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Friday, April 20, 2018

Theme park.

That's it, Lincoln. I'm tired of your get-rich-quick schemes. They always end up with trouble. Like that "Civil War" idea you had once. How did THAT turn out?

Damn, I'll tell you ... sometimes I feel like a walking suggestion box. Every time I turn a corner in this cavernous abandoned hammer mill, someone starts pitching ideas to me about what we can do to generate income, filthy lucre, serious bank. Capitalists! All they ever think about is their money. What about MY money? When the hell is someone going to build an economic theory around THAT? If I hear one more hare-brained scheme about starting a theme park based on the history of hammer manufacturing in North America, I'm going to move to another kind of abandoned mill entirely.

That said, this place really would lend itself to being a kind of theme park. They could do a kind of Gaslight Village or something equally fourth-rate - the vintage is about right, construction wise. Or it could be a life-scale model of an early 20th Century factory town, with plastic manikins and some kind of conveyor belt ride that drops you into a vat of molten nickel. (And it would only cost a nickel!) They could have a whole separate section in the courtyard called "Strike Land" where you can walk in circles holding signs that say, "Day's Work For A Day's Pay" and "Enough is Enough". Then half-trained actors dressed as Pinkertons file in and beat the crap out of you. Hey ... it's educational!

Well, maybe NOT like gaslight village.Of course, why should we limit ourselves to the most obvious options? Hell, you could do anything in this barn. Just hang a sign over the front door that reads "Lost in Space Land" and you've got a theme park fit for the Robinson Family. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) could take tickets at the door, and Anti-Lincoln could pose as Professor John Robinson, so long as people aren't expecting the stubble-bearded military dude in the current reboot. So what if John looks like Lincoln? He was modeled on Kennedy ... isn't that close enough?

There I go. Will you just look at me? I'm doing the very thing I admonished my colleagues not to do. I guess now THEY'LL have to find another kind of mill.

Long division.

Some good news (or at least not bad news): The U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria obviously haven't led to a terminal nuclear conflict; not yet, anyway. That said, this was another loathsome destructive exercise by three imperial powers intent on maintaining at least symbolic dominance over their erstwhile colonial possessions. We've heard all the flimsy justifications for this action - the need to enforce the prohibition on use of chemical weapons, the need to alleviate the suffering of innocents, etc. None of it holds any water.

While it's good that a class of weapons is at least nominally banned, it's hard to see a substantive difference between gassing people and blowing their legs off, or piercing their skulls with fragments of depleted uranium shell casings, or dropping white phosphorus on them, or enforcing a medieval siege that results in more than a million contracting cholera (i.e. biological warfare). And if Trump, May, and Macron are concerned with the suffering of innocents, they can start addressing it by not supporting Saudi war crimes in Yemen or Israeli executions of Palestinian protestors. Then there's the legal question. I can't speak for Britain or France, but Trump has no legal authorization to attack the government of Syria. It appears as though their argument on this issue is might makes right; that's transparently illegitimate.

The result when every power pursues their own interests.Restraining a Trump administration powered by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo is going to be difficult. It isn't made any easier by internal divisions evident on the left. Clearly we don't need to agree on everything to agree that American intervention in Syria is a bad idea and shouldn't be done. There's a natural tendency to turn conflicts of this type into a kind of zero-sum game between bad players and good players; this is not unique to the left, obviously. There are people on the left who support the rebellion in Syria and those who think it's populated entirely by terrorists. Likewise, I've heard leftists essentially align themselves with the Assad regime and others call for its overthrow.

There are bad players on all sides of this conflict, obviously, and every power is pursuing their own interests. I don't have to agree with Assad's rapacious military assaults to agree that we shouldn't attack his government, largely because American intervention has such a bloody history. (I would say it always fails, but that would entail the assumption that our military policies are intended to do our victims some good ... which is never the case.) I've never been a fan of Vladimir Putin, but I understand Russia's decision to intervene in the wake of previous regime-change efforts on the part of the U.S., all of which have resulted in failed states, hundreds of thousands of dead, and worsening political turmoil. I haven't seen convincing evidence one way or the other with respect to who used chemical weapons two weeks ago, but the question is irrelevant - the solution to this conflict does not involve American military force. Period.

If the left (and center-left) can coalesce around the basic principle of non-intervention, grounded in solid legal, moral, and historical arguments, we will have a better chance at holding off the Bolton-Trump assault on the Middle East.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 13, 2018

Old stock.

Damn, I always forget how big this place is. Who the hell knew all this junk was in here? I didn't. Maybe Mitch knew, but he's in Sao Paolo, noodling around with deadly lasers and the like.

Hi, everyone. Yeah, we're stumbling upon all kinds of trash/treasure, now that the local realtors have us on our toes. They held an open house here last Sunday, for chrissake. What's next? Shooting an episode of House Hunters in the courtyard? I mean ... is anyone going to want to open a store in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill?

Anyway, back to our find. There's this little room on the east side of the building. We pulled the lock off with a crowbar and found all these old hammer handles. It looked like Lester Maddox's closet. (Ask your mother.) That got me thinking: If we could sell the handles, we could pay rent on this place. Then I realized how stupid that idea is. Now, well ... I'm fresh out of ideas on how to stay in this squat house without opening a boutique of some kind. Maybe we can get Mitch Macaphee to make decorative candles in his lab. (Preferably the kind that don't explode.)

Looks like this side of the mill needs a lttle TLCWe could sell old stock out of said boutique. We've got hammer handles. There's also a bunch of old music lying around in various forms. We could sell CDs, but since we only have three full-length releases and a couple of EPs, that would make us a bit like the Scotch Boutique on 70s era Saturday Night Live. (Ask YouTube ... or your mother.) I keep digging up old recordings from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. If people still recorded on cassettes, we could just tape over the tabs and sell those. (Ask your ... oh, never mind.)

Okay, so we're lousy capitalists. What's new? When I come up with something you're likely to pay money for, I'll let you know.

Speaking of old stock, we just dropped another installment of our occasional Ned Trek podcast. It's another Ned episode knifed out of THIS IS BIG GREEN from a couple of years back - Ned Trek 25: Not The Children One, Please!

Minutes to midnight.

After a week like the one we've had, I feel like I have to write this quickly. We are literally on the brink of a major power conflict brewing in Syria, and it's hard to see how it can effectively be prevented. An apparent chemical attack has, once again, triggered the Pavlovian imperial response from Washington - namely that no problem can't be solved by dropping high explosives on it. The trouble is that the Syrian conflict is so complicated, with major regional and global powers backing different factions in pursuit of their own narrow interests (and civilians be damned). So while the Trump cabal claims to want to strike at Bashir Al Assad's government, they can hardly do so without hitting Russian personnel.

Mr. Atomic Clock himselfThreats are being exchanged, partly via Twitter, and this is becoming a very volatile situation. A situation like this makes clear why the Democratic/Liberal approach of blaming everything on Russia is short-sighted and foolish. Trump is now under pressure to be "tougher" on Russia, and it seems he is willing to move in that direction. So in a sense both major political groupings are either pushing for war or indifferent, and that's a dangerous state of affairs, particularly with this venal, unstable, insecure president. Oh, and did I mention that Monday was John Bolton's first day on the job as National Security Advisor? Jesus.

Earlier this year the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on their doomsday clock to 2 minutes before midnight - the nearest their estimate of risk has come to nuclear Armageddon since 1953. I think they are on to something. President drunk uncle bigot, the Twitter troll, is a crack head, but what he does in his evident dementia is demonstrate how out of control presidential power has become. The power to destroy the world should not be in the hands of the president. I would argue it should be in no one's hands, but so long as the capability exists, it should be subject to extensive review by more than one branch of government. The more people involved in this process the better. After all, we're talking about blowing up the whole planet - we should require our war-hungry leaders to keep asking different people until they find someone sane enough to say "no".

I hope I am just being alarmist about this. All I can say is that, whatever happens in the next week or two, it's going to be a long, painful three years.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 6, 2018

Monetizing sloth.

Leave me alone, Charles. Can't you see I'm trying to sleep? It's obvious, for chrissake ... I just called you Charles, and I don't even know anyone by that name. So I must be effing sleeping, right? Charles?

Oh, hi. Fell asleep in my cozy broom closet. We are still in our highly restricted corners of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill as local venture capitalists eye the joint from stem to stern to see if it has any potential to make them serious bank. (I think there are more opportunities in the stem than in the stern, but I'll let them find that out for themselves.) It's like they have glass heads; I can see them picturing some knitting basket of a store, maybe a Hickory Farms ... if such a thing still exists. (I remember stealing samples there as a kid. Strange, because I wasn't even hungry ... still, it was a good find.)

So, yeah ... they'll probably sweep us out of here like yesterday's floor scum in a few months. Unless, that is, we come up with some cash ... or Mitch Macaphee comes up with some kind of diabolical invention that will hold them at bay. Maybe a time-warp generator. Maybe a force field. (Even a little, teensy-weensy force field would help.) Maybe a great invisible ruler we can use to whack the invisible hand of the marketplace. Just throwing out a few ideas here. Are you listening, Mitch? Mitch??

A potential buyer visits.Oh, damn ... that's right. Mitch is off to Sao Paolo to attend the bi-annual convention of the International Society for the Purveyors of Mad Science (or ISPMS). I believe they're giving him some sort of badge this year. (Not sure what it's for, but it suspiciously glows in the dark.) In any case, we can't rely on Mitch to keep the capitalist wolf pack at bay here at our besieged hammer mill squat house. We could have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) go out there and try to reason with the developers, but that would just make them laugh and point. We could coax Anti-Lincoln (perhaps with the promise of bourbon) to give one of his famous presidential addresses from the mill's parapet, but again ... pointing and laughing would ensue. (He's not good.)

Thankfully, it's a weekend, and I have the option of staying in my broom closet, strumming my unplugged guitar, while the realtor does walk-throughs. "What's that sound?" the punters will ask, and the realtor will say, "Just the wind in the willows."

The other others.

As is his common practice, Trump has been gesticulating wildly this past week, choosing Easter Sunday to crush the hopes of DACA recipients across America (many of whom consider Easter first among holidays), announcing tariffs practically at random, and threatening to send troops to line our southern border (as northbound crossings are at a 46-year low). I seriously doubt the National Guard will be stopping Norwegians at Nogales, so note to all those disgruntled citizens of Oslo who want to leave free healthcare and university-level education behind for a chance to live in the land of the free: don't even think about it!

Trump's segregation showroom.The shit storm is usually a smokescreen, a bit of grimy flash powder to distract most of us from what the administration is actually doing and to excite that grisly some of us who get off on targeting dark people. When the president hammers hard on his core themes, you know he's worried about something. I'm expecting a major attack on Muslims soon - maybe Somali refugees, since they conveniently pull together the various attributes that make for great racist demagoguery: Islam, marked immigration status, dark skin, head scarfs, non-Norwegian sounding names, strange language, etc. He has already singled them out more than once as President, I believe, and certainly during the 2016 campaign.

Much of the raw violence promoted by this administration is being done overseas, both as a function of our military deployments and by virtue of our support for aggressive allies. (This will likely only get worse with the arrival of John Bolton.) We were all treated to a visit by the Saudi prince recently, who likes to be called MBS (perhaps because it makes him sound like a bank). Fortunately he wasn't drowned by all the admiring drool from the Tom Friedmans of the world. Of course, they never discussed the attack on Yemen except in the context of a friendly slap on the back, I'm sure. Then there's the Israelis, who are better than anyone at getting away with killing upwards of 20 protesters, wounding 750 more, and blaming the victims. Numbers like these - in response to a protest, no less - indicate an enhanced sense of license on the part of the Israeli leadership. Donnie has your back, guys.

So we have the "others" that live among us and those other "others" in other countries. We're supposed to be afraid of both, but I'm certain most of us just fear what's going to become of us over the next three years. Nothing good, I'm afraid.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 30, 2018

Flying circus.

No, damn it, I can't spin a plate on a stick, even if the stick is on my tongue. What the hell do you think I am, a trained seal? This is freaking ridiculous. Get out of my broom closet!

Oh, well ... you can see that this blog isn't driven by our PR people. (This just in: we don't HAVE any of those.) If we knew more about marketing, I might not admit in public that I was having this discussion with Anti-Lincoln, who is just chock full of "good ideas". He piped up with a beauty today: that we should diversify our act a bit more. Not entirely rely on music. Put a few dance steps or maybe a couple of skits in the middle or our sets. Or ... magic tricks.

I'm thinking that we should have someone - maybe Anti-Lincoln - do all that stuff for us. Why the hell not? If we need to diversify our act, I don't want to be any part of it. Anti-Lincoln could be our agent or road manager. He could make Marvin (my personal robot assistant) jump through flaming hoops while we're changing the strings on our various instruments. (Then again, Marvin is our guitar tech, so it would need to be, maybe, Tubey?) I'll tell you, Marvin would have to jump fast, because I can change the strings on my Roland electric piano in no time flat. (That's not why I bought it, though - I bought it because I could lift it without groaning.)

Space for rent at the mill.Why the sudden lurch towards random entrepreneurship? Well, we've been under a bit of pressure as of late. With the economy picking up a bit, suddenly the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill has become a bit more attractive as a commercial location. Local developers are thinking about gutting it and setting up one of those Mill Malls that pop up around here. (Actually, they can spare themselves the bother of that first step - this place was gutted long ago.) So, yeah, we're looking for ways to go legit on this property, maybe even start .... gulp ... paying property taxes .... or even utilities ..... ooooohhhhhh....

Anyway, that's why I'm sleeping in a broom closet. We're ALL sleeping in little spaces now, just to train ourselves for having to share this big barn of a place with people who sell scented candles, overpriced crockery, and weird-ass clothing. (Maybe we can open a used robot store ... )