Truth Behind Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” Review

Aquarian Weekly 3/3/04 REALITY CHECK

A DEBATE OF “PASSION” PART II
Art Imitates Religion

Movie PosterMel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is not a film about Jesus. It is also not a film about history or figures that move through history affecting humanity and the events of history. It is a film about Christianity. More to the point, it is a clumsily packaged Hollywood depiction of 1,500 years of Catholicism. It is religious propaganda. And I do not use the term pejoratively. Every piece of art with a point of view is more or less propaganda, but let’s call a spade a spade: If Gibson, a devout traditionalist Catholic, set forth to espouse his faith and depict the center of his own passion; mission accomplished. But this movie, like Christianity, has nothing to do with any Jesus of Nazareth.

Let me put it this way; “Passion” is not unlike Oliver Stone’s “JFK”. Not too much JFK in there, unless we see his head coming apart on his wife’s lap. No PT-109, no Harvard, no senator, no president, or Bay of Pigs, or Cuban Missile Crisis or Marilyn Monroe. His head coming apart. Over and over and over. “JFK” is about assassination theories. “Passion” is about the Christian obsession with sacrificial blood ritual.

Watching this film took me back to the days of sitting in church as a kid and expecting to see or hear anything about Jesus underneath all the ritualistic dogma. It’s damned frustrating, and hard to argue that the context of which has inspired horror shows like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust. But it also doesn’t mean it cannot be revisited as art either. Although, for me, it would have been more compelling had it not been more of the same damn thing.

Beyond the ultra-Hollywood violence – jacked up a notch for the video game generation – we get the usual stuff here. Christ dying for our sins. He comes. He dies. End of story. No back-story. No politics. No spirituality. No philosophy. No revolution. No mission. No life affirming usably enlightened theories about embracing empathy and discovering divinity. Suffering. Death. Good drama. Big box office, but no Jesus.

Once again, we get lifeless puppet characters playing their parts in a suicide pact with God, sufficiently answering the question, “Who killed Jesus Christ?” Because when viewed through the lens of Biblical faith – replete with the Lord killing innocents all over the place – and all the evidence in Gibson’s film, the verdict is clear: God killed Christ. Or, more to the point of Gibson’s way of thinking, we forced God to kill him. Kind of like the Jewish authorities forcing Pontius Pilate to kill Christ.

(place plaintive sigh here)

Admittedly, the thing is aptly named. After all it is “The Passion of the Christ”, although I would have preferred, “Jesus Gets it for Opening His Big Mouth”, or “This is What Happens When One Love’s One’s Enemies”.

I didn’t think it was possible, but Mel Gibson actually succeeds in portraying a completely empty depiction of Jesus Christ.

But it’s hard to argue that the very essence of the gospel’s enlightened Nazarene, a charismatic healer exalted by an inspiring philosophy leading a penetratingly gorgeous spiritual movement is sucked right out. In its stead we have a pawn for sadomasochistic mayhem; what I like to call the Euro-Christ. But even two millennium of Christian rhetoric has yet to erase the impact of the historical Yeshua of Nazareth, from the Council of Nicea to “Godspell”. Yet this movie manages to do it. I didn’t think it was possible, but Mel Gibson actually succeeds in portraying a completely empty depiction of Jesus Christ.

Not that actor, James Caviezel doesn’t capture the Catholic Christ pretty well; a vessel for torture and death set up as humanity’s sacrificial lamb by the sadistic Lord God of the Israelites. He portrays a great punching dummy and the make-up people did a bang-up job. Lots of pain, but again, no Jesus. Lots of blood and suffering and reams of Catechism, but no Jesus.

So, in a sense, “Passion” is the perfect Christian art, an animated version of Renaissance paintings, (Gibson claims he endeavored to recreate Caravaggio’s gruesome images) but not particularly good art at that; effective, in that it has caused a stir like most viable art, but poor in the literal sense. The way smearing a painting of the Virgin Mary in elephant dung is a sensationalistic artistic statement, but as a gripping, meaningful rendering, it’s lousy.

As a movie, “Passion” is bad. The acting is predictably stiff, the set-design sub par for a Biblical epic, the music surprisingly non-descript and the directing ham-fisted. I usually don’t like religiously themed films, but most give me at least a moment of chills or reflection, an uplifting of heart or a distinct feeling of something. This thing drones from the opening frame and settles into two-dimensional drudgery.

However, I cannot engage in hypocritical blather about “too much violence” here. You want to concentrate compulsively on first century Roman scourging and crucifixion as a means for redemption, fine; but its not going to be pretty. This kind of thing went on all the time in first century Jerusalem. Hundreds upon thousands slaughtered by Roman governors. Take a trip to Golgotha now and see if you don’t feel it. Not unlike, I’m sure, sitting in Auschwitz or Dachau today.

But I would forget theological debate and historical content when judging “Passion”. It is poor storytelling packaged as a religious tool. Period. This might be great for some, namely fanatical Christians, but as forceful narrative, it is disappointing. And it is certainly no “true depiction” of historical events in any way, shape or form. Gibson picks and chooses his gospel versions like mad scientist forcing a solution. He might have been better off from a theological stand-point to stick with, say, the Gospel of John, which dominates most of the storyline, instead of jumping all over the Biblical map to suit an agenda. Although, once again, a good framework for religious theory, but hardly accurate.

When I heard about this project some two years ago, I was finishing up the manuscript to my last book, a story based on my trip to Israel in search of the historical Jesus. I was excited about the prospect of hearing the gospel characters speak in their original dialect, and the promised “realistic depiction” of the ordinarily sanitized crucifixion scenes of earlier Hollywood efforts. But even I was left feeling I’d just seen the last ten minutes of “Scarface” for two hours.

Finally, Gibson nor the actors, or anyone connected to the making of this thing should feel badly. Based on concepts like “Jesus Christ was born to suffer and die for the sins of humankind” and “in suffering there is cleansing” all the participants can be nothing if not merely chess pieces in a fixed game. And that is how the characters in this film go about their business, like marionettes marching in step to a mystical slaying.

(place despondent wail here)

It is my fault for expecting to see anything else. The film’s popularity (beyond pure curiosity and pack mentality) speaks to the human condition to be drawn to signature moments that usurp the entirety of an event, or to miss it completely.

We read about a warrior for peace slain in his prime and choose to remember him with a gory effigy of torture and death.

Part I : Film Art, Anti-Semitism, and Gospel Lore

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Truth Behind Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” Pt. I

Aquarian Weekly 2/25/04 REALITY CHECK

A DEBATE OF “PASSION” PART I
Film Art, Anti-Semitism and Gospel Lore

Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross Editor’s Note: The following is part one of a two-part series on the social impact of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ”, the charges of anti-Semitism therein, and its New Testament sources, while the second segment will concentrate on the film after the author attends a screening this week.

Once again, Jesus of Nazareth, the peasant artisan from ancient Palestine turned social and spiritual radical, turned miraculous healer, turned martyred rebel, and finally turned religious icon gets dragged from the altar and into the news with the release of “The Passion of the Christ”, a Mel Gibson-produced-directed epic. The film is getting free publicity because of its alleged “controversial” depiction of the arrest, trial and subsequent murder of the impoverished first-century Jewish radical cum messiah. Controversial because of what some deem its subliminal, others its overt anti-Semitic stance. But how much of it is warranted?

To merely make art about religious subject matter is to seduce controversy. This is fact. From DaVinci to Scorsese, the list is long, and the results similar: furor.

Having released my own “controversial” book, “Trailing Jesus” (Published 11/02) I understand all too well the impossibility of escaping belief systems based on cultural traditions, familial binds and unyielding devotion. This is true of any faith in any era, and for some this is good. But just as true is espousing one true faith in a world of several – in this case three mega-popular monotheistic faiths – managing to propagate an ignominious history of bating, bashing and violence between them.

I may have humbly sparked much of my own engaging discussion under the radar this past year, but Gibson, super-celebrity, comes to the party with some baggage.

Gibson, an Oscar-winning filmmaker in his own right, is a self-proclaimed Traditionalist Catholic, an ultra-conservative sect of a multi-billion dollar industry that harkens its tenets back to the Middle Ages. His asides about being moved by God to produce what he deems is the definitive artistic expression of The Passion of Christ not withstanding, Gibson’s vociferously opinionated father has gained him a mound of negative publicity. Hutton Gibson is an oft-quoted lunatic bigot with virulent stances on everything from Holocaust denial to Pope smearing.

This explosive combination of religious fanaticism and noisy prejudice has caused raucous mouthpieces for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League to charge the explicit violence in Gibson’s film – the protagonist being beaten to a bloody pulp and executed replete with cheering on by the predominantly Jewish populace of the period and orchestrated by its leadership – to be a form of rampant Jew-bashing during a time ripe with anti-Semitic rumblings in Eastern Europe and the whole of the vastly radical Islamic world.

I dare you to try and figure a convicted soul whose core philosophy is “love your enemy”, gets murdered by those enemies, ends up being worshipped by the descendents of said enemies, and come out without controversy.

On the surface it looks like more religious kooks using preconceptions to attack the work, not unlike the tumult over 1988 Martin Scorsese mediocre film version of Nikos Kazantzakis’ brilliant novel, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, wherein the fictitious depiction of Jesus is seen making babies with Mary Magdalene. Back then Christian protestors were having fits over the irreverence given to their Lord, wherein now they laud what many critics have described as “gruesome” scenes of the Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. (Even the Pope has checked in with a thumb’s up). But the subtext of the ADL’s argument is well founded, because in a way Gibson had no choice in creating an anti-Semitic depiction of this story no matter what his belief or background.

For almost 2000 years, at least roughly 1700 years since the Roman Empire gave Christianity its stamp of approval, the hazily constructed events leading up to and surrounding the death of Jesus of Nazareth has given the perpetuators of genocide a nicely formed excuse: The Jews, leadership and populace, killed Jesus. The Romans were in charge and could have done something if not so utterly duped by those evils plotters, but dropped the ball. Until the last half-century or so this nonsense was not officially denounced by major sects of Christianity, and in some circles exists today – leading to some of the most heinous crimes rendered by humankind

But, again, how much of it origins ring true?

Let’s step back for a moment and massage the parameters of the volatile climate that inexorably follows the legacy of this Jesus of Nazareth wherever it has tread for the past two thousand years.

Here’s what we know of what modern Biblical scholars are willing to accept as history from the Jesus story:

A peasant artisan (most likely a mason) named Yeshua or Yeshu (Hebrew moniker meaning salvation) from the rebelliously volatile region of the Galilee in the Roman province of Judea gained the fanatical allegiance of mostly vagabonds, miscreants and the terminally infirmed with a mystical healing power and an engaging philosophy that grew to dangerous numbers around the thirtieth year of the first century. He was by all accounts a Jew, and knew well his culture’s customs and beliefs. During the Passover holiday of that spring, he stomped into the crowded corridors of King Herod’s Holy Temple in the hub of ancient Jerusalem, challenged the religious political order, pronounced himself some sort of omniscient authority and wrecked the place. Religious leaders at the time, the Sanhedrin, a corrupted and fractured congress of Jewish cultural affairs, and the Roman power-base, Pontius Pilate, the murderous prefect of Judea felt this behavior inexcusable in the wildly incendiary ambiance of a culture celebrating its independence from Egyptian slavery while under the oppressive yoke of a ruling empire.

As a result, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified – a popular mode of execution the bloodthirsty Romans borrowed from the equally insidious Assyrians – by order of the state. The fact is the Jewish culture of antiquity had no evidence of using crucifixion as a means of any kind of punishment. They were partial to stoning.

So Jesus is dead, and thirty years pass with much rumor and innuendo – both glowingly positive and horribly pejorative – between warring Jewish faiths: one that believed somehow that the slain Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of scripture, and the other that wished to wait a little longer for something more tangible. In other words, sans a couple of gentiles and Samaritans, the whole philosophical battle was between Jews: those who didn’t deem Jesus the Anointed One or Christ, and those who did.

Later in the century and beyond, four sources of the life, teachings, doings and death of Jesus of Nazareth emerged as pillars of what was then the burgeoning Christian faith. Dubbed gospels from the Greek (the language in which they were written) meaning “good news”, they were sonnets, frameworks, and commentary directed toward ancient communities about the meaning of religious oppression and political ruin. Mark (read some forty years after the death of Jesus), Matthew and Luke (read some fifty or sixty years later) and John (over a century later) are in essence arguments between ancient Jewish sects about the priority of the Christ. But when added to the Bible, fused with the global power structure of Rome and worshipped as the immutable Word of God they are something else.

Here Jesus Christ becomes the sacrificial lamb of the world, borrowed from the ancient practice of sacrificing innocent farm animals as an elixir to societal and familial sin. His cause is just, his death and purported resurrection seals the deal. Those who come aboard gain the fruits of the sacrifice. The rest are doomed.

The irony of Gibson’s ambitious undertaking and the IDL’s protest is laughable in its wake, and its time someone copped to it. If Jesus of Nazareth were alive today he would likely march into the Vatican scream and yell, trash the place and, speaking for the source of the universe, call the Pope a fraud. He wouldn’t be executed for that today, but I’m sure the penalty, cheered on by Catholics, would not be pleasant.

Because you see it’s difficult pinning this story down neatly, and impossible to encapsulate 2000 years of insanity and misrepresentation in 1,300 words or a two-hour film. But simply, having based an organized religious system on a man who despised the whole idea is nuts, dangerous and downright confusing to us, and will be for some time to come.

Hey, I dare you to try and figure a convicted soul whose core philosophy is “love your enemy”, gets murdered by those enemies, ends up being worshipped by the descendents of said enemies, and come out without controversy.

NEXT WEEK: FRAMING THE GIBSON FILM IN THIS MESS

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Of Course Bush Lied About WMD’s

Aquarian Weekly 2/18/04 REALITY CHECK

LAST WORD ON WMD’S

There can be no sane argument that the president did not lie about the invasion of Iraq. Let’s put that one to bed. He had to lie. All that droning on about evil regimes, human rights, direct threat to the US, and freeing the Iraqi people was admittedly weak Mob RulesTexas hooh-ha, but what did you want the man to do, get on the tube and talk about daddy’s revenge and restructuring the Middle East to secure oil concerns, protect Israel, and put a scare into the towel heads?

Nonetheless, as stated in this space before, Hussein had to go. My meager research alone (clearly dissected in past columns) has given me enough proof that if Iraq had continued to be run in that fashion, the compromises for not only Israel but also Saudi Arabia et al would have been grim. Thus, the concept of regime change (formulated over 12 years and three administrations) never was about a how or why, but when.

You know how much money and power was at stake here? So much that if someone told G.W. to do a hoola dance on Letterman to make trashing Iraq an imperative, he would have been trying on grass skirts by sundown. So let’s not have any allusions over a semantics argument regarding WMD’s or any other banal acronyms.

The frame of the debate over this Bush fiasco should be the methods and expediency of the current operation, both of which have been royally flummoxed from jump street. All the fears about Junior being a lost rich boy with agonizingly limited intellect came to pass.

But all presidents lie about invasions. This is part of the gig. Some are better than others. FDR was excellent. LBJ, not so much. Nixon and Reagan were just clumsy and stupid.

The jury is in on George W. Bush.

He stinks at it.

Now we get all the backtracking from the lackeys.

It pains me to see a gentlewoman and a scholar like Condoleezza Rice jump through hoops for political dunderheads. I don’t feel so bad for Colin Powel. His soft-core approach never fooled me. He is the worst kind of militaristic idiot, a useless tool of aggression with a predictably disingenuous twist on the facts. It’s the same old crap from these medal-toting pustules, break stuff first and ask questions later.

However, Donald Rumsfeld deserves to squirm. He was a corn-sniffer for Nixon and took it hard from Bush Sr., and has been rightly diagnosed in this space over a year ago as clinically insane. Nothing that has transpired since has reversed this judgment.

The rest of the administration is goofy. Not as insidious as the Left wants it to be, but it’s not functioning correctly right now.

Functioning rather badly in the realm of foreign relations in fact.

Innocents die, kids with guns run amok, and the map of the globe changes a bit. But the one thing that doesn’t change is the power structure. And as much as we hate to admit it in print, America is part of the power structure.

Okay, they’re lost.

Watching Tim Russert try and yank serviceable answers out of the president on this abortion last Sunday gave me pause. Firstly, Russert, of whom I have great respect, dropped the ball. He let a blatantly stupefied Bush make slap-dag ideology speeches without taking responsibility for anything, and heaving none of it on anyone else either. Most importantly, all prior talk about Bush having sincere convictions on religious grounds to save a wounded country and stand tall in the face of mounting adversity melted in the glare of network lights. The guy came off as a seat-of-the-pants dink. He’s not Nixionian in madness or morally strangulated in Reagonese. He’s lost.

Really lost.

And I can only hope the poor saps who made the call to send that jabbering moron into an interview format amidst plunging approval ratings was shot on site.

That scared the shit out of me. No one should have to endure that kind of meltdown. Anyone arguing that Janet Jackson’s striptease was anymore emotionally damaging is not paying attention to detail.

Now to this ridiculously childish idea that the CIA or the Pentagon act in the interest of public safety.

Who’s buying this laugh-out-loud absurdity?

Since the dawn of civilization, spies make things up and armies choose to fight over it. Most times this combination tragically results in reams of fantasy and we end up with Viet Nam or the World Trade Center disaster. Innocents die, kids with guns run amok, and the map of the globe changes a bit. But the one thing that doesn’t change is the power structure. And as much as we hate to admit it in print, America is part of the power structure.

We put Hussein in charge, fed him weapons, turned our backs on it, and then acted shocked when he went wiggy. America’s fingerprints are more or less over every nightmare from Korea to Iran to Pakistan to you name it. Occasionally, someone has to clean this shit up. If not this guy, then the next guy.

He can crow and hoot all he wants, but soon, if he is unlucky enough to achieve the job of commander and chief, John Kerry will have his hands filled with blood and old sins. It’s the nature of the beast, and the beast breathes. It’s a big ugly thing. And you best be sure you’re ready to ride it, rich boy.

Let’s face it, we’re all guilty.

Raise your fist in anger, but you’re guilty.

You drive a car that runs on petroleum? You’re guilty. You eat bananas? You’re guilty. You use GE products or run around in Nikes, read USA Today or take planes to places?

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

The real lie is that you can stomp around like you own everything, expect entitlements with no sacrifice and then hold up iconic villains to answer for your insecurities. But in this crazy experiment called a republic it all comes back to us. It’s not exactly a democracy, but its close enough to be the best humans could devise using eight percent of our brain matter.

Safety and privilege has a lofty price tag. Otherwise, where are the American Indians today? And why are all these people from Africa running around? Yeah, you don’t know. You’re just trying to get by. Some crazy people killed Lincoln and Kennedy. Truman had to torch thousands of innocent Japanese. Shit happens, right?

Sleep well.

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John Kerry Takes Control

Aquarian Weekly 2/11/04 REALITY CHECK

THE “REAL” SUPER TUESDAY HAMMERLOCK?

John Edwards Fights OnIt’s getting close to go-time.

All that stands between George W. Bush and a second term is John Forbes Kerry, another war-hero senator from Massachusetts with the initials JFK.

Eerie coincidence?

We’ll see if any other (like victory) follows.

After capturing five of the seven states up for grabs on the “first” Super Tuesday, including 128 delegates, with sunny prospects for Michigan and Washington on 2/7, Kerry has cemented the complete support of the Democratic elite. This means glowing endorsements, inside party dope, ever more press, an increasing glut of ads, bloated national poll numbers, a gory slew of advisors, and, most importantly, a shit load of money.

The wheels have already begun turning in the main offices of the DNC. Nobody wants this thing to crawl on after a 2/17 Wisconsin primary the fractured Howard Dean camp is hanging its tattered hat on. Certainly no one wants this hitting “actual” Super Tuesday with ornery southern candidates, John Edwards and Wesley Clark mucking up the works claiming the 2/10 Tennessee/Virginia voters will stem any tides.

Popular wisdom among prime politicos chipping away at a weakened incumbent says a strong national candidate stomping freely through “either” Super Tuesday with little opposition ammo is a recipe for success. Wild talk of “we love the competition” is standard spin for party management, but it is poison for November. Winning the White House may eventually be a personality contest, but the machine that offers up that personality prefers closure as quick as possible.

Here’s what the Democratic Party biggies want to project asap: “John Kerry is sweeping his way into your hearts, across the land, in all conceivable geographical measures and dominating every demographic. He is the clear choice to topple the evil and stupid George W. Bush regime.”

Winning the White House may eventually be a personality contest, but the machine that offers up that personality prefers closure as quick as possible.

Problem with that is Edwards and Clark, each of whom gathered victories in the other two states are not on board. But keeping a proverbial stiff upper lip could merely get them a footrace to the vice presidency. As far as the DNC is concerned, the grand plan is already in place. Voters are window dressing for the rest of this charade.

But the other problem here is what I raucously refer to as the “Clinton Factor”.

Back in ’92, the Dems were gearing up to send a lamb to a George Bush slaughter. Then comes Bill Clinton with little-to-no party power-base support, left to twist in the wind as the press hammered away at every leak and scandal. Clinton laughably thought he could actually unseat a wildly popular president who had more or less just won a war against Saddam Hussein. And somehow, someway, Clinton, (later citing a back room deal with the Dark Lord), survived. He gained momentum, convinced Ross Perot to stay in the race, and won the presidency by default.

More eerie coincidence?

The “Clinton Factor” beats hard in the hearts of Edwards and Clark. Anyone who has been to this point in the fiasco can feel it. It’s a visceral beat, but a forceful thump-thump just the same. Sadly, it used to beat for Howard Dean before he was forced to join the netherworld of denial with Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich. Dean is what the late great political seer, Carmella Martignetti used to describe as “dead, but not knowing enough to lie down”.

However, Edwards is a trial lawyer who has been in the politics business for five minutes. What does he know about party solidarity and graceful exits? Edwards has got a dump truck full of Clinton in him. He’s good on the stump, an excellent orator with the ability to connect in small groups and shine on television, and did I mention he’s a lawyer? Clinton was a lawyer. These guys take the art of the lie to new and wonderful heights. Solid candidate material; but not so good for backing down for the good of the cause.

Clark? Well he’s a general. What does he know about politics? Politics is the game of brutal subtleties wherein one knows when to take it on the chin, dust it off, and politely bow for effect. This is a man who never considered running for a school board until six months ago. He’s army, boy. Green to the gills. Never surrender. A plant the flag on terra banshee, and he wants to be president. He wants to fix the world because Baby Bush has made mincemeat out of it. He ain’t going quietly into that good night. Oh, and did I mention the general’s from Arkansas with solid backing from – yeah, you guessed it, the Clintons.

But that’s just talk for the fun of speculation from columnists forced to accept the truth: As long as the party is on board with a powerhouse, the also-rans eat dust. Sad, but true. No eerie coincidences, just miles of bad road.

Traditionalists like to cite the March 2 mass primary as the “real” Super Tuesday. Of course, these are the same people who cling to the idea that primaries should be run and finished in six weeks, not six months, and the Democrats have already had enough face-time and money-spent to capture the title of Czar.

If any of these other guys want a sliver of hope, it’s time to whip out the nude photos or letters from hookers or betting slips or the sworn testimony of drug-dealing Satanists. Unfortunately Kerry seems clean. He’s not very controversial and he plays better from in front.

The question now is can Kerry defeat Captain Shoo-In this summer with either a southern democrat or someone from the mid-west on the ticket. The heavy money is coming in that the Dems will hit former Bush states, Ohio, Tennessee, New Hampshire, try and not fuck up in Florida again, and win a squeaker. This will all save the president from the growing probability of the inevitable second-term disaster.

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The John Kerry Momentum

Aquarian Weekly 2/4/04 REALITY CHECK

NEW HAMPSHIRE FALLOUTSuper Tuesday Looms For Last Stands

“If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

As of the final week in January, the democratic nomination for President of the United States is John Kerry’s to lose. The Massachusetts senator’s bold sacking of almost his entire campaign staff, going into hock up to his eyeballs, and abandoning a pre-New Hampshire ramp-up to put all his eggs in Iowa has gained him two strong victories and front-runner status.

John KerryThis could change.

Ask Howard Dean. The Vermont governor was riding high a mere month ago. He had significant poll leads everywhere, the cover of major magazines, and an embarrassing host of endorsements. People in his camp were so giddy they were shaping their boy up for national debates. Now he’s reduced to spinning cartwheels over being trounced by double-digits in a New England primary.

Such is life on the stump.

But don’t think Dean is dead, despite the orgasmic pundit excoriation following his apoplectic concession speech in Iowa. These are the same assholes that fell over themselves painting Dean as some kind of youth-galvanizing Internet genius.

They would be wise to remember other televised political snap-jobs like Dick Nixon going haywire on reporters after losing the California gubernatorial race in ’62 and Ronald Regan nearly impaling a debate moderator with a microphone in 1980.

Both men unfortunately survived to become president.

But back to Kerry.

Historically the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are crapshoots. Iowa is a trade union flophouse for small-time delegates and wannabees and New Hampshire chooses rogue loons like Pat Buchanan or favorite sons like Paul Tsongas. Both states barely have enough delegates to matter and their constituency is white bread personified.

But taking both after being left for dead is hard to stop. No one who has won Iowa and New Hampshire has lost the nomination. Look it up.

But if not Kerry, then who?

Well, if polling is any indication; who the fuck knows? In the most insanely paradoxical exit polls known to modern politics, a 3 to 1 majority of the electorate coming out of the spat rooms in Iowa needed a candidate vehemently against the war. Yet Kerry and North Carolina Senator, John Edwards (both of whom voted for the Bush war machine) carried the day. In New Hampshire it was the “electablity” chant. Yet Dean, a terribly ill prepared national candidate, gained ground, and Edwards, a southern democrat with a hint of Bill Clinton glean dropped into a third-place battle with the increasingly wooden, General Wesley Clark.

The truth is perception is power, and there is glaring evidence that many of the puppeteers in the party lead by DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe pushed hard for Kerry to get back in the race. The motivating factor, besides Dean’s scary proposition in a national election, was money.

As always.

Because Dean is backed with mostly private donations from college kids and union hacks, the big money people could well abandon him in the summer like the big money people bailed on Bob Dole in ’96.

The truth is perception is power, and there is glaring evidence that many of the puppeteers in the party lead by DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe pushed hard for Kerry to get back in the race.

The president is sitting on $200 million right now. By August it will double. There are six to eight battle ground states in a polorized national electorate. Winning at that clip takes big cash.

I’m not saying McAuliffe or the insiders thought Kerry would actually win in Iowa, but they could not allow him to nose dive. Winning was a plus.

Back in 2000, the GOP power base did not want John McCain, despite his thrashing of Bush in New Hampshire. By the time the race entered South Carolina, the strong arm squeeked Junior through and he never looked back.

But don’t be shocked if Edwards or Clark stays alive through Super Tuesday. The ticket will need a sourthern democrat to compete. The more airtime they get, the more recognizable they will be. Moreover, a few states (Oklahoma/South Carolina/Arizona) are up for grabs and could put a wrench in things.

Even with a warm and fuzzy southern dem on the ballot, Kerry is a risk come November. He is a New England liberal through and through, and he has an arm’s length record to prove it. Once again, the only two north easterners to gain the White House in the last century were FDR, who defeated a man who would have lost to Al Capone, and JFK, who stole the damn thing.

One certainty during these past two weeks is the Democratic Party, its power people, its candidates and its voters unequivocally despise George Bush. What the Clintons once did to reinvigorate republicans now falls to Captain Shoo-In.

And Bush is as vulnerable as it gets.

Even ignoring Newsweek polls ten months before Election Day that have Kerry at a 4% lead over Bush, the president is in some trouble. His approval ratings slumped after his flaccid State of the Union address last week. The continued administration mutiny of the Iraq occupation, the conservative fallout from three-year amnesty for illegal aliens and the controversial steel-tariff, record unemployment numbers, and this insane jabbering about spending trillions to build condos on Mars, have already frightened Karl Rove and the White House boys.

Bet on it.

They know this much: If Al Gore wasn’t the worst candidate of his generation, and people in Florida could read a goddamn ballot, George W. Bush would be a trivia question.

Bush’s best chance, and Kerry’s worst nightmare, is Dean.

Word is Dean is not going quietly. His people know all about the party’s lack of support for him. (McAuliffe has already gone public in his suggestion that some of the non-winners should hang it up after Super Tuesday.) He has three-times as much money as anyone in the race. (The dismissal of clueless campaign manager, Joe Trippi on 1/28 is hardly a sign of closing shop). And with the delegates he’s gained from endorsements of elected Democratic leaders and party officials who can cast votes at July’s Democratic national convention in Boston, Dean actually leads Kerry 113 to 94.

Dean is the classic political loose cannon in the mold of the fightin’ Buchanan Brigade, and might well brawl until the convention. Or he could really screw things up for his party by bolting for Independent status and taking ten to twenty percent of the vote with him, effectively doing for Bush what the volatile Ross Perot did for Clinton; get him elected with less than 50% of the vote.

So expect the remaining debates and sound bites to get ugly. The end is near.

Such is life on the stump.

NEXT WEEK – SUPER TUESDAY HAMMERTIME

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John Kerry Comeback

Aquarian Weekly 1/28/04 REALITY CHECK

DOGFIGHT REVISITED Surprises and Disguises Tumble into New Hampshire PART II

The only one that can’t win the dog race is the pace rabbit.” – Chris Matthews

Since my last discussion with our Democratic insider, Dibbs, things have gone awry. The heavy but invisible Howard Dean support wilted in Iowa, pulling in a meager 18%, which would have been gangbusters six months ago, but with Golden Boy running free the past three months, checks in at an unmitigated disaster. Meanwhile, the comebacks of John Kerry – expected six months ago – and John Edwards – a late comer to the ball – and the demise of perennial retread, Dick Gephardt has leveled the playing field and put a new perspective on the upcoming New Hampshire primary.

In addition to the resurrection of a surging Kerry and the coming out party of a second place showing by Edwards, Iowa did dramatically reframe the campaign rhetoric. Although three out of four voters chose their candidates based on an anti-war platform, more than half the votes went to the two men who supported the war.

“I think overall Dean lost his message after Hussein was captured. Yet, the polls indicated he had not. This is what added to the caucus’ drama. In the end, Internet buzz and the youth factor did not translate into votes for Dean.

The second most interesting noise out of the caucuses was the zeal with which the electorate abandoned personal ideology and went hard for candidates who would be “electable” in a national race come fall, leaving Dean, long considered a potential wild card sacrificial lamb out and the more conventional polticos in the driver’s seat. Judging from the woeful prognostication performance of Dibbs eight days ago, we began our 1/22 discussion with a vicious berating and continued merrily from there.

jc: Man, did you guys get that whole thing wrong in Iowa. The union boys fucked Gephardt and the kids screwed Dean.

DB: I told you the voters would decide. You’re the one who had Dean battling Clark for New Hampshire.

jc: That still may be, because as of this morning Kerry has leapfrogged Clark and Dean and now leads with a ballpark 5% to 10% cushion. But this could ironically save Dean in the long run. Now he doesn’t have to fend off Clark, the more dangerous southern democrat, and deal with his New England brother until Super Tuesday. But I stand by my column from over a month ago: Dean cannot beat Bush, so what would be the point?

DB: And I stand by last week’s data that suggests strongly that any Democratic candidate would stand in the base forty-percentile range and benefit from key Independent votes left in the Ralph Nader vacuum.

jc: I didn’t believe for one minute Kerry was as dead as the press had it. The man was the choice for four months and then Dean becomes this year’s John McCain. He galvanized the other candidates, was fun press for a while, but in the end the Democrat power base has to push the more electable candidate. That’s what happened in Iowa. Admit it.

DB: It was most interesting how many votes Edwards and Kerry picked up from the Gephardt troop. That was years of Gephardt’s guts floating out there Monday night (1/19). But I think overall Dean lost his message after Hussein was captured. Yet, the polls indicated he had not. This is what added to the caucus’ drama. In the end, Internet buzz and the youth factor did not translate into votes for Dean.

jc: Or money, which Dean still has plenty of, and judging from his apoplectic fit speech Monday night, he plans on spending it all the way to the bunker.

DB: Today’s Zogby polls have what amounts to a dead heat between Kerry and Dean with a hefty 15% undecided. With that many undecided, 5% or 10% either way matters little. It didn’t matter in Iowa, so Dean isn’t going anywhere, nor should he.

jc: Conventional wisdom, which by the way also got it’s ass kicked in Iowa, says that Clark takes a hit here, because he was ramping up to be the southern Democrat, War-Hero Anti-Dean, and now has to deal with North Carolina’s Edwards and the Viet Nam Vet Hero and new Anti-Dean, John Kerry.

DB: Perception is everything coming out of Iowa. Kerry is obviously the man of the minute. But if he fails to win NH with this kind of momentum, he’ll have some answering to do. Dean has 72 hours to resuscitate. But he certainly has the organization and money to do it.

jc: He had it in Iowa and got smoked. You have to come clean on what went down in Iowa, really. I maintain Kerry got down and dirty with party biggies and painted the same picture everyone refuses to publicly admit: Dean will implode on the national stump. Because it makes no sense that 75% of the electorate in Iowa is anti-war and then choose Kerry and Edwards; unless it came down to Dean not being a viable national candidate. Kerry and Edwards have always been the safe choices. Christ, Bush people were talking about Edwards Tuesday morning like the second coming of a Kennedy.

DB: We’ll find out about the Edwards push in South Carolina. Kerry or Dean has to win NH, or come in first and/or second, and Edwards cannot lose SC.

jc: And Clark?

DB: The debates will decide if Clark is a player. NH debates are notorious either as coming out parties or the exposing of lightweights. Clark must distinguish himself tonight (1/22) or he may sink behind Edwards. jc: The Boston Globe has Clark in third at 16% and Edwards hot on his ass at 11%.

DB: As I say, I believe this debate is a seminal moment for the general.

jc: Face it, you guys cannot win the White House without a southern Democrat. Clark and Edwards have bristled at taking the VP job, even in closed quarters. Kerry or Dean will definitely not survive without one of them or someone like Bob Graham as a running mate in the national election.

DB: Graham is an interesting choice. jc: Any idea who Lieberman will endorse with his 7% after he is pummeled in NH?

DB: Not Dean. My guess would be Kerry.

jc: You have any comment on Dean’s concession speech? The crazed banshee deluxe version, of course.

DB: No.

jc: Is it Gary Hart on the yacht or merely a Gennifer Flowers bump in the road?

DB: I think I answered no for a comment.

NEXT WEEK: NEW HAMPSHIRE FALLOUT

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Iowa Caucuses 2004 Part I

Aquarian Weekly 1/21/04 REALITY CHECK

PRIMARY PALAESTRADemocratic Insider Weighs In On The Fight to Battle George Bush Part I

Time is running out on separating the wheat from the chaff in the Democratic run for a presidential nomination. By the time these words hit the streets, there will have been a victor in the achingly hollow Iowa caucuses and less than a week until the all-important New Hampshire Primary, which will likely jettison pretenders like John Kerry, John Edwards, Joseph Lieberman, and the ancillary voices of the past six months of jumbled screamfests masked as debates.

What is slowly shaping up to be a two-man race between General Wesley Clark and frontrunner, Howard Dean (with a weak nod for Dick Gephardt to stay afloat if he challenges in Iowa) could solidify in the next two weeks. But historically these things have a way of settling themselves outside the voter realm; ie – party backbiting, financial favors, power jostling and painfully delivered public retractions. The following is the first of a two-part discussion held over two phone conversations on the evenings of 1/13 and 1/14 with our well-ensconced Dem snitch, affectionately known in this space for the past seven years as Dibbs.

No one I work with has any problem if Dean is the nominee, and there is no tertiary plans to back any particular candidate at this time. It is the people’s choice.

The aim is to get a read on how these political variables, often left for revisionists to decipher, could affect the outcome of these primaries.

jc: Let’s begin on the general assumption that Dean will win a close draw in Iowa and bury the bottom feeders in NH.

Dibbs: Iowa will go to Dean in a close race with Gephardt, but it will be a squeaker. But if Clark beats Kerry out for second in NH, and Kerry is running third in every poll right now, his money sources will run for cover. This is why he spent 40 minutes on Meet The Press Sunday (1/11) referring to everyone in the race except for Clark. He has chosen to ostensibly ignore him.

jc: And why I’m sure Dean has gone the other way on Clark these past few days, calling him a closet Republican. Dean needs to knock Clark down a peg. He would rather beat a fellow New Englander than have a wild card pull in a surprising second. To me, this legitimizes Clark’s recent surge in the polls.

DB: This is expected. The Clark people have studied what Eisenhower went through when he announced as a Republican in ’52. There are still doubts to what Clark is going present in way of opposition in a general election campaign, but there is a great deal of fringe party support for Clark.

jc: I wanted to start with Dean, but since we’re on Clark, is he the party’s only hope to derail what I heard you guys are calling The Dean Debacle?

DB: Nonsense. No one I work with has any problem if Dean is the nominee, and there is no tertiary plans to back any particular candidate at this time. It is the people’s choice.

jc: Yes, and the first pig flight out of Reagan National is at dawn.

DB: Why do you bother to ask?

jc: Where does Clark need to be in NH if he wants to compete on Super Tuesday?

DB: Right where he is. Taking NH has hurt trailers in the past. I think it’s better for him to ease into this thing. Three weeks ago he was third at 10% there, now he’s in second at 20% with a bullet. And, by the way, the most important number is what Kerry comes in at.

jc: I have a Boston Herald poll open online right now, and Kerry is a dismal 15% for Christ’s sake. It was ridiculous he was trailing Dean on Christmas Day, now he’s behind Clark and off the radar. What the hell happened there?

DB: I think Iraq killed a lot of these guys. They supported some part of military action when it was hip, and then when things got hairy, Kerry, Lieberman and Gephart vacillated. Then when Hussein was captured you heard another spin. Dean hasn’t been popular with his pompous anti-war rhetoric, but he has been fairly consistent. And that is the base of this party right now.

jc: Anti-war?

 

DB: More than anything else.

jc: Other than his clever use of Internet shut-ins and galvanizing the fickle youth vote, what is the Dean appeal right now?

DB: Mostly Dean is comfortable in the role of ultimate opponent. We believe, and I can’t speak for all the big party people, but most of the skinny coming out of the Terry McAuliffe staff is that 47% of people who voted for Gore outright, without any state breakdown, is an automatic Democratic vote. And the independents Gore lost, along with what Nader robbed could make any of our candidates formidable for Bush. This nonsense about Dean being McGovern just doesn’t hold water anymore.

jc: Unless Iraq implodes in the next six months, I don’t see anyway these Midwestern lower middleclass voters are going to run out to vote for a staunch anti-war liberal candidate with their kids still in harms way. Again, that all depends on where Iraq goes by August. It is looking more and more like the economy will no longer be an issue by April, but no one expects Iraq to cool by election day. These deadlines for massive withdrawal are fiction.

DB: All indications are there will be no discovery of weapons of mass destruction and soldiers will continue to die steadily. And I guess it doesn’t bother the nation their president unabashedly lied to them about Iraq?

jc: You mean like FDR, Truman and LBJ?

DB: Have you heard this latest bullshit about how there have been less attacks on American troops since the Saddam capture? Right. Now they only hit helicopters and kill nine and ten at a time, instead of a measly one or two. Five less attacks, same number of dead. Sounds to me like Viet Nam, but we’re not supposed to get into those comparisons.

jc: Viet Nam? We’ve been there ten minutes. Viet Nam is still going on. Anyway, I can’t give Bush any more credit than I gave Reagan with Iran/Contra. Bush is a dupe. The pentagon has to lie. It justifies its existence.

DB: Mark this down, the war will decide Bush’s fate. We are betting on that.

jc: Never mind the general election. Back to Clark. Is there or is there not a divide between Clark/Clinton Dems and the rest of the party with Dean?

DB: There is, but not to the extent that is being speculated. There were the same chasms in ’92 with Reagan Republicans and the Bush sr. people. Conservative killed Bush in ’92 by voting for Perot. I think Dean takes care of the liberal vote, even though; ironically the man has a conservative fiscal record in Vermont.

jc: Where is the liberal vote if Clark is the nominee?

DB: Again, our best research indicates, firmly, that the national vote is as split as it was in 2000. You want to go over those numbers again? If a few dumb ass districts in Florida could vote without a color chart you’re talking to your buddy, Georgetown about the Republican primary right now. Things have not changed, unless you consider this piss-poor economy with record unemployment, a massive deficit, and a war on two fronts. The Democratic vote is out there. The question is will they be motivated enough to cast it.

NEXT WEEK – PART II

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Pete Rose Damaged

Aquarian Weekly 1/14/04 REALITY CHECK

BY ANY OTHER NAME Pete Rose 14 Years Too Late

Pete RoseA brand new year rings in a spanking new Non-Story Story: Pete Rose publicly admits to something his signature admitted to 14 years ago; he placed bets on Major League Baseball games, many of which he managed. Regardless of his vehement denials since, it was that very same signature which effectively ended his association with the only profession he’d known. A more incriminating piece of evidence for his crime is hard to fathom.

But we needed to hear it from him, didn’t we. All the while it was “as long as Rose admits to it, he will be forgiven, allowed back into the game and eligible for the long-awaited trip to baseball’s Hall of Fame.”

Inexplicably we were supposed to believe that it was Rose’s obstinate claims of “innocent victim” that made him the game’s villain, not compromising the integrity of his sport by blatantly ignoring Rule 21 in the first place. Prominently displayed in both English and Spanish on every Major League Baseball clubhouse door, it states: “Any player, umpire or club or league official or employee who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball games in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

And so now 14 years later The Non-Story Story finally ends The Pete Rose Betting On Baseball Controversy, which was only a controversy for Rose, those on his payroll, the sycophantic nerds who chant “Charlie Hustle!” over reams of incriminating evidence, and hordes of sports media drones who despise baseball’s all-time hit king regardless.

Oh, and by the way, this latest Non-Revelation Revelation is presented in Rose’s new autobiography, “My Prison Without Bars”, (his third such attempt) excerpts of which now appears everywhere.

Only Pete Rose, the most pathetically unabashed self-promoting memorabilia monger alive would finally admit to something any clear-thinking human has known for nearly 15 years in a format you have to purchase.

To wit:

“Yes, sir, I did bet on baseball,” Rose told commissioner Bud Selig during a meeting in November 2002 about Rose’s lifetime ban.

“How often?” Selig asked.

“Four or five times a week,” Rose replied.

“But I never bet against my own team, and I never made any bets from the clubhouse.”

“Why?” Selig asked.

“I didn’t think I’d get caught.”

Only Pete Rose, the most pathetically unabashed self-promoting memorabilia monger alive would finally admit to something any clear-thinking human has known for nearly 15 years in a format you have to purchase.

Pete Rose bet on baseball.

Everyone knows this. Jesus, my mother knows this and when not completely ignoring it as a rule, considers baseball the pastime of slobbering Jackanapes.

Sports Illustrated, which plasters this Non-Story Story all over its cover this week printed betting slips next to dozens of witness testimonies in its 8/31/89 issue. I know this because I kept that issue anxiously waiting the inevitable day when this strutting ass would level his Clintonian mia culpa for profit and a smooth entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

And with two years left in his eligibility and a lucrative book deal to hawk, Rose now blurts out what everyone already knew. The white elephant lives!

At this point you would not be wrong to ask: “If this is such a Non-Story Story, why the hell are you writing about it?”

To which I might answer: “I assure you, the irony is not lost on me.”

First of all, the truth is I have always hated Pete Rose. From Ray Fosse to Buddy Harrelson to all that fabricated All-American go-getter tripe, the way he abused one of the finest writers of my generation, Roger Kahn in his last autobiographical swindle, “Pete Rose – My Story” and the way his recalcitrant front man Gary Spicer ducked me in an interview request with a series of parameters and time constraints that eventually cost me money and pissed me off to no end.

Also, this particular Non-Story Story has been a favorite of mine since embarking on my professional foray into sports reporting during the 1989 baseball season, during which I inadvertently uncovered that an alarming number of people corroborated Rose’s frenzied gambling and was more than eager to chat about it. It turns out, despite his recent literary conciliation, Rose indeed used the clubhouse phone to make bets on games in which he managed. And to a man (and woman) not one of these people could believe for half a second that his managing of those games was not affected by his having action on it, whether or not it was on his own team or not. The way he set up his pitching for the week, how he used his bullpen on “bet nights” and everything in between.

And this skewed idea that Rose floats in the book that “baseball had no fancy rehab for gamblers like they do for drug addicts” is specious simply because while drug abuse compromises an individual’s ability to play the game, gambling on a contest you have stake in and control over compromises the integrity of the game and cannot be ignored.

Gambling nearly destroyed professional baseball in 1919 and its no-toleration policy is not only non-debatable, but also paramount for the business’ survival. As my baseball guru Pedro B. recently reminded me, you can get away with just about anything in baseball, drug abuse, wife beating, overt racism, public drunkenness, pitching perfect games on acid, illegal campaign contributions and mob pay-offs, jacking yourself up on so much steroids as to reconstruct the statistical bell curve, but YOU CANNOT GAMBLE ON THE GAME.

But hey, I know the real story is that Rose is finally uttering the words he swore he would never utter, and made a boisterous point everywhere he could against uttering, trashing credible people like former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent and his investigator John Down along the merry way. And I know as well as anyone that smug liars sublimating their considerable egos in front of talk-show hosts is the American orgasm. We can’t get enough of this shit.

So now commissioner, Bud Selig must decide if one of the all-time greats of the game gets a pass after pissing on its most sacred rule and then lying to anyone within earshot about it, because as pithy baseball columnist Bill Madden recently put it; “if this were some .220-hitting utility infielder who bet on baseball we wouldn’t be having this debate.”

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Saddam Capture Dissected

Aquarian Weekly 12/24/03 REALITY CHECK

THE CHUNK OF PUKE PRINCIPLE

Saddam Hussein is finally done.

It’s official. I saw moving pictures of a gentleman in latex gloves yanking lice from his scalp. He looked duped by his ethics. Done. A man once again, not a god. Not something calamitous, but silly and sad.

It is always good to parade pathetic pictures of cruel dictators to the world. The bully gets a piece of it now. How does he like the taste? Yeah. Everyone loves that.

The body can handle many toxins, viruses, etc. Some it cannot. It must reject them. The most violent way for the body to reject toxins is through regurgitating them. The world had to burp up Hussein. One way or the other. He had to go. Bad for the body.

We never got the chance with Hitler or Stalin. The Italians did a number on Mussolini, a public disemboweling worthy of their Roman genes. The French sent Napoleon to an island. He was lucky. In the Middle East there are no islands. People end up in rat holes in the desert or go missing like bin Laden. Missing or dead. Most likely dead, because there is no way the Al-Qaeda big boys are allowing any silly/sad moving pictures of the grand poobah of manic itinerancy to be paraded for the devil westerners.

It took a whole lot of time, money, lives and gnashing of teeth to enact the age-old rule of human endeavor applied to people like Hussein or any of those other types mentioned above. It’s called The Chunk of Puke Principle.

Hussein is the chunk of puke.

The world is the body rejecting it.

The body can handle many toxins, viruses, etc. Some it cannot. It must reject them. The most violent way for the body to reject toxins is through regurgitating them. The world had to burp up Hussein. One way or the other. He had to go. Bad for the body.

Chunk of Puke Principle in motion.

Of course there are other toxins, not the least of which is North Korean loon, Kim Jong-Il, who now possess fifty times the nuclear capacity that Hussein was alleged to have had in his possession. And rather than denying it and thumbing his nose at the west, Jong-Il sits upon his tonnage with a defiant pride best known to those mentioned above.

However, there is a caveat to The Principle, and that is how bile attacks the nausea closest to vital organs.

More times than not, over the past half century, the USA is the bile. We attack and regurgitate problems that might affect our vital organs directly. In the case of Hussein, he was an Arab. Arabs are not popular right now. Arabs rammed planes into American property. Took American lives. Arabs threaten American oil concerns. Let’s call oil concerns and terrorist threat vital organs.

Therefore, regurgitation of said virus occurred.

The Chinese make a mockery of human civil rights. Yet, there will be no regurgitation there, or in Korean, close to China. And, by the way, there is no oil in Korea that we know of. There are other places where it would be good to see pathetic depictions of savage brutes given a dental examine, but that will not happen any time soon.

Another part of The Principle that cannot be ignored is that there are some toxins the body creates on its own; not unlike evil regimes like Hussein’s that was bankrolled not only by America’s insane use of crude oil, but its government’s obsession with its neighbors, like, say Iran.

That doesn’t mean Hussein didn’t need to go. He did. It might have been okay for him to be there with any chance ­ no matter how fleeting ­ any chance his regime might pay back those enormous debts that the Germans, Russians and French will now eat. When adding up the billions going down the drain, there can be no wonder by anyone why these governments wanted no part of The Principle to succeed. And believe this humble author, if we could still have the Shah of Iran around, no matter how many lives he might cost, it would not have warranted all-out war.

But that is for another day.

For now, Saddam Hussein is done. And this makes the Bush Dynasty happy. Got daddy’s tormentor.

But at what cost? Politically. Globally. Morally.

Not a worry. This is the war on terror. This is about righteous indignation and a pass to wreak havoc. This is what rich nations and their governments do, and have done for centuries. Can’t help it. Just is.

But it does not make it any less sweeter to see strutting asses taken down. Bullies getting bullied. Kind of like what parts of the world might have felt like on 9/11.

The Chunk of Puke Principle applies to everyone, regardless of perspective.

It is as cruel as its bile.

Think about it.

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Ani DiFranco at Beacon Theater 11/22/03

 

Aquarian Weekly 12/10/03

CHANGLING IN REPOSE
Ani DiFranco / Beacon Theater 11/22/03

New York, New York

Ani in ReposeInconspicuously decked out in soothing earth tones, sans overt stage make-up or multi-colored locks, and eschewing her trademark platform shoes for modest flats, the 33-year-old, Ani Difranco cut a mature and mellowed figure as she deftly patrolled the vast stage of the Beacon Theater in a stirring solo performance. But that kind of labeling is too obvious, and wholly capricious in the wake of DiFranco’s ever-present apoplectic gyrations and inspired vocal dynamics that have made her one of modern folk music’s most passionate creatures for over a decade.

However, there was definitely something different on this night. Missing were the chuckling anecdotes from the road or the obligatory brash political statements that have peppered her most memorable performances these past years. In its stead was a performer of impeccable, almost arresting control, polished and musically demure, reflecting the path of her recent musical forays into jazz voicing and extended poetic musings.

Included was a new poem DiFranco pulled from her pants pocket and read with a humble throat-clearing smirk. Each ensuing line revealed a tortured, haunting manifestation of a woman coming to age in a furious world of rampant hypocrisy.

DiFranco’s voice, a symphony of range and emotion, was as finely tuned as I have ever heard it (over a dozen performances with and without a band) including the historic Carnegie Hall solo shows of 2001 and 2002. This led to mesmerizing versions of her most compelling songs, “Swan Dive”, “Your Next Bold Move”, “Reckoning”, “Little Plastic Castles”, the infectious, “Evolve”, and the probingly reflective, “Serpentine”. All were unfurled before the wildly receptive audience as a confession, a revelation or sorts; serious, humorous, dangerous and silly, and not one with a shred of fanfare.

The more recent numbers were interspersed with the occasional fan-favorite like the rhythmically playful, “Shameless”, which came with a humble preamble from DiFranco, as if apologizing for it having been written by an echo of the woman presently dipping into her grab bag of memories. But the evening’s treat was the premier of newer material that better observed the finer points of the artist’s demeanor; introspective and plaintive, yet unerringly defiant.

Receiving an advanced copy of Educated Guess, DiFranco’s latest completely solo effort, (due out this January) brought into focus the show’s more darkened portals. Fueled by siren odes such as “Origami” and “Bubble” packed with gripping melancholia like “I know men are delicate origami creatures, who need women to unfold them when they cry / But I’m tired of being your savior, and I’m tired of telling you why” and “I hated to pop the bubble of me and you / But it only held enough oxygen for a trip or two” further illustrates DiFranco’s in-your-face ethos.

Juxtaposed with the opening line from the wincing, “Rain Check”, “As dolls go I am broken” or a stanza from the charmingly dissonant, “Swim”, “I let you surround me, I let you drown me out with your din /And then I learned how to swim” is the fiery hope of DiFranco’s most personally and politically challenging poems, “The True Story of What Was” and “Grand Canyon”. In the former she whispers, “Oh to dream just for a moment of the picture outside the frame” and in the latter she swells, “I love my country, by which I mean I am indebted joyfully to all the people throughout its history who have fought the government to make right.”

The meditative evening concluded with the rarity of hearing the mature folk gal’s distinctive rendition of “Both Hands”, ironically the first song on her first record. Pulled out for the final encore, it served as the perfect epilogue to an enviable baring of her most delicate intimacies.

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