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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 Matt and I were cloistered in the studio, digging through mountains of unpublished material.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.

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