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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 3/7/01 REALITY CHECK

HELP WIPE OUT FEDERAL EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY IN OUR TIME

“The President shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” -U.S. Constitution Article II Section 2

There was a time, not too long ago–or maybe eons ago, it’s hard to tell now–that I found myself in a Bayridge, Brooklyn loft listening to a plot to kidnap Casper Weinberger. There were always plots back then, concocted by the type of people who laughed at any talk of reason, especially at 3:00 am after two consecutive days of serious drinking. So I sloughed it off as speed-addled gibberish, finished my beer and got the hell out of there.

“Grab Weinberger out of his three-story luxury home, throw him in a potato gunny and drag him to the crack boulevards in downtown D.C., then we’ll get the real story.”

That was the plan, and I would have volunteered to wrap the rope around the damn sack if I thought it would accomplish anything beyond garnering us a federal sentence. But not even Ollie North would be doing that kind of time. Ollie took the fifth, and so did Bill Clinton’s friends and lovers last week. And anyone else he diddled in the Lincoln bedroom those last precious hours in the White House.

But overt posturing about ideologies and party politics never did jazz me. Those things are nothing more than a smokescreen for the rich and powerful, and all the grass roots movements, protests or odd kidnapping would never slow them down.

The Iran-Contra boys got off easy. George Bush sr. saw to that. He was, after all, a CIA man first, and “once CIA, always CIA.” So Casper and Ollie’s cabin boy, Elliott Abrams, and Reagan’s security advisor, Robert C. McFarlane, who thought it was a good idea to swallow the Valium mother lode rather than rot in prison, all received cushy pardons from the president for pissing on the constitution. This was Bush’s parting gift to the bleeding hearts that dared question the judgment of The Great Communicator.

But those were top-level political criminals, not like the cheap whores Bill Clinton pardoned. Dime-store hoods like Marc Rich and chubby crackers like Hugh Rodham are pond scum compared to the depth of human mucus presidents dine with daily.

And no matter how much the bored national press tries to hype this daily litany of street trash the president set free, William Jefferson Clinton only carries the notorious, if not eminently predictable tradition, of abusing absolute power.

The Clinton’s were bought and sold long before they left Little Rock. Every president is, and will always be. Criminals are as much a part of our national landscape as public servants. Except criminals have money to burn, and politicians need flammable funds by the boatload, especially big-time politicians.

Big Bill wanted to make his “money people” happy. They pushed him over the top in New Hampshire in ’92 and promises were made, promises he couldn’t keep, like the one Joseph Kennedy made to the Chicago mob and Richard Daley to swing Illinois to his boy Jack so daddy could fuck the government for yanking his ambassador status back in World War II.

Federal executive clemency allowed George Washington’s pardon of all participants in the Whiskey Rebellion, Abe Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson’s full and complete pardon to “all and every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion” known as the Civil War.

Violent drunks and confederates aside, it is Gerald Ford’s pardoning of this nation’s greatest criminal Richard Nixon, and now Clinton’s obvious fire sale of freedom for campaign funds, legal fees and key votes for the wife, that has the dander dancing again.

But to call anything administered in the name of complete and absolute power illegal or immoral is missing the point of this, or any other, republic.

Big Bill knew he was meat on the way out. His legacy was humping, and his would-be successor used every angle to avoid mentioning it in a doomed campaign. Another Bush was breathing down his neck, and it was time to pay the piper. Hollywood money machines need to be greased, and Hollywood isn’t just a city in California. The constitution clearly allows it, so the argument is with the system not the use of it.

In the case of Rich and his flamboyant ex-wife, who dumped millions into Clinton endeavors, and more importantly, the state of Israel, the answer was easy. The Clinton’s bought off a 20-year fugitive to bolster significant Jewish votes for Hillary’s senate run. Should the Clinton’s apologize for bartering deals to hold onto power if the constitution provides such unchecked autonomy?

The second article of the constitution also hands military power over to its government’s executive branch. The Korean and Viet Nam police actions were the result of presidential decrees, cleverly sidestepping the messy business of having the legislative branch declare war. Thousands of Americans lost their lives in these little power plays, everything from Truman’s miscalculations to LBJ’s escalations to Reagan and Bush’s wars of convenience.

Bill Clinton is the same man who crawled from the Arkansas slime nine years ago. The public voted him in, and the constitution allowed him to run amok. The uproar is not with the past, but the current state of law allowing anyone in the United States government absolute power.

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Reality Check – Author, James Campion comes clean.

Press

The Underground Press Quarterly2/01

THE ART OF FEAR OR LOOKING FOR MR. REALITY CHECK

by Darren Ecstein

It’s not often that a relativly unknown columnist from a rock n’ roll weekly begins to take hold of the radical press, dubbing himself a “rogue journalist” and invitingly begs for comparisons to H.L. Mencken or Hunter Thompson. And it is even more rare that the same man can pull it off with painful consistency. James Campion, if not already a thorn in the side of all that is not sacred, wants you to believe all this. And anyone who has taken notice has yet to deny him that.

Not that Campion’s Reality Check column, read weekly in the New Jersey-based, Aquarian Weekly entertainment paper, is nothing if not a home for the findings of the mysteriously potent News & Information Desk. There is very little journalism involved. “There’s no room for the truth in hardcore reporting,” Campion smirks, biting down hard on a cigar and jiggling the ice in his half-gulped Gin & Tonic. Campion not only insists in biting the media hand that feeds him at every turn, but also refuses to do interviews outside of bars, pubs or taverns. “The darkness becomes the subject matter,” he jokes, as we sit to chat about all things underground.

But Campion’s gruff exterior adds to his current status as 21st century enigma, spending days working sporting events and press conferences like a legitimate reporter, penning two books (Deep Tank Jersey, published in 1996 and Fear No Art just out last year) in a three-year period and finding solace in the company of young writers and even occasionally middle school students who hang on his every word during early morning, high-octane fueled lectures. As much as he mocks his peers and a growing profession as a freelancer, Campion cares about the craft of writing, often citing other’s work and referring to his style as “hackneyed ranting with limited punctuation.” He tells his audiance to learn the rules before breaking them. “It’s a Picasso thing,” he smiles.

The “Picasso thing” has served Campion well for the past decade or so of rogue journalism. When we sat down to chat in a downtown bar in Yorktown, NY, just a hop and a skip up the Taconic Parkway into Westchester and a mere mile or so from the infamous Putnam Bunker, where most of his most celebrated and villified musings originate, he appeared relaxed, but later came on as frantic and untamed as his work. Our hour long discussion rarely broke the furious momentum and added to an already legendary list of annoying, but informative past interviews, to which we proudly count our humble publication as one.

How close do the original pieces in Fear No Art echo the ones that hit the news stands for three years in the Aquarian Weekly?

That’s interesting you’d ask that, considering we didn’t really promote the fact that a great deal of my original columns were edited in some form or another for their initial publication, and it is true that they appear in more or less their original form in the book. But, really, the reason we don’t harp on that is the Aquarian Weekly is one of the bravest, balls-out publications on the East Coast, bar none. That is the sole reason I still practice this meanignless journalism crap. Those crazy bastards print some of the most insane gibbersish I can muster. I’ve even sent them stuff that I was sure wouldn’t make it to press, but there it was the following week.

But wasn’t that the bedrock of Fear No Art, to reissue work in its original form?

Right again, but that’s not the reason it was finalazed. That gave me the excuse to unload already published stuff. That, and because I’ve quadrupled my readership since ’97 when I started there, so many of the people who are interested now had no idea who I was or what the hell was going on at the News Desk. So, why not release it in a compendeum form and kind of archive it.

Is it fair to say that at the time you started penning Reality Check, when, I think it was called something else, you would’ve considered yourself more a non-fiction author than a journalist.

No, I wrote and published one book. I still don’t think of myself as an author yet. I went to school for journalism. I don’t know, but I guess I’m just facinated with the human element in a story, the relatable effects of fragility and endurance in our collective spirit. I find it an ever available impetus for creativity.

Do you think you’re a mean person? You know, I mean, for instance, do you ever cringe at, say, a title of one of your Fear No Art pieces called “In Defense of Larry Flynt & Other Scumbags Like Him?”

No. I thought that was quite charming. Sort of like Flynt himself. He’s both repulsive and charming in his own way. It was more of a homage to Flynt and his ilk really.

Are you kidding right now?

Not at all. That piece speaks for itself. Interestingly enough, I think after that one came out the editors asked me to take over the headlines. I usually don’t like that part of the gig. But I don’t think I’m mean.

Just sarcastic for the sake of meaness.

See that’s missing the whole point of satire. You think anyone but me, even fans of my work, gives a shit what I think, really? Commentary is so transient. It’s all part of the background noise. I saw Larry Flynt speak at some free speech thing and he called himself a scumbag. I did my homework on that one.

Fear No Art also has a preponderance of serious material, emotional insights. Then, BAM! you’re hitting below the belt again.

A preponderance? Yes, I am a complicated specimen. It’s part of my lovable quality.

I guess what I’m aiming at is your unique ability to play both sides of the emotion for intrigue or reaction.

Yes, okay. I see that, but not the first part about being mean. My wife has a great way of describing my thing. She says that even though I don’t mean to be horrible, it is very easy to take it that way. You see, you need human interaction to understand the level of muck you can dredge up when you live in that part of your head. But as easily as I can get whipped up into that kind of frenzy, I’m out. So, it’s not anger or frustration or even angst that boils up inside me, it’s manufactured from parts of my brain I won’t let out in normal circumstances. Like right now, I can tear your head off, just snap and start bashing you over the head with this stool, but I choose to bottle that and use it for artistic pursuits. You know, let it flow in a more resourceful fashion. It’s quite civilized.

I appreciate your presently reserved additude.

No problem. I am trained, like a literary Samuri.

Literary Samuri. That’s pretty good. Now what’s the deal with this guy, Willie?

Yes.

Is he real?

Of course, why not? You think I can make that up. People who say that give me more credit than I deserve. I’m not a fiction writer. I couldn’t make him up. Willie’s name has been changed to protect the guilt-ridden, but he is all man and he’s coming for you.

So all of Willie’s exploits are one hundred percent on the level, not embelished for purposes of sensationalism or readership, as you someitmes elude to.

Well it’s good to see you actaully read the stuff. Usually people who ask me about Willie are coming from the rumor mill loaded for bear. No, as much as I joke for the sake of legal, almost safety, purposes, those stories are dead on. I’m afraid to admit it, but it’s true. Willie is a freelancer’s dream. He knows news before it happens. It’s a level of clarvoyance rarely seen. I could expect calls from him daily if I didn’t set limits. Actually the limits are set by society and its penal system, but for the most part, I need to corrall that additude for my own selfish gain. But it’s quite symbiotic in its twisted way. Willie loves the publicity and the glare of being an outlaw and I love writing about outlaws, so it works.

Did you ever leave something out of the stories for legal purposes or thought better about sending one of your adventures to print?

Nope. I don’t have a very aggresssive editor in my head. And, like I say, I wouldn’t trade the Aquarian Weekly in for Time magazine. Maybe the paycheck, but the freedom is the key. If anything, I feel the need to find even more disgusting displays of humanity to dissect. It’s much more interesting.

What is your relationship to the mainstream press?

I don’t have one.

You still have to deal with it.

Sure, but I don’t have any relationships that effect my writing or my view. I have friends in the press, network, print, magazine, but the whole thing is a blur and I don’t get emotionally involved. I will defend the press at every juncture, because there is always a trickle down effect. Anyone who says there isn’t ain’t paying attention. You see, I’m able to stay insulated because someone else has to be responsible. The main stream always takes the first hit. That’s why I like being mired in the freelance, the underground. People tend to talk to you more. They make the common mistake in thinking that it will not make it into a national magazine, but they’re wrong.

So what your saying is you can be as maverick as you want and the press take more crap by simply having a greater audience.

If you will. Although the responsibility in actual reporting is getting less and less prevalent to the layman.

You don’t use mainstream connections to take on a story?

I admit to nothing. And anyway, I’m not writing stories. I write columns, editorial blather. I could not care any less about stories. I see it one way and then there is the way it is either reported or accepted. I often refer to the JFK assasination. Where was the balls of the liberal press then? While their boy is lying in a pool of blood they’re cranking out AP or UPI background CIA bullshit on Oswald? I know this for a fact because I’ve talked to some of the press guys who dropped the ball on that one. More recently, the story I personally had solid was when Pat Buchanan left the GOP. That one was under the proverbial radar for months. No one believed it for one minute, but I knew those guys at Buchanan headquarters who were already geering up for a presidential campaign and decided they weren’t going into a field of one hundred Republicans. I hung with those guys, had constant phone and E-mail connection with them. Some of these people had Pat’s ear and they used me to leak out that shit about the GOP to soften up the blow. Not just me, some other popel started to hammer away on it outside the mainstream. And then when they had enough ink floating aorund out there, they went mainstream. Not that I’m comparing Uncle Pat to the Kennedy assasination, but I use both incidents to expose the pack mentality of the press. In the wake of CNN and the Internet, it’s flacid response is staggering. Nobody bought the Buchanan story at first, but I did. And I defy anyone to say they beat me with it.

That brings me to Georgetown.

I’m not talking about Georgetown.

But he is the essence of your style. He’s full of mystery and innuendo and hyperbole. Many think him a metaphor or an annonymous sounding board for your more radical and libelous views.

Yes, well, that’s great.

Can you at least address him as a character or a symbol?

Why? What’s the point? I’ve had enough problems with the likes of him already. He’s sick. He has many psychological problems that I will not address here. It wouldn’t be fair to him or his family, whether he’s working with an alias or not. I cannot talk about him nor do I even want to think about him until I am forced to. Do you understand the kind of pressure even knowing that son of a bitch has brought to me? Jesus, it’s frightening to even broach it.

See, that seems like more hyperbole.

Fine, but I’m not going to talk about it.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the book on my sabatical to Israel a few years back. It took longer than I wanted because of my journalism kick, this column, running the goddamn New & Information Desk, working on some bullshit screenplay and now this insane scroll I’m penning for the BLAZO!! people. It’s twisted and deranged and I don’t think I can reveal any of it. I don’t even know what it is. I guess another underground journal or something akin to a living urban legend. Chief Wonka and the boys on the run. Pretty heady stuff. I would quit the thing, but I signed on for life. Once in the care of Wonka, there’s no going back to legit publishing.

Sounds serious.

I’m in deep, man. I don’t even know if I’ll live to finish it. It’s fucking killing me and wasting my friggin’ time, but it’s also fulfilling in a strange sort of way. Almost masochistic in its charm. I don’t mind telling you it’s the worst crap I’ve ever committed to paper and no one is going to believe or understand a word of it. I just wish Lewis Carroll or one of those drugged-out bastards like Huxley or Baum were alive to write it, so I can go back to gambling or stealing wine from the Pataki people.

Hey, did you really do that?

If you believe what they put in the papers. But I don’t. Do you?

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 11/1/00 REALITY CHECK

Campaign 2000LAST TANGO IN GHOSTLAND

“The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.” -Adolf Hitler

It is common knowledge among historians that the deranged make interesting public figures. Adolf Hitler was one of those rare mutant breeds that possessed a voracious appetite for the wild ride to the top. And it was an equally long drop to a syphilis-crazed breakdown that came far too late for civilization. Although he was not alone in the dark history of politics, Hitler was everything that is wrong with humanity and its societal systems; especially for those of us still hoping things like greed and hate will be kept relatively in check.

But before any of the mayhem and horror attached to his name would be unleashed, Hitler was nothing more than a political bully with no need for silly endeavors like elections. He made up the rules and no one bothered to ask him to explain it.

Elections are a tad different. When things go awry, the public is to blame. It is incumbent on us to make these people to stay in the ballpark of reality while their busy getting all hyped to fulfill their own version of some abject destiny. Surely, even the most optimistic flag waver in Kosovo today doesn’t believe the results of that election charade amount to a hill of beans, but sometimes even when we pick our leaders, who the hell really knows?

That is why a failure to vote, although oft noted as an egregious mockery of our civil right, is less a crime than voting for someone you believe would make a shambles of your weekly planner, much less the free world. And this notion that throwing a vote away on fringe loons and independent types is elitist drivel peddled by low-rent two-party sycophants. If you believe the system is fixed and archaic and the candidates boring and predictable don’t let anyone tell you that you have to play along like the company lap dog. Where, exactly, is the freedom in that?

Presidential politics stopped becoming big fun for those of us mired in reams of Kennedy and Nixon minutia. But Jack got his head blown off and Dick was sent packing as a crooked shyster. For a short time Ronald Reagan made it fun, but before long, he too became a tired windbag. This is why nearly half the nation’s populace abstained from voting for or against Bill Clinton in his two victorious runs. Many now admit they only voted as a sick joke to ram rod some hippie goofball down the throat of mom-and-pop apple pie. And for a while even they had to admit the thrill was gone when Big Bill turned out to be less rebellious and more lecherous.

So, you’ll get no argument from this space if you wish to stay home on Election Day. Mohandas Gandhi believed sedition did more for change than the normal violence or democratic attempts, especially when Indian lawyers were treated like illiterate farmers by English slave traders. Standing aside while the crazy train skips your stop is nothing to be ashamed of, unless you’re lazy or you don’t care.

This poses the greatest problem for American citizens. We are lazy and we like it that way. Just try and get us interested in anything. We’ve been dazzled and wooed with every bit of technology and fanfare available to us. Getting us pumped takes a bit of doing. But if you believe that George W. Bush or Al Gore deserve the job you’ll choose them to undertake, then you should take the time to exorcise your rights. And in doing so, you had better make damn sure they are the men you think they are.

And this is where the issue of voting with confidence gets a tad sticky. The men available to this voting public are mediocre statesmen/politicos with a weak resume and weaker leadership skills that will not bode well for the next four years. The first few months of which will be replete with monumental global turmoil including a quickly eroding Middle East stand-off from the Gaza Strip to Yemen, a highly volatile mess in the Balkans AGAIN, hordes of terrorists skulking into U.S military institutions, Korean backlash and China trade concerns. Add that to a domestic economic crossroads in oil prices and stock market fear coupled with intercity racial stresses ignited daily by a criminal lack of education and you not only refuse to put your fingerprints on this terrible craziness, but a first class ticket to Australia remains a distinct possibility.

This will be my last political blather for a while. There are too many other concerns and not nearly enough space. Do what you want and do what you must, but do yourself a favor and sleep well with the consequences. And if you don’t feel like taking the blame, abstain. Sure we have to live with the results, but we lived through Gerald Ford and George Bush, bell-bottom pants, disco, Max Headroom, a man by the name of Stump Merrill managing the New York Yankees, Oliver North Collector plate commercials, 30 Beach Boy reunions, 14 Million Whatever Marches, ten Julia Roberts’ tortured celebrity relationships, “We Are The World”, the electric car experiments, nearly a decade of “Three’s Company” etc.

We’ll make it.

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The Truth About Hillary Clinton – Political satirist, James Campion dissects the Hillary Senate Campaign.

Aquarian Weekly 10/25/00 REALITY CHECK

DECONSTRUCTING HILLARY

Political whores and power mongers are easy to spot in the waning moments of a campaign, especially campaigns surpassing a combined spending spree of $100 million between the two candidates. And there isn’t a half-assed pundit, pollster or sad commentary geek filling up newspapers with thousands of feeble prognostications who fails to be blinded by its queen; Hillary Rodham Clinton. This New York senate race is, has been, and will continue be all about the first lady. The GOP could have a door stop running against her and people will vote based on their love or hate for her.

The important element of this is the Clinton celebrity and the advantage and albatross it provides. Senator Rodham is at the crescendo of a decade-long game she’s played stumping for a man who has treated her like a scabby harlett throughout its duration. William Jefferson Clinton may have seen his wife’s gory mutations before any of us, but he has since become nothing more than a back-seat lecther in its wake.

Her opponent, Rick Lazio, is a few short months removed from sitting in his home out on Long Island and bemoaning the fact that his party didn’t think him a big enough name to take on the gaudy popularity numbers the first lady presented as a formidible senate challenge. This was a job for the Mayor of NYC, who first refused to offically announce anything beyond a raging hatred for Senator Rodham and then was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Rudolf Giuliani promptly backed out and in came Lazio with enviable spitfire and brimstone.

So Lazio jumped right in and became the anti-Hillary candidate phase two, because the New York senate race has always been about Ms. Rodham, or Hillary, as her “people” remind you she’s to be called. Sequestered in her rhinestone bathe of light, equivilant to a rock tour or a pre-war Hollywood opening night gala, the first lady’s suit of armor is shiny for a reason. The woman has never known a battle she couldn’t avoid.

Legitamate press never gets to her. Press conferences are nothing more than events for us fourth estate peons to gaze lovningly upon her devine personage. She smiles. She dances. She is a breath of jasmine from her lofty perch of azure. Television appearances are few and usually involve late-night comedians. Ted Koppel and Tim Russert, never mind traveling reporters, are off limits to the queen of pap. At the time of this writing there have been two debates, but it was deemed to rough and tumble for the delicate flower of Washington’s elite and the other was a party set-up that the Lazio people stupidly stumbled into with little investigation on their part.

Mere weeks remain in this charade of a campaign and what questions, what scrutiny, what hard-core politcs is Senator Rodham facing? Lazio brings no memory of powerful candidates with heaps of energy, but he at least he makes himself available to the press and handles the tough questions, ANY questions posed to him. His opponent is apprently too good or too busy or too sheltered for that.

These complaints may sound like the whining, selfish complaints of a spoiled journalist used to being fed fresh meat every time some ego-mad sucker needs coverage, and to that charge I plead ever guilty, but this is the very reason Hillary, with all her cries for equality and compassion, is a transparent candidate.

And how come my brethren let her get away with these lame duck and covers? Are we so silly with worshuip for a good story that campaigns are reduced to coronations before we have a glimmer of what a candidate stands for beyond notoriety? When will Senator Rodham be forced to face someone with a camera or a notepad who isn’t sporting a goon smile while peppering her with questions about the Chappaqua fire department picnic? Jackie Kennedy, princess of Camelot and national fashion plate, took more shit than this woman. The time has come for her mighty and untouchable hems to get filthy with debate rhetoric and that world-class litigious brain to crank its gears.

Lazio, predictably busy trying to be all things to all voters, has tried the credibility attack with his soft money overtures. It is admirable considering he’s had half the time to create the native New Yawker image from Giuliani’s shadow and separate himself from the stench of the Newt Gingrich clan the GOP so effectively shoved into the background at the convention. But Lazio is a New York politician and has served as a congressman for eight years. He has not been riding the ebb and flow of party casa de la Clinton for a decade of unpresidented verbal sewage.

In the end, this will mean nothing. Will Westchester, Central and Upstate New York voters despise or revere Hillary enough either way to defeat or elect her. Rick Lazio is the kid in class you hang with because the popular asshole ignores you. More than any election in this nation’s history beyond perhaps Jesse Ventura’s meteoric rise in Minnesota two years ago. And whether she wins or not there is a real sense now that celebrity can slant a race so completey that issues mean less than zero.

Senator Rodham and the Westchester crack team keeping her alive on bulging African American and women votes knows this. They will try and keep those and build on the all-important suburbs and Jewish/Hispanic votes and ride this puppy all the way to Washington without their candidate having to answer a single hard-line question about her ability to be grammar school principle, much less senator of New York. And that would be their victory and democracies loss. But this is something these people know quite well.

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Joseph Lieberman & The Great Leap Of Faith – Political satriist, James Campion deconstructs a demogogue VP choice.

Aquarian Weekly 7/26/00 REALITY CHECK

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN & THE GREAT LEAP OF FAITH

The GOP Fan Fest was barely done sweeping up the graffiti tonnage when the phones started to jangle in Nashville. The Gore Camp was fluttering with reaction to the first Republican Convention ripe with minorities and touchy-feely types and an absence of NRA, religious right or impeach-crazed congressmen. An eight-point deficit sunk to a 17-point chasm and the comfort of the front runner and his snoozer running mate brought one answer: SPLASH.

And by firing back with vice presidential candidate, Connecticut Senator, Joseph Lieberman, the current VP has made a big one. The name immediately cut hard into the gaudy Bush numbers, yanking the stunned interns from their seats over at Gallup. By the first full week in August, Al Gore had pulled within 2 lousy points of Captain Shoe-in with a bombast convention of his own pending.

But why did Joseph Lieberman make sense to the panicking democratic minions?

When the day is done, Joseph Lieberman is no different than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in the righteous, religious-judgment two-step and had William F. Buckley so juiced a few years back he endorsed him over a Republican candidate for senate.

Firstly, Lieberman is no Dick Cheney. He was the frontrunner’s opening gesture to the conservative wing of the party before the moderate convention, but a bland pick when considering the other, more courageous choices. Lieberman is truly the “wild card” name predicted by anyone willing to go on record after Bush named Cheney.

Gore needed a buzz and Lieberman resonates like an angry wasp’s nest.

Lieberman is a devout Orthodox Jew and a democratic legislator with an arms-length conservative, moralist voting record. And although no one in Washington will offer anything but “honorable” to describe the man, another word lingers inside the beltway, “enigma.” He is a purveyor of moral conduct and religious purity, yet he is a divorcee with an overwhelmingly “pro-choice” voting record.

Moreover, Lieberman secures many liberal circles while standing glaringly on the side of such conservative issues as school vouchers and Bill Bennett’s fascist Empower America crusade against pop culture. He supported George Bush’s Gulf War and was the first democrat to describe the Monica Lewinsky scandal as “immoral and harmful”, but on fiscal concerns he will back Gore’s fears of a GOP controlled congress buoyed by one of their own.

Then again, the Dems have had a history of “wild card” VP candidates from the mentally unstable Tom Eagleton and a woman, Geraldine Ferraro to presidential liabilities like the Catholic Jack Kennedy and the morally bankrupt William Jefferson Clinton. But as the VP’s had a way of killing a ticket, luck has followed the main draws.

If there was one salvo the GOP unloaded on the present administration during its televised centrist show, it was its lack of trustworthiness and moral structure. Lieberman answers that in spades. He is a morality nut and steps right in line with Gore’s corpulent shill of a wife and a PMRC past dripping with condescending “save the children” rhetoric.

But Gore’s attempt here is to seem more caring and less corruptible, and despite the predictable chicken littles moaning about mid-America’s disdain for East Coast Liberal Jews having little to no shot, it is hard to argue that Lieberman isn’t at least a news-making choice.

As discussed in this space for the last year, Al Gore has two main problems.

The first, and most damaging, is that people don’t like him. They don’t want to give him credit for the economy, blindly accept his alleged pristine record with ecology, embrace his repeated denials about campaign finance misappropriations or beam at whatever earth tones he happens to model while canoeing up a man-made creek. The majority of voting types see him as a Washington dupe and a disingenuous lout who would tell anyone anything they wanted to hear to be elected dogcatcher.

This brings us to problem number two: His opponent has brilliantly crafted an image of the one man Gore is trying to separate himself from: Bill Clinton.

Junior’s speech at the convention broke many seemingly unattainable Clinton records for moderate hyperbole. From saving Social Security and Medicare to even mentioning single mothers and inner city children, Bush laid out liberal agenda with a slice of “compassionate conservatism”, going as far as complimenting the president if not for his silly peccadilloes. Everything from his strained attempt at not smiling to avoid the “wise ass smirk” to the passionate call for change reeks of Big Bill at his most eerily phony moments.

Cut through all the polished speech-gunk and George Bush jr. told the nation that he knows what you liked about Bill Clinton and he can provide that and then some, without all the embarrassing perjury aftertaste. New and improved mouthwash in a handy mess-free bottle.

If Gore was the least bit likable, or faced with another stuffed-shirt conservative beast, then Joseph Lieberman is still serving the good people of Connecticut. He certainly isn’t balancing the ticket on battle lines drawn by the GOP convention.

Bush has set the tone thus far. That will change in a presidential campaign. Gore’s flow with the momentum is very reminiscent of Big Bill as well. But this worked with Clinton because he went in knowing he would get a pass by anyone he could entertain for four minutes. The Gore people know that if their man spends half that time with an independent voter he is likely to queer the deal.

When the day is done, Joseph Lieberman is no different than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in the righteous, religious-judgment two-step and had William F. Buckley so juiced a few years back he endorsed him over a Republican candidate for senate. But he is Gore’s lightening-in-a-bottle to balance a ticket wherein the presidential candidate has a problem separating ethics with business as usual.

NEXT WEEK: DIBBS BACKSTAGE AT THE CONVENTION

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Fidel Castro’s baseball career – Political satirist and author, James Campion puts Cuba into perspective.

Aquarian Weekly 4/26/00 REALITY CHECK

CASTRO, BASEBALL, AND THE GREAT DIVIDE

Opening day at Yankee Stadium and the press room is jammed with the ego elite and media geeks grubbing buttered rolls because they’re too cheap to afford George Steinbrenner’s seven-dollar buffet. The deadline monsters are breathing hard on the swinging doors and the smell of stale wool jackets is already prevalent.

Pushing my way into a table while smiling at my friend, Brain Cashman who happens to be the general manager of the team of the century and four years younger than me. I fail to call him “bastard” on this visit, which he agrees is my right since no one younger than me can be allowed to do anything considered important.

There’s an air of good feeling, for the ides of March has given way to breezy April afternoons in the shadow of this shrine. I promised a broadcasting friend earlier this year that since I sauntered out of the old girl last October, with the Yankees sipping nonalcoholic champagne and Roger Clemens high-fiving truck drivers and construction workers on the roof of the Yankee dugout, that since I saw the last game played in the 20th century here, why not hit the field for the first one of the 21st.

The Pirates never did have the patience to develop short Cuban kids with little pop on the cheese, so a dejected Fidel attended law school, went to prison, and disappeared into the Cuban socialist underground.

Something about new beginnings that bring the leeches from the dusty corners and send the rabid fungus of the sports world clamoring. The Yankees are a hot ticket. They win. Americans–New Yorkers first and foremost–love winners. Losers draw flies and boos and calls for painful death. One minute on the pro sport circuit and a concept like politics becomes child’s play.

Inevitably that kind of talk around those who moonlight at the Stadium want to know what the hell is going on with the Cuban kid. A few tables over Elian Gonzalez comes up in light conversation, along with how horrible it was that the world champs wasted their celebration with nonalcoholic champagne when AA veteran Darryl Strawberry was weeks away from getting back on the crank.

But it was the boxing curmudgeon known as Bert Sugar who started a near melee after a rant on his new magazine and the future of Cuban middleweights when things became heated. “I just wanted to double the average age of the press corps,” he laughed and exited stage left, leaving a hardy debate on all things Elian Gonzalez.

Right down the middle among the sporting press: Elian stays, or hops the first freight with his father back to the land of cigars and sugar cane. “What do you think would be the furor if the Gonzalez kid were a fat, greasy Cuban with a gruff beard and a stogie hanging from his face?” someone asked. “Probably would have pushed him back on that raft with his mother’s corpse,” I answered causing an aggravated woman to ask for another show of hands.

There is a well-known baseball trivia question that makes its way around most press boxes involving Fidel Castro as a 21 year-old pitching prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Seems two corpulent scouts, hired by the parent club, went to Havana to watch the diminutive lefty break nasty curves and dip sinkers in and around the aggressive Latin competition, but were somewhat lukewarm about his speed. “The kid Castro has some command of breaking pitches (stop),” the report told the front office the next morning via Western Union. “Has nothing on the fast ball (stop) Double AA talent at best (stop).”

The Pirates never did have the patience to develop short Cuban kids with little pop on the cheese, so a dejected Fidel attended law school, went to prison, and disappeared into the Cuban socialist underground. Those were the days when his family and friends were subsisting on a steady diet of dung beetles and palm leaves chased by rotten disease-ridden water, while the mob ran numbers for a dictatorship backed by the muscle of Harry Truman’s United States.

It was a short walk from the entrance of Forbes Field to the den of hate. And hate turned into revolution on New Year’s Eve 1959, when the failed pitcher became champion of the weak and an American thorn; followed closely by the CIA’s spring invasion gone terribly wrong two years later. And when the Bay of Pigs sent the slugs from Florida’s underbelly to the right people, Jack Kennedy paid with his life in Dallas two years after that.

Books by James Campion are available on this web site or at Amazon & Barnes & Nobleclick to order

Thirty-three years later Elian Gonzalez was born to Cuban natives, Juan Miguel and his wife Elisabeth. The couple divorced and the mother fled the country with Elian in toe. When fishermen rescued the boy in an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day he could only mention his father’s name. His father wants to take him back to a country where Elian has less than eight months to drink milk without serious rations and is merely a public relations faux paus from prison. Floridian Cuban refugees from the gun runners and coke fiends to the hardworking parents and relatives of those suffering tyrannical madness mere miles of water south want the boy to stay. Sticking it to the failed pitcher has a purpose.

But the boy is a political football, and that is a sport rarely discussed in the cathedral of baseball. And politics takes a back seat to a child and his parent taking in the sunshine of spring. It is the third change of season that finds Elian Gonzalez without his father. Human chains keeping blood and communism away from the great bellow of freedom.

Governments raising children.

Courts playing mommy.

Play ball!

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Super Tuesday Mayhem – Political satirist, James Campion comes clean on a fixed political system.

Aquarian Weekly 3/22/00 REALITY CHECK

CHEAP GARMENTS AND LESSER WORDS ON SUPER TUESDAY

“Nobody really wants to vote for these guys.” – Chief Wonka

So said the Poobah of a revolutionary underground information network called BLAZO!!, after a long day of deliberating on whether the black hole that has become the American political landscape drew deeper parallels to the misty days of 1960. That was the year the Kennedy brothers handed the vice presidency over to a man they despised and who moments earlier painted a picture of Jack Kennedy that would’ve trounced him in a race against Caligula, much less Dick Nixon. Yet, Lyndon Johnson stood by the side of JFK as he ran the mother of all kick-ass campaigns against a political mutant that might not have survived for six minutes in Roman elections.

Chief Wonka knows a thing or two about the climate of big time politics, tapping his left leg like a fiend on crank while assaulting the Grand China Buffet with a passion rarely found in mortals. The Chief loves his politics, but his fried cream cheese even more; and when it came time to handicap the Super Tuesday ballots he leaned back in that funny way he does while peeling off a medieval grin that told me all I needed to know about the rising smog.

John McCain had a chance, I foolishly told myself. But by 10:24 PM the final curtain had come down on the Arizona Senator. “Effectively, he flat lined in New York,” they’ll write. “And California will put the dirt on him.”

Writing this gibberish is the easy part. I have spent the last four hours at a voting outlet in the sleepy nook of Putnam Valley, where less people know about me than those forced to edit this rant. Most of it with a bull horn gripped firmly in my right hand belting out the kind of propaganda needed for desperate March evenings when Fat Tuesday becomes a super bummer and the only men left with a puncher’s chance at finally putting Bill Clinton out of a job are pathetic facsimiles.

“HEAR YE, POOR MINIONS OF OUR DENTED SYSTEM,” I began. “THE LORD HAS ABANDONED US, AND ALL THAT IS LEFT IS OUR MEAGER WILL TO SURVIVE THE FINAL BLOW!”

“The final blow?” a hardy pedestrian asked. “What are you talking about?”

It was a fair question. How would Chief Wonka decipher the crux of such a cryptic statement born of frustration and defeat? He was so sure that things would right itself that afternoon at the Grand Buffet that I nearly ate the multicolored death mints on the way out. But something beyond the lobster roll gnawed at my stomach. Four men remained before Super Tuesday—when more than half the delegates it takes to become president would be up for grabs—but only two would stand.

“No one really wants to vote for these guys,” the mighty Chief said twice more before we departed. “We’re supposed to choose a royal meal from rotten dog meat?” It rang true, then hollow. Bill Bradley was a dead man hours after he left New Hampshire, but the the glassy-eyed zombies up at headquarters still kept e-mailing me his itinerary: Mr. Bradley goes here. Mr. Bradley goes there. Didn’t have much of a point after too long. So much so I turned down two personal invitations to his consession speech just to avoid gazing upon the carcass.

The Republicans would set things right, I thought. Every bubble-headed paranoid dipshit screaming about a phantom hijacking of the party and ignoring millions of independent votes would suddenly come to their senses and put the scare into the vice president. John McCain had a chance, I foolishly told myself. But by 10:24 PM the final curtain had come down on the Arizona Senator. “Effectively, he flat lined in New York,” they’ll write. “And California will put the dirt on him.” As my grandmother, Carmella Martignetti, once said so eloquently. “That man is dead, he just doesn’t know enough to lie down.”

So the hardy man at the poll asked, “What are you talking about?” And in the tradition of Chief Wonka, and all the proud warriors of dark battles, it is important to remember that in defeat can be another kind of victory. And back to the bull horn I went…“THE PHEONIX CAN RISE! THE CHRIST KNEW VICTORY AFTER DEATH! SHIRLY MCCLEAN FUCKED KUBLA KHAN! THERE IS A WAY TO BEAT SATAN AGAIN!”

“Satan?” the man asked, following along slowly.

“YOUR MAN BUSH IS A SCUMBAG, IT IS TRUE! HE PAINTED HIS OPPONENT AT A COMMIE, LAND-RAPING, WOMAN-HATING GREMLIN, BUT IT WOULD TAKE THE ARCH ANGEL OF THE LORD AND ALL HIS CHARGES TO BRING DOWN THE EVIL THAT RESTS IN THE HEART OF THE MAN WHO SLEEPS REGULARLY WITH TIPPER! KNOW NOT THE FIRES OF HELL UNTIL HATH LIE WITH THE SLITHERING SNAKE!”

Bull horns may be well and good at teamster rallies, but late at night in Putnam Valley, NY amidst the gentle voters, it is enough to bring the law. My stand was finished. Within two hours G.W. Bush would win the lion’s share of key delegates, edge New York, and by evening’s end wrap up Cali on a whim.

Al Gore swept the thing and stood at a podium in Tennessee begging the McCain independents to protect their women and children from the right-wing religious freak from the land of electric chair justice and world record pollution numbers.

At that moment, phones had to ring in the McCain hotel room somewhere in Los Angeles; and the men paid high figures for advising had to be all over them rebuilding the same bridges that had G.W. in bed with evil preachers and in the back pocket of an establishment which was one bad night in South Carolina away from funneling funds elsewhere. If McCain has a heart, and any compassion left for his party and the future of this nation, he will suck it up and join Junior on the ticket. It is the only avenue left to cease this presidency-by-default Gore has lined up.

It’s after midnight and G.W. is on CNN telling Larry King that he might not have invented the Internet, but he’s sure he could spell it. I still plan to keep writing. Most of it will not appear in this space, but there may be another book left in me. Chief Wonka may even know. I was told he knows all. I was also told crime doesn’t pay and you can’t argue with election results.

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R.I.P. Woodstock – Pop Culture author, James Campion slams Woodstock 1999.

Reality Check Classics 7/28/99

R.I.P. WOODSTOCK

Like all things attached to aberrations and miracles, the legacy of Woodstock must be allowed to rest in peace. It has become sadly apparent that to revive its memory only unearths actions barely resembling anything to do with the word peace.

Glaring examples of capitalism run amok in the form of 90s’ sponsorship, and potential record sales eclipse any homage to a time and place so rare it defies explanation even now. For if Joni Mitchell had been walking down the road to Rome, New York on the weekend of July 24, 1999, it is more likely she would have seen less a child of God, than a Baby Boomer fallout.

Whatever those who put together Woodstock ’99 might have thought—or offered up as an excuse, following three days of disgusting accommodations, ridiculous overpricing, lewd and abusive behavior, blatant acts of violence, looting, and arson—it can simply be summed up as the day the piper came looking for his check. Somewhere between MTV, pay-per-view, and ultra-hip.com, the ripped-off, starving, unwashed, poser revolutionaries who were bilked by this sham enacted their vengeance on what surely has to be the last of these hapless revivals.

By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting compassion for luck.

Thirty years ago, a couple of rich kids got lucky. All they wanted was to make a few bucks on a burgeoning music culture born out of a Summer of Love and a stockpile of recreational drugs. The small town known as Woodstock, nestled in the mountains of Sullivan County, New York seemed as good a place as any to have what was fast being known as a music festival.

Home to artists for most of the century, and by the Summer of ‘69, host to musicians including the patriarchal Bob Dylan, the town of Woodstock served as a mini-nirvana for those starved for an image to summon the crude, but sometimes charming lifestyle begun in the streets of the East Village in NYC and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. The Woodstock Music and Art Festival didn’t turn out like the rich kids planned (Actually, it didn’t even take place in Woodstock, NY, but in nearby Bethel), but it could’ve been a whole hell of a lot worse.

Nearly three decades later, other rich folk, coupled with corporate America and the record industry, decided to press the odds. A 25th Anniversary weekend went relatively well a few towns south in Saugerties, NY five years ago, and now it would take place a few miles southeast. But it was more than decades and miles which separated the 350,00 lost souls who descended on Max Yasgur’s farmland in the Summer of the moon landing and the Amazin’ Mets, and nearly 230,000 suckers crammed into an abandoned Air Force base last month. That was a distance made but for one element: luck.

It should always be noted that the original Woodstock festival was supposed to be a profit venture. Sadly, for the rich kids financing it, the thing turned into a financial bath before the end of day-one. More than half the kids who piled into the festival waltzed over downed fences. As a result of the unchecked influx of flower children there wasn’t nearly enough toilets, water, or space. The New York Thruway, a winding stretch of road as long as the Mississippi River, was closed. Humanity outweighed the blue print ten times over. Then came the torrential downpours and random dissemination of tainted LSD.

But something significant, some might offer magnificent, happened over those three miserable days. Through it all, the people survived. Better yet, they thrived. What originally was supposed to exploit them, deteriorated into something which transformed them. For all their antisocial rhetoric, the hippie generation formed a mini-society which laughed in the face of convention by embracing its most ardent qualities. This was the story plastered on the front of the New York Times on the Monday morning after. Crazy kids with heads full of drugs and hardly a stitch of clothing or a dollar to spare supported each other for three days of “peace and music.”

Like Kennedy’s Camelot, Woodstock has been retrospectively lifted to epic lore. But for those who found themselves there it was nothing short of a disaster area. The Who’s Pete Townshend still speaks of it in horrific terms. Filmmaker Martin Scorcese, who worked the sound for the award-winning movie, has often described it as surviving war. Bad acid, bad weather, bad well water, and creeping sickness turned fields around the stage into Gettysburg without the rifles.

Yet, the world continued to wonder if those hearty souls showed the rest of us a thing or two about the glow of the human spirit., where behind the myopic harangue of civilization there is a ring of collective truth about brotherhood, caring, and the simple, but significant, act of lifting the person next to you out of the mud and back on stride.

The world knows now it was nothing but dumbass luck.

People would love to blame the senseless violence and looting of this year’s version of Woodstock on the music, the artists, the culture, or those empty-headed youngsters whose only sense of self-respect and responsibility eludes them. But if you find yourself in Limp Bizkit or Korn right now, a few months, maybe years, from eating stale bread in your no-heat apartments, you’re taking any gig, especially a high-paying, high-profile one. And if you need to scream and yell about how much life sucks to a rapid-fire beat and three chords to make a buck, may the good Lord bless and keep you.

Ironically, many feel that the acts not allowed to perform during the original Woodstock allowed for the vibe to float rather than sink. There was a reason why the Doors, with their radical calls for the break down of reality barriers and invisible social casts, were left off the bill.

When the rebellious Satan clan known as the Rolling Stones were told not to come, Mick Jagger decided to host his own festival on the hills of San Francisco which resulted in the blood bath forever known as Altamont.

But in reality the music didn’t have as much to do with the tragedy of Altamont as the fascist violence of the Hell’s Angels and the hippie mismanagement which inevitably led to infamous killings and another type of bell which tolled for the Baby Boomer peace and love era.

All of this had been conveniently forgotten until the pathetic display of raging capitalism, apathy, and finally violence in Rome last month. Only this time ignorance cannot be used as an excuse. As the weekend unfolded it seemed far more attention was paid to draining patrons of their cash than providing decent camp areas, ample toilets, showers, or any presence of security. The hundreds crushed in mosh pits could have been prevented. The overflow of human secretions hindered somewhat.

By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting compassion for luck. Those stumbling into a wonderful mistake and sliding through relatively unscathed 30 years ago achieved a level of fortune rarely reached in the annals of humanity.

The luck ran out in August of 1969. For the rest of us there is only an empty vessel of suffering at $169 a pop.

First Published on 8/11/99 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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james campion.com

Journalism Review 4/15/96

ON THE TRAIL OF A KIDNAPPED JOURNALIST

Part One (Thrust into the angry mouth of the ’96 campaign on a hunch and a prayer)

“Do you see what those bastards are trying to do to my party?” The voice on the other end of a cellular phone screeched. It was the determined rant of an angered female named Joannie, one with a boulder-chip on her shoulder and probably the same disturbing gleam in a right eye that never seemed to blink. In all the time I’d taken her frenzied calls, I’d never heard her so all-hell riled up. It was a voice, yes, but more like the disturbing, repetitive screech of a rabid ferret gnawing its way through a metal cage. “In the holy name of Ronald Reagan,” she bellowed, “the idea is to win!”

Friends like Joannie come around once in a lifetime; well versed in political rhetoric and amped-up on fourteen cups of java a day, railing about one injustice after another. That’s the way true underground journalists work: a phone in one hand and a micro cassette recorder in the other, freelancing like a Times Square hooker for every twisted story dangling on the professional bate line.

But Joannie is just a child in this business; squeaky clean and emerald green from the sprawling fields of Michigan, thrust into the shark-infested waters of Washington DC like a bleeding minnow. She is one of those beautiful examples of wide-eyed optimists running rampart through the new world of the Fourth Estate.

I, on the other hand, have seen the ugly truth of real politics, foul dealings and back-room rugby scrums for the removal of a traffic light, much less the increase on tariffs or the deployment of troops. Joannie and me had always made an interesting team.

I first met her at a Trenton State campus rally for unfair parking permits back in 1982. Fresh from winning a journalism award for an expose on pregnant women’s abuse of certain grain alcohol’s and the effects on their fetuses, Joannie already exuded a ravenous appetite for a story. I had won a similar, meaningless award from the American Cancer Society for a story I’d written about a middle-aged man who refused to quit smoking even after his wife had died of lung cancer from his second hand smoke. The judges were especially impressed with my description of the deranged cretin smoking no-filter Lucky Strikes through the tracheotomy hole in his neck.

Joannie was a whiny liberal then, so full of passion for helping the destitute and saving whatever aquatic creature was rumored to be endangered. Although struggling with the morality of abortion, she found it almost impossible to balance her fervent defense of women’s rights and the power of any government to demand that a thirteen year-old, freckled-faced girl carry her rapist’s love child for nine months. In the end, though, it was economics and the charm of Ronald Reagan that convinced her to register Republican in 1984, ironically opposing the first presidential ticket with a woman on it. “Ferraro is a goddamn mobster’s wife,” she hissed, that fateful November day.

On a professional level, politics was never Joannie’s bag. She chose instead to delve into movie reviews and cooking blurbs, nailing the odd interview with a Midwestern town comptroller or local congressman for most of the 1980s’. But then, as with most newspaper work, the money dried up. “I’m going to the heart of journalism now,” she told me four short years ago.

Once in our nation’s capitol, Joannie found herself in the mouth of the dragon with nothing but her valiant heart. There was little covered in her Civics 101 or Introduction of Mass Media that prepared her for such a vile disregard for humanity, and on one particularly humorous call, I received in her first month there, she told me that only Dante himself could find the proper adjectives to describe the netherworld lurking inside the Beltway.

Certainly, nowhere in the text of any respected college course could one find the type of vitriol Joannie was presently spewing into my right ear as I surfed the cable channels for a decent sports highlight show. “There is no direction in the Grand Old Party anymore,” she continued, building mind-bending momentum. “Too many frightened people crawling behind a veil of weak apathy and phony posturing. Too many goddamn polls on fucking CNN! Who the hell runs these wretched things?!”

“Calm down,” I pleaded, attempting to swing the conversation into innocuous banter about spring fashions and the royal divorce. “How can you bark about such banal crap when Princess Di is left all alone,” I began. “This is a gender issue of grave importance.”

“Fuck that English cunt,” she blurted. “The Republican Party is imploding quietly under the weight of stale boredom, and that scumbag Clinton is going to rule the free world for four more fucking years!”

I knew her tantrum would lead to it. Every manic conversation with her lately had gone the way of the loyal opposition. Slick talking southern Democrats with the lilt of a country carnival barker always rubbed Joannie’s skin raw like fresh sandpaper on an open wound. Even above the incessant crackling of our conversation and the drone of the television I could hear her teeth grinding.

But she had it all wrong this time. “Bill Clinton is not the enemy,” I told her, carefully considering her fragile state of mind. “Oh I know that,” she said. “The enemy is bullshit! How to manufacture it, market it, and sell it. The Grand Old Party has forgotten how! Where have you gone Ronnie, our nation’s turns its lonely eyes to you!”

“Ronald Reagan dies in 1983,” I barked. “Everyone in Washington knew it at the time. They stuffed him and spliced together old tapes of speeches whenever they wheeled the carcass in front of the press. Do you think for one minute the Gipper would have let a dullard like Ollie North embarrass him like that?”

“Just how do you suppose a dottering old fool like Bob Dole will fare in a debate with the likes of Bill Clinton?” she asked, becoming more frantic. “Dole couldn’t debate that idiot Steve Forbes and he never even ran for school board!”

Just then, I happened by a news channel running the same tired footage of Pat Buchanan on the stump down South where he was repeatedly slaughtered by Rappin’ Robert Dole in practically every state that held a primary. Uncle Pat was busy waving his fist like some televangilist demanding money to keep Jesus from stealing the Statue of Liberty. God bless his mangled heart, I thought to myself, he is the only man demented enough to topple a vicious professional like Bill Clinton.

Uncle Pat was a pit bull with a spiked collar and a lusty taste for blood long before Big Bill even dreamed of running for class hall monitor. Not even the long arm of Dick Nixon could keep him from whipping up a few venomous lines for Spiro Agnew to read as part of a harmless ribbon cutting ceremony in Demoins, Iowa for the Knights of Columbus.

Oh, how the tiny hairs on the back of Bob Halderman’s neck would stand at attention when he would be forced to brief the president of some speech Buchanan handed Agnew. No target was too small for Uncle Pat’s sharp ideological arrows. He would proudly stand in the wings cackling as each sentence angered anyone within earshot who even remotely used their conscience.

After all, it was Uncle Pat who told a frazzled Nixon to “start a bonfire with those goddamn tapes,” when the Supreme Court came-a-knockin’ for the president’s impeachment. It was Uncle Pat who nestled at the bosom of such evil brutes like John Mitchell and Ed Meese during the bulk of the Nixon and Reagan empires, displaying sheer brilliance at keeping his hands clean and his fat ass out of jail. These are key assets for a candidate who entertains the challenge for the ultimate office.

Bob Dole couldn’t get a sniff of those type of activities. Nixon’s top aids would laugh like mischievous school boys whenever Rappin’ Rob would leave the room. He was a small player at the crap table and never did like to get his hands dirty. No one who gives half a shit about the future of the Republican Party would seriously cast a vote for Bob Dole. I know it, and apparently Joannie had come similar conclusions. Rappin’ Rob might have been a wounded in the Big One, but he would be lucky to come out of a real hard political battle with Big Bill with his dick still attached.

The president was even now revving up his campaign engines, stopping in the Lincoln bedroom to spark a joint and hold his breath. The truly connected people can tell its party time when a political bagman like James Carvillle starts spending quality time on every talk show from Ophra to Larry King, giggling like a mental patient at the thought of stomping a nice, bland old man like Bob Dole.

“It had better be Dole,” Carville shuttered. “Cause Buchanan’s got full color photos of the president screwing half the street walkers on Pennsylvania Avenue, Larry! Christ, we can’t deal with that bastard without serious ammunition!”

The more I thought about it, Joannie was right. But the further she raged on, the more muddled and diluted her thoughts had become, like a feverish child babbling about the cute purple dinosaur ripping up through the box spring to eat her alive. “I’m working for the party,” she whispered, when I concocted an excuse to hang up. “What?” I cried. “You’ve slipped into the abyss, never to return! No tabloid, or television station will have you now. Look what happened to that fucker at channel four! Your soiled, corrupted, finished in this business!”

A sudden clicking sound interrupted my tirade.

“Your other line is ringing,” I offered.

“I don’t have call-waiting,” she said nervously.

I knew it wasn’t me, having dropped that particular service as part of a tantrum I pulled during tempestuous negotiations with NYNEX not long after they tried to charge me for running six computers out of my house when I didn’t even own a computer. I remember frantically trying to call the FCC in a huff, but the lines were busy.

“Your fucking phone is tapped,” I barked, quickly slamming down the receiver.

I ran to my car and yanked the gear shift into first, grinding up one of the many hills surrounding my house in the thicket of Putnam County, New York. The nearest pay phone is a twenty-minute ride in any direction, but I managed to make it in ten, ignoring the double yellow lines and two stop signs.

On ring. Two rings. There was no answer. Whomever had tapped her line obviously alerted someone of her dangerous babbling and gotten to her. The chances were very good those involved had traced my number and would certainly be coming after me. If Bob Woodward had to carry a pistol around downtown Washington D.C., only God knows how easy it would be to get to a relative novice like Joannie. Especially if the Republican Party had her address, phone number and vital information.

As I stood in that phone booth, listening to one unanswered ring after the other, her predicament became clearer to me. She’d probably been stewing for days, maybe weeks, throwing back martinis in a bar across the street from the FBI building and going on and on about the party imploding while Bill Clinton ruled the world. It could easily have been the type of hysterical outburst that would perk the ear of any official in the know. For all Joannie knew, she was under surveillance for months and had given them all the evidence they needed for a covert kidnapping.

I fumbled through my wallet for the number of several publications that I’d freelanced for before, but it was late and I was having trouble trying to find the right words to present my reasons for running off to Washington DC in an attempt to rescue a crazed journalist from committing professional suicide. Not mention the possible ugly results of going toe to toe with angry Republican insiders.

That’s when the name Dan Davis popped into my swimming head. After all, it was Dirty Dan, who as a young reporter, had brought the Pet Rock industry to its knees. He was the editor of the leading underground newspaper on the East Coast, known far and wide for his profound drunken boasts on how he’d stretched the credibility of the First Amendment further than Howard Stern, Lenny Bruce and Cybersmut junkies. Luckily, his card was still in my wallet.

“It’s two o’clock in the goddamn morning, Campion!” he bellowed from the other end.

“Important feces has hit the fan, Davis,” I began.

“I have no money,” he interrupted, quickly surmising my train of thought.

“Hear me out,” I argued, feeling my final solution slipping through the cracks. I hurriedly explained the crisis while dumping a slew of change into the cold coin slot.

“I’ve never heard of this Joannie character,” he barked. “Call me when they beat up Dan Rather again.”

“This is a story that could lead to the steps of the Republican Convention in San Diego,” I cried pounding my hand on the glass in from of me. “There is trouble and there will be hell to pay by November!” Can you imagine a kidnapping in the heart of our nation’s capitol? Possible ties to the FBI, the CIA and most likely the fucking Kennedy assassination! It’s not O.J., but it’s gound-floor insurrection!”

“Sober up and call a psychatrist,” he calmly retorted. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“Joannie is a ticking time bomb,” I said, trying desperately to keep him on the line. “Even if nothing happened to her there’s a great chance she’ll do something bizarre. I’ll be in the eye of the storm I tell you. The whole presidential campaign could break wide open!”

“O.K., I’ll tell you what,” he slowly exhaled. “I’m not giving you dime-one to get to Washington. But if you find this chick, get to California, and manage credentials to the convention…” he hesitated, bringing my sense of urgency to dangerous levels of pure fear. “…then I’ll pay for the story as it develops.” Then he hung up.

That’s really all I needed to hear. Once a journalist has the pulpit in which to scratch the bloody surface of a story, the details become minutiae. I had just enough gasoline to get to an airport and plenty of plastic credit to get to DC, but one question remained: would Joannie still be there when I arrived?

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The Legacy and Legend of Howard Cosell ‘s eulogy to an American broadcasting icon.

North County 4/26/95

“TELL IT LIKE IT IS” – THE LEGACY AND LEGEND OF HOWARD COSELL

Howard CosellThis country has not known a more influential journalist than Howard Cosell. His innate ability to dissect an event, infiltrate a personality and offer honest analysis at the point of attack made him a unique voice in an otherwise antiseptic profession. The resonance of his talent is an echo in the world of reporting today, but it is a faint reminder of the man whose voice served as a sonic boom that shook the walls and shattered the windows of broadcasting.

Ironically, Cosell died quietly this past weekend after a private three-year battle with cancer at the age of 77. The doctor’s report told the world it was a heart embolism, but anyone who knew anything about the attorney with a microphone and the massive chip on his hunched shoulder was convinced that he was too stubborn to succumb to anything, much less a deadly disease.

His staccato delivery was immediate legend, his hawkish looks an instant caricature and his powerful ego a massive hammer swung sometimes with little control, if not definite, direction. These were the odd attributes that combined to make Cosell a superstar among faceless haircuts and scribbling notepads. But his greatest asset was that he was utterly fearless. There was no crusade too big, no injustice too imposing, and no human power too intimidating for his prodding sarcasm and razor-sharp wit. “I tell it like it is,” was his catch-phrase.

“I did what I believed in,” he reflected to a reporter a few years ago. “I saw myself as a person who wanted to bring to public attention that which I thought was wrong. No more. No less.”

Throughout the 60s’ and 70s’ the appearance of Cosell at a sporting event signified its importance. If there was ever a question of its relevance, it was answered by his presence alone.

He was the living embodiment of the first amendment and the shining example of what truths can be uncovered by the oft-challenged “freedom of press”.

Not unlike John F. Kennedy and the Beatles, Howard Cosell was a figure perfectly fit for the times in which he found himself. Ten years earlier, or perhaps, even ten years later, an editorial voice like Cosell’s might have been shoved aside as too assertive, or worse yet, ignored altogether. But in the age following McCarthyism and the Red Scare, a country swirling in the tornado of events from Vietnam to Watergate we were just cynical and thick-skinned enough to handle him.

He could have covered any corner of the news, but chose sports because of the immediacy and likelihood of the impossible to explode at anytime. Moreover, he precociously knew sports needed him. “If ever a broadcaster sought to bring sports out of the banal,” he once mused, “this, you see, is my mission.”

Throughout the 60s’ and 70s’ the appearance of Cosell at a sporting event signified its importance. If there was ever a question of its relevance, it was answered by his presence alone. In one predictably pompous moment, he once compared his celebrity to Walter Cronkite. But unlike the security and warmth of Uncle Walty at the time of breaking news or crisis, Cosell exuded the fastidious tension of a literate watch dog that needed not only an answer, but the answer.

If there was no Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali would have still been an icon for a generation locked in turbulence, people would’ve still crowded into bars on Monday nights to watch prime time football, the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics would’ve had the same impact on a stunned and riveted television audience, Joe Willie Namath would still have his middle name, Chris Chambliss would’ve probably hit that homer to win the pennant for the Yankees, and Joe Frazier still would have tumbled to the canvas under the thunderous blow of the brooding force of young George Foreman.

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The difference is that Cosell was there, and for some strange reason, we remember that. Cosell and the event seemed to take on an inseparable quality as time passed. Yet, despite his propensity to find a space in the spotlight of a sporting event, like an annoying relative trying to squeeze into a family snapshot, Cosell never usurped the game itself. He somehow joined its magnitude by riding along, often times actually becoming the only voice that mattered when the dust settled.

He could sense a story as it unfolded and enlarge its aura as if it were a moment already recorded, digested and reflected in history.

In this way, Cosell clung to the light and fury that was Muhammad Ali, arguably the largest sports figure of the 20th century. When the young heavyweight, Cassius Clay embraced the Muslim faith and changed his name, only Cosell would honor it by calling him Ali during interviews. When Ali fought the draft because of his religious beliefs, and was stripped of his championship belt, Cosell was there beside him.

Cosell’s interviews with the always poetic and vociferous Ali were masterpieces in entertainment. “I’ll take you out Cosell,” Ali would pronounce with that ever-present smile biting down on his bottom lip. “I’ll knock you out and take that rug off your head.”

“You wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me,” Cosell would quip in his laconic drone.

His powerful radio show, “Speaking of Sports” lasted the longest of any of his projects. Probably because he didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else. And when I was a kid, it punched its way through the mono speaker on my little portable every Sunday morning. He took on racism, the wrongful treatment of pro athletes by monolithic leagues, the absence of a commissioner for prize fighting; but it what made those shows special, was those priceless moments when a unsuspecting guest would need to wiggle out of a finger-pointing diatribe on the hypocrisy of something somewhere.

Cosell’s best-known pulpit was the crowded booth on of the most popular experiments in network history. Monday Night Football was the perfect place for his pedantry and bluster, and he made it his stage. A man who had never played the sport, offering strong commentary, most of it derisive, led to a TV Guide poll that during the mid 70s’ had him the most hated and most loved sportscaster of all.

After denouncing boxing as a “disgusting mess” and pro football as a “stagnant bore”, Howard Cosell rode off into the sunset, leaving a 35-year body of work in his indignant wake. His last public jab came in the form of his fourth book, What’s Wrong with Sports, a truculent attack on everything he ever encountered along the way. Cosell went out the way he came in–swinging.

Howard Cosell never received a big sendoff like Johnny Carson of Cronkite, but one would have to wonder if he would’ve either expected or embraced it. But every one of us who have ever offered an opinion or covered an event, or tried to procure a quote from a newsworthy subject have a debt to pay to Howard Cosell. Because in the end, reporting is the search for truth, and as a reporter, you’d hope a little justice prevails. Right or wrong, the reporter strives to, at the very least, make people think. That is Howard Cosell’s legacy.

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