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Friday, May 26, 2017

Words worth.

I'm still not sure this is a good idea. The memory of the last time we tried this still haunts me. And that Morlock with the sandals never answers my postcards. And yes, I've been dropping them down the hole. Jesus!

Okay, so someone, I won't say who (Mitch), thought it would be a great idea to do a second subterranean tour, since we now have the equivalent of a superhighway to the chewy nougat center of the Earth. Mitch plans to fashion some kind of urban gondola (very popular in small post-industrial cities these days) that will allow us to treat the mega-hole in our floor like a kind of futuristic cargo elevator. I don't remember where I heard this, but it seems like this mode of transportation might be problematic, to say the least, particularly when you're dealing with magma and other natural hazards.

Mitch isn't worried, of course. In his world, there's a mad scientific fix for everything. That must be a nice feeling. When stuff goes wrong for the rest of us, we have little to fall back on other than playing instruments and/or writing songs, and maybe playing a few rounds of mumbly peg. (That doesn't usually help, but it does give us something to strive for, since none of us knows how to play mumbly peg.) Everyone needs some kind of solution. For Marvin (my personal robot assistant), it's a seven percent solution of machine oil and antifreeze.

Yeah, that looks like a maybe.Why does songwriting help? Don't know, exactly. Ask Matt - he's more prolific than me by a mile. As I've said before, he comes up with songs while walking the length and breadth of his rural domain, composing them out loud like a latter-day Ewan MacTeagle. Me, I take forever to crank out a few lines. My muse is like an old, rusty typewriter with an even older ribbon, very parsimonious and begrudging of every line. Even so, if we do undertake this underground tour, we should have plenty of material that hasn't been heard down there before. Nothing the middle-Earth denizens hate more than old, recycled material.

So, yeah, we'll consider it. Though God only knows why.

Middle passage.

Trump was on the road this week, touching base with traditional allies, shaking his fist at traditional foes, making occasional awkward statements and non-sequiturs but generally doing what is expected of him as official high protector of the empire. Amazing how quickly even a low-intelligence loose cannon like "The Donald" will snap into place when there are longstanding economic and imperial ties in play.

At the helm of the Death Star. Who knew it was in Saudi Arabia?Much as he criticized Saudi Arabia during the primary campaign and even the general election, it was all smiles and bows and the dangling of manly swords when he arrived in Riyadh, not to mention threats against Iran and its embattled Shi'a allies in Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere. Then there's the humongous arms sale, allowing Saudi to continue the bloody Yemen adventure that Trump will not mention but can't stop funding with U.S. taxpayer dollars. (My money's being used inappropriately. Someone call Mick Mulvaney!)

I have to think that the institutional elites that most benefit from the imperial profit machine probably don't much mind Trump as a foreign policy president. His ignorance very likely is, in their eyes, his most positive attribute. The man knows nothing about any of the regions he is likely to visit as president. That means he can be steered into preferred policies by his aides. He is the proverbial empty vessel, even more so than George W. Bush was - at least Bush had some vague sense of his own objectives and a team of fanatical, experienced bureaucrats to fill the void between his ears. With Trump, there's none of that. He's truly at sea.

Empire abhors a vacuum, and so the absence of leadership is filled with the priorities of the forever-state. This is not a conspiracy theory - every empire that has lasted as long as ours has a structure of governance and self-perpetuation. It's that great self-driving car, running over people of color by the thousand in thirsty pursuit of the next filling station. That's why the pieces all fall into place, and the policy stays within certain boundaries, sometimes jiggling a little leftward, occasionally lurching to the right, but never crossing the line.

When I say "never", I mean other than that one time with Dubya Bush when his reckless war-making tested those limits and brought on the correction we saw in 2006 - one of the most amazing periods in recent history. I suspect Trump's correction will come from some other quarter, but I guess we will see.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 19, 2017

Holism.

This place is a freaking mess. No, we still don't have garbage collection. You have to pay taxes to get that, Mitch, and we're off the grid - remember? Guess this lot will have to go down the tunnel to the center of the Earth. It's like having the world's biggest trash incinerator.

Oh, hi. As you can see, we are making the kind of obvious mistake that protagonists in science fiction movies make all the time - abusing mother nature just to solve some petty human problem, namely, generating too much trash. That goes on for the first couple of reels, then some ungodly creature emerges from the bowels of the Earth and goes on a murderous rampage stopped only by some unexpected intervention by germs or gravity or something - a turnaround that redeems the value of nature in the eyes of middle class moviegoers. Yeah, well ... we are asking for that.

The fact is, once there's a hole in the floor, you have an almost unstoppable urge just to keep dropping things into it. I think Marvin (my personal robot assistant) may have dropped some of our master tapes down into the memory hole. A true digital native like Marvin has no concept of tape recorded sound - God no! Music encoded onto a long ribbon of magnetic film? Impossible! Of course, he himself runs, in part, on vacuum tubes and toggle switches, so one might think he would have some empathy for users of retro Wait. You dropped it where??technologies. In any case, down the memory hole they go ... unless I left them in my other pants. Marvin? Have you seen my other pants?

Right, so ... that's not the only thing we've been up to. We're hip-deep in production for our next tranche of Ned Trek songs, about seven or eight of them by last count. This is why our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN has become, well, kind of infrequent - too many musicals! In any case, we've amassed a backlog of about 60 Ned Trek songs thus far, seven of which are included in the podcast I just recently posted on NedTrek.com - episode 24: Whom Gods Deploy, which originally appeared in our August 2015 TIBG podcast. So ... it hasn't all gone down the hole quite yet.

Peachfuzz bridge.

It is astonishing to see how astonished people are at the President's last couple of weeks. Reality check: we elected Donald Trump President of the United States. That's why this administration is unloading like a clown car at a funeral. There's no other way for me to put this: the man is a hyper-narcissistic dolt with the emotional maturity of a 7-year-old. He is temperamentally unfit for this or any political office. He has not even a vague understanding of the structure or traditions of our constitutional system, and has no interest in learning. Verily, he has little interest in anything other than large piles of money. When he told the Russian ambassador about the intel on ISIS , that was probably the first time that information had offered any utility from his perspective - he could use it to impress someone, at least. Otherwise, he has no interest in intelligence briefings and confines himself to a single page of bulleted items that he proceeds to ignore.

Captain PeachfuzzSo, what to do about this dolt? It's hard to imagine the GOP-led House taking up impeachment proceedings, even with this level of ludicrousness. Investigations can swirl around Trump and criminal accusations may mount, but basically the only process by which he can be removed from office is a political one, and that is a non-starter with regard to a caucus that sees him as a signing machine. I'm thinking the republicans in the House and Senate will use something like the Captain Peachfuzz approach with Trump.

How does that work? Simple. On Rocky and Bullwinkle, all Captain "Wrongway" Peachfuzz's crew needed to do was create a phony bridge, lead the captain into it, and then go about their normal duties. Captain Peachfuzz would be shouting commands, pulling levers, twisting knobs and the like, none of which were attached to anything. THAT'S what we need for Trump. Of course, we would have to avoid the problem that Peachfuzz's crew encountered when the crackpot captain wandered by mistake onto the real bridge one day and started driving the ship like the proverbial drunken sailor. Of course, that's what we have now, right?

Phony up a war room for the guy, people. Do it now before it's too late. Your nation will thank you.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dig it.

Well, if we needed storage space, it would be a good thing. Honest, Abe - where are you going to find enough junk to make it worthwhile? We can't even afford shoes, for chrissake.

Oh, hi. Yeah, I've been having a little conversation with Antimatter Lincoln about an idea he cooked up this week. Let me see if I can explain. With the help of Mitch Macaphee's Particle Beam Generator™, we now have a tunnel to the center of the Earth in our basement. The downside of that, of course, is that it has the potential to act as a volcanic vent, sending an ocean of magma up from the planet's chewy center and wreaking havoc on our entire community. (Also, it tends to whistle as the world turns.) What's the upside of having Earth's biggest hole? We're still working on that.

Antimatter Lincoln piped up with a suggestion that we put shelving units around the walls of the hole and use it to store nick knacks, junk, souvenirs, and sporting trophies. Capital idea, except that we don't have any of those things, particularly the trophies. Besides, when that thing blows its stack, it would burn our non-existent valuables to a cinder. And again, we live in an abandoned hammer mill. There's plenty of room for Antimatter Lincoln's imaginary possessions. The simple fact that they are imaginary - i.e., mental impressions only, not objects external to his fevered brain - suggests that he can have an infinite number of them and never have to worry about where to keep them all.

Fun!Right, so ... what to do with that hole. We did bring Marvin (my personal robot assistant) up from the flames of hell this past week, after having lowered him down the well on an impromptu reconnaissance mission. He had little to report, though apparently he saw openings in the tunnel walls that led to large caverns underground. It's possible that, for all his trouble, Mitch just built us a back door to Howe Caverns. I suppose NOW we'll be getting busloads of middle school kids parked out in front of the mill, waiting for a chance to take the underground boat ride or step on the quartz heart-shaped platform where some crazy-ass couples chose to have their weddings.

Ah, memories. If you have a good use for the world's biggest hole, just email them to us with the subject line: "World's Biggest Hole". We'll know just what you're talking about.

Dumpster fire.

Every time I see that standard shot of the White House on one of the major networks, I expect to see a plume of black smoke rising from an open window. This administration promised to be a major dumpster fire and it hasn't disappointed, the firing of FBI Director Comey this week (as he was requesting an expansion of the Trump Campaign/Russia probe) being just the latest flare-up. As predicted by some of the more observant commentators, the leaks began almost immediately - the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all posted pieces that put the lie to the various hastily concocted stories flying out of the White House. If they're not hiding something very, very compromising, they're doing a tremendous imitation of it.

Trump, day 110.The thing about dumpster fires - or any trash-fueled conflagration, for that matter - is that they conceal as well as destroy. It's hard to ascribe intentionality to the Trump administration; they are without a doubt the dumbest box of rocks that ever rolled into the oval office, so the idea that they could cook up some massive deception campaign is kind of ludicrous. If they are not deliberately distracting people with their antics, they are certainly playing the role of the useful idiot. I'm not suggesting they're running interference for Russia or anything like that. What their ineptitude facilitates more than anything else is the steady progress of the broader GOP agenda - namely, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling of our rudimentary social safety net, scuttling the ACA, pulling down regulatory constraints on industry, and so on.

We face some major threats. One is that Trump will launch another war as a means of changing the conversation. Another is that a terror attack will flip the script, as it did in 2001, and we will be riding the revenge juggernaut to the end of the Earth, literally. But not least among these is the threat that the Republicans will get most if not all of what they're calling for. They already have Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Don't think the Senate won't pass some version of their draconian health care reform / tax cut. These are less dramatic outcomes, but no less destructive of our society.

Trump probably has extensive ties to Russian gangsters, just as he has with the domestic variety. It will likely come out eventually, but I warn you - don't be distracted from the real work that's going on in Congress right now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cave in.

Marvin, can you hear me? Marvin? Damn ... that's just the echo of my own voice. I was wondering why Marvin would be calling out to himself. Marvin!?

Right, so ... I think we went a little too far with the archaeological dig, particularly once we got Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) involved. At first it was just a lark - we took a shovel to the floor of the Cheney Hammer Mill's sub-basement just to see what we could find. Turns out there's a lot of dirt down there. (Little known fact: the Earth is largely composed of dirt. I suspect that's why "earth" is a synonym of "dirt".) Sure, we turned up our share of lost quarters, belt buckles, tie clips and fossilized coelacanths, but that was about it.

Then Mitch decided to get involved, and of course, all hell broke loose. That is to say, he used one of his patented Particle Beam Generators™ to burn a hole through the Earth's crust, clear down to the molten nickel core, which (as you know from watching television) is in a perpetual state of raging ferment - hell fire from beneath the ground, shall we say. To understand why this may have happened, you have to understand the scientific mind. Once you get that, imagine a diseased version of that same mind and you will have some insight into Mitch's reasoning.

Say it twice!Well now, this didn't go over very well, but I suggested to Mitch that his Particle Beam Generator™ had essentially blown the entire archaeological enterprise by incinerating every stratum between the mill floor and the Earth's core; hence, a thousand potential discoveries may have been irretrievably lost. His answer was to devise a crane-like device and lower someone (not him!) down into the newly-bored hole to have a look at the top layers that had been exposed. How did we decide on Marvin? Well, there's that ten bucks I owe him ... and of course, he is much better qualified for the mission than I am. So sure, we put him in a harness and lowered him down into the hole, like he was on a fishing rod.

Anyone who has seen the movie Crack in the World can picture what comes next: A big flame comes out of the hole ten minutes after Marvin took the plunge. Radio silence thus far, but no worries: it's Marvin's nap time right about now, so he would tend to be unresponsive anyway.

Victory dance.

Okay, can we all agree on something, people? Try this: the President of the United States is a remarkable dolt who knows nothing about anything outside of - perhaps - real estate and licensing his trademarks. His grasp of American history is tenuous at best and indicative of illiteracy at worst. He always seems to return to the subject of slavery and the Civil War, perhaps because he is surrounded by crackpot white supremacists who fill his empty head with their hateful opinions and convenient factual inaccuracies. The comments about Andrew Jackson are just the latest example, though when he talks about people like "Sharpknife" Jackson he seems actually to be talking about himself.

Spot my useless congressmember.It's not at all surprising that Trump thinks that he himself could have prevented the Civil War. As a master-level narcissist, he thinks himself capable of anything. And even when he can't accomplish anything, he celebrates and brags about it like he did. This week, when the House of Representatives passed their latest version of the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace debacle, Trump had the GOP House caucus come to the White House for a little victory dance. (My own representative, Claudia Tenney, could be seen in the second row, right behind the doltish Kevin McCarthy, taking selfies with another Republican congresswoman. Watch for that in an opposition campaign ad next year.)

Okay, so maybe that just proves that Republicans - including the massively overrated pseudo-wonk Paul Ryan - never watched Schoolhouse Rock and maybe they really just don't know how a bill becomes law. (They haven't passed a real lot of them since taking control of the House.) Or maybe this is just Trump's way of rubbing our faces in the fact that he got his way this time. It's the kind of tactic Trump is famous for, of course. I suspect if he ever stopped bragging about himself, he'd fly around the room like a toy balloon someone let loose. The facts don't matter - this is an attitudinal presidency, running on gall and braggadocio, tossing steaks out to the base pretty much every week.

It's not a joke. The policy implications of this president will be enormous, maybe irreparable. We're obviously going to have to fight for every inch, and this week the prize went to them.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 28, 2017

Our four bears.

Did you find any yet? Hmmm ... I was sure they'd be here somewhere. How about now? Nothing? Okay. Keep digging. Great hopping organoids, this archaeology business is harder than it looks.

Idle hands do the devil's work, or so they say. Here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (our squat house), we like to try to keep busy just so that we don't get into trouble. Sure, you might think being a musician would be enough, and well, it should be. But you can play and play and play until the cows come home. Then what have you got? A whole herd of cows, and no place for them to graze. Who do those cows belong to, anyhow? Right ... well, I've wandered a bit, but you get the point.

So sure, we make music, but in between all that we like to involve ourselves in scientific endeavors ... at least in the social sciences. (We leave the hard sciences to our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee.) This week it's archaeology. Why that field? Well, we spotted an article about Neanderthals or Denisovans finding their way to the Americas more than 100,000 years ago, and that piqued our interest. The evidence seemed a little thin: just some smashed Mastodon bones. So we thought we'd take a look in the dirt and see if we could find some helpful artifacts, buried far below the hammer mill.

Dude ... behind you. Take a look.The fact is, I'm pretty sure those scientists are right about the Neanderthals. Back when we used Trevor James Constable's patented orgone generating device as a time travel portal, we sent ourselves back in time to a point in American history when large-jawed anthropoids made up the majority of our club audiences. They're heavy tippers, I understand, but always call out songs you never heard of. And when you start playing, they knock rocks together until you're all done. Charming.

If you're wondering whether we've come across any remains, well, I hate to disappoint you, but the Neanderthals' secret still remains safe. It's basically choose your myth at this point. I choose the one where they follow some wayward bears over from Russia. Others have suggested a cable car of some sort. We may never know.

Pappy's back in town.

The 100-day mark is fast approaching for the Trump administration, and this week they kicked it into high gear in an attempt to create the impression that they accomplished something over the last three months - namely, something that was on the President's list of promises he made over the course of his craven campaign last year. With this in mind, they tossed out a few desperate efforts towards meaningful legislation, one of which being a one-page tax break proposal announced by Mnuchin on Wednesday.

This is a clear return to the G.O.P. presidential playbook, in a Trump kind of way. Of course, it smells more like a scam, the sparsely written outline providing very little detail or guidance for what would likely be a contentious legislative drafting process. But the outlines are there, and what it means effectively is that old Pappy Tax Cut is back once again. We haven't seen Pappy since the days of Dubya Bush and his high-earner tax cut that blew a huge hole in the budget - one that we're still grappling with, even with the minor clawback Obama extracted from the Republicans.

Shocker: more breaks for the rich.What's in it? Prepare to be amazed. Massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. Reducing the top corporate tax rate to 15% and eliminating the estate tax altogether. If anything resembling this vague framework were to come into effect, it would shower enormous dividends on the most well-heeled people in the United States and cost the U.S. treasury about 2 trillion dollars. Suddenly Republicans aren't worried about the deficit/debt anymore - astonishing! And why wouldn't they give a massive break to the only people in the country - the one percent - who did well throughout the financial crisis? No reason at all.

Trump allies in congress were touting a new compromise on the "American Health Care Act" between the right and the extreme right, but that's probably a non-starter. The act has been changed up to reflect more of the "Freedom Caucus" (i.e. a bunch of white dudes) agenda, including allowing states to make core benefits optional, letting health insurance providers charge a lot more to people with pre-existing conditions, like ... I don't know, pretty much anything that happens to you.

Then there's impending war with Korea. Don't even get me started on that. There's such bad thinking on that issue from both major parties that it's hard to know where to turn next.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 21, 2017

Audio dynamite.

Yeah, turn the bass drum up a little in my headphone mix. Yeah, that's enough. That's good. Okay, dial it back ... Too loud. STOP!! Christ on a bike. Can't you turn a knob in a direction other than clockwise? No? Okay. Good to know.

As you may have surmised, we have resorted to using Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a sound engineer in the makeshift studio we maintain at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not the optimal choice, I admit, but hey, look - we only have two hands. Actually, between us, we have four, but - and this is important - WE'RE USING ALL FOUR OF THEM. I thought Marvin, being a robot, might be a bit more precise in his manipulations of various sound parameters, but it appears that Mitch Macaphee (our mad science advisor) cut a few corners when he put Marvin together. His wrist joints only turn one way, it turns out. What the fuck.

Hey, did any of you hear something?When you are effectively a pop duo ... and I think Matt and I constitute the duo part, at least ... you need to rely on others sometimes to do some of the heavy lifting. Marvin can do some stuff. I've gotten Antimatter Lincoln to shake a tambourine more than once - that's about his speed. The man-sized tuber is pretty good at holding things up, like a table. These are all things we would otherwise have to do ourselves, so it's not like I'm ungrateful. But man ... a shred of musical ability would come in handy right about now.

Then there's such a thing as too much help. Yes, I'm talking about Mitch. This one song we were working on, we wanted a colossal bass drum sound. Mitch said he could do better than our superannuated effects boxes, so we said go ahead, knock yourself out. The next morning, I'm awakened by this earth-shattering BOOM and the whole mill is shaking like a jello mold. Out in the courtyard, there's a smoking crater where the tool shed once stood. There were about seven mics set up around the crater. I guess Mitch was thinking surround sound.

It took about a year to live that down. (We still get calls from the codes department.) So hey, now I'm careful when I ask for help.

Three percent solution.

Some election news this week. Jon Ossoff, Democratic party candidate in the Georgia 6th congressional district "jungle" primary topped 48% of the vote tally, which is impressive in Tom Price/Newt Gingrich territory but still a couple of points below an outright victory. As always, the Republicans furiously worked the refs on this race, establishing the easy-bake narrative that Ossoff needed to win an outright maclassjority and that anything short of that would be an abject failure. The mainstream media, of course, adopted this line because it's simple and requires zero analysis (a lot of stories run this way), so the news shows the morning after the election were full of Democrats falling short postmortems. Useful.

Actual Tenney quote.Okay, because I am at heart a fair person, I will admit that the likes of Joe Scarborough said something that I actually agreed with this past Wednesday - something to the effect that Democrats need to rediscover getting out the vote, knocking on doors, calling people, etc. I agree. If Dems are ever going to return from the electoral wilderness, they need to start building their ground game right now. With the Georgia race and the contest in Kansas for that open House seat (lost to the GOP by seven points), that point has now been underlined and circled in red. (Okay, you can go back to despising Scarborough again.)

This doesn't amount to a repeat of the same "air war" strategy the national Democratic party keeps running over and over again, dropping TV ads at the last minute. Democrats need to be a factor on the ground; they need to be a positive force in people's lives. In my region, the congressional seat is held by a tea party Republican, way to the right of her district. We have only elected one Democrat in my lifetime - Michael Arcuri back in 2006. The only reason why he won was that the Democratic party invested in the race. They sent paid, seasoned campaign organizers to the district. They invested in a sizeable call center. They ran phone banks and knocked on doors. That - not the ads - was what put Arcuri over the top. I remember one of the party organizers giving a pep talk to the volunteers, telling us that a good ground game can add three percent to the vote total on election day. "We're going to need that three percent," he said.

There's a coda to that story: two years later, there was none of that. Calling was done out of a cramped room in the local labor council office, and Arcuri just barely squeaked by in a presidential election year. In 2010 he got knocked off; same problem. This past fall, I was dialing for the Democratic candidate at the labor council again, working from a pretty crappy list. It's not just lack of investment - it's lack of the right kind of investment that kills our chances.

We have to start winning elections. It's not the only thing we have to do, but it's goddamned important.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 14, 2017

What ho.

There's my pocket watch. And no, it's not a proper pocket watch, just a wrist watch I keep in my pocket because my wrists get sore when I wear it. As a result, the crystal is scratched to the point where it always looks like 3:54 last Wednesday. So .... happy Wednesday, everybody!

What's new this week in Big Green land? Well, I'm guessing there's more news coming out of regular old Greenland (That's part of Scandinavia!), though they have the advantage of belonging to Denmark. It's been suggested to us more than once that we should just ask Denmark to annex us, like the even bigger Greenland, so that we would have more to talk about on our blog and podcast. Another good suggestion, people. Keep them rolling in!

In all seriousness, though (and I'm making my most serious face now), we have been working our fingers to the bone on our next raft of Big Green songs. We've even worked a few of our toes to the bone as well. (You don't know hardship until you've worn sneakers over bony toes.) All of this is leading up to the next episode of Ned Trek, which promises to be another musical - this time a takeoff on the Galileo 7 episode of the original series. At least I think that's what the next episode will be. Because you know ... shit happens. And it happens fast sometimes. Fast, fast shit.

Lend me a bob 'til TuesdayAs always, Matt has been doing the bulk of the songwriting. He's a writing machine, people ... just pacing through his duties on that nature sanctuary, talking out the lyrics of his various crazy-ass songs like a distinctly non-Scottish Ewan McTeagle. (Though, in the interests of full disclosure, this is probably a good time to point out that Matt's partner does indeed play the bagpipes.) Matt wrote at a relatively breakneck pace before he spent his days out on the range, as it were, whereas I have always been the kind of songwriter that squeezes one out every once in a while. (If that sounds nauseating, it's because it kind of is.)

Hey, Matt has his process, I have mine. Drop it into a 3-quart mixing bowl, set the beater on frappé, and voilà (or for you British listeners out there, what ho): Big Green casserole. Help yourself.

Just like old times.

This probably isn't a wise practice, but I sometimes view Morning Joe as a bellwether of establishment opinion, particularly regarding foreign policy. Their panel covers the spectrum from neocons to liberal interventionists - a narrow span to say the least. And they appear to be as happy as the proverbial pig in shit about Trump's recent cruise missile attack in Syria. Both the liberal interventionist wing and the neocon wing have been highly critical of Obama's failure to start a unilateral, extra-constitutional war with Syria back in 2013, so this past week was sweet validation for them all. As a group, they seem anxious for evidence that Trump's administration is "normalizing" and settling in to the usual, conventional insanity, so they tend to jump on every lurch towards the institutional consensus.

Mother of all BullshitAnd clearly, there is a solid, institutional consensus on American foreign policy. It's a relatively small box that contains, on one end, the Obama approach, then the center-left liberal interventionist school (Clinton, Samantha Power, etc.), followed by the center-right establishment Republicans (James Baker, Kissinger, etc.), the hot-head interventionists (McCain, Graham, Cotton), and the neocons (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Elliot Abrams, etc.). In terms of blowing things up and killing people, there isn't a lot of distance between any of these groupings, and they all share a common imperial worldview. The encouraging development for the Morning Joe crew is the notion that Trump has now put himself in that box.

If this turns out to be a feature, not a bug, of the Trump Administration, the 2016 general election had no impact on foreign policy at all. Policy-wise, Trump appears to have put himself pretty close to Obama on that score. He maybe has a little more bomb than Obama, but it's basically the same stuff, and the Morning Joe crowd has little to say about that. I sometimes wonder if these people remember last year, let alone 16 years ago. Do they remember that W. Bush ran a hair to the left of Gore on foreign policy - no "nation building", right? - then pivoted back to the center-right of the consensus box after a few months (certainly after 9/11).? Obama did something similar. It's pretty simple: presidents put out pleasing rhetoric during campaigns, then peddle back to the default policies when they win office.

Now Trump has dumped the MOAB super bunker-buster bomb on Afghanistan. What is this routine now, bomb-drop Thursday? I guess we'll see ... next Thursday.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 7, 2017

Inside April.

What's that rattling you hear? Could be the sound of Tomahawk missiles. Or maybe it's just a loose screen in the upstairs window. Those may be the same exact thing, in effect.

But there is a third possibility, and that is the April THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. We've got another boatload of sound for you this month - here's a brief look inside the ship's hold (just to overextend that little metaphor) ...

NED TREK 32: All Our Festeryears. A take-off on the "All Our Yesteryears" episode in the original Star Trek series (I believe their second or third to the last episode ever), Willard, Ned, Pearle, and Sulu pay a visit to a strangely deserted world, the entire population of which has retreated into old B movies on VHS tapes. The caretaker of the library (or Blockbuster Video) and his various doppelgangers are played by Ronald Reagan. Ned and Sulu have to deal with cheap-ass cinematic cowboys, whereas Willard and Pearle face-off against cave men. Kind of lame, but .... whatever.

Put the Phone Down. We start with the cornbread song, then move downhill from there. Some bird talk, some pondering of dialogue from the TV show Kung Fu. I could draw you a picture, but it wouldn't be pretty. I'm thinking about brewing some coffee before we start talking next time out.

Song: Doc's Freedom. This was from the very early Ned Trek episode called "Spector's Grandchildren", in which telekinetic space aliens forced the crew to sing. One of my favorite Doc Coburn songs, this one comes complete with a funky intro. Look for a version of this on Big Green's eventual Ned Trek collection.

How 'bout another song? Yeah, okay.Song: Neocon Christmas. This is a Mr. Perle song from another early Ned Trek - "Santorum's Christmas Planet", I think. Kind of a jazz trio treatment on this, with backing vocals from the non-sequitur 40's guys.

Song: Jesus Got A Known Mind. Another Doc song, and again, a particular favorite of mine because of its primitive rock vibe and the backing vocals seemingly borrowed from Helter Skelter. Rock out, people!

Song: Up On The Bridge. Featuring Mr. Sulu, this song from a more recent Ned Trek episode contemplates the volatile fortunes of a certain T.V. actor whose fame was built on a re-run cult following that persists to this day. The vocals on this are kind of hilarious. (We spent more time on that than anything else.)

Bigfoot.

Another week on foreign policy, mostly because it has been so heinous lately. The gas attack in Syria was particularly upsetting, in part because there was video footage of the aftermath (unlike in the case of the U.S.'s Al Ghayil raid in Yemen that killed a score of civilians, including nine children, or the bombing in Mosul last week). The Syrian regime, once again, is doing the one thing they do in response to a restive population: kill and torture. They literally know nothing else. That said, there seems to be a universal media consensus that the United States should fly its bombers in there and start blowing the place apart, as if that has ever made anything better over the past 50-60 years. (Spoiler alert: it hasn't. It has made things exponentially worse.)

Trump arrives at a decision.Then there was the missile launch in North Korea. Deliberately provocative, yes, though again, our military rules on that peninsula - we're constantly running joint exercises with the South Korean military that can only be seen as provocations by Pyongyang. Trump is going to take this up with China this weekend in his cheesy Florida resort getaway, but that just marks a continuation of the same disastrous policy. North Korea wants to talk to us, not China. This only possible way to reduce this massive threat to human existence on the Korean peninsula is provide Pyongyang with some guarantees of non belligerence. That is simply not on the table.

How will the Trump administration react to all of this, aside from blaming everyone else (e.g. their predecessors, the Muslims, the Chinese, immigrants, etc.)? It's a little hard to say. Either one could blow up in our face on a moment's notice. It sounds to me like Trump is leaning toward differentiating himself from Obama on Syria - that is, taking a more interventionist stance. That appears to be supported by the jabbering classes, as I mentioned earlier. (I heard a congressman from the GOP hair-gel caucus on Thursday's Morning Joe urging a "no-fly zone" and suggesting that, if we hit Russian personnel or assets in the process, well, that would be "on them".) This is how world wars start, so one would hope that whatever money laundering Trump has done for Russian oligarchs over the years, it will give him enough reason to at least adequately de-conflict with the Russian military before going all Lindsay Graham on Damascus.

Korea may be just as problematic, since I don't think Trump owes a lot to Chinese fixers. They may be crazy enough to lob a bomb over there - we'll have to see. Scary times.

luv u,

jp

P.S. Spoke too soon. Trump is bombing Syria. This is getting really ugly. The TV commentators all have their "war faces" on, talking to admirals. Trump did a hostage-video style pre-taped announcement last night (strangely, from a podium, reading off of two teleprompters as if there were an audience - the sound quality was horrible). Everyone is beating their chests: American credibility has been restored. (Apparently no one in the world thought we would attack at random anymore, even though we've been doing it non-stop for 16 years.) Bigfoot is stomping around.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Technophobia.

Not running again, eh? Try knocking it upside the head again. Harder. HARDER! Oh, wait ... you knocked its head off. That's probably too hard. Oh well....

Hey, welcome to the house of Big Green - that abandoned hammer mill we call home, because all of the groups live together. Just trying to get down to recording some new material, old material ... whatever! If we can just get our technology to work for five minutes. (Actually, three and a half minutes would do, since this is pop music.) Seriously, we've got some old gear, folks. It's almost as old as our asses. I'm not even talking tape recorders .... I'm talking wire recorders. I'm talking those wax record cutting machines they used when John-boy was being interviewed by a radio station on The Waltons after he got swindled by the vanity press dude. (Oh, you thought I forgot, didn't you? Mr. TV Swindler!)

Ahem. Anyhow, we really are running on three cylinders down in Big Green's clubhouse recording studio in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill. The eight-track DTRS machine we used to record 2000 Years To Christmas is a paperweight. The 16/24 track hard disc workstation we used to record International House and Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick is 17 years old and ready for that farm upstate. We're taping together our headphones and coaxing our pre-amps not to self-destruct. It's a sad state of affairs, to say the least. Our neighbors keep saying, do a GoFundMe campaign or something, but hell .... that would require the invention of the personal computer. Our gear tells me it's still 1982.

It was new when I bought it.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is probably the most sophisticated piece of technology we have at our disposal. In fact, that's exactly what he is - a re-purposed garbage disposal. I'm told that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, added some arms and legs and popped a refurbished Commodore 64 computer in his noggin, then it was off to the races with him. We could probably use HIM as an audio recorder almost as easily as we manage with our antiquated Roland VS-2480, but it would require some modifications, and damn it, we're Luddites. We just flip the switch and a light goes on - the rest is magic.

So, hey ... we'll get those songs committed to .wav somehow, never fear. Just don't ask me how they got there afterwards.

A look overseas.

Another turn at the fire hose. Man, this is kind of dizzying. We've just seen a week in which the President has essentially undone the clean power plant rules, scuttled the Paris Accords on climate change, approved the Keystone XL pipeline project, and escalated his attacks on undocumented residents and on the poor miserable souls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who cope with our bombs on a daily basis. I could write five posts, but that would take the rest of human history, so suffice with this sorry tirade on foreign policy.

Making Mosul great (again).I didn't want to let the week go by without saying something about the hundred-plus killed in a coalition raid in Mosul. Civilian deaths have been on the rise in that conflict since our military began its air assault on the more densely populated western side of Mosul. Well, that's predictable enough. We are fighting the legacy of the previous decade's catastrophic policy, which was itself a response to another previous decade's catastrophic policy, and so on. ISIS or ISIL is Al Qaeda in Iraq 2.0, drawing on ex Baathist military personnel for many of its cadres, as well as disaffected Sunni youth, targeted by both the U.S. and the Baghdad government. The destruction/"liberation" of Mosul will not change the fundamental problems that prompted these people to turn, in desperation, to the extremists they once fought against.

We are also doubling down in Syria, now with hundreds of Special Forces on the ground. And as actual journalists like Anand Ghopal have reported, the U.S. is effectively fighting in tandem with the Syrian government, particularly in places like Palmyra, where nominally pro-western groups like the Free Syrian Army cannot operate. Our bombers hit a mosque a few weeks back - like the Mosul raid, our military denied it, then gradually admitted it. Each one of these generates more converts to the jihadi cause, and contributes to another catastrophic policy that we will be grappling with in the next decade.

Then there's the bleeding sore that is Yemen. The Intercept's Iona Craig has reported extensively on the Al Ghayil raid that killed dozens of civilians in a mountainside village on the pretext that Al Qaeda leadership were in hiding there. They weren't - some low-level operatives were reportedly in one of the buildings. The village has been in the thick of the Yemeni civil war, and residents thought the U.S. attackers were Houthi rebels - hence the armed resistance. Again ... this "highly" successful raid appears to have aided the side we officially oppose in that fight, though that's a minor consideration in light of the heavy casualties suffered by the people of Al Ghayil.

Only eight weeks in and these conflicts are getting even more septic. Not a good sign.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 24, 2017

Wait a minute.

Got this song running through my head. It's one of Matt's from some time ago. I get that a lot, actually. Our entertainment center hasn't worked in ages, so when we're not playing I have to rely upon the jukebox in my mind for my entertainment. And just now it's playing Big Green circa 1989, maybe. Couple weeks ago. The lyric goes like this:

Thought we were madly in love
but we were just plain mad
I always thought we were in love
But we were mad, just mad

Under a Gothic sky
we heard an ancient choir

In an amphitheater
we compiled notes and prayed aloud


We held our breath and heard the voice of uncommon sense
We dropped our eyes and saw the floor mosaic move
We were in need of uncommon sense
We met the face of foolishness


In the torrential rain
we still open the mail
We still shake the pieces
Still building boats unsafe to sail


We were badly in need of some uncommon law
We were sadly in need of some corrective lens
We were in need of uncommon sense
We met the face of foolishness


We weren't in love
We were mad


That song is called "Uncommon Sense" and I literally haven't heard it in years. So why is it bouncing around in my bean? No freaking clue. Stuff just bobs up like an inflatable horse in a swimming pool. Or something else that bobs up ... maybe somebody named Bob who comes up for the weekend. Not that that's ever likely to happen. And what if he has special dietary restrictions? Okay ... where was I?

Eight-tracks are just fab, man.I think I'm hearing music because my mind is wandering. It's like hold music - something has to fill the void, and since my psyche is out on vacation, someone fired up the old juke box. Sometimes it's junk-ass radio pop music from the 1970s. I won't even name some of the ear-worms I get because then you will have them to grapple with for the rest of the day, and you will end up hating me until the end of time. You know, songs like "Billy, Don't Be A Hero", for instance, or "The Night Chicago Died". Oh, God damnit!

Fortunately for me, my brother and collaborator in the musical collective enterprise known as Big Green has written a smoking ton of music over the past three decades. I can run his song list end-to-end in my head literally non-stop for about three weeks and never play the same song twice. Admittedly, I don't have a lot of control over what I'm hearing with my mind's ear - not like Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who actually has an 8-track cartridge deck built into the side of his brass head. All he has to do is hit the channel button and it hops over to the middle of another song. Welcome to the future, friends.

Note to cognitive scientists: if you figure out how to change earworm songs, let me the fuck know. Thanks mucho.

Nuclear option.

I'm undecided as to whether this is a great time to be a political writer or an abysmal one. There is so much going on every day of this new presidential administration, it's enough to fill a months worth of posts. It's hard not to return to the "drinking from a fire hose" cliche, frankly. Even so, I'll take a whack at some of what happened this week in my wobbly, amateurish way and we'll see where we end up.

Russia and Germany. Trump's visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was odd and awkward. She had that kind of hostage video look, sitting there with Herr Mr. Hair, asking for a handshake and being rebuffed by the new leader of the "free" world. If she isn't uneasy about this president, I don't know what it would take; just listening to the press conference exchanges between Trump and the German press is enough to convince anyone that the man needs professional help. And the rebuff over the handshake will only feed the notion that he is a man who will say or do nothing to offend one V. Putin.

Mr. not-so-nice guyThat's the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. So ... why does he keep fucking doing it? If there turns out to be no serious collusion between Trump's people and the Russian government, his administration is the most productive conspiratorial smoke machine ever constructed. Major administration advisors had conversations with Russian officials during and after the campaign, lied about it, then fessed up when the lie was exposed. If it's above board, why don't they just effing say so? I don't get it.

Blind Justice. Gorsuch took the stand in his confirmation hearings this week in the U.S. Senate. Big charm offensive, though it's obvious where he's coming from both judicially and politically. Still, I count myself among the number who simply oppose Gorsuch because he was nominated by Trump. It they blow up the filibuster, fine ... there's no saving it for later. If when you use it you lose it, then it doesn't really exist anyway.

It appears as though the Democrats are leaning towards this strategy, based on what Schumer and others are saying. Some of the Democratic senators, like Franken and Whitehouse, delivered some very strong criticism not only of Gorsuch but of the entire right-wing judicial and broader political agenda, so that's all to the good.

...

The health insurance went down in flames, so I'll return to that next week. My guess is that, AHCA or no AHCA, the GOP congress and Trump Administration will do everything in their power to crash the ACA through deregulation, funding cuts, and more. This fight will continue.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 17, 2017

Yardstick.

Yeah, it's up there. How can I tell? I just look out the window, dude. I look out and I see exactly nothing. That's how you know it's Snowmageddon. Simple, right? Trouble is ... I'm on the third floor.

Yeah, the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (our squat house) was buried in snow this past Tuesday night, and Mitch is responsible. I know it seems like I blame everything on our mad science advisor, but that's only because he's behind everything that happens, at least in some measure. Like that full moon we had last week. Did you see it? It was kind of ghostly, like the clouds had wrapped around it, but you could still see the full disc. Mitch's part in that? Not certain, but my guess is that he was working the cloud machine that night. (He should really be advising a 1970s arena rock band, but I digress.)

The sad thing is that his cloud invention could be a boon to mankind and animal kind alike ... if he would only use it for good instead of evil. That's a bit unfair, actually - Mitch is amoral, not immoral. Madness has no reason, but it can have a goal ... and this week, I suspect the goal may have been snow and more snow. And as I believe I mentioned earlier, he has a cloud machine. Not good.

Hey ... I think it might have snowed.There is one other piece of incriminating evidence. The big nor'easter was named Stella, and that was the name of Mitch's old girlfriend from back in the day. He doesn't talk about her much, but Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has dished a bit of back story on Mitch's wild years. Now I know that doesn't sound like Marvin, but you would be surprised what's stored in those creaky, tape-medium databases he holds inside that brass hide of his. (Before you ask, no, there are no audio recordings - just metadata of phone calls, that sort of thing.) Folks: never date a mad scientist. Seriously.

So, let me be the first to apologize about the storm. I'll probably also be the last to apologize, since Mitch never apologizes for any of the catastrophes he causes. Crazy as fuck means not having to say you're sorry.

Point made.

I think Sam Seder on the Majority Report said it best this week: the core of what the Republicans are doing is not policy, it's ideology. It's obvious every time they open their mouths. The policies they are advancing can only be seen as efforts to implement their extremist ideas, regardless of how negatively they affect large swaths of the population. They try to hide behind bogus concern for the well-being and "freedom" of ordinary people and "businesses", but that's a thin disguise. Listen to them talk for more than thirty seconds and the real agenda comes through, loud and clear.

Chief assistant rat bag.Take Speaker Ryan (please). He seems dedicated to souring people on the very idea of insurance. Ryan repeats the claim that 1% of the insured incur 23% of the costs of coverage. Even if his numbers are correct, isn't that what insurance is supposed to do? The system is based on the notion that everyone doesn't typically get sick at the same time - everybody pays into the system, and much of those funds are diverted to those who need health care at any given time. Important safety tip: That can be ANYBODY. You may feel great on Wednesday and get a dire diagnosis on Thursday, or get hit by an effing truck. Reality has a way of turning "makers" into "takers", in Ryan's parlance.

Another thing our Ayn Rand-admiring Speaker spouts with some frequency is this notion of "rights" without intervention from the state. He claims breezily that we may all have a right to health care, but that doesn't mean the government should guarantee that right. So ... what is this "right" - the right to buy something? By the same token, we all have the right to buy a Mercedes or take a trip to the south of France. Ryan makes it sound as though the government is violating your rights and infringing upon your freedom by, say, providing Medicare when you're elderly. They MAKE you pay for it, right? That's force!

I just heard a right-leaning Texas health policy activist on NPR decrying Medicaid expansion because people will be "dragged into it", as if providing a free health coverage option for people on limited incomes is an attack on their liberty. Trump's budget director Mulvaney is justifying their proposed cuts to meals on wheels and after-school nutrition programs by claiming that they are "not showing any results." On the school nutrition programs, “there’s no evidence they’re helping kids do better in school,” says Mulvaney. Again, from an ideological perspective, this makes perfect sense. Whereas for most sentient human beings it would be enough that we are contributing to the nutrition of the young, the old, the most vulnerable, to these jackals, there has to be some positive, quantifiable value they can take to the bank. Disgusting.

Trump is not the only problem we have, folks. It's this whole GOP mindset, subscribed to by some Democrats as well, but squarely within the Republican wheelhouse. That's the real fight.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 10, 2017

Where's my jetpack?

Ridiculous. It's the 21st Century and we're still moving about like gorillas, feet peddling the ground in a manner similar to our shrew-like remote ancestors. Mitch: get working on that little problem, will you? There's a good chap. What's that? Ummmm ... I believe that would be a physical impossibility. Got any other suggestions?

Like many of his frothy colleagues, our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee doesn't take direction real well. I've rambled on more than a few times in this blog about how sensitive he is, so I probably shouldn't bait him with idle requests about revolutionizing human locomotion or swapping meiosis with mitosis. The man's busy, god damn it! He cranks out inventions like brother Matt puts out songs. And when I say "like", I don't mean exactly like it. Mitch's battles are fought in the laboratory, not the prize ring ... I mean, not the wildlife sanctuary. But I digress.

Finally!I don't know how my mind gets stuck on these issues. Maybe it's living in this abandoned mill for the better part of twenty years. After a decade or two, you start rattling around like bird shot in an oil drum. Your mind gets going, then you trudge around the mill, singing dirges. Next thing you know, you're contemplating your very footsteps. Then it hits you - This is the twenty first century? Where the fuck is my jetpack? John Robinson had one back in fictional 1997! This is real-ass 2017 and I'm still stomping around like an ape. How is that fair?

Sure, you might say I have a distorted view of the future; that I'm stuck in a 1966 notion of what 1987 should look like. Be that as it may, jet packs would be a real step up from our current modes of transportation. And not any more impractical than some of the suggestions I've heard bandied about lately, like ski-resort type gondolas carrying people between a post-industrial mill town and what's breezily described as a "harbor" that's really just a wide spot in the Barge Canal. And yes, I know that jet packs have their challenges - all back-mounted rocket boosters do. But where would be without challenges, right? Where?

You're right. I've been bumping around this mill waaaaay too long.

Waiting to happen.

There's a lot of Trump news this week, but I wanted to return to the subject of Korea since that has such enormous potential for disastrous loss of life. The North test launched four ballistic missiles, setting off a firestorm of media coverage and a torrent of speculation from military and diplomatic spokespeople. As usual, most of it misses the mark by a mile. The New York Times articles on the developing crisis mention only in passing the massive join military exercises currently underway by the U.S. and South Korea. One wonders how many rounds, missiles, etc., are typically expended in such exercises.

North Korea's war memoriesUPI reports that there will actually be two joint exercises underway over the coming weeks; one a ground, air, and naval exercise that will include landings (i.e. mock invasions of the north). The other is more a command exercise involving the new THAAD anti-missile system the U.S. is installing in South Korea. So think about this - a practically constant stream of large scale drills, and now a missile battery that threatens to negate what Pyongyang likely thinks of as its nuclear deterrent. Got that? Now combine that with something utterly unknown to Americans - the kind of paranoia that stems from having been invaded and bombed out of existence six decades ago. That may have something to do with these missile launches.

How will the Trump administration react to these tests? It's hard to say, but if I were to guess I would suggest that their reaction might be similar to the tack taken by the last GOP administration. Dubya (Bush 43) put North Korea on the "Axis of Evil" short list for invasion, perhaps just to make Reverend Moon happy, but I'm not certain of that. That in and of itself might have been the best argument for developing a deterrent. Combined with other factors relating to our long history with Pyongyang, it's a compelling case. I don't condone their nuclear weapon design and production programs, but it's not hard to work out why they might want such weapons. Deterrence, and a prompt to get the United States to a negotiating table. They don't want six party talks, or three party talks ... they want one on one with America, because we are their principal adversary.

This standoff should have ended decades ago. The fact that it's happening while Trump is president is testament to that very painful truth.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 3, 2017

Inside February.

I know I dropped it around here somewhere. Marvin, have you seen it? What's that? Oh, right ... I dropped it on the internets. How could I forget? Yes, well ... we FINALLY got around to dropping a new episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, featuring Ned Trek 31: It's a Profitable Life. Yes, it's a Christmas special, so think of it as that fruitcake you never opened in December, shoved to the back of the fridge, and you happen upon it one cold February morning - a happy accident! Except that, well ... it's a fruitcake. So, like it or not, here's what you'll find alongside the pecans and candied fruit:

Ned Trek 31: It's a Profitable Life - Our parody of "It's a Wonderful Life" as played by your favorite Ned Trek characters: Captain Willard Mittilius Romney in the James Stewart role; Peter Lorre as the angel- (or, rather, devil- )in-training (Gladston Goodstein); Paul Ryan sitting in for the main character's younger brother; Bernie Sanders as the bank examiner who ends up running the bank as a worker-owned enterprise, and so on. It even features Thomas Malthus, the 18th-19th Century political economist, as the boss fallen angel. An hour of cheap laughs and satirical tirades fit for no man.

Ned Trek 31 also includes 5 new Big Green songs:
  • You Can't Do Anything - Straight rock number sung by Sulu that asks the question, "Are you having fun?" then talks about fascists on the couch at Christmas. What more can you ask?
  • You Asked Me How - A 6/8, fifties-sounding song sung by Ned himself. Hear me, Android!It's a profitable life
  • Fountainhead - Another rock number, sung in the "voice" of Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan, about his favorite subject .... him, and his bankrupt philosophy.
  • Christmas Without You - Doc Coburn song. If you listen carefully, you can hear a bad imitation of his colleague, Dr. John, in the background vocals.
  • Christmas Pearls - A jaunty little Christmas Carol sung by Mr. Perle, in which he makes the case for his return as a top White House advisor on foreign policy, defense, and getting us into endless (but highly profitable) wars. In other words, a different version of the same song he always sings on Ned Trek.
Put The Phone Down - Our stranger than usual conversation opens with something like a song, ranges into some apologizing, lamenting the loss of John Hurt (whose resonant Shakespearean voice is often badly imitated on our podcast), a look back at my turkey house apartment in the 1980s, and wrap up with an impromptu version of Special Kind of Blood.

So, hey ... Happy Holidays. Belated.

The king's speech.

How did you spend that prime time hour this past Tuesday night? I will admit to watching the entire Trump address to a Joint Session of Congress, and I have to say ... it's evident he hired a speechwriter sometime over the past six weeks. His inaugural was a patchwork hodgepodge of paranoid tropes and random utterances, crudely constructed by the likes of Miller and Bannon with some input, most likely, form Trump's demon spawn. Wednesday's speech was full of craven ideas and scapegoating, but it was comparatively well-crafted. Someone massaged the prose a bit, inserted some lofty rhetoric and clever turns of phrase. I think that accounts in large measure for the "tone" difference TV commentators have been crowing about ever since.

Maytag Repairman-in-ChiefAnd the substance of the king's speech? Nauseating, in my humble opinion. The truly low points for me were the jingoistic celebration of the widow of that Navy Seal killed in that botched Yemen raid, the announcement of a special Homeland Security office tracking victims of immigrant crimes, the promise to raise the already bloated military budget by 10% ... I could go on. Of those three, the first one was strange in that Trump had previously (that day, I believe) thrown his generals under the bus for that failed mission, on Fox News. (Plus, the Navy Seal's father is hopping mad about it, and rightfully so.) But point to a war widow, and politicians will always stand up and cheer. It's their way of channeling our relief that we are no longer called upon to fight wars or to pay for them up front. Cynical in the extreme.

That extended riff on the victims of immigrant crime was particularly disturbing. They are setting up an office (with the acronym VOICE, no less) to do something like what Der Sturmer used to do to German Jews - namely, front page any violent crimes committed by individuals in that group as a means of stoking outrage against the entire group. It's an effective tactic, and the Trump bots are embracing it wholeheartedly. (I got into some mini-Twitter wars with a couple of them after the speech.) It's up to us to push back on this and to encourage our representatives to do the same.

Let's face it - it's going to be a long, long four years. Perhaps even longer. So we need to start building now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 24, 2017

Seven up.

Oh, Jesus .... I think I'm going to sleep over at the neighbor's house for a few nights, guys. At least until the radioactivity dies down a bit after Mitch's head explodes like an atom bomb.

Yes, you guessed it - it's another one of those weeks, folks. Started out just fine. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) was vacuuming the drapes. Anti-Lincoln was out walking his imaginary dog and insulting the mail carrier. Matt and I were cloistered in the studio, digging through mountains of unpublished material. Everything was going just swimmingly ... and then NASA has to go an discover seven new Earth-like planets around a sun named Trappist-1. And no, not just any seven Earth-like planets, but the same freaking seven planets Mitch has been secreting away for the last decade. And he is going to bum, people.

This planetary search has simply got to stop. Not because it isn't highly productive and stimulating from a scientific point of view - quite the opposite! I speak entirely from the perspective of narrow self-interest. Every time NASA finds new planets, it puts Mitch Macaphee into a funk. Often times they are worlds he has previously discovered - and even visited, in some cases. A true capitalist inventor, he has a decidedly proprietary approach to space exploration. Whatever he finds, he keeps. "Finders/Keepers" kind of cuts against the grain of NASA's philosophy, so there's bound to be conflicts. And it's not such a good thing when both sides of a conflict have rockets at their disposal.

Mitch ... they're ALL yours?Now before you get alarmed, let me qualify this. Mitch is not ... repeat, NOT ... at the point of launching any rockets. He is principally an electrical engineer, so he's always cooking up gadgets that bend time/space or generate black holes - that along with a lot of buzzing, whirring, and flashing. (Remember that he invented Marvin, who does a fair bit of buzzing, whirring, and flashing of his own.) In fact, I'm not convinced that Mitch hasn't found a non-spacecraft method for traveling to other planets. And I am not talking about soul travel here, brother (though that would be an excellent name for a travel agency). There's the time he hooked up that surplus department store revolving door to Trevor James Constable's orgone generating device. That's how we got Antimatter Lincoln. That was awesome.

So, hey .... seven new planets, seven new problems. That's the story here at the mill.

For the people.

I live in New York's 22nd Congressional district, a sprawling, largely rural riding that stretches from the Pennsylvania border to just a stone's throw from Lake Ontario. On the map, it looks a bit like the silhouette of someone in a Klansman get-up standing on a soapbox with his/her arms out stretched, crucifixion style. In reality, it's a lot less dramatic than that, though through the decades I have seen more than a small number of confederate flags stuck to bumpers (and one full-size battle flag waving at me from the back of a pickup truck just a few months back). Cook has us as an R+3 district, meaning strong lean-Republican - NY22 went for Trump 55-39% in 2016, which is pretty lopsided even for us, though it suggests a solid 6% independent vote.

Who's intimidating whom?Our current Congress member, Claudia Tenney, won a three-way race with about 47% last Fall. Since her election, she has been a little hard to pin down. It took some weeks to open a district office in the Utica area - she blamed this on the bureaucracy, of course. Up until this week, Tenney has been knocking down any suggestion of holding a town hall-style meeting in the district, having seen what's been happening to her colleagues. Her big announcement this past Wednesday was that she would call a town hall, though no announced date. Also, she says she's been receiving threats. Well, welcome to being famous, Claudia. Anyone who raises their head above obscurity in this culture gets threatening emails, Tweets, posts, etc.

Like her colleagues in the House, she does not want to answer directly to constituents for the policies she has supported or plans to support, particularly the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare"). When you hold one of these town halls, it's hard to maintain the fiction that you actually care about what happens to people. And it is plainly that - a fiction. This whole "repeal and replace" line is their way of finessing a very harsh reality; namely that they are taking votes that will result in the loss of coverage for millions of Americans. I don't just mean people who will be thrown off of their health insurance - I also mean people who will be subscribed to something that's called "health insurance" but that, in fact, doesn't cover anything. I had a policy like that, long before the ACA, and it was pretty awful.

Let's face it: Tenney and her GOP colleagues only see the ACA as a political tool. Flawed as it is, it has, in fact, saved lives, and should be improved upon, not scrapped. If Tenney wants to do something for the people who sent her to Washington, she can start by concentrating on that.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 17, 2017

Song farm.

Where's Matt this morning? Where he always is - trudging across the landscape like Ewan McTeagle, writing crazy-ass song poems in his head and putting them to music ... also in his head. And feeding the beavers. Curious fellow!

As we're patching together the next episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, featuring our holiday (yes, holiday!) installment of Ned Trek, it's beginning to dawn on me just how many Ned Trek songs we have recorded over the last three years. If you piled them up, the resulting stack would be taller than the Empire State Building. (That's assuming, of course, each song is about 1/50th the height of the Empire State Building.) But spacial relationships aside, we've got a big backlog of songs that are just screaming "Put me in an album!" Marvin (my personal robot assistant) tried to be helpful by picking up a photo album down at the corner drug store, but of course, that kind of album is a whole 'nother thing. But semantic considerations aside ...

Yep. About that tall, man.Okay, well ... 50 songs is a lot for an album, even one of ours. Here's where both the spacial and the semantic relationships actually come into play. What the hell is an album, right? It used to be an LP with a limited capacity; then a cassette, same deal; CD, same deal. In the digital music age, those limitations have vanished. No more four-disc box sets, right? It's just a big virtual bag of MP3 or .wav files. So both the semantic and the spacial constraints are history, man. That means the only constraints on what to include in our next album are those pertaining to aesthetics and good judgment. (In our world, that means no freaking constraints at all!)

The truth is, we haven't completed a new album because we've been taken up with writing and recording new songs for the podcast. When we finish a bunch, we start on the next one. And when I say "finish", I mean our typical fast-mixdown .... not finished in any kind of releasable way. That takes time and care, much care. Marvin has to lay down a coat of shellac. Then we get Anti-Lincoln started on the hand-carved details. And that's just for the box it comes in!

Many's the time I've thought, there must be an easier way. But even thinking about that seems way too hard.

The fire this time.

Another banner week for the just-born Trump administration, beset by a growing scandal around purported contacts with Russia, rocked by the forced resignation of anti-Muslim National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, scrambled by contradictory messaging from both surrogates and the President himself, and so on. Trump's truly bizarre Thursday press conference saw him describe his White House as a "running like a fine-tuned machine." Probably seems that way to someone as deluded as he appears to be. I'm not even including the very public situation room they convened at a restaurant table inside Trump's Florida resort - a night that saw some crony posing for a photo with the dude who carries the nuclear football. Eek.

Donald J. DumpsterfireLate in last year' campaign, when the T-man seemed to be burning out of control, I wrote a blog post titled "Burning Man" wherein I suggest that the candidate was like "a crazy-ass Frankenstein’s monster set on fire and spreading his conflagration to everything he touches. Better that he should do it during the campaign than in the oval office, am I right?" It hadn't occurred to me at that time (a) that Trump would likely win under those circumstances and (b) that, if he did win, he would govern in much the same manner. Clearly both (a) and (b) have turned out to be the case. We're going to see four years of this, people. Fasten your seat belts.

What can be done? Well, resist, of course. Join or start an Indivisible group in your area. Call or visit your Congress members and demand action out of them, not just to counter the Trump agenda, but to work against the Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell program that is threatening every corner of American life, from health care to financial security to environmental sustainability and so on. We need to be active in our own communities, working for real change, but we also have to focus a good bit of our efforts on an electoral strategy that will give us some leverage. Democrats stand little chance of winning back the Senate in 2018. The House is uphill as well, but it's likely the only chance we have. That means flipping seats in places like upstate New York.

This will take work, and lots of it. Activism alone won't hold back this tide of bad policy - we need some political gains at the state and federal level, particularly in advance of the next reapportionment fight in 2020. It's a thin straw, but it's the only one we have.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 10, 2017

Just holler.

Delays, delays, delays. Frankly, production is a pain in the ass. That said, what do I do for a living? I'm a producer, damn it. I should have been a janitor. (Though on Sundays, I'm that, too.)

Yes, friends ... the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast wagon has hit a few bumps in the road. Is it because our Ned Trek productions have become too elaborate and costly? God, no. It's STILL the most cheap-ass podcast on the planet. (We still have that trophy somewhere. I think Anti-Lincoln is using it for an ashtray.) No, it's not complication, it's ... well ... the OTHER kind of complication. Frankly, I need six hands. I could also use a third leg. One ass is enough, of course. The point being, we are spread kind of thin here in Big Green land.

Sure, if we were any other band-focused podcast, we would be content with just hollering randomly into the mic every week and dropping that onto iTunes. But if you're Big Green (and we are), the quality goes in before the name goes on. (Note to lawyers: we make no claim of ownership over the preceding slogan, and it does not in any way reflect the character of our organization.) Of course, the term "quality" is, in fact, value-neutral: things can be of good quality, bad quality, etc. But that's not the point. Every episode has some kind of "quality", and until we insert that value-neutral substance into the file, it ain't going nowhere. Short answer: we're running behind ... again. But THIS IS BIG GREEN is still a thing, and it will return.

Are the 80s over yet?Okay, I'm not going to dip into one of those "things were simpler in the old days" reveries, but what I'm describing are both first-world problems and 21st Century foibles of a type that would have baffled us back when we started this moth-eaten music collective known as Big Green. When we first started using that moniker in 1986-7, we were working with people out around Albany, NY. Matt was writing songs like a mad man, just as he does today. Only there was no internet, no smartphones, no simple way of getting your music out there other than standing on a stage or hawking home-made cassette tapes at the local record shop. Kids these days!

Look away!

Break out your banjos; looks like we have a new A.G. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will now oversee the Justice Department, which includes the FBI, U.S. Attorneys offices across the nation, and (gulp) the Civil Rights Division. (Now I know why the chorus of Dixie goes, "Look away! Look away!") Dark times indeed, except that this is just part of the story, because we now have anti-public education zealot billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, former Breitbart editor and longtime white supremacist Steve Bannon as a permanent member of the National Security Council, retired general and current crackpot Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor .... shall I go on? This just in: elections have consequences.

Look away! Look away!Of course, the most problematic member of the administration is the man himself. Only 20 days into this regime and it feels like forever. In a way, it might as well be three years in. I keep hearing pundits, like sometime Trump adviser Joe Scarborough, saying that he needs to dial back the motor mouth a bit .... as if that is ever going to happen. Why the hell would he? It's worked very well for him so far. Anyone who has ever worked for a small businessperson knows how that works. The man is going to impugn the judiciary when it goes against him and praise it when it decides in his favor, period. Separation of powers, constitutional laws and traditions - none of that means anything to him. He has dictatorial tendencies, and we have placed him into the most powerful office on the planet. Nice going, people.

Okay, before I descend into a Winnebago Man - like tirade, let me talk about what isn't different about this administration. One thing is that they hide their bad military decisions behind the soldiers who are killed by those decisions. Previous administrations have done this more artfully, but no less cravenly. I'm referring specifically to the raid in Yemen, which has many troubling implications, but which by all accounts was a Rescue One-level disaster, resulting in the death of a Navy Seal, wounding of others, the destruction of an aircraft, and the killing of perhaps two dozen civilians, including children. Spokeswalrus (sorry, walruses!) Sean Spicer announced that to call this raid anything less than a success is to denigrate the sacrifice of the lost Navy Seal. This jiu jitsu move is well practiced - the deep implication is to deflect blame on the dead guy, while making it sound like you're outraged that others aren't properly honoring him. Effing disgusting.

So something old, something new. Either way, it's going to be a long four years.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 3, 2017

What you hear.

Man, it's windy again today. That's what I'm hearing, right? Oh, okay ... Anti-Lincoln is just practicing his bass clarinet. Right. Sounds like wind. Lots of wind.

Hey, look .... I know living with other people can be annoying. But we try to be tolerant around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill and let one another live up to his or her true self. And when they achieve that hard-won moment of self-realization, we all point fingers at them and laugh derisively. Particularly when they take up some wind instrument they have no hope of mastering. (Happens more often around here than you might suppose.) That's what we call "positive reinforcement."

I don't want to give the impression that we of Big Green have something against innovation and initiative. Lord, no. The fact is, we rely on other people's innovation and initiative to make up for our woeful lack of those qualities. We've made plenty of recordings that have random horn-like instruments honking in the background or someone plunking on a banjo in a lackluster way. Naturally, we don't hire session musicians for this. (Very few of them are willing to work in ThereThere's a multitude in this place!exchange for discarded hammer handles from the last century.) So naturally we are left to forage for talent a little closer to home. And when I say "talent", I'm using the word in a very generic, denatured sense. Bodies with working digits is what I mean.

Take Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. (Please.) Little known factoid: Many of the horn parts on that album were played by Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and Anti-Lincoln. We used trained monkeys for some tambourine parts. And when I say "trained", I'm using the word in a very generic .... oh, never mind. Actually, I played the freaking tambourine. I just made it sound like I'm a trained monkey. Though frankly, most people playing the tambourine sound like trained monkeys. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The point being .... we may look like a band of three people, but there's a virtual multitude involved in everything we do. (Now by "virtual", I mean literally "in essence or effect, but not in fact".)

Got all that? Good. Maybe you can explain it to me (and the virtual multitude).