Robert Torricelli is a Gutless Quitter

Aquarian Weekly 10/9/02 REALITY CHECK

SENATOR QUITTER OR THE BALLAD OF A GUTLESS SWINE

Let’s make sure I’ve got this straight. Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Robert Torricelli, woefully diving in the polls, decides he will not run a race he cannot win. And a man whom the party defended like the last beer at a frat bash for six months is unceremoniously shoved off the proverbial plank with a month to go. AND…his former opponent and surprising leader with the final leg remaining in this mid-term madness, Douglas Forrester, who has based his campaign on calling for the senator’s head since announcing his candidacy, now wants him to honor his campaign.

I think I made my point last week: I do not want to get into the shady end of this mess of Jersey politics at this juncture of my career without some buffers in these warring camps. Let that read: I am not about to start uncovering the rotten cheese inside this fucking abortion without someone on the inside at least running interference for me.

This is not 1992, and I’m no longer a single, half-sober punk with nothing to lose. I will not go to the mat with these freaks for this column or any other space in a national publication to uncover the levels of disgust this story implies.

Having put that out there, and not necessarily as an excuse for laying off the normal hammer this space wields, but to keep a safe distance from a story I’d previously ignored. One that I’m now forced to face because last week I foolishly broached Torricelli’s doom, and within two days of its publication, he bails.

And so, keeping in tune with gutless cop-outs and half-ass disingenuous offerings, I present the following conversation to stand as some kind of coverage. It was taped on the morning of 10/3 with my main Dem insider, whom the readers of this space know as Dibbs.

jc: What the fuck is going on?

Dibbs: How exactly do you mean?

jc: When the governor of the state, a Democrat, spends a Saturday afternoon radio show painting his party’s incumbent senator as St. Francis of Assisi, and by Monday evening cannot be found for comment while the guy quits his campaign in a blubbering staged fiasco, it’s time to ask that question.

“I’d like to ask your readers, especially the Republican ones, what are they so afraid of? There are only four weeks left to defend a substantial lead against a latecomer. Run and win.”

DB: First of all, and I know you won’t buy this, and frankly, I don’t care, because it is, as you like to say, the stone cold truth: Senator Torricelli made that call on his own, against – and let me make this painfully clear – against the better wishes of Governor James McGreevy and the major party people.

jc: Bullshit. You want to know how I see this?

DB: Not particularly.

jc: The national party people leaned on McGreevy and the predominantly Democratic government to deliver New Jersey in a tight race to keep control of the senate, because there is no chance in hell the Dems are keeping the House and everyone with half a brain knows you could run a cadaver against a Republican in this state and win, but a smug crook is too much for even these poor people to take.

DB: Wrong.

jc: Oh, I believe that’s 75% of it. The other quarter stems from the “wolf in the hen house” idea that McGreevy’s party base is threatened if he allows a wild card Republican rich guy to slide next to the other Democratic rich guy, Jon Corzine.

DB: I think I just stated that the power base of this party backed a Torricelli run, regardless of the negative press and poll numbers. And let me remind you that Robert Torricelli was exonerated in a court of law, which apparently means nothing to the media or the Republican Party. I think the last few years have proven that.

jc: I’m talking politics here, not law. You cannot have that much evidence and allegations go against you within a calendar year of an election and expect people to concentrate “on the issues”.

DB: I think we all know that there is no platform for the Forrester campaign beyond “Hey, I’m not Robert Torricelli.” It’s a disgrace.

jc: Good segue. Speaking of the law and ” a disgrace”, what rights does Torricelli have–let me rephrase that–what recourse, politically, do the Dems have to survive this?

DB: If you’re referring to the state charter on this sort of thing, it is not without precedent. I think the state Supreme Court ruling backs that up, so we’re talking mainly about semantics. If Torricelli were to resign his post, which he refuses to do based on salary and pension concerns, the governor could postpone this election, forcing Forrester to spend money up to 12 months to keep the heat on.

jc: But Torricelli didn’t resign. He dropped out.

DB: Despite all this predictable posturing by Forrester, believe me when I tell you, the Republicans want this ruling to stick.

jc: Especially running a fossil like Frank Lautenberg into this cauldron?

DB: Crook? Fossil? I see talking to you today has been it’s usual mistake.

jc: Thank you.

DB: And I think I’d like to ask your readers, especially the Republican ones, what are they so afraid of? There are only four weeks left to defend a substantial lead against a latecomer. Run and win. Unless you could only beat Torricelli, a candidate with a millstone hanging around his neck.

jc: Sounds to me like a fixed political game in this state, much like Florida for the GOP. Chance of Gore getting out of there with a fair shake was nil. I think a goon like Forrester has to know that.

DB: We don’t even need Jersey. Take my word for it.

jc: You’re going down. I’m looking forward to watching the Bush administration ride an all-Republican congress into war and recession.

DB: You’re an ass.

jc: Clever like an ass.

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2002 Mid-Term Campaigns

Aquarian Weekly 10/2/02 REALITY CHECK

MID-TERM MADNESS

Despite reams of pestering mail to the contrary, I cannot bring myself to knock off another 900 words on this Iraq mess. It’s been twelve years of this crap and most of my thoughts are well documented in my second book, Fear No Art, and if anyone is really interested they can storm into a Barnes & Noble, plunk down 15 bucks and have a ball. Otherwise, I’m done considering it anything more than a corporate big-dick mambo in the desert.

Seeing how this economy is so completely fucked, it is only right to huddle back into the safe haven of political prognostication, which these days is starting to resemble my putrid record for betting on pro football.

In the early 90s’ both subjects brought smiles to colleagues and cash flow to the Campion residence. Neither is apparently working too well in this new and improved century of madness. Yet, strangely, I cannot turn away.

Nonetheless, the view from Fort Vernon is pleasant these days. Local politics glides along merrily on the backs of property taxes, sanitation concerns and Indian burial grounds being defaced by wayward contractors.

For the first time in this nation’s history there has been no significant shift in the public debate since its closest presidential election. There is no mandate. There is no fusion.

And, I guess, being a resident of the Garden State again for the past 13 months and not commenting on the Senator Robert Torricelli fiasco, and his laughable stumble toward the Election Day finish line, is somewhat damning to my credibility as a reporter. That is, if I possessed credibility. However, the kinds of sources and connections that make a column of this ilk fly are not the kind I wish to dredge up in my new home state.

Let’s leave it at that.

Now let’s foray into what these mid-term elections are really all about to us media types: the national scene.

Firstly, this is a redistricting year, so some key states will lose and/or gain congressional representatives. What that will mean in the long run is a wild card since it balances out the normal number of retirees. Most times redistricting means incumbents fixing certain voting areas to keep their piece of the pie, a highly dubious practice that ranks up there with the many injustices to the voting public that continue to fail this vacillating democracy.

This time around the Republicans will be defending a six-seat advantage in the House and hope to flip the disadvantage in the Senate by at least one.

History says the GOP would be looking at miles of bad road. Most voters, although concerned with local issues, tend to use mid-term elections to lean toward the party opposite of the reigning executive branch.

Even those who loudly espouse the theory that these things are about local economies have to admit this autumn does not bode well for Republicans. Forty-eight of the 50 states are projecting record budget losses for ’03 and tight races tend to dredge up fiscal mayhem for incumbents.

But of the fewer than 40 districts considered even remotely competitive this fall, the Democrats would have to take two-thirds to change the majority in the House. In fact, the highly regarded Cook Political Report announced this week that only “two dozen House races will be tight and the Democrats would need to win at least 75 percent of those to take back control of the House.”

With so few close races and so much ground to make up, this is a heavy challenge; especially with Republicans painting every Democrat with a treasonous brush if they so much as consider opposing some measure of this increasingly ambiguous Bush foreign policy romp.

But with the ugly exit of Gary Condit in California and the Torricelli stank here in Jersey, the big money falls on the GOP side. The House will stay Republican.

The real horse race resides in the Senate where tussles in South Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa, Georgia and Louisiana will likely decide policy for the next two years.

The Democrats will tell you it’s important to keep things even in Washington to avoid easy appointees to the Supreme Court, giving the Right to Life crowd a fighting chance. Not to mention more noise on Medicare and Social Security (again!), last year’s tax cut and the billions a month on this country is spending on gassing desert caves, spying on North Korea and something resembling Homeland Security.

None of this is likely to matter, even if the Republicans gain control of the Senate. With the philosophical split in the voter base being almost even, it is a stone cold guarantee that any extreme maneuvers would lay waste to the future of the party and make G.W. another one-term Bush.

However, politically, this would be a major coup for Republicans. They can almost smell the tide beginning to turn. Barring more independent wrangling, this is a true chance for policy threats to bend their way for at least two years.

Of course, this is a country literally divided down the middle. For the first time in this nation’s history there has been no significant shift in the public debate since its closest presidential election. There is no mandate. There is no fusion.

Just like pro football. Parody.

Makes it hard to win money or guess power struggles.

Yet, strangely, I cannot turn away.

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Tribute to New York City 9/11/02

Aquarian Weekly 9/11/02 REALITY CHECK

NYC – ONE YEAR LATER

These words will hit the stands on 9/11, the one-year anniversary of…all right! Enough! We know, already. How did it happen? How are we different as a nation? Reflections. Tributes. Commentary. Anger. Grief. Patriotism. All over again, and again, and…you guessed it…again.

The United States of American absolutely took an unprecedented hit on the eleventh day of the ninth month of the first year of a new millennium. The United States of America had to rebound, respond and rebuild. Yeah, those people in Hibbing, Minnesota and Flagstaff, Arizona or all points south, west and north had a hell of a time trudging through the shock and devastation.

But what about New York City? What about my town? The island of my birth. The place in my heart. And what about those poor souls who went to work as they did every morning, from every walk of life, and every nationality, never to return.

Nothing against the national psyche or the overall mood of the nation following the terrible events of 9/11/01, but 12 months ago the lower half of Manhattan became a war zone. The tallest buildings on this continent’s eastern seaboard hit the deck in a fiery hail of brick and mortar and steaming led. And hundreds upon thousands of its citizens went down with them.

NYC is the greatest city in the world. It is the greatest city in the history of civilization. Not because it’s big and loud and rich and broke and mean and lovable and dirty and magnificent and peaceful and teetering on the edge of sanity all at the same time, but because its streets are filled with survivors.

NYC was wounded before the first of those Twin Towers hit the pavement. Before a single life was taken. Before a single scream, gasp or rushing civil servant came on the scene. Fear is a tough emotion to hide in a fishbowl.

We all know why the enemies of this nation chose NYC, chose the towering symbol of capitalism run amok, chose to put a gaping fissure into its gloriously fashioned landscape.

Most New Yorkers, or Jerseyites or tri-state “bridge and tunnel” types choose to ignore what the rest of the country or the world thinks about NYC, and everything it stands for. The volume and energy, the brash, dig-deep and call the big dogs out we’re taking this sucker by the jugular and riding it out to God’s horizon kind of gruesome beauty.

And that goes for all the viewpoints of those who see NYC as some kind of moral cesspool of violence and corruption, fast talking power mongers feeding off the young and innocent while the women take the survivors and chew on their intestines for a nicotine substitute. A knockdown, drag-out ugliness fit for the final days of Nero on the precipice of human gluttony hardly imagined by the middle-class backbone of salted American earth.

Yeah, we pretty much ignore that kind of shit around here. Those who have spent fifteen minutes in NYC know how much passes for truth and whatever’s left is everything we want everyone else to think about it.

When I was in Israel some six years ago now, I can recall the utter mask of horror that would engulf the faces of the locals when I informed them of the place from which I hail. At the time I was living about 30 miles northwest of the big town and the poor bastards wondered what had kept me alive so long. These are people who live in the REAL Ground Zero, and not just for the past few months, but the past four decades. These were the souls who had heard all they wanted to hear about NYC.

Israelis concerned for New Yorkers.

And maybe, well…as it turns out, they were correct.

Be that as it may, the rest of this nation, and the globe for that matter, watched NYC take the monumental hit 12 months ago, and although there has been much song and story attached to it, NYC took it like the proverbial champ.

The mayor was a tireless lunatic, the police a swarming cadre of manic fusion and the fire department, a 360, crease-streak, four-on-the-floor, top-gun slam dunk. And the people, NYC’s people, came with the good stuff. No, the great stuff. A hymn for humanity. It was a thing to behold.

It was an historical thing to behold and then some. That day, and every day after. It was, it is, NYC, with all its warts and scars and bad stories from bad neighborhoods and bad asses, cranking it up night after night after night. Putting it back together. Smoothing the edges. Filling the holes, especially the ones in the chests of its grieving.

NYC had to show the rest of this spinning sphere how to get up, and clean up, and cauterize the wound. To stabilize, like a body invaded by a virus must. Go on, or die trying. Fighting. Fighting for survival, the kind of survival no American metropolis has had to struggle for since the Civil War.

Economic downturn, disasters on Wall Street and the fear of the wandering tourist aside, NYC had a hell of a winter and spring and summer. I was there for a chunk of it. Collecting traffic tickets, getting into fierce debates, closing bars and experiencing friends and colleagues as they created great theater and music and sports, and getting infused like before.

Only for many of us who can’t remember a deviation from the skyline, it is different now. Not because we choose to ignore it or gloss it over with a New Year’s sheen or some summer festival charm, but because part of survival is merely living. Part of the victory of death is a new life, a resurrection, because in a world where safety is a luxury beyond all of our pocket books, drowning out the sorrow by facing the dawn is its cure.

NYC is the greatest city in the world. It is the greatest city in the history of civilization. Not because it’s big and loud and rich and broke and mean and lovable and dirty and magnificent and peaceful and teetering on the edge of sanity all at the same time, but because its streets are filled with survivors.

Fighting. Fighting.

Living.

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The Doomed Economy

Aquarian Weekly 8/7/02 REALITY CHECK

ALL TOGETHER NOW…RECESSION!!

Freshly returned from our nation’s capitol where it was far easier to locate a urine-free bus than it was to get someone to say the word recession out loud. Sure, they’ll mumble it in the pubs or back-office restrooms or cheap apartment elevators. Cabbies will mention it, or maybe someone on the radio might use it in an ad campaign, but no one culling a check in the political realm dare utter the word, least of all Republicans, who are so frightened about losing the House right now it is unnervingly palpable.

Reportedly, House leader, Dick Armey spent nearly 72 hours locked in his office with several key members of the Security and Exchange Commission struggling to produce contrary evidence to growing rumors that every major accounting firm bankrolling current Republican campaigns has a 50% crook rate. The three-day summit allegedly produced over 300 names of corporate attorneys currently under indictment for some kind of fraud.

Surprisingly, Democrat trepidations far outweigh GOP concerns. Scheduled speeches by Al Gore has rendered the party dumbfounded on how to stop this maniac from creeping from the 2000 wreckage to somehow claim defacto victory again and begin to surge the electorate back into the notion that somehow a reversal of fate means a reversal of fortune. No Dem annalist worth a damn wants Gore screwing up this free ride to election bliss when the bottom has fallen out of the Bush honeymoon.

No one wants to admit that there is a massive pink elephant sitting on the White House lawn. Yet there it is. And it is a veracious beast willing to stomp and pillage for any kind of recognition. We shall call the elephant Recession.

Actually “fear” may not be the right word to describe the atmosphere in Washington D.C. these days. The overall mood is best described with the phrase “grave doom”. And it is an Edgar Allen Poe type of doom, with ravens and corpses and women in black veils, a cocaine nightmare worthy of 19th century gothic horror. Painful whispers abound that the evil black cat is out of the bag and the big business lawyers hold all the cards and the president is some kind of cheap, knock-off of dear old dad and the crippled American dollar will be the death knell for this one-term hell.

Grave doom.

Believe me when I report that there is not a person within a ten mile radius of Capitol Hill with an ounce of responsibility willing to face anything involving the corporate lunacy that comes pouring in daily. It is a city in suspended animation. Not even the papers report anything worthy any longer. The Washington Post has been neutered by international wireless dealerships and Sam Donaldson is whipping up support for a major lawsuit against ABC News.

The emergence of something called the Corporate Fraud Task Force raised some eyebrows, but they mostly belonged to the Homeland Security dissenters who choose to view this latest government spend spree as tantamount to placing the odd band-aid on a gaping wound. Two days before the announcement a crazed executive at AOL/ Time Warner began leaking news that the partnership was bankrupt.

Meanwhile the unemployment rate is soaring, the stock market is farcical at best and the national debt continues to escalate by the millisecond. No one wants to admit that there is a massive pink elephant sitting on the White House lawn. Yet there it is. And it is a veracious beast willing to stomp and pillage for any kind of recognition.

We shall call the elephant Recession, because that is what you call it when the above-mentioned areas of economic pertinence begin to waver like a weakly constructed shack in the wind. And the elephant is a fitting metaphor for what the present Republican government has wrought on this economy.

Strike that. The federal government has very little to do with a weak and insecure economy. But that’s not what voters think, and in Washington, that is all that matters now. It is too close to Labor Day to believe that anything will change drastically enough to convince the populace that this present government has not crippled this country, nor will they have a clue how to fix it.

Forget comparing this abortion to the Clinton years when phony tech stocks and blathering foreign business men with a cadre of hookers and pound of grade A smack could earn an evening in the Lincoln bedroom with Bobby De Niro and Babs Streisand to help toast the best economy in the history of this republic. Yeah, that doesn’t count, because it was Newt Gingrich and the Republican congress of ’94 that saved the decade. Although that bullshit doesn’t hold water anymore, because we still have a Republican congress and another fucking Bush dingus on Pennsylvania Avenue and, guess what, junior? We have another recession.

Not to worry, because no one is calling it that. Not Allen Greenspan or Paul O’Neill. No way. Not them. The Secretary of Treasury makes an appearance on national television to report that all is well, while his colleagues in the administration call him names in an Alexandria weekly.

Last week, Bush’s economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey was seen twice trashing O’Neill on the campus of GW University. The hilarious series of outbursts bore the oft-quoted phrases “Lost in a sea of Pollyanna” and “Hasn’t been to Wall Street since 1989”. This prompted Glenn Hubbard, Bush’s big gun on the Council of Economic Advisers to call Newsweek with a statement on Lindsey they still refuse to run because “It borders on slander.”

The minute Congress passed the Corporate Responsibility bill, following a barrage of calls to the White House derisively commenting on Bush’s veiled attempt at a speech to bolster confidence in the trade market, Hubbard was seen stumbling out of a private men’s club in Logan Circle stammering something about having been cursed by a jade monkey.

To ward off the evil spirit of Herbert Hoover, the administration announced an economic forum to be hosted by the president in mid-August. Unfortunately the location will be Waco, Texas, a place that has enough unstable spirits to fill a Dickens novel twice over.

History is important to the large players inside the Beltway. This is why the panic strikes deep across party lines.

Aside from his rousing series of “evil doers” speeches in the wake of 9/11, Bush has had about as inauspicious first two years as his predecessor, who managed to swing wide the doors of the Republican Revolution. And no one in the party wants to even broach the way George Bush sr. ignored the signs of a sagging economy basking in the glory of his gaudy Desert Storm popularity numbers.

Just because the guys in the expensive suits refuse to address this wounded economy with the word recession, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. One thing that does exist is the very real possibility that whatever it’s called could effectively murder two Bush presidencies.

 

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Inside the Bush Administration

Aquarian Weekly 7/24/02 REALITY CHECK

BARE KNUCKLE JUNGLE

Hazy and buzzed, a pertinent GOP insider we like to call Georgetown continues to unload his guts about a variant of subjects to an equally soused columnist.

jc: So, correct me if I’m drifting here, but what you are saying is the Bush Administration, while not directly linked to any current corporate malfeasance, is suffering the political consequences purely by association.

GT: That would be correct.

jc: Constituency meltdown.

GT: Something like that.

jc: Who’s worried and how much?

GT: There have been discussions, certainly for Bush to get out there and say something. He’s treated this thing like the Middle East crisis, but this one hits too close to home. (NOTE: A few days later the president in fact did make a speech deriding the current climate of bad business, prompting critics and supporters to wonder how much of it was politically motivated and the approaching mid-term elections)

jc: What about Chaney and these crazy rumors about Arthur Anderson and the oil stuff?

GT: Listen, Chaney is untouchable right now. There are a lot of us who would go to bat for him over Bush. I think many conservatives in this town are having the same problems with Junior as they had with Senior. There is a survival chip in the Bush genes that rub the hardliners the wrong way.

The money flooded into defense since 9/11 is staggering. I cannot recall being here during a time, and this does not include Reagan mind you, but I cannot recall the type of major league funds for a war effort being juggled around the federal government like these.

jc: What about you? Where do you stand on Bush’s conservative record?

GT: I think I’ve mentioned the inordinate amount of funds wasted on this ambiguous Homeland Security thing. And I’m not sure the money spent on the military right now is founded. I believe…and again, you’re just asking me, right?

jc: Right.

GT: Well, the vouchers thing was a mess. And there seems to be cracks in the tax cut support on Capitol Hill right now. The money flooded into defense since 9/11 is staggering. I cannot recall being here during a time, and this does not include Reagan mind you, but I cannot recall the type of major league funds for a war effort being juggled around the federal government like these. And this incessant wrangling over disclosure. I have yet to see one of these cable news networks get a fucking story right when it goes down. And they want Rumsfeld to brief them on where operations in Afghanistan are? Sure, right.

jc: Is Rumsfeld still running this thing?

GT: Another dumb ass reporter heard from. I read that garbage you wrote about Rumsfeld being clinically insane and my somehow lauding it. That was bullshit journalism.

jc: You didn’t leave me that message about his wild-eyed performance on Meet The Press last spring?

GT: Out of context. I was referring to his grit in the face of ridiculous assertions that we are mired in Afghanistan. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This man has his finger in the dam. You think this thing is being orchestrated from Pennsylvania Avenue?

jc: It’s the CIA’s puppy now?

GT: Afghanistan or the whole thing?

jc: Afghanistan.

GT: Yes.

jc: And the whole thing?

GT: They’re too busy negotiating with the anti-Hussein factions in Irag.

jc: The White House is preoccupied with Iraq completely?

GT: The roll call is as follows. Write this down, because I’m not repeating it. One: the mid-term campaigns. They’re definitely worried about the Senate. Two: This bullshit with Worldcom finishing up quickly, and with very little discernable press. And by that I mean understandable by the American people. Remember, the frustration of selling Whitewater is that no one could figure out what the fuck it was all about. That’s why Starr went full force on Lewinsky, and…fuck it. I’m off the path. Finally, three is the goddamn stock market and four is Iraq.

jc: What about Israel?

GT: I can tell you that this government, as presently constituted, will not support a unilateral negotiation with the Palestinians while Arafat is in charge.

c: Word I get is he’s not in charge now.

GT: You answered your own question. The same people who managed 9/11 bankroll Hammas. They run the deal over there. We’ve known that for some time.

jc: What about all this money we have wrapped up in the Israeli Defense Force?

GT: Those people have to defend their nation.

jc: How much can you tell me about support for ousting Hussein.

GT: It’s big on our end. The Pentagon already had ten or twelve plans nixed and reworked. That’s not the issue.

jc: The surrounding Arab states have always been the issue. That’s why he’s still there in the first place. God, I am so tired of talking about this.

GT: Why did you bring it up?

jc: I need to know about the real deal. Do they plan on going through with a full-scale attack with troops and the whole bit or keep driving at a coup based on unrest.

GT: The latter. Half, no, more than half of the Iraqi populace is truly afraid of Hussein now. The intelligence we get daily is this maniac is willing to fry the whole desert for a whiz bang finish. I think I’ve told you before, the CIA has always been certain that if Hussein thought he was fucked, he would detonate everything he’s got.

jc: Which is…?

GT: The mother load, if our reports are somewhat in the ballpark. I don’t know anything for sure, and I know you’re taping this, so let’s just say it is not good.

jc: How much does Daschle want the presidency?

GT: Jesus, what a fucking suck-ass, dried out old liberal hump this guy is. He does not give a flying fuck about national security, the stock market plummeting, corporate distrust or anything but jacking up these talk shows to bash the cause. It’s fucking criminal. I’ll not answer another question about Tom Daschle. He’s a political dead man. I think you know I believe they’ll run Kerry up the flagpole and lose.

jc: What do you hear about Gore?

GT: Your boy’s going to petition.

jc: Petition?

GT: Al Gore, the sitting vice president for the administration that lorded over the best non-war economy in the history of this republic, who couldn’t even win his own state and went out in a whining blaze of shame by crying foul, is begging for a sniff. They call it taking the temperature of the party.

jc: He’s auditioning for the party?

GT: Just like Nixon in ’68.

jc: The parallels continue to be uncanny. So, he’s a dead man too?

GT: If I’m not mistaken, it was an open casket funeral two autumns ago.

jc: Are you guys retaining congressional power this November?

GT: Unless something dramatic happens with this economy by mid-September, then no. Of course Bush could pull out the violins and get everyone teary for a 9/11-anniversary tribute to America’s resolve. We can ride that into the sunset.

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Inside Georgetown

Aquarian Weekly 7/17/02 REALITY CHECK

A MID-SUMMER NIGHT’S STANDOFF

For the past six months I had not heard a peep from my infamous GOP insider, Georgetown, at least not in the usual sense; the occasional caustic message on my cell phone or a chance meeting at some function or other. This is odd, considering his repeated appearances in this column for nearly five years. Odder still, when considering that Washington has ostensibly turned into a Republican headquarters for the past two of them.

However his absence becomes clearer when viewed through a political lens. Georgetown is nothing if not a political monster, and since I’d left the New York headquarters of The Desk, my appearances at political or sporting events have waned considerably. And so my running into him or someone with access to him has lessened greatly. Georgetown had not heard of a fundraiser or a press conference he didn’t like, which is why he enjoyed a continued anonymity in this space, and a direct voice for his madness. I, in turn, have come to enjoy his wickedly honest and accurate assessment of national politics.

I’ve spent my free time mostly away from frontline politics lately, paining to finish a well-overdue manuscript for my next book. So I’d more or less assumed that Georgetown had little to no use for me or this column. Moreover, it has been tentative times in our nation’s capitol, what with the infinite “War Against Terrorism” and the crippling of Wall Street with these repeated corporate cover-ups. Especially damaging to a president who was bankrolled into office by big business interests and grotesque oil funding.

However, about three weeks ago I began receiving cryptic E-mails from someone with the title of GT through an anonymous Hot Mail account. The notes had Georgetown’s recognizably vitriolic tone, but with very little of the usual wit, one-line commentaries on past columns, much like the ones I receive from any rankled reader.

Chaney is in deep with Arthur Anderson. Bush has the stench of these oil bastards all over him. Christ, he has to start talking about this shit. It will cost us seats in the Senate and then you’ll see where his “compassionate conservatism” gets us.

Examples:

“You twisted hack, what is the point of dissecting the (Bush) administration’s Middle East policies when they do not exist?”

“You have little to know idea what kind of godless twits roam in the offices of Bob Kerry these days.”

“Time to come to grips with the fact that Worldcom is run by wild, fuck-crazy Arabs who wish to sink the U.S. economy from within.”

“You’ve got a better chance of making deadline under 600 words, than anyone has of hearing the identity of Deep Throat, least of all from that puny douchebag stoolie, John Dean.”

“This bullshit about the “Pledge” (of Allegiance) is beneath you, so why don’t you stick to speculating about gay rights in Bergen County.”

Cute, pointless, and highly provocative, I decided these almost daily barbs were Georgetown’s attempt at riling my attention, without fully coming out of hiding. I balked at mentioning this in my column until I had a beat on his methods, which unpredictably alter with the political wind these days. And I surely did not want this space to turn into some kind of running libel machine for the upcoming mid-term panics that rumble down the streets Washington around this time every four years.

And so it seemed right to track down the old boy in D.C. during our nation’s celebration of Independence. It had been a few years for me actually “working” inside the Beltway. That takes a different kind of breed, younger, hungrier, willing to be lied to incessantly, until all manner of faith is rendered impotent in its wake. It takes the guile and fortitude of a reporter with at least a modicum of optimism, of which I have traded for using the “F” word liberally.

But that is why this trek was so necessary, so vital to the continued vitality of this column. Truth has always been the mantra of Georgetown, and although he has incurred the wrath of many who already know he is selling them out, he blabs and barks and carves with the best of them.

Unable to reveal the methods in which I weed out sources, to protect their cover and keep the gravy train greased and fired up, suffice to say the double-vodka martini is a good place to start. So the following is the first of a two-part discussion that took place in a darkened booth in the back of Chadwick’s Pub somewhere along K Street in the part of our nation’s capitol that bares our friend’s name. It is a fine bar for a summit on mid-term madness and all things politico.

jc: I want you to know I missed deadline tracking you down.

GT: That’s the least of your problems. This is a bad time to be here. Didn’t you hear; the Arabs are going to fire missiles at the Capitol building from Arlington Cemetery during the fireworks?

jc: Is this directly from Tom Ridge?

GT: Yes, the Grand Poobah of Homeland Defense. We call him Chicken Little Junior down here. He’s sucking millions of taxpayer dollars foraging out angry love letters from Muslim law students and leaking germ warfare memos to the State Department on the hour.

jc: Enough fucking around, where have you been?

GT: Fucking around? You need a beating after that “Pledge of Allegiance” mess I see is running this week. Was that bit of insurrection planned for the holiday?

jc: Please. You’re and atheist.

GT: Yeah, I loved that crap about taking God off of money. You miss the point entirely. God is money.

jc: Let’s get back to your absence from my answering machine. Is it the doomed economy under this Republican “big business” government we’ve got going on down here?

GT: You see this is why the press has no fucking idea what is going on. Perception is king, and I know that, but the question will be over the next two months does this administration know how cozy it is with these companies that keep cooking the figures and floating belly up on the shores of the Potomac. Chaney is in deep with Arthur Anderson. Bush has the stench of these oil bastards all over him. Christ, he has to start talking about this shit. It will cost us seats in the Senate and then you’ll see where his “compassionate conservatism” gets us.

jc: How deep in is this Worldcom fiasco? Has it reached Enron proportions politically?

GT: It doesn’t matter. The more these trials drag on, and new miscreants are dragged out to testify, the more the public has the perception that everyone, not just the politicians; everyone is bought and sold by these massive corporations.

jc: Guilt by association?

GT: The fattest hens always come home to roost.

Next Week: Bare Knuckle Jungle

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God & The Pledge of Allegiance

Aquarian Weekly 7/3/02 REALITY CHECK

COURTS A-GO-GO

This was banner week for controversial court decisions. So let’s cut through the piles of crap and get to the brutal truth. The mandatory reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.

This is the ruling of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and with respect to those who disagree, I must concur.

The main crux of the decision focused on the monotheistic phrase “one nation under God”. For a myriad of reasons, many will find the rejection of God in anything outrageous, yet, once again, I must agree with the ruling.

This has nothing to do with political correctness. Anyone familiar with my work would never mistake it for anything approaching polite. It has everything to do with the reference to God.

God should not be mentioned in anything to do with the politics of humanity, its governments, its currency, its anthems, or especially the aggressive, violent behavior resulting from their existence. God is causing enough troubles among the radical loons, who are busy ramming airliners into office buildings.

A fairer argument against this ruling might cite the “one lone nut” theory, which I have espoused when soccer moms try and shut down the film or music industry because they’re too lazy to pay attention to the information seeping into their kid’s brain.

God should not be mentioned in anything to do with the politics of humanity, its governments, its currency, its anthems, or especially the aggressive, violent behavior resulting from their existence.

Ironically, much like the PMRC furor of the mid-80s’, one voice began this “pledge” hubbub. Michael Newdow, a Sacramento physician, used his daughter as a political football to promote atheism. In other words, he, and his layers, manipulated the court system to attack religious bullies, while he himself was, you guessed it, an anti-religious bully.

Newdow was “offended” by his nation being under any deity. His argument is specious. It is not his nation. It is not God’s nation. A nation, by definition, is “a large body of people possessing its own territory ruled under a unified government.” There is nothing in there about an omnipotent patriarch or any whining dipshits from Cali.

And, by the way, I’m not certain this is a unified government, or that there is “liberty and justice for all”. But let’s not quibble at this juncture. There’s a great deal to cover this week, so I shan’t wander.

The fact is a fellow by the name of Francis Bellamy plagiarized the Pledge of Allegiance. It was ripped off word for word from a socialist mantra. He put it together to reflect his cousin, Edward Bellamy’s political views. Bellamy, author of “Looking Backward” and other wildly silly utopian novels, introduced his cousin to the mindless oath to state above and beyond individual freedoms and personal choices of import, like, say, religion.

This is why congress decided to jam God in there during the height of the Cold War and the rabid idiocy of the Red Scare. It was far too close to the Russian creed, and certainly no God fearing nation could have a similar chant to that of a Godless horde.

Stay with me kids; the parade of morons along this long line of brainwashing garbage never seems to end.

Meanwhile, over at the Supreme Court, a ruling came down approving random drug tests for any public high school students seeking extracurricular activities. The defense of the ruling states that a schools’ interest in ridding their campuses of drugs outweighs an individual’s right to privacy.

This is beyond insane.

Now, not familiar with the modes of mental illness nor the state one has to be in usurp even insanity, there really isn’t a level of absurd reasoning that combines any part of the Constitution’s 4th Amendment with the idea that any institution, state run or private, can arbitrarily force anyone to be tested for anything just so they can play the Tuba or audition for the “H.M.S. Pinafore”.

And, once again, I implore those who pain over this high-level malarkey; any kid on drugs isn’t interested in hanging around for five seconds of extra anything near the school. It’s tough enough getting these youngsters to attend the appointed time. They would be better served testing those not interested in extracurricular activities.

Here’s the deal with this sack of nonsense. Because everyone went crazy-go-nuts over steroid use in high school football a few years back, the Supreme Court attempted to “save the children’ by instituting “random drug testing” for sports. Now, it seems, junior won’t be making the Chess Club without supplying a viable urine sample.

Perhaps now someone might understand why I froth at the mouth every time these legal jerk-offs try and censor anything to “save the children’. One minute they’re putting stickers on albums and leaning on Hollywood, the next they’re burning books at the 4th of July cookout.

This latest mess began when a court ruled against a former Oklahoma high school honor student, Lindsay Earls, who innocently competed on an academic quiz team and sang in the choir.

I propose we randomly test these mutants who continue to misrepresent American history as some kind of destined glory for rich white folk and pass it off as curriculum.

And I propose that calculus is better digested on heavy hallucinogenics.

And finally, this whole School Voucher thing in Cleveland cannot be anymore aggravating. I don’t want to fund anyone anywhere receiving a “finer” education, unless I am asked to approve the curriculum and set the standards for attendance and grading.

I also would like special parking privileges as a member of a school board. These people obviously do nothing, and I can get into that.

I have a voucher that says that the Catholic and public school systems failed me in ways that are best understood only when drawn out in several volumes with detailed graphics and charts.

And if televised evidence of a Cleveland Browns football game is any indication of the city’s level of intellect, they shouldn’t waste a dime on hall monitors.

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What Did Bush Know Before 9/11?

Aquarian Weekly 6/5/02 REALITY CHECK

THE BLAME GAME

Those who wish to blame the current administration for the abysmally horrid defense of this country’s borders on 9/11 are free to do so.

Go ahead. It’s fun.

You have permission from all of us here at The Desk.

Blame away.

It will not be taken as unpatriotic, nor will it be putting anyone or anything at risk during times and war and blah, blah blah, mucho bullshito! On the contrary, it’s the essence of patriotism. The federal government failed us on 9/11. Its primary purpose is to protect our borders. The leader of this government happens to be the president. The president happens to be George W. Bush. The Electoral College decided that two Novembers ago. The Supreme Court upheld it. I defended its decision. Therefore I defend the right of the people of this republic to blame its penultimate leader for the death of its citizens and destruction of its property during a full-scale terrorist attack.

The buck stops here.”

Harry Truman said that. It was not too long after he agreed to have this country take responsibility for massacring hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese to save hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives. Sound confusing? It is. This president thing is not an easy gig. In one of his final public appearances Herbert Hoover was asked about the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and blurted, “Why me?” He died with the stigma of failure and Hoover was in office for eight months when the crud hit the fan. By 9/11, Bush was in charge for nine months.

You see where I’m going here?

All you need to know about Bush’s conscience is that he refuses to allow an investigation on what went down on 9/11. And if he keeps up this firewall, he will be the first president to do so.

Captain Shoe-In wanted to be president. He sure as hell paid for it. So he must take the shit storm like a man and quit hiding behind Papa Chaney, flag-waving, 21-gun salutes and the quote of the week regarding “The Evildoers”.

All you need to know about Bush’s conscience is that he refuses to allow an investigation on what went down on 9/11. And if he keeps up this firewall, he will be the first president to do so.

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, it took all of nine or so days to get an investigation up and running. It was corrupt, misguided and discovered nothing, but FDR stamped it and we went about our business whupping Nazi’s and the doomed Empire of Japan.

Less than a week after the JFK assassination, there needed to be an investigation. You know, with all the silly commie rumors and Castro backlash. So LBJ gave it the go ahead and now we have volumes of the wonderfully crafted slice of fiction called the Warren Commission.

Even Richard Milhouse Nixon, having already turned his administration into a mockery of governance gone terribly awry, agreed to an investigation.

Oh, now I see, the buck stopped THERE.

So, let’s review:

A. Federal Government fucked up real bad. B. People minding the store have to answer for it. C. What took so long?

Yes, the President of the United States knew all about the attack. Members of congress knew all about the attack. And although it is getting painfully obvious that Tom Daschle is already running for president by making this belated mania a political demon hunt, the same way republicans grabbed the opportunity to chase Bill Clinton all over the place to advance their agenda and careers, he knew all about it too.

They all knew. Who are they kidding? The FBI knew, the CIA, the Pentagon, and those dark sorts on the payroll who are paid good money to funnel information on the “undesirables” and “suspicious”. These are multi-billion dollar a year organizations whose only purpose for existing is paranoia.

Thousands of terrorist and lone wolf plots were thwarted in the final weeks of the last century; the whole Y2K end-of-the-world, wrath-of-God crap. Remember that? Yes, our boys were all over those people, because the enemies’ list has grown leaps and bounds since the end of the Cold War.

And just as I wrote the day after the towers fell in this very space, there was ample warning in Africa and the on the high seas and through E-mail and wire tapping and late night cocktails with King Abdullah What’s-his-Name. For over a decade of Desert Storm fallout, those paid to know were all-but sure that some major target on the East coast was going to be hit.

But professional paranoia was apparently not enough.

Two weeks prior to the attacks I watched about three-quarters of a documentary on PBS trashing American airport and airline security systems. How people with no tickets or ID were prancing around waving pistols and passing high-grade heroin through customs. It was laughable.

Hey, I laughed.

And now that someone, whether it’s a hungry journalist or a politician trying to make the grade, we have a right to know who dropped the ball.

Big money people with big gripes had it in for the United States for some time. Bush Sr’s ridiculously irresponsible war on Iraq 12 years ago, and the resulting botched foreign policy mess conducted by the Minister of Fun during the roaring 90s’ escalated it all.

So the real blame is our collective ignorance and ego as a nation, citizens and public officials. We’ve been in the line of fire for years, whistling past the graveyard.

One more thing to chew:

I defy anyone to recall Al Gore and George Bush mentioning a possible terrorist hit on this country during over a year of campaigning for the job.

Asleep at the wheel, chief.

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The Ani DiFranco Discussion

Aquarian Weekly 5/22/02 REALITY CHECK

THREE DIMENSIONAL GIRL A Discussion with Ani DiFranco Part II (Part I)

i remember the first time i saw someone lying on the cold street i thought: i can’t just walk past here this can’t just be true but i learned by example to just keep moving my feet it’s amazing the things that we all learn to do -subdivision

jc: I’d like to discuss the song, “Subdivision” which begins with the line: “White people are so scared of black people.” That speaks to me as a writer. Hit them with something strong in the lead, and once you get their attention, then you can start spinning your philosophy. Is that where you were going there?

ad: Well, yeah, but that’s not usually my thing. I don’t usually lead that way. That was different for me as a writer, but I wanted to get people’s attention because I feel the great liberation from segregation is a lie. We’re still living in a segregated society. It’s not on the books, but defacto economic segregation is as affective, or more so, than any signs that you could put up over a restroom. And therein lies the very complex, radical systematic criticism. To look at a lie like “separate but equal” and say, well, okay, we attacked the “separate” part, but that wasn’t the problem. Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights leaders were unable to really approach the “equal” thing. There’s no fucking way with the amount of power involved.

jc: So just let us have the legal thing.

ad: Yeah, so attacking it on the separate side was about all they could swing at the time, and bless their hearts for giving us that much, but now we need to keep the pressure on, and keep looking at things like our evacuated cities, and applying words like “racism” to it. You know, “Where did all the white people go?” And how can you, in good conscience, set up a tax structure where the suburban tax bases are not one with the city. So the suburban schools are rich and full of computers and the city schools don’t have pencils.

jc: It’s a class system. Human beings sectionalize themselves economically. Well, human beings? I’ve written it time and again; women are not really responsible for these atrocities. Although I’ve found that as a writer you’re empowered not in the sense of “Take a look at me I’m a woman”, but “Take a look at me I’m a human.”

ad: It’s interesting, because since I started writing little poems my identity as a woman has informed my writing. Everything from how I perceive the world to the experiences I have, to the way I play the guitar; somewhat less linear. I hear music in circles and I feel power dynamics amongst people only as a woman can, and yet, like you say, I am writing about being a human and trying to re-connect us across gender lines, as we have been socialized to not do. But speaking to those gender dynamics has brought me so much defensive reaction over the years, so many of the “She’s an angry, militant, man-hater.”

jc: Well, of course. That’s how you deal with the suppressed, by defining those who speak their mind as pissed and subversive.

ad: Yeah, it’s interesting to me, that sort of knee-jerk reaction. I have seen over the years the media dictate to my audience: “This is chick music for the sea of screaming Grrrls.” And then I get up on stage and say, “No. They were wrong about us.” First of all, please stop screaming, because it will be much better for our dialogue. Second of all, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m not a human and this is not about us and them. This is not a special interest group that I am speaking to or from. It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize. Where men’s experience is universal a women’s experience is…threatening. (laughs)

jc: (laughs) But you’re still speaking as a woman. You can’t separate it completely. ad: Absolutely. And consciously doing so. Admittedly doing so. I’m not going to pretend for you that my life is like that of a man’s, not even for the purposes of making nice-nice music.

jc: What are your overall thoughts about what happened on 9/11?

ad: Well, I was mid-town, so for me it was all the smoke at the end of the avenues and the exodus uptown and the ash-covered people. But one of the exquisite effects of that day for me was the immediate recognition; first in the city and then in the whole country, of us as one people. When that first building fell there was color blindness in that blinding flash of light that I found so beautiful. There were beautiful things that came of the ugliness, and that I think can still come; the more that we keep the pressure on, and keep talking about it and keep counter-acting the propaganda, the fear.

It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize. Where men’s experience is universal a women’s experience is…threatening.

jc: I still call it the “Gaping Wound on Wall Street”, because there’s a reason why those buildings were hit.

ad: It’s poetry in motion. And the genius to make that happen and the incredible arrogance and incompetence it reveals. It was obvious what the plot was a few years earlier. In that sense it should have been no surprise to any of us that they finally pulled it off. And now its time to turn our eyes towards our own government and not outward, because it’s the only way we can save ourselves, because it was obvious from that example that there is no amount “human intelligence” that could save us from such acts. It’s only true justice and global justice that are going to prevent that kind of rage and violence from activating populations of people. Of course, we’re talking about some crazy violent motherfuckers.

jc: But they don’t just become crazy out of nowhere.

ad: Yeah, and it takes a lot of people who are very pissed off and very poor and have been living among violence and oppression at the hands of this country for way to long to back those guys up. I was supposed to be flying in that morning actually, but I drove in the night before for whatever reason.

jc: Karmic.

ad: You know, there’s incredible possibility in those events that make us look at the brevity of our lives, at the mortality of ourselves, of the consecutiveness between us. And if we can take the energy that exploded in the city that day of oneness, and we apply it globally, the realization of it…

So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do; to let the smoke of that awareness billow forth, not the fear, not the us and them that George W. is trying promote.

jc: Or any president in his situation would probably have to promote, because he’s representing this huge conglomerate of countless years of failed expectations abroad to try to defend a country that should have been defended properly in the first place.

ad: Well, I guess, I don’t know if Gore was sitting in the office he was voted into I don’t know how different it would be.

jc: No different. I’m anti-Gore myself, not that I’m pro-Bush, but I never got over the PMRC thing.

ad: (laughs) Again, without systematic change we have no third party, without a third party we have one party. Not two, but one, somehow.

jc: (clapping) Bravo.

For a complete unedited transcript of the conversartion: Ani Dialogue

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Ani DiFranco Speaks With James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 5/15/02 REALITY CHECK

TALKIN’ REVOLUTION BLUES
A Discussion with Ani DiFranco Part I

I consider Ani Difranco a fellow soldier in these ridiculous, sometimes humored, but always-rewarding sieges on the elusively hidden truths of our silly human collective. Since the night this magazine sent me to an old theater in Portchester, NY to watch her perform nearly seven years ago, I’ve been a fan. That night she spoke to me like few other artists have. I’ve seen her play a half-dozen times since, and each one brings a new experience, always effusive and brutally honest.

Over 12 years and 15 records, her biting lyrics usually reflected my own well-crafted cynicism of a politically ambiguous world bloated with lethal doses of sweet propaganda primed to reduce us to merrily marching mindless hordes. But along with being a kindred spirit, DiFranco’s independence in the manipulative landscape of creative distribution has been a great inspiration for a young author butting heads with publishing icons. More than once I’d used her name as less noun than verb, as in: “These fuckers keep this shit up and I’m going to Ani this book”; to which I did, happily.

So when we met on a chilly, overcast spring day in the industrial pall of Poughkeepsie, NY, in the bowels of the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, set on the shores of New York’s famous river of simpler times when the folk singer might earn a cup of java from a passing stranger for spinning yarns of heartbreak, Ms. DiFranco and myself had ourselves a chat. Two admitted lunatics dissecting the greater good.

on a morning beatific in its indian summer breeze on the day that america fell to its knees after strutting around for a century without saying thank you or please – 9/11 poem

james campion: This stanza of the poem you performed so movingly at Carnegie Hall a few weeks ago hits home for me, because it succinctly projects what I’ve been writing about for years concerning the U.S. presence in the Middle East and our inability to fully understand the cultural, racial and religious issues that are prevalent there.

ani difranco: Except to exacerbate them. (laughs) Well…yeah. I really don’t have a mind for the hyper details of foreign policy, or of what the stupid white men are doing, but I feel compelled to express things like the United States exploitation of not just the Middle East, but also the “Third World”. Our capitalist selfishness in terms of using the world’s resources and labor and just manipulating weaker countries for strategic and economic reasons. That’s a very obvious and basic thing to say, but somehow I feel the need to keep saying it.

jc: You refer to yourself as a folksinger, which I find enlightening, because throughout the centuries folksingers or minstrels used music to comment on social mores or social wrongs of the time. So, as a folksinger, do you feel you can tap into those same things and not be sitting on CNN pointing the literal finger?

ad: (chuckles) Well, CNN would probably be an impossible place to tap into anything real since all of the information is completely co-opted and controlled by corporate forces. So, yeah, it is a much better venue to pick up a guitar and walk into a bar and talk to people one on one. I love my job; traveling and making art in very common, open spaces and feeling totally free to talk about political or social issues. Music is a very effective way to communicate and inspire.

I think that every room is a perfect venue for political change, whether it’s a theater with a stage in it or a whether it’s a classroom or whether its the halls of justice. I’ve been engaged in conversations recently where people ask me, “What do you think is more important? What’s more effective? What’s more legitimate statement: To make radical art or to try and get in the system?” And for me it’s Yes! Yes! All of it. Whatever you’re fucking good at.

I used to dance; I went to art school for years. I love to paint. But there was something about music and the inclusion of words, the literal communication through words that I really felt was my most effective way to make change, to inspire people, to become myself. But for somebody else it might be raising your kid to be a respectful, loving, thoughtful questioning person. There’s infinite numbers of ways we can change the world.

jc: Yes, but do you believe there is still a chance for grass roots movements?

ad: Ah! It’s happening as we speak. You know it. It’s all around us. I feel a new sense of optimism out there. We may even be surfacing from the 80s’, (chuckles) culturally speaking. Of course I have a bit of a slanted perspective from standing at my microphone, in terms of what cross section of young folks I encounter, but I am impressed and hopeful with the political will of the young people now. They recognize that they were born into…

jc: A fixed game.

ad: Yeah, an homogenized culture, and wanting to dissect that. We were probably born just early enough to know a time when you could actually buy a record at the local record store.

jc: You’re taking me back.

ad: Yeah, (laughing) I think that young people are beginning to question that sort of corporate super structure. You know, all of the protests in New York and Seattle and Prague. I find those all very inspiring.

jc: So, you’re optimistic.

ad: I am…optimistic.

jc: You’ve mentioned Ralph Nader at several of your shows these past couple of years. I voted for Ralph the first time around. I vote for people with no chance. I voted for John Anderson in 1980 and I’ve had high hopes for a third party candidate to arise for a long time. Do you have any confidence that politics is really any way to get to the crux of any issue?

ad: Absolutely, now more than ever. I think that is of primary importance. I was ten years old in 1980, so by the time I was coming to any kind of adult consciousness the political system was a corrupt, capitalist club of elite corporate CEO’s. The whole Reaganomics, and the whole Reagan/Bush regime we are still living under, and I think young people completely divested themselves from their government. There was such a disconnection.

jc: There’s a deep seated cynicism. I know. I’m there.

ad: Well, the cynicism is well founded. We’ve had our citizenship stolen and consumerism foisted upon us, and at this point, ironically enough, there is a reinvestment in the belief in government, a reinvestment of energy and involvement, and that is the only thing that can recreate or salvage our “democracy”. I just don’t see a lot of young people getting involved in party politics, trying to infuse themselves into the system if there is nobody to vote for. So, not only do we have to get out and vote; we have to get out and run.

I’ve been engaged in conversations recently where people ask me, “What do you think is more important? What’s more effective? What’s more legitimate statement: To make radical art or to try and get in the system?” And for me it’s Yes! Yes! All of it. Whatever you’re fucking good at.

I have a friend I was just talking to last night who spent the last week in D.C. meeting with all these representatives and senators about this Yukka Mountain in Nevada. They’ve already spent four billion dollars on nuclear waste all over the country, and they have this plan where they want to ship it all to Nevada and dump it in an Indian Reservation.

jc: (sarcastically) That’ll work.

ad: Yeah, and it’ll never leak and it’ll be fine. No problems. So, here is my friend Susan attending meeting after meeting after meeting with all these senators, and she’s trying so hard to get these people to vote “no”. And when I spoke to her last week she was saying, (dreary tone) “Okay, I’m going to D.C. and I’m fixin’ to get really disillusioned and I’ll probably come back as a car bomber…”

jc: (laughs) Into the mouth of the beast.

ad: (excited) But after days and days of meetings, she called last night and it was so great to talk to her because she was re-inspired at the possibility of one person to make a difference. These senators just vote on what their aids say they should vote on. You know how it is. But she felt that her presence really had effectiveness that week.

If people had any idea how much power they have, shit could really change. If we just started exercising it. There’s some kind of African proverb that says; “If you don’t think one person can make a difference, spend a night in a room with a mosquito.” So, yeah, I am longing for an inspiration of progressive young people to change the system, and really get inside the system, not just working from without.

jc: When you write in your songs and speak at some of your shows; it is from a humanist standpoint, politically. You have this artistic individualism about you. So how did you react to the whole patriotic fervency that we just passed through? Not to demean why people lean on the group dynamic, but sometimes individual thought can be sucked out by this conglomerate – “Unless you’re with us you’re against us” mentality that happens when a nation is wounded. Did you feel at all ostracized from the vox populi?

ad: Well, that’s nothing new. The day I stop feeling that way I’ll have to start questioning myself. (laughs) But yeah, it’s just so sickeningly sad the way calculated propaganda and these huge media outlets could twist the idea of patriotism. They’ve done it forever. Completely inverting it. Go back to McCarthyism and the House Committee on Un-American Activities? When it is the most American activity of all to express yourself, to fight the government when it’s wrong. Democracy is about, “If you don’t like your government, change it. If you can’t change it have a fucking revolution.” They wrote it right in the constitution.

jc: Ready your muskets I always say.

ad: (laughs) Yeah! There’s some quote, I wish I could remember which Founding Father said it.

jc: Jefferson’s “Let’s have a revolution every ten years.”

ad: Oh, I don’t know, that’s a good one.

jc: I’m paraphrasing, but he did say it.

ad: You see? There is always this, “hear what you want to hear – see what you want to see”. They can twist things like the constitution or the Bible into any kind of oppressive tool.

jc: But isn’t the Bible an oppressive tool?

ad: It depends on how you read it; same as any document. They are just tools to be used, they can be used against us as well as for us, but there are certainly many positive messages in the Bible. I think Jesus…

jc: Ah, love and forgiveness.

ad: Sure, I think reading any document literally, especially something like the Bible, which is all metaphor, is so misguided. I’m not really interested in Jesus as a “walking on water” kind of guy, but as a revolutionary, as a guy who was trying to free the slaves, fuckin’ A. There it is right in the Bible: “Slaves bad.” (laughs) “Love your brother!”

jc: They took care of that guy.

ad: But there was some quote I read somewhere recently, it might have been from Jefferson, that “to not criticize your government, especially in times of war, when your government is perpetrating violence on another people, to not be critical is an act of treason.”

jc: I think it might have been John Adams. Those guys were all maniacs. If you read about the Founding Fathers, and get outside of the textbooks, they were downright radical. When you discuss McCarthyism it was in the 1950’s, not the 1850’s. And that gets back to the original question about your art, because I believe the only true voice left is through free expression. Art may be the only thing not annexed in a fluent dialogue between people and ideas, but every once and awhile when someone gets close to the bone, so to speak, they try to manipulate their words or tear pieces of them away like a Jesus or a Gandhi.

ad: Right on.

Next Week: Part II

For a complete unedited transcript of the conversartion: Ani Dialogue

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