The Bill For Rebuilding Iraq

Aquarian Weekly 2/26/03 REALITY CHECK

THE BILL FOR REBUILDING IRAQ The Small Details of The Bush War

WARNING: The following numbers are not official, for no government would dare divulge dumping billions of tax dollars to restructure areas of the world it pummeled into granite powder.

Our series on the pending military action in Iraq continues this week with a breakdown of the inevitable rebuilding of the country we’ll be bombing into near oblivion in a few weeks. A team of tireless accountants – excluding my accountant, who was excused to allow for the constant 24 hour watch which effectively keeps me from financial self-destruction, and my father, who after nearly 40 years of this shit has taken on the monumental feat of willing NC State into the NCAA tournament – joined our War Room to estimate the taxpayer investment in razing and then reconstructing a nation halfway across the globe.

Make no mistake; this fiasco will not be lengthy nor will it be anything approaching competitive. The Iraqi army is weaker than it was 12 years ago, and that wasn’t exactly a fighting machine. Even with troops spread out all over Europe and Asia and other points Middle East, the US Army will obliterate the Iraqi infrastructure within a month, tops. And when those left are finished surrendering to CNN camera crews, the bill will come due.

This latest and greatest standoff with Iraq will also not be cheap, but it’s too late to back down financially or politically. The cost of ramping up this sucker has already rivaled the first six bombings of Baghdad alone.

Okay, now raise your hands if you know the extent of US tax dollars funneled into the rebuilding of Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo or Afghanistan in the past decade. If your hands are still down, use them to hang on to your wallet.

We’ll start with Somalia, because in terms of rebuilding, it was a drop in the bucket at $1 billion of US military and humanitarian funds spent between in 1993 and ’94. But later in ’96, the World Bank estimated the total cost of cleaning up the Clinton Administration’s other charitable fascination with Bosnia at $5.1 billion over four years. However, the US costs alone reached that number after the first three years culminating in a grand total of $30 billion for the complete economic reconstruction of the Balkans. This included our funds to rebuild Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania at $2.2 billion.

The numbers on piecing together what was left of Kosovo are a little hazier, but the more concrete breakdown of war costs make up for that. According to a June, 1999 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments analyst report in Rueters, the US coughed up $3 billion to take down Slobodan Milosevic amid the fumes of what was once Yugoslavia. This incorporated $1 million cruise missiles, 300 grand worth of tank-busting munitions and the occasional laser-guided bombs running $100,000 apiece. While the rest of Europe picked up the tip, our 1,000 aircraft, including 24 Apache attack helicopters, 18 multiple launch rocket system artillery pieces and some 5,500 supporting Army troops rounded out the grace-saving gig. And when you get to the cost of hanging around and making sure the deal sticks, the US spend up to $3.5 billion the first year to deploy peacekeepers.

Now for what continues to be an ad hoc covert operation in Afghanistan, going on its second year of spying, torture and all around merriment, according to a BBC report one year ago, the cost of rebuilding a country that was worth about 40 cents of infrastructure when we began gutting it is $297 million a year.

Note that our research does not go back to the tons of cashed dumped into Desert Storm 12 years ago, because of cost-of-living curves and vacillating inflation numbers, but suffice to say that wasn’t cheap.

This latest and greatest standoff with Iraq will also not be cheap, but it’s too late to back down financially or politically. The cost of ramping up this sucker has already rivaled the first six bombings of Baghdad alone. And unlike the Gulf War, this will be a full-scale invasion to unseat the current government, which means a complete dedication to rebuilding the damages, defending the next regime and keeping overall peace in a region our current government feels will start to be cleansed by this maneuver.

Our dollar share in this starts at $15 billion a year, while also risking the lives of thousands of US troops defending a reported coalition government that includes Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.

Whether this war protects our oil interests, bolsters Israel’s defense or puts the scare into terrorists remains to be seen. What is known is the tremendous financial burden it will put on the American taxpayer, the majority of which want little to nothing to do with it. To a nation struggling through an economic quagmire, this will either be crippling or productive. Again, a hard gig to predict, but one that is all but inevitable save Saddam Hussein’s head appearing on a platter at the UN anytime soon.

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War Propaganda 101

Aquarian Weekly 2/19/03 REALITY CHECK

PROPAGANDA 101 A Seminar in Wartime Follies

The clear-headed faithful crammed into a miniscule conference room not far from the Reality Check New & Information Desk headquarters at Fort Vernon this week for a special war-room conclave. Drinks flowed, punches were thrown and the minutes revealed serious headway, the results of which will be presented in this space throughout the length of this fifth or sixth chapter of the War on Iraq.

The names and affiliations of those hearty souls are not as important as their findings, but suffice to say they have forced this reporter to face 12 years of failed Desert Storm demons better left in the pages of “Fear No Art”. And to that little puissant going by the anonymous moniker of Randak, who has pummeled its author with furious e-mails accusing me for two months of “shirking your responsibility to rouse a rabble and admit the president is a puppet of the Pentagon”, I say crank up the engines, I’m back in the game!

Now most of the evidence culled from our two-day orgy of debate and rancor suggests a full-scale bulldozer of War Propaganda finally reaching saturation. Midway through the summit, WCBS News led its telecast with nearly eight uninterrupted minutes of “High Alert” lunacy from Times Square and Newark Airport. Munitions dogs sniffing out bus compartments and a jabbering idiot with piano wire in his carry-on being stripped searched by 40 state cops.

Am I saying that a few caffeine addicts holed up in a mountain barn somewhere in Jersey has concluded that the US Military is force feeding a pack of media lies to the American people to send the lukewarm into a rabid angst frenzy by dragging the popular African-American war hero into the roll of carnival barker and fashioned a bogus tape of a dead terrorist?

The panic was palpable. On FOX NEWS, anchormen with serious scowls kicked it to nattily attired cub reporters introducing frightful video of tanks backing into malls in downtown DC and uncovering blueprints to build a bubble car to truck Dick Chaney to his weekly heart transplant.

High Alert? You mean to tell me that unless the CIA gets an anonymous tip its blasé fare?

Jesus, wait! Shhhh. There’s another tape of Osama bin Laden speaking from the grave. It’s not video, and it’s raspy, almost unintelligible and, most importantly, its in fucking Arabic! But government experts confirm it might, it could, it IS most probably him! He is saying something about infidels and the Devil West and all those other things he says and has said for a decade and something about…Hold it! He mentioned Iraq! Now MSNBC is running a controlled Hate Poll, which has reached 98% with a bullet. The talking head says our enemy lives and has a hard-on for Saddam and the bombs could not start falling soon enough!

It was about then when one of the recently enlightened among us processed that it had been exactly two weeks to the day approval numbers on the Bush Crusade had dipped to new lows and nearly 70% of Americans were more than skeptical that whatever clusterfuck appeared as a military victory in Afghanistan would not make mincemeat out of this latest piss fight with Iraq.

Interestingly, it was one week to the day that Colin Powel walked into the UN with his woe-begotten slide show causing gas prices to spike and what is left of the Stock Market to sink sickly into oblivion. Many argued that the one man with soaring poll numbers had kept the Texas whoops to a minimum for six months of this miserable shit, but now there he was with aerial photographs of missiles hidden in mounds of goat dung.

Hold on a minute.

What am I writing here? Am I saying that a few caffeine addicts holed up in a mountain barn somewhere in Jersey has concluded that the US Military is force feeding a pack of media lies to the American people to send the lukewarm into a rabid angst frenzy by dragging the popular African-American war hero into the roll of carnival barker and fashioned a bogus tape of a dead terrorist? Never mind feeding off the fears of a fractured nation.

Check the transcript!

Think what you must. Take what you can from evidence. It is only that, evidence, compiled knowledge of events. Johnny Cochran can poke holes in that motherfucker. Ask O.J.

Hey, but don’t attack the messenger. I only print the results of investigations. If you feel the need to press charges, you always have the Constitution. But know this, when a government, any government, and history tells us our government, is gearing up for an inevitable conflict with a foe that has merely generated a modicum of public support, laws and creeds and lofty moral objectives, whether written down or uttered by long dead patriots, mean little.

There are several basic tactics to pushing war agenda.

First there is economic, political and social need. This country is in big financial trouble. Unemployment has reached a ten-year high, the word “investment” is currently an anathema and the final retail numbers for 2002 were so bad Allen Greenspan actually showed up last week in full banshee rant. Whoever’s fault this is, if anyone’s, is not the concern.

Herbert Hoover barely warmed his seat at Pennsylvania Avenue when the Market crashed, and he was nearly tar and feathered on Capital Hill for crippling a generation.

The motive is clear. Without this perpetual War on Terror and rousing speeches about Evil Doers, Georgie Junior is a laughable bust. Captain Shoe-in needs a victory over something, badly.

Second, there is always a clear and present enemy. America has had one in Saddam Hussein for three presidents, the first one conveniently being the father of the current one. He is the symbol of Middle-Eastern tyranny and loose-cannon mania, and despite the cynical slant of the Desk’s findings, most likely responsible in some way for 9/11, whether directly or otherwise. This is not news. The right people knew this two weeks after the disaster, but the Taliban was the flavor of the month then.

There is no time for the rest. I’ve written too much as it is. But peace protesters should save their breath. Prepare for this war. Embrace it as your own. You’re getting it whether you think it God’s will or the biggest mistake since allowing cameras around Michael Jackson for five minutes. At least know your government cares enough to put on a show to help you enjoy it.

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Safety vs. Civil Rights

Aquarian Weekly 2/5/03 REALITY CHECK


What is currently being argued in federal court regarding the extended rights of law enforcement to spy on private citizens suspected of terrorist activity is one of the thorny issues riding the fumes of 9/11. As discussed in great length in this space for the past year, many of these obligatory proposals to tweak civil liberties in the guise of homeland security teeter on the illegal while occasionally slipping into the realm of laughable.

Of course the NYPD, the defendant in the case, will argue it is nearly impossible to keep tabs on the myriad of covert comings and goings of its citizenry in respect to approaching anything close to what the community might deem safe.

Certainly, it is the job of the blue line to crave greater access to our privacy. It makes the job easier and puts the populace at greater responsibility for its own protection.

But does it equate to increased safety or some wildly paranoid notion of control?

Forget the legal aspects of this case for a moment. Ignore your constitutional rights. Try and erase that eerie feeling that you are being watched and let’s get real for a second here.

Are you still willing to hold up “interpretation” of your activities as a good enough reason for the authorities to keep tabs on you?

Would you feel safer if the cops knew every move of every person in your neighborhood?


I could swear I saw the unmistakable glow of plutonium coming from my neighbor’s basement window.

But be that as it may, defining what constitutes “sufficient cause” to plot a terrorist attack and officials “suspecting an individual of potentially plotting” a terrorist attack is the rub.

Huge rub.

NYPD lawyer, Gail Donahue was recently quoted as saying the rub lies not in the “sufficient cause” vs. “merely suspecting” argument, but what he describes as the “covert issue”. In other words, the very nature of covert actions on the part of terrorist groups makes any activity a probable crime.

What’s the difference between “covert” and “private”? And as with much of the vagaries of human perception; “suspecting” is in the eye of the beholder.

This falls into the messy category of absolute power, which leads to the wildly popular possibility for corruption. Once the police or the government has the right to keep tabs on your e-mail, correspondence, phone conversations or even your house by playing a hunch, what’s to stop them from interpreting this law?

Machines will not be “suspecting” your activities, humans will be doing that; emotional, subjective humans.

There is no exact science here.

Are you still willing to hold up “interpretation” of your activities as a good enough reason for the authorities to keep tabs on you?

Suppose your answer to that question is “yes”.

I am sadly reminded of the National Football League’s fucked up replay system. Ostensibly it is used to make sure the call made in the heat of battle by flawed officials is correct. But not all calls fall under the jurisdiction of the rules. Many are based on happenstance, like an errant whistle having blown the play dead, the unique perspective of the official who made the call, or the judgmental aspect of the call itself. What one official sees as an infraction, another sees entirely differently.In these cases the system is rendered impotent.

In short, the technological watchdog approach should make the game fairer, but in reality redefines the game’s organic exorcise to a series of blundered misinterpretations.

Okay, now forget the banal pro football reference, firstly because it was stupid, but mostly because at least it’s a reactionary device. What this court case involves is the instinct of the police force. Handing over the rights of a government tool to spark some half-assed mission to turn your life upside down on a series of intuitions.

Hopefully not the same intuition that had confused cops blasting away at kids with cell phones.

Anyone supporting these increased surveillance bills predictably use the argument that without securing the public’s safety, there can be none of the freedoms the ACLU is always railing about. In other words, if you cannot give up one or two freedoms for the safety of the community, you are a selfish first and fourth amendment whiner thinking with your politics and not your common sense.

Specious as that argument is, it nonetheless speaks to our primal urge to survive. You know, “Fuck it. Let everyone know my business. I don’t want to go to work one day and end up having my name slapped on a memorial plaque or referenced during a State of the Union address. I want to live, damn it! And I don’t care what the cost.”

Either side you fall on in this equation, pay attention to the final verdict due in February. And if freedoms are compromised based on fear than you’d better straighten up and fly right.

One thing no one can debate is that human instinct has led to some heinous shit.

Let’s hope you aren’t the next casualty all in the name of blessed security.

Me? I don’t care. I’m on everyone’s must-watch list. This is what I get for allowing people to air their views on my web site.

I might have to secede from the union.

Stay tuned.

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Why Howard Dean Cannot Be Elected President

Aquarian Weekly 1/17/03 REALITY CHECK


Howard DeanHoward Dean will never be president. He is a bizarre amalgam of Michael Dukakis and George McGovern rolled into an unpolished, ornery fire breather built to appeal to the extreme left wing of a party currently lost on the national political scene. Union dinks, college kids, southern pick-up truck rebels with confederate flag decals or an Al Gore endorsement aside, an anti-war, radically motivated fiscal and social New England liberal will never win key independents in the mid-west or the south.

The last one to pull that off needed to cheat, and then had his head blown off before repeating the deed.

If the Dems have any hope of unseating this mediocre president, they need to reconsider the odds. But judging the field, and the insider intrigue of a party gearing up to be Hillary Clinton’s bitch, it is an unlikely hope at best.

With six weeks remaining until the New Hampshire Primary – an atavistic exercise as symbolically hyped, fiscally provoked, and strategically dead as your average college football bowl game – the governor of Vermont is the leading Democrat to challenge George Bush for the White House. This meant little for the last Democrat elected president, William Jefferson Clinton, who finished second in NH. But oh how things have changed in a decade.

The man who is likely to finish a distant second is Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, a man slated by party big wigs this past summer to be the front runner. In ’92, Clinton was a laughing stock entering NH, and came to view his eventual second place standing as a victory. Kerry cannot and will not survive second place.

If the Dems have any hope of unseating this mediocre president, they need to reconsider the odds.

No one else in this endless pack of candidates is close. Dean will win NH and all indications are he will make a strong showing in the Iowa Caucus, which will effectively put Missouri Congressman, Dick Gephardt on ice. Gephardt’s campaign has staggered since Dean grabbed key endorsements from major cash-cow unions and has publicly called Iowa a “must win”.

Gore’s endorsement of Dean all but buried Joseph Lieberman’s campaign. The Connecticut Senator, and former Gore running mate, dutifully postponed announcing his candidacy until Gore decided not to run, and now he has to eat shit.

Most of the anti-Hillary power people in the party apparently convinced the formerly “retired” vice president that to boost Dean’s run gains solidarity with the present 2004 momentum allowing Gore safe passage past Hillary for a ’08 run. In essence, Gore and the party ostensibly concedes the White House to fend off an inevitable Clinton power play.

This may all be fine and dandy in Democratic command circles, but on the national scene Gore is an anathema. He has the stank of defeat on him, and what appeared to be a simple beltway backstabbing of a former running mate is a tolling bell of doom for a man trying to accomplish what Gore could not.

Don’t be fooled. Dean’s people are already looking beyond the primaries. The candidate’s recent performances in these interminable debates have the air of a tune-up. He has segued nicely into a smoothing of his national campaign rhetoric, bypassing his opponents to begin playing off Bush.

As for the White House, there has been no secret the Bush people are giddy at the prospect of taking on Dean. Quotes of him winning a mere five states in a general election are a bit severe, but not far off. They cannot believe their luck. There was legitimate concern about General Wesley Clark, but he has failed to build any momentum and seems unwilling to slice into Dean’s aggressive stance. And then there is his Arkansas connection that has the anti-Hillary people wary of his ultimate motives.

Dean has balls, deep steel things that allow him to be bold on gay marriages, pot smoking, draft dodging and a wild reconstruction of every government program. This works only if you are a southern Democrat with a robotic focus on one issue. Clinton hammered away at the first Bush’s putrid economy for ten months. Dean is all over the map, what with trashing the war, tax cuts, the recent Medicare mess and a myriad of social issues, and without a Ross Perot around to suck 10% of the independent vote, he will lose. Dukakis and McGovern did not have a noisy independent, and they lost. Badly.

And like those doomed candidates, Dean’s type of campaign works beautifully 10 months before crunch time, but a year from now with an economy slowly shifting upward and the Bush war machine having a full year to stabilize, it tends to appear stale with time.

The old adage that you campaign in the primary to appeal inwardly and then unfurl a different strategy for the national campaign is a faint hope. Perhaps once faced with a national debate Dean will loosen his tether to the type of special interest fops needed to gain the nomination. Barely into the primaries in 2000, Bush appeared willing to champion any extreme right wing whim, but once he defeated John McCain he pulled to the left and maintained a slim lead all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

But that was the closest election in a generation and no one on either side of ’04 wants that kind of grind.

And neither will get it.

I’m not sure anyone else fits the bill, but one thing is certain, if its Howard Dean, it’s four more years.

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Trent Lott Exposed

Aquarian Weekly 12/25/02 REALITY CHECK


People in Cary, North Carolina, the third latch on the Bible Belt, would like to know what the hell happened to global warning. Crippled by an ice storm and sub-southern temperatures has heat lunatics like my mother re-consulting the equator map. But I only broach the bizarre weather trends of the state that kept a burping fossil like Jesse Helms fouling up Capitol Hill for decades because that is where I had my annual holiday chat with my GOP insider, and otherwise vitriolic patriot, Georgetown.

Talking politics in this time of peace on earth and fat guys dressed like 8th avenue pimps tends to put a refreshing twist on a season usually spent praying that the suicide rate might curtail for a change.

After late hours making sense of these tapes, here is what I offer as a holiday gift to those comfortable in the arena of the absurd:

jc: I think I need to begin with Trent Lott.

Georgetown: What could you possibly need to know? That the party is distancing itself from him? That the president was demanding speeches decrying his insensitivity twenty seconds after that pile of god-awful bullshit left his mouth? That he will not survive this? Okay. Fine. Make that your angle. It’s hip.

“Hey, things got a little silly after we took back control of the Senate. For a few weeks before Thanksgiving there was this 1994 high all over again. I could swear I saw the ghost of Newt’s ego guzzling forty year-old scotch from the belly button of a Virginia Tech coed.”

jc: I sense a predictable defense.

GT: I only point out that the freedom of expression so cherished by yourself and other quick-to-criticize hacks only applies to journalistic commentary or artistic integrity, but obviously does not extend to observations by civil servants. I only defend the man’s right to speak his mind. You think by evoking the hypothetical presidency of Strom Thurmond it’s some sort of racist pledge?

jc: No, but it does make him some kind of idiot. The whole thing was like hearing about another Mike Tyson meltdown.

GT: It was a big mistake, yes.

jc: My favorite defense of Lott’s remarks was Bob Novak citing that it was only an aside uttered at a birthday party. Sure, and at a cocktail get-together at Tavern on the Green three other senators were bemoaning desegregated busing. Not really newsworthy, after all, it was only a birthday party.

GT: Don’t quote Novak to me while I’m digesting beef.

jc: I think the comments speak less about Lott’s racist views than it does about his constituency. I think Lott set the image of the southern politician back a few decades.

GT: Hey, things got a little silly after we took back control of the Senate. For a few weeks before Thanksgiving there was this 1994 high all over again. I could swear I saw the ghost of Newt’s ego guzzling forty year-old scotch from the belly button of a Virginia Tech coed.

jc: What’s the over/under on Lott’s resignation by New Year’s Day?

GT: Deals are being discussed right now. It’s a fucking shame.

jc: So this brave face bullshit is just that.

GT: He’s a dead man.

jc: Why is the president letting this Iraqi thing drag out when he acts like a guy with his armed cocked at a bar fight? Does he even intend on listening to these weapons inspectors?

GT: Not particularly. It’s window dressing. Carpet bombing starts somewhere around Super Bowl time. Might even do it as a halftime special.

jc: It works better as a pregame extravaganza.

GT: Whatever floats the boat.

jc: Scale of one to ten, ten being war and one being peace.

GT: Ten. No avoiding this. The hope of this administration has always been, since the last time you asked me this, what…last summer, is that an inner Iraqi coup will reveal itself and the US military will be only glad to lend a hand. This way the fingerprints will be on Arab special forces. Then we can tell the Saudis to fuck off.

jc: So your assessment from last summer (“A Mid-Summer Night’s Stand-Off” 7/17/02 & “Bare Knuckle Jungle”: 7/24/02) remains that it is not whether there will be fighting, but to what degree this country will be overtly responsible for it.

GT: Things only change in the media, not in this administration. Not since they finished counting those votes for the fifteenth time down in Florida.

jc: How much does Rumsfeld know about the current spirits of Iraqi revolutionaries?

GT: I’m not telling you that. jc: I’ll take that as “a whole bunch”.

GT: You’d be wrong to do it.

jc: If Bush is trying to sell this war then why would the CIA be withholding info on Iraq’s involvement in al Qaeda?

GT: Why not? Who does it benefit to leak proof to the NY Times? The UN? The UN doesn’t want blood on its hands. Never does. Those cowardly fuckers would rather it be all over the US. But secretly there is another side, and the CIA is not going to allow the UN to put up a weak-ass political fight on this.

jc: So let me get what your saying straight. Are you intimating that the UN wants military action, but its playing political footsies with the Bush administration to force its hand?

GT: I’m saying this: People who need to know will know when it is time for them to know.

jc: Here’s where we cue James Bond.

GT: The CIA works for the United States government, not the UN.

jc: This concept is well hidden.

GT: Operating a defense of this country with our political heads so far up Kofi Annan’s ass has not been easy, believe me when I tell you that..

jc: Would you like to expound on the present GOP stranglehold on Congress?

GT: I told you in July that anyone not on board with the War Against Terror better quit now. I think the vote bared that out. This economy is for shit. But if Bush thinks this will fly for another 16 months he’s sadly mistaken.

jc: How many funerals have we had for Al Gore now?

GT: Counting those fifteen recounts and that abysmal SNL hosting job, I think we might be in the twenties.

jc: He dropped out because…

GT: Okay, I’ve got one for you: The 2006 campaign for the Dems will be about a Clinton all right, but not Hillary. This is Big Bill’s pony to ride now. Clinton is already riling up the troops and has his three or four finalists to be his mouthpiece. And if there is one guy not invited to that party it’s Al Gore. That’s a fact.

jc: A puppet regime with Willie leading the charge.

GT: You win a prize.

jc: One last one, will Chaney run with Captain Shoe-in again?

GT: Too early to tell, but if this Iraq mess is still unresolved, absolutely. If it is not, my guess is he will step aside for health concerns giving Bush a younger running mate to take on the Clinton wave. Mark it down.

jc: Marked.

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2012 Olympics Will Destroy New York

Aquarian Weekly 11/13/02 REALITY CHECK


Here’s one for ya: New York City is a finalist to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

And whose one board for this monumental fiasco? The rich, the politically connected, the marketing assholes on Madison Avenue, the unions, the mob and an agonizing slew of hotel and restaurant owners. The rest of us get fucked, but good.

This is the most asinine concept dreamed up in the bowels of this great city since some rapacious road jockey with a drafting board wanted to turn Lower Manhattan into a lame Los Angeles freeway knockoff.

Listen, if I had Billy Crystal’s money I’d be sitting next to Michael Bloomberg and cheering too. But I don’t, and chances are neither do you, so why the hell would any of the remaining millions of people who have anything to do with the five boroughs want the kind of construction, destruction and interruption it would take to refigure acres and miles and blocks with canoeing canals, swimming pools, equestrian tracks and a full-sized monstrosity of a stadium on the West Side Highway.

The West Side Highway? They’ve been fixing the same pothole on that Godforsaken stretch of road since 1986. Two Saturdays ago I sat in horrendous traffic for nearly two hours at 158th street so the lazy weekend orange-flag boys can widen an exit ramp between four-hour coffee breaks.

A few greed heads with blue prints will gut your town with your tax dollars just to turn your daily routine into a Marilyn Manson video, count their money and leave your neighborhoods in ruins. You get about as much say in this as those riled lunatics who were reduced to heaving tea overboard in Boston Harbor 240 odd years ago.

Can you even begin to imagine the levels of Hades we’re in for if they start erecting this elitist scam? And for what? Three weeks in July ten years from now, so the three people left on this spinning sphere who haven’t descended on this over bloated island of lost souls can shoe-horn their way in?

Is there not enough neck-bending, camera-toting, map-folding, drive-two-miles-an-hour-on-fifth-avenue tourists now? We have to invite the rest of this planet to converge on New York’s overcrowded streets. Hey, we’re not enough of a target; let’s give the terrorist community all the more reason to torch the joint.

Of course, I fail to even broach what this will cost a city teetering on bankruptcy right now. The painfully rough conservative estimates – and believe me their rough in a wholly false way – see this thing in the $250 billion range.

The mayor claims he can’t pay the cops or the firemen now. You remember those guys right? The ones celebrities and news anchors brandishing their fancy American flag pins were gushing over for weeks after 9/11? They can’t be paid, but we can build an Olympic Village in Astoria for $800 million.

And when annoying people such as myself complain about this overblown marketing nightmare, we are reminded of the jobs this madness will produce, the beautification, the affordable housing and the brand spanking new stadium the N.Y. Jets will play in when everyone is finished trashing the city and return to their native lands.

Sure, lots of improvements. We’ll have affordable housing in Manhattan when they let the Son of Sam out and tag him to run things for a while. And the Jets? Keep the fucking Jets in Jersey. The organization is cursed and only plays eight games a year, most of which the team loses in embarrassing fashion. The Jets need a new stadium like the Germans need to rebuild their military.

And nothing, I mean nothing else needs to be crammed on the West Side. Not the least of which is this half-baked drug-addled idea to stretch the subway system over to 11th avenue. After the Olympic committee cashes their enormously grotesque checks for this rolling farce, the only people taking the train to Hudson are pimps, gunrunners and those shady looking characters who ran the kamikaze Tom Golisano campaign.

As a great New Yawker and oldest living friend of the Desk once said in a midnight Times Square diatribe: Who’s kiddin’ who?

Speaking of the Olympic Committee. Yeah, you want to get into bed with these cretins like you want to use Tony Soprano as a bookie. In fact, I’m fashioning a reasonable guess there’s not a more corrupt outfit on the fringes of civilization than the Olympic Committee. There are teams of lawyers still figuring out who’s paying back the $465 million federal government buy out that was the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

Isn’t it bad enough the city got in deep with the National Football League? What a deal that turned out to be. Bon Jovi and a few thousand drunken extras cramming mid-town for three days in exchange for cheaply produced promos of fat guys in Browns uniforms and dog masks cheering the Statue of Liberty from one of those pathetically ostentatious double-decker tour buses. When I see those convincing spots, I want to pack my bags in Peoria and brave the winter to see “Phantom of Opera” one more time for $200 a pop.

Jesus Christ, this Bloomberg dipshit has to go. The man doesn’t even want to be mayor. I think he wants to be prom queen or get on the radio for five minutes. Let’s give him a gold plated tiara and a press hat and send him back to corporate oblivion. This mondo jack ass will do anything for attention, including selling the greatest city in the world to international bankers and turn the entire thing into gridlock debt for two minutes of quality time with Katie Couric.

And one more thing, fine people of the Big Apple, these Olympic things never involve referendums or votes or even town meetings. A few greed heads with blue prints will gut your town with your tax dollars just to turn your daily routine into a Marilyn Manson video, count their money and leave your neighborhoods in ruins. You get about as much say in this as those riled lunatics who were reduced to heaving tea overboard in Boston Harbor 240 odd years ago.

Taxation without representation, indeed.

Stand up for your turf. Let your voice be heard. Flood city hall and head to the streets or get the fuck out now before the mob-funded bulldozers start tearing up concrete.

Let the Parisians deal with this heinous shit. They love lending their town to conquering hordes.

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Robert Torricelli is a Gutless Quitter

Aquarian Weekly 10/9/02 REALITY CHECK


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


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


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.


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The Doomed Economy

Aquarian Weekly 8/7/02 REALITY CHECK


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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