2010: Year of the Faux Revolution

Aquarian Weekly 1/13/10 REALITY CHECK


I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all. – Alexis de Tocqueville

And in Berkeley And in Greenwich Village And in Paris And in Scottsbluff, NebraskaNo one sits around funky little coffee shops anymore Talking revolution They get a Starbucks to go – Dan Bern

TEA Party 101It is true; this space declared 2009 The Year of the Guilty, as it was ushered in on the wings of a Rod Blogojevich stand-off and ended with what is left of the Tiger Woods brand. In between there were villains of all kinds. They know who they are and let’s leave it at that. If there is one thing we shall not do here is be roped into any Top Ten or Year End listings. We prefer a sweeping FUCK YOU to the entire lot and move on.

And so we roll undaunted into the new decade filled with less zeroes and more complaints, something you may have already noticed in the latter half of the annual bitch-fest by the great unwashed; Whining & Panicking 101.

Everything is screwed.

The system has failed us.

The government is after grandma and the military is a joke.

Hey, we’ve been more than happy to contribute to these and other half-baked hyperboles, but this year all bets are off. This year we will separate the wheat from the chaff and see who is on board for a steaming bowl of unflinching reappraisals, a hardcore trip to the cruelest type of honesty, the kind that does not accept those mailing it in or regurgitating some weak-ass theology from media darlings. This year, 2010, is the Year of the Faux Revolution.

I am on board. Lord knows we’ve been holding a DO NOTHING BUT DECRY fest for almost a dozen years around here. It’s about time we carry it to the streets; with the caveat that the temperatures rise above freezing, otherwise we’ll keep it inside for now. Nevertheless, in 2010, this is the space to visit for all your phony outrage and fabricated incredulity. Our cup runneth over; imbibe, boogie and be merry, for tomorrow we realize it doesn’t matter a lick.

Ah, but before proceeding into the quagmire of misdeed, misrule and mistakes, we merely present a few middling ground rules…

Please do not send us back to failed alternatives or discredited “isms”, and certainly do not waste our time conjuring opaque fantasy worlds of yesteryear when the roses bloomed, the virgins sang, and the sun shined every minute of every day. These things have not worked and do not exist respectively. Sell it elsewhere. This is real bullshit revolution, like pissed off teenagers or concerned celebrities, well-intentioned politicians and whatever nonsense passes for religion.

This year we will separate the wheat from the chaff and see who is on board for a steaming bowl of unflinching reappraisals, a hardcore trip to the cruelest type of honesty, the kind that does not accept those mailing it in or regurgitating some weak-ass theology from media darlings.

Those unhappy with our current state can no longer contradict themselves, for instance asswipes carrying signs like “KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OFF MY MEDICARE” and news anchors telling me to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior need not apply. And for the last time cease and desist from sending anymore of these decrepitly incoherent four-hundred year-old fossils from its ex-vice presidency outpost who did not have the balls to run for president crapping all over the one who had the stones to seek victory and claim it. It’s like a lazy-ass neighbor standing on the curbside with a hammer criticizing your carpentry skills. Fuck him and fuck all the others with no guts to get in the ring.

Moreover, and in specific cases, more importantly, 2010 will ask that someone please come with something harder than GIVE ME MY COUNTRY BACK, since there isn’t a living soul who can tell me what country that is, and believe me I have asked an agonizingly long line of friends, family, and colleagues. No one seems to know; is it the one when women and blacks had no rights, or the one where minorities could not share diners and hotels and schooling was denied to immigrants and lynching was considered a weekend picnic and rioting in the streets was a common occurrence or hijackings became daily ritual or gas lines wrapped around the block? You can have that country, jack. Perhaps this is an America further back, one ravaged by Civil War? How about one prior to the ratification of the Constitution, which has rendered more self-serving blather and less pure understanding than the Qur’an and the Holy Bible combined.

Finally, could we all agree that we are not, nor have we ever been SAFE, whatever the hell that means? Unless it stands for wrapping oneself in a hermetically sealed existence afraid of everything and everyone and dealing off personal freedoms one by one until this is some kind of highway bound, hot-wired citadel. It’s a fallacy perpetuated by halfwits with something to prove and less to lose. No one is safe, and never will be. Accepting this is a joy worth embracing and a key component to a 2010 way of thinking.

Let’s stick with stuff we can wrap our hands around, because 2010 is about coming to grips, getting our digits dirty and backing it up with more than just flags and ribbons. True Faux Revolutionaries (with respect to my dear friend Admiral Daniel Bernstein — goddammnit I’ve got to call the master soon for a fusion of volume-addled burn-elixir — I’m blasting your opus right now as I write this inspired bit of gibberish, Admiral, and I will never stop requesting an updated version for our faux anthem) will not be allowed to quip from the sidelines.

And, okay, as a consequence, there will be no more or at least less offending disjointed run-on parenthetically interrupted sentences with cryptic messages to my songwriting pals.

But I digress.

Shit, we’ve had quite the little rock-slinging group for awhile now; writing, reading and spewing ill humor all over these Reality Check papers. Maybe you posers can get on board. Maybe you pundits will take heed. Maybe we’ll get ourselves new chants and new slogans and new places to meet under naked light bulbs in “funky little coffee shop” basements and realize that we sure as hell have ceased trying to alter reality long ago, save for the fashionable bout with the Green Fairy and the gallons of gin I consumed New Year’s Eve. Ah, we took it to the streets that night, right kids?

And if you don’t understand these subtler forms of indignation, then maybe you should stick to FOXNEWS and MSNBC and MS. Magazine.

This is a new American language for a new year.

That, my dear friends, is change you may not believe in, but you will soon hear it coming.

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Health Care Finale 2009

Aquarian Weekly 12/16/09 REALITY CHECK


The clock is ticking for Democrats.

Harry ReidThe Health Care Reform Bill has now become for all intents and purposes as politically charged and attached to their success or failure going into 2010 as Iraq and the oft-befuddled and always erratic War on Terror was for Republicans. Much like our compromised ability to wage war while reconfiguring centuries of damaged theocratic lunacy plunged us deeper in debt, not to mention robbing the lives of thousands of our youth and alienating us from the rest of the world, this excessively dissected congressional fiasco resulting in hundreds of pages of gobbledygook and failed backroom deals clearly demonstrates how wrong political myopia can go.

As the opening decade of the new millennium comes to a close and the winds of change begin to shift once again, it is now the Democrats, after four years of a surge and then a significant shift in power, who find that the Two-Minute Warning has sounded. They are not down, but the game is tied. They have moved the ball painstakingly to midfield, but seemed to have stalled in every possible way.

Their president has been underwhelming at best; choosing to conclave with the intelligentsia and weigh every option on foreign policy while allowing his party’s legislators to juggle his most pressing agenda. A Super Majority in Congress has not been super enough to combat what is clearly a mass filibuster on “All-Things Obama” from Republicans, who have maintained an impressive solidarity, unlike Democrats back when their sweeping victories in 2006 heralded an anti-war cry by voters but bore no anti-war votes against the questionable military surge. Less ideological than political, the Republican negation ploy has served to stall what is unquestionably the closest the United States has come to sweeping National Health Care Reform, angering many Liberals and frightening away Independents in droves.

This current Democratic majority has had no footing on key Democratic issues emerging from the overwhelming 2008 elections; climate change legislation, scaling back of military engagements, increasing tax burdens on the top one-percent, introducing primary social agendas, etc. These and other pertinent issues are not merely a reflection of the historic Obama presidential bid, but the tattered remnants of what looked a year ago like a new age in progressive politics.

Ironically, the morbid U.S. economy, which ushered in this proposed new age in record numbers, has reduced its subsequent governing to nothing more than a rash of failed bills and inter-party fisticuffs, leaving those in power with an increasingly limited window in which to press forward.

Ironically, the morbid U.S. economy, which ushered in this proposed new age in record numbers, has reduced its subsequent governing to nothing more than a rash of failed bills and inter-party fisticuffs, leaving those in power with an increasingly limited window in which to press forward.

It is an accepted tenet of politics that in the first year of a new president’s initial term there will be a backlash. And since there is only Ronald Reagan’s popularity and political gravitas to compare to what Barack Obama accomplished in 2008, a fair comparison reminds us that the fortieth president of the United States went from a ridiculous seventy percent in mid-1981 to the mid-fifties by early ’82, which then plummeted to the forties and cost the Republicans 27 seats in the House.

It was a crippling recession in ’82 that felled The Gipper, a referendum on his Supply-Side economics, which many observers, and ultimately the voters decided was ill-conceived and too far-reaching. This time around the new Mr. Popular and his party will also go as the economy goes. Right now the fringe furor over the Recovery/Stimulus package, replete with mounds of government pork and sink holes of funding, which could be fairly argued wrested what looked like a complete collapse of the Western world back from the brink, polls as a bust.

Suddenly after nearly a decade of ignoring it, there is real fear about the national debt assuredly fueled by a steady rise in unemployment numbers that show no sign of subsiding before rising nearly into the teens. And just as the Afghan War has now shifted from the Bush Problem to the Obama Problem, so has the fallout of Bush’s disastrous economy. After nearly three years in power on the Hill and one year in the oval office with the strongest mandate handed to a Democratic president in two generations, it is put-up or shut-up time.

The tell-tale sign that things are getting into the “cornered” stage is the always-predictable Party Split, seen two years ago when many Fiscal Conservatives began jumping ship on the Cultural Warriors inside the soon-to-be doomed Republican Party. The troubling Terry Schiavo case, coupled with more than a few incidents of weird a-moral behavior by previously pious congressmen and a feeling among many conservative pundits and intellectuals that denying evolution and using a fear of homosexuality and decaying school prayer arguments to gain political favor were losing moderates and consequently elections.

Now, as the calendar gets set to turn to a mid-term election year, Democrats fighting for their political lives are seeing less liberal rooting and more anti-big government outcry from constituents. All politics is local and survival in congress is paramount, turning votes that previously could be counted on for Speaker Pelosi and the Left in a radical restructure of National Health Care into powder.

Moderates in the party are becoming more entrenched, emboldening Republicans, who wisely play a waiting game in the hopes that nothing is passed, which would spell complete failure for Obama and his party in the most crucial period of their time in power. This has led to at best a dilution of a serviceable Health Care Bill and at worse a rejection of what will likely be its only chance at succeeding for many of our lifetimes. What was once an ideological imperative, however popular (and it still holds a solid majority in the voting public) or unpopular (there is equally a trenchant paranoia that a government-run plan will rob and pillage all that is held dear) has now devolved into a political cause celeb.

The Democrats simply have to get something passed, check that, anything passed. Meanwhile half have no idea what that would be or what it would mean, the other half don’t care. The same can be said for their opponents, who continue to irresponsibly unleash one horror scenario after the other, much of it fiction, and all of it hyperbolic.

‘Tis the season for rancorous debate and desperate measures, which will only lead to results come the autumn of 2010, when we the people get to weigh in.


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Collectivism On Parade

Aquarian Weekly 11/25/09 REALITY CHECK


Collectivism – Any moral, political, or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human into a collective and the priority of group over the individual.

Forget National Health Care and bailouts or Cap & Trade laws sending us into a tyrannical existence. We’re already there, suckers. We’ve been under one onerous regime after the other most of my lifetime, but never in my 47 years as an American has the concept of individual open-minded thought been as overwhelmingly nullified by a rabidly myopic adherence to the collective mind-screw as it is now. As a boy, when I first learned of the almost cartoonist idiocy of McCarthyism, it was hard to fathom anyone allowing it to fester, much less become a national outcry, but after this week’s two glaring examples of collectivist madness, it starts to make sense.

Let’s begin with what can only be described as the most hyped panic by the populace over nothing, which is saying something when considering the parade of nothing that is passed off, consumed and debated as newsworthy on a daily basis. This absolute nonsensical outrage over something called a Government Task Force announcing its recommendation of by-annual mammograms for 40 year-old women, refuting the standard recommendation of annual tests from the American Cancer Society. The GTF now suggests waiting until 50 or older for yearly check-ups.


Ready your muskets!

The key words here are “recommendation” and “suggestion”. Yet the brouhaha from every circle of this country from the medical community to women’s rights groups, radio commentators to the ever-ready op ed scream-a-rama made this out to be some kind of misogynistic pogrom. It led all three networks’ mid-week news programs, and as far as I could tell none of them simply said; Who the fuck gives a flying fart what anyone recommends or suggests, if you want a mammogram, go! Holy shit.

The second example of this collectivist whining is the endless bickering over the minutest detail of our Health Care debate, and not necessarily from those in opposition. It has now become commonplace for those on the same side to have conniptions over something like the lack of abortion funding available from the federal government in the latest draft of the over two-thousand page proposed senate bill. The same people who clamor for government handouts now want to dictate what the government will provide, not unlike the banks and lending institutions, which were all-too pleased to take taxpayer money but bitch when regulation kicks in.

When you move into the realm of the collective, there are some individual wants and needs that are going to be trampled on. Have we all forgotten our school bus experiences?

This is what has become of us. If a group or institution makes a statement about religion, civil rights, social concerns, or really any ambiguous generality there is an incredible uprising of paranoiac apoplexy. Somehow, without so much as a moment of reasoned reflection a majority of submentals believe “fill in the blank” is what is to be followed to the letter without exception. It is no longer science fiction to imagine living in one of the few free societies left to civilization where there is a complete outbreak of irrational yammering every time a broad disquisition emerges.

You’re already here.

This is what has become of us. If a group or institution makes a statement about religion, civil rights, social concerns, or really any ambiguous generality there is an incredible uprising of paranoiac apoplexy.

As much as I hate to admit it, Orwell may have been right. However, this is one Big Brother that has come self-served, like a mass hallucination of Oedipal mayhem.

Mind you, this is different from the normal over-reaction people have to a Jesus movie, rap record or a tell-all book by a vacuous celebrity like the chick from One Day At A Time or a failed Alaskan governor cum vice presidential runner up. Fabricated news drummed up by high-priced publicity firms is as American as public drunkenness and mispronunciation. It also has no equivalent in the crazed preconditioned aftershock large groups have when something appears threatening, like a Beatle saying he’s more popular than God or when African Americans wanted to be educated in the same school systems. That behavior is as involuntarily prevalent in society as breathing. It’s simple stupidity. There’s no dissecting this or ridding ourselves of it. It’s called freedom. Stupid is not illegal. Thank goodness. However, mass hysteria over a singular way of thinking is a whole other heaping bowl of goofy.

This began in earnest, I believe, after the horrors of 9/11, when a generation of people led to believe that they were not really part of the planet, that the rest of the countries around the globe were our plaything, were rudely awakened. It also scared us because the public at large believed they were safe to go to work every day without having airliners crash into their buildings. This put a new onus on a totalitarian rule; wherein we accepted blindly this idea that in order to be “safe” we can trade in a few civil rights, wage pointless wars, and be subjected to mass hallucinations, like vague Orange Alerts that put the Pavlovian fear of Allah into our national psyche.

This is why we were so apoplectic after the Katrina disaster; we now believed as a tax-paying public that somehow the government could have prevented a natural disaster. Then the economy tanked, and these same fears exploded into what would become one of the most incredible turn of political events in our history; the election of an African American liberal who had been a senator for fifteen minutes. Why? Because the public substituted the word Change for Save. And when our new daddy didn’t come through in the first 300 days we whined and spat and began to abandon ship and search for random leaders who claim they want revolution, but all they want is ratings and to sell books.

Let’s face it, we have a Messiah complex in this country, wherein anything any proposed authority figure, or if they are on television, which gives them instant credibility, blabs we run, panic, and pump our fists for restitution.

The two-party system, which perpetuates this myth that there are only two sides to every argument has always anesthetized the public into a reactionary gaggle of talking-point parroting that is trained to wait for someone to provide a point of view, but even with that low a standard for original reasoning, what is happening now on the grandest scale is ridiculous.

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Fort Hood’s Sociological Backlash

Aquarian Weekly 11/18/09 REALITY CHECK


Nidal Malik HasanHere we go again: Crazy person runs amok, kills randomly, and societyscrambles to explain it. DC Sniper, Columbine, Virginia Tech; all of which has been covered in this space over the past twelve years with no more insight than simply crazy persons hardly ever need a reason to be crazy, just as tigers have no other reason to hunt and kill and sharks to swim and feed, and so on. Crazy people do it for Jesus, Jodie Foster, Judas Priest, bad grades, dog chatter, Kool-Aid fix, poor economy, crappy parenting; you name it. This time it’s Fort Hood. It’s alienation. It’s ethnic confusion. It’s rejection of brainwashing. More to the point, it’s nature; random and cold and horrific. It is the world. It is life. It’s a crapshoot. This is how things go. There is no more analysis to proffer.

However, the most intriguing aspect of this one surrounds its sociological, psychological, and pathological temperament and how it eerily reflects almost every corner of political, ideological and moral debates that fill the pages of newspapers and countless hours of cable television blather each week. Its all there; religious fanaticism, gun violence, geographical mayhem, xenophobia, bigotry, science, bleeding-heart liberalism and overt militarism. One man; Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim, psychiatrist, and Major in the United States Armed Forces kills thirteen people at an army base in Texas.

Ooh wee.

Actually, when considering all this it is amazing Hasan made it this far without hurting himself or others. For an analogous example of this kind of crazy, one must return to Timothy Leary, the only other religious fanatic trained by the militarily to go off the deep end.

And so, with the accepted assumption that Hasan is nuts, let’s delve deeper into the more obvious origins of his murderous rampage and how they’ve been applied to the vox populi:


There is a pretty good chance that if you visit the Lone Star State more than half a dozen times, you will die. I personally have known or know people who have known nearly ten people who’ve been brutally murdered or shot down in broad daylight in Texas. It’s the home office of rampant gun violence, which is why it repeatedly leads the nation in government-sanctioned executions. Add a military base to this lunacy, and you have the geographical makings of a human firing range. When Governor Rick Perry floated the idea of Texas seceding from the Union, I begged the federal government to let it, then invade it as a threatening force, kick the goofy cowboy assholes out and give it back to Mexico. But alas, the mere mention of Texas and the military in the same sentence opens old Bush Presidency wounds that have surfaced during the aftermath of the Fort Hood tragedy.

Gun Control

Well, as mentioned before it is far more difficult to purchase a burrito in Texas than it is to acquire a semi-automatic weapon that can kill the largest contingent of people in the shortest amount of time. Hasan did not procure his murder weapon on a military base, but in a civilian store called — get this — Guns Galore. This is a gold mind for the anti-gun lobby, which when handed this kind of massacre can make Al Sharpton look bashful. A mere 24 hours after the shooting, there were solid reports out of Hollywood that prominent NRA board members attempted to dig up Chuck Heston to help fend off all comers.

Military – Pro & Con

It’s a time-tested hot-button issue; the military is a cruel and antiquated systemic nightmare that eats its own and chooses to ignore the occasional loons that are sequestered inside, like the Catholic Church or the Hip-Hop Awards. However, as much as the anti-military industrial complex marauders are ready to pounce, so are the boot-heeled flag-wavers, who will mark this as an example of PC, liberal whiners, who insist on keeping weak, overly-emotional shrinks on the payroll; and as the days wore on sent the discussion further into why women or gays are allowed to serve in the rough-and-tumble army zeitgeist. And, of course, now that we have an apologetically dithering commander-in-chief who has watered down our readiness, what do you expect?

Islam Bashing

This guy would have been better off a thrice-married Mormon. It is not a good time to be a Muslim in the military or for that matter the local convenience store, and now this. It naturally leads to a jingoistic backlash wherein before long there’s serious talk of al-qaeda and Taliban connections, Hasan’s alleged love letters to Islamic radical clerics and anonymous e-mails denouncing the Western Devil and the odd Jihad flying around. Then again, there are those who denounce any kind of religious fanaticism, which leads more times than not to Waco or Jim Jones or Charles Manson or the faithful driving car bombs into abortion clinics. But the big winners in this disaster are the neo-con cheerleaders, who went ballistic pointing out how much bombing, torturing, and nation-building this kind of mayhem merits.

Psychiatry vs. Morality

Oooh, Science is Bad is an oldie but goody. This is what happens when we take an inexact method of dissecting the human brain and separate it from a moral center, or perhaps to add the prior religious argument, take the inner psychological turmoil of a man too close to the realities of life while less-than gently balancing a radical spiritual quest for acceptance, and you have yourself a walking powder keg. Not to mention the U.S. military spending the better part of the last decade killing Muslims all over the place. But again, how much does crazy need other than crazy, whether it’s rock music, the Qur’an, a violent movie or suggestive cartoons, a bad marriage or a strange cocktail of anti-depressants to get motivated?

Prevention vs. Destiny

Ah, and that brings us to our last and most thorny of issues: Preventing crazy. Let’s face it, anti-social behavior is a Dickensian orphan trapped beneath an apparition’s cloak; unfortunate, yet perpetual. We cannot halt it, no matter how many people suppose that it could have been avoided. “How did they not know?” Well, of course it’s suspected through certain actions, but to actually “know” a relatively disturbed man but with no prior history of any violence is going to wander out of a barracks like a robot, walk down to the ubiquitous gun shop, purchase a weapon and randomly fire it into a crowd of his fellow soldiers is hardly something that could be prevented without a time machine or a crystal ball, neither of which are real items, just as the idea that we can save innocent victims or keep the earth from boiling over or protect everyone from their diets, drugs, sexual appetites or self-mutilation. It’s a myth, like “Things happen for a reason”. Sometimes, actually, most times they do not. Sorry.

What happened at Fort Hood is a terrible tragedy, but because it has no tangible explanation, it is unreasoned, haphazard, messy and incomprehensible, it creates a vacuum, and within that vacuum rhetoric, psychobabble and analysis creeps. It is as natural as the occasionally rare – thank goodness – crazy going crazy. Sleep tight.

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Foul Nectar of the Beatdown

Aquarian Weekly 11/11/09 REALITY CHECK

New Republicanism & The New York Yankees Carry The Day

November can be a cruel month for some. Turkeys would not describe it as a “fine time”. Turkey blood flows freely when the October calendar turns and the winds blow cold. Their slaughter is complete and in great numbers. Turkeys would be glad to tell you what it is like to be absolutely certain that you are doomed. But, alas, they cannot. Politicians and Major League Baseball players have to do it for them. Perhaps the Philadelphia Phillies and Andy Spano and Jon Corzine and nearly the entirety of the Democratic Party’s line-up in Virginia can best define the brutal finality of being on the receiving end of The Beatdown.

jc & Rob Astorino on Election NightPoor Andy Spano. By late Tuesday, with four tall gins and a hat borrowed from Doctor Thompson’s kitbag, I watched solemnly as his battered and humiliated image appeared on the giant screen set up in the main ballroom of the Crowne Plaza. Over at the Rye Hilton, his aids had to wake him from what they said later was a “shock coma” to shuffle desperately onto a podium and explain how a 12-year incumbent in a three-to-one Democratic district could be severely thrashed by a 42- year-old broadcaster named Rob Astorino.

Astorino told me earlier that despite the odds he’d never felt calmer. The Cuban tending bar in the Scarsdale Room downstairs depicted the challenger’s demeanor as strangely confident; something between the last man at a blackjack table who is sure the bitty on his left will take a hit on 18 and leave him with his Ace and the cold, dark Mariano Rivera stare before he unloads another ungodly bat-shattering cutter to sting the knuckles of his helpless opponent.

Rivera, a pitching machine, who is to closing baseball games as Picasso was to slapping together a new art form between barely legals, is in many ways for the World Champion NY Yankees what the voter became to a vulnerable candidate like Andy Spano; the death knell. There is a bell that tolls when the hour is late and Number 42 is toeing the rubber. It is an abstract reverberation, like being smacked in the face with a scalding wet rice sack. There is a stinging heat, followed by an awareness of pain that does not soon fade; permanence in pinstripes.

Fiscal conservatism carried the day as much as good old Yankees mystique in a brand, spanking new stadium did.

Ah, but fate, like baseball, has a way of bringing home the pure-cut doses of reality only the loser can accept with any proper emotional prescience. Although it turned out Spano had no serviceable answer for his defeat, nor did the several stunned members of the Westchester press corps. Several of the more confused among them flailed their arms about twice spilling my eleven-dollar cocktail and putting a scare into the victor’s first-born son, Sean, my godchild, and a hearty soul who told me that his father would not only win on this night, but “dominate”. His words, not mine.

By the time we reached the staging area, Spano was finishing up his concession speech across town, still being streamed in living color on a massive screen with drunken louts gripping nude photos of Sarah Palin and shouting expletives at him.

“That’s pretty harsh,” said Astorino’s treasurer, Laura Schwartz, who had once shared press credentials with me to the Yankees last titles in 1999 and 2000. We found the entire scene oddly serendipitous, together awaiting Astorino’s victory speech mere feet from a rostrum jam-packed with half-crazed Republicans, each of whom wanted a small piece of The Beatdown.

“This is a crude form of poetic justice,” I told Schwartz, “a job only Walt Whitman can distinguish properly.”

Ignoring my observations, she pointed sadly up to Spano’s final steps from politics and whispered, “Look at how his bones sag; there’s a ghostly fog upon him, as if soul has been plunged in battery acid.”

“My God, woman!” I shouted. “To hell with Whitman, get a pen!”

But there were no pens; only a rabble of sign wavers hooting and chanting Astorino’s name. I kept thinking of the right field pavilion at Yankee Stadium for Game 2 of this year’s World Series; where the wife and I watched the Bronx Nine get off the mat down 0-1 to begin a four-out-of-five clip of winning that within a week would secure the franchise’s 27th title. Beneath the din of bestial fanaticism before us, it became apparent that this was no ordinary autumn.

The Yankees would win with the great Rivera on the mound, a vindicated A-Rod having turned his wrecked image and October baseball into something out Homer and, of course, the inimitable Derek Jeter sprinting in from his shortstop position having finished a post season wherein he collected an unfathomable 22 hits in 18 games for his fifth ring. But none of this transpired before a Republican named Chris Christie ousted incumbent favorite Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor.

Corzine and Christie ran a hate-filled smear-fest that ended badly for Corzine when he foolishly relied on the same “strong” Democratic base as the blindsided Spano. But the 47 year-old Christie, like Astorino, culled moderate Democrats and a boatload of angry independents with a newly formed but proved to be unbeatable Libertarian populist, anti-tax, anti-big government mantra. Long gone from these Republican tickets, albeit a smaller sampling than the routs of ’08 and the soon-to-be discussed challenges of 2010, were the divisive social issues that have turned many conservative dinosaurs like Rush Limbaugh into powder. It’s over for Limbaugh’s 1950s’ style politics and the sooner the national party understands this the better chance it has to rise from the ashes.

Fiscal conservatism carried the day as much as good old Yankees mystique in a brand, spanking new stadium did. That and the usual flip-flop mentality of the electorate which collectively expects to be given everything and not pay for it, which ultimately cost the progressives in a small but significant way in 2009. And while the young, bold Astorino is a proud religious man and runs the Catholic Channel for Sirius Radio, he also said without equivocation that his faith and social ideologies were not the issue; lowering the tax burden and responsibility in government was.

There is a new stadium in the Bronx with the same results. Will this be the start of a new century of republicanism?

It was no ordinary November.

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Rob Astorino In The Land Of Scum

Aquarian Weekly 10/29/09 REALITY CHECK

Rob Astorino
Not one hour ago I received a link to a story in the Journal News that turned my stomach, something that rarely happens to cynical old hacks who’ve not only seen but done it all twice. It seems that during the previous day’s debate between candidates for the county’s executive position at Pace University, the incumbent, 72 year-old Democrat Andrew Spano saw fit to frame his Republican opponent, 42 year-old Robert Astorino’s economic policies as racist. Spano, after a dozen years in office, the duration of which Westchester’s tax bracket has elevated to that of A-Rod, the Clintons or the guy who owns Madison Square Garden is finally being challenged and has gone the predictable ugly route.

Spano’s been around the block more than once and let’s face it maybe one time too many. He knows what he said and how it would be extrapolated; Astorino’s policies — “a cover for racism” — make the candidate a racist. This appears to be the new political “buzz” word, as was “commie” in the fifties and “subversive” in the sixties and “undesirable” in the seventies and, whenever the urge strikes, throw Nazi in there for good measure.

Sure its politics as usual, covered here with a sense of spiteful apathy and smarmy humor weekly. In fact, it’s completely understandable and sadly probable from our perspective; who doesn’t choose panic and mudslinging over an exchange of ideas? It is nothing else if not entertaining, which goes a long way when you sit where I do. Problem is this time the target of this gutless attack is someone I know well and sincerely respect.

I can tell you firsthand from a long-standing personal and working history with the candidate that neither Rob Astorino nor his proposed fiscal polices are racist. In fact, knowing Rob as I do, stooping to this ham-fisted attempt at demonizing speaks more of his opponent’s spectacular lack of honor, not to mention his lazily conceived and doom-addled strategy.

While being a professional colleague of mine for nearly twenty years, during which he has displayed nothing but an enviable commitment to ethics in all forms, Rob has managed to succeed at the impossible; competing in two vocations replete with soulless bottom-feeding degenerates; journalism and politics, while maintaining an unwavering comportment that is impervious to corruption. Despite this reporter’s repulsive dereliction of scruples and frightening lack of integrity, he has called me friend; as I, him. And as I gracelessly careen towards the half century mark, it is not a term I dare use loosely. Robert is indeed a friend; a true bedrock warrior in the infinite roll call we all must cherish when the karma winds shift in weirdly unpredictably directions.

This is why for years now I have been reticent to use this hoarsely sacred weekly voice to champion his political causes, which has currently taken him through his second campaign for County Executive of Westchester, NY.

It’s Rob’s dream to make a difference. I know, because he has told me so, against all the bitter advice I have given him beneath the pall of such nonsense as “making a difference” or “changing the game for my kids”, and all the other piddling garbage most politicians regurgitate to justify some ego binge in which we’re supposed to comply.

Not Astorino.

I can tell you firsthand from a long-standing personal and working history with the candidate that neither Rob Astorino nor his proposed fiscal polices are racist. In fact, knowing Rob as I do, stooping to this ham-fisted attempt at demonizing speaks more of his opponent’s spectacular lack of honor, not to mention his lazily conceived and doom-addled strategy.

He does not run for accolade or some opaque definition of love and acceptance. He’s nailed that in several solid gigs in radio and television, and built it at home with his wife and three children. Neither does he run merely to win and then turn into a tired political lifer mannequin like his opponent. He runs for the sheer youthful passion of proving that democracy must begin and end with the will of the people, that to deny your neighbors a choice against the status quo is the ultimate act of unpatriotic cowardice. He runs because every once in a long while someone needs to prove the entire system is not a bust.

Yet, with all of that before me; kinship, professional respect and a story worth telling, I still felt in light of the subjective no-brakes miasma that normally fills this column that it was somehow inappropriate to comment. But when hit with this bullshit, which tops all the other bullshit hurled at Rob for trying to oust a man whose sense of decency has even managed to make me, a mean-spirited, black-hearted iniquity machine, nauseous, I could be silent no longer.

So in the interest of complete disclosure, I admit to my support in all facets of the Astorino campaign, his generosity in offering me full access for a book I’d planned to write a few times but was curtailed by one assignment after the other, and finally, despite an unabashed commitment to an existence of derelict paganism, standing as godfather for his first born.

Thus, I will guiltlessly forge ahead.

I do not know Andrew Spano from the proverbial wall’s hole, but I can clearly deduct from his actions in this campaign and the consecutively botched years at a job he is patently incapable of performing that he is a barely functioning fear-mongering dunderhead who has outlived any possible usefulness to the body politic but refuses to give up the ghost for either some bizarre state of euphoric inertia or sheer madness.

Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, any race, creed or color, there is something passe about Spano’s tired shtick in which in many ways a young idealist like Astorino, whatever you think of his policies, should always replace. This is what I believe fueled this country in 2008 — more than race or ideology. Eventually it’s just time for a new generation, a fresh voice to offer an alternative idea without the clatter which drowns it out, from town hall goofiness to debate wrangling.

Lord knows I’m not saying Spano has no right to spout fallacies or get rough and loose with the truth, even in light of his disastrous HUD deal that will likely bankrupt what is already the second highest taxed county in America. On the contrary, that kind of thing allows us contact with the core of a person’s balance, both intellectually and morally. It certainly puts a face to cheap politics. It is sad and it is decrepit and it should be sent packing.

Who knows what the voters will believe or carry with them into the privacy of the polling booth? Not sure who wins these battles of finger-wagging childishness after all. Not the people, I know that much. All I can offer without hesitation or regret is that after watching a tape of the entire debate, Andrew Spano, hardly a novice in this political landscape, was waxed verily by my friend, and when push came to shove grasped desperately at demeaning his opponent and then blatantly lied about Rob Astorino’s agenda and heart, and when given the opportunity, refused to retract it. Therefore his credibility on everything else he stands for is in question.

This makes Rob Astorino the better man.

Let’s hope the better man wins.

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Solutions For U.S. Health Care 2009

Aquarian Weekly 10/14/09 REALITY CHECK

SOLUTIONS (SORT OF) FOR NATIONAL HEALTH CARE Climbing Down From The Fence To Make The Hard Choices There is little chance anything resembling a pittance of national health care reform will be constructed much less passed through the legislative branch of our government any time soon. The time has long passed for any binding bi-partisan resolution on this subject, as if this was even a realistic consideration in the first place, and perhaps that is a good thing. Anything this convoluted and as incompetently debated is best left dormant. It’s far better to just leave things the way they are. It’s the American way. Laziness, fear, and stupidity are our most precious resources now. We invent little and manufacture less with a national psyche so ill-suited for life’s harsh realities we substitute celebrity outrages as the crudest form of original thought.

Uninsured American YouthThe sensitive reader may consider these observations mean-spirited or perhaps an ironic subjugation to the very points listed; so to be fair, we shall provide a quick example and move on to the more salient points.

Before sitting down to write this morning, I noticed a newsflash that the president of the United States has won the Nobel Peace Prize, no more an insignificant piece of information could be presented when compared to the greater issues before us. Nonetheless, it will doubtless take up at least one if not two news cycles, celebrated by Mr. Obama’s supporters, derided by his opponents, and manifest into another in a series of idiotic referendums on his executive position and personal affect; not unlike the utterly moronic and endless yammering about his bid to procure the Olympics for the United States.

In both cases, laziness, fear and stupidity jump to the fore: (Laziness) No one has the slightest idea how the Olympics base their choice of country, who makes this call, and what the effect a head of state may or may not have on the outcome, just like hardly a soul has any idea what the Nobel Peace prize is, what it stands for or who the hell doles these things out in the first place. (Fear) Placing great import on this “story” as a barometer of success or failure for a presidency or the personality that holds it only serves to battle resistance, which is considered by lazy people as a kind of barrier to a personal love or hate of said individual. (Stupidity) Well…

This brings us to a breakdown of National Health Care as it applies not necessarily to a solution or even a steadfast defense of or opposition to certain key issues, as it will show that true reform or clear restructuring of a most pressing and pertinent issue is often parried with no real focus on the hard choices.

To wit:


The first issue at hand when you consider National Health Care is that there are too many of us, and we all want to be thin, good-looking and live to see as many World Series as possible. I get it. But what is the greater good for society; that you cut out unsightly fat and tuck drooping skin, create as many useless human burdens as you wish, and live into decrepit old age to suck every last drop of resources – utilities and medicines to keep you breathing, nurses and assistance to move you around, shelter and sustenance to keep you going – and for what? Take up space? So your love ones can watch you breathe? Hard choices must be made; they are made every day by insurance companies. More people are sent into the void by lack of funds than any other reason, just as a preponderance of surgeries is selective and not crucial. Call it a Death Panel or common sense. Humans do not posses the dignity of elephants. Deal with it.


Other than education, insurance is the one commodity Americas are willing to pay for, and pay for abundantly, and not receive. And more times than not when received, it is shoddy, rationed or denied in full.

The youth are a drain on our society; they’re relentless metabolic explosions, sexual rapaciousness, and penchant for all-things speed, mind-altering substances and overall daily attempts at cheating death cannot continue to go unchecked. Don’t tell me every time you see these mass protests with tear gas and baton beatings by police, rock concert mosh pits or shirtless goons at sub-zero football games, you’re not getting out the national debt calculator? An alarming percentage of these cretins are undeniably wild and most pressingly uninsured. I should know, I was one of them, to the point where my parents had to get special (just incase he impales himself or his liver implodes or is felled by fast-food abuse we will not be ruined) insurance. Freedom comes with a price, which is to be determined.


Whether expanded competition across state lines, tort reform, single-payer options or one blanketed health insurance plan, it sure as hell beats any argument made by or for insurance companies, which work en masse on a principle that amounts to the biggest scam in the history of capitalism. Other than education, insurance is the one commodity Americas are willing to pay for, and pay for abundantly, and not receive. And more times than not when received, it is shoddy, rationed or denied in full. But hey, this is a free trade society and insurance companies, despite their heart-warming slogans and tearful ads are in business to make money, not give it away. Charities are for that, and even those are questionable at best. The very existence of companies based on taking money that will only be returned if and when disaster hits, and then arbitrarily deciding if the type of disaster merits a return on your funds is simply a horror show worth destroying. When people argue about the incompetence of the federal government, they are correct, but when compared to the lawlessly insidious practice of any insurance firm, it pales.


Finally, we come to the Big American Lie; that this country was built and is governed on a moral construct, that we have a universal and binding obligation to our citizenry to ensure the overall well-being of our future safety and continued happiness. By buying this nonsense we cannot make the hard choices that are needed for national survival. It is the freedom to pursue personal joy, create a political landscape to control one’s own environment, and finally to protect what can be prized from this faintly controlled anarchy with every fiber of our being that has erected this 233 year experiment into the richest and most powerful free society known to modern civilization. All this laziness, fear and stupidity is part of the very human nature we attempt to regulate, pigeonhole, and judge when we begin the challenging climb out of the muck. More times than not, wallowing in the muck beats the climb. It’s too hard, too scary, and too complicated a climb. We know muck. Give us muck; religion, television, and the occasional thrill, we’ll be fine.


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Afghanistan: The Original Quagmire

Aquarian Weekly 10/7/09


The United States must leave Afghanistan now.

Not in eleven months or after careful discussion and continued study to determine an undisclosed time, but now.

Soon after, it must leave Iraq.

Desert Quagmire: The SequelThese and other difficult but sound decisions are only debatable because it is today, and not four or five or six years ago when these hard choices should have been made, instead of the slack-jawed flag-waving, ribbon-tying jingoistic miasma we received. Back then, if you had asked any voter if this country would still be embroiled in two wars seven or eight years on, they would have chuckled, even bristled with fear and fobbed it off as doom-speak and defeatist thinking by a paranoiac borne of anti-American rhetoric.

If only we could have employed a time machine and fast-forwarded the mood then to now, we may have seen how literally insane it is to continue to call what is going on in the Middle East a policy or a strategy or any clearly defined idea that unfolds into a serviceable conclusion.

But, alas, there will be no conclusion. It will drag on another five, ten years. And when it threatens to die down something else will pop up to take its place. Iran? North Korea? Maybe it will finally spill over into the real threat, Saudi Arabia or maybe the home base of true tyrannical charm, China. Nah, too much money to be made; comrades of convenience can abuse all the civil rights and unleash all the terrorists they please, just keep the oil and loans a-comin’.

Ah, but, don’t fret; you can wager for the rest of your natural born life there will be American foreign military presence wasting our money and stealing our children to not “win” somewhere.

And what the hell is “win” anyway? Can anyone describe what a victory over terrorism would look like? Is it possible? Of course the answer to these and other rhetorically sarcastic queries is no. It is not possible. It will be as it is now; nothing but stemming the tide, waiting them out, bleeding them dry, showing strength, taking the fight to them, all adding up to a slag heap of blood and treasure that will surely bankrupt the United States as it did the last in a long series of history’s fading super powers, the Soviet Union.

Nope, there will be no exiting Afghanistan or Iraq anytime soon.

And why not?

The government needs it.

War is nothing more than another in a spectacular line-up of wasteful, inefficient, badly orchestrated and overly funded government programs.

All these yahoos waving signs about tyranny and government take-overs of Health Care had better start turning their attention to our greatest mismanaged money-pit; the War Machine. With the money poured annually in this finger-in-the-dam waiting it out policy in the Middle East you could bankroll the education, health concerns and retirement of the entirety of North, Central and South America.

War is nothing more than another in a spectacular line-up of wasteful, inefficient, badly orchestrated and overly funded government programs.

This is why our president is “taking time to sort out details on Afghanistan” or some such falderal. When running for the office in 2007, Barack Obama visited Afghanistan and concluded that it was not only winnable but crucial to the war effort, then campaigned diligently on the “right vs. wrong” war ideology: Iraq = Wrong, Afghanistan = Right. The imbecilic college rah-rah mentality of grass roots political hysteria took this as some kind of anti-war slant, just as the poor suckers who were waiting for Obama to legalize gay marriage or even drugs — the latter of which, by the way, would defeat the Taliban in less than thirty days while also rescuing our suicidal farming industry.

But that must all seem like a dream to Joe Cool now that at the conclusion of the bloodiest month in Afghanistan in eight years of baseless meandering, the president hasn’t bothered to speak to the general running things over there but once since he was sworn in. Oh, and before people are all up in arms about this nugget of info, where has your press been? More importantly, where has your outrage been? Since the blatantly fascist ban on the control of the media’s coverage of returning coffins was lifted, only the Associated Press bothers to cover the dead shipped back from these completely useless and utterly winless exercises in abject murder and destruction, all under the appropriation of our beloved nation and on our dime.

Shit, did you even know that Cindy Sheehan is still protesting out there?

Yet, without our vocal participation, much of which is wasted daily investigating the president’s citizenship, which party asshole might be calling the other nitwit a killer, whose lousy children are being indoctrinated into some political mind frap, and an agonizing series of insignificant television personalities trading on unchecked hearsay as some kind of invincible factoid, the powers that be continue to dangle these criminal acts of global stupidity as if a philosophical, and worse still, political carrot of victory. And for the oddest of reasons, we as a people continue to bankroll and support this crap, and allow our brave and impressionable youth the fast lane to its slaughter.

When it comes to endless military campaigns, America goes beyond simple amnesia; it dabbles in a rare stew of revisionist lying and slapdash illusions sold as patriotism. Thus, we are trained to swallow impish notions that to cease making one abysmal mistake after the next is “cutting and running” or “giving up” or forefend, “quitting”.

This, of course, is nonsense, like most of the lies perpetuated by the Dullard Brigade; many of whom with different names from different ages poured our money and blood into stone-cold failures in Korea and Viet Nam and now Iraq and soon Afghanistan.

The Democrats won’t stop it. The Republicans sure won’t. Congress refuses and the president, the one who rightly railed against this cycle of madness appears to be fine with letting it continue.

Of course the generals keep asking for more troops. This is what generals do. Then the guilty and confused in the legislature come running to us with their hands out to get us to pay for it. This is how it goes, over and over and over and over and over until you are dead and a new set of saps take the reigns.

Forget about the national debt and political ideologies weighing heavy on the future of our children.

They’ll be too busy fighting and dying for that endless and most popular, bipartisan government program: War.

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Jimmy Carter’s Race Illusion

Aquarian Weekly 9/23/09 REALITY CHECK

THE RACE ILLUSION Jimmy Carter’s Insult As Excuse-Making

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man. – Jimmy Carter

Jimmy CarterJimmy Carter, America’s political equivalent of Liz Taylor, who emerges every so often to stammer out the most insane gibberish known to freethinking man, used the NBC Nightly News this week to offer his derision of Southern whites and summarily branded the opposing voices to this president, an African-American, and his policies as racist. The former president’s descent into dementia was evident a few years ago while promoting a book on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, unfortunately entitled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, when an otherwise brilliant thinker haphazardly framed an almost amazingly infantile argument that would please many half-wits comparing the current Healthcare debate to Nazi Germany. And so it was then that Carter clearly established a preternatural need to turn vague comparisons into unflinching accusation, as if it were as simple as comparing a headache to decapitation.

Thus, his latest half-baked comments to a visibly flabbergasted Brian Williams, who was caught somewhere between the glee of a man with a scoop on his hands and an empathetic character wishing somehow the old fool would trail off into the sunset, has a familiar ring to it: Disrespect for the office of president, his policies and his authority, is nothing less than veiled racial discrimination.

Bad move. Not constructive. Distracting.

The thing is, although it was as cheap and weak as the defenders of the last president calling everyone unpatriotic, I get Carter’s point. He is a proud Southerner, born and bred in a time when Jim Crow laws ruled and a random lynching was part of the Sunday morning church activities. He’s nauseated by and sensitive to these issues, like say, Bill Cosby, who also felt the need to weigh in on the subject; a proud black man, who was wrongly denied his rights in a time of segregation and systemic violence against his people. I get it. We all get it.

However, nobody needs Jimmy Carter and Bill Cosby comparing those with opposing views to a sickeningly large number of card-carrying racist dummies in the South and by proxy their representatives like Joe Wilson from South Carolina, who has spent his entire time down there defending the flying of the Confederate Flag above the state capitol as some kind of noble Southern legacy, instead of what it actually represents; the total and utter defeat of America’s greatest crime against humanity.

This is all common knowledge, but how it reflects on the current debate about Healthcare or any other discussion of our current president’s policies, or how he is “treated” in the face of them, is patently unfair and frankly further muddies an already sludge-filled river of nonsense emanating from all sides.

This president, this time, and this place are all the beginnings of a healing period on this subject that has rarely been as pivitol in the national politic.

Not to mention that broaching racism now flies in the face of the most momentous and game-changing elections in our great country’s tarnished history. A mere nine months after a substantial majority of Americans of all race, creed and color were dancing in the streets, shouting soliloquies from rooftops and filling the columns of major international newspapers with well-deserved celebration, and after a remarkable number of whites, suburban, urban or otherwise (48%, in fact) voted for the first African-American to lead a major ticket for president of the United States, its suddenly all about race now?

Ill-timed. Ill-conceived. Insulting.

Especially in defense of the very man who while running for the nation’s highest office never initiated the playing of the race card to curry favor or defend his right to lead. Only after ridiculous charges of terrorist sympathies and cloudy origins and a strange middle name was he forced to identify the elephant in the room; and even then he balked at the chance to challenge why his opponent, John McCain spent years trying to deny and eventually voted against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday.

This president knew the score better than any of us when he decided to take on this challenge two years ago, something his Democratic opponent, a woman, didn’t get until it was too late. Not being the white, Anglo-Saxon cookie-cutter would be an easy target, but at the same time cannot be touched for fear of being labeled, and to be labeled in this country is the nastiest of things. It keeps us from offering opinions that we really mean and then retract post-backlash.

What is most disturbing about posing even the most extremist dissent as racism is it lends itself to the promotion of Victimhood, another American staple. Oh, poor Mr. Obama. He has no chance against the rowdy, gun toting, Bible freaks! What? He’s the fucking president. He was chosen as such during the most widely reported and highly attended election on record. He has the Constitution at his back and the army at his disposal.

Secondly, and most importantly, this entire mess completely ignores the main tactic used against presidents by their opponents; a scheme as old as the powdered wigs capping the skulls of the founders of this grand experiment. It is Politics 101, and it has been used against every chief executive since I’ve been sucking air — Kennedy was a Roman Catholic beholden to the Pope, Reagan was a doddering old fart capable of incinerating us all, Bush senior was a wimp and his baby boy a dim bulb, Clinton was a slick hippy and our beloved Jimmy Carter a dumb hick.

The stereotype the opposition has laid on Barack Obama is less about his color than he being this media-created myth, a neophyte who is incapable of leadership and thus a tool of the Democratic machine. Who knows anything about this guy? The unknown newbie, ushered into an office he barely deserves to steal bald eagles and piss on the Constitution.

Blah, blah, blah.

No one in recent memory had flown into the White House on the wings of such reverent falderal as Barack Obama, and because of this the opposition must mock, deride, and take the guy down a peg or two. It is the very core of what we do here in this space; peck away at the two-dimensional facade and see what remains. Whining about it only emboldens the charade. This is why the president immediately derided Carter’s comments as not constructive and hardly representative of his stance.


It will always play a big part of what’s going down; but to reduce it to a political tactic equal to the boorish attacks it faintly hopes to defuse is amateurish at best and at its worst plain ugly. This president, this time, and this place are all the beginnings of a healing period on this subject that has rarely been as pivitol in the national politic.

Women and minorities received their day in the public arena like no other this past November. It was rousing success. One I thought impossible. To return now to the standard hue and cry is tired 20th century thinking.

It’s the equivalent of painting those of us who think Sarah Palin a voodoo simpleton as misogynistic hate mongers.

Nice try.



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Final Battle For U.S. Healthcare 2009

Aquarian Weekly 9/16/09 REALITY CHECK


This debate has become less about facts than emotions. – Joe Scarborough

Political animals, real political animals, know virgin territory when they see it. This kind of thing can create weird currents and strange vacuums and absorb concussive effects unrecognized to the untrained eye. The efficient aggressor can use it as a rare opportunity for marking territory. In fact, identifying uncharted political and social terrain is one of this space’s specialties, recognizing when events go sideways and judging how the true professionals own it. Aristotle was a pro. Cincinnatus. That crazy idiot who runs South Carolina.

Joe Cool Makes His CaseThis past Wednesday, Barack Obama proved his political pedigree, unleashing his thus far unforeseen feral side in an historic address to congress upon its autumnal reconvening. All the tell-tell signs were there; the snarl, the unflinching spring-loaded crouch poised to mutilate whatever remains of a National Healthcare debate. It was evident in his tone; combative with overtures of indignation and a sousance of schmaltz.

Presidents prepared to horsewhip lawmakers, plead with the electorate, and make certain everyone within earshot knows whose boss can provide a most revelatory experience. And believe me, political animals can smell a member of the pride from miles away.

It was, ultimately, this president’s finest speech, as noted by NY Times columnist, David Brooks on PBS soon afterwards — the best since the campaign’s Race Speech. But it was, without argument, overtly and unapologetically political; from the opening salvo, which conjured the independently spirited Teddy Roosevelt, whose anti-establishmentarianism status has gained traction in recent decades, all the way to the shameless grand finale, a tearful tribute to the Left’s late hero, Ted Kennedy. It toed the difficult line between paying backhanded lip service to bipartisanship while ripping the opposition new holes. Mostly it accomplished its only pertinent goal, to galvanize a recently dispirited and fractured Democratic base spewing queer demands on half-baked ultimatums.

The address’ most important point, however, was its stake of historical claim, which is exactly what is transpiring in Washington right now as you read this; for never in any lifetime has Healthcare Reform gotten this must traction, caused this much furor, or moved this far down the legislative line. For the first time even fellow cynics are willing to admit that this puppy might even come to a vote, unlike the recently quashed Cap & Trade fiasco.

It was crisp, chock full of luster, and at times a king-hell romp. The problem is it is a speech he should have given three months ago.

There is a sense now, and you can almost feel it seep through the television as Republicans squirmed in their seats, shouting random hoots and waving copies of dissenting bills, that this idea of avoiding a head-on collision with Joe Cool is a dream fast dying. Ask South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson, who confused the chamber with a Dylan Goes Electric concert and blurted out “Liar!” twice. By morning, reeling Republican officials were shoving him out the door to blubber a half-assed apology.

It is becoming more and more evident by the day that this issue will have to finally be settled in the realm of law and not in the ambivalence of popular opinion or beneath the din of stupidity. The country is fast losing patience with the issue, and the months of incoherence coming from the founders of this movement has left ample room for Myth-Making 101. The president made more than veiled references to this throughout the hour-long address, affecting an anger lost on his first nine months in office.

It was crisp, chock full of luster, and at times a king-hell romp. The problem is it is a speech he should have given three months ago. It was nothing more than a pep talk, a call to arms. What was needed was a final summation, a forceful, undeniable framework. But instead of a singular push for one signature agenda, a strongly worded manifesto for an actual bill the president would sign, we received vague examples of what can be worked out through determination and an understanding of its gravity. And although it is admirable this mostly liberal president could begin to broach opening interstate insurance competition or visiting tort reform, it has become laughable that a wide range of options and back-to-the-drawing-board rhetoric is still passing for a proclamation.

The failure to hit concrete points like the who and how of its bankrolling (made more curious the day after when even prominent Democrats were waiting on number-crunchers to figure how in the world $900 billion over ten years would pay for this thing) was manifest upon a reading of the transcript the next morning. Without the drama and inflection of the performance there seemed to be nothing in the text that answers the key questions, and since the Democrats have no one even close to this guy’s ability to communicate, trouble still brews.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are also slowly splitting at the seams. There is the tried and true political animal salivating from The Right refusing to cast a vote for anything that would hand this president a much-needed first term victory, one in which has avoided chief executives for nearly a century. Then there is a growing contingent of moderates and survivalists (political animals all) lead by Maine Senator Olympia Snow, who understands all to well that being on the wrong side of history is not a wise move. If the train has left the station, it is better to not be left on the platform with nary a voice or anyone to bow to. But they have also learned the lessons from the Democrats who voted with fervor for an unpopular and badly conceived war, only to be buried by its abysmal results. This has now become the new administration’s gamble, as Iraq was the last go-round.

This time, however, unlike a few poor souls being shipped halfway across the globe on the wave of flimsy excuses, we’re all on the front lines now.


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