Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Or The Delicate Balance of Us

Here’s one thing we know; bigotry, in any way, shape or form is never going away. Okay, so maybe if a meteor hits the earth or it floods over like 98 percent of scientists claim or if a mass virus kills the human race. Otherwise, failing that kind of calamity, bigotry is a keeper. Whether racist, misogynist, homophobic, jingoistic, cultural, religious, anti-rich, anti-poor, anti-government, idiosyncratic celebrity loathing, the idea of arguing that this is somehow rare and abhorrent behavior is silly. Everyone has negative thoughts about some people or some things, just as we have positive thoughts and opinions about other things. This is called humanity. It is what we are and it never fails to astound me that it surprises anyone, much less engenders the kind of sudden outrage in us. It’s as if people are slapping their cheeks in amazement that the sun is there every morning.thomas_jefferson_portrait

Humans – all humans, everywhere for the entire time they have been around – judge; harshly. Sometimes we do so with reason (a familial or cultural guidance, or an experience, both personal and general) and often for no good reason at all. Not everyone can know everything, and many of us refuse to enlighten ourselves to the basic panoply of humanity anyway – and even if we did actually know everything, the enlightenment would likely lead to a myopic conclusion that would only serve to feed the existing ignorance we cling to like a lifeline. Humans casually find something troubling about whatever it is that is different or whatever it is that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s our thing. Anthropologists have pretty much concluded that it’s our main thing.

I think we see these notions as pretty much fundamental truths of being able to use our senses and our sense-memory and our nature-v-nurture to form completely reasoned or irrational fears and hatreds for some other group of people. It is patently wrong to consider this a deviation of the norm or a form of monstrosity. Hatred is a pure emotion, like love. It is a waste of intellect and energy to fight this. It just is. Our nature can no more change than our basic DNA. We have hair and fingernails and brains that immediately differentiate one thing from another, and this allows us to group people and construct generalities about them that eventually evolve into either worship and inspiration or devolve into bigotry and revulsion.

Most behavior, even acceptable social types of behavior, is engrained. It comes from a primal place; like people believing in angels or being afraid of spiders or feeling more comfortable in cities as opposed to the woods or vice versa. It stands to reason that if you are more adapted to one thing then the other thing would appear to be something you do not like. It’s not only ignorance or the fear of the unknown; you just don’t like it. Period.

I get the feeling sometimes, like this week when that video of the frat kids from Oklahoma were singing some frat song about “niggers”, that we see this as a shocking occurrence because it reflects in each of us what our own set of bigotries rears. It really doesn’t matter what these kids were singing; could have been “faggots” or “cunts” or “kikes” or “crackers” or “towel-heads” or “fascist right-wingers” or “liberal weenies”. Because when I hear any of these terms I lump them all together into a coagulation of our basic impulse. This is not unlike people trying to figure out why a man would arm himself to the teeth and go out one sunny morning and kill kindergarten children or why people plan for years to hijack planes to ram into giant buildings or what the hell the Nazis were thinking. There is no actual, reasonable explanation for these actions (admittedly and thankfully, all of these are outliers to normal bigotry), but rest assured these reactions are purely based on the natural us-v-them mentality that is made manifest in the core of our humanity.

I have no idea why these kids found it joyful to sing songs with hateful lyrics about a race of people anymore than school pride giving them a sense of self-worth. If someone wants to whittle these reasons down to youth or booze or peer pressure or a cultural miasma, or even if they wish to see it as endemic of the Southern culture rich with anti-everything-but-white-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant rhetoric, actions and traditions, they certainly can. But as much as we cringe to accept it, these are humans doing human things, just like the celebration of the Selma March last week was our society celebrating humans displaying human things, like rationality, bravery, passion, solidarity and defiance against institutional oppression.

This is why Thomas Jefferson could very well be the American avatar, and precisely why he was chosen to pen what would become our Declaration of Independence; a man who aimed for the highest honor of humanity in demanding our engendered equality while at the same time owning humans. He is our yin and yang. He fills both our base nature and our highest aspirations. Jefferson is our collective id and super ego, our ethos and pathos; a vain, racist, dreamer, poet statesman; the shining symbol of our schizophrenia.

This is precisely why you should ignore talk about our society being post-racist. This is like saying Americans are post-human.

Sure, I was stunned, and still am, that this nation elected an African-American president and considers a woman the frontrunner to succeed him. Stunned. Not because we have not come a long way from slavery and lynching and denying basic civil rights to taxpaying citizens or allowing women the right to vote and kind of coming close to earning what a man earns in the workplace and no longer finding it charming to being treated as if not deserving a crack at dignity, and we are kind of sort of coming to terms with the idea that anyone regardless of sexual orientation can play in our social sandbox. Nope. It’s because it was done in the face of our deepest desires, to judge something not the “norm”, or whatever it is that our traditions allow, as unacceptable.

Okay, so that brings me to the second racial story of the week, the shocking (being facetious for a moment) revelation that the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department has been working under a racist construct. This is where, as Jefferson rightly saw it, human nature must be curtailed. Of course cops are humans and therefore have prejudices as stated in the previous paragraphs, but when it erodes the systemic nature of law and order then it needs to be changed. This is how the Civil Rights Act gets done. This is how suffrage succeeded and how marriage equality will rightfully soon be the law of the land. In other words, people can continue treating each other as if some are better or worse than others, but the system shall do all it can to never reflect it.

Hatred is a pure emotion, like love. It is a waste of intellect and energy to fight this.

This is the difference between some asshole screaming racial epitaphs during a sporting event and a racist owning an NBA team. This is the difference between some goon from the neighborhood telling you that women who are raped cannot conceive a child and a senator espousing it. This is the difference between people being afraid of Muslims and an Alabama law that curtails their religion. This is the difference between people protesting against Planned Parenthood Clinics and states systemically reducing them. And this is the difference between a dickless frat boy singing songs and a police department targeting African Americans.

You see, the concept of America, at its best, really, is when we take human nature and put it on systemic trial. We accept through free speech and a free press and a democratic open system of government that we would eventually make sure that none of it is corrupted by our baser instincts. Freedom is at once being able to hate and not let it discriminate who gets to hate more.

We shall all hate equally.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Welcome to the Jungle

And so the right to govern is upon the Republican Party, which has bitched for six years that it was the minority, throwing stones at the systemic glass house, but now finds itself at the forefront of legislation. Or, in other words, it is easy to be the outsider carping about how things could be different if someone else, namely you, had access to the gears. Now we’ll see how this goes.

There is little question that the Barack Obama Administration took a beating in both the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms. This is what happens to most presidents, some worse than others, and these were significant thrashings. The 2010 Tea Party movement following the completely partisan and highly questionable passing of the Affordable Care Act was monumental if not brief. In other words, this is what happens when a preponderance of people, many of those with no governing experience in the least, whose sole purpose for being elected is to stop the very thing to which they were elected to steer, can be troubling. Beyond Mitt Romney, a party-power moderate, being a total disaster as a presidential candidate, look no further as to why the Tea Party experiment lasted about 18 months and helped re-elect an anemic Obama.

The 2014 round was different because many moderates, or those who claimed so, took the point, and especially in the case of the GOP takeover of the national scene ala the senate, there was a fundamental shift in the RNC that took much of the groundswell of both Obama campaigns and funneled it strategically into winning back the game. It is important to note that by all indications the Republicans should have taken the senate in 2010 if not for the Tea Party muse of amateur candidates going sideways and scaring many voters who came in wanting a sea change.

One thing the 114th Congress has achieved in its victory is the continued perception that Obama is an abject failure as a president. His November low-40s approval rating, the spate of scandals vaguely attached to him at the beginning of the always dangerous second term, and his obvious lame-duck demeanor of “going it alone” on domestic (immigration) and foreign (ISIS) policies put him on very shaky ground.

However, much of the “scandals” attached to the president were wildly overblown (Benghazi) and some, while being indefensible, commenced completely outside the White House (IRS), but are hard to escape since the buck, as stated in song and story, must land at the executive’s feet. Having affirmed this, the Republican surge of 2014 is also different from 2010, because while being two years removed from a seismic financial collapse in ’08, the economic trends have been pointing upwards for well over a calendar year, and have recently spiked for the first time since before the 21st century into the category of solid. (2013 marked largest private sector job increase since 1999). Therefore, using the method for which the 114th congress wrested power from the Democratic power base – the fault of all things falls to the president – it would seem that some plaudits are due Mr. Obama.

Perception has quickly shifted since November – remember this is perception, not reality, a game usually played by the party out of power – now that the economic outlook has improved greatly. The reasons for which are many – some global, some policy-driven, mostly the pendulum swing of natural order, as many economists predicted during the 2012 presidential campaign that the candidate lucky enough to be around would benefit from the trend pointing upward. Had Romney prevailed he could claim, “I told you so” and if Obama won, which happened, he could claim a six-year plan reaping the benefits.

For the record, these include the unemployment rate down to 5.6 percent currently from 9.6 when Obama took office. Many rightfully cite that it is partly due to a preponderance of the workforce failing to even continue looking for a gig, which, we are reminded, was the also the case in 1986 during conservative economic stalwart, Ronald Reagan’s sixth year in office when the number was a steady 7.1 percent. And this was, as we all remember fondly, “Morning in America”. It is also important to note that candidate Romney promised to get the number down to under six percent by his apocryphal second term in 2016. It is two weeks into 2015.

Additional numbers compiled by Forbes magazine (hardly the font of Keynesian economics) from graphs presented in the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 report, reveal the result of 58 consecutive months of private-sector job growth (most in the history of the republic). This has slowly, if not painfully, produced an increase of 5 percent in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the most in over a decade. This is not factoring in the tripling of the stock market since 2009 and the recent dip in gas prices to under two dollars, which seemed so much a pipe dream also-ran Republican candidate, Newt Gingrich was laughed off the stage by a conservative audience when he promised to personally get prices under $2.50.

As stated, much of this spectacularly fantastic economic news when compared to the financial horrors of the Western hemisphere hanging from a thread in the autumn of 2008, are due to many factors well above and beyond the White House – not the least of which being the dreaded 2013 Budget Sequestration, which both parties warned would destroy the entire concept of the American economic system, can be seen as a very positive effect on this recovery, including the “congress of no”, which has substantially subtracted to the national deficit – $486 billion down from $680 billion in 2013. But if the perception of a corrupt administration was a determining factor for bashing the president then it stands to reason the perception of the recovery is his to gloat.

Thus the president’s approval rating has spiked to a modest, but hardly egregious, 47 percent. To contrast, George W. Bush, whose pathetic two-terms are unfairly compared to this president, left office with an amazingly sad 22 percent.

Okay, so where does this leave our 114th Congress, already cranking out bills to get the Keystone Pipeline going (57 percent approved by American public), hits on the existing Dodd-Frank law, and a legislative response to Obama’s controversial executive action on immigration laws?

One thing the 114th Congress has achieved in its victory is the continued perception that Obama is an abject failure as a president.

Unlike, say, the 1994 Republican Revolution led by Newt Gingrich, which assisted in making Bill Clinton’s late-90s’ economy by far the best war-free run ever, this is not a stable crew. First off, House Speaker John Boehner is mostly despised by his base and his trust factor with the president is nil, as is Obama’s record to deal with political adversity, (he sucks at it), while consequently Clinton thrived better under pressure than when things went fairly smoothly.

The good news for all of us is that this congress shows no signs of spending or even recognizing the final two years of this presidency, and most of the executive orders Obama has promised will do little to shift economic trends. The question, which now must be asked (some 22 months out) is who will take the White House in 2016 and what effect that might have in shifting power in the senate back to the Democrats, or if by then, as was the case with the swing from last summer to now, the numbers begin to lag on the perception of both parties.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion


It is not based on any clear public health evidence. It’s not the recommendation of public health and medical experts at this point. You know, I think we have to be very careful about letting politicians make medical and public health decisions, and all of the evidence about Ebola shows that if you are not symptomatic, you are not infectious.
– Kaci Hickox, nurse suspected of being infected with Ebola virus and involuntarily quarantined under recent draconian N.J. law.

What went on here in New Jersey for the past week is nuts. Wish I could embellish this observation more astutely, but I’ll stick with nuts. Governor Chris Christie and his partner in crime, Governor Mario Cuomo in neighboring New York, who have teamed up to keep both of their hides poised for doomed presidential runs, stood in front of reporters, live cameras and the citizens of their respective states and stripped them all of their civil rights.kaci-hickox-75

As much as I get the human nature to panic over deadly African diseases that don’t involve homosexuals – how many thousands of American lives had to be sacrificed to AIDS before anyone lifted an eye-brow in the 1980s – not sure that suspect Ebola cases warrant dumping the entire concept of the Bill of Rights down the crapper. Ebola, terrorism, World Wars, refugee crisis, you name it; first sign of trouble we’re trading in our rights.


Blanket quarantines of health workers with fevers, even in an unwarranted panic state is patently unconstitutional and deserved the ensuing outrage. Slice it anyway you like, but Maine resident and Doctors Without Borders nurse Kaci Hickox was a victim of systemic overreach, to say the least. Remember, anytime your government, federal or local begins selling the idea of trading in your civil rights for the greater good, take it for bullshit.

Forget the unheated cell-like bubble Hickox was forced to subsist in for a few days, which could have been 21 full days had she even come close to actually testing positive for the disease. In fact, Hickox, who revealed no symptoms of the virus (the only time it is contagious) merely registered a low-grade fever on a forehead scanner, though she had not previously registered a fever and has not since.

Ebola scare aside, this type of lockdown is symptomatic of a grander systemic issue; a knee-jerk stripping of our rights granted by law every time there is some kind of crisis. This mentality has lead to a our right to privacy afforded by the Fourth Amendment being obliterated by the goofy Patriot Act and the legal vagaries of the Affordable Care Act or something as onerous as Eminent Domain or even the unconscionably cruel internment camps for Japanese citizens, not to mention the always lamentable suspending of habeas corpus every chance we get.

I suspect this kind of fascist lunacy in Texas, but New Jersey?

This also gives us an insight into this “holier than thou” tough-guy routine run amok displayed by Christie, which is totally out of character for a mealy-mouthed talking suit like Cuomo. It is this sort of iron-fist bluster that has dragged Christie down with the Bridgegate scandal, which has thus far revealed no hard evidence of his personal wrongdoing but reflects his modus operandi for bending the law on a whim. And wasn’t it Christie who rightly pointed out that a person should not be assumed guilty by mere circumstantial evidence? Then why was Ms. Hickox assumed ill with less evidence by the same man?

Back home in Maine, Hickox is fighting for her freedom against another hypocritical Republican governor, who claims to represent individual rights over the “public good” in matters of gun control, federal funds to supports national health care, and this childish notion that denying the civil rights of gay citizens somehow protects the “sanctity of marriage”.

Here is a doozy from Governor Paul LePage: “While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state.”

Can you imagine if a liberal Democrat blurted that claptrap? It would take all of three seconds for someone to call him a Nazi.

Ah, but LePage nor Christie are Nazis. They are symptoms, deeper and more egregious than anything threatened by Kaci Hickox; this idea that it is perfectly fine to ignore the most fundamental right, more vital than the First Amendment or Second Amendment or any of the others – the right to exist. Once parameters are put on this, we might as well close up shop.

Even if the argument based on even a shred of medical evidence beyond panic is offered for rounding up a citizen and quarantining her, then what is to keep state or federal officials from throwing you in a bubble for sneezing? There is a crawling skin disease afoot and you happen to have an itch? In the bubble!

And then there is this very real social disease of ignoring the science in place of spastic hand-wringing.

A doctor on the scene at Newark Airport, where this state-sanctioned crime was first committed, stated clearly to officials that Hickox’s forehead reading was not an accurate one and that her flushed features did not constitute a lasting fever. In other words, this de facto jailing was done without proper medical science being administered; a classic ploy used to create unsubstantiated claims into law involving drugs (marijuana, steroids) or matters of environmental hazards (toxins, pesticides) or the poisons corporations are allowed to put in our foods (GMO’s).

Remember, anytime your government, federal or local begins selling the idea of trading in your civil rights for the greater good, take it for bullshit.

For years I have written of the war against intellectualism; specifically science, usually waged by either “traditionalists”, who claim that because something was always done this way that it should always be done this way and damn the facts, thus spitting in the face of progress or religious loons, who prefer voodoo reasoning backed by century-old screeds dictating modern law over the nuisance of reality.

This is what dooms us; not Ebola. Ignoring science and plowing ahead like frightened children is our disease. The entire scare, in a pathetic series of them, perpetuated by hungry media outlets looking to trade fear mongering for ratings and politicians, who love to exploit a crisis to appear decisive is a flimflam; a house of cards in which we place our precious right to exist.

“This is the government’s job,” Christie said of this dangerous law.

Causing undo panic, stripping civil rights and ignoring the facts presented by medical science? I suppose then he’s right.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion


Ferguson is a city of around 21,000 citizens in St. Louis County, Missouri. For nearly two weeks now it has been the focal point of the nation, as the shooting death of an unarmed African-American man by a Caucasian police officer has sparked debate, protest, riots, armed guards, and, well…you know the routine. But what it is to the rest of us is Fearguson; a place not on a map with real people or actual ideologies, logic or law. It is exists in the deepest recesses of the human psyche, and because this is a free society that works under the laws of a nation that still bears the scars of its original sins, it boils over with two of humanity’s most basest instincts; Fear and Anger.cnnmailbox_65

It doesn’t get any more primal in the human condition than Fear and Anger. These are the biggies; empathy, sadness, love bounce around in there somewhere, but at our core, as mammals, we react immediately with Fear and Anger. It is the basis of all violence and war. Name one act of violence; whether personal or systemic, and it is derived from Fear and Anger. Sure, sometimes it is masked in wealth, borders, religion or ideology, and most times it is propped up by race, nationality, gender or economic standing, but mostly it is merely Fear and Anger.

The reason I delve into dangerous Freudian corners on this is there is no way to properly process why it appears that once a week a black man is shot dead by a cop, mostly white ones. Or why African-American communities erupt either with righteous anger or indefensible rage resulting in destruction of property, arson and looting. None of this can truly be explained, unless you get down to the raw truth of it; Fear and Anger.

I broached a similar framework during the 1992 L.A. riots over the brutal beating of Rodney King by white police officers. And as we are learning now in Ferguson, it does not happen in a vacuum. There is history there, as in L.A. It was long and festering – going back to the Watts riots in 1965 – this bitter tension between the police and black communities. No way to understand what the hell was truly going on if you watched that nightmare unfold from afar; back East or in the Midwest, without understanding that history; a history of Fear and Anger that had no other possible conclusion but to explode into violence.

The dirty little secret of the 1994 O.J. Simpson trial in the wake of ’65 and ’92 is that it had no chance of ever being about Simpson or the people he allegedly murdered, despite the preponderance of physical and circumstantial evidence against him. It was the history of Fear and Anger that fueled the “not-guilty” verdict. This eerie sense that it was entirely plausible that he could have been framed by a police force so damaged by its continued actions against citizens of color that it almost became a fait accompli.

Let’s forget race for a moment and concentrate on matters of the state – the system – law enforcement culture versus the ideal of citizenry. On a grander scale, I return once again to the 1960’s, where Fear and Anger had its most visible parade of loons and goons, primarily due to the widest generation gap in our nation’s history and a completely immoral, insane and inexcusable war in Viet Nam. The unrest on college campuses and the violence in the streets across the country in the escalated stages of the war, when it appeared to even the most jingoistic among us that this horror show was now merely a killing ground of youth and a massacre of civilians abroad which had reached its saturation level, especially for a federal government that felt as though it was being challenged by radicals possibly backed by communist interlopers.

Who can forget the images of the children, mostly white middle-class kids, being beaten into bloody pulps by crazed policemen in the streets of Chicago or frightened national guardsmen opening fire on students carrying books at Kent State? That single film of a shaggy-haired kid running for his life across a newly-shorn campus lawn brilliantly captures the point.

There is no getting away from what lurks way down there

But that all feels like another age; a much scarier and untenable world of chaos, but it was nothing more than Fear and Anger; fear of being murdered for the United States saving face internationally and the ensuing anger of being its fodder and the resultant fear of a complete crack in the nation’s foundation and the unremitting force needed to quell it.

Months after 9/11 the entire country fell victim to Fear and Anger. It was an absolutist’s dream, and the first time since World War II where the nation rallied against a single enemy, even if it meant that enemy was among us; Muslim, Arab, etc. Sure as hell there was Fear and man was there ever Anger. It was not a proud time. It revealed, on the most basic level, the Fearguson edict; and although it did not blow up in spastic acts of anarchistic violence, it was a slow burn into some of the most heinous war crimes committed since Viet Nam.

Los Angeles. Chicago. Watts. Iraq. Ferguson.

Fearguson all.

What Fearguson is comes from the core of this country’s being; it deals with race, economics, bigotry, and distrust of authority – some of it earned, some of it calculated – as it also comes from a predisposition to judge, on both sides; a bunker mentality that reflects our most embarrassing faults; we’re human. Not monsters or mutants or alien beings; humans. ISIS in Iraq, Nazis in Germany, KKK in Alabama, Black Panthers in San Francisco, hippies, yippies, Birchers, TEA Party, 99-percenters, NRA, NOW, gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim. Human.

It all comes from Fear and Anger. Doesn’t matter what triggers it; overzealous police or enraged citizenry. Look how the mayor acted this week, the governor, the voices on cable news, your friend’s opinion, this column.

We love to pick sides and weigh the consequences of other’s actions and find a safe place to land ideologically. We love our psychology and philosophy and our reason. But there is no getting away from what lurks way down there.

Fear and Anger.

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AUGUST 8, 1974

Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

AUGUST 8, 1974
The Seeds of Reality Check

Richard M. Nixon, August 8, 1974, speaking from the Oval Office:

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.

Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.President Nixon with Advisor H.R. Haldeman

Ah, yes. Forty years ago to the day I write this; I was eleven years old lying on the floor in front of my parent’s trusty RCA, pawing through the new reprints of Will Eisner’s Spirit. Eisner created and produced many of his legendary character’s exploits in the 1940s’, but was resurrected in the 70s’ as part of a growing interest in the anti-hero, vigilante, masked marauder; half on the side of the law and the other half in the shadows; a “spirit”. Unbeknownst to me, it was the perfect metaphor for what I was about to witness at nine bells; the president of the United States resigning his post – embattled, disgraced, busted cold for high crimes against the Constitution. It was a defining moment for me. It shaped all that has been written in this space for coming on 17 years this month.

The first thing I recall about the presidency were tapes of John F. Kennedy’s speeches on space exploration that came with a record album of the 1969 moon landing, a celebratory moment of patriotism which froze the nation in wonder just five years prior. The fallen president had foretold the triumph, the record boasted. To a kid, just learning about world events, it was as if Kennedy was still president. He was not. I was told he had been gunned down six years before. I recall every November 22nd people would drive their cars around Pelham Parkway and Morris Park Avenue with the lights on as a tribute to the fallen president.

This was my introduction to American politics; murder and crime.

Of course, this became something of a joke in my first civics classes in 1976, the year of the nation’s bicentennial celebrations; where for the first time I would learn about the origins of the nation with bold talk of liberty and God and apple pie. Three years removed from the horrors of Viet Nam, another sunny display of America’s stains. I remember those images from television too. But war was still something of a romantic haze for me; war comics, war films, war games, war toys. Imagination over reality, like a president’s voice heralding a mission launched during the first term of a man I was now watching quit the most powerful job in the free world, Richard M. Nixon.

I spent the summer of 1973, the first one in Freehold, New Jersey, a long way from the Bronx, and a long way from everything I had known for the first decade of life, watching the Watergate senate hearings, or as it was known then, “the trials”. I had yet to make friends, and it was so damn hot outside and the bugs were incessant and every TV station – we had five of them then – had the damn thing on. So I found myself weirdly in a trance in front of the tube watching powerful be-suited men sweating beneath a torrent of hard queries couched in the kind of moral berating I had come to know all too well in Catholic school.

These people were in big trouble, and America was coming apart.

My parents, especially my mom, tended to downplay these things, as there was a sense in our house that these people were going about “business as usual”, and too bad for them, they were caught. Could have been the last guy or the guy before that, but it happened to be the 37th president of the United States going down. Hell, my parents had watched the entire western hemisphere balanced like an egg on a high wire in October of 1962. Could you blame them for not batting an eye at this? I was barely one month old, their first son, and a good portion of the planet was minutes from annihilation as Soviet warships approached U.S. shores. Forty-one days into life and it could have been curtains for me.

So maybe America wasn’t really coming apart. Maybe it was just Nixon coming apart. Not every president uses the White House as a criminal syndicate and not every administration has some 48 persons indicted for crimes and a dozen or so others do time and the chief quitting outright on national television. Of course, we still had yet to endure Ronald Reagan, whose administration still holds the record for 138 indictments and 21 convictions, or Bill Clinton, who was officially impeached, something Nixon never was, or whatever crazy shit George W. Bush finagled and this new guy, same as the old guy, whose NSA still runs amok, as he drags us back into Iraq.

These people were in big trouble, and America was coming apart.

But it was hard for me and my generation to grasp, that weird cusp of the Boomers; too young to get high at Woodstock or worry about things like race riots, assassinations and the draft, but too old to ignore the glaring fact that those at the top could not to be trusted. Since much of what the government did prior to the Kennedy assassination, Viet Nam and Watergate was viewed as a deep matter of public trust, this was a new way of understanding.

All of it began to unravel, thank goodness, in my formative years; this charade that all-is-well and that the smart and powerful have everything under control, was fast coming to a close. The Kennedy assassination opened a nation’s eyes, Viet Nam gave us something to see, and, well, the crimes of Nixon pretty much sealed it.

You might call it a reality check.

August 8, 1974.

Forty years ago.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion


One can conceive, even fathom something as horrifying as the Veteran’s Administration systematically allowing dozens of wounded soldiers to die and then scramble to cover it up, just as easily as one can conceive and even fathom the bizarrely ritualistic lies, deceit and ideological idiocy that put them there in the first place. There is the din of bureaucracy, money, ineptitude, and plain human nature to ignore “problems” of this magnitude when it is so overwhelming it reaches Biblical proportions. The question before us is why is it that so many dubiously opaque crises/scandals seem to be pored over with obsessive myopia, but this one, for decades, has been shrugged with a collective shoulder.Memorial-Day-AP75

Over two administrations now, both Republican and Democrat, there have been revelations of egregious treatment of veterans by our system; the first, the woeful conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital in 2007 and now these new murderous allegations of the VA Health Care System in Arizona. Never mind the known troubles with such institutions since WWII well into the 1970’s, depicted graphically in memoirs by veterans of several wars too numerous to recount here. Yet, despite some oversight and investigations that receives a third if not less of the media coverage and overall slanderous rhetoric of lesser “crimes”, these fail to resonate with the American public, no matter what ideological line one inhabits. And while there is bi-partisan rage and lip-service condemnation from two presidents, this abomination, as damaging to whatever withering tatter of a soul is left of this nation as one can imagine, we see none of the hyperbolic outrage given to the ACA or the IRS scandal or this obsessive nonsense surrounding the Benghazi embassy attack.


Is it because it involves the military and the Pentagon; and these have been arguably the most untouchable monoliths of our bloated and mostly ineffectual federal government? Why is it that it takes about five minutes of knee-jerk debate and a few flimsy pieces of evidence or bent reasoning to stumble headlong into war; flushing billions upon trillions of our money on needless slaughter from the jungles of Viet Nam to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, but when it comes to dealing with its most heinous realities, that our youth has been cut down, mutilated and massacred, we meander along endless lines of time?

This is how big our Military Industrial Complex has become; a gorging monster of bureaucracy that consumes up to 19 percent of our national budget, nearly as much as the much-ballyhooed entitlements, Social Security (24 percent), or the combined spending for Medicare and Medicaid (22 percent). According to a Peter G. Peterson Foundation study published in April of this year, the U.S. defense budget dwarfs those of ballpark economic stalwarts combined; China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, Germany, Japan and India respectively at $607 billion to our stupefying $640 billion. And several studies have shown, and much of it pointed out in congress during last year’s sequester debates, that a healthy dose of it is either outdated or unnecessary.

Yet no one blinks an eye.

Why is this self-contained, hardly ever dissected monstrosity spread around the globe like a bottomless money-pit never put up for discussion by anyone on either side of the political aisle when seriously deciding the fate of the national debt or outlandish deficits or other well-tread political footballs?

How did the denizens of defense, this sub-cultured, fund-gobbling cottage industry, become so untouchable that it barely gets a whisper and people run from it like gun laws?

Why is it that it takes about five minutes of knee-jerk debate and a few flimsy pieces of evidence or bent reasoning to stumble headlong into war… but when it comes to dealing with its most heinous realities, that our youth has been cut down, mutilated and massacred, we meander along endless lines of time?

This VA disaster, a legitimate scandal of epic proportions and an a pox on our American ideals, whatever pile of streaming feces that emerges from, should be front and center above all else. What kind of putrid nation that waxes poetic at every nauseating turn about “supporting our troops” and respecting and thanking our fallen for “protecting our freedoms” on the eve of Memorial Day allows this to happen without gutting the whole damn thing piece by piece?

The Military Industrial Complex is too big to fail or god forbid too expansive to even approach with a critical eye; and so the victims of its gorging mass of inhuman machinery get swept under the rug. We should be ashamed that these people, and they are people as they were people when they were so flippantly referred to as “troops”, (a more dehumanizing term is hard to find), are even languishing in these half-assed institutions, needing the kind of one-on-one care rarely afforded to them, while waiting for treatment as if someone with a head cold.

Everyone and everything is to blame for this. Forget merely firing directors and tossing more shit on congress and the president; we the people should look ourselves in the mirror as we continue to go about our business and complain about health care costs and standards of living and taxes and regulations and drugs and civil rights as neighbors and sons and daughters and friends continuously get shipped off to a nihilistic never-land to be carved up in order to keep this monster fat and happy.

After the morally bankrupt nightmare that was Viet Nam and all the pathetic fuck-all that followed, we still find ourselves whistling past a very real and lasting graveyard that has out names on it; our legacy, our sick obsession with war.

Our sin.

This is ours.

We own it.

For good.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Chris Christie: Welcome to Thunderdome

Well, it was a good eight weeks for the governor of New Jersey. Two months ago he was the Republican lion, staring into national TV cameras and commanding the rest of the world, especially Washington DC, to take a good, hard look at “How things are done here in New Jersey”, so we could all learn something. Yes, he was riding high. A remarkable 65-percent pounding of a Democrat in the proverbial Blue State, looking like a prime candidate for president of the United States and a true challenge to the type of demographics that will likely fell the GOP on the national level for generations.

Next thing you know he’s in a the docket of the state capital giving nearly a two-hour mea culpa speech replete with words like “sad” and “embarrassed” and “sorry”, trying to explain how he’s not a bully, something he has staked his reputation on. Around here, this type of strong-arming comportment is known as “tough”. However, for a man who routinely calls people he finds objectionable “idiots”, the details are always in the semantics and how people outside of this historically corrupt state would see our “business as usual” as something less appealing.christie_65

Of course, none of this is any good for Chris Christie if he has designs on being president of the United States, or even to continue governing N.J if this thing finds its way into Drumthwacket, the bizarrely appropriate name of the governor’s mansion in Trenton. I only know this because while schooling down there in the early 80s’, our collegiate custom was to heave ice balls over the fence at Thomas Kean’s basset hound.

At least we thought it was a dog.

Be that as it may, even if Christie knew nothing of the “bullying” or “revenge” tactics his closest aides perpetuated on Fort Lee due allegedly to its mayor, a Democrat, not endorsing his Caesar-like campaign that was well in the bag by the September date this four-day traffic jam choked the gateway to the one of the most highly traversed bridges on this continent, it reeks of chaos.

Chaos may be gangbusters for stoned college kids pelting a defenseless canine on federal property, but it’s bad for politicos with agendas. The perception for Christie to be unflappable, undaunted, even irascible had to be strengths going in, as most of the Right in this country and a large defection of Independents have decided that whatever is currently going on in the White House is flimsy, uninterested and indecisive. Backtracking on this kind of nonsense does nothing for this “image” of the recalcitrant do-gooder. It is bad branding, and if this had happened this early to a leftist, African-American nobody Senator from Illinois in the first few months that people started to take notice of him, Hillary Clinton would have already been president.

Speaking of Joe Cool, maybe Christie’s cries of having heard about this scandal on the internet the day he headed for his lengthy “hand-in-the-cookie jar” yammering qualifies him for the presidency. Barack Obama’s modus operandi lately has been Ronald Reagan’s fancy “no recollection of events” defense of a myriad of weird to criminal actions by members of his government, from whatever happened in Benghazi to the IRS screwing with conservative groups to the drunken power of the NSA well into the roll out of this Affordable Care Act boondoggle.

Maybe Christie has hit upon something here. The fact that he may have known about this act of political vengeance, so prevalent in the history of governorships across this fruited plain, is for the investigations and courts to decide, but at least we know this; if he were this unaware that his top aides were perpetrating a heinous level of malfeasance than he’s the idiot. And then the next logical question would have to be, what’s worse; insidiousness or ignorance? Reagan and Obama embraced ignorance and it paid off handsomely for Reagan and so far Obama’s “What the…?” response to his brand of chaos has kept the big dogs at bay. Let’s face it, I’ve heard the arguments proposed by the independent investigative councils looking into most of these screw-ups, and they may be sillier than the president being out-to-lunch since the spring of 2011.

Chaos may be gangbusters for stoned college kids pelting a defenseless canine on federal property, but it’s bad for politicos with agendas.

Let’s face it, overreaching the opposition to how a chief executive reacts to a potential scandal tends to engender blow-back sympathy for those who don’t see the president or this governor as a tyrant but merely an insufficient leader, like the last guy, whose presidency came in with tragedy and left with the implosion of the Western world’s economy.

But anyway you’d like to slice it; political or perception, this ain’t good for the new kid in town; especially this early in the game, when the national mood is ornery to outright fierce. Until he officially announced his intentions to run for the nation’s highest office, nothing close to this mess could befall Christie. But here we are, a mere eight weeks into the nation peeking into the Garden State, and things have gone sideways.

If nothing else, it goes to show you how far it is between this bitter winter of 2014 and whatever emerges in the summer of 2015 as a viable challenge to the status quo, which may now not include one Christ Christie.

Hey, he’s the idiot who ordered us to take a good, hard look.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion



                                                 Keep on chooglin’.
                                                         – John Fogarty

This is a nation of war junkies. I’m a junky, you’re a junky. We cannot get enough. There isn’t a skirmish, civil war, revolution or upheaval that we can’t comment on, Syriainvestigate, monitor or butt into. It is amazing. Since World War II, arguably the only war this nation has involved itself in that remotely hinted at national security or moral imperative, we have stumble-bummed our way around this globe to horrific results.

Now here comes the nightmare of Syria.

In no way, shape or form should we bother to even nod at this atrocity. It is classic Eighth century madness perpetuated by 21st century weapons. It is a firestorm. It is a quagmire. Most pressingly, it has no direct correlation to the running or defense of this nation. It will end in disaster and huge debt; none of which we can afford after 12 years of this miserable shit.

So, of course, we’re seriously discussing diving right in.

It is important to point out that despite begging the first of our fabulous warring Bushes to not sink us in the Kuwait tomfoolery; this space supported a second move on Iraq in 2003. Never in my most cynical, hell-addled imagination did I think we could fuck that up so spectacularly. I lived through it and reported on it and I still find it hard to believe what an incredible stank fest that thing became, and this was facing a fractured military force which had surrendered to CNN camera man a decade earlier.

Believe me when I write this; Syria is another animal entirely. This is not a good idea now, and never was. Even the humanitarian-chemical weapon excuse our government is pitching is weak when compared to the consequences. We get directly involved in this shit storm and there is a whole bunch of crap to pay.

Believe me when I write this; Syria is another animal entirely. This is not a good idea now, and never was. Even the humanitarian-chemical weapon excuse our government is pitching is weak when compared to the consequences.

Let the Russians deal with this. Syria is their bitch, their oil supply. We handle ours, Saudi Arabia, the right way. We forgive their human rights atrocities, their terrorist activities and toss them tons of money. We bow to their leaders on the tarmac and sell them huge chunks of our major cities. This is how it is done. But Russia is a broke anachronistic lump of atrophied machismo, whose leader is a foul wretch comically under the delusion he still matters. It is sad, but it is their sadness, not ours. We have our own broken Middle East junk; and that’s on the $$$ docket for many generations.

So we need to go cold turkey, turn away from the pure, deadly stuff before it gets on top of us for good and we end up like a bloated Elvis, slumped off his toilet and face down in the shag rug.

Consider this an intervention.

Was Viet Nam not enough of a near-death ride?

Sometimes it’s a party and then it’s that one time – a lethal speedball with John Belushi in a steamy cabin at the Chateau Marmont.

Syria is our speedball.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion


Author’s Note: It is imperative that one comes to the following with the jaundiced view shared by this space that in no way do we think there was, is and will be anything truly binding to this fourth or fifth Arab Spring in Egypt. Mostly, these people are nuts. This is no way to run a democracy; incessant revolution is bad for commerce, tourism and general stability, and if history has taught us anything – and that concept only works if you know anything about past events that almost always effect current ones – then Egypt may well go the way of 19th century France or 20th century Russia. It was difficult for anyone to fathom the volatile nature of those places and the volumes of gibberish it produced from people who lived through it, much less those with the clarity of hindsight. Let’s just say if the entire place isn’t burned to the ground by late-October it is a victory for the human race. Now carry on…egypt

The current chaos that is Egypt provides juicy insight into how a 21st century Middle East democracy can run; either as an extension of the fourth century tribal councils that dominate a fair portion of the region or some semblance of a secular law-based structure which might serve as example and catalyst to the world stage.

Granted, the former has had a tremendous head start. Tribal councils are pretty straightforward and have little room for messy things like debate, dissent, diversity, human rights or, god-forbid, voting. Hard-line is easy; it’s the way things have been done and the guys in charge use mystical reams of holy rhetoric and violence to keep the occasional “How about we try…” set in line. Democracy, with its handing over major decisions on ideological concerns to the greater populace, is dangerous for any culture; even those not mired in the whole pre-enlightenment milieu.

Unlike Israel, which had partial democracy heaped upon it by world war, genocide, colonialism and the inevitable march of progress, Egypt has exhibited an insularly deliberate crawl into the values of individual freedoms. The Egyptian model is unique. It comes – with all due respect to the piles of money it receives to make nice-nice with super powers – from an internal will to balance its religious traditions with its yearning to grant a voice to all its people.

However, unlike Israel, the echo of puppet regimes and violent upheavals surrounding its boarders has given the nation pause. There has never been a sense that Islam is without its influence in Egypt. On the contrary, it lives and breathes within its tenuous democratic construct in a far more powerful way than the nationalistic fervor of the Zionists. One does not get the sense that the bankrolled democracy of Israel is flexible in the way it perceives its sovereignty or its separation from its enemies, which is every bordering state.

Egypt is bipolar; even in its geographical location – the cultural origins of Africa mired in Middle Eastern turmoil; loaded with oil and little else, save for a tourism trade slowly eroded over the years with a growing western sense that its potential dangers outweigh its seductive landscape.

Its generational gap is growing, and with it an embrace of the type of technologies which obliterate superstitions that oppress women, art, press, and general free expression. As in all nations teetering on social revolution, the world’s alternative visions wash over Egyptian youth with reckless abandon. And unlike the outrage aimed at western ideals and culture prevalent in the 1979 Iranian revolution, Egyptian youth do not appear to be sated by returning to the purity of the past.

This begs the question; can Egypt truly be a model for the rest of the region’s view of democracy; a far more organic and sane template than the war-ravaged, westernized abomination in Iraq formulated by aging, white, Anglo-Saxon Cold War relics at the barrel of a gun.

The Egyptian people, made up of some Christians, but mostly Muslims, and within the Islamic faith, the Salifis, Sunnis,Sufis, have not yet found a common ground democratically. The question for them, as it was in the first Arab Spring over two and a half years ago, is to choose a religious-based society run by a religious-based government or one democratic secular state that respects all sects and faiths and moves the evolution of free thinking forward. This was, allegedly, the nation’s aim when booting its previously democratically elected president, Hosni Mubarak in favor of a new order, dissolved parliament and restructured constitution.

However, after a military “handling” of a special election, the Salifi-led Muslim Brotherhood movement took the reins of the fractured parliament with less than 50 percent of the national will and then propped its new president (receiving barely 51 percent of the vote), Mohammad Mosi into power. Mosi and the Muslim Brotherhood, wholly unpopular among the rankled 49 percent from day-one, began to run things as if they had been handed one of those tribal council type deals and this was not going to fly with a country still stinging from the street protests that captured the world enough for the military to act in ousting Mubatrak in the first place.

Egypt is suddenly faced with a singular religious dilemma in its burgeoning if not slightly off-kilter democracy. The Mosi/Muslim Brotherhood “experiment” was a bust. The near-majority of the nation now roundly rejects the running of things by order of the Qu’ran, including state-sanctioned crimes against non-Salifi citizens. But what is the choice? To fully separate a deeply-held religious base from the public sector; respect its moral and traditional tenets, but keep it where it belongs in mosques and homes and not in the building of roads, delivering of mail or especially the law of the land. Or give up.

This begs the question; can Egypt truly be a model for the rest of the region’s view of democracy; a far more organic and sane template than the war-ravaged, westernized abomination in Iraq formulated by aging, white, Anglo-Saxon Cold War relics at the barrel of a gun.

It is, unfortunately, the barrel of the gun that rules the near complete anarchy that has exploded on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and many cities across Egypt now that the military has once again taken charge; failing to give into semantics that the country has suffered its second military coup in two years and faces sanctions from its benefactors, including a scrambling U.S. that appears it will continue to send its $1.6 billion of “aid” to its tenuous ally if an exhumed mummy ran the place.

Although half the country losing an election, throwing a hissy fit and forcing the army to take over the government does not a democracy make, this could well be Egypt’s chance to stand up for the human condition in a region ravaged by civil rights atrocities and religious madness. It is a chance, as rare as they come, to shift the course of history and find a legitimate, internal, democratic form of government which represents the whole of the people against the myths of religion and tyrannical traditions that conspire to strangle liberty.

Author Postscript: Not likely.

Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Florida’s Reality Show Kangaroo Trial Achieves Maximum Effect

A spectacular bevy of ridiculous bullshit has gone down in the now-approaching seventeen years I’ve penned this column. I have been forced to write about more than a few of them – the last one being the whole Donald Trump pay-attention-to-me-I-have-money-and-a-tv-show-otherwise-I’m-the-guy-you-try-and-avoid-while-getting-on-the-subway-screaming-that-aliens-have-lodged-a-brain-washing-device-in-my-rectum media blitz. Normally I think everything is entertaining; mostly kids falling down wells or dogs dragging seniors from burning buildings or wells, but rarely is any of it news. But this whole George Zimmerman trial has to be news, right? It is on television all the time; and I mean ALL the time. It’s like the Olympics without all the talented shut-ins on steroids.zim_2

So, let’s see, we’ve already covered the outcome of this on the 28th of March, 2012 in a rather spiteful piece called LOOK AWAY DIXIE LAND on how embarrassingly terrible the South always seems to be when things like this “happen” – what with all their silly laws that allow people to shoot other people for “feeling threatened”. By the way, that is the law; this Stand Your Ground thing, which is so off the charts goofy it deserves to unearth the level of crap we have endured now for well over a year and in our faces for the past weeks.

Way back when, before Al Sharpton got involved, this was not self-defense or race profiling or gun control or even, (gulp!) politics, whether Floridian or national. This was and still is about a law that allows a man to kill another man at his discretion.

Outside of the poor souls that live in Florida, no one should give a shit about their laws anyway, unless they want to challenge that law as unconstitutional, which it may or may not be. Let’s face it; killing people on a whim was very popular in 1788, when the thing was ratified. Dueling was all the rage then, until it reached national status – kind of like a Zimmerman Trail circa 1804, sans cameras, lawyer-experts or HLN. When Aaron Burr, the sitting vice president, shot to death a founding father of the nation and a recent secretary of state because Aaron Burr was pissed about being framed as “voluptuary in the extreme”, only then did the whole dueling craze pass into oblivion.

For the record, the word “voluptuary” (the kind of accusation people understood as reasonable cause to be blasted in the chest with steaming hot lead at twenty paces) was a nineteenth century slight intimating that a person of repute was far more interested in money and sex than high-minded human endeavors, which is now considered high compliment among rappers, professional athletes, bishops and 83 percent of congress.

But, I digress, as is my wont here when procrastination beats actually putting into words that George Zimmerman was completely within his rights under Florida law to shoot a kid – a kid, mind you, armed with nothing but Skittles – in the heart at point-blank range, simply because he was getting his ass kicked.

And that’s the nut for me; Zimmerman is innocent of whatever happened in Florida, where killing is a way of life, like orange picking and dying in a retirement home, but he’s still a pussy.

Jesus, man. Do you have any idea how many ass-kickings I’ve received? And many of them have not been solicited; the way Zimmerman apparently felt the need to do. I hardly had to be chased down to get my beatings. In fact, it was mostly the other way around. And for the record, if I were being chased by that asshole, you can bet if he caught up to me, I would not be hanging around asking what it is he might think in his muddled I-need-to-be-important psyche. I might go at him like a wild banshee and sort out the consequences later.

For poor, young, black Trayvon Martin, the consequence was death.

In the end, whether South or North, this is the model of how we handle things in this country – a little show piece and then back to the business of bullshit. It is a rare delight, however, to have our steaming pile paraded the way it has in this “trail” hour after miserable hour and day after miserable day to help us fully understand how truly brutal the human condition can be.

And, by the way, I am not saying race was not a factor. Of course it was. Everyone admits the crimes in the area Zimmerman was patrolling were being committed by mostly, if not all, people of color. And by “patrolling”, I mean running around acting like he was some kind of de facto authority with his CB-radio and his gun and his little pick-up truck, trying to act like Chuck Norris or some other middle-aged goofy white guy the television culture has elevated to the level of folk hero.

The black kid running with the hoodie and the macho talk about “creepy looking crackers” and Zimmerman, in hot pursuit, intoning about “fucking punks always getting away with it” all plays a part. But the most pertinent is a man and a boy (male testosterone on heavy display) doing everything in their power to provoke, instigate, grandstand and put themselves into a position where violence ensued.

It’s pretty much a stark metaphor for human civilization and not so much a far cry from Burr’s fatal shooting of Hamilton all those years ago, and everything in between.

And here is where we get to why any of this got to trial in the first place, and why it has been rolled out like a reality show. The state of Florida wants this to go down with some kind of ancillary nod towards decorum. You can’t have all these shootings go on without someone getting their dander up. Throw them this dog & pony show for a few weeks, allow some cameras and commentators in, and then when the guy walks, and there are few riots here or there – one can only hope – then it’s back to business and nothing changes.

This is how it goes in the South: “Lynchings? Oh, they’re horrible, but a legal and perfectly honorable way to make sure black men don’t, you know, look in the general direction of a white woman or dare to take a sip out of a fountain marked for whites, or, apparently, walk down the street with some candy and soda. Sorry, it’s the law, have a nice day.”

In the end, whether South or North, this is the model of how we handle things in this country – a little show piece and then back to the business of bullshit. It is a rare delight, however, to have our steaming pile paraded the way it has in this “trail” hour after miserable hour and day after miserable day to help us fully understand how truly brutal the human condition can be.

What should happen is someone should sue the state and drag Jeb Bush – goddamn it if only George Senior had kept the thing in his pants, we might have avoided some serious crap these past decades – into court and pound him incessantly for signing such an unconscionably asinine bill into law.

The villain here is Florida and Bush and whatever local yahoos cobbled these suggestions of free-wheel killing on a “feel” to “feel” basis.

George Zimmerman is not the problem. He is the proverbial pimple on the monstrous ass of this lunacy. He is a lesion on the rotting husk of a dying man. He is mucus. He is pus. He’s our chubby symptom.

Oh, and as a postscript to this madness; over 70 people were murdered by gun violence over the holiday weekend in Chicago, Illinois.

When is Al Sharpton heading up there?

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