THIS REVOLUTION IS TELEVISED

Aquarian Weekly
11/11/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THIS REVOLUTION IS TELEVISED
Pre-Holiday Conflict In The Republican Party Fuels Presidential Campaigns

Word I’m getting from those on the inside is that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is back on the sauce. His drinking problem, which began to rear its ugly head around this time four years ago, has returned with a Hemmingway-like vengeance. Only this time he doesn’t have a minor core of religious nuts or gun goofballs to deal with, while desperately trying to adhere to a 2012 post-mortem declaration by big-money donors and establishment voices to make the next national GOP candidate electable. This time he is facing a full-out revolt, not just ideologically, but quite literally.

RNC-debate

For the first time in distant memory all the current Republican presidential campaigns met in private this past week to cobble together demands on how the party will represent their needs; specifically in these showcases dressed up as debates. These included, among other key issues, the choosing of softball moderators and the temperature in the venues. The consensus is that Priebus has not had their “interests” in mind – whatever a collective of fourteen’s general interests may be. The byproduct of this is the lost-cause campaigns that are not yet polling at one-percent, like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki, Rick Santorum, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who want out of the kiddie-table, pre-showcase debates to bloat an already crowded stage of ten, with every candidate getting equal time.

All of the campaigns want these things to be two hours, during which they are allotted four minutes at the top and the conclusion to speechify. This, of course, would give each candidate about additional six minutes to differentiate themselves from the field, but only if those differentiations do not include stupid things they say or stand for.

Most of this blew up after CNBC ran a clown show that turned into a whine-fest about the liberal media and then an out-right cry-baby complaint department. Even the declared winner (if there could be such a thing in these insipidly devised events) Marco Rubio, the mostly absentee senator from Florida, who turned opponent Donald Trump’s rightful tirade on how million-dollar Super Pacs (of which Rubio is second to only Jeb Bush) make candidates special-interest puppets into an opportunity to claim that the mainstream media is a Super Pac for the Democratic Party. Nice job.

To be fair, the CNBC production and the performance by its moderators was abysmal at best and a downright mugging at worst. How a financial network cannot ask a single question about the current administration’s largest trade agreement or force Republican candidates to explain to voters how another GOP president won’t sink the economic solvency of the western hemisphere again is beyond me. Bad questions, allowing candidates to shout incessantly over one another, and not having the proper notes to refute claims that candidates didn’t say things that were on their websites is inexcusable.

Having said that, bitching about it is bush league, especially during the damn thing. Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent two minutes complaining after being asked one of the few legitimate questions and then was perturbed to not get another two minutes to actually answer the question. Predictably, this kind of nonsense plays well with the base of the Republican Party, and the public in general, who all have some measure of beef with the media – specifically the networks who run these showcases dressed up as debates as if professional wrestling matches; complete with dramatic openings and promises of major conflict. The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment. However, attacking the messenger has a short shelf life. Didn’t help Nixon or the Clintons and it pretty much sank Newt Gingrich last time around.

There were rumors after the debate, most of them started by this columnist, that Priebus was already hammered on six Grand Marnier’s after his precious showcase had gone rogue, and yammered like a ten year-old about the line of questions and the decorum of the moderators, claiming the same kind of “attack dog” victimization as the Clinton Campaign parlayed into soaring poll numbers the previous week. It was well calculated on his part, but little did he know the candidates were not fucking around.

It is important to point out at this juncture that the current frontrunners – and have been for months – Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with zero political credentials between them, despite running for the top political job in the land, had no problem with the moderators or the showcase dressed up as a debate. Chaos fits their narrative just fine; the process is screwed. They’re merely here to provide an alternative. Ted Cruz, who has been in the U.S. Senate now for almost six years but continues to claim outsider status, once again piggybacked Trump and Carson’s headwind by comically suggesting that Rush Limbaugh and other right wing radio entertainers moderate. Good one.

The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment.

Seems Trump and Carson and a few other candidates eventually came to the conclusion that it is not such a good idea to allow barely relevant opponents a chance to muck up an already crowded field. Soon after the brief solidarity, Trump, in his inimitable fashion, began suggesting candidates start extracting themselves from the process, so he can have more time to do the Trump thing. Carson mumbled something about Jesus with his eyes closed and his poll numbers soared.

Priebus had a conference call with RNC officials to have someone on staff to make sure he has enough cognac on hand.

There are eight more of these left.

Read More

SYRIA – A BIG MISTAKE

Aquarian Weekly
11/4/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SYRIA – A BIG MISTAKE
Maybe They’re Wearing Sneakers

I won’t waste any precious column space mincing words or joking around. This latest move by the Obama Administration to “shift gears” or “change strategies” in the current bedlam that is Syria is a mistake; check that – a big mistake.

syria_mistake

Of course the knee-jerk reaction to cite Viet Nam or the last Iraq War, two of the most egregiously criminal conflicts this country embroiled its military and people in, is patently unfair. What is not unfair is that if this escalates – and thus far this president has not been honest about how things are being handled there, almost without question repeatedly saying the opposite of what appears to anyone paying attention to be the actual policy (the most obvious of these is the continued nonsense about “no boots on the ground” or “no combat personnel”) – it will certainly resemble them.

These are the soft lies of ramping up a war that no one wants and no one sees coming until we are trillions in debt and there are kids coming home in boxes or with vital parts missing.

What makes this worse than even those conflicts at its origins is that there is no clear enemy. We do not know, neither does our fancy intelligence that helped usher us into the Iraq War, who the hell we’re fighting for or against. This is a fact. Pentagon officials declined on two different occasions this week to specify which groups they will work with, or where they will be located. The Russians, who have stupidly thrown themselves into this thing to prop up a doomed regime, have no idea who they are fighting. Those fighting on the ground barely know, if they know at all.

Right now there are several factions, none of which could loosely be described as an American ally or even an eventual threat to the United States, perpetually fighting – door to door and street to street – in Syria. There are “rebels”, who are made up of ISIS fighters and al Qaeda and Saudis and Kurds and Turks, and on “the other side” there are Syrian defense fighters at the behest of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and next to them Iranian-backed soldiers of fortune, and a different faction of al-Qaeda, and from what I see on CNN, thrown into the sinkhole, is a cadre of free-lance Americans who are playing Cowboys and Indians because their penises are too small or their girlfriend left them or McDonald’s isn’t hiring.

Syria right now makes Viet Nam and Iraq look sane.

Let me write again: This is a big mistake.

The announcement this week (and by announcement, I mean more bullshit that is nowhere near what is actually happening, which is likely ten-times worse and coming in about two months too late) that 50 or so “special operators” will be in country to “advise” and “deploy” and “recon” and all the other shuck-and-jive we’ve heard from the Westmorelands and Wolfowitzs who foolishly lead their charges into damnation.

A glaring example of this is the combat soldier killed in combat while carrying out a combat mission in Iraq, which ignited nearly a week of yammering out of the Pentagon about how he really wasn’t in combat. This is what our greatest war criminal, Lyndon Baines Johnson would have called “a riddle wrapped in an enigma” before he sent thousands of American kids to die in a jungle against their will for nothing.

Senior White House “officials” and Pentagon spokesmen echoed the mantra that these troops will be deployed for less than 60 days at a time, and then this nugget: “We will not be establishing our own, U.S.-led headquarters … we will go to where they are. Our vision, at least at the outset, is for them to go for small amounts of time and to one location. I don’t anticipate they’ll be moving from place to place with regularity. They are not going to be out and about to advise and assist in the way we are in Iraq. This is to get guys on the ground and get eyes on … to see what more is possible. This is a start.”

Oh, it’s a start all right. Like Kennedy’s set of advisors and Mission Accomplished; the usual fog of war that takes our money and our youth and our legitimacy; we’re no longer legitimate, if we ever were, or at least not since WWII. We have no international voice that really matters, and this myth keeps us from admitting that not everything that happens everywhere is our business and that barely anything that happened in Viet Nam and Iraq was of vital or any defensive interest to this country.

We do not know, neither does our fancy intelligence that helped usher us into the Iraq War, who the hell we’re fighting for or against.

It is a lie. It is a dangerous, unholy lie, and we keep hearing it, and now we hear it from our anti-war president, the one I have championed for his previously smart and cautious Middle East policy; one that does not repeat the mistakes of centuries of over-zealousness by nations trying to quell centuries of blood-lust.

But that is over now. Barack Obama has begun the path for which he was definitely not elected. And trust me, whether it is Hillary Clinton or whatever war puppet the Republicans spat out, it will be far worse.

Barack Obama, September, 2013: “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Maybe they’re wearing sneakers.

Read More

A HOUSE DIVIDED

Aquarian Weekly
10/14/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

A HOUSE DIVIDED
Who The Hell Wants To Be Speaker of the House?

You may have heard that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the second most powerful post in the United States government, John Boehner has quit. For the first time in the 226 years of the U.S. Congress a speaker is resigning without either getting a better gig or being kicked out. Usually this type of job is a keeper and those who are fortunate enough to secure it hang onto it like grim death. So then the question remains; why did Boehner walk away from this austere position – incidentally whilst joyfully singing “Zippity Doo Dah” – offering no real explanation beyond repeatedly stating “It’s time.”

House Speaker Boehner Holds Weekly News Conference

There was some talk immediately following the news that it had something to do with the Pope’s visit, which is nice, but goofy. The other less goofy one was his not having the votes to be re-elected, which turned out to be false as it was the previous times this was broached. Another theory revolved around the more extreme Right Wing of his caucus threatening to shut down the government again over the funding of Planned Parenthood under what could only be described by people with a grasp of the facts as anti-abortion falderal. And although that one turned out to also be less than the truth for now, there was a kernel of it in there.

While Boehner, who vehemently denied there was ever any real motivation to defend PP or at least to halt the entire running of the people’s business over a $500 million purse, the very notion of this political suicide is symptomatic of his tenure as speaker. Since the 2010 TEA Party insurgence into congress, the second Republican wave in less than 20 years that put him in charge, Boehner has become the least effective speaker ever. This is not high school hyperbole like “This is the worst tragedy ever!” or “Worst president ever!”, but fact. The 112th through the 114th versions of our legislative branch has done less in its allotted time to govern than any other before.

Boehner’s biggest issue was with the so-called Freedom Caucus of about 50 for whom the idea of governing is an anathema, which I am not willing to deride since that is the reason they were sent to Washington by voters; to halt the march of big government and curtail the tyrannical rule of Monarch Obama and his Muslim hordes. And if that is why they are there, then one has to applaud their gusto, for it has been the sad storyline for centuries that members of congress are elected on some platform they have no intention of forwarding or their ideas are crushed within the first year in D.C and they become part of the very problem they were elected to solve.

However, as the speaker has recently stated on his “I’m going to bury everyone who screwed me” tour recently, the members of the Freedom Caucus promised stuff that they cannot deliver on and thus he is straddled with the anger and disappointment of an easily gullible electorate that believes shutting down the government, filibustering or taking empty votes would somehow override a second-term president without veto-proof control of the U.S. Senate – basic eighth grade civics most Americans who yell and scream and about things they don’t understand, like the Constitution, should know is impossible.

This is why over fifty-percent of the Republican primary polls insist on a presidential candidate with no political background – a doctor, a failed CEO, and a TV star; all promising crazy things that cannot be accomplished under the current structure of U.S. law. And this is precisely why this week Boehner’s proposed replacement, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed his name from consideration in front of a stunned and angry gaggle of Republican congressmen and then told the National Review that conservative members wanted things they couldn’t deliver and maybe the party has to hit rock bottom before things improve.

McCarthy is an interesting failure here, mainly because in 2010 he was one of the leading recruiters of the very people he is now calling out for scuttling his chance at speaker. More than anyone in congress he led the charge, financially and otherwise, to bring in candidates with little to no experience in governing, compromise or debate in the structure set up by the third incarnation of our Continental Congress in 1789.

Usually this type of job is a keeper and those who are fortunate enough to secure it hang onto it like grim death.

Of course this seemed dubious to members of the press and as rumors swirled of an alleged affair haunting McCarthy, word began to leak that it was actually moderate Republicans, or at least not those in the intransigent Freedom Caucasus, who began hectoring McCarthy to step aside after he unconscionably told a national FOX News audience that the entire Benghazi Investigative Committee (what is it now eight or nine versions now?) was a secret Republican plot to besmirch former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her bid for president, which unintendedly reinvigorated her stumbling campaign and pretty much neutered the whole idea of the thing.

This chaos has predictably further emboldened the Freedom Caucasus, who spent two days leaking notions that McCarthy was not conservative enough and did not have the stomach to bury the government over Planned Parenthood or any other election year craziness that might come up, which certainly means John Boehner, seemingly a socialist hippie to them, would have zero support to hang on until another “suitable” candidate arises. And so now a man for whom this gig became untenable is stuck for the foreseeable future, which includes another debt-ceiling fight and budget vote on December 11.

A panicked Boehner reached out to former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to save the day. Ryan, one of the brightest and most stable of Republican legislators to this point has no interest in dooming his political career taking a thankless job in which he will be publically flogged by half-witted dreamers. And while Ryan is an admitted Ayn Rand political theorist, (Rand makes the Freedom Caucus look like a Liberal think-tank) he is first and foremost a pragmatist, and this is no climate for such an animal.

And so who wants to be speaker of the house? Who wants to be two heartbeats from the president and lord over the making of law and handling a multi-trillion dollar national budget? Who wants to lead the leaderless and deal with a president who does not have to be re-elected?

Anyone?

Read More

JOE COOL DOMINATING‏

Aquarian Weekly
9/16/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

JOE COOL DOMINATING
Don’t Look Now – Barack Obama Is Beating Second-Term Jinx

So far, this has been an immutable fact of the American presidency: Second terms are a disaster. Bad. Filled with impeachments and quitting and unconstitutional shenanigans. Queer luck. Doomed circumstance; economically, militarily, personally. The list is long, and in my lifetime (born in September of 1962) it has been a given.

Until now.obama-sunglasses

So far this burden has avoided Barack Obama (and by “so far”, of course I mean the president has over a year left in his presidency with plenty of time to have something catastrophic or moronic befall him). The fact is the president has excelled in his second term; victories against congress (TPP, Iran Deal), positive happenstance (gas prices, stock market), and a defiant attitude one gets when one does not have to run for anything anymore, which completely condemned presidents for the past half century.

We know the deal (and I consider LBJ: 1965-1968 his second term, since he was president for over a year prior) all the second terms since the Kennedy assassination have been awful.

To wit: Lyndon Johnson ostensibly quit by announcing he would not seek the nomination of his party to run as a result of his historically abysmal foreign policy that sank the U.S. in the nation’s most senseless war ever. His successor, Richard Nixon, did, in fact, quit nearly three years into his second term for crimes committed during his first and a goodly amount of covering up there-after. Ronald Reagan had his Iran-Contra scandal, which for all intents and purposes should have gotten him impeached, but did indict or jail more members of his administration than any before. Then there is Bill Clinton, who was indeed impeached (only president to have that dishonor in 130-odd years), who spent most of his second term being investigated for a series of odd things which led to perjuring himself before congress about an affair he had with his intern. Finally, we have George W. Bush, whose completely bungled Iraq War galvanized the opposition party to take over congress, trumped by the incredibly horrifying federal government reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and then the economic implosion of the Western hemisphere.

Holy shit.

Barack Obama is a glorified amalgamation of Washington/Lincoln/FDR compared to that rogues’ gallery.

But, wait, there’s more: Don’t look now, but the president’s latest victory, the historic Iran Deal that will be his second term’s lasting legacy for good or ill, which could mean hang onto your hats, since he is due for a second-term sinkhole, will not only go through, but doesn’t even reach the usually embarrassing veto stage that looked inevitable just a month ago.

I happen to support the deal, as stated here in July (THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAS ON ISIS – Issue: 7/22/15) and after hearing the debate, reading the details, and listening to the objective, non-political commentary of nuclear-proliferation experts from around the globe, it has cemented my belief that this is the best option to integrate a rogue nation into the realm of diplomacy while keeping it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This is not unlike the Kennedy Test-Ban Treaty, (which if you go for conspiracy theories did more to get him killed than anything else), Nixon’s detente policy and the opening of diplomatic relations with China (his finest and most lasting achievement), and the SALT talks and treaties developed for decades under many presidents, but truly championed – much to the chagrin of similar war-hawk conservative voices as we hear today – in the 1980s by Ronald Reagan (also his finest achievement).

Be that as it may, for a second-term president to spearhead this kind of international coalition with so many countries at a time of heightened strife in the Middle East in the wake of the previous administration’s destructive policies in the region, and a constant barrage of misinformation and doom-speak in the press is nothing short of miraculous.

This deal is, and again I state “so far”, the icing on the cake of a second term that has seen Obama’s most controversial and sweeping piece of domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act (something I did not and still do not support) survive two Supreme Court rulings, pretty much cementing it for all time as the law of the land, and it has actually not been the coming calamity the opposition predicted; from loss of jobs to death panels and exploding taxes. On the contrary, firstly the ACA has dropped the number of uninsured Americans (16.4 million), a rate of 35 percent; the biggest improvement in 40 years. This was its aim, although I am dubious to its costs and subsidies, which are not sustainable in the long run, along with the other monstrous government entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. But, for now, in a charmed second term, not even 17 Republicans running for president think it is harmful enough to even broach. That ship, as they say, has left the dock and will sail on into future administrations.

And although several of Obama’s executive actions (while still not eclipsing his predecessor) have rankled those in congress (the political goal of executive actions), they have staved off gridlock. The most pleasing of all, supported by nearly eight out of ten Americans, the president’s opening of relations with Cuba after 50 years of completely failed policy that was so antiquated it had become a joke. This was the “change” that was supposed come around during a rocky first term, but was mostly ignored, like the emerging marriage equality movement that coalesced during Obama’s second term (thanks in some part to his “evolving” on the subject – a kind of goofy, “get with the program” thing that few beyond yours truly has given him shit for) galvanizing the progressive Left like never before.

We know the deal … all the second terms since the Kennedy assassination have been awful.

Much of this has little to nothing to do with a president, these kind of side issues and perks, like gasoline prices dipping below two dollars for the first time in eons; something no one thought possible in 2012 or the Dow rising from an abysmal 7,500 in 2009 to a record 18,200 before the recent dip, which still sits at over 16,000. But then again the “policies” routinely ridiculed by the opposition has in some way resulted in U.S. economic growth at fairly healthy 3.7 percent, as unemployment rate of 5.1 percent – it was 9.3 when Bush left town and according to factcheck.org the U.S. economy, by far the world’s most stable, has now gained nearly five times more jobs under Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Don’t misunderstand me; there are plenty and varied negatives to this administration, some may point out the chaos in the Middle East, which is pretty much the same chaos that has gone down since the birth of this nation, but I for one have applauded Obama for keeping us out of this nonsense for once (Afghanistan notwithstanding, which has got to end sooner than later for my taste). I argue that most of the president’s mishaps happened during his first term, which historically speaking should have cost him the White House in 2012, but it did not. And granted a second term, he has authored one far superior to those that preceded him, at least since I’ve been sucking air.

Considering the craziness listed above, that is as close to not-crappy as anyone under the age of 50 has ever witnessed.

Read More

MEDIA, MONEY & DONALD TRUMP‏

Aquarian Weekly
8/26/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MEDIA, MONEY & DONALD TRUMP

All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.
– Marshall McLuhan

Winning!
– Charlie Sheen

The current issue of Time magazine features an extreme close-up of real estate mogul turned presidential candidate, Donald Trump, whose squint-eyed, pursed-lip Mussolini-like pomp has recently taken on a kind of Miley Cyrus meets Charlie Sheen quality. The text below him simply says “Deal with it”. Inside, there is an article featuring photographs of Trump with a bald eagle perched on his outstretched arm performing his now recognizable thumbs-up routine. This is only one, if not an utterly grotesque example of what has transpired over the past 60 days or so; the tried and true coupling of interesting weirdo being lapped up and shoveled at us by a corporate-backed profit machine known as the media.

trump-prez-fingers

This is always what the media has done well, (see the Spanish-American War, Hearst Publishing, McCarthyism and the Woodstock generation) but since all of the mainstream outlets for news organizations have been bankrolled by huge corporations, whose ratings numbers and advertising dollars trump (pun intended) the faintest idea of news, this is now the standard business model. Of course, with Trump leading all the national and local primary polls his act has now become news, but I maintain it would not have done so on its own momentum, if not for the candidate’s brilliant use of the media to create it. And once it is patently obvious that his shenanigans attracted numbers, all bets were off.

Full disclosure: This whole episode is wildly entertaining to me. I cannot get enough of its “torching the system and blowing up the usual boring expectations of August in off-year politics” – take the 24 million people who purportedly watched the FOX News candidate showcase masquerading as a debate, which four years ago garnered 3.2 million viewers. The Republican Party is running 45 people, 43 of which have no chance of getting its nomination, and unless the nation’s shifting demographics dramatically swing back to its 1988 levels in the next fourteen months, almost none of them will be president. For a political junkie, the Donald Trump Show is a welcomed distraction; especially the stuff about how he has made a living off purchasing the system and how it is a sham and his run is a metaphoric exploitation of it.

This is an art form, and I, for one, applaud it.

Side note: Trump has been at this particular activity for over 30 years in the media capital of planet earth and studied under Don King. He is very good at turning the rote into spectacle. It is a potent cocktail of nature and construct, like Shelly’s Frankenstein complete with groaning.

But let’s not mistake show biz for a grass roots movement.

Another side note: The surge of Barack Obama in the late summer of 2007 that mesmerized the national press, bitched about ad nauseum by the whining right wing as a media creation, was true grass roots, as it came from out of nowhere and built on its own momentum. It is like Obama was punk and Trump is disco. One forged a place into the mainstream by the force of its conviction as fashion; the other was made-up crap jammed down our throats as the fashion.

For someone who has spent most of his sentient existence studying the cross-pollination of creative entities and media manipulation, this whole thing, while appearing mostly fabricated, has legs. Just because it smells like hype infused with a generational pull greased by a fervor for profit, (pop stars, celebrities, etc) does not mean it doesn’t have merit or deeper meaning to some. It does, but it is also a difficult balancing act – one that is given credence through the lens of the television and the Internet; Marshall McLuhan’s wet dream.

There are literally hundreds of examples of Trump getting a pop culture level of coverage, but the most glaring may have been FOX News airing last Friday of one of Trump’s “events”, which preceded a live interview with fellow Republican candidate, Carly Fiorina, whose “outside Washington” thing trolls the lower rungs of the polling. The network pulled away from it to put Fiorina on the screen and then proceeded to not only ask Fiorina about Trump, which is now standard procedure these days, but then cut back in the middle of her answer to the live feed of an animated Trump, who even without sound was more compelling than whatever Fiorina was prattling on about.

The other interesting media maneuver that has benefited Trump is these panels that incessantly discuss why anyone finds him interesting or if his candidacy has any substance. It reminds one of the breakdown panels after some lunatic shoots up a mall and they begin to dissect video games, mental illness and gun control. There is now an industry in “explaining” Trump, as if he is the Yeti.

This is precisely why Trump’s penchant for blurting out the kind of bizarre rhetoric that would bury any other politician does not harm him. In fact, as a pop culture star, it enhances his notoriety. It is another media maneuver that I call the “Hokey Fight Syndrome”, something which ESPN brilliantly pulled off back when people still followed hockey; the network would run gruesome video of hockey fights and add “tisk-tisk” commentary that was meant to show you that while they knew hockey fights were what you wanted to see, they were outwardly appalled by it. Then they would show another hockey fight. Showing crazy Trump quotes and decrying them matters little in this game. They are shown and therefore they are part of the show.

It is a potent cocktail of nature and construct, like Shelly’s Frankenstein complete with groaning.

The media also prefers the carnival barker; “Wait until you see the economic plan (bearded lady) and foreign policy (lizard boy) we have for you! It will be spectacular!” In this equation having a point or even scintilla of a policy platform matters even less than how it is presented; which, of course, neuters the legitimate press (whatever that is) by presenting my good friend and colleague Doctor Slater’s axiom, “You can’t argue with crazy.”

Once this boldly impenetrable character is rolled out and makes a spectacle of what was formally a pretty dull and predictable exercise, there is a clamor to overdose on it. Take the aforementioned FOX debate for example. There were rumblings, and still are, that FOX, well entrenched in Republican politics, had other plans for this race that did not include the Donald Trump Show, and its battle with him turned into a stalemate that had FOX not airing anything Donald Trump for seventy-two hours. This so effected its ratings, the normally powerful medium backed down and went back to what everyone else was doing, “All-Trump-All-The-Time”.

Since I have vowed years ago not to write about presidential politics until at least the September before an election year, I shan’t discuss the Trump campaign’s legitimacy or electoral chances yet. Just know this, while the media can saturate us with something strange, it can and will turn like a wild animal. If Trump is truly a media creation, he will eventually be consumed by this insatiable beast he has appeared to tame. If this is somehow merely a conveyance to his end-game, whatever that may be, then we’re into the real fun.

Read More

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & MADE-UP SHIT

Aquarian Weekly
8/12/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & MADE-UP SHIT

I want to make clear from the outset that I honestly could not care less if Planned Parenthood is defunded or shut down or whatever this wacky congress would like to do. Have at it. I also think that whoever was caught on camera being blithe about sensitive issues should be terminated and there should be some oversight to how a government-run, taxpayer funded institution is run. What needs to be pointed out is this gnawing penchant for political activists – both on the Left and the Right (this time it is the Right) to go off half-cocked and just make shit up to support its agenda. The anti-gun lobby has done it repeatedly after every shooting that occurs in this country (and Lord knows it is daily and insane and speaks more about us than the weapons used, but that is for another column) or the recently hyped Black Lives Matter movement that moves from shedding light on a serious issue of racist practices by an inordinately large number of police killing unarmed black men to an all-out assault on police in general.

planned-parenthood

If you’ve read just one paragraph of this space since 1997, you would know I have no problem with people getting riled up about a cause. And I think if you are even remotely familiar with my work you also know it is not acceptable to create your own facts in the fervent pursuit of your passion. This is the most dangerous area of our discourse, always has been. It takes us from “I disagree with his policies” to “he’s Hitler”, which is more irrational, sub-mental hyperbole than making shit up, but the journey is the same. This problem is further exacerbated when purported news outlets like the pathetically inauthentic FOX NEWS/MSNBC cabal take a story that really doesn’t exist and make it one. It’s one thing for citizens, activists, protesters, lobbyists, or paid political pundits (including the radio host goofballs) to spin their own “truths”, but when supposed journalists not only work fast and loose with facts but blurt out-and-out lies as news, things take on a kind of Alice in Wonderland aura.

Okay, so the biggest problem pro-life crowd has with Planned Parenthood is its safe and convenient (and legal) taxpayer-funded locations to provide abortions for women who decide to go that route (pro-choice). In fact, PP is the number-one enemy of the pro-lifers to the point where, for instance, petitions for mayors, congressmen and governors to close these (perfectly legal) locations are a key to elections. In the past decade many Republican officials have been skirting national law and passing laws to curtail the effectiveness of PP on the state level on the accepted assumption that PP is an abortion factory, when in fact the percentage of abortions to the other specifically women’s health provisions account for about three percent or 328,000 of the group’s nearly 10.6 million services provided last year. And although I support the right for those who oppose abortion to try the political route (as opposed to killing doctors) to advance their agendas, I also do not support a systemic flouting of law for “moral” reasons. Once again, though, this is a subject for another column – one I have written at least a dozen or more times.

The meager (when compared to the ridiculous amount of money thrown at useless murdering like the U.S. military) $528 million is about forty percent of its annual budget, less than pennies to individual taxpayers. Yet, the federal defunding (states can and do provide a sizable sum) of the other ninety-seven percent of PP’s services will adversely affect its usefulness. So while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care. In an approaching election year, this kind of reactionary nonsense seduces political suicide for Republicans, who already have problems looking like they are perpetually waging social war on women.

And so once videos of PP officials casually describing in detail the “selling” of aborted fetus parts donated legally by the mothers, the pouncing began. The “outrage” singles out the profiting of this ghoulish practice and the horrors of not only the inhumane practices, but the entire idea of PP being some kind of underground human trafficking scheme.

The problem with this is none of it is true. Not a word. PP has for years provided a service to use aborted fetal tissue with written consent of the parents to scientific research for a myriad of diseases and never profits from it. The money causally discussed in the videos (which is a matter of decorum not criminality) subsidizes the preservation and transportation of said tissue, and in most cases these funds are reimbursed. While some may find this appalling, it is no different than you donating your organs to science or to save lives after you’re gone. The spectacularly irresponsible narrative that PP is coldly cashing in on this is a fantasy concocted by overzealous activists that count on you being ignorant to the facts at hand.

…while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care.

The bigger problem with wildly disseminating misinformation and the orchestrated fabrication of all this leads to government officials, presidential candidates, and members of congress hinting at “investigations”, which like most investigations will end up costing taxpayers more money than the actual funding of an institution and will need nowhere, because there is no crime or story here. The story should be that people who oppose abortion will use any measure, however fanciful and inaccurate, to advance their agenda. And perhaps the most glaring problem will come if congress decides to shut the federal government down over this straw man, (and the sad fact is almost all of these politicians know this is trumped up bullshit, but pursue it to gather favor and potential votes) which will cost us fifty times what we’re discussing here, if we’re so worried about money.

Believe what you will about pro-life or pro-choice, but here are the facts; a woman’s right to choose is protected by law, Planned Parenthood is a legally run women’s health institution that provides useful services to millions of patients annually, and while people with agendas may live by their own versions of truth, none of it alters the first two. And while anti-abortion activists do not hold a patent on making shit up, they are in this case very much making shit up.

Read More

UBER VERSUS NYC

Aquarian Weekly
7/29/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

UBER VERSUS NYC

This was bound to happen here. It has happened elsewhere. The grassroots ingenuity of transport services, more specifically Uber and to a lesser extent Lyft, offer a convenient alternative to mass transit and traditional cab services. In the case of Uber, which thanks to my friend Dan Bern I personally used to great effect in my spring visit to Nashville, Tennessee – a town spread out into disparate neighborhoods yet bereft of available conveyance for those not wanting to rent a car – it adds a fairly unregulated number of extra vehicles to the area while threatening the livelihoods of the existing official vehicular fleet. In other words, Uber is to a region-city-town-county what Napster was to the music business. There may be compromise and reshuffling, but there will be no going back.

lyft_cab

In Nashville, for instance, it took months of wrangling with the local cab services to settle on an agreement to infuse the Uber fleet into the city’s environment, mostly because many of the cabbies (minuscule in comparison to a metropolis silly with them like NYC) saw an opportunity for themselves to break out and become Uber drivers.

Uber drivers must pass a rigorous review of driving records and other key personal histories, but is according to the drivers I spoke to more lucrative than the traditional hack route. It is a well-oiled concept that invites single moms, college students, struggling lower-economic, two-job types, and others to take on a livery business to help make ends meet. Some drivers I met in Nashville raved about its flexibility and its boost to their incomes (average Uber income per hour is $12, while it is $30 in NYC). Some loved it as a distraction – one woman concerned my brothers-in-law and myself by boldly stating she had been driving people around town for some thirty hours without sleep and wondered (if she hadn’t passed out by then) if we needed a ride to the airport the next day. Needless to say we passed on her, but used Uber nonetheless.

Uber is cheaper than cab and car services simply because there is no expected tipping. You sign up through an app on your phone, connect it to your credit card or Paypal and hit it. Within minutes, depending on where you’re an independent driver arrives promptly. In Nashville we rarely waited more than four to five minutes for a car, most times it was two to three minutes.

But Nashville is a burb compared to places like Chicago, L.A., Houston, and especially the largest city on the planet, New York. In fact, my only Uber experience in NYC was a bad one. In early June my wife and I found ourselves in our usual position of fairly inebriated on McDougal Street in the Village and it was late and we needed to get back to our hotel in Tribeca. Normally I’d hail a cab and end of story, but I decided to try out Uber in the big town. I hit the app and a car was promised in three minutes. The car purportedly showed up on Bleecker around the corner in the requisite time. Not sure why it wasn’t in front of us. The driver called me, but the street was buzzing with people and traffic and it was hard to hear him. I explained that we were around the corner, but his response was unintelligible. Just then a free cab happened to be passing right by us, so I flagged it, told the Uber guy never mind, and went about our business. The next day I received a ten-dollar cancellation fee from Uber. I wanted to fight it, but screw it.

I ended up using cabs the rest of my brief stay that weekend, and part of me felt it right, since cabbies have always held a special place in my heart. I’ve had some amazing adventures in cabs all over this world. Drivers always take my advice and always put the pedal to the medal – I rarely trust any cabbie that does not blatantly break the law, especially in NYC. It is a must. And, on a personal note, my grandfather was a proud member of the hack brigade and I believe in supporting these guys/gals whenever possible.

This takes us to the issue at hand. City of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio is now faced with the same dilemma as every New York mayor before him, how to integrate progress into the city construct seamlessly without destroying the echo-structure of the town. He must simultaneously serve all New Yorkers; consumers and workers, while managing the progress of capitalism. New York’s history is filled with these moments, and for the most part New York was the experiment for the rest of the country, the most significant of these were canals, roadways, social programs, fiscal parameters, subways, building, or general infrastructure, and a host of inventions thrown into an urban environment left to its own devices.

De Blasio claims that Uber and Lyft present a possible ecological and traffic-congestion problem to the city. His latter claim is not unfounded. Uber adds hundreds of cars a day to the already uber-(pun intended)-congested streets, and having driven for over four decades around all five boroughs (I parceled medical records around NYC during the late 80s and early 90s to supplement my meager freelance earnings), I can tell you it ain’t beanbag. I have seen things on the byways of NYC that are hard to explain in print. Suffice to say – though since the city’s rebirth in the mid-90s things have been less hair-raising – it is not an easy town to traverse. This is the concern of city officials, as much as the added smelly and dangerous exhaust the additional vehicles provide. But I shan’t go down a road that claims that a few less cars will save New York from its noxious fumes. That is part of the charm, come on.

De Blasio has begun his push-back by imposing limits to the amount of cars Uber can have “on the job” at any one time. I don’t think this unreasonable, but as a business model, no one wants to have “limits” imposed on your expansion, and Uber is expanding big time. The company estimates adding 25,000 customers every week.

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how.

Uber is making its case that by rightfully pointing out that De Blasio has another reason for his push-back, NYC cabs are in jeopardy of going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. Also, more ubiquitous and affordable modes of transportation via the car lowers the mass-transit numbers, which every mayor wants to keep up, freeing the streets of congestion. Uber has countered with a multi-million dollar ad campaign online and on TV suggesting that lower-income, minority travelers now have an option, especially in the outer-boroughs, where cabs loathe to tread; specifically because they are not guaranteed a return fare.

But the sinister underbelly of this, which puts De Blasio in a tight bind to his liberal constituency, is that cabbies for decades have refused to pick up black and Hispanic fares for a variety of reasons that do not jibe with the civil rights of these individuals. Uber has no such agenda or history. De Blasio and the cab lobby cannot hide from this argument. It is real. I have seen it myself and spoken to those who have been denied rides.

Uber also has a hidden, less than moral-outrage argument for its own push-back. If Uber becomes part of the regulation of NYC-Transit, does it lose its “affordable” outside the system appeal?

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how. Maybe a compromise is coming, but if De Blasio or city officials think by ignoring a popular service with progressive tendencies a winning quotient in NYC, they will also go the way of the horse and buggy.

As usual, the rest of the nation watches the outcome.

Read More

THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS‏

Aquarian Weekly
7/22/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS

Let me be the first journalist or pundit or columnist or politician or radio host or prime minister to admit I have not read the entire Iran Deal. I am sure a 150-page stream of international-law gobbledygook is a fine summer jaunt, but I’ll stick to Simon Critchley’s The Book of Dead Philosophers, which I am currently enjoying and this book on Bob Dylan’s recording sessions from 1960-1994. Good stuff. I am never going to read the Iran Deal, but like all the other people who haven’t done so and probably never will, yet felt compelled to comment on it over the past few days, I will nevertheless write about it. But at least you know that I know I have not read it and have little idea of what’s in it, unlike everyone running for president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and everyone on cable news and on the radio and in nearly every newspaper op ed page in the nation.

waronisis

However, unlike those who merely agree with this thing because they support the president or disagree because they do not, I have only one agenda, which has been consistent here from the moment our purportedly antiwar president took the oath in January of 2009, stay the fuck out of Middle East conflicts. And so an Iran Deal, while being ridiculously calamitous in believing will accelerate the process for an Iranian nuclear program or spectacularly naive to think it will mark a new era in Iranian/American relations, is better than what has transpired since the CIA-orchestrated coup d’état of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, for the despotic Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, better known to his bosses in the U.S. State Department as the mighty Shah.

I am not going to waste much time going over the complete disaster that has been the U.S. foreign policy in regards to Iran for over six decades and eleven presidents. We all know the deal; U.S. backed bloody dictatorship followed by bloody theocratic revolution, giving asylum to bloody dictator, hostage crisis, sanctions, working out alliance with and arming bloody Iraqi dictator, Iraq invades Iran, more sanctions, secretly trading arms with Iranians to back illegal Central American war in Nicaragua, you guessed it…sanctions, war kicking out aforementioned U.S.-backed Iraqi dictator in neighboring Kuwait, “axis of evil”, second war deposing Iraqi dictator, Iranians begin nuclear program for energy, which no one on the planet believes, G.W. Bush nixes initial Iran Deal to not appear weak in “war on terror”, suspected nuclear plan quadruples, diminutive lunatic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies Holocaust, the existence of Iranian homosexuals and promises to wipe Israel off the map, U.N. (everybody together now!) sanctions, citizens discover twitter and fake an Arab Spring, Ahmadinejad goes bye-bye, Iran Deal.

Okay, I lied – minor time-waster; but you get the point.

There are two options left for the U.S., the U.N, and the rest of the oil-addicted world – deal or war. Period. I choose deal.

Of course hardliners in the U.S. and Iran will bitch about this thing. This is the aim of “the deal”. No one is happy. Would it be better if there were stronger terms on weapons-testing and did testing end up in a war in Iraq in 2003? Yup. And would it be better for Iran if the sanctions would be lifted sooner without all this “trust but verify” verbiage? Yup. But, again, this is the nature of “the deal”. People get something and give something up they would not want to give up. I find it hard to believe people over six years-old would find this concept alien. How does anyone get through forty seconds of adult life, never mind international relations, without compromise?

Now, although I think Netanyahu a buffoon, he is in a tough position – one he created by being the hard-line candidate and prime minster, but nevertheless it is a tough one. He has been saying for ten years that Iran is weeks away from making a bomb. If I said for instance that I am sure Martians are coming next month for ten years I would be put away. Prime ministers and presidents say stuff like this and get re-elected. It’s just the name of the game. I do not blame him and I realize that if this thing goes sideways Israel will have to be aggressive, but I also know that all this bluster from Netanyahu is backed by billions of American dollars (our taxpaying dollars) and billions in U.S. weapons, and out of mere diplomacy, we would have to back such aggression.

This is why “the deal” makes sense. It finally puts us in the game. Instead of lip service and name calling and grandstanding to get votes or seem morally superior, we now in a sense partner with Iran to make sure they act responsibly in the international construct or finally pay for their transgressions. It is an oil-rich, advancing, and geographically large nation. It is about time.

And if this pisses off the Saudis who are currently fighting Iran in Yemen, all the better.

I want to take a moment to point out that this haughty notion of making deals with countries that ignore human rights and sponsor terrorism and/or foreign aggression being a no-no is crazier than the Martian analogy. Please see Saudi Arabia and China for prime examples of why this never seems to matter.

However, there is another key reason, and maybe the key reason, for “the deal” at this time; the growing issue with ISIS.

Aside from the Egyptians and a rag-tag army of Kurds, there is no one who has been more of an ally against the Sunni-configured ISIS than the Shiite theocracy of Iran. Just like our tentative and eventually disastrous alliance with the Soviet Union during WWII, the Iranian influence, intelligence and underground weapons’ network in the region is second to none. We need Iran to defeat ISIS, plain and simple.

This is a classic Barack Obama move. Joe Cool has been pussyfooting around with drones and “relief aid” and Special Forces for too long. He has to stick to his “no boots on the ground” rhetoric and continue to appear “weak” to hawks while also getting into the deep weeds with regards to Iraq. U.S. fingerprints will be all over the Iranian military thrust, eventually strengthened by lifted sanctions, in Iraq now. The Iran Deal comes with a secret détente no one to my knowledge had sussed out; these two nations have a common interest and a common enemy; thus speeding up the negotiations now more than ever.

And if this pisses off the Saudis who are currently fighting Iran in Yemen, all the better. This is should be their war, yet they insist on asking us to fight it. They had their chance. Fuck them.

So Obama gets his secret war against ISIS, which I have also vehemently opposed, seeing this is a cultural civil war that has nothing to do with us. This thing reeks of Ronald Reagan’s expedient support of Iraq in 1982, which did not end well for any of us.

But it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.

Read More

EQUALITY…OF COURSE

Aquarian Weekly
7/8/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EQUALITY…OF COURSE

Let it be so marked that on June 26, 2015, 239 years after declaring the right to be free and sovereign to pursue life’s ambitions under the law, and not some theocratic monarchy, that we have once again embraced our truest nature as a nation; that we must never deny the rights we enjoy to our fellow citizens. For that is the day the U.S. Supreme Court, echoing its own prior ruling on this measure and every lower court that has been forced to observe it, that all the citizens of these United States will be granted the opportunities of all, regardless of sexual orientation, as did their fore-runners in race, religion, and gender. Homosexuals now join every one of us not born male, white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, who were told we do not belong in the pantheon of Thomas Jefferson’s haughty dreams of all being equal, from his God to the compulsory halls of law, but eventually triumphed as you do.

gay_marriage

I write these words on the eve of commemorating our nation’s day of birth, July 4, 1776, a full dozen years before its official commencement, the ratifying of a national Constitution. It sacred words of law since amended to include so many more than it defended that late June day of 1788, not unlike the one that duly reflected its power and purpose 227 years later this past week almost to the day. When tested, it has endured. And its crowning achievement exists in the millions it has freed from the tyranny of discrimination through hatred, tradition, religion, and the will of the majority, which ultimately has nothing to do with whether you are entitled to the rights of someone who is not like you, the right to breathe free. That, Jefferson said, is settled by merely being human.

And so America, its concept, its majesty, its stubbornness, its clamor and furor and foundation, gets it right…again.

Eventually.

Because all we have to do as Americans is look to the history of our vaunted Declaration of Independence and the bloody insurrection that lasted nearly nine long years and its ensuing half-decade of debate and rancor that helped forge a Constitution that would be insufficient to raise its ambitions to Jefferson’s promise. It is why it took 73 years to bring forth the idea that some men being more equal than others (apologies to Orwell) was something America could not abide. Of course it took five more years of the most devastating war the nation has endured and 600,000 dead before America became an actuality. The last days of slavery and the eradication of the aborted Confederate States put the legal end to the discussion on who was denied the right to exist.

But of course this took another century before everyone was on board, commencing with the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which continued what the 41st Congress did five years after the Civil War by allowing African-Americans the right to cast a vote, the most binding of our democratic rights. During that time it took America 143 years to finally recognize the full rights of more than half its citizenry with the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, providing our women the right to a vote, nearly a century and a half after Jefferson’s notion about universal equality given not by the state but by simply being.

And now our homosexual brothers and sisters join our proud ranks, cementing a right that should never be provided by a state, but only protected by the state, these United States, a republic, not a theocracy, a rule of law, not the majority of discrimination. But know this; what happened on June 26, 2015 is not merely the end of something, but just the beginning of a whole other thing.

If what you have read above is not enough of a warning, you should be aware that there will be battles ahead. Those woefully unaware of what it is to be an American already pontificate and conspire on how to subjugate this right to marry as any law-abiding, tax-paying citizen may (check that, heterosexuals in prison can marry). It is happening now as I write this and will continue for many, many years, long after you are gone from the script and will be fought by your children and your children’s children. But at least they are now assured by law that they are not “less than” but “equal to”, and that is the whole and binding and spiritual point of June 26, 2015, which is a direct and proud descendent of July 4, 1776. It is the reason there is an America. In some twisted wrench of logic, it even makes all the other crap worth it.

But if I may throw in a humble bit of personal joy; I have made it mostly my ambition here in this space for over 12 years to make known the atrocity of our denying our citizens their inalienable rights. For some, I know, it seemed like every argument forged here would find its way back to this subject. But through it all, I held the strong and unwavering belief in this abomination being unconstitutional, and for that my ecstatic relief of June 26, 2015 knows no bounds. Trust me; my first gin on July 4 will have special meaning. And for that I thank one of my heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, whose prose one day, not sure when or what passage, some 15 years ago, woke me up to the sad fact that I had not spoken up, that I had not used this minor but sometimes effective pulpit to shout from the rafters the core elements of this crucial fight.

what happened on June 26, 2015 is not merely the end of something, but just the beginning of a whole other thing.

And I thank all who appreciated the effort and came around to my words and all of the gay news outlets and magazines who reprinted my rants on this latest battle in our tumultuous history. I even thank those whose opposition, however misguided, but sometimes salient (and you know how you are) arguments seemed to put at least some measure of intellect into what was ordinarily a pathetically stupid and sadly derivative counterpoint to this journey.

Freedom. Rights.

We get there eventually. It is frustrating and perplexing, but when it comes, it is damn glorious.

Read More

FLAGS ARE BULLSHIT

Aquarian Weekly
7/1/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

FLAGS ARE BULLSHIT
Or An Ornery Stroll Down Our Useless, Pathetic Clinging To Symbols

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.
– Mark Twain

My little swastika
My little swastika
You can do what you want
But I’m taking it back
It’s not yours anymore
It’s mine now

– Dan Bern

Flags are bullshit.

They are symbols and symbols are not reality and thus are bullshit.

nascar_confederate

Before you start your hissy fit, let’s not merely embrace the ranting of yours truly and instead head to the dictionary; the place where those who cling to or are threatened by symbols rarely tread. According to Merriam-Webster a symbol is “a material object representing something, often something immaterial.” Then a quick shift to “immaterial” brings us to “of no essential consequence; unimportant.” A flag is then a symbol and thus “immaterial” or “of no essential consequence and unimportant”. The Oxford Dictionary uses the word “abstract” in its definition – and “abstract” being something “existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.”

Can you imagine getting worked up over something with no concrete existence, the bogeyman, vampires, an insurance company with integrity, God?

Oh, shit, God. Right, that works us up.

But be that as it may, a flag is bullshit, like a weird haircut, lawn signs or tee shirts with pithy sayings. None of these things mean a thing. It’s akin to people crowding around a guy wearing a Michel Jordan jersey and wanting his autograph. Do people really believe this guy is Michael Jordan?

Votes, laws, actions; these are the things that sustain humanity.

Not flags.

Not symbols.

The swastika never did a damn thing. Neither did the crucifix. The Yankees interlocking NY never won a baseball game and heavy metal hand-horns never wrote, recorded or performed a single song. I just recently watched a brilliant documentary called Happy Valley on the Jerry Sandusky crimes, which were enabled and perpetuated by the entire institution of Penn State University for fifteen years. When I think of Penn State now, I personally think of a child-rape factory, but does that make everyone who goes to Penn State or represent the university pedophiles?

People who conflate the symbol with something actual and binding and/or are threatened by symbols or inspired by them are simply misguided. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that worshiping symbols can sometimes lead to great things; so more power to them. Still, sometimes this misguided worship can perpetuate violence. But make no mistake; these are just excuses for the greatness and violence, not causation.

This past week a white kid shot black people in the South. This used to be called Tuesday afternoon in the South. Now it is a national outrage. That is what is known as progress or what the dictionary defines as “a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage.” It is a slow, painful, abjectly embarrassing level of progress, but one that happened under the shadow of our beloved American flag, not the defunct, dishonored, terrorist, insurrectionist, anti-American symbol of the Confederate flag, which had its symbolic moment for around six years 150 years ago, before it was summarily defeated, humiliated, and left to the dustbin of history. However, for 90 years prior to the Civil War slavery boomed under the American flag. After the crushing of the Confederate South, Jim Crow happened under the American flag. Lynching happened under the American flag. Women denied the vote; American flag – illegal wars, assassinations, high political crimes, spying on and jailing of dissidents, marriage inequality, American flag. Does that make all Americans murderers of innocents, bigots, racists, tyrants?

This hubbub about the Confederate flag or streets in the South named after criminals and defenders of slavery is insane. There are monuments and airports and holidays dedicated to slave owners all over this country. The goddamn capital is named after a slave owner. It is impossible to have an America without slavery. Free labor and land grabs made America, a country stolen from someone else before our forefathers kicked those guys out. Slavery is, among many other misappropriations of humanity, forever a stain on our national soul. There is no coming back from this, or wiping it from our national psyche, and if you take away one symbol another feckless, misguided murderer will use something else, a film or a song or another kind of flag or symbol to justify violence.

You know what is far more dangerous and a pox on the idea of America than some bullshit flag? The sweeping eradication of planned parenthood centers in an overt attempt to subvert the law of the land or votes to prevent citizens from enacting their civil rights or laws that disenfranchise voters on some fantasy of voter fraud or other laws giving religious belief a reason to empower the open market to legally discriminate, all of it happening in the South right now, not 150 years ago, under the American flag.

Some people get riled up about these things – not enough of us, but some. But everyone, and I mean everyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent, you name it, get nuts about a fucking, stupid, meaningless piece of cloth with bars and stars on it. It would be like complaining that the surfing at Normandy Beach on D-Day was sub-par or the rain at Gettysburg was a bit dreary.

It’s akin to people crowding around a guy wearing a Michel Jordan jersey and wanting his autograph.

I’ll give you a prime example of this craziness. This week the president of the United States was making a larger point on symbols of racism having no bearing on actual racism by using the word “nigger.” People went sideways on the word. The word, not his actual point, became the story. This quite ironically made his point: The symbol (the word), not the actions of what that symbol purportedly represents, is a distraction. Nothing more. Like people thinking if we get rid of the “N” word all racism will cease or if we eradicate all the names of sports teams that use Native American terms or symbols we will somehow wipe away the horrible, criminal actions of the past that allow us to be here getting all worked up in the first place.

It is easier for us to get all righteous about the meaningless, like embracing or protesting the Confederate flag, because the meaningless doesn’t really exist, like arguing what Islam means in the grander scope of the violence in the Middle East. I argue Islam, like all religion throughout blood-soaked human history, is an excuse to perpetuate violence. I can find as many justifications for violence against infidels in the Bible, but it would simply be exploiting a symbol and attaching all of your reasons for doing whatever you do, good or bad, to it. But it is far from reality. It is merely a distraction from what we need to observe and contemplate as humans sharing this spinning sphere.

Flags are bullshit.

Read More