TEA Party Fun

Aquarian Weekly 2/24/10 REALITY CHECK

THE INDEPENDENTS SPEEPSTAKES TEA Party to Green Party to Reform A-Go-Go

In the agonizing hours of November 5, 2008, following the near annihilation of the Republican brand, its most celebrated voice, Rush Limbaugh apologized to his listeners for TEA Party Local #421“carrying the Republicans water”, ignoring his sworn allegiance to conservative ideology and the glaring facts at hand to defend what he said was a party gone astray. It was self-serving and silly – essentially Limbaugh’s tired act for the past two decades – but it rang true. In his own clownish way, he stumbled onto something more than a half-baked guffaw and uttered a coherent plea, which was later picked up by many of the talking heads at FOXNEWS, the GOP broadcast network. The Republicans, they all said, were not very Republican with their nation building and federal government bloating and TARP bailout stimuli.

And for a time both Limbaugh and more pointedly FOXNEWS held this ground. What choice did they have? The president was a Super Man and the Democrats had a Super Majority, and the progressive movement, so damaged by Viet Nam and the Reagan Revolution, the Contract with America and 9/11 xenophobia, was now front and center, representing a nation that had been sold atavistic palaver about being “center-right”.

But over the past thirteen months the wind has shifted dramatically, as it will when someone as kinetically charged as Barack Obama streaks into the White House with so much promise following the dirge of a weakened predecessor. As stated time and again in this space over the past year, Joe Cool’s symbol of the Left’s Hopes & Dreams has eerily mirrored that of Ronald Reagan’s meteoric New Right rise of 1980. Then, just as quickly, with a sagging recession and a fallout in the Hope Department, there were heavy loses in the polls and consequently two years later on Capitol Hill.

The idea of the fifteen-minute fix and immediate satisfaction or else is an American institution. Comes with the territory, jack.

And so suddenly those who kicked the Republican brand to the curb and subsequently embraced and then trumpeted fringe Right movements, most notably the many and varied TEA Parties, are once again grab-assing at the laziest route to a return to power. Why not re-brand the Republican Party with the same exhausted bullshit that has made it as abject a failure as the Democrats for well over a century and a half?

The pendulum swings and people conveniently forget what ushered in the alternative.

Usually it is sound if not recidivist advice.

Problem is there now appears to be a segment of the fragmented street rabble crazies who actually believe a national third party is a viable alternative to what conservative NY Times columnist, David Brooks recently framed this way: “I just don’t see how we get out of the fiscal hole if Republicans are not willing to raise taxes and Democrats not willing to cut spending. I’m actually beginning to think, for the first time in my life, there’s a prospect for a third party at some point in the future.”

Uh-oh.

Last summer FOXNEWS, along with colossal drug concerns and anti Health Care Reform lobbyists, helped promote, bankroll, and lend legitimacy to what the mainstream could only then best describe as angry, disenfranchised lunch pail enthusiasts, whose most vocal exclamations were horrendously grammatical and explicitly racist banners. Entertaining, colorful and highly motivated Jerry Springer rejects had apparently captured the very real outrage of a nation barely able to cobble together two original thoughts without a spate of banal anarchism. Ah, but between the specious rants about the Founding Fathers and laughably insipid definitions of Tyranny, there lies a germ of true democratic spirit, one in which may take down not one, but two parties in one fell swoop.

One can only dream.

Entertaining, colorful and highly motivated Jerry Springer rejects had apparently captured the very real outrage of a nation barely able to cobble together two original thoughts without a spate of banal anarchism.

A dream we’ve kept alive here since the day we began to send words to press.

To wit: The February 20 issue early in the election year of 2008, in a piece entitled, INDEPENDENCE RULES, Reality Check issued this synopsis of American Politico: “The two-party system, which has halved the ideological soul of this nation for over a decade, has now reached its breaking point. The special interest fobs and extremist twits who have monopolized the national discourse for decades are being swept under by a tidal wave of independent voting. Republicans and Democrats are crossing lines. Fiscal conservatives fed up with social fascists, liberal lions pissed at whining granola heads, war hawks and peaceniks, activists and casual observers are jumping around like never before.”

Not a big deal. You could pretty much yank out an archived piece around here for the past dozen years plus and read something or other trashing the two-party system, but this time it was a growing reality which had been covered a year and half earlier on June, 13 2007. In this space under INDEPENDENCE ’08 appeared the results of a Gallup poll, which painted an evenly divided electorate: Republicans, 27 percent; Democrats, 34 percent; Independents, 38 percent. The following analysis was then offered: “Despite exit polling of stark contrasts in conservative vs. moderate vs. Evangelical voting blocks on the Right and women, black/Latino, and an economic range voting block on the Left, nothing has crossed the divide of this polarized nation than the quickly emerging, highly influential, and increasingly mighty Independent vote.”

And into this vacuum emerged the first African American, predominantly liberal neophyte to gain the White House. And it has not begun to close one iota. In fact it has become a gaping maw, which may swallow him and whatever poor sucker dares face it.

There was a time, as it was for George W. Bush the months following the 9/11 attacks, when the country was ready for The Big Leap. Bush, for all his failings and chronic stupidity took it. Not so much for Joe Cool, who demurred when he should have pounced, sequestered, then media blitzed when he should have hammered home The Deal.

And maybe it was too much to ask. There hasn’t been a single major sweeping change in legislation since 1964. This is what awaited this president and this dead-on-arrival congress, predominantly made up of federal government zealots, who had the electorate by the balls and still could not get a thing done.

This week Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, one of the few Democrats with a chance in hell of retaining his seat this fall, up and quit. Why? Upon the occasion of his hissy-fit resignation, he told an interviewer that two weeks prior to giving up he and several fellow Republicans co-sponsored an anti-deficit bill, only to find out later they turned around and voted against it for what he deemed was “purely political reasons”. Well, of course they did. Probably the same assholes who voted against the Recovery Act and then took bows back in their states for the dumb shit it paid for.

And so as Brooks concluded, there is indeed “unprecedented levels of distrust in Washington”, at least since the decades prior to and following the Civil War. And from its ashes comes the TEA Party, and whatever it is or wherever its going will chip away at the final progressive movement of any of our lifetimes and whatever is left of ancient conservative wisdom.

 

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“We The People” 2010 Model

Aquarian Weekly 2/10/10 REALITY CHECK

WE THE PEOPLE

The American people are smart enough to do this on their own. – John Boehner, Ohio Republican Representative, when asked on Meet The Press if there should be federal government regulation over the purchase of health insurance across state lines.

Part of our 2010 Faux Revolution is the expulsion of ridiculously unsubstantiated nonsense like using the American People whenever someone is trying to make, prove or back up a point. There is no real American People, and if there were such an animal there is no way they would be willing or able to agree en masse on everything stated daily by debaters, lawmakers, executives, pundits, etc. It is a fantasy, which is a nice way of saying it is a blatant lie, and it must stop. In fact, all mention of any kind of “people” in solidarity must cease, especially when pitching ideology. The good of a group is never considered when ideologies are being thrown around. It is only good for the ideologues espousing their creed for an explicit segment of society. The rest is a steaming pile of bullshit.

American PersonThere is one exception; as is the rule in every scientific postulation: The American People adore free stuff or want a lot of stuff, but not pay a lot for it. This, of course, is not particular to the American People, but Human Nature in general. “Free” is the most popular word in any language, but since we are built as a nation on the concept of Free, it comes with the territory. This is why populism is so popular among the American People. Give us more cops! More parks! More malls! More roads to get to the malls! Bring the mail! Protect the kids! Kill the bad guys abroad! Keep the banks honest! Taxes? Fuck that!

Then there is the Oedipal angle of the American People. Who did this terrible thing to us? Oh, it’s us!

For instance, lately, the American People have come to their senses about institutions; suddenly they all suck. Government, Organized Religion, Banks, Military, almost all forms of systemic authority are under scrutiny. Ah, but who thought up these institutions? Who runs them? In most cases who chooses who runs them? And who supports their perpetuation? The American People do. Did I miss something? Are the Russians running our banking system? Who makes our laws and enacts them? Scandinavians or Americans? And are these people or pods of some kind?

Right now you’re shouting, “Hey, I didn’t vote for…” or ” I did not choose…”, but then aren’t you also a member of the American People?

A-ha!

I love when American People in a position to opine while speechifying broach the distinction between the American People living on Main Street and the American People running Wall Street; as if only one such group is defined as the American People, which is apparently at odds with the thinking of the American People.

Another queer aspect of the American People quotient is its inability as a group to determine what is acceptable for the individual as opposed to the whole, and most importantly how individual conscience deals with society at large.

There is one exception; as is the rule in every scientific postulation: The American People adore free stuff or want a lot of stuff, but not pay a lot for it.

Two prime examples of this would be Abortion Rights and the Environment.

Several polls annually state a majority of the American People is against abortion as an act, the act of yanking a live healthy human fetus from an otherwise healthy female host. Yet, if faced with an individual case, say, your daughter is raped by a retarded, herpes-ravaged dope fiend at a Death Metal Concert, there is some leeway. Usually, in a bizarre twist many American People who do not want the government regulating their use of weaponry have no problem dictating the possession of actual living tissue inside fifty-one percent of the populace.

Oh, and although the American People are all for drilling for oil or wiping out forests to build Wal-Marts, it’s not so cut and dry if it is taking place across the street. In both cases we have a “We’re against it, but…” and a “We’re all for it, but…” issues continuously presented as one solution to please the American People.

Another excellent and more pressing illustration is the National Health Care issue. Like Social Security, Medicare, Education, and other mass government-run entitlements, there is at first an opposing yammer of “socialism” or “tyranny”. Then, after it is instituted, whether it works or not, it’s a Third Rail, an untouchable “right” of the American People. First the American People are against it, and then once they have it, the American People fight like rabid dogs to keep it. In most circles this would be called schizophrenic behavior, in more select ones, fucking hypocrisy.

Then there is the case of the American People not realizing who is among the counted, as in every possible Gay Rights issue known to us.

Right now there is a congressional hearing going on to determine if it is unlawful to deny members of the United States military, which is of course apprised of American People, their right to be openly gay.

This is spectacularly asinine in several fascinating ways, not the least of which being that whilst engaged in military service American People are no longer considered “civilian”, and thus their normal everyday distinctions as woman or man, black or white, poor or privileged, etc, no longer apply. The idea of an army of one is an Army of One. This accounts for the similarity in haircuts and uniform, not to mention a singular code of decorum. The individual aspects of the American People are stripped from them, including determining the worth of a soldier by where he/she places his/her privates in any given act of coitus.

But that’s nothing compared to the outrage of debating a government employee’s individual rights while completely ignoring those of the American People who happen to also make up our homosexual citizenry. This is not only the proverbial “cart before the horse” as much as it is “the contents of the cart before the cart is even assembled”. Never mind the goddamned horse.

So, okay, we’re agreed? The American People do not want national health insurance just assuredly as the American People crave it. The American People include the entirety of the American People regardless of sexual or political preference. Therefore we conclude unequivocally to never dump the American People on the American People again.

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Scott Brown Goes To Washington

Aquarian Weekly 1/27/10 REALITY CHECK

MR. BROWN GOES TO WASHINGTON How The Bluest State Threw Up The Red Stop Light On Health Care

Politics, like comedy, need not apologize. It just is. The victor has his story and the loser, the excuses. It is the way of The Vote. This has never been more evident than what transpired in Massachusetts over the nine days from mid-January to this past Tuesday in a Special Election to replace a senate seat someone with the name Kennedy had owned since Senator Scott Brown1952.

The general consensus among pundits and reactionaries is that The Cradle of Liberty spoke loudly against the current atmosphere in Washington DC, including whatever incoherent monstrosity now stands as a Health Care Bill in the House. The election results, as abruptly surprising as they were, while always being a referendum on national politics by rule, is never as clear a national message as advertised. But, just as what you find funny does not make it comedy, does it fail to be comedy when you do not laugh.

It just is.

Before those crucial nine days unfolded you couldn’t have picked the victor, Scott Philip Brown, a little known and relatively benign anti-tax, fairly socially liberal Republican state senator out of a line-up. By around January 13, Brown trailed his opponent, the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley by a respectable but hardly noteworthy 15 to 18 points. In a solidly Blue State boasting its own progressive health care system, where people for decades voted overwhelmingly for a Liberal Lion of dubious moral construct that also happened to be a particularly staunch proponent of a national health care system, the idea that a populist anti-Democrat uprising was a-comin’ is a myth.

After all the Right Wing chest-pumping and end-zone dances subsided, the exit polls clearly showed an alarming exodus of Independents, 60 percent of which make up the true Massachusetts electorate, a majority of whom before some major gaffs and haughty rhetoric from Brown’s opponent were hardly galvanized by his truck-driving, regular-guy approach. The best you can say for the decisive Independent vote was much of it may have emerged from boredom after their beloved Patriots were unexpectedly booted from NFL play-off contention.

In those vital days between the Shoo-in and Toss-out, the Democratic candidate treated the campaign as everyone else beyond her opponent did, as if the election was an irritating weigh station to her seat. It apparently did not matter to Ms. Coakley or her staff that openly mocking the Red Sox, which comes in slightly ahead of Catholicism in religious fervor up there, or publicly complaining that it was too chilly to campaign was bad mojo in a hyper-provincial state loaded with insecure pride-mongers. Ted Kennedy, despite his shenanigans, knew how to make Bostonians and beyond feel like they were running the federal government. There is a reason why a drunken lout with a sense of familial entitlement won every election every time, whether drowning a woman or with a Republican in the governor’s chair.

Many exit polls revealed that it was the stagnation and incompetence of government not National Health Care that drove the Brown vote. What a truck-driving nudist and a half-baked lawyer do in Beantown should have no bearing.

In her last televised debate performance, Coakley sounded like a grim mutation of Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Palin when she seemed unsure if the United States had a continued military presence in Afghanistan. Then as the national spotlight began to shine on her shrinking lead, with millions of dollars pouring in from a suddenly giddy Republican National Committee and the president’s last-minute doomed-on-arrival rescue mission, she desperately went Dukakis in the saddest attempt to appear like she wasn’t a detached intellectual snob.

Only then did the prospect begin to take hold that National Health Care was in jeopardy. Brown and his staff, who had primarily run an Independent campaign, steering clear of the still-damaged Republican brand, smartly rammed home a populace message, taking the Ted Kennedy formula of reminding the otherwise apathetic voter that the world would be glued to and changed by the results, giving them succor for their hometown penis-envy by becoming The Story. Evidence of this is that not since 1990 had such an election drawn as many participants, and just like the record numbers that put Barack Obama in office in 2008 was later championed by Democrats, so did the Republicans rightfully paint their enthusiasm with an ideological brush.

But let’s face it, no one saw this coming, nor did anyone have any idea less than two weeks prior that it would be a national story, never mind a referendum or uprising. Anyone who said they did lies. When most of the country was caught up in the human and political implications of the Haiti earthquake or whether the House Majority leader was a racist, dummy or an old, inarticulate coot, the rumblings in what is generally considered the most liberal of states, was ignored.

The fact is the Democrats were hot and heavy on this Health Care thing from the get-go, even before Arlen Specter and Al Franken gave them a “Filibuster Proof” majority, just as the Democrats were hot and heavy on ending the Iraq occupation in ’06. That a one-state special election can crush federal legislation is media-generated, political party pabulum. If you cannot pass a bill with 59 Senators, a stranglehold on the House and a sitting president after one solid year of The Push, you either don’t want to or have no capacity to do so. Many exit polls revealed that it was the stagnation and incompetence of government not National Health Care that drove the Brown vote. What a truck-driving nudist and a half-baked lawyer do in Beantown should have no bearing.

Shame on the losers – and to the winners goes the bending of truths.

Irony of ironies, the Democrats brought this on themselves long before Teddy went belly-up. Thinking John Kerry, another gangbuster lifer senator from the state, was about to take the White House in 2004 and Republican governor Mitt Romney would appoint his replacement; they pushed hard for a “Special Election” to decide the post. And now, before his body is cold and a lifetime memory of fighting for national health care dwindles, a Republican newbie rides south to the nation’s capitol to warm the Kennedy seat.

Thus, what was at best the longest shot in federal legislation since the privatization of Social Security now appears to be what this space long predicted – dead. The Democrats Dog & Pony Show on Health Care, which as stated here and among friends and colleagues for years was always a pipe dream worthy of Lewis Carroll but made manifestly impossible in the feeble hands of self-flagellating procrastinators, is now fading fast. No one really wanted a national Health Care bill in Washington. If they did, if this president did, they would have used the most dominant congressional majority in a century to do it.

That’s either hilarious or tragic.

Or it just is.

 

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Barack Obama’s America: Year One

Aquarian Weekly 1/20/10 REALITY CHECK

BARACK OBAMA’S AMERICA: YEAR ONE

Change.

It was all the rage in 2008 and it sure came into clear, brutal view in 2009.

Barack Obama: Year OneNo one paying attention could imagine it emerging differently, not with the new guy resembling in no way the last forty-three guys, governing in no way like anyone since FDR, and facing a two-front war beneath one of the most damaged global economic meltdowns in history. Forget race, generation and a tinderbox political environment, rousing approval numbers and a mad scramble for a healthy slice of the New Democratic Party Power Pie; the second Barack Obama raised his hand to swear his oath as leader of the free world, there was change.

Success?

Yes.

Failure.

Of course.

Much of both. This is what comes with the territory. There is very little anyone can write coherently about the office and its times without the gray areas filling the spaces; this means the bluster, inconsistencies, and burps of conscience, the screw-ups and luck-outs, the hard choices and thankless sacrifices, and most of all the inevitable charges of hypocrisy. This was all in evidence in Barack Obama’s America: Year One.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it was a bloody rebirthing of Liberalism, a renewal of Diplomacy and a staunch surrender to analytical stasis. It began in an explosion of populist fuel, bucking haphazardly into a zigzag of ideology, and ending in perhaps the final trumpet call across the fields of Hope.

Right from the start, the new president was uninterested in sweeping clean all that had come before. He continued his predecessor’s policies at home and abroad, choosing to retain George W. Bush’s most influential appointees, Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman and Secretary of Defense. Robert Gates. The former helped continue the federal government’s emergency bank bailouts towards record numbers, stopping the hemorrhaging while further bloating the federal budget. The latter shifted the vagaries in the War on Terror onto the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan as candidate Obama had foretold.

These and other penalties against the Left and a failure to appease anti-Bush Independents like the sustained genuflecting to Wall Street, an apathetic view towards immediately closing down Gitmo, a refusal to put steadfast timelines on a withdrawal in Iraq, and most egregiously a closed-door policy in Congress’s Health Care debate – something candidate Obama repeatedly promised to keep transparent – torpedoed his once stratospheric approval ratings.

Where Obama may have lost the majority of independents and many of the moderate leftists is the inability for him to intercede where necessary with the zealots of his party, especially the House Speaker and its majority leader, both of whom conducted much of the Recovery Act as some kind of re-shifting of taxpayer charities into a spectacular sinkhole of pork.

Another tweak to Liberals was the president’s almost habitual if not half-hearted attempt at bipartisanship. Tanking on arrival, due to the almost complete dismantling of The Right following his entry into office, it never had a chance. Whoever was left to defend the fractured conservative movement would not go quietly. Its pathetic representation in government reduced the fringes of the Fourth Estate to exact vengeance, the rightful weapon of the loser. Thus the Birther-TEA Party-Town Hall masses began to take hold of the age-old debate on how much the government may be allowed to act in the reconstruction of our damaged republic, from environmental, moral to defense and wealth redistribution. Soon, as was the case in the last administration, much of the back-and-forth, which turned civil rights and proactive military action into charges of fascism and war crimes turned Keynesian economics into forced socialism and health care reform into death panels.

Lost to the general public and the consumers of the sporadic bilge, the massive takeover by the federal government of the banking system was not a choice but a reaction, much like most of what the former president was forced to face in the ensuing months after 9/11. What followed for the Bush Administration defined it for history, much like the months following the massive financial band-aid that kept the economic fabric of the planet from unraveling any further, the effects of which bloats unemployment numbers and still strikes fear in the American consumer, which is all that is left us as an economic power.

Where Obama may have lost the majority of independents and many of the moderate leftists is the inability for him to intercede where necessary with the zealots of his party, especially the House Speaker and its majority leader, both of whom conducted much of the Recovery Act as some kind of re-shifting of taxpayer charities into a spectacular sinkhole of pork. It was the same mentality that allowed the most important element of the president’s initial boatload of political capital to spring several leaks, causing the Health Care Reform Bill to inevitably become a flaccid shell of its original intent.

Then, as is the case with every president, an unforeseen moment shifts the general inclination of the man in the Big Chair. Such was what is now called the Christmas Terror Plot, which pushed to the fore a more assertive and fed-up Barack Obama, who launched an unflinching pronouncement of culpability from the CIA to the FBI to the rafters of Congress, unthinkable for a commander-in-chief in war time. The outburst caused veteran reporter David Broder to observe, “Obama’s benign leadership style had reached its limits”. And now one gets the feeling that although the White House would love for there to be a Health Care Bill by the time the president hits Capital Hill for his State of the Union Address, what may enter the hen house is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

One can only hope, but dare we?

Although the largest building in the country’s greatest city was not taken down by lunatics nor has the president handed over major legislation to his wife, Barack Obama’s America: Year One faced the cacophony like few have ever had to endure. Maybe there were far too many television appearances and weirdly apologetic speeches abroad, his cabinet filled with questionable character, there was also not a litany of expected speeches (only one actually hit home in an emergency session of congress that was too little too late) and truth be told much of his style has been more reticent than radical.

What the new guy is not is a New Politician. He is the same one we have seen before, making the same mistakes and settling on the same hard decisions that don’t always jibe with the far-reaching, inspirational sonnet of the “outsider”. And in the end, which is only the beginning, Barack Obama’s America: Year One may have taught us a lesson we already knew deep down; twelve months does not a term make.

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2010: Year of the Faux Revolution

Aquarian Weekly 1/13/10 REALITY CHECK

2010: YEAR OF THE FAUX REVOLUTION

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

HEALTH CARE FINALE

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.

Tick-tock.

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Collectivism On Parade

Aquarian Weekly 11/25/09 REALITY CHECK

COLLECTIVISM ON PARADE

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.

WHAT?

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

FORT HOOD’S SOCIOLOGICAL BACKLASH

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:

Texas

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

FOUL NECTAR OF THE BEATDOWN
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; FRIEND & COLLEAGUE IN THE LAND OF SCUM
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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