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Friday, November 27, 2015

Off with us.

Glad that's over. Anything I hate, it's packing over a holiday weekend. But we're under way at last, back into the welcoming arms of deep, deep space. GJ 1132b, here we come! Ned Trek, the podcast I suppose I should spare you the details of the last week - the rush job of putting this expeditionary gig together, the foibles regarding our interplanetary transportation, etc. (Just try booking a four-engine ion drive spacecraft on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Freaking impossible!)

As you may recall from last week's post (particularly if you have nothing better to do with your life than to read this useless blog), Big Green has decided to pay a call on our newest neighbor in space - the recently discovered dwarf planet GJ 1132b - and see if we can discover some gainful employment there; namely, a one night stand for a terrestrial band.

Okay, so we dubbed this BIG GREEN'S CAPER BEYOND THE KUIPER (BELT), which is literally true, as GJ 1132b is out there, man, really out there. We had to name the gig in order to get some support from our corporate label, Hegemonic Records and Worm Farm, Inc. (whose indie imprint is named Hegephonic), still run by Indonesian military thugs. They've got deep pockets, though, and they and our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee go way back, so he was able to connive ... I mean, convince them into ponying up some of their ill gotten gains to fund this reckless foray into parts unknown. Mitch is just that good.

So that's it, is it?The transport was a major problem, though. All of our previous rides were unavailable. Mitch had inadvertently vaporized our last spacecraft during the course of an experiment (one he was conducting on behalf of those same Generals from Jakarta he was conniving this past week). GJ 1132b is 39 light years away, so we needed something with a little heft. It couldn't be one of those sub-compact crafts you take to Mars and back, right? There was a good deal of head scratching over that issue, until finally Mitch remembered an old colleague who had built an interstellar spacecraft for his own amusement at some point, then just parked it in his garage next to his Land Rover. Hobbyists!

Anywho, Mitch sent Marvin (my personal robot assistant) over to pick it up. Big mistake - Marvin got lost on the way home, so we lost a couple of solar days, delaying our launch until Thanksgiving. Let them eat space! See you on GJ 1132b!

Stirring the pot.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump recalls seeing footage of "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Fellow candidate Ben Carson briefly claimed to have seen the same inspiring vision in his mind's eye, too, then backed off. (He seems to be recalling the clip of five Palestinians jumping up and down that was most likely a hatchet job.) Trump's claim is the ideal bookend to his recent suggestion of maintaining a federal database of Muslims in America, a component in his new post-Paris attack national security platform. It's a simple, time tested formula: call out a domestic population that you can term a fifth column and associate with a foreign enemy, then repeat your rhetoric and watch your polling numbers rise. Oldest trick in the book.

Look in the mirror, America.The thing is, Trump is a mirror to the Republican base, as Sam Seder and others have pointed out. This is a mostly white minority of virulently anti-immigration, nativist, evangelical Christian Americans who are attracted to Trump for the time being because he arrogantly articulates their hatred of the "other" and gives voice to their sense of outrage over being relegated, however temporarily, to opposition party status. I have heard commentators blame this constituency on Obama - the nauseating former Bush adviser Nicole Wallace, for instance - but it's useful to remember that even in the depths of his second-term unpopularity, Wallace's former boss retained a solid core of conservative support, including the same crackpots that showed up at McCain/Palin campaign rallies in 2008. That was the nascent "tea party", the constituency that has kept Trump in the high twenties for months now.

Stirring up racist or bigoted sentiments is always a dangerous game, but it's one that remains popular with politicians who have no real value to offer the constituencies they seek to serve. We white people tend to think of non-white, non-European, non-Christian people as different. We see this in the response (or lack of same) to the Beirut bombing, compared to the near media obsession over Paris. Even the President does this. When he talks about Paris, he refers to the fact that we see ourselves in the sidewalk cafes; that Parisians are like us. There is a deep reservoir of anti-foreign, anti-other sentiment in our society. It is hard to avoid this mentality when you become an imperial power. You can mask it, conceal it, but it tends to bob to the surface.

We've all seen this movie before. I like to think that there are enough decent people in this country to overcome this type of ugliness, but if there is some kind of attack in the United States over the next year, all bets are off.

luv u,

jp