Cablevision vs. YES Network ‘s ode to greed.

Aquarian Weekly 4/10/02 REALITY CHECK


1-2-3-4 cretins wanna hop some more. 4-5-6-7 All good cretins go to heaven. – The Ramones

The latest furor over Cablevision subscribers being bilked by the new YES Network and their cable provider, resulting in fans all over Westchester, New Jersey and New York City area being shut out of the New York Yankees television broadcasts, has brought to light many disturbing things about the rapacious participants in this passion play. Not the least of which is Cablevision CEO, Charles Dolan and Yankees principle owner, George Steinbrenner. What you are about to read may shock, even dismay you, but I must first preface its stirring truths by revealing that I no longer live in the Empire State and happily receive the YES Network quite clearly at my current post in Fort Vernon. I am also a Yankees booster, born and bread in the Bronx and good friends with the general manager of the team. I have been nothing if not a Steinbrenner apologist, even back in the dark days when he turned the most revered franchise in American sports history into a poor man’s Nixon administration and the laughing stock of baseball.

Rich men trolling in the same business or geographic proximity is a dangerous paradox. It is nature’s way of presenting extinction as a survival impetus. Thus two men of equal pomp cannot flourish in close quarters, if so, the results are often severe.

You see, for eight years before George, the Yankees sucked. After George, they began to win and spend money and win and spend money and then lose in record fashion; and it got ugly, believe me. But, for me, George Steinbrenner will always be the man who brought Reggie Jackson to New York, and aside from murdering my family in cold blood or siphoning money from my check account to bankroll third world oppression, the man could do no wrong. On the other hand, Charles Dolan, for whom I have peripherally worked in a freelance broadcast capacity, is the scum of the earth. And this is not simply a derogatory observation; he is literally borne from the slime that coagulates below the planet’s surface, a sort of mutated quagmire that takes shape in human form. This is not uncommon among corporate moguls and/or politicians, child molesters or theologians. It’s scientific fact. Casey Stengel, a good baseball man and a world-class loon, always said, “You can look it up.” And I suggest you do. With that, I present evidence that the gorging of your entertainment dollar is alive and well in the distended bellies of these gluttonous power mongers. For the past five years, prior to the launching of the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, Steinbrenner sank $300 million of his billion-dollar enterprise into the Madison Square Garden Network, owned and operated by Dolan. For Dolan, this included principle ownership of both the Knicks and Rangers and anything swinging through the Garden, like the Circus or Billy Joel or whatever political rallies reared its miserable head. To say the two of these guys made tons of dough for their prospective stockholders is an understatement. And to say there is any love loss between them is an outward misunderstanding of how these men function below the surface. There are more scientific findings which back the theory of chemical endorphins routinely released in the rich man’s muscle tissue. This affects the glands and motor functions, and finally, the brain. Rich men trolling in the same business or geographic proximity is a dangerous paradox. It is nature’s way of presenting extinction as a survival impetus. Thus two men of equal pomp cannot flourish in close quarters, if so, the results are often severe. Steinbrenner has the most envied of all financial sports franchise cash cows. The old adage about the Yankees being like U.S. Steel is laughable now. The Yankees are sports merchandising and marketing. Most teams have regional value, unless they are lucky enough to have a few years of a Michael Jordan or a Wayne Gretsky, but the New York Yankees are national, and even global in reach. The team could win a total of six games this year and still earn Steinbrenner more than half of Major League Baseball’s gross income. But this is a team coming off its best six-year period in the last half-century, and the owner knows it all too well. Meanwhile, for over two decades Cablevision has monopolized the cable viewing area of three million subscribers throughout the tri-state area. Charging for set-up and dismantling fees, upgrades, pay channels, including at one-time Sports Channel, which is now FOX Sports for people interested in the rest of the areas pro teams, movie channels, HBO, etc. This subscriber monthly fee is also subsidized by advertising fees, both local and national, and fees paid by stations on the basic package, which includes MTV, ESPN, CNN, The Food Channel, etc. Despite living in such close proximity and having the combined wealth of two Roman Empires and a Microsoft beach party, Dolan and Steinbrenner, the Yankees Empire and the Cablevision Reich had coincided, even prospered in their dysfunctional wake. The irony is that if the natural order of things were not involved these two men could have owned half of the free world in one long power lunch, but instead they have decided to use your hard-earned money and rabid love for sports and “The Sopranos” to treat you like their jail-call bitch. Woe is man, MSG no longer has the mighty Yanks, or their revenue or their powerful moniker, and Steinbrenner no longer has to feed in the same feces-addled cage as his sworn enemy because he has his lovely YES Network. And Dolan doesn’t have to allow Steinbrenner’s little experiment to rake in the dough without the proper groveling reparations. So people living across the street from Yankees Stadium cannot watch the team on television, because there will only be twenty of 162 games broadcast over free TV this season. The YES Network people tell you to bag Cablevision and buy a satellite dish and sign contracts and chop down trees and get apartment ordinances so you can watch baseball. And the Cablevision people tell you that you have to pay even more money to view baseball games. And somewhere in a smoldering cauldron of sulfur and brimstone, MLB commissioner Bud Selig tells you the sport is doomed to poverty. Play ball!

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Catholic Church Cover-Ups

Aquarian Weekly 3/27/02 REALITY CHECK


It’s been another banner year for God and all of his servants in the cause of ugliness.

If it isn’t Islamic extremists ramming airplanes into buildings or seventy thousand choruses of “God Bless America” as fighter planes pile up the death and destruction in Afghanistan, then it’s the molesting of children and cover ups by the Catholic Church or the daily maiming and pillaging between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. The Hindus and the Muslims are ten minutes from annihilation in the Indian/Pakistani border war, and right now somewhere there is ethnic cleansing going on somewhere in the holy name of extinction.

The week we go to press with this one, it will be Passover and Holy Week for the Jews and Christians, and everyone will recall the Lord’s murder of innocent Egyptian children and the assassination of a Nazarene first century mystic. But no one seems to really know what any of this will do for the plight of humanity, except create more boundaries and kingdoms and ways for us to be different and feel better than each other.

We grew up in this twisted arena of misjudgment and fantasy wherein our stuff and our God were somehow more on the nut, and by subjugating our will and reason to reverence and superstition we reserve the right to belittle and castigate and kill and shove people out of their homes and countries and bury their traditions.

It’s funny. Every time I’d read some screaming headline last week about these revelations of child molestation by priests, I could not help but think of the night Sinead O’Connor tried to make a stand on Saturday Night Live against the Vatican’s cover-up of rampart child abuses in Ireland. And how anyone with verbal motor skills wanted her lynched and burned at the stake for it.

Before the singer tore a photograph of the Pope in half, she recited an a cappella version of a Bob Marley song infused with lyric about the church’s silence to the continued mistreatment of races and children, ending with the infamous statement, “Fight the real enemy.”

A victim of child abuse herself, O’Connor decided to use her art and freedom of expression to reveal the terrible secrets no one could admit, and it effectively ended her career for almost a decade.

That was ten years ago now. At the time I defended it as not only an act of compassion, but also a reasoned protest against the repeated violence in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, ostensibly a religious war which had raped that country and taken countless lives for decades.

Little did I know. Little did anyone know.

One thing I did know, and have known for most of my adult life, is that anytime more than two people are gathered in the name of God there had better not be any sharp objects available. We are so evolved, us humans, you know. We conquer and invent and politicize and socialize and cram and jam and pursue that money. And we hang onto our stuff, don’t we? And sometimes we put labels on that stuff, like country or color or gender or God.

Yeah, God.

Because you know that it’s God’s will that our stuff is safe from the other stuff. And all the silly talk of what God wants and needs and what God told the other strange people, that’s just evil or wrong. We know what God wants. Can you believe that some of these other people don’t even have a God? They’re blinded by intellect and science and skepticism, and they blot out truths with power and greed and drugs.

Of course, that really doesn’t matter much, because we’re all screwed. Nothing we can do about that. We grew up in this twisted arena of misjudgment and fantasy wherein our stuff and our God were somehow more on the nut, and by subjugating our will and reason to reverence and superstition we reserve the right to belittle and castigate and kill and shove people out of their homes and countries and bury their traditions.

Manifest Destiny is the Inquisition is the Holocaust is the Potato Famine is Slavery is Tibet is fill-in-the-blank.

As a recovering Catholic, I think it is imperative to point out, especially this week, that all this self-serving, egotistical bullshit that is done and said and rationalized in the name of Jesus has to stop.

Will it stop? Of course not. Let me repeat, we’re already screwed, but it’s time our children get a quick lesson, or perhaps it will be your kid that’s too afraid of God and his handmaidens to ask why the soft-spoken man with the white collar keeps touching them down there.

And don’t expect these cretins who run this line of propaganda up the flagpole to blow any whistles. They have to keep the gravy train stocked with coal for the engines to chug along unimpeded with no one asking any questions or too bloated with fear to dare point any fingers.

Yeah, they know all about it, these big business religious hypocrites. They have a blueprint somewhere in the war torn corners of Israel, where the martyrs who tried to stop this mess are buried. They know all about what happens when you try and halt the cycle of hate and ignorance, for every Sunday there is the lifeless image of a man hanging from a cross above their heads to remind them.

And so we march on…

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Dick Cheney World Tour

Aquarian Weekly 3/20/02 REALITY CHECK


We can all rest easy now that Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak is on board for the long overdue house cleaning that will be stomping through an Iraqi outpost very soon. Seeing how Egypt is mostly a satellite of Israel and its plummeting tourist numbers, Mubarak’s approbation is not nearly as newsworthy as the fact that the vice president has decided to come out of his hermetically sealed hibernation tank to grace the Middle East with his notorious presence.

It’s all part of the 2002 Dick Cheney World Tour, or more to the point, Arabian tour, where he will entertain the insane jabbering of atavistic patriarchs waxing poetic on anti-Semitism and crude oil prices, which have been steadily rising over the past weeks since our president started upping the ante on these haughty catch phrases of his.

Not that anyone at the time it was uttered seemed to mind the tasty allegory found in Junior’s pithy, “axis of evil” comment. In fact, if you can find a congressman or news commentator with a modicum of pride left in Washington these days, one might even say the crazy bastard nailed it on the head.

Fuck Iraq, and any dumbasses that still find themselves trapped inside of it. How many years of this pathetic bullshit are we supposed to stomach before someone with a pair of steel rocks puts the fear of Allah in Saddam Hussein?

Fuck Iraq, and any dumbasses that still find themselves trapped inside of it. How many years of this pathetic bullshit are we supposed to stomach before someone with a pair of steel rocks puts the fear of Allah in Saddam Hussein?

Captain Shoe-in is just the man for the job. His father failed. His predecessor, the Minister of Fun obviously couldn’t hack it. He has the blessing of these outrageous approval numbers and no one appears to care about Enron ending civilization anymore.

But I am way off the path here.

There is no truth to the reports that on Dick Cheney’s last visit to these shores he begged the president’s daddy to ramrod the scud express into Baghdad as acting chairman of Desert Storm. Cheney is a man of varied foreign policy skills, and one of the reasons why the Bush people pushed the Texas governor to add the old man to the ticket two summers ago.

But some people claim Cheney never advised the first Bush to “cut the head off the wounded reptile.” That was the boastful talk of patriotic crazies who once found it necessary to report that General Patton begged Harry Truman to use the U.S. Army to plow through Poland and up into Stalin’s living room to “personally kick that son of a bitch in the ass.”

Cheney never had it in him, but that’s what Jordan’s King Abdullah would have the traveling UPI geeks believing. Except for the glaring fact that Jordan was so overwhelmed eleven years ago, they had Syria and Iran thinking they would apply for a Euro-NFL franchise.

It was nice of the king to offer his meaningless opinion on the matters of American war policy though.

Here’s what he doesn’t get: The vice president’s eleven-state Terrorpaloooza road show has two faces.

There is the diplomatic “smooth the locals and keep the fracturing coalition intact for the impending big hit”, traveling photo op. Followed closely by the more intriguing, “let’s cut the crapolla chief and get down to the Nitty Gritty” stop off.

The Nitty would be the current “second phase” of this infinite War on Terror, not including the Anaconda thing that has been unfortunately running the bills up way past the spec limit in what’s left of Afghanistan. The pussy footing with the Philippines and the impossible mess going on in Korea not withstanding, the real crux of what is left of that gaping hole in lower Manhattan and that chunk of the Pentagon missing over by the Potomac has bore a great big, juicy target on Iran and Iraq.

The Gritty would be a not-so-subtle propaganda mission to pit certain Arab nations against each other based on economic concerns and desperate security measures in the region, especially the security of the Palestinian state that is about three more car bombs from extinction if the gloves are truly off for the Israeli Defense Force.

In times of foreign military action, it is important for a nation to not spread itself too thin. I think this is best understood not by history scholars, but by those ruthless bastards from my high school days who used to sit next to me around a large kitchen table and play RISK until the last bloodied man was standing.

God, I miss that.

But once again, I cannot stay on track.

And that’s probably a good thing, considering that this column has become a bit of a dangerous mark on my permanent record in these times high paranoia. It’s important to make my comments seem random and half-baked, loaded with carefully placed expletives and wry references to board games.

Divide and conquer.

The oldest one in the book.

But make no mistake here. Dick Cheney is the perfect angel of mercy to prelude the harbinger of doom. Who that will be, is anyone’s guess. Not even my stoolie, Georgetown is coming clean on that one, and I wouldn’t be bold enough to venture a guess.

Some of the right people will tell you these latest skewed ravings coming from the woefully out of touch U.N. Security Council about a resolution that “affirms a vision” of an official Palestinian state in the borders of Israel, where the Jews and Palestinians will live in beatific harmony, is a sign that something concrete in the way of missile tonnage is coming soon.

Now even Cheney himself is forced to consider this lunacy out on the front lines, while his boss riles up the American citizenry with talk of nuclear bombardment and Wrath of God 101.


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Save Ted Koppel!

Aquarian Weekly 3/13/02 REALITY CHECK


Around 9:32 am, this past Monday morning my publishers at BLAZO!! received a rather interesting fax from the office of David Westin, president of ABC News. The thing wasn’t signed or even issued by Weston, who wouldn’t know BLAZO!! or me from a hole in his shoe, but there it was just the same.

It read…

Mr. Reality Check,

Disney is screwing us good this time. By the time you read this everyone here at the Washington bureau of ABC NEWS will be cleaning out our desks to make room for the sawdust and elephant dung, because the circus is moving in. But not even that is entirely true, because the circus has been moving in for some time. This is what network news organizations get for allowing amusement park moguls to run the show.

And believe it, it is a show now; Paddy Chayefsky ‘s worst fears realized. But instead of a broken down schizophrenic like Howard Beale ranting and convulsing every night to the strains of a gospel organ beneath a circular stained glass window, it is poor, dejected Ted Koppel forced to spill his guts on the op ed page of the New York Times like a pathetic caller to these afternoon talk shows that litter the landscape of radio these days.

Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?

Koppel is no “latter day prophet decrying the hypocrisy of our times”. No, he is a newsman. That’s all Ted would like to be, a newsman. And there is apparently no room for newsmen these days in the rapacious network swirl of events, even when that newsman outdraws David Letterman and all his “young, hip audience.” But there really isn’t any reason to weep for shows like Nightline or even This Week, even though Cokie Roberts is being treating like a crack whore by an establishment she has toiled under for14 years.

It would not surprise any of us if by September; Peter Jennings is hosting a variety show wherein celebrities spread feces over each other until someone cracks. It will all be for charity of course. We like to mask our dilution of standards with ice cream and good wishes here at the American Broadcasting Company. Pretty soon the news will be special reports from lollipop land hosted by Zsa Zsa Gabore and Emo Philips while the rest of us “journalists” are all sent to bag groceries or spit out futile columns in entertainment weeklies like yourself.

Doom is in the air. One only has to breathe to taste it in the back of the throat, where the last of the bile erupts to save the innards from rotting. That is what is happening here, rotting. It is terrible to see. Our accomplishments and credibility decays like a corpse in the desert sun and we are helpless to stop it.

I would cry, but my contract does not allow it. Put this in your column if you have any guts. No one would believe it, and in your case, that is an advantage.



Despite the pejorative references to my standing in the journalistic community and its ludicrous inference to Letterman pulling in a “young and hip” audience, it was, after all, ABC NEWS and so I was kind enough to respond:


Do yourself a favor, please remove your miserable head out of your ass and smell something rosier.

Your news division has been prostituting itself for over thirty years. I too love Ted Koppel. If it weren’t damned by the Living God I’d drive right now to DC, wrap him in my arms and take him to the Watergate for three days of forbidden passion, but Nightline is a show, funded by ratings and advertising and network goons who couldn’t name the first ten presidents of the United States or locate Wyoming on a map with ten chances and a tutor. You have sold your sold to rock and roll, and now you whine like a schoolgirl?

This is why you are all doomed. You have not heeded the writing on the men’s room stall. It has been there for years. Nightline was born on the bloated coverage of the hostage crisis in 1980. For the sake of all that is holy, I was a child then, and even I could see the news exploitation of that mess. Where was Nightline when the Iranian consulate was railroading Jimmy Carter, while William Casey was negotiating a hostage release from the Ayatola Khomeyni?

Trouble is news doesn’t bring the big numbers anymore, otherwise how could anyone explain these infinite obsessions with Monica Lewinsky, O.J. Simpson and Jennifer Anniston? Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?

C’mon, could it be any worse than hiring Dennis Miller to commentate on football games?

Hey, why don’t you just swing the whole operation over to ESPN? It’s practically running the joint now. From what I understand they’re going to send Sam Donaldson over there to baby sit Dick Vitale through March Madness. The network can bill it as a freak show and throw a gimp in there for halftime analysis.

C’mon, could that be any worse than having Bobby Knight on your tournament selection show?

It’s time someone in your position makes a stand and wracks his brain for better ways to disseminate information. These cable news shows are a wasteland of yammering idiots who glean less than 1% of the consumer base. Fifty-year-old “I Love Lucy” reruns out draws Bill O’Reilly and this crazy fucker has a goddamn limo. And from what I’m hearing cable news is killing the networks. So even if you pray for another catastrophe or for Gary Condit to kidnap another woman, you might as well get your hackers license and chauffeur diplomats to Dulles for a healthy tip.

Here’s one more piece of friendly advice: It’s time Koppel ends his thirty-plus year career at ABC by revealing that Michael Eisner tried to rape him in the make-up trailer during the Republican convention. Then he can smile like the Cheshire cat, flip America the bird and head off to the California hills with an unlimited supply of Carona, a pair of EZ-kill mortars, a mail-order bride and a box of Macanudo’s.

And tell him to wait for me.




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The Battle For Civil Liberties After 9/11 – A James Campion Special Report

Aquarian Weekly 3/6/02 REALITY CHECK


I think it’s important to point out that Donald Rumsfeld has gone insane. His Meet the Press, 2/24/02 appearance frightened me in ways that is hard to discern at the moment, but suffice it to suggest that he is clinically mad and currently has the power of two Caesars and Benito Mussolini thrown in for good measure.

No American citizen should have to suffer through anything like that without a network banner warning or a scrolling marquee underneath. Jesus, I felt like those crazed farmers after the “War of the Worlds” broadcast for most of the morning before a phone call from Georgetown jerked me back to reality.

“See that beautiful maniac, Rumsfeld?” he said with preternatural glee. “Goddamnit he’s good.”

I only broach this because my concern is always with national interest and not with the radical impulses of the foreign press. Rumor of the Pentagon leaking false stories doesn’t alarm my journalistic sensibilities, mainly because I sold them not long after college for a case of Genesee Cream Ale and a moped. On the contrary, I believe the more unstable the voice, the better.

It is apparently not bothering enough Americans that the events of 9/11 has given the government a free reign to slowly turn this country into subtle forms of marshal law, an Orwellian spectacle of never ending military missions and infinite wars.

There were times when the loose-cannon approach served Ronald Reagan well. The Soviets viewed the Reagan people as capable of anything, and that’s how Ronnie liked it. UN officials were sure the president would burn the planet to cinder on what they dubbed his more severe “incontinent days”. And by 1986, Muammar Kadafi found himself waking up in the middle of the night soaked with sweat and screaming about John Wayne gremlins gnawing on his testicles with nightmarishly penetrating fangs.

Ordinarily appearing on a network news program as a jabbering lunatic would be advantageous during times of global crisis, but it appears that Rumsfeld is making major decisions on restructuring civil liberties under the auspices that we are perpetually under attack. With the preponderance of this latest blind national acceptance of anything that comes down from the Pentagon or the FBI or the CIA these days, we had better be damn sure those signing off on them aren’t frothing at the mouth.

I don’t believe Rumsfeld is aware that he is loosing his mind, and he doesn’t appear to be merely a blubbering ass like Jesse Helms or Ted Kennedy. Normally, I would blame his behavior on “interview stress”, caffeine overload or bad briefing, like someone forgetting to remind the Secretary of Defense that the Pentagon has been bilking the American people since its inception, and it probably isn’t a good idea to try and sell mercenaries as choir boys on holiday when the red light is on over the camera.

The truth is there is a quagmire in Washington now that will be hard to siphon with one session of congress or one election, and since the secretary of defense is appointed, and not elected, and the current commander and chief is going nowhere, we are confronted with serious issues.

Some congressmen have already begun running for reelection by blaming the slag economy on the millions a day we’re spending on super jets cruising New York Harbor and the circumference of the Beltway. Others take credit for riding the wave of sudden hysteria into what will no doubt mean the kind of military spending that drove the national debt into NASA proportions during the 80s’.

But it will be hard for Democrats to get a sniff while this near untouchable Texan cowboy is mucking up the oval office with letters to the parents of kids who keep getting charred on senseless military missions or the pink slips for “special agents” who were pulling down six figures a year not to find Osama bin Laden.

It is apparently not bothering enough Americans that the events of 9/11 has given the government a free reign to slowly turn this country into subtle forms of marshal law, an Orwellian spectacle of never ending military missions and infinite wars.

Anyone whose career is dependant on the outcome of the next phase of this “war on terrorism” have to believe that if there is no concrete move on Iraq by summer’s end it becomes an ever harder to sell to the American people, the crumbling Arab coalition and the Pentagon itself.

Rumsfeld’s Sunday morning television stint notwithstanding, there is a certain air of John Mitchell bluster to his press conferences that set off alarms here at The Desk. This “holier than thou” Vince Lombari shtick has gone from wonderfully eccentric to annoyingly pedantic. His snide remarks broke up press row when Afghani caves were being smoked daily for two months, but in the glare of this latest military hiatus they sound like juvenile smoke screens.

Meanwhile Muslim women are being molested at airports and any protest against racial profiling is suddenly a hint of un-American activity.

Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, has taken that title to filter every possible panic the FBI sniffs to the point of hysteria. Of course there will be threats at major events, the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, a Britney Spears afternoon jog. But what Americans don’t know is that this has been happening for decades, and because your government failed to protect us initially, we are stumbling toward a third world police state.

What September has done is raise the level of terror, its exact directive. Now we may be living in terror of our own government.

And this is a government currently being run domestically by attorney general, John Ashcroft, Ridge and Rumsfeld and Pentagon officials who have been on an unnatural level of readiness for six months. This is apparently too much pressure of for these boys, and if not, they really ought to prepare their spokesmen better.

The press cannot be trusted to uncover the truth on any of this. The news channels have been reduced to beauty pageants and piss fights between the left and right, and the New York Times is now soliciting unmarried freelancers to cover Middle East events since the video slaughter of Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl.

It is not a safe time to be an editor and chief when the good reporters are asked to stand down and wear flag pins and the freelance warriors are taking their lives in their hands just showing up for work.

For me it will be a comfortable ride, and I will not be swayed. I’ve fortified Fort Vernon and put the cats on full alert. And thank the gods of journalism I cloak myself in this weekly column so I don’t have to work press conferences or damned piker leads any longer.

Oh yeah, and my wife’s bullhorn privileges have been suspended until further notice.

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Inside Enron digs deep.

Aquarian Weekly 2/20/02 REALITY CHECK

INSIDE THE ENRON FIASCOA Special Report From The Desk

This ain’t about this that what where or how This is about the freaks doing everything they wanna do Now.” – Prince Rogers Nelson

With very little funds and even less disposable time, the Reality Check New & Information staff was able to track down several reliable sources in an ongoing investigation into the wildly popular Enron fiasco. The subjects, ranging from low-level insiders with the beleaguered corporation to peripheral clients of the dubious Arthur Anderson Accounting Firm, relayed the following details under their own volition. No one was paid, drugged or coerced into coming forth nor were they necessarily direct victims of any presently discussed alleged corporate and accounting malfeasance.

As is the ritual around here, the bulk of the information was edited for content by myself and sent to each individual contributor to either reject or qualify. It is important to note that all interested parties stood by the following story.

Late in the winter of 2000 the Enron Corporation purchased huge tracks of land in the Alaskan wildlife area to ostensibly build an amusement park to be run by current vice president, Dick Chaney under the supervision of Greenpeace. But it was merely a front for illegal drilling and gun running to be overseen by Chinese naval captains who were using kickbacks from prominent investors to torture Tibetan monks and fund forced abortions.

Whitman was on a private Enron jet with our Zippy Smith the day a cub reporter from the Fort Worth Telegram called Enron executives to rebut a rumor that the company never existed and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar energy concern was nothing more than a Liza Minelli impersonator from South Florida.

A gentleman, whom we shall dub, Zippy Smith handled the clandestine negotiations and claims that one of the key investors was a high-ranking government official whose main responsibility was the recruitment of Serbian refugees to act as a diversion at the Russian border.

It was during this time, according to Smith’s estimation, that nearly a third of Enron’s donations to the Clinton administration were used to develop specific levels of germ warfare in the basement of a Pizza Hut outside the city of Khobar in Saudi Arabia.

Another source, known to us as Dark Horse, confirmed much of Smith’s allegations, but made it clear that Enron was never officially registered as a corporation at all. From the start, former CEO Kenneth Lay, recently in the news for pleading the fifth during congressional hearings, was implemented at the helm as a patsy.

According to Dark Horse, Lay was a notorious cross-dresser and charter member of Divas Key West; a Florida based female impersonator entertainment company. During the Gulf War, Lay worked as an assistant to Dick Chaney and was expected to barter deals with every rogue element in OPEC, including the overtly effeminate stepfather of Osama bin Laden. But a third source close to the operation tells us that Lay was never there, and that his name was being used unbeknownst to him while working feverishly on his award-winning Liza Minelli routine.

This source, to whom we must refer to as Chunky, claims to have been present at several meetings in which Chaney ordered around a diminutive Arab boy whom he routinely called Kenny. It was this kid’s job to answer any phone calls regarding “the Alaskan thing.”

The plot thickens from here.

Zippy Smith explicitly confirms the Dark Horse tale and told us that around this time the Bush sr. administration was trying to outfox Saddam Hussein by creating fictitious energy concerns. The historically squeaky clean, Arthur Anderson accounting firm was hired with obscene defense monies to create the phony corporations from thin air under the guise of national security.

It turns out that one of the surviving names was Enron, and during the Internet boom of the mid-90s’ several recently indicted accountants in the employ of Arthur Anderson began creating a solvent company from five-year old fabricated books.

Our Arthur Anderson source echoed the story while adding that all of the documents originally drawn up included the names of deceased land barons from the late 1800s’. These are the papers key AA accountants shredded during the final days of Enron.

It was around this time that Kenneth Lay darted back into the picture after his alleged incarceration on trumped up charges of public nudity and male prostitution. Both Smith and Dark Horse agree that Lay’s subsequent suit against the Monroe County police was mysteriously dismissed. Apparently an unnamed character witness later identified as Cliffy Boy revealed that Lay had been merely working undercover as a correspondent for 60 Minutes.

CBS executives could not be reached for comment. It was getting late and we were hungry.

Dark Horse intimates that the mysterious Cliffy Boy was the late J. Clifford Baxter, former vice chairman of Enron who was found dead of an apparent suicide outside his home in Sugar Land, Texas, but is vehement in his claim that “this was no suicide, Bub.”

The question raised several times throughout the investigation was how were the employees involved in the decade-long scam?

Dark Horse told us that the original employees were in on the scheme, but left soon after unloading their phony stocks at record highs. Many of the original members of the Enron Project used the fast cash to buy shares in the Houston Astros and named the stadium after the bogus company for laughs.

The governor of Texas at the time, now president, George W. Bush, former owner of the Texas Rangers and a known Astros hater, threatened to blow the whistle on Enron, but the project had been his father’s puppy and continued to rake in billions for the state. So Bush decided instead to use blackmail to procure ridiculous campaign funds in exchange for announcing Dick Chaney as his running mate.

The new employees were merely on a need to know basis, which didn’t seem like trouble until the NASDAQ collapse in July of 2000.

By September of that year Enron needed new blood and started working with the CIA, pillaged by budget cuts and mostly bored stiff, to deal with underground real estate groups in the purchasing of land throughout the US and Canada. Zippy tells us the plan was to drill for oil beneath the radar of the soon to be doomed Environmental Protection Agency.

Come fall, all that mattered little when G.W. outspent John McCain in the GOP primaries and squeaked by the general election to become President of the United States and appoint party lackey, Christie Todd Whitman to head of the EPA.

Whitman was on a private Enron jet with our Zippy Smith the day a cub reporter from the Fort Worth Telegram called Enron executives to rebut a rumor that the company never existed and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar energy concern was nothing more than a Liza Minelli impersonator from South Florida.

This prompted a frenzied mass selling off of all phony stock and a cover-up worthy of Wall Street, throwing thousands of innocents into sudden poverty and a cadre of boring pundits from the drone of actuary hell into our living rooms nightly. Not to mention the millions that will be spent trying these freaks in several and varied courts.

With apologies to that drunken fossil, Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

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Elton Brand is Good People ‘s personal take on a young athlete.

Aquarian Weekly 2/13/02 REALITY CHECK


Oddly, this is the second consecutive column on sports; but not literally, since every profession, in and out of the spotlight of celebrity, harbors the good and the lousy. And since this space mostly concentrates — with some notable exceptions — on the lousy, I thought it a welcomed respite to laud the good.

Sadly, this is a society addicted to the perception that young, brash celebrities make for interesting press if they are angry, criminal or just plain annoying. So it is quite refreshing when a relevant story pertains to a subject with a level of intellect, pride and a compassionate respect rarely displayed by even those of considerable maturity.

On the fourth day of February, Peekskill High School, a sizable institution located in a struggling economic hamlet of northern Westchester, New York retired the jersey of its greatest basketball players, Elton Brand.

Governor, George Pataki, a Peekskill HS alum and former mayor of the town, its current mayor and dignitaries from the school district joined the crammed gym to share in the pomp.

It was a profound experience to witness the growth of a physical specimen gaining complete control over the detailed elements and challenges of his game. With each passing season, his talents became refined, as if adding bolder colors to a painting or gorgeous counter melodies to a symphony, until it seemed there could be no more bloom on the rose.

I was among the represented sporting press mainly due to a local broadcasting gig I’ve enjoyed since the late 80s’. But, admittedly, I attended the event with the same pride I’d felt when a kid I’d seen play the game at the tender age of thirteen was chosen first in the 1998 NBA draft.

Brand arrived dressed in a stylish tan suit, still exhibiting the same genuine, almost innocent smile he’d displayed in his adolescence. At first shielded by a modest entourage, he broke ranks to welcome many of the people who were instrumental in his success. He hugged, shook hands and intermingled with everyone in the press area, but did so with none of the disingenuous condescension of a grubbing politician or a petulant punk star allowing the sycophants a whiff of stardom.

And when he spoke of his recent triumphs, he exuded a keen instinct that his achievements were not merely for himself or even his family, but a town, a generation, a culture, a race and a sport.

“I think I do understand the impact,” he said when I asked him if he knew what it meant to a small, decaying urban town that one of their own flourished in its graying pall. “People know that it takes more than just one talent to truly succeed,” Brand continued. “My parents always stressed a good academic background, to be good at what you do, but be a good person also.”

He trailed off when he said, “good person”, as if it seemed ludicrous to him that it wasn’t a given that anyone who could dunk a basketball, split an atom or sweep the gym wouldn’t try to be the best person they could be.

Having called most of Brand’s televised games for his four stellar years as the center for two title squads, I was impressed at how he handled it all. Our conversations on and off the air were never strained, many times I learned something deeper about the human spirit from him, this precocious boy embracing a burgeoning gift, cradling its jewels, but never squeezing too tightly.

There was never a doubt about his considerable skills as an athlete, an almost pristine ballet of power and grace on a basketball court. It was a profound experience to witness the growth of a physical specimen gaining complete control over the detailed elements and challenges of his game. With each passing season, his talents became refined, as if adding bolder colors to a painting or gorgeous counter melodies to a symphony, until it seemed there could be no more bloom on the rose.

But instead of becoming detached, the bane of the modern athlete, Brand embraced the responsibility of his considerable talents. He was a straight A student, quiet, but never reserved. I never saw him brood or recoil from the ridiculous stampede of attention, accolade or criticism a wunderkind must endure. He was a source of great support to his team and schoolmates, whether troubled or scholarly.

“There were great players before me,” Brand told me hours before the ceremony. “Hey, and there will be great ones coming. I’m just glad to be a part of that group.”

And it’s a tough group, the “too good – to soon” set, from any era and any school. Elton Brand, and others like him, experience what can only be described as a world wind youth. Athletes have a short window. The journey from novice to expert spans a third of the normal lifetime. The pressures of time begin immediately, and the clock runs quickly.

By the age of 13, Brand was already touted as a “can’t miss”, a throwaway sports phrase that usually renders children to the level of lucrative product. Peekskill’s head coach, Lou Panzenaro told me on local radio that winter that a 6′ 9” kid was dunking on his varsity players. As a freshman he was the best player on the team and by his sophomore year, the best in the region.

By his senior year Brand was one of maybe five to ten of the best talents in the country. He was elevated to a McDonald’s All-American, became a significant player for Duke University, the premier basketball and academic institution in the nation, and the number one draft pick of the NBA in 1998 by the Chicago Bulls.

Traded this past off-season to the Los Angeles Clippers, Brand has raised his level of play to near All-Star status, and his new teammates root the hardest for him. Two of them, Corey Maggette and Darius Miles joined Brand for what they described as “the long trip” from NYC earlier in the day.

“My boy is the best teammate,” Miles told me, as the crowded gym chanted Brand’s name moments before the unveiling of his retired jersey. “I’ve learned a lot about the game and more from him. There was no question I would come up here to see him honored.”

The late, great Dick Schaap, who’d spent quality time with every significant athlete for the better part of the past century, once told me something I won’t soon forget, and something that came streaming back when a mountain of a young man in a tan suit gave me a bear hug and thanked me for sharing in his honor.

“Only the smallest percentage of people ever perfect anything,” Schaap said. “And athletes do it before they even know who the heck they are as people. Not to mention they do it with everyone counting on them, watching their every move and expecting them to carry the day all the time.”

Elton Brand is carrying the day just fine.

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Mike Tyson, Instant Replay and MLB Crimes – Essay on sports by James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 1/30/02 REALITY CHECK


I am no longer officially counted among the sporting press. It’s been almost a calendar year since my credentials in the sports world elapsed with the sudden halt of a Westchester radio gig, and aside from the occasional perusal of sports pages, rabid gambling on pro football and an impromptu sports trivia fest on New Year’s Eve, I have been woefully out of the loop. So in the interest of not allowing certain chickens to fly the proverbial coop, I shall use this week’s space to vent the foul odors emanating from the toy department.

Firstly, Mike Tyson should be shackled to a spinning platform in the middle of some designated town square like Hugo’s Hunchback. He is a freak of nature, a grunting slum ogre, whom the citizens of this nation apparently cannot get enough of; so the money boys keep parading his pathetic savagery out of moth balls every quarter for a taste.

Meanwhile, his raping and pillaging zooms merrily along under the radar. This is the same radar that saw fit to strip the great Muhammad Ali of his title for protesting an abomination halfway across the globe. Military fiascos over women’s rights; sounds about right for the boxing elite.

Boxing needs Tyson. Otherwise, it is a dead sport. The financial gluttony of pay-per-farce has rendered its faceless participants to fringe characters that only insiders and diseased gamblers have any use for. But Tyson is different. However tired his “angry street punk” act becomes, people still pay to see the madman implode under the weight of his own transparent sanity, or perhaps, there is the hope he might test the limits of an already sadistic exhibition.

Mike Tyson should be shackled to a spinning platform in the middle of some designated town square like Hugo’s Hunchback.

Every time Tyson turns a press conference into a prison riot, he titillates our darker side. Certainly, it is human nature to coddle a warped fascination of the villain. Tyson exploits this social malady quite well. We marvel at his anti-social, violent nature, and choose to blame it all on the brutality of his profession. All the while, Tyson serves our primal need for the grotesque, the sports version of the Elephant Man.

And it warms my heart to see the “boxing people”, the snuff pimps of sport, become self-righteous every time Tyson explodes, as evidenced earlier this week at another of their meaningless media events. Even though they know full well that as long as Tyson is the fire-breathing dragon to whatever dupe in shining armor they put in front of him, he will take the lowest road possible.

But mayhem makes good headlines and highlights, two things the realm of big-time sports must rely on for readers and ratings and sexy stories for smart-ass commentators and grizzled scribes to paint into instant calamity.

This makes it all the more curious that many of the same sensationalists who fill the quota of sports journalism do not spend more time carving up the evil empire known as Major League Baseball.

It seems defacto, commissioner, Bud Selig, architect of the assassination of the 1994 baseball season, with its convenient alliances, backroom payoffs and empty promises, has been at it again.

This glorified con man wants baseball fans to buy the idea that the contracting of teams from this miserably bloated league is some kind of charity solution to the drunken spree of spending that has gone on under the guise of an atavistic anti-trust exemption for a quarter century.

Who is swallowing this incredible sack of horseshit?

The owners expanded a league they claimed was careening toward bankruptcy time and again for two decades, diluting the talent and screwing up the competitive nature of a gorgeous game to pay for their self-inflicted wounds. Now entire franchises are being shifted around like plastic hotels on a monopoly board, while cities and politicians and judges and fans clamor and sue and lobby to save baseball from leaving their respective towns.

As a result, the 2002 season will begin with lame-duck teams, franchises with no ownership, glaring conflicts of interest and no concrete bargaining agreement. Only about six to ten teams have the funds to compete under the current structure, no one wants to play in Canada, Disney couldn’t turn a fucking profit in Hollywood and I could swear I heard some sick bastard suggest they put another team in the District of Columbia.

Finally, I need to get something straight about the National Football League’s stance on the arbitrary nature of this Instant Replay stuff.

Wasn’t this supposed remove controversy from the game?

CBS analyst, Phil Simms told me last year that he thought the whole thing was too ambiguous for its own good, that there are too many instances where no one understands its parameters; not the coaches, the fans, the media, or most importantly, the officials.

The league challenged the officials by ramming technology down their throats as a glaring second-guess machine, and then placated them with loopholes to circumvent its authority by coming up with new and exciting ways to void its use.

Despite the fact that this abomination saved me cash last week, what happened to the Oakland Raiders in New England last Saturday night is a tragic. The officials compromised the entire structure of the play-off system, and not a soul had a clue why, least of all my pal, Simms, who was standing in the frozen booth extolling the victorious Raiders while the anonymous Replay Official was changing the outcome.

The truth is the league is buoyed by the gambling culture; although anyone with any power would be loath to admit it. Hey, the league was tired of hearing that slow and incompetent officials were deciding the “integrity” of the game. There are photo finishes in horse racing, right? Instant Replay was supposed cure all of that.

Instead it has ground the game to a halt at key moments, put the already overwhelmed officials on the hot seat and sucked the life out of fairness by silly explanations, archaic rule interpretations and the always popular “inadvertent whistle”.

Makes you wish Vince Lombardi could be standing in the snow to listen to that dog crap. Now that would be worth the wait.

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What’s Next For The War On Terrorism? investigates.

Aquarian Weekly 1/23/02 REALITY CHECK


“Regiments are costly articles everywhere, and more so in this country than any other under the sun.” – John Adams

There is the assumption among the literary set that most people sit when attempting to read. If for some reason you find you are the exception to this, it is time you grabbed a squat.

The United States is prepared to take $42 billion of your money to rebuild a country they just spent an estimated $4 billion destroying. By all measures, this is a whopping bill for dismantling an Arab mafia.

Sorry, I’m wrong.

Afghani women can now wear lipstick, Tora Bora bars can restock their jukeboxes with Elvis records and the US Army has successfully proven once again that without the help of a global power behind rebel factions, most Arab nations fold like cheaply tailored Boy Scout tents.

Yes, and the transport of the 50 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees, currently being held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, could not have been cheap.

The stockholders of this republic needed to be consulted on this.

We’re funding 12-hour airplane trips with two guards per man, jail cells furnished with handy Korans, televisions and exercise bikes? That’s got to run in the high six figures for each guy. And this does not include a lengthy trial vehemently protested by Ed Asner.

I think a public vote was in order: High six figures for transport and lodging or $45 per man to put a bullet in their heads where they stood. This price could have been negotiated down, if they were to dig their own graves for easy dumping.

Sure the options range from disturbing to brutal, but this is a damaged economy and we were told that survival is the order of the day.

I’m referring to domestic survival here.

Now that the rabid purchasing of American flags has subsided, the US economy is on a record roll of futility. Last year, for the first time since I began sucking air, the rate of inflation reversed upon itself. This is the economic equivalent of “Planet of the Apes”. It just doesn’t happen.

This Enron fiasco is so patently evil and corrupt it threatens the future of corporate embezzlement, inside trading, or anything that dupes the middle class into droned mediocrity for the remainder of this century.

There is a web of lies and financial indiscretions, and then there is Armageddon. The good people at Enron careened into the latter. And there is very solid evidence suggesting its malfeasance is not unique.

After all, this is a country fueled by corporate greed.

What shall we do without it?

Things are so bad right now by the time you finish reading this sentence another thousand people will be out of work. Apparently not even K-Mart will survive this, which will adversely affect the wardrobes of millions of mid-westerners.

Lord Almighty, even the executive producer of ESPN Radio New York is hounding me with poetic e-mails about $100 worth of Miami Dolphins paraphernalia I’ve owed him for two years of bad gambling, even though that wretched team mistook the first round of the play-offs for a goddamn bye week.

Wars are supposed to be good for economies.

What the hell is going on?

So now that the tears have dried and people can stand on planks above Ground Zero and see the results of the New War, and Osama bin Laden’s corpse is making its way across the Mediterranean Sea on a motorized dingy, or whatever wildly misguided intelligence you’d like to believe, it is becoming apparent that our president is about to be in the same spot his father found himself a decade ago.

The CIA allegedly has plenty of evidence that the Iraqi government, or regime, or madman dictator, aided and bankrolled the attack on this nation. This is not a subject of debate. It is a given. What is before the current administration is that if the United States actually continues this War on Terrorism it will have to do so in Baghdad or it will be waltzing toward failure.

Either that or the state department can start taking requests for Dublin and a house cleaning of the IRA or perhaps a raid on Manila’s transcontinental drug cartel. But that seems even less likely than a chief executive with the last name Bush doing anything to upset the massive oil concerns in Saudi Arabia or inconveniencing the other nations of this precarious alliance currently thriving in terror central.

And if I can borrow the tired holiday advertising campaign that THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF you don’t spend your money like a drunken sailor on doomsday, despite the stock market looking like a Dickensian workhouse…

THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF…We continue to chase dead men around the Middle East. As covered extensively in this space, al Qaeda will not allow figureheads to fall into enemy hands to be humiliated by the Western Satan. They have long since assassinated them for the love of Allah. The remedy is to call their bluff by claiming we’ve already captured bin Laden and Mohammad Omar and have sentenced them to clean toilets in the Pentagon unto death.

THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF… We spend five seconds listening to Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His money-pit scheme to continue raiding caves and craters in Afghanistan with American troops is insanity. Get those kids out of there or face another Somalia farce, adding to the astronomical costs of lunatics idly waiting to form governments with third century BC, chieftain/war lord civic methods.

THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON IF… We don’t completely abandon military presence in Pakistan before the impending nuclear piss fight with India turns the region into a smoking sinkhole. Its government is barely in control, and a war with a rabid neighboring enemy will cause American causalities and diplomatic troubles. Not to mention the costs.

At the current rate, we’ll be giving back that $400 a head in order to pay for this JohnWayne, macho hoedown.

Hey, vengeance is an expensive ride.

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In Praise of “Gangs of New York”

Aquarian Weekly 1/8/02 REALITY CHECK

THE BIRTHING OF HISTORYIn Praise of “Gangs of New York”

“Gangs of New York” is a masterpiece. Ripped from the pages of Herbert Asbury’s brutal depiction of nineteenth century Manhattan street life, it is one of the finest films I have seen in years, and although I have enjoyed quite a few brilliant offerings at the movies since taking this post at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, it is only the second slice of celluloid art I’ve been motivated to devote a column to.

Needless to say my two viewings of Martin Scorsese’s latest effort, and I deign to write his best, left me in awe of the passion and dedication of one of this country’s most celebrated filmmakers when he is forced to confront his most beguiling demons; the city of New York and his wavering faith in human kind.

Scorsese has wrestled with the idiosyncrasies of faith in the backdrop of the Big Apple before. His early Holy Trilogy includes the painfully autobiographical “Mean Streets”, the disturbingly accurate portrayal of ’70’s Manhattan in “Taxi Driver”, and the ultimate ode to blood sacrifice in “Raging Bull”. He later vividly expounded on these themes in the stirring, if not flawed adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ” and his up-to-now signature film, “Goodfellas”, but the pure guts and raw honesty of “Gangs of New York’ resonates in those wonderfully grimy artistic beginnings.

Every moment of “Gangs of New York” harkens Scorsese’s best work, but eclipses it simply by tearing at the fabric of his normally metaphoric characterizations of the New York spirit/curse of true grit and tough love.

Every moment of “Gangs of New York” harkens Scorsese’s best work, but eclipses it simply by tearing at the fabric of his normally metaphoric characterizations of the New York spirit/curse of true grit and tough love. “Gangs” takes his vision to a new level, paradoxically reveling in its victims as triumphant and villains as sympathetic deities.

Set in mid-nineteenth century lower Manhattan’s combustible Five Points, amidst the racial and cultural upheaval of a birthing nation cracking under the weight of civil war, “Gangs” explores the epic struggle of humanity in the imposing shadow of a burgeoning city. Peasants from across the globe pour onto its streets, forced to subsist within the boundaries of corrupt law and violent religious reprisals, their will for survival roaring above the cannon fodder of a modernized American dream.

At its core, “Gangs” is a brutally honest psalm to this survival, the purest form of human survival in a chaotic landscape of prejudice, fear, pride and greed. New Yorkers trapped in a jungle of political strife and cultural mayhem which helped to give agonizing birth to the greatest city in the world.

An overtly violent film from one of the genre’s most honest portrayers of street life, Scorsese strips bare the time-worn vengeance theme to unfold an almost Shakespearean quandary of good vs. evil, or past vs. the inevitable evolution of progress. Unlike recent historical epics that scratch the surface of this subject’s moral imperative such as 1995’s “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” of 2000, “Gangs of New York” presents characters of varying depths. The line between the villain and hero is constantly blurred, as in true life. There is no sacred vision, only the eruption of existence in a cold world.

Throughout this film, one does not just view, but experiences a time long before the veiled era of common sensibilities. Deep within the bloodstained streets and impoverished neighborhoods ruled with an iron hand by thieving politicians and frightened thugs the audience can never question the savage realities thrust from its rage, only wonder time and again how any society could thrive from it.

In addition to the combined writing efforts of Scorsese, Steven Zallian, Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan’s gripping screenplay brimming with memorable scenes (my favorites include the burning of a downtown building while rival fire companies rumble beneath the ravaging flames and a line of Irish immigrants simultaneously signing for their US citizenship and army induction moments after exiting the ship, handed a rifle and paraded onto a ship headed for the front) and quotes (When the participants of a hilariously dirty political campaign learn the candidate is a formally savage gang member with an inordinate amount of kills, the comment is simply, “We should have run him for mayor.”) there are a number of memorable performances here as well.

Leonardo DiCacprio’s role as the angst-riddled Amsterdam Vallon breathes new life into the resume of the once revered, but recently maligned young actor. He is the eyes and ears of the audience, lending an enticing, yet monotone, narration that ably accompanies Scorsese’s sweeping scenes. Again, he is a far more believable heroic figure in a story and time when a steely fortitude was demanded not from the extraordinary but the everyman.

Cameron Diaz supports DiCaprio’s dangerous journey with a fiery rendering of a wise and conniving street lass turned revolutionary and Jim Broadbent’s lasting portrayal of the indomitably corruptible Boss Tweed, the famously insidious NY political power monger, is right on.

But “Gangs of New York” is all about Daniel Day-Lewis’s mind-bending depiction of the outrageously evil William Cutting, aka “Bill the Butcher”. He forcefully dominates the screen, cajoling, slashing, barking and bleeding, yet he plays the emotions of this psychologically damaged soul with a wry sensibility. Cutting is both sinner and saint, patriarchal charmer and black hand, a gory amalgamation of Scorsese’s Jake La Motta meets Travis Bickle with the mind and mettle of a latter day mob boss. When considering the British actor’s usually polished demeanor, it is literally mesmerizing.

Finally, “Gangs of New York” soars because it does not turn away from the nauseous reality of cultural fear and hatred, the perpetuation of skewered values based on race, creed and nationality. The film dissects the duplicitous struggle to face the crude nature of our traditions and generational sins, and for a three-hour romp through the darkest secrets of our human psyche, it’s a damn entertaining ride.

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