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Friday, December 28, 2018

Holiday table.

It can't be morning yet, right? It's still freaking dark outside. What? Oh, right. My night mask. I'll just pull it off and ... OH MY GOD ... IT'S MORNING!

Well, that's my revelation for today. What have you got? Hope you're having a great holiday season, whether or not you celebrate any of the various commemorative feast-days that fall sometime around now. Like Trump in the White House, we've been staked out here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in upstate New York (a.k.a. that farm upstate that every alt band goes to eventually) waiting for someone to tell us it's safe to venture outside without proper shoes. That's right - our shoes are a disgrace, my friends. No bones about it. And when you've got substandard shoes, Spring can't come soon enough.

And while we've been cooped up in this drafty old barn, we've tried to busy ourselves with some low-budget Kringle-ing, sending out some old recordings via social media to our gaggle of patient friends, attempting to make up for the fact that we have nothing new finished ... our latest batch is still in the oven, barely even browning at this point. Slow going, to be sure. Fortunately, we have an archive to keep us warm - the fruit of more than 30 years' effort in the vineyards of no-budget songwriting, gigging, and music production. We've got everything from 1/4 inch reel to cassette to DAT tape to hard drives packed with ramblings, false starts, and even some complete songs. You never know what we'll toss up next.

Okay, Marvin ... What have we got?Or maybe you will. Either way, that's what we're dropping on the holiday table under the tree. For a sampling, check our Twitter feed or visit our Soundcloud page and click play on any random upload. It is a mixed bag, I will admit, curated by Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who has a tin ear ... actually, two tin ears and an aluminum voicebox. Our posts thus far have been mostly Christmas themed selections, including outtakes from our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and some live takes previously featured on our YouTube page or on our Live from Neptune EP. These are all full-rez .wav files, and a couple of the live tracks have been remastered, so give it a listen and let me know how much they suck ... I mean, what you think.

Whoa, is that the time? Back to bed with me!

The century in review.

As you know, this is the week when every news and opinion broadcast, podcast, etc., typically does their year in review. There are, of course, economic reasons for this - they basically run clip shows or pre-taped round tables, which can occasionally be worth watching (Chris Hayes usually does pretty well with these) but are mostly pretty dull and awful. So, inasmuch as this is not, repeat, NOT a news blog or, really, an opinion blog in the traditional sense, I am breaking with this obnoxious practice and running with something I think is more useful .... the century in review. Meaning stuff that happened over the last 100 years, selected at random, and by "stuff" I mean historical and political stories that are, in essence, lost to history, particularly in the United States.

A neglected chapter.One such story is the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). which I have mentioned previously in the blog over the years. This, in my opinion, is one of those seminal conflicts that set the stage for much that followed in this unfortunate region. The United States and U.S. allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf (particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE) played a central role in this horrendous war, a role which has virtually been expunged from pop culture history. One example is the History Channel article on the Iran-Iraq war. which does not mention the U.S. at all. This is remarkable in that the Reagan Administration avidly supported Saddam Hussein's government from 1982 on, providing them with arms, DIA intelligence on Iranian targets, precursors to chemical weapons, biological agents, and so on.

The Iran Chamber Society provides a useful list of our various efforts to support Hussein's war against Iran. Here are some highlights:

February, 1982. Despite objections from congress, President Reagan removes Iraq from its list of known terrorist countries.

December, 1982. Hughes Aircraft ships 60 Defender helicopters to Iraq.

1982-1988. Defense Intelligence Agency provides detailed information for Iraq on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for air strikes and bomb damage assessments.

November, 1983. A National Security Directive states that the U.S would do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran.

November, 1983. Banca Nazionale del Lavoro of Italy and its Branch in Atlanta begin to funnel $5 billion in unreported loans to Iraq. Iraq, with the blessing and official approval of the US government, purchased computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods for Iraq's missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

October, 1983. The Reagan Administration begins secretly allowing Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt to transfer United States weapons, including Howitzers, Huey helicopters, and bombs to Iraq. These shipments violated the Arms Export Control Act.

May, 1986. The US Department of Commerce licenses 70 biological exports to Iraq between May of 1985 and 1989, including at least 21 batches of lethal strains of anthrax.

May, 1986. US Department of Commerce approves shipment of weapons grade botulin poison to Iraq.

(See the full list with references here.)

An excellent account of this war is given by Dilip Hiro in his book The Longest War. And as our president would say, by the way, Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Secret Satan. (I mean, Santa.)

Hmmm, let me see. Nicely wrapped. Let's see what's inside. Okay ... huh. An empty bubble pack that used to contain a ballpoint pen. Nice. So .... who amongst you could have known that that's something I've always wanted?

Oh, hi, everyone. Yeah, it's that time of year again, and Big Green is celebrating the holidays in the usual way. We put on a bunch of cheesy records. We make a little extra rice and mustard greens. And then there's the Secret Santa exchange of gifts, which we do in the traditional way ... one gift at a time, and the recipient tries to guess who the giver is. How exciting. Someone bring me my sodium bicarbonate. This could be a long night!

That's not to say that the holidays are any less problematic in our makeshift home than they are in everyone else's. There's a lot to look out for here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill - a lot going on beneath that cool, clammy exterior. For instance, if you're stringing the lights on the parapet, watch the icicle lamp string .... it's got a short in it. And we try not to put a tree out in the courtyard, because the mansized tuber tends to get attached to it. (No, I mean literally attached. Those roots are always growing.)

No clues!But really the greatest danger is having Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, pick your name out of the hat for Secret Santa. Christmas is his time to offload all of the failed experiments from the past year, and there are usually quite a few of them. You may end up unwrapping a package that contains a beaker of radioactive sludge or something that's ticking like a bomb. ("Hey, Mack ..." you'd say in your 1940s New York accent, "What the heck is this thing? It's ticking like a bomb!")

I don't like to mention this in mixed company, but the fact is that Marvin (my personal robot assistant) was a Secret Santa gift from Mitch. He was trying to build some form of pleasure vehicle, but something went badly wrong, so he put a makeshift head on it and called it "Marvin". Don't ask me how he got Marvin into that flat box. It's a bit like the Casper Mattress package - open it up and FLOP! Out comes Marvin.

Well, if I don't see you, have a great Christmas, tremendous holiday break, whatever floats your boat.

The politics of out.

Well, I was half prepared to do a post on General Flynn this week, but with the advent of Trump's apparently unilateral decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria and the nearly apoplectic response, it seems more appropriate to concentrate on the broader matter of our foreign policy and how it plays out in what passes for our national conversation.

Look at the shiny, shiny thing.I think it's worth saying at the outset that I have no idea of what our military's mission is in Syria. I keep hearing that it's essentially the same as the one we're pursuing in Afghanistan - training and equipping a local force to fight the war for us - but that doesn't exactly inspire confidence. It is, in fact, a formula for another unending deployment, one that has the support of most of the foreign policy voices in the media. Much of the criticism of Trump's abrupt decision has been from a right militarist perspective, though one that is broadly shared, much like the criticism of his Korea policy. The only argument that has merit, in my view, is that we will be leaving the Syrian Kurds twisting in the wind - something we have done to the Kurds in past decades as well (ask Kissinger). Maybe that is worth keeping 2,000 plus U.S. troops in Syria, if protecting Kurdish fighters is in fact what they're doing, but as always, we are pondering policy stacked on top of bad policy decades in the making.

The foreign policy talking heads that populate Morning Joe and other shows see this withdrawal as great news for Russia (aka Putin) and emboldening ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah, etc. No mention of the fact that the government we stood up in Iraq is now busily executing thousands Sunnis they breezily accuse of being in league with the Islamic State. That is next-generation ISIS in the making, folks, as that is the process the produced the first generation. These movements do not come out of nowhere. Al Qaeda was spawned by our intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as was the Taliban. Hezbollah was the product of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. ISIS grew out of Sunni Iraqis who found themselves on the wrong side of the U.S. occupation and subsequent Shia-dominated central government. On and on.

The fact is, we need to change the political calculus around getting out of conflicts. We can discuss the best way to do that - by applying more diplomatic and economic pressure on actors like Turkey, etc., but we need to be able to end these wars. Trump is doing it for all the wrong reasons, in a haphazard and asinine way, but he's doing it. That after helping to wreck Syria beyond repair. We just should never have been there in the first place ... and we need to stop doing this shit.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 14, 2018

Year nineteen.

Seems like old times, Marvin. You know what I'm talking about, right? Well ... then load up some of your old data cassettes. I have that tape backup deck sitting around here somewhere. Or did I use it for an ideas tape ... ?

Ah, yes. 'Tis the season for looking back ... something I always look forward to. (Yes, I did just say that.) And this year I'm looking back on what a hack I've been for the last nineteen years. This is the nineteenth anniversary of this humble blog, which first made itself known under the questionable moniker "Notes From Sri Lanka" back in December of 1999. Even to call it a blog was kind of questionable - I wasn't using Wordpress or Blogger at the time, just flat html pages that I would post via Frontpage. What's the difference, right? (Attn: web developers: pretend you didn't hear that.)

19 years of this crap? How can you stand it?So we're walking into the twentieth year of this phase of Big Green's existence, and really ... not much has changed since 1999 except that our releases aren't typically on CD anymore and we're driving smarter cars. Other than that, everything's about the same around the Hammer Mill. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) still has a lot of his original vacuum tubes, and his various grease fittings haven't been lubricated since those early days. The mansized tuber is still man-sized .... he hasn't grown into some kind of gnarly behemoth. And our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee is still off his meds ... at least the ones his doctor advised him to take so many years ago.

If you want to see for yourself how bloody similar everything was back then to the present day, check out our ancient posts on our "Back Pages" compendium. Fair warning: I would pile my political rants on top of the band chronicles, so you're going to get a dose of both, though many of the topics will seem a bit obscure after so many years. It does bring back some memories, and in that respect, it's a little astonishing how little has changed even beyond the grounds of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Hoo boy.

Okay, back to work, people. Got to make the future happen.

Cop out.

Overwhelmed by all the mainstream news coverage of the COP conference in Katowice, Poland? I thought not. It's possible that the international climate negotiations in Poland have been covered in passing by the evening news shows, etc., but I haven't seen a single mention of them on the various talk shows, most notably on MSNBC, which is purported to be the centrist-liberal network. Their constant obsession is the Mueller probe, and while I can understand the temptation to follow such a strongly narrative-driven story, to do so to the exclusion of all other news is craven on the part of any organization that lays claim the mantle of investigative journalism.

Old King Coal.Probably the best source on what's happening at Katowice is DemocracyNow! - Amy Goodman and her crew have been broadcasting from Poland all week, covering the activities of the American delegation. Yes, there is an official U.S. delegation, even though our lord emperor Trump the first has chosen to withdraw from the weak as dishwater (but better than nothing) Paris Accord. The delegation is headed by former Priebus aide Wells Griffith, who ran a failed campaign for congress in Alabama recently. Goodman chased Griffith around the hall at one point, asking him to comment on the administration's hallucinogenic policies on climate change - he refused, walked faster, practically ran to get away from them. (Worth a look.)

What are they doing there? Same thing the conference is doing in Poland - making every effort to legitimize coal as a usable energy source. Recall that Trump's EPA administrator is a coal industry lobbyist (I would add "former" to that title, but honestly, he still is). Poland's government, too, is a big promoter of coal - that's why they are hosting COP 24 in a building designed to look like the inside of a coal mine. Not too subtle. Though it has announced its intention to leave the Paris Accord, the U.S. government is doing all it can to steer the negotiations away from any serious effort at attacking this problem, teaming up with other bad global actors and hawking its extractive industries. It's not all that different from Obama's ridiculous "all of the above" policy, except that Trump's all of the above doesn't include renewables.

Mind you, this meeting has been going on for 24 years and we are still waiting for serious action on the greatest threat to confront us in the history of humankind. That's why the corporate media pays no attention - they no the intention is to do nothing while looking like you're doing something. Unacceptable.

Not Too Soon. I think Greg Grandin did a great job of remembering George H.W. Bush in all of his patrician glory in last week's Nation. Check it out.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 7, 2018

Inside December (2018).

It's called snow, Marvin. The white stuff, falling from the sky? That's not hard rain, it's freaking snow. What the hell kind of weather station are you, anyway?

Oh, hi. Well ... we're getting into that time of year when larger mammals hibernate. That's not how we roll, of course, but we do get a little more sedentary (if that can be imagined) as the winter months wear on. Fortunately, we have our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN to keep us hopping this December. Here's what we've packed inside this hollow tree:

Ned Trek 38: The Squire of Mara Lagos. Our new installment of Ned Trek is a takeoff on the classic Star Trek episode entitled "The Squire of Gothos" and features me doing really, really poor imitations of both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Perle turns out to be a compulsive gambler this week in a Lost in Space-style plot twist. See what you think ... and feel free to play it back at 125% speed.

Put The Phone Down. Matt and I begin our yak session with a rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, which maybe goes on a bit too long (we are joined by a Dalek after a few choruses). A little later on we go into dueling Sagan mode, give a nod to talking like a chimp, discuss the merits and demerits of the Ned Trek episode, and take a closer look at Matt's various medals.

Marvin: It's 37 degrees. Me: Wrong.Song: Christmas is Over Here. I mentioned that we included some warmed-over holiday numbers in this episode - this isn't one of them. This is just the two of us making up a ridiculous song that has never been sung before and likely will never be sung again. Ain't that Christmas?

Song: Up North. One of Matt's very first Christmas songs. This recording is, I think, from the late 1980s, a cassette 4-track master, and one of probably 4 versions of this song we've recorded over the decades. We include this one because of the ape-like backing vocals towards the end. Not to be missed.

Song: Quantum Christmas. This is an outtake from the sessions that resulted in our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, back in 1999. We did the mix then decided to leave it off the final collection. Matt wrote this, of course, and it plays with the observer's paradox in quantum physics as a metaphor for avoiding your relatives.

Song: Dark Christmas. Another outtake from the 2000 Years To Christmas album. It think we thought it was just too long to fit on what was already a longish album, but ... there were likely other reasons as well. This kind of sounds like what we sounded like back then as a band, so give it a go.

Song: Ornament. This is another 4-track cassette recording, this from Matt's 1990 Christmas collection (among my all-time favorites) that he gave to family and friends that year. We did a version of this for 2000 Years To Christmas that didn't end up on the album, but I much prefer this one.

Enjoy it, folks. Now ... back to tracking the weather.

Old number 41.

I don't take joy in anyone's passing, great or small. We're all living beings with a limited time in this timeless universe, and there's nothing to celebrate when death takes its toll, even when the departed is someone you are not at all fond of. I would have to count George H. W. Bush as someone who fits that description. Despite all of the glowing tributes from members of our political elite and millionaire media personalities, he was an awful president in a lot of ways - one that left a toxic legacy we're still grappling with. The invasion of Panama alone was enough to wipe away any pretense of a "kind and gentle" leader, but the administration of Bush 41 went far beyond that atrocity.

Bush nice? Ask a Haitian. Ask an Iraqi.In listening to the hagiographic coverage put out by NPR, NBC and MSNBC, it's clear that H. W, Bush's conservative politics is a kind of "sweet spot" for our mainstream press - the ideal foil to the uncouth hair-hatted fiend who currently occupies the White House. Like the McCain funeral, this is an opportunity to demonstrate their middle-of-the-road reactionary bona fides. It's as if there's Trump and then everyone else, and they take the side of the latter. The stupidity of the rhetoric is kind of sobering, though. On Morning Joe, Willie Geist was talking about how Bush 41 chose to join the Navy as an aviator, as if that was a singularly selfless act. The guy is so distant from the notion of conscription that he barely knows what he's talking about. Note to Willie: Practically everybody ended up in uniform and shipped overseas in those days. Aside from a draft, there was enormous societal pressure to join up and do your part. Every military age male in my extended family at that time was sent to fight in World War II (one didn't return, another committed suicide afterwards). No shade on Bush 41 - he sacrificed during the war, but his experience was very, very common.

I won't tick through George H. W. Bush's record on Panama, on Haiti (supported the 1991 coup), on Iraq, on Central America (consummated the criminal terror war against Nicaragua), on the war on drugs, on AIDS policy (hands off), on Clarence Thomas, and so on. It's been treated elsewhere in much greater detail by better writers than me. All I can say is that, while I'm sorry he's dead, he was not a "kind and gentle" leader by any stretch of the imagination, and he played a central roll in getting us to the awful place we find our selves in now. While I was never a fan of Clinton, I was glad to see Bush go in 1993, and I'm still glad he never had that second term.

No secret why I wasn't invited to the funeral. Again.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 30, 2018

Problem child.

Okay, blow out the candles. Try harder. Nope, nothing. Try again. What the hell ... you'd think at your age you would have this worked out by now. Silly kid.

Right, so before you call child protective services, let me reassure you that we, of Big Green, are all biologically childless. The line stops here! And it's just as well. No, sir ... I was just in the midst of celebrating the nineteenth birthday of our first commercial release (a.k.a. album), 2000 Years to Christmas, which was released .... I don't know ... sometime after Christmas in 1999. Nice timing, right? Typical. Anyway, that was a few weeks ago, and I'm glad to say it's pretty small in the rear view mirror at this point.

So, 2000 Years To Christmas was our biggest seller. That's not saying much. Of course, it was released relatively early in the era of online retail, and over the course of the succeeding decades it has wormed its way into any number of places online. A simple Google search on the title will show you what I mean. (Take a look at the image tab on that search if you want a cheap laugh.) It kind of has a life of is own, which is strange because we gave it life almost twenty years ago. It's in those rebellious years, when your child tries to distance her/himself from you as much as possible. 2000 Year To Christmas never goes shopping with us anymore, and when it's out with its friends and sees us on the street, it looks away.

They grow up so fast.We're actually planning kind of a special party for its twentieth next year. Don't tell it we said so - we'd like it to be a surprise. I was thinking maybe a nice new CD player, or one of those disc stands that holds maybe 200 albums. Hell, we could fill four of those with unsold copies of that thing. (Psst ... don't tell 2000 Years To Christmas that we said that, either.) In fact, forget we even had this conversation. Who are you again?

Right, well ... maybe I'm being a little cautious. Nineteen is such an awkward age, and 2000 Years To Christmas still doesn't know what it wants to do with its life. Maybe trade school will be the thing. Maybe, I don't know ... maybe next year.

Borders.

If there's one thing about the Trump administration that's consistent, it's their laser focus on immigrants - specifically the ones with dark skin or non-christian religious beliefs. This is basically Trump's political brand, though it's nothing new in American (and particularly Republican party) politics. This specific strain of bigotry has made its way into national elections for decades, most noticeably since the early 1990s and the Buchanan direct mail scam .... I mean, presidential campaign, right through right-wing hacks like Tom Tancredo and up to the now-sainted (by the phony "resistance") Senator-elect Mitt Romney, who ran to the right of his fanatical GOP competitors on immigration. So it makes little sense to assign this tendency exclusively to Trump - scapegoating immigrants is central to Republican politics, and as for Democrats, Obama was the deporter-in-chief, despite his uplifting rhetoric.

These are are the people you're supposed to fearThat said, it's hard to deny that Trump takes a certain special joy in his work, promoting the basest forms of ignorance, painting refugees as criminals, rapists, etc. The furor around the immigrant caravans from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador ranks among the most despicable initiatives thus far in his putrid presidency, right alongside family separations. This is, of course, a contrived "crisis" intended to gin up the Republican's racist base in time for the mid-term elections as well as set the stage for clashes at the southern border. They did this by prohibiting asylum seekers from applying for asylum anywhere other than at designated points of entry. This violates the relevant statute (8 U.S. Code section 1158), as asylum seekers are entitled to due process regardless of how they enter the country.

By funneling these refugees to the major border crossings, the President has ensured that there would be a kind of mini refugee crisis in Tijuana. This is all about how it looks on TV, specifically FoxNews. He wants his followers to see hordes of dark people surging toward the border fence, looking angry, being repelled by our brave men in uniform with a generous use of CS gas (a.k.a. chemical weapons). The President thinks this works for him politically, and to a certain extent he is correct. Older white people, pummeled by the gig economy, terrified of losing what little status they have, are susceptible to this anti-immigrant trope along with its sidecar appeals to anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim sentiments. They want Trump's wall, and they want him to build it around their lives. Since that's impossible, they will settle for a TV show about teargassing refugees.

We are way beyond the point of wondering whether this is the kind of country we want to be. We need to stop wondering and start working towards better policy ... now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 23, 2018

Big thanks.

Don't suppose I ever thanked you for that, right? Well ... thanks, man. Thanks a heap. Now get the hell out of my sight.

Oh, hi. Hey ... no worries. Just practicing. This, as you know, is the time of year when you show gratitude to all and sundry, even your worst enemy. I was just practicing what that would look like in real life. Say, for instance, my worst enemy (whoever that may turn out to be) should pound on the hammer mill door one cold morning, maybe the day after a long, hard gig on the planet Aldebaran 12, where the bars are open until #$@ o'clock (which, for the record, is pretty late). After dragging myself out of bed, limping downstairs, and pulling the door open wide, how would I properly express my thankfulness for the many gifts of microaggression my worst enemy has bestowed upon me? Suffice to say, it takes thought and practice.

That said, I am thankful for many things. For the leaky hammer mill roof over our heads, for one. I'm thankful for the fact that vacuum tubes are still being manufactured (without those, Marvin's metronome and inertial guidance system would cease to function). On behalf of the mansized tuber (because he can't speak for himself), we're all thankful for plant food. And I wouldn't want to run through this litany without thanking Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, for not blowing us sky-high this year (third year in a row!). Thanks, also, to anti-Lincoln, whose Gettysburg Address is even more inspiring recited backwards.

Thanky, yankees.But more than anything else, we are thankful to you, our listeners and readers. (That includes all you little Russian bots - I see you!) And that's why we have chosen to express our gratitude by posting a warmed-over installment of Ned Trek entitled "Ned Trek 29: Error of Mercy". Check it out at NedTrek.com. This originally ran on our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN back in August of 2016, in the thick of the presidential election. Highlights include the usual assortment of bad imitations, such as Matt doing James Carville and me doing Bill Clinton. Fun fact: our first read of the script was done in a hospital examination room, waiting for test results. (We were cackling so loudly I think the staff considered declaring a code red and breaking out the restraints.)

So ... thanks for the laughs, and for listening to us laugh like idiots.

Subsidizing oligarchy.

At the beginning of this year, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos was worth about $100 billion. By May, his fortune had reportedly ballooned to somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 billion. Now it appears to fluctuate between $137 and $160 billion, this last number from CNBC in October. So, it sounds like he won't be hungry for the holidays. That's more than can be said about the growing number of structurally unemployed and food-insecure Americans who have fallen through our inadequate and now badly shredded federal safety net.

In need of public assistanceThis Pharaoh-like magnitude of personal wealth reflects a failing economy - more specifically, an economy that fails to serve a large swath of the population. It is about more than personal wealth. Any dude with $137 billion dollars (and there's only one, so yes, it's a dude) possesses $136 billion more than he could ever hope to spend on himself. The accumulation of untold billions is all about power - the power to affect the lives of millions on a whim, whether for good or ill. When Bill Gates sank a billion dollars of his fortune into distorting our educational system (and helping to undermine public sector unions in the process), he didn't do it because we asked for his intervention. He did it because he wanted to, and because he thought his wealth gave him license. He was right ... but only because we as a people have not taken steps to constrain that license.

And yet, with all of their wealth and power, the billionaires still ask for public assistance. Worse, they encourage people to jump up and down like children, competing for the rare privilege of giving them more money. The obvious example is Amazon's HQ2 bidding process, which recently concluded with a split decision between New York City and northern Virginia, outside of DC. The cost to taxpayers in both areas will be at least $4.6 billion in tax subsidies, not counting the substantial incentives laid out through provisions of the recent GOP tax giveaway. (See David Dayen and Rachel Cohen's piece in The Intercept for details.) Okay, $4.6 billion is lunch money to Jeff Bezos. Instead of asking underserved communities to fork over public resources, why doesn't he just use a small part of his $136 billion personal surplus to build his dumb-ass second headquarters and pay goddamn taxes like a normal human being?

Why? Because this isn't about money. It's about power, and perpetuating the cult of privilege that has been built around oligarchs like Bezos and Gates and the Mercers and the Kochs and Trump. It's up to us to pull this edifice down before it gets too big to demolish.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fascist songbook.

Sure, you've played that one before. You remember. It's the one about the fascists dropping over for Christmas. Don't remember? Go back and look, dude!

Hiya. As you know, we're still shut up in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, working diligently on the next episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. And when I say "next", I mean the next couple of episodes, each of which is in a different state of non-completion. This is all about Ned Trek, of course ... that time-consuming mashup of space opera crossed with horse-based comedy and political satire. If I recall correctly, we dreamed that concept up on the planet Neptune, but don't quote me. Matt probably pulled it out of Uranus. Either way.

So ... the most proximate of the "next" episodes is being edited and finished as we speak (are we speaking?). The second "next" episode hasn't been recorded (or even completely written) yet, but that one's a musical, so we've been working on songs that will go into the episode. That installment of Ned Trek will be based on the Nazi episode of Star Trek, so pretty much all of the songs are about fascists, past and present. That's right, folks .... around the studio lately it's been Nazi this and Nazi that. We're calling the fuckers out, people, and in the most ridiculous ways. Word.

Okay, how about a song about that?Not that we haven't cultivated that particular field before, you understand. It's just that we're digging in a bit this year. It's partly due to the specific Star Trek episode we're mocking, but hey, let's face it ... there are a lot of neo-fascists taking power just lately, including the clownish variety we have here in the states (to say nothing of the right-wing brown shirt organizations we deal with at the street level these days), so these songs aren't exactly historical documents, per se. We're jamming on current affairs, people. Ripped from the headlines, as it were. It's enough to make Marvin (my personal robot assistant) blow a fuse or two. Just so long as he doesn't grow a little mustache.

I know ... we're on a slow roll here in Big Green land, but we will get back to posting podcasts in the weeks ahead, honest. Look for a new episode soonish .... now with more Nazis.

Paradise lost.

The California town of Paradise was wiped out by climate change this week. Now even network weather forecasters are saying that these wild fires that have now claimed 59 lives and counting are fueled in large measure by global warming. When I see the images of this catastrophe on television, it makes me wonder what the national response would be if these homes had been destroyed by a terror bombing or a hijacked plane. No doubt we would move heaven and earth to hold the perpetrators accountable (along with anyone even tangentially associated with them) and to prevent future attacks. What has the federal response been to these fires? Initially, blame the victim. Trump was in an election-related snit and so resorted to parroting his Interior Secretary on the matter. Classy, as always.

A bomb goes off in California.Thousand Oaks, California - located in one of the wild fire zones - had to deal with three national policy failures in the same week. One was the lack of national gun control legislation and strong enough restrictions on gun ownership at the state level. The second was foreign policy - the shooter was a veteran of the Afghan war, though it's not entirely clear that this was a factor (he had mental issues before going into the service). Then, of course, Thousand Oak residents had barely begun to grieve for their lost loved ones when these fires descended on them. Just an astonishing confluence of hardships, all representing the abject failure of our government to take meaningful steps on any of these issues.

Meanwhile, the president is busy spinning out nonsensical lies about voter fraud, making as much noise as possible in order to distract and deflect from the collapse of his one-party rule that took place over the last week. About the only value there is in listening to the man's spew is that it offers some rough insight into their electoral strategy moving forward. The losses hurt a great deal, but the close races in formerly red states are what really worry the Republicans. Their shrinking advantage can only be preserved through the usual methods of voter suppression and intimidation, some of which we are seeing right now.

How do we fight back? Like we did last Tuesday, except harder. It's the only chance we have to stop this toxic regime that's so dedicated to making our most difficult problems worse.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 9, 2018

Key notes.

Here's the problem. I hit it and it goes "dang", then "hummmmmmm...." I don't want dang and hum. Who the hell wants dang and hum? Dumb-ass technology. I hate the internets!

Oh, sorry. I was just complaining to Big Green's official instrument tech, the dude who lives in the basement. (Actually, I think he may be Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, in a pair of borrowed coveralls.) My 20-year-old keyboard is falling apart, though why I would expect it to survive more than 20 years is beyond me. I am appealing to our tech dude to do some work on it, just in case ... just in case we end up playing somewhere again, sometime soon. You never know, right? Did I ever think I would play on the planet Neptune? Hell no. And yet that happened. Shit happens, right?

What's ailing my old Roland A-90ex? Same thing that ails all similar midi controllers with expansion modules. It's the counterweights to the keys .... they are just poorly designed and liable to crack and sometimes break right off. Especially when you play like a ham-fisted ape (my own distinctive style). That's when you get the "dang", though it's really more like a "clunk" or a "thud". It's actually not too different from a sound we used on our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, only a little less resonant. So why am I complaining, right? Just crank up the resonance, there's a good chap.

Dang!Right, so .... I realize this isn't a technical blog. That's not what you come here for. You come here for pithy observations and gripping tales of pointless adventures. For instance, I could tell you all about the festive autumnal arrangement in the hammer mill courtyard contrived by the mansized tuber in his spare time, but then this would seem like a gardening blog, and it's anything but that. Or I could tell you about all the lawn signs that were dumped in our driveway following the mid-term elections, but then you'd think this was a political blog, and well .... sometimes it is, but ... not just now!

So, I will conclude this gripping tale of my keyboard repair adventure and return to whatever it was I was doing before I started talking about this. I think it was ... repairing my piano. Right, then.

Racism works.

The surest sign that Democratic voters put a dent in the Trump administration this past Tuesday was the fact that Trump termed the election as a victory for him personally. It was, of course, anything but. His incoherent, rambling press conference on Wednesday lurched from the usual bragging to open hostility to the press to suggestions that he would triangulate with Congressional Democrats on legislation and quite a bit more. Trump, of course, came armed with cherry-picked, extremely contrived and narrow statistics that spoke to the historical uniqueness of his mid-term "victory", claiming that the only Republicans who lost were the ones that refused his "embrace". (He's conveniently forgetting the apparent one-term loser Claudia Tenney, who fully embraced him and had the entire Trump family visit her district - including the hair hat in chief himself - at various points during the campaign in a desperate attempt to cling to her seat.)

Voter supression poster childrenThat said, among my biggest disappointments on Tuesday night was the failure of Andrew Gillum to win the Governorship in Florida - not for want of trying, I should add. I could say the same for Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Two tantalizingly close races, which suggests that a bit more GOTV might have put them over the top. Or perhaps not. After all, about a million voters have been dropped from the rolls in Georgia over the last few years, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Abrams' opponent. That's one way to ensure victory. Another is not to allow them to register in the first place, as has been the case with ex-felons in Florida, though as of Tuesday we now know this will change.

Then of course there are the overtly racist tirades offered by our crackpot president, warning of dark, diseased people menacing our southern border from hundreds of miles away, suggesting that two eminently qualified black candidates for governor are somehow not ready for the job, calling Gillum a crook, etc. Add that to the usual racist nonsense that goes on around election time (e.g. clumsily offensive robocalls from white nationalist groups), and it may have been enough to keep either candidate from going over the 50% mark. (Then there's voter I.D. laws and the like, but I'll stop there.)

I know people want to believe that good triumphs over evil, even if it sometimes takes a little while. That's seldom the case. When good people do nothing, evil does as it pleases. If we let racism prevail, it sets a toxic precedent that is hard to reverse.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 2, 2018

Reading me?

CQ, CQ ... come in, Rangoon. This is ground station Hammermill calling all ships at sea. If you read me, come in. Ahoy, ship! Damn it. Turn the crank a little harder, Marvin. There's a good chap.

Yeah, well ... just trying something a little different this week, since our latest episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN is still under construction and I'm too freaking lazy to post any songs or other media files. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) dug up an old radio transmitter down in the basement of the mill, and we've been trying to fire the thing up ever since. This should come naturally to us, as Matt's and my father was a Ham radio operator, but alas ... I spent my childhood assiduously avoiding the acquisition of any useful knowledge or skills, and if I do say so myself, I was remarkably successful at that endeavor.

Anyway, the old radio works like this. I pick up the microphone, put on the metal headphones, and tell Marvin to start turning the crank in the side of the big old metal box, which apparently turns some kind of generator inside. Now, I'm not a scientist, but (and this is a big but) it seems to me that a few turns of the crank would be enough to power this antique for a few minutes, but no. The little on-air light blinks off almost as soon as Marvin stops turning the crank. Looks like Rangoon will have to stay out for a while longer.

Where's the ham?There are a lot of things a grown man can do in his spare time, particularly someone with so many half-baked hobbies such as myself. Why I spend even five minutes with this hunk of junk is beyond me. And then there's the radio. (Sorry Marvin - that was low hanging fruit.) I suppose I could become an inventor like Mitch Macaphee, or an antimatter president like Anti-Lincoln, or a large sweet potato like the mansized tuber, but there are individuals already filling those vital roles in society. Perhaps wisdom, in part, is recognizing your place in the world and trying to make the best of it. Or perhaps not ... perhaps wisdom is something else entirely ... in part. (And perhaps my favorite hobby is sophistry.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to make contact with someone - anyone - in Madagascar. CQ ... CQ ..... Come in, Madagascar!

Fourteenth.

Very nearly speechless after the heinous massacre of Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh. I am glad, at least, that reporting on this atrocity has attempted to capture the motivations of this neo-fascist killer. He was driven to attack the Tree of Life Synagogue by his outrage over the work of HIAS, a century-old Jewish organization dedicated to resettlement of refugees from around the world. The president's, his party's, and conservative media's fulminations about the approach of an "invasion" of Honduran refugees, supposedly funded by "globalists" like George Soros, no doubt contributed to the shooter's sense of urgency. And, of course, he had an AR-15 handy. Why not, right?

Two thumbs up (your ass)How did Trump meet this outrage? By doubling down on his anti-immigrant tirade. By sending hundreds of troops to the border to stop a group of poor people a thousand miles away. And by launching an attack on birthright citizenship, the principle at the core of the fourteenth amendment. It's almost as if, while attending a memorial service in Pittsburgh, Trump is doing his best to make it up to the Synagogue shooter for falling short of his racist expectations. He seems to be under the impression, no doubt encouraged by the likes of Steven Miller, that he can, as president, undo the 14th Amendment by executive order or, in a pinch, through legislative action. As usual, Trump is skating on top of another constitutional question about which he knows less than nothing.

Regardless of its vacuity, his attack on the notion of citizenship is a toxic ploy one week in advance of the mid-term elections. As with his scare talk about the refugee "caravan" working its way north, Trump is using birthright citizenship as a tool to gin up his most hardcore supporters, including those on the extreme xenophobic right. For them, this speaks to Trump's core brand proposition - the demonization of people of color that propelled him into the White House on a wave of white resentment. He entered the political arena railing about Obama's birth certificate; essentially, attempting to undermine the legitimacy of his citizenship and, of course, his presidency, and fostering the notion that black people in general are not full citizens, foreign, illegitimate.

Will the ploy work? Tuesday will tell. All I can say is vote, vote, vote, and encourage others to do the same. Let's prove him wrong. Let's put a check on this disaster.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 26, 2018

Casting some pod.

We just did that, man. It's still summer, right? What? October! What the hell ... we've got some work to do. First task: find out what happened to July. (I know I left it around here somewhere.)

Oh ... hi, friends of Big Green. Seems like I've lost track of time just a bit. I'm off by about three months, but hey ... who hasn't lost a quarter, right? It's probably somewhere deep in the sofa cushions. Except that we don't have a cushioned sofa here in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Just chairs. Stark wooden chairs. We sit, straight as a board, until the darkness comes, then we retire. It's hard, but it keeps us honest. (Honestly ... it's hard! The chair, that is.) We ain't got no time for no podcast stuff round these parts, no how. Now GIT! Ah .... sed .... GIT!

Did somebody see my summer lying around here?Whoops ... lapsed in to Bobby Sweet mode just then. (Not to worry. Bobby Sweet wouldn't hurt no one. He just has a hankering for big guns.) Yeah, I can blame the calendar, I can blame my momentary lapses into stereotypical rural jargon, but when you come right down to it, the fault is mine. We haven't posted a podcast in three months, and it's because we haven't finished an episode in that long. Hell, it took me all summer and half of the fall to write the script for the upcoming installment of Ned Trek. We recorded the audio last week in a couple of hours, and now it's off to editorial. Which is to say, we need to cut the living shit out of it.

Hey, anyone out there who works with audio and video knows, this stuff is time consuming. Especially when you're a lazy sloth like me. I'm a bit more like Bobby Sweet than I care to let on, truth be told. I like to sit back and strum on my old guitar, pound out a few chords on the old piano, drop some canned fruit in the old blender and swear at the fact that it still doesn't work. All I can say is that, despite the distractions, we are working on the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast and it will appear very soon. Which is to say, it won't be another quarter. Maybe a nickel. Stay tuned!

Seasonal disorder.

Pipe bombs dropped at the homes of prominent opposition political figures. Scare talk about hordes of dark people working their way north towards our southern border. Dog whistles turned up to bullhorn volume in competitive races across the country, including a racist Amos and Andy-style robo call in Florida. This is what election season in the United States looks like in 2018. This is the reality show election that proceeds from the reality show presidency of Donald Trump, who is basically spending all of his time flying to every corner of the country, holding his signature Klan rallies and greasy fundraisers to prop up sagging congressional republicans desperate to hold on to their majority for another cycle.

Another Klan rallyOur local House member, Claudia Tenney in NY-22, is one such republican. Trump came for a fundraiser over the summer; Paul Ryan came by a few weeks ago, and just this week we were treated to the sight of Eric Trump, who gave a pep talk to Tenney's campaign volunteers and staff. For her own part, she has been channeling Trump a bit more than usual, referring to Colgate university as a crazy, left-wing school, whining about "socialists" coming up from downstate to help her opponent, and so on. I suppose she is calculating that, between her own erratic behavior and the spectacle of being carried around on the flabby shoulders of GOP celebrities, she will have enough lift to get over the finish line in November. We shall see.

The net effect of all of this is to further erode the nation's grasp on reality. This is a tried and true method of authoritarian governments - trust nothing but what comes out of Dear Leader's mouth. As Trump said the other day in response to the press's mild skepticism about his claims of "middle eastern" people traveling with the Honduran refugee caravan , "You can't prove anything." Nothing can be proven; therefore, every claim of fact is equal to every other, and those who put their claims forward the most forcefully win the day. This is a recipe for disaster and a roadmap to true authoritarian rule. Perhaps all that's needed now is a Reichstag fire.

My advice to all is pretty simple: vote, vote, vote. Whatever else you do (and by all means, do all you can), you must cast a vote or risk losing that basic right in the months and years to come.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 19, 2018

Grounded.

Hmmm ... leaving kind of a big footprint there, aren't you, Anti-Lincoln? Seems like you've been feeding on a pretty good pasture lately, am I right? No? Ah, okay.

Well, the gravity's back. Isn't that good new?. And now all of us weigh about twenty pounds more than before. Just a little side benefit of Mitch's latest project. (YEAH, MITCH ... THANKS A LOT. Turn that gravity thing down a little, willya?) Something tells me we will need to replace the floor joists in this crumbling old ruin of a hammer mill ... except that I don't know how to do that and I wouldn't know a floor joist if it hit me upside of the head.

Mitch has got this whole gravity thing figured out. He describes swarms of little invisible magnet-like particles he calls "gravitons". Apparently these little critters swarm around you by the thousands, holding you down as the world spins out of control. Without their persistent intercession, we would all fly off into space, the earth shaking us off as it rotates on its axis. Mitch thinks of them as the quantum mechanical equivalent of guardian angels ... which is the reason why he hates them with a mad man's passion. He went into a bit of a rage last night about gravitons, swiping at the invisible particles like he was shooing away mosquitoes. At one point, he appeared to have caught one between his thumb and forefinger, but his triumph was short-lived - the little specter slipped away, eliciting a yelp from the mad scientist as if he had touched a hot stove.

Here they come again, Mitch.Okay, so .... that guy's crazy. And, as Mr. Spock once observed, madness has no reason ... but it can have a goal. That's what Mitch's anti-gravity machine was all about. The device attracts gravitons like a bug zapper, apparently, though it doesn't zap them ... it just keeps them busy so that they can't hold the rest of us down. (You always thought it was THE MAN that was holding you down, but no, says Mitch, it's the gravitons!) Anyhow, it kind of worked for about a week, then something went bust. That happens a lot with mad science tinkerers like Mitch. Hell, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has dozens of glitches, but hell ... he's family.

So we're back on the ground, for the nonce. We'll see what the weekend brings. I've got my bike helmet on, just in case.

Hit factory.

If reports from Turkey are to be believed, Washington Post editorialist Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a mob-like hit, and a pretty gruesome one at that. I am glad to see some politicians using this horrible story as a means of broadening the scope of this new scrutiny being focused on the House of Saud, namely Senator Chris Murphy, Ro Khanna, and a handful of others. Those of us who want action on the Yemen question have to overcome this culture of privilege in which the life of a columnist (important as it may be) is seen to be worth more than that of a Yemeni child ... or fifty Yemeni children. While it's heartening to see that some legislators understand this issue, it's maddening to think that something so basic needs to be explained. It's not right to kill people - how hard is that? Isn't that fundamental to christian teaching?

Dismember a whole country? Meh.Sadly, the problem goes way beyond what other countries do. We have a bad habit of supporting paramilitary activities in other countries, as well as allowing our own citizens to act as mercenaries and even officers in foreign military organizations. The latter problem is familiar to anyone who has followed the exploits of Blackwater and other similar war-fighting "contractors". A recent report from Aram Roston of BuzzFeed News, featured on DemocracyNow! this past week, chronicles the deadly activities of a company named Spear Operations Group in Yemen on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. This firm is made up of former Navy SEALs, special forces, etc., and they basically assassinate enemies of the UAE, like a made to order hit squad.

While running assassination - basically, terrorist - teams overseas is nothing new, this is an American company working for another - if allied - government. I'm not suggesting that this is breaking American law, but that is the scandal. How is it that this is a legal practice? How is it that Americans, including active duty military, can, as Roston reports, are able to serve in an official capacity in the armed forces of another country? That has been happening forever, of course - the French Foreign Legion, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the Israeli Defense Forces, etc. , but still ... that's one small step away from joining ISIS, in my humble opinion, and the distance between those two things is purely a political, not a moral, gap. ISIS are fanatical killers - so is the government of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, only to a much greater degree. They have lots of company in that regard.

Our government should neither promote nor condone assassinations anywhere in the world, full stop. Neither should it permit its own citizens to monetize assassination while they enjoy the blessings of American citizenship.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 12, 2018

Pro-gravity.

We're fresh out of duct tape, man. All gone. And no, I don't have any large magnets. That wouldn't work anyway - the floors aren't made of metal, fool. Geez.

Yeah, I'm getting asked a bunch of dumb-ass questions by my house-mates, bandmates, mill-mates, etc. again. Everybody's all worked up about our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee and his latest raft of experiments. (Why he keeps them on a raft, I cannot say.) Mitch has been working on selectively negating gravitation, which really should be impossible ... I mean, we all wish it was impossible, but apparently it's not. Naturally, his experimental subject was the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, Big Green's longtime squathouse, and a place where gravity has always reigned supreme ... until now.

Now, most people have a sense of how gravity works, but for those of you unfamiliar with the ways of this mysterious unseen power, here's a primer: it holds you down. That's it. When people talk about being held down in life, they're talking about gravity. When Bruce Springsteen sings "I'm goin' down, down, down, down," he's singing about gravity. When some politician is making a speech, imploring his audience to understand the gravity of a given situation, that politician is ... well ... you get where I'm going with that. How does it work? That's complicated. Einstein had his ideas about this. More recent work has detected gravitational waves. My personal view is that there is a enormous horseshoe magnet buried deep in the earth. Next time we do a subterranean tour, I'm going to check that theory out.

YikesRight, so ... Mitch Macaphee has his own theories. And his theories usually lead to some nameless device that looks like a ham radio rig from the 1960s, with dials and meters and knobs and blinking lights. It makes a "woo-woo" sound. Sometimes he puts arms and legs on it and calls it Marvin (my personal robot assistant). Sometimes he throws a switch and things disappear ... or appear. This time around, he adjusted the right combination of buttons, switches, lanyards, etc., to suspend gravity in the hammer mill. An anti-gravity machine, as it were. And that means more than floating hammers, my friends. Suffice to say, I haven't had to use the stairs all week. If this keeps up, we may be battling obesity before long.

Thing is, most of us are pro-gravity. Hence the search for duct tape, glue, velcro, etc. Or maybe we should just pull the plug on Mitch's gizmo. Worth a go, right?

Fifteen Saudis.

It's kind of amazing to watch the talking head squad comment on the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi columnist for the Washington Post who was apparently abducted and quite probably killed and dismembered by his government for the crime of being mildly critical of Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. As I'm sure you know, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain some documents relating to his planned marriage ... and never emerged. Now denizens of Morning Joe who were not so very long ago praising Bin Salman to the skies - I'm looking at you, David Ignatius - are now wringing their hands over the disappearance of a colleague. Rightfully so - if there's any truth to the murder allegations, this is a sickening and despicable act.

MBS red-handedWhat's ironic is that these pundits should be surprised and appalled by such behavior. After all, the Saudis have been killing people by the thousand in Yemen. It appears that Yemeni children's biggest mistake may be that they aren't members of the Washington Post editorial board. And if memory serves, they were well represented in the 9/11/2001 attacks ... nearly as many hijackers as there were assassins sent to kill Khashoggi. I'm surprised that the Saudis considered this such heavy lifting. Nevertheless, all of the gray-headed shills who were running around trumpeting the virtues of "MBS" will now have to find some way of reconciling themselves to the ugly truth: their hero is a murderous despot.

The evidence of the Saudi regime's toxicity is much broader and deeper than this suggests. They have been complicit in supporting some of the most retrograde and destructive movements in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa over the last six decades. Most often, they did so with our help. They were deeply hostile to Arab nationalist movements, to the point of becoming de facto allies of Israel after the Israeli military destroyed Nassar's army in 1967 (while Nassar and the Saudis were engaged in a conflict in - you guessed it - Yemen). They funded and manned the radical opposition to the Soviets in Afghanistan, with our active participation. They fueled radical movements in Iraq, Syria, you name it. And their intelligence services reportedly supported the Saudi 9/11 hijackers as they prepared to pull off their spectacular atrocity.

Will Trump do anything? Not a chance. He's worried about arms sales and lucrative bookings at his hotels, to say nothing of plans for future ventures for him and Jared Kushner. This is where we're at, folks. Don't like it? Vote.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 5, 2018

Stupid homework.

Aw, do I really have to come in now? Gosh dang it. I don't want to do my homework. I want to STAY OUTSIDE AND PLAY. I want to SPEAK IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

Oh, hi. I was just undergoing some cheap psychiatry. I think it's called regression analysis ... or something like that. Here's how it goes: you close your eyes and imagine you're Brett Kavanaugh ... I mean, a 7-year-old while Marvin (my personal robot assistant) plays 8-track tapes of Peter Frampton. Yes, it hurts, but sometimes the truth does hurt. And this is about getting to the truth, right Marvin? Marvin? Marvin! Turn down the 8-track player ... I'm asking you a question.

Why are we doing this, just a few days from Columbus Day? Random chance. And we don't celebrate Columbus Day, so even more random. Actually, one of our neighbors said I should have my head examined. It took me a while to work out precisely what he meant by that. (Long enough, in fact, for Mitch Macaphee to stick my head under an electron microscope.) The neighbor took exception to our kind of loud rehearsals, our strange plantings around the front entrance, and the occasional explosions emanating from Mitch's subterranean lab.

This is HOGWASH.What was the results of my regression analysis? Well, it looks like I should have put more effort into eliminating relationships between variables. And I should have kept my focus on the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. It's all about co-dependency, you see? You don't? Right. Neither do I. And apparently my rent-a-shrink is actually a statistician by trade. I don't understand a word he says, mostly because he just talks so fast, but partly because his comments are so unbearably dull I just can't keep my eyes open. And you're not supposed to fall asleep on that stereotypical therapy couch, but I did. So maybe I'm on TV, now.

I hate to seem arrogant, but psychiatry is kind of lost on me. At least the robot-based variety. If someone comes up with a method of therapy that doesn't involve robots, let me know.

White rage.

I hear Tucker Carlson is worried about an ensuing race war. Sounds like a problem for old Tucker. I guess he should keep the musket loaded and ready back at the homestead. Tucker has heard all these people on television complaining about white male privilege and now he's feeling a little picked on. Like Lindsay Graham, he feels squelched. White men just can't get a word in edgewise, what with all of these stories of abuse and marginalization.

This obsession of Tucker's did not start with the Kavanaugh nomination, but the Supreme Court justice wannabe certainly stoked the flames with his shrill rebuttal of accusations of sexually violent behavior back in his high school and college days. In fact, the judge was white aggrievement personified on that occasion, which played very well with white republican / conservative men both on the Senate Judiciary Committee and off. Now he's well on his way to being a white dude folk hero, even if a miracle happens and he doesn't end up on the high Court for life.

Judicial temperment ca. 2018I'll be honest - I don't shock easy, but Kavanaugh's testimony last Thursday was freaking shocking. I have never seen a grown person, let alone a federal judge, act in such a juvenile manner. Much has been made of his incivility and hyperpartisanship, but I have heard relatively little with regard to the childishness of his performance. The man was so humiliatingly sophomoric and petulant, I very nearly felt sorry for him. If you haven't seen this performance, I urge you to take the time to do so. The Majority Report has posted the entire thing on their YouTube channel. It is flabbergastingly ridiculous.

Before this testimony, I had thought there was a fairly strong possibility that Kavanaugh had grown out of whatever rowdy drunk phase he had gone through. I thought Dr. Ford's allegations were credible and convincing, but I thought maybe, just maybe, this fellow had learned to be a more controlled, less loutish person. After that speech and subsequent questioning last Thursday, I am convinced that he is exactly the same person as Dr. Ford was describing - a little older, perhaps, but not fundamentally changed. His childishness is, in and of itself, reason enough to keep him off the court. There are many others, but that one is as plain as the nose on his face.

My guess is that he will be made associate justice over the next week. Not sure what is next in this sorry saga, but I have a bad feeling about this.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 28, 2018

Strange gravity.

I don't know, man. That song seems kind of dark. Dark, but in a happy way. Yeah ... that's the way we do it around here, am I right? No ... that was a rhetorical question. Never mind.

Oh, hello. It's your old pal Bozo. I mean, Joe-zo. (That might have been my clown name if I had chosen another, slightly divergent path in life, but I digress.) Having a little band meeting here. Joe? Present. Matt? Present. Marvin (my personal robot assistant)? Present, to the extent that an automaton can ever be TRULY present, but setting philosophical questions aside ... Mitch Macaphee? Not present. Actually, in truth it's just me and Matt, and the topic is songwriting.

It goes like this. He's got songs, I've got songs ... all God's children got songs. That said, they're all based on subject matter that's, well, a little dark. Dark matter, if you will. Now, it's not surprising that we would use the stuff that makes up the bulk of the universe as the substance of our songs. You never lack for material. Even so, songwriting can be a lot like pulling teeth ... except the pay isn't nearly as good. And either way you go, somebody ends up toothless. A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. Aye aye, sir.

I don't see any dark matter. Oh ... right.Well, I've wandered a bit. But the point I'm trying to get to is this: we tend to write happy little songs about big nasty things. This month we appear to be back on the fascist beat again. Next month, who knows? Some other grave subject matter that can be turned into a nursery rhyme or a mambo. That's the way it works round these parts. Those are our principles. And if you don't like them ... we have other principles. (Yes, I'm a Marxist. My favorite is Groucho, but it's not a strong preference.)

Speaking of work, it has been nearly forever since our last THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. I just want to assure our five listeners that, yes, we will post more episodes this fall and, yes, they will be ridiculous. It's been a busy year, folks. I'd explain why, but I've got too much to do right now. Excuses, excuses, right? Sheesh.

Eleven angry men.

When you think about the Kavanaugh nomination, you really need to step back and see the full picture. Sure, stopping the nomination is crucial, and it's perhaps fortunate that he planted the seeds of his own self-destruction decades ago, long before his tenure as a hyperpolitical operative in the Republican Party. (Honestly, the guy is like the Zelig of American conservatism, working on the Star investigation, researching Vince Foster, participating in the "Brooks Brothers Riot" during the Florida recount, and on from there.) But if his nomination fails, they will attempt to fill the slot quite quickly with a much more boring, just as reactionary judge capable of serving multiple decades on the Supreme Court. So ... why not just withdraw this troubled judge?

Well, HE seems nice.My guess is that they're clinging to this one because Kavanaugh has proven to be such a reliable operative, and because he has a freakishly expansive view of executive power and privilege. (He apparently developed that during his stints in the W. Bush administration.) It's hard to be certain of their reasoning, but their overarching motivations are quite clear. They want this seat and they want it now. The GOP has been working on this project for decades, taking an already conservative court steadily to the right since Nixon's days in power. A solid reactionary majority is the right's insurance policy; it's their trump card, no pun intended.

Consider the Republican party's position. They remain, in essence, the party of white men. As this becomes less and less a nation of white men, it is an imperative for them to stave off the inevitable erosion of their voter base. The Senate is not so much of a problem, as a distinctly regional party can dominate that body given that party's geographic distribution (e.g. Wyoming's Senate delegation is equal to California's, even though the latter state is 70 times the size of the former in terms of population). The hyper-partisan GOP gerrymandering of the House in 2010 has made that body a lot more like the Senate in terms of representation, but that is a short-term solution for them. And the Presidency? They have lost the popular vote in six out of the last seven elections, so they mostly rely on narrow electoral college victories.

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is the ultimate arbiter of public policy. With a solid reactionary majority, the GOP will be able to defeat progressive policies long after the party can no longer dominate electoral politics. So there's much at stake in the coming days for those eleven angry white men on the Judiciary Committee .... much more than the problematic optics of the Kavanaugh hearing.

Elections matter, people. We need to take the Court seriously.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 21, 2018

New step.

Huh. Never saw THAT one before. Do that again, Anti Lincoln. Wow. Are you sure that was developed in the 1850s? It looks a little post modern to me.

Ah, readers. Greetings. Here's a handy tip: You know you have waaaay too much time on your hands when you spend a perfectly good afternoon listening to the antimatter 16th president explain that po-mo was invented by General McClellan. For chrissake ... everybody knows it didn't emerge until the later on in the Grant administration. I'll tell you, in Anti Lincoln's tiny mind, history is a total confidence game. If he were the actual Great Emancipator (or Posi-Lincoln, as it were), he would understand the importance of history. Posi-Lincoln loved history more than chicken fricassee. (And he loved chicken fricassee.)

We're still in songwriting mode over here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in upstate New York. Every day I pick up my superannuated acoustic guitar and start strumming the five chords I learned as a teenager, hoping to coax another number out of them. How many possible combinations are there? I'm going to find out! Note: if you know the answer to this eternal question, put it in the comments. I'm sure it involves some kind of advanced mathematical calculation that is considerably beyond my ken. Though why I'm always asking Ken to figure stuff out for me I don't know.

Is that a trombone, man?Of course, it's not like it was in the old days. Way back then, we would write songs the old-fashioned way: by knocking branches against rocks for a few hours, then scratching the changes out in the dirt floor of our primitive caves. A little later on, the trombone was invented, though that was of little utility since none of us actually plays the trombone. (True story: Every time Matt tries to play trombone, he loses a tooth ... which is just another way of saying that he only has a limited number of plays in him.) No, it wasn't until the discovery of the Lowery Organ that we began to move forward expeditiously into an era of serious songwriting. Then we got silly. Super silly.

The rest is history, folks. You can read all about it right here. Now, back to that new dance step. And a one, and a two ...

Second chances.

I come from the land of second chances, so the current Kavanaugh saga has a distinctly familiar ring to it. Mind you, I have not benefited from the level of privilege that Judge K has enjoyed his whole life through, but close enough. I grew up in what was described once as a "rock-ribbed Republican" town in upstate New York, virtually all white residents, lots of professionals and rich folk as well as middle class, borderline working class. It's the kind of place where you have to fuck up pretty badly before it affects you in any serious way. Underage drinking, drug use, and other low-level criminality were widespread. Arrests were not unheard of, but rare, and the impact of these brushes with the law were almost never life-changing.

Right down the street, in the heart of the city, people of color face a far different reality. Their opportunities for advancement are severely constrained, and when something goes wrong, it's either life-changing or life-ending. I think about kids like Hector McClain, who at 16 was sent to prison for four years because he failed to stop two other teens from beating a Utica, NY police officer. Here's an excerpt of a press report about his trial:



As he was sentenced today, McClain acknowledged what he did was wrong. But McClain went on to defend his actions by saying he feared that his friends were going to be hurt by the officer.

“I only did it to make sure they were OK,” McClain said. “If you care about somebody, you’re going to do whatever it takes to keep them safe.” McClain added, “Nobody sees it the way I see it, know what I’m saying?”

Judge Dwyer said he understood McClain’s perspective to an extent, but still pointed out the flaw in McClain’s thinking. “This wasn’t just somebody on the street -- this was a police officer,” Dwyer said.

McClain replied, “I’m not saying my actions were right. I know they were wrong. I’m not a dummy ... But I’m still going to protect them no matter what.” Then Dwyer interjected, “You could have protected them better by stopping the incident.”

As the sentencing ended, McClain said, “I’ll just change my life around as soon as I get out.”

“You have to learn from your mistakes ... so we don’t have to go through this ever again,” Dwyer said. (Utica Observer-Dispatch, April 1, 2008)



Four years in prison, for a sixteen-year-old African-American kid. No mulligans for him. Meanwhile, on the other side of the track, white teens like me (a generation removed) commit felonies (albeit vacuous ones) in the shelter of their tony homes, where police patrols are tasked with keeping kids like McClain out, not hauling kids like me and Kavanaugh in. Our mistakes tend not to follow us like a malevolent cloud for the rest of our lives. When you couple that with the generations of advantages our families enjoyed - access to remunerative professions, mortgage assistance denied to black families, ingress into neighborhoods from which people of color were barred, and decades of building wealth - you begin to understand apartheid American-style.

Don't feel sorry for Kavanaugh. Even if he's held somewhat accountable and denied a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court, he'll be just fine.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 14, 2018

Strum and dang.

Let's see .... how does the barre system go again? Oh, right. It's freaking impossible. Forgot that part. Back to the banjo chords then. I wonder how good songwriters handle questions like this.

Yes, if you haven't already guessed, I'm attempting to write some songs this week. Well, I should say one song, but that's being somewhat generous. I can't let Matt carry the entire burden of composing for Big Green. What kind of brother would that make me? I'll tell you what kind. My kind, that's what. Just STAY OUT OF IT. Anyway ... that's why I'm handling this guitar. Notice I didn't say "playing". That's a bridge too far ... and this song of mine doesn't even have a bridge.

Frankly, I don't see how Matt does it. He dreams up these songs, harmonizes them in about twenty minutes down in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill, then tracks the suckers. Me? I get some lame idea, knock it around in my head for a couple of days, and then either the lyrics come all at once or they drop from the sky in fragments, sometimes six months, sometimes a year apart. In some instances I do songwriting at a glacial pace. You can actually watch me evolve during the course of writing a single song. (When I wrote the first verse, I was an Australopithecus. Now look at me! Definitely Peking man.}

Okay, hit "record" or whatever.So, if I'm treating every songwriting project like the evolutionary ascent of man, that amounts to a lot of banjo-plucking primates. And that's where many of my songs start out. I'll find a chair somewhere in this big old barn of a place, throw my cheap-seat Martin D-1 across my leg and start playing the five chords I know best. If I stumble upon some progression or melody worth repeating, I can't rely on memory alone. Fortunately, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has an audio recording module, and if I can get him to stand still long enough, I can capture whatever the hell it is I'm working on and play it back later. If it happens in the middle of the night, the playback sounds like .... you guessed it .... banjo-plucking primates.

Hey, we all have our process. That's what makes us human, right? Doing dumb shit, then figuring out how to improve on a bad thing. That's the Big Green way.

Stuff and nonsense.

It was primary week (again) here in New York , where our political leaders see fit to have more than one primary per election season and place one of them bizarrely on a Thursday. Seems like a good time to do some short takes on the stuff and nonsense that has been dominating our news this past week. Where to begin?

It's all about him, folks.Super Storm. Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the east coast of the U.S., and is his wont, the President's first comments centered on, well, himself and the amazing job he did when Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico last year. He is flatly denying the veracity of the revised casualty figures that put the death toll from Maria above that of Katrina, saying that the higher numbers were made up by Democrats to make him look bad. I'm betting George W. Bush looks at this with envy and wonders why he never thought of just totally and persistently making shit up about New Orleans.

Fear. Woodward's book has been all over the airwaves this past week. In many respects, it is remarkably similar to the anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times by someone who refers to him/herself as a member of the "resistance". Any "resistance" that includes individuals who think the GOP tax plan, environmental policy, immigration policy, and other efforts are "bright spots" is frankly not worth a dime. Similarly, Woodward's take on some of the core issues he writes about is from the perspective of an imperial scribe. I agree that Trump is a dangerous imbecile when it comes to foreign policy, but the idea that a permanent and aggressively postured military presence in the Korean peninsula and eastern Europe somehow prevents World War III is flatly insane. It is, in fact, the very thing that brings us to the brink of terminal nuclear war again and again. The only thing that saves us is dumb luck, at this point.

What March? Hear about that major day of action against global warming this past weekend. No, neither did I. Democracy Now! had some good coverage of this, and I always find it enlightening to listen to Amy Goodman's activist on the street interviews. It's a great way to hear about specific, localized movements from across the country and around the world.

Kavanaugh. I can't read that guy's name without hearing the voice of my old friend and Big Green co-founder Ned Danison reciting it with an affected tone (a reference to a certain guitar player of our acquaintance back in the day). That alone is enough to disqualify him for the highest court in the land.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 7, 2018

So anyway.

Music is a universal language and love is the key. Or maybe SOUND is the key. Love is the lock. No, wait ... love is the music, language is the universe, and Francis Scott is the key. That sounds right-ish.

Well, we're coming up on a little anniversary here at Big Green village, housed in the historic abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in historic upstate New York. (A lot of history up here. Did you know that this area is as old as any other area on Earth?) What's the anniversary, you ask? Thank you for asking. It's actually the tenth anniversary of the release of our second album, International House, which we released back in fall of 2008. My goodness ... has it been that long? Well, I guess it has. It also happens to be the fifth anniversary of the release of our third album, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. And in case that isn't nearly amazing enough, next year will be the 20th anniversary of the release of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas.

Okay, so here are the ratios: 10:2, 5:3, and 20:1. Got all that? Good, because god knows I'm not paying any attention. Don't get the wrong impression - we're not one of those neurotic bands that keeps track of every insignificant date in our long history. Lord no, we gave that up on December 3, 1990 when I got that flat tire. WHY? WHY DID IT HAPPEN TO ME? Or was that Matt who got the flat tire? Maybe so. Right, then forget the why, why stuff. So anyway, we put International House out ten years ago. Kind of amazing, seeing as it took us five years to make that album in the first place. Five years, sixteen songs - you do the math. (Don't ask me how.)

Aw, cheese and crackers!Well, so ... how to celebrate? Our plan is to reissue songs off of International House via Soundcloud, so that the people can hear what they've been missing all these years. Because, hey listen ... it's all about the people. And what the people need is a way to make them smile. (Fun fact: every single phrase in this blog post is a lyric from some crappy pop song. Well ... give or take a few.) All that's on our Soundcloud site right now is some odds and ends, but that's going to change, mister. You just wait and see.

And yes, we will get back to our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. Patience, my friends, patience.