Search Results for: Afghanistan

IRAN: SO FAR AWAY‏

Aquarian Weekly

4/29/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

IRAN: SO FAR AWAY
With Apologies to the Ayatollah and Flock of Seagulls

Here’s hoping that a deal can be nailed down with Iran over its nuclear capabilities. Not sure what that deal would be or how it would eventually be stricken, but it is the best course of action now. Not in a few years or when we get a perfect one or whatever, but now.

There will never be a better time to get Iran to capitulate.

Irantalks_600

And it doesn’t matter who is president or who runs congress or what type of religious fanatic heads that god-forsaken shit-hole, but this needs to happen and happen as soon as possible.

Due to the collapsing oil market (its chief export), and crippling sanctions, Iran’s economy is in shambles. It is embroiled in (at least) a two-front war against ISIS in Iraq and what amounts to Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And while I think our involvement in that skirmish is misguided to say the least (for this space is on record as being vehemently against the Saudis in every way, shape or form and cannot believe to this day they don’t get more shit for 9/11, but okay, I guess oil is important and I’ll shut up about our hypocrisy in the Middle East, blah blah blah) it has drained Iran of its resources for war and terror.

There is also a real sense now that unless a deal can be worked out, there will be a proxy or outright war with Iran this country does not need, support for Israel or not. It is a war that cannot be won and one we cannot afford, and that, by the way, an overwhelming number of Americans oppose. Aside from tough-talking hawks who NEVER and I mean NEVER send their kids to war, this is a solution that is doomed to fail and because of that it is complete a deal or it is war, and that is it.

Sure, there could be war anyway, say if the Iranians do what Saddam Hussein did for decades and just pussy-foot around with weapons inspectors, but hey, we now know that Hussein was bluffing. Why? To keep the Iranians out of Iraq. Why do you think we propped his sorry ass up there in the first place? The vacuum created by Dick Cheney’s folly has given Iran full reign to their borders and for this they cannot be blamed. However, that is merely the threat of war, wherein without a deal war is imminent. Unless we are not entirely honest about preventing Iran to get a nuclear weapon, which in that case is another discussion.

This brings me to the childish notion that an imperfect deal means no deal. The very concept of a deal means both parties have to leave the table unsatisfied. Every deal known to civilization carries with it this caveat. The last time we screwed around demanding the perfect deal with Iran it went ahead and expanded its capabilities for nuclear weaponry by hundreds of centrifuges.

And finally it is nutso to claim that perhaps years from now a deal may come back and haunt us and so on and so on. Really? Neo-cons are making this argument? Haven’t we placated every nation in the Middle East over the decades for immediate gain, ignoring the long term ramifications, like Afghanistan to stop the Soviets and Iraq to stop the Iranians and please don’t make me name all these, you know what I’m talking about. It is the most specious of arguments against a deal. No deal is permanent and situations change with the times, but trust me the time for a deal has come.

What also makes the timing for the finalizing of a deal with Iran is the bitch-slap the U.S Navy just delivered on its wayward fleet this week. It is always easy for bullies to talk tough, until there is an actual showdown, and in many ways that is what happened in the Arabian Sea this week. Iran not only blinked, it closed its eyes and went home humbled. This is all you need to know about what Iran is willing to endure on the world stage. It is no longer speculation. It is a nation in dire need to make a deal and it is in the best interest of the region that one is struck immediately.

There will never be a better time to get Iran to capitulate.

Make all your lesser points for and against a deal with Iran. Go ahead. I am sure they are all salient. Here is mine, and it will not change; we must not be in any position to have to back up international diplomacy with the threat of war again for at least a generation, if ever. Least of all there should be no consideration to perpetuating such madness in the same region we just screwed up so severely it may take half a century to quell, if at all.

We have to stop thinking we hold all the cards all the time. We don’t Not here. Not now. If anything, we should be damned grateful Iran is on the ball of its economic and war-torn ass. Yes, we must be the more gracious of the two nations. Yes, we have to trust-and-verify. And yes, we have to avoid anymore wars.

We make this deal.

Now.

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MIDDLE EAST BLOOD JUGGLE

Aquarian Weekly
4/1/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MIDDLE EAST BLOOD JUGGLE
or How To Hold Onto A Fistful of Rain & Not Have Too Many People Killed

Now that the bloody coup in Yemen has finally transpired and anarchy is the rule of the day, things have become extremely grim to the greater hopes this country harbors for a manageable Middle East. This has been our red herring since before World War II. It is our addiction; the junky U.S. Hell, this finger-in-the-dam illusion had its moments, but it also has an expiration date, and it has come due. blood_juggle2

Untenable is a kind word to describe our current events there, another more accurate has a military slant, FUBAR. And while the United States, in all its completely delusional might, believes it has a hand in this – beyond the hand that helped usher this inevitable madness along – there is little that can be done beyond containment. And the containment option did not work well for the British or any previous empire, so good luck with that.

Yemen certainly complicates things on the Iranian front. All this talk about Benjamin Netanyahu’s grandstand in front of congress a couple of weeks ago and his shameless flip-flop-a-go-go re-election being some kind of influence on all this is laughable. The United States is influenced by Israel the way a jackhammer is curtailed by the sidewalk. Israel is America’s bitch. It will do what we tell it and shut up when it needs to shut up. If this was up for debate then the U.S. would have let Israel retaliate during the first Gulf War instead of sucking it up. Israel exists to put fear into OPEC, nothing more. Netanyahu may be fooled by his influence, but we should not be.

No, Iran wants chaos in Yemen and the U.S. does not, or let me rephrase that, Saudi Arabia does not. And while there are strong indications that at least something can be resolved in slowing down its proposed nuclear ambitions through a multi-nation deal and its role in fighting the suddenly uber-important spread of ISIS, Iran cannot be allowed to mess with the Saudis. The U.S. is Saudi Arabia’s bitch and therefore we must put our cards in another cultural civil war that no one will win, but we will somehow be responsible to clean up.

Before we continue our review of FUBAR 2015, let’s get a few things straight: Every time the United States has conducted any military operation in the Middle East it ends in disaster, including the first Gulf War that appeared gangbusters until it lead to the emboldening of Saddam Hussein and its left-overs convincing congress to invade the nation and turn it into a tinderbox. Not to mention that we suck at war now. It is so bad that no one, not even the hawks in Washington, take this option seriously anymore. I have heard moans and laughter at events connected to early presidential campaign stops by Scott Walker and Ted Cruz when they start talking about military solutions in Iraq or Iran. No one with half a brain thinks the U.S Army can do anything but further inflame the Middle East, so believe me when I tell you that anyone who makes this point in congress or running for president is patently insane and should be shunned and humiliated.

This mess in Yemen also uncovers another marching line in our parade of delusions, Syria. The gory quagmire that is left of this country has been yanked into the ruin of Iraq and the Iranian issue due to the fact that since ISIS has become the enemy du jour both the Syrian regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad, who the U.S. has called a tyrant and worked with the Russians to curtail his use of chemical weapons on his citizens, has been an invaluable ally, along with, you guessed it; Iran. The Russians, embroiled in its own international quagmire in the Ukraine, has stood with the U.S on both fronts; supporting Syria’s fight against the push of ISIS and putting the screws to Iran over its nuclear program.

By the way, Russia scares the shit out of Netanyahu, and it should. One of the reasons, among many self-serving and some arguable, that he has gone ballistic to scuttle any deal with Iran. Something the IDF will not admit, but knows could be a problem, is Russia’s meddling in the Middle East, since OPEC has imploded its paper thin, oil-based economy in the last four months. Suddenly the pivot for Russian President Vladimir Putin to arms deals and ISIS killing could be a tricky problem for Israel, who spends all of its defense policy propaganda on Arabs.

Here’s a fun kicker; as recently as this week Iran, in a Netanyahu/Putin type photo-op maneuver to try and not seem too cushy with the U.S. and appear to not sell-out its country’s myopia decided to cease the defense of Iraq’ city of Tikrit against ISIS in protest to the United States’ continuing bombing campaigns there. This proves that once again while the military might of the U.S. resonates with the UN and the “we have to do something” crowd, it only mucks up the works.

This brings us to the final bit of juggling, and that is something we have covered here for sometime; the Sunni versus Shiite undercurrent, which is not so much an undercurrent as the primary reason for these weird alliances and bizarre massacres. There is and will be nothing 21st century diplomacy or military action can do to put a fancy ribbon on this nightmare. It ends in annihilation. And while it seems defeatist and nihilistic to suggest such a thing, it really makes no sense to try and put the proverbial square peg into the round hole either. No amount of money, negotiations, fast talk or tough talk or more to the point bombing or dead Americans is going to change this fact. It is the worst of civil wars, a religious/cultural one. And to be involved, which we definitely are, folks, whoever is president or controls congress or what year it is or who stands on what side of the ideological fence, will lead to bloody ruin.

Untenable is a kind word to describe our current events there, another more accurate has a military slant, FUBAR.

However, I think it is important for the smaller voices – mine being one of them – to at least point out the futility of trying to get this thing under some semblance of control. It was that kind of hubris that pretty much put this stuff in motion. Whether it’s the Shah of Iran creating the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or the bolstering of Saddam Hussein to combat Khomeini or the ousting of Hussein to protect OPEC or the Mujahideen to combat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or the second Iraq war to combat Hussein or whatever it is you call what is going on now, it is not a means to a positive end. Never has been, so what should make a difference now?

Okay, so maybe you say at the end of this, what is the United States supposed to do, nothing?

I ask: Has the United States tried doing nothing before?

If nothing is the alternative to our fingerprints being all over this horror show, I say, yes, nothing.

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CONVENIENTLY INVISIBLE AMERICA

Aquarian Weekly
12/17/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CONVENIENTLY INVISIBLE AMERICA
Or CIA – Our National Apathy Over Dirty Little Secrets

In April of 2009 this space said all it was going to say about the United States and torture during those wild and woolly years after 9/11 when, as warned by this space in the autumn of 2001; the “gloves would be coming off.” This is how it works around here. You don’t like it, wear a helmet or go back to your Instagram and Twitter. No, in the wake of this latest report on our national ugliness, I only mean to bring agonizing perspective, or, if you will, pour a bucket of ice water on your white-hot outrage.pinochet

But our been-there-done-attitude comes from our study of human nature (and by “study” I mean living for over a half century, most of it confronted with this miserable shit and having the forum to share it) that and if it wasn’t fixed then, it ain’t getting fixed. It’s like all this whining about this president having too much power, when the expansion of that power has been growing since Andrew Jackson in 1831.

Time to wake up and smell the steaming-hot helping of feces.

When I was a kid in the mid-70s’ – 1975 to be exact – there was some hubbub about the Central Intelligence Agency that at first rocked the core of our moral construct as a country and then kind of petered out, as is our wont. This was the end of innocence, as if the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy assassination, the murders of Selma, the riots on campuses, Viet Nam (yes, damn it, I am evoking Nam again – how do you write anything about the CIA without mentioned that colossal massacre?), the shootings at Kent State, the Weather Underground, Watergate, Patty Hearst, etc. had not been enough to shake us from our Pollyanna slumber.

It began with the Church Committee, named after a rakish 54 year-old liberal Democrat from Idaho, who had an unassailable hatred of the CIA and set about uncovering some of the most heinous crimes ever perpetuated around this globe by a single unit outside of the Nazi Party.

Most of what we know and openly accept today as business-as-usual for the spy unit of our federal government was a bit of a shocker for some in the 70s’. For some odd reason, there wasn’t much talked about concerning the CIA after WWII. This was the Cold War, and people, I guess, accepted the whole thing as some kind of intrigue novel meets James Bond – kind of romantic, sort of dangerous, and full of weird gadgets like shoe-phones and pens with poison tips or a gas-fog corsage. We all saw Get Smart; funny, paranoid, inside-baseball stuff.

Then the Church Committee started to peel back the layers of our stinking onion and boy was it a big deal.

For awhile. We hadn’t discovered the Fonz yet and KISS had yet to break it big.

Through five administrations representing both parties, the CIA literally ran amok; unchecked and unflinching: Assassination attempts of foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam, Gen. René Schneider of Chile and the solicitation of the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro. There was also the little nugget of the “HTLINGUAL” program, a warrant-less infiltration of the U.S. Postal Service – in other words since the early 1950s until 1973, the CIA routinely and aggressively opened the mail of American citizens, and in many cases actually stole packages and personal correspondence with no repercussions or even a blurb in the Something Examiner. Chances are if you used the USPS to communicate in any way from 1951 to the early 1970s’ and it went missing or you never received it, there is a very good chance it was absconded by the CIA.

Chill Alert: This was before it was legal. The 2001 Patriot Act took care of that annoying detail.

Of course, after some ooohh-ing and ahhh-ing, the backlash started, wherein many in the government and the Gerald Ford White House began shutting down the investigation due in part to executive order and “national security” concerns (the usual stuff), protecting the lives of hired murders around the globe to save face and keep the engines moving. Those who still kept JFK in the sainted category were appalled and fought back, and, well the whole Nixon thing is well-documented, so we’ll leave that abomination to the annals of history for now.

What was not known through the Church Committee, but would later be revealed through leaks and books quoting “hidden sources” was the spectacular list of actual assassinations of world leaders, bloody and bloodless coup de tats and other insane shenanigans by this tax-funded rogue enterprise.

These included, and would later come back to haunt in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan), Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, East Germany), Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua) and South America (Argentina, Guyana, Venezuela), overthrows of governments and instituted puppet regimes of despotic factions in Iran, Syria, Guatemala, Tibet, South Viet Nam, Brazil, Chili, Argentina. Some of the most hideous mass murderers in the recent history of our planet were ushered in and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America.

We are responsible for – and if by “we” I mean we are somehow attached to this as we are attached to say, something LeBron James does since you are a Cleveland Cavs fan or you wave a flag every time something goes right around here, then I guess you are somewhat culpable for this crap, but I digress – such luminaries as the Shah of Iran, Jorge Ubico, and Augusto Pinochet, among others. Do yourself a favor when you’re done reading this; look up the legacy of these gentlemen and then get worked up over torturing a couple of hundred suspected terrorists.

It will be hard to up your dander.

So what is Campion saying here? What is his angle; the usual, sure this is horrible, but we have done much worse and likely are still doing much worse? Am I siding with Dick Cheney? Do I have such contempt for this country I would just come to the conclusion that we are somewhere in the ballpark of evil and I’ll just finish writing this, throw my hands up and go have a beer and a stogie?

Well, yeah, sure. I guess.

Some of the most hideous mass murderers in the recent history of our planet were ushered in and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America.

But that is too simple. I only mean to bring up that the CIA’s mere existence is the issue (an existence that continued long after 1975 for some truly bizarre and abhorrent behavior), not its latest in a long line of “crimes”. Why do I put quotes around it? Am I trying to be cute or do I not think that defecating (how many times can I possibly use excrement as metaphor? Answer: four times) on the conventions of international war that was the legal umbrella for the Nuremberg Trials is a serious stain on our national soul?

Excuse me, I need a cigar and a beer.

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TIME WARP‏

Aquarian Weekly
6/25/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TIME WARP
The Never-Ending Fancy Shit Show That Is Iraq

I leave the country for seven days and end up in a fucking time warp?

Or did I misread this latest madness on getting “involved” with Iraq again, as if that is an option. Let’s face the hideous fact that this has been an abject clusterfuck since we recognized Iraq as a sovereign nation in 1930 and began screwing around with it through secret CIA coups around 1960, which later culminated with one of those fancy “puppet regime” deals three years later.gplaio

From then on the CIA was all-in. Horrifying lowlights include the 1980s U.S. sale of chemical and biological weapons, viruses and bacteria along with anthrax and bubonic plague to Iraq to fend off the Iranian revolution, which was the predictable result of another of our fancy puppet dictators. This is where you get that ironically bile-inducing photo of a smiling Donald Rumsfeld shaking the hand of brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein in 1983 as part of our fancy “special envoy” assignment. Later, of course, it would be Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense – second in disaster only to the cruel joke that was Robert McNamara, architect of the fancy institutional slaughterhouse known as Viet Nam – who so bungled the fancy 2003 Iraq campaign that it has landed us back here in this weird redux of doom.

Lest we forget George H. W. Bush (an ex CIA man, of course), who as president in 1990 embroiled this country in the fancy oil-centric farce known as Desert Storm to curtail the monster we helped to create, which later, as we well know, led to the Osama bin Laden (another monster we helped to create to kick the Russians out of Afghanistan) fatwa against the United States (amongst other silly Islamic-based nonsense), that culminated in the bombings of an American embassy in Africa, the USS Cole and finally 9/11. Then baby Bush came along, bringing with him the crusty idiots who fucked this thing up in the first place (aka Dick Cheney and the aforementioned war criminal Rumsfeld) to invade Iraq with falsified intelligence and other badly planned fancy goofs.

Let us now take a moment to address our current president, who needs to know, as he contemplates another fancy run on this religious/cultural desert sink-hole, that he is only president because Hillary Clinton voted to give G.W. Bush a blank check to commit this foreign policy atrocity in 2003, and that despite his unbelievable streak of one stumblebum domestic folly after another lately, his current policy of not listening to war-mongering cretins, who never wear a uniform but feel the need to send us into suicide missions for their own tiny-penis reasoning, is the only thing keeping him in the “not-awful” column around here.

It goes without saying that when it comes to Iraq, enough is enough.

Like Syria should be Russia’s problem, so then is Iraq Iran’s problem, and maybe Ronald Reagan’s original theory to use Iraq as a fulcrum against its insane neighbor, something the two succeeding Republican presidents seemed oblivious of, is the best plan of action.

Right now the militant group, something called the Grand Poobah Liberation Army of Iraq and Oates, is wreaking havoc with the crack military army we trained to keep that part of crazy land from coming apart (something again we needlessly instigated, maintaining our putrid half-century of fancy operations). This has excited all the has-been brain farts that created this feces to write op-ed pieces in driveling rags like the Wall Street Journal to call for more fanciness. It’s hard to blame Cheney, though. This latest nonsense is his and history will record his fancy goof and that scares him, because Cheney believes in permanent retributions like hell and he knows he’s going there and the best thing he can do is hope that the blood stain won’t be on his children, like some kind of fancy Biblical curse.

Lord knows a decade-plus and trillions of American money and gallons of our blood, is not enough to control the uncontrollable. But just as in 2003, this fancy aggression argument is made with no idea how Iraq works or has worked for centuries.

It goes without saying that when it comes to Iraq, enough is enough.

This is tribal warfare between Sunnis and Shiites and should remain so, as it will remain so forever. Long after all of us our gone and more of our children’s children will return from some part of oil-land with key limbs missing, there will still be Sunnis and Shiites, and they will be killing each other over holy land or Allah or specific pant styles and it won’t make a damn difference if we are tough or dithering or arrogant or determined or support Israel or continue to blithely ignore the atrocities of Saudi Arabia or use solar power or drill-baby-drill. This is what goes on and we should seriously, after decades if not centuries of evidence, finally get the fuck out of it.

We are so naïve and have been for years (including myself, who stupidly felt that unfinished fancy business started by one Bush meant it needed to be dealt with by another one or it could come back to bite us) in the idea that we can “control” or “abate” or “defend” this infinite bloodletting. It is stupid and worse still insane and even the mere thought of putting more lives or money at risk for it is so completely off-the-charts foolhardy that it defies further comment.

As a matter of prediction; once these half-assed militants get near the real shit, say, Bagdad, where the Shiites will then be asked to defend their own, instead of indefensible desert outposts posing as “cities, (something the mighty U.S. Army could barely accomplish) then it will be bye-bye Sunni insurrection.

Bye-bye

Something the United States should finally be saying to Iraq for good.

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VA SCANDAL: OUR IMPRINT, OUR LEGACY, OUR SIN‏

Aquarian Weekly
5/28/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

VA SCANDAL: OUR IMPRINT, OUR LEGACY, OUR SIN

One can conceive, even fathom something as horrifying as the Veteran’s Administration systematically allowing dozens of wounded soldiers to die and then scramble to cover it up, just as easily as one can conceive and even fathom the bizarrely ritualistic lies, deceit and ideological idiocy that put them there in the first place. There is the din of bureaucracy, money, ineptitude, and plain human nature to ignore “problems” of this magnitude when it is so overwhelming it reaches Biblical proportions. The question before us is why is it that so many dubiously opaque crises/scandals seem to be pored over with obsessive myopia, but this one, for decades, has been shrugged with a collective shoulder.Memorial-Day-AP75

Over two administrations now, both Republican and Democrat, there have been revelations of egregious treatment of veterans by our system; the first, the woeful conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital in 2007 and now these new murderous allegations of the VA Health Care System in Arizona. Never mind the known troubles with such institutions since WWII well into the 1970’s, depicted graphically in memoirs by veterans of several wars too numerous to recount here. Yet, despite some oversight and investigations that receives a third if not less of the media coverage and overall slanderous rhetoric of lesser “crimes”, these fail to resonate with the American public, no matter what ideological line one inhabits. And while there is bi-partisan rage and lip-service condemnation from two presidents, this abomination, as damaging to whatever withering tatter of a soul is left of this nation as one can imagine, we see none of the hyperbolic outrage given to the ACA or the IRS scandal or this obsessive nonsense surrounding the Benghazi embassy attack.

Why?

Is it because it involves the military and the Pentagon; and these have been arguably the most untouchable monoliths of our bloated and mostly ineffectual federal government? Why is it that it takes about five minutes of knee-jerk debate and a few flimsy pieces of evidence or bent reasoning to stumble headlong into war; flushing billions upon trillions of our money on needless slaughter from the jungles of Viet Nam to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, but when it comes to dealing with its most heinous realities, that our youth has been cut down, mutilated and massacred, we meander along endless lines of time?

This is how big our Military Industrial Complex has become; a gorging monster of bureaucracy that consumes up to 19 percent of our national budget, nearly as much as the much-ballyhooed entitlements, Social Security (24 percent), or the combined spending for Medicare and Medicaid (22 percent). According to a Peter G. Peterson Foundation study published in April of this year, the U.S. defense budget dwarfs those of ballpark economic stalwarts combined; China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, Germany, Japan and India respectively at $607 billion to our stupefying $640 billion. And several studies have shown, and much of it pointed out in congress during last year’s sequester debates, that a healthy dose of it is either outdated or unnecessary.

Yet no one blinks an eye.

Why is this self-contained, hardly ever dissected monstrosity spread around the globe like a bottomless money-pit never put up for discussion by anyone on either side of the political aisle when seriously deciding the fate of the national debt or outlandish deficits or other well-tread political footballs?

How did the denizens of defense, this sub-cultured, fund-gobbling cottage industry, become so untouchable that it barely gets a whisper and people run from it like gun laws?

Why is it that it takes about five minutes of knee-jerk debate and a few flimsy pieces of evidence or bent reasoning to stumble headlong into war… but when it comes to dealing with its most heinous realities, that our youth has been cut down, mutilated and massacred, we meander along endless lines of time?

This VA disaster, a legitimate scandal of epic proportions and an a pox on our American ideals, whatever pile of streaming feces that emerges from, should be front and center above all else. What kind of putrid nation that waxes poetic at every nauseating turn about “supporting our troops” and respecting and thanking our fallen for “protecting our freedoms” on the eve of Memorial Day allows this to happen without gutting the whole damn thing piece by piece?

The Military Industrial Complex is too big to fail or god forbid too expansive to even approach with a critical eye; and so the victims of its gorging mass of inhuman machinery get swept under the rug. We should be ashamed that these people, and they are people as they were people when they were so flippantly referred to as “troops”, (a more dehumanizing term is hard to find), are even languishing in these half-assed institutions, needing the kind of one-on-one care rarely afforded to them, while waiting for treatment as if someone with a head cold.

Everyone and everything is to blame for this. Forget merely firing directors and tossing more shit on congress and the president; we the people should look ourselves in the mirror as we continue to go about our business and complain about health care costs and standards of living and taxes and regulations and drugs and civil rights as neighbors and sons and daughters and friends continuously get shipped off to a nihilistic never-land to be carved up in order to keep this monster fat and happy.

After the morally bankrupt nightmare that was Viet Nam and all the pathetic fuck-all that followed, we still find ourselves whistling past a very real and lasting graveyard that has out names on it; our legacy, our sick obsession with war.

Our sin.

This is ours.

We own it.

For good.

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PRELUDE TO IRRELEVANCE

Aquarian Weekly
2/5/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

PRELUDE TO IRRELEVANCE
State of the Union Turns into Beginning of the End For President & Congress

The horror. The horror.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

That was a weird State of the Union address.

I’ve been watching these things since I was a kid, a curious little brat wondering what’s with all this presidency and congress, followed by wasted time covering and/or commenting on them since the late 80s’, and I have to be honest, that was some bizarre shit.

Here we have a president basically if not identically rolling out last year’s agenda (and the one before that and probably, don’t quite recall, but likely the one before that) with the same distant aplomb as is his wont, delivered to a vacuous body of haircuts, power ties, jewelry, expensive shoes and scrap-paper smiles that will most assuredly do with it what it has done for five years…nothing.

Oh, there were the obligatory claps and smiles, harrumphs and frowns, demands and asides, and, as usual, all of it seeming like pantomime; this strange scene from a Fellini film where no one is whom they claim to be because we’re not sure, nor or they, that they may be mere apparitions or perhaps something the auteur has put there to fuck with our heads. But this time the whole affair appeared more funereal, an ocular dirge worthy of requiem, accompanied by images of reptiles slithering through rotted human skulls.

Weird.

The orator, Barack Obama, is two steps from lame-duck with a massive law strung around his neck, and the parts of it that’s working for a minuscule portion of the electorate has does nothing to mitigate its disaster. There is not a thing the president can say now or tomorrow, next week or next year that is going to amount to a wit, because even if he were as tyrannical as his ham-fisted detractors childishly wail, he is faced with the most inert congress in the history of this republic. Despite dominating the political landscape by gaining two of the most impressive electoral victories for a Democratic candidate in two generations, Joe Cool appears as if he is a custodian, or worse, a bystander to history.

obama_state_union_2013
Obama sounds done because he is done. Change time, if there ever was one, is now over. That is unless the Democrats can slyly do what the Republicans pulled off for the remaining seven years of G.W. Bush’s train-wreck, painting him as a “defender of our sovereignty” after he idly stood watch over the horrors of 9/11. Shit, if anyone can sweep that nightmare under the rug, then it should be no problem making people forget the monstrosity of the AFA.

But this charade has a shelf life and it has come due. And the funny thing is Obama has known this since his second inauguration, when he began sounding the siren for “going it alone”. Of course this was no clairvoyant act of political genius. You’d have to be completely brain dead to expect this congress to allow anymore big stuff after the tactics of Nancy Pelosi’s 111th addition and the advent of this pestering joke of a TEA Party that works for a government it derides at every turn and then sits on its hands to prove ideological points in what amounts to kindergarten hissy fits.

What Obama does have going for him is that he is still president for the next three years and what he counted on during this Mad Hatter-esque showcase is congress being the most reviled body this nation has ever known; its approval ratings dipping weekly into single digits, most of it pockmarked with clownish machinations staged for TV or committees filmed on TV or cable news sideshows on TV. Its members have now found it so tiresome to bludgeon this domestically ineffectual president they have taken to beating relentlessly on each other.

No less than four different Republicans gave rebuttals to this death rattle; the obligatory doe-eyed woman rolled out to quell more craziness from queer dinosaurs like Mike Huckabee, another woman, this time an obligatory Hispanic, the TEA Party guy cranking up his obligatory rant on “tyranny”, and Rand Paul, who, well…is the obligatory Paul who blazes his own path.

One gets the feeling that with the senate up for grabs this November, the Republicans for the third such election cycle will fuck it up with the same tired quasi-religious, misogynistic bigotry that screws the party every time. Already you have jackasses threatening to throw cub reporters off the balcony of the capital rotunda. You can’t make this crap up.

And so the president will extend his damaged usefulness beyond this body of the inept with the executive order, a fancy bit of marksmanship used by every president except William Henry Harrison, and mainly because he croaked shortly after being sworn in. Despite being accused of abusing this nugget by sub-mentals, Obama, as this space has argued and continues to argue, is so dispassionate about executive comings and goings that he has signed less executive orders in his first five years in office than any president since Grover Cleveland, and remember Cleveland had to span his out over half a decade since he served non-consecutive terms.

At 167 such orders, his is a whopping thirty behind G.W. Bush at 197 in his first five years and Clinton at 238, which means, and I think this doom-struck address pretty much presumed, he has some ground to make up.

Joe Cool appears as if he is a custodian, or worse, a bystander to history.

But beyond the normal hoary political miasma, this annual lament was made complete by two of the most heinous uses of unfortunates to plug talking points this reporter has seen in some time, which effectively plunged the wretched thing to such depths it is hard to not offend by merely broaching them. I am speaking of the president’s parading of a mutilated veteran of 10 duties to the desert abattoir called Afghanistan for a painfully long standing ovation that should have stood as a warning against the brutal vagaries of our 21st century lust for perpetual war instead of a living metaphor for working our way through hard times and the down-syndrome child so callously offered up as some kind of right-wing talisman during the official Republican rebuttal.

The horror. The horror.

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THE CLASSICS

The top ten all-time Reality Check columns as determined by volume of mail or immediate feedback by the hearty members of the indomitable Check Group.

THE 9/11 SERIES

This five-part commentary is now lauded among readers as some of jc’s finest columns in the wake of the events of 9/11. Two of these brutally honest pieces were included in the charity compendeum, “Glory: A Nation’s Spirit Defeats the Attack on America.” (2001)

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EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY

Aquarian Weekly
6/19/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY?

If there is one thing that this space has tried to illustrate for the past 16 years is that hypocrites are not the exclusive property of ideological or political affiliation. In the past weeks, as we have been inundated by a phalanx of stories depicting with grand detail one fuck up after the other from the current administration, which whisked into Washington five years ago on a transparent change in government delusion, here come hordes of congressman like Rand Paul (threatening to take the NSA to the Supreme Court after he dismissed the same body as meaningless following the landmark Affordable Care Act ruling) and senators like Lindsey Graham (supporting the government’s spying on citizens’ phone and e-mail records while arguing that gun background checks are an invasion of privacy). It is a wonder you vote.
snowden
I have never seriously voted. Mostly, I backed candidates with no chance to win as a protest against two representatives from massive corporate-backed political parties offering nothing approaching an original thought or concept. Then my mortal enemy, Al Gore decided he needed to be president, so I all-but worked with the Bush campaign to smear his sorry ass back to Tennessee only to watch the dumb-struck asshole who bested him make a mockery of governance for eight long years. Then I decided to vote for Barack Obama, as a member of my own generation in protest against the annoyingly overrated Boomer dipshits who preceded him, only to be once again stuck with another lost idiot acting as if he just woke up and someone told him he was president.

But my voting record and vast disappointment with politics aside, there never appears to be anyone truly minding the store, so it’s back to figuring out exactly how the shit-house will go down this time.

This week the latest in a long line of computer geeks given access to a spectacularly massive cadre of sensitive national security files, Edward J. Snowden has clearly represented why neither political party will ever have the answers needed to quell the rapacious need for the American people to appear free while feeling safe, or other such fairy tales.

Okay, so you would have to be completely in the tank for the sorry butt end of whatever remains of a national Right Wing movement in this country not to have noticed that for two congresses now Republicans have provided nothing in the way of serious legislative rebuttal to what they deem as “socialist, anti-American and freedom-threatening policies”. In place of doing its job, the GOP-controlled congress decided to throw feces against the wall and screech like monkeys to make the Democratic president look ineffectual.

This worked great. He was re-elected by the greatest margin a member of his party tallied to secure the presidency since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. I was two at the time. I was 50 last November. That is a long run with no Democratic dominance at the executive level. And you know what; it ain’t gonna end soon. Not with the current demographics of the country pointing Left and an entire generation of young people fairly certain the majority of the Republican platform is religiously-based nihilistic bigotry.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth.

On the heels of this we have Mr. Snowden, a 29 year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee (contractor to the National Security Agency) and chronicled supporter of Ron Paul’s anti-government brigade, leaking classified top-secret material to a foreign newspaper. As another quick aside, lord knows the sub-contractor element is not lost on me, the near victim of many hoaxes perpetuated by “businesses” I thought I was hiring to do jobs, only to find they merely fobbed it off to some other dinks, whose only care to the completion of said job was to not get caught screwing up, which in my case, they most assuredly did.

Snowden’s motivations for leaking vital defense intelligence on a lark are best framed by the reporter who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald told the NY Times this week that his infamous source for the British paper, The Guardian scoop “knew that in order for someone to do this story the way it had to be done he had to be in an adversarial posture vis-a-vis the U.S. government.”

Snowden, an “ex-CIA” (once CIA always CIA – ask Lee Harvey Oswald and George H.W. Bush) who claims after making a living working in the business of citizen surveillance suddenly found Jesus and decided this was crazy, wanted to join the “feces tossing task force” and make nasty for what could tactfully be described as a beleaguered president. However, Greenwald’s analysis mirrors the very argument for Daniel Ellsberg’s outing of the gargantuan lies the U.S. government laid on the American public for over a decade of unsanctioned mass murder in Viet Nam.

You see, although it appears as if Snowden is just a radicalized version of say Mitch McConnell, whose failed attempt at turning his senatorial position into the home-base for making Obama a one-term president, there is something far more interesting. Both Snowden and his non de plume Greenwald are Ellsberg worshippers (full disclosure, so is the author). Moreover, Snowden reportedly met directly with the nation’s most cherished whistleblower through documentarian, Laura Poitras this past January.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth. Greenwald’s current post at The Guardian has given the ex-litigator and award-winning blogger legitimate reporter contacts and sources, many of which were used to reveal the “secret wars” both hot and cold the U.S. has been running since 9/11, including the Dick Cheney/Karl Rove/Scooter Libby outing of a CIA agent in 2005.

Greenwald, an ex-patriot forced to live in Rio De Janeiro with his Brazilian partner because of discrimination against same-sex marriage, which consequently disallows similar rights of citizenship to heterosexual couples, has personal as well as ideological issues with the United States government of which he wrote in the preface to his wonderfully cynical 2006 book, How Would a Patriot Act, “the fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American.”

The Snowden/Greenwald partnership in bi-partisan derision for the flimsy foundations of this republic has come at a crucial time, as new and old neo-con voices begin to bellow about dragging the U.S. into another bloody quagmire in Syria – trumped by ex-president, Democrat Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate, Republican John McCain.

Killer drones, Gitmo, an endless war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, systemic discrimination and the rank hypocrisy of our times, all neatly wrapped up in one single act of blessed conceit by pissed-off people with a pen.

That is something I can finally vote for.

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying & The Love The Shield Law

Aquarian Weekly
5/29/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

Quit while you’re ahead. – Carl Bernstein

holderJust received notice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that I am a criminal.
Well, could be a criminal. Aim to be a criminal? Not sure. The statute of limitations must be up on this puppy from 10/10/01 — KASBAH ROCKING:
“Right now a Columbian refugee is having dinner with an overtly effeminate Taliban gunrunner in a quaint bistro on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. They’re discussing the coming ski season and desert fall fashions. Drinks are flowing and names are innocently exchanged. Every witty aside by the young gunrunner is met with hearty laughter, as a hidden tape recorder hums inside the Columbian’s left breast pocket.

By morning the gunrunner will be missing. Word will spread through the sequestered Taliban offices, memos will be sent, and maybe a few more soldiers will defect to the Northern Alliance. But after a few days, there will be no mention of him. When his family comes calling, they will be sent to a briefing, and perhaps, also turn up missing.

A few days later maps and phone records will mysteriously disappear. There will be internal arguments and stepped-up security. Rankled officials will call for strip searches, and someone might be shot for treason. Word will spread that two or three training camp security personnel didn’t show up for work that morning, and relative innocents will be tortured. The air of paranoia will thicken and the stench will spread quickly.

And what of the friendly Columbian gentlemen?

He will be enjoying a weekend in Paris by Halloween, and several other well-versed, highly cash-motivated ex-cons will take his place long before he boards the airplane.”

Oh, yes; those were heady times; mere weeks after 9/11 when reporters were afraid to print such nonsense, but the Reality Check News & Information Desk was on duty. Now, it seems, the FBI, to which we warned only two weeks ago, has gone Gestapo on us here at the Fourth Estate; The Government Will Decide The Difference Between Good Investigative Journalism and Treason.

By the mere exercise of excelling at my job, (to which I have avoided for lo these many years since my journalism professor at Trenton State wanted to know why I chose TV Guide for the semester’s internship) I stand accused by a system I am sworn to watchdog like the Dairy Council sitting on the board of review at the FDA and claiming that milk is good for the bones of a human over five months old when all of the science argues against it. Yeah, like that.
These are strange times to be a journalist, especially one on the fringes like myself and Geraldo Rivera, who once told me over several cocktails, and I assume from his manic stuttering and distracted blinking, a dangerous amount of cocaine that if one were to really think about it, what passes for journalism is at best a crime.

Ah, yes, but a threat to national security?

The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief….However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly–when committed in other quarters.”

The nation’s greatest journalist, Mark Twain once wrote to a friend in 1880; “Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief….However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly–when committed in other quarters.”

Or as investigative journalist extraordinaire, Carl Bernstein once imparted to me in the press box at Shea Stadium during Game 3 of the 2000 World Series, “Quite while you’re ahead.” I had asked him about the future of investigative journalism, such as it is beyond TMZ, which at the turn of the century had yet to exist but nonetheless had forefathers of wonderful schlock like Inside Edition or The Drudge Report. Oh, how we laughed.

Bernstein knew a few things, more so than his partner in the greatest of all scoops, The Watergate Scandal, which so many today wish would crop up again, so they can say they were there, but they would be wrong, because for journalists there was only one “there” there and it was that steamy night in D.C. when it all went wrong for Dick Nixon. Lately Bob Woodward has been feeling the heat from the current White House. Maybe he’s no longer welcome at Pennsylvania Avenue, even with a Democrat in there.

But Woodward, like Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan is a registered Republican, although he did not work for Ronald Reagan like Noonan did or write seventeen books feeding into the myths of Reagan. None of this could be helped, because Noonan is an idiot, and I am not writing this to be mean or biting, she has an obvious mental disability, and if they allow her to speak anymore on Meet The Press THAT would be criminal.

Speaking of long-running “news” shows, I once received a fax here at The Desk from David Westin, then president of ABC NEWS, when the great Ted Koppel was sent packing to make room for some Hollywood bullshit, to which I sent this response and then later to press (THE RAPING OF ABC NEWS — 3/13/02): “Trouble is news doesn’t bring the big numbers anymore, otherwise how could anyone explain these infinite obsessions with Monica Lewinsky, O.J. Simpson and Jennifer Anniston? Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreeds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?”

So nobody understands more than I that aside from pedophiles and terrorists, journalists are the most reviled of groups. I expect backlash to hearing incessantly and with little humor that you are not what mommy told you, but criminal? Not sure that beats the hell out of being hunted, as in the immediate wake of 9/11 when I sent to press this observation on the anthrax/journalist scare (CASUALTIES OF WAR — 11/7/01): “Most of these people are frightened now. You have to wear rubber gloves just to deliver pizza at the New York Times and everyone at the GE building are issued gasmasks and need four kinds of ID to get on the main floor of the NBC Nightly News.”

There were tougher times to be a journalist, like during the opening months of prohibition when giants in the business like H.L. Mencken would storm through Baltimore newsrooms flailing his arms about like a spastic ape spitting pistachio shells at secretaries. No booze is worse than being labeled a criminal by the FBI, believe me. Take me down, but leave the gin.

So now I hear they’re discussing passing another goddamn law called the Shield Law, which will officially grant the First Amendment to those whose livelihoods depend on it.

Shit, it’s more than freedom for some of us. It’s, you know, definition. Like congressmen wearing flag pins.

Not all obsessions need a symbol, bub.

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THE CLASSICS

The top ten all-time Reality Check columns as determined by volume of mail or immediate feedback by the hearty members of the indomitable Check Group.

THE 9/11 SERIES

This five-part commentary is now lauded among readers as some of jc’s finest columns in the wake of the events of 9/11. Two of these brutally honest pieces were included in the charity compendeum, “Glory: A Nation’s Spirit Defeats the Attack on America.” (2001)

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