Who Killed Napster? dissects the murder of free music.

Aquarian Weekly 2/21/01 REALITY CHECK

WHO KILLED NAPSTER?

Appeals will come and go. They inevitably do. But for the record, at least the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals version of it, the freebie cyber music fest known as NAPSTER is history. You’ll eventually pay a fee for the service of downloading music, unless you scramble to the countless other places popping up daily. However, life on NAPSTER, as we have come to know and love it, is over.

I say love for I too have enjoyed its guilty pleasures, and despite being an artist who sells his wares online and elsewhere, I have used the excuse that I shouldn’t have to spend nearly $20 for one song, or I’m searching for out-of-print stuff some company has deemed unworthy, or I dig getting bootlegged material that the artist would never get a penny for anyway. It’s trading, after all. It’s just trading with millions instead of a few.

Industry types always panic when technology comes calling. Television was supposed destroy the movie industry. The audiotape sent big wigs from record companies to every court in the land trying to put a stop to that egregious threat to profit and power. Then it was the VCR and its looming danger to everything holy. All the clichés about money should be thrown into the mix now with NAPSTER. Somewhere someone is getting something for free, and goddammit what are we even here for?

There are certain realities that rear their ugly head when people get happy at rebelling against evil corporations, who arbitrarily jack-up the prices of items because they know damn well you’ll pay it. Artistic endeavors, however silly they may seem to the average American, are difficult enough without “free” being added to the equation. Musicians are told most of their lives they won’t amount to shit, so when they are the shit, they don’t let go of it easily. Despite Limp Bizkit’s wild and crazy apathy about NAPSTER, they’re in the same boat as Metallica – crusaders against NAPSTER for artists’ rights – because if no one pays them, they have to get real jobs or steal car stereos.

Yes, artists take a hit, at least established ones, because many unknowns now cheer NAPSTER for putting them on even ground with the huge bottom line distributors who need only the latest fashion and Britney Spears and could give half a fart about some punk outfit in Wyoming or a funk band in Greenwich Village. Sure record companies pony up the cash on nobodies (studio time, videos, limos, drugs, groupies), music publishers protect their rights (undermining, suing and threatening) and distributors have to take their cut (bullying, paying off teamsters and squeezing every cent from moguls) and music outlets, both online and in stores, need a little taste (protection against thievery, advertising and sandbagging the locals), but eventually the consumer takes the financial hit. No company is in business to lose money, at least those not run by the Beatles, and when a compact disc costs three cents and is being retailed at $17.99 it’s hard to feel any sorrow.

So we download like crazy people, to the tune of 50 million to date, and an estimated 250 million songs were downloaded the day before the second ruling last week. Programs and cd burners make it all-too easy to get this stuff from Lil’ Johnny’s collection into our car stereo; no stores, no annoying people telling you what you have to like and none of your money going bye-bye. You don’t have to listen too hard to hear the fear burning through the heart of the record industry, although, ironically, their collective profit margins broke records last year. The vocation of making tons of money off of someone else’s talent may be in serious trouble, but the present statistics don’t bare it out.

Perhaps like free-agency in sports, the new landscape will seem like a victory for human rights, but may end up screwing us in the long run. NAPSTER, and all it stands for, feeds our insatiable appetite for immediate gratification. Think about it, if you could anything for free that isn’t technically stolen, wouldn’t you consider it?

Right about here I usually start spouting rude comments about how the whole phone system in this country is fucked thanks to the dismantling of the evil Ma Bell, but instead I’ll use the space to remind those in need that anytime the government gets involved in matters of mammon stuff will be broken, and not easily fixed. Regulation is a horrible word in big business, until the public starts getting too much value, and then someone has to put a stop to it. Of course, it’s that type of thinking that eliminated cocaine from Coca-Cola’s ingredients.

But I digress, because all we’re really talking about here is rapacious talent sluts taking the fall for literally a tune. Now those seven-figure agents tooling down Hollywood Blvd.and mainlining Ajax for the right to rape some kid rapper on the East coast will have to give up the condo on the Virgin Islands because some poor sap wanted to download a dumb ass Metallica song. Meanwhile the same agencies are trying to subvert the right to even make those records in order to allay the fears of mid-western PTA drones, who spend quality church time riling up senators to halt the work of Satan.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Underground Rave Beatings! goes to the mat for violence against stupidity.

Aquarian Weekly 2/14/01 REALITY CHECK

THE TRUTH ABOUT WILLIE & THE UNDERGROUND SHARKS

“The Hammerhead, they say, is no different today than he was in One Million B.C. He is a ruthless, stupid beast with only one instinct–to attack, to hurt & cripple & kill.” – Doctor H.S. Thompson

I received a letter recently, which appeared in this space last week, complaining of my association with a modern renegade known to my readers as Willie. It went on to site my “exploitation of criminals” in order to fill columns. As an example, the author described in detail a beating his friend took at the hands of Willie during what he described as a rave in downtown Manhattan. Then he managed to heap the vicarious blame on me. I could not vouch for the veracity of that particular incident, but it was not outside the realm of possibility. If fact, knowing Willie’s considerably savage track record, it sank comfortably in the cushion of plausibility, but my connection to this is still hazy.

It is true that in the nearly four years of penning this column Willie has provided me with several rather interesting, if not dangerous, news stories. As discussed here last year, some have thought him a figment of my imagination, a metaphoric tool used to dismantle a variance of subjects ranging from drug abuse to racism to violence. And although I would love to take credit for any satire, Willie is all-too real.

But to apologize for his behavior or the “exploitation” of it would only be hypocritical. As a journalist, admittedly a rogue one at that, people like Willie are a necessary evil, and perhaps it is going too far labeling them evil in the first place. Evil is such a vacillating concept in the world of hard news, even out here on the fringe. This is, after all, a new age of acceptance and forgiveness, where reverends embezzle and father a love child, Super Bowl MVP’s are ex-cons and IRS accountants crawl off to the White House with a .38-caliber revolver and a dream. Our most revered artists are weak and flawed and our politicians reach new lows daily.

Evil is so ambiguous now we must attach the word HATE onto the front of CRIME to further accentuate its heinous nature. By that logic a punch to the head of a gay man is far more damaging than one to a heterosexual. Defining evil now is only a matter of creating compound sins and clever chants, but fingering it is a far more difficult endeavor.

As for the alleged “rave beatings”, it is only fair to point out that beatings at these things are a dime a dozen. Many kids who gobble Ecstasy find a good beating a welcomed enhancement to the high. There is nothing better than breaking the chains of well-being and peace with a fine stomping at the hands of an anonymous madman whose only purpose in hanging around in the first place is to doll them out like Easter candy. More of these flopping cretins should be beaten, people like Willie might say, like cell-phone drivers and those dipshits who sue tobacco companies. And who would argue with their freedom?

The underground is filled with natural-selection beasts like Willie, and so are politics and Wall Street and suburbia for that matter. He is the bully, the boogieman, the great equalizer reminding everyone that humanity is not the home of compassion, but the result of brutal evolution, where the strong and maniacal unleash their frustration on those who might live under the illusion that they are somehow more refined or “better” than the rest. We shouldn’t shun or fear them. The idea is to befriend these mutants, pull them close to your bosom and mother their intentions, or at the very least, bring a notebook and study their habits.

This is what the police do. The undercover gig is a popular one on the force. A NYC detective told me recently that most busts take months, even years to set up, and for every dick forging relationships with the beautiful people, there is a reporter on his rolodex waiting for a scoop. To his credit, Willie isn’t on anyone’s payroll and would sooner stomp the life out of a narc than turn state’s evidence, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for pikers like Ray Lewis or Puffy Combs.

I first met Willie in Brooklyn in the early 90s’, and anyone spending quality time there learns quickly that twisted bodyguards are not to be scoffed at. Are we supposed to ignore places like Brooklyn, or should we hunker down and live on the edge, make it our homes if just for experiment? These are the questions my little letter-writing friend flippantly mocks with righteous blather in hopes to guilt those of us who’ve traded in such silly twinges of emotion for a press card.

This is tantamount to those reviewers of my first book writing that I glorified alcoholism. Perhaps they skimmed through the thing, like most lazy critics, and skipped the consequences of what I was experiencing, choosing instead to make blanket statements about people living in an “onerous vacuum.” Those are the same mumbling whiners who wrote that “Deep Tank Jersey” was fiction. But unless you live in the game, it is hard to record it.

Willie is the game, just like any other creature you might cover as part of what journalism invites. At every level, from presidents to crack heads, it is all about the story, and after writing enough of them it is hard to differentiate between George W. Bush and a man lying in the gutter violently puking on himself. And for a columnist, mountainous men gobbling Viagra and demanding to see “black folk” in Denny’s or pounding Margaritas while burning through EZ- Pass booths, constitutes a story. Certainly a Darwinian nightmare skulking in the rave shadows and looking to pounce on unsuspecting wild-eyed teens in the dawn hours says more about that culture than any cover story in Time. My only regret is I wasn’t there to record it.

Either way, the deal goes down and the story gets written, and those who get paid are paid. Some people would say I’m the one being exploited, but Willie would never write anything like that.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Bill Clinton Remembered

Aquarian Weekly 1/31/01 REALITY CHECK

SO LONG TO BILL CLINTON – MINISTER OF FUN

Unlike many of my columnist brethren I have not found a good enough reason to compile an editorial overview of the Clinton presidency. Looking back serves only the purposes of historians and lawyers, and having never been accused of either profession, there is nothing for me to gain but the check mailed to the Putnam Bunker for penning it. But we were all there during these past eight years, and many have stories to impart and thoughts to convey. I am just not one of them, because the more I bang on this damned keyboard in front of me, the more I cannot think of one rational point that would encapsulate those times with any true justice.

Putting the universe in a paper cup was John Lennon’s deal, and then some transient manic-depressive put five bullets into him, and, for me, wrapping up the legacy of William Jefferson Clinton would be a far more fatal folly. And although death does not necessarily await the conclusion of this essay of the absurd, there was a time that evoking the image of Big Bill meant walking a tightrope against a stiff wind with no net in sight.

Politics has always been a crude hobby of mine, like getting loaded and debating the unanswerable or betting money I don’t have on football. But politics to Bill Clinton was life and death, and to get in the ring with him meant playing for keeps. Even reporting on it was a scarring experience. Some people learned that too late, but not me. I was always sure that being president was only some kind of warped high for Bill Clinton, a king-hell fuck around worthy of Ripley’s, but as serious as bone cancer, and I wasn’t about to put it all on the line to explain it.

In the summer of 1992 I was pushing 30, working as a sports columnist for a Westchester paper and coaching little monsters from Gravesend Brooklyn in the art of basketball. My dear friend, Chris Barrera happened to be working a media event for the burgeoning Clinton campaign at the Rye Hilton, where he shook the then governor of Arkansas’ hand and put all his eggs squarely in his basket. What followed was a strong affiliation with a Baby-Boomer giant, hatched from a Dead Head dream – a sax-playing, pot-smoking, war-protesting Elvis with a silky delivery – willing to get down with the corporate war mongers and deal makers to lay the leather.

The rest of us were laughing heartily at Bill Clinton that summer. He was accused of sex crimes, draft dodging and busy fending off a potential investigation for illegal money laundering. Gary Hart couldn’t survive an afternoon on a yacht, what chance did a man who was derisively cheered for wrapping up an interminably long-winded speech at the ’88 Democratic Convention have against a president of the United States that was riding high in the saddle after Desert Storm.

Those close to George Bush were sure the fat years of Ronald Reagan were still feeding the fire. He had the allusions of King George and the delusions of King Lear, but before long he would find himself bloodied in the Clinton ring. Meanwhile, a bleating curmudgeon named Ross Perot was busy suckering an electorate into believing that America was some kind of factory that needed a spit shine. He too failed to prepare for “the ring” and did nothing but help make Bill Clinton president.

And damn if Big Bill didn’t come out swinging with “gays in the military” and sending his wife into congress on a wing and a prayer to enact his greatest campaign promise. But as the liberals grumbled and the right wing smirked Hillary made a mockery of a national health care, and before two years were up, the Clinton’s were causing their party to lose control of congress for the first time in 40 years.

Then the government closed down, and political barnacles like Dick Morris came out of crevices to read Big Bill a riot act that would have him not only surviving the Republican storming of the Bastille, but looking like a mutated conservative doing it. Before long Newt Gingrich was another casualty of “the ring” and the sunny side of the economic street had unemployment down and the national debt being paid off like never before.

After all, Big Bill earned his executive wings with The Comeback, not one in particular, but a long line of beating the kind of truly savage odds Vegas junkies only dream about. A mere mortal would have been finished before his first limping campaign hit New Hampshire, but Bill Clinton survived, check that, thrived in the shit storm. Every cub reporter within ten feet of him had the makings of some hot story of rape, murder and embezzlement back then. Freelancers made a fortune on Bill Clinton; one of the hidden perks of his booming economy.

And those same freelancers came calling when word trickled that someone was coming clean on record about the chief. Man, those were the days of wine and roses for anyone calling journalism home. Chumps with three quotes and a flip pad could get credentials by the time Monica Lewinsky was done squawking into a tapped phone. Even people with no business commenting on politics made a descent living. Anyone in the press corps who weren’t goofy with excitement weren’t around long, because Bill Clinton was news, he breathed it in and expelled its virtues. It was all just rock and roll for Big Bill, not unlike Keith Richards’ statement about not having trouble with drugs, but cops. And Big Bill knew all about Keith Richards.

For me there is only one story worthy of explaining Bill Clinton.

During the height of his pending impeachment, Big Bill was on the golf course with Vernon Jordan when a call came from one of his lawyers about the grand jury transcripts, and after several minutes of stone-faced listening, the president answered, “You bet.” When queried on whether the news was bad or good, Clinton grinned and said, “Bad for me, which is how I like it.”

It was hard not to love that type of balls, no matter what you thought of William Jefferson Clinton. And I respected the demented will to go hard at every angle, despite being as guilty as a jackal in a hen house. But now Big Bill is literally history, and as Dick Nixon once mused, whoever writes the history will make the judgments. That was never Bill Clinton’s gig. He came, he saw, he banged it like a chubby intern. They only made one of his like. If there had been another, he would have found it and eaten it alive.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Christie Todd Whitman In Washington Winterland honors NJ governor.

Aquarian Weekly 1/24/01 REALITY CHECK

EXILE ON ECOLOGY STREET– CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN IN WASHINGTON WINTERLAND

At the behest of my furiously potent, if not rough-and-ready, managing editor, CAPTAIN UHL, I aim to crank out a few hundred words on the momentous confirmation of New Jersey governor, Christie Todd Whitman as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator. After all, any act of professional charity is too paltry for the man responsible for deflecting any potential law suits levied on this publication as a result of this column, and as a fitting literary tribute to the captain’s undying service in pushing up deadlines and penning the foreword to my second book–not to mention some erroneous rumors I perpetuated regarding his love for terrorism and high stakes gambling–I am game.

But all joking aside, as I stated to Mr. Uhl in a rather lengthy e-mail, there is trouble for me whenever Tsar Whitman is the assignment.

Due to an unfortunate freelance gig landing in the New Jersey Monthly on the crack Whitman team some years back I was squeezed out, denied access, and held responsible for depicting Whitman staffers as “vapid hyenas stoked on low-grade bennies” and describing the governor’s vanquished tax cut proposal as “an economic fantasy worthy of Asimov.” It was honest reporting, very nasty stuff, for which I’ve apologized more than once. But it was all for naught, and there is no way I can thoroughly dissect this appointment at the level I am accustomed, leaving me a limited peripheral overview. But I like Whitman, just not as much as CAPTAIN UHL, and duty calls so…

The EPA appointment is, at its most basic roots, somewhere between a party burial and laughable miscasting. Christie Todd Whitman is pro-choice in a pro-life party with a pro-life president now on the payroll of the religious right. There is little question that her pro-choice stance had already taken her from darling of the GOP to political pariah within 10 months of barely upsetting Jim Florio for governor of New Jersey. So badly was her insider reputation that someone who could very well have once been Bob Dole’s vice presidential running mate was left to fend off Jim McGreevey in a tax war for re-election and was frozen out in the party’s national convention in 1996.

Political corpses are hardly a safe bet for resurrection, especially on a national level, and by the time I finished a column entitled, “Partisan Suicide” (Aquarian Issue 11/18/97) Whitman’s political funeral had already commenced. And make no mistake, the EPA is where the politically dead go when their party is trying to simultaneously build its female base and hide the baby-killers. But addressing the overwhelming numbers of women voters who are pro-choice and attempting to breed harmony after a paper-thin victory decided by the Supreme Court makes for strange political decisions.

Which brings us to another level of this appointment’s roots: the mere fact that anyone responsible for New Jersey could possibly be in charge of an environmental anything. This makes sense only when confronted with George Bush’s environmental record in Texas, which is, at best, criminal. In 1995, Whitman’s nearly $80 million slashing of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection’s budget was good for trimming governmental fat, but so severe Senator’s were holding press bids to slam her.

“Because we don’t have dead dolphins washing up on shore, the environment is obviously not the same issue it was,” said David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, in 1996.

Pollution fines decreased every year during Whitman’s one-plus terms while the northern part of the New Jersey Turnpike still twists under a pall of chemical reek. And although these items don’t necessarily label Whitman as a concubine to industry and Satan’s land rapist, it doesn’t leave her resume with a mother-nature glow either.

Whitman, like most Republicans, doesn’t care much for agencies and government regulators, but finds herself ironically cornered into one for ostensibly a promotion, but in reality, a political prison to which there will be no easy exit.

As for her truncated legacy as governor of the Garden State, there can only be praise for keeping the Devils from moving to Nashville at the expense of taxpayers and a doubled parking rate for every event held at the Meadowlands. New Jersey is still high on the car insurance gallows, mostly jacked by the worst drivers in the 48 contiguous states, fraudulent claims from gun runners and bookies slipping over the George Washington Bridge clamoring for no sales tax, and a shoreline ripe with bloated expenses.

But Whitman was funny when pressed, and she is a woman, for which there has to be some measure of victory. Howard Stern seems to like her, and she was quite adept at smiling on the promotional ads for wildlife. But now the poor thing is headed for a black hole with no bottom and very little leverage, but it’s good work if you can get it.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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VIOLENCE AT PEEKSKILL HS

North County 1/18/01 REALITY CHECK

JUGGLING THE FACTS ABOUT THE VIOLENCE AT PEEKSKILL HS

What transpired last Friday night at Peekskill High School during the closing seconds of one of the finest basketball games I had the pleasure to broadcast can be best described as a mistake. Most riots start out that way. And make no mistake about this, there was a riot in that gym, and to be in there for five seconds was nothing short of frightening. No one seems to want to talk about it, least of all those held overtly responsible for the actions of its students. But although those in positions of responsibility like to deflect the issues related to such a mess, there has to be reconciliation with the truth here.

Firstly, the security people were excellent. The police presence was optimum. And although the game, an overtime thriller between JFK and Peekskill, was hard fought and at times highly volatile, there was little reason why there should have been an atmosphere on the brutish level displayed before the incident occurred. This includes an angered contingent of youth pelting other fans with food and coins, a consistent rain of ringing expletives and the type of pack mentality conducive for bad trouble.

For twelve seasons now I’ve worked local cable broadcasts for a variety of high school athletic events. A good deal of them took place on the otherwise peaceful Peekskill campus, but I have never felt as vulnerable to verbal, and more importantly, bodily harm than I have over the past year. I must address this now; even at the risk of loosing some of the work I truly love.

Whether these were actually students, local punks or just silly children with misguided agendas, they were an integral part of the evening’s unfortunate ending. But it must be said that for every one of those who would have jumped at any chance to cause mayhem, there were two or three more embarrassed for them. They were also scared, and mostly troubled about what kind of angst could make a person run from the stands of a basketball game and sucker punch a defenseless athlete in the back of the head. They would have most certainly been saddened at the sight of that athlete emotionally broken down in his coach’s arms in the visitor’s locker room after the game. And they might have cringed to think that when it was over he and his teammates would need a police escort home.

Maybe those concerned kids I spoke to, as the police tried desperately to bring order to this event, might want to speak out against spiteful thugs who choose a measure of hate over restraint. Perhaps they’d want to tell them that pride in your school and community starts with self-respect. And just maybe they’d want their parents to force those paid to make decisions on scheduling, security and the safety of their children to face the raw fact that although every school has these potential problems, Peekskill has now hosted two major brawls within a calendar year.

Last season’s full-scale melee at the conclusion of the Hen Hud/Peekskill affair turned out to be the fault of someone rooting for Hendrick Hudson; another case of a boisterous ass flexing whatever load of unchecked testosterone was running through his perturbed system. This ignited a fight not unlike last Friday’s. We taped and aired that fight, and to my ultimate consternation, were prompted by Peekskill Supervisor, Dr. Sal Corda not to air the footage the scheduled second time or risk not being able to cover games at Peekskill again. Corda’s reasoning was protection of the school’s reputation. After our lengthy debate on freedom of the press and my responsibility to an audience and sponsors to bring the story, the whole story, to the fore, the tape did not air again. Despite the nagging voice of my journalistic id, I chose to put the athletes and the broadcast in front of hard reporting. In essence, Dr. Corda won and the truth lost.

Since the Hen Hud mess, Peekskill promoted Art Blank to athletic director, and to his credit, he has taken a no-nonsense approach to the presentation of boys’ football and basketball games. So it isn’t as if the incident went completely without address, but fifteen minutes after the wave of Friday’s ugliness subsided, Blank was offered a chance to immediately address the proceedings and defend the honor of the school’s predominantly well-behaved students and overworked security on camera. He hesitated, then, declined, acting like a man unable to speak for the whole. But if not him, Dr. Corda, or myself who will?

For twelve seasons now I’ve worked local cable broadcasts for a variety of high school athletic events. A good deal of them took place on the otherwise peaceful Peekskill campus, but I have never felt as vulnerable to verbal, and more importantly, bodily harm than I have over the past year. I must address this now; even at the risk of loosing some of the work I truly love.

This has nothing to do with the athletes, the coaches or the hard-working volunteers, but someone has to take a hit for this latest eruption of violence, get up and make an aggressive stand to confront the perpetrators and grab their school back. Certainly the parents of those using these events as springboards to potential bedlam deserve the true blame, but at the center of both these incidents, to which I have been a first-hand observer, the best the Peekskill hierarchy can provide is spin doctoring. Whether it’s parents or staff, or perhaps myself this time, someone must face these events head-on with a respect for the whole truth and not a Pollyanna view buried in the sand.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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The Death Of Wall Street

Aquarian Weekly 1/10/01 REALITY CHECK

TRIMMING THE FAT FROM THE FIRE

“But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence; the least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.” – Lord Byron

The year 2000 was a shitty one for Wall Street. Not to say that it was in the level of shit as 1987 or even 1929 when words like Satan and suicide ran roughshod through the high rollers and slander and begging became the hobbies of the day. No, 2000 was merely shitty, and to hear the econo-lads, dressed in their power suits of armor tell it, there hasn’t been a follow-up year since 1945 that hasn’t blossomed from such a healthy dose of fertilizer.

Money, after all, has legs. It learns to bounce and has survived much worse hits. So they tell us the sun will indeed come up tomorrow and 2001 could prove historical for all the right reasons. Meanwhile, the best and brightest sell off their heretofore fortunes like seized property at an IRS auction.

Many don’t even know it yet, but losing that much money that fast leaves a sort of pale, sunken hue to the collective face, a powerful grip on the intestines that rips up into the brain and gives off the false sense of endorphins.

The dotcom revolution, as most revolutions, has had its share of martyrs. Many have abandoned their once unsinkable vessels and traded their Mercedes for a first class ticket to a remote corner of Peru where a 12″ hunting knife and the industrial-sized can of mace are worth more than a team of accountants and stammering coke fiends masquerading as stockbrokers. But the poor souls still left to breathe in the foul stench of defeat instead choose to smell wondrous roses. They send memos to press offices everywhere decrying the hint of bankruptcy and speak of world peace as if it is attached to an affordable airline ticket.

But they lie. Many don’t even know it yet, but losing that much money that fast leaves a sort of pale, sunken hue to the collective face, a powerful grip on the intestines that rips up into the brain and gives off the false sense of endorphins. The painful result of this is chairman and CEO of Priceline.com, Richard Braddock blathering on for 40 uninterrupted minutes of MSNBC airtime throwing out vapid concepts like “liquid funds” and “projected upswings” when he should be quoting from the heavy passages of Revelation with a .44 Magnum pressed to his temple.

Exactly one year ago Amazon.com founder, Jeffrey Bezos was Time magazine’s Person of The Year and 20% of the ads on the all-important Super Bowl list, snatching a record $2.2 million for 30 seconds of CBS network time, were web sites. Four months later those same companies reported 70% loses. By spring tech stocks took a monumental beating and the word last summer was that the formally entrenched Internet-business wave had hit a terminal low tide and the wounded prognosticators, who once laughed at the steady oil market, were watching in horror as the see saw tipped hard.

It was about that time when my discussion with Wall Street Jovial’s Dave Gahary hit the stands, (“How The Gravy Train Skids” Issue 4/19/00) and the demented Internet publisher ended one of several doom-struck diatribes with the now infamous quote, “Very little about the structure of the stock market could be considered legitimate,” which rings more true today than it did 13 months ago.

Politicians like to use the word Recession when things get as bad as they have been over the past ten months. Jimmy Carter liked to use that one while people were trading brass-knuckle blows on mile-long gas lines and the American dollar was a worthless scrap of toilet paper abroad. Carter didn’t survive that kind of ugliness. He never heard the piper’s dirge. People close to the numbers know what went down then, and they damn well know now that unless the government starts drilling every inch of Alaska gas prices will not resemble anything called normal before Memorial Day. And in its wake whatever lunacy the George Bush administration will be running past Congress in the way of a $1.3 trillion tax cut will seem like slapping a band-aid on a severed head.

Three days before sending this to press a colleague described to me the current NASDAQ disaster as “fake money being poured into a vat of speculative horse dung”, implying, I believe, that a whole lot of people can presently feel comfortable referring to themselves as first-class suckers being fleeced by the age-tested “get-rich-quick” scheme. This scenario had been laid out quite nicely by Internet Week’s Bill Frezza last April with “The Rube Effect”, a neatly described con devised by the excitable voices on the other end of the telephone who convince Johnny House Payment that hillside bungalows in Malibu are ripe to be had for someone possessing “the balls to go and get it.” Frezza compared the doomed 1980s’ bond market to the tech stock boom of the late 90s’, but with the utmost respect for Mr. Frezza and PT Barnum, suckers have been around since humans could scrape crude drawings on cave walls, and they are, without question, an integral part of any solid economy, yet they are not sufficient excuses for such a swift and savage decline in profits.

Junk bonds and illegal backbiting hardly explain away several years of growing profits and perennial companies jumping onboard the information highway like frat- house drunkards road tripping. This was a real boom, not some Harold Hill morality scam, and there is a long line of the “smart people” who will argue that point, if you can get them on the phone between bale-outs.

One of those is the venerable Father Finucane whose been vaguely impersonating a man of the cloth for nearly a decade while gambling with trusted yuppie funds and cashed savings bonds. The good Father’s answer to this mess is simple, but effective. If the law of nature is chaos, then roll with it. No reason to argue with circumstance when it is clear that God’s plan is to close doors while opening others. To that end he has devised several plans revolving around dynamite and vacant ATM machines with “light security.” He is a maverick in a land of followers and his days among the free are numbered, but he is right for these times.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Spoils From The Victor – Bush Backer Flaunts Gore Pain.

Aquarian Weekly 1/3/01 REALITY CHECK

SPOILS FROM THE VICTOR

As is the annual custom in this space, my prime GOP source and overall political snitch, Georgetown is loosed for a brutal reappraisal of recent events. Although his tale is long, and amidst the pantheon of the Reality Check faithful, a constant muse of vitriol from this author, there are places in the human heart rarely discovered lest revealed by his rather sharply forked tongue.

jc: I’ll dispense with pretense and let you pick the subject.

Georgetown: George W. Bush is president. Say it.

jc: Not yet.

GT: Mere time. I don’t know why you lied to your readers for three years making noise about shooting Al Gore, or at the very least, cranking out weekly columns depicting him as the fascist scum he truly is when you did nothing for the cause.

jc: The cause?

GT: And then you fucked me with that lame column on the convention. I spent ten days in that miserable excuse of a town enduring countless dinners with NRA geeks and someone claiming to be Jerry Falwell’s “love child” so you can have first-rate coverage and you write about my fistfight in the pit?

jc: Thoughts on the election?

Popular vote? Why do you think both candidates spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time and television ads in the battleground states, so they can clean up the popular vote? Please.

GT: I have to say my favorite are these Democrats going to parties pounding the hard stuff with Bon Jovi and telling anyone who’ll listen that Al Gore won that election because he received the popular vote and got ripped off by the Supreme Court. Popular vote? Why do you think both candidates spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time and television ads in the battleground states, so they can clean up the popular vote? Please. Sell that sore-loser bullshit to the weeping dupes over at ground control.

We watched the Gores parade Hollywood’s elite across Miami until 2:00 am on Election Eve so he could wrap up the close numbers in Florida. He knew he needed it, not some bloated California or New York numbers. Then the fucking networks give Florida up at 7:30 when there are two time zones in the goddamn state. Fucking Tom Brokaw. Wake his ass up for five minutes and drain the vodka out of his veins. What a joke.

jc: And the Supreme Court?

GT: A monumental rim job, that first go-round. This is the weakest line-up of judges in the history of this country and we’ve had some beauts. How these fossils could send a remand to the Florida Supreme Court knowing the goddamn thing was coming back is beyond rational. Why did they waste everyone’s time–for forty pages of nothing telling the court to rethink what they already went to the mat for in the first place? You think the Florida court, already on the DNC payroll, was going to allow that to stop them? Damn right Gore should be pissed at the Supreme Court. They wasted two weeks playing legal volleyball with Tallassee and then seven of nine of these airheads say it’s too late to count?

jc: So you have it on good authority that the Florida Supreme Court was bought off by the Democratic National Committee.

GT: Print that. Nobody pays attention in Florida politics. There are people I heard from down there during this thing that would put Boss Tweed in the minor leagues. This was world-class politics. We were all wired into a main nerve of energy rarely seen in most civilizations. Makes you proud to be an American when you see what serious money can do to the process. And that was right after you wrote that nonsense about “no constitutional crisis.” That took a pair of brass nuts. We were reinventing constitutional crisis down there, pal.

jc: I’m not writing this slanderous nightmare. Not even The Aquarian would print it.

GT: Slanderous? Who the hell are you kidding?

jc: Fair point. How long did you stay in Florida?

GT: Not one day. I received my calls in Washington the whole time. I got the scoop on the deep-red phone. We were making plans if the Supreme Court went belly up.

jc: What plans?

GT: That’s not ending up in Reality Check, anonymous or not.

jc: What happened to your boy, Lazio? Hillary ate him for breakfast upstate.

GT: That’s what “I’m from New York – She’s not” gets you.

jc: What’s the feedback?

GT: He’s our new Jacob Marley.

jc: How do you think Bush ran his campaign?

GT: Mediocre. I knew all along that it was going to be tight. I was against all that money spent in California and I would’ve been more aggressive in New Jersey and Michigan, especially with McCain hanging around. I thought the Dems screwed up by not using Clinton earlier. He helped bring in the minority and middle ground vote in two national elections. Polls never wavered on the fact that he would’ve beaten Bush himself. Gore used him as an excuse. Fact is no one liked Gore. If they could even stand him he would’ve run away with the thing. And I wasn’t too crazy about how Bush handled the drunk-driving thing. My plan was attack. They wanted to explain. That’s no way to run a campaign. Explaining is for losers and preachers. That cost millions of votes.

jc: What was the inside scoop on how the story was leaked so late?

GT: That was a Lieberman gig from day one. His people were working on that since the summer. I know of at least four or five journalists on the Gore campaign who held onto that info for three months.

jc: C’mon.

GT: It’ll come out eventually. It always does.

jc: Thoughts on the cabinet thus far?

GT: I think this Whitman thing is to get her out of the way. And notice that Junior ran foreign policy names up there first. Powell has always been a company man, despite all that Eisenhower “I don’t do politics” shit. And Condoleezza Rice is a genius.

jc: Why does Bush insist on screaming about the inevitable economic down turn, does he want to inherit a serious recession just to fuck the Clinton legacy?

GT: Yes. This is revenge of daddy.

jc: His first move?

GT: Military. He’ll go heavy military, money wise and maybe yank a few troops out of Europe. You’ll never know Clinton was president three months after Jan. 20.

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Al Gore is a Loser ‘s requiem for a lightweight

Aquarian Weekly 12/20/00 REALITY CHECK

REQUIEM FOR A LIGHTWEIGHT

Al Gore is a loser. This is what the history books will bare out after the obligatory screeching dies down. Those who imagined a less than dramatic kicking-and-screaming exit by a man so patently damaged by a lifetime in Washington politics as to become inhuman were sadly mistaken. The vice president did not go quietly, but he is gone for now, and don’t think those of us in the know think he’s going anywhere far. Most think he’ll have plenty to say, but it will not be from a position of authority and for now that is enough for me.

There was a time, not long ago, that I was frozen with fear over the prospect of an Albert Gore jr. presidency. My disdain for him had grown over the years from irritation to abhorrence. The moment his smug pout started spewing righteous babble at Frank Zappa during his wife’s First Amendment lynching disguised as “parental concern” to the savage dismantling of Bill Bradley’s considerable integrity, Gore’s enemy status reached dangerous levels in the Putnam Bunker. But as Election Day approached it quickly accelerated into the kind of mind-numbing fear from which I am only now recovering.

The Bradley people were entertained by my many letters warning them to rile Dollar Bill into a kill-frenzy before facing Gore, but they didn’t laugh for long. And the more the doomed phalanx of Bush staffers e-mailed me one fuck-up after the other from the campaign trail and the poll numbers tightened; I began to envision the horrifying possibility that Gore might actually win.

After throwing together post-primary notes for a column I entitled “Why George W. Bush Can’t Win In November” (Aq.3/8/00) the carcass of John McCain was hardly cold and Junior had leaned so far right only circus freaks could vote for him with a clear conscience. But I’m man enough to admit I thought that McCain was the last line of defense against Gore. And I’m man enough to sheepishly admit I was convinced that if there were true evil in politics, not just stupidity, mediocrity and petty, partisan greed, it took horrifying shape in Al Gore’s heart.

Evidence was mounting daily. There were those Joseph Lieberman fascist diatribes about “a vote for Gore is a vote for God” and the “battle between good and evil” masquerading as Bible-induced epiphanies coupled with the appointment of another wretched Democratic Party goon like William Daly hatched from the militant loins of his deranged father to run the campaign. Gore was looking eerily like a young Richard Nixon slandering Helen Gahagan Douglas in an all-hell damn-the-torpedoes stump. During these dark hours many of my sources have solid, written evidence of my consistent assassination rants. The most damning of these was an e-mail note I sent to Alec Baldwin:

I am sorry to hear of your departure to land’s unknown should Junior win this thing, but your leaving the country is small pittance when you consider that I may have to kill Al Gore should he win, and then your politics would force you to keep me from lethal injection. I implore you now to pray to whatever god you subscribe that Gore loses for his sake and the sake of any movement to keep slugs like me from systematic death.

But that was silly talk from a wounded journalist angered that cheap used-car peddlers represented anything important This might have a sent a weaker man careening toward total mental breakdown, but I had to remind myself of several adages echoed in this space about the litany of monsters that have called themselves president. And even though Gore could very well have been my own personal demon, it was time to get perspective.

Al Gore was never truly evil. He is just terribly flawed, instinctively insincere and severely overrated as a danger to anything binding. Even my off-hand tavern references to Gore as Nixon fell far short of the truth. Nixon held true to his beliefs that everyone but himself knew what the hell was good for the country. Gore began this way, but ended up a tired parody of something he previously thought was important. But, alas, he is just a loser, and not all the lawyers, decrying pundits; sign-waving miscreants or Jesse Jackson speeches can change that. Forgive me for deriving a soothing comfort in those words, the same wash of supreme joy I experience every time that mortally satanic creature, Bud Selig hands George Steinbrenner a World Series Trophy, but I do.

There were nights lately that my dream of penning a vicious attack on Gore had reached orgasmic proportions, but most dreams die hard and orgasms don’t last. These are the harsh realities of life, like the fact that Al Gore is nothing more than Walter Mondale with a grudge. In retrospect his talk of “winning the popular vote” and “correct hand counts” were so completely mad and pathetic that many of his staff was reduced to weeping trolls in its wake. Even the confused Supreme Court was too embarrassed to render a sane decision on the thing. No one with half a brain believes this man had won anything, because there are no consolation prizes for losers in politics and moral victories are spin placebos for anyone harboring hopes to occupy the oval office.

But at least Mondale had to admit to total, humiliating defeat. His trouncing was as historical as it was gruesome. Al Gore’s loss was so excruciatingly close to victory four or five different times that you can be assured that as you read this he is staring into space thinking about what-might-have-been, the overt behavior of the loser.

George W. Bush is a dumb ass and will no doubt be a useless leader in the fumes of this barely legal victory, but he won. Al Gore lost. To write that is divinely real, like Fitzgerald’s “high white note.” His stupidity notwithstanding, Bush will forever stand as the symbol of a two-party system joke rendered on a populace sure that it spits out the worst humanity can offer. But he is not Al Gore. He lost.

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Ten Lies About The 2000 Presidential Dispute gets real on political mayhem

Aquarian Weekly 12/13/00 REALITY CHECK

TEN LIES ABOUT THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL DISPUTE

The following is a detailed expose of the transparent propaganda provided by arguing parties and overhwelmed pundits regarding what will surely be the endlessly disputed results from the 2000 presidential election.

1. This near-constitutional crisis will all but cripple the country and widen the chasm of ideological fervor among Democrats and Republicans further heightening the apathy of the American people. Yes, and Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Unfortunately this never reached the point of constitutional crisis. In fact, one must marvel at the authors of that document for jackknifing those attempting to usurp its wisdom, proving once again that the foundation of this republic was built on the complete understanding of humanity’s fragile nature and politicians’ insidious machinations.

As stated many times in this space, we’ve survived a Civil War, a Great Depression, two World Wars and Richard Nixon; litigious donnybrooks and political slap fights put as much a dent in this country as a lack of recycling would ultimately do to damage the planet.

We have always been the central office for apathy. It is important to remember that nearly two-thirds of the people inhabiting the original 13 colonies wanted to break ranks with England in the first place.

2. Al Gore, Joseph Lieberman and the DNC’s fight to contest the election is based on the principles of voter rights and a truthful outcome. Bullshit squared. Nobody with half a brain buys this crap from losers. Anyone who has ever competed for anything, much less political office, thinks they’re going to lose or believe even in defeat they weren’t the better choice. You give an ego-mad righteous clan like this the popular vote and a miniscule electoral deficit and there is no telling how far they will stretch the credibility of law in order to change the outcome. If these people truly wanted the proper vote tallies there would be a hue and cry to recount the whole damn nation, with its nearly four million lost votes and refuted ballots in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, etc and not a few Democratic-laden counties in Florida. This is about the gnawing feeling that had a few Floridians not been stupid or careless Gore would have been president of the United States.

3. George W. Bush wishes to move this process forward for the good of the country and begin a transition to the next administration. Sure, and seats are now available on the flying pigs. It will be interesting to see how “moving the process forward quickly” would be if Captain Shoe-In falls behind the eight ball as he did when the Florida Supreme Court started allowing dimpled chads from southern Georgia and Cuba to be counted until Easter. Bush has more votes. He wants to keep it that way. Winners don’t bother with goofy propositions like truth and fairness and nobody getting a break from the refs is in any hurry for a replay. The Bush people have run the same mantra up the poll for two months…Hold Off The Dogs.

4. Gore and the DNC had no allusions about winning, but has used these litany of lawsuits and this contest to dilute Bush’s victory and set up a Democratic landslide in 2002. This is a good one, especially if you spent last year looking for Sasquatch and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. This would be giving the fractured din currently representing the Democrats far too much credit. It also misunderstands the damage the Republicans incurred with vapid impeachment proceedings in ’98. If nothing else this mess has doomed Gore’s standing in a party that already thinks he tanked this gig with extreme prejudice. Which brings us to…

5. Because Gore won the popular vote and lost by a mere 537 in Florida he will be in the driver’s seat for a 2004 run. This is very wishful thinking after this foot-stomping piss fight being dragged through every court from Tallassee to the District of Columbia. Many Democrats, especially ones due up for re-election, are not happy that 57% of the people think Gore is a sore loser and using the system to hijack a couple of hundred votes to satiate some sick fantasy. What seemed like a sure bet that Gore would use key Tonight Show minutes during the next couple of years of a dented economy and a meager GOP control to say, “Remember me!” has turned into the legal equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster. So…

6. Bush will use his bipartisan skills developed as Governor of Texas to reunite the parties, which has already begun with his choosing of Democrats for the cabinet. Who’s buying this bridge? Anything Bush does now revolves around public relations and political fanfare. The second Gore gives up the ghost Junior creases a Joker smile and runs amok. Texas is less a state than a gunrunning outback of thieving oil barons, and it is a testament to Gore’s blatant failings that its governor bested him–something he’ll have to stomach for eternity.

7. The Attorney General of Florida and its Supreme Court are partisan, but fair-minded soldiers for the system. Hardly, but who cares? Of course Katherine Harris is in Bush’s back pocket and the governor of the state is the man’s brother–almost the entire Florida Supreme Court is a left wing tool. But this is the framework of this republic, Democracy American Style, loaded with lawyers and spin-doctors and yammering journalists pumping the bilge. Failure of machines and rooting interest may be too much for our delicate psyche, but checks-and-balances are the very essence of this government and one single harmonious voice would be its death.

8. Voters were disenfranchised in certain counties of Florida by antiquated and confusing ballots. Check stupid and confused from Lie #2, neither of which are excuses under the law for being “disenfranchised”. These are the same ballots these people have been using for years and printed in the newspaper on Election Day.

9. Countries around the world are laughing at us. You realize how off-the-charts ridiculous this crapolla is when you peruse the many contingency plans designed by other governments in case of a contested election, that is those countries not run like an atavistic interment camp. These plans usually involve militias and tanks and geeks from a leaky parliament squawking at bullet-riddled walls.

10. When this historical ride is over we’ll miss it. I heard that from a Wall Street geek right before he was summarily shoved off a subway platform. Do with it what you will.

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Last Night They Shot John Lennon

 

Aquarian Weekly 12/6/00
REALITY CHECK

LAST NIGHT THEY SHOT JOHN LENNON

Editor’s Note: The following are the thoughts of the author in the wee hours of December 9, 1980, the morning after John Lennon had been murdered.

“I heard something ’bout my Ma and my Pa They didn’t want me so they made me a star” – john lennon

Last night they shot John Lennon. Wrapped him up like the world’s present and played his songs. Holding their hands to befriend him. Last night they shot John Lennon.

The journey from icon to martyr to idol is a short one. Usually this means a truncated existence filled with wonder, success, fame and the misinterpretation of one’s intention wrapped neatly into a package of innuendo and lies. It has been less than three hours since John Lennon was gunned down in front of his home, in front of Central Park, in front of the world. Before long this man-cum-icon will be remembered for being the nucleus of a movement, a revolution, a cultural hiccup on a planet of revisionists. His circumstance had been like few witnessed before. But would a lonely boy from an impoverished dock town on the Northern coast of England have traded it for another minute of life?

John Lennon outlived Jesus Christ by seven years. He once said his rock group; The Beatles were more popular. Were they more popular because the Son of God never sold a million records or played Ed Sullivan, although mania and idolatry also followed Galilean carpenters = water to wine = top five singles on the Billboard chart.

And if God were a man and he could pen something akin to “A Day in the Life” and make us shutter, or perhaps sing “Imagine” and piss a few more of us clamoring humans off, would that have given him immortality? Would John Lennon still be alive if he’d chosen to huck freight or been a fisherman? Can we expect John Lennon to rise from the dead?

There are many reasons to believe the 60s’ died last night… the decade, the meaning, and the emotional effect of a million souls that were severely injured by Altamont and Viet Nam and Watergate. John Lennon’s band was more popular than all of those things, so much so that many who called it the crowning achievement of 20th century pop art wanted a revival. John Lennon agreed to revivals of the past only when everyone returned there. “The Beatles will get back together when every goes back to High School,” he promised. That is when the 60’s died, with the sex and the war and the exploitation of “All You Need is Love.” But most of all, the 60s’ died with innocence.

When I was a boy about fifteen. I could hear the static pumping. From within my treasured room it sent my heart jumping. I forget what they call it now. Since then people don’t say much. Sometimes they say nothing at all. At least when I was young and angry I would never fall. I forget what happens now.

He was the orphan thug from the streets, spit out by his absent father, abandoned by his dead mother and rescued by the cute boy with the crudely tuned guitar and the Little Richard wail. Paul McCartney was the brother John Lennon never had, but Elvis Presley was his iconoclastic parent. “There was nothing before Elvis,” John Lennon said. Let there be light and music and anger in the glow of beer lamps and the breath of gnarled hookers where the boys rip and tear through black music from the States–youth on the edge and building strength in the German ghetto where the children of war met.

We called it Beatlemania. There were the haircuts; boots, suits and a money machine going to the “toppermost of the poppermost”, a place John Lennon believed laid the medicine for wounds. He looked for healing in fame, money, drugs, Eastern religion and a woman named Yoko. He put the same determined angst of his youth into love and invented philanthropic culture in song. “We all shine on” he wrote after Beatlemania and “God is a concept by which we measure our pain” because screaming about pain is better than inflicting it.

This is what being more popular than Jesus Christ gets you.

And the givers of the golden ring taketh away. They hated him. They hated him for not being who they had made with their own bedlam. They hated his new wife and they hated his new music and they hated his new politics and they hated his new haircut. Anger turned back on original ideas and art is nothing new in civilization. Ask Socrates. Ask Picasso. Ask Beethoven. Ask Lenny Bruce.

He moved to New York because it was a metaphor for his pain, his muse, his sanctuary from all this mass hatred and love, this phony symphony of celebrity that has little to nothing to do with art or the artist. Georgia O’Keefe went to the desert, Ernest Hemingway retreated to Cuba, Charlie Chaplin was banished to Switzerland and Beatle John and his Japanese wife moved to Manhattan. Cradled in this urban madness inside his head, he escaped the spotlight for five years to raise a second son and resurrect his spirit.

Then he came back outside the shell and made songs. “Just like starting over,” he wrote, and then one of the echoes of Beatlemania entered his cocoon and fired four pistol shots into his hero’s back. His name will be infamous, his crime more so, but he is only an echo.

This is what you get for being more popular than Jesus Christ.

Last night my heart stopped jumping.Last night it just sat and cried. Just when I thought the tears had dried. Last night some dream ended. Last night they shot John Lennon.

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