FIST PRINCIPLE Part I GOP Insider Georgetown Weighs in on Throwing Weight

The Madness of Bob JonesDear Mr. President:

The media tells us that you have received the largest number of popular votes of any president in America’s history. Congratulations!

In your re-election, God has graciously granted America-though she doesn’t deserve it-a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Don’t equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

– Letter to President Bush from Bob Jones III of Bob Jones University 11/3/04

Soon it will be the 10th anniversary of a Republican controlled congress, and four years since the Grand Old Party has taken the reigns of every branch of government, save for the judiciary, which could soon change dramatically. This is their puppy now and for the foreseeable future, a future looking increasingly bleak, or for those remaining optimists, uncertain at best, no matter the chief executive. But that is opinion, not reality.

The reality is that this is a nation in serious debt with a gluttonous budget, rising poverty, a wounded image abroad, and at war in two countries with another soon to be an issue. The president, re-elected not on his sketchy, if not abysmal governing record, but on the wings of the metaphysical notion of morality and that old standby, fear, has made promises about deconstructing Social Security, balancing a sane budget, pursuing a constitutional amendment concerning the definition of marriage, and more.

However, currently there is division in the Republican ranks. More of the conservative wing, quiet during George W. Bush’s first campaign, much of his first term, and the re-election bid, has begun to bark. The religious quacks have come to collect a hefty bill, the war hawks are vindicated, and the big oil mongers are laying in wait. Supporters need to be greased and decisions have to be made. Second terms come with monstrous asterisks. It is the game. Sign up. Play hard.

So we go to our long-suffering Republican insider, the man, the myth, the maniac Georgetown for some much needed dirt. This comes on the heels of his refusal to dish any during the final months of the 2004 campaign, despite several requests for an audience and his insistence to pummel this reporter for revealing the obvious drinking problem of his party’s power broker a few weeks back. (Second Term Madness Issue: 11/10/04)

james campion: Say your piece. We have a lot to cover.

Georgetown: I just want those readers slow on the take to know this column often blurs the lines between satire, rare honest reporting, and vicious opinion. So, in light of that, I want to make clear that your observation and assessment of Karl Rove’s drinking a few weeks back, as off the record as it was, is irresponsible and wholly vindictive, and if I had known you would abuse the access our relationship provides you than I would have refused it, and will, until which time you have apologized in print.

jc: You’re assuming that I meant to imply that Rove is a drunkard and therefore most of the advice and direction of the Republican machine is powered by flippant, half-in the-bag concepts borne of whiskey.

GT: Correct.

jc: Well, for that I certainly apologize. How could anyone derive such an outlandish assumption from that paragraph? I called him a genius. I even lead with it.

GT: Don’t get me started. What do you need to know?

jc: How much is Rove’s monster going to force the president to cow tow to lunatics like Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones.

GT: There is no question that the religious right has embraced the party, and this president, but I see this term being much like the first; a lot of moral and cultural proclamations, but no real bite.

No one is forgetting the bullshit that came during he 9/11 Commission hearings. People sold out the president. They could not have expected to stay around after November 2.

jc: Tell me about these shake-ups in the cabinet and the stalemate over this proposed intelligence czar in congress.

GT: Obvious steps to gut the dissenters out of the inner circle. I’m not sure most conservative voices agree with the shake-ups in the cabinet, state, and the CIA, but no one is crying over Powell going, or Ridge, or some of those assholes over at CIA. Scapegoats abound. No one is forgetting the bullshit that came during he 9/11 Commission hearings. People sold out the president. They could not have expected to stay around after November 2.

jc: Yes, but let’s not forget the dumping on the CIA during the investigation. There seems to be no blood on the White House or anywhere else in Washington but in intelligence.

GT: Define it how you will, but know this: when the dust settles the 9/11 intelligence bill will pass and all the posturing by Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon will not stop it. I expect it to pass before the new year.

jc: This stinks of slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. Classic lame duck congress forced to do something politically that makes no sense, not to mention piling another government agency on the thing. We’ve now officially entered The New Deal Part Two.

GT: The flack over the proposed 9/11 Commission bill request is not about national security, it’s simply that the war is being run exclusively, as all wars, from the Pentagon. And as a result, this glut of disinformation on WMD and all that did not sit well with state or Powell. Still doesn’t. But no one wants to reconstruct the present chain of command from the Pentagon to some kind of new fangled security/spy czar, which the present bill proposes. This only mucks up the process to wage war.

jc: I see this bill as another smoke screen for a government embarrassed about its collective incompetence leading up to 9/11 and painfully repeated before the war. Who is in charge? Who is responsible? No one. The FBI fails; we have government pork like Homeland Security. The CIA fails; we have more bureaucracy with this shit. How about someone doing their job?

GT: I don’t disagree. I think it’s a mistake. Adding more voices to an orgy of political ego and backbiting will cripple the effort. The president waited too long for this, now it’s throwing meat to the wolves.

jc: You’re certain the president is behind it.

GT: He is, but not at the cost of selling out the war people or the conservative hawks, who cannot run this war if they, or even in the case of Rumsfeld’s people, have to get red stamped in Washington for every fart. If it were peacetime, like before 9/11, the commission has a point. Not now.

jc: But won’t Bush be seen as a dreaded flip-flopper if he allows congress to dictate the passing of a national security bill after the tax payers went in for the whole commission nonsense? What about all this “I’ve got political capital” bullshit?

GT: The president will soon learn that a mandate, if this election defines itself as such, carries the power of the party, not the individual. To me, the most significant victory is Tom Daschle sent packing. Next to Kennedy in Massachusetts, there has not been a more insufferable liberal force. He was ousted and the House is truly ours. The president must abide.

Next Week: Part II

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Yasser Arafat Is Dead

Aquarian Weekly 11/17/04 REALITY CHECK


Yasser ArafatYasser Arafat is dead.

I could have written that well over 100 times in the last seven years of penning this column alone. Come to think of it, I may have done it once or twice anyway. Forget about how many times he could have bitten the bullet over the last 40-odd years of his public life. After all, this is a man who was a functioning revolutionary freedom fighter/terrorist, whose base camp was smack dab in the center of the country he was threatening to reconstruct and/or obliterate for nearly half a century. This is tantamount to Osama bin Laden hanging out in Cleveland making his handy videotapes and masterminding the random car bombing.

If you had told me ten years ago that Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic would be in prison, while Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital of natural causes, I’d have taken that action against vicious odds.

Then again this is man best known for waging war, while winning a Nobel Peace Prize. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, but swore Jerusalem his birthright. He was pummeled in two major conflicts with the Israeli Defense Force, but still managed to maintain credibility with his people. He pretty much invented modern terrorism, but ran around shooting the peace sign at reporters.

This is what we in the business call a lifer. I choose to call Arafat a survivor, and an enviable one at that. Damn enviable. Whether you loved him or hated him, it was hard not to give him that.

I hated him.

He was a terrible thug. He was also a classic narcissist, claiming to fight for Palestine, negotiate a state, while grabbing as much face time on international news and free meals at the White House, but you never got the feeling this was viable without him running the show. He had Fidel Castro blood. He was full of himself, and, in the end, a miserable failure.

Most of us learned of Yasser Arafat and his band of loons called Fatah, and later the PLO, at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Germany. Arab guerillas took hostage and later murdered 11 Israeli athletes, much of the drama unfolding on television with Howard Cosell’s nasal drone providing the gory soundtrack. It was the first Olympics I recall watching. Watergate followed this nicely, and my cheery life of cynicism was underway.

Whether it was peace accords or killing innocents, Arafat was in the news and being cheered and the target of assassinations. He was just one of those people whose notoriety seemed as insane as his methods.

But the PLO was just getting warmed up. By the early 1980s’ Arafat’s brand of freedom fighting nearly had all of Lebanon in flames, another ignominious defeat his worshippers chose to ignore and his enemies saw fit to let pass.

Yet, death and failure did not deter Arafat. If anything, it was this kind of brutal mayhem that had people paying attention to the Palestinian effort to gain statehood in the first place; a resounding victory for terrorism, and a blow to sober reason and judgment. Of course, those were loftier concepts to swallow after the powers that be carved up the Middle East like a Thanksgiving turkey following WWII, concluding nicely with the U.S.A.’s recognition of the Zionist movement as Israel and the only sane nation in the region.

This, of course, was nothing approaching sanity. Israel has been the home office for inhumanity and ultra-violence for thousands of years. Three monotheistic cultures forced to inhabit the same land they each considered their destiny, the Lord’s recipe for disaster.

Enter stage Arafat.

Forever wrapped in his trademark checkered kaffiyeh and handy desert fatigues, Arafat played the religious/cultural card well. Not unlike his successors today who use the Arab culture and Islamic religion to beat their megalomaniacal chests or corporate goons who hide behind the American flag. Blatant opportunists. History and the current globe are littered with them. But no one with half a brain bought it, least of all the myriad of Israeli leaders who were forced to beat back Arafat’s minions time and again, still unable to crush him completely.

This was when Arafat went to plan B, negotiator for peace settlements, which was a rather interesting maneuver, since he had nothing in which to negotiate. Apparently unfamiliar with the way things work on this planet, Arafat developed what I call The Crazyman Theory. It is one rarely tried by those whipped in a war or sent packing by progress and gluttony like the American Indian, whose “I was here first” thing didn’t work out all that well.

Arafat seemed to believe that since the Palestinian people, of whom he could not be included, mind you, had been living there for centuries, they were entitled to the land. He was also able to continue to carry rifles around and wave a fist, while keeping pace in the dignitary circuit. It was quite Al Capone of him, really. I always thought that was what I most admired about Arafat, his balls; a big scary pair. Rather fearsome in their enormity.

But even these fleetingly triumphant moments ended in tragedy. After unconscionably winning the Nobel Peace Prize for signing the Oslo Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994, an Israeli extremist assassinated Rabin, not unlike the shooting of poor Anwar Sadat after he was seen shaking hands with an American president and an infidel. This is simply because while Arafat put on the good face for the world, he was spreading hate and fear among his people, blowing up innocent women and children at bus stations and markets and dance halls.

I’ve been to Jerusalem. You can’t spit without hitting an Israeli soldier. Yet, they only seem to be harmed as collateral damage in these monstrous acts of random violence. So while fighting for freedom may be humanity’s noblest act, murdering the innocent in cold blood is its most heinous.

In the end, Yasser Arafat was a murderer, because the cause does not justify the means or the direction of those means.

This does not bother the megalomaniac, and it did not sway Yasser Arafat. Whether it was peace accords or killing innocents, Arafat was in the news and being cheered and the target of assassinations. He was just one of those people whose notoriety seemed as insane as his methods.

And now Arafat is dead, and no one seems to know what this will mean for peace in the region.

It couldn’t hurt.

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George W. Bush Second Term

Aquarian Weekly 11/10/04 REALITY CHECK

SECOND TERM MADNESS Captain Shoo-In Gets a Rousing Rubber Stamp

“It’s not a lie, if you believe it.” – Zelda Fitzgerald

George Bush's AmericaFive years ago in a rotten Orlando resort bar, I told Karl Rove he was a fucking genius. We laughed a lot that night, mostly because we were really drunk. He got a kick out of me. I got a kick out of him. And to his credit he never ignored my warnings that his boy was in trouble against Al Gore, and fought hard to see that the incubus was sent packing. But about halfway through the evening I pointed out that it seemed fairly preposterous that he or any of the brain trust behind the creation of George W. Bush, God-Fearing Country Bumpkin, really believed it.

“We believe it, because George Bush believes it,” Rove told me. “He really believes he’s born again,” he slurred. “Jesus got him off the drugs and booze and forgave him for doing nothing and standing for nothing for 40 years, and he was going to take advantage of being a rich Yaley and make a difference. And that’s something Al Gore never believed about himself. He only believed merely being privileged makes him worthy. But the American people want to believe the guy who’s convinced himself he’s one of them; a proud American with a gun and a Bible who doesn’t take shit from anyone.”

I had more or less forgotten the details of that conversation, until about three in the morning on election night when it became glaringly apparent that regardless of what havoc could be wreaked by a president, the electorate must trust that the guy they give the job to believes the bullshit. And for all his mistakes and faults, George W. Bush believes the job of this nation is to bring peace to the world with force and the people must be ruled with fear, because force and fear is what got Captain Shoo-In off the cocaine and the bottle and put him in the loving arms of Jesus and gave him the strength to fight terror and all that other nonsense. It was never political. It’s real for George Bush, and for reasons barely decipherable by even the weakest minds among us, it’s real for America.

A solid majority of Americans have rubber stamped this president and all that he believes. He is against Europe and international compromise of any kind. He is willing to bag civil rights for safety. He thinks the military is the best way to boost national morale. He is not sure gays choose to be gay or whatever they are, but he is damn sure they have no right to civil unions. He does not believe in vetoing anything as long as his party is in charge of the legislative branch, and he’s keen on growing business over and above anything petty like environmental issues. And boy does he believe in charging on the national debt. He believes it, and in overwhelming numbers, so does America.

Here’s something the Kerry camp never understood, that Bill Clinton’s people copped too, and why a political fossil like James Carville was whisked in too-little-too-late in the eleventh hour to manifest; the majority of people in this country care even less about intellect and privilege than they do about whiny foreigners and all that science mumbo jumbo and sissy diplomacy and threatening dissent. They want to relate to the fantasy model of the Everyman. They want a man who believes, whether it’s asinine, insane or astoundingly feral. Kennedy believed the bullshit. So did Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. These were believers. They had it down. That’s why they won national elections.

George W. Bush is a believer. He is president, again.

John Kerry pretended to believe. He is going back to the senate.

This election tells us that more Americans want to love the flag and God and mom and apple pie, and not all the stinging reality of cold hard facts. They believe in the Shining City on the Hill. They want someone who believes it too, no matter what. They want a president that tells them the economy is coming around and the morally imperative war is going well. God loves us. We’re always right. Everyone else can go to hell. No one wants to be called a sucker of government malfeasance and victims of policy. Their kids aren’t fat, reality shows aren’t infantile, abortion isn’t choice, support the troops, and so on.

But the electorate is not entirely duped about this enormously flawed president. Two-thirds of it thinks the country’s going in the wrong direction and Iraq is madness. But the president believes in the madness. John Kerry didn’t believe his madness. You could feel it in the stump speeches and in his uneven debate performances. Any jabbering sop could’ve pushed George Bush around in those debates. Bush hung back, repeated the mantra: Man of my word, values, faith, pride, and belief. This is what voters in predominant parts of this country want to hear. Not long-winded tripe about deficits and policies or how we’re doomed.

Those people who were power-hosing the black folk in Alabama and Mississippi and the Carolinas during the Civil Rights movement? They’re still there, and they had children, and they’re not trading the country in for any slick talking Yankee lawyer who ain’t down with Jesus.

Kerry went on and on about change. He wasn’t going to change anything. We only needed him to be president to take the stank of the Bush mistakes off us. Change? About three hundred thousand of us voted for change. The rest of you participated in choosing between the madness. The guy who believed it, and the guy who made it up.

Turns out Zell Miller’s apoplectic lunacy at the convention three months ago was right on the money. He was goofy, but he spoke for the electorate. Miller represents the majority. It hasn’t changed in 220-plus years of this republic. You want to change the hearts and minds of the hinterland? You want to jerk the south from its Bible Belt? You had better get the army together, like Lincoln did. Burn their cities and teach them a thing or two. These people are still fighting the damned Civil War. Those people who were power-hosing the black folk in Alabama and Mississippi and the Carolinas during the Civil Rights movement? They’re still there, and they had children, and they’re not trading the country in for any slick talking Yankee lawyer who ain’t down with Jesus. Give them a smiling hick like Carter or Clinton or they’re sending you back to the Ivy League.

The Democratic Party doesn’t get it. They talk about issues and other mish-mosh, but leave out the visceral damage. Maybe northern Democrats need to cheat to win in the South or the Midwest. One thing is certain, pulling in a vacuous haircut like John Edwards backfired on Kerry. If he had taken the advice of this column, or harbored any idea of winning the White House, he would have secured something viable, like the upper mid-west and, most vitally, Ohio by choosing Bob Graham or Dick Gephardt. He wins Ohio, he’s president. But most people in this country are never going to vote for a Massachusetts liberal droning on and on about pacifying Europe and peace and gays and the right to choose and keeping God out of the statehouse. They damn well want God in there. What they obviously didn’t want was John Kerry.

Thus, we will begin the coronation on what has in recent years proven to be, if nothing else, an entertaining embarrassment; the second term. Seeing how second terms have not been kind to any president in my lifetime, to say I have every confidence it will end in disaster is to barely scratch the surface of the girlish excitement that rattles my bones. And those who didn’t live through Watergate, Iran-Contra, or may have forgotten the beauty of 15 months of Monica Lewinsky and Kenneth Starr, cannot fully understand the opportunity it provides cynical old political junkies like myself.

I was ecstatic George Bush beat Al Gore. Now the professionally sinister part of me is glad he’s back, because second terms with the brainwashed believers is what loving politics is all about. That’s what I told my friend Georgetown in ’96 when Bill Clinton, the last phony southerner, danced his way back into a second term of ignominy, and what Karl Rove admitted after half a quart of Chivas five long years ago, “We studied the Clintons. We know their moves and what counts. Watch us go.”

Damn right.

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Why George Bush Must Go

Aquarian Weekly 10/27/04 REALITY CHECK


George W. BushI do not think George W. Bush is evil. I don’t believe he stole the 2000 election, anymore than JFK stole the 1960 election, or is any more a puppet of big business and special interests groups than anyone else who has held or will hold the office of president. He lied about his doomed war in Iraq because that’s in the job description. Presidents have been lying about military campaigns since George Washington crushed the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. The worst you can say about Captain Shoo-In is he’s in way over his head. If world events had gone differently for Bush then he might not have made a mess of it, but facts are – and have always been – facts. This president is a bust and he must go.

I’m not saying John Kerry should be president. Maybe he might be a bust too. But we know this guy hasn’t been any good. And that’s what elections are all about. They’re about the incumbent. How’s the guy in charge doing?

This is a nation in economic recession, at war on several fronts, and as divided socially, politically, and philosophically as its been since the Civil War. Since George W. Bush was sworn in as president on 1/20/01, the United States has suffered the first foreign attack on its shores since 1812, the results of which has caused his administration to adopt a vicious lean on civil liberties under the guise of national fear and a questionable, if not rabid open invitation to war. Coupled with this ticket for aggression home and abroad, massive federal tax cuts has aided in turning a $230 billion budget surplus into a $445 billion deficit, which has adversely affected the national debt to dangerous record highs and consequently pushed poverty and unemployment rates to challenge The Great Depression.

Under the umbrella of this leader of the free world, alienation of several sovereign powers and the United Nations has been unprecedented, and the record of CIA and FBI incompetence has reached cataclysmic proportions, leading to bankrupting the country with asinine government pork like the Department of Homeland Security.

Weak economy and questionable foreign policy, this is why Bust must go, not all this bullshit about him being evil or dumb, or Supreme Court Judges and God and gays and the moral fabric of the nation. This president has had a full term with his party sitting in majority of the House and Senate and there isn’t an economic or military factoid that backs his bid for reelection. It took Bill Clinton two years to implode with a Democratic majority, four years under Bush and a Republican congress has been an unmitigated disaster.

It’s not personal. It’s not politics. It’s there for all to see.

George W. Bush has done the best he could. It’s just not good enough.

The times define a presidency, and the cold eye of history will mark George W. Bush as a simple cow poke who meant well, believed God aimed him toward the kind of manic impetuosity that turned everything foul and wretched. Mostly, he had the misfortune of circumstance and in its wake revealed a glaring inability to achieve a credible image of world leader. He surrounded himself by the wrong voices in an administration of ill-informed war hawks and big spenders who sold the kid down the river for a taste of the finer things.

George W. Bush has done the best he could. It’s just not good enough.

In the weeks and months after 9/11, the country was truly united and the world sympathetic to America. The president had a unique position to be what he claimed to be throughout his 2000 campaign, a “uniter, not a divider”. This did not come to pass. The Bush foreign policy of aggressive tactics may have seemed genuinely proactive for the vengeful flag-waving jingoism that availed the populace back then, but has succeeded in creating a negative international view of the U.S. military campaigns and thus woefully compromised the integrity of this country abroad. This has not only cost the United States over 1,000 young lives on foreign soil and tons of cash, but can only irrevocably harm the safety and defense of the United States in the near future, and is the prime reason why there should be a change at the helm this November.

John Kerry is no prize in the endeavor of uniting anything. His senate record is all over the place and he has shown himself to be a weak candidate in terms of defending any issue, not to mention himself. But looking at this objectively, it is too late for George Bush. Even proponents of waging war on Iraq, and I must count myself as one, need to admit, as I do, that it has been handled poorly at best, and criminally insane at worst. Too few ground troops left to police and rebuild a government in the face of unyielding guerilla warfare with little to no intelligence support has paid too high a price for whatever agenda was proposed in March of 2003. As a result, the American people must hand the president his pink slip and allow him to take one for the team, so, in the end, Iraq will be his mistake, not ours.

Beyond Iraq, we are in it deep. In all due respect to The Left, with Bush gone or not, this nation’s aim to rid the world of terrorism is out of control, and it’s all ours now. But the president has created this lone-wolf imperialistic vision that just cannot stand in today’s post-Cold War economically dependent environment. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are tethered to the world dollar and international trade is forever connected to our future solvency. Proceeding ahead with the damaged diplomacy of this administration is fiduciary suicide. It’s bad business to renew the papers on this CEO. The alternative may not be great shakes, but the current boss is in the red.

Finally, the most glaring fault of George W. Bush has been from day one the absolute disdain for dissent from any voices outside the walls of the White House. Not since the black days of Nixon has the press been so thoroughly jerked around by a president, and in turn, the people left to guess what the hell is going on. Even proponents of Bush must admit there has been a lock down on this administration and a fear of information in the guise of protecting the national interest, and this from a man who barely won the office with no mandate to hang this kind of bitter resolve on.

Once again, I state, for the record, John Kerry is a jabbering wonk. Despite his rallying in the debates he has shown no solid platform, and has run a sophistic campaign of tired Washington rhetoric. It is blatantly obvious he has been tainted by the Beltway Swamp too long. But to turn the table on the Republican argument that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, even if you thank George Bush for acting like a shoot-from-the-hip cowboy for the past three and a half years, you have to see clear why now, more than ever, we need him to bow out gracefully and let someone else clean up his mess. He won’t do that of course, but that is what an electorate is for, and, with no faith in either candidate and no personal inclination towards John Kerry, I must urge it to oust the present executive for one who can save face and reverse the karma.

Then what the American people can say to the world and to our citizenry at large is we are not represented merely by our leadership, but by the people, who will watch the new guy like a hawk and if he compiles as poor a record in office as the last guy, he will also be shown the door.

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Mining The Electoral College 2004

Aquarian Weekly 10/20/04 REALITY CHECK

Campaign 2004 NO REST FOR THE DESPERATE The Final Statistical Push for the White House

Karl RoveBy the time these words hit the streets there will be less than two weeks for Senator John Kerry to convince the American electorate of his legitimacy as a presidential candidate and why the current chief must go. George W. Bush has a similar time frame to argue otherwise. The national polls (any one you choose to believe) are all over the map. Some have Bush ahead by 5%, others show Kerry leading by as much. Some have it a dead heat. No change from 2000, which ended in one of the closest, most hotly contested and controversial presidential elections in the history of the United States. There is no indication this will time will be any different.

John Kerry, as is his wont, has reconstructed another faltering campaign. He’s done it before, as recently as Iowa earlier this year against a surging Howard Dean. Mere weeks ago he was on the ropes against the tide of effective attacks from the formidable Karl Rove team and a bungling strategy of white noise. If not for the debates, a significant Achilles heel for a president hardly used to confrontational verbal interaction or even explaining himself, it is this observer’s opinion that Kerry was toast.

But the debates proved clearly that a president sitting on 80-year and record economic lows and a questionably philosophical war with no end in sight has problems standing in front of a national audience at a podium defending them. Kerry was good. Bush was worse. I’m sure if we were choosing sides for a debate team the president would not be cracking the short list.

Questions remain. Is Kerry’s rally too late for the all-important electoral state count that will decide this contest? Can Kerry, who just this summer had several swing states and southern states in his column, survive the body blow his campaign took in early autumn? Was the president exposed enough in the debates to sink his otherwise sheltered aura? Has Bush rallied his base enough to withstand a potential loss in the final glut of independent voters?

November 2 is calling.

By taking an average snapshot of various state polls currently available to the press and public, the Reality Check News & Information Desk crew, tired of working with little money and no direction for lo these past months, has rendered an interesting verdict on the 538 potential Electoral College votes in 50 states. With most of the union going in one strong direction or the other, the 270 votes needed to become president comes down to a few precious states, which is why both campaigns have been rolling out the television ads and traveling through said states with desperate repetition and verve.

So all this jive about a Kerry comeback and how Bush held his own in the debates and who has more money left really comes down to how much these polls can be trusted and what the candidates can do to budge them in the crucial final hours of this campaign.

They remain: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin, with the most intriguing being Colorado. Fully in the Bush column in 2000, Colorado has a state vote on whether to split the nine electoral votes by district, instead of handing all nine to the winner as 48 other states do. This could compromise four or five key votes if this puppy is as tight as advertised. Therefore, Colorado, looking like a Bush state by as much 10%, is now a possible swing state.

Of course there are precarious leads for each candidate in certain non-swing states, but judging from past election leanings and the slight movement of the percentages for almost six months, those states will be given to the current leader. Clear evidence to support these assumptions is that the trailing candidates have pulled their ad campaigns in these states as late as this week, all-but a concession from those who think the money is better spent elsewhere. Thus, if the election would be held today (an awful sports query that never seems to pan out) the tally of Electoral College votes without the aforementioned swing states is Bush 198 and Kerry 179.

Considering that the swing states do have leaders, albeit ones with a less than 5% lead, for the sake of argument and to frame the mission of what the candidates who are trailing must do to win, we will award the current leaders the votes from those states. If so, the president has very shaky leads in the laughably insane Florida (27), Ohio (20), West Virginia (5), Missouri (11), Nevada (5), and the normally Democrat stronghold of Wisconsin (10). Kerry is barely leading in the highly volatile Pennsylvania (21), Iowa (7), Oregon (7), and the must win Michigan (17) and Minnesota (10).

By that count George W. Bush will be re-elected with 276 electoral votes. Kerry comes in with 241.

Three states are a statistical dead heat: New Mexico (5), Maine (4), and the only other state besides Michigan that has never tipped its hand when it comes to presidential elections, New Hampshire (4). These ties are amazing when considering some seven or eight different polls have been used for this exercise. The above states, and their 13 electoral votes, are literally up for grabs. But Bush has the luxury of letting them go if he carries his states.

So all this jive about a Kerry comeback and how Bush held his own in the debates and who has more money left really comes down to how much these polls can be trusted and what the candidates can do to budge them in the crucial final hours of this campaign.

In a close election, as it was in 2000, two intangible factors can benefit either candidate. Firstly, military absentee ballots normally go to a Republican candidate, or the incumbent (its current commander), of which Bush is firmly planted in both categories. That is unless all this blather lately about disgruntled soldiers in Iraq is true. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

The second wild card is the youth vote. Historically young people don’t vote. They didn’t vote when the adjusted age was made 18 back in ’72, and for the most part they never have since. This fact killed Howard Dean, and it will ruin John Kerry. You see, most 18-24 year-olds live at home or don’t have a stationary land phone. They are not polled. They float in the air. Therefore they are a crapshoot. Kerry needs them, or he cannot win.

It is also getting pretty clear that if Kerry cannot snatch Florida and/or Ohio from the Bush column, or if he loses Wisconsin, or worse, Pennsylvania, a distinct possibility, George W. Bush will be re-elected. Period. Terry Mac and the Democrat boys knew that going in. They are now, with only days remaining, the four key battleground states of this election. Digesting all of our data and research, it may be Kerry’s only hope. Take half, or all of the dead-heat states, hang onto his stash and steal Ohio or Florida, the latter being a more likely scenario, or go home.

For Bush, it is stay the course, hammer home the constituency, and blanket Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida until the last poll closes on 11/2. If he splits those states he remains president. If not, pack those bags and head back to Texas.

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Kerry/Bush Debate

Aquarian Weekly 10/6/04 REALITY CHECK

Campaign 2004 HALF-TRUTHS & SOUND BITES An Experiment On The First Presidential Debate

Rich, White Boys“Yes, we have to divide our time between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.” – Albert Einstein

The presidential candidates almost killed my cats last night. Grievances and morality aside, it was a fair experiment in semantics and responsive electroshock suggested by several Desk members and carried out beneath the angry protests of my wife, who, despite being a woman of science, could not fathom its goals. But it is a presidential election year, and there will be causalities, and I could not be expected to sit through 90 minutes of the rich white Yalies yammering on about how they plan on carving up the planet and restructuring cultures under the guise of “protecting” the United States without some sort of interaction.

It should be noted that I asked neighboring parents for human volunteers, but instead of allowing their children a chance to escape video games and pouting to be part of an educational endeavor many chose to call the cops. It was an obvious indictment on our community’s stunted evolution in thought that needs to be dissected in future columns, but, alas, this is a state that mocked Thomas Edison and then named towns and counties after him.

The experiment, headed by noted scientist and close friend, Doctor Cunliffe Merriwether, author of the exciting new book, “Quitting Science”, was two-pronged. Firstly, any candidate merely using the exercise of debate to spew the usual campaign rhetoric would send a mild shock to the ears of each cat. Our female cat, Mazzy was hooked up to the Kerry Meter. The male cat, Gueem was attached to wires under the Bush Battery. Both were dialed into hardware carefully designed by the hard working kids at Fairleigh Dickinson University (the Teaneck campus). The second penalty was for an error in facts while advancing an argument. This was a lethal component and nearly led to divorce, but luckily, as you will see, stretching the truth and playing with numbers did not get the felines fully singed, only slightly so.

In its most basic form the experiment, if not the debate, proved two things: The participants and their allies are hoping we don’t pay attention to detail, and my cats now cringe when shown a picture of either candidate.

It should also be noted that these college kids consider themselves “dog people” and are not planning on voting, or voting for Ralph Nader, which many consider the same thing. I do not concur with this defeatist attitude, but then again I was torturing my pets merely to compile material for a column, so who knows?

A third penalty was not agreed upon by my wife or even the hearty members of our experimental group, a searing shockwave if either candidate went over the allotted time designated by a 30-page Debate Commission rule book amazingly agreed upon by the Kerry attorneys, considering the bluster of their candidate. But, it turned out, having flashing green-yellow-red lights on the podium kept these crisp orators from blathering forth, and, I think, provided a nice Game Show kind of feel to the otherwise dry proceedings.

The following are the results of the experiment and apparently clear evidence that if not for my wife constantly switching to the NY Yankees winning the American League East title throughout the broadcast, the life of my cats were in serious jeopardy.

Doctor Merriwether insisted on my offering the results of the second phase of the experiment first for it “best postulates doom for the system.”

Gueem shuttered violently when the president, defending his half-assed military campaign in Afghanistan, claimed on three separate occasions that 10 million Afghanis had registered to vote. However, the Human Rights Watch this week proved that figure inaccurate because of the illegal multiple-voter registration and rabid human rights abuses fueled by a pervasive atmosphere of repression and fear throughout the country.

Poor Mazzy, already cranky with wires attached to her little head, was screeching terribly when John Kerry suggested that the United States has spent $200 billion on Iraq. Technically the senator was in the ballpark when cleverly factoring in expected spending by the end of 2005, but hardly near the actual, but already outrageous sum of $120 billion. And apparently, much to the chagrin of Pottery Barn spokespeople, there is no “You break it, you own it” rule to which Kerry bungled anyway, by stating, “You break it, you fix it” falsely attributed to something Colin Powel told the president in the ponderously tiresome Bob Woodward tome, “Plan of Attack.”

Other half-truths and bold-faced lies included the George W. Bush’s insistence that there are 30 countries in the war coalition, when half a dozen have already bolted, and the disingenuous suggestion that Poland was involved during the invasion when they were only part of what has become the interminable clean-up, policing affair. Also, the president’s insistence that 100,000 Iraqis have been trained to fight on the coalition’s side is wishful at best. According to a widely recorded statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi last week, only 50,000 Iraqi troops would be ready by the proposed January election.

Kerry erroneously claimed weapons of mass destruction crossed the Iraqi border every day. Zap!

Bush claimed 75% of al Qaeda was gutted, despite CIA reports in August that just 66% of the original members responsible for 9/11 were apprehended or killed while more than twice as many have joined forces since the Iraq occupation. Buzz!

Finally, both candidates, expecting most Americans to have little to no idea what’s transpiring in North Korea or Russia threw facts to the wind in a drunken abuse of reality. Bush charged that Kerry’s proposal to have direct talks with North Korea would end the six-nation diplomacy that the administration has pursued over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and cause China to withdraw. Zap! Truth is four of the countries have already held extensive talks with North Korea during the six-party process and China has publicly called for the U.S. to conduct open negotiations with the rogue state. Kerry lost his mind for a moment when he claimed to have visited a place he called Treblinka Square in Russia years ago when no place exists. Buzz! Treblinka was a Nazi death camp in Poland during WWII, not a salient geographical location to the present debate.

But even I had to step in and end the madness when the Buzz Word/ Mission Statement part of the experiment got out of hand. From the beginning both candidates used questions and issues to set up their repetitive campaign jargon like Bush’s mantra that his opponent sends a “mixed message”, a phrase he used no less than seven times, while Kerry drove home the words, “mislead or misjudge” some 11 times.

Thanks goes to MSNBC’s David Shuster for providing these crucial final tallies. He also wanted me to point out that he made several calls to the ASPCA to report us.

Just imagine yourself getting a little electric charge on the ear every time pre-programmed politicians use the same damn expression.

When discussing his expensive and questionable strategies in this ever-popular War on Terror, Bush used the words Threat and/or Protect American people 16 times, Free or Freedom a whopping 35 times, Strong 12 times, Hard Work seven times, and Progress five times. John Kerry, driving home this fantasy that any country not already involved in this Iraq mess would be willing to follow his pitch, used the words Alliance 12 times, Plan 17 times, Change Direction seven times, and Safer five times.

In its most basic form the experiment, if not the debate, proved two things: The participants and their allies are hoping we don’t pay attention to detail, and my cats now cringe when shown a picture of either candidate.

Pavlov be damned.

P.S. For those slow on the take, the above is satire. No cats, especially my spoiled felines, were harmed for this column. However, its liberal pushing of the deadline might piss off my copy editor, Terry.

P.P.S. Unfortunately the bluster and lying by candidates is no joke.

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John Kerry In Neutral

Aquarian Weekly 9/29/04 REALITY CHECK


Kerry on Permanent VacationIn less than two months John Kerry has gone from a confident frontrunner chasing down a wounded president with crippling domestic and international albatrosses and the lowest approval ratings in decades to a battered and bruised public defendant neutered by his own inexplicable fears to solidify his philosophical record. By any standard of political prognostication, John Kerry is in big trouble – floundering in opaque Hades kind of trouble. And that is no place for a liberal senator from Massachusetts 40 days from paydirt.

Never mind the cute pundit buzzwords like “convention bumps” or “momentum shifts”, and forget national polls, which mean less than nothing in the electoral vote process; this campaign was Kerry’s to lose, and he’s losing it.

George W. Bush was ready to be had by anyone aggressive and smart enough to build a viable alternative argument to massive job losses, a throbbing recession, the most spendthrift administration since FDR, and the worst post-war effort ever bungled by a sovereign nation. This election is supposed to be a referendum on the incumbent’s standing. It was ripe for a legitimate challenger to seize the opportunity to engage a debate on its merits. Instead it is one mired in 30 year-old military records and slap fights over who said what and where anyone was during the first Nixon administration.

The fact is John Kerry is not a legitimate candidate. These shifts in the national debate are his fault. It is brilliant strategy for the Bush people to push the thing as far from the president’s current problems (and there are many) as possible. What Karl Rove and White House frat boys have done is stonewall Kerry by simply forcing him to come clean on his dissenting voice. This was easy since Kerry has no dissenting voice. His camp has no plan, and never did, beyond “not being Bush”, which may be good enough for 46% of the partisan populace, but not enough to maintain the anti-Bush sentiment that was growing strong in this country since things got uglier and uglier in Iraq and the economic numbers looked as anemic as ever.

A month ago Kerry was competitive in three or four southern states, actually leading in Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Now that is a pipe dream. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California are back in play and Ohio is lost. Florida was a crapshoot from jumpstreet, but appears to show no signs of getting strongly behind this candidate. This is not because George Bush is winning these states back. Kerry is losing them by not distinguishing himself from his opponent and failing to rally his voter base, primarily anti-war. Kerry is not anti-war. Kerry is not anti-anything. He is anti-winning this thing. And he and his friends like Bob Shrum will be anti-employed very soon.

Bush ain’t getting any better. The news from the Middle East ain’t either. Only Kerry can make this a horse race. It is a miracle he is still relevant, which speaks more to this country’s willingness to hold off than rubber stamp a second term to this mess. But can Kerry take it? So far, evidence is piling up to the contrary.

The sacking of half of his staff has given rise to a new John Kerry: The James Carville model – angry, spitfire and brimstone Kerry. This is an entertaining Kerry, but a few weeks too late. The time to fight was during those “swift boat” ads and that joke of a convention, when the Republicans made the Democratic candidate look like a confused wet-noodle that would turn the planet to cinder given half the chance. But Kerry and his peeps chose to do nothing, and have not recovered yet.

Shrum was brain damaged when he told Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter last week he believed the post-9/11 America would not stand for political attacks. This whiz-bang strategy has molded an ambiguous, rambling, castrated candidate that’s managed to turn rightfully putrid poll numbers of Bush’s “handling” of Iraq into positive ones, which is mind-bending to those using any form of logic.

Getting nasty on issues means one has to feel strongly about them in the first place. Say what you want about George Bush, he believes he is doing the right thing in alienating the planet and being grossly steadfast in his Iraqi strategies. He believes God wants him in charge and he’s willing to cheat, steal, kill and maim to retain it. His opponent wants to be “fair” and “sincere” and “deliberate about sensitive solutions”. This is insane and a recipe for defeat. Presidents have to be one-dimensional, willing to breed pithy one-liners, and appear staunchly something. You learn this by becoming governor of a big state like Texas and have a daddy in the White House and being surrounded with Washington lifers who would think nothing of disemboweling their grandmothers for a sniff of a majority vote.

Kerry has been in the senate too long. Compromises and vacillating votes based on minutia won’t cut it in a run for the big prize. Consider for a moment Kerry does have “more complicated” visions of events and has made decisions based on intellectual digestion, it doesn’t help when he is on the same page as his competition in nearly every main category from gay marriage to taxation to war etc.

But Kerry has rallied before. He rallied in Iowa when John Dean looked unstoppable, more unstoppable than our boy president. He used his own funds, jacked a little dead wood, and turned ignominious front-runner defeat into roaring victory. According to a compelling story in Time magazine by Joe Klein three months ago, the Kerry senatorial campaign record speaks volumes about his ability to get off the mat, that he is a lousy frontrunner and needs the pressure of the sinking ship to focus. Well, those rooting for a change at the top and/or a Kerry presidency better hope so.

Now that Bush has the lead or pulled even in these key battleground states, he can use the debates as a holding pattern, as he did in 2000 against Gore. Why do you think the White House is suddenly giddy about three debates? No one thought Captain Shoo-in would survive a Gore assault four years ago, and judging from these incoherent rants on the trail, nothing should change that assessment. However, in 2000, expectations were so low many in the press fully expected to see the old boy dribbling fluids on his power tie halfway through. But Bush showed he’s a good frontrunner, and can manage to not screw things up. Bush was under whelming, but Gore’s pompous snooting and puffing served to bring in the pity vote, and things turned. In other words, it is doubtless Kerry can win by burying Bush in the debates now.

So the final five weeks of this thing should be fun for those of us paid to watch and comment. On Memorial Day we conceded that Bush would need a magic broom to sweep this horror show in Iraq under the spin rug. But we didn’t count on a one-man brigade combated weakly by badly-timed forged military documents slipped under a willing dupe like Dan Rather’s anchor door or unleashing a fossil like Kitty Kelly on the Today Show to convince us a wooden haircut like the first lady was a dope dealer and her husband did more blow than Liza Minnelli from 1972 to 1993.

It’s bush-league tactics (no pun intended) and it needs to be ratcheted it up fast. For Kerry’s almost psychotic penchant for playing this thing close to the vest has damaged the democratic process. Even sane voters rooting for a Bush victory must agree that making an incumbent accountable for his record and at least fake a pledge for improvements and counter-balance ideas is what this thing is all about. Granted Bob Dole did none of that against Clinton, but the Gingrich Revolution in ’94 had already pulled the Clinton’s further right. Reagan, however, did not have to answer for his insane military build-up and his most arrogant minions dumped the old man into Iran-Contra quagmire in the ensuing second term.

Bush ain’t getting any better. The news from the Middle East ain’t either. Only Kerry can make this a horse race. It is a miracle he is still relevant, which speaks more to this country’s willingness to hold off than rubber stamp a second term to this mess. But can Kerry take it? So far, evidence is piling up to the contrary.

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NJ Politics Exposed

Aquarian Weekly 9/15/04 REALITY CHECK

NOTES FROM THE CESSPOOL Part IIIJimmy Mac & The Ol’ End Around

Howell Champ“Before all else, be armed.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Things are far more messed up in the New Jersey political arena than even I suspected. Two weeks into this full-scale Reality Check News & Information Desk investigation and many on staff refuse to return calls or make appointments. One gritty veteran of “research” describes the entire Trenton power elite as “spooky”. No one at the governor’s office even bothers to mention his name anymore. It’s Jimmy Mac or Captain Lame Duck. The lock-down of info is complete, and with only days from an alleged hand-off of power in the governor’s office, no one is talking on or off the record.

“Here’s the thing,” one staffer said in passing, “McGreevey isn’t really quitting.”

This seemed a perplexing turn of events, until I began peeling the onion on some of the key names that dragged the governor to the “bail out” altar in the first place.

McGreevey confidant, and leading N.J. Democratic fundraiser, Charles Kushner, accused of allegedly hiring a prostitute to blackmail a witness in his highly publicized federal tax and campaign finance fraud case had, according to one very deep and morally bankrupt source, “disappeared for two weeks on an Ecstasy binge.”

Word out of Trenton is the drug abuse rumors were started by Bush stooge and once Republican National Committee Finance Chairman, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Under pressure to release “certain incriminating documents” last week, Kushner reluctantly granted an interview to the NJ Herald and proceeded to let fly a heinous string of expletives that rendered the piece unfit for publication. There was serious talk of actually printing it by citing journalistic precedent from the San Francisco Chronicle.

It was two days after the massive earthquake of 1906, wherein the paper of record quoted Mayor Eugene Schmitz’s infamous Shoot To Kill proclamation that ended with the published post, “The Federal Troops, the members of the Regular Police Force and all Special Police Officers have been authorized by me to KILL any and all persons found engaging in Looting or in the Commission of Any Other Crime.”

Cooler heads at the Herald prevailed on this occasion, and the Kushner interview was scrapped. As for Schmitz and the Chronicle, opponents accused the mayor of having brain bubbles resulting from a monstrous bout of syphilis. The Chronicle sold more papers that day than any time since; no harm, no foul. But rising circulation and journalistic ethics aside, Schmitz never admitted to ordering the citizenry murdered without something to gain, much less admitting to being gay, whether it was to exit a sinking ship or to avoid lawsuits.

Which gets us back to Governor Jimmy Mac, who at press time still refused to change his date of resignation and throw an Emergency Election over to the Republicans, least of all a political pit bull by the name of Bret Shundler, who more than once in his gubernatorial campaign two years ago referred to the governor as “a conniving little shit heel”.

Fellow Democrat, Senator Jon Corzine, who according to his accountants does officially have more money than God, has actively pursued the gig. A spokesman for the senator told the Newark Star Ledger “a rail is far to good a conveyance in which to run the governor out on.”

One thing seems certain at press time; McGreevey will not fold his doomed tenure until the 11/15 deadline.

But I’ve been told more than once that Corzine is a loose canon and has very little pull in Trenton. Most NJ Dems think he’s a closet Republican and would rather turn the mess over to NJ Senate President Richard Codey and let him take the blame for whatever inevitable fallout occurs.

Since I have no connections, nor do I seek any, in NJ government, a serious drawback when trying to get a “real” background check on Codey, I hear mostly gibberish and fear. Once again, no one goes on the record and those who do fail to identify a single merit to this man’s ascension to the state’s highest office save his relatively clean criminal record. Many who know the ones who know describe Codey as “confused, but not crooked, and that’s a start.”

One thing seems certain at press time; McGreevey will not fold his doomed tenure until the 11/15 deadline.

The governor got another reprieve on 8/31 when alleged lover, and the man for whom he is ostensibly “stepping down” to avoid blackmail entanglements, Golan Cipel, dropped chargers of sexual harassment and has been holed up in his hometown in Israel telling the Jerusalem Post daily that he is not gay and the suit was “never about money”. Then someone from the Asbury Park Press e-mailed me a dubious picture of Cipel dancing atop a bar in the gay district of Haifa waving fistfuls of hundred dollar bills over his head. So, who knows?

Still, most of us at The Desk were distracted by a story coming over the wires on Labor Day that a cockfighting arena was raided by police near my old stomping grounds in Howell. The illegal ranch boasting steroid-jacked roosters run by a 67-year-old Jersey City escaped mental patient named Raphael Liranzo, who had been repeatedly fined for “animal cruelty” for the past 22 years after his first arrest for cockfighting in ’82 when he tried to get his “exhibition” on the sports book in Atlantic City.

Liranzo went to prison and the governor still might. But as of press time the Attorney General’s Office has hinted at the possibility that the case against his drawing out the resignation to avoid a special election is moot due to the fact that no vacancy exists in the governor’s office. McGreevey, it turns out, never submitted a formal written letter of resignation.

“This guy isn’t going anywhere,” my hearty researcher reiterated when I pressed him further. “Legally he holds the right to rescind his resignation when all the villains are put to rest.”

McGreevey’s Press Secretary Micah Rasmussen disagrees, finally going on the record on 9/8 by stating simply, “The governor made a thoughtful and careful decision and he is standing by it.”

There was little reason to believe him, or anything else oozing from the governor’s office. So we decided to lay low, place “thoughtful and careful” cockfight bets, and wait for the arrests to become official.

Part I

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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